Do Arminians have the same problem as Calvinists?

Posted on 07/29/11 79 Comments

Paul Manata offers a response to my article “Calvinism preaches a God of love, and yet…” The response was a tu quoque, an argument form which functions like this:

Randal and Paul were walking home from the Barry Manilow concert when Paul was surrounded by a group of growling headbangers who were focused on his powder blue concert T-shirt. Just before the headbangers began to pummel Paul he pointed in Randal’s direct and said: “He’s also wearing a concert T-shirt. It is just hid underneath his jacket.” So the headbangers beat up Randal too.

Gee, thanks Paul.

My claim was that Calvinism has a problem in that it takes the position that the God of love opts not to elect all for salvation. But how can God be loving to all and yet choose that some suffer eternal damnation?

Paul’s tu quoque is to retort that Arminians have the “SAME problem”: I’m wearing a Barry Manilow t-shirt too. As he says, “Arminianism teaches a God of love, . . . and yet.”

And yet what? Arminianism doesn’t claim that God chooses to damn some. So what’s the what?

Paul explains:

“SAME problem vis-a-vis apparent actions that SEEM inconsistent with a “good” God. You say, “If God loves all men, how can it be that he leaves some in a sinful state leading to damnation.” I say, “If God loves all men, how can it be that he allows little girls to be rapped without stopping it.” At some point I will make the Arminian resort to some kind of appeal to inscrutability, then I’ll ask why there’s a problem with my appeal to inscrutability.”

That is a problem. It is a problem that I am well aware of and which I discuss in You’re not as Crazy as I Think. In that book I talk about the case of Carmina Salcido. Carmina had her throat slit by her psychopathic father when she was just three years old along with her two sisters. The three bodies were found a day later in a field, with Carmina incredibly still clinging to life. I think theists always need to talk about evil in concrete situations rather than conceptual abstraction. And the question of how a loving god could allow Carmina’s father to commit such a heinous act is a problem for any theist (even the open theists by the way).

But even if Carmina’s case is a problem for the Arminian, it is not the same problem faced by the Calvinist. I may be wearing a Tom Jones t-shirt. But that’s not the same thing as Barry Manilow. And it is not nearly as likely to get a person curbed by a pack of headbangers. (Tom Jones has a certain machismo that a headbanger can sort of respect, almost like he could have been Henry Rollins’ dad.)

Let’s put it like this.

The Calvinist/Arminian problem: God did not prevent the attempted murder of Carmina and the murder of her siblings.

The uniquely Calvinist problem: God was the primary cause of Carmina’s father’s free actions. God could have willed Carmina’s father freely to choose to love and nurture Carmina rather than to slit her throat.

So I admit I’ve got the first problem, but I don’t have the second one.

Now let’s move to eternity. The headbangers are eyeing my Tom Jones shirt, confused. “Who’s Tom Jones?” one of them barks.

“You know,” I reply, hoarsely. “What’s new pussycat?” The headbangers look confused.

Paul interrupts.”But he’s wearing a Barry Manilow pendant!”

Thanks again Paul.

This is the second problem, the Arminian problem of hell. Here is what Paul says:

“Moreover, what sense does it make to say on the Arminian system that God doesn’t intend or will to damn some yet also love all? He knew people would be damned if he went ahead and created, yet he did so anyway. What does it mean to say he didn’t in some sense desire or will that outcome? Some Molinists, like Craig, claim that God did what was best over all, achieving the best ratio of saved to damned. This is the Roger Dorn theodicy, i.e., the “take one for the team” theodicy. God instantiates a world where some are in circumstances that they will reject God. In hell they cry out, “Why did you put me in these circumstances, there was a possible world where I choose you!” God replies, “Yeah, but I got the best ratio with this world, the saints in heaven thank you, Dorn.”

I could quibble with aspects of Paul’s statement. But never mind, even based on Paul’s own words is that really the equivalent of a Barry Manilow pendant? No. It is not. Compare and contrast:

Calvinist: God could have willed that all people freely chose him but God opted not to do so.

Arminian: God could not have willed that all people freely chose him so God created the maximally favorable conditions for as many people to choose him freely as possible.

There’s a chasm separating these two views. The Arminian view of providence and election may still be troubling in certain respects, but it is nowhere nearly as bad as the Calvinist. On the Arminian view God is limited to a lifeboat on the Titanic and fits in as many as he can. Is it really fair to complain that he didn’t fit in more when he simply couldn’t? In contrast, on the Calvinist view God could have willed a lifeboat the same size as the Titanic in which everyone is saved. But God chose not to. That’s quite a difference. That’s quite a problem.

I pull out the pendant while the headbangers wait.

It isn’t a Barry Manilow pendant after all. “Boy George and Culture Club” it says. The headbangers’ faces immediately brighten. “Culture Club? We love Culture Club!” And with that we all begin singing “Karma Chameleon”. Even Paul, bruised but none the worse for wear, gets in on the act.

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  • Linda

    No matter how you slice it, the Bible is clear that many will go to Hell. Is not the real problem is that many go to Hell, yet God could of made it where all go to Heaven?

  • http://www.retheology.net Jared

    First of all, I want to say Randal I think you’re right. Theodicically, Calvinism has a much more difficult time answering the charge of God’s moral monstrosity than Arminaianism does. The argument from Free Will by Plantinga et al has been one of the greatest apologies of recent history.

    I suppose it’s Special Pleading, but in all of this I feel like both Calvinists and Arminians do face one common problem (completely unrelated to anything discussed above … hurrah for tangents…) For the Calvinist, it’s the verses that say “whosoever wills may come” and for the Arminian it’s “those He foreknew he also predestined…”

    Neither system is a perfectly hermetic hermeneutic. Maybe it’s the pastor in me wanting people to play nice, but so much energy is pumped into something that isn’t holistic in and of itself. A truly Ontological God ought to be bigger than either the God of Calvinism or Arminianism.

    As someone who spent an inordinate amount of time arguing the minutiae of Calvinism in my younger years, I know some of the theological jumping jacks that you have to go through to make all scripture fit into a Calvinist box – which as a Calvinist it must. The tipping point for me was when discussing (read: berating) a Roman Catholic friend on the perpetual virginity of Mary, I cited verses referencing “the Brothers of Jesus” and he replied that Brother can refer to half brother, siblings from another marriage, or even cousin. I felt like, even if that’s true – it feels like a stretch. Calvinism requires much of that same stretching. And I know Arminianism does as well. Make whatever theological hay out of what predestination really means that you want, but as FF Bruce argues – Paul’s Jewishness had a distinctly Israelite quality when it came to Election. Predestination for Christians was a continuation of what God had done all along. In the New Covenant he was simply widening the scope.

    Like I said, it takes some theological yoga, but I’m sure Arminians have a solution. I just think it’s easier and more fruitful to get on with the business at hand… whatever that may be…

    • randal

      Certainly scripture is so diverse in perspectives that anybody who attempts a systematic theoretical account of scripture’s view on x will, in all likelihood, find passages that seem to suggest not-x.

  • Walter

    I suppose it’s Special Pleading, but in all of this I feel like both Calvinists and Arminians do face one common problem (completely unrelated to anything discussed above … hurrah for tangents…) For the Calvinist, it’s the verses that say “whosoever wills may come” and for the Arminian it’s “those He foreknew he also predestined…”

    That one is easy to spin. Calvinists will claim the only ones “whosoever will” are those that he foreknew and predestined.

    (I’m not a Calvinist, but I play one on TV)

    • http://www.retheology.net Jared

      Like I said, seems like a stretch. I had no doubt that we could figure out a way to spin it. As Calvinists, we’re good at that. But all I can say is it seems like a stretch then and that’s not really whosoever then either…

  • http://theisticnotebook.wordpress.com David Parker

    “The uniquely Calvinist problem: God was the primary cause of Carmina’s father’s free actions. God could have willed Carmina’s father freely to choose to love and nurture Carmina rather than to slit her throat.”

    Consider some secondary factors at work on Carmina’s father when he deliberated about what to do: genetic, sociological, behavioral, and biological factors.

    Could God have willed these external factors be different? Sure…by actualizing a different possible world, where the initial conditions of the Big Bang were ever so slightly different. But it isn’t clear to me that the same doesn’t apply for God willing Carmina’s father to do differently. After all, God chose which world to actualize, and he did so with perfect foreknowledge of that world’s events (according to standard Arminianism).

    And if God perfectly knows what free agents will do, what do we even mean when we say they are free? There is exactly one actual world, which God instantiated. Period. You can even say that counterfactuals of freedom are “just there” and God doesn’t decide their truth values he just picks them…so what? He still picks that world. And no amount of free agenting will result in any other possible world obtaining…the actual world is the one God chose to instantiate. The buck stops at the Big Bang baby!

