Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Not so Lofty After All

John Loftus says he went to seminary and studied under William Lane Craig. Why then is he such an incompetent apologete, theologian, and exegete? I should think we should expect better. Though given the sad state of many seminaries today, well I think the less said about that the better...

Let's take some of his recent zingers...

“I charge this kind of God as showing partiality by revealing himself to some people but not to others (even though he forbids us to show partiality--James 2).”

Well, if you were arguing with Arminians that would be case, but you're not. You're arguing against Calvinists. In order to make this objection stick, John, you need to do more than assume what you need to prove, e.g. that James 2 is about partiality. If you are going to say the Bible teaches something or doesn't teach something how about giving the exegesis of the relevant texts rather than assuming what you need to show?

I happen to agree it is about partiality of a specific type. The emphasis is rather clearly on partiality extended to others on the basis of socio-economic status. One fails to see how this applies to Calvinism, for in Calvinism God reveals Himself to the elect as a matter of mercy that is unmerited not socio-economic status. The very word "unconditional" means that this revelation of Himself, this "electing grace" is grounded not in man, but in God. Partiality extended to others on the basis of socio-economic status is favoritism, for it is based on characteristics intrinsic in those persons. But, for the sake of argument, let's play with the idea that this is about favoritism in general.

So, does Calvinism teach this favoritism? Not at all. For God elects on the basis not of intrinsic characteristics of those whom He elects, but on the basis of His own purposes; His own will, without respect of any kind of foreseen faith or merit, without respect to anything intrinsic in those individuals whom He elects. Compare this with Arminianism, the very view which you seemingly espoused. In Arminianism, men are elected based on foreseen faith. Each person believes for a different reason. Were they more spiritual? More fearful? More intelligent? God "looking down the corridors of history to determine who will believe and who will not" and then electing them to salvation on that basis is, ultimately, the very kind of favoritism that James 2 presents. Favoritism is when you pick some but not others based on qualities inherent in those individuals. Where does Calvinism affirm this?

The Calvinist says that God creates the damned as a means of manifesting his attribute of justice. By contrast, Arminians can't give any reason for why God would make men knowing they would sin and fall under condemnation and never believe and be saved.Moreover, since God is not actively foreknowing and predestinating people, in the Arminian system, we see real impersonal determinism working itself out by way of real fatalism. Thus the free will position that seeks to preserve man’s freedom of choice is, in reality, impersonal and fixed, thus being both deterministic and fatalistic. The only way to make it less fixed is the way of Open Theism, which denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God! The Calvinist position is personal, and God is active in the lives of people who make real choices with real moral boundaries. Calvinism is thus inherently personal for both God and man! We agree with Arminians that real, impersonal determinism and fatalism are repugnant to God and man and perversion of the gospel. We thank them for pointing this out. Why then, we ask, do they believe that very thing themselves?

Salvation as election and reprobation as preterition are unconditional, meaning they find their ground in God, not in foreseen faith or wickedness. In Romans 9, we are told, 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” However, election as justification requires effectual calling (Romans 8:29-30, John 6:37-45, 65). Men are regenerated and believe (1 John 5:1) as a result, and they are justified as a result. Reprobation as condemnation requires only men sin, which they do according to their own natures. No matter whether one accepts the imputation of Adam’s sin or not, it is undeniable that men are all guilty of sin on their own. God simply passes the reprobate over, and all of them willfully sin.

If God hardens them, He is not violating their wills in the process. He is only giving men what they desire. Isn’t the Arminian doctrine of the will designed to say that God is only justified if he acts according to men’s free will decisions? Since rejection of Christ is the de facto position of all men apart from grace (John 3:18) electing and calling them, then how can the Arminian object to reprobation or hardening, since God is giving men what they already desire and honoring their “free will” decision?!

At the heart of your objection as an apostate is the same objection of the Arminian. Perhaps this is a function of studying under Craig a confessed Molinist who can't, himself, seem to understand that his own view of God's foreknowledge makes no sense, for the will is free in the libertarian sense, God's direction of circumstances if determinative, as he suggests violates the very premise he seeks to uphold: libertarian free will/contra-causal freedom. You say you studied under this man, so perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on you since you studied under one who makes such basic errors himself. On the other hand, if you were one of his best students, I would hope you would not make such basic errors.

This error I'm talking about, of course is the one that alleges that unconditional election and regeneration before faith are unmerciful.

The Arminian has made a category error, in which the disputant confuses the properties of one domain with another is called a category mistake. As a result of this error, he has zeroed in on his own beliefs. This objection is directly reversible on the Arminian.

Arminianism puts election and regeneration after conversion itself and thus outside the work of grace. Neither the work of the Father (election), nor the work of the Spirit (regeneration) is a link in a golden chain which results in a state of grace. Election and regeneration fall outside the grace of God, for they do not create or contribute to a state of grace. On this view, the grace of God is limited to the work of Christ. And it is up to man in a state of nature to respond to the Gospel of Christ.

