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Posts Tagged ‘Election’

Quantitative Analysis of Unconditional Election

May 24, 2012 1 comment

An interesting blog post asks whether conditional election or unconditional election has more Biblical basis. The author goes on to state,

One of the most persistent and often divisive issues within Christianity is the debate between the doctrine of unconditional election (often called the doctrine of predestination) and the doctrine of unconditional election (often represented as the doctrine of free will).

Provided within the post is a list of verses that each camp uses to justify their respective positions. I don’t know the origin of this list nor do I believe this list is in any way complete. Still, the author wonders whether a greater number of verses (that, at least for this list) in support of unconditional election lend credence that unconditional election is indeed what the Bible teaches? I’m a numbers guy and do some quantitative analysis on the day job so this thought got my attention. 

However, as I scrolled down the list, I noticed that some verses were listed as supporting both predestination and free will. I certainly don’t think it accurate to derive “truth” from just a verse and I don’t think that is necessarily intended here. Context is everything and as such, any given verse must be read within the context of the passage. That said, if something is “truth” in one passage, then doesn’t there have to be commonality of that “truth” throughout all of the Bible?

Jesus says the truth will set me free (John 8:32). Perhaps my struggle regarding unconditional election can only mean that I don’t know the truth. Of course, preceding vs 32 is vs 31 where Jesus says if I hold to his teachings then I am really his disciple. Perhaps therein lies the issue – I’m not his disciple. Therefore, I can’t know the truth. Hence, I struggle in my faith – and not just with unconditional election. Perhaps I’m beginning to overanalyze – time to chill-out.

Anyway, I’ve come across this before – Calvinists and Arminians using the same verses and passages to to defend (or argue against) unconditional election. Romans chapter nine is perhaps the best example I know of. That the likes of John Piper and Greg Boyd have diametrically opposed perspectives of this chapter is troubling to me. But I understand that not all Christians are bothered by, what I can only call, the “variance” of Christian thought at least with respect to unconditional election.

In any event – to the question: does a greater number of verses supporting one perspective help to sway or otherwise bring about resolution within the Calvinist-Arminian argument? Probably not. But, what do I know?

 

The Hope of Arminianism?

April 18, 2012 5 comments

ArminianApparently, and for the 2nd time, a comment I’ve made in response to a blog post hasn’t been accepted. Sorry, I don’t mean to offend. And, I guess I can take a hint. Again, given that my response wasn’t accepted, I thought it permissible to share my $0.02 and ask my questions here. It is, after all, my blog. ☺

Overall theme from what was initially blogged:

Arminianism allows that Christ died for all men. Given that some are in hell for whom Christ died, there must be a deficiency within Arminian doctrine as to the certainty and assurance of the Arminian’s salvation because of a mutable God being outwitted by Satan.

My response:

Wow! Could it be possible that there are honest Scriptural differences, interpretations or even misunderstandings that Arminians have related to the nature and character of God and the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election?

Simply put, whether Calvinist, Arminian, Open Theist, Catholic, a retired Presbyterian minister or whatever – if one by faith accepts Christ’s sacrifice for their sins and proclaims Him as Savior, is that person saved?

Bluntly put, can one reject the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election and still be saved?

I’ve got a good sense what this particular Calvinist would say. But I’m curious as to other Calvinist’s opinions: is my salvation predicated on an acceptance of the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election?

Eph 1:4 – Does It Really Support Unconditional Election?

April 13, 2012 8 comments

For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Anyone delving into the doctrine of unconditional election has certainly come across Eph 1:4. I’ve had this verse tossed my way a number of times to “prove” that God really is the one choosing the elect. My Calvinist friends will chide me that I’m not be able to see the forest through the trees because, after all, there it is in plain “NIV” English – He chose us. What is there to not understand?

Fair enough. However, what if we were to read the verse without the prepositional phrases? After all, what is a preposition but a word that links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. 

Some simple examples of prepositions: The book is ON the table. The book is BESIDE the table. He read the book BEFORE class.

In the above sentences, the highlighted prepositions locate the book in space or time and provide a logical relationship of the book to the rest of the sentence. Certainly, if prepositional phrases are removed, then the intent and meaning of a sentence can be lost – as can easily be understood in the above examples. Regarding Eph 1:4, however, it appears to me that the intent of the verse remains the same with the prepositional phrases removed:

(For) He chose us (in Him) (before the creation) (of the world) to be holy and blameless (in His sight).