    Am I missing something here? I always end up at the same conclusion when I think about this.

    • http://theisticnotebook.wordpress.com David Parker

      Randal, maybe the answer to my question is to look into this statement more:

      “Calvinist: God could have willed that all people freely chose him but God opted not to do so.”

      Do you mean that God could have created a different possible world but opted not to?

    • randal

      Let’s go with the Titanic illustration. Now think of possible worlds as like lifeboats. For the Arminian there are no lifeboats that would accommodate everyone and so God uses the lifeboat that will fit the most people. (If there are half a dozen, or half a billion lifeboats that will accommodate the same number then God just chooses one of them, i.e. one particular world to actualize rather than another.) On the Calvinist view God has a lifeboat (a possible world) which would have accommodated everyone. In fact he has an infinite number of them. But he chose not to use any of them.

      That. Is. A. Big. Difference.

      • http://theisticnotebook.wordpress.com David Parker

        Ok. On your view, God has maximized the lifeboat’s occupancy…but what shall we say of the survivors?

        “Congrats, your free acceptance of salvation [solely possible by God's decision to maximize the lifeboat] landed you on the lifeboat.”

        Doesn’t that strike you as arbitrary and utilitarian in some sense? God “just chose” from among possible worlds. And he did so to maximize the lifeboat.

        The people in hell are resting easy knowing that their counterfactual scorecards didn’t line them up for the lifeboat, but they might have experienced a situation in which they’d freely accept salvation in another possible world.

        —End slightly emotive rant—-

        Paul Helm has worked extensively on divine freedom from a Calvinist perspective, and he argues that necessarily God creates the best possible world. So I’m not sure Calvinist must believe that God could have saved everyone…are you supposing that based on the WCF description?

        It seems to me the Calvinist can affirm it logically possible that God save everyone just as the perfect being theologian affirms it logically possible that God exercise his omnipotence in a morally evil fashion. Yes, there are prickly problems…but that shouldn’t be surprising at all. That’s just life working in this field brotha!

        But some logically possible worlds are not feasible worlds for God. A feasible world is one that God would desire to create. And no Calvinist worth his salts would say that God created this world, but there are worlds he would desire more to create.

        The Calvinist who ponders why God desired this world (with the ratio of elect/reprobate) is simply pondering the problem of evil…something even the open theist must do.

        God didn’t instantiate other possible worlds with bigger lifeboats for a good reason: because those other possible worlds were of lesser or equal value with respect to net goods achieved. So it hardly “makes a big difference” to anyone who has learned to trust God in the face of evil where “it seemed God could have done otherwise.”

        And shouldn’t Calvinists believe the decree is eternal…so there is no temporal sequence between God’s knowledge of all possible worlds and his willingness to actualize this world? So how could an eternal decree have been otherwise? Edwards and necessitarianism lurks in the shadows here! But perhaps a better solution is to deny that it could have been otherwise in the feasible sense (not the logically possible sense).

        Anyways, I’d like to hear more about how Calvinists must believe God can save everyone. And I’m also curious how perfect foreknowledge Arminianism can avoid theological determinism without resorting to Molinism. You aren’t a Molinist right? (But I assume you believe we have libertarian freedom.)

  • http://theisticnotebook.wordpress.com David Parker

    Whoa!

    God is a necessary being. (God exists in all possible worlds)

    God has essential attributes (an attribute A is essential to p if p possesses A in all possible worlds where p exists.)

    God’s freely chose to actualize world W, and he could have done otherwise.

    Doesn’t this imply that there are contingent facts at play in God’s decision to actualize world W?!?!?!?!?! Where the heck did those contingent facts come from?!?!?! What grounds facts outside of the actual world…it can’t be God’ essential nature because that isn’t contingent!

    I’m going to work. That made me snort out my cereal milk.

    • randal

      “That made me snort out my cereal milk.”

      I hope you remembered to wear your Elmo bib.

  • nathanj

    Arminian: God could not have willed that all people freely chose him so God created the maximally favorable conditions for as many people to choose him freely as possible.

    Randal,

    Do you not find a severe problem with the phrase, “God could not”? Even if we stop right there, we are already running counter to scriptures like Ps 115 among many others. I think we talked about this in a post long ago, but God as the sovereign creator would have the right and the power to impede upon whatever liberty or choice he gave his creation if he chose to (and he has at times such as the Exodus and the Canaanite conquest). Whether some are saved while others are not is because God chose to display his glory through justice and mercy by election as Romans 9 teaches or because he gives his creation free will, both systems reason that God values something over extending his saving love to all persons. How would an Arminian find God more loving by choosing not to override their libertarian free will when he knows if he does not do so, billions of souls will perish?

    On a slightly different subject, I find your analogy about the lifeboat curious. It may be a helpful analogy if it had any Biblical merit, but what is it based on scripturally? I can’t think of any scriptures saying God would save all men but doesn’t have the power to do so, but I would be open to your correction.

    • randal

      Nathanj, the statement you take issue with assumes that freedom is as the libertarians define it and that God creates creatures who have that kind of freedom. If you begin with those two assumptions then it follows that “God could not”. This is no limit on omnipotence (as you seem to suppose) since omnipotence invovles the ability to do whatever is logically possible and it is not logically possible to determine the actions of another such that they maintain their freedom if freedom excludes the possiblity of others determining your actions.

      That said, I agree with your question: “How would an Arminian find God more loving by choosing not to override their libertarian free will when he knows if he does not do so, billions of souls will perish?” As I noted in the blog, I don’t know why an Arminian would think maintaining an unimpeded free will is a morally sufficient reason to allow a creature to suffer eternal damnation.

      I am not sure why you’re asking about what the lifeboat analogy is based on “scripturally”. It simply unpacks the implications of a libertarian concept of God. It rellies on the existence of other possible worlds and God’s knowledge which scripture makes clear that God has (e.g. had Jesus performed the same miracles in Tyre and Sidon ….).

      • nathanj

        Randal,

        Thank you for your response. I suppose the challenge I have is that if God is going to allow so many to languish in hell because he wants to impart to man this libertarian free will, shouldn’t that be made clear in the scriptures, especially in light of verses stating that God desires that none would perish? Why should such a view be an “assumption” when it runs contrary to passages like Romans 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, and others?

        The same concern applies to your analogy. You say it’s not Biblical, and I’m not sure it’s even Arminian is it? Wouldn’t a more appropriate analogy be that God has a boat big enough for everyone to be saved; while he wants to rescue everyone, not everyone will choose to be rescued?

        After re-reading both posts, I think we’re arguing two different points. You’re saying Calvinists have a bigger problem than Arminians from a philosophical standpoint. I’m saying Arminians have a bigger problem than Calvinists from a Biblical standpoint.

        • Robert

          NathanJ wrote:

          “I suppose the challenge I have is that if God is going to allow so many to languish in hell because he wants to impart to man this libertarian free will, shouldn’t that be made clear in the scriptures, especially in light of verses stating that God desires that none would perish?”

          First, God does not “allow so many to languish in hell because he wants to impart to man this libertarian free will”. God created man with the capacity to have and make his own choices. That is part of the “design plan” for man. He does not have to impart it to man at some later time, every man has this capacity and exercises it daily. Second, people do not haphazardly end up in hell. They end up there only if they have spent away a **lifetime** continuously and repeatedly rejecting God.

          God though under no obligation to save anyone makes various efforts to reconcile with sinful men which they must repeatedly reject before they end up being eternally separated from God.

          “Why should such a view be an “assumption” when it runs contrary to passages like Romans 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, and others?”

          The existence of free will does not run contrary “to passages like Romans 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, and others”.

          It runs contrary to **your interpretation** of those texts from the perspective of the Calvinistic system.
          I can provide lots of interpretations of those texts which are contrary to the Calvinistic interpretations and are better interpretations of those texts.

          That is one of the reasons why the vast majority of bible believing Christians have rejected Calvinistic interpretations in favor of non-Calvinistic interpretations. It is not that these bible texts are against the reality of free will: it is your **interpretation** of these texts and your Calvinistic system that are against the reality of free will and preclude free will.

          I and other non-Calvinists prefer to maintain both the reality of free will and the proper interpretation of these bible texts. My point is that it is not the texts alone that are against free will, it is a certain interpretation of these texts that is against free will.

          “The same concern applies to your analogy. You say it’s not Biblical, and I’m not sure it’s even Arminian is it? Wouldn’t a more appropriate analogy be that God has a boat big enough for everyone to be saved; while he wants to rescue everyone, not everyone will choose to be rescued?”

