Saturday, November 26, 2011

Where does bacon come from?

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 8:05 am
Actually, “author of sin” is generally bandied about without any attempt at a historical definition of the phrase.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 8:07 am

“My problem with this ‘purpose’ defence of God permitting evil is that it appears to make God guilty of using people for some other (presumably greater) end. Isn’t this the same justification advanced by advocates of embryo selection on tissue type to aid an older sick sibling? And indeed, of abortion in itself, where the (presumably greater) importance of the mother’s health/family welfare/ …etc is sufficient justification for ending an infants life?”

That overlooks the elementary distinction between guilt and innocence. Moreover, God was certainly using Pharaoh (to take one paradigm example) to prove a point.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 8:09 am

“I thought that Calvinism teaches more than God permitting evil but that He decrees evil and everything else, meticulous providence.”

How is that relevant to Horton’s statement?

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 9:23 am
Actually, the question at issue is whether the Arminian concept of divine permission automatically exonerates God from complicity in evil. Is that a solution to the problem which Arminians pose in reference to Calvinism? That’s the issue at hand.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 11:05 am
Clarification Dave

“I suggest that I would be more persuaded toward accepting Calvinism if I got a good reply to my questions about how God is both in meticulous- decreeing all things -control and at the same time not responsible for the specifics of evil that do occur by persons who are meticulously controlled by God.”

i) Actually, God is responsible, although he’s not solely responsible. What’s more, an agent can be responsible without being culpable. Responsibility is simply a necessary condition of culpability, not a sufficient condition. Indeed, God would be blameworthy if he *didn’t* assume responsibility for whatever happens on his watch.

ii) In addition, you haven’t formulated an actual argument. All you’ve done is to posit a tension.

“If an Arminian cannot solve the problem issues, that is their problem. If a Calvinist cannot provide a persuasive answer, how is that not a difficulty against their system? If the mystery trump card is pulled by the Calvinist, why can’t the Arminian pull one too?”

Because some commenters are acting as if only the Calvinist shoulders the burden of proof.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

“There’s two distinct questions. There’s a question as to why sin is about to happen (such that God is deciding to permit or prevent it). Then there is the question as to why God permits sin. With respect to the first question, we Arminians have God on one side and sin on the other and LFW in-between. Calvinists don’t believe in LFW, so it can’t be in-between God and sin.”

How is having a buffer between God and sin exculpatory? Clever criminals often have buffers. That’s the role of the fallguy. To take the blame for what the Don ordered.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 11:26 am

“But the real problem is that Calvinism cannot logically account for the concept of permitting or allowing evil, since it holds that he unconditionally decreed all sin and evil.”

i) Paul Helm has argued that Calvinism does make room for divine permission. I don’t see you addressing his argument.

ii) More to the point, even if Calvinism can’t make room for divine permission, so what? You need to explain how that’s germane to theodicy.

“He logically first had the idea for each evil act, conceived it in his own heart, and logically then decreed for it to take place without any influence from anything outside of himself.”

And how does that contrast with Arminianism? Does Arminian theism deny that God “logically first had the idea of each evil act…”? Does Arminianism deny divine omniscience? Did God have no preconception of how the world would turn out?

“That indeed makes God the author of all sin and evil logically, even though Calvinists incoherently deny that idea.”

Why should we accept your stipulative definition? Is that how “author of evil” is used in historical theology? Or is that just your made-up definition?

“Calvinists have to talk like Arminians to try and claim their theology does not make God the author of evil. But since Arminianism allows for genuine free will on the part of human beings and denies determinism, it has a concept of genuine divine permission, with God’s permitting evil for a purpose.”

How does God giving a rapist the “genuine freedom” to rape and murder a defenseless 5-year-old girl (and thereby violating her “genuine freedom”) let God off the hook? How is that an adequate theodicy, even at a prima facie level?

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm

“Not just any buffer will do. LFW addresses the issue of the source of sin or cause of sin, so that’s why believing in LFW does help explain why sin was about to happen (such that God was deciding to permit or prevent it).”

That only pushes the issue back a step, for the Arminian God is ultimately the source of the sinner, which makes him (indirectly) the ultimate source of the sinner’s sin. And causing the sinner causes the sin (even if the cause/effect relation involves many intervening buffers). So you’re not going to get much mileage out of the strategy before the road circles back to where it began.

“As for your saying God is responsible for sin, but not culpable, well, the bible says God hates sin. It seems fundamentally against God’s nature that He be the ultimate source of sin.”

Several problems with that reply:

i) Even if we accepted your selective appeal to the witness of Scripture, that doesn’t salvage Arminian theodicy, for the question at issue isn’t what Scripture says, but what Arminianism says. Appealing to Scripture doesn’t ipso facto harmonize Arminianism (or Molinism) with Scripture, for Arminianism (or Molinism) has its own internal logic.

ii) Since, according to Arminianism (or Molinism), God is the Creator of the (actual) world, he’s bound to bear some responsibility for the outcome. That’s unavoidable given a generic doctrine of divine creation. He can’t very well say he had nothing to do with it. And there’s an obvious sense in which the Creator of man is the ultimate source of what man does. You may deny that he’s the sole source, but you can’t deny divine sourcehood altogether.

iii) It’s also simplistic to say an agent can’t be the source of something he “hates,” for he may hate it in itself, but still be the ultimate source inasmuch as that’s a necessary step on the way to a second-order good.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

“Not just any buffer will do. LFW addresses the issue of the source of sin or cause of sin, so that’s why believing in LFW does help explain why sin was about to happen (such that God was deciding to permit or prevent it).”

You can say the same thing about the hitman. On your view, the hitman has LFW. He’s the ultimately source of his own choices or actions. So does that exonerate the Don who ordered the hit? Isn’t that the point of a fallguy? To distance the Don from the crime?

To paraphrase your distinction, you have the Don on one side and murder on the other and the libertarian fallguy in-between. So does that let the Don off the hook for murder?

“Yes, God is a necessary cause for sin, but He is not a sufficient cause.”

And how is that distinction ipso facto exculpatory? The Mafia Don is not the sufficient cause of the murder. He orders a hit, but the hitman carries it out.

“As for God permitting sin knowing it would happen, again, that’s a separate question to the one about the source of sin.”

I didn’t say it was the same question. But we’re dealing with theodicy. And God knowing the outcome, especially when God had a hand in the outcome (as your own position concedes) raises its own problems for Arminianism.

“However, I think the answer to the permission question is somewhere between 1) despite popular opinion, God is not a care bear sitting on a cloud, 2) God is not accountable to us and 3) God had some greater good which involved allowing us to use the freedom He gave us in mind.”

A Calvinist can also do a variation on 1-3.

In my experience you have a habit of retreating into metaphysical distinctions as if metaphysical distinctions are automatically moral distinctions.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm

“As for your saying God is responsible for sin, but not culpable, well, the bible says God hates sin. It seems fundamentally against God’s nature that He be the ultimate source of sin.”

By that logic, why is it not fundamentally against God’s nature to even allow evil?

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm

“The second thing he had to say was that I need to explain why divine permission is germane to theodicy. That is an invalid response since we are talking about Horton’s argument, and Horton assumes that it is. And furthermore, this is another point so obvious that I do not think I need to explain it. The burden of proof is on Steve or you to say why it is not germane, especially as Horton thinks it is. I am again happy to leave my comments to stand against the challenge that it is not obvious why permission is germane to theodicy in contrast to God causing evil.”

No, we’re not just talking about Horton’s argument. We’re also talking about Olson’s alternative. It’s a debate between Horton and Olson, remember?

If you want to cop out when the going gets tough and tacitly admit you have no good explanation, fine. I’ll be happy to accept your concession speech.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm

“A major problem that runs through Steve’s response to Dan is that he compares God to the mafia boss who orders the hit. But that is really the Calvinist view. In the Arminian view, God does not order the hit. He does not contract people to do evil. They do it if their own free will.”

Arminian isn’t following the argument. I was responding to Dan on his own terms. Dan introduced LFW as a buffer. Well, a hitman is a buffer too. According to Arminianism, the hitman commits murder of his own free will.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

“But in light of what I have mentioned, the burden of proof is on you to show why divine permission is not germane to theodicy. In fact, why don’t you explain why it is not?”

