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One of the mysteries of Scripture is that “God desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), and yet all are not saved. Some think that this desire of God means that all must be saved in the end; others think that God only desires the salvation of all kinds of people, not all individuals; others believe that God cannot accomplish this desire given the nature of genuine love.

John Piper’s essay, “Are There Two Wills in God?” has been the most helpful piece for me in wrestling with this. Here is an excerpt:

Putting it in my own words, Edwards said that the infinite complexity of the divine mind is such that God has the capacity to look at the world through two lenses. He can look through a narrow lens or through a wide-angle lens.

When God looks at a painful or wicked event through his narrow lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin for what it is in itself and he is angered and grieved. “I do not delight in the death of anyone, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 18:32).

But when God looks at a painful or wicked event through his wide-angle lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees it in all the connections and effects that form a pattern or mosaic stretching into eternity. This mosaic, with all its (good and evil) parts he does delight in (Psalm 115:3).

God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

For example, who can comprehend that the Lord hears in one moment of time the prayers of ten million Christians around the world, and sympathizes with each one personally and individually like a caring Father (as Hebrews 4:15 says he will), even though among those ten million prayers some are broken-hearted and some are bursting with joy? How can God weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice when they are both coming to him at the same time--in fact are always coming to him with no break at all?

Or who can comprehend that God is angry at the sin of the world every day (Psalm 7:11), and yet every day, every moment, he is rejoicing with tremendous joy because somewhere in the world a sinner is repenting (Luke 15:7,10,23)?

Who can comprehend that God continually burns with hot anger at the rebellion of the wicked, grieves over the unholy speech of his people (Ephesians 4:29-30), yet takes pleasure in them daily (Psalm 149:4), and ceaselessly makes merry over penitent prodigals who come home?

Who of us could say what complex of emotions is not possible for God?

All we have to go on here is what he has chosen to tell us in the Bible. And what he has told us is that there is a sense in which he does not experience pleasure in the judgment of the wicked, and there is a sense in which he does.


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Comments:


87 thoughts on “The Complex of God’s Emotions: Beware of Putting God in a Box”

    1. henrybish says:

      I read that Paul Helm post, I’m fine with what he says, but it doesn’t seem to address verses Piper is talking about like Ezekiel 18:23:

      For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.

      1. henrybish says:

        Or the ESV:

        Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18:23

  1. Kara says:

    This is one of the most difficult things for me to understand about God…I remember struggling with this when reading that “God hardened Pharoah’s heart”…but yet Pharoah also chose to reject God’s warnings…it honestly is still confusing, but I very much appreciate this post.
    I trust God.
    And that His love is for all.
    That He desires all to know and love Him.
    But that He is also holy and righteous.
    And cannot excuse sin.

    1. Billy Liu says:

      Here’s how I think of it, perhaps it can be of some help for you to understand…

      Word of God is like a sword right? But of course God won’t just use that sword to forcibly pierce thru all of us. God only gently pokes around and knock on our hearts’ doors to give people a chance to respond first. Imagine a preacher delivering the same Word of God, some hearts will be pierced and come to faith and repentance, while others will choose to harden their hearts and reject the message. So you see how God’s same action can have different results due to people’s free will? For Pharaoh, that’s precisely what happened too. God’s Words thru Moses did manage to harden Pharaoh’s heart, but it is Pharaoh himself who decide to harden his own heart. If it were some other Pharaoh, perhaps the guy would’ve relented earlier and let the Jews go… Of perhaps he would’ve treated the Jews much better and they wouldn’t want to go with Moses… Anyway, that’s all speculation. Point is God used this particular proud Pharaoh to get some good out of it.(Get the Jews started on moving into the Promise land) God didn’t violate his freewill, God simply knew he’d harden his heart because he had a huge ego… Anyway, hope this helps? ;)

  2. Arminian says:

    Dr. Thomas McCall has offered a compelling refutation of Piper’s 2 wills theory on pp. 240-242 of this article available on line: http://evangelicalarminians.org/McCall-We-Believe-in-Gods-Sovereign-Goodnes-A-Rejoinder-to-John-Piper. Complex emotions of the sort Piper mentions in some other cases is one thing, but the Calvinistic 2 wills theory embroils God’s will in contradiction.

  3. Timothy says:

    I find Piper’s god strangely alienating. Is this apophatic theology, a theology in which the unknowableness of God is emphasised?

  4. Why describe God as complex, when the Reformed theological tradition prefers the simplicity of God? God’s decree is one single eternal act or decision, out of which all creative acts and providences flow.

  5. Timothy says:

    Having read the articles by McCall and the one by Piper as recommended by Arminian, is this also an explanation for why the Bell controversy has been so massive? According to McCall, and he seems quite logical here, the way out of the theological conundrums implied by the views of Piper et al is for universalism to be true. But Piper et al are also too biblical to accept universalism. Thus universalism represents a continual temptation away from the Bible. And this fear of temptation, a worthy thing of itself, leads to an asperity when confronted by universalism, or in Bell’s case, when universalism might be argued for.

    1. Andrew says:

      As an evangelical universalist, I’m probably not welcome here. But doesn’t this explanation by Dr Piper illustrate perfectly the speculative gymnastics you have to go through in order to avoid the plain meaning of scripture?

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        “As an evangelical universalist, I’m probably not welcome here. But doesn’t this explanation by Dr Piper illustrate perfectly the speculative gymnastics you have to go through in order to avoid the plain meaning of scripture?”

        This is a rather surprising turn of events. I always thought it was the evangelical universalist who tortured the Biblical text in order to avoid the plain meaning of Scripture’s teachings on Hell.

        1. Andrew says:

          Hi Mr Truth, don’t you love surprises? :) Yes, a lot of people think that about evangelical universalism, so I was being slightly tongue in cheek in addressing the same criticism at JP! I don’t know if you’ve actually read any EU books or tested their arguments against scripture, but most critics haven’t. When I began to study it I was initially surprised at how robust the biblical exegesis in favour of EU is and how surprisingly thin the biblical support for ECT is.

          1. Philip says:

            And thus, friends, we see the effects of private interpretation of Scripture. So much for the “perspicuity” of the Scriptures. Here we have two diametrically opposed theologies each claiming the perspicuity of Scripture for their own cause. Absurd.

            Andrew, does it not matter to you at all that such a doctrinal position has been violently opposed by the whole Church since the time of the Apostles? Really? It doesn’t matter one bit?

            1. Jason Pratt says:

              Except when it isn’t opposed by the whole church but was and is variably held and respected by large portions of the trinitarian church (typically in the East) throughout the centuries.

              Probably still a minority position. But universalism has not in fact been universally rejected.

              1. Andrew says:

                Thanks Jason.

            2. Jack Vale says:

              “Plain sense of scripture.” LOL! Let’s fill up 20 pages of comments disagreeing on the plain sense of scripture! It’s so much easier to just believe everyone else is stupid but me. I get the plain sense of scripture. And everyone else is an idiot, except my little group.

              1. Andrew says:

                Hi Jack, You are right. Trading verses will get us nowhere. At the end of the day the reason I am where I am on these issues is not because my proof verses are better than somebody else’s proof verses. Its because this new perspective seems to me to give a more consistent, compreshensive and true theology of God’s love and justice, compared to other perspectives I’m aware of. This is where I fit. I’m certainly not calling anyone “stupid” or “idiot” for not agreeing with me. If I can just trade ONE more verse – old habits die hard – Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1John 4.11).
                God bless you brother.

              2. Danny says:

                How can you have “justice” in a universalist view?

              3. Andrew says:

                Danny – I can’t see a reply button next to your comment so I’m replying here. A Christian universalist – in agreement with many Christians who are not universalists – would argue that God’s justice is restorative rather than retributive, as in Zechariah 7.9-10 “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.'”
                There are many books and articles surveying the OT and NT material on justice.

    2. Chris Wilson says:

      Andrew,

      I know what you mean about the appearance of hermeneutical gymnastics. That is always a frustrating part of and theological discussion. However, if we are to understand the Scriptures then sometimes we are forced to take two passages or groups of Scripture that appear on the surface to be contradictory and find the harmony that does in actuality exist between them. This is not an easy task.

      In this issue of God’s will, we have verses like 2 Peter 3:9 where God is “not wishing that any would perish” and 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 where Paul says those who reject Christ will “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” from God Himself.

      I may be dim, but the “plain meaning” of Scripture here makes it seem that God “wills” one thing yet does another… so what is up with that?

      I think that Piper is trying to preserve the plain meaning of both, and makes a right application that God is much more complex in his willing than we are able to fully comprehend.

      Well, that’s how I try to reconcile this issue : )

      1. Andrew says:

        Chris, Thanks for the explanation, that helps me to see where he is coming from. If ECT is a non-negotiable for you then this may well be the best harmonisation you can come up with. But, as you know, the translation of ‘olethron aionion’ as eternal destruction is not at all clear-cut. Not only is aionion more likely to mean ‘of the age to come’ (rather than eternal in the sense of everlasting, the meaning of ‘olethros’ is also unclear. Paul is the only NT writer who uses the word, and then only 4 times. One of these is 1 Corinthians 5.5 where Paul instructs the church to hand over an immoral man to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed (olethron) and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. This opens up the possibility of a similar meaning in 2 Thess 1.9, especially if we do not have ECT as a non-negotiable (See Gregory MacDonald “The Evangelical Universalist” p153 for a fuller explanation of this point).

    3. Arminian says:

      It should be noted that McCall is *not* a Universlist and does *not* argue for Universalism in the article. Rather, he is an Arminian showing that Piper’s view is untenable.

      1. Jason Pratt says:

        This is true, but it does illustrate something I have often seen: Calvinists critique Arminians on the ground that to resolve various Arm issues universalism would have to be true; and Arminians critique Calvinists on the ground that to resolve various Calv issues universalism would have to be true.

        As someone who grew up respecting both Calv and Arm teachers, I eventually took notice of this. {g}

  6. eugene lim says:

    Hi Justin.

    I have read your blog for years. I have been incredibly blessed by it in coming to enjoy the one true God.

    The past few posts though have been some of the most amazing every though. They have tackled real touch relevant issues that I believe many lay-people wrestle with, and they’ve been tackled in a way that is clear and definitive way, something hard to find anywhere else.

    Keep up the great work!

  7. Brad says:

    “Who of us could say what complex of emotions is not possible for God?”

    I certainly can’t speak for all of “us”, but I know that for 1900 years or so the very idea that God even had emotions was directly spoken against. The impassibility of God was a foundational attribute that was spoken of as if it was accepted by all.

    I for one shudder at the notion of an emotional God. But making god in its own image is perhaps what ever age does best.

    1. Laura says:

      The problem is, Brad, impassibility is badly misunderstood by us moderns.

      We affirm it, but we do NOT believe that it means that God is emotionless, and neither did anyone else for the last 1900 years. Impassibility simply means that God doesn’t suffer change, that his emotions aren’t capricious, that they don’t imply inconsistency in him as they do in us. I, for one, shudder to think of a God who is not stirred by the suffering of his people, or the vileness of sin, but who looks uncaring and unmoved on human affairs.

      1. Jason Pratt says:

        In agreement with Laura, the point to the doctrine of impassibility is that God is not affected against His will the way we often are in emotional reactions.

        That being said, while the scriptures do talk of God “being stirred” it would be more accurate to talk of God stirring Himself at the suffering of people and the vileness of sin. This is consonant with the voluntary passion of Jesus on the cross: He lays His own life down and takes it up again.

    2. Chris Wilson says:

      Brad,

      I agree that the idea of “an emotional God” is frightening… if we define “emotional” in human terms which are very capricious most often. And I certainly agree in the impassibility of God, but I don’t think impassibility must include the absence of true affections.

