Monday, October 24, 2011

Hyper Calvinists are non-Christians?

Yes, I think so. Although not all of them to man are, by in large hyper Calvinists are not Christians, and this should  make everyone careful to watch their soul on this and not be flippant or foolish on the internet.  With birth comes growth and with faith must come good character. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
I'm confident that you, if you are brothers in Christ, will recieve this as brothers in Christ, for we know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning. And might I add a word of caution about the tongue. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
(1 John 2:9-11, 3:10-11, 23-24, 4:7-8, 11-12, 20-21, 5:18; James 3:9-18)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Supralapsarianism

Supralapsarianism asserts that the logical order of all decrees have in mind the final end first, and since God is logical and orderly, He must have first conceived of His desired ends.
As an example, say I want to be warm tonight when the temperature drops. Reason dictates that I must build a shelter to sleep in, for shelters keep me warm. A shelter requires a roof and four walls; walls and a roof require building materials which I must procure, and so on. When I go to carry out this plan I do it in the reverse, first I acquire the materials, then I construct the walls and roof, then I go inside and sleep warmly.

So it is with God they say, God set about to maximally show His glory, to that end He decreed to have a hell, Then decreed it should be populated by creatures who were tempted and fell into it. To have a fall and temptation He would need sin, to have sin He would need angels and people. He then started the clock and it unfolded backwards as logic would dictate: men were created, were tempted and fell into sin, went to hell, and in this brought God greatest glory.

Objections:
  1. The assertion that God thinks and purposes just as we do is a dubious one. Ps 50:21. It first postulates a chrono-logical sequence of events before there is any notion of time or space, for time and space are both created things. The idea of an order at all is a chronological construct, only coming into existence when time can function as a reference. After all, how can the notion of first mean anything if there is no time to sequence events? In this I think Dabney has the right idea, the lapsarian debate is pretty shaky to begin with.   

    Illogical

  2. If the foundational notion is illogical then the list itself is even worse off, (and might I add this is where and how most people level their objection). The assertion that men were created only after a purpose was given for them, is a backwards one, since the object comes after the function. Men are designated, reckoned, tried, and condemned as sinners before there is any such thing as sin. This ignores the nature of sin as a thing added which ruins the original.  Take a computer as an analogy: the stack pointer is imagined and created before the stack of memory it points to.  The whole purpose of the pointer is lost and void if there is no memory stack.  Books were created so there could be words in them, not words were created to express ideas, and then moved into books.  Solomon would never have said "God made man upright, but he has gone astray in search of many schemes" if supralapsarianism was true, because the idea of sin came first into God's mind.

    Based on Assumption

  3. In addition to being illogical, Supralapsarianism is built on an assumption, namely that God's purpose in creating man was only to bring Him glory. But does this starting point hold up under scrutiny?  Are there any other possible reasons God could have created man?  The Westminster Catechism states that the chief end of man “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  If we start with this premise we get very different results because given this intent, it will not do to have people suffering in hell who are incapable of enjoying Him forever. If the Westminster statement is true then Supralapsarianism cannot be, because it would not lead to God predestining men to hell without a chance to enjoy Him forever.

    Against Reason

  4. There is yet another way that this idea don't work: it postulates God working at cross purposes with Himself.  If His purpose is to condemn men into hell where they may be punished then it does not make sense that He would restrain them from sinning, like He does to Abimelech in Genesis 20:6.  The Supra may answer here that God restrains sinful men for the sake of His elect, but this simply won't do, the text's explanation is the direct opposite.  In Genesis God was going to kill Abimelech (v3) for the sake of the elect, but spares him because of the integrity of his heart, because he had been lied to and did not know better (v6).  That God restrains sin does not speak well to an eternal purpose of condemnation as it would be more glorious to have more people in hell for even more horrid things they had done on earth, and having in the meantime the elect saved in an even more glorious way.

    Against Scripture
  5. But more than all this however is the evidence of Scripture to take into account. Romans 11:30-32. While reading the letter to the Romans the Gentile reader will be tempted to ask Paul at this juncture “I can see why God would shut us out from the law and promises, in order that He might teach us His love and character when He stooped to have mercy on us, but why let Israel fall?"  Paul answers the question with verse 30 “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy so they too have now been disobedient in order that … they also may now receive mercy."
    Why then has God foreordained the fall for both the Jews and Gentiles? Was it in fact to show the glory of His justice when He condemned them to punishment?
      No, says the text, it was so that they may receive mercyThe reader may be inclined to say at this point “Paul this makes no logical sense,” but Paul has anticipated this, and in answer breaks out into unmitigated praise “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?" [Isaiah 40:13] "Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?" [Job 41:11]” Who would have thought that God would hide the truth from the wise and reveal it to babies and fools? Who would have thought He bless weak and not the strong, or consign the world into disobedience and ruin so that He may save it? 

