Friday, January 27, 2012

Fabricated evidence

Peter Pike of CalvinDude has raised an issue regarding Conversions and Deconversions as a result of thinking about the deconversion (or apostasy) of former Calvinist Philosopher Michael Sudduth. Peter begins:
It does bring to mind other conversions, however. I have read comments from some of the Arminians at SEA [the Society of Evangelical Arminians] who have said that any new convert to Christianity who reads the Bible will automatically find Arminianism. Arminianism can be read in Scripture, they say, while Calvinism must be taught.
What Arminians mean is that if converts are given a Bible, and they begin to read the scriptures, they typically do not conclude with any semblance of Calvinism. This is very telling, in that, when a convert, without certain theological presuppositions already in place, concludes with Arminianism in some form, there appears to be an evidence of objectivity that is missing from how most people come to believe in Calvinism, a system which must be taught to believers, as the majority of Calvinist converts will admit. 

Arminians are promoting this urban legend. But I don't see them citing any polling data, any sociological studies, any scientific stats, to document this "very telling" claim. It's just Arminians quoting other Arminians quoting other Arminians. Yet that somehow morphs into a hard fact.

Fabricate the evidence you need. Is there something about Arminian theology that fosters this capacity for self-deception? 


  1. Birch did crack me up with his concluding paragraph:

    "There exists not one shred of evidence for all of Peter's claims. Is this not extremely problematic? In his defense, however, Peter does admit, "While the above is certainly not ironclad, relying on concepts that seem to be most plausible rather than formal logic, I think it ought to give food for thought to the Arminian." Well, we chewed it over and have spit it out for the reasons given above."

  2. Actually, I have read studies to this effect, in which certain tribes that are not taught Calvinism, come away with a non-Calvinist belief system, and conversely, tribes which are taught Calvinism, end up believing the Calvinist system instead. Being as well learned as you are, I'm certain that you've heard the same thing.

  3. Richard Coords said:

    "Actually, I have read studies to this effect, in which certain tribes that are not taught Calvinism, come away with a non-Calvinist belief system,"

    1. Whoa. Imagine that! I mean, given that "a non-Calvinist belief system" could encompass pretty much anything excepting Calvinism - from atheism to agnosticism to voodoo to Shintoism to Scientology to the Jedi Church to the Prince Philip Movement to Pastafarians to Apatheism to Misotheism to the Church of Ed Wood to Nuwaubianism to the Aetherius Society to Raelism to Arminianism to whatever else non-Calvinism - I'm stunned how tribes not taught Calvinism tend to come away with a non-Calvinist system?! Amazing, really.

    2. Of course, the absence of evidence isn't necessarily evidence of absence if you're trying to suggest the untaught somehow can't arrive at Calvinism.

    3. However, even if it's true the untaught can't arrive at Calvinism, why should that be a problem for Calvinists? God uses means not only to save the lost but also to train disciples. Maybe the predominant means to train disciples in Reformed theology is through teaching.

  4. Richard Coords said:

    "Actually, I have read studies to this effect, in which certain tribes that are not taught Calvinism, come away with a non-Calvinist belief system."

    You mean tribes evangelized by non-Calvinist missionaries generally believe what their non-Calvinist missionaries taught them.

  5. Keep in mind that no one, especially unbelievers, approach Scripture with objectivity. Their former religions assume some sort of Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism, and that is what the usually come away with after reading the Bible, not Arminian theology proper. So even if true, what does this show, but that sanctification of thinking about God and salvation isn't immediate, but rather, as the Scripture tells us in Eph 4, the person needs to undergo the longer process of discipleship by means of pastors and teachers in order to mature in the truth.
    I'm unclear, then, what this is supposed to prove, but that Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism is rooted in false religion and must be exorcised by the instruction of God's Word through the mediation of pastors and teachers who have matured to know better.

  6. If a "naive" reading of Scripture leads a reader to become Arminian, it seems "naive" praying leads the pray-er to Calvinism.

  7. It wouldn't surprise me if that were true. That is my story. I found Arminianism all over the place when I first read the bible, both as an unbeliever and a believer.

