Monday, August 24, 2015

Has the Comforter come?

This is a sequel to my previous post:

This blog recently received a reply which I would like to address specifically. It comes from a blogger called Triablogue. 

Actually, it comes from a blog called Triablogue. At the bottom it is states that it was posted by Steve. 

The blogger (aremonstrant) took umbrage at my post:

I would just like to say, I’m surprised it took this long for an unsympathetic Calvinist to turn up and gloat at this post. 

He's overreacting to something I didn't say or imply.

I was expecting it a lot earlier to be honest.

Actually, I learned about it from SEA::

A blogger from A Remonstrant’s Ramblings (whose abandonment from traditional Christian faith is regretful) presents a devastating critique of Calvinist Derek Rishmawy’s comments regarding why God would unconditionally elect some and not others in the former’s post: “To Tu Quoque or Not to Tu Quoque?“
Back to aremonstrant:

Regarding i) it’s a real shame such “compelling” evidence appears to be so uncompelling even to very sincere truth-seekers! But then the typical Calvinist reply to this is to suggest such people are not really sincere in their searching for God which is, of course, a classic ad hominem. 

He's overreacting to something I didn't say or imply. He stereotypes Calvinists. He imputes to me something I didn't suggest, then accuses me of ad hominem based entirely on his own imputation. 

This blogger may feel there is compelling evidence for such activity but I wonder what he/she would list? Patterns in toast, funny feelings, weird dreams, that one person survived a plane crash when the other 244 passengers died, things which could be mere coincidence, or appeals to what we cannot yet explain? 

i) There's a range of well-attested phenomenon, viz. miracles, answered prayer, premonitions, crisis apparitions, terminal lucidity, possession/exorcism. 

ii) In the nature of the case, this is underreported because most examples happen to people who aren't famous. Their experience never makes it into the history books. There are, however, examples throughout church history. Consider patristic testimony to contemporary miracles:

Consider firsthand testimony to the miracles of St. Bernard, cf. Benedicta Ward, "Miracles in the Middle Ages," Graham H. Twelftree (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Miracles. Cambridge Up 149 (2011).

Consider evidence of historic Protestant miracles:

Consider evidence of "Catholic" miracles:

Consider evidence of contemporary miracles in collections like:

Craig Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, 2 vols. 

Rex Gardner, Healing Miracles: A Doctor Investigates

That's just scratching the surface.

I think the confession that such activity is “perplexing” is an admission that the case is maybe not as compelling as he/she first thought!

That confounds two distinct issues: the fact that the pattern is perplexing doesn't mean it's random in a naturalistic sense. Even if the general pattern seems to be somewhat haphazard, that doesn't mean specific examples are random. They often have very opportune relevance and significance to the parties concerned. 

I would have thought that any careful reader of my post would have noticed, my concern was not with the character of God as described in classic Christian theism. It was not about whether God is ‘nice’ or not in human terms. That had nothing whatsoever to do with my deconversion. My only expectations were for a relationship with God the kind of which the New Testament describes and Calvinists and Arminians see that pretty much the same I’d say. But of course I can see why this blogger has chosen to distort it this way. 

Let's compare what he said in his deconversion post to something he said in another post:

There was no sense of companionship, friendship, or experience of the one called “the comforter” in the New Testament. And if there is to be absolutely no relational value in being a Christian then I seriously question the value of believing it...The companionship which the New Testament appears to talk about was simply not there. So what is the point of all this noetic belief if that’s all my Christianity is (was)? What kind of God has no relational component to offer in this life? 
Christians love to use the father analogy for God. But what father would do that to his child especially if he has all the means to be alongside them at that moment? Certainly no decent father would distance himself at such a time. I cannot bring myself to believe in a God who is so clearly absent at the moment I needed him most.

Compare that to how he contrasted Arminian theism with Reformed theism:

I am sometimes asked why I am not a Calvinist. I thought about writing my own blog on this issue but two factors made it seem unnecessary to do so. One is because I have previously given some reasons why I reject Calvinism back in my previous blog called ‘Coherent Calvinism? A response to Mike Ovey’. Second is because, in recent months, I have both begun reading, and saw this lecture by, the Arminian philosopher and theologian Jerry Walls. Since Walls explains why he is not a Calvinist so well in this lecture, in my opinion, there is really no need for me to do a worse job explaining it. Therefore, if this is a question you like to think about I here recommend both his lecture and the notes I made whilst watching it underneath. The notes summarize his main points and I have also recorded all quotations made by him in his power point. 
1. God truly loves all persons.
2. Truly to love someone is to desire their well being and to promote their true flourishing as much as you can.
3. The well being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him. 
When love is subordinated to will, then the fatherhood of God, which is emphasized in the Trinity… takes a back seat to the image of God as King or Ruler. 
Before God was King, he was Father, and his fatherhood is more ultimate than his kingship. Kingship speaks of his relationship to his creation. He reigns and will reign over it all. But fatherhood speaks of a relationship within the very nature of God that was there before he spoke anything into existence. In the bosom of eternity, before there was time or space or humanity, the second person of the triune Godhead called the first person of the Trinity not Lord, but Father.”

