Calvinism, Arminianism and Omnibenevolence

Posted on 11/28/12 62 Comments

Arminians like to point out that according to Calvinism God elects some people to damnation. Of course some Calvinists try to soften this teaching by claiming that the election to damnation is a passive divine act according to which God simply “passes over” and thereby opts not to redeem these people.

Unfortunately this shift in nomenclature doesn’t really make the divine act of election to damnation passive in an ethically significant way. Indeed, it calls to mind James Rachels’ famous thought experiment on passive euthanasia so I’m going to borrow from that thought experiment to make my point.

Imagine that Bob decides that old Mr. Jones should die. There are two ways Bob could bring about Mr. Jones’ death.

Scenario 1: Bob drowns Mr. Jones in the bathtub.

Scenario 2: Bob witnesses Mr. Jones slip in the bathtub and stands by passively as Mr. Jones drowns.

Scenario 1 may result in Bob’s legal culpability in a way that scenario 2 does not (though for regions with a Good Samaritan law Bob may bear some legal culpability in scenario 2 as well). But few will dispute that Bob’s moral culpability in Mr. Jones’ drowning is equivalent in scenarios 1 and 2.

When the Calvinist avers that God passes over the reprobate, thereby refusing to impute to them the righteousness of Christ which will result in their salvation, the divine withholding parallels Bob’s withholding of life-saving aid to Mr. Jones. Just as God withholds divine aid to result in reprobation so Bob withholds human aid to result in death.

At this point the Calvinist might raise the following tu quoque objection. “Arminianism faces a similar problem,” he says. How so? “On the Arminian view God foreknows who will freely reject him and yet he still elects to create those people knowing that they will be reprobated. That isn’t any different.”

The objection reveals an important confusion. Let’s say that there are ten people. 1-5 are elect and 6-10 are reprobate. On the Calvinist view God could have elected all to salvation but opted not to. In other words, on the Calvinist view there is a possible world in which 1-10 are elect. But God opted not to create that world.

Things are very different on the Arminian view. On this view there may be no possible world in which 1-10 are elect because there is no possible world in which 1-10 repent. That’s an important difference.

But still, the Calvinist does have a point, doesn’t he? Why didn’t God just create a world with 1-5 so that everybody would be elect? The problem with that suggestion is this: there is no reason to think that 1-5 would all be elect in a world where only 1-5 exist.

Let’s say, for example, that in the actual world Smith is reprobate and Smith Jr. is elect. Could God create a world in which Smith doesn’t exist but Smith Jr. does? Let’s assume that he can. Still, does it follow that in that alternate world (or, more specifically, in that subset of worlds in which Smith doesn’t exist but Smith Jr. does) that Smith Jr. is elect? This doesn’t follow. It may indeed be the case that in every possible world in which 1-5 exist but 6-10 do not that not all of 1-5 are elect.

In conclusion, the Calvinistic view deals a heavy blow to any doctrine of omnibenevolence and consequently faces a unique problem not faced by the Arminian.

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  • http://bilbos1.blogspot.com/ Bilbo

    But if, on the Arminian view, there is no possible world in which 1-5 are elect, then does it follow that it is not possible for 1-5 to be elect? And if that is the case, then can the Arminian view for 1-5 be correct?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      I’m not saying there is no possible world in which 1-5 are elect. I’m saying there may be no world in which only 1-5 exist and all 1-5 are elect.

  • Walter

    Things are very different on the Arminian view. On this view there may
    be no possible world in which 1-10 are elect because there is no
    possible world in which 1-10 repent. That’s an important difference.

    If I understand this part correctly, this is saying that 1-10 will always reject Jesus no matter what situation they are born into. In other words, if I am one of those ten, then it is possible that I would always reject the “good news” whether I was born in Alabama in 1968 or Rome in 322 CE. If that is so, it suggests that I am being created with a certain rebellious disposition that is not entirely of my own making. No matter what historical circumstances that I am born into I never repent and believe because I have been created in such a manner that I never want to. This doesn’t sound much different than Calvinism.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      No, that’s not what I’m saying. 1-5 represents the elect in this world, 6-10 represent the reprobate. In another world some of these people exist and others don’t, and some of these are elect and others aren’t. It is no part of the analysis to claim that some individuals have transworld depravity such that in every possible world in which they exist they are reprobate.