          The Arminian view is that God loves the world and makes **provision of salvation** for the entire world through the death of Christ. But this provision is then **only applied** to those who choose to trust in God alone for salvation after having experienced the work of the Holy Spirit who enables but does not necessitate their choice to trust. God has provided a boat big enough for all to be rescued, He invites people to be rescued (that is the work of the Spirit) and those who are rescued are rescued because they trusted Him to rescue them not their own works to save them. And it is critical to see (as others have clearly demonstrated) that initial saving faith is not a “work” and by its nature does not involve boasting.

          Robert

    • Robert

      Hello NathanJ,

      “Do you not find a severe problem with the phrase, “God could not”? Even if we stop right there, we are already running counter to scriptures like Ps 115 among many others.”

      The bible says there are some things that God cannot do: that God cannot lie nor can He deny Himself. I take the inability to deny himself to be saying that He will not contradict His own plans or purposes. There is abundant scripture stating that when He purposes something no one can stop it from happening, that it will happen just as He purposed it.

      I like the way that Plantinga says that God has a “design plan” for mankind. That means that God purposed to create man in a certain way with certain cognitive capacities (e.g. Plantinga speaks of a cognitive design plan aimed at arriving at truth when it is properly functioning). So prior to asking whether or not God will “impede upon whatever liberty or choice he gave his creation”, we need to ask about this “design plan” or purpose.

      If God does not deny Himself, does not deny His own purposes and plans. That would mean for him to go against His own design plan for man that He would have to contradict Himself. Contradict His own purpose, contradict His own design plan (something that He never does). Now most people don’t get upset or question the fact that God does not sometimes override the design plan and miraculously give people the ability to fly unaided or have three eyes or four feet. We understand this because we believe God does not contradict His own original design plan. But then when it comes to free will, the capacity to have and make our own choices. Then people seem to forget that if this was part of the original “design plan” (and the available evidence suggests this to be the case) then God is not going to contradict that either. And it is not a lack of power on God’s part, but the fact He does not deny Himself and will not contradict His own purposes and plans. So it seems that once He decides to create people with the capacity for free will He is not going to later contradict His own design plan.

      “Whether some are saved while others are not is because God chose to display his glory through justice and mercy by election as Romans 9 teaches or because he gives his creation free will, both systems reason that God values something over extending his saving love to all persons.”

      Where does the bible say that “God values something over extending his saving love to all persons”?

      It says that He does extend his saving love to all persons by the coming of Christ and the death of Christ for the world (cf. John 3:16).It says that He desires the salvation of all persons and so provides Jesus as an atonement for the sins of the world. It says that due to God’s justice there had to be a sacrifice for sins and that ultimately that sacrifice is found in the cross of Christ. It says that all deserve eternal separation from God due to their sin but that God has mercy on whoever He desires to have mercy upon (which is further specified as involving all who trust Him alone for salvation). It says that the Holy Spirit works to bring the world to Christ for salvation. All of these things clearly demonstrate that God extends his love to all persons. These things are stated in the bible: but where does it speak of some greater thing that God values more?

      “How would an Arminian find God more loving by choosing not to override their libertarian free will when he knows if he does not do so, billions of souls will perish?”

      It is not like a set of scales with preserving and maintaining free will on one side of the scale (and that is loving) and overriding free will on the other scale (and that is also loving). So that God is forced to choose which one is more important or more important to him. This neglects the fact of the design plan and that God does not contradict or deny Himself. God usually works within the very parameters of the design plan that He has set up. God designed us with minds and so He reasons with us so he does not possess and take over our minds forcing us to do things. God designed us with our own wills so He exhorts us to choose to do the right thing (He does not override our will forcing us to do evil or forcing us to do good). God designed us with the capacity to have and make our own choices and holds us responsible for the choices that we (not He) make. The final judgment does not involve choices in which He overrode our will, it involves the choices we chose to make (choices that did not involve Him overriding our wills).

      Robert

      • nathanj

        Robert,

        I agree that there are some things that God cannot do, but those all have to do with violating His nature and they are spoken of in the scripture. No where in the Bible can I find God giving man libertarian free will. That is a presupposition that is often brought to the text, but there is no clear teaching on it. Not only that, but there are instances of God hardening hearts (Pharaoh, Canaanites), God saving in the womb (John the Baptist), choosing to bless before children were born or had done anything good or bad (Jacob & Esau), which would essentially limit there free will significantly.

        “Where does the bible say that “God values something over extending his saving love to all persons”?

        Well, it’s reasoning. Peter and Paul both say that God desires that all men be saved, yet all men are not saved. Either he must not be powerful enough to save all men, or he must have a higher will/desire than for all to be saved, right? A Calvinist would say that his higher desire is that his glory be displayed through vessels of justice and vessels of mercy (see Romans 9). An Arminian must say that his higher desire is to give man free will, although I find no clear Biblical teaching on this.

        • Robert

          Nathanj says:

          “I agree that there are some things that God cannot do, but those all have to do with violating His nature and they are spoken of in the scripture.”

          OK, so we agree that God cannot do some things. You say these **all** have to do with violating His nature.

          As His nature includes being rational, would you agree that one of the things that he cannot do is to **contradict His own plans and purposes**????

          I believe that part of His nature is that He cannot deny Himself (as He himself says in scripture). If that is true, then I do not believe that He can contradict Himself. And If He cannot contradict Himself then He cannot contradict His own plans and purposes.

          “No where in the Bible can I find God giving man libertarian free will.”

          The evidence for the existence of free will as ordinarily understood is all over the bible. But I am concerned that if I take the time to present some of it, you will simply reinterpret the evidence so that it comports with what you do believe in (i.e. that calvinism is true and that free will as ordinarily exists is not true). Since I think that your mind is already made up in this area I will give you something else to think about.

          Here is another approach, a friend of mine, who is a five point calvinist and believes in the reality of libertarian free will. He did a nice little series on free will from a calvinistic perspective. In his three part series he argues both that at times we do have libertarian free will and simultaneously that calvinism is true. Now of course I do not agree with him about his calvinism,:-) but you should at least consider that here is an intelligent and informed person who is a good apologist for the Christian faith and a calvinist who has no problem holding to the existence of libertarian free will (and he **is** a five point calvinist!).
          Here is the place where Greg talks about free will and his calvinism (the three parts in order):

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm2x3heXwAs&feature=related

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iKvNZDZg0g&NR=1

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un6bkzWiLOE&NR=1

          “That is a presupposition that is often brought to the text, but there is no clear teaching on it.”

          Actually there is clear teaching on it, the biblical writers often presuppose it when they are talking about things. Again I think your mind is made up against the existence of free will, so any evidence will be reinterpreted to fit your Calvinistic presuppositions (and of course you would say the same about me, :-) ). But you can be a calvinist and hold to the reality of libertarian free will, just as Greg does.

          “Not only that, but there are instances of God hardening hearts (Pharaoh, Canaanites),”

          I never said that God cannot harden a person by presenting things to that person knowing that they will obstinately reject what is given and so harden themselves. It is like a parent who knows that telling their child to clean the room will get them a bit upset about what the parent is suggesting. The child will then harden themselves based upon what the parent has said to them. But even this hardening is a choice made by the child. The child could instead choose to comply with the parent without any attitude.

          “God saving in the womb (John the Baptist),”

          So you think that John was saved without faith in the Lord? How does this salvation without faith theory you are suggesting here, fit with the whole book of Romans where the apostle Paul repeatedly argues that salvation or justification is through faith alone?

          “choosing to bless before children were born or had done anything good or bad (Jacob & Esau), which would essentially limit there free will significantly.”

          The blessing spoken of in Romans 9 to which you refer to here is not in regards to their individual salvation but to the birthright (that the younger would receive it rather than the elder, it is not talking about their choosing to trust in the Lord or choosing to reject the Lord.

          I had asked:

          “Where does the bible say that “God values something over extending his saving love to all persons”?

          You responded:

          “Well, it’s reasoning.”

          So your conclusion is not actually presented in the bible as you readily admit. So your “reasoning” is not derived from the bible but is constructed by you.

          “Peter and Paul both say that God desires that all men be saved,’”

          Yes that is what the texts properly interpreted present.

          “yet all men are not saved.”

          Again, proper interpretation of the texts does not present universalism but presents there will be some “sheep” and some “goats”.

          Now you started with biblical truths, you then proceed to intentionally frame things in a way that is against the existence of free will (I have seen other calvinists attempt the same set up, the same way of framing things against free will). You do so by the way you frame things and specifically by a false dilemma that you present:

          “Either he must not be powerful enough to save all men, or he must have a higher will/desire than for all to be saved, right?”

