Disapproving God’s Plan

A Calvinist sent me a note on Facebook stating in part, “Why are you standing in opposition to God and His ways? You should not disapprove of His sovereign plan and purposes.” Ironically, I believe it is the Calvinist who so often express disapproval of God and His plans.  Allow me to demonstrate.

This same Calvinistic friend recently tweeted this message in response to yet another atrocious event in the news:

“Horrified over the senseless acts of violence and evil…”

I “liked” his message because I too am horrified by the heinously evil behavior of some people in our world. And I have no doubt that this Calvinistic friend genuinely feels the same way. I have purposefully not mentioned the actual event because I do not wish to “theologize” the personal pain of those touched by such grief. However, if our theology is to be practical, we must be able to consistently speak into the issues from our theological worldview, which brings me to the question of this article:

Should Christians ever express disapproval or disgust for God’s self-glorifying will and plan?

Expressions of disapproval about things that have come to pass do cause me pause when brought by Calvinistic believers.  I cannot help but question the logical consistency of Calvinists who express feelings of indignation and disapproval over such atrocities given the ACTUAL CLAIMS of their doctrinal worldview.

Calvinism teaches that God has sovereignly planned and brought about every meticulous detail, including the evil intentions of His creatures, in order to glorify Himself. In other words, if Calvinism is true, the shooting which horrified my Calvinistic friend was planned and brought about by God so as to bring Himself glory. So, in actuality, it is the Calvinist who is expressing disapproval of God’s plans, not me. I am expressing disapproval of man’s autonomously evil choices which stand diametrically opposed to God and His plan. My Calvinistic friend is expressing horrified disapproval of that which God planned for His own self-glorification. How can he do so consistently?


Here is where I am often met with the accusation of misrepresentation — or what is known as the fallacy of “strawmanning.” I suspect, however, that those bringing that accusation either (1) do not rightly understand Calvinism and Calvinistic scholar’s ACTUAL CLAIMS or they (2) do not really affirm the ACTUAL CLAIMS of John Calvin and most of the Calvinistic scholars, but have adopted a much milder, more palatable, and arguably inconsistent form of the systematic. (If it is the second, however, I cannot help but wonder why would they not stand with me in opposition to the ACTUAL CLAIMS of Calvinism rather than accusing me of not understanding it rightly?)

For instance, let’s consider this quote from John Piper’s ministry website, Desiring God:

“God . . . brings about all things in accordance with his will. In other words, it isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory (see Ex. 9:13-16; John 9:3) and his people’s good (see Heb. 12:3-11; James 1:2-4). This includes—as incredible and as unacceptable as it may currently seem—God’s having even brought about the Nazis’ brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child…” (Link)— Mark R. Talbot, “’All the Good That Is Ours in Christ’: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do to Us,” in John Piper and Justin Taylor (eds.), Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 31-77 (quote from p. 42).

On the one hand we know that Piper has at times expressed disappointment and disgust for the Holocaust and the sexual abuse of children, while on the other hand claiming these same events have been brought about by a God seeking His own glory. Therefore, Piper has expressed disapproval and disgust of what God has planned and brought about for His own glorification. As I said, Calvinists are the ones expressing disapproval of God’s plans, not me.

John Calvin himself taught:

“Creatures are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 3)

“thieves and murderers, and other evildoers, are instruments of divine providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute judgments which he has resolved to inflict.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 5)

“We hold that God is the disposer and ruler of all things, –that from the remotest eternity, according to his own wisdom, He decreed what he was to do, and now by his power executes what he decreed.  Hence we maintain, that by His providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.” (John Calvin,Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 8)

“The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how muchsoever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay unless in so far as he commands, that they are not only bound by his fetters but are even forced to do him service” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 11)

“…it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God’s will. For his will is, and rightly ought to be, the cause of all things that are.”…”For God’s will is so much the highest rule of righteousness that whatever he wills, by the very fact that he wills it, must be considered righteous. When, therefore, one asks why God has so done, we must reply: because he has willed it. But if you proceed further to ask why he so willed, you are seeking something greater and higher than God’s will, which cannot be found.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)

“Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an individual charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated. This they do ignorantly and childishly, since there could be no election without its opposite, reprobation.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)

“…it is utterly inconsistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to anything but God’s secret plan… God’s secret plan is the cause of hardening.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)