      • Walter

        I guess that I was confusing what you are saying with William Lane Craig’s Molinistic views. Craig believes that God is guilty of no wrongdoing in sending a Native American who never heard the gospel to hell because He knows that that individual soul would always reject Him even if born much later in a Christian culture.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          It’s been awhile since I read Craig’s main paper on this topic, but I don’t think he made such a strong claim. I think he was limiting his discussion to nearby possible worlds, i.e. the world where the Native American hears the gospel within the present context they are in. I don’t think he was making grander claims about more distant possible worlds in which the Native American lived in another century and culture.

  • FroKid04

    I do not agree that “the Calvinistic view deals a heavy blow to any doctrine of omnibenevolence.”

    (1) It is not unloving for God to create Jones and then voluntarily suffer crucifixion under all of Jones’ sins in order to provide Jones with sufficient means of salvation, even if God knows that Jones will in fact reject salvation by his own agency.

    (2) The fact that God has the option not to create Jones does not affect the truth of (1).

    (3) The Molinist/Arminian framework is most consistent with what Jesus describes in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-30, in which the landowner’s attitude is, “I’d rather not have the tares, but I will allow them to remain for a time for the sake of growing wheat.” Similarly, God’s attitude towards the reprobate is “I’d rather not have any reprobate, but I will allow them to exist for the sake of saving many.”

    This is very different from the Calvinist view, which says that God can save all, but would rather damn some and save some. The Calvinist god desires to eternally, actively, torture many (if not most) humans in hell, and so does not provide sufficient means of salvation for them. On the Arminian view, God desires to save all, and so provides sufficient means to save all by suffering crucifixion under the sins of all, knowing that some, by their own agency, will reject this gracious means of salvation. If the character of God matters to you, you should be an Arminian.

    What is amazing is that even though God foreknows the damned will reject his offer of salvation, He still voluntarily suffers crucifixion under their sins to provide them the means of salvation.

    • J_Riv

      “If the character of God matters to you, you should be an Arminian.”

      If it matters to you that your beliefs are true, you should acknowledge that you have no control over the character, or existence, of God. Whether there’s a Calvinist God, and Arminian God, or no God (or something else) is a matter of fact, not a matter of preference.

      What is your reason for believing that God actually is the one described by Arminianism as opposed to Calvinism (as opposed to non-existent)?

      • FroKid04

        Hi J_Riv,

        Thanks for your response. You’re right, I have no control over what God is like, and ultimately I must submit to what is true. I believe that it is true that God exists and that He is good.

        Briefly, I believe that the Arminian view of God concerning salvation is true because of what is revealed in Scripture, that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:2)” And that He has provided sufficient means to accomplish what he desires by dying “for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2).” There are many other verses that support this view.

        My comment on the character of God is based the fact that the Bible says that God is good and that God is love, and that God would rather that none perish but all to come to repentance (Ezekiel 18:23,32, 2 Peter 3:9). So I reject views of God that depict Him as evil (desiring to eternally, actively, torture his creatures), or as preferring damnation of some to the salvation of all, as the Calvinist view does.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Such biblical support is also supplemented powerfully by rational intuitions about the divine nature. I always have to shake my head in disbelief when Calvinists who accept classical theism impugn Arminian appeals to rational intuition in their theologizing of the divine nature. Talk about the plank in your own eye…

        • J_Riv

          Thank you for responding.

          “I believe that it is true that God exists and that He is good.”

          Based on this and your use of scripture, you have these three beliefs:
          1. God exists
          2. God is good
          3. The bible is God’s word

          (I realize I’m restating the obvious.)

          Can you explain why you believe those three things to be true?

          • FroKid04

            You have correctly stated three of my beliefs. I could potentially write a book for each one explaining why I believe it. Are there some more specific objections or questions you have regarding any of the three beliefs that you would like me to address?

            A basic answer might be that my reason and experience lead me to believe that the things revealed in Scripture are true. Competing explanations of the world have not been as satisfactory.

  • J_Riv

    Could God have created a world in which hell did not exist? If not, why not? If so, why didn’t he?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Certainly God could create a world in which hell doesn’t exist. For example, God’s creating nothing at all is a possible world, and it is a possible world in which hell doesn’t exist.

      But I take it that is not what you’re asking. I’ll answer like this:

      I don’t think that God could have achieved the goods he wants to achieve without the evil of hell (i.e. some creatures in rebellion against him). If he could have achieved that good without hell he surely would have.

