Monday, October 13, 2008

God's Decree = God's Endorsement?

Beowulf2k8 (b2k8) has provided a further comment illustrating his lack of understanding of Calvinism. Since I doubt he is the only person with this misunderstanding, I think it may be helpful to highlight the error he is making and explain why, biblically, he is wrong. b2k8 wrote:
In the sense that Calvinism teaches that God's Sovereinty [sic] means micromanagement and that God controls all of everything minutely, God is the author of Hinduism (according to Calvinism, of course, not me) and hence Hinduism is as as much "the faith" as Calvinism (according to Calvinism, since God decreed it equally with Calvinism, according to Calvinism), and therefore the Hindu woman is a martyr (to Calvinism, not to Christianity).
(source is an unpublished comment submitted on this earlier blog post)
It's a little difficult to construct a meaningful argument from b2k8's comment, but generally it seems to have the following structure:

1) Calvinism teaches that God micromanages all things minutely;
2) Minute micromanagement makes God the author of those things he minutely micromanages;
3) Therefore, God is the author of all things;
4) If God is the author of a religion, it is the faith;
5) Therefore, Hinduism is "the faith";
6) If someone dies for "the faith," then they are martyr; and
7) So, the Hindu woman in the article who was killed is a martyr under Calvinism.

As a preliminary matter, (7) does not follow from (6) because of a factual error, namely that the Hindu woman in the article was killed mistakenly, her tormentors and murders being under the misconception that she was a different religion than was actually her own.

The remainder of the errors are more interesting, as they are more fundamental leaps in reasoning and definition.

Error 1:

The first error is equivocation. It is the error by which b2k8 provides (4). We might agree that if God is the author of a religion, that is the faith. In agreeing with such a claim, though, we would need a definition of "author" that implies that the religion intended by God to be "the faith" and that it is the way that he has intended to be worshiped by his followers.

But these things cannot be said of Hinduism. Even assuming the remainder of b2k8's misconceptions of Calvinism (that God is the author of all things, since God minutely micromanages), God has not appointed Hinduism as the religion of His followers - instead it is a religion of the enemies of God. It is not intended by God to be "the faith," but is instead a counterfeit faith - a religion of devils.

Thus, at a minimum, we can see that b2k8 has equivocated (implicitly, of course, since he never provides a formal argument). Even if God is the author of Hinduism in some sense, that sense is not the sense required to make Hinduism "the faith."

Sometimes God sends lying spirits as a judgment. Recall, for example:

1 Kings 22:22 And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.

And sometimes as a judgment, God ordains that people will be deluded and believe a lie:

2 Thessalonians 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

Nevertheless, those lying spirits are not equivalent to the holy spirit, and the lies that ungodly believe are not equivalent to the truth.

Error 2:

A second error is definitional. B2k8 seemingly believes that minute micromanagement = authorship, but B2k8 provides no basis for this arbitrary definition. This is not the traditional definition of "author" that we use when, for example, we deny that God is the author of sin (yes, b2k8, it is the Calvinist position that God is not the author of sin). In the traditional sense, "author" comes from the Latin term auctor. In modern English the equivalent would be "actor." The person by who power the thing is carried out.

The person who carries out sin is never God. Sometimes it is sinful men, other times it is fallen angels. It is always a moral agent, but it is never God. God cannot break the moral law: that is the exclusive arena of men and demons.

But instead, b2k8 implicitly defines authorship as minute micromanagement. This is bizarre, to say the least. We consider ourselves the author of a document, for example, even when we do not minutely micromanage a computer - but simply type in the words and click the "print" button. Likewise, we do not need even to know what goes on inside a gun in order to be the morally responsible agent for a shooting.

This brings us to ...

Error 3:

Innovated standard of morality. For some reason, b2k8, along with many others, have invented a theory of morality in which, if God minutely micromanages things, he is morally responsible for what happens - and the actual person doing the sinful (or righteous - though that rarely comes up) act is not responsible under this theory.

But where did this theory come from? Who invented it? It seems to have been created out of thin air. There's nothing in the Bible to suggest such a rule of morality, and there's no particularly logical reason for arriving at such a rule.

And finally, we arrive at ...

Error 4:

Minute micromanagement is simply the logical conclusion of God being:

a) Interested in the smallest details of human life;
b) Omniscient; and
b) Omnipotent.

If all of (a), (b), and (c) are true, then minute micromanagement of some kind (whether Calvinistic, Molinistic, or otherwise) must follow. This, of course, offends the autonomous heart of rebellious man, but that really cannot be helped. God is the ruler over all the Earth, and because of (a), (b), and (c), everything that happens a particular way happens that way, because that is the way God wants it to happen in His providence.

There is a final error that b2k8 makes, that is only implicit in his criticism above ...

