The Verse of God’s Sword: TLRJ and Jim Boucher Respond To Cerebral Faith

Romans 9 has become the cornerstone for internet debates between Calvinists and Arminians. Oftentimes, neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian will properly understand the text because they’re looking at it the wrong way. The goal is not to think “How does Romans 9 fit in my theological box” but rather “What was cultural context, textual context, and audience?” these questions stem from the historical-grammatical method and they usually provide better and more probable answers to these questions than hack wannabe apologists do on social media websites.

Contrived Cerebral Discourse

This misuse of hermeneutics was exemplified when Mr. Minton of Cerebral Faith teamed up with another Apologist named Colin to talk about this important chapter. There was no indication on who wrote what part, so I will not refer to a specific writer, Instead I will refer to them in the plural.

They start off the article  by saying “Romans 9, a passage I once avoided reading as a new Christian…”


This is characteristic of many Christians of today, who have an image of God in their head distorted by emotion or empathy. Reading further, we get to the most important point, they ask “What does Paul say here?” That is the important question. We must as much as possible push away our biases towards the text and find what Paul really says. To be able to push away your biases, you must affirm that they exist. I (Tony) am a Calvinist, I’ve read commentaries, listened to sermons and have read books that involved Romans 9 in a Calvinist way. So, I acknowledge that reading Romans 9 in a Calvinist way would come naturally to me at this point. However, I do not seek to hide from the true meaning of the text, whether or not it would contradict Calvinism or cause interpretive difficulties for me on other passages. I want to know what Paul wrote in Romans 9.

They state later on

What Paul seems to be proposing is that the scope of election is narrow and that God has, by some unknown measure, decided to shut some up in ignorance and unbelief, while allowing others to somehow believe, and “who are you, oh man, to answer back?” Has God determined that some are meant to be the proverbial fuel for the fire, this is just their eternal lot and they are the thing made and just have to suck it up? Read in this context, it seems Paul is rebuking those who seem to be asking God hard questions, which does not seem to square with a God presented in Isaiah 1:19 who invites us to come reason with Him. Why does God now silence sincere questioning of His plan to damn some, when His prior offer to reason with Him was once on the table? “

This is a remarkably shallow take on what Calvinists are saying. They paint a picture of a grotesque election that is exceedingly narrow and set it up for failure when they assume it contradicts other passages, needless to say, this wasn’t a fair representation.

I will let Jim take on the scholarly discussions on Romans 9, however, internet wannabe apologist to another, setting up your argument with words like “narrow” and “suck it up” show an emotional distaste for the belief or the persons involved, rather than a level-headed analysis.  

The fact of the matter is that “narrow” is not true. Not only are there eschatological differences between Calvinists (I’m a Postmillennialist, that means I believe there will be more in heaven than hell at the end.) but classifications such as “narrow” assume Arminianism, or at the very least, unlimited atonement.

The little rant on Paul’s statement of “Who are you, O Man” might be coming from the annoyance of Calvinists over-using this phrase as a non-answer in petty internet debates. However, they do not seek to explain the statement anywhere in their post. Paul isn’t saying “don’t ask God questions” but rather “remember who you’re talking too.”

He then misrepresents Luis De Molinas intentions on Unconditional election but to avoid taking this off topic, check out this post on why Luis De Molina was not an Arminian.

In their summary, they say Calvinists have this “eeny-meeny-miny-moe approach in saving people; that is, he picks and chooses who to save and who to burn” referring to the Calvinist idea of God’s election as a kids game. However, this comparison is unwarranted, for eeny-meeny-miny-moe is a game that is supposed to represent chance decisions (Though, it is not, you can determine the results by which person you start with). God doesn’t elect by chance, but his good pleasure. What we do see in scripture is that God doesn’t choose people based on merit. Esau was better than Jacob, Aaron was better suited for the job than Moses, why did Judas betray Jesus and not the hot-head Peter?

The alternative is that God does choose on merit, whether that is foreseen faith after looking down the corridors of time depends on the Arminian. There is a shockingly low amount of argumentation in a post about what Romans 9 actually teaches. It’s more of a “we’re right and you know it.” type of post, I don’t think it would convince anyone who wasn’t already convinced of Evan and Colin’s position.

He didn’t cite John Wesley, or even his own society’s scholar Dr. Abasciano. (Society of Evangelical Arminians) It reads like an introduction to a study bible on Romans, giving as much theologically neutral information as you can and then makes a huge logical leap that would get good reviews at an NFL combine.

The structure of the article was confusing to say the least. It was 1.) What does Romans 9 teach? Mock and Misrepresent Calvinism. 2.) Give introductory notes on Romans Mock and Misrepresent Calvinism. 3.) Mention Molinism, admit Molina agreed with Calvin and Not yourself, wrongly characterize Molina’s position on the atonement, then mock and misrepresent Calvinism.

There was no discussion of the distinctions between corporate and individual election, the intention and consistent themes of Paul through Romans 9-11 or the story of Jacob and Esau that Paul references. We also don’t see any attempt to engage in the original languages or Paul’s point in 1 Timothy 2. You can read about that here.

Jim Boucher’s Contribution

 

I (Jim Boucher) am not prone to blog wars. But TLRJ needed my assistance, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise. We are together responding to a blogpost published by the CerebralFaith blog about Romans 9.

What Romans Is Really About? And Self-Congratulatory Language

The first point worth picking at is the triumphant and revolutionary language CerebralFaith uses, describing what “Romans is really about,” as he goes on to describe the standard way of interpreting the book of Romans. When he writes, “the issue Paul is tackling is how God’s chosen people (i.e the Jews) could fail to obtain salvation while Gentiles succeeded!” The only response that comes forth is, “Well, yes. Of course.”

There is very little reason to call this,  “What Romans is Really About.” It is sort of like if I titled a paper, “What Genesis 1 Is Really About,” and I proceeded to outline a young earth creationist model.

In fact, in Essence of the New Testament by Elmer Towns and Ben Gutierrez, they provide a general overview of the New Testament. They write, “Now, Paul returns to the question of Israel in order to vindicate God’s righteousness in his dealings with the Jews. He shows that God’s present rejection of Israel for their unbelief is not inconsistent with God’s promises to them.” [i] Again, this is just a general overview. There is nothing revolutionary about this, and to say “What Romans is Really About” is just incomprehensible.

 

As Robert Johnson pointed out in his paper Paul’s Theology of Israel: An Exegesis of Romans 9-11, there are broadly three ways interpreters have understood Israel in Romans 9. [iii] First, Israel could refer to the church. Second, it could refer to the elect remnant of the believing Jews, and third, it could refer to the ethnic nation of Israel. As far as I can tell, while Johnson respects the scholarship of these three answers, he believes they are asking the wrong questions. Romans 1:16-17 is the thesis statement for the book of Romans, and the first eight chapters outline what it means to be justified. The ninth chapter “lays out a proper understanding of salvation by faith as it has played out through history.”