      • J_Riv

        Could you elaborate more on what you mean by hell? I know you’ve written about it before, but a lot of it has been speculative (like the healing circle post, for example) and I’m not really sure what your actual belief is.

        “the evil of hell (i.e. some creatures in rebellion against him).”

        With this you seem to be equating hell with creatures in rebellion against God. Am I interpreting that correctly? Does that mean you see hell as a (conscious) separation from God rather than as ECT?

        Let’s say that after the death of his body, the soul of Christopher Hitchens is brought before God. “Well, I’ll be damned,” says Hitchens. “You do exist.” And based on new evidence he obtains in this encounter, Hitchens’ perspective on God changes completely, from “a celestial North Korea” to a full appreciation of God’s glory. Christopher Hitchens becomes William Lane Craig.

        Could/would God just say “OK, you get it now” and let Hitchens into heaven, or must Hitchens go to hell to be punished for not seeing it during his lifetime? Must he be punished eternally, or can he eventually be reconciled?

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          I’m an annihilationist. That means I believe in a general resurrection to a judgment that culminates in the complete destruction of the unregenerate individual (i.e. “capital punishment).

          • J_Riv

            Thanks. Do you think the individual gets a second chance after death, as in the Hitchens example?

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              I don’t think God is about saying “You missed your chance! Nah nah nah nah nah nah!” Thus, if a second chance would make a difference I think God would give it. The question is whether a posthumous second chance ever would make a difference and that I can’t answer. Thus, I can’t answer whether God would ever provide one.

              Incidentally Hebrews 9:27 is often invoked in these conversations.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

    I’ve always wondered if one could be a Calvinist universalist, believing that God ultimately elects all people to salvation, though perhaps some posthumously. I’ve never really seen this discussed as a viable option, perhaps for good reason…but I’ve always been intrigued by the idea…and it would avoid any difficulties regarding omnibenevolence.

    • Syllabus

      Any Calvinist who takes the love of God seriously – like Barth – will probably end up there.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      If one accepts the Reformed understanding of election in which God’s decree determines human choice, and one believes that God truly is omnibenevolent, then universalism would follow naturally, if not necessarily. (The reason it wouldn’t follow necessarily is because it is possible that God of the necessity of his nature must act to achieve greater goods and it is at least possibly true (as some Calvinists have argued) that this requires God to reprobate some to maximize his sovereign glory to others.)

      There are Calvinist universalists (and as Syllabus observes, Barth comes pretty close as well).

  • http://twitter.com/AtheistMission TheAtheistMissionary

    Fascinating discussion (both the post and comments). While reading it, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Bertrand Russell in response to being asked what was worth telling about the life he’d lived and lessons he’d learned from it:

    I’d like to say two things. One intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this. “When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only: What are the facts, and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted, either by what you wish to believe, or what you think could have beneficent social effects if it were believed; but look only and solely at what are the facts.” That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say. The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple; I should say: “Love is wise — Hatred is foolish.” In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact, that some people say things we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital, to the continuation of human life on this planet.

    With respect to the Arminian/Calvinist debate, I ask: what are the facts? I’ll also supply the answer: there are none. This debate is entirely akin to arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    • Walter

      With respect to the Arminian/Calvinist debate, I ask: what are the facts? I’ll also supply the answer: there are none.

      There are no facts for you or I because we don’t start with the presupposition that the bible is the eternal word of God. For those who do start with that presupposition it becomes an argument over whose interpretation of the facts is more “inspired.”

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      The proper term here isn’t really “facts”. Rather, it is “evidence”. Thus, what evidential considerations might one appeal to that would support Calvinism or Arminianism.

      Walter is right to point out the obvious: different data sets due to different worldviews. However, the data set available to Christians is broader than appeal to the Bible. It also includes philosophical reflection (as I noted in another comment when referencing rational intuition) as well as personal experience and the weight we grant some traditional authorities rather than others.

      If you want to say “there are none” with regards to facts or evidence then you need to back up your charge with a direct attack on Christian views of the Bible, history and philosophy. As it stands you sound like an elderly St. Bernard that has a mighty bellow but no teeth.

      • http://twitter.com/AtheistMission TheAtheistMissionary

        At least I’m in good company.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Is that your way of saying that you have dissociative personality disorder?

