God as Carpet Bomber

So this is how it happened. I recently read and reviewed The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser. It was a fantastic book, with the exception of a quite unnecessary chapter addressing the issues that usually go by the nickname of Calvinism. That book was so good that I started reading his more popular-level book on the same general subject, a book called Supernatural. That book is really good also, again with the notable exception of a pretty lame section on the relationship of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. In other words, a couple of good books with some unnecessary forays out of his area of expertise and into an area that really isn’t. That was fine with me, for must we not take a few roughs with the smooth?critic

But because Heiser got my brain churning on the subject of the “council of the gods,” and because I knew that I had another book on my shelves that probably addressed the same general topic, I took it down and looked at it. It is called God at War, and was written by Greg Boyd, an open theist, and sure enough, it did address the same general topic. I began to read it, and in the introduction Boyd took the mere mistakes of Heiser and turned them into his crowning principles. He took some of the same kind of pebbles that were in Heiser’s driveway and had them worked into a diadem.

This particular cloud of confusion resides hard by Boyd’s tent of meeting, and he has somehow mistaken it for the Shekinah glory. And he won’t move unless the cloud does.

Here is the basic problem, according to Boyd. He says there is a problem with the problem of evil. Beginning with Augustine, he says, folks in the West quit trying to fight evil and began trying to figure it out. Instead of taking evil as a given, and throwing all our energy into combating it, we started to wonder how a good God could have let this mess happen, and commenced to puzzling over it.

“The New Testament exhibits a church that is not intellectually baffled by evil but is spiritually empowered in vanquishing it” (p. 22).

“Thus evil must be understood as being what God is unequivocally against, and thus what God’s people must also be unequivocally against. Whereas the classical-philosophical theology of sovereignty encourages a theological of resignation, a theology rooted in a warfare worldview inspires, and requires, a theology of revolt: revolt against all that God revolts against” (p. 22).

Confronted with this kind of thinking, it is difficult to know where to start. Should we object to the jab that believers in divine sovereignty resign themselves to evil? That we don’t know how to vanquish bad things because of our fatalism? Tell it to John Knox, that famous Scots quietist. Should we object to the characterization of the author of Job as classical-philosophical? And so the prophet Amos said that if disaster befalls a city, has not the Lord done it?—and Socrates replied that he had always found that one to be a stumper. As fun as it might be to pursue such avenues of thought, let us restrain ourselves and move on to confront the sad truth that every Christian who affirms creatio ex nihilo is a Calvinist in principle.

Now I acknowledge that many such are Calvinists against their will, but that is actually the very best way to become a Calvinist. Go down fighting, man.

In other words, lame theodicies couldn’t even dice an onion.

Boyd says that God is “unequivocally against” evil. But given the fact that the world didn’t used to be here, and before it was here there was no evil in it, or so it seems to me, and that the world did not come into being until God put it here, and that the evil (that we are to be unequivocally against) could not exist apart from God’s ongoing acceptance of it, the question arises. What on earth does unequivocal mean?

Dr. Frankenstein was unequivocally against some of that stuff his monster did. I dare say he was. But his unequivocal againstness was plainly not adequately present when he created the monster in the first place. Dr. Frankenstein should have thought ahead a little bit. He should have done some contingency planning—he had the responsibility to do so. And about the only thing we can say about this world is that in this regard it is millions of times worse than what Mary Shelley was able to dream up.

If man can bring charges against God, then the Calvinist God could be indicted for premeditated murder. The Arminian God could be indicted 2nd degree murder. The God of the open theist could be indicted for reckless endangerment. Not only so, but I bet it would be a breeze to find twelve jurors who would convict Him on any of these points. Finding someone with the firepower to arrest Him might present difficulties, but that is not our problem right now. Our duty is to do the right thing, whatever that might be now. We just arrested the font of all right and put Him in the slammer, and now we don’t know what to do. And some of us have begun to suspect that He is not really in the slammer, and is still up in Heaven laughing at us. We arrested His Son once, and that whole thing turned out really badly. Maybe we ought to just quit it.

The world is here, and it is crammed full of messed up, screwed up, very wrong things. Who lets that continue to happen? The coming year will contain x number of atrocious murders. Who has done the cost benefit analysis that decided that there is some end to be attained by this world’s continuance, such that letting the world continue on in its murderous ways would be a worthwhile thing to do? Who is the only one who could possibly do that cost benefit analysis? Right—the answer is God.

