Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The beloved disciple

Arminians cite passages like Mt 23:37 and Lk 19:41-42 to disprove reprobation. According to them, Christ’s desire for the salvation of the hellbound is incompatible with God having predestined any to hell.

Calvinists have two general replies:

1. Some Calvinists argue that it’s possible for God to feel more than one way about the same thing. He might think something is good (or bad) in its own right, but that comes into conflict with a larger good. All things being equal, God desires a certain outcome–but all things considered, God prefers a different outcome.

This is a complex issue which is worth exploring in its own right. But I’ll pass on that for now.

2. Calvinists also point out that these passages have reference to God Incarnate, not God discarnate. As God Incarnate, Jesus had many human feelings which you can’t automatically impute to God the Father.

Arminians tend to feign outrage at this argument, although it’s a theologically impeccable distinction.

3. However, let's play along with the Arminian inference for the sake of argument. Let’s say passages like Mt 23:37 and Lk 19:41-42 present a window into the heart of God. From an Arminian standpoint, the problem with that argument is that it cuts both ways.

Take the author of the Fourth Gospel. (Let’s call him John.) John styles himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23-24; 19:25-27; 20:2). That’s striking because it sets up an implicit, but invidious contrast between the way Jesus felt about John, and the way he felt about the other disciples. Not that he didn’t love the other disciples, but that he loved John even more than he did the others.

We can only speculate on why that is, although it’s easy to come up with plausible explanations. For one thing, it’s quite possible that John was Jesus’ first cousin–assuming that Salome was Mary’s sister. Although that identification is far from secure, there’s some suggestive material which may point in that direction. Cf. J. Robinson, The Priority of John, 118ff. And Nazareth, Jesus’ boyhood home, lay within walking distance of Bethsaida, John’s boyhood home. So they may well have been childhood friends.

And even if they weren’t, Jesus and John may simply have had more personal rapport than Jesus had with his own siblings or the other disciples. That’s the nature of friendship. And John was Jesus’ best friend.

But if, a la Arminians, we treat this sort of thing as mirroring God’s attitude towards humanity, then we can rightly infer that God has favorites.

Mind you, I’m simply reasoning with the Arminian on his own terms.


  1. From the looks of the responses you have gotten in here, it would be reasonable to assume you reasoned the Arminian's reason into silence? :)

  2. Brand-spankin'-new follower here. Quite a nice home you've got!

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on point (1.) and how it is that free-willers so often balk at our (audacious!) insistence upon the obvious, even while the selfsame no-brainer is universally presumed and routinely (mis-)applied by them in defending their position.

    I refer in this case to the distinction between God's "general character/disposition," His "moral will" and His "big-picture will" (using sub-lay terminology in deference to the denser among your Arminian readers; wouldn't want to "confuse and obscure" the issue with doctrinaire Calvinist mumbo-jumbo).

    They are endlessly vexing, the confused grimaces, blank stares and howls of protest -- including oh-so-indignant charges of libeling poor, defenseless God with the blasphemous allegation that He is (*gasp!*) sovereign -- that one receives when laying out common-sense argumentation that presupposes God's willingness to ordain (or, "permit" per Armies) evil, tragedy and suffering, all in service to His greater purpose.

    By what strange calculus does Andy Arminian dispute and bewail this proposition, contra Charlie Calvinist, while the heart of Andy's doctrine is God's sovereign endowment of man with "free will" -- foreseeing though He did the outcome -- His permitting of evil, damnation, &c. (despite His hatred of all such), and His "sincere and unambiguous 'WISH'" that all men be saved? Why is Charlie accused of God-slandering, self-contradictory invention ("fashioning a schizo-God" and the like) while Andy gives himself a pass?

    Of course I have my theories, but am eager to read another's take on this most baffling of hermeneutical double-standards. But mostly it would be helpful to know if I'm missing something or unjustifiably frustrated. Is it just me?