      • http://twitter.com/AtheistMission TheAtheistMissionary

        I must be missing something. Perhaps I just haven’t had enough coffee this morning. Please enlighten me with one single piece of evidence (just one) that will assist us in determining whether Calvinism or Arminianism is true – thanks.

        • Walter

          TAM,

          Christians consider the bible itself to be evidence that God has revealed His will to mankind, so the A/C debate is over who has the correct interpretation of that evidence. Each side believes that the Holy Spirit leads all believers to the truth, and each side believes that the other is not properly listening to the Third Person of the Trinity. An atheist is not going to consider the bible to be evidence of anything other than human creativity, so you are not going to accept what they present as evidence.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          (1) If God exists then God is the most perfect being.
          (2) A most perfect being would be omnibenevolent.
          (3) Therefore, if God exists then he is omnibenevolent.
          (4) There is evidence that God exists.
          (5) Therefore, there is evidence that an omnibenevolent perfect being exists.
          (6) Calvinism denies that an omnibenevolent perfect being exists.
          (7) Therefore, there is evidence that Calvinism is false.

          • http://twitter.com/AtheistMission TheAtheistMissionary

            “Calvinism denies that an omnibenevolent perfect being exists” Ha! I can’t argue with that premise.

          • Walter

            (6) Calvinism denies that an omnibenevolent perfect being exists.

            That is because your scriptures do not depict a being who is omnibenevolent, and a Calvinist will say that scripture trumps philosophical speculations concerning hypothetical Perfect Beings.

            (I am playing Devil’s Advocate here until Jerry shows up to continue the fun)

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              But that’s complete garbage. The Reformed tradition exemplified by documents like the Westminster Confession accepts that God is impassible, metaphysically simple and atemporal, and they accept all these claims purely on philosophical grounds. Scripture provides some important evidence that God is omnibenevolent. But it provides absolutely no evidence whatsoever that God is impassible, metaphysically simple or atemporal.

              • Walter

                A Calvinist might reply that philosophical musings about God’s nature can be useful for supplementing the biblical depiction of God, but philosophical speculation should never contradict what the bible reveals to be true. And for every verse that seems to point towards God’s omnibenevolence, there appears to be a dozen more that tell a different tale: e.g. ” As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” – Romans 9:13

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  As I said, there is not a single statement in scripture that depicts God as impassible, simple or atemporal and there are abundant passages that describe him as passible, complex and temporal. So the Calvinist who endorses classical theism on philosophical reasons loses any right to critique the Arminian who endorses omnibenevolence based on philosophical AND biblical considerations.

            • Jerry Shepherd

              Hi Walter,

              Thanks for holding my place. Though I’m not sure whether you were taking my place as devil’s advocate, or advocating for me as the devil. :)

              In any case, yes, you are right, and Randal is wrong. When Randal says, “that’s complete garbage,” that these claims were accepted “purely on philosophical grounds,” and that Scripture contains “no evidence whatsoever” for what he claims the WCF is stating, that’s just bravado without substance. It’s like the preacher who noted in the margin of his sermon manuscript, “weak point–should louder and pound pulpit.” Randal is simply not a reliable guide when it come to the Reformed tradition, the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Scriptures. God is impassible, he is simple, and he is eternal. And I believe these things, not for philosophical reasons, though I’m sure there are philosophical influences on me, but for scriptural ones. As I already said in another post this past week, “I’m sure the members of the Westminster Assembly were influenced by all kinds of philosophical, experiential, emotional, and psychological factors; and I am sure these factors had a role to play in their final formulations. But they were biblical theologians first and foremost before they were systematic theologians and philosophers. Whatever influences there were on them, they were primarily concerned with doing justice to the full breadth of biblical revelation, the ‘whole counsel of God'”

              When it comes to omnibenevolence, of course, definition and extension are important considerations. On neither mine, nor Randal’s theology, is God omnibenevolent equally to all his creatures. Randal and I both have to explain why God would create a hell, and why he would create people whom he knew he would send there. As Randal has been answering different posts to his article, it’s been quite interesting to see him dancing around the issue, and talking about an infinity of possible worlds, and suggesting what criteria God might use for which one he actualizes. For some reason, he thinks that, out of that infinity of possible worlds, God couldn’t possibly have saved the Sodomites without endangering the chances of salvation for a whole bunch more people than the number of the Sodomite population. There is no way God could have saved an extra 500 Sodomites, without losing more than 500 persons somewhere else in the world. This explains the real difference between Randal and myself. Neither Randal nor I posit a deity who is omnibenevolent toward all his creatures. The real difference is that Randal’s God is also omni-incompetent.

