I encourage any who are interested to read through the entirety of the comments in the previous post. For some background, however, I’ll start by quoting one of my original comments:
Persiflage said:I shall now interact with Persiflage’s response to the above. Also, for the record, Persiflage has stated he intends to do a five point series on his website—when he does so, I encourage him to post a link to it, as he at least has shown himself to be a more reasonable opponent than certain other responders of late! (Yes, Mandalay, this means you.)
Precisely - most Calvinists are not fatalists in the sense that every single action on earth is predestined by God.
Actually, that's not what I meant. Fatalism is actually closer akin to the typical Arminian view of God than the Calvinist view of God. This seems wrong to most people, but look at the logic of it and you'll see it's true:
Calvinists are not fatalists because we believe that God ordains the means as well as the ends. Furthermore, we hold that two moral agents can both will the same event for radically opposed reasons, such that for one moral agent the action is moral while for the other moral agent the action is immoral.
To give a Biblical example, when God used Assyria to punish Israel, it was God's sovereign decree that Assyria do such. Assyria willingly went along with this, because it was Assyrias desire to tear down nations and uplift themselves as pseudo-gods. The net result: God's will occured, and Assyria was later punished for it (cf. Isaiah 10).
So let me be clear. God predestines everything that occurs. Or as the Westminster Confession puts it: "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (WCF III:1).
This is not fatalism because the will of the agents involved is not infringed. Another example are the Pharisees who killed Jesus. They did what God ordained they would do; yet they did so because they were wicked. They were not forced to do this, but rather it was what their wicked hearts desired to be done. God, however, willed it for good.
As I said above, the Arminian position is more closely related to fatalism. This is because the Arminian will typically say such things as "God ordains the ends but doesn't do the little details." The net result is that either God knows in advance what people will do (the foreknowledge argument Arminians use), which renders His ordaining of events as superfluous since they will happen regardless of His ordanation; or God does not know what people will do (a la Open Theism) and must work to fix things after the fact. Most Arminians reject Open Theism and state the first alternative, but really hold to something like Open Theism. Namely, God ordains the ends, and then knows what people will do and, because He is smarter then they are, can work what people do back to His own ends.
The problem with this idea is that that just is what fatalism is. Fatalism is the idea that no matter what you do, you cannot escape your fate. In the Arminian scheme, this cashes out as the fact that God's end will result no matter what you do; you cannot thwart Him because, like a superior chess player, He will always beat you.
Calvinists, on the other hand, do not hold to that position at all. It is not a case of "no matter what you do" but rather "this is why you do what you do." In other words, rather than having a fate you cannot avoid (Arminianism), God has an ending that is intended to include you as a means to that end.
In other words, under a fatalistic scheme, it would be like an engineer who builds an engine and takes a piece that doesn't fit but jams it in until the engine functions. No matter what the piece's shape is, it will be forced to do it's part. Calvinism teaches instead that God crafts the parts to the engine such that when a piston is needed for the engine to run, the piece is exactly what is needed. This isn't fatalism; rather it is a well-designed plan.
So a few major points -Let’s start with the first part: “I don’t see where in Scripture it says that ‘God ordains whatsoever comes to pass’ or that everything is God’s will.” The WCF itself provides Scripture references for its claim. You can find these at http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/. Additionally, and in no particular order, from the ESV (unless otherwise noted):
- you quote from the Westminster Confession’s - “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass”, which then tries to qualify it with “but he’s not the author of sin” and “this doesn’t deny free will.” You say this is possible because “two moral agents can both will the same event for radically opposed reasons, such that for one moral agent the action is moral while for the other the action is immoral.” Assyria conquering Israel is an example. God put it into their heads to go down and conquer Israel in order to punish them for their disobedience.
So this argument is our biggest problem. I don’t see where in Scripture it says that “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass” or that everything is God’s will. The Confession then flat out contradicts itself by trying to make qualifications. Hey, either everything that happens is God’s will (including Adam and Eve eating of the tree in rebellion to God) or it’s not. The Bible is clear that God predestines the elect to salvation. It is not Biblically clear that God predestines the lost to hell, nor that God predestines “every single action on earth.”
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will… (Ephesians 1:11 – emphasis mine)There are many more passages like this. But even with just the above, we can see that God is sovereign not only over election, but also over life and death; the minutia (sparrows that fall to the ground, and we are worth far more than sparrows, as the passage continues); the weather; the decision of lots (i.e. so called “random” events); nations and kings; good and evil. In short, God’s decrees cover every aspect of our lives on Earth, from our birth to our death.
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD (Proverbs 16:33).
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father (Matthew 10:29). “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father” in NIV. “And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” in NKJV.
Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps (Psalm 135:6).
… he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35b)
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45) Note: this shows God’s dominion over the natural realm; that is, God’s will extends even to the weather, etc.
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place… (Acts 17:26, emphasis mine).
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15)
Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? (Lamentations 3:37-38)
“‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.’” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
Moving on to the second point, Persiflage states: “The Confession then flat out contradicts itself by trying to make qualifications.” The problem with this is that the qualifications are not contradictions at all, but rather clarifications. Indeed, the clarifications are necessary because simply saying “God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass” is not sufficient to distinguish between fatalism and the Calvinist’s compatiblistic view.
To give an analogy (albeit a rather contrived one) it would be like saying: “Football teams need to score to win, and by ‘football’ we mean European football rather than American football.” The clarification shows we are dealing with soccer, which everyone in the world other than the US calls “football”, and not the NFL; yet this clarification is not a contradiction of the original point, because both soccer and NFL have “football teams” that “need to score to win.”
