Why Servetus is a valid argument against Calvinism

 

Listen to the Podcast by Dr. Flowers on Servertus HERE!

 

Back when I proudly wore the label “Calvinist” I honestly knew very little about the French Reformer named, John Calvin, or his actual writings. This label was simply a short-hand explanation of my soteriological views. When non-Calvinists would bring up Michael Servetus, a man killed under Calvin’s rule in Geneva for disagreement over doctrinal matters, I would simply dismiss them as avoiding the biblical arguments in favor of ad hominem attacks on an old dead theologian who had little to do with the actual doctrines.

I suspect that is where many modern day Calvinists are on this issue. They could take or leave the label “Calvinist,” and might even prefer to leave it in favor of labels like “Reformed,” or affirmers of “TULIP,” or “Sovereign Election,” or “Doctrines of Grace.” Typically, Calvinists see the personal arguments about John Calvin’s harsh treatment of dissenters as a distraction from the biblical doctrines that matter to them.

Honestly, Calvinists have a valid point here. If the non-Calvinist is not willing to fully examine the biblical doctrines of soteriology as proposed by the Calvinist, they really have no ground to question the name-sake of the systematic. Proof that John Calvin treated dissenters in a sinful manner does not prove that Calvinism’s soteriology is wrong.

(And yes, it is a documented fact that John Calvin did believe torturing and killing those who held to false doctrines was justified. See THIS LINK for documentation)

However, if a Calvinist does step into the arena of defending John Calvin’s actions, then the non-Calvinist has every right to bring the full weight of these charges for consideration. For instance, I have seen many Calvinistic scholars argue that John Calvin “lived in a different time” and we need to understand that “he was a man of his day” because “this type of harsh treatment was the more common belief and practice of Christians in the 16th century.”

Actually, it was specifically the more common belief and practice of Calvinistic reformers of the 16th century, not all Christian reformers in general. In other words, the harsh treatment of those who disagree was more commonly seen among those who affirmed a TULIP systematic.
Balthazar Hubmaier and most of the Anabaptist believers of the Reformation era taught that even atheists (and especially Christians with differing doctrinal beliefs) should be shown grace because that is what God has shown us.

Plus, to argue this was just the way things were ignores those who stood in opposition to Calvin. For instance, we learn from the link cited above:

* Between 1542-1564, there were 76 banishments. The total population of Geneva then was 20,000.

* Calvin’s own step-daughter and son-in-law were among those condemned for adultery and executed.

* In Geneva, there was little distinction between religion and morality. The existing records of the Council for this period reveal a high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages, and sentences of death.

* In one case, a child was beheaded for striking his parents. (Following Old Testament Mosaic law, Calvin believed it was scriptural to execute rebellious children and those who commit adultery.)

* During a period of 17 years when Calvin was leading Geneva, there were 139 recorded executions in the city.

Sabastian Castellio, a friend of Calvin’s who urged him to repent of his intolerance, made the shocking remark,

“If Christ himself came to Geneva, he would be crucified. For Geneva is not a place of Christian liberty. It is ruled by a new pope [John Calvin], but one who burns men alive while the pope at Rome strangles them first.”

Castellio also made this remark:

“Can we imagine Christ ordering a man to be burned alive for advocating adult baptism? The Mosaic laws calling for the death of a heretic were superceded by the law of Christ, which superceded by the law of Christ, which is one of mercy not of despotism and terror.” 

Zwingli, Luther and Calvin followed the tyrannical practices of the corrupt Catholic church by promoting the use of state sponsored torture and capital punishment against those who disagreed theologically. Could their soteriological doctrines have been an influence on their view of how Christians are to demonstrate grace and patience toward their enemies?

This is a valid question considering the common charge against Calvinists for their harsh treatment of others even in modern times. John Piper, one of the leading proponents of Calvinism today, even acknowledged this trend when he was asked the question, “Why are Calvinists so negative?”

I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love-producing doctrines. But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative. 

So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive or intellectualistic. 

I’ll just confess that. It’s a sad and terrible thing that that’s the case. Some of this type aren’t even Christians, I think. You can embrace a system of theology and not even be born again. <link>

Could the soteriological belief that God chooses to effectually save some and reprobate the rest from before the foundation of the world affect how you treat others? If you sincerely believe God loves all of His enemies and genuinely desires for everyone of them to come to repentance, wouldn’t you be more likely to show patience and grace to all of your own enemies? That certainly seems to be a very reasonable conclusion.

Moreover, does denying the concept of libertarian free will affect one’s treatment of others? There are secular studies which indicate that affirming free will does have a positive effect on how we respond to other people.

In 2008, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia conducted experiments highlighting the relationship between a belief in determinism and immoral behavior. They found students who were exposed to deterministic literature prior to taking a test were more likely to cheat on the test than students who were not exposed to literature advocating determinism. The researchers concluded those who deny free will are more inclined to believe their efforts to act morally are futile and are, therefore, less likely to do so.

In addition, a study conducted by researchers from Florida State University and the University of Kentucky found participants who were exposed to deterministic literature were more likely to act aggressively and less likely to be helpful toward others.” Even determinist Michael Gazzaniga conceded: “It seems that not only do we believe we control our actions, but it is good for everyone to believe it.”” The existence of free will is a common characteristic of our experience, and when we deny we have this sort of free agency, there are detrimental consequences. <link>

Calvinistic scholar and Southern Seminary President, Dr. Albert Mohler, actually addressed this trend in his podcast called, “The Briefing.” <link>  In Mohler’s argument against naturalistic determinism he states:

The subversion of moral responsibility is one of the most significant developments of recent decades. Though this subversion was originally philosophical, more recent efforts have been based in biology and psychology. Various theorists have argued that our decisions and actions are determined by genetics, environmental factors, or other forces. Now, Scientific American is out with a report on a study linking determinism and moral responsibility.

The diverse theories of determinism propose that our choices and decisions are not an exercise of the will, but simply the inevitable outcome of factors outside our control. As Scientific American explains, determinists argue that “everything that happens is determined by what happened before — our actions are inevitable consequences of the events leading up to the action.”

In other words, free will doesn’t exist. Used in this sense, free will means the exercise of authentic moral choice and agency. We choose to take one action rather than the other, and must then take responsibility for that choice.

This link between moral choice and moral responsibility is virtually instinctive to humans. As a matter of fact, it is basic to our understanding of what it means to be human. We hold each other responsible for actions and choices. But if all of our choices are illusory — and everything is merely the “inevitable consequence” of something beyond our control, moral responsibility is an exercise in delusion.

Scientific American reports on a study performed by psychologists Kathleen Vohs and Jonathan Schooler. The psychologists found that individuals who were told that their moral choices were determined, rather than free, were also more likely to cheat on an experimental examination.

How Molher avoids the same charge against the theistic determinism of Calvinistic Compatibilism is beyond me. After all, the “inevitable consequence of something beyond our control” which leads to the “delusion of moral responsibility” is the same problem for the theistic determinist as it would be for the naturalistic determinists when it comes to the practical implications of how one behaves. Whether one believes those choices are determined by “mother nature” or an actual divine being would not change their inevitability and the resulting delusion of individual responsibility for those choices.

Soteriology Affects Behavior

The argument is that one’s soteriology does in fact impact one’s behavior. Therefore, pointing out the bad behavior of those who held to certain soteriological perspectives historicially as evidence that the perspective itself has not typically resulted in healthy behavior toward others, is a valid argument.

As Mohler himself concluded when rebutting naturalistic determinism, “If we are not responsible for our actions, then why would people do the right thing? The most immediate result of such thinking is the subversion of moral accountability.”

Likewise, if the reprobate of the Calvinistic worldview is not responsible for his rejection of Christ, in that the choice was inevitably determined by someone other than the moral agent making the choice, then the most immediate result of such thinking is the subversion of the moral accountability in their rejecting of Christ.

Moreover, if John Calvin is not responsible for his actions toward dissenters, meaning he could not have done other than what he did, then why would his followers do the right thing except that God determines it? The moral accountability of Calvin is brought into question due to the same inevitability on compatibilistic determinism as would be on naturalistic determinism, with one exception:  On Calvinism, John Calvin’s mistreatment of others was God’s determination, not mother nature’s.

How different would the test results be between the naturalistic determinist and the theistic determinist given both affirm the inevitability of human choices as being determined by someone/something other than the free moral agent? How does one do any more or less harm to the concept of moral accountability?

We are Compatibilists not Theistic Fatalists!

It’s interesting to me that when a Calvinist seeks to defend against the charge of being a “Theistic Fatalist” he often argues “God not only ordains the end; but also the means” as if that is a point the Theistic Fatalist would in anyway deny. <link>

That argument does not avoid the charge of Theistic Fatalism, but in fact affirms it. For what is Theistic Fatalism if not God’s determination of not only the ends but every single desire, thought and action (i.e. “means”) that bring about those ends?

What do the Calvinists think this qualification is accomplishing in their effort to distinguish themselves from the Theistic Fatalist? The belief that God unchangeably causes every meticulous detail of both the ends and their given means is at the very heart of Theistic Fatalism.

Are there Theistic Fatalists out there arguing, “God doesn’t determine the means,” while the Calvinists are going around correcting them saying, “No, no, no God does control the means too?”  Of course not.  Both systems of thought clearly affirm God’s cause of all things, including the ends and their respective means.

So, what is the Calvinist seeking to accomplish by pointing out a common belief that Calvinists share with Theistic Fatalists?

It appears to me the only real difference between a Theistic Fatalist and a Compatibilistic Calvinist is that the latter refuses to accept the practical implications of their own claims in order to remain consistent with the clear teaching of the Bible.
In both Theistic Fatalism and Calvinism, if God sovereignly decrees for me to go witness to my neighbor He will give me the effectual desire to go witness to my neighbor. If my neighbor is one of His elect and God has unchangeably elected for me to be the means by which my neighbor comes to Christ, then logically I would have to believe that God will give me the effectual desire and the opportunity to carry out His preordain plan (i.e. “God will ordain the means”). If that effectual desire never comes then why couldn’t I rightly conclude it ultimately was not God’s pre-ordained plan for me to be the means through which my neighbor would come to Christ?

