Thursday, December 15, 2011

Casting lots

I’m posting some comments I left over at Justin Taylor’s blog:

steve hays December 13, 2011 at 3:26 pm

“Thank God that he did not unconditionally decree what one commenter mentions later in this thread, Hitler’s heinous slaughtering of millions.”

Instead, the Arminian God just stood by, wringing his hands, while it all happened.

steve hays December 13, 2011 at 9:09 pm

“Arminian is correct, some seem to be attempting to use the Tebow hysteria to argue for calvinism/theological fatalism/the claim that God predestines every event that comprises history.”

I assume Robert is alluding to “fatalists” like Solomon and St. Paul:

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov 16:33).
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11).

Back to Robert:

“What I find amusing and telling at the same time is that when Denver was losing games, no theological fatalists were talking about how God had predestined all of those losses and the events that resulted in those losses.”

Such as the Westminster Divines:

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (WCF 3.1).
“God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy” (WCF 5.1).

Back to Robert:

“A consistent theological fatalist would make no exceptions and see **all events as equally predestined** by God.”

Consistent…like the Westminster Divines.

“So if you ‘lose’ its God controlling you to do so and if you ‘win’ its God controlling you to do so. But most theological fatalists, like others in the general population tend to CHOOSE to talk about God being involved and controlling things only when things they view as ‘good” happen.’”

Perhaps Robert would like to document his claim by citing or quoting some noted Reformed theologians who do what he alleges “most” of them do.

In fact, since he assures us that “most” of them do that, perhaps he’d like to give is a list of names, complete with titles and pagination.

“This is an sad but true logical consequence of theological fatalism.”

Thus far I’ve let Robert’s prejudicial terminology slide, but he’s deliberately equivocating over the term “fatalism.” For instance, as philosophy prof. William Young explains:

“Fatalism, in its most usual sense, should not be confused with predestination. Fatalism asserts an abstract necessity without regard to causal antecedents and thus is diametrically opposed to predestination, in which causes and effects, ends and means, are determined in relation to one another. The use of means is rendered futile by fatalism, but not by predestination,” P. Hughes, ed. The Encyclopedia of Christianity, 4:180a.

Back to Robert:

“…namely that God would then be controlling every person so that whatever errors, or false beliefs, or false religions, or false philosophies, people hold and espouse, they had to do so because God controlled them to do so. In fact it was impossible for them to do or believe otherwise than what God controls them and predestines them to do and believe. This does not fit what God reveals himself to be in scripture.”

Seems to fit pretty well with what God reveals himself to be in Scripture:

“And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet” (Ezk 14:9).
“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false” (2 Thes 2:11).
“19And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 23Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you” (1 Kgs 22:19-23).”

Back to Robert:

“But if he predestines everything then most Christians (e.g. those believers who are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc.) are predestined to embrace error, false beliefs and even attack the truth and reject the truth.”

Reminds me something St. Paul once said:

“For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Cor 11:19).

Back to Robert:

“But Arminian if TUAD and other theological fatalists are right, that God predestines everything. Then he did predestine every action by Hitler and the Nazis, every sin and evil that occurs in the world. He also predestines every swear word uttered on the football field or in the stands.”

It means the Holocaust was a part of God’s plan, just like Noah’s flood, the Babylonian Exile, the Crucifixion of Christ, etc. It means God has a good reason for whatever he plans.

And if Robert is right, then God knowingly aids and abets evildoers.

steve hays December 14, 2011 at 8:11 am
It’s striking to contrast the Arminian viewpoint with the viewpoint of Scripture. Take Rev 4:11.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

According to Scripture, God made all things and willed all things. As one commentator puts it, “Everything existed first in the eternal mind and will of God, and then at the appointed time, through his will, came into being” Smalley, The Revelation of John, 125.

Furthermore, Scripture regards that fact as praiseworthy.

By contrast, if God made all things and willed all things, the Arminian regards that as blameworthy. That makes God a “moral monster,” the “author of sin,” “worse than the Devil,” and so on.

Where Scripture sees light, the Arminian sees darkness.

steve hays December 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

“Yes. But allowing is radically different than unconditionally decreeing and ensuring that it happen.”

Needless to say, allowing something to happen is fully consonant with ensuring that something will happen. Take a comparison:

i) A mother strangles her newborn baby, thereby ensuring its death (by asphyxiation).

ii) A mother refuses to feed her newborn baby, thereby ensuring its death (by starvation).

In the case of (i) she directly caused the outcome. In the case of (ii), she merely “let” it happen through inaction. But in both cases she ensured the fatal outcome.

“In Calvinism, God logically first had the idea for each evil act that ever takes place, including the Holocaust, conceived it in his own heart, and logically then decreed for it to take place without any influence from anything outside of himself.”

In other words, “Arminian” rejects divine impassibility, which is a fixture of classical Christian theism. Yet, historically, Arminian theology was committed to classical Christian theism.

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

Notice the lazy, formulaic quality of Arminian apologetics. They simply repeat the same slogans, same catchphrases. No argument. No serious definition of terms.

“I know that some internet Calvinists think there is no real difference between allowing something and unconditionally decreeing it or irresistibly causing it, but I think most people do, and that it is quite obvious and undeniable.”

i) Notice how he’s using adjectives to do the work of arguments. He tendentiously asserts that his position is “quite obvious and undeniable.”

ii) How “obvious” and “undeniable” is it? Let’s take a comparison:

a) A father strangles his newborn baby

b) A father leaves his newborn baby in the woods, to die from predation or exposure.

