Monday, March 24, 2014

Calvinism the Heresy?

I like to watch posts over at The Lighthearted Calvinist.  Recently, in the FAQ post a commenter by the name of Arthur Adam Haglund made the argument that Calvinists are heretics.  His argument, as I was able to ascertain, is that Calvinists teach a different gospel (one that requires belief in Calvinism for salvation) and that Calvinists make God into the author of evil.  I wanted to post a reply to him for a while, but I never found the time to do so, and now, unfortunately, he has been asked not to post at that site anymore (I leave it to you, dear reader, if you want to peruse the comments in the FAQ to determine why, the issue is moot to me).  Therefore, I have decided to post my reply to him here, at my own site and invite him to reply if he would like to.

My goal in this post is not to bring shame to anyone, nor to attack anyone.  My goal is to honestly engage the question as to whether or not Calvinists are heretics.  I do this because I think there are many who believe as Mr. Haglund does, and I would like to offer an honest and logical argument to the contrary.  I do not wish to argue that those who holds opposing view points are heretics, but rather to demonstrate that there is sufficient room within the borders of orthodoxy and logic that the two groups may both recognize one another as Christians.  This is not to say that there are not those who are heretical within Calvinism, but rather that Calvinism in and of itself is not necessarily heretical.

In order to address the issue I begin first with the allegation that Calvinists teach a separate gospel.  In this I would agree with Mr. Haglund, with an "if".  If someone were to teach that without a strict belief in Calvinism one cannot be saved, then that man is presenting a different gospel.  The gospel is that we are sinners who have offended a holy and righteous God, and that because of our sin we are damned to hell and in need of a savior.  Because we cannot save ourselves we find ourselves in a horrible predicament, which can only be rectified by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  Because Christ was the perfect offer for our sins, the only Son of God, and because he died for sin, those who place their faith in him will not die but will have everlasting life.  Because Christ rose from the dead, we therefore have hope that we too shall be raised from the dead.  This is what we are called to have faith in, not any specific set of doctrines that discusses issues like "irresistible grace" or "perseverance of the saints," "total depravity" or any other point of Calvinism.

If anyone teaches that without a thorough grasp of Calvinism that one cannot be saved, that man is foolishly making the work of man a necessary part of salvation.  The idea of election is not in Scripture to save the lost, it is there to comfort the saint.  Growing in grace in knowledge is what happens after we are saved, as we walk with Christ.  And even then there are those who disagree with Calvinism.  Calvinism is not necessary for either salvation or orthodoxy.  There are many, both Arminian and Semi-Pelagian who are saved and in the family of Christ, and there are probably Calvinists who know the 5 points and could argue them convincingly who are as damned as anyone because they do not truly know nor have a relationship with Christ who is their Lord and only savior.

But, the more interesting argument, in my opinion, comes from the question as to whether or not Calvinists are heretics because they make God the author of sin.  Here Mr. Haglund notes that, strictly speaking, Calvinists argue that God has ordained everything that happens, including sin.  This is because Calvinists see God as totally sovereign, so that nothing happens without God willing that thing to happen.  Therefore, if God has ordained sin, Mr Haglund argues, God is responsible for sin.

Now, the Calvinist would respond that God uses secondary Causes, and therefore God is not responsible for sin.  That is to say, God ordains what will happen, but he also ordains how that event will happen.  In regards to sin God so acts so that the secondary cause (either men or angels) do what they want without him being morally responsible for what they are doing.  So, when a man commits murder, God has ordained the death of the man, and the manner of the man's death, and even the one who would kill him, yet at the same time God is in no way responsible for the moral decision the man made to sin by committing murder.

It seems Mr. Haglund's response to this is that it is foolishness to argue that God is not morally responsible.  In the case of any primary cause acting so as to bring about the event through a secondary cause, we always hold the primary cause culpable for the event.  To use an example from Mr. Haglund:  Suppose I shot a man and fatally wounded him.  He is rushed to the hospital where the doctor realizes the man has very little blood left and so orders an immediate transfusion.  For whatever reason the doctor orders the wrong type of blood and so the man goes into shock as his body rejects the blood that has been forced into his body, and thus dies.  Now, the cause of the man's death is that the wrong blood was given to him, but this is only the secondary cause.  The primary cause of the man's death, the one responsible for the man's death, is the fact that I shot the man.

However, in the case of God we are not so arguing from unintentional secondary causes, but rather what we are arguing is that God acts in such a way that men choose to bring about the very events which God desires.  And God does this without over riding the moral autonomy of those men.  Such an example is seen in Scripture where we read:  "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." (Acts 2:23) And, "for truly in this city were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."  (Acts 4:27-28)  Thus we see that the disciples themselves argued that the crucifixion occurred according to God's plan, but was carried out by evil men acting in their own will.

Another example we see of God using secondary causes would be the story of Joseph in Genesis 37.  Joseph first has a dream where he sees his brothers bowing down to him.  Then he has a dream where he sees his brothers, his mother, and his father, all bowing to him.  He tells these two stories to his family and the dreams make his brothers hate him even more than they already did.  In fact, the two dreams seem to be the tipping point that leads to his brothers eventually selling Joseph into slavery.

When Joseph goes to see his brothers in Shechem (he actually finds them in Dothan) they see him coming from far off and say to one another, "Here comes this dreamer."  It is the dreams that finally caused Joseph's brothers to determine that they can stand him no longer and want to kill him.  We even see them mocking Joseph's dreams by commenting on how his dreams will come to nothing after they have killed him.

