Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Examining Inconsistencies in Calvinistic Monergism Part 2: Sanctification

"Salvation is of the Lord." Calvinists proudly proclaim this and will often charge that Arminians deny it. Either salvation is all of God (Calvinistic Monergism), we are told, or it is all of man. Some Calvinists give Arminians a little credit and say that they believe salvation is partly of man. Calvinists contend that if man contributes anything to salvation it ceases to be all of God. Arminians find it strange to hear Calvinists speak of faith as a contribution to salvation. Rather, Arminians see faith as a complete trust and reliance on God to save them. The object and focus of faith is Christ. If we are trusting in Christ for salvation (which is what “faith” means) then we cannot be trusting in ourselves. The moment we trust in ourselves we cease to trust in God. Truly, Arminians wonder why this is such a difficult concept for Calvinists to grasp. They do not believe that their faith saves them; rather, they believe that God saves those who trust in Him. To meet a condition is not necessarily the same as making a contribution to any aspect of the conditional promise. It only means that the promise will not be fulfilled until the condition is met. Arminians, therefore, firmly believe that salvation is of the Lord and rely on Him alone to save.

Calvinists view faith as a symptom of salvation rather than the God ordained condition for salvation. Faith is just part of the salvation package. God gives faith to those He irresistibly regenerates. If God did not cause faith irresistibly then man would supposedly have room to boast in his “contribution” (faith) to salvation. Unless God does absolutely everything then it cannot be truly said that salvation is of the Lord. This may sound reasonable enough until one understands the simple distinction between meeting a condition and making a contribution. The logical fallacy is further exposed when one considers the fact that Calvinistic Monergism is incompatible with the important Biblical doctrine of sanctification.

What is sanctification? Narrowly defined, it is the work of God to make believers holy by empowering them to overcome sin, and by conforming them to the image of His Son. Sanctification is a very important part of the salvation process. Calvinists will generally agree with Arminians that there are three aspects to salvation. We have been saved (initial conversion), are being saved (sanctification), and will be saved (final glorification in the physical kingdom of God).

Ben Witherington III recently posted on apostasy in Hebrews. In this post he references Calvinist F.F. Bruce while describing the proper soteriological view regarding sanctification:

“Here perhaps it is well to mention just how important sanctification, both the inward work of God and the human response thereto, is to final salvation in our author’s view. Heb. 12.14 puts it succinctly—without internal sanctification, no one shall see the Lord. F.F. Bruce was right in saying a long time ago that sanctification which involves both divine and human action is no optional extra in the Christian life but something which involves its very essence, and without which, final salvation will not be obtained.” [F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), p. 364.]

Sanctification is therefore an essential part of the believer’s faith journey. As the believer continues to trust and rely on God he or she is being sanctified. God makes him or her holy. As the believer cooperates with the Spirit’s sanctifying work, his or her character and attitude begins to more and more reflect the character and attitude of Christ. Sanctification is not optional for the believer. Consider the following passages:

“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God…Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now, having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” [Rom. 6:5-6, 11-13, 21-22]

The entire chapter is instructive. Through sanctification we live for God and die to sin. The result of this process is “eternal life” (verse 22). Look at Romans 8:

“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace…So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” [8:5-6, 12-14]

Sanctification is accomplished by yielding to the Spirit’s work. The believer is responsible to put to death the deeds of the flesh through the Spirit’s power working in him or her. This is not optional for “we are under obligation” (vs. 12). If we fail to yield to the Spirit’s work and neglect to put to death the deeds of the flesh, then we will surely die. Only by yielding to the Sprit’s work in us can we live and only those who are presently following the Spirit’s leading in the sanctification process can lay claim to being God’s children (vs. 14). Let us not forget Galatians:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, an things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law…Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.” [5:19-23; 6:7-8]

Passages like these could be easily multiplied. Just as we are converted and justified by faith, so are we also sanctified by faith:

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” [Col. 1:21-23]

That sanctification is necessary for final salvation and that sanctification is conditional creates big trouble for the claims of Calvinistic Monergism.

Calvinism must somehow come to grips with the fact that not every Christian responds to the Spirit’s work of sanctification in the same way. Many Calvinists never stop to consider this fact. If sanctification is a necessary part of the salvation process and salvation is monergistic, then according to Calvinist definitions, the believer should have nothing at all to do with God’s sanctifying work. He or she cannot “yield” to the work of the Spirit, for that would mean that by yielding to the Spirit’s work the believer would be making a “contribution” to sanctification, and therefore a “contribution” to salvation itself. If God’s work of salvation is an irresistible and unconditional work of God alone, then how do we explain the fact that not all Christians behave exactly the same with regards to resisting temptation and overcoming sin? Consider 1 Cor. 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it”

J.C. Thibodaux was the first person to draw my attention the relevance of this passage in his Correspondance with a Monergist Theologian. The implications are both obvious and devastating to Calvinistic Monergism. God gives sufficient grace to all believers to resist temptation. Why then do some believers repeatedly fail in certain areas while other Christians overcome in the same areas? Unless we are comfortable blaming God for these failures then we must admit that there is a human element to God’s sanctifying work. All believers are given sufficient sanctifying grace, but not all believers respond the same to that grace. The implications seem plain: sanctification must be synergistic. There is an important element of human cooperation with the Spirit’s work in the sanctification process.

