« Radio Sunday | Main | Podcast »

July 30, 2010

Comments

And now for Part II of Calvin’s/Koukl’s good news:

Those for whom I have ordained eternal languishing I will never, never redeem. Suppose that these reprobate humans consider turning to me. Nevertheless, from eternity I have guaranteed that all of their considering be followed by rejecting. They shall never, never be redeemed. But suppose that they are tempted to turn to Jesus. Nevertheless, I shall either decree that such a temptation never occur, or I shall decree that such temptation never come to fruition. I shall never, never redeem them. Once damned by Christ, they shall never be redeemed. To them I give eternal ruin, and so they shall never, never be redeemed (or, if you would like to quibble with me, I eternally refrain from giving them life and thereby guarantee their eternal death). As an enemy of Christ, you do not come to one who will guarantee your redemption, but to one who will make you his enemy for eternity, and you shall be an enemy forever! Live no longer in the spirit of hope, but in the spirit of divine abandonment, which cries, “Torment, anguish!” O the darkness of these words: I shall never redeem you.

Taken from Geneva.

By the way, I made all of this up myself. It is not actually a quote from a book called Geneva.

I take it that this is merely the second half of the classical Reformed perspective that seems to be a part of STR's theology.

Does this mean that once one has accepted Jesus' offer of salvation, there is nothing that person can do to cause the salvation to be revoked? Is it "Once saved, always saved", future actions notwithstanding?

Eric,

Greg Koukl gives every indication of affirming something quite close to classical Reformed perspective. According to that view, all of the elect who are chosen by God for salvation (which it turns out are relatively few people) will actually finally be saved. The classical Calvinist would affirm the following:

Perseverance Thesis: If a person is ever truly regenerated by God, then that person will finally be glorified and raised from the dead into eternal life.

I'm confused.

Weren't all those people who came out of Egypt saved at one time? It's like a few here and their got whacked, but then many repented, lived on, then were whacked themselves. Then Paul talks in Hebrews about backsliding.

Guess I'm mixed up. This is real big deal with some Baptist groups who make people think you can do what every you want and still be saved. Then that brings on the, "well they were never really saved" crowd. But weren't they saved at one time? Didn't somewhere along their path they were baptised and excepted Christ.

Maybe I'm loosing it

Malebranche,

I'm trying to find out if the view is something other than the simple tautology that "everyone who gets saved gets saved". Is there any point at which it can be known (by humans) that a particular person is saved? If so, then does that mean they are saved no matter what may happen in the future?

Can there be certainty regarding salvation? Can one know that one is saved? Can one know that some other is saved (e.g. can a parent know that a child is saved)? Is there a way a parent can look at a child and know that, no matter what may happen in the future, both parent and child are saved and will be united after death?

Alternatively, is it possible that someone gives every external appearance, and even possibly experiences every internal sensation, of being saved, but is not really saved?

Eric,

Here’s the classical Reformed view:

(1) Is it possible for a person truly regenerate at some time to be finally damned? No.
(2) Is it possible for normal people to be absolutely certain that he has been regenerated? No.
(3) Is it possible for normal people to have some evidence that they have been regenerated? Yes.
(4) Is the doctrine of perseverance of the saints the simple tautology that all those who will finally be saved will finally be saved? No.
(5) Is there a way a parent can look at a child and know that, no matter what may happen in the future, both parent and child are saved and will be united after death? Short of some special divine revelation, no.
(6) Is it possible that someone gives every external appearance, and even possibly experiences every internal sensation, of being saved, but is not really saved? I don’t know what internal sensations you have in mind, but most Calvinists believe that a person can give every appearance of being a Christian and yet finally be damned.

I might want to modify (5) as follows:

(5*) Is there a way a parent can look at a child and be rationally and absolutely certain that, no matter what may happen in the future, both parent and child are saved and will be united after death? Short of some special divine revelation, no.

Malebranche,

Thanks. You are providing helpful stuff.

