Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ultimate Destination Isn't Only Purpose

Some people think that "God created the reprobate just to torture them in Hell for all eternity," is an accurate picture of one aspect of Calvinism. I've heard it used a number of times as an attempt to criticize Calvinism. What's a good answer when someone asks you if that's what you believe - or claims that it's what's implied by your belief.

1. The Short Answer - the Tulips

One short answer is that it's like saying you buy your wife flowers, just to throw them in the trash. That's where they end up, right? But isn't it absurd to suppose that their whole purpose is summed up by their destination? The real purpose of the tulips is to beautify the house for a short time. Yes, they are going to end up in the trash or compost heap, but that's not their primary purpose. It's equally as absurd to suppose that the primary purpose of the reprobate is their destination in the lake of fire. There is more to their lives than that, more to their existence than that, and God uses them in other ways than that.

2. The Longer Answer - Your Ancestors and the Tulip Revisisted

We don't know all the purposes of God, or all the reasons he has for doing the things he does. Many of your and my ancestors were reprobates, but God used them to give birth to people who gave birth to people who ... gave birth to us. Without them, we would not even exist. I don't think that's the only purpose God had for them, but it's a purpose. They played other vital roles too. You are not an island, and neither were your ancestors. You and many of them were protected, served, nurtured, and supported by people who were reprobates. So, the role of reprobates in your own life and very existence is enormous - probably beyond anything you can directly comprehend.

But let's go back to a tulip. If you look at an individual tulip cell under a microscope, it may be hard to see it's purpose. Maybe the particular one you see has a particular pigment to it, which helps to provide the beautiful color of the flower - but many of the cells don't have that pigment. There are a lot of cells in the stalk or the leaves. If you are looking at them under the microscope, you can miss the bigger picture of their role within the tulip plant as a whole. The same can be true of an individual human.

Each human is not the be-all and end-all of the universe of Creation. The individual is like a tile of a much larger mosaic. Unlike a mosaic, though, God has crafted each tile. The tile is not just found and put into place opportunistically, but is specially designed for the purposes it serves in the vast drama of history.

So, the question is wrong because it is both myopic and narcissistic.

-TurretinFan

27 comments:

Gue'vesa said...

Very helpful, thank you.

Godismyjudge said...

Do many Calvinists believe this instead: "God created the reprobate to torment them for all eternity"?

God be with you,
Dan

McFormtist said...

Excellent post!

Just for clarification, what's "the question" you're referring to in your last line?

Turretinfan said...

The question of whether you believe "God created the reprobate just to torture them in Hell for all eternity."

Godismyjudge:

While that formulation is a little better than the one in the post, it suffers from the same problems.

-TurretinFan

McFormtist said...

Gotcha, thanks. I'm not usually this dense, but I was looking for something with a question mark :)

Godith said...

Check out Jonathan Edwards' "The Wicked Useful in Their Destruction Only." Glad you don't agree. Edwards says some good things; some terrible things.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

TF, is your post equally useful in debating an atheist, a Catholic, an Arminian?

Turretinfan said...

"Do many Calvinists believe this instead: 'God created the reprobate to torment them for all eternity'?"

I should clarify that there may be Calvinists who do actually fail to see the big picture and do think that way. But God's purposes aren't limited to that (as per the main post) and we can't know whether that's the main purpose of the wicked (as would tend to be implied by the way the statement is written).

Of course, it's accurate that God created them for everything they did, including in their end.

And Scripture sometimes even expresses their utility in terms of that end of destruction.

-TurretinFan

michael said...

I guess I'm too simple minded.

I'll leave the Word to judge:::>

Revelation 4:11 "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

God created all things and They alone are worthy to receive glory and honor and power.

For my part I'm willing to honor and give all glory to Them because of the power that works within me!

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

David Brainerd said...

"Some people think that "God created the reprobate just to torture them in Hell for all eternity," is an accurate picture of one aspect of Calvinism. I've heard it used a number of times as an attempt to criticize Calvinism."

Lol. Lol Lol Lol Lol Lol!!! And one more LOL for good measure.

The thing is, this is EXACTLY how most Calvinists themselves phrase it. And as for those who try to phrase it a different way, they're just trying to hide what they really believe behind a bunch of jargon and spin. All the honest Calvinists use those EXACT words.

