Ben Witherington has a little speech explaining why he's not a Calvinist:
Of course, it's absurd for him to think he can do justice to the issue in a 6-minute speech, but it's fine with me if Arminians wish to be absurd.
I'm going to comment on some of his statements. It's possible that I misheard a word here or there.
I really didn't believe that before the foundation of the world God had chosen some to be saved and others to be eternally lost…I really didn't believe that the character of God at the end of the day was well represented with the theology that suggests that before anyone was ever created God decided that some were going to be eternally lost and burn forever.
I'd turn that around. I don't think God's character is well represented by a theology in which God creates people who will live forever, but leaves their eternal destination indeterminate. That's pretty callous. If God is going to create people who will live forever, how can God be said to care for them if he leaves the outcome to chance?
Before God creates a human being, he ought to decide what will happen to that individual. Don't create them unless you already decided what will become of them. If you make a sentient being, a being who, once he comes into existence, will never go out of existence, how is it loving to let him take his chances?
On Ben's view, God shoves them into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim. What is more, God knows ahead of time who will drown, and he consigns them to that fate by shoving them into the deep end of the pool.
I really didn't believe that when the Bible commends love, it means God is making an offer you can't refused.
That may explain why Ben is not a Calvinist, but it fails to explain why Ben shouldn't be a Calvinist. It simply begs the question.
In the NT there are only three nouns used of God: God is love, God is life, and God is light. Everything else is an adjective. God is righteous, adjective. God is holy, adjective. God is sovereign, adjective.
But it's got to be significant that when we're tailing about God and using another noun, it's love, light, and life.
Why think the nouns are more significant than the adjectives? Why not think that's two different ways of saying the same thing–for stylistic variety? To say God is love means God is loving. Love is a divine attribute. Same thing with divine holiness.
Now my understanding of love is that it's got to be freely given and freely received. If that's is the heart of the Gospel…then that has got to be freely received and freely returned.
He gives us no reason to think his understanding of love isn't a misunderstanding of love. Why accept that definition?
Here's a different understanding of love: being a better friend to your best friend than he is to himself. Suppose your friend becomes clinically depressed. He's dangerous to himself. In that state he's susceptible to self-harm. So you protect him from himself, in spite of himself, until he gets better.
How many people did Jesus die for? 1 Tim 2 is perfectly clear. He died as a ransom for all. And "all" means all.
i) To begin with, even Arminians disagree on what it means for Jesus to redeem the lost. Some Arminians affirm penal substitution while other Arminians deny penal substitution. So "ransom" becomes a cipher. Fill in the blank.
ii) Ben also commits the popular semantic fallacy of failing to distinguish between the sense of a word and the referent of a word. What "all" means is not the same thing as what "all" refers to.
If I walk into a tavern and tell the bartender that I want to buy drinks for "everyone," everyone means everyone, but it doesn't refer to everyone. It only denotes a tiny subset of humans who happen to be in that particular tavern at that particular time. Not an hour before or later. No one outside the tavern.
Why would God in a really inefficient manner send his Son to die for some when in fact his death atones for the sins of all.
i) "Inefficient" in relation to what? Not inefficient in relation to Calvinism, for Calvinism doesn't say the Father sent his Son to die for some when in fact his death atones for the sins of all.
ii) But if we're going to infer the extent of the atonement from "efficiency," then what could be more inefficient than Christ dying to save all when all are not saved?
Prevenient grace that gives everyone the opportunity to respond to the grace of God.
That's a nice sounding sentiment. Why think it's true? For instance, did God bestow prevenient grace on all the heathen peoples in OT times? Does the OT consistently distinguish God's redemptive grace for Israel from all the pagans he leaves in darkness? There are exceptions (e.g. Rahab)–but they are just that: exceptional.
The Bible says Israel is the elect people of God, and those who are in Christ are the elect people of God, and in regard to individuals you could either be in or out.
In the OT, God chose a people-group. A particular clan which descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You were "elect" if you were born into that ethnic group. If you had those bloodlines. You could be an elect Jew all your life even if you were a closet atheist. As long as you were outwardly observant, you were elect. Does Ben think Christians are elect in that sense?
NT is replete with passages that talk about those who have make shipwreck of our faith. You can't make shipwreck if something you never had in the first place. If you ain't sailing on the boat you can't shipwreck the boat.
Is Ben really that clueless? Calvinism doesn't say apostates never had faith in the first place. Nominal believers can lose their faith. Indeed, apostates were predestined to lose their faith.
What you can't lose is your salvation. If you lose your faith, that means you never had grace in the first place, not that you never had faith. ("Grace" in the sense of "saving" grace, viz. monergistic regeneration–in contrast to common grace.)
And that has reference to dying in a state of impenitent unbelief. God restores some backsliders to faith.