The only logical argument a Compatibilistic Calvinist could bring to this charge is, “That’s true but you can’t think that way!”  In other words, the Compatibilist has to ignore the truth claims of his own systematic in order to live practically. His actual beliefs are untenable and must be ignored in order to remain consistent with the Biblical mandate.

There is no difference in the actual claims of the Calvinist and the Theistic Fatalist. The only difference is in how the person chooses to act in response to that commonly held belief of theistic determinism. And therein lies the problem for the Calvinist, for that choice is just as unchangably determined by God as is the choice of His elect to believe.

Did you follow that? Under the Calvinistic system, God unchangeably determines those who will accept the belief that “God not only ordains the end; but also the means.” And He determines if that believer will respond with evangelistic activity or inactivity. In other words, God decides if the  believer of theistic determinism will become a hyper-Calvinist who refuses to actively participate in evangelism or a productive, obedient Calvinist. God also determines if a Calvinist treats unbelievers with patience and love, as did William Carey, or destain and hatred, as did John Calvin.

Calvinists are known to argue, “God has ordained for His elect to be saved through the proclamation of the gospel,” But wouldn’t they likewise argue that God has ordained for the saved to proclaim the gospel when they do proclaim it and not to proclaim it when they remain disobediently inactive?  After all, Calvinists do affirm that God causes all things that come to pass, which would include the inactivity of the saints, would it not?

Think about this.  If any particular Calvinist chooses to disobey God and not proclaim the Gospel when impressed to do so by the Holy Spirit, who is really responsible for that choice to disobey?

Has God, for some unknown reason, not granted the sufficient grace to convince the will of His messenger to proclaim the truth when told to do so? Or has that messenger disobeyed of his own libertarian free will? And what is the result of that disobedience? When an individual Calvinistic believer disobey’s God’s command to evangelize, did any fewer elect individuals respond in faith than what God ordained? Of course not.  Why?  Because God ordained for that Calvinist’s disobedience with the same level of “sovereign control” as He does in ordaining for another Calvinist’s obedience.

You see, a Calvinist may argue that evangelism in general is necessary for the salvation of the elect in general, but logically your individual responsibility to evangelize any particular elect person is not necessary for the salvation of that elect person. After all if you weren’t ordained to evangelize that elect individual, someone else was, otherwise they wouldn’t be elect.

Granted, someone (but not necessarily you) has to share the gospel with the elect in order for them to be saved. If God has ordained you to be that evangelist, then He will give you the effectual desire to do so. Thus, if you refrain from doing so you could rightly conclude that you weren’t meant to be the means for that person’s salvation. You are left with the perfect excuse for your inactivity and disobedience to God’s command: “God unchangeably ordained the means, or in this case, my lack of participation in those means.”

So the next time a Calvinist argues that “God ordains the ends as well as the means” just remember this does not avoid the charge of Theistic Fatalism but actually confirms it. In fact, their system logically affirms that the believer’s inactive disobedience is as much according to God’s ordained plan as is another believer’s active obedience. So, if and when a Calvinist becomes “hyper” or “anti-evangelistic” in his behavior, he does so by God’s decree. And, so too, if a Calvinist becomes highly evangelistic in his behavior he does so equally by God’s decree (i.e. “God ordains the means”).  A consistent Calvinistic scholar cannot get around this logical fact no matter how much theological rhetoric they use to placate their opponents. The best they can do is say, “Just don’t think of of it that way,” which in essence means, “Act like what we believe isn’t true.”

And to that I say, “AMEN!”

 

44 thoughts on “Why Servetus is a valid argument against Calvinism

  1. Thank you Leighton. I agree that this is not something that would be a primary topic for discussion but it is a legitimate topic. For example, if a well know pastor or evangelical leader came out today and said he believes we should use physical force to bring wayward Christians back into the church or believes we should use physical force against those we consider to be cults, would the uproar be only against these ideas or would most in the church also discount his theological teachings and stop buying his books? I would be willing to bet that most would not make a separation between his ideas on using physical force and his other theological ideas as the Calvinist does with Calvin. As you mentioned, some try to use the “lived in a different time” argument-I’ve heard that before as well, but that argument is clearly based on relativism (as if what is morally right and wrong is based on what “time” you live in?) and I’ve not met a Calvinist yet that is a relativist. Start down that road and you could justify almost any torture in the name of “the times he lived in”. In addition, as you made the point, there were many in the non-catholic church who lived in the same time that did not advocate harsh treatment of non-believers.

    I was in a discussion with a Calvinist and brought up the fact that the early church fathers were united in their fight against determinism and his only comment he could muster was “well the early church fathers weren’t right on everything and had some things wrong ideas.” A comment such as this clearly opens the discussion up to this topic. If you’re willing to discount the teaching of any church leader on one subject because he was possibly wrong on another, then you would need to be willing to discount the teachings of Calvin due to his overseeing of brutal torture and murder of those who disagreed with him. You would need to be willing to discount the teachings of Luther due to the incredibly harsh things he said and advocated about how to treat Jews (From “On the Jews and Their Lies” Luther wrote “that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss Sulphur and pitch; it would good if someone could also throw in some hellfire”). And you would need to discount Augustine, who really started this whole idea in the Catholic Church of using force against wayward believers or those who disagree with you (“Is it not a part of the care of the shepherd, when any sheep have left the flock, even though not violently forced away, but led astray by tender words and coaxing blandishments, to bring them back to the fold of his master when he has found them. And he may do this by the fear of the whip, or even the pain of the whip, if they show symptoms of resistance -Augustine).

    I’m not advocating throwing out everything someone teaches because they may have gotten something wrong. We owe a great debt to the reformers and the early church fathers and the leaders of the church in our day, even though they may get some things wrong. But is it fair to look at how a leader treats those who disagree with him in then evaluating the legitimacy of what he says? I think so.
    We need to look no further than the example of Christ and the apostles. They were very firm and even condemned those who opposed or distorted the Gospel but they never used physical violence against those who opposed them.

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    1. Good observations, Andy! It is important to note that all your examples were of teachers who got believer’s baptism wrong! That teaching is a type of shibboleth to help identify which men are qualified in sound doctrine to pastor in Christ’s flock (Titus 1:9). If they can not support that clear teaching, but push infant baptism as qualifying sound doctrine, which doctrine has no clear Scripture support, why should not their use of Scripture for other doctrines they push as important be called into question?

      God did use some of the reformers and early pre-Nicene leaders, whose works we still have, for good, but His pastoral leadership has always been in men like Balthasar Hubmaier, that Leighton mentioned above.

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  2. Pastor Flowers writes, “the author does affirm that God causes all things that come to pass, which would include the inactivity of the saints, would it not?…So the next time a Calvinist argues that “God ordains the ends as well as the means” just remember this does not avoid the charge of Theistic Fatalism but actually confirms it.”

    As a former Calvinist, you know that Calvinists distinguish between primary and secondary means. Yet, you ignore that distinction. I understand that Theistic Fatalism requires that God be the primary cause of all things and does not allow for the use of secondary means.

    As to evangelistic zeal, the Calvinist accepts the Scriptures:

    Ephesians 4
    11 It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
    12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

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  3. Leighton, for sure one’s theology, especially their soteriological perspective, effects their reactions in life’s most important areas. If one truly believes that there are no future events open for change that will be allowed by divine permission, but that all events are irrevocably set, then that has to effect negatively one’s motivation for prayer and evangelism

    As for rejecting violently those that one believes are “proven” in his mind as “damned”, you only have to look at the 30 years war where 1/3 of Germany’s population was killed in the early 17th century over religious differences in soteriology. That is not to count all who were killed for “heresy” by both Catholics and Protestants during the previous century. But I stand firmly on the conviction that only those who were faithful to Sola Scriptura, especially interpreting the OT with NT eyes, and rejecting any teaching based mainly on tradition (like infant baptism), were really the ones given by Christ to build up His body and equip the saints for ministry.

    I learned first hand how reformed theology deadens evangelism when coworkers of mine in Dublin, Ireland, while evangelizing locals from a Roman Catholic background, were told by Protestants visiting from N. Ireland not to “waste your time on those papists!” If your theology teaches the pope is the antichrist and that his baptism is the mark of the beast, one can only begin to believe evangelism of Roman Catholics is a waste of time! And many can remember how Wm Carey was met by his Calvinist brother when he shared his burden for lost overseas – “If God wishes to convert the heathen, he can do it without you.”

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    1. brianwagner writes, “…one can only begin to believe evangelism of Roman Catholics is a waste of time!”

      But certainly an extremely tough task if we are talking about the religious ones and not the cultural ones not to mention the uniqueness of the situation in N. Ireland.

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      1. Roger, I’ve seen many formerly religious Roman Catholics come to assurance of their salvation through placing their trust in Christ alone and rejecting their former trust in the sacraments of Catholicism! And I have formed the opinion that former Roman Catholics make very good Christians! The task of helping them did have a certain toughness. But I wouldn’t say it was any tougher task than helping a Calvinist reject their trust in their non-biblical tenets – to trust only in the clear teaching of Scripture, like Leighton has! 🙂

        I never considered the 12 years God gave me to serve in Co Kerry, Ireland, a tougher task than trying to win souls here in the US.

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  4. “Leighton, for sure one’s theology, especially their soteriological perspective, effects their reactions in life’s most important areas. If one truly believes that there are no future events open for change that will be allowed by divine permission, but that all events are irrevocably set, then that has to effect negatively one’s motivation for prayer and evangelism”

    I don’t mean to steer this discussion in the wrong direction, but this thought needs some clarity, or me muddying the waters, form both an Arminian and Calvinist perspective. From an Arminian perspective of God’s timelessness, God knowing all things (omniscience), including the future free choices of humans, the future may be “irrevocably set”, with the understanding that God’s active and permissive will was and is involved. For us human’s in present time (yet foreknown by God) shape events by our faith, and effectual prayer, helping fulfill the great commission. In other words, events are certain to happen, because God knows future truths, but they are not set out of necessity .

