Saturday, March 11, 2017

The school of suffering

The human body is an amazing piece of engineering. Even now, medical science is just scratching the surface. 

A mark of good health is that when you're in the prime of life, you don't necessary notice your body. It doesn't draw attention to itself. Rather, it's something you use to do things. 

An exception would be athletes who push their bodies to the limits. I don't know this for a fact, but it wouldn't surprise me if women are more apt to notice aging in terms of their changing appearance while men are more apt to notice aging in terms comparing what they can do in middle age to what they could do in their teens and twenties. Even if they can still do the same stuff, physically, they can't do them as easily or as well.  

Age and ill health makes us aware of our bodies. When everything is working the way it was designed to work, it's easy to take things for granted. It's only when things begin to break down or malfunction that we realize how much we took for granted. Simple, mundane things we never gave a second thought to. 

Without suffering, we're like thankless thoughtless children who just assume their parents exist to cater to their every whim. Aging and ill health reminds us that we're not gods. We're not immortal. Our well-being is often dependent on things beyond our control. And as time wears on, we begin to lose control over things we used to have some control of. 

This is a stimulus to make unmindful and ungrateful humans appreciate their utter and ultimate dependence on God. Life is a gift. Your body is a loaner. 

"Transgender women" in women's shelters

A Man Attested by God

Let Us Break Bread Together

Lead, Kindly Light

Friday, March 10, 2017

How I Got Over

Have you any time for Jesus?

Standing Here Wondering

City Called Heaven

I Need Thee Every Hour

Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior

The development of the doctrine of infant salvation

Jesus is the one Yahweh

Dale Tuggy attempted to respond to my defense of Jonathan McLatchie:

Of course, 10 of something is a popular trope. Since that's an round number, Dale has to pad his post with lots of fluff. Most of his tips have no substance. 

On #1, Dale is dissembling. The Trinity is always his target. And he denies that Jesus has a divine nature at all. He views Jesus as just a human being. 

Moreover, I specified the sense in which I use the term "divine nature". 

On #2, it isn't "well-poisoning" to identify someone's viewpoint. If I respond to an atheist, I identify him as an atheist. Dale has repudiated a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith. He's free to do that, and I'm free to say so.  

On #3, the post that Dale is laboring to respond to was, by my count, the 96th post I've written critiquing Tuggy's position. It's not as if I haven't detailed my position.

On #4, it's a shellgame based on Dale's chronically equivocal usage regarding "God", combined with his chronic inability to distinguish between words and concepts.

On #5, that's Dale's bubblewrap to make his post add up to 10 tips.

On #6:

The common noun would be 'god.

That's confused. Common nouns, proper nouns, and abstract nouns (or concrete nouns) all use the same word. Same word, different sense. 

He’s saying that "The Trinity is God" means that the Trinity is a god.

No, I defined what I mean. To say "the Trinity is God" means the Trinity belongs to the class of Deity. The Trinity is "God" in that categorical sense (although the Trinity is also "God" in a qualitative sense). 

Likewise, if I said "There is one God," I mean "God" in a categorical sense. And because God is sui generis, that has a quantitative sense as well. 

evangelical apologists, when they say 'Jesus is God' are usually asserting the numerical sameness of Jesus and the one God.

When I say "Jesus is God", I mean "God" in a qualitative sense (i.e. the "deity of Christ"). And I mean the same thing if I say "the Father is God" or "the Spirit is God". 

Easy to explain with the NT authors assume that the one God is the Father

Strictly speaking, the Trinity is the one God. 

Let's compare these two passages:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut 6:4).

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor 8:6).

i) Now Dale might exclaim, "See, that proves my point! Paul calls the Father the 'one God'"! 

Oh, but that's not all Paul does.

ii) Because Paul is writing in Greek, he uses Greek synonyms for Hebrew words. And we're using English words. But if we were to retrotranslate Paul's statement in light of the background text, this would capture the true force of the usage:

Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our Elohim, Yahweh is one (Deut 6:4).

yet for us there is one Elohim, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Yahweh, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor 8:6).

iii) Elohim doesn't necessarily denote the one true Deity. But in Deut 6:4, the one true Deity is the intended referent. To my knowledge, Yahweh is a distinctive designation for the one true Deity in OT usage. So that's actually the stronger term.

