08 October 2007

Does God's Sovereignty Mean He Makes People Evil?

by Phil Johnson

    fellow who espouses hyper-Calvinism wrote me to argue that there is no such thing as "common grace." He insisted that God's "apparent goodness" to the reprobate has no other purpose than to increase their condemnation. He was convinced that God is as active in making the reprobate wicked as He is in conforming the elect to the image of Christ. And for "proof," he cited Romans 5:20: "The law entered that the offense might abound."

My view, of course, is different from his.

So let's think through some of these issues carefully. Consider, first of all, that the law has the effect of provoking sin in the elect as well as the reprobate. Even the apostle Paul testified that the tenth commandment stirred up all manner of coveting in his heart (Romans 7:8). He went on to explain in verse 13 that this is because the law was given to make sin appear exceedingly sinful. In other words, the law makes sin abound in order to confront us with the reality and magnitude of our sin.

But that is ultimately a gracious purpose, and the second half of Romans 5:20 makes that point inescapable: "The law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." So the exacerbating of sin is not an end in itself. God's ultimate purpose, and that which He delights in, is not the sin, but the superabounding grace.

Moreover, even while the law is provoking us to rebellion, the Lord through common grace usually restrains sinners—including the reprobate—from giving full expression to their sin (cf. Genesis 20:6; Romans 2:14-15).

So it is my conviction that the overall effect of common grace on the reprobate will be to decrease their condemnation, not increase it.

But what about the potter-clay analogy in Romans 9? my hyper-calvinist correspondent wondered.

We need to think that through carefully, too. The potter starts with a lump of clay—something inherently filthy and base, with hardening properties already defining its very nature. So the clay is analogous to fallen humanity—useless for anything at all except in the hands of the heavenly Potter.

Left alone, clay will harden into something permanently worthless. But when a skilled potter applies His work to that amorphous lump of filthy clay, he always makes it useful. He improves the clay-lump into something that can be employed for good purposes.

The end-products are of varying quality, of course, because they are made for different purposes. Sometimes the potter makes fine pottery that may include veritable works of art; other times he makes ash trays. But he starts with the same glob of clay, and all his finished products are superior to the worthless lumps they would have been apart from His work.

That's exactly what Paul meant when he spoke of vessels of honor and dishonor. "Dishonorable" vessels in Paul's analogy would be things like diaper pails, chamber pots, spittoons, garbage containers, and whatnot. The vessel used in such a way is "dishonorable" in the sense that you don't put it on display for honored guests, or use it to serve your Thanksgiving Turducken. (Or pizza, as the case may be.) But the potter who makes such dishonorable vessels isn't himself dishonorable. Nor are his purposes dishonorable. On the contrary, they are good. (Imagine a world without garbage containers.)

So the potter imagery does not suggest that God works to make the reprobate worse or worse off than they would have been without His work, nor does it suggest that He delights in increasing their condemnation. In fact, if their damnation is ultimately exacerbated in any sense because of His work, it is precisely because they have despised and spurned His goodness, which ought to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4)—not because He deliberately made them into something worse than they would have been otherwise. If they are worse off because of His goodness to them, it is their own fault. His goodness is not a mask for some hideous secret delight over their damnation.

The example of Pharaoh, cited by Paul in Romans 9, is a case in point. We are not to imagine that the potter-clay imagery suggests God made Pharaoh evil. The proclivity of Pharaoh's heart was already evil. Pharaoh's hatred for God and the things of God was Pharaoh's own character flaw, certainly not something God was responsible for.



Let me give you an illustration. When I was in high school, I had an old car, a beautiful 1954 Chevrolet Bel Aire. (I wish I still had it.) But in those days it was not quite the antique it would be today, and far from being a classic, it had some rather severe mechanical problems. One was that it steered left all the time. If I wanted to make it go straight down the road, I had to exert a steady pull to the right. But if I wanted to change to the left lane, I simply had to release that pressure, and the car would automatically veer left.

God exercises His sovereignty over an evil heart very much like that. The heart of Pharaoh was in God's hands so that He could turn it whithersoever He willed (Proverbs 21:1). But when it served God's sovereign plan for Pharaoh to turn stubborn, God did not have to exert force to pull him in an evil direction. God did not need to infuse an evil intention into Pharaoh's heart. God simply withdrew His influence and Pharaoh's own evil inclination steered him into the left lane, fulfilling God's plan.

John Calvin has an interesting section dealing with this very issue in his Institutes. (II.4.3) He writes:
     God is very often said to blind and harden the reprobate . . .. There are two methods in which God may so act. [1] When his light is taken away, nothing remains but blindness and darkness: when his Spirit is taken away, our hearts become hard as stones: when his guidance is withdrawn, we immediately turn from the right path: and hence he is properly said to incline, harden, and blind those whom he deprives of the faculty of seeing, obeying, and rightly executing.
     [2] The second method . . . is when executing his judgements by Satan as the minister of his anger, God both directs men's counsels, and excites their wills, and regulates their efforts as he pleases.
So when Scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, we are not to think God infused an evil desire into Pharaoh, or sovereignly steered him in a direction Pharaoh was himself not inclined to go. Pharaoh's own will was already inclined toward evil; God simply permitted Pharaoh to fulfill the already-evil intentions of his own fallen heart and will. Or in other words, God sealed the will of Pharaoh in its own evil intention, and then used Pharaoh's evil designs to accomplish God's good purposes.



In fact, God's agency in hardening Pharaoh's heart is exactly like the agency of the sun in hardening clay. The sun is in no way tainted or influenced by its contact with the clay; but the clay is profoundly affected by the sun's rays.

Furthermore, the property that gives clay its hardness is a property that belongs to the clay, not the sun. Want proof? Put a block of ice in the sun and see what happens to that. It will melt rather than harden. So the property that leads to the hardening of clay is something in the clay. Left to itself the clay will harden with or without exposure to the sun's bright light. The sun merely accelerates the natural process.

And that is precisely the effect the Word of God had on Pharaoh. So while we may truly say that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, it is vital to remember that the sinful properties that caused the hardening lay in Pharaoh's own heart. Pharaoh alone was responsible for his stubbornness. God, though sovereignly in control from beginning to end, bore no responsibility whatsoever for the evil that emanated from Pharaoh's own will.

Phil's signature

133 comments:

the postmortem said...

Phil,

Excellent! I was especially enlightened by your observation about how God's grace restrains reprobate sinning.

On the matter of posting that disgusting rat-cat, however, I heartily condemn your predetermined (yet free) decision to do so.

Isaac said...

I concur,

that cat-thing has an evil all of its own

Isaac said...

So God made the world exceedingly sinful in the time of Noah just so he could destroy it?

Surely the people in Noah's day are no different than the unregenerated now but from God making Noah's contemporaries worse He prevents our contemporaries from being just like them.

Although one wonders how far exactly we are from Gen 6:5.

Qjay said...

Great post, ugly cat, all in a days work for a Pyromaniac!

So God made the world exceedingly sinful in the time of Noah just so he could destroy it?

This is exactly what Phil was not saying. People, everyone, are/is TOTALLY depraved, without the light of God. God is the ONLY goodness that exists. Therefore, God has no need to 'make' anything evil, since it already is (as a result of the fall). All God has to do is stop giving even the most common of grace and man WILL harden because that is the property of a man's soul. However, to make something good, all God has to do is shine his light on it.

centuri0n said...

Phil:

You know I agree with you in this post and have a soft spot for any who is debunking hypercalvinism. That said, I have a question about one part of your post.

You write this --

[QUOTE]
The vessel used in such a way is "dishonorable" in the sense that you don't put it on display for honored guests, or use it to serve your Thanksgiving Turducken. (Or pizza, as the case may be.) But the potter who makes such dishonorable vessels isn't himself dishonorable. Nor are his purposes dishonorable. On the contrary, they are good. (Imagine a world without garbage containers.)
[/QUOTE]

That last phrase -- "imagine a world without garbage containers" -- seems to say that because the -ends- of God's work is good, the -means- he uses to get there are justified. That is, because the end state of things requires God to reprobate some people, God is justified in reprobating some.

How would you respond to that?

centuri0n said...

BTW, I think qjay means well but I think he also misses some of the real force if Isaac's question and the problem of men being sinful.

John 1 tells us plainly that everything that has been made was made by God -- that includes sinful men (who, btw, are not sinful because they sin, but sin because they are sinful -- their nature causes them to sin). So God makes us with a sinful nature, and therefore we choose to sin.

The question of why make a world destined for wrath is, frankly, a somewhat unanswerable question -- but it's only part of the question. Why make a world destined for wrath and then save any of it?

It is wholly within God's sovereignty and providence to make a world which out to be destroyed by flood or judged with fire -- especially if it is filled with creates which are law-breakers. But what is the truly infathomable part of God is that He made this world as it is and then seeks to save some out of it. And He does that at great cost to Himself through a bloody sacrifice.

God could have made the world any way He wanted to make it. He made it this way, which requires an obedient act of sacrifice by Christ. We ought to get the flood about once a generation: instead we get Christ and the offer of forgiveness.

Grace said...

Excellent post. I love the classic clay and ice analogy.

The crux of Calvinism, in my humble opinion, is total depravity. Without that, one will constantly debate if God is truly gracious and loving.

In high school we heard lots of stories about spiritual warfare and demonic influence. There was an assumption that truly evil people were demon-possessed, that man couldn't reach the depths of depravity without a little push.

The truth is man is so adept at producing evil that he doesn't need any outside help, from either God or Satan.

We always want to blame our sinfulness on someone or something else. The simple reality is left to our own devices, we will destroy ourselves. The fact that He does not let us is common grace enough.

Grace said...

However that cat just might be demon-possessed.

Or a Gollum cat. "My precious-s-s-s"

donsands said...

"the sinful properties that caused the hardening lay in Pharaoh's own heart."

Amen.

It does seem that God did more than allow Pharaoh to become hardened though. Seems, (though he did have a hard and evil heart), that the wonders had an affect on Pharaoh where he wanted let the people go, but God hardened his heart so he couldn't.
Exodus 4:21 " .. I will harden his heart, so that he shall not let the people go."
Exodus 10:24 -27 "And Pharoah called to Moses, and said, Go, and serve the Lord: ..... But the LORD hardened Pharoah's heart, and he would not let them go."

I'm not a hyper-calvinist, but it seems the Lord can harden a hard heart, that has become a less hard. in order to make it harder for His sovereign purposes.

Difficult subject. Thanks for posting on this.

Tim said...

Hmm, thank you for the thought-provoking post. I do see how our basic sinful nature provides the assymetry in God's election and reprobation. It makes sense to see the latter in terms of a "permissive will".

However, what do we do with Adam, who had no such nature? Can we see that as permissive? And if not, aren't we saying that God permissively allows us to act out the sin nature that he actively willed we would possess?

GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME said...

Very good post, Phil.

At first, I thought the woman in the nice hat in the graphic was eating a mass wafer. And then that led to think of another great graphic which you could adopt. Although the wafer worshippers mightn't quite think so

:-)

puritanicoal said...

Great post. I have been grappling with this issue, and you clarified a few points in a way that makes it more accessible. I have a question, if someone might take a stab at it.

Calvin states in part: ". . .when his Spirit is taken away, our hearts become hard as stones . . ."

When I read Ez. 36, I see that we have hearts of stone that He replaces with hearts of flesh, and that this OT passage is interpreted to prophesy new covenant regeneration. And, we know that in regeneration, a person receives the Holy Spirit, and it is an eternal transaction (leaving aside "false conversion"). So, when Calvin says, "when the spirit is TAKEN AWAY," what does he mean? I know in the OT times, God would give the Spirit, and take the Spirit away, e.g., Saul. Is Calvin only talking about OT times? I guess I am confused because Calvin uses "our" and it seems to imply the regenerate.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Viewing this in-house debate from the outside, as it were, I think you have the better of it, Phil. Although from what I know of hyper-Calvinism, they do seem to take Calvinist presuppositions all the way to the end of the line, and have plenty of Scriptures to buttress their bridges.

Your position, it seems to me, allows for more "tension" which the Scriptures themselves acknowledge. Ro. 9-11 is full of tension--and plenty of questions...

Thought provoking post this morning. Thanks. I'm now 1/2 hour behind schedule!

Everyday Mommy said...

~ So the potter imagery does not suggest that God works to make the reprobate worse or worse off than they would have been without His work, nor does it suggest that He delights in increasing their condemnation.~

Okay...this is where y'all lose me. I guess I need a patient pastor to 'splain it to me.

If the Potter makes all manner of objects, from chamber pots to ming vases, then how can He condemn a chamber pot for being a chamber pot? After all, He made it a chamber pot.

I'm sure this is like Calvinism 101 for y'all, so don't laugh at me :)

Lee Shelton said...

Excellent post. I'm always amazed at the number of people who believe there is no such thing as common grace.

Personally, I think we should be exceedingly thankful for common grace. Imagine just how terrible this world would be for the elect if God did not restrain the wicked.

ddd said...

Phil,

I wonder, did this correspondent of yours explicitly say that God actively makes the reprobates evil, or is that something you think his position must necessarily lead to?

ddd said...

lee shelton:

May I ask if your idea of common grace has to do with God's kindness as Creator or His love as Redeemer?

Brad Leber said...

Mommy,

It's actually a little more complicated than that, no one is condemned for being a chamber pot, but rather for being clay...

Phil Johnson said...

Centuri0n: That last phrase -- "imagine a world without garbage containers" -- seems to say that because the -ends- of God's work is good, the -means- he uses to get there are justified. That is, because the end state of things requires God to reprobate some people, God is justified in reprobating some.

How would you respond to that?


I'd say it's backward thinking. My point is precisely the opposite: At the beginning of life we are fallen, bent toward evil, spiritually dead, worthy of judgment, etc.—worthless lumps of clay. Left completely to ourselves, cut off from even common grace, we would be all be billions of times worse (and worse off) than we are in a world where the Great Potter still sovereignly manages His creation.

centuri0n said...

EDM:

Let's not mix metaphor and judicial fact. The metaphor is that God makes men as the potter forms the clay -- making some for honorable use, others for dishonorable use. That is, as you have well said, he makes some as precious and some for a use which is not so much.

That's the metaphor. And in that metaphor, the dishonorable pots get treated like dishonorable pots. That is, they are not "judged" but are used as they were made to be used.

But when we bring that metaphor over to the relationship of God and man, here's the thing: men are not merely pots which get used but are in fact agents of their own use. In a very real way, we choose what we do. It reveals our nature as sinners -- and we are all showing ourselves to be vessels suitable for dishonorable use.

So in that sense, God is not just using us but judging us for actions we chose to take. He is making a call based on the value of what we chose to do -- and seeing those things, He does something unimaginable.

God offers us the Gospel by offering forgiveness for repentance, and places the wrath of judgment on Christ for the sake of making His offer just and holy.

God condemns sin, and makes a good-will offer to those who are doing the sin to forgive based on justice. In the metaphor, treating a pot made for something as if it was made for that thing is right; in the judicial act, God is judging the works; in mercy, God is offering a judicial remedy for the fault of the works.

Does that help?

centuri0n said...

Amen. That's a great answer Phil, and exactly why the good news is good, and even the worst sinner can look to God and say He has loved me.

Great answer. I now place my foil back in its little metal loop ...

Kent Brandenburg said...

Good article. Good illustrations and explanations.

Phil Johnson said...

Centuri0n:

We might as well plainly acknowledge the point you keep hinting at: What I've said in this post doesn't solve the problem of how evil entered the universe in the first place.

And that's quite true. Because the only question I'm trying to answer here is "How can God reprobate someone like Pharaoh—even to the point of deliberately hardening Pharaoh's heart—and yet not be complicit in the sins of the reprobate?"

I'm suggesting that's a fairly simple question to answer, and it's the only question about God's sovereignty and the existence of evil that applies in a personal way to everyone after the fall.

The one really tough question applies exclusively to Adam: How did he fall in the first place? Where did the evil intention in his heart come from?

That, I think, is the hardest question in all theology. Calvin grappled with it and basically said we don't know where Adam's evil desire came from, but it must have come from within Adam, because it couldn't be God's fault.

Perhaps I'll post on that topic one day, but for now, let's be clear: that's not the question this post proposes to answer.