Mercy and justice are separate categories in ethics. To be merciful something must be undeserved. To be “just” either a standard of justice must be satisfied or something must be deserved. Mercy can satisfy justice if somebody else takes the penalty for a wrong act so that the Judge can extend mercy to somebody else. The Arminian, by grounding election in foreseen faith ultimately makes God unjust, because all people believe for different reasons. In fact, it is the same kind of favoritism that James condemns, because this faith arises as an intrinsic foreseen characteristic in those persons. This is not true equality. Calvinists believe the ground, or anchor, the reason for electing (choosing) (by the way, “elect” is another Bible word, thus election is a doctrine taught in Scripture) some and allowing others to continue in sin is found only in God and is not done with respect to either foreseen faith or foreseen wickedness. (Eph. 1, Romans 9). This is truly "just" because people are all in the hands of a God who alone is perfectly just and loving and does nothing arbitrarily and will always do the right thing.

Calvinism is unfair. So is Arminianism. If God was fair, everybody would go to hell. We do not want God to be fair!

Additionally, since the cross is the place where justice for sins is satisfied for Christians, justice is satisfied for them there . . . in hell for unbelievers. This makes every part of salvation, from beginning to end, a matter of pure mercy that God extends to every sinner as He so chooses. If people are somehow owed a chance to hear the gospel and accept or reject Christ, then how is this merciful? Thus, the free will position, not the Calvinist position, is the one grounded in justice alone but not in mercy at all. Salvation, by definition, is not about justice. It is about mercy.
Therefore, in Calvinism, salvation is about mercy. In Arminianism it is the result of God responding to men’s wills and thus in the category of justice not mercy. Arminianism is thus unmerciful, because it puts salvation out of the category of mercy altogether.

Sometimes Arminians appeal to a doctrine of prevenient grace, asserting that God’s grace enables people to believe, but is not effectual. It moves them from a state of total inability to a state of “equipoise.” This does not alleviate their difficulty.

!f the person is truly at “equipoise,” he would make no choice at all. Think of a car in neutral on a flat surface in a vacuum. Remember, according to the Arminian, there must be no external or internal influence (God’s grace or desires) that direct the choices of men for them to be free (in the libertarian sense). Unless somebody pushes the car and a force is exerted upon the car or by the car, either by the driver putting it in reverse or in a driving gear or by pushing the car, the car will not move. The problem for the Arminian is that, no matter what he says, the individual must make his decision from within himself in response to this prevenient grace, thus, this decision is still out of the chain of grace and located within his own person. Since all people believe for different reasons, the Arminian must say the person’s choice was uncaused (an absurdity violating the law of cause and effect), or it was made because s/he was smarter, more fearful, more spiritual, etc., all of which are intrinsic conditions in men. As such, the Arminian is still putting salvation in the category of justice, not mercy. God is saving those who save themselves.

The charges that God is unloving, unjust, and unmerciful all apply to the free will position.

Unloving: Where does Scripture ever say God loves all men without exception the exact same way, e.g. redemptively? If the Arminian objects that God is unloving for predestining some to salvation while passing over others in their sin, he must also explain why God creates those He know will not accept Christ anyway and then says He loves them redemptively. Thus, this charge applies to the free will position with equal force. The Calvinist says God only loves His children redemptively, and all others are passed over and left in their sins. There is nothing unloving about this, since God is under no compulsion to love anybody redemptively if they only deserve condemnation for their sins. Nobody has a just claim on the mercy of God. To argue otherwise, Mr. Loftus, you need to show how sinners have a just claim on the mercy of God such that God is obligated to act universally in mercy to the all. Such would be an oxymoron, for if mercy is bestowed by way of obligation, it isn't mercy; it is a form of remunerative justice.

In reality, Scripture teaches that God loves all men extensively by common grace, the covenant community (Israel in the OT, the Church in the NT) corporately, and the elect in the covenant community, uniquely as individuals (the OT community was mixed w/unbelievers and believers, the NT community excludes unbelievers) by adoption.

Unjust: Justice is satisfied for believers at the cross and unbelievers in hell. No principle of justice is violated. Also, since God owes nothing to any person, then He is not unjust by regenerating some but not others. Unequal treatment is only unjust when it denies a party his just claims to something, but no one has a just claim on the "mercy" of God. Thus no principle of justice is violated. However, if Jesus dies for all men extensively, under an Arminian theory of the will, God is either exacting double jeopardy on men’s sins by punishing them in hell for something for which Christ has paid and satisfied God’s wrath or by lying to men and telling them that all their sins have been taken by Christ, and then secretly exempting unbelief. That is unjust.