“I admit that in this miserable condition wherein men are now bound, all of Adam’s children have fallen by God’s will.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 4)

“With Augustine I say: the Lord has created those whom he unquestionably foreknew would go to destruction. This has happened because he has willed.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 5)

“…individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.” (John Calvin,Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)

“…it is vain to debate about prescience, which it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)

“But since he foresees future events only by reason of the fact that he decreed that they take place, they vainly raise a quarrel over foreknowledge, when it is clear that all things take place rather by his determination and bidding.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)

“Again I ask: whence does it happen that Adam’s fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God? The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess. Yet no one can deny that God foreknew what end man was to have before he created him, and consequently foreknew because he so ordained by his decree. And it ought not to seem absurd for me to say that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his descendants, but also meted it out in accordance with his own decision.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7)

“The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)

“Even though by God’s eternal providence man has been created to undergo that calamity to which he is subject, it still takes its occasion from man himself, not from God, since the only reason for his ruin is that he has degenerated from God’s pure creation into vicious and impure perversity.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 9)

Now, before moving on, I hope all those who proudly wear the label “Calvinist” can rightly understand what I am opposing here. I have not misrepresented or “strawmanned” Calvinism. John Piper is arguably the most influential modern day proponent of Calvinism and he is representing exactly what John Calvin himself taught on this subject in the quotes above (all of which are properly cited for contextual examination). Both of these Calvinistic scholars are abundantly clear about what they believe.

I am not suggesting a “Calvinist” must agree with John Piper or even John Calvin on every theological point in order to be considered a “Calvinist.” But if you are going to proudly promote this label shouldn’t you at least affirm the basic theological claims over the issues that make Calvinism so controversial in the church?  The major reason we even know of John Calvin and “Calvinism” is because of his controversial views over predestination, election, free will, sovereignty, etc.  If you cannot affirm his statements on at least those issues, then may I suggest you stop promoting the label “Calvinist?” Or, if nothing else, at least stop accusing people like myself of not really understanding Calvinism? <READ THIS for more>

Now that we have established the ACTUAL CLAIMS of Calvinism in regard to the horrible atrocities of mankind as taking “place by his determination and bidding” and unchangeably “brought about for his glory” let us now turn our attention back to the question of this article.

Why do self-proclaimed Calvinists express disapproval and indignation against that which God has unchangeably brought to pass for His own self-glorification?

It certainly seems reasonable to disapprove of the autonomous behavior of evil men who openly rebel against the will of God and seek to cause destruction. It does not seem reasonable, however, for one to express disapproval and disgust for that which was planned and brought about by God for His own self-glorification.

I recently pressed a Calvinistic friend on this question and he repeatedly appealed to the crucifixion, arguing in part, “Wouldn’t you have been horrified and disappointed by the crucifixion of Jesus, yet wasn’t that brought about by the determination of God?”

I simply pointed to the cross hanging around his neck and asked, “If you are horrified and disappointed by the crucifixion, why are you wearing that cross?”

He is not disappointed by what God did to redeem the world from sin. He wants that event to be known by everyone. Why?  Because we know God’s good self-sacrificial purpose and plan in working to bring about redemption for the sins of the world through Calvary. The story of the cross stands out as unique part of God’s good redemptive plan to redeem all sin, not as the proof of God being the cause for all sin.

We can now read scriptures and learn that God temporarily blinded the rebellious Israelites from recognizing their own Messiah so as to ensure the crucifixion would take place, and who are we to question God’s good purposes in doing so? (Rom. 3:1-8; Rom. 9 — READ THIS for more)  But proof that God “brought about” the redemption of man’s sinful actions on Calvary certainly does not prove that God “brought about” the very sins that His Son died to redeem.

This is a common error of Calvinists.  They take unique examples of God working to bring about a good purpose through the evil intentions of mankind as proof that God (1) “sovereignly brought about” the evil intentions themselves and (2) that He “sovereignly works” in this same way at all times throughout history. In other words, if Calvinism is true then God worked to “sovereignly bring about” the redemption of a child abuser in the same way that He worked to “sovereignly bring about” the abuse of that child. This flies in the face of so much of what we read in scripture about the character and holiness of our God. (CLICK HEREfor more on this)

According to my Calvinistic friend’s argument, God seems to be “sovereignly working” so as to redeem “His sovereign workings.”(i.e. God is sovereignly working to bring about redemption so as to redeem the sins that He sovereignly worked to bring about.) Is God merely determining to redeem His own determinations?  Of course not!

