Monday, July 12, 2010

A QUESTION ABOUT CALVINISM

Craig,
I have a question for you and Penn about Calvinism that I asked the Calvinist commenters on John Piper's blog about a year ago and never got an answer. (As I think I've mentioned to you, I agree with the Calvinistic emphasis on God's grace but not the determinism.)

During the Great Awakening when George Whitefield and John Wesley preached, many people were saved. Whitefield and Wesley apparently prayed for several hours each day and were very much led by the Holy Spirit while preaching.

This is my question: Were the conversions due to the prayers and Spirit-led preaching, or were there just a disproportionate number of "elect" during that time? That is, did God just choose to soften hearts while these two preached, whereas now He is more inclined to harden hearts when the Gospel is preached? Or is there a correlation between prayer/Spirit-filled preaching and conversions?

The question occurred to me because you said that you have no idea who is elect and who is not. Of course this is true to both Calvinists and Arminians--photosynthesis could be the next Augustine for all we know. But apart from the fact that God is omniscient and has always known who will ultimately be saved, is it carved in stone? We know that Augustine's mother Monica prayed for him far more than most mothers pray for their children, so in my mind that had a lot to do with him being saved. "God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

Even after I read Piper's blog for several months (and reading Future Grace) it was not at all clear to me what the Calvinistic position is on this question, so I'd be interested in your thoughts. I'd also like Penn's thoughts.
___Anette
_______________________________

Very good questions.

 First, I will make one clarification of something Anette said. There is a difference between the concept of "determinism" and the Reformed doctrines of "election" and "predestination ." While they are alike in some respects, there is an important difference. Election (and reprobation) proceed from the "eternal decree" of a holy and wise God whose ways are beyond our finding out (Romans 11:33-36). Determinism can be illustrated in the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus Rex. Although Oedipus was foretold by the Oracle at Delphi that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother, no amount of care or effort on his part could prevail to avoid the pre-determined outcome. Now, there is no "oracle" involved in the determinism that is inherent in today's materialistic world view, but each event is only the latest effect in a series of impersonal causes. (Some say that it is an infinite series.)

Some people think the Christian doctrine of election and reprobation is just like that, sort of a "you're damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation. This is not the case. It is true that Scripture reveals that there are the elect, individuals whom God has "chosen from the foundation of the world." ( Ephesians 1:4-5 and  2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 ) This is a great comfort to those who have trusted Jesus for their salvation and eternal life. But we have been given no advanced knowledge about which people are elect. Therefore, the church is to preach the gospel to everyone, everywhere, calling them to: "come to Jesus, acknowledging your sin and guilt, and trusting him for salvation, and in doing that, you will most assuredly receive forgiveness and eternal life by virtue of Christ crucified for sinners." So, you are damned if you don't, but are certainly not damned if you do come to Jesus the Savior. You are wonderfully saved.

We are getting closer to Anette's questions, but there is something else that needs to be established in order to give context to the answer, and that is How God Brings About Conversion.

God applies His saving grace by the operation of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8) through the word or ministry of reconciliation; (2 Cor. 5:18-19) which is the gospel concerning Christ, by means whereof it has pleased Him to save such as believe (1 Cor. 1:21)...(Canons of Dort III & IV Art. 6)

The means which God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration is the preaching of the gospel. (Isa. 55:10-11; 1 Cor. 1:21; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23, 25; Romans 10:13,14,15,16,17)

So, Anette's questions:

Were the conversions due to the prayers and Spirit-led preaching, or were there just a disproportionate number of "elect" during that time? That is, did God just choose to soften hearts while these two preached, whereas now He is more inclined to harden hearts when the Gospel is preached? Or is there a correlation between prayer/Spirit-filled preaching and conversions?

The Calvinist's answer is, "Both." We have seen above that God has ordained preaching as the means of conversion. Also, Christ has taught us in the "Lord's Prayer" what things God is pleased with and will hear. The second petition, "Thy kingdom come" certainly includes praying for the increase of His church through salvation of souls.

Scripture tells those that have come to Christ for salvation (e.g. Wesley and Whitefield's hearers, and Augustine) that God the Father has chosen them in Christ from before the foundation of the world ( Ephesians 1:3-4 ), and that they have been saved and called with a holy calling, not according to their works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to them in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Tim. 1:9). They see that they never could have come to Jesus unless the Father had drawn them (John 6:44).

History shows that there are times and places in which  a greater number of people are being saved than in other times and places. That seems to be happening right now in China and on the African continent.

"...And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48)

40 comments:

Anette Acker said...

I appreciate your response, Craig!

My parents are coming today to visit for five days, so I don't know how quickly I can reply substantively.