Johnny Dialectic: from what I know of hyper-Calvinism, they do seem to take Calvinist presuppositions all the way to the end of the line, and have plenty of Scriptures to buttress their bridges.

That's because you don't understand "Calvinist presuppositions." You operate on Arminian presuppositions, and I have often said that Arminians and hyper-Calvinists share exactly the same faulty presuppositions: viz., they fail to distinguish between human responsibility and human ability, and they wrongly assume that the former implies the latter. Once you disabuse yourself of that error, hyper-Calvinism will not seem so "logical" to you.

ddd: "I wonder, did this correspondent of yours explicitly say that God actively makes the reprobates evil, or is that something you think his position must necessarily lead to?"

I put the question to him directly: "Are you saying God is active in making the reprobate evil in the same sense He actively intervenes to redeem the elect?"

His reply:

Well, duh. If you have to ask that question at all, you don't really understand sovereignty. Sovereignty and passivity are polar opposites. God is fully active in everything that comes to pass, so of course God is as active in making the reprobate evil as he is in redeeming the elect. That's the whole point of the potter in Romans 9.

ddd: May I ask if your idea of common grace has to do with God's kindness as Creator or His love as Redeemer?

His lovingkindness as Creator, of course.

But I'm convinced Scripture teaches the kindness of the Creator includes a sincere plea for every sinner's repentance and a well-meant proposal of mercy that extends even to the reprobate. That's where you choke, I think.

Robert said...

Great post...
if anyone would like a great teaching on this James White exegetes it at:
http://mp3.aomin.org/JRW/Romans9.mp3

To be fair...His words were "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I WILL HARDEN whom I will HARDEN.

I do agree that Pharaoh didn't need any prodding; his heart was evil like everyone else...but God did say that He "hardened his heart" and it was for a specific purpose. That much is said in the text.

When people flinch at that just remember...Pharaoh deserved to be vaporized for his sins in an instant...the fact that God allowed him to take part in His plans and live that much longer does nothing but show the amazing mercy of God.

I guess the closest I can get is that God does it all, hardening and saving of those He chooses,for His glory and to forward the plan of election; as He states in Romans.

Good thought provoking stuff.

centuri0n said...

I love it when Phil gets stoked up.

mike rucker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
YnottonY said...

I posted this a few weeks ago, and it would seem to answer your hyper-Calvinistic "friend" quite well:

"Prop. VII. The holiness of God is not blemished by withdrawing his grace from a sinful creature, whereby he falls into more sin. That God withdraws his grace from men, and gives them up sometimes to the fury of their lusts, is as clear in Scripture as anything (Deut. xxix. 4): "Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear," &c. Judas was delivered to Satan after the sop, and put into his power, for despising former admonitions. He often leaves the reins to the devil, that he may use what efficacy he can in those that have offended the Majesty of God; he withholds further influences of grace, or withdraws what before he had granted them. Thus he withheld that grace from the sons of Eli, that might have made their father's pious admonitions effectual to them (I Sam. ii. 25): "They hearkened not to the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them." He gave grace to Eli to reprove them, and withheld that grace from them, which might have enabled them against their natural corruption and obstinacy to receive that reproof. But the holiness of God is not blemished by this.

1. Because the act of God in this is only negative. Thus God is said to "harden" men: not by positive hardening or working anything in the creature, but by not working, not softening, leaving a man to the hardness of his own heart, whereby it is unavoidable by the depravation of man's nature, and the fury of his passions, but that he should be further hardened, and "increase unto more ungodliness," as the expression is (2 Tim. ii. 19). As a man is said to give another his life, when he doth not take it away when it lay at his mercy; so God is said to "harden" a man, when he doth not mollify him when it was in his power, and inwardly quicken him with that grace whereby he might infallibly avoid any further provoking of him. God is said to harden men when he removes not from them the incentives to sin, curbs not those principles which are ready to comply with those incentives, withdraws the common assistances of his grace, concurs not with counsels and admonitions to make them effectual; flasheth not in the convincing light which he darted upon them before. If hardness follows upon God's withholding his softening grace, it is not by any positive act of God, but from the natural hardness of man. If you put fire near to wax or rosin, both will melt; but when that fire is removed, they return to their natural quality of hardness and brittleness; the positive act of the fire is to melt and soften, and the softness of the rosin is to be ascribed to that; but the hardness is from the rosin itself, wherein the fire hath no influence, but only a negative act by a removal of it: so, when God hardens a man, he only leaves him to that stony heart which he derived from Adam, and brought with him into the world. All men's understandings being blinded, and their wills perverted in Adam, God's withdrawing his grace is but a leaving them to their natural pravity, which is the cause of their further sinning, and not God's removal of that special light he before afforded them, or restraint he held over them. As when God withdraws his preserving power from the creature, he is not the efficient, but deficient cause of the creature's destruction; so, in this case, God only ceaseth to bind and dam up that sin which else would break out."

Stephen Charnock, "Discourse XI: On The Holiness of God," in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 2:166-167.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Thanks for the comment, Phil, and you're quite right to point out that you do not share the same presups as the hypers (I don’t think I do either, but that's for another post). So I'll just say that I find your position more biblical when I compare it with your correspondent's. (How hard is it to pay a Calvinist a compliment?)

jbuck21 said...

Phil,

thanks for this well thought out analysis.

Someday soon I'd like to hear your thoughts on Adam's sin.

Mike Rucker,

I'll skip telling the kids that they're wretches and tell you that the reality that as you read this, your breath is a gift of God (regardless of what suffering you are enduring at this moment) which He can remove at any time. He is kind to you and to all - and that kindness ought to lead your heart to repentance. As Christ said to the Jews who questioned Him about the tower of Siloam, 'Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish'.

YnottonY said...

NKJ Acts 3:26 "To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities."

Notice Peter's point in this sermon. He is telling his listeners, all of them, that Christ was sent "to bless" them. Jesus was sent to all of them to turn them away from their iniquities, i.e., to save them. When a person rejects and spurns such divine love, it results in greater condemnation. A greater condemnation presupposes that they were to be thankful for goodness previously shown. No one is expected to give thanks for hatred, but for a gracious blessing.

Phil quoted Romans 2:4, which is a strong verse for showing the divine motive in bestowing common grace. Notice the connotation of "goodness" in the passage. It's not merely speaking of the ethical purity by which God deals in all things. It is speaking of a divine disposition that seeks the well-being of the creature.

Hyper-Calvinists do not like that latter connotation of "goodness." When they say that God is "good" to all, they mean that God remains ethically pure when he has nothing but hate for the non-elect. One need only to ask them if the non-elect are expected to give thanks for divine goodness. If they say no, they speak contrary to the scriptures and to the manifest testimony of conscience. If they say yes, then they must confess that God had an interest in the well-being of those that were shown goodness. Again, it would be foolish to think that the non-elect are expected to give thanks to God for merely hating them.

Beware of their subtle usage of the term "goodness." When they use the term, they do not mean the same thing we do.

Randy said...

Finally, a post about Turducken.

Randy said...

Phil,

Did you plan such a weighty post in conjunction with Pulpit today?

Both were blessings to me and quite familiar as I am reading The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink right now.

SolaMeanie said...

This isn't the most palatable thing to say, but I find that it helps me a great deal with questions such as this. As Creator, God has the absolute right to do what He wills with His creation. I don't know why He saved me in His grace and mercy, but I am extremely thankful that He did. Human pride doesn't like to admit that we are all created property, but we are. And no, don't anyone charge me with fatalism or other such tommyrot. That's not what I mean at all. It's more along the line of a bratty kid stomping his feet on the floor when given instructions by his parent. At that moment, explanations are a non-issue. You swat the kid good and hard on the rump and say, "Because I said so. When you adjust your attitude, we'll talk."

dec said...

Good point, solameanie.

And when that bratty kid grows up, he'll realize how foolish he was and how wise his father is.

Lee Shelton said...

ddd: "May I ask if your idea of common grace has to do with God's kindness as Creator or His love as Redeemer?"

Both. His kindness as Creator as it applies to his creation, and his love as Redeemer as it applies to the elect.

Brad Leber said...

Tommyrot...:)

Ephemeral Mortal said...

Phil,

you wrote "God, though sovereignly in control from beginning to end, bore no responsibility whatsoever for the evil that emanated from Pharaoh's own will."

Just want to throw this one into the melting pot - i'd be very interested to hear your reply.

Can God not be said to be responsible for Pharaoh's evil because he could have done something about it but didn't. I mean if I allow something bad to happen when it was in my power to prevent it, does that not in some way make me responsoble for that.

Robert said...

Hello Phil,

I am not a Calvinist but have always appreciated your posts. While you are firmly committed to your theological system of Calvinism you exhibit a gracious approach to those who differ with you. Having said that, I am interested in this issue as the issue is one which is a major stumbling block for many noncalvinists such as myself. Most of the comments here are just Calvinists agreeing with you, which says very little about the problem. Someone came close to stating the problem, when “everyday mommy” wrote:

“If the Potter makes all manner of objects, from chamber pots to ming vases, then how can He condemn a chamber pot for being a chamber pot? After all, He made it a chamber pot.

I'm sure this is like Calvinism 101 for y'all, so don't laugh at me :)”

She is approaching a major concern of noncalvinists. If you are going to claim that God predetermines “whatsoever comes to pass” and you take a compatibilist position on the free will issue. Then you have God predetermining all events with no exceptions. This also amounts to the fact that whatever happens, happens necessarily and is exactly what God wants to happen in every situation.

Calvinists attempt to lessen the force of this by for example, making a big deal that the “clay” is fallen clay, sinful clay, that if strict justice were given would lead to all of us rightly going to eternal punishment. So God has mercy on some though all deserve eternal punishment, so unconditional election, supposedly becomes more tolerable.

But this leaves out some major problems. First, if God predetermines “whatsoever comes to pass” then God wanted Adam to fall. So the resulting universal sin problem which now touches upon all people (Rom. 5) is exactly what God wanted to happen.

Second, if God predetermines our every thought, intention, action, movement, then in every case we do only and always exactly what God wants us to do. We are fallen “clay” then, because that is what God wants us to be. And our every sin is exactly what God wants us to do. Calvinists will speak of how God predetermines everything and then try to assign blame to fallen human nature. But who predetermined for that nature to be fallen? Calvinists will sometimes try to appeal to a distinction between secondary and primary causes, with God being the ultimate cause of sin while human persons are the secondary causes and so to be held responsible while God is not responsible for their sinful acts. But this distinction is misleading if God is in fact predetermining everything. If so, then **all** of the means and **all** of the ends are **all** equally predetermined by God. God is then in fact completely responsible for every event, though the Calvinist will only assign blame on human persons or angels that sin.

Third, this Calvinist scenario leads to the implication that God predetermines for most of humanity to be “reprobates” people who will be born with a sin nature, who will live lives of sin and rebellion against God, and then will be judged at the final judgment for doing all of the actions that God had predetermined for them to do, and will then be sent to eternal conscious punishment for simply living out the lives that the author of the story had pre-scripted for them.

Noncalvinists look at this “story” and it does not seem to fit how God describes things in scripture (He says he does not take pleasure in the eternal punishment of the wicked, Eze. 18; He says he has love for the world by giving His son for the redemption of the world Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2, He wills that all be saved 1 Tim. 2:4-6, though all are shut up in sin God desires to have mercy on them all, Rom. 11:32, etc. etc.) and logically it leads to the conclusion that God is the author of every element of the story including the evil and sin that occurs in the story. You cannot simultaneously claim that he authors every element of the story and then claim that the characters in the story are responsible for their sins while the author is not.

Phil it is these kinds of things that have concerned noncalvinists and have led many to reject the total determinism of some Calvinists. Some Calvinists seeing the problems will try to mitigate things by suggesting that God “permits” or “allows” people to sin (e.g. they have a sinful nature and God merely allows them to choose according to their nature, so **they** sin and so **they** are held responsible at the end). But “permitting” or “allowing” only really works if you allow for some libertarian free will actions to be present. But if you allow some of these actions to be present then everything is no longer predetermined.

I have one Calvinist friend named Greg who runs an important apologetics ministry and he takes the position that TULIP is true, that no one can become a Christian unless God had preselected them to be elect. But Greg also believes that libertarian free will exists in **some** situations (e.g. will I tie my shoe now or five seconds from now, etc. etc.). So for Greg the nonbeliever who is a slave of sin freely chooses to sin according to his nature and his every sin is not predetermined by God.

But the Calvinist who believes in exhaustive determinism does not have this option. Greg’s view seems more sensible to me if you are going to be a Calvinist, as he maintains TULIP, but he also does not have God causing every sin to occur by predetermining for all of them to occur.

But my impression of your own position Phil is that you hold to exhaustive determinism and to compatibilist free will. And it is that position that seems to have some severe problems in relation to sin and evil and unbelief and eternal punishment. And it is precisely that view that leads noncalvinists to conclude that that view leads to God making people evil and making everything else happen for that matter.

Predetermination is more causative than merely foreknowing what will certainly occur. And you believe that He not only foreknows every event that occurs (by “simple foreknowledge”), but that He predetermines them all, correct?

He is the author of every element of his story is He not?

Robert

D.R. Brooker said...

A couple quick comments...

I’m not sure about the person you are responding to but let’s remember, someone being a supralapsarian does not mean they are a hyper-calvinist. This word is getting thrown around inaccurately.

“So it is my conviction that the overall effect of common grace on the reprobate will be to decrease their condemnation, not increase it.”

Not really. For from the hand of God they would receive “good things” and yet not acknowledge the Giver of these things for them; hence, their guilt increases before God. Grace is not in “things” (rain, sunshine, etc.) and scripture never teaches that it is; grace is in Christ alone. To posit some doctrine of “common grace” one must necessarily deny this. But even a general benevolence towards the reprobate is done to restrain them for the benefit of the elect. Their guilt increases as they continue to sin against God and the elect benefit from the goodness of God towards them.

“We need to think that through carefully, too. The potter starts with a lump of fallen clay—something inherently filthy and base, with hardening properties already defining its very nature. So the clay is analogous to fallen humanity—useless for anything at all except in the hands of the heavenly Potter.”

I think you’ve snuck your infralapsarianism in the back door. The potter does not start will a “fallen lump” of clay; but rather, a lump of clay, to make of it whichever one He desires. His decrees of elect and reprobate are from eternity and He brings those decrees to fruition by actively working in both. Your argument rests on this assumption; but that’s a different discussion.

Dave Crater said...

Phil: I'm a huge fan, but the mistakes pointed out by d.r. brooker and others are spot on. Neither supralapsarianism nor double-predestination is the same as hyper-calvinism. Hyper-calvinism is the belief that evangelism is incompatible with predestination. Major figures in the history of Calvinism believed what you here call hyper-calvinism: William Perkins and William Twisse, most notably, the former a major figure of Puritan Cambridge and the latter the moderator of the Westminster Assembly. Romans 9 does not teach that God makes trash cans along with beautiful things more comfortably displayed. It teaches that out of the same lump God makes some men for perdition (Esau) and others for salvation (Jacob). The same thing is taught explicitly by passages like Prov. 16:4 - "The Lord has made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of doom." The existence of Judas Iscariot was predicted by the Psalmist a thousand years before Iscariot lived (Ps. 41:9), and no prophecy would be fulfilled except for God's meticulous, intentional providence. God ordained that Iscariot be who and what he was, as Iscariot was critical to the plan for history.

This classical Calvinist view also answers the problem you (with admirable honesty) confess to remain mystified by: the source of Adam's original sin. As with all that transpires, the source of Adam's fall was and is God's intentional design. And as with all God's intentional designs carried out by meticulous providence, none of them ever violates human freedom or erodes human responsibility. Adam sinned by choice, deserved his punishment, and perfectly executed God's eternal plan, all in one stroke.

A word on common grace, where your friend is truly mistaken. The fact that common grace results in greater condemnation (something the Bible clearly teaches) does not mean common grace is therefore not common grace. Common grace must be truly gracious in order to effect this greater condemnation. In other words, part of the increased culpability of the wicked is that they have despised the truly gracious overtures of God toward them, including His overtures through the evangelistic witness of the faithful. But both the overture through a faithful man and the despising of it by a wicked man are by God's explicit, meticulous design. This is classical Calvinism, not hyper-Calvinism.

donsands said...