      Saying God has emotions is somewhat of an anthropomorphism, I think-using human terms to describe God. Of course doesn’t have long arms or eyes. Those images are used to give us an idea of how God interacts with us. But we were created with these features intentionally by God as an expression of how he works.

      I think the same is true of “emotion.” Sure God’s emotions are not the exact same as ours or function the exact same, but He does love, and hate, feel sorrow and grief. And since God is infinitely holy, or infinitely “other,” then is it not correct to say that his “emotions” are complex compared to our understanding?

  8. Loren Eaton says:

    This essay helped me understand God sovereignty more than any other theological work I’ve ever read.

  9. steve hays says:

    Andrew

    “As an evangelical universalist, I’m probably not welcome here. But doesn’t this explanation by Dr Piper illustrate perfectly the speculative gymnastics you have to go through in order to avoid the plain meaning of scripture?”

    i) As the link to Helm’s analysis demonstrates, Piper’s explanation is not the only option in Calvinism.

    ii) What about the speculative gymnastics a universalist must go through to avoid the plain meaning of Scripture on everlasting punishment?

    1. The Admiral of the steve hays Fan Club says:

      Point 2 is great. One must realize that many of the accusations leveled against Calvinism could not be answered by the accusers. Calvinism holds up better under Occam’s Razor versus Universalism. D.A. Carson will prove this when he speaks on the topic.

    2. Andrew says:

      Thanks Steve, I appreciate what you say and of course there are texts which are difficult for an evangelical universalist to explain, as there are difficult texts for Calvinists, Arminians, Catholics and everybody else. This is accepted by the EU writers (I’m thinking primarily of Gregory MacDonald and Tom Talbott) but they also each make a strong case that EU can address these difficulties more effectively than the competing views on hell can. I don’t know if you’ve read the books or visited the EU discussion forum, but you might just be surprised. I was.

  10. Arminian says:

    I mentioned McCall’s article in which he takes Piper’s view to task. Here is another, more succint and informal post that shows the problem with Pipers’ view and his attempt to saddle Armininism with the same problem that Calvinism has here. It contrasts Piper’s type of view and an Arminain view, revealing the deep divide between them, and demonstrating the inadequacy of Piper’s/the common Calvinist view and the soundness and common sense of the Arminian view: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Calvinism-Sovereignty-Two-Wills-in-God.

  11. steve hays says:

    Andrew

    “Hi Mr Truth, don’t you love surprises? :) Yes, a lot of people think that about evangelical universalism, so I was being slightly tongue in cheek in addressing the same criticism at JP! I don’t know if you’ve actually read any EU books or tested their arguments against scripture, but most critics haven’t. When I began to study it I was initially surprised at how robust the biblical exegesis in favour of EU is and how surprisingly thin the biblical support for ECT is.”

    I’m a critic of universalism. I’ve read (and reviewed) monographs defending universalism by Robin Parry (aka “Gregory McDonald”), Thomas Talbot, Jan Bonda, and Marilyn McCord Adams. In addition, I’ve directly debated Parry, Talbot, and Jason Pratt. Try again.

    1. Andrew says:

      I thought I recognised your name from somewhere. That puts you in a stronger position to discuss the issue than a lot of the contributors to this blog over the last few days. I’d be very interested to read and think about some of your criticisms of the writers you mention.

  12. steve hays says:

    Arminianism has a two-wills problem. On the one hand, Arminianism says God wants to save everyone, Christ died for everyone, the Holy Spirit confers prevenient sufficient grace on everyone.

    On the other hand, the Gospel is not available to everyone (unless you go the postmortem evangelism route).

    And even more problematic for Arminianism, God foreknew that by making certain people, he’d be consigning them to hell. So in what sense (even on Arminian assumptions) did he will the salvation of those he created in full knowledge of their hellish fate, even though he was at liberty to spare them that fate by refraining from making them in the first place?

    1. Russ says:

      Hello Steve, you wrote “On the other hand, the Gospel is not available to everyone (unless you go the postmortem evangelism route).”
      Prevenient Grace is God’s drawing, whooing, removal of hearts of stone, giving hearts of flesh. This takes many forms, creation in and of itself is a form of prevenient grace, it’s not just the preaching of the Gospel that draws men( although this is the most commonly God ordained means of drawing) Dreams, visions, are also somemore of God’s forms of Prevenient Grace… That being said, prevenient grace is poured forth on ALL.

      You also wrote: “And even more problematic for Arminianism, God foreknew that by making certain people, he’d be consigning them to hell. So in what sense (even on Arminian assumptions) did he will the salvation of those he created in full knowledge of their hellish fate, even though he was at liberty to spare them that fate by refraining from making them in the first place?”

      This is only one view of arminianism, the other is corporate. In other words, God doesn’t predistine individuals but rather 2 groups( The world whose final predestination is hell and the church whose final predestination is heaven). The following link is a good summation of corporate election. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_election

      Are not whole nations under curses right now, as they were in scripture? Look at Eygpt? Pharoah was the head, but as we read in Exodus, where Pharoah hardened his own heart against Israel before God ever told Moses that he would harden Pharoah’s heart. Then we also see that Pharoah hardened his heart again the first couple of plagues before God sealed the deal. In the corporate view the Nation Egypt, was set for destruction, but notice there not everyone of Egypt is Egypt, just like when paul said in Romans 9 not all of Israel is Israel(this group of people was set for glory) but the condition which holds for both groups Egypt and Israel is: What are you in union with? If Christ, then your Israel, if the world, your Egypt… Russ

      russ

    2. Arminian says:

      Steve said: “Arminianism has a two-wills problem. On the one hand, Arminianism says God wants to save everyone, Christ died for everyone, the Holy Spirit confers prevenient sufficient grace on everyone.

      On the other hand, the Gospel is not available to everyone (unless you go the postmortem evangelism route).”

      **** Christ draws all, but there is no need to give the gospel to those who resist God’s drawing grace at pre-gospel stages. If someone responds to God’s grace to the point that they are ready to hear the gospel, we can trust God to get the gospel to them, whether through missionaries or radio or dreams or visions or whatever means. God gives more grace and light to those who respond to the grace and light he gives them. So the fact that not all have access to the gospel now does not gainsay God’s genuine desire for them to come to him. Nor is this the only answer to your point, though it is the one I favor. Compelementarily, God has given us the mission to reach the world.

      Steve said: “And even more problematic for Arminianism, God foreknew that by making certain people, he’d be consigning them to hell. So in what sense (even on Arminian assumptions) did he will the salvation of those he created in full knowledge of their hellish fate, even though he was at liberty to spare them that fate by refraining from making them in the first place?”

      **** This is simply a false problem. Adapting wording from http://evangelicalarminians.org/bossmanham.Is-There-Trauma-in-Sovereignty.A-Response-to-James-Swan-by-Brennon-Hartshorn: If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person, otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong (since the person would not in fact do what God knew he would do; indeed, God’s foreknowledge of the person’s existence would be wrong as well!), and God cannot be wrong. Moreover, God can only know actual things abput people who will actually and certainly exist at some point. He cannot know what someone who never exists would do; there is no person there to ever know anything about.

      So the Calvinist attempt to saddle Arminianism with its own serious problems fails IMO. Indeed, the attempt only highlights how serious the problems for Calvinism are. For in the Calvinist view, God does not merely create people he knows will end up in Hell, but he unconditionally decides that they will commit all the sin they end up in Hell for and that they will reject his gospel and that they will therefore end up in Hell, and he decrees it to be, and they can do no other than he decrees. So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell, in Calvinism, he unconditionally decides that they will do all that is necessary to go to Hell and makes it so that they must do that and end up in Hell. He predestines their sin and that they go to Hell for what he irresistibly causes them to do. It is astounding to me that anyone believes that. Thankfully, Arminianism avoids such problems entirely with sound biblical theology.

  13. K says:

    These reformed blogs are getting more and more frustrating by the day. I honestly don’t know why I keep reading them. What is it with you guys thinking that your interpretation of scripture is so airtight and perfect? You take an incredibly difficult concept, reconciling divine wrath and divine love, and come up with an argument involving two lenses, and some sort of competing, schizophrenic attributes within God, and a “two wills” theory, etc. etc. and say, “There it is! That’s the most biblical explanation for how God works!” All done.

    Well, I wish you are all done there but you never are. I wouldn’t really mind all of your philosophizing if it weren’t for the fact that, right in the middle of a theological gymnastics routine, when you are mid air performing some sort of some complex summersault twist, you shout out, “Heretic!” at the guy on the ground who has made an equally powerful, possibly better, argument for reconciling the discrepancies between God’s salvific will, His wrath, and the character and work of Jesus. Christian Universalism isn’t going away, as much as you want it to. Your reformation wasn’t the last reformation the church will see, and I think you are going to be disappointed with the outcome of this one.

  14. steve hays says:

    Russ:

    “Prevenient Grace is God’s drawing, whooing, removal of hearts of stone, giving hearts of flesh. This takes many forms, creation in and of itself is a form of prevenient grace, it’s not just the preaching of the Gospel that draws men( although this is the most commonly God ordained means of drawing) Dreams, visions, are also somemore of God’s forms of Prevenient Grace… That being said, prevenient grace is poured forth on ALL.”

    I didn’t say otherwise. The question is whether believing the Gospel is a prerequisite for salvation. If so, even though the Gospel is not available to everyone, then God’s will is conflicted on Arminian grounds. A universal saving will absent a universal provision.

    You could suggest that belief in natural revelation is sufficient for salvation, but that wouldn’t be evangelical Arminianism.

    “This is only one view of arminianism, the other is corporate. In other words, God doesn’t predistine individuals but rather 2 groups( The world whose final predestination is hell and the church whose final predestination is heaven).”

    I didn’t discuss predestination. I didn’t discuss the basis for election or damnation in Arminian theology (whether conditional election or corporate election).

    Rather, I made a general point: classical Arminianism ascribes foreknowledge to God. Therefore, God knowingly and deliberately creates some people who will wind up in hell. Hence, he creates some people with the intention of damning them.

    Therefore, the Arminian God is conflicted. On the one hand it’s his will that all be saved. On the other hand he wills the damnation of some by making them despite their foreseeable, infernal fate.

    1. russ says:

      Steve, you wrote “Rather, I made a general point: classical Arminianism ascribes foreknowledge to God. Therefore, God knowingly and deliberately creates some people who will wind up in hell. Hence, he creates some people with the intention of damning them.

      Therefore, the Arminian God is conflicted. On the one hand it’s his will that all be saved. On the other hand he wills the damnation of some by making them despite their foreseeable, infernal fate.” How is this conflicting? God desires that none should perish, but at the same time frees them up to choose. He doesn’t make them believe “I” in tulip…. God does not desire a people that follow Him because he forces them to(irresistibly) If that was the case you would have to redefine the word gift to include the removal of choice to receive or reject the gift. russ

  15. steve hays says:

    K:

    “What is it with you guys thinking that your interpretation of scripture is so airtight and perfect?…Universalism isn’t going away, as much as you want it to.”

    Needless to say, universalists like Thomas Talbott and Eric Reitan are just as certain that universalism is true. Indeed, there’s a category for their position: “dogmatic universalism.”

    “…and some sort of competing, schizophrenic attributes within God…”

    i) Well, Reformed theologians like Paul Helm have argued that God isn’t schizophrenic. Did you follow the link?

    ii) But as far as that goes, isn’t there something schizophrenic about the universalist deity? Does he love everyone? Or does he love to be loved by everyone? He literally puts the damned through hell to coerce them into loving him back. Kinda like the way Annie Wilkes loves Paul Sheldon in Misery. Loving sledgehammers applied to the knees of her beloved captive.

