Objections to Calvinism: Exegetical or Philosophical?

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Monergist, Dec 7, 2004.

  1. Monergist

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    This is just an observation, but are not most arguments against Calvinism philosophical in nature rather than based upon a clear and precise exegesis of scripture?

    For instance, the typical argument against predestination stresses a belief that a loving God could never pass over some and choose others; but the argument is made apart from any Bible text that states that it would be unjust for God to do so. God is 'forced' into a man-conceived definition of 'love' and that definition determines the parameters to which God must conform.

    The main reason that am drawn to the teachings of Calvinism is that I see time and again that those who hold that view generally accept the clear word of scripture without making philosophical objections. The main reason that I oppose teachings contrary to Calvinism is that arguments seem to be philosophical; or if exegesis of some relevant text is used, it seems to be selective, sporadic, and inconsistent.
     
  2. Timtoolman

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    Hard to answer this since I think your perspective is cockeyed here. But if it makes you feel comfortable in your belief then so be it.
    I find it odd that most of christdom doesn't accept calvin's teaching. Many great men of God have not accepted this following of John Calvin and have presented many scriptures (and hold true to the meaning of the context, instead of scriptual gymnastics to make it fit the teachings of a John Calvin), alot on this board and yet you make that statement it is philosophical. It tends to confirm my sterotype of calvinist who are great talkers but not good listeners. They love to build a strawman, maybe this is another one, and tear it down regardless of what the other person they are having a discussion with is saying.
    Tim
     
  3. Bro Tony

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    I think the opening statement in this thread can be said of any issue of dissagreement. It seems that we all think our view is the biblically correct one while our opponents are coming from a purely philosophical perspective.

    Bro Tony
     
  4. Ray Berrian

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    Monergist,

    The very opposite is true as to what you are trying to format.

    Calvinism is the philosophy coming out of the spiritual darkness of Augustine’s era who lived between 354-430. He was a student of Plato and Aristotle and commingled their pagan views about the impersonal god that they thought about, with this beloved saint of the Roman Catholic Church’s view of the true and Triune Godhead. From the start truth was mixed with error and was sanctified by the holy Roman Catholic Church.

    Even as the Apostle Paul was writing to the Colossian church he said that soon 'the philosophies and traditions of men' would infiltrate into His church. [Colossians 2:8]

    Martin Luther’s life was shrouded with all of the erring doctrines of his church cleaving to himself while trying to rehabilitate the R.C.C., because of her abuses. He did not want to leave his church but as time went on it was apparent to himself that he was on the outside looking into his own beloved church.

    This man, Luther, who was crawling down cathedral church isles to gain acceptance with God, simply after he believed in justification by faith did not turn into this all knowing interpreter of the Christian faith. One of the barnacles cleaving to him was ‘the bondage of the will’. His church dogmas continued even after the Protestant Reformation to this very hour.

    The strident Dr. R.C. Sproul says in his book, “Grace Unknown” Baker Books, 1997 p. 189:

    ‘Virtually nothing in John Calvin’s view of predestination . . . . was not first in Martin Luther, and before Luther in Augustine.’

    Does anyone think that these men changed all of their theology just because they providentially stumbled on to the truth of justification by faith alone? One of these doctrines was ‘infant baptism.’ I am not saying whether it is right or wrong, but it was a ‘hand me down idea’ taught and utilized for hundreds of years before their conversion to Jesus Christ, which was always ministered in the Roman Catholic Church. :rolleyes:
     
  5. nwells

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    Will anyone address this:
    "the typical argument against predestination stresses a belief that a loving God could never pass over some and choose others"

    I believe that is a true statement.

    Take the conversion of Saul/Paul as an example.

    Why did God not do the same for Pilate or Caiaphas?

    The argument that is giving above (that God would never do such a thing as choosing and not choosing another) cannot be universally true - since Saul did nothing to deserve this vision from God (in fact he was doing very BAD things).

    So how can the argument be based on the Bible when even in just this one place - it is shown not to be true?

    Many cite "God wishes that none would parish"

    But in doing so, they make God having to wait on the will of man - which God says He does not do - so God does not wish that any would parish - He does not love the destruction of the wicked, but people parish because God wills things to happen for His own glory - God displays His glory through the wicked perishing and so they parish (Romans 9).

