The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacies #14: Conditional Election Makes God a Respecter of Persons?

Related Fallacies:
Equivocation

John Hendryx, who we’ve noted has employed numerous fallacies in defense of Calvinism and distortions against Arminianism, is at it yet again. This time he’s trying to prove that it’s conditional election, not unconditional election, that makes God into a “respecter of persons.” Before I address his points, I believe that the idea that God is impartial has to be defined and qualified carefully: God being impartial does not mean that He treats everyone exactly the same in every respect, nor does it imply that He gives the same circumstances or blessings to everyone. Scriptural references to God’s impartiality appear to refer primarily to how He makes His judgments of men’s hearts and actions, and how He accepts people who fear Him. It doesn’t imply God having some kind of warped, hyper-egalatarian mentality where He ensures everyone’s lot in life is exactly on par. Having examined the issue myself, I think it would be difficult to make a solid case for either conditional or unconditional election violating the principle of God’s impartial judgment in scripture, since election isn’t really the same thing as judgment. However, Hendryx seems to think this does make a good case against Arminianism, and so he tries to paint Arminian doctrine as making God into a respecter of persons, while exonerating his own doctrine. As we shall see, this is one of the worst possible maneuvers, and backfires on him badly.

Redefining Partiality

Hendryx cites Leviticus 19:15, Proverbs 24:23, 1 Peter 1:17, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, and James 2:1-9 among others, to prove that God is impartial. Quoting him,

They are clearly warning the believer against showing favoritism or partiality, because they declare that God Himself does not show partiality or favoritism. And. most importantly, in each of these instances it means neither we nor God give special treatment to a person because of his position, merit, wealth, influence, social standing, authority or popularity. Thus ‘respecter of persons’ means we are not to favor one person over the other because of ANY superior personal trait in the one favored, and likewise we are not to show prejudice toward those who lack these characteristics.

Hendryx’s definition of “respecter of persons” is too narrow: to show respect to persons extends beyond just showing favoritism due to superficial personal traits, it implies special treatment based upon any unobjective, uneven or irrelevant criteria. Let’s give an example: Suppose a judge renders his verdict in a case, but bases his decision not upon guilt or innocence, but upon how much he personally likes the plaintiff and defendant. Is that showing partiality? It most certainly is. Keep that in mind as we continue….

So when God unconditionally elects a person in Christ does he first determine who he will choose based on their position, wealth, good looks, influence etc? No.

We’re agreed on that point.

By definition unconditional election means unconditional. It is not conditioned on ANYTHING in us or potentially in us.

This is also technically correct. Judgments are to be based upon what is actually done (guilt, innocence, or other objective criteria pertaining to action), not personal traits.

God does not stand to gain from currying anyone’s favor … even those who are in high positions … because God gave them that position, wealth, authority or social standing to begin with. The Bible unambiguously teaches, therefore, that God is no respecter of persons in election. Those who are chosen are chosen “in Christ” not because God is thinking about what he has to gain by helping them over others.. God has no need for such things, so, by definition, his choosing us cannot be tainted with such a motive.

This is something of a non-sequitur: having a motive of personal gain is one way to show partiality, but is by no means the only way. Proving that God has need of nothing and that He doesn’t judge on the basis of material gain or influence doesn’t automatically establish impartiality. Looking at our example of the judge above, if asked why he rendered the verdict that he did, which responses would indicate partiality or impartiality?

“The evidence that came out in the proceedings made it overwhelmingly clear.” – impartial
“Multiple eyewitness accounts establish this beyond reasonable doubt.” – impartial
“The argument was logically sound and airtight.” – impartial
“I rendered judgment strictly as the law dictates.” – impartial
“I scratch his back, he’ll scratch mine!” – partial (motive of personal gain; but there are plenty more than just this)
“He looked guilty.” – partial
“I just had a feeling.” – partial
“He’s my nephew.” – partial
“The other guy made his case much more eloquently.” – partial
“I don’t like his type.” – partial
“I just wanted to do it that way.” – PARTIAL

Note that the last example is unconditional, a verdict rendered simply by arbitrary fiat (hereafter, just “fiat”). It is not objective, and it therefore doesn’t really matter what other reasons he has for declaring one guilty and the other innocent in such a case, such a ruling is partial. Hendryx refers back to the quote from James 2:1-9,

James question is rhetorical, of course. Because yes indeed God HAS chosen the poor of the world … i.e. those who are spiritually bankrupt who have lost all hope in themselves… S0 God is not looking to benefit from those who are already full, but shows special care those who are empty or impoverished. … So according to the Bible, showing special favor to the poor is the very antithesis of what it means to show favoritism or respect of persons.

