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« The Chronicles of Narnia (Video) | Main | Christianity Is Bolted to Reality »

March 27, 2012

Comments

Daron,

Alas, clearly many people do buy into Aquinas and reject Calvin as at least one step too far. Of course, for Catholics the issue is a relatively simple one (although this isn't how I reason it for myself): Calvin was a Protestant, Aquinas was a Saint, and neither was ever Pope. So while Aquinas would be more readily considered "inspired" than Calvin, neither one was infallible in making a point of doctrine. It could be that both were wrong, even on Catholicism.

For my money, the final point that William Lane Craig makes in his response in that link is the clincher: "Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce." In fact, he numbers several issues with a Calvinism that is articulated as a form of determinism, but that one's the biggie for me.

The way I interpret all this is that I could not save myself. There is no action I could take, independent of God's graciousness, that would get me into Heaven. If he doesn't want me there, I ain't gettin' in. However, God, while perfectly able to do anything he doo-dah pleases, *would not* save me in spite of myself. That is, if I would will not to be saved, God would not override that choice. He may lead me to the water of life, but while he could, he does not force me to drink it.

For a little analogy, one year my girlfriend set up a little treasure hunt for me. She'd put a bunch of little riddles hidden around the apartment, each leading to the next, until I found a little gift at the end.

Now, she didn't give me the gift directly, I had to participate. She also didn't force me to take it. She didn't even make it easy on me. She didn't even ask beforehand if I'd like to play a game--I just found a riddle when I went to my office.

She did, however, know that because of my curious nature and facility for brainteasers, that I would be able to follow the clues, and get to the gift. She foreordained it, you might say, but only via knowing what I would do, and offering inducements which would appeal to me.

I didn't earn the gift--she freely gave it out of love. She might even have told me where it was and given it to me anyways, if I'd been too dense to parse it all (e.g., Peter identifying Jesus as the Messaih). But if I'd called her up and said "To heck with you, your stupid game, and your cheesy presents," (as many people do to God) then I would have lost the present, the girlfriend, and the fun of the game. But she wouldn't force me to play, or force me to accept the gift. Even if she'd put a gun to my head and made me play, then the gift is no longer any such thing. It's an obligation. The love is gone, the meaning of the whole exercise perishes.

Obviously God has given us his Word to lead us along the way, but if everything we do is foreordained and caused by God, then we're puppets. Even now, my disagreement with you is just God arguing with himself--since whether I accept the concept of election is, itself, necessarily predestined, too. We can't be lauded or condemned for anything, if God made us do it. To say our good works are divinely inspired and we had no agency is to destroy the enterprise of virtue.

None of this is to question God's right or power to run the whole system from quarks on up, but just because he can doesn't mean he would.

Hi Bennett,

Alas, clearly many people do buy into Aquinas and reject Calvin as at least one step too far.

And often they do so without understanding either.

None of this is to question God's right or power to run the whole system from quarks on up, but just because he can doesn't mean he would.
Which is not Calvinism. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/03/some-misconceptions-about-calvinism/
Calvinism is not a belief in fatalism. A fatalistic worldview is one in which all things are left to fate, chance, and a series of causes and effects that has no intelligent guide or ultimate cause. Calvinism believes that God (not fate) is in control, though Calvinists differ about how meticulous this control is. Calvinism is not a denial of freedom. Calvinists to do not believe that people are robots or puppets on strings. Calvinists believe in freedom and, properly defined, free will. While Calvinists believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, most are compatibalists, believing that he works in and with human freedom (limited though it may be). Calvinists believe in human responsibility at the same time as holding to a high view of God’s providential sovereignty. (More on this here.)

....

Calvinists do not necessarily believe that God predestines (wills) everything, including the color of socks I chose this morning.
There is a spectrum to belief about God’s sovereignty in Calvinism. The one thing that unites all Calvinists is their belief in God’s sovereign choice to elect some people to salvation and not others. However, Calvinists differ concerning God’s involvement in other areas (for more on this, see here). Some Calvinists believe in what might be called “meticulous sovereignty”, where God has not only predestined people to salvation, but also he has predestined everything that occurs. As the old saying goes: “There is not a maverick molecule in the universe.” However, most Calvinists believe in what might be called “providential sovereignty.” Here, Calvinists would distinguish between God’s permissive will and his sovereign will. In his permissive will, many things happen that he permits, but is not necessarily bringing about as the first cause. In his sovereign will, many things happen because of his direct intervention (for more on this, see here).

