Archive for ‘Calvinism’

May 18th, 2013

Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!

by Max Andrews

coverKudos to Brendan Burnett for sending these to me. These are real children’s books that are designed to teach the doctrines of grace.

Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!

Help, Mom! There are Arminians Under My Bed!

Come along on a journey with Mitchell, as he recalls his nightmare for his mother. Mitchell was in a land of darkness and gloom, when due to no cooperation of his own, a Knight in shining armor saved him and all the other captives He intended to save. “Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!” is a children’s allegory designed to teach your kids the Doctrines of Grace through the use of creative story-telling.

April 22nd, 2013

Q&A 19: Calvinism and Free Will

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hey! My name is Josh. I’m a young college student by day (and christian apologist by night, jokes). But in my personal life, apologetics is important to me.Aside from that, I have a question I think you could help me with. I’m a Calvinist (hold the tomatoes) because I think, Biblically, it’s the most accurate putting together of scriptural truth (basically the best systematic theology). My problem is this:
Total Inability and free will. How are we morally responsible if we cannot choose otherwise? And since no one seeks God (Romans) and no one can come to Christ unless the Father brings them (John 6), how is it that we can really talk about free will? How would this be the best possible world where most free creatures choose Christ, when they cannot choose Him unless He first removes their inability? It seems that it doesn’t matter what world God created becaue technically speaking, He could remove the inability from all people, resulting in everyone freely choosing Christ. I hope my questions make sense. I’m eager to hear your response.Keep up the good work. I love your website!God Bless :)

Answer:

Josh,

Thanks for your question. Since I’m not a Calvinist my answer will probably be a little different from what you were anticipating. First, I’ll respond to you question from within the Calvinist system (as best as I can). Then I’ll give you  my response and thoughts on the issue as a Molinist.

April 2nd, 2013

Q&A 17: How Does God Know These Things With Certainty?

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hi Max,
Great site & I appreciate your comprehensive answers. Here’s a question that I’ve never been able to get a good answer for: If God doesn’t force us to do things, and we have free will, how did he know for sure that everything would play out exactly as it did when Jesus came to Earth? Say they made the choice not to put him on the cross, what if Peter went out of his way to make sure he didn’t deny him 3X, etc. Could you shed some light on this topic?
Thanks,
Brandan

Answer:

Surely, the biblical witness is that God sovereignly controls everything in creation, but it does not mean He causes all things.  God knows what will happen because He makes it happen. God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity.  According to Luis de Molina,

June 13th, 2012

A Response to Alvin Plantinga’s “The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology”

by Max Andrews

In this article Plantinga uses the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck as an outline for the reformed objection to natural theology.  The first aspect of the objection is that arguments or proofs are not, in general, the source of the believer’s confidence in God.  Secondly, argument is not needed for rational justification; the believer is entirely within his epistemic right to believing that God has created the world, even if he has no argument at all for that conclusion.

There are three further points made.  We cannot come to knowledge of God on the basis of argument; the arguments of natural theology just don’t work.  Secondly, Scripture ‘proceeds from God as the starting point,’ and so should the believer.  Finally, Bavinck points out that belief in God relevantly resembles belief in the existence of the self and of the external world. Furthermore, the Christian ought not believe on the basis of argument; if he does, his faith is likely to be unstable and wavering.

To criticize someone as irrational is to criticize them for failing to fulfill duties and responsibilities, or for failing to conform to the relevant norms or standards ethically.  Plantinga rejects the doxastic system of internalism and foundationalism and advocates an externalist reliabilism.  The reformed objection to natural theology, or reformed epistemology, is primarily an objection to foundationalism.

June 8th, 2012

The Molinism Directory

by Max Andrews

I’ve decided to gather all my posts on Molinism in one post for easy reference.

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)
  3. Review Essay: Four Views on Divine Providence
  4. Defining Omniscience
  5. Q&A 9: Layering Divine Middle Knowledge
  6. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  7. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  8. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  9. The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism–Moral Responsibility
  10. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  11. The Pelagian Equivocation
  12. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  13. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  14. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
    read more »

May 2nd, 2012

Calvinists Got it Wrong

by Max Andrews

In the chapter titled “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” in David Baggett and Jerry Walls’ book, Good God, they contend that the fundamental divide between Calvinism and [say] Arminianism is how God’s love and goodness are understood.  This section is a [ironically] five-point objection to Calvinistic compatibilism.   Before the authors make their case they assemble a philosophical justification for their method.  Their epistemic framework gives a strong platform for the acceptance of a priori natural revelation going into the biblical hermeneutic.  Without further ado they present their case against compatibilism (I once heard Dr. Baggett say that it’s not adieu, as it was once corrected in the drafts by the editors.)

