Sunday, December 09, 2007

When Arminians Become Calvinists

As most already know, there was a shooting earlier today at New Life Church here in Colorado Springs. Because I work for a Christian non-profit organization, I happen to work with quite a few people who attend New Life. Thus far, the reports say that there is one fatality as well as the shooter, and between three and five wounded. Naturally, my thoughts run to co-workers who go there.

The church is quite large--around 10,000 members, and according to reports there were 7,000 people there at the time of the shooting. Odds are that no one I knew personally was killed or wounded. But I also know people who are high in the leadership staff of that church, and regardless of whether they were injured or not they will be dealing with this issue now.

The New Life community will be going through a major process now, to put it mildly. Everyone will try to make sense of the issue as best they can. Sadly, for many, this will be a much more difficult task than it ought to be.

I know at times that readers may wonder why we choose to dwell on a certain theological point when we write blog entries here on Triablogue. Sometimes the theological issues appear to be quite minor quibbles (and sometimes they are). I won't speak for the others, but for me the fact remains that it is times like these that the theological points that seem trivial bear their full weight.

I am a Calvinist. While I have a great number of friends who are not (indeed, one of my best friends is a Wesleyan), I simply do not understand how anyone who is not Reformed could deal with this situation without falling into despair. Without the sure knowledge of the overall sovereignty of God, how can one rest in the promise of Romans 8 that all things will work for the good of those who love Christ and are called according to His purposes? It is easy for all Christians to acknowledge God's sovereignty when good things happen (although all too often they do not acknowledge it even then), but as soon as a situation such as this occurs we hear: "God did not want this to happen."

But if things can happen that God did not want, at some level, to have happen, how can we trust anything He has promised? How is He able to bring about His plan if events like this can thwart His purposes?

Thankfully, most Arminians have a faith that is inconsistent with their stated beliefs. They know that God is sovereign, even though their beliefs logically must lead them to a non-sovereign Lord. And when a crime such as this one comes about, we see many Arminians fall back onto their Calvinistic heritage.

"Pray for New Life," they say, and rightly so.

We do pray for New Life. We pray because we do believe in a sovereign God who can do as He pleases in His world. And we pray because we know that He will make all things work out for the good of His people, just as He has promised.

The distinctions between Calvinists and Arminians are not just minor quibbles. In times like this, Arminians become Calvinists or they jettison the faith altogether. Being rooted in the truth of Reformed Doctrine is the only way to make sense of what is insensible to the Arminian.

If only it didn't take incidents like this one to demonstrate it.

23 comments:

  1. Some people simply have a hard time believing that God would want this event to occur, and instead would use the evidence of events like this as the lack of a caring/loving God.

    The last part you wrote about praying to God seemed quite strange after all you said about God's utter sovereignty...sort of a waste on your part.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Its so comforting to know that God planned the killing of His people and the pain their families will feel as part of the Divine plan.


    I feel so much better now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Paul said:

    "Its so comforting to know that God planned the killing of His people and the pain their families will feel as part of the Divine plan. I feel so much better now."

    And how would they feel if you told them that the death of their loved ones was utterly pointless?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bot said:
    ---
    Some people simply have a hard time believing that God would want this event to occur, and instead would use the evidence of events like this as the lack of a caring/loving God.
    ---

    Maybe that's why I said: "In times like this, Arminians become Calvinists or they jettison the faith altogether."

    Try to keep up now.

    Bot said:
    ---
    The last part you wrote about praying to God seemed quite strange after all you said about God's utter sovereignty...sort of a waste on your part.
    ---

    You can only say that because you have a false view of prayer. Prayer only makes sense if there is a sovereign God. Prayer does not, in and of itself, do anything. It's an acknowledgment of Who can do things in the world.

    Paul said:
    ---
    Its so comforting to know that God planned the killing of His people and the pain their families will feel as part of the Divine plan.
    ---

    Yes, it is. No, I don't expect you to get it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steven replied:

    "And how would they feel if you told them that the death of their loved ones was utterly pointless?"

    I'm guessing they'd feel exactly the same. What's worse....

    1. God planned out the murder of your family members.

    2. God didn't plan it out, but did nothing to stop it either.

    Either way, I'm doubting the family is feeling very loved by God at this point. And pretending (having faith) that its part of God's wonderful plan won't bring back their kids.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Once again, I take issue with your understanding of Arminianism. If you read the works of Arminius, he clearly stood firm on the sovereignty of God. For example, on divine providence Arminius wrotee, "But since God does nothing, or permits it to be done in time, which he has not decreed from all eternity, either to do or to permit that decree, therefore, is placed before providence and its acts as an internal act is before one that is external."

    The obvious difference between Arminianism and Calvinism would not be whether God is sovereign over all His creation but whether He decreed for sinful acts to take place. While God foreknows all events, He did not cause this man to act out this violence otherwise God would be have decreed sin and caused it. Arminians argue that God has decreed to let events to take place but He did not cause it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Seeking Disciple said:
    ---
    Once again, I take issue with your understanding of Arminianism.
    ---

    Once again, I take issue with your understanding of what I wrote.

