Tim Keller: “3 Objections to the [Calvinistic] Doctrine of Election”

Tim Keller, a well-known Calvinistic author and pastor, wrote an article at The Gospel Coalition titled, “3 Objections to the Doctrine of Election” that I wish to unpack further today. For the sake of brevity, I will only deal with the first of Keller’s three objections in this article.

It first should be noted that the title technically should be “3 Objections to the Calvinistic Doctrine of Election,” given that non-Calvinistic scholars are not objecting to the “doctrine of election” itself but specifically to how Calvinists have interpreted this otherwise glorious biblical doctrine.

With all due respect to our Calvinistic brethren, and I mean that when I say it, the Calvinistic worldview does not own a monopoly on the concepts of election, predestination, sovereignty and Divine glory. These are all wonderful biblical doctrines that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists affirm, though we do understand and explain them very differently. Keller presumes the Calvinistic worldview from the beginning without actually establishing it biblically (though to be fair, he does do that elsewhere in his teachings). Keller begins his argument (in blue),

The [Calvinistic] doctrine of election—that those who freely come to God are those whom God has freely chosen—is easy to understand, and clearly taught in God’s Word, but it is not easy to accept. It has given thoughtful believers problems for centuries, and continues to do so today.

Here are 3 key points about this opening paragraph that the reader must understand in order to deal objectively and intelligently with the rest of this article:

FREELY? – When a Calvinist says “those who freely come to God” they do not mean it the way you think they do. By “freely” a Compatibilistic Calvinist means that a person is “acting according to their greatest desire” which is determined by their nature in their given circumstances, all of which are meticulously determined by God. So, when Keller says “those who freely come” he means “those who God has supernaturally given a new nature to make them desire to come irresistibly.” He does not mean that each individual had an actual “free” choice in the way you and I typically think about a “choice” (“the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities.” –Websters).

According to Calvinism all people are born morally incapable of coming when God makes His appeal’s through the gospel, so that really is not a “possibility” that can be chosen unless and until God irresistibly changes the lost man’s nature/desires.

EASY TO UNDERSTAND? – Compatibilism, as defined above, is not that easy to understand, as reflected in the volumes of work that has been produced to explain and defend it. Not to mention that the common accusation of “you just don’t understand Calvinism” is typically referencing misunderstandings on this very point. As Dr. David Allen points out, “Calvinists often use the same vocabulary but they have a different dictionary.” So, Keller says “freely” but as a Calvinist he means something very different than what the average person understands that word to mean.

God making a genuine appeal for all to accept or reject His offer of reconciliation through Christ is easy to understand, but that is not Compatibilistic Calvinism.

EASY TO ACCEPT? – Compatibilistic Calvinism is what is difficult to accept, not the biblical doctrine of election when rightly interpreted and understood. The idea that all people are born guilty and unable to willingly come to God for reconciliation, (even though He is pleading for all to come) unless He effectually changes their nature/desires, is VERY DIFFICULT to accept. Calvinists give testimony as to how much they struggled and wept over how “difficult this pill was to swallow.” John Calvin himself called it a “dreadful decree.” Those who rightly understand our interpretation of election accept it gladly and with great delight as genuinely good news for the entire world!

Now, let’s continue to consider Keller’s perceived objection to Calvinistic election:

  1. If you believe in [Calvinistic] election, doesn’t that leave you with the problem of why God doesn’t choose to save everyone?

Yes, but the same is true for Christians who don’t believe in [Calvinistic] election. [Calvinistic] Election doesn’t create the problem, it only leads us to think about it. To deny the [Calvinistic] doctrine of election does not help you escape the issue.

As you can see, I have been adding in the qualifier [Calvinistic] in order to reveal the underlying problem in Keller’s reasoning. Christians who understand election from the corporate (provisionist/traditionalist) perspective do not have the same problem as our Calvinistic friends. Only the Calvinist has God “longing to gather” and “making an appeal” and “holding out his hands” to people born morally incapable of willingly coming (by His own decree), while only effectually causing some of them to willingly come. On Keller’s view of Calvinistic election, God could effectually regenerate all people to make them “freely come” (just like he did for the “elect”), but for unknown reasons God presents Himself as loving and wanting all to come while only providing the means for a relative few to actually do so. This is what is so difficult to understand and accept about Keller’s Calvinism, yet he never deals with those troubling matters in this article. Keller continues,

All Christians have this problem, and so we cannot object to [Calvinistic] election by appealing to it.

