Saturday, October 11, 2008

Response to Beowulf2k8 on Calvinism

I noticed that Beowulk2k8 had commented over at Triablogue on the topic of Calvinism (link to comment).

B2k8 writes:
You guys are so ridiculous. When Calvinism is ridiculed, it is funny because the Calvinist system is truly stupidity and Satan worship. When Arminianism is ridiculed it is just asinine lame Calvinists trying to look cool after being burned by the truth.

What the Calvinist dictionary says about what you believe is true.

Augustine: The first church father.

Free Will: Something that can't exist because it would make God helpless if true.

Infant damnation: Something that brings God glory.

Glory: Praise we give to God for anything wicked that has ever happened (except for the birth of Charles Finney).

God's secret will: To save a few and reprobate the rest (secret to Arminians but not to us)

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know: Misleading children's song.

Jesus Loves the Little Children: Another terrible song, obviously written by someone who didn't take the time to do a proper exegesis of scripture.

You love talking about exclusive Psalmody because you want to sing about killing your enemies rather than Christ's love. You love ignoring every ecclesiastical writer prior to Augustine because they all taught free will and election based on foreknowledge of faith (including Augustine before he became an Imperial bishop). You relish in the doctrine of infant damnation as if damning innocent infants for another man's sin was some great honor and glory to your manmade god.
Let's hit a few points: "When Calvinism is ridiculed, it is funny because the Calvinist system is truly stupidity and Satan worship." This is the sort of comment that cannot be backed up. One has to chuckle a bit, because one of the more frequent criticisms of Calvinism is that it is excessively intellectual. The "Satan worship" comment just demonstrates that B2k8 doesn't know what the Gospels is and who God is. A person who says that Calvinism is "Satan worship" is either (a) not a Christian, or (b) someone who doesn't know what Calvinism is.

B2k8 claims that "Augustine: The first church father" is actually a Calvinistic belief and B2k8 thinks that "You love ignoring every ecclesiastical writer prior to Augustine because they all taught free will and election based on foreknowledge of faith (including Augustine before he became an Imperial bishop)." This is absurd of course. While Augustine's writings are certainly notable, and undoubtedly contrary to B2k8's views, we find the same Calvinistic themes not only in the Old and New Testaments, but also in the Apostolic fathers - those ECFs that are the earliest to leave any writings behind. For one example, see this earlier post of mine (link). Incidentally I'd be highly interested in the supposed ECF that taught "election based on foreknowledge of faith" ... if anyone knows, please inform me.

B2k8 claims that "Free Will: Something that can't exist because it would make God helpless if true" is actually a Calvinistic belief. This is wrong as well. Calvinism teaches that men have a compatible free will, as opposed to the Arminian conception of an autonomous free will. The former kind of free will is compatible with predestination, that latter is not. The former kind can exist, and the latter - if true - would make God helpless to save those he wants to save. For more discussion, see my earlier post on deflating assumptions regarding man's free will (link).

B2k8 claims that "Infant damnation: Something that brings God glory" is actually a Calvinistic belief. This is a confused objection. First of all, if God chooses to damn any infants, it certainly will bring God glory. "All have sinned" applies not only to adults but to infants as well. Adam's sin is placed on the account of each of his natural descendants. Consequently, God would be just to condemn infants as well as adults. Nevertheless, God is also able to save infants, if he chooses. The standard Reformed position is that "elect infants, dying in infancy, will be saved." Some Calvinists believe that the category of "elect infants" includes all those infants who die in infancy, and others believe that the number is a subset of the group of those who die in infancy (there may even be some who believe that no infants who die in infancy are among the elect, but I've never much such a person). For more discussion, consider my earlier article on the "innocence" of children (link).

