Bad Arguments Against Calvinism

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by DanielFive, Jul 15, 2003.

  1. DanielFive

    DanielFive
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    Here's an interesting article from the STAND TO REASON website.


    Bad Arguments Against Calvinism

    Gregory Koukl

    Greg points out the fallacies in many of the common approaches.

    We've been talking about the biblical question of predestination lately--not strict determinism, which mechanistically fixes every detail of our lives, but rather the view that God has personally chosen (predestined) those who would believe in Christ for salvation.
    Often when I talk about this issue I'm not always making a positive case for the Reformed point of view (Calvinism). Instead, I'm frequently only trying to show that some of the objections raised against the Reformed view simply don't work. By carefully removing the bad arguments, we can get down to the more substantial concerns.

    One objection that falls short makes much of the "conflict" between God's sovereignty and man's free will. I personally don't see the tremendous conflict. I think God can be sovereign and fulfill His purposes even though we act freely. One thing that allows Him to do that is His omniscience.

    Consider the objection: "If God is sovereign, guaranteeing certain outcomes in people's lives, then there is no free will." This is flawed thinking. It doesn't follow that if God is in full control, then free acts are not possible. What is critical here is the way in which God is in control, the method He uses to guarantee the outcomes. Let me illustrate.

    How would you catch a criminal who is on the run? Well, you'd think about where he might go, then you'd try to be there to intercept him. Now, if you had perfect knowledge--if you knew everything-- you'd not only know where he is at any given moment, but where he'll be at any moment in the future. You'd know exactly what time he'd arrive at any point along his entire route.

    Would you be able to catch a criminal if you knew the exact moves he was going to make? If you knew the things he was going to freely choose to do--and this is important--at any given point, would you be able to catch him? Sure you could.

    If you know he's going down a particular road and will come around a particular corner at a particular time, you could place your men there so that when he takes the route he freely chooses (though known by you), your men would be right there to nab him. You're in control the entire time--you're sovereign. You're able to be in control because you know every move he's going to freely make. Therefore, your plan can be perfectly executed, even though he's making his free choices.


    If you owe me a million dollars and I choose to completely forgive the debt, how is your will violated?


    This illustration shows that God can be completely sovereign in that He controls all final outcomes, yet human beings could still make free choices. I think there is more to God's sovereignty than described here--I think He does control our specific choices in some ways--but most of our choices are free, yet God is in control. He knows enough about our free choices to work out a plan that will encompass all our free choices and still accomplish His purposes.
    This thought introduces another wrong conclusion people draw about Calvinism, and has to do with one particular thing that God seems to predetermine in our lives. Reformed theology teaches that God unilaterally decides whom He will forgive, that He chooses those who are to be saved. These are called the "elect."

    The objection is this: If God is responsible for our salvation, then it follows that we are predetermined machines. Another way of saying this is, "If God decides the one issue of my salvation, then He decides everything. Either everything I do is free, or nothing I do is free. If God determines my salvation, then I have no free will at all." Of course, that doesn't follow. This is an all-or-nothing fallacy.

    Because God determines one aspect of our lives based on His mercy doesn't mean that all aspects of our lives are merely parts of a deterministic machine. It doesn't follow that if God predestines one thing in our lives--that we go to heaven--then nothing else in our lives is freely chosen. We can do all kinds of things freely. We freely choose to sin all the time, for example. That's what makes us guilty. God simply makes a choice Himself, on His side of the ledger, to exercise grace on our behalf and allow us to have mercy and forgiveness for the sin we freely commit. (This is why we thank Him, by the way.)

    If you owe me a million dollars and I choose to completely forgive the debt, how is your will violated? The debt is owed to me; it's on my side of the ledger. I can cancel it if I want. It may have a further impact on your life, that in canceling the debt you don't have to work for 20 years to pay it off. But it seems to me such an action grants you freedom, not bondage.

    Further, freedom usually has some limitations. Even a criminal in prison has a measure of freedom. Though some choices are restricted, it doesn't follow that he has no choices at all. In the same way, if God chooses us for forgiveness and salvation, it doesn't follow that we have become robots.

    Here's a third objection: If God exercises forgiveness for some and not for others, then God is the cause of people going to hell. Once again, this is a conclusion that doesn't follow. Consider this illustration.


    God is the cause of people going to heaven. However, the cause of people going to hell is their own sin.