Daron,

That's cool, and I'm guessing you are not in the "there isn't a maverick molecule in the universe" crowd. I simply don't hold that compatibilism is a coherent idea. I say the same thing to biological determinists, or any other sort of determinist.

In "Pride and Prejudice", one of the men remarks to a lady that it must feel awful to be powerless at the dance. "Powerless? Whatever do you mean?" He explains "You must wait for a man to ask you to dance."

"But I have the power to refuse, do I not?" she asks.

He confesses that indeed she does, and she smiles and adds "You underestimate the power of refusal."

I'd say we're like the ladies. God asks us to dance, but he lets us say no. If he doesn't give us that right, too, then on what grounds does he refuse us entry into heaven? If our yes is his yes and our no is his no, then neither our yes nor our no is any more significant than the color of our hair.

I hold to a libertarian view of free will. This may simply be a paradigm difference between us--I doubt it will keep either of us out of the Kingdom, though, so I'm willing to just let the matter drop.

Dan,

I'm glad you find it that simple and are at ease about your decision. Would that I were so.

Me too.
Regarding libertarian freedom, though, you could read Love, Freedom, and Evil by Thaddeus J. Williams, or even Luther's The Bondage of the Will. I have found it unBiblical and well as unnecessary.

as well

Dan would have written a pretty short Bible, I think.

Daron,

;) If more of us were that ready to follow God, we wouldn't need a longer Bible.

As to the reading list, I appreciate the suggestions, but I already got a stomach full of Luther reading his exchanges with Erasmus. I sided with the latter, but won't hold you irrational or unChristian for holding to the former.

True that.

My detractors who say I write too long would disagree...

As to this, Daron...

it's form the Bible

No, it's not from the Bible. It's someone's EXTRAPOLATION of thoughts, where they reasoned out, "Hey, this makes sense to me..." and that is fine, for what it's worth. But it's not from the Bible (the things I mentioned) and we ought not confuse our opinions (even the opinions of "saints") with God's Perfect Will.

Agreed?

I think it's groovy to read what others thought about the Bible and how ancient folk reasoned their way through ideas, but it does not hold the weight of Scripture for us. Fair enough?

For my "short" Bible, though, I would concede that understanding God is infinitely more than 1,000,000,000 of our best thinkers could write 1,000,000,000 books on and yet, simple enough for a child to grasp.

In summation: We are saved, and are being saved, by God's grace. I would caution anyone from holding any positions that come too close to saying, "Yes, God's grace... AND THIS other thing, PLUS that other thing..."

Grace alone, by faith alone, through Jesus alone.

Hahaha. A thought has struck me.

We've gone through the philosophies of Aquinas and Calvin, the nature of salvation and free will (particularly compatibilism vs. libertarianism), and now even broached into the issue of Scriptural authority, Church tradition, and fideism.

If nothing else, we're doing wonders to cast aside any outsiders' idea that religion is some monofaceted, baseless, uncritical belief in a sky daddy.

Speaking of Michael Patton (yep, I was ...), here he is on Catholics (and Protestants) and Grace.
http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/03/are-roman-catholics-christian/

You mentioned "predestination", Dan. That is from the Bible. No, Aquinas' Summa Theologica is his Summa Theologica, and is not from the Bible.
(thanks for overlooking the typo)

In summation: We are saved, and are being saved, by God's grace. I would caution anyone from holding any positions that come too close to saying, "Yes, God's grace... AND THIS other thing, PLUS that other thing..."

Grace alone, by faith alone, through Jesus alone.

Gotcha. And agreed.
It would sure be nice if we were allowed to tell him why we urge such caution, though, don't you think?
It seems Paul thought there was a lot more to be said.

That's only one tine on their fork, though, Bennett. In this demonstration all we've proven to them is that Christianity is false because we have disagreements. Heads, I win ...

Daron,

Tails you lose? Yeah, fair point. I was just trying to look at the bright side. I mean, I don't hold with fideism either, but I at least prefer to focus on the positive effects it has for Dan, as I'm unlikely to make much inroads on the rest.

The difference 'tween y'all and me'all, I'd wager, is that I don't think Paul was setting up a theological system, with deep and exact explanations of the "mechanisms" of grace and how grace works out and the number of angels that can dance on a pin.

He was following up on the teachings of Jesus, echoing some of Jesus' teachings and, along with Peter and others, helping the early church sort out some of what it all means. Sometimes, I think if Jesus were to walk into a school of theological study, with talks of calvinism and molinism and this and that theory of atonement, He'd say, "What the heck, people? What are you talking about and HOW exactly does 'the penal substitionary theory of atonement (vis a vis the ransom theory, as espoused by Himmerheimer)' have to do with my teachings??"

