Fallacy 6 Revisited (and Wrong as Ever)

Steve Hays attempts to respond to my pointing out a rather obvious fallacy in his reasoning; namely, he tries to make the case that God is being cruel if He lets a believer fall away. While his reply is little more than posturing, we’ll clear up a few misconceptions he attempts to sow.

JCT: If the Arminian view is that God didn’t want the children of Israel to fall, but the Calvinist view is that their fall was His perfect will, who then is framing God as setting them up for their demise?

Hays: …He responds by trying to create a parallel with Calvinism! How does that rebut my argument?

JCT: If the Arminian view is that God didn’t want the children of Israel to fall, but the Calvinist view is that their fall was His perfect will, who then is framing God as setting them up for their demise?

Hays: …I drew an analogy between Arminianism and what Arminians find so odious in Calvinism. He responds by trying to create a parallel with Calvinism! How does that rebut my argument?

For anyone who bothers to read, notice that I first show how charges of cruelty don’t fit the Arminian view in that God isn’t making anyone fall; Hays’ shallow rhetoric fitting his own view to a tee is just icing on the cake.

Hays attempts to save his position by putting up a few more assertions and questions. The main ideas are:

Why did God create people that He knew would fall?

This is of course a red herring. I never claimed to be able to reveal God’s purposes behind everything He does or allows; but the issue is whether God is cruel, not why He would create certain people. To claim it was a set-up‘ when speaking in terms of those who hate God doesn’t constitute much of an objection.

If God knew they would fall, He intended the outcome of destroying them.

God does intend to destroy anyone who turns from Him, that doesn’t change the fact that who specifically turns from Him hinges upon the free agents themselves, not God’s decree. Such an execution of justice therefore neither implies necessitation of their damnation by God’s decree, nor gives God pleasure in destroying them, and wouldn’t constitute cruelty for letting them have the results of their own choices.

How is is loving or merciful for God to save people only to damn them later, leaving them in a worse state than before?

and,

God isn’t acting in the apostate’s best interest.

Of course God doesn’t act in the best interests of those who turn against Him. God is often conditionally merciful. Just as He conditionally saved many among the tribes of Israel from their enemies when they followed Him, yet later condemned many of them to die in the wilderness when they rebelled, so it is with the apostate. God is more than loving and fair in giving one genuine opportunity to be saved at all, He can’t be rightly called cruel for expelling those who despise Him.

Other Oddities

A few of Hays’ other quotes are simply bizarre, and border on incoherent.

How is “allowing” evil ipso facto exculpatory? Aren’t there many situations in which allowing evil is culpable?

Not if the one who allows it isn’t under obligation to prevent it… which God isn’t….

Introducing libertarian freewill into the discussion is a diversionary tactic. For it makes no difference to my argument. I wasn’t arguing on Calvinist assumptions. I was arguing on Arminian assumptions.

If Steve is arguing from my assumptions then how is it ‘diversionary’ to cite the assumptions he’s supposedly arguing from? Then again, if the charge is that I’m ‘diverting’ people away from falling for his sloppy caricatures by my providing context, then I plead guilty.

…how does Arminianism extricate its God from the charge that he is merely toying with the lost?

If by ‘toying’ Hays is implying that God shows goodness and mercy to those who love Him, but will show wrath to those who later turn from Him,

“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” (1 Sam 2:30)

Then all the term amounts to is a subjectively rhetorical smear against God’s mercy and justice as revealed in the Bible.

…I took Arminian assumptions for granted for the sake of argument, then constructed a morally analogous situation in Arminianism.

If one reads the ‘morally analogous situation’ Hays came up with, he’ll find that Steve excludes the idea of apostasy itself so he can paint the Almighty as ‘cruel’ for letting the traitor perish. Morally analogous indeed, except of course for the whole moral reason for destroying the apostate to begin with. Hays conveniently ignores the apostate actually turning from God and independently incurring His wrath, all so he can erroneously frame God as being like a “serial killer who orchestrates the death of his victim.”

JCT: “So who then is portraying God as orchestrating the downfall of the people He had saved?”