    A man is imprisoned for a crime he actually committed, yet he calls a press conference claiming to the world he's been unjustly jailed. His incarceration is not fair. Why not? "It's all the governor's fault," he says. Why is it the governor's fault? "Because the governor didn't give me a pardon. If he would give me a pardon, I'd be out on the street right now, but since he didn't give me a pardon, I'm in prison. Therefore, it's the governor's fault I'm in prison, not mine."
    Would you be swayed by that logic? I doubt it. Instead, you'd reply that the criminal is behind bars for crimes he committed--because he killed somebody, he robbed somebody, he stole something or he extorted something, etc. He broke the law, that's why he's in prison. Now, the criminal might be out if the governor chose to exercise mercy, but that isn't why he's in. He's in because he's a criminal.

    The same thing is true with us. We're in deep trouble with God because we are criminals against Him. If we go to hell, it's for only one reason: because we've broken His law. Those who are punished are not punished unjustly. They are punished justly because they're guilty. It would only be unjust if they weren't guilty.

    If God chooses to exercise mercy on some people, on the other hand, well, that seems to me to be His prerogative. It's His ball game; it's His mercy. That's what grace means: undeserved, unmerited, and not required. He doesn't have to do it. There's no obligation. God can forgive whomever He wills.

    So, God is the cause of people going to heaven. However, the cause of people going to hell is their own sin.

    But there's a fourth question that comes up because of statements like Jesus' in Matthew 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." Peter also writes that, "The Lord...is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).

    Verses like these prompt a question. If these verses say that God wills all men to be saved, then how can Calvinists say that God only wills the elect to be saved? This is a very fair question, but poses problems for all Christians, not just Calvinists.

    The problem is that the Bible seems to indicate in these verses that God has a will for something which doesn't get done. Israel didn't come to Jesus, though He willed it. Not everyone is saved, though God wills it. Yet at the same time, the Bible says that nothing can thwart God's will. Check out Dan. 4:35: "And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'"

    Now, isn't that a strong statement? Doesn't that indicate--especially in the context of Daniel 4, the unfolding of world history--that the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing in the sense that they cannot disrupt God's plan? He does what He wants. So, if it says in Daniel that God does according to His will and no one wards off His hand, and then we read in 2 Peter 3 that God wills we all be saved and yet we're not all saved, then clearly we can ward off His hand.

    Guess what we've got here, ladies and gentlemen. We've got an honest to goodness, bona fide contradiction. Daniel says nothing can violate God's will. Peter says, clearly, something can, because God wants all to be saved, yet all are not. Therefore, we do violate God's will. Now, how is it possible that God's will can be violated and can't be violated at the same time? It sounds like a contradiction.

    There's only one way out. The law of non-contradiction states that "A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same way." The only way these teachings are not contradictory is if God's "will" in one case does not mean the same thing as God's "will" in the other case. This is the only way out.

    The words "God's will" can mean two different things. Or, to put it another way, you can have different "wills" of God, or two aspects of the will of God. The simplest way to describe them is God's moral will--what He morally desires, but doesn't always take place (like salvation for everyone)--and God's sovereign will--described in Daniel 4 and other places--that which He purposes to take place and which always happens.

    Two wills of God. Moral will and sovereign will. Moral will entails all those things God wants us to do, yet we may disobey. God wants us to be saved, yet many are not. God wanted Israel to turn to Jesus, yet most did not. God wants all kinds of things of His people--He wills those things--but they don't come to pass. There's a sense of God's will that can be violated.


    If you reject the notion that there are two aspects of God's will...you have one of two choices. Either God is not sovereign, or God is the author of evil and there is no such thing as disobedience.


    Yet, at the same time, there are other things which are clearly stated about God's will that He intends actually come to pass. We see some of those details in the book of Daniel, and this is why Daniel makes the statement that God's will, in this sense, cannot be violated. Daniel's statements can only be sound if we're talking about a different aspect of God's will. If we're not talking about a different will, then we have a contradiction.
    If you reject the notion that there are two aspects of God's will-- sovereign and moral--and don't want to concede the obvious contradiction, you have one of two choices. Either all of God's will is moral, or all of God's will is sovereign.

    If you choose the first option, that there is only one aspect of God's will--the moral aspect--which can be broken by our free choices, then it's hard to see how God can have ultimate and sovereign control over human history if our choice is the deciding factor. You might take refuge in the element of God's omniscience, as I mentioned above. I think that explains some things, but I think the full sense of God's sovereignty entails more than just incorrigible anticipation of our moves.

    If, on the other hand, God's sovereign will is the only concept taught in Scripture, then there can be no immorality. Everything we do is something that He, as the primary and sufficient cause, irrevocably ordains. We don't choose to disobey His moral will; we're just doing what God has already caused us to do. This would make God the direct author of evil.