    Proverbs 16:4 (NASB95)
    The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.

    That God does not desire that any would parish falls in the same line as God saying He repented from making man - will we say He was suprised by man's sin? No, we cannot for He knows all things - and yet He says that He wished that He did not create them - if that were true in the same way we repent from things (meaning that if we knew better we would not have done it), then why did He make men, knowing what they would do?

    He is in control - is there doubt?

    Just some thoughts,
    Nathan

    [ December 07, 2004, 10:33 PM: Message edited by: nwells ]
     
  6. Monergist

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    Ray,

    I'm not arguing as to whether or not Calvinism is a 'philosophy' (you state that it is, and I will agree up that point)--- I'm arguing that the objections to it are philosophical rather than exegetical, that they are arguments not derived from principles in scripture but from notions about who God must be and what He must be like.

    Nathan has some good thoughts on this. Maybe we can start by answering his questions.
     
  7. swaimj

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    Monergist, there is a litany of verses that contradict the calvinistic position. There is no shortage of simple, honest, and straitforward explanations of those texts in threads on this board. If you reject the explanations, that's fine, but don't act like they don't exist. As to the philosophical objections to calvinism, it is really hard to see how one can be a full five-point calvinist without being deterministic, yea, even fatalistic. The SHOULD make you uncomfortable.
     
  8. dean198

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    "The main reason that am drawn to the teachings of Calvinism is that I see time and again that those who hold that view generally accept the clear word of scripture without making philosophical objections. The main reason that I oppose teachings contrary to Calvinism is that arguments seem to be philosophical; or if exegesis of some relevant text is used, it seems to be selective, sporadic, and inconsistent."

    Read my article,
    www.geocities.com/radical_christianity/calvinist.doc
     
  9. nwells

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    Tim,

    What you say is true:
    "most of christdom doesn't accept calvin's teaching. Many great men of God have not accepted this following of John Calvin"

    Both you and Ray cite the fact that these men of God were flawed, and no one will deny you. I believe it was Calvin himself who said he did not believe anyone was able to have more than 80% of this theology in total line with Scripture because we are flawed in our thinking.

    But while you try to smeare those who believed in the all controling will of God (Total Lordship over all things, including the will of man) you forget who was opposed to these men.

    To cite one man, Pelagius - the one who Augustine was against:

    He, "denied the primitive state in paradise and original sin (cf. P. L., XXX, 678, "Insaniunt, qui de Adam per traducem asserunt ad nos venire peccatum"), insisted on the naturalness of concupiscence and the death of the body, and ascribed the actual existence and universality of sin to the bad example which Adam set by his first sin. As all his ideas were chiefly rooted in the old, pagan philosophy, especially in the popular system of the Stoics, rather than in Christianity, he regarded the moral strength of man's will (liberum arbitrium), when steeled by asceticism, as sufficient in itself to desire and to attain the loftiest ideal of virtue. The value of Christ's redemption was, in his opinion, limited mainly to instruction (doctrina) and example (exemplum), which the Saviour threw into the balance as a counterweight against Adam's wicked example, so that nature retains the ability to conquer sin and to gain eternal life even without the aid of grace."

    Caelestius on the side with Pelagius said these things:

    1. Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died.

    2. Adam's sin harmed only himself, not the human race.

    3. Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.

    4. The whole human race neither dies through Adam's sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of Christ.

    5. The (Mosaic Law) is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.

    6. Even before the advent of Christ there were men who were without sin.

    It is said, "On account of these doctrines, which clearly contain the quintessence of Pelagianism, Caelestius was summoned to appear before a synod at Carthage (411); but he refused to retract them, alleging that the inheritance of Adam's sin was an open question and hence its denial was no heresy. As a result he was not only excluded from ordination, but his six theses were condemned. He declared his intention of appealing to the pope in Rome, but without executing his design went to Ephesus in Asia Minor, where he was ordained a priest."

    The pope excluded Pelagius and Caelestius from communion with the church until they would come to their senses.