    The Calvinist have a different understanding of, “all events are irrevocably set”, and that the grounding of all behavior and choices are founded in God’s will and decree, and not in God’s foreknowledge. For the Calvinist, God only foreknows what He has already decreed will happen. God’s blueprint is set. A Calvinist’s “setting” of future events are not contingent upon any human free choices, or even God foreknowing choices and allowing, but that God will’s what He decrees, and a human cannot do otherwise, whether it be good or evil.

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    1. Hi Dane! For some, your decision to respond to my comments against an “irrevocably set” future will bring some chagrin. But beneath this website’s discussion of all the side issues relating to Calvinism, is this one mentioned by Leighton directly in the post above. Is everything already set in stone for the future? The answer to this question has to at least subconsciously affect how we respond to our responsibilities to be change agents for the future, for our lives and for the lives of others.

      The Arminian position you have briefly presented attempts to maintain a view to our personal responsibility being real, but, I believe, it has done so at the expense of logic and the reality that Scripture teaches, which is a reality where God dwells with us, within His creation and beyond, but not in an alternate reality also at the same time. I hope you will agree that Scripture clearly teaches a sequential reality for God, “from everlasting to everlasting”, “who was and is and is to come”. I hope you will consider dropping the “timelessness” idea for God’s reality, because that view has no clear Scriptural support, and it goes against this clear evidence that I have just given. And it would be illogical, breaking the law of non-contradication, to say God is both in a sequential reality and in a non-sequential reality at the same time.

      As for the different positions held concerning omniscience and foreknowledge that all hold to a settled future in God’s mind, here is my review –

      The Calvinist’s determinism is contradictory because it has tied up God’s free-will within a wrong view of perfection and an unbiblical immutable omniscience borrowed from Plato. So God for the Calvinist had to create this world that had Adam’s and every other sin all predetermined before any individual’s will was even created to function on its own.

      The Molinist gets rid of the idea of an eternal determinism, but then still chooses to believe that God determines one particular human history, which still has every sin determined as settled before any human will is created to function on its own. And we must take the Molinist’s word for it that God picked a completed human history that has man responsible for his own sin that he would also freely commit. It doesn’t bother him, or his Calvinist brother, that the Scripture reads that man truly has counter-causal freedom for much of his decisions, or that there is nothing in Scripture that suggests that God had to limit His own freedom by making all His choices for human history ahead of creation.

      The Arminian subscribes to the same settled human history as the Calvinist and Molinist, and just decides to accept a contradiction that knowledge of the future somehow comes to God from an outside source. But knowledge of any future must be created by God Himself from within His own infinite understanding of all possibilities that the future can hold, and which are consistent with His nature. That He continues to make determinations sequentially, and consistent with His nature, does not cause God to be any less perfect.

      He knows the future perfectly as He has decided it to be. As the Scripture plainly reads, it is already partly determined, but it is also still partly filled with possibilities for His and man’s free-will interaction. He knows all the possibilities perfectly so that nothing happens that was not understood as possible within His infinite understanding.

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  5. Hi Brianwagner, I enjoy your thoughtfulness. I personally do not see a contradiction, no more than how you closed your last post with what sounds like my understanding of the future being opened to us, yet in God’s foreknowing – set (foreknowing is not determinative). Do you believe God only knows contingencies (super computations) and not actuals, as seen in Jesus foretelling Judas’ betrayal? Time/Space, as we understand it, is a creation of God. Logical order or sequential order, is a science of time/pace that God created. God can be in, but is not limited to, time/space; do you agree? We can’t limit God’s nature to his creation. Time/space did begin, it came into being, yet God is eternal and has no beginning or end. Do you believe in the finitude of time/space or something? Your view sounds a lot like Open theism – for me this is man’s attempt to make God more understandable. Before there was space/time; God was. We can’t comprehend this or you, as well, end up breaking the law of non-contradiction. Can God ever have an original thought? Did he ever not know who I would be? Did God at a point in time think of something that he had not thought of? This is what one gets it they do not understand a timeless, space-less God.

    There is an absolute other reality; other worlds. We have is a physical world of time/space reality that we see and study. There is also another reality that at times intersects with our reality, when we see miracles, and experience angelic beings, and the spiritual world of darkness, and so forth. Unless you can physically show me that Angelic beings are made up of this universe’s particles and are limited to our laws of physics, you have an uphill battle in trying to support this is the only reality there is. I think John Lennox, the mathematician, explains this well. There is not an alternate reality, per say, but a reality apart from this universe, outside of our time/space and its logical limitations. God knows all actuals of what will certainly happen. For the Calvinist this is not the same, for God does not know actuals; he only knows his blue print. The Arminian understanding of foreknowledge has been proven and defended both scripturally, and is philosophically logical, regardless of what theory of time one uses. Knowing the future does not determine it.

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    1. Dane,

      Not sure if you know, but Brian Wagner is the resident OPEN THEIST here. He brings up his open theism over and over here trying to convert others to this false and unorthodox theology. What I particularly do not like about Wagner is that he is not honest about being an open theist. If he was honest and just said things like “according to my open theist theology . . .” etc. I could respectfully disagree with him. But he is careful not to use the label on himself and this is deceptive as his beliefs are clearly open theist.

      He will **argue against “labels”** but you will notice he has no difficulty using the labels Arminian, Molinist, Calvinist for others.

      He will also engage in all sorts of semantic game playing in order to argue for his open theism (e.g. he redefines omniscience to fit his open theism rather than what everybody else means by the term, he uses his own terminology to describe events and God’s knowledge of them).

      Take this post as an example:

      “Hi Dane! For some, your decision to respond to my comments against an “irrevocably set” future will bring some chagrin. But beneath this website’s discussion of all the side issues relating to Calvinism, is this one mentioned by Leighton directly in the post above. Is everything already set in stone for the future? The answer to this question has to at least subconsciously affect how we respond to our responsibilities to be change agents for the future, for our lives and for the lives of others.”

      Everything is “set” in the sense that God knows what we will freely choose to do before we end up choosing to do it (a reality that Wagner denies). Notice the language “set in stone for the future” this implies that we have no choices in the future. We will have choices, but the choices we will end up making freely are already known to God. God’s foreknowledge does not determine or cause our choices, rather His foreknowledge corresponds correctly with what we will freely choose to do.

      “The Arminian position you have briefly presented attempts to maintain a view to our personal responsibility being real, but, I believe, it has done so at the expense of logic and the reality that Scripture teaches, which is a reality where God dwells with us, within His creation and beyond, but not in an alternate reality also at the same time. I hope you will agree that Scripture clearly teaches a sequential reality for God, “from everlasting to everlasting”, “who was and is and is to come”. I hope you will consider dropping the “timelessness” idea for God’s reality, because that view has no clear Scriptural support, and it goes against this clear evidence that I have just given. And it would be illogical, breaking the law of non-contradication, to say God is both in a sequential reality and in a non-sequential reality at the same time.”

      Notice according to him, the Arminian position is contrary to logic and scripture.

      This is not accurate as scripture presents BOTH that God is omniscient AND at times we freely make choices from differing alternatives that are both available to us. The best logical inference from the fact that both are taught by scripture is that both are true simultaneously (it is similar to we find scripture presenting that there is only one God and yet three persons are God: Father, Son, Spirit, so we logically conclude that this one God exists in three persons, again the best logical inference from what scripture presents). This is not “at the expense of logic” but is perfectly logical and rational. And this logical conclusion has satisfied the greatest minds in church history across all Christian traditions (look at the best theologians and philosophers among Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant and they all hold the same view on omniscience). And yet Wagner comes along with his open theism and claims we are all wrong.

      Wagner also has problems with God not relating to time like us and being beyond time as He created time (i.e. God is transcendent as creator over the creation which includes time and space). Wagner thinks God is just a bigger version of us existing in time just like us. This is a common weakness of open theism as the transcendence of God is lost and replaced by a person who is in time just like us (and being in time like us as their thinking goes he does not know what choices we will freely make in the future until we make them).

      Now note he gives his review of the differing positions and explicitly labels the Calvinist view, the Arminian view and the Molinist view: and yet he when he presents his own view he does not say the open theist view (again this is deceptive and misleading especially for those not familiar with open theism theology, similar to when a cult attacks orthodox Christianity but does not mention themselves when giving the critique).

      [[“As for the different positions held concerning omniscience and foreknowledge that all hold to a settled future in God’s mind, here is my review –
      The Calvinist’s determinism is contradictory because it has tied up God’s free-will within a wrong view of perfection and an unbiblical immutable omniscience borrowed from Plato. So God for the Calvinist had to create this world that had Adam’s and every other sin all predetermined before any individual’s will was even created to function on its own.
      The Molinist gets rid of the idea of an eternal determinism, but then still chooses to believe that God determines one particular human history, which still has every sin determined as settled before any human will is created to function on its own. And we must take the Molinist’s word for it that God picked a completed human history that has man responsible for his own sin that he would also freely commit. It doesn’t bother him, or his Calvinist brother, that the Scripture reads that man truly has counter-causal freedom for much of his decisions, or that there is nothing in Scripture that suggests that God had to limit His own freedom by making all His choices for human history ahead of creation.
      The Arminian subscribes to the same settled human history as the Calvinist and Molinist, and just decides to accept a contradiction that knowledge of the future somehow comes to God from an outside source. But knowledge of any future must be created by God Himself from within His own infinite understanding of all possibilities that the future can hold, and which are consistent with His nature. That He continues to make determinations sequentially, and consistent with His nature, does not cause God to be any less perfect.
      He knows the future perfectly as He has decided it to be. As the Scripture plainly reads, it is already partly determined, but it is also still partly filled with possibilities for His and man’s free-will interaction. He knows all the possibilities perfectly so that nothing happens that was not understood as possible within His infinite understanding.”]]