Calvinistic Monergism has a serious dilemma to overcome to maintain consistency. It must deny the synergistic nature of sanctification. By doing this Monergism must then explain why God sanctifies some believers better than others. The Bible declares that our sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:10). This leads the Monergist to embrace the absurd theological position that the Holy Spirit actively and purposely grieves Himself by refusing to irresistibly give the sanctifying grace necessary for some believers to overcome certain sins. It also puts the Monergist in plain contradiction to the inspired declaration that sufficient grace is given to all believers to resist temptation in any given situation (1 Cor. 10:13; James 4:6-8).

The Monergist might rather try to downplay the necessity of sanctification with regards to the process of salvation. By doing this he or she will be at odds with the numerous passages of Scripture which teach the necessity of sanctification in the life of the believer with regards to final salvation (see above).

Perhaps the Monergist would rather agree with Calvinist R.C. Sproul who is happy to affirm the synergistic nature of sanctification while holding only that initial salvation must be monergistic.

This is also a problematic “solution”. By affirming the synergistic nature of sanctification, the Calvinist can no longer claim that “salvation is of the Lord” in the strict Calvinistic sense of Monergism. Since Calvinists insist that any act of yielding to the Spirit’s work constitutes a “contribution” to salvation, the affirmation of synergism in sanctification would force the Calvinist to admit that salvation is partly the “work” of man. If the Calvinist wants to insist that actively yielding to the Spirit’s work of sanctification does not equate to a “work” or “contribution” of man, then they must give up their long cherished arguments regarding the necessity of Monergism with regards to initial salvation as well. The Calvinist cannot give cooperation with the Spirit in sanctification a pass while denying the possibility of a similar cooperation with regard to initial salvation.

The Arminian contends that God gives sufficient grace for the sinner to yield to the Spirit’s work unto initial salvation in the same way that God gives sufficient grace to the believer in sanctification. We believe that in both instances it is still proper to contend that man’s yielding to and cooperation with the Spirit in faithful submission can in no way be properly termed a “work” or “contribution”. Salvation is freely given on the condition of faith and the Spirit’s work of sanctification is continued on the condition of faith. The believer must continually surrender to the Spirit’s work in order to finally reach his or her destination in glory. The unregenerate sinner enabled by prevenient grace yields to the regenerating grace of God in initial salvation and the regenerate believer yields to the sanctifying grace of God in the continuing process of salvation. Sanctification through faithful submission is no more a “work of man” than initial salvation through faithful submission to God’s grace is a “work of man”. The sinner who yields to God’s saving grace in faith can no more claim to save himself than the believer who yields to God’s sanctifying grace can claim that he “sanctified himself.”

Conclusion:

Calvinistic Monergism is incompatible with the Biblical doctrine of sanctification. The Calvinistic insistence that synergism is synonymous with “working” for ones salvation is logically fallacious and Biblically unfounded. Unless Calvinism acknowledges a synergistic view of sanctification it will be forced instead to embrace one or more of the following absurd theological positions: 1) sanctification is not a necessary component of Biblical salvation; 2) God alone is to blame for the believer’s failure to conquer sin and grow in his or her relationship with the Lord; 3) the Holy Spirit is pleased to actively and purposely grieve Himself; 4) contrary to the word of God, sufficient grace is not given to all believers to endure temptation, overcome sin, and draw near to God.

In my next post dealing with Monergism we will carefully explore the Calvinist charge that conditional salvation gives grounds for boasting and pride in the believer.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

i thought that calvinism is fine with sanctification being synergistic?

kangaroodort said...

i thought that calvinism is fine with sanctification being synergistic?

Some Calvinists are fine with it as I noted in the post. The point was that this leads to inconsistencies in their monergistic claims.

Anonymous said...

Your argument is that Calvinist position, if maintained consistently, leads to making God responsible of a Christian failure. Then you do not have much of an argument. Same line of thinking is followed by atheists who blame God for not stopping bad things to happen, though He can. I appreciate your article for clarity, anyway.

kangaroodort said...

Same line of thinking is followed by atheists who blame God for not stopping bad things to happen, though He can. I appreciate your article for clarity, anyway.

No. What I am saying is that the C would be affirming failure on God's part if sanctification were entirely monergistic with no synergistic aspect to it. If the C admits that sanctification has synergistic elements to it, then they need to explain how they can affirm this without making sanctification partly the "work" of man, according to their own definition of "works".