I’ve given examples in this very thread. Pay attention.

I realize why Arminians wish to expose a little of their flank as possible. They have a hard position to defend.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm

“The ‘buffer’ works with respect to the sourcehood of sin. Man, not God, is the sufficient cause of sin.”

Since divine creation (or choice of/instantiation of possible worlds, if you prefer) is a necessary condition of sin, human creatures are not the sufficient cause or sufficient condition. No creation, no human agents, no sin. You need a source over and above the creature to yield the result.

“The hitman, not the Don is the source of the hitman’s choices.”

So does that exculpate the Don?

“So with respect to sourcehood of sin, Arminians have LFW as a buffer between God and man, but Calvinists don’t.”

Assuming (arguendo) that LFW exists, that’s a property of agents, and the (human) agents have their ultimate source in their Creator. Therefore, your buffer is deceptive. The source of the sinner is, himself, a source of sin.

“Now you are asking ‘are you off the hook so long is you are not the source of sin’. And the answer is no, but as Arminian pointed out there are big differences between the Don and God.”

Yes, because God has far more control than the Don. So God would be even more responsible for the outcome.

“But there is another question here worth addressing. Is being the source of sin a bad thing? The Don example doesn’t really address this.”

That’s your dilemma. If you answer in the negative, then you lose your objection to Calvinism. If you answer in the affirmative, then Arminianism has a parallel problem.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm

“I think I am going to bow out from discussion with you in this thread.”

When the going gets tough, the fluff leave in a huff. Puff goes the Arminian.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm

“As I say below, I am bowing out of discussion with you in this thread. But before doing so, let me say here that my comments were spot on, because if you were responding to Dan on his own terms adequately, you would have taken the fact that God doesn’t commission the hit man’s actions. So in Arminian theology, he does not have the same relationship to the buffer that your analogy requires. Your analogy is too dis-analogous from the Arminian view to make your point.”

The disanalogy makes things even worse for Arminianism. Unlike the Mafia Don, God creates the hitman via second causes. God providentially empowers and sustains the hitman.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm

i) I didn’t compare God’s “character” to a cardsharp. As usual, Robert is prevaricating.

ii) Moreover, I didn’t compare the God of Reformed theism to a mafia don. Rather, I was discussing Arminian theism, and I used a comparison to illustrate Dan Chapa’s Arminian distinction.

ii) But as far as games of chance go, is it purely coincidental that Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah occurred at the very time Zechariah was chosen by lot to minister in the temple? Even though lots are a classic randomizing device, God was behind the lot falling to Zechariah, to synchronize with the conception of John, in fulfillment of Malachi.

steve hays November 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm
Robert continues to dissimulate. I was making the point that a predetermined outcome can be identical to a fortuitous outcome. Hence, my statement that the player “bets and bluffs just the same as if the deck were randomly shuffled.”

Therefore, predestination doesn’t force anyone to do other than they’d do if they had libertarian freedom. Robert’s too blinded by animus to get the point.

steve hays November 19, 2011 at 9:14 am
Bob Anderson

“That is irresponsible theologically since all theists have God involved with creation in some way and have God acting within our lives. The question is not whether God is sovereign, but how he exercises that sovereignty.”

Actually, that is a question. For instance, Calvinists, Molinists, classical Arminians, as well asl Arminian open theists, all claim that God is sovereign. But clearly the term is used equivocally when employed to cover such a diverse spectrum.

“The problem is with acts like the Holocaust. With the Holocaust, we cannot see the goodness of God and it is not enough to say it must be there. We simply see an abomination. Yet the Calvinist desires to place God’s sovereignty as the determinative factor in all events, including this one.”

And what’s your alternative? To treat the Holocaust as a surd event? Even if you say God merely allowed it to happen, why did he allow it? Did he have a good reason to let it happen? If so, then it serves a purpose sufficient to justify divine permission.

And if it’s morally permissible for God to allow it, why is it morally impermissible for God to plan it?

Indeed, how can you avoid the implication that God intended the outcome? God’s creative fiat is a necessary precondition of the outcome. If he foreknew the consequences of his contribution to the outcome, even if the end-result is the effect of a chain reaction involving the contributions of many libertarian agents, then he surely intended the outcome. For he’s a witting participant.

Is your fallback to say God allows horrendous evils for no good reason? Why kind of theodicy is that? How does that vindicate the goodness of God? How is that supposed to be an improvement on what you find so objectionable in Calvinism?

“The Calvinist says that in theory everything must be for God’s glory, but historically we know that sinful acts do occur that bring responses from both God and humanity declaring them evil and wrong. Such acts we do not attribute to God.”

That’s simplistic. For instance, God threatens the Israelites with horrific consequences if they violate the covenant (Deut 28:15-68). And in the Babylonian Exile, that becomes a reality.

Does God approve of the consequences? The question is ambiguous. God doesn’t approve of punitive suffering for the sake of suffering. But he approves of the purpose it serves. God doesn’t approve of evil events in themselves. But he does approve of the purpose he’s assigned to them, in the furtherance of his wise and benevolent objectives.

“We all attribute the judgment of such acts to God.”

But before they can be judged, they must be. So divine judgment isn’t merely an afterthought, unless you’re an open theist. And open theism generates its own theodicean problems.

“But the Calvinist implies that the determination of such acts must leads back to God in some way.”

On any minimal doctrine of divine creation, whatever happens in the world must lead back to God “in some way.” That’s unavoidable. That remains the case if you reject determinism. Even a stochastic process still leads back to whoever or whatever originates the initial conditions.

“His ways are perfect.”

Indeed, his ways are perfect in the Fall. His ways are perfect in the Babylonian Exile. His ways are perfect in the crucifixion.

steve hays November 19, 2011 at 9:35 am
BTW, since a number of commenters are hung up on Horton’s permissive language, I’d just point out that there’s an obvious sense in which a Calvinist can use the lingo of divine permission. To allow something assumes the agent is in a position to disallow it or prevent it. And the God of Reformed theism is certainly in a position to prevent any event. For no event is inevitable apart from predestination. No event will happen apart from predestination. Predestination is what makes it inevitable.

As such, there’s an obvious sense in which God allows a predestined event to take place. For he was in a position to prevent the occurrence by not decreeing the occurrence in the first place.

steve hays November 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm
Bob Anderson

“Let me as three simple questions – Do you think the Holocaust was a morally reprehensible event?”

i) What the Nazis did to the Jews was morally blameworthy. What God did to the Jews was morally praiseworthy.

ii) Something can be wicked in itself, yet also be a source of good. Consider the genealogies of Christ. There’s lots of iniquity in the family tree leading up to Christ. Yet that’s not something you can myopically evaluate apart from God’s overarching purpose.

“Do you think God planned it?”

Naturally he planned it. Do you think the Holocaust is like an unplanned pregnancy?

What would be problematic is not if God planned it, but if God didn’t plan it. If God simply allowed horrific things to befall people for no ultimate good or higher end.

The book of Lamentations is appalling. Yet God planned the Babylonian Exile. Indeed, God predicted the Babylonian Exile.

“Does your position represent Calvinism?”

Another name for that is predestination.

“So the decree implies some level of causality on God’s part, right?”

What about creation?

It doesn’t seem to occur to many Arminians that our theodicean options are severely restricted. All orthodox Christians have to work back from the fact of evil, work back from the fact of God’s omniscience and creatorship. There are very few ways in which you can combine these three facts. Orthodox Christians are hemmed in by certain doctrinal precommitments. There’s not much give. Not much play in the line.

I’m reminded of something Richard Feynman once said. He said fundamental progress in scientific theorizing becomes more difficult as time goes on since every major new theory must find where to fit with well-established preexisting theories. Very little room for creativity. That’s because scientific creativity is constrained by inflexible external realities.

Arminians often act as if they don’t know that bacon comes from pigs. They never suspected that connection. They go to the supermarket every week and buy their packaged bacon. They assume the display case in the meat department produces thick-cut sliced bacon in plastic wrap ex nihilo overnight while the store is closed.

When someone points out to them for the first time that a pig has to be slaughtered to produce bacon, they wax indignant at the very suggestion. How dare you say such a thing!