Without the prepositions, then, Eph 1:4 says; He chose us to be holy and blameless. The long and short of it, then, is that Eph 1:4 appears to have nothing to do with divine selection of individuals unto salvation. This is even more readily understood when I look up the word “chose” in my Webster’s dictionary and see different meanings including: “to select freely and after consideration” and “to decide”.  For reasons beyond my language skills, the authors of the NIV Bible selected the English word “chose” when translating Eph 1:4 from Greek to English for a reason –  “chose” is the best translatable English word. I readily accept that. 

Therefore, using Webster’s common English understandings for the word “chose”, I believe a fair interpretation of this verse is that God decided that we were to be holy and blameless before He created the world

Hence, it seems to me that Eph 1:4 is not a verse that Calvinists can reasonably use to defend the doctrine of unconditional election.

 

Wanted: My Definition of Calvinism

March 27, 2011 9 comments

I recently received an email which stated:

From time to time I lurk on your blog.  Interesting thoughts.  From what I read, however, I think there might be some weaknesses in your arguments.  It’s not that your logic is off, but I question some of your starting assumptions.

So here’s a challenge for you:  Define what you think Calvinism is.

Two ground rules:

  1. Make it short rather than long.  When you write things in your blog you’re using your stream-of-consciousness definition of Calvinism 90% of the time.  Not the nuanced points, just the primary points.  I realize something like this has plenty of nuance, but making it short forces you to stick to your fundamental ideas.
  2. Don’t look anything up or say what others think.  Once again, when you are writing for your blog you’ve got your definition in mind, not someone else’s.

Based on what I’ve read, my suspicion is that some of what you call Calvinism is not what most Calvinists would call Calvinism.  And thinking through that might help sort through some of the questions you raise.

Looking forward to your response.

Dear Lurker,

Thank-you for your interest in this blog. Your criticism is, I believe, a fair one. I do tend to write in a stream-of consciousness manner. I don’t know that I intend to, per se – and I don’t know that it’s bad, either. However, when I read or hear things, for better or worse the way I “process” through and come to some understanding of thoughts, ideas or concepts is doing what I do.

Nevertheless, I appreciate your suggestion to provide a definition. And so, here in a nutshell is my definition of Calvinism:

  • God predestines and controls everything for His glory

There’s a strong temptation to dig up a bunch of information that I believe would support that definition and also to provide examples of statements of other people. But following your suggestion – I won’t. However, I would like to simply state that there are numerous manifestations of Calvinism that (to me, at least) naturally come about from this definition including salvation only for “the elect” and an inability of God’s creation to exercise free will. In my own mind and experience, these manifestations have led to a perception that God intentionally limits His love to only a very select few and God ‘wills’ evil. Lastly, I’ve experienced terrible frustrations pertaining to assurance of salvation. Am I saved? Or, am I simply going through “Christian motions” on my own? Or worse, is God intentionally deceiving me?

I welcome your reply.

Bob

If God Can Be Surprised by His Creation, Can Calvinists Really Claim Unconditional Election?

January 7, 2011 15 comments

A friend recently indicated his doubt as to whether God is suprised by anything. I’d previously come across Gen 6:6 which says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  My only consideration of this verse and passage was that God knew what was going to happen and when sin fully engulfed man that created a separation between a holy God and a sin-filled man, God was grieved about this. 

Thinking back to my elementary school years, I knew my report cards were going to be full of failing grades and for what it’s worth, I ended up having to repeat 6th grade. Still, I hated the anticipation of those report cards. I would dread being handed the report card by my teacher. I was fearful of having to show that report card to my parents. Yet, when I was actually handed the report card and looked inside, the reality of those bad grades hit hard and I felt much worse than I had beforehand. 

The thought then occurred, how would I have felt if I wasn’t expecting those bad grades? Would I have been “surprised” even if I may have had some inklings that all was not well?

It seems to make sense that God would know everything because He’s omniscient and not constrained by time. How could God possibly be surprised at anything?  Well, seek and ye shall find – as I stumbled upon these verses while digging through a concordance for words such as “grieve” and “regret”:

1 Sam 15:10-11 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel; “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” 

Num 14:11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous sings I have performed among them?” 

Jer 19:5 (I’m pretty sure God is speaking here) They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal – something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 

Given that these verses don’t appear to be spoken/written in hyperbole, they do appear (at least to me) to indicate that God can sometimes be surprised as to the exact outcome of something.  Could this be true?  Can God be “surprised” – at least in regard to things He hasn’t predetermined? These verses alone certainly don’t constitute a full defense of Open Theism.  Nevertheless, the question that comes to my mind is: if God can be surprised, can Calvinists claim unconditional election with absolute certainty?