"I don’t know what internal sensations you have in mind"
I mean they feel some internal assurance, or have some sort of experience of being saved. Probably something along the lines of the "witness of the Holy Spirit" that we hear about as internal evidence that some people have for believing in God. Something that can't be shared or expressed, but has a kind of subjective immediacy to the individual that makes it very meaningful to them.

Your number 2 seems to leave this open to "No True Scotsman", which is something that concerns me about this idea.

I'm curious about #3. Do you have any ideas about what kinds of evidence might be available? What level of certainty do you think can be obtained?

Eric,

Usually the evidence Reformed folk cite for being of the elect includes the following:

(a) Believing that Christ has saved one from sin.
(b) Believing the Holy Spirit indwells oneself.
(c) Living a life that seems to be the sort of life an elect person would live.

Etc. None of (a) through (c) absolutely entail that one is part of the elect, but Reformed folk take (a) through (c) to be about as good evidence as one could have for being one of the elect.

Jesus said that whoever believes in him, has eternal life.

Eternal life has no beginning or end. Therefore, those who believe in Christ are forever and unchangeably saved in the mind of God.

Also, if you can loose your salvation through a sin of omission or by an act of disobedience, salvation would depend upon works

dave, I'm not so sure eternal life has no beginning. If that is true, then anybody who has eternal life cannot have been created. They would have to have always existed. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding you.

"Suppose that these reprobate humans consider turning to me."

And, suppose a circle were square....

Sam, as I see it, only God is eternal. We are in a sense co-eternal with him in his plan and design. There was never a time when we weren't saved in the mind of God. Nor is there ever a time when we are lost.

For the universalists...

If universalism is true then what spiritual harm is there in preaching reformed theology to the masses? What spiritual harm is there in preaching a message that is the complete antithesis of the one Christ taught?

SteveK, the Gospel is the good news of salvation for those who believe. It is preached to the regenerate (who are already saved) who need instruction.

The gospel today is a system of works for the self-righteous.

It really ensnares people into keeping the Law, when it suggests that "accepting Jesus as your personal savior" is the condition for salvation.

This is a blatant attempt to keeping the first commandment. And obligates a person to keep the rest of the Law, which none can do.

SteveK,

I take your question to be something like the following: “Suppose that God, in his infinite mercy and loving power, finally saves all persons. Well, doesn’t it just follow from this that we have no reason to refrain from perverting or misrepresenting God’s message and work toward humanity?”

Why anyone would think this follows is entirely unintelligible to me, but apparently this impression is nearly ubiquitous. But I’ll just answer directly: No, it doesn’t follow. Apparently a lot of Christians believe that the most important reason to speak the truth about God is because God is going to send a lot of people to eternal hell. That is not my reason for speaking the truth about God. Here are other reasons we should speak the truth about God and refrain from perverting the work of God towards humanity:

(1) We have a moral duty to do our best to speak the truth and refrain from teaching falsehoods.
(2) Only a shallow, vicious fool would not care about speaking the truth on important matters.
(3) A person’s most fundamental good, even here and now, consists in a healthy relationship with God and with fellow creatures. Because a healthy relationship with God here and now is harmed by perverse beliefs about God, we ought to strongly avoid perverse beliefs about God.
(4) Because we love God and know that misrepresenting him always produces not God but an idol, and because we want to worship the true God and not idols, it is important to speak only the truth about God.
(5) By speaking the truth about God’s mercy and forgiveness towards humanity we can, in some sense, cooperate with God or be involved in God’s redemptive process. By speaking falsehoods about God, however, we do not cooperate in the redemptive process in the same way.
(6) Part of participating in the life and being of Christ involves believing the things Christ believed and rejecting the things Christ rejected. If Christ does not believe in the classical Reformed dogmas, then, as those participating in Christ, we shouldn’t either.
(7) By preaching a gospel according to which God eternally decrees the eternal damnation of most of humanity, we not only teach perverse falsehood but also contribute to spiritual and psychological turmoil, malfunction, and despair. But we should only contribute to spiritual and psychological health, proper function, and hope.

I hope that in at least one of the above items you can recognize a reason for speaking the truth about God other than the desire to avoid being sent to hell eternally by God. A universalist certainly can be motivated by all of (1) through (7) to speak the truth about God, even if the universalist believes that, in the end, God’s love will prevail for all despite our failures.

