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Posts Tagged ‘calvinism’

An Introduction To The Doctrines Of Grace And Why I Dislike Calvinism

In links on May 3, 2008 at 10:11 pm

John Calvin ShirtHere is a great 9-part series on the Doctrines of Grace taught by John Piper, audio/video/text is available to suite your fancy. Yes, you could call this an introduction to Calvinism if you’d like. (HT: JT)

On a personal note, I’m beginning to dislike the term Calvinism more and more. As I look through what Calvin taught and how he taught it, I’m not so sure he would have agreed to this 5-point summary commonly referred to as TULIP. Not so much because the doctrines are contrary to his beliefs or teaching, but more so because it is such a short and quick summary of it. John Calvin seemed to go about his teaching for the long-term effect of it. He taught seminary-type classes for his more advanced “students” one day per week, every week. Given the fact that John Piper covered TULIP in 9 sessions, and that includes a bit of history and a discussion on Arminianism, it would appear that John Calvin was into a whole lot more than just five points.

If you look through what is commonly called John Calvin’s seminal work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, you’ll see statements like this:

Moreover, it has been my purpose in this labor to prepare and instruct candidates in sacred theology for the reading of the divine Word, in order that they may be able both to have easy access to it and to advance in it without stumbling. For I believe I have so embraced the sum of religion in all its parts, and have arranged it in such an order, that if anyone rightly grasps it, it will not be difficult for him to determine what he ought especially to seek in Scripture, and to what end he ought to relate its contents.

So, it is difficult to say that Calvin was only interested in these 5-points that bear his name. It was a kind sentiment by his students to name an entire doctrinal system after the great reformer, but it’s unfortunate that something that causes so much misunderstanding and division seems to be the one thing that most folks remember John Calvin for.

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Dilbert Is A Calvinist?

In humor on April 17, 2008 at 8:18 pm

The other day I posted an attempt at humor, drawing some scientific research into the free-will debate. Apparently Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon, picked up on that same research as well. His blog is alive with all types of comments with people drawing similar conclusions on this research and relating it to Calvinism.

This is not the first comic strip artist to attempt theology though:

foxtrot

Thanks Justin Taylor for being the first Google hit for this cartoon…

Proof That We Don't Have Free-Will?

In theology on April 14, 2008 at 8:42 pm

calvinIn Christian circles, this debate has been going on for centuries. Both sides of the discussion bring plenty of Scripture references that prove, in their minds, that man does or does not have free-will. But neither side has ever brought in an argument from science….until now. Apparently a team of scientists was able to show that the brain has already made up its mind before the will even begins to think about the decision it has to make. From the article:

“The outcome of a decision is shaped very strongly by brain activity much earlier than the point in time when you feel to be making a decision.”

arminiusThis was kind of a neat experiment. They put a few subjects in an MRI scanner and told them to randomly, whenever they felt like it, press a button in either their left or right hand. They scanned the areas of the brain that dealt with decision making and were able to form patterns and “predict” which button they were going to press with 60% accuracy up to 10 seconds before they actually pressed the button. So, I suppose anything better than 50% was good enough for them to say that the brain is working and affecting your will long before you feel like your will has kicked in and you make a decision and hence we don’t have free-will.

Fuel for Calvinists? Shame for Arminians? Not likely.

What Does it Mean to be Foreknown by God?

In theology on January 28, 2008 at 8:33 pm

There are a few passages in the Scriptures where it says that God foreknew us in the context of choosing us or predestining us. Have a look at 1 Peter 1:1-2:

To those who reside as aliens…who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood:

and also Romans 8:28-30:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

The interpretation of these passages can be fairly different depending on who you talk to, with the main difference between them being “on what basis are we predestined?” Or, “how does God choose who will go heaven and who will go to hell?” I want to dive right into this topic assuming you already believe we are predestined, see Revelation 17:8 if you don’t and post a comment, maybe we can post on that later.

Some would say that the foreknowledge spoken of in these passages is a foreknowledge that God has of our actions and our faith such that when God sees in eternity past that we will respond in faith to his gracious calling, He predestines us and writes our names in the book of life. So the thought is: all men are given the same amount of grace but only those who accept God’s grace in faith will be saved. God, having known and seen this event taking place in eternity past (remember God sees all things at all times, past, present, future), will call those his elect and predestines them for eternal life with Him. You might call this a brief description of Arminianism.

Others would say that the foreknowledge spoken of in these passages is a foreknowledge that God has about His plan for each and every soul such that God chooses whomever He will in eternity past and predestines them to eternal life. The idea here is that not every man is given the same amount of grace but that only those whom God has chosen in eternity past will be regenerated by His Spirit to the point where man can respond in faith. You might call this a brief description of Calvinism.