Using the Shema as his framework, Paul assigns Elohim to the Father and Yahweh to the Son:

The Father is the one Elohim


The Son is the one Yahweh

That's what Paul is saying. He is taking the nutshell confession of OT monotheism, but apportioning the two divine titles to the Father and the Son respectively. 

And notice the symmetry. This isn't working the Son into the Shema, as if the Father was the baseline. It isn't making room for the Son, but making room for Father and Son alike. Including bothFather and Son in the Shema. 

Finally, the overwhelming usage of the NT is that “God” (ho theos) refers to the Father.

Actually, the comparative rarity of calling Jesus God in the NT makes that stick out when it does happen. One way to underscore the importance of something is to use it sparingly. Like miracles, infrequency makes something stand out by contrast to what's commonplace. 

He seems to not understand my point about the fulfillment fallacy.

Yes, blame the reader for Tuggy's failure to express himself clearly. 

What I’m talking about is deducing that Jesus is supposed to be God himself from the application of Yahweh-texts to him as a fulfiller of them.

That's hardly fallacious. There are OT texts that describe the absolute uniqueness of Yahweh. What makes him the one true God to the exclusion of creatures or the false gods of paganism and polytheism.

Some of these are applied to Jesus in the NT. Dale's dilemma is that if such texts can be applied to a creature, then there are no descriptors that uniquely pick out Yahweh in contrast to creatures or false gods. What's left? 

Finally, notice that Dale is still stuck in the rut of words rather than concepts, as if the debate is reducible to the meaning of isolated words rather than ideas. 

On #7, Dale backpedals on his appeal to Ehrman.

On #8, I didn't cite Bauckham and Fee as "authorities". It wasn't an argument from authority. Rather, as I noted, they marshal meticulous exegetical arguments for their interpretation of 1 Cor 8:6. 

the numerical identity of Jesus and God.

Of course, NT writers don't use the philosophical terminology of "numerical identity". They don't say that "Jesus is numerically identical with Yahweh". 

If, however, that's Tuggy's standard of comparison, then it either proves too much or too little, for by the same token, NT writers don't say "the Father is numerically identical with Yahweh". 

If you wish to recast NT predications in terms of numerical identity, the Son is no more or less numerically identical with Yahweh than the Father is numerically identical with Yahweh.  

Does "being included in the Shema" imply being God himself? Does "being included in the Shema" imply being God himself? Or only being in some sense divine?

It implies being "God" or being divine in the same sense that the Shema singles out Yahweh as the one true God, in opposition to creatures or divine pretenders. 

The Son doesn’t have a God.

On this, Steve unapologetically opposes the NT authors. Sorry, I have to go with them.

i) To begin with, the Son qua Son is not synonymous with Jesus. Jesus is the Son qua Incarnate. So you can't just substitute "Jesus" for the "Son" if you're speaking with philosophical precision.

Likewise, the Father is not synonymous with God. Dale denies that because he's anti-Trinitarian Christ-denier, but one of Dale's tactics, unless he's just hopelessly muddleheaded, is to constantly use certain words as interchangeable, which a careful Trinitarian would distinguish, then accuse the Trinitarian of contradiction, when, in fact, he's imputing his own equivocal usage to the Trinitarian. 

The Son has a Father and the Father has a Son. 

Jesus has a "God". 

ii) Dale then twists himself into a pretzel. He admits that eternal generation has a very dubious textual basis. So he agrees with me in that respect. He agrees with me that God is not the source of the Son in the sense of eternal generation. And he agrees with me that the Father is not the source of the Son in the sense of eternal generation. Yet he labors to camouflage his polemically inconvenient agreement on this point.

Since, however, Dale regards Jesus as just a creature, just a man, he does think God is the ultimate source of the Son's existence. But that's where we part ways. I take the position of theologians like Benjamin Warfield, Paul Helm, John Frame, and John Feinberg. 

The genre of Job

Most Biblical narratives are historical by design. Very prosaic. There are only one or two exceptions. The Book of Revelation, with its heavy symbolism and surrealism is in a different class. That's in large part because it's an extended vision, or perhaps an edited series of visions. Allegorical visions. 

