Monday, April 26, 2010

Was God late to the play?

Some comments I left at First Things: Evangel

steve hays
April 22nd, 2010 | 6:33 pm | #31

[Sacramone] “One last time, a little perspective: To believe that before you were born God had already decided that you, as an individual, would spend eternity in heaven or in hell, merely because it pleased him to do so, his being God and all, irrespective of anything in you or about you.”

And what makes you think that’s an accurate characterization of reprobation? How does your description compare with, let us say, Turretin’s discussion of reprobation?

“Tell me you believe, however, in a mythological monster who delights in human suffering as an expression of his absolute power and that we are merely hapless victims—well then the doctrine of double predestination becomes at least intelligible, albeit in a frighteningly sick way. But tell me that it’s also the condemned’s fault, and I’m going to drive you to a pharmacist to re-up your meds.”

One of your problems with the combination of your supercilious tone with the frivolity of your intellectual performance. You’re just a rhetorician. You affect to treat these issues as if they were of utmost importance, but you never get around to presenting a single serious argument. Instead, you simply hide behind oratory. But oratory is no substitute for exegesis or reasoned argument. And there’s more to exegesis than simply quoting a verse of Scripture, then nodding your head.

“If God must declare ‘Bob, you’re in’ even before there is a Bob and ‘Sally, you’re out’ even before there is a Sally for there to be such a thing as grace…”

So you think that God creates people without having any idea what to do with them, then only after he makes them he stops to ask himself where they should end up. Is that your honest-to-goodness position, or is this another case in which you’re just speaking for rhetorical effect?

“This is why I sometimes think we’re talking about two different religions.”

I think that’s one thing you’ve succeeded in demonstrating, all right.

“To say we owe God honor simply because he is God, without any reference to the Cross…”

And who is saying that, exactly? Can you quote the Reformed confessions to that effect? Or some major Reformed theologians?

“…is to say Russians owed Stalin honor because he could have had any one of them sent to the Gulag with a wiggle of his mustache.”

Okay, so you’ve drawn a picture for us. Do you have anything besides picture language to disprove Calvinism? Or is your theology reducible to a comic strip?

“And I also I appreciate the importance some Christians give to the notion of double predestination, believing it to be at the heart of their understanding of what it means to have a truly gracious God. I would only ask this latter group to, again, take a step back and consider the full implications of what this means.”

Well, before you consider the full implications of double predestination, why not start by considering the full implications of single predestination. If only those are saved whom God has chosen to save, then the damned are all those whom God chose not to save. So why do you compare double predestination to Stalinism, but give single predestination a pass?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 11:02 am | #38

“I’ll say it again: if God makes human beings for the SOLE purpose of making them miserable…”

Well, that’s a nice caricature of Calvinism.

April 23rd, 2010 | 11:39 am | #39

In your view, why does God make the humans who go to Hell, given that you don’t believe they can go to Heaven by virtue of God’s decree?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 11:47 am | #40
He makes the reprobate for the benefit of the elect.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 3:00 pm | #50
Adam Omelianchuk

“Here’s a question for all those that are convinced of Calvinism: Would you praise God when an unbeliever dies?”


“Since you know that God determined that the unbeliever dies in his or her sin for God’s glory and your good does your heart rejoice? Why or why not?”

Whatever God does is praiseworthy.

Something can be genuinely bad in and of itself, but also contribute to a larger good. So we can have more than one response to the same event.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 3:08 pm | #52

“So, God makes some human beings solely for the purpose of the benefit of others. Some people only exist for those who are going to Heaven, and their fate is Hell. That in no way differs from what I said. That God is a sick freak.”

Thanks for reminding everyone that you can’t present an honest argument against Calvinism. This was your original objection:

“I’ll say it again: if God makes human beings for the SOLE purpose of making them miserable…”

When I challenged that caricature, and you asked me what my alternative was, I said:

“He makes the reprobate for the benefit of the elect.”

