Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Friday, September 26, 2014

American Theologian Charles Hodge: How Arminianism and Calvinism Play Out in Conservative Christianity

Portrait of Charles Hodge by the studio of Mathew Brady,
Washington, D.C., 1865-1878.

Wikipedia Reference - Charles Hodge

What Did Charles Hodge Say about “The Decrees of God?”
(Part 1)

by Roger Olson
September 25, 2014

*I will include several personal observations and comments
through the body of Roger's text. - R.E. Slater

First of all, who cares what Charles Hodge said about anything? Well, many conservative evangelicals care—whether they know it or not. Charles Hodge was and remains such an influential 19th century theologian that I included an entire chapter on his theology in The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction (InterVarsity Press, 2013). Tucked away inside my copy of Volume 1 of his Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1973 [originally published 1872]) is an article published in Christianity Today in 1974 entitled “The Stout and Persistent Theology of Charles Hodge” by evangelical theologian David Wells. The gist of Wells’ essay is that evangelical theology had not produced an equal to Hodge and his theology in a century: “Some say that Hodge lies buried in these three stout volumes. They are wrong. It would be difficult to overestimate the influence that this study has had and continues to have in forming evangelical beliefs.” I agree with at least the last sentence of that statement. I have read many books of conservative evangelical theology including most of the leading systematic theologies and have often found Hodge lurking in the background—even where he is not mentioned. I would dare to say, siding with Wells, that Hodge is the formative theologian behind much of what we today know as conservative, Reformed, evangelical theology. If I could express what is a sheer opinion, for example, I would also say that The Gospel Coalition is as much dedicated to the theology of Hodge as to the Bible—whether its members know it or not. Hodge may be largely forgotten but that says nothing against his continuing influence. (I would say the same about the influence of, for example, Baptist theologian E. Y. Mullins on “moderate” Baptist theology.

Hodge was the leading Reformed theologian in America for much of the 19th century. He taught theology at Princeton Theological Seminary for half a century. He passed his torch on to B. B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen who, in turn, passed Hodge’s torch (passed to him by Archibald Alexander) to later evangelical theologians such as Louis Berkhof, Lorraine Boettner, Francis Schaeffer, Millard Erickson, David Wells, James Montgomery Boice, Michael Horton and Wayne Grudem. (I am not implying that none of these conservative evangelical theologians had/have their own thoughts; I’m only claiming that they followed/follow in Hodge’s train of thought and worked/work under his influence.)

Princeton Theological Seminary, circa the 1800's

When I talk about Calvinist theology some people who consider themselves Calvinists object that I am misrepresenting it. Over the years I have encountered many self-identified Calvinists who claim, for example, that Calvinism does not include what I call “divine determinism.” And they don’t just mean that it doesn’t include that phrase; they mean that Calvinism does not include, as part and parcel of its theology, meticulous providence such that, for example, God foreordained the fall of Adam and Eve or hell or all of the horrors and evils of history between them. I bring Hodge as witness for my case.

Now, of course, there is no Reformed Protestant “pope” to identify Hodge as the “Angelic Doctor” of Reformed Protestantism (in the same way the Catholic Church has baptized Thomas Aquinas as that—the official or semi-official theologian of Catholic theology). I would argue nevertheless that, given his profound influence on conservative Reformed evangelical theology, Hodge deserves that appellation—official or at least semi-official theologian of American conservative Reformed theology.

In other words, I will dare to claim that if Hodge held and taught a view as more than just his own opinion, as his interpretation of the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism, as evangelical truth, it proves that Calvinism includes that belief and that no one can then say that belief is outside the Calvinist faith—as an innovation or minority report or marginal opinion. In part, at least, that’s because Hodge was not an innovator; he stood on the shoulders of previous leading Reformed-Calvinist theologians such as his predecessor at Princeton Archibald Alexander (after whom he named his son!) and Swiss theologian Francis Turretin whose system of theology was standard at Princeton until Hodge’s own was published in 1872/1873. Hodge is famous for having declared at the celebration of his fifty years of teaching at Princeton that he was proud to say that during his tenure there no new thought had emerged or been taught there. He was very intent on simply translating into contemporary language and handing down the standard Reformed-Calvinist theology of his own teachers and theirs.

