According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, December 31, 2012

Can the 5-Point Calvinist Really Say, "Jesus Loves Me This I Know?"

 

Introduction
  
Commenter BKO to Dr. Roger Olson - "On what Biblical basis can 5-point Calvinists say, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so?” And, I mean, on what Biblical basis can they say he loved them enough to die to save them? Anyone who believes in “limited atonement” cannot point to any verse that teaches he died for them in a saving way. Their belief that he did so is merely subjective, rather than being based on objective statements of the Bible. Subjectivism is not a good nail on which to hang one’s faith. (re: Comments Section re Karl Barth)
 
Reply by Dr. Roger Olson - I'll invite Calvinists to answer this. Many of them come here, so hopefully at least one will take the challenge and answer the question.
 
Referral to a Calvinist Post re Sandy Hook Elementary School
 
Reply by Dr. Roger Olson to above Calvinist posting - Nothing new there, just the same old attempt to defend God’s character in light of affirmation of God’s authorship of sin and evil. Does he have the courage of his Calvinist convictions? If he did, he’d go the next logical step and affirm that God, not sinners, is guilty of all the sin and evil in the world.

Editorial Reply by R.E. Slater - What Dr. Roger Olson means is that on the basis of 5-point Calvinism, a Calvinist can only conclude that God is the author of sin and evil. Dr. Olson is not a Calvinist but a respected Arminian theologian who teaches that God is NOT the author of sin and evil. That these are present creational realities fraught within the larger context of creation indeterminacy and human free will. And since this is an editorial reply let me continue to infer in my next several discussions below what this would mean from an Arminian viewpoint placed within a relational context before attending to the first question of God's love....

 

Indeterminacy and Free Will
 
...That sin is the resultant condition of human free will. That it marks humanity as a consequence of our free will. That it is NOT some metaphysical "entity" that wars against God which is turning humanity to sin (though many would erroneously infer this). But an existential reality of the human condition of free will which wars against God.
 
Moreover, neither is "creational indeterminacy" a result of sin. But, like free will, is granted by the creational design of God - just as God designed humanity with free will. As such, God designed both creation and humanity with free will. But the more proper description of this when applied to creation itself is that of "indeterminacy" so as not to attribute our human qualities (or anthropomorphisms) of consciousness. Hence, the cosmos of God is unconscious; and is not some higher (or lower) form of metaphysical being. It is not a living thing. Nor is it a sentient being like a human is.

But creation (or, the "cosmos," or "nature") does have its own agency of creative and destructive power attributed to it because of its design of "indeterminacy" which in this case can mean "randomness." As such, winds may combine to create a tornado or hurricane. Water combined with wind may form to create floods and tsunamis. These are not premeditated acts on the part of creation, but part of its indeterminate design.

Nor are they premeditated acts by the Creator God to wreck willful havoc and ruin on humanity. But instances of a God who has purposed not to interfere with the "liberty" He has granted within creation itself (just as He does by respecting our own free will choices). This is the essence of creational indeterminacy. That it may interact with itself and all of  humanity in both good ways and bad. Giving to us beautiful sunsets to naturally-occurring destruction - some due to our short-sightedness and ignorance, our misapplication or disrespect for the laws of chemistry and physics, biology and agriculture. (As an aside, I've often have wondered why square-framed houses are built in the "tornado-alleys" of the Mid-West. Why not build round, geodesic homes that can throw off high winds? Or homes partially buried into the ground with rounded roofs and/or stabilizing barriers? Our current architectural designs should better plan for natural disasters in high-risk areas both commercially as well as residentially.)

This does not mean that God is not Sovereign. Nor that He may not interact with either His creation or with mankind. Though harm and destruction can, and does, come through nature's indeterminate design; even as wickedness and evil can, and does come, through humanity's sin. Each are instances of a good design by God gone bad with the corrupting consequences that God's design of "free will" brings as a consequence of its own design. Something we indiscriminately call "sin," by which we mean something that has become "harmful" or "destructive" because of our own free will.

So why would God give to nature "indeterminacy," and to us "free will?" Did He not know of these results when He created? Nay, verily, one must assume that God did know them. And in the design also planned for the design's further "redemption" according to His sovereign judgment. That this "redemption" (as we are discovering) would be a long, slow process, allowing for natural process and human history to occur each within-and-around the other. And that ultimately, the "redemptive" solution would require God's own personal involvement into the very system He created (which He also knew). To wit, He has so done, through His incarnate birth and presence in Jesus Christ in restoring and reording both creation and humanity back to its original, uncorrupted design, which we acknowledge as the New Heavens and New Earth of the future.