Malebranche, great first post. :)

BillyHW,

I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. It really is a shame that what was intended for news of hope and joy to the world has been perverted into a view according to which this literally is a largely God-forsaken-world. It reminds me of the following quote from George MacDonald:

If anyone say, 'But I believe what you despise,' I answer, To believe it is your punishment for being able to believe it; you may call it your reward, if you will. You ought not to be able to believe it. It is the merest, poorest, most shameless fiction, invented without the perception that it was an invention--fit to satisfy the intellect, doubtless, of the inventor, else he could not have invented it.

"Whoever comes to me I will never cast out."
John 6:37

Here back at square one Spurgeon states that all who come to Christ are eternally accepted of him.

Malebranch says "Suppose that these reprobate humans consider turning to me. Nevertheless, from eternity I have guaranteed that all of their considering be followed by rejecting. They shall never, never be redeemed."

Who are we to believe here? Malebranche or Scripture?

Dave,

Is it your understanding that there is anything in Scripture that suggests that everyone who considers becoming a Christian has thereby come to Christ? That is pretty plainly not true. After all, you would probably agree that many people reject Christ. But you can't very well reject Christ if you've never even considered whether or not to accept Christ (or perhaps you believe that even infants can reject Christ?). So you will agree that there are people who consider accepting Christ, but decide against it. And, if you tow the Reformed line Koukl tows, you will say that the fact that these folks rejected Christ after considering accepting him was foreordained and thereby guaranteed by God from eternity. And that is exactly what I wrote. So what is the problem?

Hi,

I think the whole arm./calv. debate isn't very profitable and each one taken to its logical endgame falls flat, they just cause division and dissension. The arm. has no assurance of salvation while the calv. can live however they want. (extremes on both sides) Why cant we just say we cant fully understand Gods grace and how he works it out? BOTH sides have convincing biblical arguments. The FACT is that Jesus died on a cross for our sins and if you are truly converted you are a NEW CREATURE and our father will ensure his work is completed (now I sound like a calvinist? lol). So in that sense I believe you cant "lose" your salvation if you are truly redeemed - THAT is biblical. The biggest problem I have with Calv. is irresistible grace, and election those 2 just don't work out. We have free will and we are presented with a choice which we can resist, this doesnt make it anything we can do of our own in the sense that we cannot pay for our sins, there is no work by us that can save us,ONLY the Holy Sprit creating us as a new man can, but we have to be willing to allow him to. The Calv. would argue that by making a choice that is a WORK of some sort which I just dont see. We can see our sin and need for Christ and reject it, our hearts will then be hardened and we will become more like the dogs and pigs Jesus describes in Matthew. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.. which both sides would say is impossible...lol.

>So what is the problem? It is simply this. We somehow get a picture from your onslaught against Calvinism, of some repentant seeker of Christ being turned away despite his goodness, being doomed to Hell, for no other reason than because he is Reprobate.

This is pure fiction and stands in direct contradiction to the clear assurances of Scripture.
"Whosoever will", will be saved for example.

Dave,

Well, I never said that according to the Calvinist there are folks who would simply love to repent but who are nevertheless rejected by God. I simply said that according to Calvinism there are folks who consider accepting Christianity and finally reject it, and that every part of that process was predestined by God. And that is exactly what the Calvinist believes.

Basically I think it comes down to man wanting to fully understand God, when we CANT - we are finite humans and we are trying to put the God of the universe in our own little human box of knowledge. There are 2 extremes I believe. ONE: God only knows things knowable therefore he couldn't be the author of evil and had no idea man would fall. Because if he did know and still created man then he would be evil. TWO: God predestined everything and no one has true free will, God created people to go to hell.. not that he knew they would go to hell (there is a difference.) I think both are wrong and it comes from people who cant reconcile that God can KNOW everything including what people will choose and still not affect their free-will. Just because God knows doesn't mean he created evil, even though he knew what would happen when he created the earth, he still did - because he loves us and the only way for us to even begin to reciprocate love back to him is if we have a free-will. He wanted people to freely worship him, the only way that can happen is if you have a choice.. here is a cool 2min YouTube video that is simple and to the point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_1UAjeIA

Malebranche, Jesus said that no one can come to him unless the father draw (drag) him. Upon hearing this, many of his disciples no longer walked with him.

