Saturday, June 27, 2009

Calvin's lonely god

Christ said that "many" enter destruction, and few find the way to eternal life.

If, as Calvin and some of his defenders argue, God denies the "many" reprobate who end up in Hell knowledge of Him and His grace -- they are "justly left in their sin" by His "sovereignty" -- then Calvin's god is lonely by choice. It chose to save only a few.

The Christian God calls all people to eternal life, not just the "lucky" few.

Offered in response to some thoughts from a kind sir concerned about my understanding of Calvin's unique doctrines:
I realize now that "God's Sovereignty" is code for "I'm a Calvinist."

I did not intend to "go for the throat;" I got the sense that you were someone who was perhaps Lutheran and had moderated your original views on Calvin's doctrines.

Apparently, you have crossed over fully into Calvinism.

As for what Calvin taught and Calvinism teaches, I did not invent, “TULIP.”

With Total Depravity (“T”), I have no problem (the teaching, not the condition!), since Scripture says that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We are dead in our trespasses and sin.

With that Luther would agree, I think.

Perseverence of the Saints (“P”), though contrary to Scripture, does not make God a monster.

It is with the heart of Calvinism (the center of "t U-L-I p") that I have a problem. It contradicts the Word of God and perverts His nature. (That's the nicest way I can say that without lying by omission.)

With respect to Unconditional Election (“U”), yes, Scripture states that God predestines believers to eternal life, and yes, It does make clear that those who end up in Hell deserve it (as do we all).

But judging from the Calvin quote I offered previously -- according to the Modern History Sourcebook, "from John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by John Allen" (sorry, no page number), found here -- it does not seem that he is saying what you are saying he's saying.

Calvin states that God "exclud[es] the reprobate from the knowledge of his name and the sanctification of his Spirit."

God does not say that He “justly leaves us in our sins” (your words). Christ came to save “the world.”

Jesus puts the lie to Calvin's claim by observing, “many are called, but few are chosen.” How many is “many,” according to the context? Those who were invited refused, so the King's servants were commanded to go out into the streets and "invite . . . as many as you find." They “gathered all whom they found.”

Not “some” of whom they found. All were invited. All were called.

No one was "justly left in their sin," alone and helpless.

Similarly, with regard to Limited Atonement (“L”) you wrote, "An atonement that actually saves and purchases us out of sin."

Jesus actually saves. Christ is – “actually” -- the atoning sacrifice not only for our sins, but for the sins of “the whole world.” God was actually reconciling “the world” to Himself in Christ's body on the cross.

Not “some” of the world.

Jesus did not lament, "I longed to gather only 'some' of you." Nor did He declare that His mission was to save "only some." Christ came to seek and to save “the lost.”

Not “some” of the lost.

Lastly, concerning Irresistible Grace (“I”), if God's grace is “irresistible,” then – as Calvin observes above – God does not send His Holy Spirit to those “many” who end up in Hell, or they wouldn't be there.

You call that, "justly leaving people in their sin."

Calvin's god creates people for Hell.

Calvin's god died for only some people.

Calvin's god denies the Holy Spirit to many.

Calvin's god justly leaves many in their sin, helpless and alone.

Christ opened the kingdom of Heaven to all people, but Calvin and his god shut it in people's faces.

They are "denied the knowledge of God and His grace." They are "justly left in their sin."

The justice of God is not how a holy and righteous God punishes sin, but how the merciful God justifies all in Christ: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . . ."
Christ died for all so that all might live.

Update: It was recommended I read Piper's, The Justification of God. Here is my reaction to that:
I had a chance to read the sermon. Piper quotes Jonathan Edwards:
"the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell."

"in God’s shewing mercy to whom he will show mercy, and hardening whom he will."
You (plural) are taking Paul's rhetorical argument -- a hypothetical -- and making out of it a doctrine that contradicts the rest of Scripture.

That hardly seems wise.

Piper says that "Romans 9 is an explanation for why the word of God has not failed even though God’s chosen people, Israel, as a whole, are not turning to Christ and being saved."

He claims that the reason for their not turning to Christ is "God's sovereignty."

But Paul says it is because of unbelief in Christ:
"but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame" (Romans 9:31-33).
Piper's misunderstanding of Romans 9 comes from his misidentifying "Israel." They do not have "conditions they must me[e]t to be the 'children of promise.'"

Paul is making the point in Romans 9 that it is by faith -- not works -- that both Jew and Gentile become a part of the true Israel.

This chapter is not about God denying His grace to anyone -- justly leaving people in their sin -- it is about how a person receives the forgiveness of sins and eternal life: Faith in Christ.

Piper concludes by asking:
"Are all Israel the "children of promise" or only some? If only some, what makes one person a child of promise and another not?"
Paul answers -- God answers: "Faith in Christ" -- which is "the gift of God" -- makes a person a child of the Promise.