"Can God not be said to be responsible for Pharaoh's evil"

No more than the evil of the killing of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Though God did preordain it to happen.

Jonathan G. said...

Great Post! What a wonderful thing is common grace!

More importantly, however...What on earth is wrong with that cat, man!? Did he have a run in with a disgruntled cat groomer?

cwblogger said...

uuummmmmm - Turducken!

Cent:

You wrote "So God makes us with a sinful nature, and therefore we choose to sin." I have never heard anyone teach that before. I have always heard that God made Adam and Eve and pronounced them "good," just like the rest of His creation. Do you have any further comments on this? I would love to hear/read more about this.

Phil:

Thanks for clarifying the intent of Romans 9. I admittedly end up asking the same question: "That works for Pharaoh, but what about Adam?" Your point cleared that up. Thank you for taking the time to post and respond to some of the questions. BTW, we in one28 are stoked about the 08SR!

Grace said...

When big words like "supralapsarianism" get thrown around, I have to break out google.

The first entry to show up was this website:
http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/sup_infr.htm

I didn't read d.r. booker's or dave crater's comments in full because a few sentences made my brain hurt, but I believe Phil has done his homework and knows the differences.

Phil Johnson said...

Robert:

Your comment is too long for me to answer without devoting a whole post to it. Perhaps I'll do that eventually, but I can't do it today.

So the bottom-line short answer to your question is this: What God has decreed isn't a valid gauge for measuring what He "desires."

Optative expressions (language describing a wish or a desire) pose a whole set of problems when applied to God. (That's true for Arminians and Calvinists alike. The only system I know of that avoids this problem is Open Theism's notion of a non-sovereign god for whom the future remains an unsettled mystery.)

However (granting an anthropopathic use of the expression "desire"), I think it's a serious mistake to assume that God's decrees and His "desires" are equipollent.

God often expresses a desire for that which He has not decreed. For example, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says it's the will of God that His people abstain from fornication. We know He didn't intervene to keep David from fornicating with Bathsheba, so some greater purpose than His immediate desire regarding what David ought to do must have been the reason why God Himself did not step in and bring about what He desired in David's case. That greater purpose isn't fully revealed to us in full, living Technicolor, so beyond what the Bible does say about it, it's really none of our business. But the fact that God didn't sovereignly keep David from sinning certainly does not mean God was pleased with David's behavior. Scripture expressly states otherwise (2 Samuel 11:27).

Now, unless you want to impute insincerity to God (as hyper-Calvinists sometimes do) or deny His power to intervene in the affairs of His creation (which is the answer atheists and open theists propose—and Arminians often seem to hint at), you've got to find a way to explain how God can legitimately express a well-meant "desire" for something He could have sovereignly decreed but clearly did not bring to pass.

My answer: God's eternal decrees are not driven by His immediate desires and preferences regarding what we should do in any given isolated situation. His decrees are first and foremost about what He does and what ULTIMATELY fulfills His own good pleasure.

Whatever happens along the way—right down to the finest details—is likewise in perfect accord with His plan, and I therefore must affirm as all Calvinists do that He determines whatsoever comes to pass. But that doesn't necessarily imply that He takes pure, undiluted delight in every detail of whatsoever comes to pass. And it doesn't make Him the efficient cause or author of the evil.

For instance, God's decree to permit the fall (and a host of subsequent disasters stemming from the fall) doesn't mean He formally approved of or desired or was pleased with Adam's disobedience and all its evil consequences. It simply means those things were included in His perfect plan from the start and they will ultimately result in the fulfillment of all His good pleasure. Classic Arminians (not the bastardized types who result from the mingling of Arminianism with elements of process theology) have generally agreed with Calvinists on that much.

Or in simpler words, God's "good pleasure" with respect to evil always lies in its ultimate defeat, not in its immediate effects and consequences. So let's be cautious about making an absolute equivalency between what God has decreed and what He "desires."

The actual reason why God decreed this or that disaster is a secret, and again we are forbidden to probe too deeply into the question (Deuteronomy 29:29). But the questions you are raising cannot be satisfactorily answered by either Calvinist or Arminian without some recourse to the distinction theologians have historically made between the preceptive (revealed) and decretive (hidden) aspects of God's will. John Piper has a great article on this subject.

D.R. Brooker and Dave Crater:

Where in this post did I even mention supralapsarianism, much less equate it with hyper-Calvinism?

The one place online where I have expressly dealt with supralapsarianism, practically the first thing I said about it was that it's not necessarily hyper-Calvinism. So the "mistakes" you're pointing out are not only not "spot-on," they are completely off-topic.

Grace said...

And thank you for the thorough explanation, Phil. I now have a better understanding of the logical order of God's eternal decrees.

I also have a headache. :-)

cwblogger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Libbie said...

I've come to understand it as the difference in intention. What God ordains, He does so in perfectly good intent.

Our intentions in the act ordained may be evil, but the Lord's never are. But I have a headache after reading this thread through, too.

Sewing said...

This post ties in very much to the general trend of my reading and thinking and this weekend's sermon at church. In Deuteronomy 31:16-21, God says, in so many words, speaking of the second generation who weren't even the grumbling, golden-calf-worshipping, quail-overindulging cheerleaders in the Sinai wilderness—that they will invariably, inevitably fall away, not long after they set foot in the Promised Land. "For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give" (31:21). Moses then echoes Him a few verses later: "For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death!"

It totally reminded me of Romans 3:10-18, including Paul's quoting of Psalms 14:1-3 and/or 53:1-3: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

We are just naturally, pathologically inclined to sin. As one of our pastors explained to me yesterday, the Law shows how we should be as creatures created in God's image; but because of the sin of rebellion against God's decrees (i.e., Genesis 3), it is an ideal we can never attain. We are powerless to redeem ourselves, and stand convicted by the Law. There is only one fate that any of us deserve.

But the Good News really is Good News: the Lord God gave His Only Son Jesus Christ as an atonement for our sins, so that any who believe in Him will not perish, and instead have eternal life. Because of our natural inclination to disobey and rebel against God, we will never turn to Him of our own volition, but the Greatest News of all is God's grace, worked out through the Holy Spirit, in turning us sinners towards God.

Now, a question: Could we say that in making us in His image—as creatures who would end up being brought back to Him in love and thanksgiving—He needed to give us certain qualities that would invariably lead to rebellion and an attempt to assert our independence from (i.e., disobedience of) Him?

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, by the way. And I like the idea of the Johnson family's Thanksgiving pizza.

Ruth said...

Perfect post! There has been a discussion going on in a certain Facebook group about exactly this topic. The timing of this post could not be better!!

--Ruth

Phil Johnson said...

D.R. Brooker: "Not really. For from the hand of God they would receive "good things" and yet not acknowledge the Giver of these things for them; hence, their guilt increases before God."

Dave Crater: "The fact that common grace results in greater condemnation (something the Bible clearly teaches) . . ."

It's true that to whom much has given much shall be required, and therefore the more of God's goodness and privilege a person spurns, the more he adds to his final condemnation (cf. John 19:11; Romans 2:4-5).

However, I still maintain that because common grace does so much to stem the full expression of human evil, it will thereby ultimately results in a cumulatively lesser judgment across the board for humanity. Pick the vilest human culture you can imagine and subtract the restraining grace of God from that society; it would be a billion times worse.

D. R. Brooker: "even a general benevolence towards the reprobate is done to restrain them for the benefit of the elect."

Well, that's certainly one reason God restrains the evil of the reprobate. But with all due respect, you have absolutely zero biblical authority for insisting that's God's only purpose for restraining evil. As a matter of fact, that position seems an implicit denial of Psalm 145:9: "The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works."

Dave Crater: "This classical Calvinist view also answers the problem you (with admirable honesty) confess to remain mystified by: the source of Adam's original sin. As with all that transpires, the source of Adam's fall was and is God's intentional design."

I agree it was God's "intentional design." But as I've already pointed out, the fact that God planned and decreed everything doesn't make Him the efficient cause or author of the evil that comes to pass. To assume that is to take a facile view of all the pertinent Scriptures, as well as a simplistic view of causation.

Since Scripture expressly denies that God is or could ever be the source of human evil (James 1:13), believers are obliged to avoid that conclusion in their systematics. Classic Calvinism has carefully sought to do that.

In fact, let's have Calvin speak for himself:

"[Humanity] falls, divine providence so ordaining, but he falls by his own fault. The Lord had a little before declared that all the things which he had made were very good, (Gen. 1:31.) Whence then the depravity of man, which made him revolt from God? Lest it should be supposed that it was from his creation, God had expressly approved what proceeded from himself.

"Therefore man's own wickedness corrupted the pure nature which he had received from God, and his ruin brought with it the destruction of all his posterity. Wherefore, let us in the corruption of human nature contemplate the evident cause of condemnation, (a cause which comes more closely home to us,) rather than inquire into a cause hidden and almost incomprehensible in the predestination of God.

"Nor let us decline to submit our judgment to the boundless wisdom of God, so far as to confess its insufficiency to comprehend many of his secrets. Ignorance of things which we are not able, or which it is not lawful to know, is learning, while the desire to know them is a species of madness" (Institutes III.23.8).

Dave Crater said...

Phil: Our comments are very much on-topic, but do forgive me if I misunderstood what you were saying. In the first paragraph of your post, you bring up a fellow whom you say espouses hyper-Calvinism, then you say, "He was convinced that God is as active in making the reprobate wicked as He is in conforming the elect to the image of Christ." The idea this fellow is advocating is double-predestination, which is not hyper-calvinism. If you did not mean to say it is, but were just mentioning his hyper-calvinism as an unrelated "by the way" kind of thing, then my sincere apologies for misunderstanding. Hyper-calvinism means something very specific: the idea that evangelism is incompatible with predestination. Since evangelism and its relation to predestination are certainly not the subject of your post, I thought you were saying this guy believes in double-predestination because he's a hyper-calvinist.

Mr. Brooker is on-topic to raise the lapsarian issue because, even though you didn't raise it by name, you take an infralapsarian position when you say things like, "Left to its own, the clay would harden." Actually, this is something an Arminian could also say, as the Calvinist believes there is nothing in the cosmos left to its own. But since we know you are a Calvinist, I, at least, assumed you were suggesting the infralapsarian belief that God's electing action occurs with sin as a prior given. I.e., sin is in some sense already a hardening influence at work when God acts to redeem. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what you were suggesting, was it not?) The supralapsarian, by contrast, believes God's electing action occurs prior to the existence of sin ("before the foundation of the world"), and thus would never say something like, "Left to its own, the clay would harden." If the clay hardens, or if Pharaoh's heart hardens, it is God who hardens it.

I know this may seem like tedious theological hairsplitting to some, and there is certainly such a thing. But there is also such as thing as theological precision, and this whole cluster of issues is unavoidable if we would get at the root of the meaning of common grace, election, reprobation, and the problem of evil. It is deep water, to be sure, and I almost agree with Phil when he says the origin of Adam's sinful desire is the toughest theological question that exists. I say "almost" because I think the origin of Adam's sinful desire is very clearly God Himself. Nothing happens, good or evil, without its ultimate cause in God. God is the ultimate cause of the devil himself. The really thorny question is how God can be the ultimate cause of this evil and the agents of evil, and not be culpable for having done evil Himself. As Dr. Mohler has said, all theology at its root is a search for theodicy.

centuri0n said...

| You wrote "So God makes us with a
| sinful nature, and therefore we choose
| to sin." I have never heard anyone
| teach that before. I have always heard
| that God made Adam and Eve and
| pronounced them "good," just like the
| rest of His creation. Do you have any
| further comments on this? I would
| love to hear/read more about this.

There is no question -- not any question whatsoever -- that Adam and Eve were created in a state which God Himself called "very good". And in that, Adam was made without sin, but chose to sin. When Adam sinned, all things about mankind changed. Man was no longer innocent or right with God but in sin, and cursed by sin.

I can get back to you and give you the Scriptures that underscore this truth, (I have to run to soccer tonight, so I'll be back) but we do –not- become sinners because we eventually sin: we are born as sinners, and therefore we sin. In that, we are created by God not as totally innocent creatures who are in danger of sinning, but we are in fact sinners who will inevitably sin – we are sinful from birth, and we do in sin what we are in nature.

That's Romans 5, or 1 Cor 15. Man is a sinner, and therefore he sins.

Dave Crater said...

Phil: Your excellent quote from Calvin does not say the efficient cause of Adam's sin is not in God. It says we should confine our attention to the "evident" cause (Adam's nature) and not inquire into the deeper and "incomprehensible" cause which that nature and all its actions must always have found in God. So far from denying that such a cause existed, Calvin is saying (not without warrant) that it is simply too deep for us to plumb. But this exhortation by nature assumes the cause exists, and it is statements like this by Calvin that are the origin of the classical Calvinistic belief in double-predestination. God makes the wicked for the day of doom, God makes Pharaoh's heart hard, God makes Judas Iscariot what he is, and God makes Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery ("You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good"). All of reality, all action, all being, find their cause in God. This is not a simplistic view of causation, but an accurate and biblical one.

mike rucker said...
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Phil Johnson said...

Dave Crater: "This is not a simplistic view of causation, but an accurate and biblical one."

On the contrary, Dave, if you're suggesting that God is the efficient cause of evil, you either need to re-examine the biblical evidence, think your position through again, or learn the difference between "final cause" and "efficient cause" in Aristotle's taxonomy of causation. Perhaps all of the above.

Because if you understand what "efficient cause" means and you are teaching that God is the efficient cause of evil, that's a very serious error.

Phil Johnson said...

Dave Crater: "The idea this fellow is advocating is double-predestination, which is not hyper-calvinism."

No, the idea he was advocating is equal ultimacy, which is indeed a form of hyper-Calvinism.

Phil Johnson said...

Dave Crater: "Hyper-calvinism means something very specific: the idea that evangelism is incompatible with predestination."

I've read most of the major published works on hyper-Calvinism ranging from Iain Murray to Peter Toon to David Engelsma. I've also read several unpublished academic works on the subject. And I don't know of a single serious student of the subject that would accept your definition.

dec said...

...because I think the origin of Adam's sinful desire is very clearly God Himself.

God created Adam with a capability for sin, and God warned him not to use that capability. So when Adam ignored that warning and sinned, God was not the origin of his sin.

Mike Riccardi said...

That doesn't sound too bad at first blush, dec, but it seems way too simple. :o) What do the others think of this?

Also, Phil (and Frank and Dan)... would it be wrong to assume that you do indeed believe in 'double predestination'?

Fascinating stuff, by the way. This does indeed plumb the very depths. It's in discussions like these, though, that we have to remember to end up with the Romans Doxology... not as a cop-out for not having the answer, but simply to avoid approaching God in a uniformly academic way.

We do need to feel small in this discussion. Small, sinful, undeserving of what we have, grateful, overflowing with thanksgiving, and -- I think most of all -- loving the glory of God in all of this. After all, that is the answer to the "why" questions: Because in this way God is glorified to the utmost; i.e., His glory is on maximum display.

So let this not be an expedition for head knowledge, which will pass away, but into the very glory of God in the face of Jesus! And in the same way, then, let us not become weary in these things, get all mushy and cop-out, and call this 'theology' stuff unimportant or unnecessary. For it is the glory of the God of the universe that we're after!

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Robert said...

Hello Phil,

Thank you for your response.

”Optative expressions (language describing a wish or a desire) pose a whole set of problems when applied to God.”

I believe some exaggerate the problems with “optative expressions” in scripture. If we cannot trust what He says in these kinds of expressions to be true, then we are in a lot of trouble and a sea of confusion.

”However (granting an anthropopathic use of the expression "desire"), I think it's a serious mistake to assume that God's decrees and His "desires" are equipollent.”

You assume that He has decreed every event, or “whatsoever comes to pass”, and it is this assumption that then leads to contradictions between what He expresses in his moral will/scripture and what He really wants to occur according to His sovereign or secret will. You have God saying to do or not to do certain things (the moral will expressed in scripture which is supposed to be our standard and rule for living the Christian life) and then decreeing something entirely different in line with the secret will.