All that is not to say he didn’t have some new ideas; it is only to say he was not aware they were new. Most of them, perhaps all of them, appear in his stated theological method which he calls “inductive” [an oxymoron to say the least - r.e. slater] and compares [this inductive methodology] with modern science’s method. Mark Noll and others have labeled Hodge’s approach the “evangelical Enlightenment” by which they (and I) mean that he brought into evangelical theology an allegedly scientific method that mimicked Francis Bacon’s scientific method for the natural sciencesHis theology was also strongly influenced (in its method and presuppositions) by Thomas Reid’s Common Sense Realism.

Still, none of that in any way detracts from my main point that Hodge rightly stands as a if not the modern interpreter and communicator of traditional, classical Reformed theology, including “Calvinism,” for American conservative evangelicals. If Hodge taught it, it cannot be alien or foreign to Calvinism. That’s my claim. Of course I’m not claiming that ever person who calls himself or herself “Calvinist” must agree with Hodge about everything. All I am claiming is that if Hodge taught it, it cannot be alien or foreign to Calvinism. Hodge speaks for Calvinism [and] to especially American audiences. If someone wants to know what “Calvinism” teaches, for example, about the sovereignty of God, God’s “decrees,” he or she can do no better than turn to Hodge.

In Part 2 of this post I will expound Hodge’s belief, as stated in his Systematic Theology, of “God’s decrees.” If you want to follow along and perhaps check me, to make sure I’m expounding it correctly, feel free to obtain Volume 1 of Hodge’s Systematic Theology and look at Part I: “Theology Proper,” Chapter IX, “The Decrees of God.”

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

What Did Charles Hodge Say about “The Decrees of God?”
(Part 2)
source link

by Roger Olson
September 26, 2014

*I will include several personal observations and comments
through the body of Roger's text. - R.E. Slater

In Part 1 of this series on the theology of Charles Hodge I claimed that Hodge remains the “gold standard” for Reformed theology for most American Calvinist evangelical theologians. Again, as I said there, that doesn’t mean they all agree with him about everything; it only means that if he said it, claimed it, argued for it, it can’t be considered alien or foreign to Reformed-Calvinist thought—especially in its North American expression. Hodge is to modern North American Calvinism what Karl Barth is to dialectical theology/neo-orthodoxy—the trend-setter and corner stone. Others of the party may disagree about details and secondary matters, but they generally agree about the main ideas.

My point in this series is simple: If Charles Hodge taught it in his Systematic Theology, especially about God’s sovereignty in history and salvation, it cannot be alien or foreign to Calvinist thought—especially as that is understood in North America. Those Reformed thinkers, Calvinists, who significantly deviate from his theology in those areas are at best revisionists.

When I read Hodge’s Systematic Theology on God’s sovereignty I am struck by how much is echoed in more contemporary conservative evangelical Reformed/Calvinist theology. For example, in his Christian Theology Millard Erickson uses the same phrase Hodge used repeatedly about God’s involvement in the events of history and individuals’ lives—including their status as elect and saved (or not): “rendered certain.” It’s not a common, everyday phrase. It was Hodge’s way of avoiding saying that God “caused” sin, evil, reprobation and calamities. God did not “cause” them, but he did and does “render them certain” according to an eternal divine plan. When John Piper (and other contemporary American Calvinists) say that God “designs, ordains and governs” all things without exception, he is simply putting into his own words the ideas Hodge expressed in his Systematic Theology, Volume 1, Chapter IX “The Decrees of God.” Here I will quote extensively from that chapter with frequent glosses showing the parallels with so-called “New Calvinism.” My point is that this “New Calvinism” isn’t new at all. It is simply Hodge’s classical Calvinism updated and packaged for the (mostly young) masses.

