Can Incoherence Be Biblical?

Written by Stephen C. Marcy © April 2019. Edited for blog by Eric Kemp

            I recommend listening to this program to give context to what I write here. The program can be found at: https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Does-God-predetermine-everything-Chris-Date-and-Leighton-Flowers-debate-scripture

            The core controversy between Calvinists and non-Calvinist, whatever their particular stripes, has gone on for centuries because of a disregard for a key hermeneutical issue that should no longer be taken for granted.  That issue is the hermeneutical significance of logical and moral coherence, consistency and non-contradiction and the role these play in determining the validity of one’s interpretive conclusions.

            One might take it for granted that interpretations that generate incoherence, inconsistency, and contradictions cannot be legitimate interpretations.  But that is not so for Calvinists.  It is beyond question that Calvinism is marked by acute logical and moral difficulties, and yet this fact is not deemed by Calvinists to be hermeneutically significant, that is, as indicative of the invalidity of their exegetical and interpretive conclusions.  For the most part, non-Calvinists, as much as they have been diligent and successful in pointing out these difficulties, have not held Calvinists to account as to the hermeneutical significance of these difficulties.  Non-Calvinist scholars are proficient at revealing Calvinism’s logical and moral incoherencies, inconsistencies and contradictions, but generally speaking, the hermeneutical implications of such problems for determining interpretive validity are overlooked.  Certainly, non-Calvinists, like Leighton Flowers, reject Calvinism because there are exegetically sound alternative interpretations available.  Thus, non-Calvinists believe what they believe for the same reason Calvinists claim they believe what they believe, that is, because Scripture teaches it.  But this brings us to the crux of the matter.  Both read the same Scripture but come to mutually exclusive interpretations.  So how do we know which interpretation is correct?

Coherence Is Necessary

            In this discussion both Chris and Leighton are committed to the authority of Scripture and both sought to base their positions on Scripture – and rightly so.  But when we commit ourselves to the authority of Scripture we also commit ourselves to discern how to properly interpret Scripture, that is, we commit ourselves to discern what constitutes a sound hermeneutic.  One cannot claim that their interpretations are what the text means apart from grappling with how we can know whether or not a text means what someone says it means.  Thus, we need to interpret Scripture according to the accepted principles of hermeneutics.  Therefore, a discussion of hermeneutical principles and coming to a consensus on those principles is essential to move this controversy towards its resolution.  But what is missing in these discussions is the determination as to whether logical reasoning and moral intuition are indispensable to a sound hermeneutic and that the presence of incoherence, inconsistency, and contradiction is determinative of invalid exegesis and interpretation.

           I suggest that exegeses and interpretations that generate incoherence, inconsistency, and contradiction have hermeneutical significance, that is, they indicate that such are not valid exegeses and interpretations of the relevant biblical texts.  Coherence, consistency, and non-contradiction serve to determine exegetical and interpretive validity.  Therefore, non-Calvinists also reject Calvinism for the logical and moral incoherence it generates.  As Justin put it, Calvinism doesn’t “square off” with other biblical teachings, our moral intuitions, how we reason and how we live.  But the subsequent issue of exegetical and interpretive validity is left to lay implicit in non-Calvinist critiques of Calvinism.  It needs to be made explicit

The Hermeneutical Divide

As I see it, the debate usually stays at the level of each side quoting their Scriptures and non-Calvinists pointing out the logical and moral problems of Calvinism, as Leighton ably did in this discussion.  Exegetical points are also brought forth to support each position.  But the whole question as to whether logical and moral reasoning is indispensable to a sound hermeneutic and that incoherence is determinative of invalid exegesis and interpretation needs to be brought to the fore.  It seems to me that non-Calvinists believe logical and moral reasoning are indispensable to a sound hermeneutic whereas Calvinists do not.  This is what I call the hermeneutical divide.  Dialogues that will move us to a resolution of this controversy need to expose the problem at the hermeneutical level and address this divide.            

So, even in the face of their logical and moral incoherencies and contradictions, the Calvinist remains theologically unmoved.  Why?  Because the Calvinist thinks that their logical and moral incoherencies and contradictions are ultimately not significant for determining the validity of their exegesis and interpretations.  The Calvinist claims that their exegesis transcends any philosophical and moral objections non-Calvinists level against the interpretive conclusions of that exegesis.  I contend that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists should take these problems to be hermeneutically significant, that is, as reliable indications that Calvinism is not an accurate reading of the text.  But what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  This applies to any such interpretive conclusions – Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike.

Therefore, Calvinists and non-Calvinists both need to be confronted with the following questions:

  1. Do you believe that rational and moral coherence (i.e. the use and deliberations of the laws of logic and our moral intuitions) are indispensable and reliable elements for discerning the validity of one’s exegesis of the text?  If not, why not?
  2. If your doctrinal conclusions are found to be incoherent and contradictory, do you think this is a sure indication that your exegesis is flawed in some respect?  If not, why not?

Calvinists need to answer the above questions, so that, depending upon their answers, a resolution to this controversy can be reached, or, at least, what is really at the core of this debate made clear. 