    Either God is not sovereign, or God is the author of evil and there is no such thing as disobedience. These are unacceptable alternatives because the Scripture clearly teaches otherwise. Clearly, it seems to me, there are two different wills of God. There's a moral will and there's a sovereign will. And if that's the case, then this removes the fourth objection.

    By the way, none of my responses establishes Calvinism as true. I could have, in the same spirit, also refuted bad arguments against Arminianism, though that wouldn't establish the truth of that view, either.

    What it means is that some of the objections raised against Calvinism don't stand, ultimately, and must give way. There might be other objections which are good objections, but not these. If you want to undermine or disprove the Reformed point of view on salvation, then you have to find some other way. Maybe that way can be found. However, the objections I've just described are not good objections to Reformed theology. Calvinism will have to be defeated on other grounds.
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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    Thanks for the good post. Enjoyed reading it and seeing some of the charges erroneously leveled against the sovereignty of God answered in language that even the simplest minds can understand.
     
  3. Eric B

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    Nobody denies that there are two wills in God; it's just that the other side sees a different pair of wills; eternal and permissive. His eternal will would kind of correspond to the "moral will" mentioned, in which He wills all to be saved. Yet the other will, rather than being "sovereign" is "permissive", in which He allows people to refuse salvation. This seems to better reconcile God's sovereignty/man's responsibility than to have, essentially two non-permissive wills that will opposite things. Since the scripture does not explicitly delineate the different wills, this is where we have to agree to disagree.
    The analogy of the criminal and the governor is not exact, because the governor did not create that person in that state, or pass down that state from a decision some ancestor of his made. But God "concluded all in unbelief so he can have mercy on all"(Romans 11:31-2)
     
  4. William C

    William C
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    [​IMG]
     
  5. Sularis

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    There is a problem with good ole Greg's examples

    1) not all Calvinists will say God elects by foreknowledge

    2) God isnt affecting events - He's responding to them - lesser sovereignty

    (Heck I believe that God may react to our choices, but He does so by then distinctively manipulating events in a sovereign manner (ie plagues of Egypt) God leads us into an ambush, He doesnt passively sit around thugging and a mugging only whoever walks the corner)

    3) If I owe you a million dollars and you cancel the debt sure you're not violating my will, but guess what - Im going to assume something is up, try and put off that generous gift, make it into installments, do anything possible, to make sure, I earned it. My landlady gave me reduced rent throughout my unemployment, I took it, and now she complains about it. Thats how people view that scenario.

    4) Lets look at the Hell thing again shall we, those people who got out, are vicious, murderous, sinful pieces of human defecation that could ever exist, and yet they are granted mercy, but the guy next cell block over, who lets you borrow his cigarettes, crash in his cell, will loan you cash when yer short, and generally is an all-around nice guy, but just happened to jay-walk, is left in jail.

    There is claimed no reason for the mercy, and if there truly is no reason for that mercy, then GOD does send people to Hell - for surely He can save all

    Yes grace is unmerited, unearned favour, but the problem is People are forgetting Justice when they play with Mercy

    Either God treats all equal - or else God becomes responsible - God cannot violate One aspect of His nature to indulge in another. The mercy shown must not violate justice.
     
  6. DanielFive

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    That's your problem, you can't earn it.

    You have a distorted view of sin. Murder, adultery, rape etc are perhaps the most obvious sins but if you had any real comprehension of how many times you have broken the two great commandments in the last week, day or even in the last hour you wouldn't be using this analogy. All sin is punishable by death. The jay-walker may not be a murderer but he has still committed sin worthy of the death penalty.
     
  7. Sularis

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    Enda thats my point

    The problem is you are thinking the people here on Earth are damned - Nope not a single person on this planet is DAMNED UNTIL THEY DIE!

    They may be guilty, but they have not been judged

    I know a guy very like what I would be if I was not a Christian

    Hes a nice guy, but Hes going to Hell
    Im not

    We're almost identical except Im going to Heaven
    He's going to Hell

    Why is that?

    Grace - I get mercy shown me

    Justice demands we both get treated equally as sinners

    I dont think Mercy demands that we dont

    Yer not getting the concept that Justice is never stopped in its application

    If God pardons me, independent of any action, thought or personal merit, but doesnt pardon my damned twin, who is the same as me - He is in some small way unjust

    The only way God can get out of this blame is there to be a reason for my pardon, and my twins damnation

    If I apply choice to the situation then Justice is fulfilled.
     
  8. DanielFive

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    Sularis, if you'll permit me to use your example:

    You and your friend will face judgement individually.

    Your friend will stand before God and will recieve the just sentence of death. He is guilty of sin and cannot claim that this sentence has been passed unjustly.