All Keller has said here is, “All Christians have the problem created by Calvinistic election so you cannot object to Calvinistic election by appealing to Calvinistic election,” which of course sounds like non-sense because it is based on circular reasoning and a fallacy called “question begging.” By presuming Calvinistic election is true Christian doctrine (the very point up for debate) he reasons that all Christians have the problem created by Calvinism’s view of election.  Non-Calvinists, like myself, can and will object to Calvinistic election by appealing to our interpretation of election not to the very dilemma Calvinism itself creates. This issue will become more clear when we look at Keller’s argument below,

A person who doesn’t believe in [Calvinistic] election faces this dilemma:

(a) God wants everybody saved.

(b) God could save everyone.

(c) God does not.

The question, though, still remains: Why not? That is the ultimate mystery, but abandoning the doctrine of [Calvinistic] election does not answer it.

We would take issue with the first point of Keller’s syllogism. We do not believe God desires everybody to be saved by whatever means can be imagined (i.e. God effectually controlling what free creature desire to do). The scripture tells us plainly the means by which God wishes to save morally accountable beings who were create in His own image. He desires all to FREELY repent so as to be saved. If you understand “freely” as simply to mean that one has the moral capacity to make a choice (“the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities.”- Websters), then there is no dilemma here. Keller’s syllogism, if consistent, should read:

  • God wants everybody saved regardless of the means it takes to save them.
  • God could save everyone if He chose to use means not revealed in the scriptures (ie compatibilistic control over free creature’s desires and choices)
  • God does not use such means.

Why not? Because God has not chosen Calvinism as the system by which he elects and saves people. Keller then anticipates an objection of one who reject’s his version of Calvinism:

Someone says: “But I believe that though God doesn’t want us to be lost, some are lost because they choose wrongly and God will not violate their freedom of choice.” But why is freedom of choice sacrosanct? I try to honor my child’s freedom of will, but not if I see he is about to be killed by it! Why can’t God “insult” our freedom of will for a moment and save us for eternity?

Why is “freedom of choice” sacrosanct? Sacrosanct just means “regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with.” So why is man’s responsibility (freedom to make real and meaningful choices) “too important to be interfered with?” Because God’s inspired word is sacrosanct and if God teaches that mankind has the kind of responsibility we believe he does then that would be “sacrosanct.” Just as Keller believe’s his understanding of election from scripture cannot be interfered with because its believed to be from God, so too we believe our understanding of human responsibility is from God.

Regardless of whether you think we are saved by our choice or by God’s, you still face the same question: Why wouldn’t God save us all if he has the power and desire to do so? Again, it is a hard question, but it cannot be used as an argument against the [Calvinistic] doctrine of election.

First, we all believe that we are saved by God’s choice. This goes back to the same old Calvinistic conflation that we have had to correct a number of times.

Only when a Calvinist, like Keller in the quote above, conflates man’s choice to humbly repent in faith with God’s choice to save whosoever does so are these types of dilemmas created. In other words, Calvinists have created a problem by conflating two choices as if they were one and calling them both “salvation.”

For instance, the prodigal son’s choice to return home is distinct from the father’s choice to redeem (save) him once he arrives. To treat those two distinct choices as if they were one in the same [i.e. under the meticulous control of the father] creates an unnecessary dilemma.

Second, Keller asks, “Why wouldn’t God save us all if he has the power and desire to do so?” This technically should say, “Why wouldn’t our all powerful God use irresistible means to make us all want to repent so as to be saved if God has the desire to do so?”

The answer is obvious. God does not desire to do so, which is why we reject Calvinism’s underlying premise (i.e. to be saved God has to make you want to believe and trust in Him, otherwise you could not desire to do so by His own sovereign decree). As AW Tozer so eloquently put it,

“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God

Keller then goes on to make a purely philosophical argument:

We can go further. Suppose [Calvinistic] election is not true. Suppose that eons ago God set up salvation on this system: Every person will have an equal ability to accept or reject Christ, who will die and be raised and be presented through the gospel message. The moment God determined to set up salvation on that system, he would’ve immediately known exactly which persons would be saved and which would be condemned on that basis. So the minute he “set it up,” he would be de facto electing some and passing over others. We come out to the same place. God could save all, but he doesn’t.

