I recently came upon very insightful Facebook discussion with Richard Coords, of www.examiningcalvinism.com, and asked him if he would mind turning it into a blog article for this site. Here is the result… enjoy!
Can Parallel Lines Cross?
By Richard Coords (guest blogger)
Merrill F. Unger explains:
“Divine foreordination and human freedom are humanly irreconcilable, but like two parallel line that meet in infinity, they have their solution in God.”
This quote troubles me.
(1) Logic: By definition, truly parallel lines never meet, not even in eternity, or else by definition, they would no longer remain parallel. The illogic of a Calvinist’s “sovereignty / responsibility tension” is very troubling to me. The “tension” is essentially the marriage of Hard Determinism and Free-Will, and whose offspring is “Compatibilism.” Accepting an illogical tension mocks logic, and mocking logic is a slippery slope, because once initiated, where does it end? If one endorses illogic in one instance, is not a defense against illogic elsewhere now forfeited? What if the discussion transcends from theology into ethics? Where is the defense against questionable ethics, if while being irreconcilable with Scripture, it somehow alleged to have a solution in eternity with God?
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.’” (Isaiah 1:18)
Why would God invite us to reason together with Him, if such things are beyond human reason? On the other hand, I can accept mysteries regarding the nature of God Himself, in terms of being eternal and triune, as I don’t see that as an “illogical contradiction,” but rather as a logical mystery that simply awaits revelation.
God is a complex Being; I’m sure that He can explain it someday. Complexity and illogical are not the same. Furthermore, I don’t understand the 6-day Genesis creation, but I’m sure that God will be able to explain how He did it, in just so many days. So I don’t see that as a contradiction, but just something that awaits explanation. However, insisting that man is compatibilistically “free,” while having their every single thought, from cradle to grave and into eternity beyond, all thought for them by decree, is a logical contradiction that now carries the danger of inviting any other illogical statement into Christian orthodoxy. Once opened, the door of illogic cannot be closed, except by “Special Pleading.”
(2) Presumption: Unger’s quote assumes that divine predestination goes beyond the simple concept of “that which God does, and prepares to do in advance,” into meaning that “God does everything.” So why must God be made to own everything? “Sovereignty,” we are told, with theism in general, including divine omniscience, left hanging in the balance.
Calvinist R.C. Sproul insists that “foreordination” of “whatsoever comes to pass” is a “necessary tenet of theism,” and that non-Calvinists should otherwise “embrace atheism.” (Chosen by God, 1986, pp.26-27) Also insisting that God is “neither surprised nor caught off guard,” is often deftly leveraged to support Sproul’s sort of sovereignty. Nevertheless, it is a curious leap of logic to take that which God positively affirms to having performed, to then suggesting that God performs whatsoever comes to pass.
In a perfect world, it would be far less scandalous to defend Hard Determinism, but in a fallen world, Hard Determinism certainly would scandalize God. So this is the point at which subtle nuances of Special Pleading are employed. John Calvin cites of Augustine:
“To this opinion of this holy man I subscribe: in sinning, they did what God did not will in order that God through their evil will might do what He willed.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 1997, p.123)
Anticipating the obvious objection, Calvin adds:
“If anyone object that this is beyond his comprehension, I confess it. But what wonder if the immense and incomprehensible majesty of God exceed the limits of our intellect? I am so far from undertaking the explanation of this sublime, hidden secret, that I wish what I said at the beginning to be remembered, that those who seek to know more than God has revealed are crazy. Therefore let us be pleased with instructed ignorance rather than with the intemperate and inquisitive intoxication of wanting to know more than God allows.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 1997, p.123)
In this way, Calvin seeks to turn the tables against logic, whereby logical thinking is scandalized as “crazy” with “inquisitive intoxication.”
(3) Consistency: I read where Charles Spurgeon tried to take a middle position on this topic, and his fellow High Calvinists took him to task to explain it, and ultimately, Spurgeon concluded with this: “My answer is, I am bound to make it as plain as I can, but if you have not any understanding, I cannot give you any; there I must leave it. But then, again, it is not a matter of understanding; it is a matter of faith. These two things are true; I do not see that they at all differ. However, if they did, I should say, if they appear to contradict one another, they do not really do so, because God never contradicts himself.” So Spurgeon is basically leveraging God’s consistency to stabilize his own inconsistency. Why not instead question the accuracy of his own inconsistent position, and therefore himself being inconsistent, it cannot be true, because God is consistent?
(4) Cop Out: “People resort to quotes such as these when they want to accept the Calvinistic premise of God effectually electing a particular number of souls to save but not deal fully with the biblical texts that indicate otherwise. It’s the Calvinists way of appealing to mystery, but it’s simply not a mystery afforded by the scripture,” says Flowers.