Another possible exception concerns the genre of Job. Take the long poetic speeches. Even very conservative scholars like Gleason Archer and E. Y. Young admit that's unrealistic. Likewise, the fire-breathing monster in 42:19-21 is naturally impossible.

Then there's the antithetical parallelism between the status quo ante and his restoration:

2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants (Job 1:3).  
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters (Job 42:12-13).

That seems artificially symmetrical. 

One possibility is that Job is a fictional rather than historical narrative. There are, however, problems with that classification. For one thing, it robs Job of much of its relevance if it has no basis in fact. If someone like Job really existed, if he underwent an ordeal similar to the book, if he survived the ordeal, then that's something Jews and Christians can turn to and relate to when we or our loved ones experience inexplicable suffering. In the example of Job we have some assurance that everything happens for a reason, everything ultimately happens for the best, even if we can't fathom what that might be. If, however, the story is imaginary from start to finish, then it fails to edify.

And that in turn connects to a larger issue: in general, the Bible operates on a principle of precedent. What God has done in the past gives us reason to expect that the same God can be trusted to do the same kinds of things in the future. Predictability furnishes a measure of stability. If, however, the book of Job is fictional, then it's not something we can build on–because we have no reason to think that's realistic. 

It might be objected that the parables of Jesus are fictional. However, those are clearly stories designed to illustrate a teaching. We don't have that contextual clue in the case of Job. 

There is, though, a mediating position. Perhaps Job is historical fiction. By that I mean a narrative that has a backbone in some real characters, events, and setting. To take a comparison, consider Tombstone (1993), starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, and Sam Elliott. That's based on a "true story". About real people (the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday), a real place (Tombstone, Arizona), a real time (1881), a real event (gunfight at the OK Corral). 

If Job is historical fiction, then that would, on the one hand, account for the stylized elements. But it would be grounded in the searing experience of a real person. he came through it, although he was a broken man. 

A function of good art is to intensify reality. So much of what we experience in life is ephemeral and forgettable. By bringing the important incidents into foreground, while allowing the unimportant things to fade into the background, it brings into high relief what really matters.  

The People, the Land and the Future of Israel According to the Book of Hebrews and General Epistles

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Spirit Hermeneutics

Not having read the book, I don't have a considered judgment to offer. But I find the review interesting.

The "Jesus as Yahweh heresy"

Apostate Dale Tuggy recently attacked Christian apologist Jonathan McLatchie because Jonathan affirms the Trinity:

Of course, Jonathan wouldn't even be a Christian if he denied the Trinity. 

Williams makes the reasonable point that for a (consistent) trinitarian, Jesus is not the Trinity, while God just is the Trinity. 

In a sense, that's correct. 

So then, for the trinitarian, Jesus is not God (not numerically identical to God) 

1. This is Dale's patented shellgame. He always acts as though the issue is reducible to the word "God". Maybe he really is that dense.

Now, even at that superficial linguistic level, the word "God" is ambiguous. "God" is a noun. And there are different kinds of nouns. For instance, there are proper nouns, common nouns, abstract nouns, and concrete nouns. "God" can mean different things depending on the kind of noun it is. What does X is God mean? Depends:

i) Proper noun: In this sense, "God" is often employed as a proper name for the Father. That's typical in Pauline and Johannine usage. 

In this sense, "X is God" can mean the Father. That's in Trinitarian settings, where it's used to distinguish the Father from the Son or Spirit.

In addition, though, "God" is frequently used as a generic designation for the Deity–where it doesn't single out the Father in particular. In this sense, "X is God" can mean the one true God in contrast to false gods, where it's used to differentiate Yahweh from pagan polytheism and idolatry. 

ii) Common noun: In this sense, "God" denotes a class as opposed to a particular individual within a class. Of course, God is one of a kind. Sui generis. In a class by himself. So in that respect, God is the only member of that ultra exclusive class. 

In this sense, "X is God" means the one and only true God. A categorical term, differentiating the Deity from other classes of existents. 

iii) Abstract noun: In this sense, "God" is a synonym for the divine nature or divinity. 

In this sense, "X is God" means X is divine. X has the divine nature. 

2. However, it's necessary to distinguish between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts. For instance, the theory of general relativity isn't reducible to the dictionary definition of the words "general" and "relativity". Ideas are typically more complex than the meaning of words. 