The Nature of God's Decrees

Chapter IX begins with “The Nature of the Decrees.” Hodge begins by quoting the Westminster Shorter Catechism and agreeing with it“The decrees of God are his eternal purposes, according to the counsel of his will, whereby for his own glory He had foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Here is Hodge’s clarification of this: “Whatever He [God] does or permits to be done, is done or permitted for the more perfect revelation of his nature and perfections.” Note that no event escapes this comprehensive purpose. Hodge makes no exceptions. “Whatsoever comes to pass,” including the kidnapping, rape and murder of a small child (Hodge gives us no reason to think there are any exceptions) was “done or permitted” by God for the purpose of the perfect revelation of his nature and perfections. That is, for his glory.*


*I am reminded of William P. Young's book, The Shack, that dealt with God's sovereignty in this way. It was a powerful read in many, many ways, but its one strong and salient point was dealing with a horrible personal tragedy. Of course, God's sovereignty may be defined in many ways, but for the classic Calvinist position this is the way that it is defined. For myself, there are other ways to talk about God's sovereignty in relationship to sin and evil rather than through implied terms of "glory" and "permission" and "rendering certain". But these ideas have been discussed in other sections of this blog site for the reader willing to discover those thoughts. - r.e. slater]


... Now, to be sure, many Calvinists recoil at that, but that is what Hodge believed and said and it is perfectly consistent with classical Calvinism from Calvin himself (or before him Zwingli!) to Piper. Don't be distracted by the language of “permission.” The point is that even what God permits he foreordained for his glory. There’s no escaping that. Whatever happens, without exception, was foreordained by God according to his eternal plan and purpose for his glory. Hodge will go on to say in the rest of the chapter that even what God permits he renders certain. So it is not at all contingent or accidental or consequential—to the fall or human sin.

God's Decrees are Reducible to One Purpose

In the second section, “The Decrees Reducible to one Purpose,” Hodge declares that “The reason, therefore, why any event occurs, or, that it passes from the category of the possible into that of the actual, is that God has so decreed. … All are part of one all-comprehending plan.” According to Hodge, God never purposes “what He did not originally intend.” This is clear enough, or it should be. The kidnapping, rape and murder of a small child must also be intended by God. Hodge adamantly denies (in this section) that God ever purposes something successively—as a result of something outside of his plan. That, he says, would stand against the very idea of God as infinite.

God's Decrees are Eternal

In the next part, “The Decrees of God are Eternal,” Hodge argues that “History in all its details, even the most minute, is but the evolution of the eternal purposes of God.” In other words, the kidnapping, rape and murder of a small child is part of the eternal plan and purpose of God and not at all the result of something interfering with God’s plan or purpose such as the fall or sin. Even those must be parts of the eternal, unchangeable purpose and plan of God.

God's Decrees are Immutable

Then Hodge declares that “The Decrees of God are Immutable.” “The whole government of God, as the God of nature and as moral governor, rests on the immutability of his counsels.” No “unforeseen emergency” can resist the “execution of his original intention.” Again, then, the kidnapping, rape and murder of a small child must be according to God’s original intention and not the result of anything that intruded into God’s original intention such as the fall and human rebellion against God.

God's Decrees are Free

Then Hodge argues that “The Decrees of God are Free.” “God adopted the plan of the universe on the ground of his own good pleasure, for his own glory, and every subordinate part of it in reference to the whole.” Furthermore, “The decrees of God are in no case conditional.”

God's Decrees are Efficacious

Then, according to Hodge, “The Decrees of God are certainly Efficacious.” This is crucial for those who argue that God merely permits sin, evil, or innocent suffering. Yes, Hodge uses the language of permission, but that permission is efficacious permission. What God permits he permits according to a plan and his permitting what he planned to happen renders it certain. “All events embraced in the purpose of God are equally certain, whether He has determined to bring them to pass by his own power, or simply to permit their occurrence through the agency of his creatures. It was no less certain from eternity that Satan would tempt our first parents, and that they would fall, than that God would send his Son to die for sinners.” So, even what God “simply permits” is efficaciously rendered certain by God intentionally according to his plan and purpose—to thereby glorify himself. (We must always keep in mind the foregoing when interpreting what is presently before our eyes.) Thus, if we are to believe Hodge, God planned the fall of humanity and rendered it certain for his glory even if he did not bring it to pass by his own power but used an instrument, Satan, to bring it about. Hodge is here simply repeating what Calvin said in The Institutes.