Linking it back to the original point, it is true for both Calvinistic views and fatalistic views that “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass”, but it is only true of the Calvinist view that God’s ordaining does no violence to the will nor does it remove secondary causes (but rather establishes them).
Forget about Adam and Eve’s free will for a moment. Sin is God’s will? How do we know God’s will? By his commands.Actually, I disagree that it’s His commands that show what His will is (insofar as God's will = what God wants to actually happen). More on that later though. Persiflage finishes the above with:
Genesis 2:16 is a very clear command. From Genesis 2:16, couldn't you say that it was NOT God's will for them to eat of the tree? Could I believe that God commands his people to do one thing, while what he REALLY had ordained for them to do is the opposite? No - and nowhere do I see a God that tricky or underhanded in the Bible. Even if Adam and Eve remained free moral agents willing to disobey God for sinful reasons while at the same time God had ordained for them to disobey him - there was never any question whether they would sin simply because that was what God wanted them to do - that was His will.Indeed, Genesis 2:16 is a very clear command. However, you also have the following command in Scripture:
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).Coupled with:
Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false (2 Thessalonians 2:11).So God has in actuality commanded “people to do one thing, while he REALLY [has] ordained for them to do…the opposite.” Indeed, we also have to contend with the following passages:
And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven’” (Mark 4:11-12).Again, there are many more examples along these lines, but this is sufficient to start. It should be enough to show us that God’s commands are not equivalent with God’s ordaining of what comes to pass. If that were the case, there would be no sin ever. Instead, we see that often God does ordain that which is in direct opposition to His commands. The logic of this follows from the fact that God is a) sovereign over all aspects of our lives and b) God has stated that He does not will for certain things to occur even though they would be consistent with His commands.
As it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day." (Romans 11:8)
But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear (Deuteronomy 29:4).
And he [Eli] said to them [Eli’s sons], "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?" But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death (1 Samuel 2:23-25).
What, then, are His commands for? They are first conditionals that, if satisfied, are true. In other words, it is the case that if you obey all the commands of God then you will, in fact, be a holy and righteous person. But the commands do not lead to righteousness. Instead, we see Paul say in Romans 7 that the law brings death; that is, the commands of God bring about sin.
“If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin” (verse 7) and “apart from the law, sin lies dead” (verse 8). “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment) that promised life proved to be death to me” (verses 9-10).
Yet despite this, the law itself is good: “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (verse 12).
How is it possible for a “holy and righteous and good” command to bring about death? “It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure” (verse 13).
God’s commands therefore do not illustrate His will; they illustrate what is holy, righteous, and good. Because they illustrate these things, their very existence condemns us for not being holy, righteous, and good. They exist so that we may know we are sinners. But this is a temporary thing:
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith (Galatians 3:24-26).The commands of God expose our wickedness so that we turn to faith and are thereby saved. God’s commands, therefore, far from revealing the will of God (as it relates to what God ordains), are a tool by which God removes all the excuses of sinful men such that non-believers are condemned and believers turn to faith and are saved by Christ.
So to answer more specifically: was it God’s will for Adam and Eve to sin? Yes, for Christ was slain before the foundation of the Earth (Revelation 13:8), and we were chosen in Him before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20). God’s plan preceded creation, and that plan included Adam and Eve’s sin (for how else could Christ be killed (another event foreordained by God (cf. Acts 2:23: “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men”))?).
Yet that doesn’t take away the truth of the conditional. If Adam and Eve had obeyed, they would have been blessed in Eden. Nor does it mean that Adam and Eve were righteous in their sinfulness for doing what God had ordained, for Adam and Eve did not intend what God intended. They sought evil; God sought good.
Continuing, Persiflage said:
If God ORDAINS everything that ever happens, then God ordained for sin, death, pain and suffering to enter the world because THAT was what would bring Him the most glory. I cannot believe that - and it’s one of the main reasons I’m not Reformed because of what that would mean about God’s character.Unfortunately, what you state above is incomplete. It is not that God ordained sin because sin qua sin would bring Him the most glory; rather God ordained sin because “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The depths of God’s love could not be demonstrated unless Christ died for sinners. God’s mercy could not be displayed if there were no objects for His mercy; nor His justice if there were no objects for His justice.
God does not ordain sin for the sake of sin. If this world was it—if God did not have a redemptive plan and if God did not have a future judgment—then you would be correct in pointing out that God’s character would be evil. But this world is but a necessary step to something greater, and that is what His word tells us.
That said, I fully understand why it would be difficult for many people to accept this. We all tend to have a myopic view of the world. We live as if history began this morning, and the future is only what will happen tomorrow. We have a very focused and limited view—indeed, we have only our own perspective, for we do not experience today the way that, say, someone in Ethiopia or Indonesia does. Because of that, it’s hard for us to focus on a big picture; but God is all about the big picture. And the things that are unfair to us in the here and now are taken care of by God in His big picture.
So if I may also get more personal, while it is the case that you are not Reformed because of how you view God’s character, it is exactly because of how I view God’s character that I am Reformed. Ironically, we both probably agree to a great extent as to what God’s character is. (This is why I have no doubt that you, and many other non-Reformed believers, are Christians too.) Our differences are on the big picture, and that colors our application of God’s character to real world events.
But I personally cannot believe in a God who is not in control of all events, who is more concerned with some philosophical notion of “freedom” than He is with ensuring His promises are kept. I cannot believe in a God who is scrambling to form Plan B because Adam and Eve didn’t do what He wanted them to do. Especially since all that seems alien to Scripture too.
Scripture tells me that God is in control of all things. It tells me that nothing happens apart from His will. It tells me He is sovereign even over evil. And it tells me that He is a good God, a righteous God, a just God, and a merciful God. All these things I find true in Reformed theology, and that is why I am Reformed.