    A synonym for Arminianism is Semi-Pelagianism (semi, because if you are a Pelagianist, you are a heretic, although Arminius never claimed to be of any Pelagian bent) as Augustinianism is a synonym for Calvinism.

    "Jacobus Arminius held to the thought that to speak of the predestination of individuals before they have been created, and therefore to speak of the reprobation of individuals before they could have sinned, is to render God monstrous; and that the position of Beza and his supporters can only mean that God is deemed to be the author of sin. (Cardinal Bellarmine agreed with Arminius, adding that the high Calvinist position rendered God the only sinner.) This notion undercuts human culpability and renders God's judgement pointless."

    "Arminius maintained that Pelagianism predicated the will's response to grace entirely of nature or partially of nature (in the case of semi-Pelagianism), whereas the will's response to grace is grace-wrought without being grace-wrenched. A concomitant of his position is that believers can "make shipwreck" of faith. Yet they need not fear doing so, paradoxically, in that the gift of grace (and therefore of faith) includes a gift of filial fear that renders believers non-presumptuous and non-cavalier but ever spiritually vigilant and therein "kept" by the power of God."

    He had said he wanted only "to inquire with all earnestness in the Holy Scriptures for divine truth…for the purpose of winning some souls to Christ, that I might be a sweet savour to him."

    "Semi-Pelagianism involved doctrines, upheld during the period from 427 to 529, that rejected the extreme views both of Pelagius and of Augustine in regards to the priority of divine grace and human will in the initial work of salvation. The label "Semi - Pelagian," however, is a relatively modern expression, which apparently appeared first in the Lutheran Formula of Concord (1577), and became associated with the theology of the Jesuit Luis Molina (1535 - 1600). The term, nevertheless, was not a happy choice, because the so-called Semi - Pelagians wanted to be anything but half - Pelagians. It would be more correct to call them Semi - Augustinians who, while rejecting the doctrines of Pelagius and respecting Augustine, were not willing to follow the ultimate consequences of his theology."

    "The pivotal issue of Semi - Pelagianism, is the priority of the human will over the grace of God in the initial work of salvation"

    Interesting history...and there is more if you want it though this is quite a bit.

    We must remember - those we smear had a desire to follow after God in His truth (I would not say that of Pelagian, but I would of Arminius and John Wesley who I didn't mention).

    -Nathan
     
  10. nwells

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    Dean,

    I do not have time now to write an anti-thesis to your paper, nor do I plan to write one. But in reading over some of your document I read this:

    "The problem with Calvinism is the fatalistic slant that it gives to everything"

    This is only one facet of what you were talking about, I realize that. But I will address this one facet.

    It is written (I am using the Amplified New Testament):
    John 6:28-29
    "They then said, What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God? [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?]
    Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger]."


    So they ask what they should do and Jesus says they should believe. Simple enough?

    But watch what Jesus says next:
    John 6:63-65
    63 It is the Spirit Who gives life [He is the Life-giver]; the flesh conveys no benefit whatever [there is no profit in it]. The words (truths) that I have been speaking to you are spirit and life.
    64 But [still] some of you fail to believe and trust and have faith. For Jesus knew from the first who did not believe and had no faith and who would betray Him and be false to Him.
    65 And He said, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him [unless he is enabled to do so] by the Father."


    The words Jesus say here (He says it twice as He would to make emphasis and as would Jews for that was their way, one translated draw and the other granted in NAS95): Believe in Me - oh but wait, you don't believe because my Father did not draw you He didn't grant it to you that you would believe.

    That seems fatalistic by the definition you gave to me. Is it not? If you say it is not, what of the one who Jesus knew would betray Him? Did that man (Judas) have any other road to walk on except the one that led to hell? And don't you dare say that Judas was an exception. If God found Judas guilty - responsible for his own actions even though his actions were ordained by God from before the foundation of the world then Judas never had an option to believe - from a human perspective - It was not granted to him to believe and so he did not believe. He was created for wrath - for the glory of God.

    If it is as I have said - than the whole Armenian argument that, God cannot rightly judge and send to hell a man whose actions (whether he would believe or reject and not only that but even his evil or good actions) were predestined from the foundations of the world, is of no consequence.