So, from out of the sinful mass of mankind, God saved certain sinners, leaving the rest to their misery and doom.

Is God unjust for doing this?

one problem i have with eternal security is the lack of actual assurance. sure believers can feel assurance, and they can cite verses which claim to give believers assurance. but if that very same person at some point rejects God and the faith, then the reformed theologian will simply cite the verses which claim "they were never of us..." all the while that "believer" who was told and believed "no one can snatch..." has been under a delusion.

the only way to truely know you are elect and have actual assurance rather than illusory assurance is to die in the faith.

John, you can loose your assurance of salvation, but you cannot loose your salvation. Salvation is not dependent upon works, apart from which, even faith is dead.

Many prefer thinking that since salvation depends upon their meeting a condition, they can loose their salvation by not meeting the condition. This is salvation by works.

Dave,

So, from out of the sinful mass of mankind, God saved certain sinners, leaving the rest to their misery and doom. Is God unjust for doing this?

Well fortunately God has done no such thing, but for the sake of argument I’ll suppose that God could and actually has done such a thing. For the sake of discussion, I’ll suppose that from eternity, God freely chose to create a great number of human beings whom he is able to redeem but instead has freely chosen to abandon to eternal languishing and sin.

Is this unjust? I think so. As Plato argues in the Republic, to harm a person by bringing it about that she is deficient in human virtue and excellence is not just, but unjust. Similarly, to refrain from delivering a person from human vice and ruin when it is in one’s power is not just, but unjust. It is always unjust to commit the greatest harm possible to a person by freely arranging that she be abandoned to earthly viciousness and eternal ruin in order to enhance one’s own glory. That is not only unjust, but is also a perverse, cruel, callous, hateful, and thoroughly selfish display of contempt for the human person. If you would like an argument for this, I offer the following:

(1) Suppose that Calvinism is true.
(2) If Calvinism is true, then God has freely arranged for at least one person’s existence to be finally consumed in vice and on the whole not worth living ultimately for the purpose of enhancing God’s glory.
(3) Therefore, God has freely arranged for at least one person’s existence to be finally consumed in vice and on the whole not worth living ultimately for the purpose of enhancing God’s glory (from 1, 2).
(4) For any persons S and S*, if S freely arranges for S*’s existence to be finally consumed in vice and on the whole not worth living ultimately for the purpose of enhancing S’s glory, then S has acted in a perverse, cruel, callous, hateful, selfish, and contemptuous manner towards S*.
(5) Therefore, God has acted in a perverse, cruel, callous, hateful, selfish, and contemptuous manner towards at least one person (from 3, 4).
(6) Therefore, if Calvinism is true, then God has acted in a perverse, cruel, callous, hateful, selfish, and contemptuous manner towards at least one person (from 1 through 5).

The argument is valid and the only premises it contains are premises (2) and (4). Do you think that one of these two premises is false?

Here’s a couple of lovely passages from Calvin:

The sum of the whole is this,--since the will of God is said to be the cause of all things, all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed by his providence; so that he not only exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the Holy Spirit, but also forces the reprobate to do him service. (Institutes, Book I, Chapter 18, Section 2)
But nothing can be clearer than the many passages which declare, that he blinds the minds of men, and smites them with giddiness, intoxicates them with a spirit of stupor, renders them infatuated, and hardens their hearts. (Institutes, Book I, Chapter 18, Section 2)

Malebranche, so you hate God if he is portrayed to Calvin's liking. but you love God if he is portrayed to your liking?

Someone here is worshiping idols.