Appealing to God’s sovereign work to ensure the redemption of sin so as to prove that God sovereignly works to bring about all the sin that was redeemed is an absurd, self-defeating argument. It would be tantamount to arguing that because a police department set up a sting operation to catch a notorious drug dealer, that the police department is responsible for every single intention and action of that drug dealer at all times. Proof that the police department worked in secretive ways to hide their identities, use evil intentions, and work out the circumstances in such a way that the drug dealer would do what they wanted him to do (sell drugs) at that particular moment in time does not suggest that the police are in anyway responsible for all that drug dealer has done or ever will do. We celebrate and reward the actions of this police department because they are working to stop the drug activity, not because they are secretly causing all of it so as to stop some of it. Teaching that God brings about all sin based on how He brought about Calvary is like teaching that the police officer brings about every drug deal based on how he brought about one sting operation.

Yes, at times the scriptures do speak of God “hardening” men’s hearts (Ex. 7; Rm. 9), blinding them with a “spirit of stupor” (Rm. 11:8) and delaying their healing by use of parabolic language (Mk. 4:11-12, 34; Matt. 16:20), and He always does so for a redemptive good. HERE>  But the reason such passages stand out so distinctly from the rest of scripture is because of their uniqueness. If God worked this way in every instance these texts would make no sense. After all, what is there for God to harden, provoke, or restrain if not the autonomous will of creatures?

If everything is under the meticulous control of God’s sovereign work what is left to permit and/or restrain except that which He is already controlling? Is God merely restraining something that He previously determined? Why blind eyes from seeing something the were “naturally” predetermined not to see? Why put a parabolic blind fold on a corpse-like dead sinner incapable of seeing spiritual truth? These are questions many Calvinists seem unwilling to entertain at any depth. CLICK HERE>

We must understand that God, like the police department in the analogy above, may be hiding His identity at times and working to use the evil intentions of bad men for a greater good, but that in no way impugns His character by suggesting He is “the cause of all things that are.” And it certainly does not suggest that every evil desire and intention is “brought about to glorify God” as explicitly taught by Calvinism’s actual claims reflected in the quotes above.

Please notice I said “Calvinism’s ACTUAL CLAIMS.” I want to draw everyone’s attention to that because what typically follows this line of argumentation is a Calvinist’s appeal to the “you too fallacy” (i.e. “you too” have the same problem because you affirm omniscience.) But be aware, I am opposing an ACTUAL CLAIM of Calvinism and Calvinists are attempting to argue that I have the same problem based NOT ON OUR ACTUAL CLAIMS, but based on their own philosophical speculation about the infinite nature of divine omniscience (i.e. if God knows something and does not prevent it, that somehow proves that He brought it about for His own self-glorification). Notice, however, that none of our scholars ACTUALLY MAKE THIS CLAIM, therefore the Calvinistic argument is fallacious because it assumes true the very position we oppose (see question begging fallacy). If Calvinists are going to oppose our position they have to deal with the ACTUAL CLAIMS of our scholars, not their own philosophical conclusions. In making this “you too” argument, the Calvinist has unwittingly become guilty of the very straw-man fallacy they often attempt to lay on us for opposing “Calvinism’s ACTUAL CLAIMS.”

46 thoughts on “Disapproving God’s Plan

  1. Leighton,
    My problem with this whole line of reasoning is that if Calvinism is true, then whatever we say, do, or think is something God himself ordained for us to say, do or think. Not only does He ordain it all if Calvinism is true, then whatever we say, do or think, we cannot help it, we have to say, do or think precisely what we say, do or think.

    It is all scripted and we are just acting out our roles, roles we did not choose, where if we are lucky we have a good role and get to be elect. But if not so lucky we get the role of non-elect/reprobate. It is all a matter of luck from our perspective, we have no say in it at all. So if we were to complain about God’s plan, God ordained for us to do so. We cannot help doing it, that is just the way it is. And us not being able to do otherwise is true of everything we say, do or think. God is just playing with his army men.

    1. Yes, and when this is pointed out the best rebuttal the Calvinists has is “Yes, that is what we ACTUALLY CLAIM, but you cannot live like it is true. You must act as if you do have free will and make real choices.” This is the exact issue Mohler brought up in combating atheistic determinists.

