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Featured The Philosophy of Calvinism

Discussion in 'Calvinism & Arminianism Debate' started by JonC, Nov 12, 2020.

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  1. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    Calvinism is derived systematically from Scripture. By definition (of systematic theology) Calvinism is dependent on scripture and extra-biblical sources. Extra-biblical sources include philosophy, cultural influences, contemporary issues (at the time of development), prior theological writings and opinions (historical theology), and human reasoning.

    One thing to remember – Calvinism as the Doctrines of Grace, TULIP, or the Canons of Dort were not self-standing expressions or complete theological formations. The Canons of Dort were a response to and rebuttal of the Five Articles of the Remonstrance which were articles put forward by then-Calvinists concerning the philosophical question predestination as it relates to the problem of evil.

    Is Calvinism Theology or Philosophy?

    Calvinism itself, as defined by “the Doctrines of Grace” or TULIP is not a theology but rather a religious philosophy associated with the branch of theology called soteriology (the study of salvation). This does not make Calvinism wrong, but it would be wrong to refer to Calvinism itself as a study of salvation (as a soteriology) and even more incorrect to refer to Calvinism as a theology.

    Historical Calvinism, on the other hand, as defined by the system of belief held by John Calvin and further developed by Theodore Beza is a theology and Calvin’s Institutes is a Systematic Theology. The soteriology within Calvinistic Theology is more developed and complex than the issues of divine predestination within salvation (than Calvinism as a religious philosophy).

    Calvinism as we use it (TULIP or the Doctrines of Grace) begin with Historical Calvinist’s answer to the Remonstrates concerning the philosophical question of predestination and the problem of sin.

    What philosophical presuppositions is Calvinism built upon?

    The most obvious starting point for Calvinism is the assumption that one philosophy of justice, retributive justice, is descriptive of divine justice and how God deals with man in a moral sense.

    Another equally important but perhaps less on the surface is the philosophy concerning types of substitution and punishment. There are two primary ideas of punishment. They are punishment as healing or preventing evils and punishment as retribution or balancing out the wrong done. Aquinas argued that an innocent man could justly be punished in the place of a guilty man (provided all parties were in agreement) BUT no man can justly be punished for the sins of another. John Calvin was trained as a lawyer rather than a theologian. When he reformed Aquinas’ position he decided that an innocent man could not only be punished for a guilty man, but also that he could be punished for the sins of the guilty man.

    Linked with the two is the philosophical idea that sin can be treated as a thing and this thing be spoken of independently of the sinner. Sins, therefore, can be transferred from one person to another person. Sins themselves can be punished. Those two things being assumed, sins can be transferred from one person to another person and punished on or in that other person. This can be viewed as just based on Calvin’s reworking of Aquinas’ idea of atonement.

    There are many other philosophical and theoretical ideas upon which Calvinism is built. One is the assumption that moral justness is at the heart of God’s work of reconciliation. Another is that righteousness is a moral (rather than relational). And of course, there are many others. But I think what is listed is at the very foundation of Calvinism.
     
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  2. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    Total Depravity?

    The bases?
     
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  3. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    When Total Depravity was developed it was not different than the Arminian view. It was used to speak against Article 1. Calvinism is based in Scripture (to include depravity to the extent that men are in need of a rebirth and do not come to God by their own accord but by the calling or drawing of the Spirit). Affirming depravity does not mean that Calvinism is not a product of systematic theology.

    I am not sure what you mean by the bases. Calvinism does not begin with "total depravity". It began with addressing the philosophical question of the Remonstrance regarding predestination and the problem of evil.
     
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  4. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I think I may need to reemphasize that just because a system or doctrine is the product of Systematic Theology does not mean it is incorrect or that we should not hold a doctrine to be true.

    We are called to reason out Scripture, to work through the Bible. By necessity we incorporate things like philosophy, the ideas of previous generations, human reasoning, and even contemporary cultural influences (although we try to keep these at a minimum).

    What is written in Scripture is objective. It is there, concrete, and will not change. But our understanding of objective Scripture contains a degree of subjectivity.

    I think it is important for us to be able to discern where scripture ends and our understanding begins. We need to identify our own presuppositions and the worldviews, ideologies, philosophies, and reasonings that contribute to our views. Here I'm looking at Calvinism, but the principles apply to any view. The first...FIRST...thing that we need to do when studying Scripture and evaluating doctrine is to identify our own presuppositions (what we carry into the text).

    Where Calvinists often fail is that many take for granted that their understanding is "the plain meaning" of a text. The "plain reading" of an ancient text means reading the text in accordance to our assumptions, within our worldview, with our ideologies, and in a contemporary setting. It is always wrong (even if the conclusions are right).
     
  5. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    Calvinism actually starts in the Person and Nature of God, and extends outward to include us!
     
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  6. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    As far as scripture goes Calvinism as it relates to salvation goes (and post-Beza, since we are post-Beza) it begins with Divine Sovereignty. Calvin did not place sovereignty as concretely as did Beza (I do not know why).