McFormtist said...

You'll forgive me, I'm sure, for doubting you've met "most Calvinists." If there is a Calvinist who says God created some men "just to torture them," he's simply wrong, and as TF said, incredibly short-sighted, as demonstrated in the post above.

Keep in mind that it isn't simply a different "phrasing" to deny that the reprobate have purpose only in their destruction. It's a flat-out denial. "No" is not simply a different phrasing of "yes."

But, if I can speculate for a second, you don't seem interested in much of a dialogue since you've effectively precluded any possibility that you might be incorrect or ungracious in your evaluation of the argument (e.g. "All the honest Calvinists use those EXACT words"). In my experience, People who are generous with exaggeration lack the capacity for moderation - or else they don't care to demonstrate otherwise. "Out of the abundance of the heart..." and all that.

Kevin Failoni said...

Psalms says the wicked have been created for the day of destruction.

David Brainerd said...

"Psalms says the wicked have been created for the day of destruction." (Kevin Failoni)

Wrong on two counts.

(1) Its Proverbs 16:4, not Psalms.

(2) Its mistranslated.

Douay-Rheims Bible
"The Lord hath made all things for himself: the wicked also for the evil day."

International Standard Version
"The LORD made everything answerable to him, including the wicked at the time of trouble."

New International Version
"The LORD works out everything to its proper end-- even the wicked for a day of disaster."

Funny how Calvinism agrees so well with the Catholic translation.

Kevin Failoni said...

David brainerd I'm a Calvinist who is not trying to hide that God created men to send to hell, and its their fault by hereditary right. I can't explain it, but its true. Esau he hated before he had done anything good or bad. Lets face it it would have been just for God to create all of us for hell.

David Brainerd said...

No it wouldn't have. This idea that God is just in such a way that he could rape you and still be just is nonsense. God is just because he acts justly, which means Calvinism is an impossibility. Stop slapping lipstick on a pig and calling it a god.

Anonymous said...
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Ken Abbott said...

"God is just because he acts justly."

Mr. Brainerd, you have this exactly backward. God acts justly because he is just. God's actions are rooted in God's perfect character. In your formulation, God is beholden to a standard outside of himself. But if that is the case, from where did that standard come?

c.t. said...

Ken Abbott, your comment is very clear and brilliant. I also like what Calvin said that pertains to these kinds of discussions: God could have created you as a dog, or a worm. That is how much power we all have in this situation. Truly then understanding our position it's better to trust God, not judge Him, and develop in the faith once we have it because that effects those around us, especially those immediately close to us; but everybody as well.

Resequitur said...

Often, I find that the "objection" to reprobation isn't so much a disagreement, but a hard pill to swallow. One who is familiar with the theological categories, and the biblical teachings that demonstrate them to be true, but lacks assurance may struggle with the doctrine. They want to glorify God, but they fear that they will be "thrown away" at the end. I'm sure you're aware of the people paralyzed by the fear that they are reprobate in the puritanical literature on depression. It's not so much an intellectual disagreement as it is an emotionally weighty matter for the individual. Within the full scope of things they know they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are afraid their faith is a false faith. Reprobation is the first doctrine that comes into their minds when they experience this crisis of assurance. Perhaps from there they struggle with the doctrine of sanctification and perseverance. How should one go about addressing reprobation from that angle

c.t. said...

Resequitur, I cheat a bit by speculating on higher aspects of time. We are very limited in our perception of time. God acts from eternity. Even the Westminster Confession states the Holy Spirit regenerates when and how He will. If I take that explanation one more sentence I immediately sound "whacky" and risk the usual counter claims that I believe in 'second chanceism' or universalism or reincarnation or that we don't only die once, as the Bible says, or something else that isn't biblical, none of which do I believe in. So I usually don't go into it.

I just think that unregenerate at death doesn't have to mean judged to hellfire at death. Because the unregenerate don't go to hellfire at death. You have to be judged there at the great white throne judgment after the second coming. The unregenerate go to Hades at death. Believers go to be with God in heaven. What happens in Hades? I think there's room there for recurrence, which isn't 'living again'. We can only perceive time as linear and hence as a wheel or revolution. Linear time though also has a reality in dimensions associated with a plane and a cube. Not just linear. Eternity, for instance, isn't linear.