The difficult part of the argument is how we accept these ideas in our human natures. One side seems fair. The other side seems unfair. One side gives man the freedom to choose. The other side gives God the freedom to choose. But these are human reasonings, what does the Word of God say about…God?

  • Deuteronomy 7:7-8 – The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
  • Ephesian 2:8-10 – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
  • Romans 9:16 – So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
  • Romans 9:11 – for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls
  • All of Romans 9 (sorry I should have just put that whole chapter)
  • John 6:37 – All that the father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
  • John 6:44 – No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
  • John 6:65 – …For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.
  • Acts 13:48 – …and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 – who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was grated us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
  • Philippians 1:29 – For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

Hopefully we can get a sense of God’s “freedom” of choice, if you will, from these passages. But, you might say, how can we get around the fact that:

  • 1 Timothy 2:3-4 – …God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth

is in the Scriptures? Doesn’t this mean that God wants all men to be saved and it’s only their unbelief that keeps them from salvation? If we read through 1 Timothy 2:1-2 we see that Paul is saying that God desires all types of men to be saved. Paul tells Timothy to pray for all men, then he specifically spells out kings and those in authority in verse 2. So Paul is dispelling a common belief that only certain people can be saved, only the poor and destitute, the common man and not the rich or those in authoritative positions. Paul is saying that God wants all people to be saved, the rich, the poor, the Jew, the Gentile, the slave, the freeman, etc.

So, again, when we look into these discussions it always seems to come down to how we see the character of God throughout the Scriptures. When we come across some verses that don’t seem to make a lot of sense, it is helpful to “let Scripture interpret Scripture”. Comments are very welcome, please let me know of some other verses that make the case for God’s foreknowledge being of our faith and actions and that being the basis of his election. My knowledge in that area is very weak so I would appreciate the help!

Calvinism and Arminianism; An Interview

In theology on January 11, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Justin Taylor has posted an interview with Thomas McCall on Calvinism and Arminianism, have a look.

Does God Destroy "Free" Will?

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2008 at 9:12 pm

For quite some time I’ve been meaning to post on a quote from Jonathan Edwards that Desiring God posted a few weeks back:

Objectors may say, God cannot always prevent men’s sins, unless he act contrary to the free nature of the subject, or without destroying men’s liberty. But will they deny, that an omnipotent and infinitely wise God could not possibly invent, and set before men, such strong motives to obedience, and have kept them before them in such a manner, as should have influenced all mankind to continue in their obedience, as the elect angels have done, without destroying their liberty? God will order it so, that the saints and angels in heaven never will sin: and does it therefore follow, that their liberty is destroyed, and that they are not free, but forced in their actions? Does it follow, that they are turned into blocks, as the Arminians say the Calvinist doctrine turn men?

Here is the question this seeks to answer: If God causes us to do things according to his will, then do we have a free-will of our own in our decisions? Now, this question, in and of itself, is not really the issue. It is the secondary questions that arise from this one that are difficult for us to deal with. First, if we have no free-will then we are just puppets on God’s sovereign strings and nothing we do really matters. Second, if we have no free-will then we cannot be held accountable for our sins because God caused us to do them and that makes him the author of sin. Typically at this point, another type of person steps in and says but if we do have free-will how can God have control over the situation and bring about the end that He desires. And so we are left with how to reconcile man’s free will and God’s sovereignty.

A lot of times, lines are drawn in the sand and people are forced to call themselves either Calvinists if they believe God causes all things to happen according to his sovereignty or Arminians if they believe man has free-will in his decisions and that God will not force him into something. But I think this attempts to take these systems of theology too far. Both of these systems attempted to explain the process of man’s salvation and from that people drew their conclusions on man’s free-will/God’s sovereignty.

Calvinism says that man is too depraved to ever have faith on his own and so God unconditionally chooses whom he desires and quickens him to the point that man can choose nothing other than God’s free gift of grace. Arminianism says that man is too depraved to ever have faith and so God conditionally chooses whom he desires based on who will freely accept his gift of grace. These are extremely oversimplified explanations of these two systems of theology and so I would encourage you to study these things in much greater depth if you have not before (like my good friend Andrew is doing). But one can see how people would draw conclusions about God’s sovereignty and man’s free-will on the basis of how they believe a man comes to faith.

So, my point in all this is that we should prayerfully study these topics on the basis of Scripture and not on the basis of a system of theology that man created. If we want to know the extent of God’s sovereignty we should study what the Word says about that topic (this would be what systematic theology attempts to do). If we want to know how a man is saved, we should prayerfully study what the Bible says about that topic.

If you want to know where I stand on the issue…you’ll have to ask!