      He also misrepresents these views, I will limit my comments to the Arminian view since you are Arminian Dane.

      Molina and other non-Calvinists have believed that God has His knowledge eternally (when He alone existed) and so from Himself (i.e. He knows history before it occurs, before it exists, therefore the knowledge that He has must exist when nothing else exists). For Wagner to claim that “knowledge of the future somehow comes to God from an outside source” is disingenuous and misrepresents the view of Arminians and other non-Calvinists who believe that God is both omniscient and eternally omniscient (this was also the view of Aquinas).

      Put another way, the normal non-Calvinist view (excepting open theists and this includes the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox as well) is that God knew all of world history and even if He had not decided to create He also had this same knowledge of world history had He created (being omniscient He is omniscient whether He chooses to create or not).

      Another sneaky thing that Wagner repeatedly engages in is attacking the normal Christian view of omniscience as a “Catholic doctrine” (an attempt at a guilt by association argument, Catholicism has problems and is wrong in some areas [and we would all agree on this] so it supposedly follows that their view of omniscience is wrong, this leaves out the fact that their view of omniscience is held across the board by everyone including Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists EXCEPT FOR OPEN THEISTS such as Wagner).

      Wagner will also attack the normal view by claiming it is based on philosophy. I have pointed out to him multiple times that most believers hold the normal view based on their interpretation of biblical texts not philosophy. My wife for example knows the Bible very well and holds the normal view and this is not based on her knowledge of philosophy but of scripture.

      Wagner claims that God knows all possibilities, but not how all future actualities that involve freely made choices will occur. But this is a warped and twisted view of omniscience (omniscience means that God knows all possibilities AND all actualities, all future events that will in fact occur **including those that involve our freely made choices**). It is interesting that Wagner will deny that God knows what we will freely choose to do, and if He did know that this would be him gaining knowledge “from an outside source”. But how does God know all possibilities? He must know these possibilities from eternity, this knowledge must not come “from an outside source”. And yet Wagner because he rejects the proper view of omniscience will claim that God cannot have eternal knowledge of choices that we will make. And this is where his semantic game playing comes in with a vengeance: he will deny that God can know future freely made choices by us AND AT THE SAME TIME clam that God is “omniscient” (clearly if He does not know what choices we will freely make in the future, HE IS NOT OMNISCIENT, and it is misleading to refer to Him as omniscient if He does not know these future actualities).

      Dane I hadn’t seen you post here before so I wanted you to have a heads up about this open theist. If he was honest and forthright about his open theism I could and would disagree with him and yet respect him for being honest, not trying to deceive or mislead others. But he is not honest and forthright, repeatedly presenting his open theist beliefs and attacking the normal view of omniscience, while refusing to use the label on himself (simultaneously having no hesitation labeling others views such as Arminian, Calvinist or Molinist).

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    1. Seeking Disciple,

      I have at times seen this same mentality. It is especially present among those who believe all Arminians are heretics (and so not a long step to conclude that if they could be eliminated they ought to be eliminated, they eliminated false teachers and sorcerers in the OT era didn’t they?). The problem is that we are not in the theocracy of Israel so it is not right to kill heretics or sorcerers.

      We are to reason with people via scripture and if that works exclude them from our groups. but not kill them or imprison them or torture them (all things done by the Reformers by the way, especially with Servetus and the Anabaptists).

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      1. Hi Robert! Should we be in a theocracy? Does the Scripture teach that we should? You have clearly shown in your post that you think we shouldn’t. But the Roman Catholics and Protestants believed that we should and that the Scriptures “clearly” taught so! If they got that one wrong, causing the deaths of thousands, why should we trust their hermeneutics for other doctrines and definitions that they labeled “orthodox”, but without clear Scriptural support?

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  6. “The Arminian subscribes to the same settled human history as the Calvinist and Molinist, and just decides to accept a contradiction that knowledge of the future somehow comes to God from an outside source.”

    The source is God knowing all things. It is grounded in actuals/truth. You seem to have God calculating a future that I can show logically has no end dealing with contingencies? Not sure how to respond. God’s knowledge of actuals is defendable because actuals are reality and not contingencies. Do you think that God knowing all contingencies gets you off the hook of where the source of his knowledge comes from? God had to start the “possibilities” within his created beings, the same as the Arminian understanding of exhaustive foreknowledge. You have God knowing choice 1-infinity, were the Arminian knows 1 actual truth, as well as other contingencies. “All possibilities” is endless. Just as an infinite regress is not logical, so in an “infinite progress” is not logical. How Can God know all, when there is no end to an “infinite progress” of contingencies”? Especially if God is sequential and bound to time, this would never end. Mathematically this is possible. What you are describing as all possibilities, is like a God that has roulette wheel of a finite number of possibilities, that when someone’s choice falls onto a number that God then somehow knew of that possibility, (that then fit into his plan?), and that somehow this created future is “by God Himself from within His own infinite understanding of all possibilities”? How can God even know the calculations (possibilities) of someone that will never exist, a soul that will never think or choose, or have lived, but that might have lived given a different set of circumstances? Souls are not just brains and calculations, they are beings, minds, people, souls, that God just does not make up in his calculations. This seems more like a cosmic game of Plinko, that the free will of man just falls into a finite set of possibilities that God has a 10 to the 100 trillionth power sets of possibilities that He then works out to his will. God knew me before I was conceived as a real person whom Jesus died for. Not as a possibility of the trillions of trillions of sperm that my Dad had in his lifetime, and the thousands of eggs from my Mom, that potentially ended up as me, that God then came to know me as I became real in time. No, God knew me as a real actual soul that would be.

    For your idea of God’s knowledge to be true, He would have had either to make an educated guess dealing with Judas’ betrayal, or literally determine Judas’ course of action, thereby making God the author of Judas’ sin, because Judas could not have done otherwise.

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    1. Good morning Dane! I appreciated your thoughtful response and attempt to be thorough and logical.

      Before I respond, let me encourage you, if you haven’t already, to ask yourself if you are willing to test Arminian assumptions against Scriptural evidence and are willing to jettison any, or at least deem them possibly wrong, if there is no clear Scriptural support for them and there is some clear Scriptural support contrary.

      Also, I work better in small bites, especially focusing on one or two Scriptures and one or two questions. 🙂 I will try to answer your questions, but I may not address directly everything you said, though hopefully I will cover the main ideas. Please point out what I left unanswered. I will then ask you a couple of questions.

      You said – “Logical order or sequential order, is a science of time/space that God created.” I read the Scriptures as presenting only that logical order and sequential order are God’s reality, but they are not limited by creation,.But God’s logic and revelation of His sequential existence do help to understand creation. God has no beginning, but the past does not still exist for God. God has no end, but the future does not yet exist for God. If the past and future now exist and forever will exist, you will have to posit two contradictory realities for God, for the Scripture declares He is in our reality, but we are not still in the past or in the future, which we would have to be if they still/already exist. But there is no clear Scripture statement for this logical contradiction… and you have to ask yourself why, since that contradiction is so important to your defining of foreknowledge.

      Also, the Arminian undermines the meaning of “foreknowledge”, for he must not have any “before” with God. He holds onto immutable omniscience, along with the Calvinist and therefore God is not free to think sequentially. That is, He cannot have one thought change from being known as a possibility to becoming a certainty, either by God’s determination or by a currently unsettled event becoming a past one. You were starting to describe God’s knowledge of the future possibilities accurately, but you may need to consider how possibilities within God’s infinite understanding are limited by any determination that He makes and by other aspects of His nature. He will never understand the possibility of Himself lying, for His nature makes this impossible.

      Yes, we all have to have Judas responsible for his sin! The Calvinist scripts it before Judas’ will is even created and just says God is not guilty. So does the Molinist, though he contends that God calculated/allowed Judas enough freedom, theoretically speaking (for Judas only existed in God’s mind). That is no different than the Calvinist position, and it opens the door to question how that kind of scripted freedom, wherein Judas, in reality, had no input, still does not make God guilty. The Arminian (most that control that group) somehow has God locked in some kind of other reality of a constant present that knows the future and past as present because they are assumed without evidence to always exist. But God does not interact sequentially at all with man’s reality, though they say He does, but any interaction would logically be based on a choice He makes, which requires, by definition, sequential thought, which the Arminian’s view rejects. He wants to have his cake and eat it too, like the Calvinist and Molinist, but his is more contradictory in his view than theirs.

      A partially open and partially determined future and a God that is free to make moment by moment determinations out of His infinite understanding of all possibilities and limited by what He has already determined is the normal way the Scripture reads. He came to know as certain from among all the possibilities by determining in the first century during Judas’ life that Judas would become the one to betray. God determined that, like a rat in a maze, to cut off his options, the possibilities to do otherwise than Judas’ nature desired. However, God was just to do so, for Judas as the betrayer was never planned before creation, nor was he foreknown (more than a possibility) to become the betrayer. But since he had freely rejected God’s free offers of grace (also previously known as one possibility), as a marred vessel God determined after those rejections to remake him justly into a vessel of wrath to be used to help bring the truth about salvation to others.

      God knows the truth about the future, for according to His revelation of it in Scripture the future is not to be known as completely settled. God has determined the future to be that way, i.e. partly open. And we can create the outcomes of the future from among the possibilities that still exist by the exercise of our relatively free will and God’s relatively free will, bounded only by our natures and what God has already predetermined.

      What Scriptures do you look to that point to these two contradictory realities (sequential and non-sequential) that God exists in? Thanks again Dane for your previous thoughtful reply.

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  7. Brian,

    I am surprised that you would write something so stupid.

    “Hi Robert! Should we be in a theocracy?”

    No.

    “Does the Scripture teach that we should?”

    No.

    “You have clearly shown in your post that you think we shouldn’t.”

    At least you got that right.

    “But the Roman Catholics and Protestants believed that we should and that the Scriptures “clearly” taught so!”