Or, to take another example, both Catholic and Protestant theology use the word "justification," but the Catholic doctrine of justification is very different from the classic Protestant (e.g. Lutheran or Reformed) doctrine of justification. Even though it's the same word, that word is used to denote divergent theological ideas. These are not synonymous doctrines. "Justification" involves a detailed theological construct. And one construct is not equivalent to another. 

3. To say the Trinity is God uses "God" as a common noun. To say the Father is God uses "God" as a proper noun. To say the Son is God uses "God" as an abstract noun.  

4. What do we mean by "divine". That's a concept we can unpack at increasing levels of specification:

i) To be divine is to possess the divine attributes

ii) The divine attributes include omniscience, omnipotence, aseity, impassibility, eternality.

iii) To be eternal is to be timeless. And so on and so forth.

The son is divine in that sense. (As is the Father and the Spirit.)

the relation between Jesus and God is going to have to be something less than that.

Not less, but different. 

Battling the infidels with stock rhetoric and a fistful of prooftexts…

The deity of Christ isn't based on a "fistful" of prooftexts. Few doctrines are as well attested in Scripture, by multiple lines of evidence. 

…is far more enjoyable than working out the problems with one’s own theories.

We need to distinguish between exegetical theology and philosophical theology. We begin with the witness of Scripture. That teaches the deity of Christ. And that takes precedence. Formulating models of the Trinity is an exercise in philosophical theology. An important exercise, but revelation takes precedence. Philosophy can't decree what God is allowed to be like. 

They then move (as in the last half of this video) to show that New Testament writers are always slyly (but in their view clearly) asserting the numerical identity of Yahweh (pronounced YAH-hu-way) and Jesus. 

i) No, we don't think NT writers "slyly" assert that Jesus is Yahweh. 

ii) They equate Jesus with Yahweh. As Yahweh Incarnate. 

They employ here what I think is a beginner’s mistake in reading the NT – what I call the fulfillment fallacy. (I’ve lampooned it here.) 

Isaiah predicts that a baby will be born,“Immanuel.” This occurs in his lifetime, in the 8th or 7th c. BCE. Obviously, this baby is God, because his name “Immanuel” means “God with us,” and it would be blasphemous to give that name to anyone other than God. But my point here is that Matthew says that Jesus’s birth is a fulfillment of this prediction. (Matthew 1:20-25)

So many mistakes in the space of three sentences:

i) Presumably, even a unitarian apostate like Dale still thinks Isa 7:14 is a messianic prophecy. If so, he himself must believe that in some sense it refers to the future Messiah. That it's not confined to a baby in the 8th or 7th c. BC. 

ii) Dale commits a common blunder, by isolating 7:14 from the larger context. But as Alec Motyer has documented, this is part of a messianic motif that continues for several more chapters, and extends far beyond the immediate historical crisis in Isa 7. The projected fulfillment lies not in Isaiah's lifetime, but sometime in the indefinite future:

iii) No astute Christian infers that someone is God just because his Jewish name incorporates "God" in the name. Obviously, many Jewish names incorporate elements of divine designations.

iv) That said, it's a common OT theme that God is very "jealous" about his name. Very protective and proprietary about his name. When NT writers use Kurios as a title for Jesus, that's a Septuagintal synonym for Yahweh. Imagine how that would sound to Jewish ears. 

v) But over and above the designation is the further fact that in the OT, there are passages in which Yahweh describes himself in exclusive terms. Yahweh has no peer. Passages in which Yahweh's unrivaled divinity is set in contrast to the false gods of heathen polytheism and pagan idolatry. 

Yet we find various NT writers applying these very same passages to Jesus, passages that emphatically distinguish God from all that's not God. That puts Jesus on the divine side of the categorical divide. 

Although Isa 7:14 is a significant messianic prophecy, it is illicit for Dale to act as though that's equivalent to other NT prooftexts for the Yawistic identity of Jesus. He's substituting what he thinks is an easier target. It's a bait-n-switch. 

In the clip Bart Ehrman quite correctly resists the confusion. 

Of course, Ehrman's lumbering theories about the evolution of NT Christology have been subjected to searching scrutiny, and found wanting in crucial respects. For instance:

All NT writers habitually and clearly distinguish God and his Son as two selves and two beings.

