Calvinists, help me out here...

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Skandelon, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. Skandelon

    Skandelon
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    I have been having a discussion with Calvinist about the sovereignity of God in relation to evil (in particular moral evil/sin). I keep telling him he is not consistant in representing Orthadox Calvinism but he insists that he is. I think some of the statements he makes are fine, but it just seems he goes way over the line with other statements.

    Here are some of them, could you tell me your thoughts:

    1) God determines the sinful choices and unbelief of men
    2) God creates/produces moral evil (sin).
    3) God is the primary cause of sin
    4) The decretive will of God includes the sinful actions of free human agents
    5) God must desire evil in some sense
    6) God caused/produced the people's unbelief

    This appears to me to be a view of double-predestination held by Hyper-Calvinists, which Calvinistic scholars such as Piper, Sproul and MacArthur would denounce. Am I wrong?
     
  2. prophecynut

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    I'm for double-predestination and so is Sproul.
    You can't have one without the other- Love and marriage, Love and marriage......
     
  3. GeneMBridges

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    This is orthodox Calvinism in that all things proceed from the sovereign decree that they so exist. He is prime mover. If something was to exist outside of His sovereign decree He would not be God. Anything less is inconsistent with the nature of a Being that is absolute actuality without any potentiality in Him. See #6 for clarification on unbelief. The hyperCalvinist will agree that God does this, but they tend to do away with the idea of secondary causes and say that God actively decrees all things. Orthodox Calvinism distinguishes between the primary cause (God's sovereign decree) and God's passive decrees, whereby man is the one that is allowed to continue in such a way that the sovereign decree is accomplished. When He intervenes actively, it is to do good, like to accomplish the salvation of His children in time and space. The hyperCalvinist will say that God also actively intervenes to accomplish reprobation.

    As the primary cause of all that exists, yes. As the author of evil, no. That is left to secondary causes. Again, the hyperCalvinist will read that as saying God is the primary cause of both, because secondary causes do not really exist in the same sense as the traditional Reformed position articulates.

    Yes, man is the secondary cause. God Himself is not the author of sin, in that He does not create and did not create fresh evil in the hearts of men. Adam and Eve were created innocent. They were given libertine free will, as is consistent with the intrinsic nature of an innocent being. They freely chose to sin.

    However, God is the primary cause. Without the existence of sin, God could not show Himself to be a forgiving God. Only a truly good God would do such a thing. An evil God would not do this, because it requires that there be something called intrinsic ontological good in order to evil to exist as the absence of good. (See Norm Geisler, Christian Apologetics on Theism; also Thomas C. Oden The Living God...Oden is an Arminian)

    Yes, if not then God is not sovereign. God is the creator of all things; therefore nothing that exists, including sin, exists apart from His decree. Since God created man, sin must therefore proceed from His decretive will, but not as fresh evil that He creates in man. The hyperCalvinist will say that God's decretive will is only ever accomplished in an active manner, e.g. by direct intervention. The orthodox Calvinist will say, "NO!" because that would necessarily entail God actually creating fresh evil in a person's heart to, say, lie. He might loosen His restraints on a person's speech so that they can and do lie a certain way, so as to deceive somebody that God is about to temporally judge, but God does not "tell" that person word for word what to say or actually put the idea into their head; He simply loosens His grip on their mind in such a way that the deception is accomplished and that the other person's mind is persuaded so that they will act accordingly and, let's say, do something stupid in their sin and get arrested. On the other hand, God may actively harden a sinful persons heart, like Pharaoh, but He did not tell Pharaoh what to do or say, Pharaoh merely acted in accordance with his own sinful desires. The same is true of the events of the crucifixion week. Peter explicitly says that God predestined those very events occur. Man freely accomplished God's decree in accordance with His plan of redemption that necessarily included Jesus be arrested, tried, beaten, condemned by the mob, the mob accept Barabbas, and Jesus be crucified. God also accomplished the movement of the gospel outside of Jerusalem largely through the persecutions of Saul, before he was saved. God, however, did not force Saul or anybody else to sin or do those evil things. They voluntarily did them on their own as God either hardened their hearts or loosened His restraints on their hearts at those specific times and places.