Of course, Johnson does not believe in unconditional election.[iv] But his assessment of Romans can function as a model for how to produce real scholarship. A scholar will outline different perspectives, ensuring that she knows what they are and is representing them fairly and invests themselves in the data. They do not write, “What Romans 9 Is Really About” then go on to outline the standard interpretation of Romans, found in most general overview books, while ignoring or being unaware of rival interpretations. Romans 9-11 is not debated as “Conditional Vs Unconditional.” It is debated as “How is Israel saved? How does their justification tie into the larger corpus of salvation history?” That is the larger scale question.

But the smaller scale question is, “Are there any implications for the election of individuals found in the text?” Evan seems to think that answering the larger scale question also provides an answer to the smaller scale question.

Understanding The Romans 9 Debate Conceptually

I hope it has been clarified by now that the competing interpretive frameworks for Romans 9 is not Israel Vs Unconditional Election. The initial question is, “Who is Israel? The church? A remnant within Israel? All of Israel?” The following question will be about how Israel will be saved, and finally we will begin to tread upon whether Paul speaks of unconditional election. CerebralFaith skipped these steps and seemed to frame the competing frameworks as Israel or Unconditional Election. Thomas Schreiner would even go so far as to say that corporate and individual election should not be pitted against one another.[v] (His peer-reviewed work as cited should be considered necessary to framing this discussion. If the writers at CerebralFaith feel the gumption to respond, they should review the discussion between Thomas Schreiner and Brian Abasciano.)

Schreiner argues that there is nothing strictly incompatible about corporate and individual election. He wrote, Instead what we have in Romans 9-11 is both corporate and individual election, for we cannot have the one without the other… It follows, then, that Paul may focus on corporate election without in the least suggesting that individual election is excluded… You can’t have one without the other.” Abasciano challenged this, arguing that Schreiner was giving individual election primacy whereas corporate election ought to have it. [vi]

Schreiner made that the point that strictly speaking, Abasciano’s model without an individual element would not be an election of God. God would not be “electing” anybody. He writes, If the individual dimension of corporate election simply means that human beings believe in order to be saved, then there is no “election” in corporate election. Or, to put it another way, there is no election by God. All the electing is done by the individual when he or she chooses to be saved.” As a concept, corporate election needs an element of individual election as proposed by the Calvinists. Schreiner went on to anticipate several objects Abasciano or other Arminian theologians might raise, but I shall not rehash them here. I expect that before anybody assesses Schreiner’s argument, they will review his work to see if their objections have been covered.

Examining The Scholarship Surrounding Key Texts

I hope that was not too much information. Evan basically mounted two arguments regarding Romans 9. 1 – Romans 9 is about Israel. 2 – Romans 9 provides a model of corporate election. So, what I have strived to do here is to show that these two arguments are neither here nor there. Both of them are granted happily. We need to discuss the few passages that Evan touched on and those that he skipped. These passages form the basis for the doctrine of unconditional election. There are a few places that the scholarship will direct us. Since it is chronologically first and it would be odd to switch back and forth between scholars, we will stick with Schreiner’s argument from Romans 8:30.[vii]

Romans 8:30

Romans 8:30 reads, “And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified.” Schreiner reminds us that in Pauline theology, justification comes by faith. It does not come by ethnicity. If we call attention to justification in this pattern, it becomes evident that Paul is referring to individuals rather than corporate bodies. The next step in Schreiner’s argument is to call the reader’s attention to “called.” If all are called, then all are justified. Since all are not justified, it follows that all are not called. Only some are called. I am not inclined to give Evan a pass for skipping this verse, even if it is outside of Romans 9, for two reasons. First, he jumped outside of Romans 9 to form another argument. Second, this comes directly before Romans 9. Paul did not know that we would divide his letter into chapters. It is just a continuous stream of thought.

Romans 9:13

Paul cited the minor prophets in Romans 9-11 more than anywhere else.[viii] This reminds us that the story of salvation is part of a larger narrative. In Romans 9:13, Paul specifically cites Malachi. The text reads, “As it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” Evan boasts of this that Paul is clearly talking about nations, and he discerns from this fact that it cannot be talking about individual election. This harks us back to the conceptual issues that Evan was having. Corporate and individual election are not mutually exclusive. There could be a nationalistic element and an individualistic element. Schreiner tells us:

“Mere physical descent from Abraham or Isaac does not prove that an individual is elect, for God never promised that the whole nation of Israel corporately without exception would receive the blessing of salvation. There has always been a winnowing process. The corporate group has always been composed of individuals whom God has chosen. The flow of the argument clarifies that Paul thinks of individual election, not just corporate election. He chose Isaac as an individual instead of Ishmael. Both were descendants from Abraham, but the Lord did not choose the descendants of Abraham as a group. Instead he chose Isaac rather than Ishmael, and he chose Jacob rather than Esau. And Paul applies this principle to all of history, even to his own day.” [ix]

There are a few other points about Jacob and Esau to keep in mind. When God refers to his election, he says that it was not based on anything that they had done at all. It was simply based on him who “calls.” This usage of “calls” should hark us back to what Paul said just a few verses earlier in 8:30. All those who are called are also justified. Since that calling is individualistic, we would not be unreasonable to suppose that the calling of Jacob was literally a calling of Jacob.

I might also remind you that the only-corporate election model does not dull the sword here. It is still a verse of God’s sword. Even if an only-corporate model were possible, we would still have God excluding an entire nation from his covenant and choosing another nation. The only reason he gave for that was “his calling,” his pleasure and his good will. We would be naive to think that this did not lead to the condemnation of thousands of individuals, simply because God chose national Jacob over national Esau, unconditionaly. This truly is a verse of God’s sword.

Romans 9:15-16

9:15-16 is another citation of the Old Testament. It reads, “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” The first thing you might notice is the singular nouns. Paul understands Exodus 33:19 to be saying that it does not depend on the “man” who runs, but on God. If the reader subscribes to an only-corporate model, they might make sense of this by saying that Paul is simply continuing his metaphor, and the “man” is Jacob the nation. Dr. Douglas Moo does not think that is a tenable way to understand this passage because it does not comport with Pauline theology.

First, verse 16 is referring to the reception of the mercy spoken of in verse 15. Mercy does not come from national identity. It comes through faith. It is therefore more plausible to interpret this as referring to individuals. Second, Moo writes, “Receiving mercy from God does not depend on anything a person can will or do, but only on God’s own will to show mercy. Note that Paul’s inclusion of “willing” and “doing” supports our conclusion that he excludes faith as well as works as sources of election.” [x] Notice that Moo is not saying that faith is a work. Faith is an act of the will. Reception of God’s mercy does not come as a result of anything in human will. Election is not a result of anything in human will, including faith.

Who Are You, O Man?

While the CerebralFaith blog did briefly pontificate on Jacob and Esau and a couple of following verses, it did not confront what I think are key texts in understanding the debate between only-corporate election and corporate-individual election: Romans 9:19-20. The text reads, “You will say to me, then ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ On the contrary, who are you, o man, who answers back to God?”