Once again, this is Dale's trademark shellgame. NT writers frequently distinguish the word "God", as a designation for the Father, from the person of the Son. But that just means they distinguish the Father and the Son, where "God" is often reserved as a proper name for the Father. In order to refer to two different individuals or grammatical subjects, they have different designations at their disposal. Dale has been making the same rudimentary blunders year after year. 

This “supreme source” is God, aka the Father…

The source of what? God is the source of creation. That doesn't mean God is the source of the Son. And that doesn't mean the Father is the source of the Son (or the Spirit). 

(note the allusion to 1 Corinthians 8:6 at the end). 

Which is treacherous for Dale. As scholars like Richard Bauckham and Gordon Fee have documented, in painstaking exegesis, Paul adapts the Shema in 1 Cor 8:6 to include Jesus. He uses "God" as a proper name for the Father, and "Lord" as a proper name for the Son, in a context where "God" is the Greek equivalent of Elohim and "Lord" is the Greek equivalent of Yahweh. And in the original context (Deut 6:4), these are both exclusive titles for the one true Deity.  

This is the locus classicus of Jewish monotheism, to demarcate Jewish piety from pagan idolatry. Yet Paul's adaptation puts Jesus right on par with the God of the Shema. 

So yes, there have been many Christians – mainstream ones, in good standing with the majority, and even leading thinkers – who asserted that it is a serious mistake to identify the eternal Son with his (and our) God. 

The Son doesn't have a God. That's one of Dale's inveterate equivocations. 

Eusebius is no oddball here. Other examples would be the outstanding catholic apologists of their generation, Tertullian and Origen. (Many like Origen also distinguish this Son from the man Jesus, but they’d say it’d be at least as great a mistake to identify the man Jesus with his God too.)

They were faithful, courageous Christians, but they were theological pioneers who made the kinds of mistakes you'd expect at this primitive stage in the development of post-NT theology. Indeed, there's a precipitous drop in theological quality as we pass from the NT to the church fathers. It's a slow, steep climb back to the pinnacle of NT Christology. Athanasian Christology improves on Origen and Tertullian. Calvin's Christology improves on Athanasius. Warfield's Christology improves on Calvin's. 

Problem is, Dale doesn't have the same excuse as Tertullian and Origen. They can plead attenuating circumstances. But there's nothing to mitigate his heresy. And it's telling that the best Bible scholars whom contemporary unitarianism can tap either occupy the far-left end of the theological spectrum (Kirk, McGrath) or are outright atheists (Ehrman).  

Muslim "refugees"

Jesus and pacifism

How “Pope Francis” Protects Bishops Who Shield Pedophile Priests

In a word: blame it on the victim.

Kirk Skeptic 3/04/2017 7:19 PM
John: just what can [Pope] Jorge [Bergoglio] do with the Vatican bureaucracy; ie what are the limits of his authority over those folks' employment?

John Bugay3/08/2017 9:06 PM
If it were important to him, he could move laggard bishops around the same way he's moving Burke around.

As it turns out, Bergoglio has been moving in precisely the opposite direction with bishops who have shielded pedophile priests:

When on January 10, 2015 Francis promoted to the diocese of Osorno, Chile the bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, [Marie] Collins [a victim of sexual abuse by a priest] and other members of the [Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors] protested strenuously.

The new bishop, in fact, was under substantiated accusations from three victims of sexual abuse, who charged him with having shielded the priest Fernando Karadima, for many years a celebrity of the Chilean Church but in the end condemned to “prayer and penance” by the Holy See for his countless verified misdeeds.

The new bishop’s installation in his diocese was heavily contested. But on March 31 the Vatican congregation for bishops stated that it had “attentively studied the prelate’s candidacy and had not found objective reasons that would block his appointment.”

So in April, Collins and other members of the commission for the protection of minors went to Rome to ask the president of the commission, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, to urge the pope to revoke the appointment.

But they got the opposite result. One month later, in May, Pope Francis responded to questions from a former spokesman of the Chilean episcopal conference he met in Saint Peter’s Square. And he went after the bishop’s accusers, in his most indignant words ever.