Divergent Thought (Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism); It’s Everywhere – Happy New Year!

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A Facebook friend recently posted this comment, “We may cast the die, but the Lord determines how it falls.” I couldn’t resist a little prodding for some details and asked the question – “So, even if we ‘think’ we’re ‘doing’ something, the outcome of that something is already predetermined by God?”

I liked Tom’s response and have pasted it here:

God always knows the outcome of any event. However, he normally doesn’t control the direct consequences of any action. He can and sometimes does [control events] when asked but He’s in no way obligated to do so. Why would God create the laws of nature and [call] them good along with all creation by continually circumventing them?

[God] makes everything work together towards whatever purpose He has in mind. [For] example, all of creation was created by God to glorify Himself. Because that’s His will, it’s what will happen. The fuzzy line comes when we’re affected by God’s will.

Do we have free will? Yes. God will judge us all on what we do, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, also pretty much anywhere in Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel) To be just, a judge must punish the guilty party. If a robot were programmed to kill someone, who’d be punished – the robot or the programmer? The robot had no free will to choose either right or wrong, so [the robot would] be pardoned. The programmer did have the free will to choose and will be punished for his crime. In the same way, if we have no free will and God is truly just, he would [have to] condemn Himself for forcing us to do wrong. If that is the case, then God is not good. If God is not good, then we have no hope. For if the ultimate power in the universe takes pleasure in evil, nothing He says [could] be trusted. If He is [just], by his mercy we have hope through Jesus Christ. If He isn’t [just], we have no hope because the combined power of creation was created through Him and for Him, and He sustains it all. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Does God protect us from being affected by our choices in a bad way? No. If you steal something and are caught, you’ll be brought to justice. God delights in that. Because He saved you from eternal life in Hell by your faith in Jesus doesn’t mean He’s saved you from the worldly consequences of your actions. This doesn’t mean He can’t have mercy on you. [Rather], He has no obligation to [protect] you from the result of your own free will. He’s [given] you the Bible for the purpose of helping you avoid destroying yourself and to find true life.

However, [God] works all things to the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28) If you love God and do something stupid, you will reap the consequences of your actions. God will then use that stupid action to eventually work for good in your life, not because of your wisdom, your strength, your righteousness, but BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.

The question [becomes]: are we living and acting from a love of God or an apathy or hatred of God? The answer has no bearing on the outcome of His plans, but they have every effect on what becomes of us.

I responded to Tom on how I liked the analogy of people employing various free-will combinations – such as the mixing of an acid and a base with the end result being that God ensures how those kinds of molecules will interact. However, something had earlier crossed my mind relating to God knowing in advance how everything will turn out. I ‘think’ Isaiah 5:1-5 infers God planting and cultivating a crop of grapes with the end result being something not anticipated – bad fruit. As such, can God be surprised at any given end result? If God is surprised at this particular end result in Isaiah, can believers claim that God fully knows each and every outcome of each and every circumstance, situation or decision one might make?

On that point, Open Theists claim that the future is at least partly open (unknown) to God except in those areas where God has determined exactly what the future will be. In any event, I would certainly agree with Tom’s earlier statements that A) we have free will, B) God doesn’t necessarily protect us from our bad decisions (or necessarily reap blessings upon us for good decisions we may make for that matter), and C) God can use all circumstances for His glory.

Perhaps unknowingly, Tom stated Calvinist thinking wherein he had previously said, “All you gotta do is let [God] take your junk.” I responded to Tom that he  might not actually have that opportunity to give his ‘junk’ to God because, according to Calvinism, God chooses whose ‘junk’ He’ll take. More to the point, God determines who’ll be forgiven for their ‘junk’ therefore determining who will and who will not be saved. So, to repeating Tom’s last statement for the comfort of my Arminian friends, “All you gotta do is give your ‘junk’ to [God] and He will forgive you.”

How about that – Calvinism, Arminianim, and Open Theism considerations are all nicely placed side by side in one fell swoop of love and togetherness. Peace be upon all my believing brethren (including you, Tim) for the coming year. Happy New Year!

A Calvinist Spanking of Yours Truly from Christian Clarity Review?