    Yes, but His desire that it exist is not evil. If God did not desire evil in some ultimate sense, then it would simply not exist. God's will that it exists is, itself good, in that the existence of evil allows God to show He is a God that redeems and a holy God that judges. The existence of evil proves that this desire is effective, just as our existence proves that God's desire we continue in existence is also effective. However, the means by which evil exists and we exist are different. In Hebrews 11:3, the verb that says that Jesus Himself upholds the universe by the word of His power is active. Thus, God is actively sustaining the existence of evil, because evil is part of the universe and Jesus is God. On the other hand, He does not create fresh new evil and has not ever accomplished the primary causation of evil by an active creation of it. That was accomplished via the free agency of Satan and the fallen ones and men, who were created with libertine free will. Their free, libertine choice to fall set their free agency (Man lost libertine free will in the fall, because he ceased being innocent and came to know good and evil. The nature of innocence is to have libertine free will; the nature of true good, like God, and of true evil, like Satan, and of that which is evil but can do acts of relative good, like man is free agency, because then it has constraints of character, e.g. desires, which are the limits of the scope of available choices) against God's free agency, which is true good and thus evil was brought into existence that way, via secondary causes. It continues to exist in that God, specifically Jesus, e.g. God the Son, actively sustains the existence of the things that freely do evil things, not because Jesus actively creates evil things in the fallen ones and men to keep in existence.

    Yes, only isofar as God created those persons that do not believe and the existence of their unbelief can not exceed the scope of all existence, and all existence is caused by God. However, if by that, this means that God causes men to not be saved by an active, effective act, NO. HyperCalvinism adheres to that belief. This is called "equal ultimacy."

    Parallel this with election. Election proceeds as an active effective decree when it moves into time, called "calling." This results in regeneration, and man then freely and voluntarily believes as is consistent with being made spiritually alive. Traditional Calvinism would say that there is a decree of reprobation that is made to come to pass as a passive decree, in that all those not so chosen by God unto salvation are simply passed over and allowed to continue their own way. HyperCalvinism would disagree with traditional Calvinism and say that God sends a corresponding negative active decree of "calling" into the hearts of all the reprobate so as to ensure their condemnation.

    The idea is that man is not a puppet or robot. His choices are real and responsible. At the same time, nothing exists or can possibly exist apart from God's sovereign decree, including sin and evil. Some things are actively decreed and accomplished, like the election of individuals to salvation. Others are passively decreed and accomplished, like the reprobation of the lost. Thus, God Himself can be said to will all that is. He even predestined certain evil things, like the crucifixion. Paul even specifically says He blinds the hearts of evil men from time to time, in order to accomplish His purposes. However, He does not accomplish these things by putting fresh evil in their hearts. On the contrary, He restrains mens' evil all the time, so that it can be said that one way that God ensures that His purposes are accomplished is by not restraining evil from time to time, like a pressure valve, or by withholding His blessing. Sometimes, He is present in evil only to sustain its existence other times using it to punish, but never by actually creating fresh evil in the hearts of those that accomplish it.

    For example, some will mistakenly say that hell is the absence of God's presence. At face value this can not be, because God is omnipresent. He can not not be everywhere in the totality of His being. If so, He would, by definition, not be omnipresent, thus He would not be God. God is most certainly present in hell, but He is not present to bless, He is present to punish and to sustain the existence of the souls in hell, or else they would not exist at all. Thus, in that sense God is justly willing that they exist, that all restraints on their evil desires, lusts, and natures by lifted, and sustaining their existence for all eternity there where His wrath is poured out on them for their sins in this life, which they freely and voluntarily and willingly continued in doing, including their unbelief in the Lord Jesus if they heard the gospel, but which He did not actively cause them to do.

    This also applies to Satan. Satan is a fallen angel, and thus actually does God's bidding in that he is still functioning as an angel, though he is completely and utterly evil. Because God created Satan, he can still control him, and Scripture even says that God sends evil spirits to accomplish His bidding from time to time. They do this willingly, the idea being that God wants something done that will require an evil spirit that, for example, deceives, and a demon volunteers and willingly does the job, because it is its nature to do that. However, that demon, by willingly and voluntarily doing evil, also takes moral responsibility for doing the evil and will be judged accordingly. God Himself did not act in an evil way, nor did He force the demon to do evil, and His judgment on somebody (for some sins result in continued deceptions, like homosexuality), was accomplished.

    In short, men, angels, and the fallen ones all willingly and voluntarily do whatever God Himself has sovereignly decreed, including sin, but God Himself does not dirty His own hands in the process. God does not create fresh unbelief in the hearts of the unregenerate toward Christ, because they are willingly and naturally unbelieving already. On that point, we disagree with HyperCalvinists, as well as on the idea that God's will is always accomplished via active interventions on His part particularly with respect to things like sin and unbelief. Those are done passively or, if actively, only by confirming the natural hardness of a sinner's own heart or rounding up some already evil spirit to do something He wants done for some purpose that is good, right, and just and never unjust, evil, or undeserved. Piper, Sproul, and MacArthur do not denounce "double predestination." They denouce "equal ultimacy."
     