The Evidence for Calvinism’s Incoherence

During the debate, incoherencies created by Chris’ determinism were pointed out.  One was the “two wills in God” argument Chris provided to reconcile the clear statements in the Bible about God desiring good and the salvation of all, i.e., God’s revealed will, and yet decreeing evil and salvation only for some i.e., God’s secret will.  Leighton’s response was that this “makes God out to be duplicitous.” (54:06 – 54:14)  Now, notice the important issues Leighton raises here.  He says,

             “I know Chris doesn’t believe God is duplicitous, but I think it makes him out to be because you’ve got God externally saying I want this thing but secretly he’s actually determining the exact opposite of that.  Now we agree there’s different senses in which God wants things, and brings things to pass, even within our worldview, but not in the way in which he contradicts himself or works against the very thing that he is outwardly saying he wants.  I think that just gives a false view and makes us not being able to trust what God says externally because we have to wonder well is that what he wants internally as well?  And I think that falls apart on itself.”  (54:18 – 54:57)

            If Leighton is right that Chris’ explanation of “two wills” in God has God contradicting himself and it also makes God out to be duplicitous, then if Chris values the deliberations of reason and moral intuitions in the interpretive task, he would have to admit to the truth of Leighton’s conclusions.  Now, that this “two wills” explanation makes God out to be duplicitous and self-contradictory might be fine with Chris, and I suspect the reason he would give is that this is what the Bible teaches.  But we can see how that brings us back to the question of how we can know that this is what the Bible teaches and, more to our point, whether the logical and moral contradictions and absurdity that Leighton finds in Chris’ “two wills” explanation are reliable indicators that Chris is wrong about the Bible teaching his theistic determinism which necessitates this explanation.  And if Chris can ultimately dismiss Leighton’s conclusions, this would seem to confirm that Calvinists do not value logical and moral reasoning in their hermeneutic.

          Leighton raises the issue of the logical entailments of the Calvinist’s views.  Often times what Calvinists deny they believe is nevertheless logically entailed by their other beliefs.  Here we have God being made out to be duplicitous and untrustworthy due to Chris’s “two wills” theology which springs from a certain exegesis of the text that interprets “sovereignty” as theistic determinism.  Chris provides this “two wills” explanation in defense of the logical and moral incoherence Chris’ theistic determinism generates with the texts that indicate that God is good and desires the salvation of all.  Note that in light of those texts Leighton’s assessment incorporates logical reflection and moral intuitions in determining the validity, not only of Chris’ “two wills” explanation, but also his deterministic interpretation of divine sovereignty.  It is the logical and moral incoherence of Chris’ “two wills” defense, as a problem his theistic determinism has produced, that compels Leighton to reject Chris’ views.

Incoherence Begets Incoherence

These are questions regarding the incoherence of Calvinism and its logical and moral entailments.  As Leighton has demonstrated, the Calvinist’s “two wills” theory, and others like it, as defenses against the difficulties raised by their theistic determinism, only increase those difficulties.  What this demonstrates is that Calvinists cannot reason their way out of their incoherencies, inconsistencies, and contradictions.  This is because you can’t reason your way out of incoherence while seeking to maintain the incoherence.  Reason won’t allow us to manipulate it so as to cause reason to betray itself.  Reason cannot be used against itself to reason out of incoherence, inconsistency or contradiction. 

Calvinists do ultimately acknowledge the logical and moral difficulties in their doctrines but nevertheless insist the Bible teaches those doctrines.  Therefore they ultimately have no defense from or recourse in philosophical reflection or moral intuition.  Hence, Calvinist’s must resort to mystery or inscrutability.  That is where all Calvinistic exegesis leads.  That is the ultimate ground upon which all Calvinist exegesis rests.  The final and full result of the way they read, exegete and interpret Scripture regarding the sovereignty of God, soteriology and the gospel is ultimately an incomprehensible mystery.

Can Incoherence Be the Correct Interpretation?

          So let’s press the follow-up hermeneutical question.  If Chris’ “meticulous divine providence” definition of God’s sovereignty is deterministic, and therefore truly renders his views absurd and self-defeating and makes God out to be duplicitous and contradictory, then can we conclusively know that Chris has misinterpreted the text when he tells us it teaches “meticulous divine providence”?  If we take logical reflection and moral intuition on board in our hermeneutic, it certainly seems that we can, and we must.  Intellectual integrity and a responsible hermeneutic require us to conclude that the Calvinist’s definition of divine sovereignty as a universal divine causal determinism cannot be what the Bible teaches.             

In that Chris would obviously disagree, I think, therefore, the dividing issue is made clear.  It is simply the acceptance or rejection of logical reflection and moral intuitions in one’s hermeneutic.  Either philosophical reflections and moral intuitions are incorporated into one’s interpretive process, or, at some point, they are permitted to be divorced from it.  The hermeneutical divide is made clear. 

43 thoughts on “Can Incoherence Be Biblical?

  1. Chris makes a counter argument at minute 44:45 – that the determinist view doesn’t logically entail the THEOS redeeming the very mess he himself made.

    Chris’ argument here can be paraphrased as: “we don’t say it that way”. This is a semantic argument and thus fails.
    Just one refuses to acknowledge [X] is true – doesn’t make [X] false.

    Dr. Flowers points out in determinism the THEOS functions as the SOURCE/ORIGIN of every event [E].
    So if event [E] is being redeemed – then it follows the THEOS is redeeming the [E] which he in fact made.
    In Dr. Flowers words “he’s redeeming the very mess he made”.

    Additionally in the deterministic view “mere” permission is rejected.
    If the THEOS is not redeeming the very [E] he in fact made – the only alternative is that he redeemed an [E] he “merely” permitted
    And this solution fails because “mere” permission is rejected.

    Which makes it the case that Dr. Flower’s argument – “The THEOS is redeeming the very mess he made” stands as a valid argument.

  2. One of the more important logical tangles I find Calvinism to run into is laid out in the Westminster Confession, where it is essentially proclaimed that God is the author of sin but not in such a way as to be the author of sin:

    “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.”

