By Dale Decker
In G. K. Chesterton’s 1908 novel, The Man Who Was Thursday, constable Gabriel Syme is recruited to be an agent of the police department’s New Detective Corps. The Chief, a shadowy figure in a dark room, inducts Syme into an undercover operation with the mission to frustrate the schemes of the Central Anarchist Council. Syme then infiltrates the seven-member Council and its plan to overthrow the laws of order with the forces of chaos. Each member’s code name corresponds to a day of the week, and Syme is Thursday. The President of the Council is Sunday.
As the story unfolds, Syme discovers, one by one, that each of the other members is also an undercover police detective recruited by the Chief. The New Detective Corp and the Central Anarchist Council are one in the same. The only true anarchist that remains is President Sunday. A chase ensues to bring down the leader of the forces of chaos. In the end (spoiler alert), the group finds out that the President and the Chief are the same person – and that the Laws of Order and the Forces of Chaos spring from the same source.
Chesterton’s story was misunderstood by many when first published. They assumed he was describing reality as he thought it truly to be. Chesterton prompted his readers to consider the subtitle of The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. In a portion of an article included in the Penguin Edition of the novel, Chesterton explains that the nightmare he intended to describe was a “world of wild doubt and despair” offered up by some pessimists of the time. In fact, one of his characters, upon the discovery that the Chief and the President are one and the same, exclaims, “It seems to make everything nonsense.”
The Theology That is Sunday: Determinism – A Nightmare
A significant portion of Calvinistic theology rests on the foundation of determinism. Calvinism’s deterministic bent comes from a false definition of God’s sovereignty. To Calvinists, God can only be sovereign over all things if he meticulously causes all things. Of course, this false definition leads to several quandaries such as “What about human free will?” and “If God causes all things, does he also cause evil?” These concerns get papered over with further complications like compatiblism, God’s two wills, etc.
But occasionally a Calvinist will say exactly what he means by determinism, like Calvinist scholar Guillaume Bignon explained to Eli Ayala on Ayala’s Revealed Apologetics podcast:
“Determinism isn’t the thesis that some things are determined, it’s the view that all things are determined… Determinism means that all things are determined.”
Ayala even banters back and forth with Bignon about how their very conversation has been determined by God from all eternity. Funny stuff to say that God is causing a conversation intended to change the minds of people whom he is simultaneously causing not to accept it. This incoherent acceptance of God working against himself is an inevitability if “determinism means that all things are determined” and is mildly amusing when confined to a conversation. In the face of real evil, it’s not so funny.
I don’t need to rehearse for you every instance of evil for you to understand the awful disjointedness that comes from believing that God actively causes the evil that the Bible says he hates, and which he calls those who love him to also hate. And let’s be honest, if determinism means that all things are determined, then God has determined (i.e. caused, decreed, ordained, made certain, etc.) all the evil acts ever committed.
Such an idea is the stuff of nightmares. Do I overstate my case? I don’t think so.
It Seems To Make Everything Nonsense
So it appears that Calvinism recruits people to God’s kingdom of righteousness and justice only to also unmask God as the source of the evil paradigm they have been called to repudiate. God is simultaneously the Chief of the Laws of Order and the President of the Forces of Chaos. God is the spring that brings forth both fresh water and salt water. God is the fig tree that bears olives. Really?
Calvinism seems to make everything nonsense.
12 thoughts on “The Theology That Is Sunday”
Greg Boyd’s God at War begins with a devastating critique of determinism which forces the reader to look at evil directly instead of coldly as a theological concept. We forget that God by his very omnipresence is forced to observe every evil act committed – he did something about it by sending Jesus – are we seriously to accept that, after conquering sin and death at Easter and commissioning and equipping his disciples at Pentecost to preach the gospel of the kingdom, he has spent the subsequent 200 years and counting devising and imposing evil on the world? It takes a sick or deceived mind to unflinchingly and joyfully accept that (as the likes of Piper seem to want us to do) and an anaesthetised mind to not realise the horror of such a thought. When Paul warned that wolves would arise from among their number (church elders) his statement surely was a warning to more than the Ephesian church. I find the doctrines that Augustine propounded that the Calvinists reject more than sufficient reason to shun him wholesale – but when they hold TULIP aloft I’m nonplussed. Doctrines of demons aren’t about demons they are from demons and Ken Wilson has done enough to satisfy me that Augustine left a door sufficiently open for his Manichaean and other influences to return at a specific point in time, after which his theology radically changed, assuming they had left and didn’t lay dormant waiting their opportunity.