    We see a microcosm, or perhaps an analogy of this in the exodus itself. God ultimately led a people out of bondage and slavery and destroyed them in the wilderness. Was it His purpose to lead them out to destroy them? The Supralapsarian would give an unequivocal
      “Yes! For that’s what He did!” but the Scriptures say otherwise. It was His purpose to have mercy on them, but they purposed to have His justice instead. See here.

    The offended Supralapsarian reading this may argue at this point “Totally irrelevant! The Romans verse is talking about the elect! God has consigned the elect to ruin that He may save them.” Oh? And so logically the contra-positve is true: He has
    not consigned the reprobate that He may have justice upon them?  It doesn't say He has consigned them to destruction that He may destroy them, the text merely asserts a universal statement that both Jew and Gentile were shut up under sin.

    Yes, the elect are the special target of this notion, Psalm 130:4, Galatians 3:22, and Luke 7:47 help us to understand this verse a little better, but there is simply no getting around that it’s also talking about God’s purposes with respect to the fall and creation Humanity at large. “God’s plan was to bring Himself maximum glory!” This is true, but by showing fallen people His mercy.
In sum I find the notion wanting and am rather inclined to ponder Scripture when it says "Go then and learn what this means says the Lord, “I desire mercy not sacrifices” and "Mercy triumphs over judgement."

Monday, October 17, 2011

On common grace and the restraint of sin

Does God prevent the world from becoming more evil? Yes. If not then that would mean the world is as bad as it can be, which is clearly wrong in light of 2 Tim 3:13.
Therefore by His goodness God restrains the reprobate from further and greater wickedness then they would be prone to commit.
See Abimelech in Genesis 20:5.
This means they get a lighter sentence in hell, (every sin has a just retribution against it Heb 2:2, they commit fewer sins, which means a lighter sentence Matt 10:15) which flies in the face of "common grace just serves to increase the reprobates condemnation in hell."

Or, as Jonathan Williams puts it, when God is restraining wickedness is He doing
  1. An unmerited favor that decreases their condemnation, or
  2. A vehicle that brings greater condemnation.
If you say one then the case is settled against against the popular notion that common grace is ultimately bad for the non-elect. If you say two then Hitler receives a lesser condemnation than most of mankind, having not abused restraining grace.

Mental failsafes

The mind is a pretty amazing thing, in the way it learns by comparison and analogy. It see things and develops categories, and then when grasps new information by finding the appropriate category to pair the new data with. This seems to me the reason the Bible presents everything as as analogy- Christ as the new and better Adam, Christ as the superior prophet to Moses, Christ as the priest like Melchizedek, Christ as the King superior to the great David.  And why He spoke in parables, because the physical could be grasped but the spiritual is much harder to understand.
In fact go into territory where there is no comparable analogy and the built in failsafes simply shut the mind off. 
Consider the trinity too hard, or try to ponder infinity too long and you will see what I mean.  The consequence of this is that knowing comes through living, and understanding through experience.  To have a child is to really understand Him as a Father, to plan for your unborn child is to experience predestination. To live then, is a gracious gift given that we may understand God.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dear people who wander into my blog

Hi I'm Phil, and this is for you if you just sailed in from Triablogue.
I'm a full time engineer, father, and husband. In my down time I think about theology, such as when I take my dog for a run, or when I commute to work.  During my lunch hour I study and try to write a commentary book thing on Romans, but most of the time I'm doing other things.
I have a good mind, very practical, but I tend to think like a digial engineer (binary fashion, what's useful, I'll be honest about my limitations). This blog is really the dumping grounds for my thoughts that I want to remember for later (writing them down helps imprint them firmly in my brain).
So that's as much to say that although I'm smart I'm not anything like the smartest, and for that reason I'm always willing to listen to a well placed argument from the scriptures. It's a big world out there and there are plenty of people who are smarter than I and have a lot more time to dedicate to theology. If that's you and you want to come help me by pointing me to your blog, by all means! If you want to leave a comment, then do so.
However none of this applies to you non-Christians.  That means you hyper-Calvinists.  The mark of a disciple of Christ is patience and grace, so if you cannot take what I say and point out the problem without using a strawman or ad hominem then keep walking hombre. And consider submitting to Christ.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review- the World Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips

This is going to be a more full comment on Phillips book, being that I'm only 25% of the way through I don't feel entitled to post all my thoughts yet, but I do want to say that this book is surprisingly good.
Really, quite astonishingly good.
On Fridays I go see what funny things he's posted on his own Biblical Christianity blog. When he posts his own thoughts there it's usually eschatalogical in nature, and it's actually quite ill thought out. I'll just say it- it's horrible.
I drop in on the Pyromaniacs website semi-regularly and there Dan isn't exactly the best writer, but not bad.
The cover looked stupid too, therefore I didn't expect much out of the book. I was wrong.
It's all biblical, very basic, very concise, and yet very powerful. It's simple and elegant.
So far he has covered what it means to have life, what it means to die in Adam, what sin means, what total depravity means, and the necessity of being born again. 
If this were am amazon review I would give it 5 stars and tell you to go get it and read it. There are a few books that I want my children to read: The attributes of God by Pink, The Holiness of God by Sproul, Knowing God by Packer, and so far I would add this book to that list. This is going to be one of the few books that I think should be a must read for my family.

Monday, October 3, 2011

One more for the Arminians and Hypers alike

Introduction 
I'd like to respond to something Mr. Manata brought up, not because it serves to advance a discussion with him, but because it may help the some of the Arminian friends I have think more clearly about the notion of determinism.
There are two sink holes to fall into regarding the idea of a God who is so sovereign that He determines all things ahead of time:
      1. Denying His sovereignty like the Arminian,
      2. Denying His goodness, like the Hyper Calvinist.

Let's start with Mr. Manata and the Hypers position, in my very-silly-mostly-fuff-post I took a lot of time to basically say that the elect and reprobate have their fates "determined" or "decreed" differently.  Manata raises the serious (and justifiable) objection with some humor:
"God doesn’t “determine” the fate of the reprobate “as he” determines the fate of the elect. Okay, so does he determine it in another way?...If God decreed from the foundation of the world that Bob will never come to God, can Bob still come to God given identical decrees? Or, is Phil saying tha[t] God never decreed that Bob would not seek him?"
If we say He doesn't determine the fate of the reprobate then He's not sovereign. If He has plotted from all eternity past to use them merely for hell's fuel then he's not all good.  So let's answer this by going back to square one.

God is incapable of creating evil
When God uses His power for (what I'm calling) a 'positive' decree, (ex: Lazaraus come forth" creation ex nihilo) it's always very good (Gen 1:31, James 1:17, Ecc 7:29, 1 Tim 4:4, 3 John 1:11), because God Himself is good (Ps 143:10). Jesus uses His power to heal the sick, misery, sin, and this is all good.  The character, ability, and nature of God, is such that He can only be Himself, and that is only pure.
Now consider that if God really is completely Good, Pure, and Holy then He cannot at the same time be impure, unholy, or evil, nor can He do certain things inconsistent with His character. For example, He is unable to tempt (James 1:13), or lie (Heb 6:18). We agree then with our Arimian brothers who point out that if God has the ability to create evil, and make it, and send it out like He made man and commissioned him then He is a wicked terror, not a savior.
How does evil exist, if God is both Good and sovereign (Is 45:7) and unable to create evil? Because He causes evil to exist by the absence of His presence. In Edwards analogy God is like the sun- when the sun shines it heats the world up, when it goes away the world cools. The sun is not actively sending out bitter ice showers to make things colder, it's simply not shining its golden rays.

As seen in scriptures 
Job 1:10-12 testifies to this as well. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD." When God blesses Job He is acting from His own positive decrees, when He moves to strike Job He takes away the hedge, which allows Satan to run roughshod over Job.
So also Isaiah 5:5 "And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down." The removal of God's protection results in a ruin, not the presence of God ruining people.
Acts 7:42 "But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: "'Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?"  When Israel was punished and began to sin how did it happen? God gave them up. A negative act as it were, an absence of His power and might and goodness. This is what Paul states in Romans 1:24,26 "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves...For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature."
There are of course more verses, but that's enough to prove the case that by definition God cannot be actively creating evil, instead to cause evil or sin He simply stops sending out His goodness.