I think it might be beneficial to take a look at the Arminian scholarship behind this verse, and then move on to what Evan and Colin had to say about it. Robert Johnson (previously cited) had a few interesting remarks. He views election in only-corporate terms. The hypothetical objector would be a Jew, complaining about the scope of corporate election. Then God turns to him and says, “Who are you, o man, who answers back to God?”

Johnson writes, “If God wants to choose the Gentiles to be saved, that is his right. Thus, the ultimate point Paul is making is that salvation comes to anyone who believes by faith. God will show mercy on anybody who believes.” [xi] But the problem is that Paul’s hypothetical objector did not ask about salvation. He asked about condemnation. I am a little confused about what would motivate Paul to ask that question. Further, why would he appeal to God’s sovereignty in answering it? Paul was a learned man; he could certainly give the objector something more satisfying. He could remind them that Abraham would be the father of many nations, that God’s covenant will last forever, that the Messiah will reign over all people. This diatribe is likely best explained within the context of unconditional election.

This brings us next to Evan and Colin’s assessment of this verse. Colin introduced the controversy in the first paragraph, but the only time it appears in Evan’s writing was in a sarcastic, sneering tone as he mocked the declarations of God’s apostle. It was almost as if he doesn’t know that Paul said it. We should really emphasize this. The very answer that Evan hates so much is exactly what Paul said, and his only explanation is to sneer and ask how anybody could say that.

This brings us to Colin’s argument in the first paragraph. He repeated a point much like what I found in Bart Ehrman’s book, God’s Problem: How The Bible Fail’s To Answer Life’s Most Important Question – Why We Suffer. Ehrman writes, “God appears at the end of the poetic exchanges and refuses to give an answer. He does not explain why Job suffers. He simply asserts that he is Almighty, and as such cannot be questioned.” This seems to pretty well summarize Evan and Colin’s argument, so I will respond to it here exactly as I have before in other contexts. Asking questions is fine. But when we say that God must answer our questions, and that we will refuse to obey him if he does not, then that borders on impiety. Another consideration is that God does literally refuse to answer questions. “Who are you, o man, who answers back to God?” is a real quote. Even if you take the only-corporate perspective, it is still part of the character of God to refuse to answer and demand obedience despite that as he sees fit. Again, we may still seek answers, but when we start to condemn God is when it becomes impiety.

Romans 11:11-12

This is an argument unique to Evan, as he responds to an objector that he probably met in an online chatroom, because what he describes in this section as “The Calvinist View” is alien to me. He seems to equate Calvinism with kinism or white nationalism, with an irrational hatred of the Jews. Romans 11:11-12 reads, “So, I ask, did they stumble, in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Evan comments, “If the Calvinist view were correct, the Jews would be beyond recovery… unable to repent… unable to be saved.” This is not the Calvinist view at all.

It seems sufficient to cite the Westminster Confession of Faith. “Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.”

What if a blogger refutes me?

The final point that I want to address is what is found in his section titled “What if the Calvinist interpretation were correct?” He writes, “Let’s say a Calvinist blogger writes up a solid refutation of this blog post and shows that this passage is teaching unconditional election after all…” We shouldn’t live in a world where bloggers are the intellectual heavyweights who provide ‘solid refutation.’ The debate about the relationship between free will and sovereignty has been going on for thousands of years. Scholars provide solid refutations. Bloggers do not. If anybody is interested in a ‘solid refutation,’ they should look for peer-reviewed journals or commentaries written by scholars.

Overall, age-old debates are not something we can resolve by just thinking hard in front of a computer screen. It needs to be researched, not an exercise in common sense; humble, not self-congratulatory; nuanced, not absolute. Anybody can write a blogpost pontificating about the general themes of Romans 9.

 

[i] Elmer Towns And Ben Gutierrez, The Essence of The New  Testament: A Survey, Nashville, TN B&H Academics, 2012, page 137

[ii] Moo, Douglas, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan: 2000, page 291

[iii] Johnson, Robert, Paul’s Theology of Israel: An Exegesis of Romans 9-11, Virginia Beach, VA, Regent University: 2008, page 9

[iv] Johnson, Exegesis of Romans 9-11, Regent, page 17

[v] Schreiner, Thomas R. “CORPORATE AND INDIVIDUAL ELECTION IN ROMANS 9: A RESPONSE TO BRIAN ABASCIANO.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 2 (06, 2006): 373-86

[vi] Abasciano, Brian J. “CORPORATE ELECTION IN ROMANS 9: A REPLY TO THOMAS SCHREINER.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 2 (06, 2006): 351-71

[vii] Schreiner, Corporate And Individual Election, Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, 2006

[viii] Steyn, Gert Jacobus. 2015. “Observations on the text form of the Minor Prophets quotations in Romans 9-11.” Journal For The Study Of The New Testament 38, no. 1: 49-67

[ix] Schreiner, Corporate And Individual Election, Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, 2006

[x] Moo, NIV Commentary, Zondervan, 2000, page 310

[xi] Johnson, Exegesis of Romans 9-11, Regent, page 20

Answering Common Objections to Calvinism

 

If you’ve spent more than a millisecond in a theologically diverse group, you will know that Calvinism is the satanic puppet religion who thinks God is evil, muahahahahaha.

Now, the thinking person knows such a claim is from some over-the-top pseudo-spiritual folks who think discernment blogs are a good idea. However, there are even these types of ridiculous claims on the popular level. Since I believe Calvinism accurately represents what the Bible teaches, I thought to address these popular level absurdities that have come out of the mouths or the books of popular level anti-Calvinists. Let’s get started.


If Calvinism is true, Why Evangelize?

This point is repeated ad nauseam as if it was a serious objection. The question itself is malformed, it assumes a disconnect between the outward call of the gospel and the inward election by God. There isn’t one, the Sovereign God of the Universe tells us to preach the gospel and doesn’t let us know who the elect are. Instead of make-believing that I “win souls” or getting someone to recite this pre-written prayer that does nothing, I pray and know God is in control of whether or not the person will respond, this gives me confidence, for I know the salvation of people doesn’t depend on my ability as a speaker or persuader.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14 ESV)


There is no inconsistency with the idea that:


1.) Only God can save a person, my own efforts unaided by the Spirit of God would inevitably fail.


2.) I should preach the gospel to everyone, as it is a means God uses to bring His Elect to Himself.


The difference is I don’t place my ability to “win souls” on how many people I tell, how many people I get to pray some pre-written prayer, or how many people take a tract from me. At the end of the day, God Saves sinners. We are beggars showing the others where the bread is.


Actual historic Calvinism hasn’t had a problem with Evangelism.


We see figures like Jonathan Edwards leading the first great awakening, the thunderous preacher George Whitefield (who labored alongside Arminian John Wesley) had no problem preaching the gospel to everyone.


Furthermore, there is William Carey the father of modern missions, William Farel the French evangelist, David Brainerd the young evangelist who gave it all to evangelize to the Native Americans and Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers.


As you can see, Calvinism breeds Evangelists, it doesn’t hinder Evangelism.