The Calvinist makes these observations in an almost clinically detached manner – perhaps over cigars and whiskey and then a trip to the tattoo parlor to add another one of the “Solas” to his bicep.
Maybe his mind would change if forced to watch the rape and dismemberment of his own child, and then joyfully proclaim it was decreed for God’s glory from even before eternity.
Calvinism must be detached from reality and employ substantial doses of cognitive dissonance and “as if” thinking/actions in order to keep the adherent from losing his sanity. To look evil full in the face and conclude that God decreed not just it would be allowed, but every minute detail of it, should make even the most ardent Calvinist repent in dust and ashes.
Excellent post. Most of today’s Calvinism (soft Calvinism) strives desperately to hide the unavoidable fact that, under their system, God MUST determine and bring to pass all that is evil. He must, also, bring to pass all that Calvinists decry, and call their followers to protest, overcome, such as homosexuality, abortion, divorce, etc.
Taken to its logical conclusion – which few Calvinists are willing to do – Calvinism indeed renders God the author and finisher of evil, as well as our faith.
Hello TS00, and welcome back. Long time no hear.🙃 One day they will have to face up to the truth – but by then it will be too late!
Welcome back TS00. I share Adrian’s sentiments that we have missed you.
Great post by Mr. Decker – thank you Eric for sharing it.
Thanks to you both. Not sure I have been getting notifications, so only show up once in a while.
The “appeal” that was made to me by my Calvinists friends was exactly along the lines of sovereignty and omniscience.
If God knows everything, it is (wrongly) concluded by the Calvinist that He causes / decides everything.
If God is sovereign, it is (wrongly) concluded by the Calvinist that He determines every outcome, even random things like a roll of the dice. I have dealt with this erroneous interpretation of Prov 16:33 here: https://soteriology101.com/2016/04/24/casting-lots-to-find-gods-will-proverbs-1633/#comment-49848
Sovereignty to the Calvinist means not just meticulous control (which could certainly be accomplished via “permission” or “allowance”), it means total micromanagement in the Calvinist’s framework. As Br.D. points out frequently, “mere permission” or “mere allowance” is disavowed by Calvin himself so talking about “two wills” is disingenuous and basically a way to make the unpalatable palatable.
Nor is control within Calvinism of the sort where God provides constraints but allows genuine choice to occur. It is instead the Henry-Ford-model-T kind of choice (“you can have any color you want as long as it is black”) that Calvinists talk about and engineers refer to as a single degree of freedom. Calvinism relies on semantics to try and hide the ugly truth. Why? If you believe your theology, own it, preach it boldly not just to the “elect” in special classes so as not to offend those who have not embraced “the doctrines of grace” but to everyone on Sunday morning and even to the smallest child in Sunday School (and for whom you cannot teach the song “Jesus Loves Me” with a straight face) – because in the end it doesn’t matter what you do or say, who you offend or who you soothe and woo. They will be saved or damned not because of what the Calvinist does or says, but because divine sovereignty has already decreed the outcome and you are little more than an unwilling actor playing your assigned role.
Great points. I like your style.
Calvinism thrives on the “frog in the pot syndrome.”
Tell a young Christian that soon he will believe this kind of deterministic nonsense, and most often he will tell you that you are crazy!
But hit him with a pinch of “Oh, you are a Universalist!” or a dab of “Sounds like you have a man-centered Gospel dude.” And he will run from that stuff to within your reach. Then reel him in with the ‘ol “Did Jesus only provide salvation or did he procure salvation for you?”
A few Bible studies later (about 36…cuz that’s how many verses appear to support Calvinism) and then you can clunk him with the good stuff: “Sovereign over everything or sovereign over nothing.” ((Expect a hearty “Oh man I really really want God to be Sovereign” reply from your acolyte.))