    But, that's the story isn't it? The Bible constantly admonishes us to die to self and live for Christ. It constantly admonishes us to do things contrary to our selfish desires and live a life of being a "freed slave".

    Before I wrestled with my dogmatic adherence to a perceived libertarian freedom, of course I found it all over Scripture - it's what I wanted to find there.

    However, I had a few close friends who kept encouraging me to "find it in Scripture" and after 2.5 years of struggling and wrestling, and listening, and learning, God saw fit to dislocate my leg and declare victory.

    Seems to me that "any new convert" will find whatever he wants to in Scripture, so I'd advise the Arminians at the SEA to not put too much credence in the opinions of those who only recently found no truth in the bible.

  8. My "conversion" story seems to run contrary to Birch's main point. I grew up non-calvinist, but there were certain concepts that troubled me (e.g. how anyone could go to hell if Christ died for everyone). In my zeal to remain "faithful" I would quickly dismiss these struggles and refuse to think about them.
    I was happy with my nominal Christian life and all of my assumed beliefs. It wasn't until I was actually challenged to go to scripture that I started to find that many of my assumptions were not biblical. I didn't become a Calvinist until I actually took up and read my Bible.

  9. Studies show that the more deeply one reads his Bible, the more Calvinistic he becomes.

  10. I wouldn't be surprised if it's true. As Michael Horton, among others, has said, we are all Pelagians by nature. It's only natural we'd interpret the Bible in a anthro-centric manner until we grasp the whole counsel of God and learn to be wholly (or as much as possible) subject to its teachings.

  11. I was saved in an Arminian church. When I began reading Scripture I saw certain passages that were troubling. I asked one of the deacons about Romans 9. He just shrugged his shoulders and gave a Tim Allen grunt. No, I'm not kidding. One side provided consistent exegsis of various texts while the other either ignored the texts or gave shallow answers. Anbd if you have been a Calvinist for any length of time you can imagine some of the silliness I heard. And many of my friends became Calvinists the same way. Consistent exegsis is what convinced them.

  12. Of course, I was raised in an Arminian church. That's the only Christianity I knew. I believe their (orthodox) teaching about omniscience, coupled with passages about God's control over history, clashed with what they taught me about free will. I thought their concept of free will was what the bible taught too, because they said so. So I rejected Christianity at about age 9 or 10. I told my parents why, raised the objections to pastors, and never felt I received a satisfactory response. Later, after I became a Christian, my mom---who became a Calvinist by this time, for as she aged and matured in the faith the implication was impossible to escape---told me that her and my dad said to each other: "Where did he learn Calvinism from?" So, as a young child I saw the Calvinist teachings in the Bible. I just thought I also had to accept their notion of free will, and other Arminian beliefs, as "part" of Christianity too. It's what every single Christian believed, and I knew of no other alternative. So, my early Calvinism spawned my atheism, which lasted until I was 25. At which time, I began asking questions about Christianity and in God's providence he led me to a Westminster sem student, who properly answerd the questions I had as a child.

  13. My experience is a lot like Paul's, except I wasn't so precocious.

    But once a non-Christian friend pointed out the difficulties reconciling libertarian free will and God's foreknowledge (in high school for me), I quickly abandoned the "Christianity" I was raised on.

    I also felt no inclination to go back, despite numerous and extended debates with Christians (who were all Arminian). None of them had any good answers.

    Eventually I met a Reformed pastor's kid who put me in my place incredibly fast.

    "You're a Christian? Oh, well that's irrational of you, considering that God's foreknowledge is logically incompatible with libertarian freedom."

    "So what? The Bible doesn't teach libertarian freedom. It teaches that we do as God has determined we will, and that only those he chooses can be saved."


    Needless to say, I then had the impetus I needed to actually read the Bible and find out for myself. And needless to say, the PK was right. It was PLAINLY obvious when I went to the epistles, when I read the gospel of John, when I looked at the Old Testament (Exodus for example).

    It just flabbergasted me that so many Christians disagreed.