God doesn’t Hate Esau, He hates a Whole Nation of People


This argument makes no sense since the initial objection is that God doesn’t hate a specific person because that’s mean and inconsistent with God’s omnibenevolence. Yet, their counter interpretation is that God hates a whole nation of people. It also misunderstands what God means when he says he hates Esau. You see, Jesus wasn’t commanding you to sin when He said you must hate your Mother and Father more than Him because He didn’t import 21st-Century lingo in how He spoke.

Romans 9:13 can be related to the idea of the elect and reprobate, the point isn’t that God hates the reprobate, but that the reprobate are not in the Covenant with God. Romans 9-11 is speaking of both corporate and individual election, it doesn’t make sense to exclude one over the other. The typical Non-Calvinist will say God has elected a group and individuals become a part of that group by faith. Schreiner while responding to an Arminian Scholar states [1]


He thinks God chooses the group, and then individuals become part of the group by believing. It still seems to me that this group or entity is an empty set or an abstract entity without any reality, for on Abasciano’s terms when God chooses the group, individuals are not yet part of the group. The participation of individuals in the group is based, he assures us, on faith. But then it must follow that when God chooses the group, no one is yet in the group. One cannot be part of the group before it is formed! And corporate election cannot mean that God simply recognizes those who believe, for then the word “election” is completely stripped of its meaning, and the notion of God choosing is erased from the word. Corporate election, in Abasciano’s scheme, works as follows. God chooses that there would be the Church of Jesus Christ. Then individuals choose to be part of this corporate group, that is, the Church. But let us imagine for a moment that no one chooses to believe, which is logically possible. If this were to be the case, the corporate group would have no one in it. The Church would be an empty set. God has chosen a thing, but there is no substance to what he has chosen. In fact, if no one believes it would not even exist. Indeed, until individuals believe on Abasciano’s scheme, there is no one in the corporate group at all. If the corporate group is filled up on the basis of individuals believing, then it follows that the corporate group God has chosen is a nullity until people believe


Taking the individual aspect out of election and reducing it down as some do seems to contradict the indication Paul gives that God’s election is personal in Romans 8:28-30.


John 3:16

The most popular verse cited to “disprove” Calvinism is John 3:16.




“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.””— John 3:16 (KJV)


The Problem with popular verses is that they are often quoted out of context. I want to focus on “Pas Ho Pisteuwn” which means “all the believing ones”.The Non-Calvinist will look at the English translation “whosoever” and emphatically declare victory, the common declaration upon discussing this verse is “WHOSOEVER! You see, Jesus died for everyone!”


The problem with that is that it’s not at all what the verse says. The HCSB translates John 3:16 better




“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”— John 3:16 (HCSB)


This captures precisely what John 3:16 is saying. The Calvinist believes this! Now let’s look at John 6:44 who is the same John who wrote John 3:16



“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.“— John 6:44 (HCSB)


There doesn’t seem to be a break between those whom the Father draws and those he raises up. So we have a couple of options for interpretation here. We can either say that everyone is drawn and raised up, everyone is drawn and not everyone is raised up, or not everyone is drawn, but those who are drawn are raised up on the last day. The first one could make sense because even unbelievers are raised up on the last day, however, the context of John 6 seems to not allow this interpretation because Jesus says ” No one can come to me unless” so the drawing seems to indicate salvation. (Think Romans 8)


The Non-Calvinist interpretation makes no sense in light of the context of John 3, how are you condemned already if God is still trying to save you and will accept anyone if they use their free will to choose him? (John 3:18)


Perhaps you could say, “God has foreknowledge of who will choose him”. Okay, then why does he try to save those who he knows won’t accept him, no matter what He does? Why did He die for them? I know some responses will be “Well, God is love”. I agree He is, but what does Christ’s death accomplish when the majority of people He died for won’t accept him? It seems as if this view makes Jesus a failure, instead of the perfect atonement the Bible describes. That God came to save his people, not make salvation possible.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”— Matthew 1:21 (ESV)

SERVETUS!

In discussing with many Non-Calvinists you will discover a common lie that is held as cold hard truth by those who don’t adhere to Calvinism. This lie is that the Protestant Reformer John Calvin is responsible for the death of Michael Servetus. Michael Servetus was an intelligent man, he was the first doctor to correctly explain pulmonary circulation. Despite his amazing comprehension of science, Servetus denied the Trinity, which is the biblical and historical position of the Church. In Geneva in the time that Servetus and Calvin were around, it was a crime to be a heretic and Geneva did not have a separation of Church and State, so theology crimes were actual crimes


Calvin did not “rule” Geneva, The Council that condemned Servetus were not fans of Calvin, and denied Calvin’s request for a more merciful punishment. (Calvin wasn’t even a Citizen of Geneva at this time!) Calvin also visited Servetus in Prison and prayed for him. This isn’t something a ruthless tyrant who wanted him dead would do, now is it? Calvin responded to one of his accusers by saying…

“For what particular act of mine you accuse me of cruelty I am anxious to know. I myself know not that act, unless it be with reference to the death of your great master, Servetus. But that I myself earnestly entreated that he might not be put to death his judges themselves are witnesses, in the number of whom at that time two were his staunch favorites and defenders”— John Calvin[2]

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Now, another point they will bring up is that Calvin in his later writings shows his approval of the council’s decision to execute Servetus. Indeed, He did. Consider the context, though. Calvin supported the death penalty, If you’re a Non-Calvinist and support the death penalty, you’re being hypocritical in judging Calvin’s approval over the execution. This was the law of the land of the day and it seems unreasonable to think Calvin would think like a 21st-century person about laws. While many Christians would disagree with this execution, whether it was just or not, Calvin didn’t do it, the little Council did. If you don’t support the death penalty, was God’s judgment unjust in the Old testament? Calvin himself referenced this verse in support of his approval.

“Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”— Leviticus 24:16 (ESV)


My prayer is that there would be more caution and thought put into criticisms. Calvin is not exempt from criticism, but we must be truthful and not engage in falsehood (Exodus 20:16, Psalm 34:13) just because you don’t agree with him theologically.

Master Of  Puppets

This is a common objection for non-Calvinists and is one of the silliest as well. Though, I will not put the whole blame on the objector’s ignorance, but rather, some very excited new Calvinists who may scream “We have no free will” thus leading to the misunderstanding. Calvinists believe in free will, we just don’t typically believe in libertarian free will (Some strains in Reformed theology do). Most Calvinists are compatibilists, that is, the idea that free will and Determinism are compatible. I think acting according to my desire is sufficient for freedom. I’m doing whatever I want. An example of how this works. Zachary doesn’t like taking selfies, it’s not something he desires to do normally. However, when his girlfriend wants to take pictures with him, he willingly does it, because his desire for her happiness is stronger than the desire to not take selfies. This is freedom. I find it odd when some say we are free from the determinism of God but can’t even get away from their biological and environmental effects on their will.


God is the primary cause,  we are the secondary causes.