However, after Joseph was sold into slavery, God used the same gift that so angered his brothers to lift him up in Egypt.  Joseph was able to rise to great power in Egypt because he understood dreams and had been given wisdom by God in how to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh.  And, just as God used that which angered his brothers to lift him up, so God also used the famine of the land to bring Israel to Egypt.  Once in Egypt, Joseph became the one who provided for his family by telling them what they should say to Pharaoh in order to get the grazing land they desired.

Finally, after Israel dies, Joseph's brothers come to him and tell him that their father asked him to forgive them of their cruelty to him.  Whether or not his brothers were lying is left unmentioned by the text.  However, Joseph has no intent to harm his brothers because of what they did to him, but loves them very much.  So Joseph addresses them with a powerful line and says to them:  "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."

What this story shows us is that God was using secondary events all along in Joseph's life.  First, God used Joseph's pride as he recounted the dreams he had, which came from God, to bring about the anger of Joseph's brothers.  Then, God used the anger of Joseph's brothers to bring Joseph into Egypt.  Then, God used Joseph in Egypt to save his brothers and his family.  Thus, God ultimately used Joseph's pride, his brothers' anger, and Joseph's slavery and imprisonment in Egypt, all as a means to accomplish his goal of bringing Israel into Egypt to fulfill the promise he made to Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years.

As to the counter argument:  God does not ordain sinful events, however, he looks through time and uses those events as part of his plan.  This argument seems good on its face, but there are logical problems with the argument.  Bear with me and I'll explain.

First, let us assume the argument is true.  God looks through time and simply knows what people will do in the world he has created.  He does not ordain the sinful actions of man, but he does know them and he so arranges the world and his plans so that the things he does ordain take into account the sin of humanity.  In this case God still brings about events such as Joseph entering Egypt, but he never ordained that Joseph's brothers would enslave him or hate him.

Yet, there is a problem with that argument.  If God ordains that Joseph will rise up into Pharaoh's service out of slavery, but does not ordain that Joseph will be a slave, then there is a logical failure there.  That is to say, if God ordains that Joseph will rise up out of slavery then it becomes logically necessary that Joseph must first be enslaved.  Thus, while we may argue that God does not ordain that Joseph will be a slave, in fact God makes it logically necessary for his plan that Joseph be a slave.

Thus, while we're saying God is not ordaining Joseph be slave, at the same time we are saying it is logically necessary and part of the required plan of God that Joseph will, in fact, be enslaved.  It seems thus that God must necessarily ordain that Joseph be enslaved as he has ordained his response to Joseph being enslaved.  The only way to avoid this conclusion would be to say that God has ordained what he will do "if".  But, the problem is that if we say God's plan is only "if" then we must assume that God is not all knowing.  As soon as we allow that God is all knowing we must also admit that God has planned every event that will ever happen, and that every event that happens must happen as part of God's plan.

Thus, God ordains every event that happens.  God does not override the moral decisions of his creations in ordaining what they will do.  God does not become the author of sin in ordaining that certain sins will, or must take place.  Man is still fully responsible for the choices he makes, and God still, rightly, holds him responsible and judges him according to those choices.  And yet, the choices of man are not outside of the dominion of God.

Are there other ways that one can interpret the passages of Scripture I chose to look at?  Perhaps, but I would be interested to see how anyone would be faithful to both the text of Genesis and Acts and still argue that God did not ordain the specific sinful choices in view of those texts.  This is not an easy to wrap our minds around, it is not an easy doctrine to agree to because it makes us nervous about what we are claiming, and it certainly makes me want to defend the character of God.  However, if God so chose to reveal himself in this way, and chose to make it clear that he ordained the choices of Joseph's brothers and the men of Israel who crucified Christ, and yet he also holds them accountable for the actions they took and the sin they committed, though it brought about his purposes without their knowing it, if this is the God of Scripture and his power, then who am I to complain against him?  He is God,  I am man, and his ways are above mine, his power is not for me to complain against, but rather to trust in, knowing that in his goodness he will accomplish every good purpose he has intended, all to his glory.


  1. Thankls for taking the time and for being reasonable. First, I tolf Jeff that Saying a person is a heretic is NOT name calling, like calling them a jerk would be and that the bible does tell believers to admonish, once, then twice the heretic and if there is no repentance, to reject him. This would also necessitate proclaiming that person heretic, as well. this is what I posted and to which he openly lied and said that I had written that I had no intention of abiding by his rules, thus he banned me. But that is HIS blog, so be it.

    One thing is being sorely missed is that God also controls the attitudes, according to Calvinism. ALL things means just that, ALL things.

    All secondary causes are put into play by his direct design. The compatibalist view you proclaim here pretends to avoid the ALL things issue. So God put a sinful act in the hands of one who wants to sin, but God made him WANT to sin. All things means just that.
    God commands ALL things to happen, Calvin wrote, in his Institutes, that NO angel, nor man, CAN do ANYTHING, but that God ordained, commended him to do it.
    One other thing it ignores is Jeremiah 18, God shows full knowledge in his predestination, and yet allows for man to repent of either good or evil and then, GOD WHO KNOWS ALL AND PREDESTINES ALL reacts to man!

    It is fully troublesome that such doctrinal proclamations are made as if they were scriptural, while being foreign to scripture.

    So, the claim is that God wants a person killed in a certain way, by a certain person, but God is not in ANY way responsible for his will being done, even though HE; HIMSELF, caused each and every thing involved to make it happen.