          You leave out another possibility, the very possibility that non-Calvinists believe to be the case. So your question here commits both the fallacies of false dilemma and complex question. If God decided upon a plan of salvation in which He desired to see people freely choose to trust Him for their salvation (i.e. a plan of salvation in which salvation would be through freely chosen faith so it would involve BOTH the power of God and the freely made choices of people).

          Then it is not an issue of merely/only the power of God being involved in salvation. It would also require a freely chosen choice made by the human person (it would involve both the power of God and a freely made choice by man). A choice that is not forced upon the individual by God.

          Your question commits the fallacy of false dilemma because you leave out this possibility. And your question commits the fallacy of complex question because you assume that salvation only involves God’s power.

          What is crucial is the nature of the plan of salvation: if God sovereignly decided that it would include freely chosen faith, then so be it, it would involve freely chosen faith. But if it was of that nature then God could not simply force it, coerce everyone to believe (as that would be contradicting His own plan of salvation, again God does not contradict Himself). This possibility is the very possibility that you exclude by the way you frame things in your set up question. And this possibility is the very way that non-Calvinists look at it.

          For us it is **both** the power of God and the choice of man that are involved in a person’s salvation. You frame things as if it is ONLY the power of God and no freely made choice by man is involved. So by the way that you frame things you intentionally leave out free will. So when you then try to argue against the non-Calvinist view you are arguing according to your presuppositions (that it is only the power of God involved) not ours. So of course by YOUR PRESUPPOSITIONS salvation is merely the power of God and not also involving the freely made choice of man.

          “A Calvinist would say that his higher desire is that his glory be displayed through vessels of justice and vessels of mercy (see Romans 9). An Arminian must say that his higher desire is to give man free will, although I find no clear Biblical teaching on this.”

          And your contrast again is based on a false presupposition. I dealt with this one in my prior post, there is no balancing scale of what is the more loving thing for God to do, is it more loving to maintain and not interfere with free will or is it more loving to override free will? Your two choices are not really a choice that God faces. Since He created us with this ability and that is His purpose He is not going to contradict His own purpose. Contradicting Himself goes against His nature and so He never does it.

          Robert

  • Mac Lee

    Arminians face the only problem worth noting, that Electionists do not, when it comes to salvation… PRIDE

    In order for true free will to exist, that being each person contains within themselves the ability to or not to choose God, without God’s first choice of them, then A’s can say “I am smarter than unbeliever X, because I chose salvation and they did not” (if you believe choosing eternity within God’s kingdom smart) A’s wrongly are stating that they have “somehow” obtained ability outside of God’s working to choose salvation, which can only be viewed as PRIDE… (even if you believe that our choosing God doesn’t guarantee him choosing to save us, as I’ve heard some argue) From step 1 of the whole process A’s have pridefully started the whole process.

    • http://www.drwayman.com drwayman

      I am repeatedly dismayed at people’s attempts to place PRIDE at the foot of a soteriological system. Pride is endemic among humanity and unfortunately Christians are no exception. I’ve seen proud Arminians, proud Calvinists, proud Unitarians, and proud Satanists. The PRIDE argument is a straw man…

      • mac lee

        You hit it right on the head by saying “pride is a endemic problem”, all sin, but an A’s bout with pride carries right into their salvation, electionists understand that they have nothing to boast in, when it comes to salvation, because they had nothing to do with the initial step.

        • drwayman

          You are misrepresenting Arminianism. i wonder if you have read Arminius or just repeating what you have heard.

          You can’t have it both ways. You can’t agree that pride is endemic and then say one branch of Christianity is more proud than others. By slinging mud, you get some on yourself. To accuse someone of being prideful is a prideful statement. Pride is pride is pride. God doesn’t grade pride/sin. Sin is sin is sin.

          You said, “when it comes to salvation, because they had nothing to do with the initial step” in speaking of electionists. You are assuming that Arminianism has something to do with the initial step. Nothing could be further from the truth. What you are speaking of is called pelagianism or semi-pelagianism which Arminians do not agree with.

          Arminians believe in total depravity. Mankind is unable to do anything meritorious that leads to salvation. That is where grace comes in, the “initial step.” God must first grace an individual before Christ enters a persons life. The difference is that Arminians believe that grace can be resisted while electionists believe that grace cannot be resisted.

          Also, you are chasing a rabbit trail if you believe that Arminianism is about free will. Arminians don’t care about free will as a starting place in their soteriology. The starting place for Arminianism is the character of God. For the Arminian, the starting point is, “what does God’s Word say about God’s character? Does my soteriology line up with what God’s Word says about God’s character?”

          I would like to encourage you to visit http://www.evangelicalarminians.org so that you can truly see what Arminians truly believe. That way you won’t waste your time chasing rabbit trails or building straw men.

          • mac lee

            So let me ask this, after invitational grace has been even spread across all humanity, what mechanism does one use to then freely choose God?

            If you don’t see what I’m trying to get at… Do you think you have any ability that you acquired not by God’s design? Because if you believe that we are all created equal, then you are saying everything I currently know and understand and have the ability to do is something that I’ve done without the hand of God at work

            • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

              Just for clarification: not all Arminians hold to the notion of God’s proactive grace “spread evenly” over all humanity. Arminius and the Remonstrants did not, and I do not.

              Nevertheless, when the Holy Spirit frees a person from his or her bondage to sin — hence we are all totally depraved and totally incapable of trusting in Christ by our own efforts — then the individual is granted the ability to believe. The “mechanism” used is the will, which has been freed to act positively in faith toward Christ. Some do, some do not, but the latter do so as freely as the former.

              Do you think you have any ability that you acquired not by God’s design?

              Any orthodox Arminian will always answer no.

              Because if you believe that we are all created equal . . .

              However, we are not all equally depraved. An unbelieving, sweet grandmother who has done little in the way of greatly acting upon her depraved nature is not as equally depraved as was Hitler, for example.

              . . . then you are saying everything I currently know and understand and have the ability to do is something that I’ve done without the hand of God at work.

              Again, that is not Arminianism. Christ was emphatic that we can do no good thing without Him. The Holy Spirit was sent to earth to convict of sin, lack of righteousness and the coming judgment (John 16:8-11). The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who will believe (Rom. 1:16-17). God has chosen to save “those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).

              God will not, however, save nor give to Jesus anyone who will not believe. Thus belief — faith, which is not a work (Rom. 4:4-5) — is in response to God’s proactive grace, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9). The ability comes from Him. The act of faith springs from us who are granted such ability.

              • mac lee

                Here is the ONLY point I’m trying to talk through;

                The “mechanism” used is the will, which has been freed to act positively in faith toward Christ. Some do, some do not, but the latter do so as freely as the former.

                How does one get the ability to exercise their will in this sense? Is it something one develops on their own, or is it something God gave to the ones to do act positively? If God had no hand in your ability to comprehend his gift and submit your life to Him, then you can boast in the fact that you chose to live over someone who didn’t choose, you have to admit that, there is no other way to see it other than God chose to bless some and not others with the ability to understand Him and respond accordingly

                • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

                  The answer is as you say: “something God gave to the ones to do act positively.” I wonder, Mac, what you think of Jesus’ message:

                  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

                  “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matt. 7:24-27 NIV)

                  According to your philosophy, the “wise” man has something of which to boast. Do you think Jesus is advocating your boasting theory?

                  God bless.

                  • mac lee

                    I fear you may misunderstand my position, I am saved by God’s choice, I have been brought to repentance by God’s election, not sure if your asking where I stand on this issue

                    • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

                      The issue is boasting, is it not? The issue is not “being saved by God’s choice.” I already quoted Scripture to the notion that God “chooses” to save “those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Of course God chose to save you: you trusted in Christ, and God saves those who trust in Christ. But you have failed to prove how Arminianism in any way whatsoever promotes boasting. All people are saved in the same manner: by grace through faith.

                    • Mac lee

                      Here is how As can boast

                      Let’s for argument sake call the choosing to trust in christ X

                      Now an A will say all people are presented equally with the opportunity to exercise X, and they can boast in the fact that they enacted X while the next person did not, based on on their own abilities, and God had no hand in you coming to enacting X, an A can say they are smarter than the unbeliever because they choose Christ and in turn chose their salvation. I’m talking about ONLY the step when one chooses Christ, if you rare able to do that based on your own abilities that Christ didn’t create in you, then you are boasting, in fact you are admitting you didn’t need Gld for this, you could do it on your own.

                    • mac lee

                      On the contrary, I’m hitting the exact point that needs to be discussed, so I’ll break it down a question at a time so you can follow the path I’m evidently not clearly laying out…

                      At a certain point one can either “react positively or negatively to Gods grace, correct?