Arminians can handle the "problem of evil" much easier than Calvinist since Calvinists affirm that God is the ultimate cause of everything (which logically includes sin, though Cs will not admit to this), while Arminians affirm that God permits sin while it is the sinner himself who is the ultimate cause of sin. For a very detailed treatment of this inconsistency within Calvinism I recommend the following link:

http://www.gospeltruth.net/foster_on_cal/otc_index.htm

I appreciate that you said I communicated with clarity as I have been hearing lately that some of my post are very ambiguous.

God Bless,
Ben

Bonnie said...

Dear Mr. Ben,
I appreciate the kindness with which these discussions are carried out.
I have discussed this issue with several people in our denomination(these included pastors, professors, and theological students) and the majority believe that sanctification is monergistic-of the 12 I asked, only 3 said it was synergistic. You are absolutely right that they can not explain that view logically, given the fact that they profess monergistic epistomology.

Calvin did not believe in a synergistic sanctification. He explained (in the "Institutes") that man is "a tool, not an agent, in sanctification", it is this view I wish to defend.

You have mis-represented our veiws on God in your statement:
"God is the ultimate cause of everthing"-this is wrong God is not the cause of evil, and to say this is blasphemy.
God does allow all things to come to pass for purposes of His glory. In sanctification sin comes from the flesh, or the old man, as Paul put it. God in His mercy has given us the Holy Spirit, who conforms us to the image of Christ.

In this work, God uses even our sin in the process of sanctification-whether to draw us closer to Him after we have been shown our weakness, or to encourage others in the walk.

This does not excuse us from sin or blame God for that sin, for we, being fallen, have earned the curses of sin. Again, the sin in a saved man's life is not God's fault-sin is never God's fault but man's.

The only part we have in sanctification, other than being a tool of God, is our flesh's opposition to that work.

A Calvinist does not say that the cause of sin is God-on the contrary-we believe man is totally sinful and that all good comes from God. In this point you have completly mis-represented our stand on this issue.
The "problem of evil" is easily explained:

God-source of good, can do no evil
Man-fallen and sinful, can do no good

Man has nothing to offer, he is weak and helpless. God in His mercy saves a man, and has masterfully developed the plan of salvation, the purpose being His own glory.

"But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written,
He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord"- 1 Cor. 1:30-31

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"- Jer, 17:9

Constantly the Bible shows us God's holiness and our depravity.


How can that which is holy and that which is the most wicked thing in existence work together to produce a holy process, which leads to a perfect heaven?
This is illogical, wickedness + holiness = holiness?

If one changes this to monergism we have, holiness = holiness.
A far more logical equation.

AJ

kangaroodort said...

AJ,

I am afraid you are mistaken. Calvinists certainly do believe that God causes everything. They believe that God controls the will itself. Even Calvin believed this and argued forcefully for it:

“But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavors, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.171-172)

“Nothing is more absurd than to think anything at all is done but by the ordination of God….Every action and motion of every creature is so governed by the hidden counsel of God, that nothing can come to pass, but what was ordained by Him….The wills of men are so governed by the will of God, that they are carried on straight to the mark which He has fore-ordained” (Cal. Inst., book 1, chapter 16, sect. 3).

“That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture. What we formerly quoted from the Psalms, to the effect that he does whatever pleases him, certainly extends to all the actions of men.” (Institutes 1.18.1).

God not only foresaw that Adam would fall, but also ordained that he should….I confess it is a horrible decree; yet no one can deny but God foreknew Adam’s fall,
and therefore foreknew it, because he had ordained it so by his own decree (Cal. Inst.,
b. 3, c. 23, sec. 7).


This last quote is especially relevant as it reveals the Calvinistic understanding of foreknowledge. God can only foreknow what He has decreed to happen and will infallibly carry out in Calvinism. That means that God can only foreknow your sin because he will cause you to sin. God can only foreknow your thoughts because He will cause your thoughts. God foreknows only what He has decreed to happen and every detail of that decree must infallibly and irresistibly be carried out by Him.

If you do not agree with this then you should abandon Calvinism. While Calvinists sometimes use words like "allow" and "permission", such language is inconsistent with their doctrines of sovereignty (which in Calvinism equals exhaustive determinism) and foreknowledge as explained above.

Notice what the Westminster Confession states about "permission",

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.” Westminster Confession of Faith, V. 2 & 4.

The end reveals the Calvinist inconsistency and double talk. While affirming that God causes everything without permission but through an unchangeable “bounding”, it is also affirmed that he is not the author of sin. This is a plain contradiction and proves that they recognized that their doctrines naturally lead to the conclusion that God authors sin. They do not try to explain how their doctrines can harmonize with the denial that God authors sin (since they cannot). Rather, they just deny it and affirm blatant contradictions. Such are the absurdities of Calvinistic theology.