Bk28 claims that "Glory: Praise we give to God for anything wicked that has ever happened (except for the birth of Charles Finney)" is the Calvinist position. Leaving out the parenthetical, the statement is true but incomplete. We give glory to God in all things, or at least we try. It can be difficult to be like Job and say, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21. Charles Finney's theology is error-riddled, but God had a purpose in his life as well. The comment is incomplete, because we give God praise as well for the good things that he does. In all things, God is to be praised. (1 Peter 4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.) Previously, I discussed the dangers associated with discerning God's providence, which is connected with this fact that everything that happens is for the best (link).

B2k8 thinks that "God's secret will: To save a few and reprobate the rest (secret to Arminians but not to us)" is an accurate picture of Calvinism. It seems clear that B2k8 doesn't understand Calvinism, at least on this point. God's secret will is his decree of Providence: his decision about what will happen. This is a "secret" will because God has given us very few details about what will happen. We know that there is a judgment day coming and that Christ will return, but we are not told whether the stock market will recover from last week's down-turn, or whether Georgia will remain an independent European nation. We know that in general all of the elect will be saved, and that all of the reprobate will not, but Calvinists do not claim to know who the elect are. I have discussed this issue of God's will many times, but one example would be in debating the issue with Seth McBee, as can be seen from this open question to him (link).

B2k8 thinks that "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know: Misleading children's song" and "Jesus Loves the Little Children: Another terrible song, obviously written by someone who didn't take the time to do a proper exegesis of scripture" are the Calvinist position. He's mostly right. The first song tends to suggest that all children are in God's present favor, the latter song explicitly says so. In point of fact, many (if not most) children are sinners in God's disfavor and in need of salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ. It is interesting to note that at least some Calvinists seem to like the first song (Pastor Bill Shishko, for example, seems to fall in this category). Nevertheless, generally both songs are theologically weak. I've previously addressed "Jesus loves Me" (link).

B2k8 thinks that "You love talking about exclusive Psalmody because you want to sing about killing your enemies rather than Christ's love." This sort of dualism is practically Gnostic in its radical dispensational bent. And it is just wrong. We don't sing the Psalms because we want to sing about killing our enemies. I cannot think of any Psalms that are written with that focus (though there certainly some in which we ask for God's judgment on his and our enemies). Moreover, the Psalms are full of Christ's love. Psalm 1, for example, mentions that "the LORD knoweth (loves) the way of the righteous," and Psalm 2 speaks particularly of Christ saying, "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." We could go on and on. My readers my recall my previous post contrasting certain modern worshipper-centered worship vs. God-centered worship (link).

Finally, B2k8 thinks that "You relish in the doctrine of infant damnation as if damning innocent infants for another man's sin was some great honor and glory to your manmade god." Mostly this is already addressed above. It is addressed at further link in this previous post (link).

-TurretinFan

14 comments:

Godismyjudge said...

Dear TF,

For the most part I agree with you but regarding the Church Fathers, how about Irenaeus:

This expression [of our Lord], "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not,"(8) set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (ad utendum sententia) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good
will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore does
He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, be not found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign punishment: for God did kindly bestow on them what was good; but they themselves did not diligently keep it, nor deem it something precious, but poured contempt upon His super-eminent goodness. Rejecting therefore the good, and as it were spuing it out, they shall all deservedly incur the just judgment of God, which also the Apostle Paul testifies in his
Epistle to the Romans, where he says, "But dost thou despise the
riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, being
ignorant that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But
according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the
righteous judgment of God." "But glory and honour," he says, "to every one that doeth good."(1) God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this Epistle, and they who work it shall receive glory and honour, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do.

Against Herisies Book 4
37.1


God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Sorry about the text wrapping. I never can tell how it will turn out in that small window.

God be with you,
Dan

luvvom said...

I don't believe that B2K8 has ever really sat down and studied "Calvinism". If this person had, then they would not have made such ignorant statements.