December 4, 2010 7 comments

A rather pathetic title for a hissy-fit between a Calvinist named Timothy Elder Jr at Christian Clarity Review and one who doesn’t subscribe to the TULIP doctrines of Calvinism – me.  In the large scheme of things, this really is much ado about nothing.  Honestly, what new thoughts or arguments could possibly come forth between the centuries-old debate between Calvinists and Arminians?  From my perspective, both sides have considerable biblical “ammunition” and can lob verse after verse to effectively press either Calvinist or Arminian doctrine.  This on-going debate is somewhat distressing to me if only because there appears to be such divergence of opinion between the two camps with both sides often justifying their positions using the same Scriptures.  By and large, it’s been easier of late to not take part in the debate – at least not to the degree I used to.  Perhaps I got a little bruised and worn out and have, at least for now, decided to premise my Christian faith on the Arminian side if for no other reason that I am more comfortable with what I understand to be the nature and character of God as viewed from an Arminian perspective.

But now, back into the fray.  There was a recent post on Christian Clarity Review entitled; Arminians are not Christians.  Nice to know, I guess.  But I adamently disagree.

‘bdrex’ and ‘Bill’ initially posed some questions to CCR and things escalated quickly.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize Tim doesn’t appreciate any challenges to his views.  I got into the fray a little later.  And too, I admit to a little venting in what I was told would be my last posting to CCR.  But ultimately, I have to ask my Calvinist friends; is Christian Clarity Review someone who accurately represents Calvinist doctrine and thought?

Anyway, for those interested, here’s my last comment to Christian Clarity Review and his subsequent response:

Dear Tim,

I regret your request for me to no longer comment on your blog.  I’ve done my best to be open, candid, honest and respectful when posing questions, responding or otherwise commenting on CCR.  I’ve tried to do likewise when you have commented on my blog.   But I will honor your request.

For my last comments on your blog,  I thought of providing a list of what I believe to be justifiable arguments against Calvinism and attempt to show where (I believe) verses you reference do not support the contentions you make.  But what’s the point?  I’ve concluded that you’re going to believe what you will irrespective of illogical thought and misapplied scriptures.  If nothing else, I’ve come to understand that that if something isn’t hyper-Calvinistic in nature, you’ll naturally be against it irrespective of the many scriptural references appearing to support Arminian thought.  If ever someone desires to see a Hyper-Calvinist in action – you are the real deal, Tim.

Your responses in this post to bdrex and Bill were fascinating.  I’m admittedly slow, but I finally realized you aren’t able to tolerate challenges to your theology.  If someone doesn’t agree with you, out pours some verbiage condemning the questioner or equating them to Lucifer followed by hate-filled speech (spoken as if you were the Holy Ghost Himself) with a taken-out-of-context verse or two.

You’ve clearly studied a lot of church history and tenants of the Christian faith.  But for what purpose?  Where, Tim, is the fruit in your life?  Where can one find in your life the love and compassion that Jesus exhibited?  Why is there such anger and contempt within you?  Where is the joy that Jesus wants all believers to experience and in which he promises to make complete?  Why is there no apparent laughter and (oh dear, should I actually use this word – yes!) the “gaiety” in your life?

Can anyone, who questions your understanding on any matter of Christian thought and faith not be labeled a heretic sent straight from Lucifer?  Apparently not and yet, as you have previously said to me, Lucifer has intentionally deceived me (at God’s command, no less).  So, applying your logic gleaned from our previous conversations – any and everything that has ever happened or ever will happen is as a direct result of God’s intentional will and command?  If your answer is ‘yes’, then would you please answer this question: if there’s no free-will, why are you not praising God for (I’m using your words, here) the world being “inundated with homosexuality, whoredoms [sic], abortion, and false religion”?  I can only surmise that as a logical extension of your hyper-Calvinistic thoughts and logic, God desired, designed and implemented all that is antithetical towards Christianity and therefore to Himself.  To God be the glory, right?  So, why do I not hear a great big ‘halleluiah’ from you?  Why are you not thankful that God has sent me to your blog?  After all, am I not (according to your logic) visiting CCR as a direct result of God’s intentional will and command?  You should be praising God that I’m conversing with you for after all, I am one of the few who’re willing to do so.  Oh, wait, that’s right, God has already determined that you’re to despise anything that is contrary to hyper-Calvinism.  Sorry, Tim, but the most elementary reading of Scripture and the simplest application of logic brings down your house of ‘faith-cards’.  Your theology doesn’t hold up on its own merits.  It’s only with a heavy dose of hate and vile do you make believe and otherwise fool yourself that you are one of God’s chosen few.  Sad.