Hays: …Thibo is equivocating over the term “saved.” There’s a basic difference between “salvation” in the sense of delivering the Israelites from Egypt, and “salvation” in the sense of delivering somebody from a hellish fate.

Again invoking his wild imagination, Hays tries to refute imaginary meaning he’s assigned to my words (which is consistent with Hays’ methodology). I didn’t say “saved from hell.” From the context, it’s quite clear to anyone who grasps the basics of reading comprehension that I was speaking of their being physically saved from Pharaoh, which is analogous to our salvation in Christ. The case could be made however that the passage implies that many of those with whom God was ultimately displeased were in a saving covenant with Him at one point, since the scriptures cited tell us,

“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.” (1 Cor 10:3-5)

A defended fallacy is still a fallacy

Hays will doubtless toss up more red herrings and excuses, though he’s really got nothing left to defend his fallacious reasoning with. Through all of his hem-hawing, demands to know God’s motives, contrived standards, and distractions the point still stands unmitigated: the same twisted logic he employs that would condemn God as cruel for redeeming a sinner and later cutting him off for rebellion would necessarily have to condemn God as cruel for saving many of the Israelites and later cutting them off for rebellion.

Omake

Lee Shelton IV from Contemporary Calvinist also weighs in concerning my commentary on Israel’s fall in the wilderness,

Shelton: “Of course, this completely ignores the fact that while the people of Israel did “fall away” and were disciplined, they were still God’s chosen people and the covenant made with Abraham remained intact.”

Not at all. The body of God’s chosen people does remain in covenant with Him; this, just as in the case of Israel, wouldn’t preclude specific individuals from being cut off from it.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #8: “Calvinism Doesn’t Charge God With the Authorship of Sin”

Related Fallacies:
Red Herring
Equivocation

“All I have tried to do here is show how clearly, succinctly and simply that Calvinism does NOT charge God with the authorship of sin and so (to employ the somewhat aggressive language of Scripture) to shut the mouths of the gainsayers. If any have a case against Calvinism, then let it be based on truth and not on falsehood and slander.” – Colin Maxwell, Do Calvinists believe and teach that God is the Author of Sin?

Colin Maxwell put up the page linked to above showing various quotes from prominent Calvinist sources indicating that they do not believe or teach that God is the author of sin. His point apparently, judging from the content and page’s title, is to stop non-Calvinists from ‘slandering’ them by claiming they teach such a thing.

Problems with this logic

This is something of a red herring, as it’s not widely claimed that Calvinists (apart from some exceptions) directly teach or are willing to connect the dots of their own doctrine to conclude that God is the author of sin. That’s probably the biggest hole in high Calvinism, why would they admit to it -much less openly teach it? Whether they’re willing to accept the ramifications of their beliefs is quite beside the point. The real problem is that making God out to be the author of sin is what their exhaustive determinist doctrine inescapably amounts to.

What is meant by ‘author of sin?’

The term ‘author‘ as employed by Arminians/Synergists in this case, is used in an originative sense to describe where the evil ultimately arose from. If we can identify, “whose idea was this?“, then we’ve found the author. Calvinists will often equivocate and say that it means “actually committing the sin,” or some such, but the ‘author’ of an action doesn’t necessarily describe someone directly committing that action, rather it denotes the one who came up with the action to begin with. A reasonable summary of how decree and authorship are related might be worded:

If a decree is made and its intentions carried out as a result, then the author of the decree is the author of the decree’s fulfilled intentions.

Looking at an example from scripture, this concept stands up quite well.

“So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born [to the Hebrews] you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.” (Exodus 1:22)

As a result, Pharaoh’s men went and carried out his cruel order. To be sure, such a devilish scheme was an inexcusable crime against the people of God; our question then is who authored this crime?

Let’s assume for sake of argument that Pharaoh didn’t actually do any of the dirty work himself. So who authored this crime? The Hebrews? Hardly. The soldiers carried it out. Was it then his soldiers’ idea? Whether they did so willingly or unwillingly under threat of death doesn’t make a difference; they weren’t the ones that came up with the order, Pharaoh was. His subordinates’ level of willingness is irrelevant. His not lifting a finger in helping them perform it is irrelevant. Pharaoh was the one who made the decree, and it was Pharaoh’s intent that was carried out as a result. Pharaoh was the one who ultimately masterminded the act. Pharaoh authored the crime.