Observe how he frames Arminian theism in contrast to Reformed theism. Notice how that parallels the description of his disillusionment when his theological expectations were disappointed. 

This blogger must also think there cannot be evangelical Arminians since the God of evangelical Arminianism is far from “softhearted” as they usually adhere to the doctrine of punishment after death and they hold to the judgement described as being done by God in the Bible. But this oft-used parody of the God of Arminianism is just that.

That's another example of his overreacting to something I didn't say or imply. Yes, there are evangelical Arminians like John and Charles Wesley, Craig Keener, John Oswalt, Douglas Stuart, &c. 

This Calvinist almost wants to boast of the seemingly horrid kind of God he/she believes in! It’s almost as if the more horrible God appears to us the better he must be!

I'm just saying it's more realistic. If there is a God, then frankly he's fairly hard-nosed. Just look at the kind of world we live in. And it hasn't changed from OT times. 

My thanks to the person blogging for pointing out that the world is a harsh place. That is a very welcome reminder. Having been in daily chronic pain for almost two years I needed to be reminded of that just in case I had forgotten.

He's the one who indicated that his experience was at odds with his theology. 

This kind of response from a Calvinist reveals, I think, their very fatalistic approach to apologetics and relationships. This blogger must think that his/her total lack of empathy can have no adverse affect whatsoever. After all, should I change my mind it will have everything to do with God and nothing to do with him or her.
One last observation I would make is that the responses from Arminians has always been one of sympathy but responses from Calvinists have been mixed. A few have been sympathetic but there have been a few who have either completely ignored me or been really very cold in their response (both online and in person). I suppose those are the ones who are being more consistent in displaying what the Calvinist God is like? The love of the Christ they believe in is shining through. Well done to them!

i) Naturally Arminians are concerned with an Arminian blogger goes off the reservation. That's simply theological partisanship.

ii) For all he knows, I might be very sympathetic to much of what he said. I didn't go into that because I don't care to make public statements about my personal experience, including the experience of some close relatives. In their private life, many Christians suffer. 

But he chose to go public about his experience, and how that led him away from the Christian faith. So that does invite public scrutiny. 


  1. Actually, I learned about it from SEA::

    A blogger from A Remonstrant’s Ramblings (whose abandonment from traditional Christian faith is regretful) presents a devastating critique of Calvinist Derek Rishmawy’s comments regarding why God would unconditionally elect some and not others in the former’s post: “To Tu Quoque or Not to Tu Quoque?“

    It's very telling to see where the SEA's priorities lie - they'll favorably quote and link to apostates in their crusade against all things Calvinist. And this isn't the first time.

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  2. Sometimes we need to be reminded that God doesn't only comfort us directly, but often indirectly. Often through fellow Christians. We're to be God's "hands and feet" to others just as other Christians are to be for us. Sometimes in our pride we only want to be the givers and not the receivers. In our pride we sometimes don't want to look weak or be in need of help or comfort and so we seek it only from God directly. By so doing we deny the truth of His sovereignty by limiting the ways He may help us. If God doesn't respond in the way we expect, or insist, then that can set us up for a "root of bitterness" which can hurt our faith or even shipwreck it. This is especially true if we become jealous of how God works in the lives of other Christians. I know this by personal experience. Twenty years ago I almost lost my faith on account of this.

    I'm reminded of what J.I. Packer wrote in his classic book, Knowing God.


    1. QUOTE:
      For not only are we caught up with the 'York-signal-box' conception, or misconception, of what wisdom is; we feel that, for the honour of God (and also, though we do not say this, for the sake of our own reputation as spiritual Christians), it is necessary for us to claim that we are, so to speak, already in the signal-box, here and now enjoying inside information as to the why and wherefore of God's doings. This comforting pretence becomes part of us: we feel sure that God has enabled us to understand all His ways with us and our circle thus far, and we take it for granted that we shall be able to see at once the reason for anything that may happen to us in the future. And then something very painful and quite inexplicable comes along, and our cheerful illusion of being in God's secret councils is shattered. Our pride is wounded; we feel that God has slighted us; and unless at this point we repent, and humble ourselves very thoroughly for our former presumption, our whole subsequent spiritual life may be blighted.