    But all theologies, theories, systems of religious thought, ect. start with scripture insofar as that aspect goes.

    The difference is what each does with scripture to come up with its conclusions. Can Calvinists defend the presuppositions used to develop Calvinism from Scripture? Yes, some anyway.

    BUT can Calvinists here defend the presuppositions used to develop their conclusions from Scripture? That is the question. And thus far most who have dealt with the topic cannot even identify, much less defend, their presuppositions.
     
  7. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    All theology starts with the Persons and nature of God!
     
  8. atpollard

    atpollard Well-Known Member

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    At least one here (my mind reading hat is at the cleaners, so I can only speak for myself) built the conclusions of TU*IP independent of any "reformed" input (I was Church of God at the time) and based on a foundation having NOTHING to do with "Justice" or "Punishment".

    Starting from Nihilism, death and depravity are a given. It is a simple point of fact that I would still worship and serve God even if there was no afterlife with a Heaven or Hell. The benefits in THIS LIFE alone make it worthwhile. I believe the Doctrines of Grace for the same reason that I believe in Newtonian Physics ... it explains the empirical universe around me.
    • I was "bent" in every part of my being.
    • The was no reason why God should have chosen me over many others.
    • (I don't know for sure who else Christ died for, but He claims that He died so that I could live.)
    • I was drawn to God when I was not seeking Him and was His enemy, even as He was my friend.
    • I did not start this, God did, so I see no reason to think that I can "unchange" myself and prevent God from finishing what He started.
     
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  9. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    No, all theology does not start with the Persons and nature of God. In fact, if we use the Bible as our standard for theology (as the measure for its validity) then a theology that starts with the Persons and nature of God is a false theology.

    All true theology starts with the Person and actions of Christ and is first and foremost Christ-centered. Any "theology" that begins anywhere else is not a real theology but a backdoor attempt at understanding God. Theology is the "study of God". God cannot be studied except as revealed to us by Christ.
     
  10. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    We do not focus on Jesus alone, we must focus on all 3 of the Trinity!
     
  11. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I like this example (and your explanation). This is how I often approach witnessing the gospel.

    I get in my car, hit the start button (almost said "turn the key), put it in gear and press the gas. I move forward. I do not have to know the details of a combustion engine or be a mechanic to trust that the car will take me on my journey. But knowing that the car works, and that it is necessary for my journey, I can from that point examine the thing.


    Probably my best argument against your explanation (maybe the only legitimate argument) is that perhaps there are other just as valid explanations for the conclusions to which you arrive.

    In looking at this I started as a Calvinist. I still hold the same conclusions. But I arrive at those conclusions differently.
     
  12. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    That is an extraordinary claim. I cannot agree with you on this one, at least as it is written and how I read it. I do not think scripture agrees with you here.

    Do you have a passage in mind to support your statement?
     
  13. MB

    MB Well-Known Member

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    I believe it starts with all the members of the God head drawing the man or woman. At least in my case God caught my attention with a sermon. As if the sermon was meant for me. It convicted me and convinced me Of Christ. That He died for even me.It did not occurred to me that He would die for me. The sermon convinced me that His way is the only way and I agreed.
    MB
     
  14. Rob_BW

    Rob_BW Well-Known Member
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    So we should all pull our systematic theologies off of the bookshelves and rip out the chapters labeled soteriology? Or would it be easier to re-label these tomes as systematic theological philosophies? Since nearly all of the other topics covered therein come about in the same manner as Calvinism.
     
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  15. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    No. That is not my point.

    My point is that we have to realize where Scripture ends and our understanding begins. That is, we have to be able to identify our own presuppositions. They may be correct, but they are not scripture.

    What we can discuss is how our philosophical leanings differ, and how we approach the text of scripture differently. We can only do this if we are able to identify that our theologies are not, in fact, scripture itself.

    But I do absolutely agree that this applies beyond Calvinism. We see as through a glass dimly. We have to keep this in mind and consider that there is a human element between what is written and what is understood.
     
  16. atpollard

    atpollard Well-Known Member

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    ... and a Holy Spirit to keep you from driving your car into the ditch ("if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." - Romans 8:9)
     
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  17. Rob_BW

    Rob_BW Well-Known Member
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    I can agree that we should realize that there are areas where our understanding may fall short, and that we should show grace to each other when discussing these areas.

    I don't see the point in stripping away the meaning of the word theology to the point where it becomes useless.
     
  18. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I do not mean to with my comments.

    I am saying that TULIP is not "theogy". It is an answer to a philosophical question posed in the Five Articles concerning predestination and the problem of evil. It is religious philosophy (that can fit inside a theology).
     
  19. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    Most of therm that I have read, if not all, started out with the Person and Nature of the Trinity before anything else doctrines wise!
     
  20. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    Genesis 1, in the beginning God! Mess up the nature and Persons of the Godhead, and all of ones theology is junk....
     
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