    I believe I have been fair in my interpretation - it is my desire to stay true to what God is saying and not what I think He is saying. I may be wrong - but again, I believe what I believe because I see that the Bible teaches me these things - that God is Lord over all, including the will of man.

    Because He lives,
    Nathan

    [ December 08, 2004, 01:43 AM: Message edited by: nwells ]
     
  11. nwells

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    One more thing.

    If what I wrote is true than the whole problem Arminius had with Calvin in that he, "thought that to speak of the predestination of individuals before they have been created, and therefore to speak of the reprobation of individuals before they could have sinned, is to render God monstrous", is not a Biblical problem but rather a Biblical fact and the problem is with humans having a problem with what God has said He has done and does.

    Did God not ordain Judas, before Judas did anything good or evil, to betray Jesus and in that ordain that Judas go to hell for his actions even though Judas, from a human perspective, could do nothing other than betray Jesus? Or did He not?

    What does the Bible say?

    -Nathan
     
  12. Timtoolman

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    My pt was that most born again christians do not adhere or follow the teachings of John Calvin. I was not saying he was flawed. I was makeing the statement that most reject his teachings. yet Mon makes the statement that these people have no scriptural arguement but philosophical arguements. However they give tons of scripure as many have on this board.
    Then I stated also how calvinist like to build their strawmen and proceed to tear it down, totally ignorant and deaf to what the other is actually saying. You seem to prove my pt by going into all these neat little groups that calvinist have arranged people in then say what is wrong with each one. I fit in none of those but yet would be peg by a calvinist as one, and all put me in a different one and proceed to argue with me from that stand pt. rather I am coming from there or not!
    I find the calvinist not to be philosophical honest. Hey if you believe God does not call all then tell it from your pulpits, do not have invitations, tell your children when you have devotions with them or pray that hey, I hope you are one of the elect! But if not praise God for He is sending you to hell for His Glory. Hyper calvinist I find at least practice what their philosophical belief is by not wittnessing to others.
    I don't believe that either side has it 100% right but I know for sure that John Calvin's teachings are not God's. IMHO ;)

    IN Christ
    Tim
     
  13. Matt Black

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    To refer back to the OP, I think it is the case that, for me, philosophical objections do play a large part in my rejection of Calvinism, with particular reference to the first point of the OP. BUT - and here is where I believe that the OP is a straw man - there is absolutely nothing wrong with that philosophical position being a tool of rigorous exegesis, especially when that philosophical position is rooted in Scripture itself eg: "God is love", reference to fairness and justice, God revealed in the Incarnation in Scripture etc. That, for me, is a classic example of 'Scripture interpreting Scripture'

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  14. nwells

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    Here's an example that comes to mind - this is simplistic by design.

    A person reads Acts 16:31a, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved"

    Then they read John 6:65b, "no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father"


    And then it goes like this, "I see that I can believe in Jesus - so when Jesus says I cannot believe it must be not that I do not have the ability to believe but that it is only because God made a road for me to walk on that I can believe. God did everything except the last step and that is for me to believe. So then, God waits on me, trying to make me want to come to Him by wooing me with His love, and then when I come by faith I am rewarded with salvation. But those who do not believe, could have believed if they wanted, but they did not want to because they did not see value in following Jesus Christ, and so because of that, they are not saved - even though God made the way open for them, they chose not to believe.

    Of course Jesus does not tell people to believe and then not allow them to believe! That would be like a jailer telling his prisoners to go free without opening the door! I believe because God made the way for me to believe, but believing is not up to God, it is my own free choice and no one can make that choice for me, not even God because that would not be right."


    But I would say that the verse in John gives insight to why someone would believe. John is giving God's perspective while in Acts, man's perspective is given.

    In God's perspective - NO ONE BELIEVES IN CHRIST UNLESS GOD GIVES HIM THE ABILITY (GRANTS IT TO HIM)

    In man's perspective - I BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE I WANT TO, BECAUSE I CHOOSE THAT WHICH I MOST DESIRE AT ANY MOMENT - NO ONE FORCES ME, I FOLLOW MY OWN HEART

    So for there to be a call to all men, "REPENT!" is not a statement about how repentance works - only that it is said to all men.

