Friday, January 27, 2012

5 boilerplate objections to Calvinism

Scot McKnight has posted five boilerplate objections to Calvinism by Roger Olson:

 Less interesting than the objections are some of the comments:

While these are legitimate problems for Calvinism, Olson’s Arminianism faces the same problems. If an all-powerful, all-knowing God created this particular world knowing the end result from the beginning, it makes no difference whether we speak of that end result as ordained (a causal determinism) or foreknown (an epistemic determinism). Divine infallible foreknowledge is simply determinism with the appearance of softer edges.
Comment by John — December 26, 2011 @ 6:50 am

Like profanefaith says, Arminianism has all the same problems with these questions that Calvinism does. Just change “will” to “allow”. Either way, from a finite human perspective, his character would appear to be no less impugned. He’s either the rapist or the cop who stands there watching. That is of course unless we, when confronted with the problems of sovereignty (limited or absolute), would be fools to think we can judge the character of our creator.
Comment by Jeremy — December 26, 2011 @ 11:23 am

If you believe in the omnipotence and omniscience of God (in the classical senses), then you believe in a form of determinism. To flesh that out: if God is omnipotent and omniscient, then every event in the history of the universe is either caused by God or permitted by God. And because God is omniscient, He knows exactly how His decisions to cause, prevent, and permit events will shape the course of history. Therefore, God knows the exact Universe that His own actions will result in, and so every single event in the history of the Universe, down to the proverbial “fall of a sparrow”, is in a sense “caused”, “decreed”, or “ordained” by God. Ephesians 1:11 seems to support this conclusion.
Within this framework, the decisions of agents are in a sense predetermined. Since God has complete knowledge of the psychology of all agents and has complete control over all the factors that influence a given decision, He can manipulate the Universe in order to determine the outcome of the decision. There are numerous suggestions throughout the Bible that God is sovereign over human decisions, from the classic example of the hardening of Pharoah to the many mentions in the Prophets of God “raising up nations” to do His bidding.
If I am correct in all of this so far, then classical Arminianism does not solve the essential problem of God desiring all people to be saved and yet not saving all people. Open Theism, which modifies the traditional understanding of God’s omniscience, is the only way to preserve truly libertarian free will. Otherwise, we must choose between either pure determinism or a form of compatiblism that appeals to antinomy. Due to the Scriptural emphasis on human responsibility, I opt for the latter.
Comment by Stephen Hesed — December 27, 2011 @ 7:03 pm


  1. Thanks Steve for gathering these comments together as a rebuttal to Arminian objections to Calvinism.

  2. The other thing is that open theism doesn't solve the problems either. Do open theists really think that God is so incompetent at predicting likelihoods that he allowed the Holocaust to go on as long as he did, thinking it might really end any second now and all the horrors would just plain stop? Do they really think God expected American slavery to end a few years after the founding of the United States? If not, then God allowed something to go on that could have been prevented, and open theists face a lot of the same questions as full-blown Calvinism. But since for many their response to the problem of evil just is open theism, they don't have the resources Calvinists have with God being able to sort out whether a result really is the best one compared to other possible results that God precluded. So views with exhaustive sovereignty (whether Calvinist or not) have the clear advantage in dealing with the problem of evil.