So that over all these events does God superintend to His desired ends - to that of redemption. It began in Christ as God's Incarnate answer to sin. Who is the unique and complete Word of God, made flesh. Who is the culmination of creation, and the beginning of the Kingdom of God. Who is the culmination - and the manifest perfection - of the Covenant of God with man and nature. Through Jesus is the beginning of man and nature's willful submission to the will of God. Even as it begins the willful re-ordering of a creation's indeterminacy and man's insubordination. Who, in Jesus, God shall restore, renew, revive, reclaim, and rebirth all creation and humanity back to Himself in perfected, relational harmony to Himself. That in Christ, God may be All-in-All. That sin and death may be no more. That peace and harmony reign in restorative relationship each to the other as to God Himself.

Thus, with "free will" has come the additional burden of sin. God knew this, and had planned for this, when granting to nature and humanity its own free will. Even as God will triumph over this predicament by His corresponding "choices" to redeem. Choices made partly out of His creational responsibility as the Creator. And partly out of His divine love as our Redeemer. How? By enacting an exacting plan of comprehensive redemption in such as way as respecting (and keeping) the indeterminacy and free will He first established between Himself with creation and humanity. A condition that will continue even after His work of redemption.

Thus, in all of its sublimity, we may say that God will redeem all of creation. That He will redeem man. That He will not deliver creation from its indeterminacy. Nor will He deliver man from his free will. But that He will redeem the entirety of His creative order from the affectual power of sin in relationship to the indeterminacy and free will He has so granted it. That He will redeem each from the burden of sin.... As respecting the creation, this writer here cannot presume what this may mean. It is assumed that in the New Heavens and New Earth the sun will still rise and set, the rain will still pour, the winds arise. But it is also said in Scripture that the lion will lay down with the lamb, and peace will reign.... And as pertaining to man, his wickedness will be no more. Nor, at the last, will death occur. How death is removed I cannot tell. For in the New Heavens and New Earth the very atomic structure we are made will seemingly still require death (e.g., destruction). As does the light from the stars. And the nutrition we depend upon for food. These are a mystery I cannot comprehend.
 
God's Love. Is It Necessary?

Now, to our original question as to whether a strict 5-point system of Calvinism requires the necessity of God's divine love. Calvinism does pointedly teach that God is responsible for, and directive of all things, both in creation as amongst humanity. That He rules in all things. That He controls all things. And from that basis we may surmise that God is culpable for all things, including sin and evil, for the greater good of His redemptive plan. And furthermore, that it is un-necessary for us to respond to His divine love, if, in the strictest sense, He has predestined, and foreordained, "elect" individuals to Himself. That there would be no necessity for His relational love to bend our willfulness to Himself since He doth command us into His holy presence by fiat and by ordination. Moreover, to other unfortunates He doth not elect and consequentially doth condemn to the eternal flames of hell's fires (known as double predestination, as an ancillary corollary to the positive doctrine of election).

Against this viewpoint Arminianism teaches the freedom that is found in creation and humanity, as we lately have discussed above. That God works alongside His creation presaging it towards His redemptive ends while allowing for sin and harm to occur by free will choice. That He does not control creation, so much as interacts with (or redemptively partners with) creation, while not interfering with its indeterminacy and free will. This would make humanity culpable for its sin and not God. It also would require of God to "win" or "woo" our "hearts, minds, and souls" by every means available to Him, including using His Holy Spirit to illuminate and empower our "hearts, minds, and souls" towards God's divine love (think of the illustrations of dating and marriage, raising kids, leading by consensus than by fiat, benevolent pastoring and shepherding care-take, etc). We are held within God's prevenient grace that would give to us every possible means and opportunities to repent and obey, while at the same time respecting, to the highest degree, our refusal not to. In this way are we "elect" in terms of God's "universal election" to participate in God's redemption. But by our choice even as this choice is reflective of God's faithful perseverance within His creation. Though predestined, we may refuse. Though foreordained in Christ, we may deny His work of atonement to ourselves. God's call to salvation must always respect our free will submission, our active agreement, and acknowledgement, to-and-for His help to redeem. Though we know not how this process works, still may we cry out to God for His help. To which He will. Down to the poorest cry. From the most miserable lips. From the most harden, lost soul. None may be lost or unfound when seeking His divine help for healing and restoration, life and removal from sin's dark imprisonments. That is the Christian hope and the doctrine of redemption.