    Did ALL Roman Catholics and Protestants believe that we should?

    No, Anabaptists (considered to be Protestants) did not think we should. Early Baptists (and Baptists ARE DEFINITELY PROTESTANTS) did not think we should and developed their strong stand on church/state separation based primarily on the mistakes they saw other Protestants make.

    “If they got that one wrong, causing the deaths of thousands,”

    This THEY that you speak of here, does not include all Catholics and all Protestants?

    There is also the fact that people can be right on some things and wrong on others.

    The Catholics and Protestants that you refer to believed in the deity of Christ and the trinity.

    Since they were wrong in some areas do we then conclude they were wrong on the deity of Christ and the trinity?

    No, unless we engage in Wagner “logic” (if someone is wrong in ***some area***, they must be wrong in ***all*** other areas as well). This is just stupid reasoning and not logical at all.

    And Dane if you happen to read this, this is TYPICAL of the kind of nonsense that Wagner engages in. His tactic is to try to **undermine the normal understanding of omniscience** by pointing out problems in the thinking of those who hold the normal understanding of omniscience, in other areas, and then arguing that therefore we cannot trust them on omniscience.

    Dane I should also point out that Wagner holds the bizarre belief of being against all denominations. Therefore he will argue that anyone who practices infant baptism is unfit for pastoral leadership, not fit to be a pastor. As a Baptist I hold to believer baptism, but I am not against all denominations nor do I attack other groups in order to justify some false belief like open theism. Yet this is precisely what Wagner does, he attacks all groups in order to justify and promote his open theism (and at the same time does not even call himself open theist).

    “why should we trust their hermeneutics for other doctrines and definitions that they labeled “orthodox”, but without clear Scriptural support?”

    Note they got it right on the deity of Christ and the trinity and the resurrection of Jesus. They had clear scriptural support for these beliefs that they got right. Just as they had clear scriptural support for their belief in omniscience which they also got right. Should we not trust them since they got the trinity and the deity of Christ and the resurrection of Christ right?

    It should be noted that there ***is*** clear scriptural support for the normal belief in omniscience, but Wagner and other open theists reject this support and then must reinterpret these scriptures or argue against omniscience by inventing their own terminology and concepts.

    Well there it is, the jump from {{they had problems in some areas}} (and that includes NOT ALL OF THEM) to the conclusion that {{we cannot trust them in all other areas}} (specifically Wagner’s goal is to discredit and attack omniscience as held by everyone except for open theists like himself). This guy is an independent spirit who submits only to his own mind, and attacks all others (especially Catholics, he seems to hate the Catholics above all others as he attacks them the most) to promote his false open theism beliefs.

    We can find problems with any group, all have made errors, all have had some bad apples, but we do not generalize from this to the conclusion that they are wrong about everything they hold to. I disagree with other groups on things such as baptism, but I will not argue that if they are wrong on X, therefore they are wrong ON EVERYTHING. This is irrational, divisive and exactly what Wagner engages in over and over.

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    1. Actually Robert, I never said that Protestants were wrong on everything. I think you must see that was a misrepresentation on your part of what I said. For I only asked how can we trust them to define what is orthodox if they get major clear doctrines wrong. Also, the term “Protestant” was coined by the Lutherans. I do not believe there is any evidence that this term was accepted by the groups who taught believer’s baptism in the 16th century. They didn’t even accept the title Anabaptist for themselves. I am not 100% certain of these last two statements, and am open to learning to the contrary, but I have yet to read evidence to the contrary.

      Later believers who taught believers baptism as a sound doctrine that is necessary as a pastoral leadership qualification did accept the term “Baptist” for themselves, in the 17th century, and later on the term “Protestant” in the 18th century, I think. But one could argue that they compromised their biblical hermeneutics and some clear Scriptural doctrines of ecclesiology when they accepted those traditional labels.

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      1. Brian your major mistake or slip was the statement:

        “But the Roman Catholics and Protestants believed that we should and that the Scriptures “clearly” taught so!”

        Stated this way, with no qualifications, you are declaring this to be true of ALL Catholics and Protestants.

        This would have better stated as “But SOME of the Roman Catholics and Protestants . . .”

        “Actually Robert, I never said that Protestants were wrong on everything. I think you must see that was a misrepresentation on your part of what I said.”

        The argument that you have repeatedly made at this site is this one: since they (always Catholics sometimes Protestants) were wrong on X (in this case theocracy) therefore we should not trust them on Y (repeatedly it has been the normal view of omniscience held by both Catholics and Protestants). This argument fails logically no matter how many times you keep bringing it up. It fails logically and yet you keep making this same argument.

        “For I only asked how can we trust them to define what is orthodox if they get major clear doctrines wrong.”

        Now you are trying to make this argument more nuanced, since they were wrong on X therefore how can we trust them when they define what is orthodox (again, it is always the normal view of omniscience which you relentlessly and repeatedly attack, undermining orthodox Christian doctrine in order to justify your false doctrine of open theism).

        “Also, the term “Protestant” was coined by the Lutherans. I do not believe there is any evidence that this term was accepted by the groups who taught believer’s baptism in the 16th century.”

        “Protestant” has been used as a term to differentiate what these folks believed in contrast to Catholicism.

        “They didn’t even accept the title Anabaptist for themselves.”

        And the AnaBaptists being non-Catholic are then designated as Protestant.

        “I am not 100% certain of these last two statements, and am open to learning to the contrary, but I have yet to read evidence to the contrary.”

        Read some good church historians, e.g. Jaroslav Pelikan, etc.

        “Later believers who taught believers baptism as a sound doctrine that is necessary as a pastoral leadership qualification did accept the term “Baptist” for themselves, in the 17th century, and later on the term “Protestant” in the 18th century, I think.”

        Right and so here are Protestants that did not advocate any kind of theocracy (which is why your earlier statement which implied all of them did, should have had the qualification “some of them”).

        “But one could argue that they compromised their biblical hermeneutics and some clear Scriptural doctrines of ecclesiology when they accepted those traditional labels.”

        This statement is both sad and pathetic. And here is why. We already know you hate Catholics, from your repeated attacks against them on this blog. We also know that you think Catholics, Protestants, including Calvinists and Arminians, and Molinists are ***all*** wrong about omniscience. You attack the truth about omniscience as mere tradition as if it is not supported by and derived from biblical interpretation. You are against all denominations and now you even claim these Baptists were compromising, so they were wrong as well.

        Hmm, if everybody is wrong ACCORDING TO YOU, except for YOU, then the only denomination YOU believe in is yourself and anyone else YOU can persuade to hold the exact same views as YOU.
        As you have attacked everyone else as being wrong: what it boils down to is that your ultimate authority is yourself and what you conclude is proper doctrine. Everybody else is wrong so we supposedly need you to show us the way, determine the truth for us. With an independent spirit like this and attacking all denominations and even accusing Baptists of compromise it continues to be surprising that they even allow you to teach at a Baptist school.

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      2. We can let others judge our conversation, Robert, and judge who is misrepresenting whom and what?

        And I guess my school, Virginia Baptist College doesn’t think I am misrepresenting Scripture too much! But you’ll have to ask them. 🙂

        I’m teaching a class tonight on the book of Hebrews… I wonder how I can squeeze open futurism teaching into it! hahaha… I certainly know how I can attack Calvinistic thinking by it. I wish you were here, my friend, for I think personal contact would go a long way to our liking and understanding each other more… especially if we prayed together!

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  8. You should read some Aristotle and Aquinas. Both men make distinctions between the will and power. We can have a will that is free while having no ability to exercise that will in certain ways. John Piper rightly says in Desiring God that we cannot will our affections. I cannot will myself into love. I can only position myself to love or position myself to be empathetic.

    God provides Christians with the power and wisdom that is required to carry out righteousness, for we are utterly depraved and our most righteous acts are filthy rags to God. It is the Spirit’s action in us that makes an action righteous. Being a slave to Christ means you have declared that you want Gods will to be done and not your own. Christians proclaim that they want their will to be conformed to Gods will.

    The sinner does not need the Spirit to act sinfully, but the sinner does need the Spirit to act righteously, as Romans clearly states. So, we can therefore have a God that is in stained by sinful actions of men, for the only way a man can do good is when he is enabled by God to do so. Now, it is true then that God has the power to prevent sin and to force good actions, but he obviously hasn’t done so.

    Functionally, I treat predestination and determinism this way. I have free will and sin on my own. If I do good then it is only be Gods power. I have commands to be holy and I must try to be holy, but I must also recognize that it’s Christ and not me that brings personal holiness. I am nothing. Christ is all.

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    1. The only problem with this position is the inevitable consequence of concluding that one failed to do the right thing ultimately because God refused to grant them the grace to do so. For instance, if I didn’t practice personal holiness yesterday was that because God decided not to grant me the grace to be holy, or was it simply my responsibility (free will) that decided against doing something that was within my God given ability?

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      1. Well, God could cause us to live faithfully at all times, so by virtue of man being sinful we know God allows us to choose sin.

        What problem do you have with God not giving you the grace to be Holy? We have a calling and responsibility to live holy lives but we also know that it is only through the active work of the Holy Spirit in God’s elect that enables us to successfully live into holiness.

        If one would deny that then it would appear that holiness could be achieved without God. Or–man can force the movement of the Spirit through his own will. That doesn’t sit well with me though. Gods will is sovereign. Ultimately this issue stems from your view of total depravity. I believe myself to be totally depraved, therefore, any goodness that I have or do is a result of the Holy Spirit changing my affections and empowering me to act righteously. Righteousness happens as a result of our will being conformed to Gods will. My will isn’t non-existent. Sanctification is the process christians go through where their wills change.

        My previous point remains that God is the only thing that prevents sin, so if I sin it doesn’t mean that God forced it upon me, but instead he removed undeserved grace, which led to my natural disobedience. I’m curious how you believe we become holy and how we live Godly lives if not for the active work of God. I can’t even desire to want God if not for God.