I’ve noticed that a Calvinist’s reluctance to fully and honestly deal with texts contrary to Hard Determinism often manifests itself in a subtle form of “Scripture Pitting” (which the Jehovah’s Witnesses are famous for), whereby one verse is pitted against another, and without damaging the orthodoxy of ultimate biblical authority, the only option left is an appeal to “mystery,” and since biblical mystery is a mystery that await revelation, a Calvinist must therefore defer to a revelation in eternity, which would be fine for divine complexities, but not for logical contradictions.
22 thoughts on “Can Parallel Lines Cross?”
I’m not a compatibilist but these arguments are poopy. Nothing ever violates logic? God can’t contain a mystery we will never understand? These are ridiculous assertions on any level. Logic is a self-defeating mental framework completely contextually dependent (its only verifiability is circularly depending on itself, a practice it condemns, it is also completely dependent on the limitations of the human mind). The Bible never once says we should put our trust in the capabilities of the human mind, but roundly condemns it. It is full of the assertion that God is full of mystery, and is known by revelation only. I’m so sick of people misusing a Scripture so much to the point no one even bats an eye. “Come let us reason together” means God wants us to use and understand the study of logic in dialogue with him? He was talking about sinners pleading for forgiveness, not a course on logic. When someone says “I’m a reasonable guy, let’s work this out,” they don’t mean they are well studied in philosophical logic, they mean they are open to mending a relationship problem.
There are many good ways to argue against compatibilism. This is not one of them.
I’ll give a three-part answer. I’d like to address the issue of the verse reference, and then also reinforce my point on the slippery slope of Compatibilism, and finally share a pair of quotes on divine mystery from author Jerry Walls and blogger Keith Schooley.
(1) I reject the analogy that was provided, as there is a vast difference between God inviting us to reason with Him, versus a man, since man doesn’t have the answers that God has, and secondly, when God invites us to reason with Him, that is an open-ended invitation. Just because God gives an example, doesn’t mean that we can restrict His invitation to only that subject. For instance, if God were to say that He was fair, then that opens the door to evaluate His claim on every question of fairness. Similarly, if God were to invite us to reason with Him, it is an invitation on any level. Just because one example is provided, doesn’t mean that a restriction is being asserted. Far from it! (Calvinists play that game at 1st Timothy 2:1-4, by asserting that since an example was provided for “kings and all who are in authority,” now we can only consider “all men” in terms of just that class.) God engages in reason with Israel many times, and there are two in particular that I would like to highlight, which are Jeremiah 18:11-13 and Isaiah 5:1-7. In the aforementioned passage in Jeremiah, God calls Israel to repentance, warning of an impending divine-hardening (v.11), and Israel responds with a refusal on the basis of Determinism and Total Inability (v.12), to which God called ridiculous, and appealed to the Heathens as to whether they had ever heard of anything so absurd (v.13), but if had God appealed to Calvinists, then they would have to agree with unrepentant Israel, because that is the “T” in TULIP. Then at Isaiah 5:1-7, we see God again appealing to reason, in terms of what more that He could have done (v.4), to which a Calvinist would reply: “Well, you could have regenerated them, just like how You do for the elect.” God says, “I expected” (v.4) and a Calvinist alleges an anthropomorphism in response, which actually undermines Scriptural authority, but that is another matter. Suffice it to say, when God engages in His offer to reason together, it is not in a defense of an inscrutable mystery that defies logic, but actually is very logical, and seems to ignore the very existence of Calvinistic principles.
(2) The slippery slope of illogical Compatibilism is a legitimate criticism, because is it certainly can transcend from philosophy into ethics. “Life follows doctrine,” as Dave Hunt states, and “Theology inevitably affects behavior.” (Debating Calvinism, 2004, p.227, 248) When cultists and false teachers make false claims, why can’t they defer to an inscrutable mystery that is resolved in eternity, if Calvinistic theology is steeped in the same? That is my primary concern.
(3) On the question of whether God can engage in illogical contradictions, that is simply not how divine mystery works. So at that point, I will conclude with the following two quotes:
Author Jerry Walls explains: “Of course, this is not to deny that divine truth contains mysteries that elude our understanding. But mysteries are very different from logical contradictions. It isn’t a sign of true piety for one to be willing to dispense with logical coherence in the name of mystery.” (Why I Am Not A Calvinist, 2004, p.156)
Blogger Keith Schooley explains: “Mysterion, in the NT, is used for something which God had previously kept hidden, until He chose to reveal it (as in, for instance, His intention that Jews and Gentiles would be brought together as one people of God, Eph. 3:6). It is something like a plot twist in literature. It is not necessarily difficult to fathom; it is just unexpected, something God chose to keep hidden for a time. But ‘mystery’ in theology is frequently used for something unfathomable, beyond human comprehension, understandable only to God. In practice, it is used to deal with a logical contradiction within one’s theology. How can God ordain sin and yet not be its author? It’s a mystery. How can He desire the salvation of all and yet ordain that most of humanity remain condemned? It’s a mystery. How can He be utterly good and yet ordain actions that are utterly evil? It’s a mystery. It’s all too convenient. A true mysterion awaits an apokalypsis, a revelation of God’s purpose. It’s not an all-purpose escape clause for when you’ve ground your theology into self-contradiction.” (The Schooley Files)
Richard thank you for taking my objections so seriously. I hadn’t planned on a serious response so forgive my somewhat cavalier attitude in my original objections.