So I will respectfully refuse the charge that I am misrepresenting Calvinism.

BTW, this is an old blog and has moved to wordpress. You can find the new site here. You can also find this same post at the new site.

God Bless,
Ben

Bonnie said...

Dear Mr. Ben,
You've quoted the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 5 section 4, but excluded the Bible texts that it corresponds with it.
Each and every phrase has it's founding upon the Word of God, so as the entire section reads:
"The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providene, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; (Romans 11:32. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. V 33. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! V 34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? 2 Samuel 24:1. And again the anger of the LOR was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. With 1 Chronicles 21:1. And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. 1 Kings 22:22. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he siad, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. V 23 Nor therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
1 Chronicles 10:4 Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. V 13 So Saul died for his transgression which he comitted against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; V 14. And inquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse. 2 Samuel 16:10. And the king said, what have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? Acts 2:23. Him, being delivered by the determinate cousel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Acts 4:27. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, V 28. For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.) and that not by a bare permission, (Acts 14:16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.) but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding*, (Ps 76:10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee; the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain. 2 Kings 19:28. Because thy rage against Me and thy tumult is come up into Mine ears, therefore I will put My hook in thy nose, and My bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. *notice the "bounding" you referred to, it is in the truest sense of the word!) and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a maniforld dispensation, to His own holy ends; (Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Isaiah 10:6. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. V 7. Howbeit He meaneth not so, neither doth His heart think so; but it is in His heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. V 12. Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout hear of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.)



continued in part 2
AJ

Bonnie said...

yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, Who, being most holy and righteous, neither is, nor can be, the author or approver of sin. (James 1:13. Let no man
(PART 2)
say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man; V 14. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. V 17. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above , and cometh down from the Father of lights, whith Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 1 John 2:16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Psalms 50:21. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.)
So, you see Sir, if this paragraph is inconsistent, then we must conclude that the Bible verses themselves are inconsistent, given the fact that they resound the same central theme-the omnipotence of God, hand in hand with His infinite goodness.
If this is inconsistent, in your eyes, then we must conclude that you deny one of these principles, if not both. This opens an inconsistency in your theology. This is the argument of an Open theist.
What I want to know is do you believe that God rules the souls and wills of His creation, turning them at His will?
As for your comments on mysteries-the Bible makes mention of both the mysteries of faith (1 Timothy 3:9 "Holding the mystery of the faith"), and the mystery of God (Revelations 10:7 "the mystery of God should be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets." and Job 11:7 "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" Romans 11:33"How unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out!")
What we do know is this, that:
1. God is infinitely powerful, ruling His creation.
Daniel 4:35 "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?"
Romans 9:13-23 "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture said unto Pharoah, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My Name be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore, hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, why doeth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing form say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the Potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory."

AJ
(continued in part 3)

Bonnie said...

Matthew 20:15 "Is it not lawful for ME to do what I will with MY own?"
Ephesians 1:5 "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will"
Ephesians 1:11 "In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him, Who worketh all things after the counsel of His will."
Philippians 2:13 "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
Revelations 4:11 "for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
Proverbs 16:4 "The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."
Proverbs 21:1 "The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it withersoever He will."
Psalm 105:25

2. God is infinitely holy.
Psalm 5:4+5 "For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with Thee."
Genesis 18:25 "Shall not the Judge of the earth do right?"

What a peace these scriptures bring when we understand our own insignificance in contrast to God's omnipotence! This is the aim and point of Biblical Calvinism. All glory belongs to God, Himself, and man can not glory in self.

AJ

kangaroodort said...

AJ,

The point is not the proof texts offered for the Calvinist position, but the conclusions drawn from those texts. Obviously, I do not interpret those texts the same way as the writers of the Westminster Confession. There interpretation causes them to have to swallow plain contradictions. I am of the firm opinion that the Bible is truth and truth is incompatible with contradictions.

The writers of the Westminster Confession are simply revealing their inconsistency with such appeals to Scripture. Their doctrine says that for God to be truly sovereign, nothing can happen in this universe that does not proceed necessarily and irresistibly from His unchangeable eternal decree. That means that God causes everything. That is basic to their understanding of sovereignty.

It does not help to say that it proceeds from the sinner when the sinner got to be a sinner because of an unchangeable and irresistible eternal decree. No sinner or unbeliever can do anything other than sin and live in unbelief since that is what God decreed for them. And then God punishes them for doing exactly what He irresistibly and unchangeably decreed for them to do before they were even born. And that is somehow supposed to be consistent with divine justice and God's love and holiness as revealed in Scripture? You yourself seemed appalled at such things in your first post. But that is exactly the teaching of Calvinism when taken to its logical conclusions.