    1. K says:

      You are right that Thomas Talbott and Eric Reitan are convinced universalists but they aren’t labeling anyone a heretic are they? If I am wrong, let me know. I’m fine with people being convinced of their convictions. It’s when you think you have to protect everyone from the other guys doctrine that it goes a little haywire. Especially when the other guy believes that the only person who can save anyone is Jesus Christ. I didn’t see a text from Talbott the last time Piper wrote a book from his reformed perspective saying, “Farewell John Piper.”We have too many common enemies (prosperity gospel and pluralism to name a couple) to divide over the issue of “who” Jesus’ sacrifice covers. The important thing is that it does cover and is the only thing that covers.

      In regards to a universalist God being schizo, I think you are mistaken. First of all, you don’t know what hell in the afterlife is going to be anymore than I do. However, we both have a general idea of how God uses suffering here and now. God often uses pain to love us back to him. C.S. Lewis anyone? Pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world? I have no problem believing in a God so big that He sees the bigger picture and allows suffering to enter into my life for a greater good, or that he hardened part of Israel to being salvation to the gentiles, or that He allows people to hit rock bottom in order for them to realize their need for Him. My friend gave his life to Christ as he was hugging a toilet throwing up after a night of excessive drugs and partying. This wasn’t schizo of God to bring him here. It was a severe mercy that God used to bring my friend to Christ.

      Look, there are a lot of questions that are hard to answer in our Christian faith. Why an all powerful, good God would allow any evil into the world at all? Why do animals suffer when there is no redemptive purpose? We could go on and on…

      I get that universalism doesn’t answer all the tough questions we are presented with, but that sort of proves my point. We aren’t putting God on trial for evil, or pain, or suffering. We are just believing, based up scripture, theology, and reason that God has a redemptive purpose in all of this suffering. We believe that He loves his creation (all of it) even if it is currently mixed up and distorted by sin. We believe he wants to redeem it and he will use whatever means necessary, even coming to earth to get nailed to a cross for it. It’s not all easy to understand, but it isnt schizo. Calvinism, on the other hand….I dunno…it’s been a little crazy from the start…

      You have to remember that John Calvin himself sought to kill a man in order to protect God’s glory.

      “Servetus has just sent me a long volume of his ravings. If I consent he will come here, but I will not give my word for if he comes here, if my authority is worth anything, I will never permit him to depart alive.” – John Calvin (on wanting to kill a man over his theological disagreement with him)

      “Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man’s authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.” – John Calvin (after he sought the execution of Michael Servetus)

      Sobering words from one of the godfather’s of this great reformed tradition.

    2. Jason Pratt says:

      Steve: {{[If purgatorial universalism is true, God] literally puts the damned through hell to coerce them into loving him back. Kinda like the way Annie Wilkes loves Paul Sheldon in Misery. Loving sledgehammers applied to the knees of her beloved captive.}}

      I notice that Annie doesn’t bother to share that misery with him, much less share more than his share of that misery with him. Also, Paul is not in fact dependent for his very existence on Annie (though she tries to usurp that role in his life as much as she can); nor is Paul’s rebellion against Annie something that threatens his existence apart from Annie’s grace.

      I also notice you don’t bring up Annie/Misery examples when discussing things like Hebrews 12 and other places which affirm that God at least can be loving in His chastisements with an eye toward the salvation of the punished one from sin and restoration to fellowship with God.

      But by your own admission elsewhere (including in recent days on this forum, and by reference to the Paul Helm article), you don’t believe God loves the non-elect anyway, especially once they’re in hell.

      So your “Misery” plot analogy totally fails, in one or more ways: either Annie is not situationally parallel to God (which she isn’t, in multiple obvious ways), or else she is situationally parallel (which she isn’t) and yet manages to exhibit more stunted love to the one she punishes than God does to the non-elect!

      Not the best attempt, to say the least, when a Stephen King villain looks more loving (and produces more positive results for that matter) than your idea of God.

  16. steve hays says:

    russ”

    “How is this conflicting? God desires that none should perish, but at the same time frees them up to choose.”

    If he “frees them to choose,” but knows they will choose to make themselves damn themselves, then he never intended to save them. So why create them in the first place?

    If I have a premonition that by giving my son the keys to the car, he will die in a traffic accident an hour later, then you can’t honestly say I was acting to save his life.

    1. russ says:

      Steve, you wrote
      “If he “frees them to choose,” but knows they will choose to make themselves damn themselves, then he never intended to save them. So why create them in the first place?” It’s not that He never intended to save them, He desires that, but the sinner has to respond. As far as why He created them in the first place, the better question would be why didn’t He create only people that would receive Him?

      “If I have a premonition that by giving my son the keys to the car, he will die in a traffic accident an hour later, then you can’t honestly say I was acting to save his life.” Let me ask you is your desire in rearing your children to create moral robots? Again if God forced the “gift” then it would be a gift… Your question here is a little off target. I could ask why did God create say a person that is damned before the foundation of the world and ask that person to repent, knowing they can’t , and then holding them responsible?

      1. Jason Pratt says:

        By the same token, why would the loving father quit trying to give the gift?–I mean if he is omni-competent?

        The free will to refuse the gift is fine; but a person is not free to dictate that God shall not continue to give the gift. The sinner remains free to do one; God remains free to do the other.

        The salient question is whether God is free to not continue giving the gift; or whether God’s freedom is such that if He chooses otherwise He will be acting contradictory to His own self-existence and so would blot Himself (and all reality) out by doing so. Is God free to act toward fulfilling non-fair-togetherness (the NT Greek word translated “unrighteousness”) between persons and still to exist?

        Specifically as a trinitarian theist I have to answer no to that. Consequently, God will persistently act (as sinners do not act while being sinners) toward fulfilling fair-togetherness (righteousness) between persons.

        And that includes toward impenitent sinners; including post-mortem.

  17. Jason Pratt says:

    Keeping in mind the qualification about God’s “emotions” not being unwilling reactions to His environment, I have no particular disagreement I can think of, in regard to these paragraphs quoted from John Piper.

    I will add that if all sinners are eventually saved in the end, then there is no mystery regarding 1 Tim 2:4 (though there may be new mysteries elsewhere, perhaps.) But the excerpt from John Piper, so far as it goes, does not count for or against any of the three interpretative options suggested by Justin.

  18. steve hays says:

    Russ:

    “It’s not that He never intended to save them, He desires that, but the sinner has to respond.”

    If he creates them foreknowing their doom, knowing all along that they won’t respond, then, no, he had no intention of saving them.

    “As far as why He created them in the first place, the better question would be why didn’t He create only people that would receive Him?”

    And how do Arminians answer that question? After all, William Lane Craig is a libertarian who’s argued for the existence of possible worlds with libertarianly free agents all of whom freely accept the Gospel. Where everyone is saved with no infringement on their libertarian freewill.

    “Let me ask you is your desire in rearing your children to create moral robots?”

    So you’d give the car keys to your son, foreknowing that if you give him the keys, he will die in a completely avoidable traffic accident an hour later. Is that your concept of good parenting?

    And how does it make somebody a “moral robot” if you spare him from foreseeable harm? You have an odd concept of love, parenting, and friendship.

    “Again if God forced the ‘gift’ then it would be a gift…”

    For God to refrain from making hellbound sinners is hardly forcing something upon them.

    “Your question here is a little off target. I could ask why did God create say a person that is damned before the foundation of the world and ask that person to repent, knowing they can’t , and then holding them responsible?”

    i) Yes, you could ask that question. Of course, asking a diversionary question does nothing to exonerate Arminianism. So is this a tacit admission on your part that you can’t defend Arminianism, you can only attack Calvinism?

    Remember, you were the one who was charging Calvinism with a dilemma. If Arminianism faces a comparable dilemma, then where does that leave you?

    ii) As for the conditions of responsibility, your question begs the question in favor of libertarian theories of responsibility. But you need to deal with the alternative theories, viz. compatibilism, semicompatibilism, hard determinism. Simply positing your intuitive objection to Calvinism is not an argument. And it ignores the extensive counterarguments.

    1. russ says:

      Hello Steve, you wrote: “If he creates them foreknowing their doom, knowing all along that they won’t respond, then, no, he had no intention of saving them. ” Where in scripture does it tell us that foreknowledge is the same as foreordination? Because God foreknows something certainly does not mean He foreordains it to happen. I know that is a common conception held by calvinists, and in holding to that, it makes God the author of sin, and if He authors sin is not His Holiness then tainted?

      I wrote “As far as why He created them in the first place, the better question would be why didn’t He create only people that would receive Him?”

      You wrote” And how do Arminians answer that question? After all, William Lane Craig is a libertarian who’s argued for the existence of possible worlds with libertarianly free agents all of whom freely accept the Gospel. Where everyone is saved with no infringement on their libertarian freewill. ” I don’t believe you are correct on your assumption of William Lane Craig, but I do not hold to such a concept, can you throw me a link on Craig that would verify that?

      you wrote: “So you’d give the car keys to your son, foreknowing that if you give him the keys, he will die in a completely avoidable traffic accident an hour later. Is that your concept of good parenting?” Can I answer that will posing the following: why does God in His foreknowing not prevent the same your son from getting the keys knowing full well he is going to die? Bottom line God does issue Grace in all of these situations, but doesn’t force us to reach out and grab it.

      You wrote” And how does it make somebody a “moral robot” if you spare him from foreseeable harm? You have an odd concept of love, parenting, and friendship.” See my above question to you it applies to this as well.

      you wrote: “For God to refrain from making hellbound sinners is hardly forcing something upon them.” Well salvation is a gift, but God is forcing the gift on the sinner in calvinism, but you call it interceding because He sees that sinner is going to die. I guess this is where we care to disagree. All of the above is tied together… Why does God not save the rest of sinner by “God to refrain from making hellbound sinners is hardly forcing something upon them.” ?

      you wrote:
      “i) Yes, you could ask that question. Of course, asking a diversionary question does nothing to exonerate Arminianism. So is this a tacit admission on your part that you can’t defend Arminianism, you can only attack Calvinism? No I was asking the same question you were asking but in a different light…

      “Remember, you were the one who was charging Calvinism with a dilemma. If Arminianism faces a comparable dilemma, then where does that leave you?”
      Let me say something, I believe that when we enter into discussions about how God goes about saving sinners, we are entering into the deep mysteries of God, for which neither side has an air tight case nor has all the answers… Please forgive me if I came off that way, I was just trying to present armininism in a good light….

      you wrote:”ii) As for the conditions of responsibility, your question begs the question in favor of libertarian theories of responsibility. But you need to deal with the alternative theories, viz. compatibilism, semicompatibilism, hard determinism. Simply positing your intuitive objection to Calvinism is not an argument. And it ignores the extensive counterarguments. Classical arminianism does not believe in liberterian free will, which I am sure you know this already. And I agree with you about having to deal with compatibilism, semicompatibilism, hard determinism. What are your thoughts on all three? russ

  19. steve hays says:

    K:

    “You are right that Thomas Talbott and Eric Reitan are convinced universalists but they aren’t labeling anyone a heretic are they? If I am wrong, let me know.

    Yes, you’re wrong. Thomas Talbott wrote “The Love of God and the Heresy of Exclusivism” back in 1997. So you’ve nicely illustrated the old adage about shooting first, asking questions later.

    “It’s when you think you have to protect everyone from the other guys doctrine that it goes a little haywire. Especially when the other guy believes that the only person who can save anyone is Jesus Christ.”

    Yes, it’s pretty haywire for a Christian to suggest that Christ is the only Savior. Banish the thought!

    “In regards to a universalist God being schizo, I think you are mistaken. First of all, you don’t know what hell in the afterlife is going to be anymore than I do.”

    Assuming, for the sake of argument, that that’s the case, then a Calvinist could help himself to the same appeal.