Against the competing views of Calvinism and Arminianism are the separate differing views of mechanistic determinism, atheism, pan-en-theism, and deism. Both Calvinism and Arminianism have reacted separately to each non-Christian doctrine  separately and together, as well as helping each other to further refine their own biblical views. Accordingly, one either understands the Godhead to be in a master-controller relationship, and forbidding hegemony, with creation and humanity. Or in a free-willed, living partnership. To which the Calvinist would further temper their description og God's character by deferring to His love, mercy, wisdom, and justice. Which is very preachable but not particularly accurate, nor central to the core positions of Calvinism when connected with its concept of austere election and unmerciful pre-ordination (sic, double damnation).

The Armenian will look at the same things and posit a more benevolent form of salvific universalism undetermined except by that of the human heart-and-will gained under the influence of the Holy Spirit through God's prevenient grace. Which is where we get the concept of "Love Wins" throughout the postings of this website. To which the truly 5-point Calvinist can only say "God Rules regardless of His divine attributes." But for the Arminian, God's rule is affective on the basis of His divine love, and not in disregard to His divine love. Love is what makes a man receive the enabling partnership of God into life's turmoils and sins, wickedness and woe. Otherwise, to elect, or predetermine, a living soul to godly partnership is like a father tasking his son with obedience regardless of the father's demeanor - be it fair or foul, evil or loving. There is no necessity for free will. In contrast, Arminianism incorporates the concept of free will with that of God's divine love. For it is the love of God that doeth set in motion all things creative and living. Not by His mere power or divine will alone. But all is made-and-created on the basis of God's loving heartbeat for His creation which gives to all things purpose and meaning. Thus we must preach, as evangelists and His holy labourers, God's love in all things. God's love is what gives meaning to this life of ours and not just man's mere survival.

God's Love Gives to Man Open Futures

In terms of Theism, Arminianism would be more congruent with Relational Theism (and parts of Process Theology) whereas Calvinism would be the by-product of Classical Theism and will touch upon parts of Relational Theism. Ironically, both lean towards Open Theism, which asks just how much can God know in experiential relationship to a free willed creation's unpremeditated future? If He controls all aspects of it (Calvinism) than there can be no such thing as free will. That our future has already been determined. That we simply exist as robots in the mechanism of a larger universe (determinism, atheism). But if God Sovereignly enacts redemption while experientially reacting to creation's randomness - and humanity's choices - than such knowledge is "limited" and thus allowing for open futures, and our creative input and interaction, with the God of the universe.

Popular opinion would posit God and creation as separately enjoined but one (pan-en-theism; not pantheism's view of a unified oneness). Deism would posit God as uncaring and removed from the operational mechanism of creation (determinism). Atheism sees no God at all; while agnosticism simply cannot say. To this Relational Theology would argue against each position while also disallowing Calvinism's more classical position of God as a master-controller who closes our future from choice, interaction, and inventiveness (creativity, or entrepreneurship). Furthermore, Open Theology forces the classical position to expand its premeditative stance to include experientially open futures, while softening God's control of that universe.

Thus, Arminianism would embrace Open Theology more strongly so, while Calvinism less so, if at all. Arminianism would claim the validity of God's relational experience as foundational to the rule of His Sovereignty. While Calvinism views God's Sovereignty in terms of austere power and unwavering control set within a perfected knowledge of a completed future irrespective of (or, in denial to) His relational experience with a indeterminate creation and free willed humanity. Why? Because Arminianism emphasizes God's love over Calvinism's emphasis upon God' power. Divine love would demand the incorporation of relational experience. Power values only knowledge and divine manipulation. Love partners with man in his sin and woe. Power conflicts, and restricts, man in his sin and woe. Love values the power of divine presence and partnership within a life; Power values divine coercion and abject obedience to a life.