I agree with CS Lewis who wrote, “Good philosophy must existif for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” Compatibilistic determinism is just bad philosophy that the scripture never implicitly or explicitly teaches. Keller’s dilemma above is created from a purely philosophical speculation based on the inscrutable nature of Divine omniscience in relation to a temporal and finite world. None of us can fully fathom how God’s knowledge works in relation to His creation. We must appeal to mystery where the Bible is silent while speaking out against any manmade philosophy that undermines His attributes of love and holiness, or the clear biblical instruction of mankind’s responsibility in light of God’s appeals.

Any philosophy that teaches Divine omniscience demands Divine determinism is a bad philosophy. I believe Molinism held by William Lane Craig, or the Eternal Now view held by Boethius (and popularized by CS Lewis) provide sound philosophical answers to some of the dilemmas our finite minds vainly attempt to grasp with regard to God’s infinite attributes.

 

36 thoughts on “Tim Keller: “3 Objections to the [Calvinistic] Doctrine of Election”

  1. Good evaluation of Keller’s attempt to “sell” the Calvinistic view of election. I was glad when you pointed out the actual logical fallacies behind his statements but I wished for more Scriptural confirmation also.

    Of course, you know that I hold the idea that certainty of completely settled foreknowledge before creation, though it is not determinative of future events, does confirm that all future events are certain to happen only one way, and therefore predetermined by something or someone, making the notion of freewill impossible, logically speaking, imo.

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  2. This article demonstrates the typical modus operandi of Calvinists, of redefining words into unrecognizable caricatures of their commonly understood meaning and pretending as if no one should question those nonsense definitions.

    People on this blog, along with its author, have repeatedly rejected Calvinism’s pretense that Calvinism’s definition of salvation retains any aspect of ‘freely’ that would be recognizable to knowledgeable users of the English language.

    Certainly God’s grace cannot said to be ‘freely’ offered to all, for, under Calvinism’s system Jesus did not shed his blood for all men, but only a limited few. Thus, if you are not one of the predetermined (chosen) elect as defined by Calvinism, God’s grace cannot possibly be acquired, as it was never intended for you. Under Calvinism, there is no shed blood that paid for the sins of all, merely awaiting the freely proffered belief and repentance of the sinner to have its atonement granted. Although a few self-claimed Calvinists recoil at the objectionable theory of Limited Atonement, and call themselves ‘four pointers’, the rest of the system requires its conclusions. As often pointed out, the logical cohesion of the system requires each of the five points for it to work.

    Nor can Calvinism claim that any man ‘freely’ comes or responds to God’s call, as, under their system, all are ‘dead’ and cannot respond to that call. What MUST first take place is a definitely ‘non-free’ work upon an uwitting, unseeking, unresponsive person to MAKE them alive, regenerated, or able to hear and desire to come to God. Though hidden underneath lengthy explanations concerning Original Sin, Total Depravity, Inability and the like, in its bare essence Calvinism posits a Divine rape rather than a Divine romance. The chosen victim ‘freely’ comes to God only after an irresistible, life-transforming action has been mysically worked upon them, wholely without their desire or consent.

    Under Calvinism, the forceful Deity mystically changes the unwilling victim into a cooperative party, inflicting the Divine date rape drug of ‘Regeneration’ to overcome their former unwillingness. Calvinists will cry foul, but they undeniably insist that the unregenerated ‘victim’ is dead to God, does not desire to serve him and would never come in response to his call. Until and unless he/she received – unasked – the date-rape drug which irresistibly causes them to ‘desire’ God. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, of a freely made choice in this forcible conversion of the unwilling, however grand the end result. It is simply a case of the ends justify the means, and the forced, irresistible conversion is mostly rushed past. A date rape drug with this sort of invisible power to transform victims into gleeful, willing participants would be priceless to those who do not trust in their ability to win another’s heart the old-fashioned way.

    Calvinism, in its essence, posits Christianity as a sort of religious Stockholm Syndrome, made famous by Patricia Hearst, whereby those ‘captured’ by God’s irresistible decree become so aligned with his agenda that they ‘freely’ serve him. But in Calvinism’s case, something irresistible and permanent, albeit mystical, is done to the victim, forever placing them in the service of their Divine Captor. One might admire the good intentions of Calvinism’s God in saving the unwilling from certain death, but no one could honestly suggest that men come to him ‘freely’ for this ‘salvation’.