Dave,

Well, you’ve ignored the case I put forth that if Calvinism is true, then God is hateful and cruel to at least one person. But perhaps you’d rather avoid the substantive issues and discuss my piety instead. With respect to that issue, I’ll just say the following. If I came across a group of folks who believed that God occasionally became incarnate and raped children, then I would tell them that they believe in a perverse, hateful God, and that the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth is neither perverse nor hateful. That strikes me as not only consistent with genuine love of God, but required by it. But actually, it is a far lesser harm for a child to be raped than for the child to be made such that her earthly sinfulness and eternal perdition were from eternity freely guaranteed by a God who had the power to act otherwise and bring the child into eternal flourishing and glory. So, if genuine love of God requires that I deny that God occasionally becomes incarnate and molests children, then a fortiori genuine love of God requires that I deny that God freely guarantees that children live a life of viciousness only to be followed by eternal ruin when it was within God’s power to redeem that child from such a miserable fate. And of course I want to genuinely love God. So of course I will deny what you defend. But I suppose you think that genuine love of God does not require this, and that the love of God for the world is consistent with God abandoning most of that world to the most hellish of futures. I find it a strange doctrine according to which it is idolatrous to believe that God will not guarantee the eternal perdition of most of humanity.

Malebranch, remember God killed everyone on the planet except 8 people in the flood (sending them to Hell).

He also chose Jacob (Israel) and excluded his brother Esau before they were born, to reveal the doctrine of election. Esau and his decedents were lost (sent to Hell) and remain reprobate largely until this day.

Israel remains blind (lost going to Hell) by Divine appointment until this day, until the fullness of the gentiles come in.

Dave,

What a mercy that you aren't convinced that Scripture describes God as incarnating himself occasionally and molesting children. Otherwise we'd have to hear you argue that it is not perverse or hateful for God to become human and molest children.

Good post Malebranche. Sometimes irony is the quickest route to truth, and once again you found it. Once again it is also completely lost on your interlocutors.

I have seen your posts before, and the progression that follows each time. You make an honest plea to people to think seriously about a philosophical or theological matter. When they find themselves on indefensible ground they take recourse in mere proof-texting of Scriptures they have been taught support their position.

Apparently the irony is lost on them. After all this is "Stand to Reason" which advertises itself as a place one can go to learn to think--as opposed to having constant recourse to sentences that begin (and end) with, "Well the Bible says!!!!!"

By the way Malebranche, isn't it sad that young Protestants searching for theology so often encounter Presbyterians? Especially since the classical Reformed folks are so eager to share the news of God's general ungraciousness towards the world.

>Good post Malebranche. Sometimes irony is the quickest route to truth, and once again you found it.

>> What about Scripture and the Teachers of the Church, guys?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_1UAjeIA

God Is Good

Scripture is authoritative and so are the teachers of the Church.

Hi Malebranche
I asked:

If universalism is true then what spiritual harm is there in preaching reformed theology to the masses?

Regarding the spiritural harm, you responded:


By speaking falsehoods about God, however, we do not cooperate in the redemptive process in the same way.
.......
By preaching a gospel according to which God eternally decrees the eternal damnation of most of humanity, we not only teach perverse falsehood but also contribute to spiritual and psychological turmoil, malfunction, and despair.

According to universalism, in what way does spiritual harm done now affect the eternal spiritual situation? For example, what becomes (spiritually) of a believer who preaches a false gospel (the reformed) vs. a non-believer who preaches the truth (the new-ager)? Some scriptural references would help me.

>Scripture is authoritative and so are the teachers of the Church.

>> Calvin, Luther, Augustine, all held to the ruling of the Council of Ephesus 431AD on Sin and Grace, condemning Pelagius's teaching as heresy (today's most popular view), while upholding Augustine's teaching (today's most unpopular view)as being true to Scripture.

I have affirmed nothing Pelagian.

I have encouraged you to argue rather than merely appeal to others you think hold your position. But if we are in the business of appealing to extra-biblical Christian authors then I can play your game.

John Wesley, C .S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, William Lane Craig etc. are not Pelagians. But they heartily disagree with you and your depiction of God's goodness being consistent with pre-ordaining the languishing of rational beings. By the way, so do the official Catholic and Orthodox traditions (sorry, even Augustine won't help you there.)