What would we say of a work situation where the manual written by the boss says one thing, but the actual practices and plans of the boss in the workplace, continually goes opposite the manual? In such a situation we would neither trust the manual or the manager. Similarly, scripture is clear that God hates divorce and expects marriage commitments to last a lifetime (moral will, optative declarations). But then if He predetermines every event, then every divorce, and sadly there are plenty these days, occurs just as planned by the secret will (what actually occurs in history, what is necessary and cannot be otherwise).

“For example, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says it's the will of God that His people abstain from fornication. We know He didn't intervene to keep David from fornicating with Bathsheba, so some greater purpose than His immediate desire regarding what David ought to do must have been the reason why God Himself did not step in and bring about what He desired in David's case.”

God wills that His people abstain from sexual immorality (that is what He really wants, and He says so, clearly). But Christians have at least on occasion the capacity to make choices and choose to disobey God’s commands. Their disobedience is chosen by them and they are responsible for it.

“But the fact that God didn't sovereignly keep David from sinning certainly does not mean God was pleased with David's behavior. Scripture expressly states otherwise (2 Samuel 11:27).”

It is His prerogative as to how He acts in every situation. That is what sovereignty means: He does as He pleases in each and every situation and is accountable to no one else but Himself. In David’s case he did not prevent David from sinning, but in the case of Abimelech God did prevent him from sinning (Gen. 20:6). That perfectly demonstrates his sovereignty, in one situation he did something and in another he did not, in both situations it was up to Him what He would do or not do. But note carefully acknowledging this biblical conception of God’s sovereignty is not the same as claiming that every event is determined. One can affirm one without affirming the other.

”Now, unless you want to impute insincerity to God (as hyper-Calvinists sometimes do) or deny His power to intervene in the affairs of His creation (which is the answer atheists and open theists propose—and Arminians often seem to hint at), you've got to find a way to explain how God can legitimately express a well-meant "desire" for something He could have sovereignly decreed but clearly did not bring to pass.”

I do not impute insincerity to God whatsoever. I believe that when he speaks in the optative, that is really and actually what He wants to occur. If it does not occur, it is because someone has chosen to disobey the Lord in some way. God says that he desires for all to be saved (2 Tim. 2:4-6). God is sovereign He could have created all human beings so that they did exactly what he wanted them to do at all times and so they all got saved (actually in your system He created people and predetermines their every move and thought, though He could save them all He intentionally damns most of them to eternal punishment and makes these selections before they ever exist on the earth). If the goal was to do this, He could have done this, assuming that the human beings did not have free will.

But He also desired to create human persons to be capable of doing their own actions, having and making their own choices. This was His sovereign will, His desire for the human “design plan” so nothing and no one was going to stop him from creating human persons in this way. Since we are created like this, and are like this, He can command us to do something and for various reasons we can choose to disobey His commands. So while he could have created a world of “robots” who all obeyed perfectly and all got saved, he did not choose to actualize such a world.

He created a world much more messy, where people, lots of them, actively rebel and disobey his commands and go against His optatives. Even his own people (whether the Jews in the OT, or the Christians in the NT) freely choose to disobey his commands and go against his optatives. So if you allow for freely chosen actions into your account, it is easy to explain how while God could have sovereignly set it up so His optatives were always obeyed, he in fact set things up so that His optatives are often and regularly disobeyed.

Is our “free will” free from God’s sovereignty? NO, when He has a purpose in mind in a specific situation no one can thwart his goal from being achieved. And here is the key: He does not decree all events, all events are not His purposes which He will definitely accomplish regardless of other beings actions.

”Whatever happens along the way—right down to the finest details—is likewise in perfect accord with His plan, and I therefore must affirm as all Calvinists do that He determines whatsoever comes to pass. But that doesn't necessarily imply that He takes pure, undiluted delight in every detail of whatsoever comes to pass. And it doesn't make Him the efficient cause or author of the evil.”

This is the problem: exhaustive determinism. Now if you want to suggest that some events are predetermined (e.g. the crucifixion of Jesus, Acts 2 and 4), no problem with that, the bible clearly affirms that some events fall under this description. The problem is when you want to believe that every event without exception is determined. When you make that move in the game, the implication that follows is that every event is in fact exactly what God desires to occur according to the secret will. In the secret will he ordains/predetermines every means and every ends, just like the author of a play determines every detail of his play.

”For instance, God's decree to permit the fall (and a host of subsequent disasters stemming from the fall) doesn't mean He formally approved of or desired or was pleased with Adam's disobedience and all its evil consequences.”

The language of permission only makes sense when libertarian free will is involved. If I create and predetermine every link in the chain, then the consequences are not merely “permitted” they are determined. If I set up the dominoes, and they fall exactly as I had planned, when they fall they did not fall by mere “permission.” They were determined to fall.

”Or in simpler words, God's "good pleasure" with respect to evil always lies in its ultimate defeat, not in its immediate effects and consequences. So let's be cautious about making an absolute equivalency between what God has decreed and what He "desires."”

I believe in the **ultimate defeat of evil** that is what the second coming, final judgment, new heavens and new earth, glorified bodies, separation of the sheep and the goats is all about. But that is not exhaustive determinism. This separation between what God does ultimately and what we do immediately or proximately, is not a problem if you acknowledge the reality of libertarian free will, of agent causation. You believe that God predetermines every event, every means, every end, and so the distinction between ultimate and proximate collapses, disappears, is subsumed under the sovereign secret plan of God.

“. John Piper has a great article on this subject.”

I have read Piper’s article and it simply presents the Calvinist conception of the secret and moral wills. But if exhaustive determinism is true, then these two wills often conflict and contradict one another, just like that manager that supposedly wants us to follow the optatives of his manual.

Robert

Johnny Dialectic said...

Phil, I don't think distinctions between "final" and "efficient" solve the problem of ultimate responsibilty for sin and evil.

So-called "second causes" cannot be distinguished from God’s own causation since they have been infallibly decreed (or so it is believed by Calvinists) by God for the VERY PURPOSE of producing the specific effects he has decreed.

Cottrell states: "Thus to say that the human will, when it chooses to sin, is the second or proximate cause of the sin, in no way relieves God of the responsibility for the sin. If God causes the cause, he also causes the effect."

SolaMeanie said...

In true Solameanie fashion, let me ask a question that might well throw a spanner in the works. Before I do that, let me say that I have struggled over this question myself, and as a five-point Calvinist (I wish I had some other label), I have arrived at a relative point of peace. However . . .

Scripture says that we are not to "cast our pearls before swine, lest they turn and trample you underfoot." The world's standards say that election, reprobation etc. is unfair. However, under God's standards such concepts are perfectly just. Our finite human minds can't grasp how, but believing minds have a better time of it than do unbelieving minds. Is it best to discuss "family business" openly on the Internet, especially considering the time/space limits the Internet/blogging imposes? Just asking.

That all aside, here's my take. God is sovereign and Creator of all, and He has foreknowledge of all that will be, because He dwells outside time. There is a mystery between God's foreknowledge and man's will. But given the struggle between man's will and God's will, I have to give the weight to God's will. He can declare His power and the end from the beginning, and yet still justly hold man responsible for what he/she does. We can look at the example of Satan. Unrighteousness was found in him, although he was created "perfect."

None of this took God by surprise. He knew it and indeed, foreordained it. However, this does not make Him directly responsible for sin. It's a mystery, and we won't understand it this side of eternity. But when all is said and done (I refuse to say "at the end of the day" because I am sick of that expression), God will be proven righteous and just.

Phil Johnson said...

Mike Riccardi: "Also, Phil (and Frank and Dan)... would it be wrong to assume that you do indeed believe in 'double predestination'?"

The others can speak for themselves, but my answer would depend on what you mean by "double predestination." If you mean simply that the destination of elect and reprobate alike were determined and settled in eternity past by the decree of God, yes, I hold that view.

Too often, however, that term is used (as Dave Crater did in an earlier comment) to describe the very idea I am arguing against in the above post: the mistaken notion that God is equally active and personally involved in the same sense whether He is making the reprobate evil (which I deny He does at all) or conforming the elect to the likeness of Christ.

R. C. Sproul differentiates the latter view by calling it "equal ultimacy."

To be perfectly honest, that term is not without its difficulties, either. It has likewise been used ambiguously by some very fine theologians. If I recall correctly, John Murray—certainly no hyper-Calvinist—defended "equal ultimacy," but he seemed to be using the term merely as a synonym for "double predestination" as I have described it above.

If I'm not mistaken, Murray was actually arguing against the irrational view held by some in the neo-orthodox camp of his day who taught that God's election secures the destiny of the elect, but His act of preterition (His passing over of the rest in His decree of election) does not necessarily condemn to reprobation those whom God does not elect.

In other words, when Murray argued for the idea he labeled "equal ultimacy," He was not suggesting that God is the active, efficient Cause who makes the reprobate evil. He was saying merely that God's choice in election determines unchangeably the destiny of the lost as well as the saved.

Some will find this whole discussion hard to follow and arcane. I'm sorry about that. I wasn't intending to get into discussions about supralapsarianism, equal ultimacy, and Aristotle's taxonomy of causation.

Ah, well.

Incidentally, the Wikipedia article on hyper-Calvinism is a pretty good, short, clear treatment. My own article on the subject, published a few years ago by Sword and Trowel in the UK, is linked at the bottom of the Wiki.

Johnny Dialectic: "Phil, I don't think distinctions between 'final' and 'efficient' solve the problem of ultimate responsibility for sin and evil. So-called 'second causes' cannot be distinguished from God’s own causation since they have been infallibly decreed (or so it is believed by Calvinists) by God for the VERY PURPOSE of producing the specific effects he has decreed.

Yeah, I know that's what you think. That's why you are an Arminian. Unfortunately for your argument, though, that taxonomy of causation dates back to Aristotle. It was not the invention of some Calvinist who was merely trying to explain away your objections. So it's not an idea that was artificially devised to "solve the problem of ultimate responsibility for sin and evil." It was an intelligent thinker's observation about the various ways things are caused.

And, even more impossible for you, in order to make your case, you are going to have to do more than merely assert that it doesn't "solve the problem." You're going to have to explain why the final cause of any action always bears the moral guilt for whatever evil lies in the action, because that is the claim your whole position hinges on.

But for me to make my case, all I have to do is supply one counterfactual, demonstrating how the "final cause" in a disaster or act of evil is not to blame for the evil in the act. And that's pretty easy to do, actually.

Bill Gnade said...

DEC, et al,

But if God created choice, and if He created Adam, and if He created the Serpent and Eve and the Fruit and everything else, surely one could argue that He is responsible for the Fall. Adam and Eve surely could have said to God, "Fine. Blame us. But we didn't choose to be created in the first place. That was Your choice to do that."

PHIL,

Re: the clay analogy, I think any potter will tell you that unused, unshaped clay is not at all worthless: without it, there is no pot, no urn, no mug or plate. Raw gold is not worthless to the goldsmith, raw silver is not worthless to the silversmith, and clay in a lump is not worthless to the thrower of clay. In fact, artisans often reject their creations, claiming they've dishonored the very material they've pulled from the earth. Worthless things are those things that have no potential. Clay as a medium has potential as long as it has not lost its plasticity due to firing. Lumps of clay are eagerly purchased by potters everyday.

So, if God is the potter and we are the clay, there can be no worthless clay -- unless that clay has already passed through the fire.

You wrote:

The one really tough question applies exclusively to Adam: How did he fall in the first place? Where did the evil intention in his heart come from?… Calvin… basically said we don't know where Adam's evil desire came from, but it must have come from within Adam, because it couldn't be God's fault.

But is not the message of the crucifixion that God has taken the blame for everything? If so, does that not mean even the origins of sin? Surely it must, or we are left with something of Adam's and Eve's for which Christ has not yet atoned. Christ not only takes the punishment, no, but also the blame? Or is the blame still not nailed to the Cross?

Moreover, you mention Aristotle's very fine four causes. What was the formal cause in creation? Was it Eden, Paradise, and wedded bliss in innocence? Or was the formal cause the Crucifixion/Resurrection, and the glorification not just of Christ, but of His Bride?

I cannot read every comment here; I've tried, but there are too many. So if you've addressed what I've posted here, then please forgive me.

Peace to you,

Gnade

Dave Crater said...

Phil: First let me say for good measure, since these topics can really tend to get people worked up, that I discuss them entirely good naturedly as a Christian brother and a big fan of your work. Thanks for all you do and continue to do for the Christian church. And since you are constantly having to put up with inane personal vitriol from emergent nuts and other nuts of all flavors, let me say I owe you a personal debt I will never be able to repay because of your mediating (efficiently causing?) work in bringing Dr. MacArthur's work to the Church. I've never met you, but - not being sentimental here - I get emotional just writing this, as I do expressing gratitude to all the people who have no idea who I am but who have been used by God over the years to reveal Himself to me in a deeply personal way, to save me, and to build my faith. Your life, like Dr. MacArthur's, has been a triumph in the best and most powerful traditions of authentic Christian faith. I sincerely thank you and thank God for you, and hope you finish the race as strong, manly, and unwavering as you are now.

Now, let me put my post in the form of (sincere, non-rhetorical) questions to you, in the hope of finding exactly where we are apart:

1. The efficient cause, both in Aristotelian and biblical categories, is the cause which brings something about. God says of and to Pharaoh in Rom. 9, "For this cause [i.e., final cause] I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you." Amos says, "If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?" (Amos 3:6) Isaiah says, "The one forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these." (Is. 45:7). Scores of other similar passages could be multiplied. My question: if this is not efficient causation God is claiming, what kind of causation is it?

2. In Prov. 16:4, "The Lord has made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of doom," what is your position on what the Hebrew word "made" means, and how does it differ from a word that would describe an efficient cause? I.e., the English says God made the wicked. If this does not mean God is the efficient cause, what is it saying of God; who is in fact the efficient cause; and have the English translators made a mistake of some kind that is misleading me? (I trust we agree the wicked cannot be the efficient cause of themselves.)

3. If God did in fact wish to call Himself the efficient cause of evil and calamity in the passages above, what would He have had to say that He did not in fact say? I.e., in what words would that meaning have to be expressed in order for it to be clear?

4. In a few sentences, what is the definition of hyper-calvinism?

5. What is the difference between equal ultimacy and double predestination?

6. Do you believe God can be the efficient cause of an event at the same time the human agents He uses to bring about that event are, in a different sense, also efficient causes? If so, do you believe moral culpability can differ between God and man's actions in such a case?

My Daily Bread said...

In your first paragraph, you write:

“A fellow who espouses hyper-Calvinism wrote me to argue that there is no such thing as "common grace." He insisted that God's "apparent goodness" to the reprobate has no other purpose than to increase their condemnation. He was convinced that God is as active in making the reprobate wicked as He is in conforming the elect to the image of Christ. And for "proof," he cited Romans 5: 20. "The law entered that the offense might abound."”

I would like to make these observations and ask some questions.

Hyper-Calvinism concerns whether God saves men independently of the gospel, not the extend of predestination.

High Calvinism is a better term for those who believe in the absolute predestination of all things (or infralapsarianism).

A denial of “common grace” is not integral to High or Hyper Calvinism.

“No other purpose”

Are you affirming both purposes?

A) To restrain sin and lesson judgment, and B) to not restrain and thus increase both sin and judgment?

Can they both be purposes of God? Or, does one exclude the other, in your mind?

“Is as active”

Are you affirming that God is not active at all in the sins of the reprobate? Or, just less active? How do you distinguish and measure the two?

Are you trying to uphold the position that God is not in any way a cause of a man’s sin?

Are you trying to say he is in no way responsible for the evil in the world?

I agree with you on the purpose of the giving of the law.

Since you believe that God can and does restrain men in the commission of their sins, would it not be logical to say that the amount of sin in the world is in due proportion to the amount of restraints he imposes?

Yes, common grace and other restraints on a man’s sinning, will decrease the amount of sin that man commits, and thus his judgment. But, for God to decide, in a given instance, not to give greater restraint, does this decision not increase the amount of sin and judgment?

I disagree with you that the clay is “fallen humanity.” I believe that this view has been successfully shown to be false by many great Calvinist writers, like A. W. Pink (Baptist) and Jonathan Edwards.

I do not think you have given any satisfactory answer on the “problem of evil,” but have left it a problem.