When cultists and false teachers make false claims, why can’t they defer to an inscrutable mystery that is resolved in eternity, if Calvinistic theology is steeped in the same? That is my primary concern…. How can He desire the salvation of all and yet ordain that most of humanity remain condemned? It’s a mystery. How can He be utterly good and yet ordain actions that are utterly evil? It’s a mystery. It’s all too convenient…. But mysteries are very different from logical contradictions. It isn’t a sign of true piety for one to be willing to dispense with logical coherence in the name of mystery. Suffice it to say, when God engages in His offer to reason together, it is not in a defense of an inscrutable mystery that defies logic, but actually is very logical, and seems to ignore the very existence of Calvinistic principles.
I appreciate the heart behind what you are saying; that logic could be seen as a revelation of God in creation and perhaps that can help us avoid error. I, however, feel this is the wrong foundation and not what God had in mind in those particular Scriptural instances, nor do I believe in the validity of the modern-day so-called “apologetics” ministry founded on a misunderstanding of what giving an ‘apologetic’ for the hope that lies within you means. God may have created logic, but I believe he created subservient to truth, for a lot of Scriptural, logical and experiential reasons (my 3-fold cord for ascertaining doctrine) I think logic is inherently limited in nature. Thus metaphysical truths by definition are that which are beyond the scope of the laws and principles of this natural order; I don’t see God as logical or illogical, but rather “alogical,” simply above a classic understanding of logic (which admittedly is not even easy to define adequately). Thus I feel doctrine should be built on *revelation* over reason. One can argue that words and sentences cannot be processed without reason, which I would agree with, however, I would add that they are not necessary *restricted* to reason alone. They can be a gateway to higher revelational truth, and this is what I think Christ meant by saying his words were “spirit and life” instead of “logic and reason.” There are just so many Biblical truths we could not ever ascertain or apprehend through logic and reason, even if logic and reason play some small role in the transmission of the words and syntax (which I contend hold higher metaphysical revelational truths that the Spirit helps us see). In this sense we can hear John 3:16 many times, even all of our life, but in one reading the Spirit may so charge and imbue the words with the spiritual painting of what they really represent and mean in the incorporeal realm, that we feel we’ve heard them for the first time and gained a new meaning altogether. I think people’s objection at this, perhaps, “mystical” approach at doctrine is that “everyone will do what is right in their own eyes,” but I see that as an attempt at building a doctrinal system from the mind *alone*, and so is a work of the flesh and not “a rock cut without human hands” which is, in the end, the only “fruit that lasts.”
You intersperse your attack on revelation over logic with some great exegetical arguments against Calvinism (including my favorite, Isaiah 5, which I see as the Arminian’s Romans 9). I feel your attack on revelational truths over logical reason to be misguided and detract from your excellent exegetical arguments against divine determinism, and I find that a shame as it will dilute the power of your argument from Scripture alone, and give the Calvinists tons of materials to object to that divert from some good points. If you want to really make a main prong of doctrine to build on the foundation of logic, as a defense against error and heresy, I think you’ve made an absolutely fundamental mistake that will give the other side endless fodder and even put them in the right in some areas: for God truly is above logic and this is why he reveals things that logic could never reveal to us in his Word. If his thoughts really are higher than our thoughts as high as the heavens are above the earth, I wouldn’t presume to think we could even think them unless he himself bestowed them on us, just as it says “who has known the mind of the Lord?” with the obvious implied answer, no one! But we have the mind of Christ that will always be foolishness the natural (and logical!) man. Thus I will forever be beholden to revelation over reason, and see in Scripture a constant emphasis on experiencing God over coming to him through the intellect.
Richard, Welcome! I have not seen you posting here before, but I am very glad you have joined the discussion. I appreciate greatly your biblical, historical approach as well as adding contemporary agreement for your views. And you discussed beautifully one of my favorite passages for this subject – Jer. 18, so you have my attention. I look forward to more of your input!