Also, if God says He loves all men redemptively without exception but then some perish apart from ever having heard the gospel, God is seen to be unjust for not offering them the gospel. Also, if election is based upon who God knows ahead of time will believe in Christ and who will reject Christ, then what He has done is looked into history and made a decision based upon a person’s acts. Why does one person believe and not another? Were they were more spiritual, smarter, more afraid? Whatever, the reason, God has based His decision on something intrinsic in men, and, since all men are different and believe for different reasons, then God has played favorites based on the intrinsic or extrinsic characteristics and acts of men. This is exactly the kind of favoritism that James denounces in his epistle as being unjust. Thus, it is the free will position that portrays God as playing favorites and acting unjustly toward men.

Unmerciful: Actually, this objection is directly attributable the free will view. Mercy and justice are distinct ethical categories. Mercy is about what you do not deserve. Justice is about obligation, e.g. what you deserve. If regeneration is a response to faith, then this is the beginning of salvation by merit, which is in the category of justice, because God has responded to your free will choice and given you the fruit of your labor. This is in the category of justice, not mercy. If regeneration is monergistic and precedes faith, then God has acted unilaterally to save a person and convert them, a person, remember, who deserves only damnation in hell, he does not deserve this. This is, therefore, an act of pure mercy. It is the free will argument that makes God unjust, unloving, and unmerciful, not the predestinarian argument.

So, Mr. Loftus, we agree with you, if God is seen to practice the favoritism of John 2, He would be unjust and unloving. However, it is Arminianism, not Calvinism that teaches that idea, so why are you using this as an objection to Calvinism? For one who supposedly went to seminary, you surely are an incompetent theologian, not to mention exegete.

Why then, is it that forbidding us to lie, to steal, to cheat and to murder are merely for our own protection, whereas God may freely do these things and decree that people do these things?

This is another incompetent argument. Surely, you can't be that obtuse, man. Who says that God may freely do these things?

How is God free to commit idolatry? He is the only true God and He always acts for His own glory already.

How can God take His name in vain? It is His name to use as He wishes.

How can God dishonor father and mother? He has neither.

How can God commit murder? Life is His to give and take, and when He takes a life, He takes the life of a guilty sinner that deserves to die.

How can God commit adultery? He transcends gender and is spirit. He is always faithful to His covenants within the Godhead and between God and man.

How can God steal or covet that which is not his? He owns everything already.

How can God commit perjury in a courtroom? He is the judge and the ground of truth itself. One of your follower posted on Paul Manata's board saying God had endorsed lying to Ahab by sending an evil spirit to deceive him. Uh-huh, and why exactly did Ahab deserve to hear the truth? The truth is God's to disclose to whom He wishes as He wishes. Ahab was neither regenerate nor righteous. He was an apostate ruler of an apostate state. He is quite free to withhold it from a guilty sinner / apostate in order to bring about judgment upon them. How is withholding the truth from whom the truth is not due morally equivalent to a lie?

See, John, basic thinking. Maybe you should study Calvinism and review your seminary notes before posting again.

God foreordains people do these things, and when they do, they do not do so because they love God and know Him.
They do so hating God or for selfish motives. You're conflating first and second order goods, a basic level confusion.

"Thou Shalt not lie" is merely compared by me to the sovereign decrees that people should lie. This is a consistency problem.

Not at all, the law is not given to tell man what He can do but what He should do and to show him that He can't do it. When men withhold the truth from whom it is due and perjure themselves in court, do they do so because they love God and desire to serve Him? No. Herein is where the sovereign will of God, the moral will of God, and the nature of men intersect. Men do not know what God knows, and, when they lie, they do so according to their natures as second causes. They want to do what they do, and they do not lie out of a love for God. Ergo, they act for their own glory and not their own, and fail to comply with the first order good. This is what renders their act morally blameworthy.

I'd add that you are conflating responsibiltiy and blame. Responsibility is a necessary but insufficient condition for moral blame. Moral blame requires a moral intent. What is in men's hearts when they break the Decalogue?

This command you name is given for what reason? To show that men have the ability to comply? One can adduce a sum total of zero about ability from a command. God gave the Law to expose sin and increase the consciousness of our inability to keep the Law so we would know we are condemned sinners and without excuse for our sins. The Law’s purpose is to show us that we do not have the ability to keep it, not to show us our ability to keep it. “The Law came in so that transgression might increase.” (Rom.6:20a).

The Law is good, but it is our love of evil that keeps us from keeping it. “By the works of the Law, shall no flesh be justified.” (Rom.3:20, Gal.2:16). If men have the ability to keep the Law, then there are two ways of salvation: works and grace. Such an idea ultimately negates the need for the gospel itself. Paul specifically calls such a thing an anathema in Galatians.

The Law cannot justify because of the weakness of the flesh (Romans 8:3). Paul tells us more about exactly what makes the flesh weak. Romans 8:5-8; For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Your objection is irrational. Nothing can be deduced about abilities from a command. One can command someone to do something to show them their inability and increase their guilt. Remember, the reason that men cannot obey is moral. They cannot obey, because, by nature, they do not want to obey.

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