Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How much worse!

After his recent, ill-fated bout with Steven Nemes (in the “Transference of Nonsense Principle”), Thibodaux was carried out of the Octagon on a stretcher and medevaced to a Level I trauma center to recuperate from his injuries. A hospital spokesman says he may never be the same.

But from his hospital bed in the STICU he was able to dictate a brief post responding to something I wrote.

“This critical failure at critical thinking can be easily answered with a simple scriptural example.”

Actually, it can’t. For the question at issue is not what Scripture teaches, but what Arminianism teaches.

“How each systematic theology interprets the events of Israel’s fall in the wilderness reveals much.”

Thibo then produces a little chart comparing and contrasting Calvinism and Arminianism. Needless to say, you can’t accurately describe the differences in a word or sentence. But that doesn’t stop Thibo from trying to oversimplify the issues.

However, let’s address him at his own level. He says, for example, that in Calvinism, “God not only permitted their rebellion, but actually wanted them to fall”–in contrast to Arminianism.

But is it really that simple?

i) Per Calvinism, God doesn’t “want” every event for its own sake. Rather, he “wants” many events because they facilitate other events.

ii) Per Arminianism, if God didn’t want apostates to fall, then why did he create them with that foreseeable consequence in mind? Presumably Thibo doesn’t think that something or someone necessitated God to make them. If the consequence was both avoidable and undesirable, then why did God go ahead and make them?

Yes, you can say they weren’t apostates at the time he made them, but that’s irrelevant to God’s intentions. If God foreknew that his creative action would have that end-result, then God intended the end-result. Does Thibo think that God is forced to do things against his will? Why did God do something he didn’t want to do? Does Thibo think that God was acting at gunpoint? Is God a hostage? Was God confronted with a Sophie’s choice scenario?

Who’s in charge of the Arminian universe, exactly?

Thibo also attributes apostasy to “the rebels’ independent free will.” But that begs the question.

“If the Arminian view is that God didn’t want the children of Israel to fall, but the Calvinist view is that their fall was His perfect will, who then is framing God as setting them up for their demise?”

Thibo will ring the changes on this counterargument. However, this is inept. I drew an analogy between Arminianism and what Arminians find so odious in Calvinism. He responds by trying to create a parallel with Calvinism! How does that rebut my argument?

My argument was based on a parallel! So how does his attempt to say that Calvinism is analogous refute my comparison? It doesn’t! It simply says the same thing in reverse.

It doesn't seem to occur to him that I was using a tu quoque argument. As such, that doesn’t mean I happen to agree with all the assumptions feeding into the argument. Rather, I took Arminian assumptions for granted for the sake of argument, then constructed a morally analogous situation in Arminianism.

I don’t have a problem with the suggestion that God set them up for the fall. It’s Arminians who find that problematic, not me.

But my point is that Arminian theology commits them to an analogous situation.

“From where did their rebellious downfall ultimately originate? Note again that in the Arminian view, this was the Israelites’ own doing and not necessitated by the will of God; in the Calvinist view their rebellion was necessary due to God’s decree. So who then is portraying God as orchestrating the downfall of the people He had saved?”

i) Thibo is equivocating over the term “saved.” There’s a basic difference between “salvation” in the sense of delivering the Israelites from Egypt, and “salvation” in the sense of delivering somebody from a hellish fate.

In Calvinism, unlike Arminianism, God never saves someone to damn him. If God elect, redeems, regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and adopts a person then that person cannot lose his salvation. It’s a package deal.

By contrast, there are, in Arminian theology, people whom God saved at an earlier date, only to damn at a later date. And God knows that in saving them, he will later damn them.

ii) Thibo is also trying to change the subject. That is already a sure sign that he lost the argument before he ever came into the debate.

The question at issue is not the ultimate origin of their apostasy. The question at issue is whether it is merciful for God to save someone to damn him.

Introducing libertarian freewill into the discussion is a diversionary tactic. For it makes no difference to my argument. I wasn’t arguing on Calvinist assumptions. I was arguing on Arminian assumptions.

My argument takes libertarian freewill for granted. Even if a born-again Christian lost his salvation of his own free will (in the libertarian sense), how is it merciful for God to save him in the first place?

Isn’t the apostate worse off than he was before God saved him? Don’t Arminians concede that an apostate is worse off than he was before God saved him?

So, according to Arminian theology, God is doing something to that individual which will worsen his situation the long run. God is not acting in the best interests of the individual. To the contrary, the Arminian must admit, consistent with his own theology, that God is acting to the detriment of the individual. Making him better off in the short-term tomake him worse off in the long-term.

iii) Also notice that Thibo has failed to rebut my argument. Indeed, he makes no attempt to rebut my argument I pointed out that, given divine foreknowledge, if God saves somebody who will later lose his salvation, then salvation is a set-up for apostasy. According to Arminian theology, salvation is a prerequisite for apostasy. You can’t lose your salvation if you have nothing to lose.

Does Thibo rebut my charge? No. Rather, he tries to deflect the reader’s attention away from my argument by arguing that Calvinism is guilty of doing the same thing. Well, so what?

That doesn’t let Arminianism off the hook. What is more, I baited the hook with Arminian assumptions.

“Is it cruel of God to save people from destruction and give them a genuine opportunity to obtain the promise, even though He knows they will ultimately die in a self-started rebellion?”

How does that rebut the argument? If you give somebody a “genuine opportunity” when you know in advance that he will blow the opportunity and be even worse off than before, were you doing him any favors?