Thank you Leighton. One of the three primary reasons I began questioning divine determinism in general and Calvinism specifically were the multiple areas that the doctrine was simply illogical and contradictory, with no answer for these contradictions except an appeal to mystery. (The other two were the fact that I discovered that divine determinism ran counter to the doctrine that the church has believed for the vast majority of its history, and that when interpreted correctly within context, there simply is not biblical support for individual unconditional election, irresistible grace, or limited atonement).
I’m an engineer, and I am constantly in awe of God’s order, complexity, and consistency in His design and creation and laws. When I began to dig into Calvinism deeply, I came across a doctrine that’s full of inconsistencies and statements that are not logical. It threw up a big red flag for me, because inconsistencies and illogic run counter to who God is and counter to what we see in His creation and His natural laws.
You wrote “On the other hand, I can accept mysteries regarding the nature of God Himself, in terms of being eternal and triune, as I don’t see that as an “illogical contradiction,” but rather as a logical mystery that simply awaits revelation…. Complexity and illogical are not the same…. insisting that man is compatibilistically “free,” while having their every single thought, from cradle to grave and into eternity beyond, all thought for them by decree, is a logical contradiction that now carries the danger of inviting any other illogical statement into Christian orthodoxy.”
I agree. This is certainly one of the greatest contradictions in Calvinism, but there are many others. For example, when the Calvinist says that they agree with the vast amount of scripture that says that “God loves all people” when at the same time their own doctrine teaches that God doesn’t really love all people (with a true, biblical love who’s end is salvation).
I love the deep teaching of many Calvinistic pastors like MacArthur for example, but their frequent open invitations that state that salvation is open to all who would simply repent and believe are very much contradictory to what they say they believe, which is that most of those unbelievers they are appealing to can’t and don’t have the ability to do what they are appealing to them to do.
Andy, I agree with your example, as often Calvinists will try to straddle the fence, by asserting that God does have a loving posture towards all men (whatever that means), and then conclude with this: “If some people are not elected unto salvation then it would seem that God is not all that loving toward them. For them it seems that it would have been more loving of God not to have allowed them to be born.” (Chosen by God, 1986, p.32) Calvinism seems to be a theology that is perpetually in a state of motion, bouncing between the “tension” of polar opposite positions.
The other inconsistency that I see in Calvinism, which also threw up a red flag to me, is the fact that when I read and listened to Calvinists, they make it absolutely clear of what they believe about Calvinism, and push it very, very aggressively, and yet when I read the apostles, the same was lacking. Why the inconsistency? Why weren’t the apostles aggressively pushing Calvinistic principles? Why didn’t they repudiate free-will as man-centered theology, and claim that only an irresistible grace can mitigate against boasting? Calvinists like to say that the matter didn’t come up until centuries later, when Augustine arrived on the scene, since the early Church was focused on many other topics, but that statement couldn’t be any further from the truth, as the early Church was heavily debating the topic of free-will vs. determinism against the Gnostics. Calvinists simply pretend that the history of that dialogue never happened, because they are embarrassed by the statements that the early Church had made in support of free-will. The early Church was overwhelmingly supportive of free-will, while the Gnostics promoted Determinism, which later morphed into “Augustinian Predestination.” To this day, I don’t understand why more Calvinists aren’t bothered by the question of why the apostles weren’t as aggressive in pushing Calvinist theology as they are today….
“Two parallel lines that meet in infinity” is a mathematical formulation:
In projective geometry, any pair of lines always intersects at some point, but parallel lines do not intersect in the real plane. The line at infinity is added to the real plane. This completes the plane, because now parallel lines intersect at a point which lies on the line at infinity.
This is an example of a logical paradox. Kind of like three persons in one being. Unger is obviously being facetious.
As for the rest of this post it is badly argued and badly thought out. But even if we were to concede to the charge of complete illogic the assumption that LFW is the answer is completely erroneous. Arminians are comforted and secure in their arrogance and delusion that LFW is logically consistent and coherent.
At the very least Unger is being honest!
Arminians are comforted and secure in their arrogance and delusion that LFW is logically consistent and coherent.
If you don’t want to be charactured, it helps not to characture. This doesn’t describe me at all, I understand LFW can have logical problems and I’m not arrogant nor delusional.
* caricature/d that is
Those were rather harsh words but I was reacting to the equally harsh language in the article. Though I do stand by my words, I guess I should have said “some” and not “all.”
The article is accusing Calvinists of being inconsistent and illogical when they admit paradox and mystery in their system. The implication is that the solution is to embrace LFW as though this is the opposite, that is, LFW being non-paradoxical and consistent. But this is just not the case. FLW is just as paradoxical and inconsistent as Calvinistic Compatibilism.
And the point I am making is that at least many Calvinists admit this mystery where many Arminians do not–Soteriology 101 being the most immediate example!
Articles like this do more harm than good and I said just as much. If you don’t want us to lump all Calvinists together, we’d appreciate the opposite not being done.