The Bible doesn't speak of higher aspects of time because it would explode the narrative, and also because we just need to know what's necessary for right here, right now. It doesn't help to know about recurrence or some notion of higher aspects of time. And time could end at any time (the harvest, the second coming), so it would be a fool's game to think things are not serious right this moment.

Resequitur said...

c.t., those are some very interesting thoughts. However, I'm not sure that the Westminster Divines had that in mind, and I'm thinking in terms of addressing my question from a Reformed orthodox standpoint. I was hoping TurretinFan would provide me with his thoughts!

Thanks!

ct said...

The great thing about the Westminster Confession of Faith is it's not what the divines had in mind, it's what the Bible says.

The context of WCF 10.3 regarding death and the Holy Spirit very much gets at the point I was making.

Turretinfan said...

"Reprobation is the first doctrine that comes into their minds when they experience this crisis of assurance. Perhaps from there they struggle with the doctrine of sanctification and perseverance. How should one go about addressing reprobation from that angle"

Personally, I encourage people to place their assurance in Christ instead of in themselves. While they ought to experience sanctification and perseverance, there are reasons that they may be struggling with those things. It's good to struggle with them, as long as they don't seek salvation by them.

Does that make sense? We have such strong assurance, because we have such a strong savior. Our house is secure, because it is built on the Rock.

Resequitur said...

"While they ought to experience sanctification and perseverance, there are reasons that they may be struggling with those things. It's good to struggle with them, as long as they don't seek salvation by them."

I think that is a helpful comment. I do wonder how one might experience these realities in Christ, without "seeking salvation by them".

If (in the most qualified sense) all of those things (including good works) are necessary for salvation, how might one balance that from getting pulled into the mire of "seeking salvation by them". Ask many people today, and they'll simply say "that you shouldn't" or "it doesn't have to be that way". I haven't received an answer to that yet, without it sounding antinomian or legalistic I do not that I expect a complete one, but I'd think that it would eventually be asked to a pastor, by someone struggling with it.

I'm in complete agreement that it's good to struggle. However, I do wonder when struggling becomes too morbid, too joyless, to much an indication of the lack of saving faith, beginning a vicious cycle.

c.t. said...

The immediate comments above are about faith. What does hope have to do with the subject? Somewhere in Romans it is said we are saved by hope. Or even charity? Does charity have a role in directing us away from ourselves in this matter?

A pillar of my approach has always been doing complete, cover-to-cover readings of the word of God. With really no other motive than to get it in into me, the living, supernatural word. Obviously questions and understanding develops, but I am talking about unique, complete readings. It's an act where you are sort of trying to game your everyday personality and thoughts and worries and so on. Get above them. Build a foundation that doesn't even manifest in immediate time, but grows like a crop to harvest. I've done it seven times to date and have been feeling a need to do another one.

c.t. said...

"However, I do wonder when struggling becomes too morbid, too joyless, to much an indication of the lack of saving faith, beginning a vicious cycle."

The common central casting priest response is you wouldn't even be thinking such thoughts if you were reprobate. Yes, you can start cutting that up into finer and finer metaphysical bits and begin to question whether you are truly in rebellion despite your knowledge of rebellion (etc.), but I think the heart will show itself, and a person who has yet to be regenerated (and, only God knows, might never be) will not ultimately be acting and thinking in a thoughtful, genuine way toward these kinds of questions.

c.t. said...

"If (in the most qualified sense) all of those things (including good works) are necessary for salvation, how might one balance that from getting pulled into the mire of "seeking salvation by them". Ask many people today, and they'll simply say "that you shouldn't" or "it doesn't have to be that way". I haven't received an answer to that yet, without it sounding antinomian or legalistic"

I am not being flippant, but my first thought is does the person know the basic Reformed teaching that good works are the *fruit* of justification and not the *cause* of justification? Because at least, as basic as that is, that gives a person a category to see good works in. If, though, the response would always be a further retreat (or delving) into the joints of soteriology, if you will, philosophizing on self-deception and so on, I think that is just where the Spirit speaking to spirit comes into play for a regenerated Christian. Also, the looking back to when we were not regenerate and seeing ourselves now and the difference.