When the horrid realization slowly dawns on some of them that shrink-wrapped bacon strips aren’t the natural state of pork, that bacon doesn’t originate in the meat department (like growing vegetables), that you can retrace the process back to the abattoir, they become ethical vegans.

steve hays November 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm
Clarification Dave

“What did God do to the Jews in the Holocaust?”

He exposed them to devastating harm. And that holds true for Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, and open theism.

“Would the Calvinist perspective say that God decreed the specific processes that definitively formed the specific details of the particular sin natures of each of the Nazis which then resulted in the formation of the specific thoughts that lead to specific atrocities of action?”

Calvinism doesn’t have a particular theory of causation. The Bible shows us examples of God using what we’d call historical causation to achieve certain ends (e.g. the Joseph cycle), but it doesn’t offer a detailed or comprehensive theory of causation.

In Calvinism, God planned everything that happens, and everything happens according to his plan.

steve hays November 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm
Bob Anderson

“You seem to be equating the death camps of the Nazis with the goodness of God here.”

Doesn’t follow from what I said.

“Are you saying that while the Holocaust was morally reprehensible, it is actually a good thing because God did it? Can you describe for us the good that God was doing in the death camps? You do seem to be equating the evil of the Nazis with the goodness of God, which I find rather absurd.”

As I already explained to you, something can be evil in and of itself, but also be a source of good, (e.g. a second-order good). There are many examples of this in Scripture. For instance:

“’Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (Jn 9:3).

Blindness is a natural evil. Yet God blinded the man (by inflicting him with congenital blindness) to occasion a miracle of Christ, and thereby reveal the goodness and the greatness of Christ.

“When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it’” (Jn 11:4).

Death is evil. Yet Christ exploits the death of Lazarus as a means of manifesting something good.

“11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! (Rom 11:11-12).”

The infidelity of the Jews is sinful. Yet, in the plan of God, that’s instrumental to something good.

“Are you suggesting that by inferring the God has done this or ordained it, it must be good simply because you are attaching the label of ‘God’ to the source?”

I haven’t used that argument in this thread, but as a matter of fact that’s a valid inference. God is the exemplar of goodness. Whatever he does, directly or indirectly, exemplifies his goodness.

“Would you consider the Nazis “moral monsters” in this act of genocide?”

Yes, but we need to distinguish God’s motivation from their motivation (cf. Isa 10:5-7).

Since, however, you’ve chosen to make the Holocaust the centerpiece of your attack on Calvinism, what’s your alternative theodicy?

i) Since you evidently deny that God planned the Holocaust, you apparently believe that God left it to chance whether or not some, many, or all Jews would perish in the Holocaust. If a Jew perished in the Holocaust, he was just unlucky. He had the bad luck of being born at the wrong time and the wrong place. Other Jews got lucky.

Do you think that somehow vindicates the goodness of God?

ii) Likewise, on your view, God empowers the Nazi to toss a Jewish child kicking and screaming into the ovens of Dachau. And by giving the Nazi that unchecked power over the child, the child is powerless to resist. No match. He is big and she is small. She has no choice in the matter. She didn’t choose to be burned alive. She was robbed of the opportunity to avoid that fate–as her eyes melt and her skin peels.

Do you think that somehow vindicates the goodness of God? On your libertarian calculus, would the world be worse off if one less child had died in the ovens of Dachau? Would that upset the delicate balance of power in the libertarian scheme of things–like pulling a tin can from the bottom of the stack?

Bob Anderson

“We are not really dealing with my view here…”

Like other Arminian commenters on this thread, you wish to drop bombs on Calvinism from the safe distance of 40,000 ft. in the air, but when the debate turns to Arminian theodicy, all of a sudden we’re not really dealing with the Arminian view here.

However, you don’t get to unilaterally dictate the terms of the debate. This thread involves a debate between Reformed and Arminian theodicy, using Horton and Olson as the jumping-off point. No doubt you’re prefer to stay out of range at a safe altitude, but I’m going to bring your own position down to earth for closer inspection.

“That is what has been questioned and what you are defending.”

That’s what’s been questioned by you. But questioning is a two-way street. You want me to answer your questions, but you duck mine.

I, of course, understand why you’re so reluctant to discuss your own position. You tacitly admit the weakness of your Arminian alternative thereby.

“So according to Calvinism (at least your form of Calvinism) we need to say that God not only allowed the Holocaust but planned it.”

According to Calvinism, God planned every event.

“You seem to think the works of God are evident in the Holocaust.”

I didn’t say it was “evident.” God’s purposes are often inevident to human observers. That’s because we only see a few pieces of the puzzle.

“You have not answered the question of the good that is inherent in this event.”

You keep changing what I say into something else. Did I say there was inherent good in the Holocaust? No.

“What is God’s motivation here? What exactly is the good you are suggesting in the holocaust?”

That’s not the level at which theodicy operates. Theodicy doesn’t presume to give specific explanations for every particular event. Rather, it gives a general explanation for certain types of events. This can be illustrated by some Biblical events, where we are also given the interpretation of God’s ulterior intent.

“By what criteria do you judge this event as a monstrosity and yet exonerate your God who planned it?”

Your question is predicated on a false premise. You assume that it’s culpable for God to plan such an event. But that’s a key assumption which you need to establish by reasoned argument. Not something you’re entitled to stipulate.

“In fact, the only defense you seem to be able to give is that your view is the lesser of evils – at least as you perceive it.”

Actually, I’ve given biblical examples to illustrate the underlying principle.

“It seems that you have pretty much proven Olson’s case for him.”

You’re taking intellectual shortcuts. That’s cheating. You need to replace your assertions with arguments. 

steve hays November 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm

“Let’s remember too that when you speak of God planning such evil as the Holocaust in Calvinism, that means that without any influence from anything outside of himself he logically first had the idea for the Holocaust and every evil act that ever occurs, conceived it in his own heart, and still without any influence from anything outside of himself logically then decreed for it to take place.”

Notice that Arminian is ascribing ignorance to God. God must discover things from his creatures. On his view, God is on a learning curve. God relies on outside sources of information to educate himself.

Not only does this deny God’s omniscience, but his aseity as well. The creatures must somehow preexist for God to learn from them before he makes them.

steve hays November 20, 2011 at 7:29 am
Bob Anderson

“I have seen Acts 2:22-23 raised up before. The concept of Jewish martyrdom – death for others – can be seen as good. But Jesus himself is very explicit, that he is laying down his life himself for others as a act of life (John 10:15,17; 15;13; 1 John 3:16). This type of self-giving, which we equate to the love of God, is a sacrifice we are all called to give and such sacrifice is manifestly declared as good. The incarnation itself is purposeful, an entry into the world for a very specific reason that all would attribute to be good. So I do not think we can compare this event to genocide. Rather it is the very opposite.”

You’re missing the point.

i) Was the Crucifixion good or evil? That’s a simplistic question. The same event can be good in some respects, but evil in others. The men (e.g. Pilate, the Sanhedrin) who put Jesus to death did so with evil intent. It was evil for Jews to reject their promised Messiah. And it was evil to execute an innocent man.

On the other hand, God meant it for good. And the Crucifixion is a source of inestimable good.

ii) In addition, God planned the Crucifixion. Something God predestined or chose beforehand (Acts 2:23; 4:28).

So this is an example of God planning an event which is, in some respects, evil.

We could take another example. Was the Babylonian Exile good or evil? That’s a simplistic question.

The Babylonian Exile was an example of divine punishment for the sin of national apostasy. God’s just punishment is good.

On the other hand, a pious remnant suffered a common fate with their impious countrymen. And their pagan captors and conquerors committed many atrocities in the course of the Babylonian Exile. So the same event can have both good and evil aspects.

Yet you can’t very well say this was an unplanned event. To the contrary, God forewarned the Jews that they’d be exiled if they continued to rebel against his covenant.

“You have stated that you ‘don’t think anybody is arguing that the Holocaust was inherently good.’ Yet that seems to be precisely what is being argued. Hays is saying that there is no ‘apparent good,’ but he does not seem to want to divorce the goodness of God from this event.”

For some reason you lack a grasp of basic concepts. I’ve distinguished between intrinsic goods and instrumental goods. Between evil and second-order goods. Between means and ends.