Brother Phil, God made the clay as well as shaped it into what it ultimately becomes. If the clay was self created and self made, why do the vessels of wrath say to God, “why have you made me thus?” Would Paul not have responded with “no, you made yourselves” if he were of your view?

You said:

“God exercises His sovereignty over an evil heart very much like that. The heart of Pharaoh was in God's hands so that He could turn it whithersoever He willed (Proverbs 21: 1)”

If so, does this not make God in some respect responsible? In some way a cause of the event? Would not any lawyer argue such in court?

Yes, it does not make the one committing the crime non-responsible, nor does it make God non-responsible. Both are “responsible” in their own way. It is interesting how we throw around terms like fault, guilt, blame, cause, responsible, accountable, etc.

Okay, granted; God uses at least two “methods” in how he hardens men’s hearts. But, does that mean it is not he who is doing it, after all is said?

If sin or evil occurs when God removes light (common grace, or whatever), then how does this exonerate God from all causality? If I were in court for an evil, an evil that was the result of my turning out the lights, would that remove me from all responsibility?

Some would argue that the method whereby God’s judgment upon a particular sin brings on greater sins, does not remove God from all responsibility in the increased sin from the judgment inflicted. Could God not have chosen to restrain rather than bring a kind of judgment that increases a man’s sin?

Okay, God took the evil that was already in the heart of Pharoah and channeled it. But, channeled it how? Did his channeling of it in any way bring on additional sin in Pharoah?

You said that God “used Pharaoh's evil designs to accomplish God's good purposes.”

Was God just reacting to Pharoah as a trouble-shooter? If God used Pharoah’s sin for good purposes, it seems like you have the answer to the “problem of evil.”

Yours in Christ,

Stephen M. Garrett.

Marie4thtimemom said...

Thanks Phil,

for exegating a difficult passage of Scripture. Some of these concepts are best understood with analogies such as the ones you've provided.

I agree that's one butt-ugly cat. The baby in the t-shirt is adorable, though.

dec said...

Bill Gnade
Adam and Eve surely could have said to God, "Fine. Blame us. But we didn't choose to be created in the first place. That was Your choice to do that."

Adam and Eve could not have said this to God because they were created as adults and not as teenagers. :-)

Seriously though, I don't like my argument because it attempts to excuse God, and God doesn't need me offering excuses. You are right, God could have created Adam without the capability to sin. So in the ultimate sense, God is responsible for his creation. So why did God do things this way? I trust God that His plan is the one way that glorifies God to the fullest.

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God,to receive glory and honor and power,for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Revelation 4:11

D.R. Brooker said...

Boy, sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and you're miles behind in a good discussion.

You wrote to me: So the "mistakes" you're pointing out are not only not "spot-on," they are completely off-topic.

As soon as you asserted the lumps of clay in Romans 9 are "fallen lumps," you, obviously inadvertantly, introduced the categories. The whole of Romans 9 does not support your statement that these lumps were indeed fallen.

I've read your essay on hyper-Calvinism and agree with you on #'s 1 and 2. But on #'s 3 to 5 I disagree. (Would you call AW Pink or Gordon Clark hyper-C's?) They may lead one there, but they do not make one a HC in and of themselves; anymore than holding a universal love of God for all men makes one a Universalist.

Dave C has made some excellent points in his last point above. I'll sit back and watch you answer those and not complicate matters.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Hi Phil:

“Unfortunately for your argument, though, that taxonomy of causation dates back to Aristotle.”

This is mere argument from authority and does not, in any event, help you. You have misunderstood Aristotle on moral responsibility vis-à-vis causation (but if you can give me the sections to look up, I can, as I have Aristotle complete).

“You're going to have to explain why the final cause of any action always bears the moral guilt for whatever evil lies in the action, because that is the claim your whole position hinges on.”

The argument is axiomatic in the DEFINITION of “final cause,” in Aristotle or anywhere else. Aristotle states in Physics, II.8, that a final cause (in this case, nature) is “a cause that operates for a purpose.” Unless you are now arguing that God does not have a purpose, your position is sunk.

As I posted before: “If God causes the [secondary] cause, he also causes the effect.” Where does Aristotle say this is not so?

Phil Johnson said...

Bill Gnade: "I think any potter will tell you that unused, unshaped clay is not at all worthless: without it, there is no pot, no urn, no mug or plate."

Read again what I actually said: "useless for anything at all except in the hands of the heavenly Potter. Left alone, clay will harden into something permanently worthless."

Now, if you want to be really pedantic, you might argue that if the hardened lump of clay is the right size, it might make a good door stop. But people who nitpick analogies trying to score trivial, cheapo points against important precepts like the doctrine of total depravity are pretty annoying, and I'm certain you wouldn't do that, Bill.

Bill Gnade: "But is not the message of the crucifixion that God has taken the blame for everything?"

No, it definitely is not. Wherever did you get that idea?

Dave Crater: "My question: if this is not efficient causation God is claiming, what kind of causation is it?"

He is the First Cause and the Final Cause of everything, but never the efficient cause or proximate cause of evil. Classic Calvinism has always carefully made that argument (or an equivalent one). That's why in its definition of the eternal decree, the Westminster Confession makes a point of stressing "the liberty [and] contingency of second causes" and denies that God is the author of evil.

The statements in Isaiah 45:7 and Amos 3:6 are speaking of calamities that are the consequences of evil; not the ontological source of evil per se. The contexts make that clear. God may be the efficient cause of a calamity that is dealt out as a judgment in due recompense for evildoing, but He is not the source of wickedness per se. (More on this later.)

Dave Crater: "Prov. 16:4, 'The Lord has made all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of doom,' what is your position on what the Hebrew word 'made' means, and how does it differ from a word that would describe an efficient cause?"

The assertion that God made the wicked isn't even problematic. That's not what we disagree about. Of course God made them. He is their Creator and thus the efficient cause of their existence. But what you would need to make your point is a verse saying that God infused evil into them or directly caused their sin—i. e., that He made them evil. James 1:13 expressly says otherwise, so that view is fairly well sunk, I'd say. As Calvin suggested, we need to look for a different cause for human depravity rather than speculating that evil occurred by God's immediate causation.

Dave Crater: "(I trust we agree the wicked cannot be the efficient cause of themselves.)"

Well, sure. But again, the question never was about who created them. The question was about whose fault it is that they are evil, and where the evil intention in their will came from. Not to disagree with Frank Turk (something I would never do) but I thought the wording of his earlier comment was somewhat infelicitous. He said: "So God makes us with a sinful nature, and therefore we choose to sin."

I'd have said instead that God made Adam good; Adam fell; and we inherited our sinful nature from Adam. God created Adam; but He forms us in the womb by an act of procreation. There's an important distinction there, because we need to understand that our evil nature is not the product of His creative work. We know that, because when He finished creating, He pronounced all creation "very good." There was no evil in it.

The ontology of evil is admittedly problematic, but the Bible gives us no warrant for thinking of evil as part of God's creation. In fact, everything it does say about the issue points away from that possibility. (My contention would be that evil is not a created thing at all, but an act of destruction perpetrated by the creature.)

Dave Crater: "4. In a few sentences, what is the definition of hyper-calvinism?"

See my article on the subject. Sorry. I would have referred you to that article before, but I more or less assumed you were familiar with it. It was published about four years ago in Sword and Trowel, by the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

I also generally like the Wikipedia article on the subject, at least in its current form. People whom I presume have hyper-Calvinist leanings keep editing that article to try to soften it or qualify it into oblivion, but for the most part it is objective, dispassionate, easy to understand, and accurate.

Dave Crater: "What is the difference between equal ultimacy and double predestination?"

See my earlier comment on that with the link to Sproul's answer to your question. Note that some people do use those expressions interchangeably, so neither is really ideal. But Sproul's article is clear, and I am in complete agreement with him about what we should accept and what we should reject in the varying degrees of "double predestination"/"equal ultimacy."

Dave Crater: "Do you believe God can be the efficient cause of an event at the same time the human agents He uses to bring about that event are, in a different sense, also efficient causes? If so, do you believe moral culpability can differ between God and man's actions in such a case?"

I don't know quite what you mean. An event can have more than one simultaneous efficient cause. We might quibble about this, but I'm inclined to think that while a miracle is an example of God's direct and efficient causation, most simple acts of Providence usually have some other efficient or proximate cause. In any case, Scripture denies that God ever efficiently causes evil, so I'm inclined simply to take that claim at face value.

Moral culpability for evil always lies with the efficient cause; never with God. That's the whole point of all of this.

D. R. Brooker: "I've read your essay on hyper-Calvinism . . . Would you call AW Pink or Gordon Clark hyper-C's?"

See, if you had actually read that article on hyper-Calvinism with any care, you would have seen the answer to that question.

I've answered enough of these questions today. I'll add one thing:

I've noticed that in the vast mixture of all the subjects we discuss here at PyroManiacs, there are a few particularly volatile issues that we simply can't raise without attracting a bunch of super-obsessed commenters who virtually never weigh in on any other topic but suddenly have all the time in the world to write endless essays whenever their pet topic comes up. (There are some lurking charismatics who do the same thing, and a few no-lordship people.)

Those who find themselves scarcely dealing with any topic but one favorite issue ought to beware of becoming imbalanced—especially when the particular view they are so committed to lies at one extreme or another on the spectrum of opinions about some vital and historic doctrine that's always been controversial among people who are committed to the truth of Scripture. Usually, on issues like those, running to extremes is a very bad idea.

It's especially foolish and dangerous to think anyone can master Calvinism on the Internet in contexts where fresh-faced self-taught Calvinists vie with one another to see who can be more Calvinistic than thou—without ever even reading anyone such as Thomas Boston or Andrew Fuller. I hope no one who reads these threads is ever tempted to do that.

steve said...

It's especially foolish and dangerous to think anyone can master Calvinism on the Internet in contexts where fresh-faced self-taught Calvinists vie with one another to see who can be more Calvinistic than thou—without ever even reading anyone such as Thomas Boston or Andrew Fuller.

Phil--I know you said you're finished answering questions, but your statement above ties in to one thought that's been in the back of my mind all day--this is exactly what I don't want to do--try to refine my understanding of the many nuances in the Calvinism debate via the Internet.

With that in mind, could I ask you (or the other TeamPyro members) to suggest a reading list of, say, five resources that are a good starting place--resources that emphasize classic Calvinism as you've been careful to do here?

Right now I'm reading Lawson's Foundations of Grace and listening to John MacArthur's excellent series Doctrines of Grace. Any other suggestions?

With many thanks, in advance. This is a subject I've wanted to master better.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"Why would I argue that? My argument is much more sane than that: 1) If God's purpose is good; 2) He doesn't efficiently cause evil; and 3) He has no evil intention or design, then by definition He bears no moral culpability for the evil that men do. Joseph understood this perfectly (Genesis 50:20). Peter got it, too (Acts 2:23)."

That's ecause they weren't Calvinists. Nevertheless, you have begged the question. You have not proved premise #2; you used the argument from authority only.

"Incidentally, the simple definition of a "final cause" is "that for whose sake a thing is done." Technically, you could be the final cause of something and not even know it."

Which is the point: God cannot NOT know. What Aristotle pointed to in nature does not apply to God, and you certainly would never argue that.

So far I haven't seen an adequate defense of God's non-responsibility here, except via sonorous sounding theological phraseology (and that last is pretty sonorous too, I admit).

Indeed, I have not found a convincing defense anywhere, but then, that's why this debate has gone on as long as it has, and why I much prefer agreeing with you, which most of the time.

ddd said...

Phil:

If your correspondent has indeed said that, then he is wrong. However, I think the problem comes because we have people denying that God is personally involved in reprobation, while others think that just because God is personally involved means that he must be actively involved too.

Phil:

But I'm convinced Scripture teaches the kindness of the Creator includes a sincere plea for every sinner's repentance and a well-meant proposal of mercy that extends even to the reprobate. That's where you choke, I think.

Well, that's because I do not think that we should mix providence and redemption together in any fashion whatsoever.

Phil: I've noticed that in the vast mixture of all the subjects we discuss here at PyroManiacs, there are a few particularly volatile issues that we simply can't raise without attracting a bunch of super-obsessed commenters who virtually never weigh in on any other topic but suddenly have all the time in the world to write endless essays whenever their pet topic comes up. (There are some lurking charismatics who do the same thing, and a few no-lordship people.)

Sorrry, I can't resist this. Are we supposed to Amen every post in writing in which we agree with what you are saying? Rather, isn't it the case that we comment either when we either have something to add or when we disagree?

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny D: "The argument is axiomatic in the DEFINITION of 'final cause,' in Aristotle or anywhere else. Aristotle states in Physics, II.8, that a final cause (in this case, nature) is 'a cause that operates for a purpose.' Unless you are now arguing that God does not have a purpose, your position is sunk."

Why would I argue that? My argument is much more sane than that: 1) If God's own intention and design is perfectly good and in no way tainted with evil; 2) if He doesn't efficiently cause evil; and 3) if He doesn't in any sense approve or sanction the evil, then by definition He bears no moral culpability for the evil that men do. Joseph understood this perfectly (Genesis 50:20). Peter got it, too (Acts 2:23).

Incidentally, the simple definition of a "final cause" is "that for whose sake a thing is done." Technically, you could be the final cause of something and not even know it. For example, if someone robbed a bank because he wanted to give you the money to pay your debts, you would be the final cause of that evil deed, but as long as you were in no way complicit in the deed, the entire culpability lies with the robber himself, because he is both the efficient cause and the source of the underlying evil intention.

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny D:

Sorry. I fixed some typos and rewrote a clunky sentence, then reposted, which puts my post after your reply. If you want to fix your typos and repost, I'll delete your other post, which will put your reply back in its proper order.

D.R. Brooker said...

"I've noticed that in the vast mixture of all the subjects we discuss here at PyroManiacs, there are a few particularly volatile issues..."

With all due respect i think this thread has been anything but volatile. There's been good discussion despite the shock that we may not all agree on every topic. Thanks for the post nonetheless.

Phil Johnson said...

DDD: "If your correspondent has indeed said that, then he is wrong. However, I think the problem comes because we have people denying that God is personally involved in reprobation, while others think that just because God is personally involved means that he must be actively involved too."

Sorry. That's like saying Sabellianism is the problem that caused Arianism. In a sense, that's historically true, but it doesn't mean Arianism itself isn't a very serious problem, demanding our unqualified denunciation. Ideas propounded in reaction to heresies are frequently worse than the original error that sparks them. That's the case with many varieties of hyper-Calvinism.

DDD: "Sorrry, I can't resist this. Are we supposed to Amen every post in writing in which we agree with what you are saying? Rather, isn't it the case that we comment either when we either have something to add or when we disagree?"

Well, that's also a gross overreaction to what I actually said. If I really I need to explain why, you're not likely to accept the admonition anyway.

But I believe it's a fact that virtually the only times you have ever weighed in here have been when you wanted to make a point in favor of ultra-high Calvinism. You are welcome to keep doing that. I think I always respond. I'm not asking you to say amen to other posts or demanding that you must engage other topics; I'm simply pointing out a pattern that I think (together with the rather extreme trajectory of the opinions you defend) indicates a pretty strong imbalance. You can take that or leave it; I'm just giving my perception and explaining why.

Also, I wasn't really even targeting you in particular, but if the shoe fits, you're certainly entitled to comment about it.

Phil Johnson said...

D. R. Brooker:

Yeah, volatile wasn't the best choice of words. What I was trying to say was that certain topics are chronically controversial, not that the discussion threads here are necessarily ugly.

However, topics like that tend to draw certain hobbyists who gravitate to pet issues. They may very well argue their case politely, but I'm still suggesting it's not a healthy sign for someone to be so obsessed about a single topic—regardless of which side of the debate you're on.

ddd said...

Phil: Also, I wasn't really even targeting you in particular ...

Actually, I didn't feeel targeted, just decided to comment because that comment of yours was rather general. Besides, it's not like I do not comment on other stuff, but ISTM that when I do comment elsewhere, typically no response was made, perhaps because I was on the same side as most of you. (Well, except for Rick Ianniello)

centuri0n said...

Wow. I come back and there's all kinds of stuff to respond to.

Let me simply put in the scripture my previous comment lacked and then wonder if I should bother with disabusing people who take metaphors away from their useful context to create new theology ...