    “God often uses pain to love us back to him.”

    i) Pain can also drive people away from God. So that’s a double-edged sword.

    ii) Moreover, Calvinism can also incorporate elements of a soul-building theodicy. Universalism doesn’t hold the patent on that appeal.

    “Look, there are a lot of questions that are hard to answer in our Christian faith. Why an all powerful, good God would allow any evil into the world at all? Why do animals suffer when there is no redemptive purpose? We could go on and on…”

    Yes, we could. Of course it’s not as if Calvinism is dumbfounded in the face of those objections. I deal with objections like that on a regular basis.

    “We aren’t putting God on trial for evil, or pain, or suffering. We are just believing, based up scripture, theology, and reason that God has a redemptive purpose in all of this suffering. We believe that He loves his creation (all of it) even if it is currently mixed up and distorted by sin. We believe he wants to redeem it and he will use whatever means necessary, even coming to earth to get nailed to a cross for it. It’s not all easy to understand, but it isnt schizo.”

    You act as if God was just a passerby at the scene of an accident who gets out of his car to rescue a driver from a burning car. As if God is a fictitious character who pops into the story halfway into the story. But why isn’t the universalist God more like an arsonist who starts the fire, then helps to rescue tenants from the burning building?

    You can’t level logical objections to Calvinism, then suspend logic when the same logic cuts into your own position. Either the statute of logical limitations applies to Calvinism and universalism alike, or to neither.

    “You have to remember that John Calvin himself sought to kill a man in order to protect God’s glory.”

    I also remember that William Laud, the Arminian archbishop, had a long list of victims.

    1. K says:

      “Yes, you’re wrong. Thomas Talbott wrote “The Love of God and the Heresy of Exclusivism” back in 1997. So you’ve nicely illustrated the old adage about shooting first, asking questions later.”

      I stand corrected.

      “Yes, it’s pretty haywire for a Christian to suggest that Christ is the only Savior. Banish the thought!”

      I think you misread me. I was trying to say that we all agree that Christ is the only savior so neither side should be calling the other a heretic.

      “Yes, we could. Of course it’s not as if Calvinism is dumbfounded in the face of those objections. I deal with objections like that on a regular basis.”

      Gee, I guess Calvinism has an answer for everything, huh? You are pretty certain you know why God predestines people to eternal torture before he creates them? And you are pretty certain how God allows evil to corrupt his good creation yet is not the author of evil? And you are pretty certain why animals suffer when there is no redemptive purpose in their suffering?

      “You act as if God was just a passerby at the scene of an accident who gets out of his car to rescue a driver from a burning car. As if God is a fictitious character who pops into the story halfway into the story. But why isn’t the universalist God more like an arsonist who starts the fire, then helps to rescue tenants from the burning building?”

      You are worried that my theology makes God look weak when you are talking about a God who predestined evil, wants to send people to torture people for His own glory, sent his son to die a horrific death on a cross (but not for everyone) and then tells us simultaneously to love our neighbor, pray for those who persecute us, and to turn the other cheek even though he’s just planning to fry the objects of our love and charity for eternity? And my God looks weak? Your God looks alien on a good day and downright sadistic on a bad one.

      “I also remember that William Laud, the Arminian archbishop, had a long list of victims.”

      Good thing I’m not Arminian.

    2. K says:

      Steve, just exactly what do you believe? You seem to be pretty interested in refuting Arminianism and Universalism but I am not clear on what you think the big picture is?

    3. Sonia says:

      K wrote: “You are right that Thomas Talbott and Eric Reitan are convinced universalists but they aren’t labeling anyone a heretic are they? If I am wrong, let me know.”

      Steve Hays replied: “Yes, you’re wrong. Thomas Talbott wrote “The Love of God and the Heresy of Exclusivism” back in 1997. So you’ve nicely illustrated the old adage about shooting first, asking questions later.”

      I just googled that paper and read it through. It doesn’t strike me that Talbott is labeling people as “heretics”. In fact, in the entire 21 page paper, he doesn’t use that term once. The term “heresy” appears only 3 times: once in the title of the paper, once in a subtitle, and once in a single sentence.

      He makes it clear that he finds “exclusivism” incompatible with scripture, but at no point does he condemn or speak harshly against anyone for being exclusive. The harshest statement he makes against those with whom he is in disagreement comes in the first paragraph of his conclusion which reads: “In this paper, we have examined the Johannine declaration that God is love. The most plausible interpretation, I have contended, is that we have here something more than an assertion about the experience of believers; we have an assertion about the very nature (or essence) of God, an assertion to the effect that it is God’s very nature to love. The interpretations of those, such as Calvin, Edwards, Packer, and Piper who seem to hold that God sometimes acts without love, are untenable, both from the perspective of Johannine theology and from the perspective of Paul’s inclusive understanding of election. For according to Paul, God is merciful to all.”

      For full context, the paper is available here:http://www.willamette.edu/~ttalbott/LOVE.pdf

  20. steve hays says:

    Jason Pratt:

    “By the same token, why would the loving father quit trying to give the gift?–I mean if he is omni-competent?”

    That’s a good objection to classical Arminianism. Making death the cut-off at death is quite arbitrary on Arminian terms. Classical Arminians do this, not because that’s a logical consequence of Arminianism, but because they think Scripture draws the line at the grave.

    Of course, as Jason probably knows, some Arminians (e.g. Jerry Walls) are aware of that tension, and relieve the tension by postmortem evangelism. One could argue that that’s a concession to universalism.

    However, that has no traction for Calvinism. The Calvinist God doesn’t need more time to save more sinners. Lack of time is not the reason more sinners aren’t saved. God can, and does, save everyone he intends to save here-and-now.

  21. K says:

    Steve, is this you?

    I’m a native of the greater Seattle area. I doubled majored in history and Classics. I have an MAR from RTS. In theology, I’m a Calvinist, creationist, inerrantist, semicessationist, classical Christian theist, and amil (with postmil sympathies). I’m a low churchman with a sympathy for a certain amount of high church symbolism. I’m a pragmatist about church polity. On the sacraments, I take them to be symbolic. I regard other issues in sacramentology as secondary to this primary position. In philosophy, I’m an Augustinian exemplarist. I’m a Cartesian dualist. I’m an alethic realist, but scientific antirealist. I believe in innate ideas, sense knowledge (I’m an indirect realist), and the primacy of divine revelation in Scripture. In ethics, I subscribe to traditional Christian morality, rooted God’s revealed law as the source and standard of personal and social ethics. I also subscribe to a supralapsarian theodicy. Although I’m not a Lutheran, a traditional Lutheran service suits my taste in the style of worship.

  22. steve hays says:

    K:

    “You are pretty certain you know why God predestines people to eternal torture before he creates them?”

    I have no reason to equate eternal retribution with “torture.” You’ve been watching too many slasher films.

    “And you are pretty certain how God allows evil to corrupt his good creation yet is not the author of evil?”

    That’s a canned objection which I’ve addressed on many occasions.

    “And you are pretty certain why animals suffer when there is no redemptive purpose in their suffering?”

    I addressed that objection in some detail in response to John Loftus in The Christian Delusion.

    “You are worried that my theology makes God look weak when you are talking about a God who predestined evil, wants to send people to torture people for His own glory, sent his son to die a horrific death on a cross (but not for everyone) and then tells us simultaneously to love our neighbor, pray for those who persecute us, and to turn the other cheek even though he’s just planning to fry the objects of our love and charity for eternity? And my God looks weak?”

    i) You’re hung up on “torture”. Why is that? That’s the way infidels like Robert Ingersoll like to smear the Bible. But why assume eternal retribution is equivalent to “torture”? Have you given that serious thought? Or is it just a useful polemical tactic for you to cast the issue in those terms?

    ii) You also imagine that you can simply defect objections to universalism by trying to raise objections to Calvinism. But that’s obviously fallacious. When you do this you’re admitting that universalism is indefensible. Therefore, your only fallback is to attack Calvinism, while hoping no one notices that your own flank is exposed.

    However, you shoulder your own burden of proof. If you’re going to contend that universalism is morally superior to Calvinism, then you need to deal with the objections head on. Logic cuts both ways.

    iii) In addition, it’s not inconsistent for God to shower the reprobate with many common grace blessings in this life. For the lives of the elect and reprobate are intertwined in complex ways. In a common field, sun and rain benefit the wheat and tares alike. Drought damages the tares at the expense of the wheat.

    “Your God looks alien on a good day and downright sadistic on a bad one.”

    But purgatorial hell is not sadistic. Purgatorial hell is a Disney theme park, right?

  23. steve hays says:

    K,

    Yes, that’s my profile.

    1. K says:

      Good to know. It helps put your responses into context. You are many “ists”…

  24. K says:

    Steve, I don’t think I can even argue with you.

    You accuse others of “deflecting objections to universalism by trying to raise objections to Calvinism.” This is odd since this is precisely what you have been doing all day. Only you have been trying to discredit Arminianism and Universalism in order to make it seem as if Calvinism was the only defensible view. Half the time you just assume your reader has been following your brilliance elsewhere. Your responses are very telling…

    “I deal with objections like that on a regular basis”
    “That’s a canned objection which I’ve addressed on many occasions”
    “I addressed that objection in some detail in response to John Loftus in The Christian Delusion”

    I guess this gets you off the hook of having to actually respond with a real argument. Or maybe you really do know everything. I guess it’s good that at least one person fully understands God. Now the rest of us will know who to consult with when we have questions.

    Although, it would help if you could attach a link with each of your answers.

    1. threegirldad says:

      If you managed to find Steve’s profile, you should be able to find Triablogue and search the archives.

  25. steve hays says:

    Jason Pratt:

    “I notice that Annie doesn’t bother to share that misery with him, much less share more than his share of that misery with him.”

    I see. So you view the universalist deity more like one of those psychopathic characters in Criminal Minds who makes his victims miserable so that he can commiserate with them.

    “Also, Paul is not in fact dependent for his very existence on Annie (though she tries to usurp that role in his life as much as she can); nor is Paul’s rebellion against Annie something that threatens his existence apart from Annie’s grace.”

    So if the hostage is totally dependent on his captive, that exculpates the captor.

    “I also notice you don’t bring up Annie/Misery examples when discussing things like Hebrews 12 and other places which affirm that God at least can be loving in His chastisements with an eye toward the salvation of the punished one from sin and restoration to fellowship with God.”

    Why would I when universalism has no advantage over Calvinism in appropriating that passage?

    “But by your own admission elsewhere (including in recent days on this forum, and by reference to the Paul Helm article), you don’t believe God loves the non-elect anyway, especially once they’re in hell.”

    True–which is irrelevant to the intended scope of Heb 12.

    “So your “Misery” plot analogy totally fails, in one or more ways: either Annie is not situationally parallel to God (which she isn’t, in multiple obvious ways)…”

    As I just explained, making her more situationally parallel to the universalist deity makes things worse for universalism.

    “…or else she is situationally parallel (which she isn’t) and yet manages to exhibit more stunted love to the one she punishes than God does to the non-elect!”

    I don’t think God loves the reprobate.

    “Not the best attempt, to say the least, when a Stephen King villain looks more loving (and produces more positive results for that matter) than your idea of God.”

    If you prefer, we can drop the cinematic allegory and discuss a real-world example.

    Take a teenage prostitute in Bangkok. She was forced from home because her parents had more children than they could feed, and the girls were expendable.

    She sells her body for food, as well as drugs to block out the emotional pain of her blighted existence. She’s subject to periodic gang-rape. No one cares what happens to a hooker, least of all the Bangkok police. As a result of her brutalizing experience, she’s a hardbitten atheist.

    Up the street is the granddaughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. She’s enjoyed every conceivable advantage in life from birth.

    When our teenage prostitute is murdered by a John, the universalist God will subject her to centuries of purgatorial hell to make her love him. First he makes her hate him by subjecting her to a hellish life on earth. Then he makes her love him by making her suffer remedial punishment in hell.