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      2. But God’s word is clear that he gives the grace in each circumstance (temptation) to take the way of a “escape so that we can stand up under it.”

        ” No temptation has seized you except what is common to man, and in each temptation God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but provided a way of escape so that you can stand up under it ”

        1 Cor 10:13

        God’s provision is his grace. It would make no sense for God to provide a way of escape, but not give the grace to take it. This whole idea of God withholding grace in temptation of a believer is unbiblical and makes to sense at all. This text clearly teaches the free will of at least the bleiever.

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      3. So when you sin it’s because God withheld or “removed undeserved grace”? So when David committed adultery it was because God removed grace from David so he would do that? Really? Where does the bible say this?

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      4. “any goodness that I have or do is a result of the Holy Spirit changing my affections and empowering me to act righteously.”
        Yes, but, by merit of the Holy Spirit changing your affections, you are no longer totally depraved.
        I want someone to show me where in scripture we are told that believers are still under this bondage to sin. Paul is quite clear that we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to Christ. And the fact that we struggle with sin is evidence that our nature has changed, otherwise why the struggle? Why feel guilt for sinning if you are still totally depraved?
        I don’t know, it just seems like you are saying two opposing things are possible at the same time, that I can both be totally depraved and moving towards holiness. And I agree that I can do no good in myself, but I can choose to let Christ do something good with me, or I can ignore him. Otherwise, there would be no struggle and we would all be perfect. This choosing is all we mean by “free will.” Not that we can assist God in our salvation or some other such silliness, that is often attached to Arminism by those who oppose it.

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      5. I’ll say this — and I could be wrong. I have a very limited understanding of Scripture compared to the vastness of knowledge that I see in ecclesiastical history. But, my interpretation of verses like John 15:5 (I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing) leads me to believe that there is a two sided working into holiness. I pursue holiness and God enables that pursuit to have efficaciousness. I am a branch and can try my best to grow but it it only the tree, which has deep roots that gives me what I need to actually bear fruit. “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

        Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean,and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.We all fade like a leaf,and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

        The Spirit is a person and He actively works in us. A work done apart from that Spirit working in us is completely filthy. This is why I view things the way I do.
        I love all my brothers in here defending scripture to the best of their ability.

        Grace and peace

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    1. Dizerner,

      In my past experience with counter cult ministry, we did not make a divorce between a person’s character and what they taught or espoused. We did not make this division because in the Bible this division is not made (i.e. what a person teaches comes out of their character, who they are). What makes for a good Christian leader is that they live out what they believe, so there is no disconnect between their **doctrine** and their character. Such a person does what they teach, does not ask followers to do things unless themselves are doing those very things. The apostle Paul was a perfect example of this.

      Today, many want to separate a person’s characters and actions from what they believe/espouse (e.g. so you can be a total jerk character wise, engage in really evil conduct including murder in the case of Calvin, and yet if you espouse what a person wants to hear or believe, they accept you because you got the doctrine right). That is not biblical.

      So you have folks saying about Calvin what a great teacher and theologian, just look at his writings, primarily the Institutes. And yet if you look at his character, as you point out the guy was a murderer. He persecuted his enemies to death, had them imprisoned, banished, etc. So there is the disconnect.

      Since he promoted the doctrine they wanted to be promoted, the character issues are completely separated and ignored or minimized.

      We see some of this today for example when someone wants to hear the so-called “prosperity gospel” message that a certain individual peddles, and yet that person has this overly lavish lifestyle private jet, huge house, excessive possessions, but that excess does not matter as long as they get the doctrine “right”. In my early days with counter cult ministry it was guru’s who had like these prosperity teachers all this stuff, lots of possession, and these guys had major character defects, sexual scandals, etc. but it did not matter to the devotees as the guru had the doctrine “right.” I see no real difference in mentality between Calvin fan boys who thinks this way and the followers of the gurus. All that matters to them is not character, but what they are saying doctrinally. Again, this separation between doctrine and character is not biblical.

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      1. Good points, Robert. I think they feel the force of this because they try to say David, Moses and Paul were all murderers too. As far as I know Calvin never expressed repentance.

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      2. Dizerner,

        “Good points, Robert. I think they feel the force of this because they try to say David, Moses and Paul were all murderers too. As far as I know Calvin never expressed repentance.”

        Yes I have heard this attempt to justify Calvin’s killing of others as well. They are not parallel however for the following reasons.

        Start with David, with David his act of murder was not something he got away with, not only did he feel remorse for it (see some of his Psalms), but his family was destroyed by it and serious consequences followed (including the death of two sons).

        With Moses he tried to do God’s will (free the Israelites from Egyptian oppression) by his own efforts and his own timing (i.e. in the flesh) rather than trusting God to deliver them. So while he did not do it the right way, he was trying to do God’s will.

        The worst attempted parallel however is with Paul. When he murdered people (by having Christians arrested and then some died) HE WAS AN UNBELIEVER. Those actions were in his past before he professed to be a believer.

        With Calvin in contrast he got away with all of it, never faced any consequences for it, and never expressed remorse. He was not doing God’s will in the persecution of those he disagreed with. He had people killed, imprisoned, tortured, banished and he got away with all of it. And he never expressed any remorse for any of it. So it is not a good comparison at all.

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  9. Augustine changed his views through his career. If an early Augustine had somehow entered Calvins Geneva, would Calvin have found him a gnostic heretic ?
    Constantine threw out the provision of Render unto God what is Gods and Caesar…. the result is a mess in the Roman Catholic history that follows. The wise Calvin somehow felt he had the same authority as Constantine.
    Calvinists Two Minds of God doctrine seems to be way to numb ones reason when explaining the gospel. The God of Grace is what is taught before Sovereign Total Predestination.
    What is this Spiritual Warfare about ? war against a personal sin nature or the powers of Satan ? What has Satans role been since the Fall. All sin has been predestined so, Satan does what ? What urgency does Satan have to play a game where the score was predestined ? Why warn: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me. Who would do the forbidding of dead in sin children ? Satan or other dead people who are not likely to read respond or respect the scripture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome Dallas! You made some good and interesting points. Augustine’s influence confusing the church with OT theocracy held sway from his day into the 17th century, with scattered examples even until today! Spain was putting people in jail for not baptizing their infants up until the 1960’s.

      But you just do not realize that Satan is just not as smart as Calvinists are! They have figured out that the game is rigged, but he hasn’t! 😉

      Like

  10. Thank you Leighton for another excellent article.
    I especially want to look more at the study you sighted at PubMed “The value of believing in free will: encouraging a belief in determinism
    increases cheating”. I find those sociological studies quite illuminating.

    I am a fan of the works of Steven Hassan, Robert Jay Lifton, and others, who have done extensive work on the inner workings and outer
    sociological manifestations of the “cult mentality” and its hallmark identity-marker; the respecting and glamorization of persons and their doctrines. And unfortunately, I’ve observed this as a consistent hallmark of Calvinist expressions over the years. There is such a consistent degree of marketing flourish, gushing over and respecting of persons, in the system–I’m sometimes shocked at how one can do it and not perceive oneself as compromising his first love. And the young and restless youth are particularly vulnerable to being lured into the temptations of glamorized personalities, by mentors who really should know better.

    Another warning sign, as you well point out, is the justification for perpetrating of violence on others deemed as enemies of the sacred science and or its sacred super-apostles. A willingness to perpetrate violence against a believer, is what differentiates one from being led by the Holy Spirit, vs one who is driven by religious “Kata-Sarka” and “Kata-Kurious” (i.e. promoting a religious power-base). As Paul states: “The sons of the flesh do always persecute the sons of the Spirit”. Personally, I would be terrified if Jesus turned to me and said: “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.”

    I think you are absolutely right-on to take seriously the “psychology” that is at work in Calvinism, which, in my observations should be recognized for its contribution well before deliberating over theological gnats. The church needs to learn how to recognize the observable characteristics of a cult-mentality, and learn how to guard against the abuses that come with it.

    For me there are two predominant characteristics that can be seen as warning signs:
    1) The individual’s response to any critical analysis of any aspect of the cult’s glamorized persons or its doctrines. 2) The individual’s response to any type of compliment, of the cult’s glamorized persons or its doctrines. In (1) we typically observe the response as immediate mechanical moves to refute. No matter how rational, biblical, logical or truthful the analysis is, the individual must immediately and strongly refute it. Unfortunately this one soon becomes an expert at refuting the light, and using any means to call it darkness. I hesitate to prolong a conversation with a person in this condition, as I watch them dig themselves in deeper, and unwittingly distance themselves farther from the Lord in the process of defending what is increasingly becoming their first love. In (2) we find a consistent trend towards a tepid allowance of any or all compliments, no matter how fallacious, un-biblical, or untruthful the compliment actually is.

    When I see these warning signs, I feel there is a stronghold at work. And we need to pray for the Lord to break the bonds that hold people captive to them. My sincere thanks for your wonderful web-sight!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Tyler Vela recently wrote a somewhat scathing response to my blog post titled, “Why Servetus Is a Valid Argument Against Calvinism.” He titled his response, “Why Accurately Handling History Matters,” but goes on to concede the only historical fact that needed to be validated to establish the actual point of contention in my article. He said, “…I can say that I 100% disagree with Calvin on his views of how to treat heretics…”

    Given that I began my article with this concession: “Proof that John Calvin treated dissenters in a sinful manner does not prove that Calvinism’s soteriology is wrong,” and that it is a conceded historical fact (by Tyler’s own admission) that Calvin did treat dissenters (heretics/enemies) wrongly, then we should be able to move on to the point of the article. But, alas, that is not what Tyler chooses to do.