God’s Omnibenevolence


For all properties F, if F is a deficiency when had by a human, then F cannot be a great making property when had by God. [3]


Non-Calvinists assume that to be all-loving necessitates that God owes them salvation, that an all-loving perfect being will try his hardest to save every person who is justly condemned. You won’t see this argument ever applied to a human, in fact, a human who did this would be viewed as evil. If President Trump released every single prisoner held in the United States, regardless of what they’ve done, would you view that as a righteous action? Regardless of what you think about prisons politically, a rapid influx of murderers and other types of criminals would not benefit society and would be viewed as a bad thing.

Yet God is obligated by this definition of omnibenevolence, to try and save every single person, and he will of course, ultimately fail because of free will. God is not free to love in this view. Think about this. In Ephesians 5, the elect are referred to as the bride, and Christ is the bridegroom. Yet, Christ is demanded to love those who are not his bride with the same type of love he gives his bride. Do you see how absurd that sounds? If a man loves another woman the same way he loves his wife he’s an adulterer, but if God does it he’s omnibenevolent?

God is free to love anyone how he pleases, God loves everyone, but this does not necessitate Jesus will be their bridegroom. In the same way, just because  I love someone that doesn’t mean I will marry them. This view of omnibenevolence ignores God’s righteousness like humans are somehow the poor victims of God’s wrath. Calvinists believe God loves everyone, but they allow God freedom in distinction in his love, just as humans do because humans aren’t more free to love than God.  An undistinguished love is not a coherent love.


God is a Gentleman

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? Perhaps these words have left your own lips before. We assume that God is this gentleman, who won’t force anything on you. The question is, Why do we think that? Are we convinced by sacred scripture, or does it make us feel good?


It sounds simple enough, “God is in Control, Of course, every Christian would agree with that statement!” While that may be, how consistently do they apply it in their development of theology? For example, King Abimelech had the hots for Sarah, we can assume his desire was to lay with her, for we read



“And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.”— Genesis 20:6 (KJV)


God tells the king that He withheld him from sinning, and that sin was “touching her.” So, if God can prevent this sin, it is logical to assume He can stop every sin. Again, I think both sides would agree here, however, our reasons are far different.


The Calvinist such as myself would say that God decrees everything that comes to pass and uses every action, good or evil, for His own glory. The Arminian would assert that God does, in fact, use evil actions for good[1], but a lot of evil is due to the free will of man. This is where the Gentleman part comes in.


It is asserted, that perhaps God doesn’t “force” someone to be saved, because as a true suitor would, he wants his bride to love him of her own will. This objection misunderstands the Calvinist’s emphasis.


What the Calvinist is saying is that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:5) and we need a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). This old stone heart will never love God, in fact, it will eternally hate God, for it will produce blasphemy even at the end.

“And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.”— Revelation 16:9 (KJV)

We need a new heart, otherwise, we’d never love Him. We keep hearing about this choice we are supposed to make, but here’s the question, if this resistible prevenient grace is true, is your heart a heart of stone or flesh at the time you make the decision? Does it go back to stone if you say no somehow? Does the heart turn to flesh, and does God give you a new heart based on you saying yes to Him? I couldn’t affirm so without contradicting Ephesians 2:8-9. If you can choose God, you have a heart of flesh, what we don’t see in Scripture is anyone with a heart of flesh going back to stone by saying No to God. There will not be one person who truly desires fellowship with God that will be in Hell, For that desire itself comes from Him.


God isn’t The Force


This objection usually happens because of Calvin’s favorite Church Father, Augustine, was a Manichean before his conversion. So, they reason, he imported his gnostic ideas into his doctrine because of his pagan background. However, anyone with a basic understanding of Manicheanism will laugh at this objection, the Non-Calvinists are really grasping at straws with this one.

Manicheanism teaches that there is a Prince of Light and a Prince of darkness there were eternally co-existent, The Prince of Darkness invades the realm of light and they fight. Calvinism however, is the exact opposite of dualism. Unlike synergists, we don’t believe Satan is a competent fighter, winning the fight against God for souls as more are damned against God’s will than saved. Instead, Calvinism teaches that the Devil is God’s devil, God owns him, and the devil can’t do anything apart from God’s permission. Truly, God is greater than Satan in our system, because we recognize God’s wrath is a necessary attribute for a perfect being because his wrath is a subset of his perfect righteousness. A Righteous God would give some people what they deserve, wouldn’t he?


Author of Sin



“If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.” – Jonathan Edwards  [4]

Willing sin to exist is not the same as sinning, this is classical theistic thinking. Sin does not come to pass because of God’s positive agency.  


The Non-Calvinist wants to have his cake and eat it too in this objection. God is against murder (Exodus 20:13) Yet ordains the murder of his Son (Acts 4:28). I’m not a low-energy liberal so I won’t presuppose that the word of God is contradicting itself here, but rather, God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil secondary causes in his decree.


This discussion brings up an interesting point, what about natural evil? The Bible says



I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it (Amos 3:6 KJV)

The Hebrew word for evil is rah, and can be translated in a variety of ways. The context of Isaiah 45 is natural evil, i.e. earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, things of this nature. So, reason with me for a moment, in the typical libertarian free will model, you have God as the primary cause then the free moral agent acts freely, so as not to trace the evil action back to the primary cause. However, the same argument cannot work for natural evil, since we have biblical evidence that God creates these disasters and calamities, and because the tectonic plates or ocean are not free moral agents, they simply act on God’s command, we see this in the New Testament when Jesus rebukes the wind and waters and they instantly become calm. (Luke 8:24) So, is God the author of sin in this case?


Conclusion

My hope and prayer is that my answers to these popular level objections to Calvinism will help Calvinists better understand their theology, help Non-Calvinists understand us better, and restore the faith of someone who may possibly be thinking of leaving Calvinism or Christianity in general because of similar claims made by non-believers. May God be glorified! Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Thomas Schreiner: Corporate and Individual Election in Romans 9: A Response to Brian Abasciano

[2] The History of Protestantism by James Aitken Wylie p. 339

[3] Calvinism and the Problem of Evil p. 151

[4] The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards p. 246

The 411 On How to Beat God the Son

Christianity has hurt the feelings of many. Some people cannot wrap their mind around Christianity still being a popular religion. Freud thought it was wish-fulfillment, good ol fetish Freud didn’t get the irony of him claiming that.

But take heed my dear friends, I will teach you how to defeat Christianity, this information coming from an insider, for I am a Christian! Since it seems you guys haven’t been doing a good job lately, I thought I’d help. Here is the 411 on how to beat God the Son.

Christianity stands or falls on this one thing, so listen up. The Apostle Paul has a challenge for you.

“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” ( 1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV)

If Christ didn’t exist, He didn’t raise. If His tomb wasn’t empty, He wasn’t raised. If His bones are found, He didn’t raise.

Focusing on Evolution, the Big Bang, or whatever irrelevant thing is low-energy. Be high-energy and address the issue Paul raises. (If you didn’t laugh at that pun you’re a bad person.)