The collapse of culture

Evicted from the video arcade

There are professing Christians whose interest centers on historical theology or philosophical theology. A danger with that is that if that's your frame of reference, you can lose your faith overnight. 

Christianity is centered on events. God's action in history. That gives faith a tangible foundation. 

But in the case of historical or philosophical theology, it's easy for that to become a play of ideas. Free-floating ideas. An extension of an extension of an extension. A person can get so far out that they forget how they got there. How, if at all, does it have any appreciable basis reality rather than imagination?

They can maintain that mindset so long as they remain inside the paradigm–like a video game. And it's easier to maintain on social media, where they have mutual reinforcement from like-minded participants. 

But if the bottom falls out of your life, you may suddenly ask yourself, why do I believe this? Do I believe this? Or is it just a head-trip? They were caught up in the momentum of the debate, but if your life collapses, and you suddenly feel cut off; if you're abruptly ejected from the mental video arcade, you ask yourself, how could I believe that? There's nothing to fall back on, because it's just ideas stacked on top of ideas. A skyscraper of storied ideas. Nothing to distinguish it from a riot of imagination.

If, on the other hand, you maintain your moorings in Bible history, you have a reality check. Firm ground under your feet.

To be sure, some people lose their faith in Scripture. Ironically, that's often due to their philosophical naivete. I'm not suggesting that philosophy is useless by any means. 

But faith in historical or philosophical theology only works so long as you're in the mood to grant the premise or the paradigm. Without something in space and time to ground it, to point to, without that objective reminder, the requisite credulity can evaporate like the willing suspension of disbelief. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Godawa on The Shack

Of sinners and synergism

Last month, an Arminian (Martin Glynn) attempted to response to something written by  Alan Kurschner. 

I'll comment on Glynn's reply:
So this is a gross oversimplification. The most obvious is that there are more beliefs than just Arminianism and Calvinism.

Alan didn't say those were the only two positions. Rather, those are the only two positions he chose to discuss. And, of course, SEA is obsessed with Calvinism, so, in practice, it acts as though there are only two alternatives: Calvinism and Arminianism.

Arminians, at least, do not believe that humanity’s role in salvation is “necessary”…Indeed, one of our main points is that God’s plan for salvation is not necessary. 

Misses the point. Given God's plan for salvation, as Arminians define it, it is necessary for a sinner to consent to and continually collaborate with saving grace. That autonomous contribution is a sine qua non of salvation. 

Alan weren't discussing a hypothetical alternative. Rather, he was discussing the plan of salvation that Arminians believe God actually implemented. Given that plan, a sinner must consent to and continuously collaborate with grace to be saved. 

Historically Arminians have often referred to Calvinists as necessitarians precisely because we reject the notion that things are necessary.

Don't Arminians believe that God necessarily loves the lost?

It is Calvinists who view things as necessary, not us.

We regard predestined events as conditionally necessary. Whatever God has predestined must happen. That doesn't mean God had to predestine that particular outcome. He was free to predestine a different outcome had he so chosen.

Second, he is clearly intentionally implying that we view the human will as a force which rivals God, which is also clearly wrong. 

No, Alan just saying that according to Arminian theology, it's ultimately up to the sinner to accept or reject saving grace. The human will makes an independent contribution to salvation. 

The human will is autonomous, but in order to do good it is dependent on the Holy Spirit. 

That's unresponsive to what Alan wrote. Arminians believe that sinners can veto saving grace. For Arminians, saving grace is resistible grace. 

It is by grace through faith that we are saved, and apparently Kurschner forgets that Sola Fide is just as important as Sola Gratia.

But how are those related? In Calvinism, faith is the result of grace. In Arminianism, grace may not result in faith. In Arminianism, man's will can thwart God's saving grace.

The Calvinist idea that grace alone must require no human reaction to grace is extreme and unnecessary.

That's the polar opposite of the Calvinist position. According to Calvinism, saving grace causes a human reaction: saving faith.

This is to be compared to Calvinists whose prayers don’t make any sense at all (since what’s going to happen is going to happen regardless of whether they pray or not).

That commits the schoolboy error of confounding predestination (and meticulous providence) with que sera sera fatalism. But Calvinism rejects the notion that what's going to happen will happen come what may. It's not regardless of what human agents do, but in part, through human agents. Human actions are factors in historical causation.