According to Calvinism God controls our every thought and action in such a way that we can only think and act just as God causes us to. Then He punishes us for our thoughts and actions, thoughts and actions that we had no power to control in any way! Just think on that for a moment.

How do they deal with this? Well, hyper-Calvinists just affirm that God does this without squirming since they are concerned with consistency. Other Calvinists just appeal to mystery. Rather than re-evaluating their understanding of Scripture, they throw up their hands and basically say (as you have done), "So what if it doesn't make sense, neither does the Bible!"

Well, I prefer to take a different approach to Scripture, one that does not lead to such absurdities. And BTW, when you affirm plain contradictions and call them compatible when they are plainly incompatible, you give up all rights to challenge another system based on consistency (as you seem to want to do). Continued below:

kangaroodort said...

If this is inconsistent, in your eyes, then we must conclude that you deny one of these principles, if not both. This opens an inconsistency in your theology. This is the argument of an Open theist.

Foreknowledge and freedom is perfectly compatible when properly understood. Open Theists are a minority opinion in Arminianism and they cannot even truly be called Arminian since Arminius held to exhaustive foreknowledge. But again, you have already given up all rights to criticize an opposing system based on consistency when you are so willing to swallow plain contradictions for the sake of upholding your exhaustive determinism.

What I want to know is do you believe that God rules the souls and wills of His creation, turning them at His will?

God's sovereignty means that He has absolute rights over His creation. He will hold everyone accountable for their actions and will do so in perfect justice. God has the freedom and right to do as He pleases, but He does not have the freedom to contradict His own holiness and justice in the process. God must be God. To control people to sin and then punish them for that sin is out of harmony with God's justice, love and holiness. Therefore, Calvinism is false.

God has the sovereign right to create free moral agents and hold them accountable for their actions. The Calvinist limits God's freedom and sovereignty by denying Him that right.

God is so big and so wise that He can accomplish all of His plans despite the free will of His creatures. My view of God is very big, while the Calvinist view is very small (God can only rule and accomplish His plans though mechanical cause and effect and is somehow threatened by creatures with free will). God does override the will of man on occasion, and He has the right to do so, but God does not control man's will to sin irresistibly and then punish Him for that sin. Continued below:

kangaroodort said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kangaroodort said...

As for your comments on mysteries-the Bible makes mention of both the mysteries of faith (1 Timothy 3:9 "Holding the mystery of the faith"), and the mystery of God (Revelations 10:7 "the mystery of God should be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets." and Job 11:7 "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" Romans 11:33"How unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out!")

There is mystery in God, but it is wrong to call contradictions "mystery". That is never how the Bible defines "mystery". Contradictions are non-truths and reveal error. Falsehood and error is not Biblical "mystery". Since God is truth He cannot be contradictory.

I don't have time to go on and on with you. I would encourage you to visit my site (at wordpress) and read some of my posts and allow your perspective to be challenged. I would also recommend visiting the SEA site. You will find numerous articles and posts there that address Calvinist arguments and proof texts (like Rom. 9, John 6, and Eph. 1). On Romans 9 I especially recommend this article.

The fact is that such texts actually support Arminianism against Calvinism when properly understood. In your last comments you have misrepresented Arminianism by suggesting that Arminians do not believe that salvation is all of God. That is not the case at all. Again, I suggest you read carefully from those you oppose so that you can fairly represent their beliefs. You were concerned that I represent Calvinism properly and you should likewise be concerned to represent Arminianism properly. Visiting those sites and reading carefully will be a good start. There are also recommended books, many of which can be viewed free on-line. May God bless you as you continue to seek Him and His truth.

Bonnie said...

Dear Mr. Ben,

What then is your interpretation
of Proverbs 21:1 "The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water He turneth it withersoever He will." This plainly aserts that not only does God occasionally turn the hearts of man, but it is continually in His hand, as the rivers of water are.
You are absolutely right, God has the sovereign right to do what He will with His creation-this is the point we are trying to establish. How do you interpret Daniel 4:35?
"And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth".
We are reputed as nothing, as this passage aserts. There is a greater purpose to this world than us, and our salvation, and that is the glory of God.
How do you interpret Proverbs 16:4 "The Lord hath made all things for Himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."
God created them evil that He might pleasure Himself in their destruction. This doesn't mean the wickedness is His.
How do you interpret Revelations 4:11 "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."?
Yet another text that puts us in our righful place. God's entire purpose is to establish His own glory. Whether through the destruction of evil, or the merciful cleansing of it.
How do you interpret Phil. 2:13 "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."?
Once again this scripture is not speaking of an occasional act of intervention. It is talking very plainly about an ongoing work of God in our lives for the purpose of His will and glory.
In closing, God did create man with a free will, and with that free will he sinned and fell from that estate that he was created in.
So God doesn't condemn man, man's sin condemns him-and God shows mercy upon whom He will show mercy, and is just to save man, or leave him to his own fall.
We've come with scripture after scripture, none of which are addressed by you directly. You've come with no scripture defending your position. You merely throw in your own finite explaination of a God too great for mere man to understand. In short this has been a debate between scripture and philosophy, and now you have no time to address the scriptures brough forth, casting them aside, and telling us that we are misinterpreting each and every one of them. Yet we've presented solid proofs, as God's Word is the ultimate authority.