Sorry, I should be more sensitive to the differences between Arminians and Traditionalists. It’s hard because most of Leighton’s scholars are Arminian. And most scholarly Arminians are substituting their “traditional” foresight view for the corporate election view. Other than prevenient grace and foresight election what are the other difference?
But your point is taken and I’ll try to do better.
Thank you. Leighton should probably make a blog on the differences.
I wish you would not include so many disparaging remarks against Classical Arminian views in your podcasts, Leighton. It’s really making me want to stop listening, which is a shame. Somehow “Traditionalism” and “Calvinism” always end up being called “scholarly” and “robust.” What does that make the simple foresight view? For unthinking dummies like me I guess?
The parallel lines statement must be popular. RC Sproul tells of having heard one of his professors say the same thing when he was in seminary. He found it a worthless statement. It says nothing about Calvinism. Why anyone wastes time on it is beyond me.
“…insisting that man is compatibilistically “free,” while having their every single thought, from cradle to grave and into eternity beyond, all thought for them by decree…”
Calvinism asserts that God decrees (permits) the natural course of some events without encouragement or restraint from Him. If that is what you meant, then good. If not, learn Calvinism – God does not do man’s thinking for man; man thinks for himself. Calvinism does note that the heart is desperately wicked and all things a man does proceeds form his heart..
Rhutchin claims that “Calvinism asserts that God decrees (permits) the natural course of some events without encouragement or restraint from Him.”
False. Calvinism asserts that God deterministically and causally decrees whatever comes to pass. Your use of the verb “permits” is owing to Arminianism, not Calvinism.
Dear Leighton/Webmaster: Please delete both of my above attempts at posting. For some reason not everything is being posted when I try to copy-and-paste, and so it leaves parts confusing. Thank you. I’ll try again later.
[[ I’m not a compatibilist but these arguments are poopy. ]]
Not at all. No less a Calvinist than R.C. Sproul agrees with at
least part of Richard’s argument: the importance of logic (see
/Chosen by God/, pp. 28-29).
[[ Nothing ever violates logic? God can’t contain a mystery we
will never understand? ]]
Those are two different things, but you’re erroneously treating
mystery as if it’s non- or anti-logic. Just because we don’t
comprehend something doesn’t mean it’s non- or anti-logical. Any
theology leaves us with some “leftover mystery” – but that’s NOT
the same thing as a theology that’s /incoherent/.
[[ These are ridiculous assertions on any level. ]]
What’s ridiculous is your assertion that Richard’s assertions are
[[ Logic is a self-defeating mental framework completely
contextually dependent . . . . ]]
False. Logic provides the structure of every last part of
reality. Logic emanates from God Himself. All Christian
theologians agree that God cannot contradict Himself – but what is
that? That’s the law of noncontradiction, the fundamental rule of
Indeed, no one can even communicate without utter reliance on
logic at every turn. You’re using it even as you attempt to
refute Richard: you’re suggesting that *either* your antilogical
position is correct *or* Richard’s prological stance is correct.
You’re giving us an either-or; but the either-or distinction falls
into the structural realm of logic. You’re implying these
opposing stances couldn’t both be true, because of course that
would make reality incoherent – but reality can’t be incoherent
because reality was created by a coherent God.
Your attempt to refute Richard actually depends on the existence
of a logically coherent God. Mysterious, yes; more than logical,
yes – but *not less* than logical.
[[ (its only verifiability is circularly depending on itself, a
practice it condemns, it is also completely dependent on the
limitations of the human mind). ]]
False. Logic isn’t “verified” by circularity; rather, it points
to /intuitive knowledge/ derived from God Himself. That is, we
know intuitively when something “doesn’t add up,” and that “adding
up” is what we should be seeking. We don’t need to know _how_ we
know that; we just know it’s true.
The fact that logic’s creational source is God Himself covers both
of your concerns: (a) God being the outside Source means we aren’t
arguing on the basis of circularity; instead, logic points
somewhere outside of itself: the mind of the Creator. And (b)
there /is/ a context for logic: again, the mind of God.
Intuitive knowledge (including the conscience, as well as logic)
was implanted in us by God.
[[ The Bible never once says we should put our trust in the
capabilities of the human mind, but roundly condemns it. ]]
False. While the heart cannot be trusted due to the fact that
it’s sinfully biased against God, nonetheless the Bible affirms
logic at every turn, and never condemns the creational features of
the human mind. (a) The Bible communicates, and no communication
is possible without logic. (b) As part of its communication to
us, the Bible poses various arguments about various issues that
presuppose the use of logic in order to grasp and apply those
scriptural arguments (e.g., Lk. 12:54-57; Rom. 1:18-20; 1Cor.
10:14-22). At every turn the Bible’s authors speak in a way that
shows they expect their readers to use /reason/.