*I would like to interject here that in a very Hodgerian way of theological thinking, that sin and evil are not separate powers or forces from God. Nor are they metaphysical powers emanating from God in ways that He had created sin and evil. But unlike Hodge, neither was sin and evil in any aspect a part of God's divine plan as Calvinism asserts. But nor were sin and evil a surprise to God in His foreknowledge (but not predestination) when occurring. How is this so?

To the non-Calvinist, sin and evil may be thought of as a result of, or a consequence to, God's plan of creation - or as an expression of the activation of His plan of creation. That is, these are a consequence of God granting (by divine decree) to the universe its own indeterminancy (a kind of freedom-structure that is divinely underlaid by chaos and random event). Moreover, God has likewise given to humanity by divine fiat its own free will met upon the chaos and random event of mankind's stricken soul sometimes described as sinful while at other times described as good and beautiful.

Calvinism's polar doctrinal opposite is Arminianism (or its modern day counterpart, Wesleyanism). Based upon Arminianian doctrine a progressive evangelic (or neo-orthodox theologian) will embrace:

(i) relational theology, where emphasis is placed upon God's love (and not the austerity of His divine plan), and

(ii) process theology, where emphasis is placed upon God's evolving partnership with His good creation (rather than His rightness of judgment and austere separation from its errantly named, and classically defined, "sinful" creation).

Including a creation which is

(iii) open, that is, God has decreed that the future is rendered uncertain, otherwise it can not be "free" (as versus the idea of a closed and static eternal framework stopped up in "a bottle of sin" awaiting final judgment)...

... if so, then one may think of sin and evil as juxtaposed around these sublime theological ideas.

What this means is that basically, sin and evil are an outgrowth of the very freedom God has granted humanity, as well as a basic disorder (or muddling up) of creation's mechanisms of God-ordained creational disorder and chaos tending away from the Hebrew concept of shalom (sic, peace, order)... (e.g., my apologies for these simplified statements!)

If sin and evil are not theologically re-conceived in this way, than it would appear to an Arminian-Wesleyan-Baptist-Progressive Evangelic - if not Post-Evangelic - that classical Calvinism, including its newer counterpart of "New/Neo-Calvinism" are strongly antithetic to the doctrinal ideas of "freedom" and "free will". Which means that for such classicists, it is only God's plan that gives to God glory and not (i) His love, nor (ii) His loving creative expression infilling nature and humanity with immortal life and expression, nor (iii) His positive involvement with creation's own timeful, and eternal, frameworks.

Otherwise, God's glory is driven only by the merciless progression of His relentless divine plan held as fated hostage to sin and evil. And that to receive glory His plan must necessarily include all that comes with fateful sin and evil. This is more like the adage of the tail wagging the dog than the dog wagging its tail. Or of seeing God's commandments as only made for God and not made for humanity which Jesus hotly contested with the classicists of His day - the Pharisees and Scribes (sic, the beauty and wonder of God's love v. the austerity of God's law).

But to the non-Calvinist this is a bad description of both God's plan and God's glory. We can think of many other ways to circumvent these blackened follies of dogmatic testaments to Christian fatalism. And if we do, then we may find God's decrees to be divinely fulfilling, purposeful, eternal, immutable, free, efficacious, and foreordained for all of life without the unnecessary suppositions of imagining the Creator-God to be at the mercy of His own divine plan. Certainly, Hodge had the descriptors of God's rule correct. But he had the ideas about God's rule badly convoluted based upon his inherited doctrinal ideas that were errantly scribed and iron-plated within Reformed theology's Calvinisms.