    The basic problem being that one can ‘say’ “A causes X, but not in such a way that A causes X” or “The true source of X is A, but in such a way that X proceeds only from B,” but one cannot ever make such claims a logical reality. All the Westminster Confession does here is use several different ways of saying source (‘powerful bonding,’ ‘order,’ and ‘author’) while claiming, with no logical or linguistic basis to do so, that they do not actually mean the same thing because the phrasing used was different and it was ‘claimed’ that they are not the same thing.

    Not surprisingly, most discussions I’ve had with Calvinists on their claim that ‘God ordains evil but not in such a way that God authors evil’ are not met with reasoning from scripture or logic, but with their referring me back to the Westminster Confession. And the Westminster Confession in such places depends on holding logically exclusive ideas as equally true – which reason does not allow for.

    1. Wonderful post Jenai!

      [X] = TRUE but not in such a way that [X] = TRUE

      This as you point out is a logical fallacy – which relies on magical thinking.

      Calvinists typically try to find more subtle ways to assert it in order to camouflage the contradiction.

  3. Chris makes an argument in minute 52:40 appealing to the “so called” two wills of the THEOS.
    The “decreed” or “prescripted” will vs. the “secret” will.

    This view of two self-contradicting wills entails the God of scripture communicating what he knows to be false. In other words – he bears false witness.

    And this is a consistent theme in the Calvinist’s version of Adam’s sin.
    Here Calvin’s god does not permit Adam to do the very thing he commands and requires of Adam.

    So here Calvin’s god is deceiving Adam to believe Calvin’s god wants him to obey, and that Calvin’s god is permitting him to obey.
    And thus Calvin’s god bears false witness.

    Dr. Flowers points this out immediately where he says the logical consequence of this scheme is that it makes God duplicitous.

    Obviously the reason for the scheme is because without it there are logical conundrums that otherwise go unexplained.

  4. Chris makes an argument in minute 1:05:32 where he interprets Dr. Flowers point on Jesus speaking in parables.

    Chris’ point assumes his own position rather than Dr. Flowers – where he states Jesus is “judicially hardening Israel” by meticulously determining their hardness and at the same time asking them to repent.

    That was not Dr. Flowers stated position – so this is a straw-man argument – which actually backfires – because Chris’ position does make Jesus duplicitous – requiring Israel to repent while not permitting them to do so.

  5. Chris consistently appeals to the analogy of Calvin’s god functioning as an author of a novel as an exculpatory argument.

    The author determines everything the characters think say and do – for the sake of the story and its outcome.
    But just because the author determines everything the characters (who function as secondary means) think, say and do – it does not follow that these sinful actions are committed by the author.

    Firstly – this appeal breaks down as Dr. Flowers points out.
    Where Calvin’s god CAUSES person A to tempt person B – then Calvin’s god is morally culpable for what he CAUSES.
    However appeal to secondary means also breaks down because Calvin’s god is CAUSING both the primary and the secondary events.

    Secondly – it is not necessary for the sake of the story or its outcome for a TRULY omnipotent being to CAUSE sinful evil events unless his options for achieving the desired outcome are limited. And a TRULY omnipotent being would have no such limitations. So the author of a novel analogy collapses at that point.

    Thirdly – Chris initially makes the argument that Dr. Flowers appeals to philosophy instead of scripture – and yet this appeal as well as the “prescripted” vs. “secret” will – are both totally philosophical appeals. Calvinist arguments against philosophy always eventually backfire and become self-contradicting because Calvinism is no less philosophically reliant than any other theology. And when one adds the element of magical thinking – it breaks down even further.

  6. Thank you Eric. Fantastic article that gets down to the real meat of how one is to determine if he is on track with his hermeneutics.
    What divides what we call a cult, who, like Joseph Smith, used bits of scripture mixed with “secret visions” and “mysteries” to support what they say scripture teaches, and a so called orthodox Christian who does the same? If one’s interpretation of scripture is inconsistent, contradictory, illogical, and ends in mystery, then what standard is left to determine the truth of what scripture is teaching? One can make up or say almost anything he wants and then defend it by saying it’s just a mystery or secret that God did not reveal. How can one argue against an illogical argument that ends in “mystery” or “secret” since there is no logical standard or written Word of God left that is a standard on which to stand? The inconsistency, illogic, and contradictory nature in Calvinism when one drills down to the core of it is one of the four core reasons I came to reject Calvinism. I am an engineer, and I see and love God’s consistency and logic in all He has made, including in His Word. Of course we can not fathom the depths of God and there are secrets that God has not revealed to us, but God is not the author of confusion, illogic, incoherence, and contradiction, and when we see those things in a doctrine this should throw up a huge red flag that it’s not of God.

    A couple of my favorite quotes from Calvinist on the incoherence of Calvinism:
    He [the Calvinist] realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous … The Calvinist freely admits that his position is illogical, ridiculous, nonsensical, and foolish.” However, “this secret matter belongs to the Lord our God, and we should leave it there. We ought not to probe into that secret counsel of God.” -Edwin Palmer, leading Calvinist apologist and author of The Five Points of Calvinism, when explaining how God reprobates people “unconditionally” (because He himself foreordained sin and rendered it certain) and yet the reprobate are solely responsible and deserve their eternal punishment (because their reprobation is “conditional”).