As help, think of the movie "Les Miserable" - where Hugh Jackman personifies love, and Russell Crowe personifies merciless power. In the end, love wins out; and, power became meaningless for its lack mercy and resolution to the human condition. So I think it is with the view of God's sovereign love as versus the more inhumane view of God's sovereign power. In the end, Calvinism, for all its benefits doesn't inspire. By way of a metaphor, for an Arminian, it is better to raise a garden of DAISY(ies) than a garden of TULIPs (cf, DAISYs, TULIPs, and Open Theism). Enjoy the metaphor and thank you for considering these very difficult subjects which have split denominations for years. Even as Emergent Theology wishes to heal the split and continue the Gospel of Jesus forward into these latter days of postmodern witness and testimony.

R.E. Slater
January 2, 2012


A Final Reply by BKO - Dr. Olson, let me say, once again, that Calvinists and non-Calvinists need to read your books, “Against Calvinism,” and “Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities.” I have read both of them twice, and continue to recommend them. They can easily be used in theology classes and Bible institutes.



 
 
 
Calvinism and the "God-as-Author"
Analogy


by Roger Olson
December 29, 2012

I recently received this e-mail letter. It’s the best recommendation of Against Calvinism I’ve read yet. I hope you, my faithful readers and blog visitors, will pass this good word around so that more people like this young Christian will read Against Calvinism to counter the arguments of their YYRM friends:
 
“I purchased a copy of Against Calvinism after reading your article from Relevant Magazine’s website a few months back. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your time and effort writing this book. It is very refreshing and encouraging to see someone advocating something other than Calvinism as plausible doctrine. I have often times felt very overwhelmed with other twenty-somethings when theology comes up because I am one of only a select few students I know that do not cling to Calvinism and the TULIP. Being raised in a hybrid of Methodist/Baptist home and growing up in the church, theology has always interested me – even before I truly began following Christ with my entire life at 16, rather than just going to church on Sunday and praying before meals etc. I went to Presbyterian school for thirteen years, so I was introduced to Calvinism at a very young age.
 
My school required theology classes as part of core curriculum study in high school, so I gleaned a lot of information from 9-12th grade. Calvinism was always very unsettling to me. I respected my professors that taught it as God-fearing men who truly served the Lord, but no matter how hard I tried I simply could not accept Calvinism and the implications it makes on God’s nature. I also struggled with how, at least from my reasoning, it shirks man's responsibility for his sinfulness to a certain extent. It was not until I got to college that heard of the “New Calvinist Movement.” I must admit, in my naivety, I never once considered that anyone other than my theology teachers and well versed Presbyterians even accepted Calvinism as a plausible conclusion to be made from scripture. I soon figured out that I was mistaken. I also soon figured out that many of the young Calvinists I have met will bring up theology at every opportunity looking for a good debate.
 
After being cornered in my dorm room first semester of my freshman year by a close friend wanting to discuss “why reformed theology is the only doctrine that is not heresy,” I began to do extensive research on Calvinism and the Reformed movement as a whole. I will not lie, I was very overwhelmed and shocked by some of what I found. What I found even more unsettling was a lack of resources readily available to counter Calvinism. I knew that I did not advocate the doctrine of Calvinism, but that was after a long, hard, digging study accompanied by a lot of coffee and many sleepless nights. I also get upset when I think of the many young members of the Reformed movement who have not extensively researched all the doctrine they embrace as its advocates. It is very upsetting than many Christians of my generation, in an attempt to run from the “spoon-fed doctrine” they embraced as a child have done the exact same thing at 20 years old. They adopt a new doctrine because it’s “cool” and a celebrity pastor advocates it, and then slap the label of “being enlightened to the truth” on it. I have a lot of respect for anyone who has studied or, researched, why they believe what they believe even if it differs from my theological standpoint, but what I can hardly bear is watching my generation flock to “what is cool” in terms of the doctrine they embrace without any real study beyond the bestseller list at Lifeway.
 
I thank you for presenting my generation with a counter to the Calvinist movement. I am very grateful that a theologian of this day decided to flesh out an alternative to Calvinism with a scriptural basis. It is very refreshing to hear the voice of a respected and incredibly well-studied theologian on this topic who holds a belief other than Calvinism. I firmly believe that my Calvinist brothers and sisters are just as passionate for the Lord as I am, but I am also grateful to know I am not alone in my inability to accept all the tenants of Calvinism.
 
Thank you again for your work on Against Calvinism and for your service to our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
 
 
 
continue to -
 
 
 




 

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