      1. They want to have their deterministic decrees cake, and eat their outrage over sin cake too.

        Although that expression always made more sense to me as “Eat your cake, and have it too.” 😆

        I think it got reversed somewhere…

      2. Let me start by saying that my favorite classes in high school and college revolves around logic. I have Master’s degrees in Civil engineering and Computer Science. I recognize that I may be haughty in what I’m about to say, but Calvinism really, really rubs me the wrong way, precisely because it is completely illogical and nonsensical (and because it posits a very wicked god).

        Quite simply, if Calvinism or any form of hard determinism is true, then it follows that God himself has ordained that I reject it – while simultaneously ordaining that I would love His Son and become a Christian. So my thoughts are not mine, and the staunch Calvinist opposing me is doing what he is scripted to do. There is no true dialogue or appeal to reason, there are only our scripts.

        So in this view, God ordained that I embrace one truth and reject another one, and ordained that his children fight each other.

        What nonsense! Now, if I arrive in heaven and find out Calvin was correct, of course I’ll embrace it. I only hope the Calvinists will embrace the truth if and when they arrive and find out their beloved theology was completely wrong.

      3. Hello Kerry and welcome
        Your conclusions are completely logical and correct.
        The foundational core of Calvinism is EXHAUSTIVE DIVINE DETERMINISM (EDD)
        Determinism is found in two primary forms
        1) Atheist Determinism
        2) Theist Determinism (aka Calvinism)
        And Determinism is essentially the same in both systems.
        The difference between the two system – is of course that one system has a THEOS who is the *DETERMINER* and the other rejects a THEOS as its *DETERMINER*.
        The Atheist Determinist is – as you point out – confronted with the irrational consequence of Determinism.
        But the Atheist Determinist does not have a divine being who is said to be holy as his *DETERMINER*
        So the Theist Determinist is saddled with two burdens
        – The irrational consequences of Determinism
        – The ethical consequences of Determinism.
        Your post is insightful because it points the the self-defeating nature of the belief system.
        It is simply not possible for a person to live congruently with Determinism – and at the same time – retain a sense of human normalcy.
        For example – one of the consequences for the Calvinist is that there is no such thing has him ever having a choice between two possible options – because every event is predestined and there is no such thing as an ALTERNATIVE.
        So the Calvinist is never granted a choice between any [A] vs [NOT A] because the existence of one of those options was infallibly predestined and the NON-existence its ALTERNATIVE was infallibly predestined.
        Consequently – the Calvinist brain is not granted the function of discerning between [TRUE] and [FALSE] on any matter because – doing so would require making a choice between [TRUE] and [FALSE] – which would require both options being *OPEN* And no such condition exists in a world in which every impulse in one’s brain is infallibly predestined.
        The way the Calvinist learns to live with the self-defeating nature of Determinism – is to live *AS-IF* Determinism is FALSE.
        This becomes an even worse conundrum for the Calvinist – because his belief system is claimed to be what the Bible teaches.
        And in the process of living *AS-IF* Determinism is FALSE – he is essentially living *AS-IF* what the Bible teaches is FALSE.
        And we haven’t even touched the problem of DIVINE EVIL which the Calvinist faces.

  2. Dear Leighton,
    Thank you for exposing Calvinism for what it really does.Calvinism is making God to be the author of sin and the cause of every evil in our world and every vile act that a person can do

  3. Leighton, I am glad you are trying to help loyal Calvinists test why they are so loyal to this theology with all its harmful, unbiblical teachings that their main leaders espouse! Those first-hand quotations are so important for them to see and think about. But I would take issue with using the police sting illustration.

    I personally believe such sting operations are immoral, because using evil to tempt someone to do evil is always evil in my thinking. It is also clearly unworthy of God who tempts no one to do evil (Jas 1:13). Perhaps a better police illustration would be their observation of two gangs about to war with each other and they allow it to take place not only so the number of hardened will be destroyed but they will have the clear evidence to convict the others.

    I personally believe Jesus could have been sacrificed without malice and could still have paid for our sin! However, God planned to allow sinful men to show their sinfulness in that sacrificial event so that as part of the gospel message we would be reminded of how terrible our rejection of God is, as we rightly identify ourselves with those who crucified Jesus! What a wonderful Savior is Jesus!