Why You Should Stop Writing Blog Post Series (Part 2)

Blog Post series have been a popular trend for years, but I think it’s increasing, at least in my Facebook news feed it seems to be increasing.

A person who writes in series usually does this because they think they can draw more views to their blog. The readers of part 1 for example will be just so anxious to read part 2 of your scintillating content.

Another reason is perhaps the topic is a wide range of sub-topics and would make for a long post, however, a long post is better than seven separate 1,000 word fluff-filled surface level writing. You can fit the flow of the article without having to recap every new post to inform the person who clicks on part 2 that he now has to navigate his way to part 1 to understand the connection.

I personally will only read a series if the topic is very interesting to me, because I despise them. Just like the tactic to write a blog post that has “click next page” so the writer can boost up his views per visitor, series are used as a tactic to artificially boost your view count.

Fortunately for you, I will never write a blog series. You won’t have to wait a week to read part 2 than another week to read part 3, in which you will probably forget vapid writing and have to read part 1 again, more views!!

I know my audience, so I know you have all seen Shrek 2 where Shrek states to the people he just stole clothes from

“Thank you, gentlemen! Someday, I will repay you. Unless, of course, I can’t find you or if I forget.” (Do I need to cite this? I mean, you already own the movie on DVD)

May I suggest to you fine people, that there will be people who read part 1 with interest but never see part 2 because they forget? Sure, you can share the crap out of it, but you have to be really good for anyone to want to read part 2 on a topic, especially if it’s a well-covered topic covered by bigger names in one singular post.

Intentionally short posts are just as low-energy as long drawn out fluff posts.

Now, if you write blog series, I don’t hate you, I hate your sin.

Shut Up, Wesley!

Statue of John Wesley at Indiana Wesleyan University

“Shut Up, Wesley!” [1] 

John Wesley, the 18th-century Anglican preacher, was one of the best Arminianism ever had to offer. For awhile, I thought Wesley was tame in his rhetoric when it came to Calvinism. However, I was very wrong, despite Wesley being a very intelligent man, he sounds like a rabid internet Arminian in several areas. Now, far be it from me to judge someone who said something while they were angry or ignorant of something, but Arminians always flaunt the holiness of John Wesley, showing that Calvinism cannot produce someone as good as him. His rhetoric and arguments against Calvinism were so bad though, I had to check to make sure that they weren’t falsely attributed to him. Before I go into the quotes, I do believe John Wesley was a Christian, the goal of my post isn’t to smear Wesley’s character, but to address his arguments. Despite the hostility towards each other, George Whitefield said of Wesley

One of Whitfield’s followers (who obviously still held great animosity against Wesley) said to Whitfield, “We won’t see John Wesley in the heaven, will we?” Whitfield humbly replied “Yes, you’re right, we won’t see him in heaven. He will be so close to the Throne of God and we will be so far away, that we won’t be able to see him!”[2]

So, with that out of the way, let’s dig into Wesley’s quotes about Calvinism.

 

Q. 74. What is the direct antidote to Methodism, the doctrine of heart holiness?
A. Calvinism: all the devices of Satan, for these fifty years have done far less toward stopping the work of God, than that single doctrine. It strikes at the heart of salvation from sin, previous to glory, putting the matter on quite another issue.[3]

Wesley estimates that all the devices of Satan are doing far less than Calvinism to stop the work of God. I have two thoughts on this.1.) This shows Wesley’s weak view of God’s sovereignty, He thinks God’s work can be stopped by false doctrine, instead of false doctrine being of the decree that God has morally sufficient reasons for decreeing.

2.) Calvinism is therefore Satanic and a device of Satan by Wesley’s reasoning here. His objections also don’t follow. “It strikes at the heart of salvation from sin” Why? Because we believe Jesus actually saves his people? That He monergistically saves them without our cooperation being the ending chain conclusion? There is such a disconnect that Jesus can die for you, but only make salvation possible. Whether or not your salvation counts, whether or not Jesus took your place is in vain is based solely on your free will decision. The God of the Universe can want something and not have it. That’s Synergism in a nutshell.

And yet what are all the absurd opinions of all the Romanists in the world, compared to that one,that the God of love, the wise, just, merciful Father of the spirits of all flesh, has, from all eternity, fixed an absolute, unchangeable, irresistible, decree, that part of all mankind shall be saved, do what they will; and the rest damned, do what they can![4]

Again, Wesley sounds like an internet Arminian. It’s very common for Arminians to find more in common with the papists than the Reformers. How dare the Calvinist say that God isn’t dependent on the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom! How dare the Calvinist say that God can elect whoever he wills, (John 6:44) How dare the Calvinist say that God can have mercy on who he pleases (Romans 9:15), How dare we not impose our feelings and supposed ethical standards on God and tell him what he can and can’t do because otherwise, it would hurt my sensibilities. We should not reject things on emotional grounds.(1 Thessalonians 5:21)

Wesley went even further by stating

When Satan could no otherwise prevent this, he threw Calvinism in our way.’ [5]

I think his statement is self-explanatory, he attributes our theology to Satan directly.

“You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? That God is worse than the devil”[6]

Oh, the Irony that Wesley preaches on free grace but denies that God is free to bestow his grace on whoever he pleases! Despite the rhetoric that Calvinism is a satanic stumbling block, I see Calvinism as a theology dedicated to the glory of God, Soli Deo Gloria, the Latin term we say and live by, to God alone be the glory for actually saving his people and preserving us with his grace. God is the author and finisher of my faith, God saved me, not because he looked down the corridor of time and saw that I would choose him, but because of his mercy. God is love (1 John 4:8) but that’s not all he is, God desires to show all his attributes (Romans 9:15) I will leave you with some quotes that I believe show the beauty of Calvinism as opposed to Arminianism.

“God is under no obligation to extend his grace to the rebel sinner, and every single person who enters into eternal punishment would, were they given the opportunity, freely choose to remain under punishment rather than bow the knee in loving adoration of the God they hate.”[7]

“As Boettner so aptly observes, for the Calvinist, the atonement “is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian it is like a great wide bridge that goes only half-way across.” [8]

“I cannot conceive an intention in God that Christ should satisfy his justice for the sin of them that were in hell some thousands of years before, and yet be still resolved to continue their punishment on them to all eternity.” [9]

[1] Star Trek: Datalore Episode
[2] John Wesley: A Biography by Stephen Tomkins cited in tonycooke.org
[3] The works of John Wesley (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI) (1996) Volume 8, p. 336
[4] John Wesley, Sermon 55, On the Trinity.
[5]  John Wesley cited in The Ecclesticial Principles and Polity of the Wesleyan Methodists by William Peirce p.12
[6] John Wesley, Sermon 128, Free Grace
[7] Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views p. 19 by James White and Dave Hunt
[8] The Five Points of Calvinism, David N. Steele p. 41
[9] John Owen, A Display of Arminianism, The Works of John Owen p.88

Atheists Love The KJV

In online conversations with many atheists, I have found a recurring trend among the Bible versions they like to quote. In my experience, the King James Version is by far the most popular version used by Atheists. At one point in my life I owned the Skeptic’s annotated Bible, which is a commentary written by an atheist on the Bible and it uses the King James Version. Now, it could just as easily be that the KJV is not copyrighted in the United States, making it the easiest translation to use in published works. But I think there is more to it than that.