"there may even be some who believe that no infants who die in infancy are among the elect, but I've never much such a person" I actually believe this. I certainly could be wrong in my belief but no one has been able to show me otherwise.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Dan,

That passage is certainly of interest for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless,

a) There is nothing there about election based on foreseen faith (though perhaps you did not mean it to be so);

b) The paragraph in question, while not especially Calvinistic was really addressed to answering a different question - namely about whether some men are born good and others born evil;

c) In addition to the issues you have raised with this quotation, Irenaeus does seem to have a very underdeveloped understanding of the role of Christ as a sacrifice; and

d) Of course, Irenaeus (while an "Early Church Father") is not an apostolic church father by the usual accounts.

For the purposes of discussing our differences with Irenaeus, the very next paragraph is more interesting. It begins:

"2. But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made."

I don't think that would quite fit with either your or our theology (or that of the Romanists, for that matter). But that is the beautiful thing about not living in a dream-world of the "unanimous consent of the fathers," we can just let them speak for themselves. It doesn't ultimately matter whether Irenaeus understood (or could clearly enunciate) the nuances of the doctrines of grace - we rely on a more ancient source: Scripture itself.

We should not stop there, however, because when he is on the topic of salvation, he sometimes sounds more Calvinistic and Augustinian (though obviously such descriptins are anachronistic).

For example, he also says this (on one of the relatively rare occasions that he speaks about grace - something he wasn't discussing in the part above), which sounds more Calvinistic, even if it has certain rough edges to it:

"For if the earnest, gathering man into itself, does even now cause him to cry, “Abba, Father,” what shall the complete grace of the Spirit effect, which shall be given to men by God? It will render us like unto Him, and accomplish the will of the Father; for it shall make man after the image and likeness of God."

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vii.ix.html

Moreover, Schaff even goes so far as to suggest that the following passage anticipates Augustine, who smoothed things out theologically:

And therefore, when the number [fixed upon] is completed, [that number] which He had predetermined in His own counsel, all those who have been enrolled for life [eternal] shall rise again, having their own bodies, and having also their own souls, and their own spirits, in which they had pleased God. Those, on the other hand, who are worthy of punishment, shall go away into it, they too having their own souls and their own bodies, in which they stood apart from the grace of God. Both classes shall then cease from any longer begetting and being begotten, from marrying and being given in marriage; so that the number of mankind, corresponding to the fore-ordination of God, being completed, may fully realize the scheme formed by the Father.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iii.xxxiv.html


Likewise, elsewhere Irenaeus writes:

For He did not set us free for this purpose, that we should depart from Him (no one, indeed, while placed out of reach of the Lord’s benefits, has power to procure for himself the means of salvation), but that the more we receive His grace, the more we should love Him. Now the more we have loved Him, the more glory shall we receive from Him, when we are continually in the presence of the Father.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vi.xiv.html

It is really a pleasure to read what ancient Christians wrote - even if we have gained the advantageous perspective of having a much more developed systematic theology built by later fathers of the church.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"I actually believe this. I certainly could be wrong in my belief but no one has been able to show me otherwise."

Ok ... you're the first I've met. :)

-TurretinFan

Pizza Man said...

For what it's worth, Beowulf2k8 "borrowed" those terms from a satirical post. They were purposely over the top, and weren't meant to be representative of actual C theology. My apologies.

Pizza Man said...

Never mind, I see the context is apparent because you linked to the "Arminian Dictionary". All good.

Anonymous said...

You Know, God was wrong, was he Not? we should add those (so called ancient church fathers) to our bibles Because you know their writings are just as important as the those found in the 66 Books. I for One am going to start stapling them to the scriptures. The real truth is I put absolutely no importance what soever to those false prophets! Hymeneus and Philetus were even closer to the time of the Apostles but they were still false prophets who preached no truth it makes absolutely no difference that those men you claim as church fathers were close to that time nor that you claim some speculatively sat under an apostle I do not trust thier works as they or you line up with scripture it may be a nice read but that is all!

Reformed1647 said...

Wow. The vast majority of people that I have met who despise Calvinism are completely unfamiliar with it. These people should not make statements like this for fear of bearing false witness. This is why we should understand what other people teach. We cannot critique something if we don't understand it.