              (Randal’s gonna kill me for that one. He might just have to reach for an imprecatory psalm! :) )

              Blessings,

              Jerry

              • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                Jerry, it is both surprising and disappointing that you continue to deny the obvious, viz. the influence of Aristotelian metaphysics and scholastic method on the Westminster Confession. Well perhaps you’ll listen to John Fesko, a theologian at Westminster Seminary, California.

                In his new book Beyond Calvin (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) Fesko concludes a chapter on metaphysics in the concept of justification by concluding: “Aristotelian metaphysics is common to both [Lutheran and Reformed] camps.” Further, “Given [Charles] Hodge’s commitment to the Westminster Standards (1646), a confession written during a time when Aristotelian metaphysics was quite common in Reformed theology, it is only natural that he would retain such expressions in his theology.” (50)

                In a footnote on the page Fesko goes on to give some examples of where Aristotelian metaphysics is evident in the Westminster Confession.

                Not only does Aristotelian metaphysics inform the Westminster Confession, so does the scholastic method. See the discussion in Richard Muller, After Calvin (Oxford University Press, 2003), 27 ff.

                Jerry, you are an educated individual. Surely you must be aware of the extent to which your Reformed tradition is informed by philosophical categories. If you really aren’t, I suggest these authors as a good starting point. I would also recommend a fine collection of essays by Willem J. van Asselt and Eef Dekker titled Reformation and Scholasticism: An Ecumenical Enterprise (Baker Academic, 2001).

                • Jerry Shepherd

                  Hi Randal,

                  It is both surprising and disappointing how carelessly you read what I write. Read the following, for the third time now! But read it more slowly: “I’m sure the members of the Westminster Assembly were influenced by all kinds of philosophical, experiential, emotional, and psychological factors; and I am sure these factors had a role to play in their final formulations.”

                  Randal, you are an educated individual. Surely you must be aware of the extent to which your Arminian tradition is informed by philosophical categories. But when Arminian theologians appeal to Scripture to defend their theology, I wouldn’t insult their attempts by referring to them as “garbage,” based “purely on philosophical reasons,” with no scriptural “evidence whatsoever.” I would listen to them, and grant their right to maintain that they are following Scripture. I would do this because I would want them to do the same for me. It’s a very good rule. In fact, it’s golden!

                  Blessings,

                  Jerry

                  • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                    The claim that scripture provides evidence that God is impassible, metaphysically simple or atemporal is garbage. Theologians draw those conclusions from philosophical considerations that guide their reading of scripture, for better or for worse. Only self-deluded biblicists try to persuade themselves and others that they infer that God is not acted upon and that he is atemporal and without metaphysical parts based purely on scriptural considerations.

                  • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                    Arminians believe God is the sole metaphysically necessary cause of all that exists and that he created out of nothing according to his divine decree and upholds everything that exists with meticulous providential intention down to the position of the hairs on our head, and that he governs all these affairs for his final teleological ends. To call that concept of God omni-incompetent says much more about you than it does the Arminian concept of God.

              • epicurus

                I’ve worked with a few people over the years that I’d swear were omni-incompetent.

                • Jerry Shepherd

                  Hi Epicurus,

                  Ha ha! I’m sure some of my colleagues here at the seminary would say the same about me!

                  Blessings,
                  Jerry

              • Truth Unites… and Divides

                Greetings Jerry Shepherd. You might like this post titled:

                Is the Arminian God Omnibenevolent?

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  Yes, I’m sure he will.

  • Walter

    Having through the years read several posts from Randal detailing why he rejects Calvinism, I would be curious to read why he rejects Catholicism; it is after all the largest sect of Christianity in his native country.

    Just curious.

  • Gene

    Randal,

    I tend to agree with Calvinists on this point. It’s hard to think that Jesus stating that Sodom would have repented had these miracles been performed, as meaning that God wasn’t just watching the old man Jones drown in the bathtub. It appears to me that trying to argue about different worlds doesn’t seem to work with Jesus. No wonder I’m a Universalist.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Here’s the problem. Let’s say that in all the worlds where 500 people are saved in Sodom more than 500 are lost elsewhere.

      We don’t know that this isn’t the case and if you’re a non-universalist Arminian you have a good reason to believe it is the case.