    He suggested I “should have closed [my] laptop and ended [my] article” at this point. Yet, the entire point of the article, which I hope he eventually addresses, was to establish the practicality of our theological beliefs with regard to how we treat our enemies, NOT the historical accuracy of the Servetus trial or the justification of wrong behaviors given the cultural norms. Tyler clearly misses this point and accuses me of opting “to go against that statement and attempt to make one giant ad hominem argument.” Tyler simply does not follow my concession or my argument. My point was never to disprove TULIP by referencing Calvin’s erroneous beliefs about how to treat enemies. My point was to establish why one’s theological beliefs about how God treats his own enemies COULD affect one’s practical beliefs and behaviors in regard to how they treat their own enemies. This is a point that has either been completely missed by Tyler (or possibly I’ve hit a sensitive nerve – methinks thou doth protest too much).

    Again, it is a historical given that Calvin mistreated his enemies and both Tyler and I would denounce Calvin’s beliefs and behavior in this regard. The parenthetical side reference to Frank Viola’s article (which does cite credible sources that Tyler ignores while demeaning the author) would have only been necessary to address those Calvinists who didn’t 100% disagree with Calvin’s view on how to treat heretics, or denied the established historical fact that Calvin did mistreat heretics (neither of which even apply to Tyler given his concession).

    Ironically, the exact same points of contention that Tyler raises were already addressed and conceded by Viola (and myself, for that matter). We both have openly admitted that torturing and killing heretics was a more common practice of the times by individuals on both side of the theological isle. Yet, Tyler spends much time attempting to prove a point already conceded as if it actually addresses the point of my blog post.

    Ad Hominem

    Now, let me address the ad hominem issues. When I pointed out Tyler’s tendency toward ad hominem (‘to the man’ arguments rather that substantive ones) in a private message, he responded saying, “It’s not ad hominem. An ad hominem would be to say your argument is false because of something about your person. Saying its false because it’s biased and unresearched and misleading isn’t ad hominem.”

    Now, had Tyler stuck to critiquing the validity of the research cited (instead of conceding the only point that linked article was attempting to validate), he might have a case, but he didn’t. Not only does Tyler not go beyond belittling Viola as “a man with no expertise himself,” but he does not address one of the books, articles or quotes Viola referenced to establish the point – a point, mind you, that Tyler ironically has already conceded (i.e. that Calvin believed/behaved wrongly when it came to how he treated heretics).

    What if I dismissed Tyler’s response because he too is a man “with no expertise.” That would be fallacious and wrong. Or what if I began this article by saying something like, “This has to be the worse rebuttal I have ever read to any of my arguments?” That statement is untrue (as I have read far worse than what Tyler is offering here) but even if it were true it would be uncharitable of me to say so to begin our discourse. It would be unkind, or plain mean, as I believe Tyler’s opening statements were… (which ironically kind of validates the actual point of my article). BTW, I don’t bring this up because I’m personally hurt or offended (I’ve kind of gotten over getting offended when discussing this topic), but I bring it up because it really lowers the level of our discourse and sets a poor example for others. Tyler simply weakens his own position by taking this approach–as other Calvinists have noted in private messages to me.

    As a professor, I come across uneducated Calvinists often, and if I stated something like, “You have to be one of the most uneducated individuals I’ve ever engaged on this topic, and you call yourself a student of scripture!?” It might be true that he calls himself a “student of scripture” and I might really believe he is the least educated I’ve ever engaged, but would it be kind or charitable for me to say that to begin our discourse? Of course not. It would just be mean spirited and it would poison the well for a healthy discourse. Saying something, even if you firmly believe it to be true, can still be unkind and unnecessary ….and “to the man” (ad hominem). I sincerely pray Tyler will approach his “theological enemies” with more respect in the future. If nothing else, it would go much further in validating his claim that Calvinistic soteriology certainly does NOT negatively effect how one treats his “enemies.”

    Tyler’s guilt by association tactic in comparing his perceptions of my approach in this article with the likes of atheists can be seen through by any objective reader, so I’ll just let his blatant bias stand as its own refutation.

    Also, Tyler makes sweeping accusations without specific arguments to back up his claims. For instance, he says, “A common complaint about Flowers is that he does not understand (or flat out misrepresents) basic Calvinistic doctrine,” yet he doesn’t cite any specific claim that I’ve made which clearly misrepresents all of the many facets of what is now classified under the label “Calvinism.” Tyler also says, “…he [Leighton] often will only engage with one aspect of Calvinism while ignoring other mitigating or related concepts that give a more fully orbed and robust theological construct…” and he links to a footnote. I fully expected to scroll down and find a specific example of when I did this, but instead I find more empty generalized accusations of hearsay, not documentation (which might be ok if he weren’t attempting to hold me to some academic expectation that he himself isn’t willing to live up to).

    I would encourage Tyler and others to read my blog post on “The Accusation of Misrepresentation,” as I address more fully this common, but misguided, complaint.

    Sources

    Tyler seems to be under the impression that blog posts should always meet the academic requirements of a PhD’s dissertation. While I would agree that any statement, written or spoken, should strive to represent the facts accurately, I simply reject the notion that every blog post, facebook comment or online argument has to meet the academic expectations of the poster’s level of education. I doubt Tyler objectively critiques notable Calvinistic scholar’s blog posts as not meeting such academic standards. Once again, this just reveals Tyler’s blatant bias on the matter.

    Tyler wrongly argues, “Flowers links the only source for the entire paper… a Patheos article written by blogger Frank Viola.” As already noted, Viola’s article was a parenthetical side note to establish a point Tyler (and many other Calvinists) have already conceded…(Calvin did mistreat heretics and was wrong to do so).

    I also referenced (with a link) a statement by John Piper conceding the tendency of some who hold to Calvinistic soteriology as being “argumentative”…not so “warm, fuzzy, and tender” and in “greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive or intellectualistic” and possibly “not even born again.” (and in the podcast I read an article from MacArthur’s Grace to You Ministries where a Calvinistic believer confessed similar tendencies while holding a ‘higher form’ of Calvinism, like that of Pink, for instance)

    I also reference a 2008 study from the University of Minnesota and the University of British Colombia (with a link) citing the practical moral effects of those who deny free will.

    I also reference Al Molher’s arguments related to that 2008 study (with a link) so as to make a point regarding how the inevitability issues of naturalistic determinism can’t be avoided by theistic determinists when it comes to how it might affect its adherent’s disregard to moral responsibility. That point is certainly debatable, but not if one’s opponent isn’t objective enough to even acknowledge its existence.

    Maybe Tyler simply over looked those links in his rush to attack my academic credibility?

    Tyler finally touches on our actually point of contention in page 5 when he writes, “The Reformers largely broke theologically with Rome on their soteriological views and understanding of the role of authority and scripture, but there was not a lot of movement on their civic views this would evolve slowly over centuries, and the relationship of church and state is still a contentious issue that future generations may look back and judge us for. Again, this does not excuse the actions of the early Reformers as ethical, or even biblical, but it does completely undermine the idea that Calvin’s soteriological beliefs had any causal impact on his treatment of heretics.”

    Actually, Tyler has unwittingly made my point for me. He concedes that Calvinist’s treatment of heretics at that time were inexcusable AND that it took them much longer to “evolve” or “reform” those bad behaviors than it did men like Hubmaier, who argued that we should treat all people with love and patience because God treats all of us with love and patience. One must remember that Hubmaier was also playing a role in reforming the Catholic church’s soteriology from one of “works” to one which is by grace alone through faith alone. Yet, it was Hubmaier’s view of how God treats His own enemies which lead him to reform the Catholic’s practice of mistreated heretics more quickly than what we see from the Calvinistic believers of that day. Now, can Tyler attempt to make a case that one’s belief about how God feels toward and treats His own enemies CANNOT effect how one will choose to feel toward and treat their own enemies? Sure, he could try, but he doesn’t.

    Tyler goes on to say, “we must remember that this is in an article where Flowers is attempting to argue that proper theological beliefs, specifically soteriological beliefs, lead to habits of dealing with dissenters. That is his main thesis.”

    Again, this is inaccurate. My thesis was never to argue that Calvinism was the sole cause or “start” of this kind of mistreatment. As already noted, both Viola and I conceded that Rome and non-Calvinistic religious people (not likely born again individuals in most instances, btw) were practicing this bad behavior. I specifically addressed those reforming Rome’s errors and how practical applications of their own soteriological beliefs helped in reforming those formerly held bad beliefs/behaviors. Even if Tyler claims my article was not clear on this point, one need only to listen to the podcast where I specifically go over this to discover my intent… (and Tyler indicated he did listen).

    Tyler goes on: “Yet who does Flowers find as his main foil contrary to Calvin? A man [Hubmaier] who was killed for heresy a motivating reason for not wanting the state to be involved in theological affairs to be sure.”

    Yet, Hubmaier does not cite his being prosecuted for believer’s baptism as the reason for treating athesists and heretics with patience and prayer, instead he cites his own soteriological beliefs about how Jesus would treat his own enemies. Tyler doesn’t provide any documentation that Hubmaier even made his stand for religious liberty in the context of his own persecution, he just assumes it. Which again, might be ok if Tyler wasn’t insisting on a certain level of academic standards. I would have to take the time to go pull the dates of Hubmaier’s specific quotes in defense of religious liberty, but I suspect his teaching on this subject can be found at a time prior to the threat on his own life.

    Tyler argues, “it is not even clear that Hubmaier was not himself something like a quasi-Compatibilist and affirmed that sinners were both bound and free!” Is Tyler attempting to argue that Hubmaier was Calvinistic soteriologically (compatibilistic)? I assume not given that his footnote acknowledges Hubmaiers rejection of Compatibilism. I’m not sure what Tyler’s point is here. Maybe he is suggesting Hubmaier is closer to his soteriological views than to mine? Of course, we do believe our system holds compatible man’s free will and God’s sovereignty (as do Compatibilists). Calvinists just define those two words very differently than we do, so while it may appear to Tyler that a libertarian is “compatiblistic” he need only look at how one defines those terms to see our actual points of contention.