    SO, I want a person killed by being strangled to death.
    I find a person who likes to kill by strangulation. So, I am not responsible for that guy's desire, check
    I just let him know where the person I want killed will be at a certain time.
    I send that person to that place at that time, to make sure they run into each other.

    So, I guess that I have become not, in any way, responsible for that man's death, right?
    The Bible does not address such a situation, does it?
    Uriah, anyone?
    David, not in ANY way responsible, was he? I mean, God who tells us to imitate him is not responsible, so David wasn't, right?
    Except God told David he WAS guilty, for putting things in motion to cause his death. Secondary causation is defeated as God condemned it.

    Another error that leads to this false doctrine is the redefining of words.
    Sovereign does not mean absolute control, but absolute authority.

    Now for the often proclaimed, throughout the centuries is that Calvinism IS the one and only Gospel, means that Rejection OF Calvinism, IS rejection of the one and only Gospel!
    These two statements cannot BE divorced.

    One final thing, the often proclaimed idea that anyone who disagrees with Calvinism, just does not understand it is fully false. I fully reject it BECAUSE I was a Calvinist and I fully understand it.

    Since the claim is that God ordains, orders, commands ALL THINGS, then god is ultimately responsible for ALL things.
    It is fully dishonest to claim one and reject the other!

  2. Mr. Haglund, I do intend to respond to you. However, I'm out of the house 13 hours a day during the week, so I don't have a lot of time to write, unfortunately.

    Please be patient and I'll compost a response as soon as I'm able.

  3. Charlton:

    Thanks for taking the time to write. I, as you, have to choose where to allocate my time.

    I guess Mr. Haglund and I have an irreconcilable difference in that I hold referring to one as a heretic is indeed name-calling.

    Mr. Haglund is unable as of now to grasp the fact that the Bible declares these truths: 1) God is absolutely sovereign. 2) Man is absolutely responsible. Neither denies the other, but Scripture teaches both. There is no contradiction nor irreconcilable paradox there. It is the clear message of Scripture.

    Is it hard to grasp at first? Yes. God's goodness is in no way denied or minimized by His absolute, exhaustive sovereignty over all things, including evil. Man's responsibility is in no way denied or minimized by his absolute, exhaustively responsibility to obey God's revealed commands. The Bible proclaims both to be true and they are wonderful truths. It is how God has revealed Himself and His will - and how God has revealed how man is behave.

    Thanks again.

  4. This is a very difficult topic and I appreciate following the previous discussion. I too believe it can be done in a civil manner without name-calling. After all, most agree that this is an in house disagreement among Christians. Also, no one is going to "win" the argument or convince the other side that they are wrong so we may as well try to gain a deeper understanding of each view. I believe both views can be backed by scripture but also have holes or weak spots where appeal to mystery is necessary. Having said that I will add my two cents. First of all I believe most non-Calvinists are better described as semi-Augustinian as defined by the Council of Orange in 529. The determination of that Council is considered semi-Augustinian in that it defined that faith, though a free act, resulted even in its beginnings from the grace of God, enlightening the human mind and enabling belief. This sounds very much like prevenient grace as described by John Wesley. However, the Council also denied strict Augustinian predestination, stating, "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema." I know there are many verses that can be cited on both sides but I will just mention a couple. Matthew 19:24: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Is it that no rich men are elect or none of the elect struggle with idolizing money? And 1 Corinthians 8:11: “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.” How can this elect brother be destroyed as a result of the actions of a “strong” brother? We are commanded to love God and love our neighbor. It is inconceivable to me how love could come out of anything other than free will. If it is “irresistible” or forced is it truly love? I don't think anyone questions the fact that God can use evil actions by men to bring about good. The examples given above in Acts and Genesis demonstrate God doing just that. However, to say that God ordains or commands every evil the world has ever known is an entirely different matter. (cont)

  5. (cont) Calvinism fits nicely into the five points and can easily be used as a paradigm through which to view scripture. And I understand the comfort provided by the doctrine of election by believing we were chosen, without merit, while others were condemned. However, I believe the logical consequences and natural inferences made by Calvinism clash with other Biblical truths. The idea that God ordains and commands every event that comes to pass I believe is one of them. If my daughter is kidnapped, tortured, raped, and died a horrible death am I to believe that that was God's will for her life? Jeremiah 7:31 says "They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind." I do not believe God is lying to us here and it really did enter His mind. Jeremiah 18, mentioned above, is another example of God responding to the actions of man. John Piper said " If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command." Does God command mass destruction of the righteous? Again, I don't believe this is scriptural, but I do believe he is being consistent with his theology. "If God's moral judgment differs from ours so that our "black" may be His "white", we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say "God is good," while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say "God is we know not what." CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain. Loraine Boettner: "Even the sinful actions of men (including Adam's first sin) can occur only by his (God's) permission. And since he permits not unwillingly but willingly, all that comes to pass - including the actions and ultimate destiny of men - must be, in some sense, in accordance with what he desired and purposed." "God has a definite purpose in the permission of every individual sin, having ordained it 'for His own glory.' Even the works of Satan are foreordained and controlled by God for his glory." So, by opposing sin, by opposing evil, and by opposing Satan I am essentially opposing the will of God. I really don’t understand how someone can live out this type of theology on a day-to-day basis. I apologize for the length and rambling nature of this post but will end with this. Last April I ran the Boston Marathon and since then have spent a good deal of time in thought, prayer, and scripture reading contemplating evil. The book by CS Lewis mentioned above is very good as is The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart. I will end with a quote from Hart in what I believe to be a Biblical view of evil in the world. “I do not believe we Christians are obliged -- or even allowed -- to look at the devastation visited upon the coasts of the Indian Ocean and to console ourselves with vacuous cant about the mysterious course taken by God’s goodness in this world, or to assure others that some ultimate meaning or purpose resides in so much misery. Ours is, after all, a religion of salvation; our faith is in a God who has come to rescue His creation from the absurdity of sin and the emptiness of death, and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred…And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity.”