                      Then what is it in a believer that responds to positively compared to a non-believer? What do they have BEFORE that makes them respond positively?

                      Where did THAT come from?

                    • http://www.indeathorlife.org/ J.C. Thibodaux

                      Mac,

                      Your error is in assuming that repentance and believing is anything to boast of to begin with.

                      “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’?” (Luke 17:10)

                      There is nothing to boast in over believing as Christ commanded us, for how can an unprofitable servant rightly boast in his unprofitability?

        • Linda J

          I am drowning in the ocean and you come to rescue me. Since drowning people panic, they sometimes fight their rescuers. I begin to fight you, then realize you are my savior and let you rescue me. You drag me to shore and give me artificial respiration. Then you set me up at an inn to recover (like the Good Samaritan) and nurse me along. You stay with me. Once I am able to recall what happened and perhaps tell someone about it, am I really going to be proud of the fact that I stopped fighting you and let you rescue me? I might actually have a hard time admitting that I needed rescue in the first place because of my pride, or that I fought you initially, but it would be the last thing anyone would do to boast about the fact that I relented and let my savior have his way, saving my life. It just is so intuitively obvious that people do not boast about it; it is an offense against pride, in fact, but when it is the truth, hopefully gratitude will overrule our pride and we will call it the way it really is.

          • mac lee

            Linda,

            here’s the lacking in your arguement… why would you get artificial respiration *AR* if you weren’t needing it?

            were you not breathing or were you breathing? (here’s where i need clarification…
            1. is breathing AFTER AR on the shore = salvation?
            2. if yes then the AR is what saved you, and you never chose the AR, the AR (and the one administering it) chose you
            3. and if we agree that the AR saved you your “letting yourself” be rescued, (essentially) had nothing to do with your salvation, because all one would have had to do was wait for you to stop breathing –> because then you would stop resisting

            • Linda J

              Analogies are not identical to the things they are intended to be a picture of or they would be the thing itself, not an analogy. In my analogy, I was not “out,” and I did have to allow my savior to save me. Artificial respiration would be analogous to the drawing and convicting power of the Holy Spirit, also there to empower me to make the decision He wants me to make, although it is my decision to make. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about either what “makes” me decide righteously instead of unrighteously, it doesn’t have any statement about some reservoir of self-righteousness from which we draw to receive and believe. The assumption is that we do not draw on any righteousness of our own to make the choice, but that we draw on God’s righteousness because He’s made it available to us. I don’t care if that violates the rules of Calvinism; it is what the Bible says. Salvation is offered to all and God desires it for all. He draws all men at some time, although He goes where He wills, and if today you hear His voice, harden not your heart. The Bible tells us to believe the gospel and be saved, and it says it to all, and if this was not possible with the drawing and convicting of the Holy Spirit, it would be a lie. It is not a lie. We have put this truth to the test and it has become our experience.

              Seizing this little snag of, oh, you’ve got to be regenerated first (by election and predestination that also means that, for this to be true, God also chose to create people, “reprobate” them before they ever did anything or thought anything–before He even created them, JUST so He could get all this sovereign “pleasure” out of sending them to hell, and it also means that every temptation to sin was another work of His sovereign “pleasure,” since He has to have forced everything to be exactly as it us to make this scheme work) because otherwise, being _so_ dead in sin, you couldn’t respond to Him (as He tells you to do) and wouldn’t have the power to choose without this prior regeneration, has the effect of denying that the gospel is true, and after being chewed to pieces by gleeful online trolls in the last few months, I believe that this is the intent of many who are arguing Calvinism today. Many of them seem to seize upon this point as if by it, they “win,” that the logic of it must draw you inexorably to that conclusion, but the Bible isn’t operating by that logic at all. The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man, so if the impressive but horrible philosophical system of Calvinism drives you to this brink that it seems to be designed to drive you to, well, Jesus said these things were hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes. And the babes and sheep who’ve trusted Him will continue to testify to what the word of God actually says, that God loved _the world_ of people and sent Jesus to die, bearing the sins of all, so that whosoever believes on Him might not perish but have everlasting life. We won’t believe that He is so stingy that He doesn’t actually mean that He wants it for all (when He repeatedly says He does), and we won’t tell anyone He did.

              • mac lee

                Linda,
                i guess i’m not understanding you saying you “weren’t out” what do you mean by that?

                i don’t see how AR is analogous to the drawing and convicting of the HS, where is the “response/salvation” then? if none of this is analogous to salvation as you are leading me to believe in “Artificial respiration would be analogous to the drawing and convicting power of the Holy Spirit, also there to empower me to make the decision He wants me to make, although it is my decision to make.”, then why even mention this whole story??

                do you understand AR? it’s either giving you life as you were dead, and i don’t see how one can be ALIVE and not in Christ or it’s sustaining your breathing and you were/are in the same state the whole time and this whole drowning incident has no point as to the salvation “process”

                • Linda J

                  Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace that is given unto me, that every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

                  See, faith is dealt to every man, and the Apostle Paul doesn’t even think it is a matter of pride to exercise that faith–dealt unto _every_ man.

                  • mac lee

                    Linda,
                    you are so right!! “See, faith is dealt to every man,” Every = (v1. brothers) or (v4 members of the body of Christ) Every person who has faith in the Lord was given that gift of faith from God, but you can’t apply the word *every* in v3 outside of it’s direct context talking to believers or “brothers”

                    when the bible talks about all it’s most often talking about All without distinction (jew or gentile / every tongue,tribe,nation) not all without exception **please nobody don’t blow this out of proportion like most people do, i said MOST OFTEN**

                    here’s the problem and where the pride comes in, at a certain point Prevenient Grace brings all people to the point of making a decision to bow a knee to Christ or not, at that certain point we are all on an equal playing field, and whatever it is inside a man that makes morally better use of the PG enacted on them, that man can boast in that inate ability, because they aren’t giving God the credit for that independent choice, only in the process which God has brought them to a point in which they can choose to bow or not, the problem with that is it goes against “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7) – you may argue that even the choice is aided by God DURING THE CHOOSING, but then my question would be this: why doesn’t everyone choose God then, because all during the salvation process everything God is pulling us through with PG is antithetical to what we innately desire, so if it’s 50/50 or even 99/1 God to man in the choice, that 1% ALWAYS chooses evil and will always choose evil unless the choice to follow Christ is “dealt Rom12:3″ to us irresistably, because the one thing As and Cs agree on is left to themselves man innately would ALWAYS choose to not bow before Christ and since some do bow before Christ that choice had have been changed within our nature.

                    • drwayman

                      Mac Lee – I fear that you are again misrepresenting Arminianism. If you look above, William Birch corrected you on your “Prevenient Grace levels the playing field” belief:

                      Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 4:50pm

                      Just for clarification: not all Arminians hold to the notion of God’s proactive grace “spread evenly” over all humanity. Arminius and the Remonstrants did not, and I do not.

                      Are you intentionally misrepresenting Arminianism or do you just have a short memory??

                    • Linda J

                      Look, believe what you choose to believe, but I will never entertain this hellish belief again. I am through; no need to argue with a concrete block.

                    • mac lee

                      drwayman,
                      i never said it levels the playing field, i said it brings each person to a point where which neither evil nor good is pressing on them unequally, they are in essence uninclined either way,
                      thats EVEN,
                      that’s how you’ve all presented PG

                      so, with that out of the way, what say you about the boasting in your making better use of the PG enacted on you than an unsaved “good person”

                    • mac lee

                      Linda,
                      I understand it’s an emotional subject, but as I mentioned, it’s a pride issue, which is a desire of the flesh, God’s spirit doesn’t lead us to sin, it leads us to submission to God’s sovereign will.
                      I have faith in Scripture’s view of election, does that leave questions on how can God hold someone accountable to an irresistable will? yes, but Paul had no problems with not answering that, so I don’t have answer either, at the end of the day, if scripture really presented your case the way you view it, why didn’t Paul just answer in Rom 9:20 “because God looked ahead and saw what we were going to choose”? I am humbled and grateful that I am the vessel made for honorable use and I fear the God who creates calamity and creates darkness but creates well being and light as well(Is 43:7)

    • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

      Salvation is by grace through faith precisely so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Since faith in Christ is not a work (Rom. 4:4-5), then no one — Arminian, Calvinist, Wesleyan, Amyraldian, et al. — has something of which to boast.

      God bless.

  • The Atheist Missionary

    Do they sell Roger Whittaker t-shirts?

  • Robert

    Hello Randal,

    I very much appreciated your post as you did a very great job of differentiating Manata’s Calvinism from non-Calvinism.