In short, I fear we too easily tread down the path of the Pharisees, who too often took simple teachings meant to aid and made them a labyrinth that only confused and was wholly lacking in grace and love, which are the sum total point of it all.

One man's opinion.

As to Mr. Patton's thoughts on the Church, I hope you'll pardon me if I'm not too worried what he thinks about my "learning curve", but I appreciate the sentiment that he's trying his best to put forth. Agreement on essential doctrines is essential, and agreement on trifles is a trifle. Learn to tell the difference, and we'll all get along better.

One of my favorite "reminder" scriptures is, "The sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the sabbath," for I think there is a great deal of depth that goes missing in that simple line.

I agree on the bright side, Bennett. Just trying to be funny.

But Dan, when Jesus taught He said that on the final day there would be many who said "Lord, Lord" and He would send them away saying that He never knew them, for they never did His works.
Doesn't that sound like more than Grace is required?

I'm glad you aren't worried, Bennett.

In context, that passage is another warning to the religious "know-it-alls" who were lacking in grace, I'd suggest. By their fruit, Jesus had just said, you will know them. Are they experiencing and living love and grace or are they lacking it? It doesn't matter how much Bible or theology or theories of atonement one knows, if one is lacking in the basics of love and grace, one is off on the wrong track.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

And when you say, "more than grace is required..." what exactly do you mean? Do you disagree with the traditional/orthodox, "we are saved by grace through faith..."?

Dan,

Again, that's cool. It does, however, lead to fideism, which can become anti-intellectual in a hurry. It's good to have the assurance that Christ has us covered, and certainly I wouldn't lose my faith over being unable to figure out the Paschal Mystery (otherwise it wouldn't still be a Mystery) or Transubstantiation or puzzling over what it means for an eternal being to become temporarily temporal... et cetera. They're interesting exercises for thought, and often lead us to learn more about God than we would know if we just told kids "Listen. You're saved by Jesus. That's it. End of story. No explanations, no question and answer session. Open wide and swallow that whole."

It either trains us to become uncritical thinkers, or worse, chases the best thinkers out of the Church (often one hand washes the other). If Jesus was dismissive of theology, why did he sit with the rabbis in the Temple as a boy, amazing them with his discourse, for several days? Why teach in parable, instead of just coming out and announcing "I am the Messiah!"

Folks by nature have to parse things through. Some of these mechanical arguments are undoubtedly just thought puzzles which won't yield much fruit, but I'd say better to think it out past the point of necessity, than to quit thinking prior to the point of sufficiency.

But that's just the thought of one little Papist. Who loves Jesus. And America. And baseball.

Here's one of your own, Bennett, and a favourite of mine:


One crucial issue remained to be resolved: Justification by Faith, the central bone of contention of the Reformation. Luther was obviously right here: the doctrine is clearly taught in Romans and Galatians. If the Catholic Church teaches "another gospel" of salvation by works, then it teaches fundamental heresy. I found here however another case of misunderstanding. I read in Aquinas' Summa on grace, and the decrees of the Council of Trent, and found them just as strong on grace as Luther or Calvin. I was overjoyed to find that the Catholic Church had read the Bible too! At Heaven's gate our entrance ticket, according to Scripture and Church dogma, is not our good works or our sincerity, but our faith, which glues us to Jesus. He saves us; we do not save ourselves. But I find, incredibly, that 9 out of 10 Catholics do not know this, the absolutely central, core, essential dogma of Christianity. Protestants are right: most Catholics do in fact believe a whole other religion. Well over 90% of students I have polled who have had 12 years of catechism classes, even Catholic high schools, say they expect to go to Heaven because they tried, or did their best, or had compassionate feelings to everyone, or were sincere. They hardly ever mention Jesus. Asked why they hope to be saved, they mention almost anything except the Savior. Who taught them? Who wrote their textbooks? These teachers have stolen from our precious children the most valuable thing in the world, the "pearl of great price;" their faith. Jesus had some rather terrifying warnings about such things something about millstones.
Catholicism taught that we are saved by faith, by grace, by Christ, however few Catholics understood this. And Protestants taught that true faith necessarily produces good works. The fundamental issue of the Reformation is an argument between the roots and the blossoms on the same flower.