And if we are called to calibrate our “unequivocal” opposition to evil by holding it up alongside God’s opposition it, the only conclusion to draw is that fighting evil must be some kind of a game. We are to fight evil with everything we’ve got, right? Well, does God fight it with everything He’s got? Plainly not.

What Greg Boyd wants to do is pretend that God is on his side in a great battle, while hiding from himself the fact that God is the creator of every blade of grass on that battlefield. Who is the one who is keeping the hearts of every foe continually beating? Who puts air in their lungs? Who makes the sun shine on the fields that grow the crops that feed the evil armies? Who holds the atoms in their swords together?

If you are going to confront the problem of evil, then you need actually to confront it. No shifty dodges—deal with the problem. No glib hand-waving. Here is the form of it that comes down from Epicurus.

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Every Christian who has thought through the issue clearly opts by definition to a combination of the second and third choices—God is able now but not willing yet, and this means He is both able and willing to eradicate evil in accordance with His own perfect counsel and will at the perfect time for it. And when He does so, everything will be put right at the end of the story, and no remainder. Every tear will be dried, every wound healed, and every wrong settled and put right.

But Christians who have simply not thought through the implications of their position—men like Boyd—are content to opt for a modified version of the second choice. God is able to do it, but is not willing, period. God wanted to create a world filled with spiritual warfare, and this means that there is a goodish bit of collateral damage.

“If the world is indeed caught up in the middle of a real war between good and evil forces, evil is to be expected—including evil that serves no higher end. For in any state of war, gratuitous evil is normative. Only when it is assumed that the world is meticulously controlled by an all-loving God does each particular evil event need a higher, all-loving explanation” (pp. 20-21, emphasis mine).

“Mother, why is this happening?” “God is at war, dearie, and one of things that great generals do in warfare is order carpet bombing campaigns. These things have to be, and we can never make sense of them. He can’t be expected to know about what is happening to us.”

For those who think this is Christian theodicy, I can hardly blame them for taking another look at Hinduism.

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Zachary Hurt
Guest

The law typically determines intent according to the foreseeable — or “natural and probable” — consequences of a person’s actions. The fact that close to nobody thinks it’s unjust to equate agency-plus-foreseeability with intent does present a problem for Boydesque theodicies.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Boyd is described above as an Open Theist, meaning he would dispute that the presence of evil was foreseeable by God? This is my understanding of the concept.

Zachary Hurt
Guest

Ah, that would sort of ruin the application of the analogy. Still useful for the Arminians, I suppose, as I understand most of them believe that God knows the future.

I wonder how open theists deal with prophecy.

bethyada
Member

God can know the future to a high probability. But God can also bring about the future.

john k
Guest
john k

God is just like us, with somewhat more insight and power!

bethyada
Member

I am not an open theist, I am trying to represent their position more accurately

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Not “somewhat more insight and power”, ultimate insight and ultimate power.

What open theists would dispute are that things which have not happened are things to even be “known”. You can’t know something which is not true. The future is not true until it happens. Until then, free will of human decisions is real, and there are many possible futures.

John Warren
Member

Then how does God prophesy, and expect it to come about, with all the variables in the way?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Because God knows how HE will act, I assume.

Most prophecy is simply condemnation of unGodly behavior and words on the obvious consequences that will result anyway. But in the minority of cases where the prophets are specifically talking about a far-future event, I assume God can speak on that because God actually will bring about that event Himself, as opposed to having to rely on the uncertain free will of humans.

(Like I said, I haven’t actually read any books by open theists, so I’m just basing this off of a couple articles.)

John Warren
Member

How can God be sure he can actually bring about that event Himself? Human and angelic free will may mess things up to make it impossible.

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

The future is true when God determines it, then it plays out in time just as He determined. After it has played out, we can look back and say a prophecy was true, but that is because of our limitation. God doesn’t have the same limitation.

Zachary Hurt
Guest

My point is that either way of stating it (and the latter way is more consistent) requires us to conclude that God intends to come to pass all things that do in fact come to pass.