    “it is profitless to dispute with God,” … God’s election of some and his damnation of others is “a mystery which our minds do not comprehend, but which we ought to adore with reverence,” and “… it is a very wicked thing merely to investigate the causes of God’s will. … When, therefore, one asks why God has so done, we must reply,: because he has willed it.” -Calvin

    1. Andy writes:
      “If one’s interpretation of scripture is inconsistent, contradictory, illogical, and ends in mystery, then what standard is left to determine the truth of what scripture is teaching?”

      This pretty much sums up the issue. As the post suggests, non-Calvinists dissent from Calvinism based on the implicit belief that scripture – or any statement of ‘Truth’ – must be consistent, non-contradictory and logical in order to have meaning and value.

      Ultimately, our relationship with God is based on our perception of the character and nature of God. I believe a subtle perversion has taken place within Institutional Christianity, making the bible itself the idol which people worship. When set forth as such, the individual is dissuaded from interacting intelligently, thoughtfully and honestly with the meaning of the written words long taken as Holy Scripture.

      Reason is the gift of God that puts mankind above all other creatures. The animal and vegetable world instinctively obey the commands of God, without question or the ability to disobey. Minus the power of reason, the beasts and fauna of the world cannot question if God exists, and if they will trust and obey him. God has granted to man this unique and powerful ability.

      Some has asserted on these pages that properly functioning reason was lost in ‘the fall’, and man can no longer make good choices. Were this so, we would be the most miserable creatures in existence. Being made with the power of reason, humans have the unique ability and responsibility to make choices which affect the direction and outcome of their lives.

      Unlike the birds, which simply follow their instincts, mating, nesting, feeding young, migrating, etc., man has a great deal of freedom and power to chart his own course. He makes choices, admittedly within limits, as to how he will spend his time, what skills he will refine and employ, if and with whom he will form relationships, and, most importantly, how he will respond to God.

      The birds cannot denounce the existence of God or give up flying for swimming. Nor can they craft deadly weapons and fend off unwanted invaders from their territory. Their possibilities are much more limited than men made in the image of God, and they lack the power of reason to make major choices.

      Sadly, there do exist many whose power of reason has been impaired, in my opinion mostly by the chemical intoxication of our bodies and planet. Most agree that the ability to grasp logic and apply it appropriately and consistently is necessary in order for a person to be considered mentally functional. If physiologically or chemically impaired, individuals are unable to make wise choices to preserve health and life and can pose a danger to themselves and others.

      Reason is our protection from deception; the would-be deceivers of men always seek to undermine just this power of reason so as to create susceptible victims.

      Modern advertising works on the basis of convincing people to abandon reason and believe in the false pictures presented of beautiful people with perfect, happy lives. Reason would tell us that not all people have classic good looks, or, as is often the case today, the option to surgically erase their imperfections. Reason would tell us that drinking this, driving that or acquiring any material possession is unlikely to eradicate very real financial, physical, relational, emotional and spiritual issues or turn life into a blissful paradise.

      I would posit that in pretty much the same manner of corporate advertising, Satan has appealed to our emotions and fleshly desires in order to overwhelm our reason. Political, Scientific, Medical and Religious ‘authorities’ compel us to ‘Trust me’, even when their assertions and promises are contradictory and illogical. Were we able to step outside of our lifetime of programming we would quickly see how many official truth claims exceed the bounds of reason.

      I apologize for the length, but seek to set the stage, so that the tools of Calvinists can be seen for what they are. When the theologian compels us to simply trust their self-claimed authority, never question and never dissent, he is manipulating us and circumventing our God-given ability to discern truth via reason. Why did Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit to each believer? So that he could assist us in our attempts to make sense or reason with the seeming contradictions of life as we know it, so that we could reason through the possibilities with some hope at arriving at understanding.

      When a celebrity pastor owns a multi-million dollar mansion and lives an extravagant lifestyle, the hardworking members of his church who give sacrificially for ‘the kingdom of God’ have a reasonable right to ask hard questions. When churches tolerate and cover up heinous crimes, reason would lead rational people to question the trustworthiness of her leaders and the validity of those churches’ missions.

      And when a theological system casts aspersions on the character of God, contradicting his clear claims to love and desire the salvation and redemption of all men, it is perfectly reasonable to not only question but to reject such a system outright. When even the most revered assembly of Divines quibble and dissemble and try to make God both the author and not the author of evil, reasonable men will and do judge their doubletalk as untrustworthy.

      When the God who so loved the world that he sent his Son to seek and to save the hopelessly lost sinner is said to have only a small, limited love for a select few and a destructive hatred for all others, it is more than reasonable to declare that such assertions are false and blasphemous.

      Such is not based on a simplistic claim to fully understand the eternal, omnipotent God and all of his doings, but a reasonable understanding of the use of logic and reason that was given to man so that he might discern truth from error.

  7. To keep it simple, three Biblical passages that render ALL that is said above human folly:

    The Book of Job.
    Summed up: Job 38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

    2 “Who is this who darkens counsel
    By words without knowledge?

    Job 40:1 Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said:

    2 “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
    He who rebukes God, let him answer it.”

    3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

    4 “Behold, I am vile;
    What shall I answer You?
    I lay my hand over my mouth.
    5 Once I have spoken, but I will not answer;
    Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.”

    6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

    7 “Now prepare yourself like a man;
    I will question you, and you shall answer Me:

    8 “Would you indeed annul My judgment?
    Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?
    ********************************************************************************

    Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
    22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

    ********************************************************************************

    Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

    34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has become His counselor?”
    35 “Or who has first given to Him
    And it shall be repaid to him?”

    36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

    Catch yourselves on, Gentlemen!