Bill asked you for source material within Christian literature compliant with the theological concept of created speech.  Honestly, it didn’t take hardly any time at all to find sources (http://christianbookreviews.net/?p=43#more-43) that, well, have an exceedingly different perspective of The Two Babylons – one of the books you referenced and which I presume to be a foundation of your faith.  This review states:

“As is commonly the case with fundamentalists, the truth did not get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.  Weaving an absurd tale reminiscent of other types of conspiratorial drivel, Woodrow (like Hislop before him) combined incredibly bad scholarship, paranoid delusions, and pure bigotry in an unseemly concoction lacking even a rudimentary understanding of historical developments within the Church.  This is where one would expect it to end – another entry in the “antichrist of the month” sweepstakes spoon fed to those who do have neither the knowledge nor the discernment to see past the smokescreen of their insulated belief system.”

Ouch!  Sorry, but your blog posts appear to be the epitome of this review, Tim.

Before I go, can we agree that there must be consistency throughout Scripture and that doctrine can’t be built on only a given verse.  Rather, doctrine that is true is reflected uniformly throughout all of the Bible.  With regard to individual election, then, using your beloved KJV, I would welcome an explanation of how you rectify the following verses:

(John 6:44) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day

(Titus 2:11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men

Do you see the apparent conflict with personal election?  No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him and yet God’s grace which brings salvation has appeared to all men.  I could present my $0.02 worth, but again, what’s the point?  However, if you ask nicely, I’d be pleased to answer that apparent contradiction.

Paraphrasing, you’ve stated that God has enlightened you with an understanding of non-creating speech and that you’re responsible for passing this knowledge on to the “brethren”.  You are then God’s enlightened messenger who’s the only person on earth that has received this revelation?  Perhaps you’re in good company for if a Christian has difficulty understanding the concept of created speech and can’t find biblical justification for that belief system, how can one be sure that Timothy Elder Jr. isn’t the origin of a created speech cult in much the same way that a Jehovah Witnesses will follow Charles Russell, Mormons follow Joseph Smith, Seventh-Day Adventists follow Ellen G. White, Christian Scientists follow Mary Eddy Baker or Scientologists follow Armstrong and Hubbard, etc.?  Pity, perhaps Walter Martin was died too soon to include you in his book, Kingdom of the Cults.

If you care, feel free to respond to some questions I’d hoped to delve further with you over time.  Per your request, unless you give me permission, I won’t respond.  But please, fire away:

  • Did God plan every evil act and every sin that anyone would have ever committed?
  • Did God predestine Adam and Eve to sin?
  • Did God plan and bring about the rebellion of Satan who was once the angel of light, Lucifer?
  • Did God originate sin?  With regard to this question, I don’t doubt that God planned and has “elected” (I’m guessing my definition of “elect” is different than yours) much within our human existence.  God may have allowed sin.  But I’m hard-pressed to find any Scriptural evidence that sin originated with God.  Please, show me where.
  • Has God truly chosen to make you such a wretched creature?  I don’t personally think so.  Rather, I believe you have exceeded your wildest expectations and have become all that you are of your own volition.

Congratulations!  You’re now done with me.  Perhaps you’d like to celebrate and go share your faith with someone?  I’m sorry, I forgot; outreach to a hyper-Calvinist is pointless.

Well, enjoy your life, Tim.  I know I enjoy mine.  I do wish you all the best and will welcome the opportunity to discuss anything further with you should you decide to do so.  You know where I can be reached.

Sincerely,

Bob

If you’ve read this far, you may be interested in Tim’s response to my last comment:

1. “I regret your request for me to no longer comment on your blog”.  It wasn’t a request.  Don’t change your username and go for it again. Not saying you’ve already done it.  If you post again I’ll delete it.

2. You should surely be hired by any arminian witch as their PR person.  Your lies are always disguised as sombre wishes for fair discourse while accusing those who point out your lies of being mean spirited asses who do everything they do, supposedly like you, on purpose.  I get the point.  I really do.  You love me in what you call love –but I, as the Big Meanie, won’t love you back by succumbing to your lies.  It isn’t that I don’t understand.  It’s that I do and I overtly don’t want the emotional common sense friendship or discourse of hardened sinners in addition to being blessed by God to not have to hear it.

You can’t choose to believe what God is Saying through me as truth.  No one has that ability.  I don’t speak as if you could and to pretend that is exactly why I speak is to lie to my face and to call me a liar, no matter that you think to have done so in some perfect emotional paradigm some onlookers will automatically be forced to think is politeness because they share your deceptions.

Proverbs 14: 7  Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.