[1] Man is fallen: Gen 3, Rom 5

[2] God creates every man: John 1, Roman 9

[3] Sin is a result of sin nature: Mt 15

That's a broad brush. Let me know if you need something else.

Dave Crater said...

Phil: Thanks for being our target for the afternoon. You've been a great sport. Three rebuttal points and a final point about God's design in causing evil will be my last post on the subject.

1. James 1:13 says God is not tempted and does not tempt. This is not conclusive of anything except that God does not find evil attractive and does not present the option to the conscious mind of a human in the hope of seducing him. Indeed, because of His perfect power over temptation, He always provides a way of escape when we are tempted (I Cor. 10:13). Everything you say in a prior post about God not approving of or delighting in human evil is exactly true. We who believe His meticulous providence extends even to evil and reprobation are not saying God tempted Esau. We are saying, as the New Testament does, that God rejected him before he was even born, which is why he ended up living the life he lived (explicit teaching of Rom. 9:11).

2. The idea that God is the First cause and Final cause, but no cause in between, is not a biblical idea. God upholds and sustains, and causes the motion of, every atom in the cosmos from moment to moment. The devil lives from one moment to the next by God's explicit intent and ordination, and does the evil he does using the power and permission God gave him. Moreover, it's been pointed out well in prior posts that even if your notion were true, it would not explain why God is not culpable for evil. He set the whole thing in motion in the first place and is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in it. Guilt for evil does not lie solely with the efficient cause. The human mastermind of an evil plan is more, not less, culpable for the evil he designs than the efficient causes he employs to execute it.

3. Your point about common grace restraining the total quantity of sin in the world is excellent. Common grace both increases the condemnation of the wicked for the sin they do commit, and prevents them from committing additional sin they would otherwise be guilty of.

A final, cosmic point for those who may have never considered why God would ordain evil in the first place. Without evil, God's justice against evil men would never have been seen. Without evil, Christ would never have been seen in His obedience and redeeming power, for there is no need for a Redeemer in a world without sin. Without evil, the Holy Spirit would never have been revealed in all His regenerating, justifying, sanctifying action and glory. Without evil, God's special, saving, electing grace would never have been seen. Without evil - and here's the kicker - even Christ Himself would never have been perfected. Heb. 2:10 says it was fitting for the Father to perfect Christ through suffering. This does not mean Christ had sin; it means there was something even in His spotless nature that was yet incomplete before He suffered. His sufferings were the result of evil in the world and could only ever be the result of evil in the world. And if Christ was perfected through suffering, surely you and I who believe in Him are being perfected through this veil of tears in a way we would not otherwise be perfected. So the long and short of it is that God *intentionally authored evil* in order to a) display His justice against it, b) display Christ fully and to perfect Him for eternal reign, c) display the Holy Spirit fully, d) put His unified person on full display as Trinity, e) demonstrate His full omnipotence over everything that is not-God and anti-God, f) redeem and perfect a finite number of sons for the Eternal Kingdom, who have a greater vision of God than would have been possible in a world with no evil, and g) condemn a finite number of men who, as James Montgomery Boice once said, when they behold God's perfect justice, will praise Him for having condemned them. Such a world is far greater than a world in which sin never entered. This is the classic "greater good" theodicy, and it entirely exonerates God from guilt for having effectively authored every dimension of every evil that ever came to pass. He has done, and will only ever do, nothing but unbelievable good with it. This is a hard truth, but understanding and believing it is the key to knowing what James meant when he said, "Count it all joy, brothers, when you fall into various trials."

Dave Crater said...

By the way, Phil, Wikipedia defines hyper-calvinism exactly as I defined it. Recall I said it is the idea that evangelism is inconsistent with predestination. Here is what they say:

"These teachings were called Hyper-Calvinism by critics who maintained that they deviated from the biblical gospel — a deviation characterized by a denial that the call to repent and believe is universal (that is, for every person) and that a person who is not influenced by the Holy Spirit has a duty to repent and believe in Christ for salvation because he does not actually have the ability to believe in Christ."

Hyper-calvinists believe we don't have a duty to evangelize (issue a "call to repent and believe") because the non-elect do not have the power to respond anyway. In other words, evangelism is inconsistent with predestination.

Gummby said...

Phil: you said earlier "The one really tough question applies exclusively to Adam: How did he fall in the first place? Where did the evil intention in his heart come from?"

I'm wondering, would you extend this to Satan and the demons as well? They were living in the presence of God, and yet somehow willfully chose to reject Him.

On a different note, John Piper answered the "Why would God ordain evil" question in a sermon called Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained that Evil Be? This was also included in an appendix to the 3rd edition of his book Desiring God. He found no reason to equate God's ordaining (or permitting) of evil with His "intentional authorship" of it, as Dave Crater did above.

Isaac said...

erm...

It's a little late now, but my question in post #3 was rhetorical.

Phil's point was my point.

YnottonY said...

"With the exception of a few extreme Primitive Baptists, all Hyper-Calvinists have believed that we are to "preach" the Gospel to all, but "offer" it to none. Preach, explain, command -yes. Offer - no. Some have also quibbled over the word "invite", arguing that we can only invite "sensible [convicted] sinners", not sinners in general. All this is related to anti-missionism."

Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism (Springfield: Good Books, 2003), p. 89.

"In spite of their theological position on other points, the Hyper-Calvinists have stressed the primacy of preaching in a way that surprises many of their critics. Contrary to the opinion of some opponents, they nearly always believed that the Gospel is to be preached indescriminately to all men. This is not a minority view either, nor a later development, for we find it from the very beginning. Hussey gave as the first answer to the question (Tony: the question was: 'How must we preach the Gospel, if we do not offer the Gospel?') above, “We must preach the doctrine of salvation to all sinners, in general, within the hearing.” The same opinion can be found in the special subject of our study, Dr. John Gill: “the Gospel is to be preached to all.” Of course, this applies only to rational creatures; but as all men have the natural duty to hear and believe what God reveals to them, so the preacher has the duty to preach and proclaim to all."

Curt Daniel, Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983), pp. 448-449.

YnottonY said...

Here are a few reasons why my name shows up when these topics are discussed:

1. It's an area in which I have spent alot of time in study, so I feel competent enough to speak up about it, with a view to helping others.

2. I see it as an increasing problem on the internet that desperately needs to be addressed.

3. The doctrines in these areas have profound ramifications for every other area of systematic theology (ripple effect), particularly in theology proper and Christology.

4. The doctrines in these areas shape how one interprets many crucial and disputed biblical passages. There are great exegetical benefits that one gradually learns.

5. Interacting with others on these topics helps to sharpen my own thinking in vital areas that profoundly impact my convictions and affections.

6. I can identify with Richard Baxter's experience (to some extent), as J. I. Packer described him in his doctoral dissertation.

7. I have collected alot of primary source material so that I can appeal to the Calvinistic giants of the past instead of merely appealing to myself. This encourages others to respect Christian history and those teachers that the Holy Spirit gifted in the past. It's also a way of continuing the Reformational cry, Ad Fontes!

Bill Gnade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Gnade said...

Dear Phil,

1. Far from trying to cheapen an analogy to score even cheaper points, I am trying to sharpen the analogy. And while you may have said one thing about clumps of clay, you also said this in the thread above:

I'd say it's backward thinking. My point is precisely the opposite: At the beginning of life we are fallen, bent toward evil, spiritually dead, worthy of judgment, etc.— worthless lumps of clay. [emphasis added]

I believe that you are imposing something onto the biblical analogy that is not there, nor can it be there. The clay is not worthless; there is no such thing as a worthless lump of clay. As long as it has potential to be shaped into ANYTHING, it is worth something. We all might be nothing but unshaped lumps of clay, but there is worth in those unshaped lumps.

Yes, we may be in disagreement about what is meant by total depravity or even original sin; we may disagree about whether man is worthy in any sense of the word. I do think man is worth something and not nothing; I do believe that God values the man lost in sin, or that the lost soul has value in the sight of God. I do not believe that man is totally depraved to the point of being in the sight of God utterly devoid of worth. You might believe that unshaped man is utterly worthless, and I am fine with your conviction.

2. It seems we are also in disagreement about the crucifixion. Are you saying that God is not taking OUR SIN -- OUR BLAME -- and making it HIS own? I disagree adamantly. That is the point of the Cross: Christ became sin -- which means He became the totality of what sin is: the cause of it, the blame for it, the guilt associated with it. God's full wrath was dispensed upon His Son. Is not the object of God's wrath also the source of sin? If not, then how has God addressed the source of sin; where has He atoned for the cause of sin? Surely Christ takes upon Himself our sin, making it His. He must also, then, be taking the BLAME for sin in the first place or else there is yet something for which there has been no atonement.

Our guilt is not the only thing hanging on the Cross in Christ, is it? Our debts are not merely bad deeds. Our debts include our blameworthiness for committing those bad deeds. Blame hangs on the Cross in Christ, no?

Let us not forget the one fact that I mentioned above: Adam and Eve did not create themselves. Hence, no matter what they chose in the Garden, they could always throw in God's face the thoroughly logical and sensible defense that they did not ask to be created. Is this not true? If it is true, how does God answer their defense?

Not looking to score a single point, in grace and peace,

Bill Gnade

philness said...

Man...I had a feeling I was missing out on something here at the blog.

Phil you should set aside at least a couple of days between posts on such subject.

Question: Is it save to say that the clay in the heavenly potters hands is regenerated? And then therefore some regenerate clay is used for common purposes and some regenerate clay is used for noble purposes.

Daryl said...

Bill Gnade,

It's true that Christ took our blame but that is not the same thing as accepting responsibility for something. He accepts the blame insofar as it brings the attached punishment. The blame is an alien blame, it does not properly belong to Christ, otherwise he is proclaiming himself actually guilty of sin and removing all culpability from us. The scenario of accepting blame because it is his to accept removes all semblance of grace from the cross. The cross is gracious because it was OUR blame he was accepting, not his own.

The imputation of Christ's righteousness to us is demonstrated in Romans to be a parallel imputation. In the same way as I've explained above, our new-found righteousness is an alien righteousness, one for which we can accept no ultimate credit but for which we recieve reward.

If we call Christ the source of all sin, as you have done, then you must call us the source of righteousness.

Incidentally, Paul answers your hypothetical Adam and Eve question when he says "Then how does he find fault for who can resist his will?" Answer : "Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?"

Which leads us back to the correct answer that those things lie within the "hidden things of God" and we are not permitted to go there.

philness said...

Yikes...now that I think about that the answer would be NO. Based on the fact that "He's got the whole world in His hands". Right?

Phil Johnson said...

Dave Crater:

First, let me ask you something: Do you just flat-out reject the Westminster Confession's language about the causation of sin, or do you think expressions like "not the author of sin" and "the liberty and contingency of second causes" can be made to mean something compatible with your notion that God is the direct and efficient cause of evil?

Here are my responses to your first two numbered points:

1. So you're saying that all James means is that while God technically doesn't "tempt" people to sin, He nevertheless does infuse evil intentions into them and efficiently cause them to sin? Yikes.

2. Despite what it sounds like, that expression "first and final cause" had nothing to do with the chronology of causation, and you would see that if you made a good-faith effort to understand the distinction between final and efficient cause. But you have totally mangled that point. Yes, of course God operates in every aspect of His creation and is completely sovereign at every moment over every molecule, but (and this is the point you keep denying) that doesn't make Him the proximate cause or the efficient cause of sin. And every important Calvinist theologian has always labored to stress that point. The view you hold actually sounds like a bad Arminian caricature of Calvinism.

I don't think the difference between your view and historic Calvinism is a minor one; but it seems to me that your error is a very serious one, because the notion that God efficiently causes sin is a blasphemous idea.

You need to read more of Dabney and Thomas Boston, and less of Hoeksema or Clark or whoever you are getting your perspective from.

Jerry M said...

My 2 cents:

I John 2:16, 'for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.'

God seems to not want to take credit for these 3 primary sins/ sinful dispositions.

Schaff:

'If one important truth is pressed to the exclusion of another truth of equal importance, it becomes an error and loses its hold upon the conscience.' [History of the Christian Church, p. 815]

I don't see how God's workings in relation to evil and good can be seen as symmetrical at all.


Still learning

Thanks for this post, Phil

For Bill: My question is, 'Why didn't God give Adam a chainsaw instead of a prohibition?'

ddd said...

Ynottony:

No disrepect intended, but who is Curt Daniels? Why should we treat him as an unbiased authority on such a controversial topic as the 'free offer of the Gospel'? I do note that he has attended Fuller Theological Seminary also...

You stated that you have read lots of primary source material on the topic. Care to show how they prove your 'well-meant offer' position? As an aside, do you think A.W. Pink was a hyper-Calvinist?

Regarding Rom. 2:4, isn't it true that the intended audience are the Jews who were the visible Church of the Old Testament (I'm not a Dispensationalist) and therefore the goodness stated here refers to God's attitude towards the visible Church?

dec said...

Phil
Yes, of course God operates in every aspect of His creation and is completely sovereign at every moment over every molecule, but...that doesn't make Him the proximate cause or the efficient cause of sin.

Isn't the story of Job an example of this. God permitted Satan to do what Satan wanted to do. Satan was the efficient cause. And God was completely sovereign, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away".

Mike Riccardi said...

Phil,

(I know a ton of things are getting addressed to you, and so you have a lot of responding to do, but one more won't hurt, right?)

You referred to Piper's "Two aspects of God's will," before. In those discussions, he makes a point of saying that he does not say God just passively allows bad things to happen... this when he's speaking of natural disasters and the like.

Assuming that it would be ok to generalize that over to sin and not just natural disasters, do you think he crosses into the "God is the efficient cause of sin" camp?

Put another way, if I espouse the idea that God does more than just passively allow evil, do I necessarily make Him the efficient cause of that evil?

Phil Johnson said...

One more thing:

Dave Crater: "By the way, Phil, Wikipedia defines hyper-calvinism exactly as I defined it. Recall I said it is the idea that evangelism is inconsistent with predestination. Here is what they say:"

No, Dave, you need to read that article again with more care. The article (in the very section you quoted!) identifies two defining characteristics of classic hyperism: 1) a denial that the gospel call is universal and/or 2) a denial of faith as a sinner's duty.

Hyper-Calvinists may or may not deny the need for "evangelism." Most actually would not. What they do typically deny is that the gospel constitutes a well-meant proposal of mercy to all, or that it calls all hearers (rather than the elect alone) to faith and repentance.

(There are several similar and related errors that are either characteristic of hyper-Calvinism or tend strongly towards hyper-Calvinism. I outlined some of these in my article on hyper-Calvinism.)

The point here, however, is that to reduce your definition of hyper-Calvinism (as you did) to "the belief that evangelism is incompatible with predestination" is to define it in a deliberately reductionistic way that actually removes the true distinguishing characteristics of hyper-Calvinism from the definition.

Once more: heading the list of those distinguishing characteristics (as the Wiki article suggests and as my own article points out) are a denial of the universal call of the gospel and a denial of duty faith. Your definition totally failed to note those features of HCism. So your definition was not only not like "exactly" that definition; your definition missed all the salient points of the Wiki article.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Daryl,

I love your response to me. Thank you. I am not saying I agree with it. I am saying that it has given me something more to consider.

In fact, I think I see something in your post that confirms what I've argued. Maybe not, but I shall have to think it all through.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply!

Blessings!

Bill Gnade

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Jerry M,

You wrote to me:

My question is, 'Why didn't God give Adam a chainsaw instead of a prohibition?'

My answer? Well, I guess if God had given Adam a chainsaw one might ask why God gave him something to cut down, or not cut down. Regardless of the nature of the choice, the fact remains that Adam and Eve did not create themselves, nor did they create the Garden, the elements of their choice (the forbidden fruit), the Serpent, the consequences or anything at all. I still wonder what God's reply is to the challenge, "We did not ask for this." Surely His response is more sophisticated, and more complete, than "What is that to you?" For that retort is a response to a far different situation.

Peace.

BG

Phil Johnson said...

Mike Riccardi: "he makes a point of saying that he does not say God just passively allows bad things to happen... this when he's speaking of natural disasters and the like.

Assuming that it would be ok to generalize that over to sin and not just natural disasters, do you think he crosses into the "God is the efficient cause of sin" camp?"