    BTW, is that your own philosophy of child-rearing?

    Would it not seem more loving for the universalist deity to give her a less damaging life on earth, rather than repairing the damage in hell?

    Pardon me if I’m a little unclear on the prima facie superiority of universalism over Calvinism.

  26. steve hays says:

    K:

    “Half the time you just assume your reader has been following your brilliance elsewhere.”

    Well, that’s the problem when you jump into the middle of a complex debate without sufficient preparation or background. And that’s really not *my* problem, now is it?

    1. Mike Smith says:

      That is one of the most pompous, rude, and un-Christlike statemaents I have ever read! You strike me on this comment thread as one, Mr. Hays, that likes to brow beat people by his intellectual superiority. That is too bad. That is not displaying our King Jesus at all. You owe K an apology. It doesn’t take a degree to do that now does it!

      1. steve hays says:

        Mike,

        For someone who’s so riled up about a perceived lack of charity, your own reaction is conspicuously uncharitable. I’d suggest to get a grip on your emotions and take your own advice before you presume to lecture others.

        1. Mike Smith says:

          Still no apology to K that I can see on this reply thread from you Mr. Hays. That is not shocking to me at all. Thank you for your time sir.

  27. AllanS says:

    God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. How can he? He doesn’t know them, and he doesn’t know them because there is nothing actual to know. Evil isn’t real. God did not create it. Rather, it is the absence of the real. Evil is destroyed just as darkness is destroyed, by being filled with light. This is how God destroys his enemies, by casting them into the Lake of Fire until they also are aflame with his spirit. All will be salted with fire. Every person-shaped vessel of darkness will become a vessel of light, incandescent with holy fire. God also must overcome evil with good for a very simple reason: there is no other way. The unreality of darkness can be destroyed only by filling it with the reality of light.

    The death of the wicked is therefore the salvation of the righteous. It is the very same event, and will happen to each of us. When God delivers us from our bodies of death, all that is in Adam will die in the flames, and all that is in Christ will live. Saul will become Paul forever. Smeagol will be saved the instant Gollum dies.

    1. Lord of the rings fan says:

      I totally didn’t get what you were saying until the end! I’m super pumped about the hobbit movie coming out soon!

    2. AllanS says:

      Remember the debate between Gollum and Smeagol in the Dead Marsh? I think much the same is true of all of us. The “old man” struggles against the “new”. I’ve also often wondered what happened to Gollum/Smeagol the moment the Ring was destroyed. Frodo was instantly set free of it’s power. Was the same true for Smeagol?

  28. steve hays says:

    Russ:

    “Where in scripture does it tell us that foreknowledge is the same as foreordination? Because God foreknows something certainly does not mean He foreordains it to happen.”

    A red herring since my argument wasn’t predicated on foreknowledge. Go back and deal with the actual argument.

    My argument was predicated on Arminian assumptions: God freely chooses to create a world with foreseeable consequences. These consequences are avoidable inasmuch as God was free to refrain from creating said world.

    Therefore, God intended the consequences of his actions. Whatever God does, he intended to do.

    “I know that is a common conception held by Calvinists…”

    i) I know it’s a common tactic of Arminians to pretend that Calvinists conflate the two, then attack what they deem to be the easier target, since they can’t cope with the argument from foreknowledge.

    “…and in holding to that, it makes God the author of sin, and if He authors sin is not His Holiness then tainted?”

    i) To begin with, you’d have to define “authorship” in the same sense that historical theology defines “authorship,” then show how Calvinism “makes God the author of sin” according to the historic usage of the term.

    ii) You also have to show how Arminianism can avoid making God the “author of sin.” If the Arminian God creates a world with evil foreseeable, consequences, then God’s fiat is a necessary condition of evil. Moreover, Arminian theology also has a doctrine of concurrence which makes God a cofactor in the evil deeds of the wicked.

    “I don’t believe you are correct on your assumption of William Lane Craig, but I do not hold to such a concept, can you throw me a link on Craig that would verify that?”

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle2.html

    ”Can I answer that will posing the following: why does God in His foreknowing not prevent the same your son from getting the keys knowing full well he is going to die?”

    That simply paraphrases the original question since, in the original question, the parent stood for God. So your variant does nothing to advance the argument one way or the other.

    “Bottom line God does issue Grace in all of these situations, but doesn’t force us to reach out and grab it.”

    “Forcing” is hardly equivalent to preventing. And it’s also tangential to the issue of divine intentionality. Perhaps you already forgot the point of the illustration.

    The question is whether the Arminian God intends to save the hellbound. The example of the father and son is designed to illustrate the issue of intentionality. If a father foresees that by giving his son the car keys, his son will die in a traffic accident, did the father intend to save his son’s life? The answer should be obvious.

    To say God doesn’t “force” his grace on sinners is a non sequitur. Try to engage the actual argument.

    “Well salvation is a gift, but God is forcing the gift on the sinner in Calvinism…”

    That’s a persistent caricature of yours, but I’ll continue to ignore it since it’s just a red herring.

    I’m not discussing how the Arminian God saves sinners. I’m discussing how the Arminian God never intended to save the damned. You keep confusing distinct issues.

    We could go onto to discuss compatibilism, &c., but it’s better to nail down one thing at a time. Otherwise, no progress is made.

  29. Arminian says:

    I have answered Steve Hays’ (unsuccessful IMO) attempt to drag Arminianism down into Calvinism’s insuperable problems in this thread above. Here is link to the post in this thread: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2011/03/07/the-complex-of-gods-emotions-beware-of-putting-god-in-a-box/?comments#comment-81950.

  30. Danny says:

    Wow! Bell’s minions are out in force. Congrats to RB for the immense publicity.

    1. Justin says:

      I think that most of us are from the EU forum, at least all that I’ve seen.

      And by the way, from what I’ve heard Rob Bell simply delineates a theology more in line with C.S. Lewis than Talbott.

  31. steve hays says:

    Arminian:

    “Christ draws all, but there is no need to give the gospel to those who resist God’s drawing grace at pre-gospel stages. If someone responds to God’s grace to the point that they are ready to hear the gospel, we can trust God to get the gospel to them, whether through missionaries or radio or dreams or visions or whatever means. God gives more grace and light to those who respond to the grace and light he gives them. So the fact that not all have access to the gospel now does not gainsay God’s genuine desire for them to come to him. Nor is this the only answer to your point, though it is the one I favor. Compelementarily, God has given us the mission to reach the world.”

    So God brought the gospel early on to white Europeans since white Europeans were responsive to pre-gospel stages, but God withheld the gospel from sub-Saharan Africans until about the 19C because sub-Saharan Africans were unresponsive to pre-gospel stages. According to “Arminian,” some races are spiritually superior to others.

    “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person, otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong (since the person would not in fact do what God knew he would do; indeed, God’s foreknowledge of the person’s existence would be wrong as well!), and God cannot be wrong.”

    So “Arminian” denies the freedom of future contingents. The future is not open-ended. The future could not go either way. Rather, the future is inevitable. What will be will be. Arminian fatalism.

    “Moreover, God can only know actual things abput people who will actually and certainly exist at some point. He cannot know what someone who never exists would do; there is no person there to ever know anything about.”

    i) To deny counterfactual knowledge denies alternate possibilities. Yet libertarian freewill is predicated on alternate possibilities.

    Moreover, the Bible ascribes counterfactual knowledge to God (e.g. 1 Sam 23:6-10; Jer 38:17-18).

    ii) “Arminian’s” reply is also a red herring. He has yet to show that God wills the salvation of those whose doom he foresaw.

    “Hell, but he unconditionally decides that they will commit all the sin they end up in Hell for and that they will reject his gospel and that they will therefore end up in Hell, and he decrees it to be, and they can do no other than he decrees. So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell, in Calvinism, he unconditionally decides that they will do all that is necessary to go to Hell and makes it so that they must do that and end up in Hell. He predestines their sin and that they go to Hell for what he irresistibly causes them to do. It is astounding to me that anyone believes that.”

    i) The decree is not a cause. The decree is a plan. A plan is not a cause.

    ii) “Arminian” also needs to show that predestination “causes” the reprobate to do something other than what they were going to do had he not predestined them to a particular course of action.

    1. Arminian says:

      Steve said: “So God brought the gospel early on to white Europeans since white Europeans were responsive to pre-gospel stages, but God withheld the gospel from sub-Saharan Africans until about the 19C because sub-Saharan Africans were unresponsive to pre-gospel stages.”

      ****That is unwarranted assumption and begging the question to assert that “God withheld the gospel from sub-Saharan Africans until about the 19C”. First, the gospel may have reached a number of sub-Saharan Africans, those who responded to God’s drawing. We can’t know how many it reached through means other than major missionary endeavor. Second, God’s drawing is part of the process of him bringing the gospel to people. So it is misleading to characterize the situation as God withholding the gospel. Third, it is not simply a matter of God bringing the gospel if one is thinking of missionary spreading of the gospel, since this enterprise involves human free will actions.

      Steve said: “According to “Arminian,” some races are spiritually superior to others.””

      **** Steve begs the question here again. In harmony with his attempt to saddle Arminianism with Calvinism’s problems, he assumes that being responsive to the gospel comes from being spiritually superior. Apparently he thinks he was superior for believing the gospel. But Scripture makes it clear that responding to God’s grace and believing the gospel is non-meritorious and precludes boasting. Steve is claiming that Arminianism is inconsistent with its own premises. But if so, he needs to grant Arminian premises. But Arminianism does not regard yielding to God’s grace or believing as coming from spiritual superiority.

      Also, according to Steve’s Calvinistic position, “God withheld the gospel from sub-Saharan Africans until about the 19C”. So are we to conlcude that according to Steve/Calvinism, God loves some races more than others?

      Steve said: “So “Arminian” denies the freedom of future contingents. The future is not open-ended. The future could not go either way. Rather, the future is inevitable. What will be will be. Arminian fatalism. “

      **** I don’t deny the freedom of future contingents. I deny that future free actions are irresistibly predetermined. Steve’s argument falls on the crucial and basic distinction between certainty and necessity. Of course what will be will be. That is a truism. It is simply that what will be does not *have to* be that way. It could be otherwise, given the freedom of the agents involved. Obviously those agents are going to do *something*, so what they will do will be what they will do. But that in no way suggests that what they will do will be necessitated by something other than themselves. Robert Picirilli explains the difference between certainty and necessity wel in this excellent article: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Picirilli-Foreknowledge-Freedom-and-the-Future.

      Also, Steve calls the the future not being open-ended, not being able to go either way, being inevitable, fatalism. But that is the cAkvinuist position. So Steve seems to implicitly admt that Calvinism is a form of fatalism.

      Steve said: “To deny counterfactual knowledge denies alternate possibilities. Yet libertarian freewill is predicated on alternate possibilities.”

      **** I did not deny counterfactual knowledge in general, but counterfactual knowledge of nothing (i.e., of “people” who never exist; it is even inaccurate to talk about “people who never exist” because the point is actually that “they” never exist; indeed, there is never ever any “they” to speak of; to say that God knows what someone who never exists would do specifically is nonsensical).

      Steve said: “Moreover, the Bible ascribes counterfactual knowledge to God (e.g. 1 Sam 23:6-10; Jer 38:17-18).”

      **** Which I fully agree with. But notice that that counterfactual knowledge is of people who exist.

      Steve said: “ii) “Arminian’s” reply is also a red herring. He has yet to show that God wills the salvation of those whose doom he foresaw.”

      **** Scripture tells us that he desires the salvation of all. That is even the point that Piper and many Calvinists incoherently concede.

      Steve said: “i) The decree is not a cause. The decree is a plan. A plan is not a cause.”