And Abraham makes a very important statement of logic in one of
his key conversations with God: “Far be it from you to do such a
thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the
righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not
the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25)
Abraham reasons – logically and correctly – that since God is the
ultimate source of justice, it’s to be expected that God will act
justly. Why? Because God is logical; i.e., self-consistent. The
law of noncontradiction resides within God’s own being, and
Abraham intuitively knows this, so he speaks to God on that basis.
In other words, Abraham correctly based his expectations of God –
in part – on logic.
Not logic by itself, however. Logic is a structure for fitting
data together; it doesn’t provide its own content. At least some
of Abraham’s “content” about God would have been provided by
previously having walked with God before that conversation. Logic
ensures that various data fit together coherently, instead of
leading to contradiction. Abraham takes all the relevant facts
and joins them together logically, to arrive at the coherent
expectation that “the Judge of all the earth [will] do what is
[[ “Come let us reason together” [Isa. 1:18] means God . . . was
talking about sinners pleading for forgiveness, not a course on
You’re partly right and partly wrong. Yes, the overriding point
of God’s statement is as you say: that sinners would come to the
realization of their sinfulness, and would seek His mercy (and
find it). But this communication between God and Israel relies,
in part, on logic. (a) It’s communication, and all communication
(b) The Hebrew verb /yakach/ is commonly translated “reason” in
translations of Isa. 1:18, but it more precisely means “reprove”
or “correct.” It takes on the nuance of “reason together” because
in that verse it’s written as a first-person plural: literally “we
correct.” God is saying, in effect, “Let’s argue so as to correct
each other.” Obviously God doesn’t need correcting, but by
speaking that way He’s implying a dialogue between Himself and
Israel, intended to coax them toward the truth about themselves
and about what He wants to do for them.
All of which presupposes and requires /logic/: Israel is invited
to look at God’s “courtroom evidence,” so to speak, and arrive at
the /logical/ conclusion – that they are guilty and in need of
cleansing – based squarely on that evidence.
In other words, God is asking them to consider how “things add up”
– precisely what logic does in every dimension of reality. Things
“add up” rather than be incoherent.
[[ When someone says “I’m a reasonable guy, let’s work this out,”
they don’t mean they are well studied in philosophical logic, they
mean they are open to mending a relationship problem. ]]
You’re right – but missing the forest for the trees. Certainly
“mending a relationship problem” isn’t about a formal study in
logic, but sound relationships /require/ logic: things “add up” or
they don’t. We’re either being integral toward one another –
i.e., being consistent rather than hypocritical/self-contradictory
– or we’re not. Treating someone properly in a relationship is,
in part, a matter of logic: integrity / consistency / expectations
/ trustworthiness, etc.
[[ I appreciate the heart behind what you are saying; that logic
could be seen as a revelation of God in creation and perhaps that
can help us avoid error. I, however, feel this is the wrong
foundation and not what God had in mind in those particular
Scriptural instances . . . . ]]
Logic is part of a /joint/ foundation: (a) reason creationally
instilled in Man, joined with (b) observations of creation (Rom.
1:19-20), and (c) extracreational special revelation from God.
God expects and invites us to apply our inborn reason to those
other two categories. If that doesn’t happen, then (a) we fail to
infer what we logically ought to from creation, and (b) we fail to
grasp and embrace God’s special revelation.
Obviously becoming a Christian isn’t /reducible/ to logic, but it
cannot be /less/ than logical.
[[ . . . nor do I believe in the validity of the modern-day so-
called “apologetics” ministry founded on a misunderstanding of
what giving an ‘apologetic’ for the hope that lies within you
Here I partly agree with you: 1Pet. 3:15 doesn’t refer
specifically to the modern concept of “apologetics.” In context,
the reason we’re to give for our hope is indicated near the
beginning of the verse: “Christ as Lord[.]” It’s his lordship
over our circumstances that is, in Peter’s discussion, the
foundation for our hope about the outcome of those circumstances
(cf. 3:6, 9, 12-14).
But – again – logic is part of the underpinning here; it is
assumed in, and required by, Peter’s argument. Hope isn’t
arbitrary, emotion-based wishful thinking. We don’t simply choose
to hope on the basis of some vacuous, pointless existentialism.
We hope for a /reason/: the lordship and goodness of Jesus Christ,
which he exercises on our behalf, promising a glorious, blessed
outcome to our current circumstances.
In other words, /because/ Jesus is such-and-such, /therefore/ we
can expect such-and-such. That is logic: blessing follows
logically from Jesus’ lordship and goodness. Therefore, we
literally cannot put 1Pet. 3:15 into practice /without thinking
logically/. Peter’s instruction rests partly on logic and partly
on special revelation which provides the content for that logic.