    This is the reprehensible caricature that Calvinism makes of the word ‘freely’, robbing it of all of its true meaning, ignoring the inescapable logic that any action irresistibly predetermined by a more powerful being cannot be said to be ‘freely’ chosen by its ordained victim of predetermination, however much they have had a resistiless ‘desire’ engrafted into them.

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  3. CAN CALVINIST LANGUAGE BE TRUSTED?

    Wonderful Article TIm!!

    1)
    Quotes:
    – those who FREELY come to God are those whom God has FREELY chosen
    – God doesn’t want us to be lost, some are lost because they choose wrongly and God will not violate their FREEDOM.

    The term “FREELY” in the first statement is used twice with two distinctly different meanings. The statement is clearly equivocal and strategically misleading. Calvin’s god immutably decrees what people choose – and people cannot choose otherwise than what Calvin’s immutably decrees. This is Calvinism’s HIDDEN truth – and most Calvinists will say ANYTHING to evade revealing it – and instead try to paint the opposite picture.

    2)
    Quotes:
    – If you believe in [CALVINISTIC] election, doesn’t that leave you with the problem of why God doesn’t choose to save everyone? ……..
    – All Christians have this problem, and so we cannot object to [CALVINISTIC] election by appealing to it……
    – A person who doesn’t believe in [CALVINISTIC] election faces this dilemma:
    – but abandoning the doctrine of [CALVINISTIC] election does not answer it.

    Notice how one has to fill the critical qualifiers the Calvinist strategically HIDES in his statements. This is a clear re-flag the Calvinist internally knows he needs to use deceptive language – and he debilitates his conscience in the process.

    3)
    Quote:
    Regardless of whether you think we are saved [A] by our choice OR [B] by God’s

    Notice how this statement paints a picture of [A] vs. [B].
    While what the Calvinist HIDES is in his system man’s choice is made millennia before he is born.

    4)
    Why wouldn’t God save us all if he has the power and desire to do so? Again, it is a hard question, but it cannot be used as an argument against the [Calvinistic] doctrine of election.

    Sorry – this statement is completely false! Does the Calvinist know it is false? Perhaps not – if he lives in a cave!

    5)
    – he would be de facto electing some and passing over others.

    Passing over?!?
    I think its clear by this point – there is a certain repeating pattern in Calvinist language.
    Once the pattern of equivocation and obfuscation is recognized – Calvinist language simply cannot be trusted.

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  4. Your reply to Keller is replete with your usually double standards. But the best part is the last sentence. After making a point about bad philosophy you show your ignorance concerning Molinism. William Lane Craig’s definition of free will is simply that of choices that are not coerced. Kirk MacGregor, who was a student of Craig, defines free will in his new book on Molina as the ability to choose between options that are consistent with one’s nature. Both of these definitions are the definitions of free will used by compatibilists. The irony that you fail to admit is that there are no notable Arminian or Traditionalist philosophers. All notable Christian philosophers that hold to so called “libertarian” free will are either Molinists or Open Theists. The reason for this is that the theistic philosophers understand the logical problem with libertainism even though you do not. I suggest do a little more research on Molinism before you go recommending it as providing sound philosophical answers. I think you will find that Molinism is just as deterministic as Calvinism.

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    1. Welcome back Mike. We do agree that Molinism is indeed, at its roots, deterministic, since it posits that there is made the so-called divine choice of a completed world (which is never really completed since it goes on forever).

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      1. Have you read the MacGregor book? I really liked it. I’ve also listened to and watched the author on podcasts and YouTube—a very nice and patient guy. He makes a good case for Calvinists being able to also be Molinists.

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      2. Haven’t yet… I’ll have to look into it. But my hermeneutic presuppositions are pretty final when it comes to seeing God’s self revelation in Scripture as clearly showing a sequential divine eternal reality and a mutable functional divine knowledge with infinite understanding.

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      3. MacGregor’s book does not seem to be readily available at a “convenient price”, Mike ;-)… but in doing some quick research looking for a review of it, I found this article that proposes the same kind of wedding of Calvinism/Molinism/Compatibilism. You might be interested in it. It is well researched – https://www.galaxie.com/article/jets55-4-09 If you don’t have a subscription, message me and I’ll send you a copy.

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  5. As for the Eternal Now, once again you demonstrate your double standard, as this idea is just as difficult and seemingly contradictory as compatiblism. (Incidentally William Lane Craig is opposed to this idea.)