I think it's interesting that you brought up Oedipus Rex, and how that really was predetermination because he knew what would happen, and there was nothing he could do to avoid it. God knows who are the elect, but if we don't know, and our actions and prayers make an actual difference, then that would not be determinism. But if God determines everything and we just go through the motions, then that would, of course, be determinism.

Anette Acker said...

Let me rephrase my question:

Charles Spurgeon said the following:

"A certain preacher, whose sermons converted men by scores, received a revelation from heaven that not one of the conversions was owing to his talents or eloquence, but all to the prayers of an illiterate lay brother, who sat on the pulpit steps, pleading all the time for the success of the sermon."

Let's say I decided the pray for Ray Comfort and atheists who comment on AC in the same way that this lay brother prayed, but then I said, "Nah, I'm not going to bother."

Of course God knows who is ultimately going to be saved, and He has known that from the beginning of time, but my specific question is whether my prayers (or their absence) will, according to Calvinism, make an actual difference in terms of who will be saved?

Yes, Spurgeon was a Calvinist and he certainly seemed to believe it made a difference, but he has elsewhere admitted to not being a logically consistent Calvinist.

Anette Acker said...

Sorry, I forgot to click email notification.

stranger.strange.land said...

Thanks Anette.

"Of course God knows who is ultimately going to be saved, and He has known that from the beginning of time, but my specific question is whether my prayers (or their absence) will, according to Calvinism, make an actual difference in terms of who will be saved?"

"Who will be saved" is a matter of God's sovereign choice, based on "the good pleasure of His will":

(See Canons of Dort, Head 1, art. 7)
Ephesians 1:4-6
Ephesians 1:11
John 17:2
1 Cor. 1:9
John 6:37
John 6:44
John 17:12
John 17:24
Romans 8:30

Your prayers are involved when you ask God to convict people of their sins, open their hearts to receive the gospel, and grant them the gift of repentance and faith.

Shutterbug said...

We have seen above that God has ordained preaching as the means of conversion


I understand faith coming from hearing the Word, but is the preacher who preaches the Word ordained or "called" or can anyone preach the Word?

stranger.strange.land said...

Shutterbug

The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q/A 158 says:

Q. By whom is the word of God to be preached?

A. The word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.


The office referred to there is that of minister of Word and Sacrament, but the same applies to those who have been gifted and called to be missionaries sent by the church.

Every believer should witness to the truth, however, in words and by our godly conduct, that we may bring others to Christ, (1 Peter 3:15; 1 Peter 2:12).

stranger.strange.land said...

More on Anette's Prayer question

"...my specific question is whether my prayers (or their absence) will, according to Calvinism, make an actual difference in terms of who will be saved?"

While our prayers (yours, mine or the man sitting on the stairs of the pulpit) do not make a difference in determining who will be saved, (that is God's responsibility alone), there is no doubt that God uses them as his instruments in drawing his people to his Son and into his kingdom.

Here is one of the greatest statements about Christ's Atonement and Evangelism in the Bible. See how the "prayers of the saints" is right in the middle of it:

Rev 5:6-10
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

And they sang a new song, saying,
"Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

(NASB)

stranger.strange.land said...

One more follow-up for Anette:

I think it's interesting that you brought up Oedipus Rex, and how that really was predetermination because he knew what would happen, and there was nothing he could do to avoid it. God knows who are the elect, but if we don't know, and our actions and prayers make an actual difference, then that would not be determinism. But if God determines everything and we just go through the motions, then that would, of course, be determinism.

The difference is that:

In determinism there is no connection between our actions / intentions and the pre-determined end.

In God's eternal decree there is a connection between our actions / intentions the fore-ordained end.

Craig

stranger.strange.land said...

Re-posted from the earlier thread.
__Craig


Penn Tomassetti said...

Anette,

You said...
"I have a question for you and Penn about Calvinism...

During the Great Awakening when George Whitefield and John Wesley preached, many people were saved. Whitefield and Wesley apparently prayed for several hours each day and were very much led by the Holy Spirit while preaching.

This is my question: Were the conversions due to the prayers and Spirit-led preaching, or were there just a disproportionate number of "elect" during that time? That is, did God just choose to soften hearts while these two preached, whereas now He is more inclined to harden hearts when the Gospel is preached? Or is there a correlation between prayer/Spirit-filled preaching and conversions?"

First let me say, I agree with you about Christian disagreement. We need to be understanding of one another, which is why I appreciate your question. To get your question correct, allow me to try to rephrase it so I understand rightly: Did people convert under the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield because of Spirit-led prayer and preaching? Or were there simply more people elected to be saved during their ministries?