  4. David Bentley Hart writes concerning Augustinian/Calvinism’s yin-yang topology: “For, after all, if it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates Himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that He provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity [against sin and death]. Sin Jesus forgives, suffering Jesus heals, evil Jesus casts out, and death Jesus conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God.”

    Jesus, consistent with scripture, holds a clear line of demarcation between good and evil. But the NeoPlatonic worldview, which is characteristically yin-yang, consistently breaches that line of demarcation, and good and evil morph into each other. When this worldview is synchronized into Christianity, the believer conveys it through good-evil concept pairs. God predestines some to the light, some to darkness. There is: Effectual grace/ Un-effectual grace. Salvific love/ Un-salvific love. ungodly-godliness. Indeterministic-determism…..etc. etc. It is a world of double-think in which a person is forced to hold to a dualitic theology on a theoretical level while living in a day-to-day world where justice requires retaining a distinction between good and evil. It goes to the incredible ability of the human mind to compartmentalize contradictions, just as one would while holding to the belief of Solipsism. Thank you Leighton for your wonderful web-site!!.

    1. Good morning Br. D. I believe we can confidently accuse Augustine, in my view, for that synchronization of the NeoPlatonic worldview into Christianity. I have always thought it interesting how quickly he “converted” from dualistic Manichaeism after Priscillian was falsely accused (in my view) and beheaded for, among other false charges, Manichaeism. But what political Christianity was then condemning in the late fourth century, it soon absorbed under Augustine, but under another named dualistic source, Neo-Platonism.

      1. Good morning Brian and warm greetings!,
        Yes I agree, his transition was a curious mixture of Greek intellectualism which was prevalent in that day, mixed with his struggles in fleshly desires. He thought his intellectual itch and a relief from powerful physical desires would be resolved by Manichaeism. But after a decade became disenchanted with it, and became heavily influenced by Catholic NeoPlatonism. Plato was viewed by the church of that day as a kind of pre-Christian apostle. Both systems are dualistic, but deal with evil differently. The Gnostic idea of evil was that it represented a sort of divine conflict, where the NeoPlatonic view of evil is that it is beautiful. The “one” is made up of both good and evil, which exist in undifferentiated unity, along with all other constituents of the cosmos, and as such are necessary parts of the wholeness of the “one”. The glory of the good cannot be fully manifest without the glory of evil and the glory of evil cannot be fully manifest without the glory of the good. We think of Gnosticism and NeoPlatonism as obscure aspects of Christian history, but both were just as pervasive influences upon Christianity in Augustine’s time-period, as rock music is in ours today. Syncretism is a perennial reality in the church.

      2. Hi bw! I appreciate you input. As you probably can tell, I am not a fan of Augustine’s influence on Christianity… especially his allegorical hermeneutics and his contribution to help establish the false sacramental gospel of Roman Catholicism.

    2. br.d

      I like the Hart quote, where is that quote from?

      “It is a world of double-think in which a person is forced to hold to a dualitic theology on a theoretical level while living in a day-to-day world where justice requires retaining a distinction between good and evil. It goes to the incredible ability of the human mind to compartmentalize contradictions, just as one would while holding to the belief of Solipsism.”

      I agree that it is a world of double-think, which also results in discourse of double talk!
      Regarding the ability of the human mind, I believe it demonstrates quite nicely that any idea no matter how false or bizarre can be rationalized by the human mind. Sadly we have this ability.

      1. Hi Robert, hope your well!
        Its from his book ‘The Doors of the Sea’ in a section where he remarks on Calvin….I believe its page 87
        Yes…..Alvin Plantinga gives a humerus introduction on one of his lectures concerning double-think, and uses Solipsism to exemplify the observable characteristics of an unfalsifiable belief system. So I must credit him for connecting those dots…very funny story!! :-]

  5. I was thinking along the same lines, just without all the cited sources, as I was watching my Twitter feed last night and saw comments from several well-known Calvinist preachers and CHH artists. But if we point it out, we’ll be accused of opportunistically using the tragedy to further our theological debate.

    Calvinism has no pastoral legs to stand on in these situations, because it cannot honestly claim that God weeps with those who weep.