Yet you keep repeating your simplistic characterization as if something can only be “inherently” good or “inherently” evil. What’s your problem, Bob? Why do you keep ignoring what people tell you?

“While we must affirm with the author of the book of Job that God himself is good and creation as a whole is good, we do not attribute sin to God.”

Once again, I’ve explained to you why that’s a simplistic way of framing the issue. When I do that, how do you respond? Not by offering a counterargument, but by repeating your simplistic formulation. You need to learn how to interact with what others say, to actually engage the state of the argument.

steve hays November 20, 2011 at 7:56 am
Bob Anderson

“First, this is not a formal debate, in spite of what you would like people to believe. The question at hand, according to the original post is – Does Calvinism Make God a ‘Moral Monster’?”

As measured by Arminianism. Using Arminianism as a frame of reference. So that’s a two-way street.

But you’re welcome to doge objections to your libertarian alternative. That’s a backdoor admission that your alternative to Calvinism is indefensible.

“I have not changed anything you have said. Since you were answering the very straightforward questions I asked and juxtiposed two statements about the Nazis and God with reference to the Holocaust, I cannot but infer you are assigning the statement to the same event.”

You keep using the word “inherent.” Maybe you need to define your terms. What makes you think an event can only be inherently good or inherently evil? If a surgeon has to amputate a gangrenous hand, must that either be inherently good or evil? Well, it’s bad to lose your hand. But it’s better to lose your hand than lose your life.

You need to broaden your conceptual resources so that you don’t chronically oversimplify moral issues.

“You have explicitly stated that God planned the Holocaust in response to my clarifying statement about it – ‘According to Calvinism, God planned every event.”

“So now you are inferring that there is no apparent good in this event, yet God ordained it.”

i) Something doesn’t have to be apparently good to be divinely ordained. You keep postulating that non sequitur.

Something may seem evil at present, but when viewed in retrospect, we come to recognize an unsuspected good. Yet that requires a future vantage-point. We gain insight through hindsight. The Joseph cycle is a case in point.

ii) If you insist, it’s easy to come up with some apparent good that came from the Holocaust. Take Corrie ten Boom’s ministry, and the famous film The Hiding Place. That was a great evangelistic witness.

Still, we don’t have access to God’s intentions except where he reveals his intentions, so we can’t make definitive statements about God’s purpose in ordaining the Holocaust.

“You are shying away from speaking in absolutes, inferring that there must be some good because God ordained it. In all of your Biblical examples, you seem to be able to demonstrate the good that comes out of them. So if your principles stand, you should be able to demonstrate the good that comes out the Holocaust.”

Once again, you’re not following the argument. For Biblical events, we not only have the reported event, but the editorial viewpoint of the narrator. A divine interpretation.

But that’s not the case with most things that happen in life. I already explained that distinction to you. You need to keep up with the argument.

“Since we have not discussed my view at all, you have no basis except your gross assumptions that I am arguing for the Arminian view. I may very well not be.”

You don’t get to conceal your views, then complain about how your views have been misrepresented. No one is stopping you from showing your cards.

steve hays November 20, 2011 at 8:17 am

“JT – I have to agree with Ryan and Don. This thread has turned rather ugly. I wonder how God is honored with such behavior.”

I assume you’re alluding to Olson’s characterization of Reformed theism as monstrous and diabolical.

steve hays November 20, 2011 at 9:23 am
According to Paul, God planned everything that happens (Eph 1:11). And “all things” in v11 piggybacks on the merism (“heaven and earth”) in v10, which denotes a totality.

steve hays November 20, 2011 at 6:17 pm

“Steve – You’re a funny man. You assumed wrong.”

So, on the one hand, you complain that this thread has turned “ugly.” On the other hand, you don’t think it’s ugly when Olson characterizes Reformed theism as Satanic and morally monstrous. If that doesn’t fit your definition of “ugliness,” what adjective would you prefer? Is that your idea of pretty?

steve hays November 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm

“Interestingly, on this same subject (Roger Olson), the P&P elicited this response from a contributor (I have no idea who this person is and I have just clipped part of her statement): ‘I was first exposed to Calvinist teaching two years ago, and it is what ultimately caused me to leave the Christian faith. The idea that from the beginning of time, God pre-selected most of mankind to bear eternal suffering, that God did not love the world so much that He would have sent His only son for everyone, but only for a few…I can’t even tell you what that did to undermine my faith in God and my understanding of Him.’ I hope that you can see how theology matters. There are REAL people affected by the C vs A debate. Deanna is, unfortunately, collateral damage in this debate that has spanned several centuries without being resolved.”

What this illustrates is the damage done by Arminian disinformation about Calvinism. Calvinism has no official position on the percentage of the reprobate. Yet Arminian polemicists find it useful to popularize that urban legend. Win at any cost, by any means necessary. I guess destroying Deanna’s faith was just a necessary casualty in the Arminian campaign against Calvinism.

steve hays November 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm

“Interestingly, on this same subject (Roger Olson), the P&P elicited this response from a contributor (I have no idea who this person is and I have just clipped part of her statement): ‘I was first exposed to Calvinist teaching two years ago, and it is what ultimately caused me to leave the Christian faith. The idea that from the beginning of time, God pre-selected most of mankind to bear eternal suffering, that God did not love the world so much that He would have sent His only son for everyone, but only for a few…I can’t even tell you what that did to undermine my faith in God and my understanding of Him.’”

And the alternative to “preselecting” who will be saved and who will be damned is to leave it up to the lost to take their chances. Some sink while others swim. How does that notably loving?

Keep in mind that according to Arminianism, God foresaw that if he created certain individuals, they’d spend eternity in hell, yet he went right ahead and made them anyway with that hellish outcome in full view. Is that really the most loving course of action? Why make them at all if you know that’s how the story will end?

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 7:31 am

“Congratulations! You have now adopted an Arminian paradigm. A TRAGEDY is exactly what Deanna has experienced. I’m glad that you recognized what happened as a TRAGEDY.”

What makes you think personal tragedies are only possible on the Arminian paradigm? Where’s your argument?

Apparently your Arminian confirmation bias incapacitates you from honestly stating what Reformed theology represents or entails, so let’s walk you through it. You quoted the following claim as true: “God pre-selected most of mankind to bear eternal suffering?’”

Notice that this claims consists of two distinct, separable propositions:

i) God preselected who would go to hell

ii) The majority of mankind will go to hell.

Calvinism is committed to (i). Show me where Calvinism is committed to (ii).

“She can be expected to reject Christianity, for if she was among the elect, she would not have turned her back on Calvinism. Her fate was sealed from eternity past.”

Notice how Wayman is publicly exploiting the crisis of faith of a named, living woman to score theological points. She is just a theological football.

How is that compassionate? How does that minister to her situation? Have you no shame? Have you no sense of decency?

Why would I presume to say anything about her? I don’t know her. She’s just a private individual.

“To be consistent with the Calvinist paradigm, you would have also agreed with Beza.”

Why do I have to agree with Beza? That’s just the individual opinion of a theologian who happens to be a Calvinist. But that’s not a logical inference from reprobation. There are two distinct propositions:

i) The reprobate are damned because God damned them for his glory.

ii) The reprobate acknowledge that they are damned for his glory.

(i) States an objective fact about the reprobate while (ii) imputes a subjective attitude about the reprobate.

You can’t logically infer (ii) from (i). That fact that something is objectively true about a person doesn’t entail a corresponding recognition on his part. Indeed, self-deception is a hallmark of the reprobate.

If someone goes to hell, that’s because God predestined him to hell. I don’t have a problem with God’s wisdom and justice in reprobation.

“Her reprobation does not bring glory to God in the slightest.”

i) You are using a fragile person as a wedge tactic to attack Calvinism. What does that say about your priorities?

ii) Calvinism distinguishes between apostates and backsliders. The fact that someone suffers a lapse of faith doesn’t say anything definitive about their future status.

iii) Reprobation brings glory to God. But I’m not going to prejudge who’s elect and who’s reprobate.

“Perhaps you are finally coming around to thinking like an Arminian.”

Such as your Machiavellian treatment of this poor woman?