      Among the seven deadly sins of medieval lore was sloth (accidie)—a state of hard-bitten, joyless apath of spirit. There is a lot of it around today in Christian circles; the symptoms are personal spiritual inertia combined with critical cynicism about the churches and supercilious resentment of other Christians' initiative and enterprise. Behind this morbid and deadening condition often lies the wounded pride of one who thought he knew all about the ways of God in providence and then was made to learn by bitter and bewildering experience that he didn't. This is what happens when we do not heed the message of Ecclesiastes. For the truth is that God in His wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which He is working out in the churches and in our own lives. 'As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow int he womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who doeth all' (II: 5 RV). - J.I. Packer, Knowing God, chapter 10 [pp. 95-96 in my copy].

    2. typo corrections:

      "joyless apath of spirit." ["apath" should be "apathy"]

      "int he womb" [obviously should be "in the womb"]

  3. I certainly appreciated the dying grace that Dr. Rodney Decker exhibited. He wrote THIS about meaning and suffering a short few weeks before dying from cancer.

  4. "Truly to love someone is to desire their well being and to promote their true flourishing as much as you can."

    It's certainly an odd consequence of Arminianism that, apparently, the Father cannot love the Son or the spirit...or even himself.

  5. agency makes a good point to which I'll add a second.

    Firstly, Remaining a Christian gives meaning to one's suffering. Even if Christianity were false, remaining a Christian would give one hope that his/her suffering will be redeemed. That it's not wasted. That it's working out for the greater good of others, oneself and the greater glory of God even if we can't see it at present. Even if one weren't a Van Tillian who believes that everything is (to some degree or another) evidence for God's existence (as I do), there's still enough evidence for Christianity that one can apply INDIRECT doxastic voluntarism to bring themselves to believe (or continue to believe) in Christianity. Given a choice between suffering to no purpose and suffering that will bring about greater good/glory for oneself and others (including God), the rational choice is the latter. Leaving Christianity would be an irrational (and probably an emotion based) decision.

    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.- Rom. 8:18 NASB
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.- Rom. 8:18 ESV
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.- Rom. 8:18 NKJV

    Secondly, so long as one remains a Christian there's hope in this world and not just the next. For the sick, there's always hope that God may heal. Abandoning Christianity is abandoning such a possibility of healing. Other forms of theism have lesser cases of divine healing. Again, even if one isn't healed, and discovers at the end of their life that their hope for healing was denied, at least they can have the comfort that their suffering was not in vain. Along with the comfort and joy that God was pleased by their attempts through faith and prayer to receive healing from God's merciful hands.

    To throw away Christianity is throw away hope in the next world (and possibly in this world too). Clearly, that's NOT a rational decision. It's a case of means-ends irrationality.

    BTW, Here's my blogpost on Recommended Resources on Divine Healing (caveat lector; use discernment)

  6. Sometimes the reason why some professing Christians don't sense God's presence (or even have supernatural experiences) is because, in general, we Christians don't sincerely and earnestly seek God. We don't take seriously the following promises:

    And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.- Heb. 11:6

    12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD...- Jer. 29:12-14a

    I could cite testimonies from many Christian denominations where a Christian sincerely sought God and found Him. I'll just cite just a few. Two from Arminians, one from a Pentecostal, one from a Catholic and one from a Calvinist. [sic]

    Here's a link to Charles Finney's autobiographical testimony of an apparent encounter with God. Finney's theology wasn't always fully orthodox, but I'm personally convinced he was a genuine Christian whom God used to bring revival.

    Here's a link to a biography of D.L. Moody by R.A. Torrey. Torrey describes Moody's supernatural encounter with God.

    Here's a link to Pentecostal John G. Lake's apparent encounter with God. The articles are on a Universalist website, but I have no reason to think they intentionally distorted Lake's testimony (though, it is edited from two sermons).
    PART ONE">

    Blaise Pascal, a Catholic, apparently had an encounter with God that changed him for the rest of his life.

    Calvinist Paul Washer shares his encounter with God here:
    Six Minute Clip Here

    Washer's full sermons can be listened to:
    or here
    or here

    I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Paul Washer's sermon.

    1. In Torrey's biography of D.L. Moody (Why God Used D.L. Moody), he lists 7 reasons. Reason #7 recounts Moody's supernatural experience of God.

      It's the last section (#7) at the bottom of this page HERE.