  6. Jonathan and Arthur,

    I'm writing this response to both of you because I think it applies to both of you. It seems you both make the same argument, that saying that God ordains and commands evil means that God is somehow less good. In Arthur's case he argues that saying that God is totally sovereign over all events and ordains even sinful events means that God is thus responsible for sin. It seems that Jonathan agrees with this position and points out that God does not ordain horrible things like child sacrifice, torture, and rape.

    However, let us look again at Scripture and see what Scripture says: In looking at passages such as Jeremiah 7 we would do well to remember the context of the passage as well. For instance, look at Jeremiah 7:22. God there says that in the day he called Israel out of Egypt he did not command them concerning sacrifices, but, in fact, God was very specific about the sacrifices the Israelites were to perform if you read through Exodus.

    What is my point? God is intentionally exaggerating in his conversation with Israel. For instance, in God saying child sacrifice did not come into his mind, is he saying he does not know all things and did not know this would happen? Is he, therefore, limited in knowledge and power? Of course not! God is rather declaring that he did not order it, and it is totally foreign to him, it is the exact opposite of God's holiness. (It may also be said that God is saying it never entered into his mind to tell the Israelites to offer child sacrifice.)

    Each passage offered has similar alternate explanations that make more sense, I think, than saying that God literally never thought of the Israelites offering child sacrifice, or that God does not know whom he will save.

    Further, Scripture itself says that God is totally sovereign over every action, and that man is totally responsible. Consider the words of Romans 9:14-24,

    "What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy on whomever he wills and he hardens whomever he wills.

    "You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault, for who can resist his will?' But who are you, oh man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say back to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--even us whom he has called, not form the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?"

    Paul makes clear here, God is sovereign over the hardening of Pharaoh so that he would continue in sin. God ordained the sin of Pharaoh, and yet also says that Pharaoh is totally responsible for that sin. And if we say that God is unjust because no man can resist the will of God, Paul says that's rubbish. God is totally just in meting out punishment to sinners, he is not responsible for sin, and yet he is totally sovereign over sin and ordains that actions of man, and man is still responsible so that God is righteous in punishing him.

  7. Is this a hard teaching to grasp? Yes, yes it is. But, let us look to a few more passages of Scripture so we can see that it is the clear teaching of the bible.

    Look at 2 Samuel 24 (seriously, pull up a bible and look at 2 Samuel 24, I'm not going any where). Who incited David to number the people of Israel? Yet, what is the confession of David? So, in this passage we read that the Lord incited David to number the people of Israel, yet in doing so, David sinned against God. So God, the holy, just, and righteous God, incites David to do sin, but then holds David responsible for that sin. Is God unjust in this? By no means.

    Further, let us look to 1 Chronicles 21. What do we see in this passage? Who incited David to count the people of Israel? How on earth can we reconcile this with 2 Samuel? From the position I hold this is easy to reconcile: Satan incited David, yet the Lord is sovereign over Satan and ordained this event, including the actions of both Satan and David, so that it could be said in 2 Samuel that the Lord incited David, but in 1 Chronicles that Satan incited David.

    We see the interplay between Satan's actions and God claiming credit also in Job. Look to Job 1 and we see that Satan attacks Job and God tells Satan he can do what he wants, so long as he does not touch Job directly. In Job 2 we see God declare that he is the one who took these things form Job as he says to Satan, "He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason."

    Further, we read that "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." Yet, what had Job just said? He said, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job recognized that God was the one who had taken everything away from him. Let's take a minute to unpack what that means.

    Job lost his sheep to fire from heaven. Pretty clearly we can understand why Job would say God has taken away. Job lost his children to the wind striking the house. Again, we can see why Job would credit that this was from the hand of God. But, Job lost the donkeys to a raid by the Sabeans, and the camels to the Chaldeans, and still he says it was God who took everything away.

    Job did not charge God with wrong, even though he recognized that it was the sovereign hand of God that took away all he had. And yet, God acted not only through natural events, but also through the sinful actions of humans. God ordained the sin of the Sabeans in robbing and murdering so that Job would lose his donkeys. God ordained the sin of the Chaldeans in robbing and murdering so that Job would lose his camels.

    God says he was the one who acted to destroy Job without cause. Job says God took everything away from him. Scripture thus stands in agreement. Yet, Job also did not charge God with wrong, and Scripture says that Satan was the own attacked Job and the one whom God had given power over Job. Scripture is not in conflict here, but if we hold that God does not, cannot, command sin without being sinful, then we fall into a situation where we must make Scripture schizophrenic.

  8. As I said before, I offer this up not as my thoughts, but as I understand the teaching of Scripture. And, as Jonathan stated, I recognize I will likely not convince others. But, my offer is this: show me a better understanding of Scripture. Do not simply tell me that things cannot be this way because it does make logical sense to you, show me a better understanding of Scripture.