John Barry
Guest
John Barry

Hi Zach, One way would be to understand most prophecies as *not* predictive, per se. And the fulfilling of predictive prophecies requires neither precise foreknowledge nor foreordination. It simply requires *ability*. Thus, God declares in the present that He will do such and such. In a “later” present, He brings it to pass. He does so because He is *able*. Note that there seems to be some latitude in the fulfillment of predictive prophecies. Take for example the NT prophet Agabus: Acts 21:10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And… Read more »

john k
Guest
john k

Without discounting the idea of allowable latitude in fulfillment, the Holy Spirit is not all that imprecise here. The text does not say that the Jews *don’t* bind Paul. It is left unsaid one way or the other. However, Luke does say the Jews “took hold” of Paul, which does not rule out him being bound by them. As far as the Jews delivering Paul to the Romans, is that not exactly what they did? It doesn’t matter that they were forced. Paul himself later says that he was “delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the… Read more »

John Barry
Guest
John Barry

Why would the Romans bind Paul with two chains if he had already been bound?

No, the Jews did not deliver Paul to the Romans. The Romans snatched Paul out of the Jews’ hands.

And in Acts 28, Paul is referring to being delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem to the Romans in Caesarea–where Felix the governor was.

john k
Guest
john k

Why would the Romans bind Paul with two chains Maybe Paul had only been bound with a belt (like the one Agabus used) so he could be held while being beaten? The text doesn’t say. When the Romans took charge, they did things their own way. Why do we draw confident conclusions about the Holy Spirit’s inaccuracy in prophecy, when there is no textual certainty? The Romans snatched Paul “To deliver” doesn’t have to be all on one’s own initiative, and without force. If I deliver my watch and wallet to a thug in an alley, I choose to do… Read more »

Zachary Hurt
Guest

Hi Uncle John,

That’s not an explanation of prophecy I’ve heard before. But how does that approach satisfactorily deal with the problem of evil? Many of God’s “prophecies” refer to later events which He, in his eventual “ability,” causes to occur, and which events include a great deal of evil (such as the many sanguine judgments of the Old Testament, and the ultimately sanguine crucifixion of the New).

bethyada
Member

No, they deny that God knows that evil is inevitable. So God can know all possibilities, but God does not know (for certain) all actualities until they happen.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I think he would actually say that the presence of evil as one of the possibilities was foreseen, but not as absolutely determined.

In other words, he could see that Adam and Eve might fall, and could see what happened if they did fall, but did not 100% predetermine that they would fall.

I’ve never read Boyd himself or any other Open Theist, only a few articles about them, so I’m not absolutely certain that my interpretation is correct.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

I think we have to say there is evil because God wants there to be evil. It’s his idea. He does no evil but makes sure it comes to pass. This seems like a contradiction to most people because they fail to grasp how radical the creator/creature distinction really is. God creates from nothing which means reality has its being in him, not vice versa. We are more made up than any story.

bethyada
Member

I think we have to say there is evil because God wants there to be evil.

You get the problem of evil being intrinsically everything that is opposed to God. So God wants evil, but evil is no part of who God is. This is philosophically problematic.

The non-Calvinist approach is that God opposes all evil but will use evil for his purposes when those opposed to God bring evil about.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

God hates evil. His hatred toward it is one of his favorite things, right up there with his mercy towards us. But without evil there would be no cross and the cross is the point of creation. There he demonstrates his wrath and his mercy. He really lets them out. If we knew him completely except for his wrath and mercy we wouldn’t really know him at all and that would be bad.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

My church teaches that evil is the absence or the perversion of good.

Ilíon
Member

Yes, Catholicism officially teaches that no one (not even Satan) does evil for the mere love of doing evil, or putting it for the other direction, for mere hatred of the good.

Catholicism is incorrect.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Let me try to explain a bit, and I hope I can make it as clear as you have been in your helpful explanations to me! What Catholics reject is dualism, the idea that evil, from the beginning, existed in its own right as a counterpart to good. We believe that Satan was created as possessing every good quality, yet that he used his divinely given free will to reject his role as creature, not lord of creation. When he declared himself an enemy of God, he became evil and every angelic virtue he possessed was then perverted. Every heroic… Read more »

doug sayers
Guest
doug sayers

Two of our biggest errors in all of this: 1) Severe shortsightedness. We want our answers right now when God desires us to trust Him based on what He has shown us. (See Job 38…) 2) We sorely underestimate His greatness, wisdom, and glory ( see again Job 38…) and that verse right after John 3:15. These questions tend to come up when we marginalize the natural revelation in creation and conscience. Professing Christians who put their hope in Christ, in this life only, have the same type problem as the skeptics like Stephen Fry, only in the lesser degree.… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Doug — really really good helpful posting. Thank you for your input. You’ve a good mind.