High Calvinist Theodicy

It can be fairly said then that whoever makes a decree that is carried out is the author of its intended action. Without fear of being charged with oversimplification then, high Calvinist theodicy can be easily broken with the questions:

Did God author sin?
Did God decree sin?
Did God not author His own decrees?

It’s as simple as that. If God specifically decreed that people sin, then God is the one who came up with the idea and is therefore its author (and the de facto mastermind behind it). Trying to deny the problem by redefining ‘author’ amounts to nothing more than playing word games. One need not ‘charge’ God with being the author of sin to give just such an implication from one’s doctrine. Hence Maxwell’s attempts to put down supposed slander are wholly misaimed and inconsequential, since what he and other Calvinists aren’t directly teaching doesn’t change what they’re effectively teaching.

What About Arminian Theodicy?

The Calvinist might try to confuse the issue by claiming that God decreed that man have free will, which man then turns to sin; therefore for the Arminian, sin is also a result of God’s decree. The answer to this charge is simple. Sin did indeed result from God’s endowing man with free will, but that result hinged upon the creatures’ independent wills, not by necessity of divine decree. In other words, God created good but somewhat independent agents who add their own independent choices to the mix, so that some parts of the outcome (e.g. their sin) are not what God decreed specifically. Or to put it more simply, creatures independently choosing to rebel doesn’t make God the author of their rebellion by virtue of His giving them free will.

For a hypothetical example similar to that cited in Exodus, what if Pharaoh had instead ordered his men, “Make sure the Hebrews don’t start a rebellion,” yet one of the officers assumed he could then commit infanticide and so misused his power? Would Pharaoh have then been the author of the crime? No, had it happened that way, the author would have been the subordinate officer who misused his authority in giving the order. In the same way, God has given us free will, but not necessitated that we misuse it in rebellion against Him.

Didn’t God intend Christ’s death?

Yes He did. God fully intended to offer up His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for sin. This doesn’t imply that He authored every evil intent used to obtain that result. If for the sake of others, one were to deliver his child into the hands of wicked men to do with as they please (even knowing their murderous intent), this would only imply that he was the author of offering up his child, the authors of the wicked schemes carried out are the evil men themselves. And as all sides would agree, God can turn the results of mens’ self-authored wicked intentions to accomplish His own purposes.

Another Red Herring

Calvinists will often try to dismiss the problem by saying that sin is something man does of his own will and motivations. For instance, Maxwell on this page cites a quote by Calvin:

every evil proceeds from no other fountain other than the wicked lusts of man

This sort of defense by an exhaustive determinist is a subtle attempt to draw attention away from where they believe man’s choices and motivations arise: What they’re not telling you is that they also believe that every choice, motivation, ‘wicked lust,’ vice, and evil imagination is specifically and immutably decreed by God. If you want to know where they think the sin actually originated, just pose the question,

“Has any creature who has ever sinned (unbelievers, believers, Adam, Eve, Satan, the fallen angels etc.) ever made that choice with some degree of independence so that it could have chosen differently, or have they always chosen exactly as God irresistibly and immutably decreed they choose?”

Unless you’re talking to one of the very rare free will Calvinists (such as Greg Koukl), the answer will always be the latter (or “I don’t know / it’s a mystery” if they’re feeling squeamish). It always ends up being unconditionally due to God’s decree. Clearly, all the rhetoric about sin proceeding from man’s evil motives is simply an evasion of the real issue, since to the high Calvinist, even the evil motives themselves don’t come from man’s abuse of his independent will, but irresistibly arise from God’s decree.

Conclusion

Given this determinist dogma, Calvinists simply denying that they believe God is the author of sin is hardly relevant. That’s akin to someone claiming that he doesn’t deny the physical resurrection of Christ while at the same time claiming that Christ’s body is still dead and buried. The two claims are mutually exclusive, thus to make them simultaneously is self-contradictory.