    Manata wants to persuade people to believe that the non-Calvinist has the **same** problem as the calvinist. This is not true as you clearly demonstrate.

    As you say at one point:

    “But even if Carmina’s case is a problem for the Arminian, it is not the same problem faced by the Calvinist.”

    At most the calvinist could say that the non-Calvinist has problems as well, but not the **same** problem.

    And not only not the same problem, but the problem is **much worse**, much more severe for the calvinist when it comes to evil events.

    As you rightfully say:

    “There’s a chasm separating these two views. The Arminian view of providence and election may still be troubling in certain respects, but it is nowhere nearly as bad as the Calvinist.”

    Most people have no difficulty seeing this. Seeing that in Manata’s calvinism God preplans every event as part of a total plan. In this scenario God **prescripts every event** which means that he also prescripts every evil event that occurs in history. God as conceived by calvinists wants all of these evils to occur, they are all part of His secret and sovereign will (i.e. the total plan for world history which includes every detail).

    So He **intends** for every event to occur exactly as it occurs: every evil then is His will and fully intended by Him.

    It is completely contradictory to the character of God as revealed in the bible to claim that He intends every evil, that he first conceived of them all and then planned them all and then ensures they all occur by directly, continuously and completely controlling all human persons (this also means that every event is necessitated, every event must occur as it does and it was impossible that it have been otherwise). In this scenario God’s will is always done and His will includes every evil event.

    In contrast the non-Calvinist does not believe that God’s will is always done or that every event is prescripted and necessitated. People sometimes freely choose to do the wrong thing, to do something that is not God’s will. For the non-Calvinist God does not intend every evil that occurs, though He may use the evil choices of people to accomplish good (with the best example being the crucifixion of Christ). Other wills are involved. And these other wills can choose to violate God’s commands, do the wrong things. Because they choose to do these evils they may be held responsible for their choices.

    With the non-Calvinist view people may then wonder why God allows a particular evil to occur or whether He could have prevented an evil from occurring. Or other such questions. This then gets into various explanations of the relation between God and evil. Various theodocies, various views on whether greater good can be brought out of evil, the part of middle knowledge, etc. etc.

    The relation between God and evil for the non-Calvinist is very different than it is for the calvinist (where all evils were preplanned and intended by God and in which free will as ordinarily understood plays no part since all events are necessitated and so impossible that they be otherwise).

    It is very different to claim that God allows (and note that in consistent calvinism God allows nothing but actively preplanned everything) for some evil for some greater good versus claiming that God preplanned and intended for that evil to occur in its precise detail. And it should be noted that in consistent calvinism God does not permit or allow anything to occur: rather He actively intends and ensures that every event occur precisely as it does. It is very different if free will as ordinarily understood exists and so some persons can choose to do evil or refrain from doing evil, where their every action is not necessitated.

    Robert

    • randal

      While there are different forms of Calvinism, on one type (that promoted by John Piper, for instance) God always acts to maximize his glory and damning some is more maximizing to God’s glory than saving all so God is constrained, by the necessity fo his nature, to damn some. This is an ironic conclusion given that Calvinists often talk about God’s freedom in election.

      • David Parker

        Those interested can read Piper’s essay, “Are There Two Wills in God?” (link).

        • randal

          I’ve referred to this essay in class for years. It is a succinct and helpful overview of the so-called decretive and preceptive wills. Critics will not read the apparent conflict as generously however.

          • Robert

            Hello Randal,

            David Parker suggested that we check out Piper’s essay on the two wills of God. You replied:

            “I’ve referred to this essay in class for years. It is a succinct and helpful overview of the so-called decretive and preceptive wills. Critics will not read the apparent conflict as generously however.”

            You’ve got that right Randal.

            God’s decreetal will (aka “secret will” or “sovereign will”) is the total plan that he has for world history. Every detail of every event that will ever occur is specified. So the decreetal will prescripts every event whether it be good or evil. This concept of a decreetal will makes a lot of sense for a Calvinist, for someone who wants to believe that God ordains everything as part of one single total plan that He is actualizing as what we call world history.

            The problem with this is that it means that God desires for every evil to occur and preplans exactly how they are to occur. That leads to the conclusion that God is the author of all sin.

            Now that is already bad enough, and has led to innumerable attempts by calvinists to argue that God really is not the author of sin. But it gets worse. And here is where the perceptive will or “moral will” comes in. The calvinist refers to the will of God as expressed in His commands in the bible as the other will of God.

            The problem is that the “two wills” posited by Piper and other calvinists CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

            Take only one example (though this could be endlessly multiplied to include all evil and sin). God SAYS one thing in the bible/the moral will (e.g. “Thou shalt not commit murder”). At the same time the sovereign will includes and mandates every murder that will ever occur. So God in his secret will desires for each and every act of murder to occur. Each murder is fully prescripted, planned by God, intended by God, desired by God. God then ensures that his secret will is carried out by controlling all circumstances to make sure that it all happens exactly as planned. But telling us not to murder really does not mean much if at the same time he desires, intends, preplans and ensures every murder that occurs.

            The “moral will” is subsumed and swallowed up by the “secret will”.

            hat really counts then is the secret will not the moral will.

            What is also wrong about this two will theory is that it means that you really cannot trust what God says in the bible at all because what He says he desires in the bible is constantly contradicted by the secret will. He says don’t commit murder, but the secret will preplans them all and ensures them all.

            If a human person had “two wills” in this way (say they wrote up a contract that said one thing, but their “behind the scenes actions”, actions external to the writing of the contract, went against the contract repeatedly). We would see this person’s unrevealed will to be ****contradicting**** their publicly stated will. We also would be foolish to trust such a person as what he does is not in line with what he claims when he writes it down.

            It also gets nasty for the believer. God says to do certain things and avoid certain things (that is the moral will expressed in the bible). And yet if it is all prescripted then if God, say wants you to give into a certain temptation or commit a particular sin, then you have to do it and it is impossible for you to do otherwise. This makes the exhortations to do or not do something pretty empty as He will often desire according to the secret will (for you to give into temptation or to sin) which according to the revealed/moral will He supposedly does not desire for you to do or not do.

            Or put another way, while we cannot know the secret will before it occurs, once something happens, we then know that **whatever happened was part of the secret will**. Whatever happened is exactly what God wanted to happen. So the Christian can then look upon back upon all of his sins as being exactly what God prescripted for Him and desired for him/her! If that sin destroyed a relationship or brought great suffering or harm to others, that is precisely what God wanted to occur as it is part of his secret will. Again how would you trust such a person who says one thing but then acts against what he says constantly?

            The “two will” theory does not help to justify calvinism. Instead it ends up with God either being double minded/schizophrenic about everything or being extremely sadistic and cruel to all people both unbelievers and believers (it is all just a game with everybody playing their pre-assigned roles and doing whatever the puppet master desires for them to do, regardless of whether or not it goes along with what He tells you to do and not do in the bible).

            Robert

            • randal

              Of course an Arminian views God as having a decretal will which covers every detail as well, but the same tensions do not exist within that concept. I do think the Calvinist has different options however. If Piper is correct that God always acts to maximize his glory, and the world as it is most maximizes his glory, then if he is to follow the necessity of his nature he’ll create this world or one much like it. The question then is why think that this world is most maximizing of God’s glory?

              • http://ponderingthepreponderance.blogspot.com David P

                And that question is the problem of evil.

            • Linda J

              It makes Him the author of sin, out of His own heart. Or hearts Or one of his dual hearts. And since He has this dual nature, you wonder which side of it He really prefers. Calvin’s pronouncements about God predestinating everything “for His good pleasure” would seem to answer that–in fact, Calvin’s pronouncements have a way of insisting on it, just jumping in to the place of being the definitive answer, being so powerful, orthodox, self-evident and all.

              But it is not what God says:

              Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, (As) I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

              Calvin can’t be right about God _wanting_ people to be lost and judged for their sin, because God says He takes no pleasure in it. Since He tells them to turn, there must be some way that they can do this. “For why will ye die?” shows us that there is nothing standing in the way of salvation for the wicked that is in God’s will against his salvation. God clearly wants him to be saved.

              I John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

              That _eliminates_ the possibility that God has a dual nature or will in respect to right and wrong if you take it as an authoritative statement of God’s revelation of Himself to man…”that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”

              James 1:3 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted,neither tempteth He any man…

              Even though that allows more wiggle room for alternate wills, etc, it too shows that God didn’t create moral evil or want anyone to fall prey to it. It is silly to pretend that predestinating evil is not tempting anyone to sin, although people do say it. But the other scripture, I John 1:5, doesn’t allow that, either. It leaves no option open for God to be evil, plan evil, desire evil, or have a secret will to create evil.