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

Love. Evil exists because of love. God created human beings and placed them in a beautiful, perfect place called Eden. Why? Because He created them to love and to be loved. God is love. He multiplied that love in creation. This is to His glory. There was a tree in Eden that would kill them if they ate from it, so He told them not to eat from it. Why? Because love cannot exist in the absence of free will. Mandatory love is not love at all. Your computer cannot love you, and neither could a robot. Free will cannot… Read more »

soylentg
Member

quote: “Your computer cannot love you,”
You may be right Cap’n, but I have for some time now had a strong suspicion that mine hates me.

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

No, dear saint, your computer does not hate you.
Bill Gates hates you.
Unless you own an Apple. Then you are doooooooooomed as one of the non-elect.

adad0
Member

Even now, sitting in my heated house, with with my family and my electronic device on my desk, do I really want to know how much worse things could be?

Nope! ; – )

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

A Dad,
“with with my family and my electronic device on my desk”
You have triggered my inner English Major Nazi.
Must be a very large desk.
:)

adad0
Member

Or a really small family!
????????????☀️

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

Sorry. I should learn to just let some things go.
It’s a disability I have.
Thank God for grace.

adad0
Member

Surf those things! They are good for a laugh!????

carandc
Member

“Because love cannot exist in the absence of free will.”

I hear you and sympathize with the statement. But, in light of an understanding of God’s soverignty grounded in scripture first and logic second, free will just seems too simplistic an answer to the questions you pose. Free will and a biblically-based understanding of God’s soverignty seem incompatible. I’m humbly learning to allow for mystery where my understanding on this runs out.

Incidentally, Bruce Ware has provided some great treatment on human will as it pertains to God’s sovereignty, but i’m still trying to wrap my mind around it as well :-)

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

“Free will and a biblically-based understanding of God’s soverignty seem incompatible.” I understand where you are coming from on that, Andy. When I ponder your point, it makes me think of Jonah. God told him to go to Ninevah, he refused of his own free will, but then finds himself puked out on the beach smelling like fish guts. In the end, he does do God’s will of his own free will. No, he wasn’t happy about it, but he made the choice. Bottom line: We absolutely DO have free will, but God can be very, very persuasive. I try… Read more »

RandMan
Guest
RandMan

Didn’t you and your pals get owned on this topic already? RIP Hitchens.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms5WXYr3vuo

Jane
Member

Agreeing that they got “owned” would require agreeing that Hitchens got it right. Why would they do that?

RandMan
Guest
RandMan

Oh, sorry dunsworth. Rhetorical question.

Jane
Member

I don’t mean “what would motivate them to do that” I mean “What in Hitchens’ weak grasp of the matter would logically require them to do that?”

RandMan
Guest
RandMan

First of all, did you watch/listen to that conversation? I did in it’s entirety. And a rhetorical to my mind in that of course true believers whose benchmark for truth claims is faith and ‘logic’ (that flows from taking a knee before an unprovable deity) would not be persuaded.

That lion pretty much ate all the christians imo.

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

RIP Hitchens?
Is someone sponsoring a contest for most ironic comment ever made on the internet?
:)

RandMan
Guest
RandMan

Fair enough. If he can roll in his grave, I imagine it is rocking right now!

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

Speaking of irony, yesterday was the anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. Although raised in a Christian home, he became an atheist at age 15. He later described his young self as being paradoxically “very angry with God for not existing.”

RandMan
Guest
RandMan

Yes, what a strange position to take.

Jennie
Member

Looks like Cap’n is on to you too. ;)

adad0
Member

‘Makes Officer Candidate school for dweebery kind of attractive doesn’t it? ; – )

Jennie
Member

You mean there’s a school for that? I always figured I’d have to be content with being a private dweeb.