October 1st, 2011

A Thank You Note to James White

by Max Andrews

 

aomin.org

James White is the director of Alpha and Omega ministries focused on apologetics.  I’ve learned a lot about my own theological position as well as others because of his ministry and service.  To be honest, I don’t agree with a few things he believes.  For instance, I’m a Molinist (he’s not the biggest fan), evidentialist, and an old-earth creationist.  Despite our disagreements he has my utmost respect and esteem.  He is passionate about God, the gospel, the Church, and the unsaved. I’m a faithful listener of his podcast, The Dividing Line, and there have been moments when I shake my head at some points he makes and there are other times when I’m cheering him on.

I respect White for his defense of the faith from cults, atheists, Islam, Roman Catholicism, unitarians, and others.  Where White earns my greatest respect is his integrity and honesty in scholarship and ministry.  You won’t find him quote mining or warping his citations.  He does the work, he does the research, and he presents it well.  Now, on another note, I’m a philosophy graduate student at Liberty University.  For those who are familiar with White you’ll know where I’m going with this.  White demanded accountability from Caner, the university, and the church for so many discrepancies [and contradictions] Caner asserted about himself.  All parties remained silent while all White did was demand honesty and integrity.  Thank you, Dr. White.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with White please check out his YouTube channel, his podcasts, and his website.  You don’t have to agree with him all the time but you will learn a lot.

April 15th, 2011

The Pelagian Equivocation

by Max Andrews

Pelagianism argues that man is naturally able to obey God.  Semi-Pelagianism argues that though man cannot be saved apart from grace he is naturally able to turn to God.  It’s quite frustrating when Arminianism and Molinism are equated with Pelagianism.  It seems as though those who make these arguments fall short of fully knowing the two positions and play the P-card as a the trump card.  To briefly state the differences, Pelagianism isn’t even close to Arminianism and Molinism and if you play that card you need to stop before your get to the bulb of the TULIP or ROSES and go back to the soil and seed.  Semi-Pelagianism can’t be dismissed off the bat like that though.  The difference is that prevenient grace is what enables the will to turn to God as a catalyst.  If semi-Pelagianism is true, theoretically, I could be wanting salvation from God and he not give it to me.  If Pelagianism is true I can will myself to God and salvation.  For the Arminian and Molinist, neither of these are true; rather, the sinner rejects God and salvation prior to being overcome by God’s ever-present prevenient grace catalyzing the will and God saving.

The teaching of Scripture seems to assert that post-Genesis 3 humans possess libertarian free will, including freedom to choose between opposites on matters pertaining to salvation or any other spiritual good.  This immediately raises questions surrounding the concept of original sin.  Augustine first used the expression “original sin” in the wake of the Pelagian controversy.[1]  Upon arriving at Rome in A.D. 400, the British monk Pelagius was horrified to see the open immorality prevalent among so-called Christians.[2]  This was the direct result of Theodosius I nineteen years earlier (A.D. 381) declaring Christianity to be the state religion so decreeing that anyone living within its borders to be Christian. This was a transformation of Christianity from a voluntary religion (one that people freely choose to join) to a natural religion (one into which people are born) spawned immense immorality in many people who bore the name of Christ without ever having personally committed their lives to Jesus.[3]  Pelagius exhorted the Romans to live worthy of their Christian calling with an argument logically summarized in two steps:

1.  Humans possess libertarian free will.

2.  Humans should use their libertarian freedom to be good enough people to earn their own salvation.[4]

Unfortunately, as so often happens in the history of thought, one extreme position meets the response of an equally extreme opposing position, thus swinging the ideological pendulum from one side to the other.  Very rarely is prudence taken in shifting the pendulum back to the center, where the truth is most likely to be found.[5]  Augustine affirmed that both Adam and Eve were created with libertarian free will pre-Genesis 3 whereby one could freely respond to the grace of God.[6]  However, in response to Pelagius, Augustine was not content merely to reject Pelagius’ conclusion but insisted on preventing the argument from getting off the ground.  Denying both Pelagian premises, therefore, Augustine asserted that post-Genesis humans lacked libertarian free will and so could not use this ability to earn salvation.[7]  Augustine proposed an innovative interpretation of Genesis 3, henceforth styled “the Fall,” according to which Adam and Eve, in the supreme act of self-violation, paradoxically committed “spiritual suicide” by freely employing their mental faculty whereby they could freely respond to God to destroy that very faculty.[8]

If grammatico-historical exegesis is performed upon each of the pertinent Scriptural passages rather than theological eisogesis, it quickly becomes apparent that post-Genesis 3 unregenerate humans in fact possess the freedom to choose between opposites including response to grace, which is precisely what the late-Augustinian doctrine of original sin denies.[9]  As for Genesis 3, nothing in the text even remotely suggests that humans surrendered the libertarian freedom with which they were created.