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 9:32 am

“According to Calvinism God plans every event and everything that God does is good. Hence, there are no tragedies in Calvinism. Everything happens for God’s glory and is under His meticulous control.”

A fallacious inference. How does God’s meticulous control entail that reprobation can’t be tragic for the reprobate. Likewise, why do you assume that God can’t ordain individual tragedies for the greater good?

Do you have anything beyond invalid inferences to support your contention?

“You are confused. I did not ‘quoted the following claim as true.’”

To the contrary, after you quoted her statement, you proceeded to defend her statement by saying that’s “where Calvinism logically leads.”

So, once more, explain how double predestination predicts that most of humanity will be damned? Demonstrate how you validly derive that conclusion from double predestination?

“Instead I was careful to quote Calvin accurately. ‘…eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others’ (Inst. III. 21.). ‘Some’ is an ambiguous term, it can mean more than or less than.”

Which goes to show that Calvin was not a universalist. Once again, show how double predestination entails the thesis that the majority of humanity will be damned.

“I say: You agree with Calvinist authors when it is convenient for you. Other times you divorcee them from your statements. It appears to me that you have your own idiosyncratic version of Calvinism. Hence, the realization that my discussions with you in the past have been fruitless. It appears that this one is going in the same direction. It’s like trying to nail Jello to the wall.”

i) You yourself are selective about which Reformed theologians you quote. For instance, Warfield took the position that the majority of the human race will be saved, based on his postmillennial eschatology as well as his belief in universal infant salvation.

ii) And I notice that you dodge my counterargument. So let’s repeat my counterargument:

There are two distinct propositions:

i) The reprobate are damned because God damned them for his glory.

ii) The reprobate acknowledge that they are damned for his glory.

(i) States an objective fact about the reprobate while (ii) imputes a subjective attitude about the reprobate.

You can’t logically infer (ii) from (i). That fact that something is objectively true about a person doesn’t entail a corresponding recognition on his part. Indeed, self-deception is a hallmark of the reprobate.

Now explain, if you can, the flaw in my counterargument.

“Notice, however, that you are disagreeing with Beza not me. I’m just quoting a noted Calvinist author and developer of the Calvinist way of thinking.”

But you don’t quote noted Reformed theologians like Warfield.

“I can always hold out hope that you will come to a more biblical way of handling scripture.”

You haven’t presented a more biblical way of handling scripture. What you have done is to mount a ruthless, unscrupulous attack on Calvinism by using a woman in spiritual crisis as a human shield to further your theological agenda. You hate Calvinism more than you love the woman.

If that represents the fruit of Arminian theology, then it’s poisonous to the taste.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 9:47 am
A. M. Mallett

“The weak quandary you have presented is easily settled by recognizing that God desires a people who willfully love Him in truth and spirit rather than as reactionary automatons who respond to an event program settled in eons past. That people perish out of rejection of God is undesirable but also necessary if love is to be freely given. You present creation as little more than a storyboard for God’s constant pleasure rather than His desire for a loving relationship.”

Even if we grant your tendentious contention regarding what makes love possible, it isn’t necessary for unbelievers to perish unless it’s necessary for God to create unbelievers in the first place.

So you’re now in the odd position of defending libertarian freewill on necessitarian grounds. That God was necessitated in making unbelievers. On your view, God had no choice but to make unbelievers. He was forced to make unbelievers.

“We know from scripture that God has no pleasure in men perishing. We know that he desires that all men be saved. We also know that most men will not be saved. Are you going to suggest that the desires of God are compromised by His very own will (or two conflicting wills if Calvinist doctrine were true)?”

Your question begs the question by presuming the Arminian interpretation of your favorite prooftexts.

“If God were held responsible or accountable for creating men known to be damned through His foreknowledge, then He is just as accountable for creating men for the purpose of damnation as Calvinist determinism demands.”

Which misses the point. I’m discussing Arminianism on its own terms. Is it loving for the God of Arminian theism to knowingly create hellbound individuals when he could freely spare them that dire outcome by not making them at all. Why not make only those human beings who will foreseeably believe? Or a subset thereof?

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 10:05 am
Bob Anderson

“Why do you see this as the only alternative? You act as though Arminians see God as complete passive in the role of salvation.”

No, that doesn’t follow from what I said. Sure, the Arminian God can equip the lost. But at the end of the day, it’s still up to them whether or not they perish.

“In the argument in Romans 10, Paul clear sees God as active, even though Israel does not believe…”

Quoting Scripture is irrelevant to the case for Arminian theology unless you can show that Scripture is consistent with the internal implications of Arminian theology.

“Indeed, it is really only in your view that the lost ‘take their chances.’”

Who’s elect or reprobate isn’t a matter of random chance, but God’s deliberate choice. So your analogy fails.

“The consequence is that Calvinists are not able to adequately address the major moral dilemmas of our life with an appeal to an unknown goodness that must exists, but is hidden from us. While we certainly know there are consequences in life that we do not see, you method leaves us with no real way to judge the rightness or wrongness of the events themselves.”

Okay, let’s put your claim to the test:

Say an 18-year-old woman is engaged to be married. But she is killed in a traffic accident 3 weeks before the wedding.

Explain to her grief-stricken parents or her grieving fiancé why God allowed her to die in the traffic accident. What was God’s specific, justificatory reason for permitting that to happen?

That’s a hypothetical case, but there are many similar real-world examples.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 11:06 am

“I say: You agree with Calvinist authors when it is convenient for you. Other times you divorcee them from your statements. It appears to me that you have your own idiosyncratic version of Calvinism. Hence, the realization that my discussions with you in the past have been fruitless. It appears that this one is going in the same direction. It’s like trying to nail Jello to the wall.”

Document where anything I’ve said in this thread represents “idiosyncratic Calvinism.”

How do you measure up if we measure you by your own yardstick. John and Charles Wesley were Anglicans. Must Arminians be Anglican? Ben Witherington is a pacifist. Must Arminians be pacifists? I. H. Marshall is an annihilationist. Must Arminians be annihilationists? Jerry Walls espouses postmortem evangelism. Must Arminians espouse postmortem evangelism? Roger Olson rejects inerrancy. Must Arminians reject inerrancy?

Bob Anderson

"Since this is “the alternative” and since you now are saying God equips (hence He is active in the process), how can you say this is a matter of 'chances'? That simply makes no sense."

It makes sense for the reason I gave. Even though the Arminian God equips the lost, the outcome remains indeterminate.

"It is a matter of faith, believing and trusting in the One who makes and keeps the covenant."

Which is a sink-or-swim system inasmuch as some have faith while others lose their faith due to some personal tragedy or whatever.

"But I did not say the Arminian God equips the lost. I quoted Romans 10:21, which states that God is holding out his hand to them. This is clearly a picture of God’s desire to redeem them, his reaching out to them in spite of their lack of faith."

Quoting Rom 10:21 doesn't prove Arminianism inasmuch as Calvinists also quote Rom 10:21. Prootexting Arminianism doesn't show that Arminian theology is logically consistent with Scripture. The question at issue is not what Scripture says, but what Arminianism says.

Likewise, quoting Scripture doesn't show that Arminianism is internally consistent.

"As for your hypothetical example, you just do not get it. YOU are the one claiming the good of God in the event, not me."

You just don't get it. If Arminians are going to raise theodicean objections to Calvinism, then Arminians thereby shoulder their own burden of proof. They must field theodicean objections to their position.

If you demand that Calvinists must be able to give specific, justificatory reasons for some particular event, then that applies with equal force to your own position.

"I can state with Eli Wiesel that God was there with the boy on the gallows of the death camp."

Well that's pretty lame. God was there with the boy? What good did that do the boy?

What about preventing the boy from being hanged? Why does the Arminian God give the Nazis the freedom to overpower the boy rather than giving the boy the freedom to overpower the Nazis?

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm

“Steve Hays repeatedly makes a certain false claim about what Arminians and other non-theological determinists believe. I want this false claim out in the open so his deception can be exposed.”

Actually, Robert’s tactic is to substitute his own formulations for Mallett’s statements, then pretend that I was responding to Robert’s reformulation of Mallett’s when, in fact, I was responding to Mallett’s original statements.