  6. Great comment, and I agree.
    Yes, very unfortunate for the consequences it has on one’s image of the God of scripture. And secondly, the scripture teaches the principle: we become like the deity we worship. “those who worship them become like unto them”

    On this view God strategically leads his creatures (Adam and Eve) to believe, when he commands them to refrain from the forbidden, he is really sincere, and is not communicating double-speak. So they are misled into believing they can sincerely trust his intentions and benevolence. But while they are trusting his sincerity, he secretly activates supernatural forces to ensure they fail the very thing he commands. So on this view, not only does the serpent beguile Eve, but God beguiles both of them. And the line of demarcation between good and evil is breached again. In this case both God and the serpent mislead when they communicate, and their characters are thus morphed together. If a person’s concept is of a God that communicates double-speak when he speaks to his people, that person will eventually become like what he worships. Personally, I have my own failings to be concerned about and don’t need to add that to my list.

    But we can also see this conception effects the human ability to trust. While we are wondering whether God has designed us for eternal life or eternal damnation, which lies behind the veil of his inscrutable secret will, we are told that we can at least declare, whatever He does, He will always do “RIGHT”. But notice that in this conception, if God designs us for eternal life, that will be “RIGHT”, and if he designs us for eternal torment, that will also be “RIGHT”. So on this view, we have no A POSTIORI (empirical) knowledge of what “RIGHT” means, as it pertains to us. So then “RIGHT”, on God’s intentions for us, also becomes inscrutable. And as its not humanly possible to trust what one can’t know, any REAL or significant trust becomes make-believe. So on a sub-conscious level we can see why this produces the “dreaded false hope”…. The “he loves me, he loves me not” syndrome. Some believers learn to live with these implications by rationalizing and compartmentalizing. Others, (poor things), fall away and are declared “un-elected”. Why anyone would call that “desiring god”, in any meaningful sense, is inscrutable to me. But we see there are people who have really fallen in love with it.

  7. BW,

    ” Its from his book ‘The Doors of the Sea’ in a section where he remarks on Calvin….I believe its page 87″

    Thanks for the citation. I thought it was from that book, but was too lazy to actually look at it. 🙂

    “Yes…..Alvin Plantinga gives a humerus introduction on one of his lectures concerning double-think, and uses Solipsism to exemplify the observable characteristics of an unfalsifiable belief system. So I must credit him for connecting those dots…very funny story!! :-]”

    I have heard Al begin multiple lectures now with that Solipsism anecdote, it is funny. That is one of the things I most appreciate about Plantinga, a philosopher with a good sense of humor. Who else cites Larry, and Moe, and . . . to make his points?

  8. Calvinists conflate ordaining with permission so the eternal decree becomes meaningless even in their theology. If God ordains everything but only permits sin, then either God does not ordain everything or ordain and permission become synonymous.

    1. “Calvinists conflate ordaining with permission…”

      In Calvinism, permission is subordinate to ordaining – God exerts absolute control over all things. By permission, Calvinists mean that God exerts a passive influence over an act whereby God restrains evil to a point but does not prevent evil and does so to accomplish His purpose.

      1. Which is to say:

        Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

        Col 2:8

      2. Jeff.D sites:
        “Calvinists conflate ordaining with permission”

        Good catch Jeff….very insightful!!
        Yes this process of altering the definition of the word “permission” has long been recognized as starting with Calvin himself. Although others note what is being conflated here as “permission” and “cause”. The term “ordain” in Calvinist usage is strategically vague enough to facilitate plausible deniability. Norman Geisler, in his book; “Chosen but free”, sites as a Calvinist practice, the process of altering definitions for words and terms from their common English definitions, to support conceptions.

        These altered definitions support (“indeterministic-determinism” or “passive-action”), conceptions. Once we understand the system is based upon a dualistic worldview, we can see these definitions are designed to support an underlying (“good-evil”, “active-passive”, “yin-yang”) dualistic conception of the world.

        I wish I had Geisler’s exact quote to post here. But you will notice the same process recorded in Luke 10, with the lawyer who tempts Jesus, who uses the strategy of altering the definition for the word “neighbor” in order to support his doctrine of *limited* divine love. So when I see this practice, I call it “Lawyer Speak”.