In the case of (a), the father directly “causes” the baby’s death. In the case of (b), he places the baby in a situation where other factors (e.g. scavengers, predators, hypothermia) will dispatch the newborn.

But in both cases the father would be guilty of infanticide.

iii) In addition, the Arminian God “ensures” the outcome by making a world with that foreseeable outcome.

“Calvinism does not have a viable greater good argument, whereas Arminianism does.”

Once again, don’t lift a finger to actually prove your allegation. Just name it and claim it.

steve hays December 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm

“Of course, Steve’s suggested analogies are completely dis-analogous. I think most people would agree (though not necessarily on a committed Calvinist site such as this one). Unconditionally decreeing/irresistibly causing vs. allowing are radically different in a situation such as I outlined. We may have to agree to disagree about that, but I am confident most people see that pretty clearly.”

i) Observe, as usual, that “Arminian” isn’t presenting an argument for his claims. His modus operandi is to simply declare that his position is obviously true while his opponent’s position is obviously false.

He hasn’t begun to show that my analogies are “completely disanalogous.”

ii) Moreover, as I’ve pointed out before, disanalogies don’t necessarily weaken the argument. Disanalogies may actually strengthen the argument. For the Arminian God has far more control over the variables than a murderous parent.

steve hays December 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm

“The Creator giving people free will and then holding them accountable for how they use it is radically different than a father leaving his newborn baby in the woods. Sometimes, things are so obvious that they don’t need to be explained.”

i) Now you’re moving the goalpost. You originally said: “Allowing is radically different than unconditionally decreeing and ensuring that it happen.”

I gave some counterexamples to illustrate that your contrast was a false dichotomy. There are many situations where “allowing” something to happen can “ensure” the outcome just as well as directly causing it to happen. For instance, “allowing” a baby to die by refusing to feed it.

So are you now admitting that your original argument failed?

ii) Moreover, how is it “radically different”? Doesn’t the Arminian God decide when or where you are born? If so, then he’s putting you in a situation where circumstances do the rest–like the father who “lets” his newborn die by leaving him in the woods.

iii) Also, the Arminian God isn’t just “allowing” that to happen. Divine concurrence is necessary for that outcome to eventuate.

steve hays December 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm

“Yes. But allowing is radically different than unconditionally decreeing and ensuring that it happen.”

i) Let’s consider this alleged difference from another angle. As I already pointed out, there are many situations in which “allowing” something to happen can “ensure” that it will happen.

ii) But suppose “allowing” something to happen doesn’t “ensure” that it will happen. Is that morally germane?

Let’s go back to the example of a father who leaves his newborn in the woods to die of exposure or predation.

Suppose that action falls short of ensuring the infant’s death. Suppose it’s just more likely than not that the baby will die. Or suppose there’s a 50/50 chance that the baby will survive. After all, it’s possible that a hiker or hunter or camper will stumble across the baby just in the nick of time.

Suppose the baby dies. The father is arrested and indicted for murder. Can he legitimately plead innocent on the grounds that he didn’t “ensure” the infant’s death? Is it morally sufficient to say he gave the baby a “chance” of survival?

iii) Finally, there’s a disanalogy in this comparison. Unlike the human father, God knows exactly what will happen.

steve hays December 15, 2011 at 7:04 am

“Which doesn’t fly since the analogy itself is invalid.”

“Arminian” doesn’t understand how arguments from analogy work. I’m using a fortiori arguments. In an argument from analogy, if both a and b share the property of c, then what’s true for a is true for b with respect to c.

An a fortiori argument is a type of argument from analogy where the disanalogy strengthens the argument. If both a and b share the property of c, but b has more of c than a, then what is true for a with respect to c is even truer for b with respect to c. What’s true for the lesser is true (even truer) for the greater.

If the Arminian God has more potential control over the situation than a man, then the Arminian God is more responsible for the situation than a man.


  1. The infanticide example is fantastic!

    If Arminian was a general and his arguments were troops then could you imagine their morale?

    'Today, we fight for victory!' Arminian shouted to his troops, 'For the glory of SEA!'

    The troops look around at each other. Their once immaculate uniforms and boots, the same ones that had passed all inspections and garnered the admiration of their loves ones, now looked like rags only suitable for street urchins. All of them were tired. Bloody. Beaten.

    'Please!' they cried to their Genera. 'Please have mercy! For the love of SEA have mercy! Don't send us out there again! So many of our comrades have fallen and we have not the strength to go on!'

    But their pitiful cries landed on deaf ears. The proud General could not, would not, admit defeat.

    'MARCH!', barked Lt. Robert to his squad. And with looks of terror and despair the army limped and crawled their way to the battlefield.

  2. “…namely that God would then be controlling every person so that whatever errors, or false beliefs, or false religions, or false philosophies, people hold and espouse, they had to do so because God controlled them to do so..."

    O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. (Isa. 63:17 ESV)

    He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. (Ps. 105:25 ESV)

    for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. (Rev. 17:17)

    But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day. (Deut. 2:30 ESV)

    And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. (Exo. 4:21 ESV)

    Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land. (Exo. 11:10 ESV)

    he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked. (Lam. 3:9 ESV)

    Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. (Hos. 2:6 ESV)

    And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isa. 6:9-10 ESV [quoted in Matt. 13; Mark 4; Luke 8; John 12, see below )

    Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (Matt. 13:10-11 ESV cf. Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10; John 12:36b-40 )

    When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (John 12:36b-40 ESV)

    These are just some passages that show that God is sovereign over unbelief and disobedience (as He is over faith and obedience).

  3. Thanks annoyed pinky for those bible citations.

  4. I meant annoyed pinoy. It's hard to type on an iPad.