The Bible doesn’t directly state that “God isn’t the author of sin;” but the fact that the wickedness that exists in our world didn’t originate from within Him barely even needs be stated.

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

If one claims that God exhaustively and unconditionally predetermines every motive and thought, this is equivalent to saying that God is the originator every motive and thought, which inescapably includes God being the originator of every evil motive and thought. “A heart that devises wicked imaginations” is an abomination to God (Prov. 6:18), yet if high Calvinist dogma is to be believed, we’d have to conclude that God devised all of their depraved imaginations for them! Far better to believe the scriptures that testify both of God’s absolute Holiness as well as the choices that He in His sovereignty allows men to freely make, rather than Calvinism’s incoherent train wreck of a doctrine that (wittingly or no) makes Him into the mastermind behind every evil scheme.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #7: Arminianism Leads to Universalism

Related Fallacies:
Oversimplification
Non-Sequitur
Slippery Slope

“The choices are not between Calvinism and Arminianism; it’s between Calvinism and universalism. Arminianism is a self-contradictory mess that can never defend itself.” – James White

This is a favorite rhetorical jab of many Calvinists, but is in fact one of the more obvious fallacies they often employ. The logic behind it is simple and can be summed up with the statement:

“If Christ’s death saves, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

Seems pretty easy, right?

Problems with this logic

Turns out the simplicity of the argument is its weakness, because it masks a hidden difference in underlying assumptions. The critical distinction lies in the first part of the sentence, “…Christ’s death saves….”

The differences in viewpoint on atonement

5-point Calvinists (and those of similar belief) view Christ’s atonement as a definite and unconditional act, that is to say, those who Christ died for will definitely receive its benefit, with no exceptions. Arminians (and most other Christians) view His atonement as provisioned upon faith, so that all the people it’s made for will receive its benefit only if they believe.

One can further clarify what is meant by “Christ’s death saves” from these beliefs. For the Calvinist, it means, “Christ’s death saves absolutely everyone for which it was made.” For the Arminian, it means, “Christ’s death saves all who believe in Him.” So the summary statement above makes sense if the Calvinist view of the atonement is assumed:

“If Christ’s death saves absolutely everyone for which it was made, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

Of course, Calvinists aren’t using this kind of logic to argue against their own view. Since they’re trying to show how ‘self-contradictory’ the Arminian view is, it would be only fair to assume the Arminian view of the atonement when making the statement, which would then be:

“If Christ’s death saves all who believe in Him, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

This of course doesn’t follow, since it’s not been shown that everyone Christ died for will necessarily believe in Him. Given God’s foreknowledge that He reveals in scripture concerning some people and the Arminian view of resistible grace, it’s quite evident that no Bible-believing and logically consistent Arminian can accept the idea of Universalism.

I suppose that if it could be proved that Arminians (who believe the scriptures which tell us that Christ died for all men) for some mysterious reason could only become ‘consistent Arminians’ by accepting the non-Arminian/Calvinist view of the atonement, then the accusation of inevitable Universalism might hold water. Until then, the assertion remains a ridiculous slippery slope.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #6: Is God Cruel If He Lets a Believer Fall Away?

Related Fallacies:
Special Pleading (Double Standard)
Equivocation
Straw man

“Of course, this raises the question, why does their God save a person to damn him? Why not simply leave him in his unsaved state?” – Steve Hays, Tender Mercies

To get a better view of this fallacy, let’s examine the author’s argument more fully from the analogy he gives:

Suppose there’s a new student in high school. His family moved into the area a few weeks ago. Because he’s feeling lonely and out of place, suppose I appear to befriend him by inviting him to take a fishing trip with me and two of my high school buddies. He’s overjoyed to make some new friends. On the first day out, he falls into the water. Unfortunately, he can’t swim. Fortunately, I jump in to save him. He hugs me and thanks me profusely for saving his life. He tells us how much he’s looking forward to the life ahead of him. I nod and smile. The next day he falls into the water again. Only this time I don’t rescue him. I let him drown. What is more, I had premonition that this would happen before I ever invited him to join us on the fishing trip. I knew that when I saved him the day before, I’d let him die the day after. I knew all along, as he was hugging me and thanking me for saving his life, that I’d let him die the very next day. Why rescue him in the first place, only to let him drown a day later? Isn’t that cruel? …

Problems with this logic

This critical failure at critical thinking can be easily answered with a simple scriptural example:

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

How each systematic theology interprets the events of Israel’s fall in the wilderness reveals much.