  9. Pastor Flowers writes, “I am opposing an ACTUAL CLAIM of Calvinism and Calvinists are attempting to argue that I have the same problem based NOT ON OUR ACTUAL CLAIMS, but based on their own philosophical speculation about the infinite nature of divine omniscience…”

    Omniscience is a good example. Pastor Flowers agrees with the Calvinists that God is omniscient. The Calvinists then draw certain conclusions (ACTUAL CLAIMS) about God based on His omniscience. Pastor Flowers and his cohorts make no ACTUAL CLAIMS. Thus, the rub. Calvinists say that omniscience leads one to certain conclusions about God. Pastor Flowers says that we should not pursue any conclusions from omniscience and just ignore it as if it did not exist.

    Pastor Flowers writes, “it certainly does not suggest that every evil desire and intention is “brought about to glorify God” as explicitly taught by Calvinism’s actual claims reflected in the quotes above.” OK. What does omniscience suggest? Certainly an omniscient God knew every evil desire and intention before it appeared in the mind of sinful man. It is God who sustains the life of sinful men. It is God who can restrain sinful man from doing any sin. What does Ephesians tell us – “God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Does not everything (in this context) include every sin of men? So, even the sin of people serves God’s purpose and is His will. Why is this – “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

    The issue is not the ACTUAL CLAIMS of the Calvinists; the issue is whether Pastor Flowers can put forth different ACTUAL CLAIMS. Apparently not as he chooses Not to make any actual claims and doesn’t like it when the Calvinists tell him that he, by default, actually makes certain claims just by believing, for instance that God is omniscient, and Pastor Flowers just denies that believing something has ramifications that he must face. Brian W. is a good role model for Pastor Flowers. He faced the Calvinist claim of omniscience head on and made an actual claim that clearly opposes Calvinism. All non-Calvinists should aspire to do the same – and stop complaining when the Calvinists tell them that what they believe actually means something.

    1. Conflating “Permission” with “Causation”:
      Within the environment of a court of law, terminology used by all official participants is per-defined and strictly adhered to during court proceedings. During the Nuremberg war trials for example, statements concerning the actions of Hermann Goring, the original head of the Gestapo, were presented to the court as evidence of his culpability.

      Within official court language, to say that Hitler “Ordained” Goring to massacre 10 thousand people, has a completely different meaning, then to say Hitler “Permitted” Goring to massacre 10 thousand people. Or to say Hitler “Caused” Goring to massacre 10 thousand people has another completely different meaning. Law courts do not permit the conflation of these terms because to do so would introduce such a degree of ambiguity, that truth and justice (ascertaining true culpability) would be impossible.

      Technically speaking, if Hitler “Caused” or “Ordained” Goring to massacre 10 thousand people, it would go without saying that Hitler “Permitted” Goring to do so. But to say Hitler “Permitted” Goring to massacre 10 thousand people, doesn’t necessarily imply that Hitler “Caused” or “Ordained” Goring to do so. Ambiguities in these terms work to create smoke-screens prohibiting one from clearly discerning culpability. And that’s why courts don’t permit them.

      Very often, these language techniques are seen as attempts to quietly get around the law of non-contradiction. To be able to assert [A] for one defense argument, and later assert [NOT A] for a different defense argument. For example, to assert [A] in reference to God’s causal role in GOOD events. And then later to assert [NOT A] in reference to God’s causal role in EVIL events. Trading back and forth on two opposing conceptions of God’s causal role in events can be an effective strategy for introducing enough ambiguity to facilitate playing both sides.

  10. Every time.

    Me [Says something about Calvinism]
    Calvinist: You don’t understand Calvinism.
    Me [Waiting for the explanation of how I am wrong.]
    *Cricket cricket*
    Me [Posting Calvin quotes]
    Calvinist: You don’t understand Calvinism.
    Me: Brilliant.

    1. The problem seems to be that you can compile a series of quotes by Calvinists and and not much more than that.

      1. If you read my comment you will notice that the Calvinists never explain HOW I am incorrect. And I’ve posted entire lectures by Calvinists to prove my point. Trust me, dude, I have read more Augustine, Plato, and Calvin than most, and would offer that the average Calvinist has a poor understanding of normal Calvinist metaphysics.

      2. Fair enough. The most recent example is when I was attempting to explain to Calvinists that impassibility is a core Calvinist doctrine. I quoted Calvin, linked a impassibility talk on reformed forum, and quoted Geiser. The response: you misrepresent Calvinism. [facepalm]

      3. If you get a chance, bring it up and let’s see if we can deal with it.

      4. 2. Starting second subthread.

