Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gouging his eyes out

I'm going to comment on this:

Out of all of the theologies in the world, I find Calvinism among the most offensive. And frustrating. And irritating.

I see. More offensive than militant Islam or the Aztec religion. Nice to see he has priorities. 

One of the key aspects of Calvinism is a concept called “predestination” which essentially means, God picked the people who are going to heaven. Where it gets sick is on the flip side of that same coin (a position held by Calvin), that God also picks the people who go to hell. There are no choices involved– before God even created us, he hand picked who would go to heaven and who he would burn in hell for all of eternity.

Sick like this?

For those whom he chose beforehand he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29). 
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,…11 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 1:4-5,11). 
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim 1:9). 
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come (Rev 17:8).
Why is it "sick" that God decides what to do with us before he made us? Would it be preferable for God to make us before he had any idea what to do with us? Make us first, then decide after the fact what will become of us? 

Now, we know from the teachings of Jesus that the group of people in history who embrace God is smaller than the group who do not (broad vs. narrow road).

Even Arminians like Joel Green, in his commentary on Luke, disagree with that interpretation. 

If both Calvinists and Jesus are equally correct, the result is purely evil. This would mean that God created a MAJORITY of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice. God would have created them for the sole purpose of torturing them. I just don’t think I can worship a god who would do something like that.

i) That's confused on many levels. What exactly is his objection? If God only predestined a minority of humanity to go to hell, would he withdraw his objection? Is his objection about the ratio? 

ii) What makes him think that according to Calvinism, God creates the reprobate for the sole purpose of punishing them in hell? Can he quote any Reformed creeds or representative Reformed theologians who say that?

The reprobate serve a purpose in history. For instance, there are reprobate fathers of elect sons or daughters. 

iii) Why does he assume hell is equivalent to "torture"? 

Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience. Perhaps I would bow down out of total fear, but I would NOT worship him because he was holy, beautiful, and “all together wonderful” as Boyd often describes him. Instead, I would bow down because he would be a sick and twisted god who scared the crap out of me.

Is his objection to reprobation, or to damnation? 

Hang around the average Calvinist very long…

How much experience does he have hanging around the average Calvinist?

...and there’s a good chance you’re going to get a mental picture of God that is largely defined by anger and wrath. While I do believe that God gets angry, and do believe there are times he has acted on that anger throughout scripture, this is not what Jesus majors on when he taught people what God was like. Calvinists often build a worldview on anger, while Jesus built one on love.

What does he think Jesus saves people from? According to Scripture, Jesus saves us from…the wrath of God

When Jesus tried to explain what God is like, he simply told people “look at me- if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen him” (John 14:9). In Jesus, we don’t see a God who is dominated by wrath, but a God who is consumed with nonviolent love. Calvinism makes me want to gouge my eyes out because it’s a belief system that keeps showing me a God who doesn’t look like the Jesus I see in the New Testament.

You mean like this:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Mt 25:41,46). 
 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (Jn 9:39). 
6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[b] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thes 1:6-9). 
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17).

Back to Corey:

For the vast majority of my life I have felt like I was one of those “not good enoughs” who doesn’t get picked and doesn’t get included.
The message of Calvinism could have an encouraging message for me: you got picked! However, knowing that most people do not get picked for the team but instead, get picked for destruction and torture, a guy like me will probably always be convinced that I was picked for the latter– because that’s been my experience in life.

Actually, the message of Calvinism is that God generally picks the losers:

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:26-30). 

Back to Corey:

I have rejected Calvinism in favor of Arminianism, because in the later, we are able to proclaim the truth that God has picked everyone! If you want to be on the team- you’re welcome; the choice is yours. We don’t need a belief system that leaves us wondering as to whether or not we got picked; we need a belief system that assures us we were already picked and that we’re free to enjoy the benefits of being picked.

Yet he says Jesus taught us that most folks are hellbound. So even though they were all picked, the team has a terribly attrition rate. Most of them wash out and wind up in hell. So I guess that most of the recruits were "not good enoughs." 

Jesus’ favorite people were the outisders [sic] and misfits.

I thought we were all picked. But now he's telling us Jesus plays favorites.  

As a Jesus follower, I think the cross is the central point of all of human history. The cross was God’s ultimate act of nonviolent enemy love, the act that that demonstrated God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16), the act that drew all people to God (John 12:32), and the act that reconciled all of creation to God (Col 1:20).

How did the cross draw all people to God and reconcile all creation to God if, by his own admission, we know from the teachings of Jesus that most folks are going to hell? 

From a Calvinist paradigm, the cross is quite different. The cross isn’t the moment where Jesus died to reconcile all of creation– the whole world– but the moment where Jesus died simply for the few people God picked. This is a concept they call “limited atonement” that reduces the cross to being an act for the “elect” (those God picked) instead of an act for the world (John 3:16) and all of creation (Col. 1:20).

It "reduces" the cross to actually saving those he died for, rather than an empty gesture of ineffectual love. 

As such, instead of the Gospel being Good News for the world, it becomes good news for the few people God picked for his team and becomes absolutely horrible news for everyone else in history.

Yet he says that according to Jesus, only a few will be saved. Isn't that absolutely horrible news for everyone else?

I feel somewhat bad saying this, but I think I can honestly admit that there are only 3 Calvinists I’ve met in my life who I actually like– two are friends in my “real” life and one is a Christian blogger whom I really like and respect. 

Does that mean he wouldn't pick us for his team? 

Bracketing the question of whether Ben Corey is a likable person, for a missiologist he's pretty irritable, easily-offended, and finicky about who he likes. How would he ever evangelize militant atheists, radical feminists, hardcore Muslims, or Hindu nationalists (to name a few)? Are they likable? 


  1. It would seem that careful thinkers are generally in short supply on the patheos site.

  2. I haven't seen Revelation 17:8 being used to demonstrate double predestination before, but it's effective - the imagery of the book of life is very memorable and clear. I think one of the more overt passages is 1 Peter 2:8, although I doubt Arminians would still be convinced