As the Dutch Remonstrant Jacobus Arminius had once taught a long, long time ago, it is God's grace that proceeds any divine plan or purpose of God if we are to have a free will creation requiring a free will salvation. It is both the answer to, and response of, a free will Creator who became creation's free will, and purposeful, Savior. Even as it is mankind's only and sufficient free will response both to his God above and fellow man below. Peace.

- r.e. slater


God's Decrees relate to all of Life

Next Hodge argues that “The Decrees of God relate to All Events.” “The doctrine of the Bible is, that all events, whether necessary or contingent, good or sinful, are included in the purpose of God, and that their futurition or actual occurrence is rendered absolutely certain.” How anything can be “contingent” is not explained by Hodge; it would seem counterintuitive, to say the least, to believe that anything rendered absolutely certain according to an eternal plan could be truly contingent. But let that not detain us. Hodge’s main point is crystal clear. God’s decrees render all events certain according to God’s intentional plan and purpose to glorify himself through them all. That includes the kidnapping, rape and murder of a small child.

God's Decrees are Foreordained

Next Hodge explains that “Free Acts are Foreordained.” “The Scriptures teach that sinful acts, as well as such as are holy, are foreordained.” Also, “The whole course of history is represented as the development of the plan and purposes of God; and yet human history is little else than the history of sin.” He specifically mentions “The destruction of the Huguenots in France, the persecution of the Puritans in England.” All happened according to a divine plan and for good reasons Hodge believes he can discern: They “laid the foundation for the planting of North America with a race of godly and energetic men….” This reasoning would also apply, of course, to the Holocaust which was yet to come. If Hodge were alive today he could not avoid saying that the Holocaust, like every other horror of human history, was planned and rendered certain by God.

Objections to God's Decrees

Next in Chapter IX Hodge answers “Objections to the Doctrine of the Divine Decrees.” The first objection is that “Foreordination [is] inconsistent with Free Agency. The best he can do here is carry out the “tu quoque” argument that all his orthodox opponents, who believe in divine foreknowledge, also must believe in the certainty of all events, including sin and evil, even as they proclaim their contingency and free agency as their cause. What he conveniently overlooks is the clear (at least to Arminians) distinction between God planning (designing) and foreordaining and rendering certain and God merely foreknowing. To foreknow is not to render certain. It may be true that what is foreknown absolutely is certain to happen, but there is a huge gulf between foreknowing a sin will be committed and foreordaining it and rendering it certain. (Interestingly Hodge here deals with what is now called “open theism” and simply sweeps it aside as virtually unworthy of serious consideration as it makes God not God.)

Then Hodge considers the objection that “Foreordination of Sin [is] inconsistent with Holiness.” His basic response is that God “sees and knows that higher ends will be accomplished by [sin’s] admission [into his plan] than by its exclusion, that a perfect exhibition of his infinite perfections will be thereby effected, and therefore for the highest reason decrees that it shall occur through the free choice of responsible agents.” In other words, when God plans, foreordains, and renders certain a sin he does so for a good reason so no guilt is involved for God. But the sinner is guilty because he acts freely. It is doubtful, however, that Hodge believed in libertarian free will, power of contrary choice, so by “acts freely” he means “does what he wants to do” even if he could not do otherwise. Hodge’s final argument in response to this objection is this: “Sin is, and God is; therefore the occurrence of sin must be consistent with his nature; and as its occurrence cannot have been unforeseen or undesigned [!], God’s purpose or decree that it should occur must be consistent with his holiness.” But, of course, that assumes everything in the world, including the kidnapping, rape and murder of a small child cannot be “undesigned” by God. What Hodge seems not to be able to conceive of is God’s self-limitation, God’s sovereignty over his sovereignty, God’s willing choice not to design, foreordain and render certain every event. Embedded in his whole discussion of God is the assumption that God, in order to be God, must be the all-determining reality. But, in the end, Hodge never adequately explains how God is good in any normal meaning of the word, if he is the ultimate, final author of all the horrors of history—except that he does it all for the summum bonum of his glory and therefore it’s all justified. He does not wrestle adequately with the question of God’s goodness; he simply assumes that no matter what God does must be good just because God does it. While Hodge was probably not a nominalist/voluntarist most of the time, this what he falls back on here.