The only way to claim otherwise is to view God’s actions as automatic, as if He couldn’t do otherwise once a person has faith.

Actually, that just means God is rational and consistent. He follows through with his plan. He doesn't make rash decisions, then reverse himself. Does Glynn think God is impetuous and shortsighted? 

However, since Calvinists often see God as compelled by His own nature, I guess I can understand why they would assume this.

I wouldn't say God is "compelled" by his own nature. But does Glynn deny that God must be just (to take one example)?

The wider hope

1. Let's define exclusivism as the view that to be saved during the Christian era a mentally competent person must exercise explicit faith in Jesus prior to death. That's controversial, but it's the bedrock of Christian evangelism. 

2. According to one version of inclusivism, a person can be saved through a receptive response to general revelation. According to a related version, a person can be saved through implicit faith. 

3. Then you have mediating positions that are technically exclusivistic, but are really face-saving versions of inclusivism. For instance, the theory of postmortem salvation, where people can be saved by exercising faith in Jesus after they die. Technically, that might be classified as exclusivism, but it's functionally equivalent to inclusivism. Put another way, it's a radical modification of what exclusivism traditionally meant. In that attenuated sense, even universalism is exclusivistic. At which point the contrast between exclusivism and inclusivism becomes moot. 

4. You also have William Lane Craig's conjecture that God has arranged history so that no unreached person would be receptive to the Gospel if given the opportunity. That suffers from several problems:

i) There's no evidence that it's true.

ii) It depends on the dubious theory of middle knowledge.

iii) It conflicts with Craig's belief that: 

The hypothesis is that God has done the very best He can, given the true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him...God doesn’t create such a choice for Himself. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt.

But in that event, there's no justification for assuming that the card deck God has to work with includes a hand containing a feasible world in which no unreached person would be receptive to the Gospel if given the opportunity.

iv) By the same token, that's in competition with another one of Craig's conjectures:

Maybe His desire to achieve an optimal balance between saved and lost overrides the benefits of a world with less natural and moral evil.

But that means God must be dealt two royal flushes in a row. He must be lucky enough to have a feasible world which combines both an optimal balance between the saved and the lost as well as where no unreached person would be receptive to the Gospel if given the opportunity. But on his own grounds, Craig has no warrant for believing that the card deck includes a feasible hand where both rosy scenarios coincide. 

5. C. S. Lewis famously said: "But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other [unreached] people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.

That, of course, is very different from saying no one can be saved except through faith in Christ. 

6. There's internal pressure in freewill theism towards inclusivism because freewill theists typically subscribe to universal atonement and God's ardent desire to save everyone. But that's in tension with belief that salvation is contingent on a condition which is unavailable to many people: knowledge of the Gospel. 

Like it or not, Calvinism doesn't suffer from that internal pressure. Its commitment to exclusivism is internally consistent, given reprobation and limited atonement.  

Offhand, the only Reformed theologian I'm aware of who embraced a "wider hope" is William Shedd. He's fairly idiosyncratic. His position is likely colored by his Christian platonism. 

Let's consider some wedge issues:

7. OT saints

i) OT Jews didn't need to exercise explicit faith in Jesus to be saved. 

True, but that means the content of saving faith is indexed to progressive revelation. To whom much is given, much is required. 

ii) From the standpoint of pre-Christian Jews, there's a distinction between believing in the Messiah and believing in Jesus. They didn't know who the Messiah would be, but they knew what the Messiah would be. From our retrospective standpoint, we know that Jesus and the Messiah are one in the same person. From their prospective standpoint, they couldn't know that Jesus would be the Messiah. They didn't know about the life of Jesus. But they could still believe in the Messiah. 

It's like saying you can believe in Superman without believing in Clark Kent. If you don't know that Clark Kent is Superman, that doesn't prevent you from believing in Superman. 

To draw another distinction, you can know a role or know a character without knowing the actor who will play the role or play the character. 

iii) According to the NT, and Hebrews in particular, there was a transitional phase where, once you know who the Messiah is (Jesus), it's no longer enough just to believe in the Messiah: you must believe that Jesus is the Messiah. At that point, rejecting Jesus is tantamount to rejecting the Messiah, since Jesus is the Messiah. You can no longer separate the two. 

iv) An inclusivist might object that while there's a chronological distinction between Jews who lived before Jesus and Jews who lived after Jesus, that's analogous to a geographical distinction for gentiles who live outside the pale of the Gospel. They are in a position comparable to pre-Christian Jews. Even though they live after Jesus, they might as well be living before Jesus, because their geographical barrier is equivalent to a chronological barrier. Time and place are both buffers. 

