Monday, October 10, 2011

Reformed demonolaters

What I do find, however, are many, many Calvinists who treat me as someone who simply hasn’t studied the Bible enough or hasn’t thought hard enough (or prayerfully enough) about God.  I’m trying to present my “case,” as it were, to refute those perceptions.  Those of us who are not Calvinists have good reasons; it’s not as if we just haven’t thought about it or don’t read or study or believe the Bible or whatever. 

But by his own admission, Olson ultimately doesn’t care what Scripture teaches about God. Olson begins and ends with his unfalsifiable preconception of what God must be like. If Scripture doesn’t defer to his preconception, then so much the worse for Scripture.

It seems to me that most 5 point Calvinists I know seem bound and determined to believe anything they think the Bible says regardless of how horrific that may be. 

i) Whether or not something is horrific is irrelevant to the correct interpretation of a text. A text means whatever it means.

ii) Olson’s objection is hardly confined to predestination. Unbelievers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens find all sort of horrible things in the text of Scripture. Horrible divine judgments. Horrible divine commands.

In other words, IF they became convinced that somehow they had been overlooking something in Scripture (as they think I do) and, in fact, God and the devil are actually the same being such that God is evil, they would believe it because the Bible says it.

Suppose you think (arguendo) that Scripture describes an evil or diabolical God. What’s the logical response?

i) In principle, you could believe that Scripture teaches such a thing, but disbelieve what Scripture teaches. You could take that as a reason to deny the inspiration of Scripture.

Mind you, that’s tricky, because you need a moral standard of comparison.

ii) You could believe there is a God, but God is evil.

iii) You could reexamine your moral sensibilities.

What’s not logical is to arbitrarily reinterpret a text to make it conform to your moral sensibilities, when there’s no textual or contextual indicators to that effect.

When Wesley rightly said of Romans 9 that it cannot mean “that” (what Calvinists believe it means) he wasn’t dismissing Romans 9 as uninspired, not part of God’s Word.  He was saying IF it means that (and fortunately there are other valid interpretations than the Calvinist one) God is not good but a monster worse than the devil because at least the devil is sincere.  (Wesley is talking about God’s universal will for salvation–1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9, etc.).  To those of us who are not Calvinists this seems right.  That’s why we cannot be Calvinists–because IF WE believed what Calvinists believe God would not be good and therefore could not be trusted.  We realize that Calvinists (at least most) do not believe God is a monster, but we are saying if WE believed what they believe we would find it necessary to think of God that way–as indistinguishable from the devil.  

i) The first thing I’d note is that Olson isn’t restricting himself to the moral character of Calvinism. He’s gone beyond that to consider the moral character of Calvinists. He’s not merely judging the merits of a theological system, but the motives of the adherent.

I myself don’t find anything inherently objectionable about that. I would, however, point out that many evangelicals think it’s improper to impute motives to your opponent. Improper to question his character. According to them, you should just stick with the issues.

ii) Olson suggests that most Calvinists just don’t know any better, which mitigates the charge that they are morally equivalent to Satanists.

However, he also seems to leave open, not merely the possibility, but the reality, that some Calvinists consciously worship an evil or diabolical God.

iii) It’s also implausible to suggest that Calvinists just haven’t thought through the moral implications of their theology. Of course, Calvinists vary in their intellectual aptitude, but Reformed theologians, beginning with Calvin himself, typically wrestle with the moral implications of certain Biblical doctrines (e.g. predestination, providence, original sin)–as they construe the witness of Scripture. Reformed polemical and systematic theology devotes a lot of attention to these issues.

So it’s not clear how Olson can avoid saying Calvinists are morally equivalent to devil-worshippers. Why doesn’t he just come out and say so?

iv) His fallback is to suggest that Calvinists just don’t see the issues the same way as Arminians. But it’s unclear what he means by that. For one thing, there really are Satanists. There really are devil-worshipers.

For another thing, it’s not as if Reformed philosophers and Reformed theologians are unaware of how Arminians view Reformed theism. 


  1. Olson is an antichrist.

  2. Based on his very public theological positions I think it's arguable that Olson operates in the spirit of anti-christ.

    He's so wed to his sub-Biblical semi-pelagian traditions that he's willfully blind to the truth.

    As Steve rightly points out, where Scripture doesn't agree with his personal opinions he simply jettisons the Scripture in favor of his personal opinions.

    Bible believing Christian: "I think 'A', but the Bible teaches 'X'; I must be wrong, and therefore should conform my thinking to Scripture."

    Roger Olson: "I think 'A', but the Bible teaches 'X'; the Bible must be wrong and therefore I should conform Scripture to my thinking."

    In Christ,

  3. This is actually what struck me the most:

    "We realize that Calvinists (at least most) do not believe God is a monster, but we are saying if WE believed what they believe we would find it necessary to think of God that way–as indistinguishable from the devil."

    Roger Olson is willing to admit that "most" Calvinists do not believe God is a moral monster. (Gee, thanks for the benefit of the doubt Roger. Why only "most"? Have you actually met a Calvinist who believes that God is a moral monster? But I digress.) And yet, instead of asking himself "Why is it that they do not see God as a moral monster? I would if I believed that", he just simply shrugs us off as "wrong" because he is quite comfortable in his views and can't be bothered with trying to actually understand his theological opponents' position.

    However, instead of thinking of us as just "wrong" thinking brothers, he indirectly implies that we are devil worshipers.

    Classy, Roger. But I suppose you don't think we deserve charity or the benefit of the doubt do you?

    It's truly amazing how close someone can come to the truth, yet refuse to believe it.