    1. Perhaps there should be another article about the importance of context. 😉 We aren’t talking about God’s right to do as He wants, here, but rather the importance of non-contradiction in both logic and God’s revealed character.

      E.G. God reveals Himself as one who cannot Sin, nor tempt man to evil, and the one who sets the “mark” of righteousness. In His law it is revealed that He also finds those who entice others to sin detestable. It would then be contradictory for Him to decree that individuals must sin or that the “real mark” He ordains is evil and not righteousness as He claimed.

      If Jesus reveals Himself as scripture to be a bachelor (‘the church’ is to be His future bride, and he would have had some uncleanness under the law had he had marital relations…) and someone like Dan Brown claims He was really married, then we can’t appeal to “Well Jesus can do as He pleases, and who is man to talk back to Him!” to support Brown’s view. Scripture and logic would be essential to solve that dilemma – you can’t have a married bachelor.

      So it is with the topic of Calvinism. There isn’t disagreement that God could harden the Israelites in part if He pleased, or that God was fully allowed to allow Satan to harm Job’s family, etc. There is disagreement on whether or not God can contradict His own revealed nature, or A can be not A at the same time.

      1. Jenai:
        So it is with the topic of Calvinism. There isn’t disagreement that God could harden the Israelites in part if He pleased, or that God was fully allowed to allow Satan to harm Job’s family, etc. There is disagreement on whether or not God can contradict His own revealed nature, or A can be not A at the same time.

        br.d
        I loved this post!!

        God is not the author of confusion.
        Neither does he bear false witness (i.e. speak with forked tongue)
        Calvinism’s version of the THEOS has been perennially scrutinized for such concerns and more.

    2. ianmajor14
      To keep it simple, three Biblical passages that render ALL that is said above human folly

      br.d
      Hello ianmajor14 and welcome!

      I can really see why one would want it to be that simple.
      I certainly would – if it just be that simple.

      But it doesn’t take much rational reasoning to see that if it were that simple – hundreds of years of debates on Biblical interpretation and ethical/logical coherence would have never started.

      Blessings!

  8. Thank you, br.d.

    I suggest that it is not the difficulty of resolving God’s nature that is the problem – though we will not do that, as the passages I gave reveal – but the hostility of human nature to the idea that God can be righteous and loving if He also chooses not to have mercy on some but have it on others. That’s what it comes down to.

    I point to the undisputed fact (undisputed by all except maybe Open Theists) that God knew mankind would rebel and most of them would refuse His offer of mercy, and so end up in Gehenna for eternity, yet He chose to go ahead with creating Man. For His desire to have some men in glory with Him forever, He chose to have most men in torment forever. Is this substantially any different from the God who knew man would rebel and choose to have mercy on some and leave the rest to their just deserts?

    Is God to be blamed? NO. Why? Because we know that He is infinitely holy and righteous and would do nothing evil. How do we reconcile all this? We don’t – we heed Job and Paul and trust Him to be the righteous God He has revealed Himself to be.

    Is that incoherent? No. It is Biblical.

    1. ianmajor14
      I suggest that it is not the difficulty of resolving God’s nature that is the problem

      br.d
      Actually – I do see that is part of the problem
      Firstly – all of us are going to bring presuppositions concerning the nature of God to the text of scripture.
      The big question is what those presuppositions will be.

      The human mind interprets all data based upon internal memory associations.
      The human mind looks at an ink-blot and sees a butterfly when in fact it is nothing but random ink on paper.

      Years ago people were convinced the sun revolved around the earth – and/or the universe was flat.
      Since they believed that to be infallible truth – they interpreted scripture to affirm it – using the same mental process the mind uses to see a butterfly on an ink-blot. They believed it was there – and that is what they saw.

      Copernicus understood this and refused to have his writings published until after his death because Bible readers would have him burned alive as a heretic.

      So if you convince the mind that the the nature of God is to RENDER-CERTAIN every event that comes to pass – is infallible truth – that then will function as cannon and equal to scripture within the mind.

      That mind will then see that image of god within the text of scripture.
      The same way Bible scholars saw a flat universe in scripture
      The same way the mind sees a butterfly in an ink-blot

      Part of scholarship is to test whether or not our presuppositions are based upon falsehoods.

      For me – a clear indicator that one’s theology is problematic is when I see it forces one into various forms of dishonesty.
      Not saying that is the case with you – but I do see it consistently with Calvinists.

    2. I don’t think non-Calvinists have a ‘problem’ with God showing mercy on some and not others. That’s a frequent charge Calvinists make, but it has little to do with common objections with Calvinism. (Plus in context those verses are about Israel being hardened in part, not every individual throughout history, but that’s a different topic…)

      The objection to Calvinism there would not be can God show or withhold mercy to whom He pleases, but can He ordain that an individual commit evil and that there be no way for that person to escape evil and then still be ‘just’ when judging that evil. That doesn’t make logical sense. It would be like if a programmer ensured there was a flaw in his robotic creations that would definitely cause them to go on a rampage. He fixes one to show ‘mercy,’ but tosses the rest in the scrap heap because they were ‘flawed’ – even though he himself was the source of the flaw. That doesn’t fit with God’s revealed sense of justice in scripture. The programmer scrapping some of the robots would not be ‘withholding mercy,’ it would be punishing them for his own mistakes. Him fixing one wouldn’t be showing mercy, it would be fixing his own mistake.