  4. koreahog2005

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    Gene, you did a good job explaining the differences between orthodox Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism, especially in regard to primary and secondary causes. You said this in regard to Adam:

    I would like for you to clarify what you mean by “libertine free will” in the case of Adam and Eve. My impression is that orthodox five-point Calvinists are not in total agreement on the exact nature of the free will that Adam and Eve had before their first sins. Arthur Pink thought Adam formed a sinful bias from equipoise. R.C. Sproul believes that forming a bias from equipoise is impossible but that Adam nevertheless had some type of free will. If I remember correctly, in other posts you have referred to Gannon Murphy’s classification of intrinsic monergism, synergism, and extrinsic monergism (in regard to the decision to receive salvation).
    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/Murphy01.html
    In what sense did Adam make his freewill choice? You said that God did not create fresh evil in the heart of Adam, so from where did Adam’s evil impulse come? Did it only come from Adam (intrinsic monergism)? Did it come from Adam plus someone else like Satan or God (synergism)? I think you ruled out extrinsic monergism by saying that Adam had free will and that God did not place fresh evil in Adam’s heart.

    Gene, you made the following comments about Satan and humans:

    Correct me if I am misinterpreting what you are saying, but my impression is that you believe that Satan became a free agent after his fall. So, after his fall, Satan was inclined toward evil. Please clarify what you think Satan’s condition was before his fall. Was Satan created with an inclination toward good, or was he created in equipoise? I agree with you that God is a free agent. God has always been and will always be inclined toward good. God thus does not have free will in the sense of forming a bias from equipoise. Do you believe that Satan’s sin was totally self-caused (intrinsic monergism)?

    I have one more related question. Many five-point Calvinists say that free will was impossible in the cases of Adam and Satan because God could not have known the future with certainty if He did not at the same time also know that in some sense He would “tip the scales” and cause Adam and Satan to commit their first sins. Do you think God knew with absolute certainty that Adam and Satan would indeed commit their first sins even though He in no sense caused their sins through primary or secondary causes?
     
  5. Skandelon

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    According to his book Chosen By God he does not support the positive-positive decree of God in that God doesn't decree to actively work unbelief or sin the non-elect in the same way He would belief and obedience in the elect. He believes in a positive-negative view in which God actively works belief in the lives of the elect but passes over the rest to follow their own desires. That seems to contradict the comments of this man who claims God causes/produced/creates/determines sin.
     
  6. Skandelon

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    Gene,

    Thank you for the time you put into your answer. That helps me understand my friends perspective. I think most of the confusion comes from the connotation of words such as "produce, create, determine, cause" etc.

    They come across as being positive decrees and not a negative ("passing over/ permitting") decree that Sproul explains. It seems that most modern scholars avoid such words for that reason, don't you think?

    I mean, you have to admit it does seem contradictory to say God created sin but then say God is not the author of sin. It certainly requires extensive explaination for those of us who are not perfectly fimiliar with all the nuaises of the system. Wouldn't you agree?
     
  7. GeneMBridges

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    koreahog2005,

    With regards to Adam:

    I will not theorize outside of what Scripture says. Scripture does teach that there is free agency, not libertine free will.

    Free agency is simply a free ability to choose within the constraints of nature.

    If we are created in God's image, then we necessary have free agency. God can not sin because it is contrary to His character, e.g. His nature. Because He is absolute actuality without any potentiality in Him, He can not, therefore, since He is good have any absence of good in Him, for this is what is required to do evil.

    There is also free agency with respect to evil. Satan would be an example. Man is fallen as well, thus his ability to choose falls within those constraints, which are the constraints laid down by Scripture, that very clearly include not having any ability to submit to God, understand spiritual things, or come to Christ.

    However, Scripture teaches that Adam and Eve were innocent. An innocent being does not know good nor does it know evil. It is necessarily neutral or indeterminate. Therefore, we can say that libertine free will is possible within the constraints of free agency, because free agency is defined as the capacity to will within the constraints of one's intrinsic character. In ohter words, "libertine" free will is not absolute freedom because there are moral constraints: the moral constraints of innocence with are not NEITHER good or evil (for that would be the absence of good and evil); the constraints of innocence with a choice given to obey are disobey are necessarily EITHER good or evil. There is good present, but there is a potential for evil present as well, for evil is the absence of good, thus the intrinsic goodness is not with respect to the moral nature it is with respect to the state of innocence. THAT is what is good, not the moral nature, e.g. moral agency. This does not mean that evil necessarily exists as a positive state of actuality, it exists as a negative state of potentiality.