“In theological fatalism…”

Calvinism isn’t fatalism. In fact, fatalism is compatible with libertarian freedom. In fatalism, agents have can alternate routes, but every alternate route winds up at the same place. The film Final Destination is a good illustration. No matter what the characters do, they are doomed.

But in Calvinism, it does matter what we do. A counterfactual scenario wouldn’t have the same outcome. So Robert has already bungled the issue.

“In non-Calvinist’s thinking…So God did not intend for them to go to hell, God did not create them to go to hell, they end up there by opposing God’s will (which is stated in the bible as Him desiring that all be saved) by their own freely made choices.”

That may be true in reference to open theism, but it’s not true in reference to classical Arminianism. Does Robert deny that God understands the consequences of his own actions? If God makes a world with foreseeable consequences, then he intends the consequences of his creative fiat.

Take a libertarian like William Lane Craig. According to Craig, “God chooses a world having an overall optimal balance between saved and lost.” So God intends that particular outcome in contrast another world with a different ratio of lost to saved.

If the Arminian (or Molinist) God creates Judas knowing that Judas will spend eternity in hell, then God created Judas with that end-result in mind. Given the twin facts of divine creatorship and divine omniscience, that’s the logical conclusion. Robert denying it doesn’t negate the logical conclusion, which derives from Arminian assumptions.

This isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. Say I go to a vending machine. The selection includes microwave popcorn. That’s what I want. I input the specified amount, input the matching code, and out comes the popcorn. I knew that if I took that action, that would be the outcome. Hence, I intended that outcome.

“But the ***cause*** of them ending up in hell according to non-fatalistic thinking is that this is caused by their self-determined choices.”

i) Notice Robert’s bait-n-switch. He acts as if causes and intentions are synonyms. But even if God didn’t cause the outcome, it doesn’t follow that God didn’t intend the outcome.

An agent can intend something he didn’t cause. My potted tomatoes will freeze if I leave them outside on a frigid night. But I didn’t cause them to freeze. I didn’t cause the frigid air. Yet, if I leave them outside, knowing they will freeze, then I intend that outcome (unless I just forgot to bring them inside).

ii) Moreover, the libertarian agent’s “self-determined choices” is not a sufficient condition to achieve that effect. For God must make the agent before the agent can exercise his (alleged) libertarian choices. Therefore, even on libertarianism, God has a causal role to play in where the damned wind up.

“But in our view God does not ‘make’ people into unbelievers, they do it themselves by their own self determined choices.”

Notice that Robert is substituting his words for what I actually said. I didn’t attribute to Arminianism the view that God “makes people into unbelievers.” That is Robert’s bait-n-switch.

Rather, I said Mallett acts as if God can’t make believers unless he also makes unbelievers. Making unbelievers and making people into unbelievers are not interchangeable concepts. Is Robert just dissembling, or does he really not grasp that elementary distinction?

“God creates human nature with the capacity for self determination (i.e. some choices are up to us, made by us, not necessitated by God or God controlling us like puppets to ensure a predecided outcome). The choices that we then make either result in our becoming believers (if we choose to accept God’s grace towards us) or remaining unbelievers (if we repeatedly and continuously and for a lifetime keep rejecting God’s grace towards us).”

Robert is burning a straw man. What was the context of my statement?

Mallett acts as if there’s a necessary tradeoff. That you can’t have believers without unbelievers. He said: “That people perish out of rejection of God is undesirable but also necessary if love is to be freely given.”

But must there be people who reject God? On Mallett’s view, it’s unavoidable that God create some people who will reject him. But that would be a necessitarian scheme.

For Robert to say “The choices that we then make either result in our becoming believers (if we choose to accept God’s grace towards us) or remaining unbelievers (if we repeatedly and continuously and for a lifetime keep rejecting God’s grace towards us)” is irrelevant to the issue at hand. For the question at issue is whether the only type of world God can create will necessarily be a world containing a mix of believers and unbelievers.

“And this argument that God could spare them the ‘dire outcome by not making them at all’ misses some very important biblical points.”

It isn’t just my argument. William Lane Craig is a libertarian who’s admitted the existence of feasible universalist worlds. Feasible possible worlds in which everyone is saved.

“Now we could get into reasons for God doing so, but the point is that to prevent anyone from going to hell God would have to create humans incapable of sin.”

No, he’d only have to refrain from creating unbelievers. Just create the individuals whom he foresees will freely believe, or a subset thereof.

“Hays injection of his manure into our water is not appreciated.”

Well, I guess that tells you where Robert’s mind is.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm

BTW, since Robert likes to oppose Calvinism to “non-Calvinism,” including Catholicism, here’s what a Catholic philosopher has to say:

“I want to bar the way to a familiar solution, the so-called Free Will Defense. This would work only if the exercise of free will made sin inevitable. But free choices need not be between good and bad, right and wrong; any one of us often has a free choice between two goods where it would not be wrong to choose either. So the Free Will Defence utterly fails,” Peter Geach, Truth & Hope (Notre Dame 2001), 87.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm
Robert suffers from a cosmic authority complex. It’s a common syndrome among atheists. The fear of a God who knows us and controls us.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm
An awkward problem with Robert’s preferred definition of fatalism is that it also applies to classical Arminianism, where simple foreknowledge entails what is termed logical fatalism. So Robert’s preferred definition is self-defeating. If Calvinism is fatalistic. so is Arminianism.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm
In contrast to what clueless Arminians have been saying on this thread, here’s an example of what the Arminian OT scholar John Oswalt has says on Isa 10:5-7:

“First, it is plain that the prophet considers all peoples to be instruments of the Sovereign. Even the vilest of persons is serving God’s purposes, if only to illustrate the ultimate results of evil…It is not necessary to know oneself commanded in order to be commanded. Assyria did not see herself as the servant of Yahweh, but she was…They did not realize that they were where they were because of the larger purposes of God. The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39 (Eerdmans 1988), 263.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm
Arminian November 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

“You are also correct to raise the puppet terminology. As I have pointed out earlier in the thread, a puppet is standardly defined as a person completely controlled by another.”

Of course, you could say the same thing about the potter/clay relation.

steve hays November 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm

“As I have pointed out earlier in the thread, a puppet is standardly defined as a person completely controlled by another.”

Which ironically confirms my diagnosis about the incipiently atheistic attitude of some Arminians. They just can’t stand the idea that God “controls” them. But, of course, “control” is just a synonym for Lordship or dominion.

steve hays November 22, 2011 at 9:54 am

“As I say below, I am bowing out of discussion with you in this thread. But before doing so, let me say here that my comments were spot on, because if you were responding to Dan on his own terms adequately, you would have taken the fact that God doesn’t commission the hit man’s actions. So in Arminian theology, he does not have the same relationship to the buffer that your analogy requires. Your analogy is too dis-analogous from the Arminian view to make your point.”


“The God of the bible is a God of truth and holiness, He does not get pleasure out of lies and errors, nor in ordaining that people hold so many erroneous views or put manure into their own water.”

The mock-piety of sanctimonious Arminians notwithstanding, the God of the Bible is deeply enmeshed in human machinations. To take a few examples:

“But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done” (Deut 2:30).
“19 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. 20 For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses” (Josh 11:19-20).
“3 His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” 4 (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)” (Judges 14:3-4).
“If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the LORD, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the LORD’s will to put them to death” (1 Sam 2:25).
“Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom” (2 Sam 17:14).
“So now the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you” (2 Chron 18:22).
“Amaziah, however, would not listen, for God so worked that he might deliver them into the hands of Jehoash, because they sought the gods of Edom” (2 Chron 25:20).
“24 The LORD made his people very fruitful; he made them too numerous for their foes, 25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people, to conspire against his servants” (Ps 105:24-25).
5 “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
   in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
6 I send him against a godless nation,
   I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
   and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
7 But this is not what he intends,
   this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
   to put an end to many nations.
(Isa 10:5-7).
“For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled” (Rev 17:17).

steve hays November 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm

“I have bowed out from interaction with Steve Hays in this thread for what I found to be inappropriate posting on his part.”

Spoken like a pure partisan.

“It seems invalid for Steve (or other Calvinists) to deny that a standard definition of Calvinism applies to their view.”

i) I’m using a “standard” definition of fatalism. I quoted three different philosophers who define the term the way I do.