    For some unexplained reason God looking into the future to have knowledge of the future is not logical for Traditionalists and some Arminians. But God having knowledge of what is right in front of him because for God there is not past or future is much more logical. Why? It is suggested that God knowledge is not like human knowledge. But this “Eternal Now” idea is logical because it is more like human knowledge in that humans have knowledge only of the now. This is quite inconsistent—God’s knowledge is not like our but it is like ours. Once again this is no more logical than comptiblism and just as paradoxical.

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    1. I can see your point, Brian. Your view makes more sense of eternity—and I don’t think Calvinism has a good explanation here. As I said, this is why all the notable philosophers who hold to libertarian free will are Molinists or Open Theists.

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  6. “According to Calvinism all people are born morally incapable of coming when God makes His appeals through the gospel, so that really is not a ‘possibility’ that can be chosen unless and until God irresistibly changes the lost man’s nature/desires.”

    Precisely what an Arminian believes.

    “….the Calvinistic worldview does not own a monopoly on the concepts of election, predestination, sovereignty and Divine glory.”

    O, it pretty much does. Arminianism, the offspring of Calvinism, has its own view of election. That being that those who are “in Christ” make up the elect. These are by far the 2 most popular and taught views.

    “Christians who understand election from the corporate (provisionist/traditionalist) perspective do not have the same problem as our Calvinistic friends.”

    No. But they have created another one. Unless I am mistaken, this view is the same as the Arminian view, mainly, “I am elect because I elected to believe”. That would be like saying God elected Israel, because Israel elected God. And, yet, our Lord told His Jewish apostles…. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”

    “All Christians have this problem, and so we cannot object to election by appealing to it.”

    Not all. Some see a distinction between election and salvation. Election is reserved for Israel. Salvation available to all. Israel is His elect (Isaiah 45:4, Isaiah 65:9, Isaiah 65:22, Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:31, Romans 9:11, Romans 11:28, 2 Timothy 2:10, 1 Peter 1:2). The church is His body (Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24).

    But alas.

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    1. Philip,
      You are correct about corporate election. And I like your observation. For some reason that is never really explained Traditionalists and Arminians think that corporate election solves the problem of God’s so called “arbitrary” choice of Jacob and Esau in Romans 9. Even if we accept the idea that God is talking about people groups (which s a possibility) the text says God chooses the groups NOT based on anything they would do in the future. The corporate view posits the hatred of Esau based on the sins of his descendant people group. There is a further irony here in that this view implies that God is looking down the corridors of time to see the behavior of Esau’s decedents. This idea of God looking into the future (which is part of classical Arminianism) is rejected be Traditionalists though they never explain why they dislike it.

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      1. Mike,

        A lot there, brother, but I will just respond to this….

        “This idea of God looking into the future (which is part of classical Arminianism) is rejected by Traditionalists though they never explain why they dislike it.”

        The reason, I believe (an assumption on my part), they reject it is because it suggests God “learned” something. In other words, God had to look down the corridors of time, because He was clueless who would be recipients of His grace until He peaked into the future. Now, having done so, He elected them based on His foreseeing their act of faith.

        I reject this, as I reject the corporate view of election as well (if I understand it properly). As I have stated before, Arminius invented this notion (conditional election) in a desperate attempt to distance himself from the Calvinistic notion of unconditional election (to salvation).

        Since I see a distinction between election and salvation, I have distanced myself (safely) from both views (Calvinistic and Arminian).

        Blessings.

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  7. Just a side note that “noted Calvinist” Keller is regularly hammered by other Calvinists for a plethora of reasons. Just saying….

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  8. In my daily reading I come to Acts 7.(Stephen recounting Israelite history).

    33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 34 I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans and have come down to rescue them. Now go, for I am sending you back to Egypt.’

    ——-Why does God say He “has seen and heard”? That leaves one with the impressions that he is letting things play out… not making them all happen deterministically. Why does God give us the impression that He is “responding” to their groanings? That contradicts the Reformed tenet that “God only acts and never reacts.”

    35 “So God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected when they demanded, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ Through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush, God sent Moses to be their ruler and savior. 36 And by means of many wonders and miraculous signs, he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years.

    ——-The people rejected Moses. Again God continually leaves the impression in His Word that He is giving man some freedom. Also note that it says by “many wonders and miraculous signs He led them out.” That is what is says about Christ too (Acts 2:22; John 2:11; John 3:2; John 10:38; John 14:11)! Those wonders and signs were given “so that people would believe.” Why does God/ Christ do wonders “so people will believe” if He really is just giving them faith anyway?