First, allow me to point out that your question presents a false dichotomy. You seem to be assuming that it was either/or the prayers and preaching of men, or God's Sovereign choice. Then after that you seem to be assuming that more people were being saved at that time than are now. Personally, I do not see as many conversions today as were reported at that time, but I believe that your question already assumes that it has to be either/or in this case.

To me, it seems that people had been prepared for years before the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and John Wesley. They were taught many things from the Bible that are not taught today. Even their society was much more "christianized" than it is today and certainly had more knowledge of the basic truths that the gospel is based on than people do today. Also, the preaching of those men was far different than the way pastors and evangelists preach today. They had a practice of speaking powerfully in ways people seem to have lost or not yet re-learned. They also took many truths, such as judgment and sin, very seriously and spent a lot of time talking about them before pointing people to the answer. They were specially gifted by the Holy Spirit to preach. People in those days were also available to hear that kind of preaching when it came to their streets and countrysides. But even with all those natural factors, we could still say that God had predestined all of it to take place and to save those who were converted by His grace. That is Biblical to say, because of Ephesians 1:11, "[In Him] also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (NAS).

Biblically, God commands prayer, preaching and repentance, yet He works out those activities by His Spirit and makes them effectual. He has also predetermined all things, according to Scripture. God predetermined the cross of Christ before creating the world. He predetermined that Christ would die for sinners and save many. In the same manner, we can believe that God also predetermined the use of prayer and powerful preaching to save people in the days of Wesley and Whitefield, as well as today.

I think it is important for us to always keep in mind two things: 1) that we are creatures and God is the Creator, and 2) that we do not in the least way deserve His grace, yet it is by His own plan and will that He chose to save us for His glory through Christ. I believe those two points will help us put the other questions in perspective.

God bless you, Anette!

July 12, 2010 7:47 PM

Anette Acker said...

Hi Penn,

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. We have guests and things have been busy. That's great that you've been in the Dominican Republic doing evangelizing.

I'm just going to reply quickly to something you've said. First, I'm glad that you think that my question presents a false dichotomy. I agree, but I wasn't sure if Calvinists do, because it often sounds as if they believe that God picked certain people and passed over others. Of course that is inconsistent with 1 Timothy 2:4, and if we ignore certain passages, we are indeed cherry picking like photosynthesis said.

But even with all those natural factors, we could still say that God had predestined all of it to take place and to save those who were converted by His grace. That is Biblical to say, because of Ephesians 1:11, "[In Him] also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (NAS).

I do not consider the Spirit-filled preaching and the prayers to be "natural factors." That is how God works to reach as many people as possible. It is His will that we do the same today.

I'll elaborate later, but I just didn't want to take too long to get back to you.

God bless you too!

photosynthesis said...

Hey Craig,

Just saying hello.

Aawww. I thought it was my beliefs that made me such a likeable guy. ;^)

Well, no. They wouldn't. Thank God you don't behave the way you believe. ;-)

I am hesitating about messing your current thread or not ... hum ... no. Rather not.

Best!

photosynthesis said...

(well, only a bit)

Anette, there is more than one branch of Calvinism. At least one of them think it is stupid, and offensive, to preach because the gospel is available everywhere, and their god made his celestial mind from the very beginning (omniscient, remember?). Some get very angry at those who preach for trying to help the omnipotent and omnisovereign. Who are they to try and move the sovereign into saving someone else?

Again, it all comes to which verses of the Bible they choose to take to the letter, or to read-into (eisegesis) against almost any other verse. However, all branches of Christianity do the eisegesis. Otherwise they would not be able to see the Bible as a coherent piece. They often justify their eisegesis on the very basis of coherence: If the Bible is the word of their god, then any contradiction has to be a fault of interpretation. You can then make almost any kind of doctrine out of the Bible depending on where and how you start. Just look at the Christianities. No more proof is necessary. I insist on calling that omni-incompetence, but you call it whatever you want.

G.E.

Anette Acker said...

Feel free to join in the conversation, photosynthesis. I certainly don't mind, and it sounds like you have some very definite thoughts on this subject.

However, all branches of Christianity do the eisegesis. Otherwise they would not be able to see the Bible as a coherent piece.

You are committing the fallacy of begging the question here. But since you're so sure that all Christians do this, feel free to bring to our attention which Bible passages we are neglecting. I'm always looking to improve my understanding of the Bible.

BTW, Craig, Penn, and Shutterbug, how do you incorporate 1 Timothy 2:4? Do you think God's will is always done or not?

Anette Acker said...