Arminian Calvinist
Did many of the children of Israel rebel against God? Yes Yes
Were they destroyed in the wilderness because of their rebellion? Yes Yes
Did God know beforehand that they would rebel, and yet permit it to occur? Yes Yes
Did God deliver them from Pharaoh's army anyway? Yes Yes
Did God not only permit their rebellion, but actually want them to fall? No Yes
Could those who fell have chosen to be faithful instead of rebel? Yes No
Did God permit them to choose either obedience unto life or rebellion unto death, or did He permit only that they choose rebellion unto death? God permitted them to choose either God permitted them only to choose rebellion unto death
What was the ultimate cause of their rebellious acts? The rebels' independent free will God's decree

These answers are particularly ironic when the rest of the spiel is considered:

I know something he doesn’t. I know that he is doomed. But I allow him to entertain a tremendous sense of relief after his brush with death, even though, unbeknownst to him, that’s a temporary reprieve which is just a set-up for his untimely demise. How is that so very different than a serial killer who orchestrates the death of his victim by befriending the victim to gain his trust, so that he can toy with the victim before he delivers the coup de grâce?

“A set-up for his untimely demise”? Per the table above, if the Arminian view is that God didn’t want the children of Israel to fall, but the Calvinist view is that their fall was His perfect will, who then is framing God as setting them up for their demise?

“A serial killer who orchestrates the death of his victim…[toys] with the victim before he delivers the coup de grâce”? From where did their rebellious downfall ultimately originate? Note again that in the Arminian view, this was the Israelites’ own doing and not necessitated by the will of God; in the Calvinist view their rebellion was necessary due to God’s decree. So who then is portraying God as orchestrating the downfall of the people He had saved?

Who then portrays God acting cruelly?

Is it cruel of God to save people from destruction and give them a genuine opportunity to obtain the promise, even though He knows they will ultimately die in a self-started rebellion?

Or is it cruel for God to save people from destruction only to lead them out into the desert to die in a rebellion that He Himself inescapably decreed they commit?

The fact that God shows His continued kindness to men on a conditional basis is well-established in scripture (e.g. 2 Chronicles 16:6-9). So the logic of this argument then breaks down to the ridiculous position of condemning God as ‘cruel’ if He saves someone, but later lets him suffer the destructive consequences of his own free choices; and at the same time lauding Him as good and just if He saves someone, then later destroys him for choices that God decreed he make! That’s special pleading at its most absurd. Further, the author confuses and equivocates God merely allowing the evil to occur (the Arminian view) with God ‘setting up’ and ‘orchestrating’ the event (which better reflects his own exhaustively deterministic views). The comparison of God to a serial killer in that He’s eager to deliver the death blow is also a complete mischaracterization, since He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked (or their wickedness for that matter).

The missing piece

Back to the question of apostasy. Just as Israel fell in the wilderness after being saved from the wrath of Pharaoh, so the scriptures warn us against likewise incurring God’s judgment after He has shown us His goodness.

“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven…” (Hebrews 12:25)

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11)

“Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” (Romans 11:22)

God wouldn’t be any more cruel for punishing such an apostate than He was for punishing the Israelites for their rebellion. Missing from the weak and badly misplaced ‘fishing trip’ analogy is any reference to the factor of willful rebellion against the Savior. Apostasy isn’t something that people suddenly just fall into by accident and without warning. The apostate isn’t some poor kid flailing in the water and crying for help to an uncaring and indifferent God. He’s the one who walked once, but is now an enemy of the cross (Philippians 3:18). He’s the false teacher who knew Christ, but turned away (2 Peter 2:20). He’s the servant who repays his king’s forgiveness with cruelty to his fellow servants (Matthew 18:23-35), and before the just Judge of all the earth, his sentence is the same as all who do not love our Lord Jesus Christ.

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