    Show me a great and glorious God, an all powerful God who reigns supreme and whose word can be trusted. Show me a God who knows the end from the beginning, who can promise me eternal life because he knows he has the power to keep me in his grace. Show me a God that is wonderful, awful, and holy, holy, holy! Show me the God of Scripture, yet take away his sovereign reign so that he does not ordain all things. Show me the beautiful God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and how his word can be understood, and then I will relent.

    If you can show me a better way to understand Scripture, then you may make a convert out of me. If you cannot do so, then I must go where Scripture leads. I'm not a Lutheran, but I agree with Luther on this: Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen."

  9. By saying "God is rather declaring that he did not order it, and it is totally foreign to him" is the exact point I'm making. Not every event that comes to pass is ordained or commanded or "ordered" by God. Yes, God allows or permits evil, committed by Satan, to afflict Job. He also limits what Satan can do and does not allow his destruction. I certainly believe that God brings about trying times to mold our character to become more like Him. In 2 Samuel 24:10 "David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done..." He knew in his heart that he was sinning. The ESV study Bible says "The text does not specify why it was sin, but such an action could have been motivated by pride, trust in self, and lack of trust in the Lord." Either way, despite what was commanded of him in v.1 he knew he was sinning against God. Is there a place in the Bible that God commands, not allow or permit, the destruction of the righteous? I'm asking because I truly don't know. I can't think of one but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. In Sodom and Gomorrah God made a point to save the righteous, Lott's family. When Moses comes down from Sanai and sees the golden calf he says "whoever is for the Lord come to me." Then he commanded them to kill the others; the ones who did not chose to come to Him. We are taught, no told, in scripture that God is love. Whenever we attribute characteristics to God that are so different from our definition of love I believe we lose sight of the true God of the Bible. I'm not going to try to comment on Romans 9 other than to say, just as you have, that there are other, in my opinion better, interpretations of that passage. This is a pretty good analysis:
    And I am not so opposed to your interpretation of Romans 9 but just cannot accept the logical consequences of Calvinism. Just like I will not list the scripture that, in my opinion, clearly refutes irresistible grace and limited atonement. Do you believe the "god of this age" (2 Cor 4:4) is merely a pawn of God? Seems strange that Paul would call him a god if that is the case. Is there any role for prayer or spiritual warfare? I am a physician and often offer comfort to patients suffering, or with a terminal illness, with the gospel. I assure them that if they will lean into God and trust in His word that He will be there for them during trying times. I also often encourage them to accept Christ as their Savior, if they have not yet done so, and tell them that he offers life everlasting to everyone who believes. The very idea that I am offering some of them false hope is unfathomable and not something I want to exist in any part of my being.

  10. Jonathan,

    To answer your question, are there any passages that command the death of the righteous, yes. Specifically there is Acts, where Peter notes that the crucifixion of Christ was according to the plan of God. Further, we have Christ telling the apostles, multiple times, that he had to die in Jerusalem. Christ said the Son of Man must be lifted up, just as the serpent was in the wilderness. Christ prayed, "Your will be done," in the garden. All of this makes clear: It was the will of God that Christ should be crucified and die for sinners. God commanded the death of Christ at the hands of sinful men, and the sinful men are fully responsible for the horrible act committed.

    Does Paul call Satan, "The god of this age"? Absolutely, but notice that what he is saying is that Satan only has power to act in this age, not the one to come. Revelation also makes this clear as it discusses Satan being thrown down and notes that he only has a short time, but you'll notice that during his time he makes war on the saints and kills them.

    But, is Satan acting somehow beyond the power of God? Of course not! God is all powerful, but he is also acting for the sake of his glory. Scripture states that God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his name. Working all things means that God, in the midst of death, destruction, and the rage of Satan is working all of that for good, though Satan intends it for evil.

    To answer the one point you keep bringing up, yes there is room for prayer, for spiritual battle, for resisting the devil. James tells us to draw near to God, Christ commands us to ask of God, again and again the bible makes clear we are to be a people of prayer and to do all we can in the service of God. James goes so far as to say that for him who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for that man it is sin.

    There is no such thing as offering someone false hope in Christ when you tell them that if they believe then God will save them. That is the call of the gospel and is in no way anti-Calvinist. John 3:16 says that whoever believes will be saved. Romans says that if you believe with your heart and confess with your mouth you will be saved. In Acts we see again and again that faith saves men. Yes, by all means, if you believe in Christ, whoever "you" are, you will be saved!

    Spurgeon, a Calvinist preacher of days past, once remarked, "Don't worry, God will forgive you if you get the wrong man saved." (Paraphrased) The whole point is that God calls men to repent, he calls men to believe, and he calls men to put their faith in Christ. God does not call men to do this as a false hope, but with a real promise: all who come will by no means be turned away.

  11. Charlton,
    I actually agree with almost everything in your post. God certainly ordained the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross for the atonement of our sins. But this was a once in forever event and I don't believe the circumstances can be extrapolated to man in general. I do not believe that God commands events like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami, Boston bombing, or deadly tornadoes that result in mass destruction of the righteous. Can God use these events for His glory? Absolutely. But I don't believe that every evil committed by man is ordained by God. John Piper seems to believe this to be the case. I believe in general providence, that God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his name (Romans 8:28 which you quoted and is hanging in my office). But do not believe that he commands every minute detail (thus my reference to Jeremiah 7:31). And I agree that Satan has power only in this age, but believe that God allows or permits him to influence man and bring about evil. While God is sovereign over this evil He is not the author of it and does not ordain it or command it. Satan absolutely cannot thwart God's plan. For some Calvinists I have read, including Loraine Boettner who I quoted in my first post, this language of allow and permit does not seem to suffice. Although we will disagree somewhat on election I understand your interpretation and appreciate your application as described in your last two paragraphs.