    I know that Arminius believed in the sovereignty of God. So do most Christians. This is because Arminianism is an inconsistent set of beliefs, which is why I said: "Thankfully, most Arminians have a faith that is inconsistent with their stated beliefs."

    Arguing that I mischaracterized their position by arguing that they say a certain thing is disingenous given my claim is that there is a contradiction between what is stated and what is believed.

    You said:
    ---
    The obvious difference between Arminianism and Calvinism would not be whether God is sovereign over all His creation but whether He decreed for sinful acts to take place.
    ---

    A sovereign is not sovereign if things happen against His decree. The obvious difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is therefore that Calvinists understand the definition of the words they use.

    You said:
    ---
    Arminians argue that God has decreed to let events to take place but He did not cause it.
    ---

    What's the point of decreeing that which will occur anyway? This is like me saying, "I decree to let you withdraw money from your bank account." See how sovereign I am!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Because we believe in the sovereignty of God and the fallenness of man, just like you. But we don't have to blame it on God when things go wrong.

    I, for one, would feel much better knowing the death of my loved one was pointless than believing God killed him. Not that how I would feel has anything to do with it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We don't have to blame it on God when things go wrong.

    Wrong to who? How do you know that this act is wrong in the big scheme of things? What may seem terrible today could be a blessing tomorrow. I have no idea what the purpose of this event is/could be, but I do know that God is in control and that He will work all things for good.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Randy said:
    ---
    I, for one, would feel much better knowing the death of my loved one was pointless than believing God killed him.
    ---

    First, Steve's comment was in regards to the atheist smear that Paul brought forth. It is only in the atheist worldview that anyone's death would be pointless.

    Since you believe in God, I wouldn't say that you believed anyone's death was pointless. It's actually worse than that.

    Something happened that God didn't want to happen.

    It's not that the death is pointless, it's that God is powerless to stop it.

    Secondly, you try to make God the active participant here. God decreed what would happen (righteously) but He was not the person who acted (unrighteously). Re-read the story of Joseph in Genesis if you cannot grasp this distinction. "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good" cannot apply in your theology, which is "You meant it for evil and God meant it to not happen at all, but now that it has He has to somehow make it work out for good, all without violating anyone's freedom."

    ReplyDelete
  11. If God decreed something to happen, then God wanted it to happen, right?

    ReplyDelete
  12. The obvious difference between Arminianism and Calvinism would not be whether God is sovereign over all His creation but whether He decreed for sinful acts to take place.

    You're telling Pete not getting Arminius correct, but then you're saying this. Wow. The obvious difference is not over the *fact* of a decree with respect to "permission" but the *nature* of "permission," put another way, the difference lies not between the fact of decrees but their nature. In Arminianism it is "bare" permission. This is typically expressed by God decreeing, for example, the possibility of the Fall.

    In Calvinism, permission is efficacious, not "bare." Taking the same example, God decrees the Fall and the outcome is guaranteed to occur. Decrees speak to certainty. We draw a distinction between decrees (certainty) and providence (causality), the means by which the decree comes to pass.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Peter Pike: ...but as soon as a situation such as this occurs we hear: "God did not want this to happen."

    Vytautas: You take this to mean that the Arminian says that God did not decree or plan this evil event from eternity. But it could also mean that the murdering of innocents is against the law of God. God has reveled that murder is sin, and hence he does not want it eventhough he decrees some murders to happen.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Vytautas said:
    ---
    You take this to mean that the Arminian says that God did not decree or plan this evil event from eternity. But it could also mean that the murdering of innocents is against the law of God.
    ---

    Indeed, the second sentence is how the Calvinist views this. I have yet to see an Arminian state it this way, but if one did I would most certainly agree.

    However, what the normative response is (and I've seen it many places already) is that God didn't want it to happen and yet was unable to prevent it from occuring since that would violate free will. Indeed, this is key to the typical Arminian response to the Problem of Evil argument. God doesn't want evil to occur, but He cannot violate free will or else He would be a monster.

    It is that position that I disagree with, not the Arminian who would say that this violates God's prescriptive will (as opposed to his decretive will).

    ReplyDelete
  15. Paul said:
    Steven replied:

    "And how would they feel if you told them that the death of their loved ones was utterly pointless?"

    I'm guessing they'd feel exactly the same. What's worse....

    1. God planned out the murder of your family members.

    2. God didn't plan it out, but did nothing to stop it either.

    Either way, I'm doubting the family is feeling very loved by God at this point. And pretending (having faith) that its part of God's wonderful plan won't bring back their kids.

    **********************

    1.I've dealt with the theodicean aspects of Calvinism on many occasions. You're raising objections that have already been addressed repeatedly.

    2.If you're coming at this from an atheistic perspective, then the creed of atheism is:

    First you die, then you rot.