While we do not practice exclusive Psalmody at my church, we do sing Psalms. Beowulf2k8's view of the Psalms shows that he is just as unfamiliar with them as he is with Calvinism. The number of Psalms that describe God's love and forgiveness are simply amazing. It can be staggering to read them, or sing them and contemplate on what they are saying.

Turretinfan said...

Pizza Man:

I understand that in your post they were meant merely as satire. Triablogue's satirical reply seemed to be the appropriate responses there. Here, B2k8 seems to have taken these comments seriously, and so he is being corrected.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Anonymous wrote: You Know, God was wrong, was he Not? we should add those (so called ancient church fathers) to our bibles Because you know their writings are just as important as the those found in the 66 Books. I for One am going to start stapling them to the scriptures. The real truth is I put absolutely no importance what soever to those false prophets! Hymeneus and Philetus were even closer to the time of the Apostles but they were still false prophets who preached no truth it makes absolutely no difference that those men you claim as church fathers were close to that time nor that you claim some speculatively sat under an apostle I do not trust thier works as they or you line up with scripture it may be a nice read but that is all!

We can learn from the writings of other men, although they are not of the same (or even close to the same) authority as the Scriptures.

I wouldn't call Irenaeus a "false prophet," but that doesn't mean he was always correct. Just as we ourselves make mistakes, mere men (including ancient Christians) also made mistakes.

We need to act like Bereans and compare the teachings of all men to the Scriptures.

-TurretinFan

natamllc said...

The Apostle, who ought to know and does, wrote this:::>

2Co 2:10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ,
2Co 2:11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

What I want to note are two things in those verses:

one, "the Presence of Christ", and

two, being outwitted by Satan.

For those who do not know, Paul is addressing some filthy lifestyles that crept into this "world induced" Church birthed out of Corinth, of which he was assigned as their Apostle. It indeed is prevalent today too!

In an earlier writing Paul wrote this in dealing with the filthiness of "mind" and heart within the Church:::>

1Co 5:4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
1Co 5:5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.


Again, note the "Presence of the Lord Jesus" and "Satan".

The fellow in question over at Triablogue, "beowulk2k8" simply is out of the "sphere" of His Presence. And discerning "minds" of the "Spirit" working within the Church there have interpreted his thoughts.

We cannot exclude the devil from our lives. We should all be familiar with him and the "way" he thinks and produces fruit. We more than equally should all be bringing his mindset and thoughts captive to the Obedience of Christ and His Mindset and Thoughts! This is our warfare.

It is good that beowulk2k8 was allowed to reveal his thoughts.

And as the admonition goes, so we should do:::>

2Co 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
2Co 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
2Co 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
2Co 10:6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Godismyjudge said...

Dear TF,

Regarding Irenaeus and predestination based on foreknowledge, here’s a quote you might find interesting:

Those persons, therefore, who have apostatized from the light given by the Father, and transgressed the law of liberty, have done so through their own fault, since they have been created free agents, and possessed of power over themselves.

4. But God, foreknowing all things, prepared fit habitations for both, kindly conferring that light which they desire on those who seek after the light of incorruption, and resort to it; but for the despisers and mockers who avoid and turn themselves away from this light, and who do, as it were, blind themselves, He has prepared darkness suitable to persons who oppose the light, and He has inflicted an appropriate punishment upon those who try to avoid being subject to Him. Submission to God is eternal rest, so that they who shun the light have a place worthy of their flight; and those who fly
from eternal rest, have a habitation in accordance with their fleeing.

Now, since all good things are with God, they who by their own determination fly from God, do defraud themselves of all good things; and having been [thus] defrauded of all good things with respect to God, they shall consequently fall under the just judgment of God.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/irenaeus/advhaer4.txt

God be with you,
Dan

P.S. I am not sure Schaff is reading that section on the predetermined number correctly.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Dan,

Calvinists could readily agree to what Irenaeus says there, although in view of the Arminian controversy, they'd doubtless clarify a few things. He's speaking of the preparation of the places themselves (i.e. of making a heaven and a hell).

-TurretinFan