You then turn around and say “That in no way differs from what I said.”

But needless to say, it does, indeed differ. The difference between:

i) God created the reprobate for the sole purpose of making them miserable,


ii) God created the reprobate for the benefit of the elect.

It’s symptomatic of your blind, first-shaking fury that you act as though these are convertible propositions.

You need to repent.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 3:13 pm | #53

“I was recently reading some things that William Lane Craig wrote against calvinism/theological determinism and you make some statements remarkably similar to his.”

I posted a rebuttal a few days ago.

“This is not surprising as non-Calvinists tend to see the same problems with calvinism.”

It’s not surprising because it’s a tautology. Just like non-Catholics tend to see problems with Catholicism. Catholics tend to see problems with non-Catholicism. And so on and so forth.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 4:27 pm | #56
Jeff Doles

“Should we ever be happy that somebody dies without having repented and coming to faith in Jesus Christ? Should it ever be a cause of joy that some do not believe?”

A better question to ask is whether you should be shifting terminology. The original question was whether God is praiseworthy in that event.

Do you deny that God is praiseworthy if somebody dies in unbelief?

Unless you’re a universalist, you must believe that God is blameworthy. Is that your position? Are you an atheist?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 7:21 pm | #59
Jeff Doles

“Should we ever be happy that somebody dies without having repented and coming to faith in Jesus Christ? Should it ever be a cause of joy that some do not believe?”

You might redirect your question to the Apostle John:

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” (Rev 18:20).

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 9:44 pm | #62
Jeff Doles

“Well, Steve, since you have twice deflected the question, I’m redirecting it to you. In Revelation, he is not telling us to to rejoice that someone is unrepentant and does not believe, so this passage does not really apply to the question I have asked.”

“Babylon” personifies the wicked. Rev 18:20 represents the culmination of a motif (cf. 6:9-11; 19:1-2). So the saints are commanded to rejoice in the fate of the ungodly, as the praiseworthy expression of God’s just judgment.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 9:50 pm | #63
Craig Payne

“To know something, even to know it infallibly, is not to cause it.”

A red herring.

And even on your own terms, God did “cause” it–just not directly or solely.

“One reason non-Calvinists find Calvinism repugnant is that a Calvinist (correct me if I’m wrong) would probably also accept (2) and (3). Of course, the biblical response is the important one, but there is also a response of the sensibilities, i.e., something like, ‘Given what we know of God and God’s character, those options just cannot be true.’”

One reason Calvinists find non-Calvinism repugnant is that a non-Calvinist subordinates God’s self-revelation to his preconception of what God ought to be like.

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 10:23 pm | #66
Jeff Doles

“Steve, the saints are not told to rejoice because the evil were unrepentant and unbelieving.”

Now you’re paltering in a double sense. You originally asked if we should ever rejoice when somebody dies in unbelief.

That’s not the same thing as asking if we should ever rejoice because they were unbelievers.

Rather, that’s asking if we should ever rejoice in their fate–a fate which is the just desert of their impenitent unbelief.

Do you really not grasp the rudimentary distinction between these two propositions?

“Do you rejoice that people do not repent? Is it a happy occasion for you when they do not come to faith in the Lord Jesus?”

Is there any place in your theological system for passages like Rev 18:20?

steve hays
April 23rd, 2010 | 10:37 pm | #67
Jeff Doles

“A Scripture I did have in mind, though, is Matthew 23:37, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!’ See, that’s a lament, not a celebration. Jesus is not rejoicing that the Jews in Jerusalem were unrepentant and unbelieving. Jesus did not get up and dance a happy jig after that.”

i) To begin with, why do you think you’re entitled to a serious question when you resort to polemical caricatures about “dancing a happy jig?” If you can’t ask sincere questions, then don’t expect serious answers.

And this is characteristic of anti-Calvinists comments on this thread. You will say anything to gain rhetorical, polemical leverage–regardless of how inaccurate it is.

ii) Yes, that passage presents Jesus as the Savior. What about passages which present Jesus as the Judge? Such as:

“When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thes 1:7-9),


“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17).