    I don't imagine that that makes the survivors feel much better either.

    3.Whether or not a family feels loved by God depends on the promises of Scripture to believers, not some armchair notion of what it feels like to be loved.

    4.In the case of Christian parents of Christian kids, the survivors will be united with the victims in the world to come.

    In the case of the damned, it doesn't matter when anyone dies.

    And it's not as if atheism has a more consoling message to offer regarding the loss of their loved ones.

    ReplyDelete
  16. nonymous said:

    "If God decreed something to happen, then God wanted it to happen, right?"

    That's simplistic. God wills the means as a means to an end, and not the means irrespective of the end. What God wants to happen is the higher end, to which the appointment means are instrumental. God doesn't want the means in isolation to the end which they subserve.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Randy McRoberts said...

    "I, for one, would feel much better knowing the death of my loved one was pointless than believing God killed him."

    i) You're entitled to your opinion. But you hardly speak for everyone.

    ii) I daresay the idea that the death of someone's child was meaningless would be the last straw for many survivors (e.g. parents, grandparents, siblings).

    iii) It's difficult for any theistic or deistic position to exempt God from responsibility. If he foreknew the actual outcome, or simply knew the possible outcome, he is still at least partly responsible for the outcome. You're solution doesn't get God off the hook.

    "Because we believe in the sovereignty of God and the fallenness of man, just like you. But we don't have to blame it on God when things go wrong."

    i) Calvinists don't blame God either. But God doesn't request or require plausible deniability either. It is ultimately his world, and not a runaway train.

    ii) In what sense do you think that God was sovereign in the Fall? Did he plan it to happen that way?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Arminians always have been Calvinists. They beleive in that heresy of inherited guilt but just spin it a different way. Anyone who teaches that men go to hell for another's sin rather than for their own only, is a Calvinist, and that includes the Roman Catholics.

    ReplyDelete
  19. EgoMakarios said:

    "Arminians always have been Calvinists. They beleive in that heresy of inherited guilt but just spin it a different way. Anyone who teaches that men go to hell for another's sin rather than for their own only, is a Calvinist, and that includes the Roman Catholics."

    Yes, we must repudiate the Pauline heresy of original sin (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15). And, in consistency, we must also repudiate the "heretical" idea that men go to heaven for another agent's righteousness (i.e. Christ).

    ReplyDelete
  20. i was surfing and came across this argument. i realize it's old, but felt compelled to comment.

    all theological debates aside, you (Peter Pike, and others) seem like a pompous ass. why is it that presbo's are so caught up in their elitist views that they forget to treat others with decency, respect, or even love? in all seriousness (although i realize your response will treat me as if i am retarded), do you think Jesus would be making the smartaleck remarks you make towards other people?

    this thread just seems like a place to put yourself on a pedestal declaring "hey look at me, i'm smarter than you." very mature, and very Christ-like (mmm, sarcasm)...

    ReplyDelete
  21. You do not need any skills and more necessary rohan crone for a regular attack, but it still looks like you are using a skill. The armors and weapons which we can use our own rohan gold to buy our favorite is looking very nice. In some places you can not understand what you are doing and sometimes you did not know why and where need to spend the expensive and more rohan online crone. You can bring your own rohan money to buy Still Scroll from shop and use it on someone who you think might use bots in game. If he is confirmed to use bots later, you will get 3 equipments and some rohan online gold from him.
    You need to go through long distances sometimes, making you buy a lot of Teleport scrolls with your Rose zuly just to go to the cities. The quests are OK and have a good storyline so far, and you will gain a good amount of experience by grinding and rose zulie too. Something I liked in this game was the nice design of the clothes can have from rose online zuly. There also armor also can gain from rose online zulie sets that can be wore by any class. Another nice thing that I would like to talk about, is that you can have nice Arua ROSE zuly in ROSE Online.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Now do you worried about that in the game do not had enough cabal online alz to play the game, now you can not worried, my friend told me a website, in here you can buy a lot cabal alz and only spend a little money, do not hesitate, it was really, in here we had much cabal gold, we can sure that you will get the cabal money, quick to come here to buy cabal alz.

    I like play online game, I also buy dofus kamas and kamas, the cheap kamas is very cheap, and use the dofus gold can buy many things, I like dofus kama, thanks, it is very good.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Dofus Kamas|Prix Moins Cher Dofus Kamas|Kamas par allopass|Dofus kamas audiotel|Dofus kamas par telephone sur Virstock.com

    Meilleur prix dofus kamas stock de dofus kamas

    Prix moins cher dofus kamas
    vente dofus kamas sur www.virstock.com

    Kamas par allopass sur dofus kamas

    Dofus kamas par telephone sur dofus kamas

    Dofus kamas audiotel sur dofus kamas

    http://www.virstock.com/jsp/comments.jsp dofus kamas vente

    Le meilleur Blog sur Dofus Kamas MMORPG,trouver des astuces dofus kamas surdofus kamas

    http://www.virstock.com

    ReplyDelete