    ——-Christ basically tells people (several times) ….. “well at least believe in me because of the miracles I do—- I mean, you gotta at least believe that!” Why all this “at leave believe in what your eyes are seeing” (giving he impression that the believing is us to you) if God is just gonna either give/ not give them faith? Calvinism renders the Scriptures so meaningless.

    39 “But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41 So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. 42 Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written,

    ‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings
    during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?
    43
    No, you carried your pagan gods—
    the shrine of Molech,
    the star of your god Rephan,
    and the images you made to worship them.
    So I will send you into exile
    as far away as Babylon.’[d]

    ——–How clear can the OT (and now here in the NT) be about God not having anything to do with them sacrificing to idols? Yet Calvinists says He was planning/ ordaining/ willing/ desiring/ conceiving their child-sacrifice all along. Shame on them!

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    1. FOH,

      Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. Calvinism makes that relationship a façade, because, for Calvinism (and to a point, Arminianism), if man was left to his own devices, he would never want/desire/choose God.

      I remember one staunch Calvinist saying “I’m glad God changed me.” I thought to myself “No you’re not. Not really. Not the ‘real’ you. All God would have to do is flip that ‘toggle switch’ back where it was before and the ‘real’ you would go right back to hating Him.”

      If Calvinism is true, then His relationship with His children is a total joke. And He knows it.

      Blessings, brother.

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      1. Excellent observations. I particularly affirm your statement about relationship vs. religion. What God desires is a relationship with willing individuals. Had he wanted programmed robots, he would not have given us the power of reason, the freedom of choice and the responsibility to face the consequences of our actions.

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      2. Although, I might be willing to grant that ‘christianity’ is a religion, made up by men as a substitute for knowing God personally. But that is not the same thing as the relationship that God has offered and desires to have with us.

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  9. 1 John 4:19 (NKJV)….
    We love Him because He first loved us.

    If Calvinism is true, then the Lost can justifiably say…

    “We hate God, because He first hated us.”

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  10. I’ve been thinking about the word “sovereign.”

    In common usage a king or queen is referred to as sovereign. We also often say “a sovereign nation.” The British constitution refers to the queen (or king) as the “Sovereign of the nation.”

    Was king David the sovereign king of Israel? Of course.

    Was he anointed king? Yes (three times).

    Was he anointed even at the same time that King Saul was the reigning sovereign? Yes.

    Both sovereign. Both kings.

    In neither case (or any case anywhere or anytime in history) did the word sovereign mean that (1) he always gets what he wants, or (2) everything that happens — in his sovereign kingdom—- is what he wants to happen. Everything.

    I dont understand why Calvinists put an unnatural and unbiblical twist on the word sovereign.

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    1. Yes you do. 😉 It is because it suits their purposes. It is necessary to uphold their system. A system that conveniently allows them to have an authoritarian, controlling hierarchy, granting power, status and sometimes wealth to those at the top.

      If Calvinists really wanted to understand what God was like, they would spend more time studying Jesus and his life. They might question how the whole ‘sovereign’, divine ruler analogy fits his commands to not Lord it over others, or to not have a hierarchical, priestly class-ruled institution like the Religion they were leaving.

      They might study and understand that ‘submission’ is not a word that grants men the right to dominate, manipulate and oppress women, but a word that can only apply to people who are NOT compelled to do what another says. When you submit, you voluntarily lay aside your own opinion or right – at a particular point in time – to be respectful and supportive of another’s. Submission does not suggest a system of rank, or seniority; it is the system by which those in equal rank dwell with and work together. Obedience is the only ‘choice’ of the slave. Submission is a freely chosen state of surrendering the God-given right to do something else. The very right which defines us as men and women made in the image of God.

      How many well-meaning husbands, with wives who desire only to love them and God, have been falsely taught to oppress those wives to the deep hurt of them and of their marriage? Given a false definition of ‘submit’, a false view of relationship and, most of all, a false picture of servant leadership, fundagelicals, mostly led by closet Calvinists, are driving intelligent, compassionate women out of their patriarchal tribe as they bow at the alter of ‘Sovereignty’.