The KJV uses Archaic Language


The King James Version, being an English translation completed in 1611, will obviously use words that have changed in meaning over time as English has developed. This makes the KJV prone to misunderstanding to the modern reader who is not familiar with the development of the English language.

One example of this is the KJV’s usage of the term “unicorn” nine separate times in five different books. When you hear or read the word “unicorn” the first thing that comes to your mind is probably something like this



However, If you were to look at Noah Webster’s dictionary in 1828, you would read the following under “unicorn.”

An animal with one horn; the monoceros. this name is often applied to the rhinoceros.

The modern dictionary defines Rhinoceros as
A genus of quadrupeds of two species, one of which, the unicorn, has a single horn growing almost erect from the nose. This animal when full grown, is said to be 12 feet in length. There is another species with two horns, the bicornis. They are natives of Asia and Africa.

There is no evidence that any of the translators believed in the mythical creature that we think of when we see the word “unicorn.” This, however, is not enough for some skeptics. They will continue to mock you and accuse you of being an apologist for a myth.

The King James Version in this regard is an easy target for lazy criticism.


Atheists Do Tend To Actually Admire the KJV

This article is more than “Atheists love to criticize the KJV”. It also is a reflection on why some popular atheists do actually love the KJV, as opposed to mass-marketed Bible translations that are prone to money-hungry copyright law.

One of the last things Christopher Hitchens ever wrote before he passed was a praise to the King James Version. He stated in the 2011 edition of Vanity Fair

Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really issomething “timeless” in the Tyndale/King James synthesis. For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect…A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update it or make it “relevant” is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare. “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” says the Book of Job. Want to try to improve that for Twitter?”


Dr. Richard Dawkins says of the KJV

Ecclesiastes, in the 1611 translation, is one of the glories of English literature (I’m told it’s pretty good in the original Hebrew, too). The whole King James Bible is littered with literary allusions, almost as many as Shakespeare (to quote that distinguished authority Anon, the trouble with Hamlet is it’s so full of clichées). In The God Delusion I have a section called “Religious education as a part of literary culture” in which I list 129 biblical phrases which any cultivated English speaker will instantly recognise and many use without knowing their provenance: the salt of the earth; go the extra mile; I wash my hands of it; filthy lucre; through a glass darkly; wolf in sheep’s clothing; hide your light under a bushel; no peace for the wicked; how are the mighty fallen.”

While both Hitchens and Dawkins would say the Bible is a myth, they still recognize the literary masterpiece that the King James Translation was.


Conclusion

While the newer versions correct some archaic language that would make it easier for the average reader to understand, (such as not using the word unicorn), the King James still holds a place as one of the best English works and played a huge role in the development of the English language.

Pick one up and read it.

Finely-Tuning the Fine-Tuning Argument

If we were just a couple inches closer to the sun, we’d burn!!! Isn’t that scary? Unfortunately, this is how the Fine-Tuning Argument is presented on a popular level[1], and it reduces the argument and makes it easy to refute. An NBA basketball player not combusting when they dunk a ball would be such an example. However, the actual fine-tuning argument is one of the best arguments a Christian apologist can use, so it is important that we do understand it.

BADLY-TUNED ARGUMENTS


The Fine-Tuning argument doesn’t assert that if we were a wee bit closer to the sun, we’d burn, this was pointed out recently by Christian Apologist Richard Bushey:



Typically when scientists convert to theism, they find the fine-tuning argument the most compelling. Of course, these esteemed scientists are not citing a bastardized version of the argument that is typically paraded. Hack apologists might say something like, “If the sun were just one inch closer, life would not exist”

[2]
The obvious rebuttal to this argument is to just tell them to jump in the air and see if they are incinerated. The most sophisticated treatment would be best described by William Lane Craig

By “fine-tuning” one does not mean “designed” but simply that the fundamental constants and quantities of nature fall into an exquisitely narrow range of values which render our universe life-permitting. Were these constants and quantities to be altered by even a hair’s breadth, the delicate balance would be upset and life could not exist.[3]

But as you will see, not only are some arguments for fine-tuning bad but some of the objections as well.

Badly-Tuned Objections

“No Design Here”

 fine-tuning is not an argument for design, but rather an argument against design! The idea of an extreme fine-tuning beyond which the target cannot exist is indicative of a precarious natural system, not of intelligent planning.

To understand this, an analogy may be useful. Suppose that our breathing was dependent on a specific level of oxygen in the atmosphere, and that any other level would cause suffocation. That would certainly count as “fine-tuning” in the sense given by the argument. The atmospheric composition in question would be the only one capable of supporting life, and this would therefore demand “explanation”.

But even if that was true, how would this fine-tuning justify design explanations? A designer would not make it so that humans would constantly face the danger of suffocation! An intelligent designer would try, whether possible, to ensure that a given system could keep functioning under different conditions. Such is the case with humans, who can breathe in atmospheres thin or rich in oxygen. The precarity of a system’s functioning is not evidence of design, but rather of natural law.[4]

This objection is exactly the type that William Lane Craig was addressing above. From Fine-tuning we are not arguing design in a direct sense but in a probabilistic cumulative sense. The last paragraph is nonsensical, an arbitrary “what I think an Intelligent designer would do” is not an argument.

“Many Worlds”

Possible world language though around since at least Leibniz has seen pioneers take the idea even further into development. David Lewis was one of those pioneers. Lewis developed a type of modal logic called “Possible world Modality”. Lewis also affirmed Modal Realism, which is the idea that all possible worlds are as real as the actual world. This would indeed change our view of probability and necessity, ultimately undermining the fine-tuning argument. However, there are several problems with this view and even Non-Christian philosophers object to it.

Are you familiar with the board game Candyland? I used to love that game as a kid. Well, thanks to Lewis, Candy Land is real. Since it is logically possible for a man to be named Lord Licorice who just happens to own a very lucrative licorice business, it seems as if Candyland is a feasible world. That’s the problem. Lewis is not saying that merely they exist as abstract objects in a platonic sense, but that they’re as real as the actual world.  This would be to say, in summation that all possible worlds are concrete.

Even if we grant that Lewis’s hypothesis is true, it wouldn’t be much to the fine-tuning argument. Because the possible worlds only deal with what is logically possible. The constants that bring the condition of life-sustainment wouldn’t be able to change, thus when it comes to constants, you either have human beings on the earth (This world) or you have some sort of other species that could live in a different set-up or none at all. This still makes the idea that the constants are so exact improbable, giving the appearance of design.

“What about the other Planets?”[5]

Most places in the universe will kill life instantly—instantly! People say “Oh, the forces of nature are just right for life.” Excuse me. Just look at the volume of the universe where you can’t live. You will die instantly.” (Often attributed to Neil Degrasse Tyson, though I couldn’t find the original source, though this site defends this quote approvingly as a good point.)