  12. What is being taught here in all the stances on Calvinism is, 'Verse Theology'.
    If it is between two sets of numbers, it is fair game to act like it is a stand-alone, context-free, doctrinal statement and 'verses' are totally acceptable to be used like Lego blocks, building any sort of doctrine, as long as it supports Calvinism.

    Then we have redefining terminology, something all pseudo-Christian cults do.
    Sovereign does not now, never will and never has meant control, not even a small amount of control.
    Sovereign does mean ultimate or highest authority, king, or queen or a British coin.
    Depravity does not mean inability.

    Romans 9 is always read, by the Calvinist, to speak of individual election unto salvation, when that is not even close to the subject, John 6 is read to mean God gives all who will ever be saved unto Jesus, which scripture,the very same John in his Gospel, disagrees with.

    I really do not want to type all things out here over again, so I shall link them here:

  13. God, having mercy upon whom he will, is not a statement of God's picking and choosing, but a statement of God telling man that man does not have a say, meaning that you cannot say, "No, God, not that one!"
    This is an echo of God's declaration in Ezekiel 18 and 33.

    It sickens me when Calvinists speak of hardening, and when challenged to disclose the prerequisites for hardening, not a single one has ever answered me.

    i would like you commenters on this blog to answer me. What is required for hardening, what happens first, what are the results and benefits of hardening?

  14. Arthur,

    I'm not sure what the point of your first comment is on "verse theology." All theology, in as much as it seeks to answer questions that are not specifically asked in Scripture, must be "verse theology" in that we must build upon a foundation, which must be laid in our understanding of Scripture. It appears that your argument is that Calvinists only use Scriptures that support Calvinism and are fine with pulling those verses out of context. If that is what you're arguing then I have to chuckle a little as anyone who has been in a Sunday School class with me can testify to the fact that I teach a thematic approach to Scripture.

    For instance, in my last class, as we worked through the book of Genesis, I made of point of constantly reminding the class to see how the various themes of Genesis 1 and 2 were woven throughout the remainder of the book. As both Greek and Hebrew are high context languages, I tend to think that broader context is far more important than a simple reading of the text. So your argument seems to either be an indictment of theology over all, or a poor reading of Calvinism.

    As to your point of what "sovereign" means, I would point you to the political discussions of the 17th century through modern times. A sovereign nation is a nation that is in control of its borders, it's policies, etc. Here's a wikipedia article discussing the issue: You'll notice that in discussing the domestic sovereignty and interdependence sovereignty, the author of that piece notes "actual control" in two instances. I'm not linking wikipedia because I think it is an authority de jure on all things, but because it shows that even within the common denotation on the term "sovereign" does indicate "control." In fact, the term "sovereign" has always indicated control, at least since the 17th century in political dicussion. So, I challenge your assertion that sovereign doesn't mean "control" and that Calvinists redefine terms.

    As to your point that "depravity does not mean inability" I can only again say that you have a poor understanding of Calvinism. Calvinists do not argue that "depravity means inability" but rather we are unable because we are depraved. That is our depravity causes an inability to please God. The one is the root cause of the other, the two are not identical, nor is one a part of the other. There is a relationship, but is a causal one, not one of denotation.

    I've read the attempts to make Romans 9 not speak of individual election. In my opinion those who say there is no individual election in Romans 9 must do violence to the text. The context suggests that Paul both intends to speak of salvation in the broad context of all men, and at the same time to indicate a personal salvation. Notice that Paul in Romans 9:20 that Paul chooses to switch from the plural to the singular. Also in speaking of the various persons whom he uses as examples, he chooses not to speak in terms of nations, but in terms of individuals. Thus there is both a broad and a narrow use of Romans 9, indicating that God saves a people for himself, and that God personally saves individuals as well. Arguing for only one or the other use of Romans 9 is, I think, doing violence to the text.

    I will note here, I think this is one of the beauties of the Greek language that is sometimes difficult to grasp in the English. There are nuances in the context and variations in meaning that are sometimes lost in translating to English. I think this is one of them. Studying the original languages, while not essential to the faith, does have a use in theology.

  15. Your argument for what God means when he says "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy" seems to be an example of what you accuse Calvinists of earlier, that is stripping the context out of the verse entirely. Let's use your explanation of what the text means and see if it makes sense: "For he says to Moses, 'You can't say, "No, not that one!" and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." You'll notice that your interpretation fails to account for the repetition of the text, and doesn't account for the tense of the verb form that Paul uses. While a little more vague in the Hebrew, the Greek indicates a future tense and a present tense. Thus "I will have...on whom I have." This indicates a current relationship with God that indicates a future relationship with God. In order words, God has determined what he will do, and then does that which he has determined to do.

    Your interpretation of this passage doesn't make sense of the tensing used here, additionally it doesn't make sense in the context of the passage where Paul goes on to say that it is not dependent on man's will. To argue that God is simply say that men can't tell him whom he can't say makes the passage about the will of man into an attempt to negate the will of God, which doesn't fit with the overall context which indicates that will is speaking of work or activity, hence why he links "exertion" with will. Surely you aren't arguing that Paul is saying that men are trying to exert force to keep others away from Christ?