      It’s one thing for God to *know* someone will commit evil. But decreeing they commit evil is contrary to God’s character and revealed will that they *not* commit evil. Plus the only reason evil is punishable is because it opposes God’s sovereign decree of righteousness. If God’s sovereign decree was sin, then all men’s sin would ‘hit the mark’ (check out the Greek word for sin, hemartia) and thus not be sin. S and not S at the same time. It makes no logical sense.

      1. Jenai, that’s a helpful summary of your basic objection to Calvinism. But it is not what mainstream Calvinism teaches – we do not say God made Adam sin, nor his descendants. We say God saw that Adam would choose to sin, and God chose to permit it to be. We say it was not mere permission, as if he might change his mind and sin some other time. No, God ordains all that will come to pass, and Adam’s choice to sin became part of that decree and ordination that covers all time. God is not surprised by any event: He has already chosen to permit an event or has directly made it happen.

        If God had looked at unfallen man and chosen to make them sin, then to have mercy on some and not others, you would have a point. But Calvinism denies that idea.

      2. Ian, “God permitted Adam to sin” and “God ordained that Adam would sin” is a direct contradiction. If God is permitting then he’s not ordaining, if He’s ordaining then He’s not permitting. God is either doing one or the other, He can’t be doing both at the same time.

        “If God had looked at unfallen man and chosen to make them sin, then to have mercy on some and not others, you would have a point. But Calvinism denies that idea.”

        This is literally the position you are affirming when you say “God ordains all that will come to pass”. We have never heard a cogent argument for what the actual difference is between “ordain” and “make/cause”.

      3. Eric
        Ian, “God permitted Adam to sin” and “God ordained that Adam would sin” is a direct contradiction

        br.d
        The standard definition of “permit” in Calvin’s day was the Latin: “permettere”
        Defined as: “To let pass, to let go, to let loose, to give up, to hand over, to allow, or to grant.”

        Because of its standardized definition – Calvin could have refused to use this term.
        He did refuse to use the word “fate”.

        But instead he created his own personal ad-hoc definition for “permit” making it mean To CAUSE, To AUTHOR, To RENDER-CERTAIN.

        In order to differentiate from his ad-hoc definition and the standardized definition , he qualified the standardized – calling it “mere” permission.

        Consequently, Calvinists have two radically different definitions for this term. And their use of it is totally equivocal.

        When a Calvinist says “God permitted Adam’s disobedience” what he means is “God RENDERED-CERTAIN Adam’s disobedience”.

        And with that definition it logically follows Calvin’s god did not permit Adam to obey.

      4. Eric said:

        ‘Ian, “God permitted Adam to sin” and “God ordained that Adam would sin” is a direct contradiction. If God is permitting then he’s not ordaining, if He’s ordaining then He’s not permitting. God is either doing one or the other, He can’t be doing both at the same time.’

        This is another good opportunity to keep it simple. What were Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the people of Israel gathered together to do? Murder the Lord Jesus! I would class that a sin. Who determined/ordained this to be done? GOD.

        So God planned, purpose, ordained, determined that these sinners would murder His Son. Does that mean He made them do it? That He chose men who would not have sinned and made them sin? NO. He so constrained their evil desires that they would express them only in the ways that furthered His holy plan. God is not the author of their sin, but so limits their evil plans that only what He chooses will happen, and determines/ordains that and permits the evil to happen.

        Acts 4:27 For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

      5. “So God planned, purpose, ordained, determined that these sinners would murder His Son. Does that mean He made them do it? That He chose men who would not have sinned and made them sin? NO.”

        Exactly. God did not ordain that the Sandhedrin would have sinful, murderous desires. Their sinful, murderous desires, were outside of God’s ordination. God had nothing to do with their sinful, evil desires. So while God “ordained” the Cross, He did not ordain which individuals would do the murdering. Instead He used/allowed for the sinful desires He knew would exist in that time and place in history, that specific historical and religious milieu, in order to accomplish His purpose in redeeming the sin of mankind. He did not ordain the sin of man in order to redeem the sin of man. Glad we agree!

      6. John Calvin – Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (pg 175)
        -quote
        “The hand of God rules the INTERIOR AFFECTIONS….nor would god have *EFFECTED* by the hand of man what he decreed, unless he worked in their hearts to *MAKE* them will before they acted.”

      7. Uh oh, looks like our friend Ian has a decision to make. Either affirm Calvin’s words or reject them. Let’s see what he does.

      8. Well the problem with Calvin – is the same problem we see with his protege
        They explicitly assert one thing one minute and make statements presupposing the logical inverse the next.

        Calvin for example teaches that all things are determined by the THEOS and in every part.
        But the disciple is to go about his office AS-IF that is false.

        And that manner of double-speak pretty much permeates their language.

      9. Eric, God did not make good men plan and commit murder. We agree on that. But your suggestion that His plan and purpose did not involve any individual, just environment and circumstances, not the Sanhedrin – that is downright silly. That would allow Christ not to be condemned by the Jewish leaders, or indeed by Pilate. Who was going to crucify Him then? The mob? No, God controls not mere circumstances but the hearts of wicked men. He restricts their evil desires to those sins that will accomplish His plan. They may well have desired to kill Him by stoning or the sword – but they were not permitted to do so. Only when the time was right and the means certain to fulfil the prophecies, only then were their evil desires permitted to succeed.

        This is the way God ordains all things but is not the author of sin.

      10. Ian
        This is the way God ordains all things but is not the author of sin.

        br.d
        That would be inconsistent Calvinism

        Most prominent Calvinist teachers chalk the “author of sin” issue up to mystery.

        For example – Calvinist Fred Malone of “Founders Ministry” explains:
        -quote
        “To harmonize the sovereignty of God and full human responsibility……is like trying to explain the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture……Such mysteries humble us.”