      • Gene

        Randal, forgive me of the double post. The second time, it didn’t show up so I figured I did something wrong. My fault.

        My problem with this solution is that it negates the idea of preveninet grace. Here, group B’s salvation depends upon the choices of group A. According to Arminian theology prevenient grace supressed the totally depraved nature so each person can make a free choice to be saved or be lost. If Group B cannot be saved because Sodom was spared for their repentance, then Group B’s choices depend upon Sodom’s condemnation or justification. That is not Arminian theology. If each person is free to do otherwise, then no matter what happens to Sodom, group B should be able to be saved regardelss due to prevenient grace.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          I agree with Frokid04.Group B’s salvation doesn’t depend on the choices of group A. Rather, *before* God creates he surveys the range of possible worlds which have people who freely repent and he opts to create one of those worlds which achieves as optimal a balance of saved over loss as is possible. (This doesn’t mean there is one such world. There may be an infinite number of them. But God opts to create one of that number.)

          This is simply a description of transworld depravity which is meant to critique the errant notion that (1) there is a possible world which consists only of those who are elect in this world and (2) those very same people are all still elect in that other possible world.

          • Gene

            Agreed about transworld damnation/depravity. Still the Calvinist is right, even if the damnation of Sodom would result in the salvation or more, then God has to act unloving toward Sodom just as Bob acts unloving toward Jones. How anyone could say God could have performed the miracles and saved Sodom but chose not to is still loving, is much like a Calvinist. Sure God could have chosen all to be saved but his not doing so does not mean he is unloving. Neither provide a loving God and that is why I reject Calv, Arm, and Molonism. All seem to me to be bankrupt.

            As Rob Bell so eloquently pointed out, the idea that our salvation lies in the hands of someone else (missionaries getting flat tires) is absurd. And Sodom here is no different. To say they were given sufficient means makes God to be a monster who does not do what is necessary to save those he loves; obviously he didn’t do what was necessary for Sodom which was to do the very miracles Jesus says would have saved them. So the question is – Does God do what is necessary for us to save us? I think he does. If he doesn’t then I would ask how is he different from the Calvinist God? He will have mercy on those who fall into the better outcome of the dice? Sad view.

    • FroKid04

      (1) Jesus’ statement concerning Sodom does not necessarily mean that the Sodomites were denied sufficient means of salvation. In the universe He created, God could have provided them with sufficient means to repent, and they still rebelled.

      (2) The existence of an alternate universe in which the Sodomites would definitely have been saved does not affect the truth of (1).

      (3) If anything, Jesus’ statement gives us evidence that God does indeed consider counterfactuals of foreknowledge when He predestines.

  • Gene

    Randal,
    As I see it, Calvinism’s argument makes sense. When Jesus states that had miracles been performed for Sodom, they would have repented, it leaves me thinking the Arminian system is like watching the old man Jones drown in the bathtub; for God could have saved Sodom but chose not to. No wonder I’m a Universalist.

  • epicurus

    Sorry to be a bit off topic here, but I want to read about Calvin’s Geneva. Since I can’t find anything in the local Library, I’ll have to buy a book. Can anyone recommend one?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Are you asking for a historical theology book or a history book? And are you concerned more with a book on Calvin the man or on Geneva the city?

      • epicurus

        I’m looking for more of a history book on Geneva. What kind of laws, practices, events etc occurred during the time the city was “Calvin’s Geneva”

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          I’ll email a friend of mine who knows more about such things and get back to you.

          • epicurus

            Thanks, as an aside, my 13 dollar shipping for a used 3 dollar copy of Faith Lacking Understanding arrived today.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Hmmm, is it irrational for an author to feel guilt over the postage charged by a third party vendor?! :)

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          This is what my friend, the John Owen scholar and Reformed theologian Kelly Kapic, wrote in response:

          “Calvin and Geneva. The ones I would probably recommend might be Bruce Gordon’s biography of Calvin – an excellent work. But in some ways, a theological work that is filled with insight about Geneva and Calvin’s attitudes is Bonnie Pattison’s book, Poverty in the Theology of John Calvin. To understand his theology one needs to understand his actions and views in terms of Geneva, etc. And much of this surprises people in terms of some of his radical views and actions. E.g., he thought the church building was owned by the poor, etc. Interesting stuff.”

          • epicurus

            Thanks, I will keep an eye out for them.

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