              I can say “I am going to do so-and-so, and I will accomplish this thing (God willing), but some of my plan is dependent on somebody else coming through. I hope they will, but I will settle for what I am able to accomplish if they don’t.” That is one, not two wills; two parts of one will. It is simply recognizing that the situation is not one that allows me to get whatever I want to happen, but puts my desire being accomplished at the hands of someone else. This is a situation God created for Himself in creating man with the freedom to disobey Him, and it is consistent with scriptures that tell us he is disappointed and wishes some things were different than they are, due to the rebellion of man. “All day long I have held out my hands to a gainsaying people;” “how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chicks…but ye would not.” I would…ye would not.

              But if I say, “I hope he wins, but I _really_ hope he loses,” that’s “two wills”. Should God be like this (the Bible says otherwise), I don’t want to be in heaven with Him eternally.

              God very well could have created a world in which the ones He created were free to fulfill His desire or not, and that one is consistent with what He says about His nature in the Bible, about His unhappiness at the state of the world and the rebellion of man. He mourns; He would not mourn if all His will was being performed all the time. Calvinists always complain that it would make Him weak and ineffectual if God’s desire was subject to man’s will in any way, or wasn’t always being carried out, but the alternative is that whatever evil is true of the state of the world, it is what God desires, and that can’t be true since God, by His word, is good.

  • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

    Mac,

    You are continually misrepresenting Arminianism. Can I ask you why? You have been told numerous times here that Arminians do not believe that they inherently have the ability to believe apart from the ability and grace of God. Therefore, your entire last comment does not hold water, and you have no argument.

    God bless

  • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

    Mac,

    At a certain point one can either react positively or negatively to Gods grace, correct?

    Yes.

    Then what is it in a believer that responds to positively compared to a non-believer? What do they have BEFORE that makes them respond positively?

    BEFORE God’s grace, they “have nothing” which could make the respond positively. That has been established. But when the Holy Spirit grants someone the ability to believe, then that person either chooses to believe or, for whatever reason espoused, chooses not to believe.

    As for the latter, I suppose there could be a variety of reasons. Jesus implies as much at Matthew 13.

    Nevertheless, do not deceive yourself, Mac. You, Mac, still had to believe in Christ Jesus in order to be saved. God, though he enabled you to believe, did not do the believing for you. You are saved by grace through faith, and that entire process was not of your own doing, so that you could not boast. You couldn’t even believe if it were not for the Spirit of God. Hence boasting is excluded by the law of faith (Rom. 3:27).

    In Christ.

  • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

    I forgot to continue. Any good response and result of God’s enablement is the effectual work — though, obviously, not irresistibly so — of His Spirit upon the will. THAT is what responds. I think I left out that part in my answer.

    God bless.

    • Mac Lee

      so my questions were still unclear, but

      I see that we have come to an agreement in one sense….

      “the Holy Spirit grants someone the ability to believe”

      so their is a choice by God to LET some believe… ELECTION!!!

      if you are saying that ALL are “granted the ability to believe” then what is it that makes you respond positively or negatively or “believe or not believe” (lets call it X)? where did X come from?

      • drwayman

        Mac – What Birch is saying, “the Holy Spirit grants someone the ability to believe” is prevenient grace. No one can believe unless God gives them grace first. This has absolutely zero to do with election.

        He keeps telling you the same thing over and over, “You have been told numerous times here that Arminians do not believe that they inherently have the ability to believe apart from the ability and grace of God.” and “I already quoted Scripture to the notion that God “chooses” to save “those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).”

        • Mac Lee

          let’s get this all out there, we both understand exactly what each other’s traditional points are… god saves those who believes and prevenient grace and all of that… I’m not arguing those points, nor do they answer the question i have, so i’ll rephrase my question,

          1st, i disagree with you that “No one can believe unless God gives them grace first. This has absolutely zero to do with election.” has nothing to do with election…

          let’s call the grace extended above X

          does God grant X to some and not others?

      • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

        Mac,

        There are answers to your questions in the above threads.

        . . . so their is a choice by God to LET some believe … ELECTION!!!

        Yes, God has “elected” to save those who believe — that is what Scripture teaches (1 Cor. 1:21).

        if you are saying that ALL are “granted the ability to believe”

        I have already noted several times now (which makes me question whether you are really “listening” to the Arminian) that not all Arminians confess that ALL are granted the ability to believe — only those who hear the gospel. Arminius, the Remonstrants, and myself and other Arminians hold to a more restrictive view. Only those who hear the gospel and are convicted of their sins (cf. John 16:8-11) are enabled to believe.

        then what is it that makes you respond positively or negatively or “believe or not believe” (lets call it X)? where did X come from?

        This, too, has already been addressed above. Jesus mentions the myriad reactions to the gospel at Matthew 13 without addressing your philosophical question. My question is, Why do you ask such philosophical questions not addressed in Scripture? Are you merely trying to defend a philosophical-theological system rather than address what Scripture actually teaches?

        You would have to go to each individual who rejected the offer of salvation by grace through faith in Christ in order to answer your question. There is not a standard or pat answer, and I realize that frustrates Calvinists. That, however, cannot be helped because human beings are not objects or subpersonal.

        • Mac Lee

          Thank you for convicting me to bring Scripture into this, too often we all, at least I know I do, get wrapped up in knowledge that we forget where knowledge is granted from, so…

          For 1 Cor 1:21 to be understood, as I know all people say, let’s look at it in context…

          to you, 1:21 is saying you are saved BECAUSE you believe

          and of course Calvinist’s argue BECAUSE your are saved you believe

          answer this, when it comes to the order of prevenient grace and understanding

          1 Cor 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”

          From looking at this scripture it seems as though the ability to understand scripture is granted ONLY to those who ARE being saved… in essence IRRESISTIBLE,

          my understanding of the prevenient grace theology says that ALL (or some for the one guy) are given the ability to understand THEN it’s up to them to choose whether they will believe and in turn be saved,

          but v18 is clearly showing that to all who ARE perishing (not choose to perish) the gospel is folly, so I don’t see how prevenient grace, if A’s say must be extended in order for one to understand the gospel, matches up to what scripture shows about how one comes to understand the words of the gospel

          • drwayman

            Mac – You wrote, “my understanding of the prevenient grace theology says that ALL (or some for the one guy) are given the ability to understand THEN it’s up to them to choose whether they will believe and in turn be saved,”

            Birch has done a terrific job on attempting to enlighten you.

            Then you wrote, “but v18 is clearly showing that to all who ARE perishing (not choose to perish) the gospel is folly, so I don’t see how prevenient grace, if A’s say must be extended in order for one to understand the gospel, matches up to what scripture shows about how one comes to understand the words of the gospel.”

            “Those who are perishing” is the human race. Remember total depravity???

            “Those who are being saved” are those of us who accepted Christ’s offer of salvation. Did you catch the word, “but”?

            I have passed a point where my returns on this conversation are diminishing. Mac, I really appreciate the time you took for dialogue on this Sunday afternoon. I don’t know what else to do to help you understand prevenient grace.

            You didn’t answer my question to you from the beginning of this conversation. Have you ACTUALLY READ anything by Arminius, the Remonstrants or any current classical Arminians? When you do, I think that you will find that they are a biblical bunch and want to stay faithful to God’s Word.

            I’m sorry that I have not been able to answer your questions to your satisfaction. I have tried.

            Now, it is Sunday evening and I need to be fellowshipping with my Christian brethren. I hope that you will do the same and take a break from this discussion. May God grant us both wisdom as we seek to understand His Word better.

            Until we “meet” again,
            Your brother in Christ,
            Dale

          • http://thearminian.net/ William W. Birch

            Mac,

            Did you disregard 1 Cor. 1:21 and jump to 1:18? How, then, are you to interpret 1:21 — as though God has chosen to save some unconditionally elect persons? Is that what the verse says or even implies, in context?

            Regardless, the truth of the matter is that the word of the cross is foolishness to the unregenerate; we agree! But when the enabling of the Holy Spirit is active in the sinner’s heart (John 16:8-11), setting such a one free from the enslavement of sin in order to not consider the cross of Christ as foolish as he or she previously did, then such a one is able to make a response to that proactive grace (prevenient grace).

            Paul is introducing his subject on worldly wisdom (1:18-31), noting that the world’s so-called wisdom could never find nor search out God’s wisdom. Indeed, “Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom” (1:22).

            The way Calvinists answer the dilemma, a dilemma that they themselves have created, is to suggest that the only viable manner in which a person can be saved is if God regenerates the unconditionally elect person. Otherwise, so they insist, no one would ever be saved.

