Friday, December 26, 2008

A Response to Persiflage, Intro

Peter Pike (a.k.a. “Calvindude”) over at Triablogue has been interacting with another blogger, Persiflage, a self-described non-Arminian non-Calvinist. Pike said that he would continue interacting with Persiflage, but I too would like to address some of the arguments that Persiflage was making.

First, I'd like to say that it's refreshing to have a non-Calvinist that doesn't get extremely emotional like the Campbellite Pelagians that come around the internet and do drive-by comments spewing their ignorance. Persiflage seems to show critical thinking skills and is open to the arguments that we have to present. It’s easy when one is in a back-and-forth behind a keyboard to get insulting, forgetting that your opponent is a brother in Christ. It seems that Persiflage has lived up to this standard so far, and so, I intend to do the same.

Having said these things, I have noticed from a few statements made by Persiflage that I can expect a typical Dave Hunt / Norman Geisler style straw-man attack on Calvinist doctrine. For example, take a few quotes from this post:

“So consider this a short introduction to a 5 part series. First of all, I'm not Arimian. I don't believe in universalism and I don't believe that a Christian can lose his salvation…With this ths series of 5 essays, I'm going to explain why I can't agree to any of the 5. I used to think I believed in at least 2 of them, but then I heard the "offical explanation" and couldn't even find Scripture to support my belief in those.”

Now, I may be proven wrong when he does his post on the Perseverance of the Saints and actually comes out supporting a Free-Grace Movement Dispensational Once-Saved-Always-Saved doctrine, but I’ve a got a feeling that I’m going to see the standard Adrian Rodgers style “Calvinists believe that the saints persevere on their own willpower” straw-man.

Also, here’s another from this comment:

“Charles Spurgeon, himself a Calvinist, disbelieved in "Double Predestination" however. Spurgeon said - "I cannot imagine a more ready instrument in the hands of Satan for the ruin of souls than a minister who tells sinners it is not their duty to repent of their sins ... who has the arrogance to call himself a gospel minister, while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatever but simply becauses he chooses to do so. O my brethren. May the Lord save you from the charmer, and keep you ever deaf to the voice of error." - quoted in Iain H. Murray's 'Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: A Battle for Gospel Preaching'”

However, this equivocates on the term ‘Predestination’. John Calvin and R.C. Sproul use the term differently than Spurgeon and other modern theologians. In Medieval scholastic terminology, ‘Predestination’ simply meant God’s foreordination in general, whether it be through primary or secondary causation (another distinction that Persiflage refuses to acknowledge in Reformed theology). Most modern Reformed theologians, however, define ‘Predestination’ as God acting in Himself (i.e. monergistically) to bring about the electing decree. Thus, God works His irresistable grace upon men in regeneration resulting in faith, justification, sanctification, perseverance, and eventually glorification. The opposite side of predestination of the elect is the ‘Reprobation’ of the non-elect which is defined as God simply allowing the non-elect to go their own way and freely choose damnation rather than faith. While God decrees both, God is active in history toward the elect but passive toward the non-elect. Thus, Spurgeon would agree with Calvin and Sproul once the terms are properly defined.

Also, it is a straw-man to say that if God decrees something, then man doesn't have to respond in faith since this ignores the distinction between means and ends.

There also seems to be a misunderstanding of what the term 'decree' means. The decree is simply God's ***plan*** from before creation. The decree does not affect anything in itself.

There is an equivocation on what the term “free” means as Persiflage begs-the-question against Compatibilism by assuming that the only kind of freedom possible is Libertarian Free-Will Action Theory (LFW) and the Priciple of Alternative Possibility (PAP).

Anyway, it’s getting late, and so I’ll start with a post tomorrow on the Decree of God and its proper definition.

1 comment:

Persiflage said...

thanks for contributing some thoughts on this, the more carefully reasoned (searching the Scriptures) contributors we have on this the better - and if you go into some of these definitions, that would be great - and it's something Pike and I should probably do more often as it always saves time and misunderstandings.

I'll admit it seems like we are using God's will, God's decree, and what God wants all interchangably at times. We are making some distinctions regarding God's commands - and whether God's commands always indicate God's will (I think yes, Pike thinks no).

So definately explain what the Reformed tradition teaches about what "God's decree" means. I'm willing to use the terms "decree" and "plan" interchangeably if I can be shown how they are the same. I've definately never thought of them as the same as "plan" seems to be a much broader term. The way I think of it now is that God's plan could include a whole number of decrees (things that will happen), commands (things that should happen), and the divine foreknowledge of events that occur both inside (repentence, faith, obedience) and outside (evil, sin, death) of God's will (what God wants). But I'd like to hear other viewpoints but I know I don't understand this as well as I should.

A few other introductory thoughts -

1 - thanks for the compliments, there is no reason we can't put personal feelings aside if we really want to learn from each other - at least this discussion is already helping me understand different interpretations of Scripture better

2 - lol, I agree with Geisler more than Hunt, and disagree with Geisler occasionally - I promise I won't argue that “Calvinists believe that the saints persevere on their own willpower” - and maybe defining what the Scripture means by "predestination" will help too. I understand the ideas of "primary" or "secondary" causation. If you define Predestination in the most general terms possible so as to be able to say that God is the secondary, ultimate cause for everything that exists, (that God created the world, the devil, and human beings so ultimately God caused sin - I mean even Arminians would admit this), then I'll agree with you and we can finish our discussion. But I'm pretty sure that the Reformed tradition means a little more than that, when they start making distinctions between primary and secondary causes?

3 - You said - "it is a straw-man to say that if God decrees something, then man doesn't have to respond in faith since this ignores the distinction between means and ends."

Again, it all depends on what exactly it is that God is decreeing (and using his power) to make happen. It's one thing for God to decree the offer of salvation for every sinner. It's another for God to decree the very faith that some have into existence, while decreeing that others won't have faith.

4 - I'm not sure what LFW or PAP is. Go ahead and explain them if you like. But by free will, I simply mean the ability to choose between different options. Jonathan Edwards defined free will as being able to choose whatever you desire. But that isn't really free will if your nature is such that you only will desire one option - sin. So, rather than Edwards, I'd go with C.S. Lewis's definition of free will -

"... the freedom of a creature must mean freedom to choose: and choice implies the existence of things to choose between." - The Problem of Pain

"God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible ..." - Mere Christianity