AJ

P.S. I'm an ex-Arminian myself, born and raised. I know first hand what it is to be an Arminian.
What I've come to see is that God is far superior to what I was taught, and I am far less significant. I've been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world. Not because of any pre-determined good God saw in me, but solely because of His unmerited favor. I can not loose that-for God makes no mistakes, nor does He change His mind. That scriptural truth gives me a peace you will never know, until you see it clearly yourself. I wish you all could know that complete peace, and trust in God for yourselves.
You comment that we make God small, and you make God great. That's confusing, since Arminianism elevates man, and takes power from God, in that it claims man can fall out of grace with God - God isn't able to keep Him (though we're told He will finish the work He's begun in us). This point you may well accept yourself, since there are different degrees of Arminianism.

Bonnie said...

Dear Mr. Ben,
I have viewed the Romans 9 commentary that you recomended.

It is true that the Jacob and Esau reference speaks of nations as well-for God hath chosen for Himself a "peculiar people".
This was represented (before Christ) as the children of Israel. Just as the animals sacrificed symbolize Christ so does the nation of Israel symbolize the church of today.
We are the spiritual "nation of Israel" chosen out of the Esaus of the world-and you are absolutely right when you say it is not of our merit for in many ways Esau was more virtuous than Jacob.
This is not taken out of context because the NT is the fulfillment of the OT. Romans from start to finish exemplifies the road to salvation. This road starts with the fact that we can do nothing and are chosen not for good in us or because God would look into the future and "foresee" what we would choose (a very ludicrous view).
In this way the church of today is the spiritual Israel of the OT-chosen by God out of the world.
God has had mercy on us in saving us from pharoah's fate, for left to ourselves we would be the same, this mercy is not based on our performance as Israel never did deserve this mercy.
As for the comparison of 'hatred' in Rom. 9:13; Malachi 1:2,3; and Luke 14:26, the word hate is misconstrued- in the OT the word hate would have been the Hebrew word 'satam', 'sane', or 'sene' which mean to persecute, to hate, or the enemy. In Romans, having had the foundation in the OT would have had the same idea and means 'to detest'. Now Christ used the word 'miseo' as defined 'to love less'.
Duet. 2:4-6 does not mean the Lord loved Esau to. God merely did not want them to invade Seir because this was not the promised land. He told them to pay because even though they were stronger they were still to behave right and to show the Edomites that God had provided for His people.
As far as pharoah goes man is stubborn in nature and will refuse God to the end unless He shows mercy to whom he wills and opens their eyes.
To Jeremiah, I say this, that while it is true that man does need to repent it is God who causes us to do so by "making His face to shine"-Ps 80:3,7,19. So the great potter, in who's hand is mercy and justice, has the right to turn us to himself, harden us in our own sin, and show mercy to His chosen people or nation (1 Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people")
This clay does as it is formed-unto honor or dishonor, as God will have it. And, as the scripture asserts, it is not his place to question. We are all made for His pleasure Prov. 16:4.

To Him alone be the glory!

God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon us all!

AJ

kangaroodort said...

AJ,

Did you notice in my last post that I wrote that I do not have time to go on and on with you about this? Why then did you respond with a list of Scriptures asking me to interpret them for you? Do you not realize that I could produce a tremendous list of Scriptures that challenge each point of Calvinism? What would you think if I did so and asked for your interpretation of each? Do you see how such a discussion would quickly become unmanageable? Perhaps you have more time than me. I assure you that there are solid Arminian interpretations for any passage you might propose as a difficulty for the Arminian position.

I will just quickly address your first one:

Proverbs 21:1 "The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water He turneth it withersoever He will."

As I pointed out earlier, the Calvinist interpretation of this passage is untenable. It would lead to the conclusion that God controls His creatures to sin and unbelief and then punishes them for the sin and unbelief that He causes them to do. A much simpler interpretation is to see this as a declaration of submission to God on the part of the king. He is basically saying that his will is in total submission to the will of God. He is saying: “My heart is in the Lord’s hands, he can do with it as He likes”. He is not saying that he has no power to resist God at any time, nor is he saying that God turns his will to sin and evil. Look at the next verse:

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

Do you see that? He is saying that men have their own idea of what is right but God looks to the heart and makes a right judgment according to His own holy standard. God judges the intentions of the heart. But what sense does this make if verse one is telling us that God is the one who controls our intentions and will? Do you really think that Solomon is suggesting that God controls our every thought and intention and then judges us for the intentions that God causes and we have absolutely no control over? Rather, God judges our intentions to see if they are conformed to His intentions. God is looking for hearts that are submitted to Him and His law and not those whose heart’s reject God’s standards and live according to their own standards instead. This fits perfectly with my interpretation of verse one. Solomon makes the point that his heart is surrendered to God, and then explains that he will be vindicated by God (in verse 2) based on the fact that he has committed himself to the ways of the Lord rather than his own ways.