Now that I have appealed to authorities what have I solved? Nothing.

You have been asked very seriously to account for what you are willing to admit is compatible with divine goodness. So far it seems you are willing to say, "Well anything I feel dogmatically forced to admit according to my fidelity to Calvin and his minions."

Well, that appeal has no force with me. The fact is, orthodoxy admits of more diversity than you are comfortable with. It also admits of more charity than you are willing to ascribe to God and what most human beings will ascribe to God in good conscience.

>John Wesley, C .S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, William Lane Craig etc. are not Pelagians. But they heartily disagree with you and your depiction of God's goodness being consistent with pre-ordaining the languishing of rational beings.

>> They are all semi-pelagian (or Arminian), as is the RCC. Condemned as heresy by the Council of Orange 529 AD

So citing anathemas is the most reflective way to engage this matter?

Hilarious.

> So citing anathemas is the most reflective way to engage this matter?

Hilarious.

Earlier you said > Scripture is authoritative and so are the teachers of the Church.

So what is it? Aren't you contradicting yourself here?

Koukl’s Mirror,

You are right that Calvinists seem the most eager of all Protestants to share the news of God’s general ungraciousness towards the world. In my experience at least, most Protestants that are introduced to theology start thinking that it is just part of responsible theology to believe that God damns the majority of human persons to eternal ruin. There’s even the thought that this abominable doctrine can be made reasonable if only it passes the game of proof-text poker.

I once heard (if my memory serves me well) Koukl become angry on his radio show when a person told him that, according to his theology, God is pretty cheap with his grace. I’m not one that cares much about the flutters of anyone’s feelings, but I have to say that if he’s mad that someone would think that the God of his theology is cheap with his grace, then he’s mad at the truth. If Koukl’s theology is right, then mercy and grace are clearly the exception to the more general rule of damnation, reprobation, ruin, and eternal destruction, all of which are guaranteed by the inscrutable and mysterious decree of a dark God who is cheap with grace.

>most Protestants that are introduced to theology start thinking that it is just part of responsible theology to believe that God damns the majority of human persons to eternal ruin.

>>OK, would you say then that practically everyone presently alive is saved? If, not, perhaps this Protestant Theology is telling you why they are not. Is Jesus lying when he says few there be that find it, in reference to salvation?

Dave,

OK, would you say then that practically everyone presently alive is saved?

All I have said thus far is that it is false that from eternity God has freely decreed and thereby guaranteed the damnation of even a single person. That does not entail universalism, but is consistent with it. The issue at hand is whether or not it is absurd to the highest degree to believe that the infinitely merciful and good God has freely damned most of humanity to the worst future possible. I say it is absurd. It is just as absurd as going around saying that the sun revolves around the earth (I think it is more absurd). Moreover, just as the absurdity of geocentrism is not lessened in the least by proof-texting one's way through astronomy, so the absurdity of teaching that God is about as cheap with his mercy as one could get is not lessened by proof-texting your way through Romans 9 or the Gospel of John. If a person showed that Jesus believed that the sun revolved around the earth, then I would conclude that Jesus had a false belief. Similarly, if someone showed that Jesus affirmed a classical Reformed perspective (which no one has) or that Jesus thought that God occasionally molested children, then I would conclude that Jesus had a false belief.

>All I have said thus far is that it is false that from eternity God has freely decreed and thereby guaranteed the damnation of even a single person.

>>How are people saved in your estimation?

Do all have access to the the means of salvation?

What about all who perish never hearing about Christ?

Are we saying God didn't damn anyone to Hell, but he sure didn't give them the means of Salvation either?

>All I have said thus far is that it is false that from eternity God has freely decreed and thereby guaranteed the damnation of even a single person.

>>The apostle John said in reference to Christ's unheeded miracles, “For this cause they could not believe, for that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and He hardened their heart; Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, And should turn, And I should heal them,” John 12:39,40.

Keep in mind, Jesus Himself declared that one of the reasons why He spoke in parables was that the truth might be concealed from those for whom it was not intended.

The comments to this entry are closed.