        Calvinist Mark Driskal agrees
        -quote
        The safest way in theodicy is to leave God’s permission of sin and moral evil as a mystery.

        But we understand that Calvinism has its own INSIDER definition for the term “permit” – to mean CAUSE.
        So when the Calvinist says Calvin’s god “permits” sin – what he means is Calvin’s god CAUSES sin.

        And with that definition – Since Calvin’s god did not CAUSE Adam to obey – it follows he did not permit Adam to obey.
        Calvin’s god does not permit any person to refrain from sins they commit.
        And since all sins which come to pass are RENDERED-CERTAIN – then it follows there was no escape from them.

      11. Ian, “But your suggestion that His plan and purpose did not involve any individual, just environment and circumstances, not the Sanhedrin – that is downright silly.”

        When did I say that? You may want to re-read my argument again. Can God know what certain individuals will do given certain circumstances without determining their sinful desires? If not, why not? If so, why should I think He does it another way?

        “God controls not mere circumstances but the hearts of wicked men.”

        And:

        “This is the way God ordains all things but is not the author of sin.”

        If God “controls” sinful hearts how is He not the author of sin?

      12. Eric
        If God “controls” sinful hearts how is He not the author of sin?

        br.d
        Another John Calvin quote for you – concerning evils which men perpetrate:

        “It is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the *AUTHOR* of them.” Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (pg 179)”

  9. I agree you need to view the podcast before reading the article and this is a great question, “Can Incoherence Be Biblical?”

    No!!!!!!! if it can be, then truth would be relative and truth is simply “absolute truth” (true at all times) therefore leaving Scripture to ones opinion would be dangerous as history has shown. Curious what history Chris eluded to, because clearly the early church fought against gnosticism etc. There maybe different applications, but there is only one meaning. I’ve done very little hermeneutics, & before coming to this site I didn’t know the difference between exegesis and hermeneutics.. I found this;
    The distinction between exegesis and hermeneutics is a thin line. … Hermeneutics is therefore the field of study which is concerned with how we interpret the Bible, whereas exegesis is the actual interpretation of the Bible by drawing the meaning out of the Biblical text.

    1st Chris’s reason at the beginning of the podcast where he talks about his wife’s second miscarriage & how it was one of comfort and peace as opposed to their first miscarriage, before they were believers. They were comforted by their church family, but also found comfort in knowing God meticulously foreordained in eternity passed for some good purpose that they’d have 2 miscarriages. Would Chris say the same thing if his child was born, & then grew up to view God as the author of ALL evil and therefore he could not trust His creator… So the child has a hard time handling this information he, then takes his own life. Curious would Chris & his wife find comfort knowing God meticulously controlled every aspect of that child’s life every thought, action, & even authoring the child to take his own life? For His glory! 

    Chris also believes “Annihilationism is the belief that those who are wicked will perish or be no more. It states that after the final judgment some human beings and all fallen angels will be totally destroyed so as to not exist, or that their consciousness will be extinguished, rather than suffer everlasting torment in hell.” 

    Not sure how they get around Jesus mentioning hell quite a bit🤔  I’ve never heard of this until I listened to the host of unbelievable mention it. 

    To me if Chris were speaking to baby Christians or a weaker brother/sister in Christ his staunch stance on his hermeneutics might sound convincing. But I love how  Leighton unravels the thread of much of what Chris says & he challenges him not only in where logically his conclusions lead, but what this actually implies about a Holy God!. I enjoyed how Leighton persuaded him to admit that there is a secret will of God.. Crazy I never heard that verbally I’ve heard it implied and that some calvinist believe this, but to hear it from one for the first time was simply odd!! Also Chris’s attempt to paint a non calvinist’s view of God as “taking His hands off” was just silly. And his author analogy… Yes an author may enjoy or even become fictitiously involved in the characters lives that he or she writes about maybe even sorrow over their death in the fictional novel. However our God came to earth as a baby, servant and a Savior to be in relationship with His creation. He doesn’t glory in scripting out their lives and on the other hand pretend He authentically loves the world. This systematic certainly leads to not only a hopelessness & fear, but a pondering if one is actually “one of the elect” not to mention the implications it gives a non believing world about our Holy God! Another good point when Leighton pointed out how the apostles were distancing God from the sinful choices of man. Chris tries to say secondary agents I’m not a theologian, but this is absurd why not just admit where calvinism ends it is clear..

    1. I appreciated this post Reggie.

      On what Chris was responding to concerning the early church and libertarian free will, this – as Dr. Flowers alluded does refer to the church of the NT times and its fight against Gnosticism, and Syncretism (the mixing of pagan beliefs into Christian doctrine). But this is carried beyond the Apostolic period, into the post-apostolic period from the writings of what are called “church fathers”.

      To get a taste of this go to Youtube and checkout “Did Augustine Corrupt The Church With Gnostic Doctrine?”

      The scholarly debates that occur today on this topic are much more sophisticated than they were in the post-Apostolic period. Terms such as Libertarian Free Will were not developed then. So one has to attempt to decipher when a post-Apostolic writer is alluding to it.

      Chris will of course be looking in those writings for any sentences he can find that will affirm Augustine’s philosophy of Universal Divine Causal Determinism.

      On Chris’ comment about being comforted by his belief system – this sentiment follows exactly that of the Greek Stoics who believed that every event was RENDERED-CERTAIN by the Greek gods. They also would express a comfort in knowing that a Greek deity was watching over them and they didn’t have to worry about what evils the future would bring.