Then release the horrible decree on him.
If you start with (pure Calvinistic) determinism that frog will jump right out of the pot!
Some of you know that we served over 30 years on the mission field. I worked with national pastors on a regular basis. None of them were Calvinists. None. In fact, in our countries of service, Calvinism had already come and gone, and no evangelicals gave a hoot about Reformed theology.
The young (western-leaning) men led the way (stealing glances at Piper’s site in English and gobbling up recent YRR books translated into our languages). They would say: “Calvinist I am —cuz of the ‘5 solas’ but not Reformed in any other way!!! No way!”
Well…we follow the progress in various places at a distance and we see more and more of these young bucks deciding to baptize their newborns. This, of course, was anathema to then a few years ago. In fact, being only-baptized as a infant (not believer baptized) disqualifies many in these churches from service in the body. That is all gonna have to be re-worked since so many of the young bucks are baptizing their kids and expecting now (not 10 years ago) that they will be able to participate like anyone else.
Great article & absolutely true calvinism not only makes things nonsense it is a real nightmare!!! Without the voices on this site and a fellow sister in Christ I would have probably suffered through this in silence… But because of His mercy and amazing grace I don’t fear speaking up against this crazy doctrine that logically leads to “as if” life had a meaning, but ultimately is shifting shadows…. because that’s where it is founded on in my estimation… NOT on a solid foundation!!!
James 1:17 NIV — Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:21 NASB — Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
1 Corinthians 3:11 NASB — For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BURDEN OF DETERMINISM COMPATIBILISM:
Immanuel Kant in Critique of Practical Reason writes:
“Compatibilism is a wretched subterfuge with which some persons still let themselves be put off, and so think they have solved lives problems with petty word-jugglery.”
Dr. William James in The Dilemma of Determinism writes:
“Compatibilism is a quagmire of evasion. The Compatibilists strategy relies upon stealing the name of freedom to mask their underlying determinism. They make a pretense of restoring the caged bird to liberty with one hand, while with the other they anxiously tie a string to its leg to make sure it can’t get beyond determinism’s grasp.”
Dr. Ravi Zacharias relates a story:
Of a presentation given by Stephen Hawking, which Ravi attended. Hawking, a staunch determinist, was asked what he concluded and how he resolved believing in determinism. He decided after looking at the matter for many years that he still believed. But he then proceeded to shock his audience by stating that he had resolved his need to live *AS-IF* determinism were false.
Dr. William Lane Craig writes:
“As a determinist – when you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined [before you were created] and that even your present realization of that fact right now was also similarly determined [before you were created], a sort of vertigo sets in. Every determinist must live *AS-IF* determinism is false. That is why determinism is in reality an unlivable belief system.”
THIS IS WHAT FORCES CALVINISTS INTO *AS-IF* THINKING (i.e. Double-mindedness)
John Calvin – even though he believes a future event already predetermined can only resolve to one single predestined future writes:
“All future things being uncertain to us, we hold them in suspense, AS THOUGH they might happen either one way or another.”
(Institutes Vol. i. p.193)
John Calvin – even while holding all things as determined in every part – yet instructs his disciple to::
“apply himself to his office, AS THOUGH nothing were determined about any part.”
SO WE OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO SEE WHY
John Calvin instructs his disciples to make-believe nothing is determined in any part. It’s a matter of psychology and maintaining a daily semblance of mental normalcy.
This may be fine for the Atheist, but the burden it puts on a believer is compounded, because it forces the believer into the very state of double-mindedness scripture warns against.
The unfortunate solution for the Calvinist has become *AS-IF* thinking.
And the outward expression of AS-IF thinking is a “yea nay” language in which things are explicitly asserted as true one minute and presented AS-IF false the next. Or things explicitly asserted as false one minute are the next minute presented AS-IF true.
Calvinist language is thus language which Paul would classify as an “uncertain sound”.
What Immanuel Kant and William James described as: “word- jugglery,” and a “quagmire of evasion.”