You give me hope.

adad0
Member

Well, if anyone aspires to achieve a level of commentary even near as “dweebtastic” as Capndweeb, a signiture hat must be part of the package, among other things! ; – )

Jennie
Member

My husband will let me borrow his! I also have a recipe for a Minnesota hotdish with tater tots, and I am ready to try lutfisk if absolutely required.

I am ready for Dweebish Academy!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Tater Tots made Idaho great in Napoleon Dynamite!

Lutefisk, however, is over the top and would be considered hazing even at the Dweebish Academy.

adad0
Member

Carry on EnsignDweeb! Happy Thanksgiving! ; – )

RandMan
Guest
RandMan

Not sure exactly what you mean by that?

adad0
Member

Well, on Randi’s link, there was this one:

hackum1 1 year ago
“Thank God for Christopher Hitchens!”

; – )

insanitybytes22
Member

Over the years I’ve come to understand that I can just barely discern the difference between good and evil. I cannot see around the corner, the potential implications of things. So what is “evil”? Would it have been evil to kill Hitler before he rose to power, for example? In my own life, the bad things, the evil things, have often turned out to be the best things that could have happened. So as usual we are often busy lamenting about evil, completing forgetting that 95% of it is self inflicted and human caused anyway, and most of the time… Read more »

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

True to an extent, ME.
The other thing that strikes me in this discussion is our fixation on this teeny little 80 or so years we spend in this fleeting, temporary situation when eternity awaits us.

adad0
Member

Hebrews 12:5-7

5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

; – ) The Word always cuts to the chase don’t it?! ; – )

bethyada
Member

every Christian who affirms creatio ex nihilo

yes

is a Calvinist in principle.

no.

insanitybytes22
Member

Don’t secular evolutionists also affirm creatio ex nihilo?

Something wrong with creatio ex deo? Or perhaps we could really mess with our heads and just chase after some creatio continua?

bethyada
Member

Maybe existence ex nihilo? Doug is making the argument that if theists think that God exists, then creation came into existence, then Calvinism.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

My secular science-competent friends typically say that we simply don’t know anything before the Big Bang.

john k
Guest
john k

is a Calvinist in principle.” “no”

I get it that you deny that you are a Calvinist, but why do you think your affirmation of creation ex nihilo doesn’t make you one “in principle”?

bethyada
Member

john and rob, because I think that the philosophy behind this argument is just to complicated. I affirm logical proof. But I deny that such proof has been adequately shown. If I may put the argument forward in rough terms. God made creation. God knows the future. God made creation knowing evil would exist (God made creation knowing every evil act ever committed). Therefore God made the world knowing this, and for the hard Calvinist, intending every last event. Though one could be a Molinist with the above (people are free and God chooses based on faith) or a Calvinist… Read more »

john k
Guest
john k

I certainly can agree with you that these issues are complex, and involve things that surpass human understanding. Still, Christian faith begins with a measure of understanding revealed, and continues with faith seeking understanding–yet only Calvinists seem to get criticized for using logic. Your Molinist example displays logic: human freedom is held to require, logically, that God chooses based on foreseen faith. Calvinists reject that logic, and also acknowledge (presumably with most other folks) that logic has limits! The discussion is too far-ranging to cover in a blog, but I believe Scripture speaks to your “complex questions.” For example, God… Read more »

bethyada
Member

I don’t object to logic at all. But I object to complex multi-stage logical reasoning that contradicts an easily understood statement of Scripture.

Further, I think there are genuine disagreements about what Scripture may imply.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Catholics have also been criticized for using human logic to arrive at an outcome that satisfies our need to understand the divine will. The doctrine of Limbo, now happily abandoned, is a case in point: 1. Only the baptized can generally attain heaven. 2. Many babies die before they are baptized. 3. Jesus, who welcomed young children with tender love, makes it impossible for us to believe that an unbaptized baby will be consigned to the flames of hell. 4. But you can’t go to heaven without being baptized (except in some cases I won’t bore you by explaining). Bingo!… Read more »

john k
Guest
john k

It is my understanding that limbo has not been disallowed. It is still a permitted view. Is it fair to say that your Magisterium is not totally reliable since “it did at times mention the theory [of infant limbo] in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council” (per the Vatican’s International Theological Commissiondocument, 2nd par.)? Even if limbo was not a dogma, it was widely taught, under the influence of St. Thomas. It’s good for an individual Catholic to re-examine church claims. Despite human fallibility in using logic, the things we need to believe for salvation are given… Read more »