Craig,

"Of course God knows who is ultimately going to be saved, and He has known that from the beginning of time, but my specific question is whether my prayers (or their absence) will, according to Calvinism, make an actual difference in terms of who will be saved?"

"Who will be saved" is a matter of God's sovereign choice, based on "the good pleasure of His will":


Just to make sure that I understand you correctly, Craig, are you saying that the outcome (in terms of whether or not someone is saved) will be the same regardless of whether or not I pray?

If so, how do you square this with 1 Timothy 2:4?

stranger.strange.land said...

@ Photosynthesis

I am hesitant about messing your current thread or not...

"Messing" my current thread? No, you're doing fine. Your playing the "pedagogical card" in a comment to Shutterbug on the previous thread did produce a frown on my brow, but I am confident that she regards Christ as her one Master(Matthew 23:8,10), so you're okay.

Shutterbug said...

...Your playing the "pedagogical card" in a comment to Shutterbug on the previous thread did produce a frown on my brow...


When I read his response in that other thread I just rolled my eyes and let it go, because...

I am confident that she regards Christ as her one Master(Matthew 23:8,10)

You are exactly right Craig.

Anette Acker said...

I consider myself neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian because they represent systems of theology that fail to incorporate everything the Bible says about salvation. I prefer to be able to modify my understanding of Scripture without the restraints of another fallible human's thoughts. (And this process will continue throughout my lifetime.) I think this is what Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13. "Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ.' Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

Ben Witherington said the following:

"And all too often, the apparent intellectual coherency of a theological system is taken as absolute and compelling proof that this view of God, salvation,the world must be true and all others be heresy, to one degree or another. But it is perfectly possible to argue logically and coherency [sic] in a hermeneutical or theological circle with all parts connected, and unfortunately be dead wrong-- because one drew the circle much too small and left out all the inconvenient contrary evidence. This sort of fault is inevitable with theological systems constructed by finite human beings."

Shutterbug said...

Anette Acker said...
BTW, Craig, Penn, and Shutterbug, how do you incorporate 1 Timothy 2:4? Do you think God's will is always done or not?


"who desires all men to be saved..." does not mean that God has willed that everyone should be saved, for in other scripture Paul clearly teaches that only those who believe in Christ will receive salvation.
This is also the clear teaching of Jesus (John 3:15-18).

Thus universal salvation is not the determinative will of God. Instead, I believe what Paul is saying here is that God extends the offer of salvation to all. Christ died for the sins of all, but only those who believe receive the benefits of that sacrifice.(John 3:16)

"...and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

This refers to Christian growth after being saved. God's desire is not only our salvation (justification) but also our growth in the truth (sanctification), so that we will not be led astray by false teachers.

Is God's will always done?
In this context, His will and His desire are not the same thing...as I see it.

photosynthesis said...

Hey Craig,

What? Pedagogical card? Shutterbug was learning something. Only she (?! Didn't know she was a she), stopped right when she got it. Just like every Christian who finally gets the first idea about the "morals" not coming out of the blue. They just stop.

This is how I actually try and teach. Questions, questions, questions. But, I guess I never had a touch (despite my students saying otherwise). Shutterbug got the whole thing wrong more than once. I noticed my mistakes (the questions were not clear enough), until I got it, Shutterbug found the answer. Then stopped. Sad thing.

So, don't frown. It was a very sincere exchange. I never "play cards." Truly, really. No tricks. My last name is not [unmentionable lest I go read that crap again].

Sad to learn you took it wrong Shutterbug. I bet you left because you started to realize that you would find sources for morals that did not need a god. So, you infer my dark side, I infer yours. An eye for an eye. :-)

G.E.

photosynthesis said...

Shutterbug,

I made it clear from the very beginning that the questions had a "pedagogical" purpose. I clearly said I would guide you through questions. Remember that? So, no cards.

G.E.

photosynthesis said...

Anette,

Maybe you need to clarify what you mean. This is where the contradictions are waved away. Shutterbug did not answer your question. Well, she did, but not the question you had in mind. If your god decided from the beginning, then there is no free-will (a tenet of Calvinism, at least of most of them), and thus, their god desiring all to be saved would be a contradiction.

I agree with Shutterbug that desiring and willing is not the same. But desiring is still a contradiction because, just as Calvinists say that god has decided who is saved and who is not, if desired was correct, then this god could easily help us all believe.

This is where another contradiction arises. According to Calvinists (maybe not all), we all know that this god exists (right). We just deny this truth (see frequent use of "for his whatever is clearly seen in whatever whatever"). Of course, why would we do this and what happens with this god having decided who gets saved by giving them the truth? Of course that we "know" this god to exist is pure and absolute crap. But that is just an aside.