            But that is contrary to what Scripture teaches. Paul elsewhere informs us of the ordo salutis: faith precedes regeneration (Col. 2:13). Nothing is more clear in that verse than this fact. Since forgiveness only comes by faith, and since we are only made alive in Christ “having been forgiven” of all transgressions, then faith precedes regeneration.

            When you find a way to retract the apostle Paul’s statement, then you might have a case.

            The Lord bless.

          • Linda J

            Those words taken by themselves give you the option to believe that it is only for those to whom it is currently seen to be the power of salvation, not for those to whom it is foolishness. But the fact that people are urged to repent from unbelief and turn to God all through the Bible shows that this is not the true interpretation.

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    • randal

      I’ll respond to this in a couple days.

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  • Linda J

    No! There is not “a choice by God to LET some people believe.” Faith _is_ a gift, but the “measure of faith” is given to _all_. The gospel is for _all_, and can be believed by all. God wants all to believe and be saved.

  • drwayman

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 11:01pm

    Mac Lee says:

    “drwayman,
    i never said it levels the playing field”

    Unfortunately, you have a short memory…

    Friday, October 28, 2011 at 10:11pm

    Mac Lee says:

    “at that certain point we are all on an equal playing field”

    Brother – I don’t know why you so tenaciously hold on to your beliefs that Arminians hold certain beliefs when it is repeatedly pointed out to you that they do not.

    I sincerely hope that your misrepresentation of Arminianism is not intentional.

    You can have the last word, I see that Linda J is done with you as well….

    • mac lee

      drwayman,
      as with almost all “arguements” one party will try to argue about the arguing rather than the point in the first place, so, i meant to say, “its not that i never said, its that i never MEANT what it looks like I said”, so can you move past that point, or is that your hill that you’ll die on?

      I still have an unanswered posed question, if at a certain point, PG brings us to a point where neither good or evil are enacting on/in us either way, “51%/49%” but we truly are at a “50%/50%” as you’ve all posed PG to do, then what is it, in us that makes us sway either way, ESPECIALLY towards Christ?

      • J.C. Thibodaux

        Mac,

        @PG brings us to a point where neither good or evil are enacting on/in us either way

        If prevenient grace is acting in us, and grace is good, how would good not be acting upon us?

        @what is it, in us that makes us sway either way

        To assume that something *makes* us choose one way or the other is to beg the question of determinism. I debated John Hendryx on this issue once, and defeated his argument by pointing out that he was essentially asking me what predetermines my free will choices for me (which is a logical contradiction).

        • mac lee

          @If prevenient grace is acting in us, and grace is good, how would good not be acting upon us? — if that good can be resisted, as you’ve all vehemently defend, then I’m saying, the point where God brings us up out of darkness and to the “tipping point” of making a “free will” choice of commitment to him, made apart from any irresistible force, then there must be a point where the forces of good and evil equally pull at us either way, because A’s don’t believe that good can be irresistibly chosen against,
          to reiterate, if A’s state one is able to make a free will choice, by definition that choice must be made independent of any force “overwhelmingly (however whelming even 51/49)” pulling in any direction.
          So to answer your question directly, since good is working on us, and I think scripture points out, irresistibly acts on us, then that irresistible grace is what brings us thru salvation. To deny that the good grace can’t be resisted is to state that a person has within themselves to make a choice for submission to God apart from any “overwhelming” inclination and to do that there must be something inside the person that enables the action towards submission, because outside of the person, forces are working equally.

          and to your Jimmy Hendryx comment – “what predetermines my free will choices for me (which is a logical contradiction).” you’re avoiding the reality of all choices are made from an inclination, one must be inclined either way to make a choice, otherwise all choices are just made by chance (which is how an inanimate object is), and since we all agree we exert some sort of “determined effort” in our choices, are choices every really free? ^see above about the tipping point of choices^

          • J.C. Thibodaux

            Mac,

            @To deny that the good grace can’t be resisted is to state that a person has within themselves to make a choice for submission to God apart from any “overwhelming” inclination

            If it’s grace that makes us free to so believe, as we do teach, then the appropriate reply is, “So?”

            @you’re avoiding the reality of all choices are made from an inclination

            You’re being ambiguous. Try and rephrase that sentence.

            @one must be inclined either way to make a choice

            From something external? No. That’s the philosophical garbage that determinists teach, and which I firmly reject.

            @otherwise all choices are just made by chance (which is how an inanimate object is)

            1. It’s a category mistake to assert that inanimate objects make “choices.” The closest it comes is computational logic, which is never truly random.
            2. You’re employing a false dichotomy: something not being predetermined by externals does not imply it must then be by “chance.” I dismantle that fallacy here by highlighting God as the supreme counter-example against the idea that choices must be by chance if not predetermined by externals.

            • mac lee

              “@one must be inclined either way to make a choice

              From something external? No. That’s the philosophical garbage that determinists teach, and which I firmly reject.”

              so it’s internal? WE AGREE! so if our believing is enacting on an internal inclination that is no longer 100% evil (Eph 2:3) and is able to submit to God from the heart (rom 6:17), to love God and that ability is given 100% by God’s grace, apart from our own doing, how are we not saved *before you clip this and try to negate it, read the below verses*?
              Rom 6:7, the one’s that are set free from sin, have already died with Christ,
              if they are no longer slaves to sin, by default they are slaves to righteousness Rom 6:18/Matt 6:24, you can’t be freed from sin and be at a place of choosing, if you aren’t a slave to sin you HAVE to be a slave to righteousness, no other option,
              if they love God it’s THE evidence they have already passed from death to life, 1John 3:14,

              so you say it’s not an external inclination that leads our decisions, with this we agree, so it must be internal, with this we agree, so if apart from God we are 100% against God in sin, and apart from sin we are for God, if internally we have an inclination to choose God it’s because we have been set free from sin TO righteousness.

              • J.C. Thibodaux

                Mac,

                @if internally we have an inclination to choose God it’s because we have been set free from sin TO righteousness.

                No, one believing precedes being set free from sin, since that is through faith in Christ. Righteousness is through faith, one can’t be a slave of righteousness without having faith first.

      • drwayman

        Mac Lee – I said you could have the last word. I think its funny when people do that and they chime in again. So, you can laugh at me if you want. I PROBABLY won’t respond again.

        If you notice, JC answered you VERY well.

        Let me run this past you real quick… Let’s say that this post was about the truth (sic) of irresistible grace. I read the post, made some comment like, “irresistible grace (IG) just turns people into robots or puppets.” I was corrected several times. It was explained to me by several people that I didn’t understand IG correctly and that I needed to do more research on it. However, I kept saying that IG was all about making people into robots or puppets. I was repeatedly told that I was not representing IG correctly.

        So, at the end of the conversation (like where we are now), I continued to maintain IG turns people into robots or puppets, what would you think of me? Would I think I was stupid? Would you think I was disingenuous? Would you think I was intentionally mischaracterizing God’s grace? Would you think that I tenaciously hold onto a mistaken belief of IG to be funny? Or…..?

        • mac lee

          drwayman,

          if your theology is true, i would pray that you attribute your personal knowledge as a gift from God and those who don’t think the way you think haven’t been enlightened at this point, so instead of indirectly calling me stupid and disingenuous or intentionally deceitful, maybe you should be praying that God enlightens me as to what you believe His word says, if your patience in this subject is wearing thin I would encourage you to abstain from falling into sin and hurling insults at a brother, thank you for your input in the subject as I know it’s something you are passionate about, you will be missed on this thread.

          • drwayman

            Mac Lee – I believe your sensitive nature caused you to overlook the point of what I was saying. Do you have the capability of empathizing with someone with whom you disagree? That’s all I was asking for. I worry that your tenacity caused you to overlook my point.

            Your CHOICES were not limited to those things that I listed, if you notice, I also said, “Or…?” That means that all of those options could have been off base; hence, you fill in the blank.

            So, at the end of the conversation (like where we are now), if I continued to maintain IG turns people into robots or puppets (a gross mischaracterization), what would you think of me, after all of your attempts and the attempts of others to correctly clarify?

            In regard to free will, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Arminians don’t care about free will as a concept. We only care about free will in regard to what it says about God’s character.

            If you really, truly, want to engage an Arminian in a discussion, that’s where we’re wired. Arminianism is all about God’s character, no more, no less. All other “Arminian” issues are secondary to understanding God’s character as expressed in the plenary inspiration of God’s Holy Scriptures (the same bible that Calvinists read).

            So, I am not passionate about prevenient grace as you assume. I am, however, passionate about an accurate understanding of God’s impeccable, holy, righteous, sovereign, loving, and just character as expressed in an entire understanding of the Bible.

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