When Paul asserts that unregenerate humanity is spiritually dead or dead “in transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2.1), he means that their spirits are alienated from Divine Spirit and thereby relegated to lives of pointlessness; this is why Paul interchanges phrases connoting spiritual death with such descriptive phrases as “separate from Christ,” “without hope and without God in the world” (2.12), “living in the futility of their thinking” (3.17), and “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God” (3.18).[10]  Granting in grammatico-historical fashion of the sense of literary context as well as the normal connotations of and relationships between terms, it follows that any text where God offers people a choice requires that people have the mental faculty necessary for making that choice.[11]  Denying this inference not only makes the text meaningless, but it carries the deleterious theological consequences of either invalidating God’s omniscience (for wrongly thinking people could make the impossible choice) or God’s veracity (for intentionally deceiving people into thinking they could make a choice which He knew they lacked the ability to make and for inspiring a Scripture which foisted the ruse upon its readers).[12]


            [1] Augustine, De Gratia Christi, et de Peccato Originali, contra Pelagium, First Series, ed. Philip Schaff. (Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1887; rep. ed., Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson, 1994), 2.1-5.

            [2] Pelagius, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, trans. Theodore de Bruyn (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1995), 107.

            [3] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries, 3rd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1996), 120-121.

            [4] Pelagius, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 108-112.  It should be noted that the second premise is entirely unbiblical. Anselm in his Cur Deus Homo, 1.20-23, 2.6, decisively overturned this inference.  Accordingly, it is beyond the power of any person to make compensation for his or her sin by right employment of libertarian freedom.

            [5] Kirk R. MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, (Lanham, MD:  University Press of America, 2007), 22.

            [6] Augustine, De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione, 2.

            [7] Augustine, De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, 29-30.

            [8] Augustine, De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione, 5-16.

            [9] MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, 24.  For further exegetical and grammatical relationships see William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Dallas, TX:  Word, 1993), 155-214.

            [10] Ibid., 25-26.

            [11] Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, 4.37.2-3, averred in the face of Gnostic determinism that the prophetic rebukes for spiritual evil and exhortation of spiritual good presupposed human ability to obey, as did the religious teachings of Jesus.  Hence both Old and New Testaments substantiated the self-determination of humanity.   By libertarian freedom I mean that our freedom is a derived freedom, humans are not completely independent or completely autonomous.  In Molinism, unlike Calvinism, God is completely sovereign over the eternal destinies of a world of libertarian free creatures who have, in Augustinian terminology, “free choice” and not merely “free will.”  MacGregor explains that for Augustine, “free choice” (i.e. libertarian free will) entailed the freedom to choose between opposites in both the physical and spiritual realms.  Thus fallen humanity, by virtue of the imago Dei, can freely choose whether or not to respond to God’s prevenient grace.  By contrast, Augustine defined “free will” (i.e. compatibilist free will) as the ability to choose without any external constraint between the options compatible with one’s nature.  On this view, unregenerate humans, due to original sin, lack the ability to choose between spiritual good and evil.  Just as a bad tree can bear bad fruit or no fruit at all, unregenerate humanity can either perform spiritual wickedness by actively rebelling against God or do nothing spiritual at all by displaying passivity toward God.  See Augustine, On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, ed. Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1887; rep. ed., Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson, 1994), 5:57-59, 74-76.  MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, 84-85. The Scriptures breathe libertarian human freedom, even if the Bible makes no explicit mention of it. Take, for example, 1 Cor. 10.13, which promises that God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” It follows that any Christian who does not in some circumstance endure but succumbs to temptation had it within his power to take the way of escape instead, i.e., he had the liberty of opposites in those circumstances. Again, we can at least agree that if the Scriptures do presuppose or affirm libertarian freedom, then there is no basis for denying that sentences like 1 Cor. 2.8 are true counterfactuals of freedom. William Lane Craig, “Ducking Friendly Fire: Davison on the Grounding Objection.” Philosophia Christi 8 (2006): 166.

            [12] MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, 26.