Calvinists has obvious contradictions, but they are incapable and strongly well-self-protected from questioning their overall belief. If something sounded awful, they shut it because they are nobody to question.understand the word of the all-powerful being. Thus, whatever, this god knows and we shut up.

Anyway, I doubt I will come back anytime soon. Lots of work ahead.

G.E.

Anette Acker said...

Only she (?! Didn't know she was a she), stopped right when she got it.

I don't think either of you need to worry about Shutterbug. She can obviously think for herself--like most women. No need for either frowning or shocked (she?!!) exclamations. ;)

BTW, what do you teach when you're not trying to lead Christians to the Dark Side, photosynthesis?

Anette Acker said...

Shutterbug,

Thus universal salvation is not the determinative will of God. Instead, I believe what Paul is saying here is that God extends the offer of salvation to all. Christ died for the sins of all, but only those who believe receive the benefits of that sacrifice.(John 3:16)

I do not believe in universalism either. However, I do believe that it is God's will that all be saved (even though it will not happen), and I'm comfortable with using that word for the following reason: In the Lord's Prayer, we are asked to pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." In other words, we are to pray that God's will is done. Why would we pray this if God's will already happens by default? And if God's will already happened on earth as it is in heaven, there would be no sin or evil, because there is no sin or evil in heaven.

Therefore, Spirit-filled preaching and prayer is the means by which God fulfills His perfect will on earth. In fact, John MacArthur, a Calvinist, said the following:

"Now this may sound heretical but in this context, people, [tragedy] is not God’s will. That is the kind of stuff that Jesus came into the world to stop. Because "God is not willing that any should perish." And believe me--there are people perishing all over the place. God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, and not all men do. God’s will is done in heaven, but it isn’t always done on earth."

I agree with MacArthur, and this also explains why God can desire for all to be saved, even if not all are. It makes sense of the story Spurgeon tells about the praying lay brother. The human will (in terms of surrendering to God's grace) is also involved. This is illustrated by Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." He doesn't kick down the door of our hearts.

stranger.strange.land said...

Anette: "Of course God knows who is ultimately going to be saved, and He has known that from the beginning of time, but my specific question is whether my prayers (or their absence) will, according to Calvinism, make an actual difference in terms of who will be saved?"

Craig: "Who will be saved" is a matter of God's sovereign choice, based on "the good pleasure of His will":

Anette: Just to make sure that I understand you correctly, Craig, are you saying that the outcome (in terms of whether or not someone is saved) will be the same regardless of whether or not I pray?

If so, how do you square this with 1 Timothy 2:4?


Hi Anette.

I appreciate your very thoughtful comments on the blog today. Please keep in mind that I have, to the best of my ability, been trying to accurately represent the Reformed understanding, of what the Bible teaches on these issues. You did ask me if I would answer your question(s) "about Calvinism," and that is what I agreed to try to do.

I should also add that the Reformed churches' public confessions (in this case the Belgic, Heidelberg, Dordt, and Westminster standards) do not presume to contain all there is about salvation, but merely summarize in a logical order the essential doctrines of the Christian Faith. I am sure that there are aspects of Christ's redemptive love that will boggle our minds when they are finally shown to us, things which our "eyes have not seen nor our ears heard."

"[A]re you saying that the outcome (in terms of whether or not someone is saved) will be the same regardless of whether or not I pray?"

We believe that, according to the Bible, before creation God selected those whom He would redeem, justify, sanctify, and glorify in Jesus Christ. (Rom 8:28-39; Eph 1:3-14; 2 Thess 2:13,14; 2 Tim 1:9, 10)

We also believe that God ordered all the events that would serve as means to that end, including people praying for salvation. So, do your prayers "make a difference?" They don't and can't change God's mind about something that He has sovereignly and unchangeably decreed from all eternity, but He has graciously chosen to use you and your praying as part of the process of bringing an elect person to saving faith.

In Christ's care.

Craig

(I have an early morning start, and a late night at work tomorrow, ...oh, it's today, but will check back here when I can:)

stranger.strange.land said...

[T]here is more than one branch of Calvinism. At least one of them think it is stupid, and offensive, to preach because the gospel is available everywhere, and their god made his celestial mind from the very beginning (omniscient, remember?). Some get very angry at those who preach for trying to help the omnipotent and omnisovereign. Who are they to try and move the sovereign into saving someone else?