But a problem with that comparison is that you had the same geographical distinction in OT times. Yahweh revealed himself to Israel in a way that he didn't generally reveal himself to pagan nations. And to the extent that he made himself known to pagan nations, it was in connection with Israel. Post-Christian pagans are not in a situation analogous to pre-Christian Jews. Rather, they're in the same situation as pre-Christian pagans. God generally distinguished between Jews and Gentiles, except where their lives intersected. 

8. Pagan saints

Some inclusivists classify some Biblical figures as "pagan saints": Enoch, Job, Noah, Melchizedek, Abimelech, Jethro, Naaman, the Queen of Sheba, Nebuchadnezzar, Ninevites, and Cornelius. But there are serious problems with that category:

i) Except for Cornelius, the Bible doesn't say they were saved. 

ii) To the extent that some of them were saved, they came to saving knowledge through contact with the chosen people.

iii) Some of them were recipients of special revelation.

iv) Cornelius was a Godfearer. An intellectual convert to Judaism (although he eschewed circumcision). He's in the position of an OT saint. 

v) How many inclusivists regard Job as a historical rather than fictional character?

vi) It's possible that Melchizedek was pagan. That doesn't make him a "pagan saint". That doesn't mean he was saved. His function is essentially symbolic. His typological role is separable from his person. What matters is what he represents, not his character. 

9. Babies

Even Calvinists believe that "elect" infants dying in infancy are saved. So faith in Jesus is not a sine qua non for salvation. But there are serious problems with that comparison:

i) The argument either proves too much or too little. It's not just that babies lack faith in Jesus. They lack implicit faith. They lack faith in general revelation. 

ii) Children below the age of reason lack the cognitive development to form propositional beliefs. That's not analogous to mentally competent agents. Rather, that's analogous to the developmentally disabled, or the senile. 

iii) Although "elect" infants dying in infancy aren't saved by faith, they are saved by grace. They are saved by regeneration.

iv) But it might be objected that if that's the case, why can't other people be saved by grace or by regeneration rather than faith?

No doubt God could do so if he chose to. But mercy is discretionary rather than obligatory. Fact is, the Bible stresses the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation when addressing adults. Whether or not we find it arbitrary, that's our frame of reference. Even if there are exceptions, that is only known to God. We must operate by his revealed will, not his secret will–assuming God makes exceptions. 

10. Christophanies

The OT records divine disclosure by theophanies and angelophanies, as well as dreams and visions. In the Bible, pagans are sometimes recipients of revelatory dreams. Some Christians identify certain OT angelophanies as Christophanies. Likewise, you have modern-day reports of Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams, which are instrumental in their conversion. 

If so, then in principle, why couldn't there be Christophanies to the unevangelized? To take one hypothetical scenario why couldn't Manitou sometimes be a Christophany to heathen Indians who had no access to the Gospel? 

Several issues:

i) Even if that's hypothetically possible, unless we have evidence that it ever happens, so what?

ii) According to the Christian paradigm, faith in Jesus involves believing the gist of a biographical narrative about who Jesus is and what he did. By itself, a Christophany is not an object of faith. Even in the OT, event-media and word-media work in tandem.

iii) The OT presents the situation of the heathen as morally and spiritually dire. So does the NT (e.g. Rom 1:21-32; Eph 2:1-3,12; 4:17-19; Tit 3:3). Likewise, when Christian missionaries push into unevangelized lands, they encounter animism, paganism, and depravity. They don't encounter people-groups to whom God appeared in disguised Christophanies. 

iv) If, moreover, God were to instigate a religious movement through a Christophany, without biblical revelation, that would rapidly degenerate into a pagan cult. 

v) Now, for all we know, it's possible that God has appeared to select individuals throughout history, across the globe. But certainly not enough to establish a religious movement that allegorizes Christianity. At best, it could only be in reference to isolated cases.