      **** Let’s get this straight: you are denying that God’s predestining decree is the ultimate cause of all that happens? That which happens does not happen because God decreed that it be so? What is the relation between God’s predestining decree and what takes place then? Can anything ever happen other than God unconditionally decided to decree? And if not, if everything happens according to what God first decreed and cannot be otherwise than he decreed, then how can you say that his decree does not cause what he decrees to come to pass? You seem to be advocating an abnormal, eccentric Calvinist position, unless you are playing around with some sort of formal lexical technicality that when explained will be tantamount to just what I said.

      Steve said: “ii) “Arminian” also needs to show that predestination “causes” the reprobate to do something other than what they were going to do had he not predestined them to a particular course of action.”

      **** Well, hopefully it is clear that I don’t believe that God’s predestination causes the reprobate to do anything. So it seems like he is asking that I show that Calvinism believes this. But Calvinism doesn’t believe this either because it believes that everything the reprobate does he ultimately does because God decreed that he do it. On Calvinistic assumptions, the reprobate could never do anything differently than he does because it was God who decided what he would do, and rendered it necessary and certain by his omnipotent decree. The insuperable problem for Calvinism in this area continues as strong as ever, happily avoided by Arminian theology on its own principles.

      1. Arminian says:

        Steve said: “i) The decree is not a cause. The decree is a plan. A plan is not a cause.”

        **** Ok, so does my point stand if I simply recognize recognize that God’s decree/plan does not in itself cause these things, but it is God carrying out his plan? That’s the type of formal lexical technicality I was talking about.

        Steve said: “ii) “Arminian” also needs to show that predestination “causes” the reprobate to do something other than what they were going to do had he not predestined them to a particular course of action.”

        **** And I could tweak my response to thsi comment of yours like so: Hopefully it is clear that I don’t believe that God’s predestination causes the reprobate to do anything. So it seems like he is asking that I show that Calvinism believes this. But Calvinism doesn’t believe this either because it believes that everything the reprobate does he ultimately does because God decreed that he do it. On Calvinistic assumptions, the reprobate could never do anything differently than he does because it was God who decided what he would do (via his decrees made in eternity) and rendered it necessary and certain by his sovereignty. The insuperable problem for Calvinism in this area continues as strong as ever, happily avoided by Arminian theology on its own principles.

        And thus I can modify the original comments that brought your technical but seemingly relatively un-substantive objections:

        So the Calvinist attempt to saddle Arminianism with its own serious problems fails IMO. Indeed, the attempt only highlights how serious the problems for Calvinism are. For in the Calvinist view, God does not merely create people he knows will end up in Hell, but he unconditionally decides that they will commit all the sin they end up in Hell for and that they will reject his gospel and that they will therefore end up in Hell, and he decrees that it should be, and they can do no other than he decrees. So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell, in Calvinism, he unconditionally decides that they will do all that is necessary to go to Hell and makes it so that they must do that and end up in Hell. He predestines their sin and that they go to Hell for what he irresistibly causes them to do by his sovereign implementation of his eternal decrees. It is astounding to me that anyone believes that. Thankfully, Arminianism avoids such problems entirely with sound biblical theology.

  32. steve hays says:

    Sonia:

    “I just googled that paper and read it through. It doesn’t strike me that Talbott is labeling people as ‘heretics.’”

    Actually, he’s quite defiant on that issue. Consider the spat which he and Glenn Peoples had over that very issue in their abortive debate at the Evangelical Universalist blog.

    1. Sonia says:

      Steve,
      I’ve read that debate too, and am not sure what you mean by calling him “defiant.” I thought both Tom and Glenn were both respectful and considerate sparring partners. My perception was that debate way aborted in part because they couldn’t get past the level of presuppositions and also because of busy-ness on both sides.

      BTW, the debate is at the EU Forum, not the blog–in case anyone’s looking for it.

      1. steve hays says:

        Sonia

        “I’ve read that debate too, and am not sure what you mean by calling him ‘defiant.’ I thought both Tom and Glenn were both respectful and considerate sparring partners.”

        It started out with everyone falling over themselves to be welcoming and affirming. But it quickly degenerated, because Glenn was put off by the “heresy” label, while Tom was unrepentant about the “heresy” label. They never got over that initial hurdle.

  33. steve hays says:

    Arminian:

    “First, the gospel may have reached a number of sub-Saharan Africans, those who responded to God’s drawing. We can’t know how many it reached through means other than major missionary endeavor.”

    i) What do you actually know about the history of Christian missions in sub-Saharan Africa? Or do you just invent the history you need to dovetail with your theological requirements?

    ii) Of course we’d know if it reached many. That would have historical consequences.

    iii) You also have a habit of resorting to ad hoc speculations to deflect objections to Arminianism. But, of course, if you’re going to play that game, then the Calvinist can also resort to ad hoc speculations to deflect objections to Calvinism.

    “Second, God’s drawing is part of the process of him bringing the gospel to people. So it is misleading to characterize the situation as God withholding the gospel.”

    If sub-Saharan Africans weren’t systematically evangelized until the 19C (give or take), then, by definition, God withheld the gospel from them for centuries even though he evangelized the Europeans far earlier.

    “Third, it is not simply a matter of God bringing the gospel if one is thinking of missionary spreading of the gospel, since this enterprise involves human free will actions.”

    So in the Arminian lottery, sub-Saharan Africans lose since God couldn’t convince missionaries to go there. Whether you’re saved or damned is the luck of the draw. Europeans got lucky.

    “In harmony with his attempt to saddle Arminianism with Calvinism’s problems, he assumes that being responsive to the gospel comes from being spiritually superior. Apparently he thinks he was superior for believing the gospel.”

    On Arminian grounds, yes. From an Arminian standpoint, everyone has sufficient grace, but some take advantage of sufficient grace while others do not. So the differential factor lies in the human agent.

    “But Arminianism does not regard yielding to God’s grace or believing as coming from spiritual superiority.”

    How does “Arminian” account for the racial disparities in the ethnic and geographical distribution of Christendom? He’s already chalked that up to the fact that some people are responsive while others are not. Therefore, he must think white Europeans are more responsive than sub-Saharan Africans.

    Historically, that would mean white Europeans are generally more receptive to the gospel than black Africans (or Chinese, or Arabs). So, yes, that amounts to a theory of racial superiority–given his Arminian assumptions.

    “So are we to conlcude that according to Steve/Calvinism, God loves some races more than others?”

    God is more gracious to some people-groups at sometimes than others. In OT times, God was more gracious to Israelites than Iroquois.

    In the course of church history, it moves around. Right now the global South is the epicenter of Christian growth. For instance, Christianity is currently dying in Europe, but burgeoning in China.

    “I don’t deny the freedom of future contingents. I deny that future free actions are irresistibly predetermined. Steve’s argument falls on the crucial and basic distinction between certainty and necessity.”

    Show where my argument was predicated on “irresistible predetermination.”

    “It is simply that what will be does not *have to* be that way. It could be otherwise, given the freedom of the agents involved.”

    Which contradicts your earlier claim that “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong.”

    In that case the future actions of the human agent can’t be open-ended. If the outcome is uncertain, it can’t be known.

    “Also, Steve calls the the future not being open-ended, not being able to go either way, being inevitable, fatalism. But that is the cAkvinuist position. So Steve seems to implicitly admt that Calvinism is a form of fatalism.”

    It’s fatalistic for an Arminian to say that God can only know the future, not control the future.

    “I did not deny counterfactual knowledge in general, but counterfactual knowledge of nothing (i.e., of ‘people’ who never exist; it is even inaccurate to talk about ‘people who never exist’ because the point is actually that ‘they’ never exist; indeed, there is never ever any ‘they’ to speak of; to say that God knows what someone who never exists would do specifically is nonsensical).”

    i) All you’re doing here is to parrot an argument by Ben Henshaw–an argument that even his Arminian cohort Brennon Hartshorn handily dismantled in the combox:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/some-quick-comments-regarding-free-agency-and-foreknowledge/

    ii) In addition, you lack even a rudimentary grasp of modal metaphysics. Possible persons and possible worlds are abstract objects. They do, indeed, “exist,” but their mode of subsistence is suited to abstract objects. They are unexemplified in time and space. That’s the distinction. An actual person a possible person actualized.

    iii) It’s by no means “nonsensical” to say that possible persons can be objects of knowledge. God has ideas of possible people. When God creates a person, he creates a person according to his idea of that person. He instantiates his idea. The actual person corresponds to his idea.

    “Which I fully agree with. But notice that that counterfactual knowledge is of people who exist.”

    No. The counterfactual referent is not to actual people in this world-segment, but to their counterparts in two (or more) possible world-segments.

    “Scripture tells us that he desires the salvation of all. That is even the point that Piper and many Calvinists incoherently concede.”

    Quoting Scripture does nothing to show that Arminian theology is internally consistent. Indeed, you’re dodging the logical implications of Arminian theology.

    In Classical Arminianism, God foreknows the future. God freely creates the world. God was free to abstain from making the world. God foresees that if he makes certain persons, he will send them to hell. Therefore, explain, from the Arminian assumptions I just mentioned, how God wills the salvation of those he knowingly creates with a hellish denouement awaiting them.

    “Let’s get this straight: you are denying that God’s predestining decree is the ultimate cause of all that happens? That which happens does not happen because God decreed that it be so? What is the relation between God’s predestining decree and what takes place then? Can anything ever happen other than God unconditionally decided to decree? And if not, if everything happens according to what God first decreed and cannot be otherwise than he decreed, then how can you say that his decree does not cause what he decrees to come to pass? You seem to be advocating an abnormal, eccentric Calvinist position, unless you are playing around with some sort of formal lexical technicality that when explained will be tantamount to just what I said.”

    i) Does a blueprint cause a building to rise from the ground up? No. Even though the building corresponds to the blueprint, the blueprint didn’t cause the building to form.

    ii) What causes things to happen are primary causality and secondary causality.

    iii) If you wish, you could use a broader definition of causality, such as:

    “E causally depends on c if and only if, if c were to occur e would occur; and if c were not to occur e would not occur.”

    If, however, you use that definition, then the Arminian God caused sin and evil by both making and concurrently sustaining the world.

    “On Calvinistic assumptions, the reprobate could never do anything differently than he does because it was God who decided what he would do…”

    Because “Arminian” can’t deal with my actual arguments, he has a habit of substituting a different proposition in its place. Let’s go back to what I actually said:

    “Arminian” also needs to show that predestination “causes” the reprobate to do something other than what they were going to do had he not predestined them to a particular course of action.”

    I use the word “cause” because you use the word “cause.”

    To say:

    “a reprobate could never do anything differently than he was predestined to do”

    is not equivalent to:

    “predestination makes a reprobate do something other than what he was going to do (absent predestination).”

    Those are not convertible propositions. So go back and interact with my actual formulation.

    1. Arminian says:

      Steve said: i) What do you actually know about the history of Christian missions in sub-Saharan Africa? Or do you just invent the history you need to dovetail with your theological requirements?

      ii) Of course we’d know if it reached many. That would have historical consequences.

      **** I did not say it reached many, but that we don’t know how many were reached. We just don’t have that information, and God is capable of reaching people apart from missionary endeavor. We hear of many unbelievers seeing visions of the Lord or otherwise miraculously being exposed to his truth. The point is simple. You assume that God decided not to give the gospel to sub-Saharan Africans until the 19th century. I just disagree and believe that God has reached out to them over the centuries and drawn them toward himself, and that any that responded to his drawing grace to the point if being willing to accept the gospel would have gotten in in some way.

      Steve said: “If sub-Saharan Africans weren’t systematically evangelized until the 19C (give or take), then, by definition, God withheld the gospel from them for centuries even though he evangelized the Europeans far earlier.”

