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Why God Is Not Unfair: I No Longer Regard Calvinism To Be False Doctrine

Posted by Job on June 22, 2007

Perhaps “errant theology” is better terminology than “false doctrine”, and I am specifically talking about partial atonement, election, predestination, and irresistible grace. Now I should point out that I never did regard Calvinism as apostasy or heresy, an outright rejection of clear Biblical truth that denies the nature of God and will condemn its adherents to an eternity to the lake of fire. I merely viewed Calvinists as “honestly mistaken” on a matter that had nothing to do with an individual’s salvation. I did not view it as particularly helpful, of course, for I attributed such attitudes as “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine” (as J. R. Ryland is alleged to have said to prominent missionary William Carey) to it. But after reading William Metzger’s book Tell The Truth: The Whole Gospel To The Whole Person by Whole People, I feel differently. In it, Metzger makes a case for predestination and election that I only cannot biblically oppose. I will not use his illustrative examples (which my Arminian mind found problematic) but instead use his principles to create my own (which probably is even more problematic, but it is mine which means I like it better, so there). Let us say that you decide to bake a batch of cookies; two dozen, three dozen, three thousand, it doesn’t matter. Say that for whatever reason and through no fault of your own, the cookies turn out bad. Maybe you were supplied with faulty ingredients, maybe the thermostat on your oven was broken, perhaps the recipe that you were given had errors, or perhaps that particular type of cookie was inherently problematic for whatever reason (i.e. the mixture of ingredients caused a chemical reaction that produced undesired effects). Now, as the sole person who acquired the ingredients for the cookies, the sole person that mixed the ingredients and prepared the dough, the sole owner of the materials used to prepare and cook the dough, the stove that the dough was cooked in, the electricity that powered the stove, and the utensils, dishes, etc. one can only come to one conclusion: THEY ARE YOUR COOKIES AND YOUR COOKIES ALONE! No one else has any claim to them. No one else has any right to tell you what to do with them. Any decision concerning their fate would not be a matter for anyone or thing to charge you with being immoral in any way. (Of course both socialists on the left and pharisee religionists on the right would disagree and try and bring charges and judgments against you in an attempt to try to usurp control over your property and behavior to suit their own ends, but they’d be wrong.) And you know what? The same would have been true even had all the cookies turned out perfectly fine! As sole creator and owner of the cookies, you would have the sole right to determine their fate, whatever that fate may be, and no one would have anything to say about it. It is true that as the One True God there actually IS no one capable of saying anything about it, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the very act of charging someone with immorality in their treatment of their own property is itself immoral! (Now you see why socialists so hate the concept of private property, and why pharisee religionists only like private property so long as they have the right to tell you what to do with it.)

But as it is, you, the baker, is in possession of all of these undesirable cookies. The logical, natural thing? Discard them all. Throw them out with the trash, the garbage that you burn every week. And why not? That is, after all, what they are: trash. Useless, unfit for any purpose, and suitable only for destruction. You can pretend otherwise if you like, but it is folly. Especially if you are someone who has ever tried his hand at baking! But let us say that for reasons that matter only to you and to suit a purpose that is yours alone, you decide to keep some of the cookies. Maybe you just want to taste them to see JUST HOW BAD they are. (Or maybe you think that if you had your Son scrape the burnt bottoms and edges off and put a little icing on them, eating a few of them wouldn’t be quite so bad after your Son obeyed you and REDEEMED a few of them.) How many? It is up to you. Which ones? It is up to you. According to what criteria? It is up to you. It could be the biggest cookies or the smallest, the ones on the edge of the pan or the ones in the center, the most burnt or the least, they could be numerically selected according to a Fourier series algorithm (that is the best that I could come up with for the role of the Holy Spirit in all this, I am not a theologian so give me a break, ok?), etc. Do the cookies have any say in who gets spared? Of course not. Do the cookies that are spared play any role in the process by which they are spared? A ridiculous notion! And does either batch of cookies, those spares and those not, have anything to say against the baker over the cookies that get discarded? The most absurd notion of all. What are a bunch of rotten spoiled cookies going to say? Even if they did say anything, so what? They’re GARBAGE! Who is going to listen to or pay heed to the opinions of GARBAGE? Sure, they can complain all they want … on their way to the incinerator, and while they are burning in it for that matter. But it isn’t going to do any good, and neither the baker (or the busboys that the baker tells to cast the marred cookies into the incinerator) are going to pay it any mind. As for the cookies that are spared despite their marred condition; saved despite having the exact same chemical composition using the exact same recipe and being mixed in the same bowl and cooked in the same bowl as the cookies that were destroyed? They will be too busy being glad that they are the ones not in the incinerator and thanking the baker for it! The point: God is sovereign. He makes the rules. He is the boss. He answers to no one. He does as He sees fit. And rather than being evil for destroying some or most of the bad cookies, He is actually GOOD for saving ANY of the bad cookies at all!