Robert denied that definition. So I’ve now documented my definition from unimpeachable sources.

Of course, Arminian is a pure partisan, so he automatically exempts his own party from the same strictures.

ii) I also pointed out that if we go with Fischer’s alternative definition, then that applies as well to Arminianism (i.e. logical fatalism). Indeed, if you study Fischer’s discussions of simple foreknowledge in relation to future action, he says as much. So both “Arminian” and Robert are shooting themselves in the foot.

iii) At best, the label is equivocal inasmuch as “fatalism” can denote more than one position, even in philosophical usage.

steve hays November 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm

“Beside it being contrary to Scripture, the biggest concern Arminians have concerning Calvinism is its logical implications for the character of God, that it makes God a moral monster contrary to God’s character of love and justice revealed in the Bible . . . Although it seems to be a question that Calvinist leaders do not want to consider, it is worth considering whether the character of God as entailed in Calvinism contributes to anger and harshness toward others among *some* Calvinists. Certainly there are many humble and loving Calvinists. But could it be that there is something in the Calvinist view of God that encourages harshness with the result that, while many Calvinists resist the temptation to be harsh because of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, many are led into harshness by the Calvinist view of God? Is it mere coincidence that one of Arminianism’s major criticisms of Calvinism is that it logically entails a harsh view of God, and that even Calvinist leaders have been noting a special problem with Calvinists being harsh? To put it simply, could there be a connection along these lines: harsh God –> harsh Calvinists?”

i) Arminians like Roger Olson and Randal Rauser think Yahweh is too harsh.

ii) Your hostile characterization reflects Arminian confirmation bias. Naturally you view your theologically opponents less favorably than yourselves. That’s standard in-group mentality. You love your own kind.

iii) Your invidious comparison also reveals Arminian spiritual pride. The implicit self-congratulatory contrast between pious Arminians and impious Calvinists. Needless to say, those who flaunt their superior sanctity expose their lack of sanctity. True saints don’t indulge in this sort of moral preening and mutual back-patting.

steve hays November 23, 2011 at 8:26 am
A. M. Mallett

“Aside from the truth that all theological discussions are shaded by tendentiousness, including every one of your own, the matter would have been better served if I replied using certainty rather than necessity due to the considerable distinction of terms. Even so, ‘tendentious’ carries with it a rather negative connotation in common usage so your slight while pompous is noted. If scripture is true and we both know it is, Matthew 7:13-14 makes very clear that unbelievers perish, with certainty. This removes your objection.”

It doesn’t even touch my objection. You don’t seem to grasp the objection.

Unbelievers can only perish “with certainty” given the existence of unbelievers. So your response fails to address the question of whether the existence of unbelievers is necessary in the first place.

If, on the one hand, their existence wasn’t necessary, then it’s hardly loving (to them) for the Arminian God to create hellbound sinners when that was optional. That is not acting in their best interests. They’d be better off not to exist in the first place. So why does God made them if he doesn’t have to?

If, on the other hand, you justify God’s creation of hellbound sinners on the grounds that freewill renders the existence of some hellbound sinners inevitable, then you’re a necessitarian. On your view, there is no possible world without some hellbound sinners. Sin is metaphysically necessary.

That’s the dilemma you backed yourself into.

“It should also be noted that I made no statement on ‘what makes love possible’ I have merely made the observation that love is freely given and if you object to that observation you have no valid ground to my use of automaton.”

Of course you did. You implied that libertarian freedom is a precondition of genuine love.

“Now, as for creating unbelievers, you are projecting your determinist theology upon the discussion. It is only necessary in your view because ultimately, God is responsible for every aspect of existence including the purposeful creation of the reprobate. If such is true, then He is also responsible for the sins they commit. For some determinists that presents no problem. For most in the body of Christ, it makes God the author of evil and contrary to His revealed goodness and character in scripture.”

i) You don’t even seem to grasp what is being said. God creates a world containing unbelievers. How they became unbelievers is not the issue. If you wish to posit a libertarian explanation, that makes no difference to my statement.

You seem unable to distinguish between two different propositions:

a) God makes unbelievers

b) God makes them unbelievers

I stated that Arminianism is committed to (i), not (ii). Try to follow the actual argument.

ii) You’re not entitled to bandy the phrase “author of sin” unless and until you can define that term according to historical theological usage.

“Rather than discussing Arminianism on its own terms, you are threading your own determinism throughout your responses.”

Your comments reflect rampant confusion over what was said. Try again.

Perhaps your problem is that you’re filtering my statements through Robert’s prism. If so, you need to learn how to read for yourself–and not rely on Robert’s tinted lens to (mis-)interpret my statements for you.

“Logical fatalism is a rather problematic notion that in this case assumes, incorrectly, that God’s foreknowledge is dependent on His decree i.e. God can only know what He has decreed. It is a uniquely Calvinist weakness and not Arminian.”

You seem to have a habit of wading into these debates without acquainting yourself with basic terminology or the corresponding positions. According to logical fatalism, true propositions about the future render the future unalterable. Theological fatalism is a variation of logical fatalism, by embedding true propositions about the future in the mind of God (i.e. divine foreknowledge or omniscience).

Logical fatalism: if every proposition must be true or false (law of bivalence), where true propositions about the future are a subset thereof, then the future must correspond to true propositions about the future.

Theological fatalism: if God infallibly knows the entire future, then nothing can happen differently than it does.

Classical Arminianism is on the hook for both logical and theological fatalism, viz. true propositions about the future inhere in God’s mind. That’s not contingent on predestination.

“Logical fatalism denies any sense of the freedom of the will in contradiction to the revealed will of God.”

Which poses a dilemma for Arminianism.

“This faulty worldview is easily dismissed with a reading of Jeremiah 19:5. If Calvinism suffers from theological fatalism, Arminianism offers a biblical escape.”

i) Jer 19:5 is a prooftext for open theism. Do you deny God’s knowledge of the future?

ii) Quoting Scripture doesn’t render Arminianism internally coherent. Classical Arminianism has certain theological precommitments, such as divine foreknowledge, which, in turn, commits Arminianism to whatever logical implications flow from that prior theological commitment.

“Unfortunately for your argument, hard determinism is not a synonym for Lordship.”

Most Calvinists are soft determinists, not hard determinists. Don’t you know the difference?

steve hays November 23, 2011 at 7:05 am

“No, in that clip, right around 1:20-22, Olson explicitly states that he believes God has a purpose for allowing evil.”

In which case, Olson’s God intended evil.

steve hays November 23, 2011 at 8:32 am
To assert that it’s a non sequitur is not an argument.

Are you going to tell us that God doesn’t intend what he purposes? Are you going to tell us that God doesn’t intend to permit evil? Are you going to tell us that God doesn’t intend the evil he permits? Does the Arminian God not understand the consequences of his action or inaction?

steve hays November 23, 2011 at 9:41 am
Let’s clarify the nature of intentional action or inaction. Say I’m thirsty. I reach for a glass of wine to quench my thirst. That’s an intentional action.

Say I inadvertently tip over the wine glass in the process of reaching for the wine glass. That’s an unintended consequence of an intentional action. Put another way, that’s an accident.

“Arminian” seems to think that God (i.e. the God of Arminian theism) is accident-prone. According to “Arminian,” although God permits evil, God doesn’t intend evil. This despite the fact that his God even has a purpose for permitting evil.

So evil is an unintended consequence of divine permission. A tragic accident.

That would make a bit more sense if “Arminian” were an open theist, but he seems to be a classical Arminian.

Let’s consider one more illustration. Suppose I’m a Muslim who’s sympathetic to terrorism. I myself am not a terrorist because it’s too risky.

Suppose I become aware of a terrorist plot. I’m not a direct party to the plot.

I could tip off the authorities, but because I’m sympathetic to terrorism, I do nothing. I allow the plot to go forward, as a result of which innocent Americans die.

Did I intend the outcome? I didn’t have a direct hand in the outcome. I didn’t cause it. Instead, I didn’t thwart it. I didn’t interfere.