Or what about:

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”

(Rev 19:1-5)

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 7:37 am | #72
Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus, even though that was temporary. There’s no evidence that Jesus wept over the fate of Judas, even though that was for keeps.

Indeed, we see a wide range of emotions in the life of Christ. He doesn’t treat everyone the same way.

I don’t see a uniform attitude among Bible writers regarding the fate of the lost. Paul laments the fate of Jewish unbelievers in Rom 9:1-3. Yet he adopts a very different tone in 2 Thes 1:14-16. And OT writers frequently exult in the fate of Israel’s mortal enemies.

So I don’t share your effort to homogenize the tone of Scripture regarding the fate of the lost.

You’re also assuming that one can’t have mixed feelings. To take a comparison, there were a number of capital crimes in the Mosaic law. If, say, your kid brother was executed for a capital crime, you could griever over his death, but also regard God’s justice as praiseworthy.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 9:27 am | #77
Jeff Doles

“Steve, stop deflecting. It’s a simple question.”

I realize that it bothers you when I recast your questions in Scriptural terms. But I’m not going to answer a question just the way you choose to frame it if your framework is unscriptural.

“Are you glad that unbelievers do not repent and come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ Possible answers: Yes, I am glad. No, I am not glad.”

It betrays a lack of sincerity on your part when you ask questions, only to ignore the answers.

As I already pointed out in response to your question, there’s no reason to think that’s a yes-or-no question in the first place.

Why assume that we have to feel the same way about each and every one of the lost, one way or the other?

Suppose my younger brother dies in unbelief. I mourn for his loss, although I should still praise the wisdom and justice of God.

Suppose a suicide-bomber accidentally blows himself up before he can denote his bomb in a kindergarten. Do you think I have to grieve for him as well? Why shouldn’t I praise God for poetic justice?

Try not to have such a wooden view of human emotions. The Bible draws elementary distinctions which you steamroll.

“Would it be acceptable for a Calvinist to say, ‘No, I am not glad,’ or would that somehow violate the principle of Calvinism?”

Depends on the situation.

“Does anybody here believe that God rejoices that some people are unrepentant? Is He pleased that they do not believe Him? Is He glad that they reject the Lord Jesus?”

You act as if God is not the Creator of the world. That God can only react to the status quo.

I think the world is exactly what God intends it to be, at any given time, according to his ultimate design.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 5:34 pm | #84

“Sure, you’ll feel ‘bad’ about it, but from what I’m reading, that sense of regret is something you consider to be a sinful and weak human failing. You know, that ‘emotion’ nonsense we’re stuck with due to the fall of Adam. If you were a perfected saint, your correct response would be to be happy seeing your brother damned for all eternity, just as God is.”

Unless and until you explicate the process of reasoning by which you validly deduce that interpretation, your comment doesn’t merit a response.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 5:52 pm | #85
Jeff Doles

“So, if I understand your answer correctly, you are saying that you are not glad in some instances but may be in others. Fair enough. It is largely an emotionally-charged question, and our emotions are as much in need of discipleship as our intellect and volition.”

What I’ve said is that no one type of response is necessarily right in all situations.

“The example of the suicide bomber misses the point because I am not asking whether you are glad that the wicked die and are judged. Rather, the question is whether you are glad that they were wicked, unrepentant, unbelievers in the first place.”

i) You dichotomize the process from the end-result in a way that I do not. If God is praiseworthy for the outcome, then God is praiseworthy for the events leading up to the outcome.

ii) Another problem with your whole line of reasoning is the fallacious inference from what we ought to feel to what God feels. But God isn’t human. Therefore, you can’t draw a systematic correlation between our emotional make-up and God’s emotional make-up, even if we were sinless.

“If that is true of love, then it must also be true of God, for the Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8).”