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

> Did he decide to create or was he always going to create? Note that you’re assuming time here, which is natural. We can’t really conceive of anything apart from it. The word “always” is a time word and “decide” implies a point in time. > Ignoring time (or lack thereof), when did God know that the Fall would happen? Before the decision to create, after the decision to create, after he created Adam? Here you explicitly try to get outside time and fail (“when”, “before”, “decision”, “after”, “created”). “I am […] the beginning and the end” and “We live… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Exactly my point. The Calvinist argument from creation suffers these problems.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Afraid I don’t know what you mean. I think Calvinism is more or less the truth.

bethyada
Member

You said: you’re assuming time here, which is natural. We can’t really conceive of anything apart from it. The word “always” is a time word and “decide” implies a point in time.

Yes. There is the problem of time. This seems insurmountable for the time bound creatures we are.

Which is why I say that the argument for Calvinism from creation ex nihilo (ie. ignoring all the other arguments for Calvinism) is a poor argument. It is one based on a series of premises and logical arguments which are far from certain.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Which premises or arguments are faulty? I’m no logician but it all seems sound to me.

p1: God is sovereign over all he makes.

p2: God makes everything that is not himself.

p3: Time is not God.

bethyada
Member

How does that prove Calvinism?

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Time is created and God is sovereign over it. He creates all history at once, so to speak. You do the math.

bethyada
Member

And this is the simplistic approach I was sceptical of.

God made the decision to create before he created. What does “before” mean if time did not exist when God made the decision.

Did God know the Fall was going to happen before he created. Or only at the moment he started creating?

What do you mean by sovereignty in your premises?

And how do we know that God created time? Could not time be an attribute of God like love is?

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

What makes us think that our human conception of time is anything like God’s? Is time an attribute of the Divine mind at all? Is imposing our understanding of time on the divine akin to assuming that a bird’s sense of time is similar to ours? One of the comforts of Catholicism is accepting that most things are a sacred mystery we will not understand until we are transformed and that which is purely human falls away.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Simplistic and too complicated? You’re hard to please :)

bethyada
Member

You’re taking a simplistic approach to something that is intrinsically very complicated

Ilíon
Member

““I am […] the beginning and the end” and “We live and move and have our being in him” are relevant here, though I grant that it’s far from obvious that they mean what I think they mean.” One very important thing that “We live and move and have our being in him” means is that God participates in *all* things. When the Nazi murders the Jew, God is there — not only is he living-with the Jew being murdered, but also the Nazi committing the murder. This is what makes sin, all sin, so obscene — the Sovereign Lord,… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I am appreciating your arguments as I see the same difficulties but have trouble articulating them. It seems to me that Calvinism is a series of syllogisms that form a closed system. It seems to me to leave no room for mystery, for acknowledging that how it all fits together might be beyond our comprehension. What puzzles me most about Calvinism is why a recognition of God’s sovereignty is so much more important than a recognition of His love and mercy. It may make a kind of sense but it ends up with a strange view of God. I think… Read more »

Christopher
Member
Christopher

“How can anyone find this a comforting doctrine?”

I’m only mostly calvinist but I wouldn’t say Gods sovereingty is more important than his other attributes.

When God says in Amos that ‘when destruction befalls a city have not I the lord done it’
are we supposed to be comforted? Or is finding comfort the purpose of doctrine?

bethyada
Member

On Amos, this is clearly judgment. To take God’s actions in judgment and extend to all of God’s actions….?

Christopher
Member
Christopher

No, but Gods actions in judgment are not discordant with his other actions.

bethyada
Member

True, but to say that judgment is consistent with God’s actions is not the same as saying the judgment is the formula for all God’s actions.

Christopher
Member
Christopher

Agreed, but we also know that
‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights’

If God takes ctedit for all judgement and all blessing we should be able to talk about Gods actions in a way that encompases both.

bethyada
Member

Love is more foundational.

There is nothing wrong with believing God is sovereign but note that Calvinists have a particular definition of sovereignty that non-Calvinists do not subscribe to.

Ilíon
Member

Calvinists don’t really subscribe to that “particular definition of sovereignty”, either.