April 14th, 2011

Good God: Calvinists Got It Wrong

by Max Andrews

In the chapter titled “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” Baggett and Walls contend that the fundamental divide between Calvinism and [say] Arminianism is how God’s love and goodness are understood.  This section is a [ironically] five-point objection to Calvinistic compatibilism.   Before the authors make their case they assemble a philosophical justification for their method.  Their epistemic framework gives a strong platform for the acceptance of a priori natural revelation going into the biblical hermeneutic.  Without further ado they present their case against compatibilism (I once heard Dr. Baggett say that it’s not adieu*, as it was once corrected in the drafts by the editors [*Okay, it wasn’t for this work, but it was funny when he said it.  Thank you Dr. Baggett for correcting me!).

  1. Obligation Objection:  Simply put, ought implies can and moral duties make no sense in compatibilism.  1 Cor. 10.13 is cited as an example for libertarian freedom (God gives a way out of sin, yet we still sin).  Prevenient grace seems to be a legitimate postulation, that is, the grace that precedes salvation that enables one to repent and turn from sin. Their example:  P is “we ought to avoid all sin,” and Q is “we can avoid all sin” (ought implies can).  However, it seems that some theologies (mainly Reformed), after the fall, P is true and Q is false (counterexample?).  How about:  P1, For any x, if x is a sin, then we ought to avoid doing x; Q1 For any x, if x is a sin, then we can avoid x.  Here Baggett and Walls show the Calvinist’s fallacy of equivocation.  Clearly, P1 and Q2 are true but to understand where P is true and Q is false one would need to equivocate “all” for P as “for each individual sin x, taken on its own” and for Q “for the sum total of all sins added together.”  An argument on equivocation seems to break at the seams.  Thus, the principle of ought implies can perseveres and libertarian freedom is true.
  2. Culpability Objection:  “If the unregenerate aren’t able to avoid all sin, have we found a counter example to ‘ought implies can?’  For what would seem to suggest that they don’t have enough grace to avoid sin for which they’re culpable.”  Compatibilism entails that we cannot do otherwise (where some secular philosophers say we should abandon the category of retribution). When asked, “Could the person have done otherwise?”, the reply would be “Yes, if he had willed to do otherwise (but, he could not have willed otherwise).  Sure, let’s let the naturalist play out retribution, but the Calvinist cannot do so since it’s a pertinent part of their theology.  They believe sinners are to be held accountable for this life and that some may be “consigned to eternal perdition for lives they could not have possibly lived any differently.”
  3. Bad God Objection:  If compatibilism is true, then God could have saved everyone without violating free will.  Some are not saved and are sentenced to eternal perdition, so what’s the deal?  If compatibilism is true, why did God not elect all to salvation rather than sentence some to hell?  Assuming salvation is a greater good than damnation, something has gone wrong.  “If this is true, there is no intelligible sense in which God loves those who are lost, nor is there any recognizable sense in which he is good to them.”
  4. Love Objection:  By the intrinsic nature of love relationships, love must flow in both directions.  If God’s grace is irresistible then it necessarily follows that fellowship with God culminates (as the authors put it, a “divine love potion”).  However,  this creates an eternal infatuation in the beloved, but not genuine love; it seems love requires a more substantial element of volition.
  5. Virtue Objection:   The Calvinists emphasize that “morally responsible actions must reflect one’s character or they aren’t culpable reflections of who one is.” However, It seems to be the case that culpable moral development in virtue ethics starts with thoughts, leads to actions, and then follows with a descriptive character.  It seems Calvinists have it backwards.  According to Calvinists, our actions are “determined by an already existing character with which we are unavoidably saddled.”
This post isn’t an exhaustive representation; rather, it’s a mere summation of the material.  The main point was to demonstrate that the Calvinistic concept of God and morality run afoul in theory ethics.  To follow up more see the chapter “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” in Good God:  Theistic Foundations of Morality.
April 14th, 2011

Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality

by Max Andrews

Michelangelo's Abraham Sacrificing Isaac

I’ve begun to read through David Baggett and Jerry Wall’s new book Good God:  The Theistic Foundations of Morality and I’m convinced that this will be a prominent resource for future works on basing morality in theism.  I’ll be going through and making a few posts here and there on certain aspects of the book.  It not only goes up against competing atheistic alternatives but it also takes Calvinism to task.  Baggett and Walls are ardent Arminians and their method of theological inquiry and their arguments can’t be ignored nor can they be easily dismissed by the Calvinist.  I wrote a paper concerning the arbitrariness horn of the Euthyphro dilemma (an appendix to the book) and now I’m going back through as much as I can.  Hopefully I’ll be able to provide some review and insight for those who don’t have the book (and incentive to add it to your library!).