There is “a branch of Calvinism” like the one you’ve described? That one must’ve sneaked past me when I wasn’t looking: )

But since you brought up Calvinism and preaching, let me share some snippets from our confessions on that very topic:

The Reformed confess that one of the marks by which the true church is to be recognized is that: ”it practices the pure preaching of the gospel.” (Belgic Confession, article 29)

The Canons of Dort, the document from which we get the “Five Points of Calvinism,” says that:

the promise of the Gospel, and the command to repent and believe, “ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel. (Head 2, art. 5)

And: that the preaching of the Gospel is “the means by which it has pleased God to save such as believe…” (Head 3/4, art. 6)

And: As many as are called by the Gospel are sincerely called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in His Word what is acceptable to Him, namely, that those who are called should come to Him. He also seriously promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe. (Head 3/4, art. 8)

Anette Acker said...

"[T]here is more than one branch of Calvinism. At least one of them think it is stupid, and offensive, to preach because the gospel is available everywhere, and their god made his celestial mind from the very beginning (omniscient, remember?). Some get very angry at those who preach for trying to help the omnipotent and omnisovereign. Who are they to try and move the sovereign into saving someone else?"

There is “a branch of Calvinism” like the one you’ve described? That one must’ve sneaked past me when I wasn’t looking: )


I think photosynthesis is right about this. I believe he's talking about hyper-Calvinism. Charles Spurgeon said the following about so-called hyper-Calvinists:

"What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I think not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. ‘All men,’ say they that is, ‘some men’: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said ‘some men’ If he had meant some men. ‘All men,’ say they; ‘that is, some of all sorts of men’: as if the Lord could not have said ‘All sorts of men’ if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written ‘all men,’ and unquestionably he means all men. I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. ... My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God." (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 26: 49-52)

Although, even though Spurgeon refers to that as hyper-Calvinism (generally a negative term to regular Calvinists), I believe that James White and John Piper read into the word "all" something other than all in order to fit their theology. I used to love reading Piper's blog, until he did that (and until I found out that he thought God predestined people to eternal torture--that turned my stomach badly and I couldn't look at anything he said in the same way).

photosynthesis said...

Hey Anette,

Whenever I am not trying to get Christians away from their god I teach genetics and some derivatives thereof (like genomics).

I am planning on teaching a special course on evolution for the best among the undergrad students. All based on original work, rather than the textbook thing.

G.E.

photosynthesis said...

Craig,

I am surprised that you don't see the differences among Calvinists. You are a prime example of such different levels of depth into their horrifying doctrines.

Look at Penn. He is a "better" Calvinist than you in that he, as most of those I have met, gets all self-righteous when confronted by the likes of me. For others (well, maybe also for Penn, but I am not sure yet), we are but despicable maggots who hate his god (because we "know" this god exists). We don't deserve anything but mockery because we deny their god in unrighteousness. Nobody is innocent.

Come on. Calvin himself promoted the burning of witches (talk about the fruits of the spirit).

Anette is right. There is such a branch as hyper-Calvinism. But there are all kinds of levels, from my own experience.

Worse yet, some are YECs, some are OECs. Even among the hypers.

So, there.

G.E.

P.S. I am still surprised that now it is wrong to teach, and that my teaching Shutterbug something and she learning it would mean Jesus is not her master. That is beyond nonsensical. I see no relation. Jesus can be your master and you could still learn something from a person. Right? Otherwise why are you trying to explain things to me? If I learn from you then what? Are you playing Jesus' role? I truly don't get it. I don't get how that can be offensive.

Shutterbug said...

Photosynthesis said...
P.S. I am still surprised that now it is wrong to teach, and that my teaching Shutterbug something and she learning it would mean Jesus is not her master.


Please take this in the spirit it is written, which is kind and simple...I had no idea I was being taught anything by you. I didn't learn anything and your words were mumbo jumbo to me.

I did not understand most of what you said to me...and I never understood why you kept saying that "I was getting it". Getting what?

I am willing to discuss most topics and even be taught and try to learn new things but my learning anything from you or anyone else never means Jesus is not my Lord and Master.

I honestly tried to understand the things you were saying but it made no sense to me - which is why I said words, words, and more words. Maybe you need to try drawing me pictures next time. :)

BTW, I didn't just leave the discussion. I had no more to say on the subject of morals because I'm not going to go round and round with my beliefs vs yours - or those of anyone else's. You have your ideas and I have mine and I could see early on that you were not going to listen to me.

My faith and beliefs are really very simple. :)


...Jesus can be your master and you could still learn something from a person. Right?


Again, I agree. Otherwise one has a closed mind.

photosynthesis said...

Shutterbug,

But you did understand where I was going. I was trying very hard to get you to say that morals don't come out of the blue to your god. You did say it in the confusion, more than once.

Again, I take note that I should have been much more explicit in my way of asking. If it was all mumbo jumbo to you, then fine. I stop it too.