Finally Hodge argues that his view of God’s decrees is not “Fatalism.” He defines “fatalism” as “the doctrine that all events come to pass under the operation of a blind necessity.” His view differences from that in affirming that all that occurs according to the “will of an infinitely wise and good ruler, all whose acts are determined by a sufficient reason.” I’m sure the distinction will be lost on most people because they think of “fatalism” as any view that whatever happens is bound to happen and could not happen otherwise—whether by blind necessity or divine operation.

Now, I’m well aware that many people who call themselves Calvinists disagree with Hodge’s (and Calvin’s and Edwards’s and Piper’s) strong view of divine determination of all events including sin and innocent suffering. They shrink back when confronted with this view of God’s sovereignty in meticulous providence and say either “That’s not my Calvinism!” or “Well, I’m a Calvinist but not of that kind.” When pressed they often appeal to mystery and paradox and say they somehow believe in both God’s comprehensive sovereignty and that individual acts of sin and torture of children (for example) are not foreordained or rendered certain by God. But that’s Arminianism, not Calvinism! Arminianism also includes belief in God’s comprehensive sovereignty but defines it differently—as God’s either decreeing or merely permitting all events. But Hodge’s view is classical Calvinism! All other views of God’s sovereignty are either revisionist Calvinism or Arminianism or both! Hodge is not considered an extreme Calvinist; he was an infralapsarian rather than a supralapsarian [e.g., how God's decrees came about either before, or after, the Fall of Man and entrance of sin into creation - re slater] and his doctrine of the divine decrees shows that those are really the same thing—when considered from the perspective of divine determinism. They differ only in soteriology, but that difference pales into a distinction without any real difference once one remembers their common view of God’s overall sovereignty over all affairs.


*Of course things like theological ideas can get quite jumbled about if one were to approach the Bible from an evolutionary-creationist perspective. Then there would be no Fall, no Adam and Eve, no Snake in the Garden. And if not, then the question of sin and evil must be discussed apart from the fall of man and more the rather within the idea earlier proposed as to its origin bourne within the constitutive framework of "freedom" itself. More can be found on these topics located within the "science," "sin," "sovereignty," and "calvinism-arminianism" compositions of this blog site. But not all together nor at once. But spread about as my grasp of evolutionary creationism has worked itself through my once formerly held, and very high-minded, Calvinistic doctrines, as they have been reworked from a more Arminian theological mindset coupled with relational theism, process thought, and open theology. - r.e. slater


My argument is that if someone calls himself or herself a Calvinist he or she should bite the bullet, so to speak, and agree with Calvin’s, Edwards’s, Hodge’s and Piper’s view of the decrees of God—that everything that happens without exception is designed, decreed, ordained, governed, and rendered certain by God. That is classical Calvinism. “Reformed Theology” may be a bigger “tent” than that, but “Calvinism” historically includes that view of God’s providence. Piper’s Calvinism is not, then, “Neo-Calvinism;” it is classical Calvinism put forth boldly and without qualification or apology. I respect him for that. And the only logical alternative to it is some kind of Arminianism—whether called that or not—in which God limits himself to allow libertarian free will such that sins and evils and innocent suffering are not designed or ordained or rendered certain by God even if they are foreknown by him.

So permit me to end with this illustration of the difference. A small child is kidnapped, raped and murdered. We all know it happens and we grieve over it and consider the perpetrator a monster. What should we think theologically about God’s role in the event? If Hodge is right, the whole event in all its gruesome details, was decreed by God according to a divine plan the purpose of which is to glorify himself. Take away all the verbiage and that’s what it boils down to. Hodge (and other Calvinists) will insist that God only “permitted” the perpetrator to enact the deed, but his explanation of God’s decrees requires that God’s permission was efficacious; it guaranteed the perpetrator would do it and God wanted him to do it and for a divine reason. So who is a monster if that is the case? The perpetrator or God? [or, might I add, the man's own theology itself. - r.e. slater]

- Roger