“The fact that God shows His continued kindness to men on a conditional basis is well-established in scripture (e.g. 2 Chronicles 16:6-9). So the logic of this argument then breaks down to the ridiculous position of condemning God as ‘cruel’ if He saves someone, but later lets him suffer the destructive consequences of his own free choices; and at the same time lauding Him as good and just if He saves someone, then later destroys him for choices that God decreed he make. That’s special pleading at its most absurd.”

This is just another decoy. The question at issue is not what Scripture teaches, but what Arminianism teaches.

Arminians accuse the Calvinist God of being monstrous, cruel, bloodthirsty, diabolical, &c. The question, though, is whether their objections boomerang. Quoting Scripture does nothing to resolve the self-contradictions in Arminian theism.

“Further, the author confuses and equivocates God merely allowing the evil to occur (the Arminian view) with God ‘setting up’ and ‘orchestrating’ the event (which better reflects his own exhaustively deterministic views).”

i) How is “allowing” evil ipso facto exculpatory? Aren’t there many situations in which allowing evil is culpable?

ii) And, of course, the Arminian God does more than merely “allow” evil. For starters, what about the Arminian doctrine of divine creation. God created a world with these foreseeable consequences. So that’s a set-up.

Moreover, Arminianism also has a doctrine of divine concurrence. God must enable the evildoer. Empower the evildoer. Sustain the evildoer.

“The comparison of God to a serial killer in that He’s eager to deliver the death blow is also a complete mischaracterization, since He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked (or their wickedness for that matter).”

Alluding to a Scriptural passage does nothing to harmonize Arminianism with Scripture, or resolve its internal tensions.

If the Arminian God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, then why do they die? Why does the Arminian God send the flood to kill evildoers? Why does the Arminian God command the Israelites to kill evildoers? Why does the Arminian God make evildoers die of illness or old age?

Why does the Arminian God do things and command things to be done which he finds “unpleasant” (to work with Thibo’s adjective)? Does Thibo think this world was a fait accompli? Was God fated to play the hand that ill-fortune dealt him?

Have you ever noticed that Arminian theodicy resembles Greek mythology? The gods are subservient to the Fates. Zeus would like to save so-and-so, but if the Fates have doomed him, then Zeus is powerless to intervene. Arminians so often act as if God’s hands are tied.

“Missing from the weak and badly misplaced ‘fishing trip’ analogy is any reference to the factor of willful rebellion against the Savior. Apostasy isn’t something that people suddenly just fall into by accident and without warning. The apostate isn’t some poor kid flailing in the water and crying for help to an uncaring and indifferent God.”

I didn’t bring that up because it’s irrelevant to the argument:

i) To begin with, that factor is not a differential factor between Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism would also say the apostate is guilty. Calvinism would also say the apostate got his just deserts.

ii) Even more to the point, this does nothing to salvage Thibo’s case. If God punishes the apostate, then that’s an act of justice rather than mercy.

So in what sense was the Arminian God gracious and loving in his treatment of the would-be apostate? Sure, you can say the apostate got what was coming to him, but how is that loving?

If the Arminian God knew from the outset that by saving John Doe, he would damn John Doe, then how does Arminianism extricate its God from the charge that he is merely toying with the lost? Leaving them worse off than if he never made them or saved them in the first place?

Hebrews 10:29

How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

2 Peter 2:20-21

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.


  1. "Arminians accuse the Calvinist God of being monstrous, cruel, bloodthirsty, diabolical, &c. The question, though, is whether their objections boomerang."

    They most certainly do.

    They're not immune to their own accusations.

  2. You Calvinists just go on and on and on with your abilities. I am edified every time you do! :)

    Bowing my head and praying: "Geesh, God, why didn't you make me like that? :("

    "....[I don’t have a problem with the suggestion that God set them up for the fall. It’s Arminians who find that problematic, not me.] ....".

    Apparently Jesus doesn't have a problem with it either:

    "....Mat 6:9 Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

    "....Mat 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. ".

    Heb 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets--
    Heb 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
    Heb 11:34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
    Heb 11:35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
    Heb 11:36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
    Heb 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--
    Heb 11:38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
    Heb 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
    Heb 11:40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

    Joh 15:18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
    Joh 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
    Joh 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

    The one verse that seems to me to end the debate and let the Truth in is this one:::>

    Psa 89:11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.

    One thing I guess is fair to attribute to the accusation: "....arminians accuse the Calvinist God of being monstrous, cruel, bloodthirsty, diabolical, etc...." is they got that right!

    They simply are calling Good evil and evil good! They strain to swallow gnats and swallow whole uncooked camels!

    Oh, and TUAD, I didn't know God was offering immunity? Could you explain that remark: "...They're not immune to their own accusations...".

    I know you are making a point there, but I just didn't get it!

  3. "bossmanham, on May 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm Said: Also, I would accuse Hays of the appeal to pity fallacy, as he is trying to say Arminians are wrong because their theology has God allowing people to come into such pitiable states."

    Is Brennon just playing dumb or is he really that obtuse?

  4. It's just so telling when Arminians use arguments to undermine Calvinism that are just as valid against Arminianism. And when those arguments are turned back on them, they're left without a single valid excuse.

    There's just that much Arminians have in common with Calvinists, so why do Arminians consistently object to Calvinism by, essentially, arguing against their own position? It's because there's a fundamental difference between the two systems, and for the Arminian, it's the sovreignty of man. When that is endangered, the Arminian throws everything he/she can against the sovreignty of God, even if it means contradicting themselves in the process.