Archive for December, 2010

December 18th, 2010

Why I’m Not a Calvinist

by Max Andrews

I have a unique kinship with my Calvinist brothers.  I understand their desire to exalt God as completely holy and man as depraved and in need of a Savior.  My problem with Calvinism is that it cannot account for the origin of evil.  I love what Calvinism hopes to do in preserving God’s sovereignty, but it doesn’t work.  If anyone says there’s human freedom and they’re a Calvinist, they’ve got something misunderstood (to say we have the freedom to only sin doesn’t work either).  Compatibilism is really a nice try, but it’s ultimately hard determinism:

Suppose a scientist has placed an electrode in Jones’s brain so that he can read what Jones is going to do on any occasion and can cause him to do whatever the scientist desires.  Now suppose the scientist wants Jones to Kill Smith, and Jones himself, in the absence of any influence from the scientist, is deliberating about the murder.  If Jones decides not to kill Smith, the scientist will activate the electrode and cause the killing, but he does not need to do so because Jones carries out the act on his own.  Here Jones was free but could not have acted otherwise.[1]

Theistic compatibilism fails with the problem of evil.[2]

Humans must have some kind of consistent libertarian freedom (see my problem with theistic determinism).

Herein lies the problem.  Before a person can commit an act of sin he must first have a desire to perform that act.  The Bible tells us that evil actions flow from evil desires.  But the presence of an evil desire is already sin.  We sin because we are sinners.  We were born with a sin nature.  We are fallen creatures.  But Adam and Eve were not created fallen.  They had no sin nature.  They were good creatures with a free will.  Yet they chose to sin.  Why?  I don’t know.  Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.[3]

In the Calvinist’s attempt to preserve God’s holiness he destroys God’s ontology by attributing him with being the author of sin.  To be fair to the Calvinist, he won’t actually say that (unless you’re Sproul Jr.) but it’s impossible to get around.  There’s a difference between paradox and contradiction.  I find that it’s a paradox and no one knows to be a common response.  A paradox is when you begin with something and the conclusion is either unexpected or seemingly contradictory.  This isn’t the case.  The Calvinist is trapped in a contradiction.  He is affirming God’s ontology as being wholly good whereas the logical conclusion of his initial starting point ends at God’s ontology being faulted.

I agree with a lot of what Calvinism attempts to do:  how it views the atonement, the depravity of man, the ontology of God, and the preservation/perseverance of the elect.  As a Molinist, I render very similar conclusions, the means by which I arrive at my conclusions are rather different.  It all begins with your initial starting point:  how one views God’s ontology and how one views man’s freedom both pre-fall and post-fall.  There are two ways to relieve God of being the author of sin:  1) attribute humans with some kind of libertarian freedom and understand them to be the origin of their own choice to sin (not any form of determinism) or 2) explain how any agent can be absolved of responsibility by causal initiation.

[1] William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity, 2003), 270.

[2] RC Sproul Jr., Almighty Over All:  Understanding the Sovereignty of God (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker, 1999), 57.

[3] RC Sproul Sr, Chosen By God (Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale, 1986) 30.

December 17th, 2010

Thanks to William Lane Craig & Reasonable Faith

by Max Andrews

William Lane Craig has been the greatest influence on my spiritual and intellectual life to date.  Soon after I became a Christian I began to ask questions and needed substance to base my faith on.  I [randomly] found Dr. Craig’s debate with Austin Dacey, which prompted me to listen to both sides carefully and to research more of Dr. Craig’s work.  If it were not for Dr. Craig and the Reasonable Faith ministry I’m convinced my faith and relationship with Christ would not be as strong as it is right now.  I’ve since graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and I’m currently working on my Master’s in Philosophy.

I appreciate Dr. Craig’s transparence and passion for the gospel.  When you listen to the Defender’s Podcast (his Sunday school lessons) he will range from quantum mechanics and abstract objects to middle knowledge and tie it back to an application.  It’s more than lofty philosophical thought that suffices for comfortable theodicies.  He addresses the honest questions of meaning, value, and purpose, questions that we all face and will question at some point.  His work on the absurdity of life without God has allowed me to make sense of personal and existential questions of mine.