Proverbs 6: 12-15  A man of Belial, a wicked person, is he that goeth about with a perverse mouth; he winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; deceits are in his heart; he deviseth mischief at all times, he soweth discords.  Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly: in a moment shall he be broken, and without remedy.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Final thought – I truly have enjoyed the back-and-forth exchanges with many Calvinists on this blog as well as those with whom I associate personally.  Perhaps the ‘chemist’ within me needs to have a hypothesis, or in this case a premise of my belief, and then to go about determining whether or not the hypothesis is correct.  And I have truly struggled with determining where the truth lies within the  Calvinist-Arminian debate.  And that will probably continue for some time.  However, Tim may be the first person I would consider a hyper-Calvinist.  If I follow what I believe to be the natural outcome of Calvinist doctrine, it quickly leads me to someone who would espouse the views of Timothy.  I hope I’m wrong on that point.   And to that end, I would appreciate Calvinist’s comments to help identify the error – whether with me or with Tim.  (John 8:32)

Sincerely,

Bob

Trying to Understand Calvinist Thought & Logic Related to the Will of God

February 4, 2010 9 comments

This post came about from comments written by myself and two others elsewhere on this blog.  For the sake of clarity and to keep a post on a given topic, I’ve decided to bring those references and comments under a new post.

My previous post on “Calvinitus” was an attempt to show my struggle with Calvinist doctrines infusing themselves and otherwise coloring (maybe blinding?) my perception of God.  However, after recently watching an old movie about Lou Gehrig, Pride of the Yankees (1942), it occurred to me that perhaps Calvinists also struggle with the reality of their own doctrines – particularly unconditional election.

Most people probably associate Lou Gehrig with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.  ALS is an insidious progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord for which there’s currently no cure.  I have no idea as to what Lou Gehrig’s religious beliefs were.  If I may, however, let’s assume Lou Gehrig was an ardent Calvinist.  There’s a scene from the movie, where Lou Gehrig learns that he has ALS, which goes something like this:

Lou: Give it to me straight, doc.  Is it three strikes?

Doc: Yes, Lou, I’m afraid so.

Lou: Well, I’ve learned something over my life.  You can’t change the call of the umpire.

Calvinists I know believe that God ordains all things.  That being true, then Lou Gehrig’s “Calvinist” example is one of humbling accepting God’s will when he’s diagnosed with ALS because of his realization that “you can’t change the call of [God]”.  Lou further exemplifies his submission to God’s will when he says during his retirement speech, “I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

It was interesting, then to find a story (here) where a Calvinist man goes to visit his grandfather in a hospital.  Also present at the hospital are his grandmother and a Eucharist minister.  The Calvinist man is upset that the Eucharist minister is offering his grandparents feel-good prayers, pseudo-repentance and communion.  The Calvinist man was struck by the wretchedness, hostility, false assurance and blasphemy of the Eucharist minister’s actions and his grandparents attitudes toward God.  The story continues that later, and without success, the Calvinist man tries to convey the gospel message to his grandfather.

It surprises me that Calvinists appear blinded by the logic inherent within their own doctrines.  According to the doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election, God determines who will be saved and conversely who will be eternally lost.  Therefore, why is this Calvinist man dismayed at his grandparents or the Eucharist minister?  God hasn’t elected them.  They’re toast.  The Calvinist man understands that no witnessing, no praying, nothing the Calvinist man could do is going to change what God has sovereignty decreed.  As such, I submit that the Calvinist man’s frustrations towards his grandparents and the Eucharist minister are misdirected.  Consider:

  • The Calvinist man believes God has predetermined the decisions his grandparents have made.
  • God, however, has not chosen to save the Calvinist man’s grandparents.
  • The Calvinist man is dismayed that his grandparents are not elect.
  • And, the Calvinist man realizes that because God is in control, there’s nothing he can do.
  • As such aren’t those feelings of loss and separation related to his grandparent’s eternal destiny directly attributable to God’s sovereignty in the matter?
  • The grief the Calvinist man displays would seem (to me at least) to indicate a desire for God to change the inevitable outcome.
  • Therefore, the Calvinist man is in reality opposed to God’s will in this matter.  And if we’re not in favor of some act or condition, then by definition we’re opposed to that very same thing.

What I don’t see from the Calvinist man in this story is the humility exhibited by Lou Gehrig.  Wouldn’t the Calvinist man, if he truly believes in his doctrines, say something to the effect of, “I thank God for his sovereignty and for having blessed me with the greatest grandparents on the face of the earth.  I hope and pray that God may change my grandparent’s attitudes toward himself.  But I willingly accept God’s sovereign will and know that even my grandparent’s eternal separation will bring glory to God if only through his perfect wrath.”

That’s just a story some might argue.  Fair enough – but I think it ties in well to an MSNBC news story (here) of a young Calvinist pastor, Matt Chandler, currently undergoing treatments for brain cancer.  After reading the story, here are the comments I made to my good friend and ardent Calvinist, Mike:

Is there not something incongruous between Matt’s statements versus his actions as related to Calvinist thought and logic regarding the will of God?