Good question: No. I agree with Piper. But you have to be careful to understand the actual point, and it's not a simple one.

If someone tried to argue that God "just passively" allows things to happen, I too would say that's wrong. There's a passive aspect in God's permitting evildoers to act; but it's not just passive, because God's decree is active. And since whatever happens is in accord with His eternal decree, He gives permission willingly, not reluctantly.

Calvin has a thorough discussion of this issue as well, and people often misunderstand Calvin (because they read bits and pieces rather than following his whole argument). Those who misread Calvin sometimes imagine he is arguing against the notion of passivity or permission per se. He's not. He argues against "bare permission," or total passivity—the notion that God's "permission" is reluctant and unwilling rather than an active, willing directive (such as we see in the book of Job).

It is always the latter because everything God does or permits to be done is in perfect accord with His eternal decree.

Phil Johnson said...

DDD: "No disrepect intended, but who is Curt Daniels? Why should we treat him as an unbiased authority on such a controversial topic as the 'free offer of the Gospel'? I do note that he has attended Fuller Theological Seminary also..."

It's Curt Daniel (no S). He's a true expert on hyper-Calvinism, having earned a Ph.D from the University of Edinburgh with a comprehensive 912-page dissertation on Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill's role in its rising influence in 18th-century England.

I wouldn't say Curt is "unbiased" if by that you mean he takes no position on the controversial questions surrounding the subject. He rejects hyper-Calvinism. But I doubt there's a person in the world today who has more knowledge than Curt does about the history and influence of hyper-Calvinism.

For awhile last year, Curt's massive dissertation on Gill was downloadable somewhere. If that's still available and someone knows an URL for it, please post it.

DDD, you really would do well to acquire that work and read it. The fact that you have to ask "Who is Curt Daniel?" suggests you haven't yet done the requisite reading on your own pet topic.

steve said...

For awhile last year, Curt's massive dissertation on Gill was downloadable somewhere. If that's still available and someone knows an URL for it, please post it.

Looks like that's one item I can place on my reading list for better understanding the many nuances on this topic. Thanks for mentioning this, Phil.

ezekiel said...

If one takes the position that God does not create evil and does not use it for correction, affliction, refining then what do we do with these?

Isaiah 45:77I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Zeph 1: 12And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.

2 Chron 18:18Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.

19And the LORD said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.

20Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith?

21And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.

22Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil against thee.

terriergal said...

Hey guys, the poor rat-cat can't help what it is...

Looks like a Sphynx that didn't quite turn out to be hairless. Poor thing I think I'd shave it down just to save it the humiliation of being somewhere in between a Rex and a Sphynx.

Hey Phil - thanks for posting this. When you started on Romans 9 I was going "yeah but what about... but what about..." and every time you answered my question before I had to post it.

Johnny Dialectic said...

We have profound disagreement on this subject, Phil, but your performance here against two sides is admirable. Sort of the same way I admired the Cubs this year, until...

Ouch. (But it comes back at me, too, because of what happened to USC on Saturday.)

Seriously, I do respect TeamPyro greatly.

Phil Johnson said...

ezekiel: "If one takes the position that God does not create evil and does not use it for correction, affliction, refining then what do we do with these?"

I answered this already. You need to read the comment thread before jumping in.

Short answer: God does not "create" ontological evil. He does employ evil and its consequences for His own wise and holy ends (including "correction, affliction," etc.). But the context of Isaiah 45:7 make it clear that this is talking about calamity (the word you'll find used in most modern translations)—i.e., the consequences of evil. God is not asserting that he created evil per se.

Sewing said...

Dec: I liked your simple formula, but I appreciate your concern that it merely "gets God off the hook":

God created Adam with a capability for sin, and God warned him not to use that capability. So when Adam ignored that warning and sinned, God was not the origin of his sin.

Bill Gnade wrote:

Adam and Eve surely could have said to God, "Fine. Blame us. But we didn't choose to be created in the first place. That was Your choice to do that."

Well, Adam did blame God for his sin, indirectly: "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12).

Jonny Dialectic wrote that Phil was fallaciously arguing from authority on the taxonomy of causation because, hey, it's Aristotle! That would be true (I mean, the claim that someone is arguing from authority) if, say, Phil had told us that smoking is good for you because Spurgeon smoked. But since Aristotle was a philosopher, he could be claimed to be an authority on something in his area of specialization, just as much as Wesley on Arminianism (or better yet, Methodism).

Sewing said...

I should have emphasized the pertinent words in Genesis 3:12:

"The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."

ezekiel said...

Phil,

I did read the comment thread before I jumped in. And suffice it say that I did jump in knowing full well the water is deep.

Ontological? ....all the big words, arguments about hyper calvanism and such....I am sorry that I could not see your answer, maybe it was just a little over this old farmers head.

That is why I stayed out of the water till I read this....


"because the notion that God efficiently causes sin is a blasphemous idea"

And I don't want to make that mistake. So I will continue to wrestle with this till I understand it. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

Having said that, a reference from 45:7 goes to 47:11 where evil is used again. (NASB)

In 47:11 it certainly appears that in context evil is going to be visited on Babylon...Now where is that evil going to come from and who causes it? Babylon for not showing mercy to His people (47:6) or punishment from an angry God? Sounds like
God caused it to me.

Then lets look at the 400 lying prophets. Who sent the lying spirit into them? Does a false prophet sin? If so, who caused it?

In Zephaniah 1:12 it says the Lord will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish men that say God will not do good or evil.

Where am I at if I say that God WILL do good but not evil? Am I half right?

Jer 8:8:17 For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which [will] not [be] charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.

A theme repeated from the serpents that bit the people in the wilderness and many died. Moses was instructed to make a bronze serpent and lift it up, the people that looked upon it were saved. (Num 21) This I believe is symbolic of us as Christians having faith in Christ and being saved. Saved from what? The serpent/sepents/sin?

Sent by whom?

YnottonY said...

Various Commentators on Isaiah 45:7:

"The older translations made needless trouble by rendering ´I create evil´; the NIV correctly has create disaster. Out of about 640 occurrences of the word ra‛ (which ranges in meaning from ´nasty´ taste to full moral evil) there are 275 instances where ´trouble´ or ´calamity´ is the meaning. In every case the context must judge. In this passage, full of historical calamities coming on people through Cyrus, this is what ra‛ means."

J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), p. 359.

"But it is not the morally good and the morally evil that are being attributed to Yahweh, but things good and bad are said to lie totally in his power, as far as their physical aspects and consequences are concerned. The RSV version does full justice to the issues involved when it says: "I make weal and create woe."

H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), 2:122.

"The word ra, used here, does not mean sin but the result and punishment of sin, i.e., sorrow, oppression and misery. In this sense Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:38, "Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?"

Harry Bultema, Commentary on Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1981), p. 443.

DDD,

I will try to asnwer your questions when I get back from work tonight. Phil appropriately answered your first question about the significance of Curt Daniel. He is not without a bias, but he is very objective in his doctoral dissertation. Dr. Daniel says this in the preface:

"As much as this has been an opportunity to formulate my own personal theology on the doctrines covered herein, however, I have followed the advice of my supervisors [at Edinburgh] and kept my own views in the background so as to present an historical-theological investigation of the sources as free from personal comment as possible. It will readily be seen that the present work basically presents the views of the Hyper-Calvinists themselves, with full documentation and interaction with the secondary sources." Ibid., vii.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Sewing,

Thank you for augmenting my post with your fine observation. You raise a very good point, one I've wrestled with a long time: Adam does not blame Eve, he blames God: "the woman YOU gave me." And what do we notice? That God does NOT correct him. Instead, God rebukes Adam for listening to his wife.

Interesting? Well, I sure think so.

What is also interesting is the Serpent's statement that God is guarding His prerogative, since He is One "knowing good and evil." Is the Serpent right, does God know both good and evil? Or is this also a lie? That these questions are tangential is admitted, but they interest me to no end.

Peace to you.

Gnade

farmboy said...

Regarding Curt Daniel, this is not his doctoral dissertation, but a series of lectures entitled "The History and Theology of Calvinism" is available at monergism.com as follows:

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/histtheocalvin.html

At tribalogue.com a while back there was a link to an Adobe Acrobat file of the contents of the above lectures that one could print off.

farmboy said...

The full web address did not print in the above comment, so let me try again:

http://www.monergism.com/
thethreshold/articles/
onsite/histtheocalvin.html

farmboy said...

Thanks to Google I found the pdf file of the lectures by Mr. Daniel. The link is as follows:

http://www.gracemessenger.org/
files/Daniel_Curt_History_and_
Theology_of_Calvinism.pdf

Note that the file is over 500 pages long.

YnottonY said...

Phil said:
"For awhile last year, Curt's massive dissertation on Gill was downloadable somewhere. If that's still available and someone knows an URL for it, please post it."

I haven't seen a downloadable version [or any electronic version] of the dissertation yet. I do have the .pdf version of his History and Theology of Calvinism, but that's a common thing these days. I don't think Dr. Daniel wanted that work in .pdf circulation on the internet, but it seems too late now. Curt is currently revising and editing the History and Theology of Calvinism in order to publish it in the near future.

YnottonY said...

ddd said:
"You stated that you have read lots of primary source material on the topic. Care to show how they prove your 'well-meant offer' position?"

This is a question that would require alot of space to answer. Hyper-Calvinists usually moan and groan that my blog is filled with all the documentation to prove just what you ask and more :-) Since Gene Cook jr. [of Unchained Radio] is a friend of mine, I recently took the time to flood his blog with links to support what he said about me on his radio program regarding common grace. I also linked to many places which show what great Reformed/Calvinistic thinkers have said about the universal saving will of God and the universal love of God. Instead of posting all of the links here, which would annoy the mess out of Phil :-), I will just send you to that recent Narrow Mind Aftermath blog entry [click here].

ddd said:
"As an aside, do you think A.W. Pink was a hyper-Calvinist?"

I would concur with what Dr. Daniel said about him:

"His most important book is entitled The Sovereignty of God, a medium-sized book which has been twice abridged. This was one of his first undertakings, and we see his ambivalency towards Hyper-Calvinism in its pages. Throughout his ministry, Pink was an on-and-off Hyperist. In some places, he castigates the Gospel Standard Baptists for denying "free offers". Often he defends "free offers". Yet in other places, Pink agrees with them that "free offers" are unbiblical and incompatible with Calvinist theology. He used many of the most popular Hyper-Calvinist arguments. So, though he was sometimes a Hyper, Pink was a mild one." The History and Theology of Calvinism (Springfield: Good Books, 2003), p. 88.

Frankly, I don't know why so many well-known Calvinists have hyped his Sovereignty of God book. They should at least caution people about some things in it if they recommend it. I am not impressed by it, to say the least. I usually recommend R. L. Dabney's The Five Points of Calvinism as a good overview and treatment of God's sovereignty, at least for beginners.

ddd said:
"Regarding Rom. 2:4, isn't it true that the intended audience are the Jews who were the visible Church of the Old Testament (I'm not a Dispensationalist) and therefore the goodness stated here refers to God's attitude towards the visible Church?"

The intended audience are at least some Jews, but I believe it is more, since Paul is writing to the Romans. Granted, in the immediate context, Paul seems to be moving toward addressing those who have had a knowledge of the law. However, there are also universal aspects because Paul, in verse 6, seems to reference the final judgment wherein God "will render to each person according to his deeds."

The problem for the hyper-Calvinist is that, whoever the audience is, there must be some non-elect included. God has been kind, tolerant, patient and good toward some who he knows are non-elect. He has expressed goodwill toward them [even a saving will], and therefore their stubborn ingratitude brings about the consequences spoken of in verse 5. For more on this, see the following links:

Calvin on Romans 2:4 and the Puritan Concept of Common Grace

John Flavel on Romans 2:4

John Howe on Romans 2:4 and God's "Kind Intention"

The Force of "Agei" in Romans 2:4 and Common Grace

ezekiel said...

Bill Gnade,

"Is the Serpent right, does God know both good and evil?"

Gen 3:22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

ddd said...

Phil: Sorry. That's like saying Sabellianism is the problem that caused Arianism. In a sense, that's historically true, but it doesn't mean Arianism itself isn't a very serious problem, demanding our unqualified denunciation. Ideas propounded in reaction to heresies are frequently worse than the original error that sparks them. That's the case with many varieties of hyper-Calvinism.

I agree with that, just mentioning a mitigating reason so at least you should be symphathetic and not overly critical.

Phil: ... you really would do well to acquire that work and read it. The fact that you have to ask "Who is Curt Daniel?" suggests you haven't yet done the requisite reading on your own pet topic.

Did I give the impression that hyper-Calvinism was my pet topic? If anything was my pet topic, it should be Warrenism. Anyway, hyper-calvinism is something that I have not spend long reading up on yet. What I mainly know so far is gleaned from the Bible, which is enough at least to know that confusing and/or conflating Creation and Redemption is a bad idea.

Anyway, just to clarify, I affirm:

1) the universal command and call to all Man to repent, as something that they owe to God because He is their Creator
2) the offer of the Gospel (as opposed to well meant offer) to all Man that they will be saved if they repent
3) the graciousness and kindness of God towards all Man, both elect and reprobate, as His creation
4) The necessity of Evangelism
5) Reprobation as a personal, passive decree of God

And I deny that

1) that the command of God for the repentance of all Man expresses any desire that they be saved, although it is their duty to do so and God demands that of them
2) that the Gospel proclaims that God desires to save all Man, but that God commands the repentance of all Man and promises salvation to all who will repent. Such a conditional promise can be made to all Man, but never applied to anyone in particular, as long as it remains conditional.

I will reply to the rest in another post.

ddd said...

ynottonoy: The intended audience are at least some Jews, but I believe it is more, since Paul is writing to the Romans. Granted, in the immediate context, Paul seems to be moving toward addressing those who have had a knowledge of the law. However, there are also universal aspects because Paul, in verse 6, seems to reference the final judgment wherein God "will render to each person according to his deeds."

The problem for the hyper-Calvinist is that, whoever the audience is, there must be some non-elect included. God has been kind, tolerant, patient and good toward some who he knows are non-elect. He has expressed goodwill toward them [even a saving will], and therefore their stubborn ingratitude brings about the consequences spoken of in verse 5.


I wasn't speaking about the categories of the elect and reprobates here. The context of Rom. 2:4 is referring to the Jews as a Covenant people. God loves His Covenant people as a group and show them kindness, although there may be reprobates within them. So if you want to push it, I can concede that God is truly good towards the reprobates inasmuch as they are associated with the Church in any fashion. I am further willing to say that God is good towards and desires the salvation of the reprobates insofar as they are associated with the Church (ie the word 'world' in Jn. 3:16). However, this does not equate to saying that God desires the salvation of the reprobates per se, which is what the Neo-Amyraldian teaching of well-meant offer and 'common salvific grace' refers to.

ddd said...

ynottony:

I see that the links are to posts on your blog, and they are interesting. However, I don't see the connection between what the Reformers and Puritans are saying and what you are saying that they are saying. They are teaching that the kindness of God, because of its goodness, shows forth the reality of God as Creator to them, and thus obligate them further to repent (ie that God has been so good to you and therefore you have an obligation to turn to Him and as such be saved). I agree with what they say. But what does this have to do with the 'well-meant' offer? Kindness which bring forth the reality of God such that Man are further obligated to repent is not equal to desiring for them to come unto salvation! The former has to do with acts and kindness of God, the latter with the inner desires and 'cravings' of God.

SDG,
Daniel Chew.

Bill Gnade said...

Ezekiel!

Yes, you are right: Satan did tell the truth -- partly -- when he was tempting Eve.

So, then, if God "knows" both good and evil, then what does that mean?

You know, I've often stumbled over certain theological language, like God cannot "countenance" evil, or that He cannot stand in the presence of evil. Surely you've heard that sort of language, too. But is it true?

In Eden we have God standing rather comfortably in the presence of sin and an evil serpent. Besides, if God is both omniscient and omnipotent, He has both the ability and the power to be in the presence of evil -- even to know it. And if he's ubiquitous, then there is no place where evil is where God is not also. There is no evil outside of God's presence, right?

So, where does this leave us with this whole idea of God willing evil, or creating evil people?

I have no idea.

But thanks for your input!

Peace to you this day,

Bill Gnade

YnottonY said...