      **** Again, I just disagree. As I said, God’s drawing is part of the process of him bringing the gospel to people. So it is misleading to characterize the situation as God withholding the gospel.

      Steve said: “So in the Arminian lottery, sub-Saharan Africans lose since God couldn’t convince missionaries to go there. Whether you’re saved or damned is the luck of the draw. Europeans got lucky.”

      **** Since it is due to people’s responsible free will actions, then it is not some sort of lottery or luck. Human free will entails the ability for free human agents to affect one another. But it is ironic you characterize it that way, since Calvinism does squarely have a divine lottery at its base. Moreover, given my other comments, getting the gospel would not be contingent solely on those actions of others. It is also due partly to how one responds to God’s grace. But again, in your Calvinist view, it has nothing to do with the person and would seem to be up to the luck of the arbitrary divine draw. You seem to have a tactic of taking what is solidly true and unpalatable of Calvinism and trying to smear Arminianism with it. But it just doesn’t stick to Arminian theology. And your attempt underscores how profound the problems are for your view/Calvinism. You largely don’t even try to defend Calvinism against such charges, but seem to recognize much of them as true and so are trying to drag Arminian theology down into the same pit of trouble.

      Steve said: “On Arminian grounds, yes. From an Arminian standpoint, everyone has sufficient grace, but some take advantage of sufficient grace while others do not. So the differential factor lies in the human agent.”

      **** But as I pointed out, Arminianism specifically does not regard yielding to God’s grace or believing as coming from spiritual superiority. You are injecting erroneous Calvinist critique of Arminian premises into your statement of what Arminianism holds, undermining your attempt to show Arminian theology inconsistent on this issue. The differential factor lying in a person does not imply spiritual superiority since Scripture is clear that faith is non-meritorious.

      Steve said: “How does “Arminian” account for the racial disparities in the ethnic and geographical distribution of Christendom? He’s already chalked that up to the fact that some people are responsive while others are not. Therefore, he must think white Europeans are more responsive than sub-Saharan Africans.”

      **** Well actually, sub-Saharan Africans seem to be more responsive at present. In the past they were less responsive, though that is not the only issue involved, as I pointed out. There are probably a host of reasons, much contingent on free human actions. What we know is that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:26-27; NASB). But for Steve’s Calvinist view, on his logic, God must love White Europeans more than sub-Saharan Africans. Happily, Arminianism does not havw that problem either. The problems for Steve’s Calvinistic view just seem to be piling up.

      Steve said: “Historically, that would mean white Europeans are generally more receptive to the gospel than black Africans (or Chinese, or Arabs). So, yes, that amounts to a theory of racial superiority–given his Arminian assumptions.”

      **** Again, since Steve claims to be granting Arminian assumptions, it does not. because on Arminian assumptions, receiving to God’s grace and believing do not come from superiority.

      Steve said: “God is more gracious to some people-groups at sometimes than others. In OT times, God was more gracious to Israelites than Iroquois.”

      **** Which on Steve’s/Calvinist premises is a way iof saying that God loves some races more than others.

      Steve said: “In the course of church history, it moves around. Right now the global South is the epicenter of Christian growth. For instance, Christianity is currently dying in Europe, but burgeoning in China.”

      **** But that same argument could be given in response to your claims about racial superiority. If some peoples are more receptive to the gospel than at other times in history, and you think that this shows God does not love some races more than others, then it would seem on your own logic that your argument about racial superiority does not hold up. On the same logic it could not be said that some races are superior.

      Steve said: “Show where my argument was predicated on “irresistible predetermination.” “

      I was not saying that your argument was predicated on that, but explaining that you mischaracterized my view. You claimed that I denied the freedom of future contingents. But I didn’t.

      “It is simply that what will be does not *have to* be that way. It could be otherwise, given the freedom of the agents involved.”

      Steve said: “Which contradicts your earlier claim that “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong.”

      **** Another false conclusion. Since God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is contingent on what those free people will do in the future, God’s foreknowledge cannot be wrong. It simply mirrors what will happen. That in no way conflicts with the freedom of the agents. Yet it also means that he cannot decide not to create someone based on knowing what they will do, since his foreknowledge is based on the fact that they will do that. His foreknowledge would then be wrong if he did not create the person. This is simple and basic logic. It’s a form of the grandfather paradox. It is really a simple but potent answer to your attempt to claim that Arminianism has the same problem as Calvinism. Arminianism simply does not have the glaring and horrifying problem that Calvinism does. It avoids it entirely.

      Steve said: “In that case the future actions of the human agent can’t be open-ended. If the outcome is uncertain, it can’t be known.

      **** But I didn’t deny that it is certain. It is certain, but not necessitated by anyone other than the free agent.

      I said: Also, Steve calls the the future not being open-ended, not being able to go either way, being inevitable, fatalism. But that is the Calvinist position. So Steve seems to implicitly admt that Calvinism is a form of fatalism.”

      Steve responded: “It’s fatalistic for an Arminian to say that God can only know the future, not control the future.”

      **** This is riddled with problems. First, Steve did not really answer the point. On his own logic, Calvinism is a form of fatalism. Second, his response is a non-sequitur. Third, Arminians don’t say that God can only know the future not control it. He can do whatever he wants.

      Steve said: “i) All you’re doing here is to parrot an argument by Ben Henshaw–an argument that even his Arminian cohort Brennon Hartshorn handily dismantled in the combox:

      http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/some-quick-comments-regarding-free-agency-and-foreknowledge/”

      **** Well, I gave the argument to Ben. So I am not parroting. And I believe that Ben refuted Brennon’s objections.

      Steve said: “ii) In addition, you lack even a rudimentary grasp of modal metaphysics. Possible persons and possible worlds are abstract objects. They do, indeed, “exist,” but their mode of subsistence is suited to abstract objects. They are unexemplified in time and space. That’s the distinction. An actual person a possible person actualized.”

      **** You can try to dress it up with philosophical language, but “people” who never exist, ummmm, never exist. That’s true by definition. There are no such “people”. The point is that they never exist, and there is not even a “they” to speak of. The difference is one of potentiality vs. actuality.

      Steve said: “iii) It’s by no means “nonsensical” to say that possible persons can be objects of knowledge. God has ideas of possible people. When God creates a person, he creates a person according to his idea of that person. He instantiates his idea. The actual person corresponds to his idea.”

      **** I don’t think that is how God creates people generally. You need to substantiate that. Moreover, what you are talking about God is planning the person. Such knowledge according to what you are talking about here if applied to actions the person would take would be deterministic and beg the question.

      Steve said: “No. The counterfactual referent is not to actual people in this world-segment, but to their counterparts in two (or more) possible world-segments.”

      **** I disagree. The biblical text represents the knowledge being about actual people, what would such and such people do given this or that contingency. I know about possible worlds language, but do not think it is helpful. If the Bible says God knew what the men of Keilah would do, then it is the men of Keilah that involved, not different people who are mere counterparts in a merely possible world. I understand that some philosophers might think of it in that way. But I think it is a faulty way of construing it.

      Steve said: “ii) “Arminian’s” reply is also a red herring. He has yet to show that God wills the salvation of those whose doom he foresaw.”

      I replied: “Scripture tells us that he desires the salvation of all. That is even the point that Piper and many Calvinists incoherently concede.”

      And bafflingly Steve now says: “Quoting Scripture does nothing to show that Arminian theology is internally consistent. Indeed, you’re dodging the logical implications of Arminian theology.”

      **** Huh? How am I to show that God desires the salvation of all apart from Scripture? The word of God must be the final word in matters of truth/doctrine.

      Steve said: “In Classical Arminianism, God foreknows the future. God freely creates the world. God was free to abstain from making the world. God foresees that if he makes certain persons, he will send them to hell. Therefore, explain, from the Arminian assumptions I just mentioned, how God wills the salvation of those he knowingly creates with a hellish denouement awaiting them.”

      **** I have already explained it, and answered your objections to my explanation. I would just refer you to what I have said in my posts.

      Re: some of Steve’s comments about divine decrees and cause, I posted further comments that addressed this issue, but Steve has not interacted with them. (He might not have seen them before he responded.) So I will leave it to him to respond to those further comments. As I said might be the case, though, it tunrs out that he does seem to be playing around with a formal lexical technicality that when explained is tantamount to what I said

      Steve said: “Because “Arminian” can’t deal with my actual arguments, he has a habit of substituting a different proposition in its place.”

      **** That seems to be trying to win a point by claiming victory rather than giving substantive argument.

      Steve said: “ “Arminian” also needs to show that predestination “causes” the reprobate to do something other than what they were going to do had he not predestined them to a particular course of action.” ”

      **** No I don’t. Why would I? Did you read what I said? I answered this directly, but you almost seem to have not read it. This is ironic in light of your comments about dealing with your arguments. Moreover, there is no reason why you should decree what I have to show, particularly when it is not even relevant to what we are discussing.

      Steve said: “a reprobate could never do anything differently than he was predestined to do”

      is not equivalent to:

      “predestination makes a reprobate do something other than what he was going to do (absent predestination).”

      Those are not convertible propositions.

      **** I completely agree that they are not the same. I never said they were. Your comments about it are odd and off topic.

  34. steve hays says:

    Arminian:

    “I did not say it reached many, but that we don’t know how many were reached. We just don’t have that information, and God is capable of reaching people apart from missionary endeavor. We hear of many unbelievers seeing visions of the Lord or otherwise miraculously being exposed to his truth. The point is simple.”

    The simple point is that if sub-Saharan Africa had been evangelized to the same extent as Europe, you’d have a comparable effect.

    “Again, I just disagree. As I said, God’s drawing is part of the process of him bringing the gospel to people.”

    i) One problem is the way you invent artificial dichotomies, where God’s “drawing” is prior to evangelization, and evangelization is contingent on a prior phase of drawing.

    ii) And it still doesn’t solve the ethnic/geographical discrepancy, since you believe the same processes are in play for both people-groups throughout church history. So you have to explain why one people-group is more responsive than another.

    “Since it is due to people’s responsible free will actions, then it is not some sort of lottery or luck.”

    Since you can’t follow your own argument, I’ll have to explain it to you. There are three parties to the transaction: God, the missionary, and the unreached.

    Both the missionary and the unreached are free agents. However, you made the evangelization of the unreached contingent on whether God can cajole missionaries to evangelize them. If missionaries refuse to go to sub-Saharan Africa, then the unreached lost the Arminian lottery. Europeans got lucky.

    “Moreover, given my other comments, getting the gospel would not be contingent solely on those actions of others. It is also due partly to how one responds to God’s grace.”

    And by your argument, sub-Saharan Africans are less responsive than white Europeans.

    “But again, in your Calvinist view, it has nothing to do with the person and would seem to be up to the luck of the arbitrary divine draw.”

    Mercy is not equivalent to a lottery. Mercy involves the personal discretion of a personal agent. And it presupposes the unworthiness of the recipients.

    “You seem to have a tactic of taking what is solidly true and unpalatable of Calvinism and trying to smear Arminianism with it. But it just doesn’t stick to Arminian theology.”

    Actually, Arminianism has proven to be quite sticky in my exchanges with you.

    “And your attempt underscores how profound the problems are for your view/Calvinism.”

    You keep repeating that claim as if it’s self-evidently true. But repeating your Arminian assumptions doesn’t make them true.

    “You largely don’t even try to defend Calvinism against such charges, but seem to recognize much of them as true and so are trying to drag Arminian theology down into the same pit of trouble.”

    i) Maybe it’s just your ignorance, but I’ve had many face-to-face debates with Arminians (posted on my blog) where I defend Calvinism. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel ever time I discuss the same issues.

    ii) However, you’re the one who initiated an attack on Justin’s post. In so doing, you assume a burden of proof. It’s sufficient for me to answer you on your own terms.

    iii) The problem you and other hostile commenters have is that you imagined you could take a free shot at Calvinism and escape unscathed. You didn’t expect to encounter serious resistance. Now you’re having to figure out how to retreat without sustaining fatal injuries.