Similarly, Catholicism — despite its public repudiation of Calvinism — contains a hidden adherence to Calvinism: the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

bethyada
Member

Perhaps not in reality. But in discussions my understanding of sovereignty is not that of many Calvinist claims.

Ilíon
Member

Exactly: not in reality.
They say ‘XYZ’, but their consistent behavior says ‘not-XYZ’

PB
Guest
PB

I think the thought that I had been personally selected for salvation at the dawn of creation, while others around me had been consigned to the flames of hell, would make me feel awful. How can anyone find this a comforting doctrine? Romans Ch.7 ends with Paul acknowledging that even after his conversion, he cannot free himself from the effects of sin. Even though his mind has been enlightened and he delights in God’s law, in his flesh he still captive to sin. What hope does he have that he can be saved when he cannot get his flesh to… Read more »

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

I expect we talk about love less because we agree with you about it.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Well, yes. I think so. If God creates from nothing then there is nothing but God and creation. Everything is either one or the other, either God or something God made. Time is not God therefore time is part of creation and God is sovereign over it. You could say he creates all history at once and be closer to the truth than to assume time is his native habitat the way it is ours.

bethyada
Member

The question is what is Boyd referring to in your last quote of him? I don’t read your reframing of the quote as accurate. If the world is indeed caught up in the middle of a real war between good and evil forces, evil is to be expected—including evil that serves no higher end. For in any state of war, gratuitous evil is normative. I would read that from the perspective of the evil one. He does evil that serves no higher end from his perspective. And he does gratuitous evil for the sake of evil. Your rephrasing is as… Read more »

John Barry
Guest
John Barry

Doug writes, “…let us restrain ourselves and move on to confront the sad truth that every Christian who affirms creatio ex nihilo is a Calvinist in principle.” I confess that I cannot honestly say that I affirm, or believe in, *creatio ex nihilo*, for the simple reason that I am unable to conceive of *nihilo*, or “nothing”. Try as I may, I have found my inability to conceive of something an insurmountable obstacle to believing in it. Everything I believe in I am able to have some conception of. My conception may be imperfect, mind you, but I am conceiving… Read more »

john k
Guest
john k

1) As to knowledge: “To conceive” as “to fully grasp” is different from “having some conception of.” To reject the idea of “nothing” as inconceivable shows “some conception” of what it involves. Is the term “non-existence” easier to think of?

2) As to being: Do you actually reject the former non-existence of the universe? Did God create out of existing matter?

John Barry
Guest
John Barry

I don’t reject the idea of nothing. I simply cannot conceive of it. Even using the pronoun “it” is problematic when referring to “nothing “. And no, I am not able to conceive of nonexistence either.

Because of *my* limitation, I can only believe that God consists of *something* and that He exists *somewhere*. I don’t know if matter and space are the best terms for this.

Mind you, God may have created ex nihilo. I am just unable to believe that He did. I don’t limit God. I acknowledge my own limitations.

john k
Guest
john k

It’s good that you still believe in God, despite the inability to fully conceive of him. I pray that that continue!

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Look at it from another angle. Is there anything other than God and creation?

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

And then add: only one of these things is eternal

Ilíon
Member

… or self-existent

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

https://xkcd.com/1123/

And of course, asking “Where did the hydrogen come from?” is not allowed.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I remember reading a book – many years ago – that was a historical look at Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis. It was very interesting, until it got to chapter 7 or so. After the author briefly summarised Lewis’ and Schaeffer’s views on theodicy and election, he decided that he really ought to inject his own polemics into the discussion. I had two key objections: * He was injecting his own polemics into a historical discussion of Schaeffer and Lewis, and spent some time strongly pushing his own viewpoint that he openly admitted neither man held. * In addition,… Read more »

John Barry
Guest
John Barry

I wonder how there can be a “problem of evil” for the Calvinist. If God has unalterably decreed every act of moral evil and every natural evil event, how can there be a problem when He acts on his decrees?

Jane
Member

Because scripture drives our reasoning, rather than our reasoning excluding parts of scripture. And scripture is very clear that there is such a thing as evil.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

The problem is the apparent contradiction between God hating evil and bringing it to pass on purpose. God is ultimately responsible for evil and yet not guilty. Our anti-Calvinist brothers are rightly zealous to protect God’s righteousness but they go about it like Job’s friends.