      How many men, who would never dream of lifting a hand against her, yet looks upon this beautiful, intelligent, sensitive creature who married them in good faith, and arrogantly demands, ‘Are you going to do what I say, or continue to disobey God?’ The stories coming out suggest that this has been prominently drilled into ignorant men’s brains, and they, as well as their wives, are the worse off for the offense of belittling and marginalizing precious human beings indwelt by the Spirit of God. They have not only hurt those who they have been commanded to love as Jesus loved his bride, they hurt themselves by obliterating the insight and assistance they were granted and most desperately need. All because they want to be Sovereign kings in their own little fiefdom, as modeled by their pastors and elders.

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      1. Okay TS00,
        Not really where I was going with that but good points nonetheless.

        I think the key of what you said —and the key to life in general— is to look at Christ.

        Jesus defines everything for us. Does He fit the determinist model (always gets what He wants, all things that happen are what He wants to happen)?

        Not at all!

        Submissive, humble, pleading (“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem….but you would not”), loving (all; “come to me all you who labor”), responsive (“reacts”) to others, and on and on.

        The very nature, actions, and existence of Christ defies the Calvinist model.

        Like

      2. Sorry, didn’t meant to hijack. Though not Baptist, I have been carefully observing the unfolding of abuse and corruption that many are only now recognizing as a Calvinist Takeover – cleverly disguised as a Conservative Resurgence – over at the SBC.

        Like

      3. Essentially the same tactics used by closet Calvinists everywhere, as well as political operatives who created the corollary ‘religious right’ – save the world from those God-hating liberals (anyone who disagrees with me)!

        Like

    2. Edwin H. Palmer writes (From: The 5 Points of Calvinism)…

      “God is in back of everything. He decides and causes all things to happen that do happen….He has foreordained everything ‘after the counsel of his will’: the moving of a finger…the mistake of a typist, even sin.”

      If God is already “in back of everything” then why pray…

      “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

      I mean, what’s the point? Apparently, everything is going according to script.

      Shakespeare must have been a Calvinist when he said “All the world’s a stage”.

      And, yet, most are eternally damned for playing their part perfectly.

      Like

      1. Phillip:
        I have asked “what’s the point?” many many times on these pages.

        Apparently even us disputing determinism, and us asking the question “what’s the point?” is part of the script.

        But where this really hits home is when I hear of a man (who has been cheating on his wife) saying in the pastor’s office, “Yes pastor, I see my wife balling right next to me and yes, I know you said I should not have done that—- but it is you who has been teaching from your pulpit that all that happens is ordained/ scripted/ willed/ planned/ desired/ decreed by God. So…. in a very real sense…according to your theology…. I have simply done what He planned.”

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Reading through the Bible, I come to 1 Kings 9-10. I could post non-Calvinist findings like this every day, but dont really have the time. Every day. The whole Bible refutes Calvinism.

    1 Kings 9:3 The Lord said to him,

    “I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy—this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.

    4 “As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, 5 then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’

    6 “But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, 7 then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. 8 And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled and will gasp in horror. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’

    ————-
    A. Why does the Lord say, “I have heard your prayer” (giving us the impression that His actions are based on human request)?

    B. Why does the Lord say, “If you will follow me…” (giving us the impression that it has not been decided yet— remains unknown)?

    C. Why does the Lord say, “If you ….then I will….” (giving us the impression that His good actions will be determined by man’s first good actions)?

    D. Why does the Lord say, “But if you…. serve other gods….then I will….” (giving us the impression again(!) that man will make the choice)?

    E. Why does the Lord say, “I will reject this Temple…. that I have made holy to honor my name….” (giving us the impression that He planned for it to be holy/ honor Him, but He could change that plan…and will change it, according to what man does)?

    F. What would the answer be to the question, “Why did the Lord do such terrible things …?” (giving us the impression that the answer would be…. Even though the Lord intended good with His temple, He changed that plan because His CHOSEN people chose to be unfaithful.)

    What does Keller say? How would Keller exegete this passage from a pulpit? I did not look it up, but I am fairly sure that he would teach it like a good Arminian/ Traditionalist. He would teach it like our actions matter, help shape history. He, like Piper and MacArthur, would get no flack for this since they carry the C-card.

    They theologize like Calvinists, but live and teach like the rest of us.

    What we do matters.

    Determinism is not a way of life.

    Like

  12. Daily reading 1 Kings 11-12.

    11:4 In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. 5 Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done.
    ——————

    A. Solomon is from the “chosen people.”

    B. Solomon was chosen by David and the Lord to reign (he was “sovereign” over all Israel).

    C. Solomon is told that if he reigns well his family will stay on the throne.

    Does it look here like God “wants” Solomon to do evil? No. Does God want Solomon to follow Him? Yes. Does God get what He wants? No.