    You will stand before God and will recieve the reward of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. What kind of logic would call this judgement unjust? Rejoice in God's mercy. What is it to you what he does with this other man?

    Having recieved eternal life through no merit of your own, are you then going to stand before God and accuse Him of being unjust or are you going to delight in His mercy toward you?
     
  9. Sularis

    Sularis
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    Thats an emotional argument Enda

    not based on Scripture OR logic

    But to answer it - knowing me - Id complain so much God would kick me out
     
  10. William C

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    That is just it. In the Calvinistic system this guy would not be justly condemned.

    Why?

    Because according to Calvinist he was born without the capasity to clearly see and understand the things of God.

    Romans 1 shows us that man's ability to see and understand are necessary capasities to their being without excuse on that day of judgement. Calvinism's teaching removes those abilities from man thus giving him a perfect excuse on the day of judgement making their condemnation unjust.

    This is the verse in Romans 1 to which I am refering:
    20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
     
  11. Yelsew

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    Whether one believes as Calvin believed, or as Arminius believed makes not one whit of difference.

    The only belief that matters is the of belief by which God judges ALL humanity by, and that is By belief in God. That Belief must be belief that changes one from sinner to saint, not just belief that God exists, but belief that results in faithworks.

    If a man believes in God, regardless of how that belief came to him, God will save that man!

    Both Calvin and Arminius acknowledge that to be true! So everything else is merely "legalistic speculation".
     
  12. tnelson

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    Rom.1:20
    Invisible attributes - This refers specifically to the two mentioned in this vers.

    "By the things that are made"- The creation delivers a clear, unmistakable message about God's person(cf. Pss 19:1-8, 94:9, Acts 14:15-17, 17:23-28).

    "His eteral power"- The Creator, who made all that we wee around us and constantly sustains it, must be a being of awesome power.

    "Godhead"- His divine nature, particularly His faithfulness (Gen. 8:21-22,) kindness, and graciousness. (Acts.14:17)

    "they are without excuse."- God holds all men responsible for their refusal to acknowledge what He has shown them of Himself in His creation. Even those who have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel have received a clear witness about the existence and character of God and have suppressed it.

    Rom. 1:21
    "knew God"- Man is conscious of God's existence, power, and divine nature through general revelation (vv.19,20).

    "they did not glorify Him"- Man's chief end is to glorify God (Lev.10:3, 1 Chr.16:24-29, Ps.148, Rom.15:5-6, and Scripture constantly demands it (Ps.29:1-2, 1 Cor.10:31, Rev.4:11). To glorify Him is to honor Him, to accknowledge His attributes, and to praise Him for His perfections (cf.Ex.34:5-7). It is to recongnize His glory and extol Him for it. Failing to give Him glory is man's greatest affront to his Creator (Acts 12:22-23)

    "nor were thankful"- They refused to acknowledge that every good thing they enjoyed came from God(Matt.5:45, Acts 14:15-17, 1 Tim.6:17, James 1:17)

    "futile"- Man's search for meaning and purpose will produce only vain, meaningless conclusions.

    "hearts were darkened"- When man rejects the truth, the darkness of spiritual falsehood replaces it (cf. John 3:19-20).

    Rom.1:22
    "Professing to be wise, they become fools"- Man rationalezes his sin and proves his utter foolishness by devising and believing his own philosophies about God, the universe, and himself (cf. Pss.14:1, 53:1).

    Calvinism teaches that man is without excuse just like God's Word says.

    mike [​IMG]
     
  13. Sularis

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    Uh Uh Tnelson me boyo

    If people cant accept God because they're dead - then neither can they reject them

    The action belongs solely to God

    -----------------------------------------

    Its one of those catch-22's

    -----------------------------------------

    I believe everyone has the ability to believe, but not the desire
     
  14. William C

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    This is my point Mike. It says their hearts were darkened, not that they were born darkened as Calvinism suggests. Notice that even your explaination of this text is that the darkness replaces truth only after man rejects it. This naturally assumes that man did in fact understand what he was rejecting.

    Calvinism teaches that man cannot understand truths about God. And that we are born with darkened hearts, not that they become that way following our rebellion.
     
  15. Felix

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    That is just not true. God's General Revelation (creation, conscience, etc.) is given to all men. And these are already 'some' truths about God.
    Second when you say that we are not born with darkened hearts, how do you understand these verses: Rom 8: "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

    But, Brother Bill, seriously. To continue this thread would you be so kind to express your thoughts and understanding what the Scripture teaches about the Fall of Man. What did mankind loose in the fall? What did we have before the fall that we don't have now?

    Your thoughts on these would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

    Felix
     

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