    In a private message Tyler argues, “I address Hubmaier (you know he is an anti-trinitarian and Christological heretic right- not sure you want to prop him up as the picture of doctrinal fidelity…”

    Again, if there wasn’t the high academic standard being imposed, I might let this one slide, but Hubmaier did in fact affirm the Trinity. (“Hubmaier was more conservative than some Anabaptists, such as Hans Denck and Leonhard Schiemer who went on to deny the doctrine of the Trinity, or avoided emphasis of the doctrine as Menno Simons.” – Eddie Louis Mabry Balthasar Hubmaier’s understanding of faith p.137) And, as already conceded, Calvin had troubling, yet unrelated, theological beliefs of his own. This is a red herring that goes beyond the point of the article.

    Ironically, Calvinists are arguable the ones “to prop [a 16th century theologian] up as the picture of doctrinal fidelity” by promoting a namesake who leaves much to be desired by way of “doctrinal fidelity.” I’m simply pointing to a historical fact of the matter regarding one’s specific application of their soteriology. When Tyler starts hearing non-Calvinists call ourselves “Hubmaierists” and vehemently defending him tooth and nail, he might have a good point here.

    Tyler argues, “For Flowers to throw down these statistic as if they reveal some specifically heinous and oppressive activity due only to Calvin, as a result of his views on the freedom of the will, is appallingly misleading…”

    Yet, in the article cited and read verbatim on the follow up podcast it was conceded,

    “A well-known Christian author whom I greatly respect encouraged me to begin a series on the shocking beliefs of some of the great Christians who have impacted church history.

    Every follower of Jesus is a rough draft. Over time, the great Editor – the Holy Spirit – shapes our lives and views. But until we see the Lord and “know even as we are known,” we’re are in process. This is also true for those Christians who have gone before us.

    Therefore, one of the mistakes that we must guard against is to dismiss a person’s entire contribution because they may hold (or have held) to ideas that we find hard to stomach.
    Speaking personally, if I demanded that a person’s views on every subject under the sun be identical to mine as a condition to be helped by them, then if I had met myself 20 years ago, I’d have to disfellowship myself! The truth is, my views on some topics have changed over the years. And so have yours.

    Point: we are all in process. None of us gets everything right all the time. That stands true for every Christian who has ever breathed oxygen.

    So my purpose in highlighting some of “the shocking beliefs” of those upon whose shoulders we all stand is not to burn these folks in effigy. Nor is it to dismiss their positive contribution to church history. Rather, it’s to demonstrate that even though they may have held to views that would raise the eyebrows of most evangelicals today, that doesn’t overturn nor negate the valuable ideas they contributed to the body of Christ. Unfortunately, many evangelicals are quick to discount — and even damn — their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ over alleged doctrinal trespasses, even if those same brothers and sisters hold to the historical orthodox creeds (Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, etc.).

    Such discounting and damning can always be avoided and it serves no one on the Kingdom side of the aisle. When diversity within orthodoxy is encountered, grace should be extended. Just as we would want grace extended to us, seeing that none of us sees perfectly (Matthew 7:12).

    The words of Paul of Tarsus contain thunder and lightning for us all, “Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:9, NLT).

    Whether you agree with Calvin’s theological system or not, there’s no question that John Calvin has made an indelible mark on today’s Christianity, especially American evangelicalism.
    And like all highly influential Christians, Calvin has been hailed and hammered, loved and loathed, adored and abhorred.

    For example . . .
    “Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin; no age, before him ever produced his equal, and no age afterwards has seen his rival. In theology, he stands alone, shining like a bright fixed star, while other leaders and teachers can only circle round him, at a great distance — as comets go streaming through space — with nothing like his glory or his permanence” . . . “the longer I live the clearer does it appear that John Calvin’s system is the nearest to perfection.”
    ~ Charles Spurgeon

    And even the opposing perspective of a Calvinistic scholar was quoted in the article and read verbatim on the podcast, saying:

    “This is a compelling and well-researched post. I do wonder if it merits further context; this is roughly the era of the Spanish Inquisition, for example, and Servetus purposefully forced Calvin’s hand by coming to Geneva. Calvin entreated him to give up his errors and sent him a copy of the Institutes (at great personal expense–books were rare commodities back then) and dialogued with him. He showed pastoral care in this respect. Geneva was a place ruled by law, even theological law, but so were most every other European cities. This was not a nice era. It was rough…”

    Viola even made careful effort to highlight for his readers not to MISS THE POINT of his article, which Tyler unfortunately seems to do by assuming a nefarious intent instead of sticking to the facts of the matter. Most of Tyler’s article is wasted on making points that were either already conceded or irrelevant to the point of the blog post. And according to his last paragraph of part one, he plans on doing more of the same. He says, “…in the next section I would like to turn my attention to a brief sketch of what actually did happen leading up to and during the time that Servetus came to Geneva and Calvin’s role in the whole ordeal.”

    I don’t care if Tyler can prove Calvin had nothing whatsoever to do with Servetus’ death. It doesn’t change Calvin’s established beliefs on the matter, which have already been conceded to and denounced by Tyler himself. Tyler needs to move on to the ACTUAL POINT of my article. He needs to deal with the substance of the post, which has more to do with Mohler’s argument against the inevitability of naturalistic determinism and Piper’s concession (two references Tyler apparently didn’t even see).

    So, who is being unfair or biased in his presentation here? Much of what Tyler painstakingly sets out to prove has already been acknowledged or conceded, and yet most of his rebuttal doesn’t even effect the point of either my article or Viola’s.

    Now, if Tyler’s goal is to soften the reader’s view of Calvin by bringing in a more balanced approach than what he feels was represented, I can understand that. He has every right to make that case. I think he can do so without belittling others or ignoring actual points of contention, but that is a worthy argument to be made. HOWEVER, given that Viola quoted from a Calvinist making that same exact point and the fact that I read his quote verbatim in my response to Tyler’s initial Facebook objections, would indicate that we (Viola and I) are attempting to be fair minded and objective. I wish I felt that was being reciprocated in this discussion.

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    1. Personally, I am just grateful for our Founders who made such violence against supposed heretics unlawful. Do we forget the types of church discipline the not-so-far-removed-Puritans practiced? The Puritans are en vogue these days among the Neo Cal set and it is chilling. If they had power today, would they claim the epidural, evil? :o) they do so love to promote suffering….for the peasants.

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      1. lydia00 writes, “I am just grateful for our Founders who made such violence against supposed heretics unlawful.”

        How to handle heresy within the church has always been problematic. Most are content to live side by side with heresy (Jesus said that the wheat and the tares will grow together) but too often compromise results – Paul warned against this often in his letters – “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” and “Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” and “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” James, Peter, and Jude also warned of this. It’s a tough issue to deal with.

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      2. Jesus actually said “Let both grow together” (the tares and the wheat). That doesn’t justify imprisonment or death for heresy but actually is a command against it. RC and Reformers ignored Christ’s command and twisted other NT Scriptures and imported OT theocratic Mosaic laws to overthrow the law of Christ.

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  12. I think the main reference would be Mt 23:30 — “…we would not been partakers with [our fathers] in the blood of the prophets; Wherefore you are witnesses unto yourselves that you are the children of them the killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers, Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?”

    That is to say, they admit to believing everything that their “fathers” did. What they believed led them to do what they did — and Calvinists haven’t changed what they believe all that much. And it all came about from the cleaving to the doctrines of men .. because the doctrines of God teach love, and that God loves all men. But they teach “Esau have I hated” as saying that God hated Esau rather than what Esau’s descendants’ sins.

    You see, God didn’t hate John Calvin .. He hated what John Calvin did .. to Servetus, to His Holy Word, etc. God would have forgiven Calvin in a heartbeat if he would have repented of his old faith and turned to God calling on the name of Jesus Christ for salvation.

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  13. “If the non-Calvinist is not willing to fully examine the biblical doctrines of soteriology as proposed by the Calvinist, they really have no ground to question the name-sake of the systematic. Proof that John Calvin treated dissenters in a sinful manner does not prove that Calvinism’s soteriology is wrong.”

    OTOH, What sort of soteriology would a tyrant be attracted to? Are we assuming the Holy Spirit was AWOL in Geneva?

    Before the Neo Cal resurgence my experience with Calvinism came from the social gospel or frozen chosen types. And that made sense to me from a historical pov. Determinism is exhausting and brutal. Change the subject, please!

    I guess my biggest problem even attempting to study Calvinist doctrine came from being a student of history. I feel the same way about Calvin and Luther as I do the evils of the state Catholic Church. From studying history. After all, the Reformation was largely political as the church was political. It was about “reforming” the universal church. There is no way to really separate politics, divine rights of rulers, power, church and soteriology from those times. In spiritual terms it might have been Best to be an oppressed peasant, I think. Sigh.

    In researching the doctrine, I thankfully came across Leonard Verduin, part historian and theologian. A Dutch Calvinist, to boot! He brings it alive in “The Reformers and Their Step children” and gives us much to chew on with the evolution of understanding such big misses in Christian history in “Anatomy of a Hybrid”. They got it wrong. Big time. The Reformational big cheeses might have been better off running and hiding with some of the more benign Ana Baptists.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I would second your admiration for Leonard Verduin’s work, one of the few Calvinist historians that I have come across who, upon being exposed to well-documented historical records, conceded the reality of the misdeeds of the ‘Magisterial’ Reformers like Calvin and Luther. He suggests and documents, I believe correctly, that the genuine reformation began long before the likes of Luther and Calvin, who merely co-opted it and created another controlling, hierarchical institutional church to rival the corrupt one that many sincere believers had justly lost faith in. Those who genuinely sought freedom of conscience, whether it concerned the doctrine of the Trinity, infant baptism or predestination, usually also suggested grace and mercy be shown to those with differing beliefs. It is utterly untrue that such ideas had never arisen in the Sixteenth Century, although it is true that those who held them were usually persecuted and their works repressed or burned. These were the many thousands who were persecuted, tortured and murdered by both the Roman Catholics and the so-called Protestant Reformers, for daring to challenge official authority and orthodoxy, and for pointing to scripture’s direction for how to treat friends and enemies.

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