Now that, as I understand it, is atonement, election, predestination, and irresistible grace. And you know what? It is unassailable. It is completely Biblical, does not transgress any honest system of laws, morals, logic, reason, philosophy, etc. I just happen to disagree. Why? Because that is not the picture that I see when I read the Bible. But I now see how an honest, rigorous, complete, contextual reading of scripture alone (sola scriptura!) produced this doctrinal system. So, I will file Calvinism in the “honest disagreement among believers category” and not deal with the doctrinal system itself negative terms anymore.

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6 Responses to “Why God Is Not Unfair: I No Longer Regard Calvinism To Be False Doctrine”

  1. neiswonger said

    I appreciate your manner and ability to write of difficult issues with a measure of grace. Still, you seem to be just a few ideas away from some kind of mild Calvinism. 🙂 Once we see the salvation of the soul as a work of God’s free grace, without looking for a good in those who receive that grace as the cause that inspires God to give it, everything else is details.

    All the best,

    Neiswonger

  2. neiswonger: Thank you for your kind words. I hope not to offend you in my reply. “Once we see the salvation of the soul as a work of God’s free grace, without looking for a good in those who receive that grace as the cause that inspires God to give it, everything else is details.” Pardon me, but that is Arminianism as defined by a Calvinist on Calvinist terms. Arminians believe that God made the sovereign choice to grant man free will so that man might choose good or evil. The choice is not so much God or Satan, the choice for man is God or the love of self. Why did God do such a thing? So that He would be glorified even greater. It is better, more glorious, to receive worship from someone who chooses to than it is from someone who is compelled to, right? This is a most grotesque and inappropriate analogy but the best that I can produce: the choice between an arranged marriage where the woman has absolutely no choice in the matter in what is basically a business decision between her father and her husband and his family, or a union based on mutual love, respect, and appreciation? Now this analogy is grotesque because a marriage is between two equals and God and man, of course, are not equal. So even making that analogy leaves me open to charges of humanism and denying God His due sovereignty and glory. But if one is able to look past the utter offense of my words and consider the reasoning behind it, you will see that a scriptural Arminian perspective increases the sovereign will of God and the glory given to Him, rather than diminishes it. God’s giving man the ability to choose Him despite man’s depraved condition is not suggesting that there is somehow good inherent in man. Instead, it is proof that where with man things are impossible and inconceivable to the extent where it is impossible to even conceive of how impossible it is, with God all things are possible.

  3. neiswonger said

    I understand what you are saying here, but it is certainly not the Arminian perspective as presented in any of the official Arminian statements of that belief. The Arminian position is that in Adam, and in themselves, all men have fallen from innocence, have taken on a sinful nature, and have lost any and all moral ability to choose God and or rectify their sinful estate through a decision of the will. That’s Arminianism defined on Arminius’s terms.

    So no one, either Calvinist or Arminian, is arguing that God did not create man after His own image with freedom of will, and no one, Calvinist or Arminian, is arguing that man in the state of sinfulness still holds that same previous free moral ability that he had before the fall. What they both hold and have always held, is that it is the Grace of God that is necessary to bring the soul of a fallen man to the place where they can respond to the Gospel. Neither has said that “Arminians believe that God made the sovereign choice to grant man free will so that man might choose good or evil.”, unless you mean before the fall.

    What they disagree on is whether the work of God’s grace is effectual to bring about the conversion of the soul, or only potentially sufficient to bring about the conversion of the soul. The Calvinists believe the first, the Arminians the second. The Calvinist holds that the grace of God gives the person faith so that they can once again choose him of their own freewill, the sinful nature being healed and restored by grace. The Arminian that prevenient grace only brings the person to the place of having the ability to choose to believe or not to believe. Either way, neither have held that man in and of himself in his fallen condition has absolute freedom of choice. And neither has held that men in general have unconditioned freedom given by God.

    All the best,

    Neiswonger

  4. Neiswonger: Ah, then, it appears that I need to do more study of the issue. Thank you!

  5. Steven said

    I Tim. 2:1-4:
    First of all, then I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behald of all men, for kinds and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour WHO DESIRES ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.

    That is God’s desire. So if all men do not come to the knowledge of the truth, whose fault is it? God certainly didn’t make men so that some would not, otherwise how could He desire something for someone that He knows can’t do it? God isn’t choosing individuals, He is choosing a TYPE of individual.

    Someone once said that the same sun the melts butter, hardens clay. We need to be humble to recieve the Word of God.

  6. Henry said

    Many Calvinists say that “when God elected some to be saved out of all people on their way to hell, God is not unfair.” This reasoning has a problem. How could it be fair when God made his choice before the foundation of the world. Before the foundation of the world – nobody was going to hell yet coz nobody has committed any sin yet. As far as I know, Calvinists would not use “God’s foreknowledge”, less they would contradict themselves – since they believe election is not based on God knowing/seeing things ahead.

    I would be interested with your response to this kine of thought.

    Bro. Henry

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