 

This objection is rather strange, especially coming from a very intelligent scientist. It’s a red herring at best, it is not like humans are being born and instantly dying on Mars. We think the other planets, at least in our solar system are not life-permitting, which is why it is so strange that Earth is. His objection actually strengthens our argument, most places are not suited for life, making it improbable that Earth should be.


Conclusion

Christians need to better understand the fine-tuning argument to prevent these misunderstandings. I will sum up this post with a logical syllogism by Dr. William Lane Craig

1: The Fine Tuning Of The Universe is due to either physical necessity, chance or design.

2: It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3: Therefore, it is due to design.[6]

 

[1] Carman – There is a God
[2] God On Trial: Reviewing the best objections to apologetics by Richard Bushey
[3] Design from Fine-Tuning Q&A, William Lane Craig, reasonablefaith.org
[4] StrongAtheism.Net “The many problems of the fine-tuning Argument” by Francois Tremblay
[5]“William Lane Craig’s silly response to the hostility of life” by Jeffrey Jay Lowder
[6] Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig p. 161


Piety Is Not Enough

Piety has become a substitute for actual effort and thought. Why answer a doubting person when you could make them feel bad about their doubts instead? Piety is the coat that distinguishes you, so you can get the greetings in the marketplace of ideas.

Pretend Piety has made us lazy. I will give you my experience to show you. I was scrolling through a Facebook Group, in this group, a person expressed doubt about a certain event in the Bible. They asked what evidence outside of the Bible do we have for this event?

So, remember the question is, “What evidence do we have for X OUTSIDE of the Bible?”

The majority of the answers followed suit with this top comment “If you don’t accept the Bible, no evidence will convince you.”

This answer is astonishingly misguided. It begs the question, it’s circular and it scowls at the doubter from their high horse. When you ask for evidence outside the Bible, you can’t then point to the Bible. By doing so, you’re ignoring the question, which will give the doubter the impression there isn’t any outside evidence for biblical claims.

That wasn’t the only problem, but rampant fideism has become a problem for those comfortable to believe supernatural claims without thinking about them.

It shouldn’t be controversial to say, I believe the Bible because of the evidence, not just having faith. Faith is important, yes, but the Bible condemns blind faith. (Proverbs 14:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, John 14:11, 2 Corinthians 10:5) Which is what fideism is, faith without any evidence, excessive faith in faith, ironically.

Irrespective of your perspective on God’s decrees and predestination, what we do know is that Atheists often cite the inability of Christians to answer questions to a doubter as a big reason they rejected the faith. Which makes sense.

If you’re so confident in your theology to pronounce your pious statements, you should be comfortable enough to answer a question that challenges your assumptions.

Or some would ask inane questions like “What in the Bible would make you think X didn’t occur?” That would be the equivalent of saying “What part of Greek Mythology made you question the existence of Pandora and her box?” When someone is asking for something outside the Bible, this isn’t the time to bash them over the head with one. This is the opportunity to counter the cultural narrative that the Bible has no supporting evidence. In any other topic, you’d have to provide supporting evidence for your thesis, your syllogism usually has two premises. But no, when it comes to pretend piety, start at the conclusion, assume the conclusion and attack the person’s character for being a doubter.

Your pretend piety is no excuse for being a lazy thinker. Fake piety reeks of the stench of the pharisee praying to God “thank God i’m not like him.” These pretend pious, accumulating lots of Facebook likes from the echos in the chamber, do a disservice to Christian apologetics when they essentially pray “Thank God, I’m not as one of these doubters, who ask for evidence. I believe without evidence. I’m faithful!”

Answer questions, take doubt seriously, get off your high horse.

Taqiyya: What I say when you disagree with me

 

Dr. Yasir Qadhi and Dr. James White (video here)

Two learned men, one a Christian the other a Muslim, decide to sit down and have a discussion. The discussion helped both sides to better understand each other’s point of view, not for the sake of compromising either side, but to better comprehend that person’s reasons for believing like they do.

Of course, this type of thing is anathema to the discernment blogger era of professing Christianity. It’s like they’re taken aback that Dr. James White actually wants to treat a Muslim like an image bearer instead of a potential member of a terrorist organization.

You would think that Christians of all people would be able to understand that there are many doctrines that are disagreed upon within the realm of orthodoxy. So, when a Muslim disagrees with the interpretation of a text that is popularly seen as violent, hateful, or bigoted in any way, we should hear them out, it’s their book, not ours. The last thing on my mind is to think if they disagree with me they’re lying.

What about the Mosaic law that calls for the death of people for certain things? Not only do Christians disagree on which laws apply and when, they disagree on  the purposes and use. Yet, would you think it was fair if someone quoted a random verse from the old testament talking about the death penalty for say blasphemy and accuse you of wanting to do that to anyone you could if you had the chance?  Even better, I have a personal example of what I’m talking about.

I had someone quote this verse to me saying that Jesus taught violence

“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27 KJV)

Now, the average Christian will instantly see this as taken out of context. The Scriptures say Jesus is speaking in a parable here.(verse 11) So, this would be the equivalent of me calling Stephen King a murderer for all the dead people in his novels.

I think some Christians can get mixed up and misrepresent the Qu’ran, especially if we are just googling “evil verses in the Qu’ran” instead of doing our own research. We Christians, especially us of the Reformed variety, value context, so we should treat other religion’s holy books the same in that regard.

I want to know what the Qu’ran actually says, what the author’s intention was, and why my Muslim friend believes it’s claims. I’m not interested in fear-mongering or accusing them of lying, unless of course there is proof that they are.

It’s interesting to see the narrative change, one moment they’re lying, yet when the Muslims say Dr. White is helping Islam’s cause, they’re suddenly not lying. Awfully convenient that the Muslim is only telling the truth when you agree with him. They’re probably saying that because that’s what people with opposite positions do. If you know anything about religion or politics, you will know that is just rhetoric.

A couple of clarifications so you know where I stand. I think there are some verses in the Qu’ran that are exegetically indefensible, that are just either plain out wrong or evil.

However, I think we should address this Taqiyya thing as a innocent until proven guilty situation. I’m sure you could show me examples of someone admitting to do it, or you’ve have someone do it before. The issue is not that it happens, it’s that because it happens, you assume it always happens.
We should read sources from Islamic scholars because when we can understand the best they have to offer, we will be better equipped to handle objections. Under that Burka is an image-bearer who wants to believe in a creator. They were probably raised that way, all their family and most of their friends probably believe the same thing. Religion can mean a whole lot to people, and while obviously the Bible will offend them (1 Corinthians 2:14), we shouldn’t add to the offense with our rhetoric.

We should destroy arguments, not people. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

If you’ve made it through this article without calling me a heretic inter-faith islam sympathizer apostate, congratulations. Also, buy Dr. White’s book “What every Christian needs to know about the Qu’ran” for a highly informative summation of the very important differences between Islam and Christianity and why it matters.