Of course, many people cite “God is love” to reject the doctrine of hell, or reject OT passages in which God commands the execution of the Canaanites, &c.

“So, for Scriptural reasons, I believe that God is not glad when people don’t repent, He is not pleased when they do not believe and He does not rejoice when they reject His Son.”

You talk as if God arrived late to the play. He missed the first act (creation). And he missed the second act (the fall).

Having showed up in the middle of the play, he throws up his hands and exclaims, “What a mess! How could things get so out of hand? What am I to do?”

You have a very reactive view of God.

But God didn’t have to create unbelievers in the first place. After all, some people are believers, and some people are not. So why not just create believers–if that’s all God wants?

Clearly, then, the existence of unbelievers serves a purpose in the plan of God.

“Whether or not that is something a Calvinist can affirm, I am not sure (although I can see it is hard to get a straight answer about it from at least one).”

When you ask a loaded question, I reserve the right to put your question in a Biblical context.

God does all things wise and well. I don’t think it’s improper for a Christian to feel that way.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 7:02 pm | #88

“The reasoning is this: God’s will cannot be divided against itself.”

So far so good.

“He does what He pleases and what pleases Him. He is, from the Calvinist perspective, happy (more glorified) by ordaining some (most?) people for destruction.”

i) You’re casting this in overly emotive, anthropopathetic terms. But God doesn’t do things to make himself “happy.”

God’s good “pleasure” is just a quaint synonym for God’s will. God approves of whatever he does. So should we.

ii) God doesn’t need the world. His love of the elect is truly disinterested. He’s not the beneficiary.

iii) God doesn’t do things to gain glory. Rather, God glorifies the elect. They are the beneficiaries of his self-revelation.

“Thus, their emotions are in alignment with God’s will and are pleased with what pleases Him, angered by what angers Him, etc.”

i) Once again, your description is simplistic and overly anthropopathetic. As I already explain to Jeff, God isn’t human. You can’t simply equate divine “emotions” with human emotions, even in the case of the saints.

Whatever God does is worthy of our praise. But that doesn’t mean we feel whatever God feels.

If I had a crush on a girl in high school, that doesn’t mean God had a crush on her.

ii) Likewise, as I’ve already pointed out, human emotions are complex. We can feel more than one way about the same event. And it can be appropriate to feel more than one way about the same event. Don’t oversimplify the issues to score a foul.

steve hays
April 24th, 2010 | 8:04 pm | #89

“Further, a sanctified, glorified member of the Elect is someone who has been cleansed of all human failings and shortcomings. Their emotions are completely and totally in tune with the will of God. Thus, their emotions are in alignment with God’s will and are pleased with what pleases Him, angered by what angers Him, etc. Therefore, to suggest they might be sad about even a family member being condemned is more a reflection of fallen human emotions and loyalties than anything else.”

You act as though this issue is unique to Calvinism. However, any theological tradition sufficiently orthodox to affirm the Biblical doctrine of hell will raise the same basic question.

On the one hand, God’s judgment of the wicked is just and good. In some respect, the saints in glory must share that God’s-eye view.

On the other hand, how will they feel if one of their loved ones is numbered among the damned?

If that’s a problem for Calvinism, then that’s also a problem for any tradition which honors the retributive justice of God.

And the question is unanswerable here-and-now inasmuch as the Bible doesn’t give us a blueprint for heaven. It merely tells us what we need to know this side of the grave. Beyond that, the rest is pious conjecture.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:31 am | #91
I’d add a further point. From a sublunary standpoint, where there’s life there’s hope. But if a man clearly died in a state of impenitent unbelief, then, at that juncture, we know God’s will for his life.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 11:34 am | #93

1. You’re cherry-picking one or two verses without making any good-faith effort to integrate your prooftexts into the totality of Biblical teaching.

2. You also make no allowance for anthropopathetic discourse. But unless you’re a Mormon or open theist, you need to take that into account.