Solomon goes on to describe the wickedness that flows from those who seek to live according to their own standard rather than God’s standard. But your interpretation would lead us to believe that all of the wickedness being described of men in these subsequent verses is the direct result of God irresistibly turning men’s hearts to sin and evil like a water course. This is the typical mess created by Calvinist proof texting.

Continued below:

kangaroodort said...

P.S. I'm an ex-Arminian myself, born and raised. I know first hand what it is to be an Arminian. What I've come to see is that God is far superior to what I was taught, and I am far less significant.

I don’t know your situation, but I have spoken to many Calvinists who claim they used to be Arminian, and yet have no idea what Arminian theology really teaches. Just because one was not a Calvinist does not mean that he or she was an Arminian. There are many non-Calvinists who are not Arminian and are rather clueless about Arminian theology. I was always a non-Calvinist, but I have only in recent years understood what it truly means to be an Arminian. The Arminian conception of God is incredibly big and very Biblical. Based on our short discussion and the numerous times you have misrepresented Arminian thought and repeated the standard Calvinist objections which reveal a lack of understanding of the opposing view, I have a hard time believing that you were truly Arminian in your theology prior to embracing Calvinism. But even if you were, that doesn’t mean that Calvinism is right.

Most Mormon converts come from nominal Christians. Most of those converts would say that they were Christians before converting to Mormonism. But that doesn’t make Mormonism right, and in most cases those Christians did not know their Bibles very well before encountering the Mormon missionary. They were “non-Mormon” but that doesn’t mean they were solid Christians who were well established in their faith and well prepared to guard against the false teachings of Mormonism with their clever arguments and numerous proof texts. The point is not that Calvinists are like Mormons (they are not). The point is that we need to be careful not to assume that we were all that we thought we were prior to embracing another system of belief and that the new system of belief must for that reason be correct.

I am friends with a NT scholar who is extremely brilliant. He used to be a Calvinist. He abandoned Calvinism because it was so at odds with Scripture. He is now a very strong Arminian who is one of the best and careful exegetes of Scripture that you will ever find. His scholarly works are outstanding. Does that mean that Calvinism is false because he left it behind? Hardly. And by the way, this guy fully understands Calvinism and has interacted with some of the top Calvinist scholars writing today. Here is a link to a page with several testimonies of former Calvinist who have left Calvinism:

X-Calvinist Corner

How much have you read from actual Arminian scholars? I don’t mean non-Calvinists like Geisler or Hunt, but actual Arminians? How much have you read of James Arminius? I have read much of Calvin, Spurgeon, Owen, Edwards, and others. I own and have read R.C. Sproul’s “Chosen by God”. I own and have read James White’s “The Potter’s Freedom”. I own and have read “Still Sovereign” by Schreiner and Ware. I own and have read “Why I Am Not An Arminian” by Peterson and Williams. So please believe me when I tell you that I am well familiar with the Calvinist position from the writings of Calvinists themselves. But I wonder how many Arminian works have you read?

Continued below:

kangaroodort said...

That scriptural truth gives me a peace you will never know, until you see it clearly yourself. I wish you all could know that complete peace, and trust in God for yourselves.

This is extremely presumptuous on your part. I trust in God completely and have served Him for many years. If you do not believe that I trust in God, then you cannot believe that I am even saved. Is this where your Calvinism has led you? And why would you wish for me what God apparently has not, since He has apparently decided by way of an unchangeable eternal decree that I not “trust” Him or know the peace that you supposedly “know” so much better than a deceived Arminian like me (deceived because God has irresistibly controlled my heart to embrace Arminianism and reject Calvinism)? Likewise, why was Paul in anguish for the supposed reprobated Jews that he spoke of in Romans 9 and why did he pray against God’s will that they should be saved when God had determined to damn them for his good pleasure? (Rom. 9:2, 3; 10:1- note that Paul is still speaking of those same Jews that Calvinists claim are reprobated from all eternity in Rom. 9:21, 22, etc.). Calvinism makes such a mess of Scripture and impugns God’s holy and loving nature.