    “The differential factor lying in a person does not imply spiritual superiority since Scripture is clear that faith is non-meritorious.”

    Quoting Scripture does nothing to resolve internal tensions in Arminian theology. You have yet to account for the ethnic/geographical discrepancies in their response to the gospel. Why is one people-group underrepresented while another people-group is overrepresented? Invoking libertarian freewill won’t do the trick, for that operates on individuals rather than collectives.

    “Well actually, sub-Saharan Africans seem to be more responsive at present.”

    Which is easy to explain if the systematic evangelization of sub-Saharan Africa only got underway in the 19C.

    “There are probably a host of reasons, much contingent on free human actions.”

    So why is one people-group more responsive than another people-group? Is one group freer than another? Wiser than another?

    “But for Steve’s Calvinist view, on his logic, God must love White Europeans more than sub-Saharan Africans.”

    Perhaps you lack the aptitude to follow my argument. As I already explained to you, grace can operate sequentially rather than simultaneously. God favored more Jews in OT times, but favored more Gentiles in the course of church history–at least up until now. A synchronic total can be the same as a diachronic total. Do you finally understand this time around?

    “Again, since Steve claims to be granting Arminian assumptions, it does not. because on Arminian assumptions, receiving to God’s grace and believing do not come from superiority.”

    It is wise to accept the gospel, and foolish to reject the gospel. Therefore, by Arminian lights, white Europeans were wiser than black Africans (and other underrepresented ethnic groups).

    “Which on Steve’s/Calvinist premises is a way iof saying that God loves some races more than others.”

    It’s just a fact that in OT times, God showed greater favor to Israel, by adopting Israel, than he did to Israel’s pagan neighbors–not to mention ancient denizens of the New World. If you have a problem with that, then you’re impugning God’s character.

    “But that same argument could be given in response to your claims about racial superiority. If some peoples are more receptive to the gospel than at other times in history, and you think that this shows God does not love some races more than others, then it would seem on your own logic that your argument about racial superiority does not hold up. On the same logic it could not be said that some races are superior.”

    Arminianism locates the differential factor in the libertarianly free human agent. Calvinism does not. Therefore, you’re comparing the incomparable. Nice try. Try again.

    “I was not saying that your argument was predicated on that, but explaining that you mischaracterized my view. You claimed that I denied the freedom of future contingents. But I didn’t.”

    You denied the freedom of future contingents when you said, “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong.”

    Moving along:

    “Another false conclusion. Since God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is contingent on what those free people will do in the future, God’s foreknowledge cannot be wrong. It simply mirrors what will happen. That in no way conflicts with the freedom of the agents.”

    i) In which case they can’t be free to do other than what he knows.

    ii) However, you’ve also said that God can’t know what nonentities will do. But what humans “will” to is an existential proposition about the future. Yet they don’t exist in the future. They only exist in the present.

    Indeed, they don’t exist at all unless God brings them into being. So, on your own assumptions, how can God know what nonentities will do? What they do can’t be known unless and until they exist.

    iii) On a related note, libertarianism is committed to A-theory presentism. On the B-theory, there’s a sense in which people exist in the future, but on that view, the future is a given. So that’s incompatible with libertarian freedom.

    “But I didn’t deny that it is certain. It is certain, but not necessitated by anyone other than the free agent.”

    If the outcome is certain, then it can’t go either way. Indeed, your own position as a type of necessity. As David Widerker points out:

    “Since in them God is assumed to be infallible, the fact D(B) occurs at T is entailed (in the broadly logical sense) by the prior fact of God’s believing at T’ that D(B) occurs at T (T’ is early than T) In this sense, D(B) can be said to be metaphysically necessitated or metaphysically determined by that belief of God,” The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 328.

    And the Boethian maneuver won’t save the day for you either, as philosophers like David Hunt and Linda Zagzebski have detailed.

    “On his own logic, Calvinism is a form of fatalism.”

    i) Wrong. In Calvinism, God doesn’t know a future he can’t control. Rather, God knows the future by controlling the future. In no sense is that fatalistic.

    ii) In your Arminian theory, by contrast, God’s knowledge is fated by the future actions of his creatures. Indeed, his very actions are fated by the future actions of his creatures, for he’s unable to refrain from creating what he foresees, and what he foresees is contingent on what his (human) creatures will freely do.

    “Third, Arminians don’t say that God can only know the future not control it. He can do whatever he wants.”

    Which contradicts your two prior statements: “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person otherwise…God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is contingent on what those free people will do in the future…”

    In that event, God can’t do whatever he wants. You’ve twisted yourself into knots.

    “And I believe that Ben refuted Brennon’s objections.”

    And I believe that Brennon refuted Ben’s objections.

    “You can try to dress it up with philosophical language, but ‘people’ who never exist, ummmm, never exist. That’s true by definition. There are no such ‘people’. The point is that they never exist, and there is not even a ‘they’ to speak of. The difference is one of potentiality vs. actuality.”

    You haven’t presented a counterargument. All you’ve done is to repeat yourself while blowing past the argument I gave.

    “I don’t think that is how God creates people generally. You need to substantiate that.”

    Well, you don’t state how you think God creates people generally. You present no alternative.

    “Moreover, what you are talking about God is planning the person.”

    So we’re back to the Arminian lottery. God doesn’t have a preconception of what he makes. Not a clue. Instead, God turns the crank on the basket, reaches into the basket, and pulls a ticket at random, then sees what it says. Is that it?

    “The biblical text represents the knowledge being about actual people, what would such and such people do given this or that contingency…If the Bible says God knew what the men of Keilah would do, then it is the men of Keilah that involved, not different people who are mere counterparts in a merely possible world.”

    What they “would” to has reference, not to the actual world, but two or more alternate timelines–one of which will become a part of the actual world. For what they “would” do includes what they won’t do. Contrary-to-fact propositions. Unexemplified possibilities. For only one “would be” becomes what “will be.”

    “I know about possible worlds language, but do not think it is helpful.”

    If you reject possible worlds, you reject alternate possibilities–in which case no one can have the freedom to do otherwise.

    “How am I to show that God desires the salvation of all apart from Scripture? The word of God must be the final word in matters of truth/doctrine.”

    The fact that Arminians quote Scripture doesn’t show that Arminian theology is coherent with Scripture. Arminian theology contains a set of propositions with logical implications. Quoting Scripture doesn’t resolve the self-contradictions inherent in Arminian theology. Indeed, all you’ve demonstrated is that Arminian theology as a whole contradicts its own prooftexts.

    The question at issue is not what God (allegedly) desires, but whether the Arminian theologian is consistent.

    “I have already explained it, and answered your objections to my explanation. I would just refer you to what I have said in my posts.”

    In other words, when your back is to the wall, all you can do is repeat yourself. To say you responded is unresponsive, for I interacted with your prior response. Therefore, defaulting to your prior response is unresponsive to my counterargument.

    If you offer a reply, and I draw attention to flaws in your reply, it does you no good to refer the reader back to your previous reply. For I already engaged you on that level. You therefore need to advance the argument. You need to explain how my critique of your previous reply was inadequate.

    Your refusal to do so at this stage of the debate signals the fact that you’ve exhausted your repertoire of pat answers. You have nothing in reserve.

    Let’s review the Arminian dilemma: By making hellbound sinners, God dooms them to hell. Indeed, foredooms them to hell. God knows that by creating them he is thereby damning them.

    And whatever God does, God wills to do. God wills the outcome of his actions. God intends the consequences of his deeds–including dire consequences.

    For the consequences are both foreseeable and avoidable. It lay in his power to refrain from creating a situation with that result.

    Therefore, on Arminian assumptions, God didn’t intend to save the hellbound.

    “Re: some of Steve’s comments about divine decrees and cause, I posted further comments that addressed this issue, but Steve has not interacted with them. (He might not have seen them before he responded.) So I will leave it to him to respond to those further comments.”

    All you did was paraphrase something you said before, without making a substantive revision.

    “That seems to be trying to win a point by claiming victory rather than giving substantive argument.”

    No, it’s not a bare claim. I documented your substitution. You’re not arguing in good faith.

    “No I don’t. Why would I? Did you read what I said? I answered this directly, but you almost seem to have not read it. This is ironic in light of your comments about dealing with your arguments.”

    To the contrary, I gave a specific response to your specific claim. That’s in the public record. Just scroll up a ways. It’s all there for all to see.

    “Moreover, there is no reason why you should decree what I have to show, particularly when it is not even relevant to what we are discussing.”

    i) You’re welcome to duck the arguments you can’t refute. That’s a tacit admission of defeat on your part.

    ii) Asserting that it’s irrelevant doesn’t make it irrelevant. If you think it’s irrelevant, then you need to argue for your contention.

    iii) And it’s clearly relevant to what you said,since my response was tracking your statement.

    “I completely agree that they are not the same. I never said they were. Your comments about it are odd and off topic.”

    So you admit that they’re not the equivalent, yet you substituting a different proposition for what I said, then proceeded to attack your substitute position as if that’s equivalent to attacking what I said.

  35. steve hays says:

    Arminian

    “On Calvinistic assumptions, the reprobate could never do anything differently than he does because it was God who decided what he would do (via his decrees made in eternity) and rendered it necessary and certain by his sovereignty. The insuperable problem for Calvinism in this area continues as strong as ever…”

    Notice that “Arminian” hasn’t even attempted to show how this constitutes an insuperable problem for Calvinism. All he’s done is to summarize his understanding of reprobation, then declare this to be an insuperable problem. He assumes what he needs to prove.

    His modus operandi is just like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who deem it sufficient to cite passages from the OT they find offensive, then wax indignant that anyone could believe the OT. Even if his summary were accurate, he hasn’t given a reason to think Calvinism is false.

    “Indeed, the attempt only highlights how serious the problems for Calvinism are.”

    Once again, notice his modus operandi. He stipulates that these are “serious problems” for Calvinism. But he hasn’t made a case for his verdict. All he’s done is summarize his understanding of Calvinism, then express his disapproval. But that’s not an argument. That’s just his tendentious opinion. Where’s the argument?

    “For in the Calvinist view, God does not merely create people he knows will end up in Hell, but he unconditionally decides that they will commit all the sin they end up in Hell for and that they will reject his gospel and that they will therefore end up in Hell, and he decrees that it should be, and they can do no other than he decrees. So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell, in Calvinism, he unconditionally decides that they will do all that is necessary to go to Hell and makes it so that they must do that and end up in Hell. He predestines their sin and that they go to Hell for what he irresistibly causes them to do by his sovereign implementation of his eternal decrees.”

    i) It’s fallacious for him to infer that if election is unconditional, then reprobation must be unconditional. Where’s the argument?

    ii) The term “irresistible” is customarily applied to regeneration.

    iii) He also acts as if drawing a contrast between Calvinism and Arminianism automatically exonerates Arminianism. But to say things like “So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell…” does nothing to show that merely “creating them knowing they will go to hell” exculpates Arminianism.

    “ It is astounding to me that anyone believes that.”

    Calvinists believe that because we, unlike Arminians, have faith in God. We trust God with our lives. We trust God to plan our lives. We trust God to have a good purpose for whatever befalls us.

    Arminians don’t think God is trustworthy. They doubt his wisdom and providence. They want to plan their own lives.

  36. steve hays says:

    Arminian:

    “It is astounding to me that anyone believes that.”

    If you can’t trust God with your life, how can you trust him for eternal life?

  37. Justin Taylor says:

    I’m gonna close the comments on this one. It’s turning into a forum, I think, that only about a half a dozen people are reading!

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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