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/hauled-aboard.htm

Daron,

When I first met my pastor (prior to conversion from an Evangelical background--I never made any stopoffs in liberal or Reformed circles), the issue of justification came up.

As he articulated it to me, and as my catechists did, and as the Catholics whom I know do, faith comes from God, and our works are an expression of that. Our works, in this case, meaning things like care for the sick and the destitute, visiting our brothers in prison, clothing the cold and naked, and so on.

Jesus himself says that he would turn away those who did not do those things, no matter how much they cried his name. We're expected to walk his walk, not just talk his talk, albeit the faith to do so is a gift from God. IE--he gives us the tools, but he doesn't operate us like little drones.

Incidentally, my favorite bit from that was "When God saw that the Church in America lacked persecutions, he sent them liturgists."

But perhaps the relevant section is:
"But though Luther did not neglect good works, he connected them to faith by only a thin and unreliable thread: human gratitude. In response to God's great gift of salvation, which we accept by faith, we do good works out of gratitude, he taught. But gratitude is only a feeling, and dependent on the self. The Catholic connection between faith and works is a far stronger and more reliable one. I found it in C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, the best introduction to Christianity I have ever read. It is the ontological reality of we, supernatural life, sanctifying grace, God's own life in the soul, which is received by faith and then itself produces good works. God comes in one end and out the other: the very same thing that comes in by faith (the life of God) goes out as works, through our free cooperation."

Dan,

In context, that passage is another warning to the religious "know-it-alls" who were lacking in grace, I'd suggest. By their fruit, Jesus had just said, you will know them. Are they experiencing and living love and grace or are they lacking it? It doesn't matter how much Bible or theology or theories of atonement one knows, if one is lacking in the basics of love and grace, one is off on the wrong track.

I don't see that about love in there. I see Him saying you have to do the will of the Father, put Jesus' words into practice, keep the Golden rule .... prior to that He is telling us how to fast and pray, how to give alms, how to forgive ...

It seems that you are bringing a lot more to the text than is written there in order to interpret this passage.

And when you say, "more than grace is required..." what exactly do you mean? Do you disagree with the traditional/orthodox, "we are saved by grace through faith..."?
Not at all. I'm making a point, and that is that you are doing theology, interpreting Scripture in light of Scripture, and reading what the passage must mean in light of other teachings - you are not reading your formula right out of the text and it is not simply enough to say "faith by grace" and leave it at that.

Baseball bores me to tears. UFC!

Even Kreeft, I am sad to say, must simplify those with whom he disagrees.
Luther did not teach that works are merely done out of gratitude. Works are a necessary part of justification (not necessary for justification) and are the out-working of Christ's righteousness in us.

We're expected to walk his walk, not just talk his talk, albeit the faith to do so is a gift from God. IE--he gives us the tools, but he doesn't operate us like little drones.
Again, this is echoing, not disputing Reformed doctrine.

Daron,

That's cool. Just so you know, I'm not gonna convert, and we aren't gonna solve the schism. So... I think we've dug the well dry.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-gMy_Qw1ASI8/TniSObTVFuI/AAAAAAAACPk/w68EonZT-0g/s1600/denominations.jpg

Reasonably apt, I think.

I didn't think you would, Bennett.
No matter how many points of agreement we have the differences are real and are not to be papered over.
But I bet you would have brought to my attention how you felt if I commented about Catholics worshiping Mary or keeping the laity from studying the Word. I would expect you to point out that I didn't have it right.

At any rate, God bless and have a great night.

Daron,

Too true. Even if we disagree, it's important to do so in good conscience, and accurately understand what it is that we're disagreeing with. As Aristotle said, the mark of the educated mind is to entertain an idea without accepting it.

(If it makes any difference, it's largely my beliefs vis a vis the Eucharist that really make the difference between being Catholic or not, rather than anything about grace, predestination, etc.)

G'night bro, and God bless you too!

What the author of this fails to recognize is that religion is a huge subject about which many atheists are intimately familiar and it would be ridiculous to fully explain and dissect the entirety of every aspect of it in a half hour speech, especially when that is not the point of the speech. And failure to explain the entire thing in detail and refute the entire thing and all its bits does not constitute a failure on the part of the atheist to understand what they are talking about and complaining about. And claiming it is so smacks of a deliberate attempt to simply ignore the arguments in a very condescending and patronizing fashion whilst essentially claiming victimization for one's self. "You disagree with me, ergo, you clearly don't know what you're talking about, ergo, there is no reason to listen to you." It's a very effective, if dishonest, way to avoid actually facing the discussion.

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