[[ God may have created logic . . . . ]]
No. Logic is eternal, UNcreated – because it’s part of God’s
nature. Our built-in logic reflects His very being.
[[ . . . but I believe he created [logic] subservient to truth ]]
This is nonsensical, because truth cannot exist without logic;
they aren’t exact synonyms, but they are inextricably linked.
Truth involves consistency, trustworthiness, correspondence to
reality, etc. – all of which are manifestations of the law of
noncontradiction, the bedrock principle of logic. You simply
/cannot/ have one without the other.
Whatever is illogical is also untruthful.
[[ . . . I think logic is inherently limited in nature. ]]
You are mistaken. Logic is “sovereign” in the sense that it
resides in the very mind of God, and God is sovereign. God is, as
I’ve already said, /more/ than logic – but never less. He never
acts without logic or counter to logic.
And as far as nature (creation) goes, it’s not that logic is
“limited”; it’s that other things get in the way of our use of
logic, so that we can’t use it to the fullest extent. Recall what
I said earlier: logic is a structure into which content is fitted;
the structure makes the data fit together coherently. Our mental
structure – i.e., categories/principles of logic – is exactly
parallel to God’s. It’s just that our use of logic is curbed by
two factors: (a) our sinfulness (making us biased against God),
and (b) our lack of data (we have only /some/ knowledge of
creation, and God’s only given us /some/ special revelation).
But if we were sin-free, and if we possessed all facts – those
facts would be fitted together /logically/. The structure of
logic itself wouldn’t change, but in that circumstance logic would
have more to work with, and be unhindered by sin.
[[ Thus metaphysical truths by definition are that which are
beyond the scope of the laws and principles of this natural order
I hope I’ve now demonstrated why this is false: truth cannot exist
[[ I don’t see God as logical or illogical, but rather “alogical
False. God is /more/ than logical – but never less.
[[ Thus I feel doctrine should be built on *revelation* over
This is literally impossible. (a) As I’ve demonstrated, truth
can’t exist without logic; since revelation is a form of truth,
revelation cannot exist sans logic. (b) Whatever God has
revealed, we must apply logic to understand it. Not logic alone;
also the enablement of the Holy Spirit; but never /apart from/
logic. All communication employs logic and cannot happen without
This is why the Reformers based their hermeneutic, in part, on
“the analogy of Scripture”; i.e., because God won’t contradict
Himself (the divine mind possessing the law of noncontradiction),
then if Scripture is divinely inspired we can expect it to be
likewise coherent. Therefore our interpretation of one passage
mustn’t be allowed to set up a contradiction with another passage.
If such a contradiction presents itself, then our theology is at
fault somewhere, and back to the hermeneutical drawing board we
Which is of course one reason Arminians reject Calvinism: it’s an
incoherent theology, and therefore a /flawed/ theology.
[[ One can argue that words and sentences cannot be processed
without reason, which I would agree with, however, I would add
that they are not necessary *restricted* to reason alone. ]]
This is a nonsensical statement. No communication – be it divine
or human – can exist sans logic. There will be teachings of
Scripture that we cannot comprehend, but noncomprehension isn’t
the same as contradiction. If two theological notions contradict,
they cannot both be scriptural. So, yes, revelation will point to
things beyond our comprehension – but the way those things are
/communicated/ cannot be self-contradictory.
[[ They can be a gateway to higher revelational truth, and this is
what I think Christ meant by saying his words were “spirit and
life” instead of “logic and reason.” ]]
That’s a false dichotomy. His words are /also/ logic and reason,
but he chose not to refer to that aspect on that occasion. In
context, his point was that when he’s talking about believers
“feeding” on him as if he were “bread,” he’s not being literal:
his terminology in that instance is “spirit and life” – i.e.,
figurative terminology conveying the spiritual reality of eternal
Nothing he says there is said apart from logic, nor carries any
truth apart from logic, for truth /cannot/ be apart from logic.
[[ There are just so many Biblical truths we could not ever
ascertain or apprehend through logic and reason ]]
Yes, because, as I’ve said, logic doesn’t provide its own content.
We lack (a) a great deal of data, and (b) moral/spiritual purity
(we have a sin-oriented blind spot). But where we are granted
facts to work with, we work with those facts /by application of
logic/. Logic doesn’t provide facts that haven’t otherwise been
provided to us; but logic /does/ stitch facts together
[[ . . . I see that as an attempt at building a doctrinal system
from the mind *alone*, and so is a work of the flesh and not “a
rock cut without human hands” which is, in the end, the only
“fruit that lasts.” ]]
I would never believe nor suggest that doctrine ought to be “from
the mind alone.” My conviction is that the Holy Spirit Himself
/uses/ our inborn logic by pointing us to certain facts, and
aiding our logic (i.e., overcoming mental and moral roadblocks) to
grasp those facts as a coherent whole. Now, of course, nowhere
does the Bible make a statement like I just made – but it’s a
reasonable inference from all that Scripture /does/ tell us about
God’s interactions with Man (e.g., God and Abraham’s conversation
in Gen. 18).