But I was understanding you perfectly.

Also note that I had no intention of driving you away from your faith. My point alone was about showing you that there is something about morals that is not dependent on there being a god out there.

Since you say I failed, so be it. I have no intent of trying further unless there is a new discussion about ethics/morals.

Sorry I was so confusing.

G.E.

Shutterbug said...

No problem G.E.

When I was in school, or any place for that matter, I have always hated someone asking a question expecting a specific answer because what I answer may not be the expected answer.

If you want to ask me a question, being specific in it makes it much clearer to me. Thinking you are "leading" me to something by words, words, and more words only confuses my tiny brain. :)

stranger.strange.land said...

G.E.: [T]here is more than one branch of Calvinism. At least one of them think it is stupid, and offensive, to preach because the gospel is available everywhere, and their god made his celestial mind from the very beginning (omniscient, remember?). Some get very angry at those who preach for trying to help the omnipotent and omnisovereign. Who are they to try and move the sovereign into saving someone else?

Craig: There is “a branch of Calvinism” like the one you’ve described? That one must’ve sneaked past me when I wasn’t looking: )

G.E.: I am surprised that you don't see the differences among Calvinists. You are a prime example of such different levels of depth into their horrifying doctrines.

Anette: I think photosynthesis is right about this. I believe he's talking about hyper-Calvinism.

Thanks G.E. and Anette.

I do, in fact, see that there are indeed differences among Calvinists, and that there ARE different "branches of Calvinism." "Reformed," "Presbyterian," and "Reformed Baptist" are just three examples.

I am also very much aware of "hyper-Calvinists." They can not properly be considered a branch of Calvinism precisely because of their negative stand on preaching the gospel.

The Reformation was all about recovering the gospel of pure grace, a gospel that had been compromised by the established church. The Reformed churches wrote down in their public confessions (or "statements of faith") exactly what they believed the Bible taught, chiefly about the way God, through Christ, redeems sinners.

These Reformed confessions, without exception, state unequivocally that the Holy Spirit brings people to faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel. To claim that "it is stupid to preach" the gospel, and to "get very angry at those who preach" shows that one is definitely NOT a Calvinist. Not a branch - not even a twig.

stranger.strange.land said...

Hey G.E.

Sorry if I mistook your intentions. You did say something about your "messing the current thread," and I thought I detected in that comment to Shutterbug an attitude that reflected that. Apparently, she thought that, too.

No, I am not going to make you an offender for not exactly phrasing your words in a way that would be clearly understood, nor am I saying "don't teach."

Everything cool??

Your old friend (about two years now, right?),

Craig

Anette Acker said...

Craig,

These Reformed confessions, without exception, state unequivocally that the Holy Spirit brings people to faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel. To claim that "it is stupid to preach" the gospel, and to "get very angry at those who preach" shows that one is definitely NOT a Calvinist. Not a branch - not even a twig.

I guess the problem I have with Calvinism as a concept is that it is impossible to pin down. If I think I've managed to do so, it morphs into something else.

Calvinists have chosen to define themselves in a shorthand way by TULIP (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints).

People generally understand this to mean that God has already decided whom to save and whom not to save. And if He has picked me, I cannot resist His grace no matter what. If He has not picked me, I am totally depraved, so I cannot but resist His grace.

If everything happens according to God's will by default, the hyper-Calvinists are just being logical. Why do anything if God's will will be done anyway?

John Piper's book Future Grace is an excellent one, and I highly recommend it. But in it he keeps essentially telling us not to resist God's grace. So I was really confused, because if grace is irresistible and I'm one of the elect, I cannot resist it. Why bother telling me not to do something I can't do anyway?

But if I'm not one of the elect, there is not point in telling me not to resist God's grace because I have to resist it. It's an either/or proposition.

So we've got the elect on the one hand and the non-elect on the other hand. Who's left? Nobody. There was no point in Piper writing the book, since he has no target audience. I believe this is the logic of hyper-Calvinists, and it makes sense to me. (But I'm no kind of Calvinist, so I certainly don't agree with the hyper-Calvinists' interpretation of Scripture.) As I said before, I agree with the notion that Spirit-filled teaching and prayer leads to faith. However, I do very much believe that it is possible to resist grace. The "I" part of TULIP is the one I most vehemently disagree with.

Anette Acker said...

Photosynthesis,

I am planning on teaching a special course on evolution for the best among the undergrad students. All based on original work, rather than the textbook thing.

Very cool! I have a question about it that is somewhat related to determinism and free will (but I don't want to take this discussion off topic).

I'm reading a book called Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose by Denis Alexander, and in it he argues that in the past decade evolutionary biologists have learned that natural selection appears to be highly constrained.