Hi Daniel,

I had a couple of choices. I could either make a few brief comments and then invite you over to my blog to continue the interaction, or answer here, wrap up the conversation, and point you to places to do further investigation. Although Phil encouraged me to do the former [in an email] in order to avoid getting bogged down here in matters that most of his readers already agree with, I will do the latter [perhaps unwisely] and make this my final reply to you, in this post. If you want further interaction, feel free to visit my blog, send me comments, or send me an email. With that said, the following is my reply to what you have said. If you respond, I will read it, but I won't continue to reply, so that I might respect Phil's concerns and interests on his blog.

ddd said:
"I wasn't speaking about the categories of the elect and reprobates here."

If people are in view in the text [which seems obvious, since abstractions can't heap up wrath], then they must be either elect or non-elect, or possibly both considered in their unbelieving state.

ddd said:
"The context of Rom. 2:4 is referring to the Jews as a Covenant people."

If that's true, then were they elect Jews, non-elect Jews, or both the elect and non-elect Jews in an unbelieving state?

ddd said:
"God loves His Covenant people as a group and show them kindness, although there may be reprobates within them."

The above statement sounds like your talking about a collective group of individuals made up of both the elect and non-elect, since "there may be reprobates within them."

ddd said:
"So if you want to push it, I can concede that God is truly good towards the reprobates inasmuch as they are associated with the Church in any fashion."

Then it must follow that God is intentionally good to the non-elect as well as the elect, in your conception of what the "church" is [i.e., visible church]. The goodness shown to the reprobate cannot be merely accidental. Moreover, the "goodness" spoken about in the text is the sort that seeks to lead to repentance, which is salvation [the opposite of wrath in the final day].

ddd said:
"I am further willing to say that God is good towards and desires the salvation of the reprobates insofar as they are associated with the Church (ie the word 'world' in Jn. 3:16)."

I am not sure what you are saying here. It sounds like you're moving in the direction of thinking of the "church" in a mere abstract class sense, without identifying all the particulars that make up that class. In other words, God desires the salvation of the class of thing called "church," but not the particular "reprobate" individuals that are a part of that class. If by "church" you mean the truly elect, then you seem to be speaking contrary to what you said above, i.e., "I wasn't speaking about the categories of the elect and reprobates here." Either particulars are in view or they are not in view. If they are not in view, then God desires to save an abstract class, which seems absurd, since classes are not things that are lost, or heaping up wrath. If particulars are in view, then they must either be elect, non-elect, or a combination of the two in an unbelieving state, according to the context of Romans 2:4.

I would also add that if you're using "church" and "world" in an abstact sense [devoid of any particular humans being in view], then that seems as bad as some Arminians who think that nations and not individuals are in view in Romans 9:13 et al.

ddd said:
"However, this does not equate to saying that God desires the salvation of the reprobates per se,..."

This statement further gives me the impression that you've moved into thinking of an abract class sense of "church," as I mention above. The term "church" is never used in a purely abstract sense like that in the bible. Particular individuals must be within view in the context of Romans 2:4, since abstractions cannot "despise," receive "the riches of His goodness," "repent," "harden their impenitent hearts," or engage in "treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath."

ddd said:
"which is what the Neo-Amyraldian teaching of well-meant offer and 'common salvific grace' refers to."

While Amyraut did believe in the universal saving will of God, it is historically inaccurate to label everyone who believed in the universal saving will of God as "Amyraldian," or "Neo-Amyraldian." For example, take a look at what Ursinus said:

"3) Merciful. God’s mercy appears in this: 1. That he wills the salvation of all men. 2. That he defers punishment, and invites all to repentance." Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8, Q 25, S 2, p., 127.

"God willeth that all be saved, as he is delighted with the salvation of all...[and] inasmuch as he inviteth all to repentance: but he will not have all saved, in respect of the force and efficacy of calling." Ursinus, The Summe, p. 353. Quoted in G. Michael Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement (Paternoster, 1997), p. 110.

And then there's Calvin:

"And as to the duration of the whole world, we must think exactly the same as of the life of every individual; for God by prolonging time to each, sustains him that he may repent. In the like manner he does not hasten the end of the world, in order to give to all time to repent." Calvin, Commentary, 2 Peter 3:9.

Did Calvin think that God willed men to repent but did not will them to be saved? Not at all. Calvin continues:

"Not willing that any should perish. So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost." Calvin, Commentary, 2 Peter 3:9.

Even Turretin [a staunch anti-Amyraldian], in his Institutes, acknowledges that God's preceptive will is indicative of what He "wishes" to be done by all, and even says that the great King "commands and desires" all the invited to come to the wedding feast. Turretin writes: "3] XXI. The invitation to the wedding proposed in the parable (Mt. 22:1-14) teaches that the king wills (i.e., commands and desires) the invited to come and that this is their duty; but not that the king intends or has decreed that they should really come." He further says, "2] XVI. It is one thing to will reprobates to come (i.e., to command them to come and to desire it); another to will they should not come (i.e., to nill the giving them the power to come). God can in calling them will the former and yet not the latter without any contrariety because the former respects only the will of precept, while the latter respects the will of decree." When he says "come," he's talking about salvation in the context.

For further comments and documentation, go here: God's Will for the Salvation of All Men. Search for other good material on this blog that's relevant to your questions.

I would also encourage you to check my Table of Contents in order to investigate what other great Calvinistic thinkers have said in these areas.

YnottonY said...

I might add that if it's the "visible church" in view in Romans 2:4, then they must be "visible" particulars in view :-) And, if particulars individuals are being referenced in the passage, then some non-elect are included. Moreover, "leading to repetance" is a leading to salvation. God doesn't will to lead people to repentance but not will them to be saved. Such a dichotomy is biblically unwarranted. He wills that they turn AND LIVE, according to Ezekiel.

NKJ Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'

Isaiah writes of God's desire for compliance to his commandments:

NKJ Isaiah 48:18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

The "peace" and "righteousness" are things pertaining to salvation.

Luke records Peter as saying:

NRS Acts 3:26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.

The mission of the "servant" [Jesus] was "to bless" them [all in the audience, including the non-elect] by "turning each of them [all in the audience and the nation by implication] from their wicked ways," which is salvation.

Grace to you,
Tony

YnottonY said...

Above, when I linked to Gene Cook's blog, my links could have been more specific. See HERE [will of God] and HERE [common grace].

ddd said...

Hello Tony,

yes, I am referring to the Church in sortof an 'abstract' sense. By this I mean the visible Church, which is made up of professing believers, both elect and non-elect. That is what I am referring to.

With regards to the rest, I will not waste space on Phil's blog and will email you when I am ready to reply.

Dave Crater said...

Phil: Since you asked me a direct question, I'll post one more response now that a busy week is over, but I quite agree with you that there is more to life than this (highly fruitful and sharpening) line of inquiry. So the last word is yours if you desire, and then let us agree to disagree in all charity.

The first Westminster Confession statement to which you refer says, essentially, "God unchangeably ordained all that comes to pass, but this does not make him the author of sin." The question immediately raised is what it means to unchangeably ordain something but not author it. This unexplained distinction is further curious in light of a following section of the Confession, which says, "These [elect and reprobate] angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished." So God unchangeably ordains all that comes to pass, but He does not author all that comes to pass, and He particularly and unchangeably designs reprobate men and angels, but does not author the evil that makes them reprobate? None of this makes any sense and is really a dodge of the question. We want to affirm God's complete providence, but when it comes to evil, we get nervous and confused and just say, "But He didn't author evil" without any idea how limiting God's authorship can fail to limit His omnipotence.

The fact is this distinction is artificial, and though many in the classical Calvinist tradition have certainly depended on it, to be sure, this does not make it valid or biblical. We are much wiser to follow the biblical route, which does not lead us to a vague "God ordains everything but does not author it," but instead leads us to, "God ordains and authors all that comes to pass, including evil, but He is not guilty of evil." I thus dissent, as I do on several other points, to the "author" phrase in the Confession and think it creates an internal inconsistency. Confessions must always be viewed in light of the Scripture.

That Scripture says things like, "The heart of the king is in the Lord's hand; like the rivers of water He turns it wherever He wishes." (Prov. 21:1) Fun to watch people try to make that mean, "The heart of king is in the Lord's hand, but if the king does evil the Lord has not authored or efficiently caused it."

Thus, I don't get my ideas from Hoeksema (whom I've never read) or Clark (whom I've only read on logic), but from plain Scripture.

Also fun to watch people try to make the "If calamity happens in a city, I have done it" claims by God refer only to judgment against sin. The whole point of the Book of Job is that God specifically authorizes (authors, effects, permits, causes, takes responsibility for) evil done to people who do not deserve it. If we say Job was a sinner and thus his affliction was just, we say exactly what God rebuked Job's friends for saying. What they should have said, and what we should say now, is, "This is genuine evil happening to you, but God has caused it in order to do you a far greater good. Be patient and trust him." This is also the meaning at the center of God's majestic vindication of Himself in Job 38-42.

The idea God authors evil is the furthest thing from blasphemy. It is the most profound form of true worship. What is blasphemy is the idea that there can be any other author than God of anything in God's cosmos, or that there can be anything in God's cosmos for which He is not morally responsible. The idea that robbing God of His full power of efficient causation somehow exonerates Him from the guilt of evil when we still admit He is the First Cause of everything may not be blasphemous, but it is certainly confused.

You are dodging on hyper-calvinism. Hyper-calvinism has always had at its center the question of evangelism, and the proper extent of a duty to respond to evangelism. The hyper-calvinist makes the same mistake as the Arminian: thinking that men can only have a duty to perform what they have the power to perform. The Arminian says man has a duty to respond to the call of the gospel, and therefore he must possess the power to so respond. The hyper-calvinist says man does not have the power to respond, therefore he must not have a duty to respond. This is what hyper-calvinism is, as a matter of both history and theology, and the attempt to extend it to include questions about God's intent and causation in evil is simply an attempt to use the obloquy of a genuine error to impugn a view of God's providence that is a bit more robust than we are comfortable with. Reminds me of Jerry Falwell calling Calvinism heresy - a lamentable lack of acquaintance with the history of our faith, and a lamentable reticence to face up to the full weight of (admittedly difficult) biblical teaching.

Last word is yours.

Darin said...

Your explanation of the patter and the clay is way off base from it's co-text, which makes it out of context.

God never make vessels of dishonor just because HE wants an "ashtray, diaper pail, spittoon, garbage container, or whatnot" or just because HE wants to.
The vessels of dishonor are vessels of dishonor by there own fault.

Romans 9:21-23 Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?
:22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
:23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory,
This refers to:

Co-text:
Jeremiah 18:2-6 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words.
:3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he worked a work on the wheels.
:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
:5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? says the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

The Potter did not mare the clay Himself, but the clay became marred in His hands.
The Potter(God) did all HE could do to keep the clay(Israel) from being marred. He sent Jeremiah(along with all the other prophets) and the clay(Israel) rebelled anyway.
Therefore, the Potter had to reform the clay into a new vessel of dishonor.

Israel was warned to repent and they did not, that is the clay being marred.
God sent them to Babylon because of there un-repentance, this is the clay being reformed.

Furthermore in 2Timothy 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.
:21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and fit for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

This verse is telling us that we ourselves choose what kind of vessel we may be, vessels of honor with obedience, vessels of dishonor with disobedience.

carrie said...

David Crater said:

"The idea God authors evil is the furthest thing from blasphemy. It is the most profound form of true worship."

...ah, if you are worshiping Satan then yes I suppose you would be correct in that statement.

Dave Crater said...

Carrie: Did Satan author the evil against Job?

Job 2:3 (God speaking to Satan): "And still [Job] holds fast to his integrity, though you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause."

Not only does God claim to be the author of the evil against Job, but Job and all four of his pals knew God to be the cause, which is why their entire discourses have to do with God and His ways, not Satan's. Even Satan knew God to be the real cause of the evil against Job. Job 1:11 (Satan speaking to God): "But now stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face."

Of course, Job is a type of Christ, and the ultimate evil in the history of the world was the crucifixion of Jesus. You think Satan put Jesus on the cross, or do you think God the Father might have had something more important to do with it?

Iconoclast said...

Phil Johnson likens the evil heart to his Bel Aire and likens himself to God. When Johnson wanted his Bel Aire to go straight, he had to exert force to pull it straight, but when Johnson wanted his Bel Aire to go left, he just withdrew the force and the Bel Aire naturally went left. When Johnson's god wants to pull the evil heart straight, this god has to exert force to pull it straight, but when it serves Johnson's god for the evil heart to be stubborn, this god just "lets go" and let the evil heart go its way.

Thus, to Johnson, there is a power that is independent of his god's working of all things. His god has to work some things (namely, good), but for other things (namely, evil), he lets that independent force take the reins. This god backs off, doesn't control the evil, allows the evil to go its own way via the independent force.

Yet Phil Johnson's god cannot be the God of Scripture, because it is clear that people have to sin *in certain ways* in order for God's plan to be fulfilled. People cannot just do *any* evil they want to do; they must do a *certain kind* of evil. Take the crucifixion of Christ as an example. According to Johnson, since it was in God's plan for these people to do evil, God must have just "let go of the wheel" and permitted them to do whatever their evil heart independently turned them to do. But these people *had* to do *certain* evil in order for Christ to be crucified. What if they wanted to kill Christ in another way? What if they wanted to beat Christ up but not kill Him? The TRUE God HAD to actively turn their hearts to do *specific* evil. How does Phil Johnson explain that?

And what of the numerous passages in the Old Testament in which God is said to cause *specific* evil to happen in order for *specific* things to occur? His god wouldn't do such things:

And Sihon the king of Heshbon was not willing to let us pass by him, for Jehovah your God had hardened his spirit, and had emboldened his heart, so as to give him into your hand, as [it is] this day. (Deuteronomy 2:30)

For it was of Jehovah to harden their hearts, so that they should come against Israel in battle, so that they might be destroyed, so that they might have no favor, but that He might destroy them, as Jehovah commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:20)

And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite [is] better than the counsel of Ahithophel. And Jehovah had ordained to break down the good counsel of Ahithophel, for the sake of bringing the evil of Jehovah to Absalom. (2 Samuel 17:14)

And the king did not listen to the people, for [the] revolution was from God, so that Jehovah might lift up His Word that He spoke by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. (2 Chronicles 10:15)

And Amaziah would not listen, for it [was] from God, in order to give them into their hand, because they had sought to the gods of Edom. (2 Chronicles 25:20)

Then, of course, there is the Romans 9:19 objection. Why would there be such an objection in the first place if Paul was not saying that God makes people evil? And if God does NOT make people evil, then Paul's response to the objection would be the perfect place to set the record straight. Yet in his response, Paul CONFIRMS that God DOES make people evil, and SHUTS THE MOUTHS of people like Phil Johnson and all his Calvinist and Arminian friends by saying, "Yes, rather, O man, WHO ARE YOU answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, Why did You make me like this?"

Phil Johnson and people like him are just free-will Calvinists. To them, man is free to do any evil he desires when God "lets him go." Their god is not the all-sovereign God of the universe. The God of the Bible causes ALL actions and events, including the *specific* evil actions of men and angels. For if God did not do that, His plans would not come to pass, and He would be the subservient god of Phil Johnson's imagination.

www.outsidethecamp.org

Phil Johnson said...

Ack! Hyper-Calvinists to the right of me; Arminians to the left.

For those who did not pick up on it, "Iconoclast" is Marc D. Carpenter, one of the most extreme and vitriolic hyper-Calvinists in the history of theology. Normal rank-and-file hyper-Calvinists aren't nearly extreme enough for Marc. He believes even an uber-high Calvinist like Gordon Clark in guilty of damnable heresy for daring to suggest it's possible that some Arminians are authentic Christians despite their errors on the ordo salutis.

And what Marc is actually saying here is that by his way of thinking, believing that God actively makes people evil is as vital to the "gospel" as the doctrine of justification by faith.

No. Strike that. That's much more important in Marc's belief system than justification by faith, judging from the energy he expends teaching it.

Lord, deliver us from that kind of mindless, unbiblical extremism.

Anyway, hopefully, most readers will see from this comment-thread alone how prone certain people are to veer to one or the other of two extremes.

Hence my initial admonition.