3. Finally, you’re not even bothering to exegete your prooftexts. For example, as O’Brien explains in his recent commentary on Heb 11:6, “‘pleasing God” is synonymous with ‘drawing near to him’” (405).

Your appeal to 1 Cor is even lest apt as you take a verse from one writer (John) and stick it onto a verse by another writer (Paul) as if they’re talking about the same thing.

4. Let’s take a different passage: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes…And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Mt 11:21,23).

According to this passage, if God had wanted to save the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, he could have done so by performing analogous miracles. But he didn’t.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 2:14 pm | #96
Craig Payne

“Actually, we knew God’s will for his life even before that. God’s will is that all be saved and come into the knowledge of the truth. This man rejected God’s will for his life.”

i) So why did God, foreknowing that outcome, create him in the first place? You have God creating a man whom he wills to save even though he knows that by creating him he will damn him to hell. And, in that event, God creates him with that outcome in mind. If God creates him, foreknowing that he will damn him, then God creates him with the intention (indeed, the foreintention) of damning him. So unless you’re an open theist, how is your position coherent?

ii) You also beg the question by assuming the Arminian interpretation of the verse you allude to. Do you think the word “all” settles it?

But that approach takes you straight to universalism, which is why the Arminian scholar Grant Osborne, in his commentary on Rom 5:18 and 11:32, construes “all” in the same way a Calvinist would:

“So when he [Paul] uses ‘all men’ here, he does not mean every human being but rather is saying ‘that Christ effects those who are his just as certainly as Adam does those who are his.’ While all are in Adam, it is clear in Romans that only those who believe are in Christ” (144).

“While some have taken this [’so that he may have mercy on them all’) to mean universal salvation…this is impossible in light of the constant emphasis on final punishment at the eschaton…Therefore, it is likely that the ‘all’ here is corporate, meaning that God’s mercy will be shown to Jew and Gentile alike” (313).

Continuing with Payne:

“But God’s will for this man’s life was not that he die 'in a state of impenitent unbelief,' but that he repent and be saved. I cannot imagine anything more clear from Scriptures.”

Which nicely disregards the counterexample of Mt 11:21,23.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 2:31 pm | #98
Jeff Doles

“Indeed, the context in which John declares that God is love is the context in which he admonishes believers to love one another. ‘He who does not love does not know God, for God is love’ (1 John 4:8). If these are actually two different loves in this verse, then this verse is incoherent. But it is because the love God has for us is the same as the love we are to have for each other that “God is love” has any meaning at all in this verse.”

Well, that example backfires since, in context, John is describing in-group love, not out-group love. And that is reinforced by what John’s prohibition against loving the world. So thanks for proving my point.

“In Hebrews 11:6, the one who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Why is this necessary? Because God is not pleased with unbelief. God is not pleased with unbelief, or with those who do not believe that He is, or with those who do not seek Him. He does not rejoice in them.”

What you’ve done is to simply repeat yourself, while disregarding my two counterarguments (#’s 2-3).

“You keep citing verses about how the wicked and the unbelieving will be judged. And it is proper that they should be. But none of that means that God rejoices that they were unrepentant and unbelievers.”

You’re the one, not me, who chronically frames the issue in emotive terms. What’s your problem, exactly? Do you not know what “anthropopathetic” means?

Unless you’re a Mormon or open theist, you can’t take all anthropomorphic or anthropopathelic descriptions literally.

“Jesus was not rejoicing over the unbelief of Chorazin and Bethsaida. He was not pleased with their rejection of Him and God’s kingdom. Indeed, His pronouncement of woe on them demonstrates His displeasure with their unbelief.”

Are you trying to miss the point? Go back and reread what I said. Did I claim that passage to says anything about God’s emotional state? No.

I cited the passage to illustrate that even if you interpret the Bible in libertarian terms, there are people whom God is able, but unwilling to save. Got it?