    You like the term equipoise. I do not, because that begs the issue of Molinism and has God actualizing different circumstances. IMO, Molinism is incoherent at best. If this is what you affirm, then I suggest heading over to http://www.christianlogic.com/forums/index.html?sid=77992b3a6972b62ee5e64757ca7d5f7c . I'd be interested in an articulation of your beliefs on equipoise/middle knowledge there, where the environment is a bit more, err, academic. Alternatively, for a wider scope of interaction on such topics, I like www.carm.org . (Scroll down for the boards).

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled innocence...

    Innocence is necessarily in a state of potentiality with relationship to BOTH good and evil and desire. It can form one intrinsically extrinisically monergistic act if God so wills that to be, as long as that creature has a will, is truly innocent. Intrinsic monergism is ruled out by Murphy because man is fallen and dead. An innocent man is alive and CAN therefore, produce some kind of monergistic desire of his own accord, because there is a state of actuality (innocence) with the moral and natural capacity to do good OR evil. His moral ability is indeterminate, not good, not evil, and, since he was given a choice to make and the ability to make it, intrinisic monergism is not illogical, because, at that point, one is spiritually ALIVE and not dead. Being spiritually dead is what leads to the logically impossible self-causation in Murphy.

    I would say that what happened in Adam would be called internal (within the being) extrinsic (a state of actuality actualizing a potentiality, negatively, in short, negating its own actuality of innocence to a state of potentiality with respect to moral ability/agency to good) monergism or intrinsic extrinsic monergism, in that the desires of the spirit were innocent, but necessarily capable of actualizing one of two states of potentiality, eternal spirtual death or eternal spiritual life. In choosing the way he did, Adam, from a state of innocence thus caused his own death, spirtually, he committed suicide. This is not illogical, because it does not involve absolute intrinsic monergism, as there is a state of actual innocence with a will that can go one way or the other and this is what actualized the potentiality of sinful desire and brought forth death. This ability was lost in the fall and necessarily resulted in man's free agency toward evil.

    Where was this state of actuality located? Apparently in the mind itself, because what is depicted in the narrative is Adam disobeying a direct command from God, thus acting irrationally. Rationality CAN and does manifestly give rise to irrationality, irrationality led to sin, thus is likely the force that actualized the potentiality to eternal spiritual death and thus Adam (and Eve) died, e.g. set their own and their posterities free agency in the direction of sin and evil, freely and voluntarily.

    Synergism logically leads to dualism because, in synergism, intrinsic monergism from a dead thing is necessary or, if, as in the Catholic view, there is life still in that person, the soul is in a state of actuality, so either it commits "spiritual suicide" and falls into the fallacy of self-causation or real dualism, which is what classic dispensationalism actually posits.

    With respect to Satan, I can only postulate something similar, (e.g. if we use the fall of man as a model, there may be a similar state of innocence in the angels at their creation as well), but since Scripture does not indicate that to be so, I will go no further. My concern is the state of man and Satan now, not prior to their fall. What we know is that he acts in accordance with his own, utterly depraved nature, (in contrast with our totally depraved nature), which is probably because the angels are a higher created order of being that is qualitatively different than us, and that he is said to have fallen, which suggests a state of innocence may be granted to all God's creatures that share His communicable attribute of spirituality when they were all first created. (Animals and lower orders of being would not share in this, because Scripture does not teach they have spirits).
     
  8. GeneMBridges

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    Yes, I agree. There is a tendency to avoid "classical" language because of the evolution of English words over time. These kinds of discussions are really best suited to a classroom where there is a degree of agreement and explanation over how such words are used or understood.

    The reason I was able to answer you was because I am probably going to end up teaching a class on Theology Proper in the near future so I'm actually in the midst of reviewing it for that reason.


    Yes, and that is why I spend so much time using terms like "actuality" and "potentiality." and "secondary" causes, "effective," etc. Fortunately, with the exception of Open Theists, by and large both Reformed soteriology and Arminian soteriology within the evangelical tradition generally share their Theology Proper. Being an Arminian, I recommend you get a copy of The Living God by Thomas C. Oden. You might also look at Cottrell, Miley, or Wiley. For more on the Reformed perspective, try Grudem, Gill, Berkof, or Erikson.

    Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology has an excellent bibliography that lists theologies on this from no less than 44 different theologians from nine different theological traditions. Look on page 353.
     
  9. Skandelon

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    Thanks for your help Gene, you really helped me communicate better with my buddy.

    I've read Gill and Erikson back when I was a Calvinist, but its been a while. I'm not fimilar with Grudem's work, but if I get a chance I'll look him up next time I'm at the library.