        The event in question was one in which I was explaining my issues against Calvinism. The primary of which is that Calvinism imposes Platonist attributes on God such as immutability, pure actuality, timelessness, and impassibility (to name a few). These are not Biblical attributes, and Calvinist prooftexts tend to be short phrases pulled out of context often making the opposite point of the context. Yahweh, in the Bible, is extremely impassioned and engages in legitimate dialogue and relationships with human beings. Moses (exemplified in Exodus 32) being one such example.

      5. Christofer fisher writes, “These are not Biblical attributes, and Calvinist prooftexts tend to be short phrases pulled out of context often making the opposite point of the context.”

        Nonetheless, Calvinists do argue from the Scriptures that God is immutable, etc. and not from Plato or the Greeks. I take it that you argue for God to have certain characteristics but not for all the characteristics that Calvinists list. Of course, the length of a phrase is not important as truth is truth however concisely it is phrased. Regardless, we seem to agree that whatever can be known about God can only be known through the Scriptures (although philosophy can propose what those Scriptures should be saying about God if He is to be truly God – as far as man can determine.).

        The, “Yahweh, in the Bible, is extremely impassioned and engages in legitimate dialogue and relationships with human beings. Moses (exemplified in Exodus 32) being one such example.”

        Which is pretty incredible. Can you imagine a scientist having a dialogue with the amoeba under his microscope (actually, the amoeba that the amoeba is looking at through his microscope)?

      6. Now Roger, are you doing God’s glory justice by likening His creation in His image like an amoeba?

      7. brianwagner writes, “are you doing God’s glory justice by likening His creation in His image like an amoeba?”

        Only in relation to size. Obviously, God’s attention to detail relates to His creation in His image – apparently, size is irrelevant to God. Nonetheless, the psalmist writes, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…” and that relative to the heavens. What would the psalmist say, if he considered man relative to God? Perhaps like Bildad, “If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot–a son of man, who is only a worm!”

      8. Roger, you should know that Bildad heard that God said of him and his friends – “My wrath is aroused against you… for you have not spoken of Me what is right.” And you want to use his view in your argument?

      9. I wouldn’t take any of Bildad’s words about God as true (or false) if there were no other supporting clear Scriptures saying the same thing!

  11. I’ve been defending Calvinism lately and I’ve heard this from a lot of universalists. If God could send his children to burn in a fiery hell forever then he is worse than the most horrible monster and has no moral authority. Here you are saying, if God can allow evil and use it for good, then he is in effect willing that evil and therefore is a monster who has no moral authority. How can I know from evil when God actually burns his own children alive/ allows the holocaust/ puts Joseph in the pit etc.? But still, you can choose to believe the clear text of scripture that God is in control of a sparrow falling, or you cannot. You can believe he works things together in ways beyond our understanding or not. We can believe in Calvinism and still know evil from good. God may hang out with Satan and pick on Job, but I shouldn’t try to do the same thing. Idk what your friend was taking issue with exactly, but he was using a Jordan Peterson argument. The way things are is good because God intended it and we shouldn’t change it. No God says over and over seek justice, bring justice, find justice. Not accept things the way they are. I feel like this is really basic Calvinism issues.

    1. Thank you for your thoughful comments Heather.

      God defines sin and the says He is righteous. He even defines His judgment based on rejection of His provision of grace. Calvinism reads into what God has revealed their own false dogma about God’s plan, a dogma that He never revealed… the eternal immutable predestination of all things before creation.

      And then, like you, they say we just need to believe that dogma even though it contradicts what God has clearly revealed about Himself and His righteous loving nature… They say – “We’re just like Job… we just can’t see how God is still just in this predestination of all things before creation… including making souls for everlasting torment in hell.”

      But that begs the question. There is no clear revelation for the eternal immutable predestination of all things before creation… but instead there is clear revelation that contradicts that false dogma of Calvinism.

      I’m going to stick with what’s clear and not dogmas that are read into Scriptures contradicting those clear passages and making out God to be a monster!

  12. Dr Leighton … Thank you so much for doing what you are doing… The evangelical church in North America and around the world needs this kind of teaching. We have begun to enter a new dark age…where the character of God is impuned and His Holy name is Profaned by these men who twist scripture to fit their systematic. TULIP is placed above the Word and then the scriptures are made to fit this low view of God that actually profanes His Holy name. Bless you and keep going.

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