[[ You intersperse your attack on revelation over logic . . . . ]]
Nobody’s “attacking” revelation “over” logic. That’s an utter
misreading of what Richard has said. You’re mistakenly attempting
to divorce revelation and logic when they are inextricably,
irrevocably married to each other.
[[ . . . it will dilute the power of your argument from Scripture
alone . . . . ]]
Here you presuppose that anyone could prove anything from
“Scripture alone,” sans logic. It simply cannot be done. To
reiterate: logic is the structural tool that fits data together in
a coherent whole. That is precisely the process of systematic
theology: grasping various threads of Scripture and mentally
weaving them together into a coherent tapestry. (Yes, I know
those threads already /are/ coherent; I’m referring to our mental
/realization/ of that coherence.)
Whenever we approach Scripture and make a sincere attempt to
produce our theologies, we are employing logic, at least to some
degree. And to the degree that we /don’t/ use logic, to that
degree our theologies will lack coherence. If we were /perfectly/
logical, then we’d have perfectly coherent theology: NOT answering
all our questions, but avoiding self-contradiction. Total
coherence /doesn’t/ equal “no mystery.”
[[ . . . for God truly is above logic ]]
God cannot be “above” one of His own attributes.
MIKE RANIERI says:
[[ In projective geometry, any pair of lines always intersects at
some point, but parallel lines do not intersect in the real plane.
Nobody lives in “projective geometry.” We only live in reality.
That includes God. I’m not saying God is “bound” by reality, as
if it were a force outside Himself. God is the /Ultimate
Reality/, and everything He made reflects that. Therefore the
Ultimate Reality and the lesser reality /cohere/.
[[ This is an example of a logical paradox. Kind of like three
persons in one being. ]]
False. There’s nothing paradoxical about the Trinitarian 3-in-1.
As apologist Hank Hanegraaff has cogently argued many times, if we
were saying God is “one what and three whats,” or “one person and
three persons,” that would be self-contradictory. But that isn’t
the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is that
God exists as “three WHOs in one WHAT,” since “person” and “being”
Now we can’t /comprehend/ that, but as I’ve already stated,
noncomprehension doesn’t equal contradiction.
[[ As for the rest of this post it is badly argued and badly
thought out. ]]
I think I’ve managed to demonstrate that that criticism actually
applies to your own response, not to the article.
[[ But even if we were to concede to the charge of complete
illogic the assumption that LFW is the answer is completely
I agree: LFW doesn’t /necessarily/ follow from Richard’s premise.
But here’s the difference: Calvinism /cannot/ follow – i.e.,
cannot satisfy logic.
[[ Arminians are comforted and secure in their arrogance and
delusion that LFW is logically consistent and coherent. ]]
Calvinists are comforted and secure in their arrogance and
delusion that their theology doesn’t have to abide by the laws of
logic – despite the fact that they’d immediately (and rightly)
pounce on any cultist who violated the hermeneutical principle of
the “analogy of Scripture.”
[[ The article is accusing Calvinists of being inconsistent and
illogical when they admit paradox and mystery in their system. ]]
False. Arminians argue that what Calvinists /call/ “paradox” and
“mystery” is /actually/ self-contradiction, incoherence. In other
words, Calvinists refuse to call a spade a spade, but presume that
if they simply use a different label, then it “must” be so.
[[ FLW is just as paradoxical and inconsistent as Calvinistic
False. I defy you to prove that.
[[ And the point I am making is that at least many Calvinists
admit this mystery where many Arminians do not – Soteriology 101
being the most immediate example! ]]
False. Arminians acknowledge mystery (e.g., how does God know the
future? how did the Son take on human nature? etc.), but reject
Mike’s statement about logical paradoxes is absurd. A logical paradox is a contradiction in terms or a oxymoron. There is no such beast but being a Calvinist(judging by his comments)I expect that level of absurdity.
@James: Enh, not quite. You have my alliance as a fellow Arminian – but the term “paradox” isn’t synonymous with “contradiction.” According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a paradox is “a situation or statement that seems impossible or is difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics.”
So a paradox, then, is an _apparent_ contradiction – but not necessarily an actual contradiction.
That said, I fully concur with you that the typical Calvinist chucks logic out the window when it comes to assessing their own theological system.
**I should add also: Calvinists regularly use the term “paradox” as an EXCUSE to evade the charge of contradiction, despite what seems to me to be the irrefutable fact that “contradiction” is an appropriate term for their soteriology.