BTW, Calvinism actually provides far less assurance than Arminianism when taken to its logical conclusions:

Perseverance of the Saints Part 13: Salvation Assurance

You comment that we make God small, and you make God great. That's confusing, since Arminianism elevates man, and takes power from God, in that it claims man can fall out of grace with God - God isn't able to keep Him (though we're told He will finish the work He's begun in us). This point you may well accept yourself, since there are different degrees of Arminianism.

And comments like these only prove further that you do not understand Arminian theology. Rather, you are relying on a Calvinist caricature of Arminianism. No Arminian would ever make the claims you make here. They do not even come close to accurately reflecting Arminian theology. There is much more I would like to say, but I do not have the time right now to devote to this. We will just have to agree to disagree (and really if Calvinism is true and God is controlling our every thought and belief as you suggest, it is really just God arguing with Himself through us and essentially giving Himself a hard time- how bizarre!). Again, I will remind you that this site is no longer active and has moved to wordpress. You can find that site linked to above in one of my former comments (and the two links above will also take you to the wordpress site).

God Bless,
Ben

Bonnie said...

Dear Mr. Ben,
I'm sorry for any offense that you might have taken by my comments on this blog. I assure you that my intentions were the defense of God-when you use such phrases as "getting God of the hook for sin" it is my duty as a Christian to defend His glory.
This is not "God arguing with Himself" it is God revealing Himself through the carefull study and use of the scripture, it is His mercy to us in that he is using one to show and maybe even convict the other of the truth. God uses means, Mr. Ben, to accomplish His plan.
As for your 'threat' to send a page of Bible verses-I say bring it on! You have answered me with nothing but loads of fluf. The scripture is my chief concern.
I believe that if I spend time on the scriptures God will give me time for the scriptures.
As for your defense of your intellegence I say again I wasn't out to insult you. You probably are alot smarter than me-but God uses the "foolish things of the world to confound the wise"-1 Cor. 1:27. When I argue in these matters I rely not on my own intelligence(Thank God!) but on the ultimate wisdom of the Word of God.
May God bless you, Mr. Ben!
AJ

kangaroodort said...

I assure you that my intentions were the defense of God-when you use such phrases as "getting God of the hook for sin" it is my duty as a Christian to defend His glory.

And you defend his glory by proof texting Prov. 21:1 which, if taken the way you think it should be, would mean that God controls our hearts to sin and evil. The implications are obvious: God is therefore the author of all sin and evil. So how have you defended His glory in suggesting such things?

The offense I took was due to your saying that I do not trust in God, which would mean I am not saved. Where exactly do you get off telling me that I do not trust God? How is that defending God's glory?

This is not "God arguing with Himself" it is God revealing Himself through the carefull study and use of the scripture, it is His mercy to us in that he is using one to show and maybe even convict the other of the truth. God uses means, Mr. Ben, to accomplish His plan.

And of course you mean that God is using you to convict me, Right? But you entirely missed my point. If God controls our every thought and action and all of our thoughts must have their origin in Him (He decides what thoughts we will think, what desires we will have, and what choices we will make). If that is the case then you and me disagreeing with each other is just God disagreeing with Himself through us, since He is the one controlling our thoughts to disagree with each other. We are just passive instruments in the hands of God, not capable of independent thought or self-determination. So the "music" (our thoughts, choices, actions, etc.) that proceeds from us is the music that God Himself creates. The passive instrument cannot play itself and cannot make music apart from the direct manipulation of the musician. So you make God the author of confusion as well as sin, contrary to the word of God.

If Scripture is your chief concern than why do you recklessly proof text Scripture? I explained why one of your proof texts cannot mean what you want it to mean. Yet, you do not interact with any of that. Instead, you respond with "fluff" and accuse me of giving you nothing but fluff. Interesting.

As for your defense of your intellegence I say again I wasn't out to insult you.

When did I defend my intelligence? All I said was that you need to be familiar with the view you are attacking so that you can fairly represent it. I explained that I am very familiar with the opposing view and challenged you that perhaps you were not. The point being that you are not offering anything that I have not already heard, and that you are misrepresenting the Arminian view. So I ask again, how much have you read from actual Arminians for the sake of properly representing their beliefs? None of this has anything to do with defending my intelligence.

When I argue in these matters I rely not on my own intelligence(Thank God!) but on the ultimate wisdom of the Word of God.

But really (according to exhaustive determinism), when you argue these matters, it is not you at all that is arguing these matters since you have no control over your own thoughts and will. Likewise, it is not really me at all arguing with you since I have no control over my own thoughts or will. God controls all of it "like a water course", and so, in the end, it is just God arguing with Himself and giving Himself a hard time.

Unlike you, I will not question your salvation simply because you are a Calvinist. If you are trusting in Christ, then you are saved according to the Scriptures. I therefore consider you a brother in the Lord, though we disagree. I really do not have time to continue this conversation. May God Bless you as you continue to seek Him and His truth.

Ben