Error 5

Confusing the moral law of God and the Providence of God. God in his Providence ordains that certain bad acts will happen. God ordained that Jesus would be crucified, which was a sinful act on the part of those that did it to him. It was not sinless for Christ's murderers, just because God had ordained that it would happen, and just because God wanted it to happen. In fact, one can hardly imagine a more horrible crime than to slay the incarnate Son of God.

God wanted this great sin to happen, He ordained that it would happen, and He was glad that it happened, although he still counted it as sin against those who did it. The same is true of the many lesser sins that occur in God's providence. They happen for a reason that glorifies God ultimately, and yet they still sins for the people that do them. The fact that God has a good purpose in them does not excuse the people who commit the sins.

One hopes that this explanation will help b2k8, and others like him, to see that they have misunderstood and misrepresented Calvinism - perhaps simply because they have not fully understood its single source of authority: Scripture.

-TurretinFan

6 comments:

natamllc said...

I wanted to shine a "little" bit more light on this.

"martyr" as defined by Merriam Webster:

1: a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle
3: victim ; especially : a great or constant sufferer, a martyr to asthma all his life — A. J. Cronin

At best this unfortunate victim of misguided Hindu men was mistakenly tortured and killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffered a humanly life ending wrong.

The Hindu men violated the 5th commandment and killed the young lady. She fell victim to their violations, horrible violations, that according to God's Holy Faith, some can rejoice in in what that Faith brings to the repentant soul when God Sovereignly gives that gift, that is: Christ's death, burial and resurrection secures "eternal redemption and an eternal inheritance", Christ Himself for them, seeing He lives on in Glory now never again to suffer for the sins of Adam's race.

Because the devil is the accuser of the brethren, I believe this fellow, b2k8, for a lack of His Faith by the Holy Ghost giving to him the understanding necessary to repent, is being used to accuse our dear brother, John Calvin.

beowulf2k8 said...

"As a preliminary matter, (7) does not follow from (6) because of a factual error, namely that the Hindu woman in the article was killed mistakenly, her tormentors and murders being under the misconception that she was a different religion than was actually her own."

A Calvinist calling God's decree a mistake? "Who are you, O man, that repliest against God?" If God decreed her to be killed (as a Calvinist must believe), then how is it a mistake?

Turretinfan said...

No, b2k8, wrong again.

You wrote: "A Calvinist calling God's decree a mistake? "Who are you, O man, that repliest against God?" If God decreed her to be killed (as a Calvinist must believe), then how is it a mistake?"

God's decree was good and right. The men are the ones who made the mistake. Just as the men in 2 Kings 6:18-20 made a mistake, but God had ordained it for good.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Again, let me be clear: it is not a mistake on God's part - only on man's part. There are no "mistakes" in God's plan as such, but God's plan includes men making mistakes.

It is interesting to me that both b2k8 and an anonymous supporter who basically said "b2k8 is right" don't understand this.


-TurretinFan

steve said...

If I might venture a few supplementary observations:

1.Arminians, and other libertarians (e.g. open theists) constantly assume that God is culpable if God is overly-involved in natural or moral evils. It doesn’t occur to them that an agent can be equally culpable if he is too uninvolved.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that God doesn’t “micromanage” history. That he simply “lets” some moral or natural evils occur. Does that let God off the hook?

Suppose a mother leaves her five-year old unattended in the kitchen, with a boiling pot of water on the stove, while she goes into another room for half an hour. Suppose the five-year-old ends up scalding itself with boiling water.

Is the mother blameless because she didn’t pour scalding water on the child? Is she blameless because she didn’t intend the child to be scalded by boiling water?

Isn’t the mother’s lack of involvement culpable? Isn’t her indifference, her failure to take adequate precautions, culpable?

For her to say she didn’t do it, or that she didn’t know this would happen, is no excuse.

2.And what if she could foresee this accident? In classic Arminian theology, God foresees natural and moral evils, yet he creates the world anyway. He creates a world in full knowledge of these eventualities, although it’s within his power to prevent it.

How does that let God off the hook while Calvinism implicates God in evil?

3.For that matter, if God merely foreknows the future, and creates the future in light of his foreknowledge, doesn’t he intend that outcome? Didn’t he have a purpose in “allowing” that to happen? Wasn’t that part of his plan?

It was not an unplanned event, was it? It was not an unforeseen contingency, was it?

How could it be unpremeditated if he knew it was going to happen in case he created the world? He knew these evils would occur if he made the world, and he made it anyway, even though he didn’t have to.

4.The freewill defense isn’t very helpful here. Even if, for the sake of argument, we stipulate to libertarian freewill, what happens is that one free agent frequently uses his libertarian freedom to deprive another free agent of his libertarian freedom. That isn’t very equitable, is it? How is that fair to the victim? How is God just to merely allow that to happen?

5.Finally, it’s simplistic to say, without further qualification, that God approves of whatever he decrees. There is a part/whole, means/ends structure to the decree. God doesn’t approve of every event in isolation to its overall contribution to the good.

Turretinfan said...

Good points, Steve!