    Finally, as to your question about hardening, this goes back to Exodus. What comes first? God's will comes first. Notice that when God speaks to Moses he says he is going to Harden Pharaoh's heart. He says this before Pharaoh takes any action at all. God has determined, before Pharaoh has even heard Moses speak, that he is going to harden Pharaoh so that Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go.

    What is required for hardening? According to Romans 9, what is required is that God desires that he will show his power in you and show his name in all the earth. In other words, God hardens men, according to his will, so that he can show his glory in judgment over those very men. Leading to the very point Paul goes on to make in Romans 9:19 and following.

    Because men would look at this and say, "Why does he still find fault?" After all, if God can harden men and God chooses whom he will have mercy on, then how can God hold men accountable? According to Paul: "Who are you, oh man, to answer back to God?"

    God, being sovereign (the ruler of all things) determines what he will do, and then he exercises his sovereignty so as to accomplish that will, and when you look at this and you try and find fault with God, the answer is simple: Who are you to answer back to God?

    If you want more specific prerequisites for hardening then you ask for more than what Scripture gives. It's like asking for prerequisites for salvation. The prerequisite is simple this: God's choice. He chooses whom he will have mercy on, and he chooses whom he will harden. He does both of them for one reason: his glory. Being that God's glory is the highest good, what more reason or prerequisite is needed?

  16. I never said Calvinism only. Many pretend that verses are part of scripture rather than understand it is an overlay, a study help that exists for one and only one reason, finding a place in scriptuer, It is a series of road mile markers.

    Romans 9 CANNOT be about individuals, BECAUSE Paul specifically refers to the OT wherein God, not man, says, in your womb are TWO NATIONS
    Again, you do not address hardening nor the questions I asked you to address.

    Scripture does not use special scriptural linguistics, nor unknown examples. So pretending that there needs to be understanding outside scripture is a bad thing is the MOST fale position that could possibly be held at that point.

    Oh, Please read Ezekiel 18 and 33 and take note that Israel did as the romans are told they WILL answer and take note that this response is rebuked both times.

  17. Your response actually does not make any sense to me. I specifically addressed hardening in the second part of my answer. If you want a more specific answer, please ask a more specific question. I would concur that Scripture doesn't use special linguistics, it uses the linguistics that were familiar to those who wrote it at the time it was written. As to using unknown examples, again, it used examples known to the writers at the time it was written. That doesn't always mean that those examples translate into English well, or that we understand what those examples mean. There are a few of Hebrew idioms and words that we literally guess at, because we aren't sure exactly what they mean. Doesn't change the overall meaning of Scripture, but it does add some interesting flavor when you really study the text.

    Genesis does speak of two nations. And it also speaks of two babies. Paul makes clear the context he is choosing when he says, "though they were not yet born" also he makes clear he is speaking about the two brothers as he speaks of their birth, speaks of Isaac as an individual, etc. There are two themes in Genesis, and Paul picks up on the same two themes in Romans 9. By saying it can't be about individuals, you have to ignore all the individual language in both Genesis and Romans 9.

    Interpretation is not always "either/or" sometimes it really is "both/and". Another great example of this is actually in the Gospel of John. In John 1:5 we see that Christ, as the light, shone into the darkness and the darkness did not...something. What does the Greek mean there? Is it, "the darkness did not understand it" or "the darkness did not overcome it"? Which of these interpretations is the right one? What if, John, knowing Greek, actually chose this word because he wanted both meanings?

    The Hebrew and Greek languages both could be used to make puns (just like in our own language), which we see in the text. I would argue that as high context languages, the authors often intended to write in a way that allowed for multiple meanings within the text. Not that they intended to confuse, but that those who were familiar with the language would understand that there were layers of meaning in the text, with different thematic threads running through each section, so that the depth of meaning is enormous throughout Scripture.

  18. "If you want more specific prerequisites for hardening then you ask for more than what Scripture gives. It's like asking for prerequisites for salvation. The prerequisite is simple this: God's choice. He chooses whom he will have mercy on, and he chooses whom he will harden. He does both of them for one reason: his glory. Being that God's glory is the highest good, what more reason or prerequisite is needed?"
    Sorry that is NOT dealing with it, but is simply stating the Calvinistic viewpoint, sans explanation.

    Like I stated there exists nothing like 'biblical language' It is God, communicating in HUMAN language, not inventing new, undefined, not understood, nor explained new terminology.
    It is Human lanaguage, used as humans use it, period.
    So, i ask again, What do youknow about Hardening?
    Moses knew about hardening. this is evidence by his not asking what hardening means.
    Moses, did ask questions of God when he did not get it, so this, he understoos.
    So, CAN you identify what the prerequisites of hardening are?
    Can you state what the consequences of hardening are, benefits and drawbacks of hardening?
    THIS is addressing it AS I asked. If you do not know, then be honest and simply say so.

  19. Genesis does speak of two nations. And it also speaks of two babies. Paul makes clear the context he is choosing when he says, "though they were not yet born" also he makes clear he is speaking about the two brothers as he speaks of their birth, speaks of Isaac as an individual, etc. There are two themes in Genesis, and Paul picks up on the same two themes in Romans 9. By saying it can't be about individuals, you have to ignore all the individual language in both Genesis and Romans 9.