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 2:39 pm | #99
Jeff Doles

“Steve Hays has argued hard against that position, so I can only assume that he takes the opposite view and believes that God DOES rejoice in the iniquity of the wicked, that He IS glad that they are unrepentant and that He IS pleased with the unbelief. Given his participation in this discussion, is that a fair assessment of his position?”

I take it that God knows exactly what he is doing. That God is satisfied with his administration of the world. That God is satisfied with his job performance.

I take it that God doesn’t set goals for himself, then create situations which thwart his own goals. I think that whatever God does, God intended to do.

I don’t think God is a short-sighted deity like Zeus.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 6:24 pm | #104
Craig Payne

“I did respond to this objection back in post 61: ‘Even if God creates someone with full knowledge of their future unsaved condition, that creation does not make God strictly responsible for their unsaved condition.’”

Irrelevant. Did I ask you a question about God’s *responsibility*? No. Rather, I asked you a question about God’s *intention*. Is there some reason you can’t tell the difference?

Remember what you said? You said: “God’s will is that all be saved and come into the knowledge of the truth.”

So you framed the issue in terms of God’s intention vis-à-vis humanity at large, to wit: his universal saving will.

So I responded to you on your own terms. Try to keep track of your own argument.

Given how you yourself framed the issue, I then asked why, if God wills to save everyone, he knowingly creates hellbound sinners. How does he intend to save them if he intends to damn them? If he knows that by creating them, they will reject the gospel, then he created them foreknowing that he would damn them. And by doing so, he foreintended to damn them.

“The position of libertarian free will does not take away from God’s all-knowing nature, since it accepts statement (1). Given God’s nature, God’s knowledge of all future events is necessary. However, regarding (2): God’s necessary knowledge does not impose the quality of necessity upon my choice. To know something, even to know it infallibly, is not to cause it.”

Irrelevant. Was my question predicated on determinism? No. My question is neutral on the compatibilist/incompatibilist debate. There was nothing in my question which turned on that issue. How was my question framed in determinist terms? It wasn’t. Try to focus on the actual wording of a statement.

My question works just as well on libertarian grounds. If God foreknows that by creating a libertarian agent, said agent will be damned, then in what sense did God intend to save him? Since God is not going to save that individual, because (ad arguendo), God foresees that this agent will freely (in the libertarian sense) reject the Gospel, and God knows that he is not going to save him, then God had no intention of saving him. Do you think that God can intend to do something which he knows he won’t do?

“You also presented Mt. 11:21 and 23 as a ‘counterexample’–which is simply puzzling. The fact that Jesus pronounced judgment against some cities does not seem to mean what you seem to think it means. Doesn’t it simply mean that they refused to repent, even after being confronted with evidence that should have made them repent?”

Is that what it simply means? No. Go back and study the wording. It says that had they been confronted with comparable evidence, they would have repented: “For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes…For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Mt 11:21,23).”

For some odd reason, you make the passage say the polar opposite of what it actually said. You make it say that Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom refuse to repent even after being confronted with comparable evidence. By contrast, Jesus said they didn’t repent because they weren’t confronted with comparable evidence, but if they had, they would have repented. How can you possibly justify your contrarian interpretation from the actual wording of the passage?

“That’s an interesting question: (1) Does God make a person’s decision for him or her, for or against salvation? (2) If your answer is Yes, how is that different from humans being mere puppets?”

A better question is, how is that different from humans being clay in the hands of a potter?

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 6:31 pm | #105
Craig Payne

“You can believe that all are saved, and that this is God’s will for all, without falling into universalism.”

So, according to your definition, if somebody goes to heaven, God saved him–but if somebody goes to hell, God saved him.

You’ve now defined the word to be synonymous with its antonym. To be saved is to be saved and to be damned is to be saved.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:00 pm | #107
Jeff Doles

“Steve, since you have disagreed with my position that God does not rejoice in the iniquity, lack of repentance or unbelief of the wicked — and indeed, you continue to argue with it — I can only assume that you believe the opposite, namely that God DOES rejoice in their iniquity, unrepentance and unbelief. That He is glad about it and pleased about it.”

i) I disagree with your fallacious reasoning and your fallacious prooftexting.

ii) I also disagree with your anthropomorphic framework.