    But when the Bible talks about why people come to God and it says because God granted it to them - shall we say no?

    There are two perspectives:
    James 4:13-17 (NASB95)
    13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
    14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
    15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
    16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
    17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.


    One I believe focuses on the inner-workings of God's will in regard to men.

    The other focuses on speaking to men the same way we would speak to others.

    Jesus frequently goes back and forth to both perspectives in very close proximity:


    Matthew 11:27-30 (NASB95)
    27 “ All things have been handed over to Me by My Father ; and no one knows the Son except the Father ; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son , and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
    28 “ Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden , and I will give you rest .
    29 “ Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart , and you will find rest for your souls .
    30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light .”


    The first Jesus says no one knows the Father except those who the Son wills to reveal the Father to.

    Then seconds later He goes on to say, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden"

    Why not have the same perspective as Jesus has?

    He wills only some to know the Father - and at the same time - He calls out to all men to have rest in Him.

    Something to think about,
    Nathan
     
  15. Monergist

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    Fatalism says what will be will be. We say that what will be has been ordained by a loving, wise and powerful God. This is a huge difference. This brings not a lack of comfort, but great reace.
     
  16. Monergist

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    I read a good portion of it. Though its well-written, and you make your points clearly, there's quite a bit there that I can't accept.

    Your allegation that calvinists are dead and dry is unwarranted. Obviously, I cannot judge your friends from which you made this determination, as I do not know them, but seeing that your sample base is quite limited and does not take into account the wealth of material that has been produced by Puritans and other calvinists regarding experiential Christianity, I have to say that your conclusion is flawed.

    Your statements that Calvin "enthroned human reason" and that the calvinistic view of sin is "heathenish" are shocking, and in my view, irresponsible.

    Then I get to the real zinger- Your denial of the Doctrine of Imputed Righteousness. This is a most important tenet of the orthodox Christian faith-- one that is very much under attack today.

    I stopped reading there. I suggest that you read John Piper's Counted Righteous in Christ
    for starters, as he lays out a clear teaching on this important doctrine. I cannot take this article as a serious rebuttal of calvinist belief, while there are some things here that I could only merely quibble with, at this point the article goes into serious error.
     
  17. Dale

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    C.H. Spurgeon was a very dry preacher of a very dead church ;)
    The funny thing is that I have heard people deny that he was a calvinist. I personally don't hold to all of the doctrines of Calvin but I do believe in the total sovereignty of God and the total unrighteousness of man.
    All I need to do is to look at my own life and it backs up everything the bible teaches on this subject.
     
  18. TakeChrist4Life

    TakeChrist4Life
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    Monergist,

    I too read Dean’s document and I agree that it was very well written, but you respond as if you didn’t read it at all. He never made a claim that Calvinists are dead and dry. He very pointedly said that this was his impression of the Calvinist brothers he was associating with, and that he was not making this a sweeping statement on all Calvinists. I don’t understand why you would accuse him of saying Calvinists are dead and dry, when he very clearly did not.

    You went on to say that he denied the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness, which again is something he did not do. I’ve been silently keeping up with this discussion, and for the most part your responses have been reasonable, which is why I was so surprised that you would respond with statements that totally misrepresent what he said. If you disagree with his paper, that’s fine, but don’t throw up straw-man arguments that the author never made.
     
  19. Monergist

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    I don't want this thread getting off topic, so I'll only respond this one time. Certainly anyone can read the article and draw their own conclusions.

    The serious objection that I have is regarding imputed righteousness. Some direct quotes:

    This one statement "Clearly faith itself is counted for righteousness, not the object of faith" condemns the whole argument as being radically unbiblical.
     
  20. TakeChrist4Life

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    Monergist,

    You wrote: This one statement "Clearly faith itself is counted for righteousness, not the object of faith" condemns the whole argument as being radically unbiblical.

    TakeCHRIST4Life: I hate to go off topic as well, so I’ll respond to this not expecting a response back. You say the statement is radically unbiblical, but given the context in which he said it could you explain why or how, instead of just declaring it to be so.
     

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