I'm on the far right with the glasses.

There’s so much to Dr. Craig that we don’t know about.  I was privileged enough to meet him and know him better when he debated Michael Tooley at UNC Charlotte.  I found out that he and his wife, Jan, pray for the users in the forum and was genuinely concerned and were prayerful for a certain situation that has been made known.  He was personable and expressed care and attention to me while we spoke.  He is a composed and tactful gentleman.  (I need to learn from his patience when dealing with frustrating moments during debates and dialogues!)  This fruit demonstrates that he’s not a showboat.  He’s not in it for the money, publishing, or any other motivation.  In his most recent newsletter, in closing, he stated,


In whatever circumstances you find yourself this Christmas, whether enjoying the warmth of family and church or perhaps alone serving God or country on a foreign field or facing times of economic hardship or struggling with health, we wish for you a Christmas filled with a consciousness of God’s love, a love which would prompt Him to take on our broken human condition to bring us eternal life.

This wasn’t an impersonal “Merry Christmas,” but an inclusive desire for relationship with God, for us to know his love.  A love that overcomes our human condition and bring about atonement.  He sympathizes with those who are serving (like my brother), with those who are facing financial problems, and with those who are sick or in pain.  I always look forward to the monthly newsletters because I often feel as if it’s a personal letter to me updating me on what he’s up to.

Thank you, Dr. Craig, Jan, and the Reasonable Faith ministry, for making scholarship and ministry function together.  You’ve been used by God for me (and I know many others) to have substance to my faith.  Thank you for helping me have a reasonable faith.  I’ll be praying for you.

December 13th, 2010

Discussing Calvinism

by Max Andrews

A few years ago the Southern Baptist Convention held the Building Bridges Conference, which focused on discussing Calvinism and its role in the SBC.  I find that when I’m teaching or speaking with other students they’re only aware of Calvinism and Arminianism.  I hope that the church broadens her schools of thought beyond those two.  The conference discussed the points of Calvinism and had philosophers and theologians speak presenting their respective school (i.e. Supra/Infralapsarianism Calvinism, Amyraldism, Molinsm, and Arminianism).  Feel free to listen to the presentations or read them in their printed form.  As your lone blogging Molinist, I highly recommend Ken Keathley’s book Salvation and Sovereignty.  Avoid straw-men and listen to the other side.

December 5th, 2010

I’ve Been Turning Wine to Water

by Max Andrews

I was recently working on my paper on the absurdity of life and how a divine telos is the only reconciliation to consistent living while I was listening to my music on iTunes and I came across the song Lest We Die by My Epic.  I find this to be such a beautifully honest song with powerful lyrics (don’t worry, you can understand what they’re saying).  The lyrics are below (listen here).

My neighbor is a better man than I
And from your hands do all good things derive
So if my heart should swell
And of itself think well
Then humble me till I am fully thine

There’s war within my fragile skin
A violent revolt for mastery over my soul
Control is the strong man’s hoax
Skill and wealth are my only hope
A selfish grasping for worthless thrones
And it tells me “I am greatest”

So I gave it not one inch
Still it spread throughout my limbs
For my solace in the victory
Was the proof of my defeat

Who is worth anything apart from you?
Who could own anything?

My neighbor is a better man than I
And from your hands do all good things derive
So if my heart should swell
And of itself think well
Then humble me till I am fully thine

I’ve been turning wine to water
And crippling my healthy brothers
I’m walking on the ocean floor
And stirring up the fiercest storms

No I did not pour out these tides
Or tell these planets to align
My breath could never give new life
So why am I so full of pride

I encourage you to listen to/read the lyrics and reflect on it.  I’m sure you’ll begin thinking of all the times you’ve turned wine to water and crippled your healthy brothers… at least that’s what I thought of.  Before your head makes your float away, take a look around you and you’ll soon realize your humility in this universe and before God.