    Thanks again.
     
  10. koreahog2005

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    Gene, thanks for clarifying your perspective. I do reject Molinism because it conflicts with unconditional election in my TUP system. If you have time and want to critique my approximately 100-page manuscript that gives the details of my TUP system, I'll email it to you. The manuscript changes occasionally. Let me know your address by emailing me. Mine is as follows:
    [email protected]
    By the way, I know a couple of missionaries from your church, Robert and Deborah Nichols. They were some of our best friends at MLC in January through March, 1996.
     
  11. johnp.

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    I've just posted the stuff below on the thread 'CALVINISTS, please answer this question.' and thought it might be of interest here.

    ... it is better to put the cause of our condition and the resulting consequences squarely on God whether we are talking about Christians or the others.
    That not only is our righteousness due entirely to Him but so are our sins.
    Preaching this message, a message that all men are under the direct control of God for good or bad, will elicit the correct response from those we talk to. Only this message will elicit the response Paul expects to hear, "Why does God still blame us for who resists His will." Rom 9:19.
    You won't get that response from any other message.

    Whatcha think?

    johnp. :cool:
     
  12. Wes Outwest

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    Who is man to blame God for anything man does?

    God controls neither man's righteousness nor man's unrighteousness! With the exception of God's elect! He allows man full latitude. God judges the result! Those found righteous through faith are given everlasting life as God's free gift to believers, those found lacking faith are cast into the lake of fire as God's judgement for their unrighteousness.

    The choice is ours!
    Reference: Matthew 1:1 throught Revelation 22:21
     
  13. rc

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    So God is a respector of persons then huh Wes?
    No one seeks after God no not one.

    God respects those who had enough "understanding" to recognize their despairity? God respects those smart enough, or humble enough... Wow... the H.S. pleads and begs us to be drawn and if we can choose Him we are "GOOD" enough for Him to RESPECT us with His grace...
     
  14. Ray Berrian

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    rc,

    You said, ‘God respects those who had enough "understanding" to recognize their despairity? God respects those smart enough, or humble enough... Wow... the H.S. pleads and begs us to be drawn and if we can choose Him we are "GOOD" enough for Him to RESPECT us with His grace...’ [/quote]

    You are a lot closer to the truth in your statement above than the mantra that you try to embellish in your postings.

    God has willed, that human beings, created in the image of God, can understand their lost state, as the Spirit brings this to their attention. We probably would say that people under a 75 I.Q. might not be able to understand they are sinners; but what about the rest of the population? Yes, the Holy Spirit pleads for sinners to repent and turn to the Lord God. 'He reproves the world of sin', says, John 16:8. He loved the world enough to call them toward His redemptive plan for the ages. [John 3:16] At the end of the world His wrath will become a reality to those He pleaded with during time, who refused His love and grace.

    If sinners do not choose Christ we will be led to the rim of eternal destruction. If we choose Him, He makes us good, would be the better way of expressing the truth.

    Yes, He respects those who believe on the Son so much so that He adopts us into the family of God.
     
  15. Wes Outwest

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    NO, rc, God is not a respector of persons! God established the standard whereby man gets saved. Those who have met and will meet the standard get saved, those who do not meet the standard are cast into the lake of fire! Again, the choice is yours!
     
  16. rc

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    Wes... if He sets up a standard then He RESPECTS the one who meets it...

    Ray... sorry about the "we can understand understand our lost state" You can only do that if you have a spiritual understanding since that's the type of state man is to judge... unfortunatly that is not scriptural.

    1 Corinthians 2:14 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is NOT ABLE to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

    No man seeks after God..NO ONE...
     
  17. ILUVLIGHT

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    Hi RC;
    Not so.
    1Pe 1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
    1Pe 1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

    May Christ Shine His Light On Us All;
    Mike [​IMG]
     
  18. rc

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    All that says is that the prophets who ALREADY HAD THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST in them searched... sorry... We're talking about man in his NATURAL STATE...
     
  19. Wes Outwest

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    RESPECTS and ACCEPTS are two different concepts of operation!

    God owes nothing to any man, But he does accept the man who meets His standard for man!

    God does not bow to any man, but He willingly greets those who meet his standard and welcomes them into his family.

    God pays homage to no man, but sees those who have faith in Him as acceptable human beings (created things don't ya know).
     
  20. rc

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    NO ONE SEEKS AFTER GOD.. NO ONE. No one meets His standards. Man's heart is wicked! Man is spiritual discerned... If God left it up solely to man to choose NO ONE would be saved. Thank God for His love to His enemies that He would pardon His elect!
     

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