“You deny my position, yet you do not seem to able to affirm its opposite in a straightforward fashion.”

You don’t seem to be able to keep more than one idea in your mind at a time.

“I understand. To say that God rejoices in iniquity, or is glad that the wicked are unrepentant, or that God is pleased with unbelief is a very perverse thing to say and bespeaks a disturbed point of view.”

Well, that’s simplistic. God wills an event insofar as that contributes to his overall design, and not in isolation to its holistic contribution.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:39 pm | #110
Jeff Doles

“Steve, whether John is talking about in-group love or out-group love is irrelevant — he is still talking about love among human beings and he is appealing to the love of God as the reason we should love each other. If the love God has is some different sort of thing from the love we are to have for each other, then it would have been incoherent for John to appeal to the love of God.”

Did I say it was different? No. Why do you have such a hard time following what people say? Try to focus on the actual wording of their statements.

In-group love is hardly synonymous with loving other human beings in general. Rather, in-group love is exclusive to members of the in-group.

If you proceed to infer the nature of divine love from the nature of Christian love as reflected in this command, then that, by your own argument from analogy, would denote God’s love for the elect, and not God’s love for humanity in general.

When I answer you on your own terms, I don’t think it’s asking too much if you at least keep up with your own side of the argument.

“I have dealt with the objection #2 you made that I am simply being anthropopathic. The love of God and the love the Bible enjoins us to are not two different kinds of love…”

Missing the point again. It’s anthropopathetic to cast the issue in terms of what God is “pleased” with, or “glad” about–as if we should always take anthropopatheticisms literally. Why do you keep stumbling over this no matter how often I explain it to you?

For example, do you interpret Gen 6:6 the same way an open theist does?

“Regarding objection #3, I do not think that ‘pleasing God by faith’ and ‘drawing near to God’ are necessarily synonymous. But even if they were, it does not make any difference to their import in this verse, because God is not pleased with those who do not seek Him or even believe that He exists. So, your objection has no force.”

Of course it makes a difference. You simply defaulted back to “pleasing,” while you disregarded the semantic impact of the synonymous parallel, which is there to help define the import of “pleasing.” Did you even get the point that O’Brien was making? Apparently not.

“We are not at liberty to ignore such figurative language when we are considering what the Scriptures teach us about God.”

If you admit that such usage is “figurative,” then you can’t turn around and act as if it’s literal. Unless you read the Bible like an open theist or Mormon, that is.

“Your use of Matthew 11:21-23 misses the point of what I have been saying. It does not disprove my position that God does not rejoice over the iniquity of the wicked, or in their unbelief or lack of repentance.”

That’s hopelessly superficial. If God was in a position to save them, but chose not to, then are you suggesting that God now disapproves of his own policy? Is God “displeased” with the choices he made?

Clearly their unbelief or impenitence served a larger purpose in God’s design.

You seem to believe in a God who’s all thumbs.

steve hays
April 25th, 2010 | 7:57 pm | #111
Jeff Doles

“Steve, here again, you miss the point by quoting me Deuteronomy 28:63. My question is not whether God delights or rejoices to do justice on the wicked and disobedient. Rather, my question is about whether God delights in their wickedness and disobedience. And, of course, He does not, for that is the reason He is judging them.”

You habitually ignore the prior question of why you think God is so nonplussed at what happens in the world he made. Do you think God had no say-so in how the world turned out? Did this come as an unpleasant surprise to God? Do you think God is ignorant, impotent, or both?

“And yet, you cannot bring yourself to affirm its opposite: God DOES rejoice in iniquity and IS pleased with unbelief. You use all sorts of deflections to avoid it. If you really believe that, you should have the courage of your conviction and say it.”

I’ve already explained that to you, but for some reason you think it’s an intellectual virtue to be simplistic.