Proven by Reason as Well
A moments thought will show that this must be the case when we consider evil itself. Evil is a ruination, a sickness that can only exist on top of the good. Cancer, for example, can only exist if there is a preexisting healthy body with cells, and the normal ability of the cells to replicate. 
Sin is an absence of Gods goodness, not some positive added quality of badness.
The thinkers we admire reached the same conclusion, that God can do good by nature, but cannot do bad, therefore to cause ruin, or disaster, or evil He must withdraw His presence not send it out. C.S. Lewis grasped this when he wrote in Mere Christianity "In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness." Everyone's hero, Augustine argues the same, that evil has no existence except as a privation of good.

Point of Application 
And with that we're ready to address Mr. Manata's question: if God has foreordained that Mr. Bob would spend eternity in Hell, then how can He make a genuine offer of salvation to Bob? The answer is easily found: God happens to know that man left alone will choose hell, but even so He is not condemning man to hell with His positive decrees, he can't because He's all good.  Man is given the empty space to make His own decision, and chooses himself.
An analogy might help. Both my neighbor and I have this species of terrible weed in our front lawns.  When I go out to fight it I don't weed my neighbors lawn, just my own (my positive action), but neither am I the one causing weeds to spring up in his lawn- the ground does that.  Do I want my neighbors lawn to be overcome with weeds? No. Am I willing to pull them myself? No.  Is that contradictory? Not in the least.
It may be argued that since I'm God here, I must want weeds in my neighbors lawn, but this is not necessarily the case. It may be that I do want the weeds to appear in my own lawn, and I want everyone of my neighbors to see it. I further want the process of life to happen, from seed to plant, and I want that to apply to all things that grow universally.  I am then going to pull all my weeds to show everyone that I am a tender and compassionate homeowner, and I give my neighbor the option of letting him demonstrate the same. He doesn't. But that's not because I'm forcing him to be lazy and watch TV. His weeds are a by product of my decrees, they are not because of my decrees.

The Arminian wonders the same thing the hyper does, if God has predetermined everything ahead of time then how can man have free will? But clearly there is a misunderstanding of God's sovereignty, God doesn't force men to do anything, they are free to choose their own fate.  It's not like He has a divine gun to their head demanding they sin, He's just allowing them to make their own decision of their own will.  The elect have their wills renewed by a positive action of God (I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy) and freely desire God, but the non-elect are simply that: non-elect. Not damned before the foundation of the world, just non-elect. And it's worth remembering that non-elect may always lead to damnation, but non-elect is not equal to damnation.  They can always turn and repent, they have the abilities, they have no coercive force applied against them, they have the, for lack of a better word, empty-space the Lord has allowed for them to do the right thing in. The fault is theirs alone, just as if they are saved it will be by God's grace alone.
It may be argued here that unless man has not only a free natural will (as I have been asserting) but a free moral will (what I deny) then he is not in any sense free. Aside from the fact that man's moral ruin is his own fault (like a servant who gets drunk and then is unable to do his job) this is to argue for total madness. Unless I can desire or love whatever I want, whenever I want there is no such thing as desire or love. There is no anchor point to anything.  Unless I desire to be a woman I cannot desire to be a man. I cannot love ice cream unless I can immediately switch to loving dog poop soup just as much. 

 Point of Clarity
Mr. Tennant points out that I have broken away from the Westminster Confession of Faith in asserting things this way. That tells me I have not done a good job explaining it.  Am I stating God does not determine the fate of the reprobate? No. Do I believe the following: "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass ... By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death." Yes, this is all true, that's what sovereignty means, after all.
But let me assert again that the foreordaination to death is not the same as the foreordaination to life.  Ordaining to life is a positive action of His nature, ordaining to death is an absence of it. Perhaps an analogy may help.  The architect of a skyscraper building foreordains the superstructure, the pillars, the piping, the floor materials, the electrical wires.  Then he puts them in by his positive actions.  Yet he also plans the space between the floors ahead of time as an "absence" of his work.  He has decreed the whole building from top to bottom, but he has not equally in all ways decreed it.  Or as I have said elsewhere, a composer foreordains the silence in his piece as well as the musical notes, yet the music notes are not written in in the same way.  The whole thing is his music, and the silence exists to further it's glory, but it and the notes may not be equated. Sovereign? Yes. Good yes.  This seems to me to be the only way to hold to both together.