    How can anyone do “what was evil in the Lord’s sight” and be doing will of God?

    Ah! Unless you create (out of thin air) that God has two wills —– what He says for us to do (will of command) and we do (secret will).

    Determinism is not a way of life.

    Like

  13. Follow up on the 1 Kings reading.

    11:9 The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. 11 So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. 12 But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive.
    —————-

    How clear can God and His Word be?

    A. The Lord is angry with Solomon (not directing him to do it!).

    B. His heart had “turned away” from the Lord (so, no such “Yes, bad people can only do bad things” card).

    C. The Lord had appeared to him twice…. and had warned him specifically —– do not do this!

    D. Solomon did not listen. He could have listened (history would have been different). There is no determined-before-time-began business here. Solomon —God’s chosen — COULD have listened.

    E. The Lord says….”Since you have not…..” So God is saying that His decision is based on Solomon’s. The thousands of “since you….I” combinations in Scripture disprove Calvinist-determinism every day.

    F. The Lord says, “But for the sake of your father, David, I will not…” demonstrating that He does things (makes decisions) based on human relationships. I’m not making this up…..God is saying it Himself in His word.

    It is Calvinists who say that if this is true then ‘God is small’ or ‘man is stronger than God.’

    It is a pity that they create a god that has not revealed Himself that way in His Word.

    Why dont we just let God tell us what He is like?

    Like

    1. FOH writes:

      “Why dont we just let God tell us what He is like?”

      In my opinion, true children of God do. But everything with four walls and a steeple is not necessarily a temple containing the Spirit of God. That honor has long since been given to individuals, despite the institutions that seek to deny it. Those running ‘The Church’ have always chosen to ignore that inconvenient little fact, playing by the Old Covenant rules that require priests, Pharisees and Sadducees, tidily rebranded as ‘pastors’ and ‘elders’. Calvinism, with its extreme emphasis on authority and ruling elders are among the worst offenders as they try to rebuild Geneva.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Daily reading gets me to Acts 9.

    34 And he was healed instantly. 35 Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.
    ———-

    Once again (like I posted above) people see a miracle and they turn to the Lord (see Moses; see Jesus).

    Totally a human reaction. Seeing a miracle….so we can believe. The idea of “turning to the Lord.” No mention at (or ever) that there is a special giving of faith.

    Then:

    42 The news spread [about the Tabitha raising] through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord.
    ————

    Once again…seeing a miracle and believing. No extra “dead men regenerating” needed or mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never seen a Calvinist deal with these thousands of cases of God’s warnings, if/or offers or the many statements that God is acting in response to an individual’s choices and actions. They simply put their fingers in their ears and keep chanting their handful of prooftexts. It’s pretty much: ‘I’ve chosen my theology, so don’t bother me with all the instances in which it doesn’t work.’

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TS00
        “All the instances where it [Calvinism] doesn’t work” is pretty much the whole Bible.

        Funny YRR Troy who used to post here (until he realized that a few proof text post from him would, amazingly, not just knock us down) used to say “look at ALL the Scripture.”

        I find that so ironic, cuz it doesnt mean that at all. He does not want us to look at ALL the Scripture. It means…..look at (or dismiss) the thousands of verses by filtering them all through the lens of what (we say) these 40 verses mean.

        It is really as simple as that.

        “We have made up our minds of how God ‘must be’ and no hundreds/thousands of verses to the contrary will dissuade us.”

        Like

    2. FOH,

      But we do know that these miracles were sufficient to overcome man’s fallen nature and restoring him to a pre-fall condition, thus freeing him from the bondage of sin, which enabled him to choose to believe the miracles or not, right?

      I mean, there are so many examples of this in scripture.

      (Sarcasm implied)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sarcasm aside, scripture NEVER makes an attempt to set forth the need for something to take place before God can deal with an individual. Just. Doesn’t. Happen. All that is ever needed to transform a man or woman is to be confronted with the living God – and believe him. The transformation that takes place – which God HAS predetermined in his quest to transform imperfect creatures into Christlike creatures – simply requires the indwelling presence and power of the living God, to guide, instruct and constantly remind us whose we are. And our willing cooperation. No one will ever be transformed into the image of Christ with a magic ‘poof’. It requires the willingness to lay down our own desires and passions and learn to put God and others first. Which is what being Christlike means.

        Like

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