“Lord, you gave [me cancer] for a reason.”

[Matt] is praying that God will heal him.

Whatever happens, [Matt] says, is God’s will, and God has his reasons.

As I understand Matt’s statements, he’s as much saying that God ordained him to contract brain cancer.  However, according to Matt, that doesn’t mean waiting for fate to occur.  Rather, it means fighting for his life, and to that end, Matt is undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.  I hope this question doesn’t come across as belittling.  However, if Matt truly believes God gave him cancer, then why doesn’t Matt have the faith to accept the cancer along with the significant potential of him dying and leaving behind his wife and two young daughters?

From reading the article, I sense Matt believes that God could cure him without all the standard fare of cancer treatments?  Yet, Matt appears to have decided that it’s best to undergo all of the treatments.  Isn’t Matt in essence saying, “Dear Lord, I know that if it’s your will to cure me, I’ll be healed.  No if’s, ands, or or’s about it.  Now, please don’t be angry at my lack of faith – but just in case, I’ll start all these different treatment options because maybe, just maybe, it’s your will that I’ll be healed through one of them.  Okay?”

Honestly, this seems to be more of the thought process Gideon used.  In this case, Matt seems to be hedging his “faith-bet” by putting down sheepskins of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in order to ensure that all the bases are covered – and all the options for God to use are available .  Is Matt showing his faith?  Or, is Matt showing his desire to live irrespective of what God may have ordained?

With regret, I say that this appears to be somewhat of a false-faith. All the Calvinists know I emphatically emphasize God’s sovereignty and his being in control of everything in our lives.  And yet, when confronting an obvious life-or-death situation such as cancer, I’ve NEVER known anyone who was willing to sit back, praise God for the cancer (or any other serious or life-altering disease) they contracted, and look forward to their death.  Granted, I’ve only known of a few people who’ve dealt with cancer and the like.  But irrespective of the situation or circumstance, no one I know (Calvinists or not) simply allows “God’s will” to occur.  Everyone employs some subtle theological argument that “maybe, just maybe I had better play it safe in case God might be leading in ‘this’ direction.”

By definition then (at least as I see it), this Calvinist pastor is fighting God’s will and in essence trying to wrest control of the end results from God (most likely his death from cancer) by undergoing treatments.  So, I’m curious as to what you think: is Matt is trying to take control away from and/or otherwise alter the sovereign will of God?

Is There Such a Thing As Calvinitis?

January 28, 2010 13 comments

I think I have a condition.  I think it’s called Calvinitis.  Hopefully it’s not contagious.   Calvinitis is the inability to read something without becoming cynical of what is actually being said.  Below is a recent letter from our pastor inviting the congregation to participate in small group discussions related to “Extravagant with Love and Abundant in Grace”.  To help my Calvinists friends better understand this condition, I’ve taken the liberty of imparting “Calvinisticals” – a term I just now invented.  Calvinisticals infuse the inherent Calvinist logic and thought that may not be obvious to the majority of Calvinists and non-Calvinists unaffected by Calvinitis.

The word “prodigal” certainly describes the younger son [whom God hated from the beginning of time] who recklessly spent his entire inheritance [because he was unable to choose to follow God] in the blink of an eye [because God willed it to be in order that his perfect wrath might be exalted].  However, in another sense, the word “prodigal” also describes our God [who demonstrates the extent of his love by saving those (the elect) whom he chooses] who is extravagant with love [so long as he has elected you], who is abundant in grace [so long as he has elected you], and who spent everything to make us a part of his family [so long as he has elected you] again [well, provided that you’re part of those contained within the limited atonement of Christ’s blood for the remission of your sins].

We’ve all heard the story of the Prodigal Son before [unless God hasn’t until now ordained that you would even want to be in church].  However, as you join us on this five week sermon [because God’s irresistible grace will overcome all resistance for not wanting to join us on Sunday mornings] and small group series you will find this story come to life in ways that you have never seen before [because God called you into communion with himself and will continue with you in faith until the rapture – or whatever].  To get the most out of this series we [through the blessings of the holy spirit who allows truth to be seen] encourage you to participate in the small group experience [because God controls everything and there’s no free choice in the matter].  If you are not currently in a small group [perhaps as a result of God intentionally keeping you isolated], we have 11 different small groups [that God has specially put into place for us] that are just waiting for you to join them [unless, of course, you’re already doomed].  No matter where you are on your faith journey [it’s because God wants you right where you are to teach you something], this study will challenge and encourage [only so far as God gives you encouragement] you [so that God will be glorified].