    First off, I do not have to follow Calvinist reading techniques.
    Second, ALL nations started off as one head of a family, making that nation.
    Thirdly, NOT all of 'Romans 9', so called, is the same subject. The arbitrary system of verse theology, built upon the overlay of the place-finding system of chapters and verses, does nto assit in understanding scripture, not one bit!
    Adn lastly, you have not identified the three groups written to in Romans, so you do not understand the teachings, not identifying to whom each bit pertains.

  20. To answer your question about hardening, the Hebrew word means to harden or to strengthen a thing. Due to the nuance of the word itself, the context helps to make clear what the author means when he uses it. For the Hebrew reader, because this was, as you noted, a common expression for them (hardening the heart, or strengthening the heart) wouldn't require explanation, whereas if you want a literal translation into the English, you do have to understand a bit of the Hebrew.

    First we have, as I have noted above, the word "harden" or "strengthen." We see the same Hebrew root word used in Genesis 41 to indicate a "severe" famine, or in Nehemiah 3 we see the word used to indicate repairs that were made to the walls. So the root word indicates something that is strong or hard. The verbal form indicates making something harder or stronger. The question then is, what is being made hard?

    Here most people suffer under a bit of a colloquial misunderstanding of Hebrew idioms. We tend to think of someone's heart as their emotions. However, when you look at the usage of "heart" in Hebrew, you find that in speaking of a person's heart Hebrew refers to the entire person, not just their emotional center.

    As an example of the way this idiom has changed you can look to Matthew 22:37, wherein Christ said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." However in Deuteronomy 6:5 we see, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Notice that the Hebrew expression used in Deuteronomy does not include a reference to mind, but the Greek expression does. The reason for this is because of the way the Greek's divided the heart and the mind, but the Hebrew did not.

    So, when we read of God "hardening" Pharaoh's "heart" we should understand that God is basically strengthening or toughening the person of Pharaoh, both mentally and emotionally. God is taking the person of Pharaoh and strengthening his mental and emotional resolve, so that Pharaoh stays the course he (that is Pharaoh) already determined.

    So what are the prerequisites for hardening, in the context in which God and Moses spoke? Well, first, one would have to be set against God. It wouldn't make much sense for God to "harden" someone who was for him. Secondly, God must determine he is going to harden the person. Here we stand informed by what Paul says: What was the reason for God hardening Pharaoh, because God raised him up so that God might show his power in him. In other words God chose to harden Pharaoh so that the power of God would be demonstrated in him and God would demonstrate his great signs in Egypt. God already told Moses that Pharaoh would not let the people go unless forced, and the God hardened Pharaoh so that his mighty hand would be shown and all the earth would tremble before him.

  21. Hey, thanks for answering the Hardening question. Although you continued to keep it within the God and Pharaoh paradigm, you did the first decent job from any Calvinist to whom I have posed this question.

    Hardening, is to take something pliable or malleable and permanently fix it into that shape or form.
    The prerequisite is that it must already be that shape of form. This you seem to have hit upon, very well done, again, a first among Calvinists who have even attempted to answer the question.

    As for the benefits, again, you hit upon some of the truth. Strength. If we read the account, Pharaoh was in some way, giving in, for whatever reason and not holding to his stubbornness. In effect, God gave him the strength to resist God's pressuring him.

    There is another result of Hardening. The malleability and pliability is gone. any flexing or change of shape or form causes destruction of the hardened thing, making it no longer usable for its prior service.

    One needs to understand God to understand hardening. God CANNOT lie. It is not a possibility. God made a promise to Abraham, recorded as Gen 12:3. God cannot possibility go back on his word. Israel was captive for over 400 yrs, also as he revealed to Abraham.. This does not mean God CAUSED or ordained it, simply told the future that he exhaustively know.
    Come time to liberate Israel from Egypt's grasp, God had to fulfill his word or be a liar. Go, still, is also a God of mercy and forgiveness (See Nineveh) but instead of repentance, we see Pharaoh did not desire to free his slaves, so God THEN hardened him. The hardening never comes first.

    Exo 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
    Exo 4:22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
    Exo 4:23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

    CAN God lie?
    There is a slavish nature of people who read bible translations and this is one error:
    that he shall not
    Those four English words are but one ancient Hebrew word:

    לֹה לוֹא לֹא
    lô' lô' lôh
    lo, lo, lo
    lo; a primitive particle; not (the simple or abstract negation); by implication no; often used with other particles: - X before, + or else, ere, + except, ig [-norant], much, less, nay, neither, never, no ([-ne], -r, [-thing]), (X as though . . . , [can-], for) not (out of), of nought, otherwise, out of, + surely, + as truly as, + of a truth, + verily, for want, + whether, without.

    This is yet another of the Calvinist translator's attempts to support Calvinism via their translation effort.
    The Calvinist translation, gives the Calvinist doctrinal support of causation, rather than correctly viewing it as response and recompense
    I will harden his heart as truly as he will not let them go.
    This is a much better reading and understanding.

  22. "The Hebrew and Greek languages both could be used to make puns (just like in our own language), which we see in the text. I would argue that as high context languages, the authors often intended to write in a way that allowed for multiple meanings within the text. Not that they intended to confuse, but that those who were familiar with the language would understand that there were layers of meaning in the text, with different thematic threads running through each section, so that the depth of meaning is enormous throughout Scripture."

    I would argue that you can not show this idea, anywhere as being confirmed by any writer or recipient of the original writings.
    I would argue that you cannot NOW show a pun in the Hebrew or Greek, used in scripture., nor assertions throughout history of either language including such a linguistic art form. I do not, however, deny that one CAN make a pun or double entendre in either language.