In other words, we are not a cosmic accident like Stephen Jay Gould believed. Gould thought that if we could wind back the tape and start over again the chances would be "vanishingly small that anything like human intelligence would grace the replay."

Denis Alexander says the following:

It is intriguing to note that just as Christians have often utilized the disastrous god-of-the-gaps type arguments, as already discussed, seeking to place their argument for God in the present gaps of our scientific knowledge, so it is possible that here we have an 'atheism-of-the-gaps' type of argument in which atheists seek to support their disbelief in God based on interpretations of scientific data which appear initially plausible due to lack of knowledge about the data, but appear less believable as our understanding of the process--in this case the evolutionary process--becomes more complete.

To my mind the most recent findings from evolutionary biology are more consistent with the plan-like theistic account that the Bible reveals to us, than with an atheistic account in which the existence of such an ordered, constrained, directional history of life must always remain anomalous. There seems to be a biological anthropic principle that is parallel to the anthropic principle in physics pointing to the fine-tuning of the physical constants of the universe that are just right for life to exist. In biology it is beginning to look as if the whole system is set up in such a highly organised way that the emergence of intelligent life was inevitable.


Again, I don't want to take this off topic. If you want, we can discuss it elsewhere, but I'm interested in your thoughts.

stranger.strange.land said...

Thanks, Anette.

I feel your frustration because that is where I was some sixteen years ago. The whole pictue quickly started to come into focus one afternoon, when I heard a young man named Michael Horton being interviewed on the radio, and talking about the subject of his book, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace.

The book covered the Doctrines of Grace and the Five (plus one:) Solas of the Reformation. Really, it was a primer about who does what in salvation, and the "priesthood of all believers."

Two things impressed me as I listened to him calmly explain the basics of the Reformed Faith: First, I had NEVER heard it explained that way before. Second, I recognized that what Horton was saying was just what the scriptures were saying.

I had heard about the Reformed vs Arminian controversy, but figured that some people were just carrying on a 500 year old debate that no longer had any real significance in this day.

About that time, I had also started reading the Heidelberg Catechism's "Lord's Day's" with my family, as a weekend devotional. (I found it in our church's book of doctrinal statements, but it was rarely used.)

It was a few years later that I first laid eyes on the "Three Forms of Unity" which included the Canons of Dort. After reading the Canons, I felt like I had been seriously short-changed by the "shorthand" TULIP, and books expositing the five points are no substitute for reading the Heidelberg, Belgic, and Dort themselves with the supporting Scriptures.

By the way, did you know that the I and T are combined in a single chapter in the document? It is called "Man's corruption, Conversion and the Manner Thereof."

Another little thing you might be interested in is that Calvinism teaches that the elect can, and often do, resist the Holy Spirit, but only up to a point, and not "Fully" and never "Finally."

As I think about it, something that I had correctly understood about Calvinism which I initially resisted, was the teaching of the absolute sovereignty and holiness of God, and the extent of my own sinfulness. After having come to terms with the fact that it wasn't Calvinism that I had been resisting, but the Word of God itself, I soon was overwhelmed with the sense of God's love for me. I couldn't get over the wonder of it, and I still can't.

On my Blogger profile, my "about me" is my personal adaptation of the first question in the Heidelberg. I didn't choose it just to have something "theological," but because I believe that everything it says really does apply to me personally.

In Christ's care,

Craig

p.s. (Those Hypers can only give the appearance of being logical if they leave out the part about the love and gratitude the Holy Spirit evokes in us as we contemplate our lovely Jesus Christ, all that he is and has done for us. "Why do anything?" Because the Beloved desires it of us.)

photosynthesis said...

Craig,

of course we are old friends. No question. You can disagree with me on many fronts, take offense at a thing or two, and that does not change the friendship. Just as I know how offensive I could be if let to talk plainly and clearly, as I often do, yet you keep your calm.

G.E.

photosynthesis said...

Shutterbug,

... Words, words, and more words ...

yeah, my tendency to try and save time.

:-)

photosynthesis said...

Hey Anette,

I think this exchange on evolution and constraints or no constraints or semi-constrains, or human-nohuman, could take some time, which I don't have right now. But will be glad to come back to that some other time.

G.E.

Anette Acker said...

Craig,

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I have been commenting on my blog and on AC, and I realize that it's been a while since your comment.

And you've been busy writing new posts. Good for you! I'm going to be doing one on hell soon (I've been researching it a lot--cheery topic, huh?), which may be related to the discussion in your newest post.

Photosynthesis,

Okay. Let me know if you want to discuss it some other time.