      But there is a dark side to this in Calvinism also – because Calvin taught that a large percentage of the Calvinist fold are people who are deceived by god into believing they are saved. Calvin’s god gives these people a taste of salvation in order to magnify their torments in the lake of fire. And no Calvinist knows whether or not he/she is one of them.

      1. Br.d I did indeed listen to the YouTube site you recommended there was quite a lot of historical names thank you😊 great information. I will research some of these names when I get a chance. I thought I’d share this reading I got earlier today it does make sense.

        May 10, 2019
        Two Imperatives
        “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7)
        The term “born again” has come into such common use in recent years, even in political campaigns, that its tremendous meaning has been all but lost. But Jesus—who ought to know, being none other than God incarnate—said, “Ye must be born again!” Furthermore, He said it to Nicodemus, one of the most religiously knowledgeable people of that day.

        He did not say to Nicodemus that “they must be born again,” meaning the unbelieving multitudes who were not as instructed in the things of God as they should be. Nor did he say that “we must be born again,” meaning all of us mortals including Himself. Rather, Jesus said, “Ye must be born again!”

        Even a man like Nicodemus must be born spiritually—born again (literally, “born from above”)—if he were ever to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). In answer to his question as to how this could be, Jesus said he must be born of the Spirit, supernaturally. But Nicodemus—as well as each of us—was born a sinner and was still a sinner, even failing to recognize Christ as Son of man and Son of God. How could he be born again? The answer is in a second imperative: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). If “ye must be born again,” then “even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” Christ must die for our sins before it can ever be possible that a lost sinner can be born again. Since Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross to die for us, our burden of sin has also been lifted up and placed on Him. If we would enter God’s Kingdom, we must be born again through faith in Him! There is no other way! HMM

  10. The quote above provide by Reggie is by Dr. Henry M. Morris. Dr. Morris’ analysis is spot on.

    In Nicodemus’ encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, he asks “how can these things be?” “How can a man be born (again) when he is old?” Jesus points to the bronze serpent (Numbers 21:4-9) being raised up in the wilderness as a foreshadowing of Himself being raised up on the cross. If one wants to be born again the sin problem must be dealt with first.

    Colossians 2:13 (NKJV)….
    And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses

    Jesus said you must be born again if you want to see the kingdom of heaven. Calvinism teaches you must be born again if you want to see the cross. The scriptures teach “look and live”. Calvinism teaches “live and look”.

    1. Phillip
      The scriptures teach “look and live”. Calvinism teaches “live and look”.

      br.d
      Well said! :-]

    2. Hi Philip,

      I agree the reading is spot on and love your comment below;

      Calvinism teaches you must be born again if you want to see the cross. Thanks

  11. COMFORTING THOUGHTS FOR THE SINNING CALVINIST

    The sinning Calvinist can take comfort in knowing that even though he is disobeying the divine “prescriptive” will, he can never be in disobedience to the divine “decretive” will.

    Yes he is taught – that in all his sinning – he is “out of sink” with what Calvin’s god says.
    But he can take comfort in knowing that he is completely obedient to Calvin’s god’s will.

    This gives the Calvinist a distinct advantage over other Christians.
    All of his continual sinning is in full compliance to Calvin’s god’s plan for his life.

    So as he’s going about his office praising all things – he can be thankful for continuous sinning.

    In this way he gets to have his cake and eat it!
    And lastly – while he is enjoying eternal torment in the lake of fire – he can take comfort in knowing it was all by grace.

  12. 1. God does not wish everyone to be saved. 1 Peter 2.8: “To this doom they were appointed” and “he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires”
    2. God does not love everyone. He cannot love the sinner because he is holy. Psalm 5.5; 11.5; Proverbs 6.16-19. There must be atonement before he can love the sinner

    EZ

    1. Hi Ted and thank you for your post.

      Of course – you understand that what you’ve represented is a belief-system superimposing itself into the reading of scripture.

      Years ago Bible readers believed as unquestionable and therefore CANNON – that the universe was flat.
      Believing that to be infallible and unquestionable – they naturally saw scripture verses to affirm their belief.

      That’s the way the human mind works. :-]

      Blessings!

      1. Ted
        You’re not exactly refuting me by just saying “This is what you believe.” You’ve got to give me more than that.

        br.d
        I didn’t say that’s what I believe – but I showed how presuppositions enter into the interpretation of any data.

        What do you think the presupposition is – in the case of what you posted so far?
        And you do you find EXPLICIT verses in scripture that un-equivocally asset it to be unquestionably TRUE?
        Otherwise – its a belief system that has superimposed itself into the reading.

        For example – Jesus EXPLICITLY stated “God is a spirit”
        So that would warrant a belief system that that is TRUE.
        And one’s reading of verses regarding the nature of God could easily presuppose that as a TRUTH.

        However, if there is no EXPLICIT verse or verses that un-equivocally assert my underlying presupposition – then I can’t expect others to automatically assume my belief system is authoritative. And I can’t expect the verses I quote to automatically function as proof-texts.

    2. Surely you jest. You wouldn’t just pull parts of verses out of context and put any kind of trust in what such a perverse distortion presents. I’m sure you wouldn’t be that unwise. You’ve probably seen what that might lead to:

      ‘Judas hung himself . . . Go and do likewise.’

      It’s kinda dangerous to play games with scripture, looking for snippets to use as prooftexts. Calvinism is among the worst at picking out single verses, or even partial verses, and giving them a stand alone meaning. I suggest you read letters and books as the whole in which they were presented.

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