Extravagant with Love and Abundant in Grace – [So Long as You’re Elected]

Calvinist Thought Seasoned with Christian Clarity

January 20, 2010 3 comments

A recent blog post (here) started with the comment:

  • Quick: for the preservation of history, count all the Calvinists in Haiti that are looting or how many are in government there.”  Note: A previous post from this site regarding the earthquake in Haiti is (here).

Upon seeing this, my “Calvinometer” radar detector turned “on”.  There’s something about the wording and the overall tone in these posts that strikes me as, well, harsh.  A question came to mind: could the basis for this mindset and interpretation of scripture emanate from the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election wherein:

  • God intentionally deceives some into a lie.
  • God hasn’t chosen someone to be saved.
  • Therefore, that non-elected person is not worthy of an elected person’s time and effort.
  • Therefore, that non-elected person should just go away, die, and be done with so that those whom God will have with him for all eternity can get about the Lord’s heavenly business and blessings.

I commented on these posts from Christian Clarity Review in essence asking:

  • What’s the point of “piling on” the misery that many Haitians are currently experiencing?
  • How is the love of God portrayed within these posts?
  • Have you no heart to ache for people – even if you believe God brings about calamity?
  • Where in the New Testament does Jesus turns away his love and compassion from the hurting and suffering?

The response I received was, well, surprising.  Regrettably, I misidentified Timothy (my sincere apologies to Charles) in my initial comments to his post on the Haitian earthquake.  Nevertheless, here are some Christian Clarity Review responses to my comments and questions:

  • [Christ haters] [don’t want] to hear God caused the earthquake in Haiti.
  • True Christianity is not at all about picking Christianity over other religions [as one] can’t decide to do so.
  • Jesus Christ went 40 days without food or water.  Moses as well.  [One] gets the impression that a few days without food are a cause for worry and a health-crisis.
  • [The earthquake] is the honesty of what happens to those who hate Jesus Christ and have made open, unapologetic pacts with Satan.
  • You post for political and theological pretense.
  • God sent Haiti the earthquake.  Before that He sent them a deception
  • You want to cover over what God has done.
  • The lie of free will is your bread and butter [and always sucking off your soul].
  • You are a fake Christian and have the spirit of Balaam.
  • I read your response Bozo.
  • [Your] phrasing of etiquette [is] surely a shield to hide the fact you’ve lied about Christ.
  • You put up the emotional shield as if that were a standard part of God’s discourse.
  • I’m absolutely certain God has deceived you.
  • You’ve received more truth than most people [and] have subtly laughed it off.
  • You preach a different gospel in the guise of searching for the pure one.

I don’t doubt that Timothy’s abject starkness and callousness is heart-felt.  I’m not sure why – maybe it’s his mother’s fault!  And I don’t doubt that I may have “tweaked” him with my questions and comments.  But where does Jesus respond to hurting and suffering people in need of a savior in such a way as Timothy does?

First of all, my apologies to Bozo.  I did watch him as a child and can fully attest to everyone that I’m not Bozo.

Timothy stated that God has “sent me a deception” and therefore, it’s impossible for me to see the truth because I have no free-will in this matter.  Yet, Timothy’s responses to posts on this blog (here) and (here) would seem to have indicated that (at least at one time) he thought that there was a potential for me to see the truth (at least the truth as he portends it)?  As such, is Timothy really convinced that God intentionally deceived me?  I don’t think he is.

There were a number of scripture verses Timothy used to justify his stated beliefs.  My understanding of those verses in context is, well, different.  Perhaps I’ll provide my understanding to those verses in the comment section of this post.

So, what is one who admittedly struggles with Calvinism in general and the concept of unconditional election in particular to think about what is contained within Christian Clarity Review?  The truth is, not much.  I have personally experienced a lot of love and grace from proponents of Calvinism (CH, NM, MB, PP, WC and many others).  I am ever grateful to those who will walk alongside, explain, and even question my foundations of faith.  I don’t think I’m elect but (sorry, Timothy) I do believe I am saved (Rom 10:10).  Based on my own ’empirical’ evidence, Timothy’s opinions, writings and ad hock attacks represent a very small percentage of Calvinists.  Still, might there be a logical extension for one to ‘discover’ election and ‘create’ the Calvinist-oriented views as expressed within Christian Clarity Review?  I hope not – but how else is Timothy’s perception explained?  Perhaps those with affinity towards Calvinism are in a better position to state (what I believe to be) the error of Timothy’s approach and methodologies he uses in defending his faith.