God can approve of a given event as it facilitates his overall design without approving of that event in isolation to its instrumental role. Why are you chronically unable to grasp such rudimentary distinctions?

Unlike you, I don’t think that God trips over himself by willing things which frustrate his stated aims.


  1. Thanks Steve for showing the strengths of Classic Reform theology vis-a-vis the emotive weaknesses of Libertarian Free Will theology.

  2. Thanks Steve, I find these back-and-forth's very helpful. I have a few questions though:

    1) I agree with your point about Matt 11:21-23 but it seems to create a problem:

    Since the people of Tyre/Sidon/Sodom did not repent they must have been unregenerate.

    And if they were unregenerate then they would not have repented regardless of how many miracles they were shown.

    So why does Jesus seem to be saying that they would have repented? - how could an unregenerate person repent just by seeing miracles?

    2) Do you agree with John Piper's 'Two Wills in God' essay that argues that God loves the reprobate even though he ordains their destruction based on verses such as Ezekiel 18:32, 1Tim2:4 etc...? If so, how does one reconcile this with verses such as 'Esau I hated'?

    3) Does Total Depravity says that every action by an unregenerate person is wicked? If so, then how does that square with verses such as Ezekiel 3:20; 18:24; 33:12-13,18, which seem to clearly imply that persons who turn out to be unregenerate did in fact do some genuinely righteous deeds before going apostate? These verses do not seem to be in the category of the Luke 18:9ff parable where the pharisee is not really righteous but just thinks he is.

    Many thanks

  3. p.s. I am a Calvinist but have just been wrestling with these questions for a while.


    "Since the people of Tyre/Sidon/Sodom did not repent they must have been unregenerate. And if they were unregenerate then they would not have repented regardless of how many miracles they were shown."

    You have the equivalent issue in other theological traditions as well. Most all of them, except for Pelagianism, would say that miracles alone are insufficient to elicit true repentance. Prevenient grace would be a prerequisite. So that's not an issue distinctive of Calvinism.

    "So why does Jesus seem to be saying that they would have repented? - how could an unregenerate person repent just by seeing miracles?"

    It doesn't speak to that issue one way or the other. But if regeneration is a prerequisite, then that would be a tacit assumption of his statement. God would give them the requisite grace to respond in faith to miracles.

    "Do you agree with John Piper's 'Two Wills in God' essay."

    No, I prefer the position of Paul Helm and William Young.

    I also think there are better ways to handle Ezk 18:32 and 1 Tim 2:4 (which I've discussed on other occasions).

    "Does Total Depravity says that every action by an unregenerate person is wicked?"

    Due to common grace, the unregenerate can do objectively good deeds for their fellow man. But they can't do righteous deeds, which involves their relationship (or lack thereof) to God.

  5. Steve,

    why do you say that the unregenerate cannot do righteous deeds when Ezekiel 3:20 says:

    'if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice... he shall die... his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered'.

    This implies that even though the person turned out to be unregenerate, both his previous deeds and himself are described as 'righteous'. A mere external righteousness does not fit the text. Otherwise how could it potentially be 'remembered' by God?

    Any idea how that squares with Total Depravity?

    p.s. do you have a link for the previous discussion of how to handles texts like Ex18:32 1Tim2:4 etc? I have previously had a browse though the calvinism tagged stuff but didn't see it.


    "why do you say that the unregenerate cannot do righteous deeds when Ezekiel 3:20 says...This implies that even though the person turned out to be unregenerate, both his previous deeds and himself are described as 'righteous'. A mere external righteousness does not fit the text. Otherwise how could it potentially be 'remembered' by God?"

    I'm using "righteous" in the specialized, Pauline sense of what it takes to be justified.

    "Ezk 18:32 and 1 Tim 2:4"

    In context, Ezk 18 is addressed to the OT covenant community, and not to the world at large. Therefore, it says nothing about God's attitude towards humanity in general.

    More later.