But by letting it happen, I clearly intend it to happen. That’s not an unintended consequence of my inaction. Rather, that’s a calculated result of letting events take their course.

steve hays November 23, 2011 at 9:19 am
A. M. Mallett

“I believe the greater issue is that I see no reason to recognize your authority in these matters. Aside from tossing generic definitions that are insufficient to the discussions, you have not offered any ground for accepting your perspective. In fact you haven’t really addressed anything presented to you other than to toss these generic definitions out there.”

i) Actually, I’m paraphrasing standard definitions of logical and theological determinism from The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. (You can find similar definitions in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.) If you prefer, I can quote them verbatim, complete with pagination. Likewise, I’ve documented my definitions of fatalism in philosophical usage.

ii) I’ve also given specific arguments for my contentions. You respond with a flurry of hand-waving.

“Heaped on top of that are the absurd diversions used to deflect the argument. Jer 19:5 is a rebuttal to your argument. Whether or not it is used by others for other purposes unrelated to this discussion is irrelevant. You have yet to address it as it pertains to your aberrant positions. I doubt that I will hold my breath on that last note. Jer 19:5 needs to be addressed properly.”

I already explained why your prootexting is useless to salvage Arminianism.

You offer no counterarguments to what I said. You’re trying to bluff your way through the conversation. That’s a backdoor admission that your own position is indefensible.

steve hays November 24, 2011 at 8:46 am
A. M. Mallett

“I am well aware of the conflicted perspective of ‘soft determinists’ who foist their inconsistency via devices such as compatibalism [sic] upon those who confront them with the implications of their determinism.”

Needless to say, that’s not an intellectually serious analysis of the variations on determinism. It’s just a dismissive remark which attempts to accomplish through rhetoric what it fails to accomplish through reason.

“However, your comment does nothing to refute the fact that hard determinism or even inconsistent ‘soft determinism’ are not synonyms for Lordship.”

You’re the one, not me, who’s recasting the issue in terms of compatibilism over against incompatibilism. Those are essentially philosophical rather than theological positions-although they can dovetail with certain theological positions.

“Were you to allow yourself to be teachable, you might grasp that fact.”

This is another example of Arminian spiritual pride. Unconscious, overweening pride.

“When I use the term ‘body of Christ’, I refer to that ecumenical orthodoxy, nearly all of which is opposed to what most have come to understand as Calvinism.”

They are also opposed to each other.

“Lutherans are decidedly not Calvinist…”

Lutherans are decidedly not Arminian. Eastern Orthodox are decidedly not Arminian. Roman Catholics are decidedly not Arminian. And so on down the line.

“…and generally have no part in your determinist philosophy. They are far closer soteriologically to classical Arminianism than your Calvinism.”

That’s an Arminian talking about Lutheranism, not a Lutheran talking about Arminianism.

And what makes you think, say, Missouri Synod theology is soteriologically closer to classical Arminianism than Calvinism? What do you actually know about it?

“I generally do not turn a blind eye to any animosity however the greater expression of such animosity is by far emanating from your hand.”

Teammates make poor umpires.

“Perhaps you should consider withdrawing to prayer and meditation.”

Another example of Arminian spiritual pride. Saintly people don’t flaunt their sanctity in contrast to others.

steve hays November 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

“Ok, in line with my decision to bow out of the conversation if no one with an open mind is interested in seeing it continue, I am not planning to address your comments on the Arminianism vs. Calvinism issue for the most part. But I do want to address the civility issue.”

This is directed at David Houston, but I’ll chime in.

“Do you really want to call me a hypocrite? Do you think this is helpful for dialogue?”

Actually, that comment is, itself, hypocritical. “Arminian” indicates that that it would be unhelpful in dialogue to accuse one’s opponent of hypocrisy.

Yet “Arminian” is making moralistic criticisms of Reformed commenters like David and me. Why is that helpful in dialogue as long as an Arminian does it, but if a Calvinist returns the favor by making moralistic criticisms of an Arminian commenter, that’s suddenly unhelpful?

So that double standard is, itself, classic hypocrisy.

“Snide, insulting remarks like this is an example of what I was talking about your uncivil commenting. Unhelpful . . . really. It is surprising you don’t see that.”

This is in response to David’s statement that “If you have trouble comprehending such a straightforward passage I can’t help but wonder what happens when you’re given a grocery list.”

But over at my blog, this is what “Arminian” said to be:

“Ok, maybe this explains why your interpretation of Scripture is often so off target.”

How is that any less “snide, insulting, uncivil, and unhelpful” than David’s comparable statement?

So this is another example of “Arminian’s” hypocrisy.

“That would be outrageous really, and certainly an unhelpful approach in discussing theological matters with brothers and sisters in Christ. Surely you see that?”

But when Robert says “And the calvinists just can’t understand why non-Calvinists find their system to be so morally objectionable. That is like the Grand Dragon or Imperial Wizard not understanding why non-racists find their beliefs and practices to be morally objectionable…The theology that makes God a racist against the reprobates. With the non-reprobates then wearing the white sheets and justifying and rationalizing their hatred. And like the KKK the calvinists have the gall to use scripture to justify and rationalize their hatred,” “Arminian” doesn’t find anything “outrageous” or even unhelpful about that approach in discussing theological matters with brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet David said nothing within hailing distance of Robert’s bile.

So that’s yet another example of “Arminian’s” rank hypocrisy. “Arminian” wears a pair of yellow-tinted glasses when he inspects Calvinists, but switches to rose-tinted glasses when he gazes at his fellow Arminians.


  1. 1. Either God can stop evil or he can't.

    2. Suppose God can stop evil (at a minimum, this means he has the power to and the knowledge to).

    3. If God can stop evil, then the Arminian God is a moral monster if their arguments against calvinism have merit (because any human who knew about an evil that he could stop, but allowed it to happen anyway would be a moral monster).

    4. Suppose God can't stop evil.

    5. If he can't, then makes no sense to say that God "permits" evil.

    6. So, either God is a moral monster if the Arminian arguments against calvinism have merit, or he doesn't permit evil.

    The response to the first disjunct of (6) is that God isn't a moral monster since he can do something that NO OTHER HUMAN COULD RIGHTLY DO, and he can do this because he does it for a good reason. We have no analogy in human experience of this, though. And this application of 'good' to God does not clearly or obviously mirror the use of that term applied to humans who did the same.

    So at a minimum, the one who makes this move should critique the arguments from Olson et al. when they claim that they Calvinist God can't be good because we don't see a human analogy. This ism't a huge price to pay, because it always was a bad argument to begin with. But the more pressing problem is that the CALVINIST GETS TO MAKE THE SAME MOVE. God rightly does things the Arminian considers evil given his human intuitions, but he does them for a good reason. Problem solved.

    So the first disjunct lets the Calvinist off the hook too.

    If the second disjunct is taken, i.e., that God doesn't permit evil, then the Arminians lose their theodicy.

    So, we can add

    (7) Either Arminianism loses their complaint against Calvinism, or Arminianism loses their theodocy.

  2. I made a similar point in the same thread in a response to 'Arminian':

    "You argued that Calvinism makes God a moral monster because he determines that his creatures will do evil and I pointed out that Arminians have a parallel problem because, on Arminianism, God foreknew that, should he create, his creatures will do evil and yet he still decides to create and, furthermore, he does not intervene in most cases. You responded by saying that he needs to allow (some? many?) cases of evil to occur otherwise it would undermine LFW. You justified God’s behaviour by appealing to the fact that God is not subject to the same laws since, if we were in such a position as to be able to stop every act of evil then, all things being equal, we would be obligated to stop them all. The Creator is relevantly different than the creatures. However, you thought it would be uncouth if I appealed to the same distinction to argue that God is within his rights as the Creator to determine that they perform certain evils. I blew a raspberry in response."

    Paul sounds so much more sophisticated when he says it...

  3. Thank you for posting your exchanges, Steve. These are by far my most favorite. There's this uncanny consistency running through Arminians in their inability to grasp their own arguments. This is so obvious in exchanges like these when you, Steve, point out how you're critiquing them on their own terms, you point this out over and over again, and they don't get it. They just don't get it.

  4. Steve wrote,

    "Calvinism doesn’t have a particular theory of causation."

    What different theories of causation are there? Which, in your opinion, is the best?

  5. I think the counterfactual theory of causation is the best current candidate.