Hendryx again displays a misunderstanding of what impartiality is. The quote he cited above from Leviticus declares,

“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15, NKJV)

Which plainly indicates that it is partiality to show favoritism in judgment to a poor man simply because he is poor. I would instead interpret James as referring to correlation and contrast: people are seldom granted riches in both spiritual and material possessions. Hendryx also unwittingly argues for conditional election in stating,

“[So] God is not looking to benefit from those who are already full, but shows special care those who are empty or impoverished.”

If God elected on that basis, that would still be conditional election, since being empty and impoverished would be a condition to being elect.

So far, Hendryx’s major errors have been in equating partiality as being based upon,
1.) personal traits
2.) motive for personal gain

And in concluding that judgment that isn’t for personal gain must be impartial (which is not necessarily true, since judgment based upon fiat is also partial).

Redefining Synergism

…it is actually those who defend CONDITIONAL election who make God a respecter of persons. This is because, if it were true that meeting some condition prompted God’s decision to elect his people then His choice of them would be based on their wisdom, prudence, sound judgment, or good sense to believe. He would therefore be looking at the character or merit of that person and choosing them because of it.

This is entirely incorrect for one simple reason: election based upon whether one does (or will) believe is not rooted in traits, but action: belief in Christ. Hendryx’s reasoning falls completely apart when applied to actual cases of judgment. If a judge discerns from the evidence that a man is innocent, and declares him “not guilty,” is he showing favoritism because of the man’s “good sense not to commit the crime?” Not at all, his judgment is based upon action, not character. Whether the man is smart, stupid, sensible, foolish, etc, is irrelevant. A just and impartial verdict is based upon the objective criteria of his actions.

The Bible, on the contrary, declares that we are all ill-deserving and, as such, God reserves the right to have mercy on whom he will, which is not based in any way on the will of the flesh (John 1:13; Rom 9:15, 16).

Simply having the right to do what one wishes doesn’t make on impartial, those are separate issues (as supreme power allows for fiat). God is both sovereign and impartial (and therefore doesn’t rule by fiat).

If God is basing his election on who will have faith then this would, in fact, make God a respecter of persons because these persons are meeting God’s criteria in order to be chosen.

In synergism God’s love for his people is not unconditional but is given only when someone meets the right condition… i.e. whether someone has faith or not. He chooses them only if they believe in him. Isn’t that favoritism?

Here is Hendryx’s third major error: basing decisions upon objective and relevant criteria (such as action) is not showing favoritism. Complaining about objective criteria as a basis for decisions is directly analogous to (and exactly as ridiculous as) accusing a judge of partiality in his rulings because he’s “biased in favor of the innocent.” Decisions based upon objective conditions (rather than merely who the persons involved are) are the very epitome of impartial judgment. In labeling that as “favoritism,” Hendryx has the issue completely and totally backwards.

God loves his people because he loves them. Is there some better reason OUTSIDE or ABOVE God that should make him do so? The Arminian would have us think so.

This is also a bit strange, nothing makes God love anyone; He does so freely, and extends saving grace to those who freely believe. And Arminians don’t believe in anything “above” God, so Hendryx seems very confused in his verbiage at this point.

Redefining Conditionality

It is the synergist who believes God shows favoritism or partiality because it is based on whether or not that person meritoriously meets the condition God gives him.

To define believing as a “meritorious” act goes completely against the theology of all major Synergists. Something being a condition does not make it meritorious, as even demeritorious things can be conditions (sin is a condition for damnation). As orthodox Synergists maintain, faith is a condition to salvation, but is of itself of no intrinsic worth or merit. Hendryx is in such a fervor to promote his Calvinist agenda that he’s stooped to badly misrepresenting Synergist theology.

Redefining Context

Hendryx drones on with his ridiculously Westernized canard about parents unconditionally loving their children and making sure they don’t get hit by oncoming traffic (apparently while making sure that the children they don’t like do get run over). He tries to use this analogy to establish that God’s love for His children isn’t conditioned upon things like faith. This is countered easily enough: first, God does love all men in the world unconditionally, which is why Christ was sent (John 3:16, which also specifies the condition of faith for eternal life). Secondly, trying to frame God’s relationship to His children as being strictly analogous to the relationships between human parents and our children is fatally flawed: none of us (apart from Christ) are His children in any sense pertaining to salvation, but we’re rather children of wrath. But the scriptures declare,

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

So faith is a condition to even being His child to begin with; Hendryx’s analogy, contrary to Galatians 3, incorrectly assumes that the elect are God’s children in some special sense apart from faith.

So now God is partial?

He leads into this with some minor issues, noting that God is not obligated to save anyone and his choices are always good (I agree). He cites people’s varying circumstances and stations in life, people treating their own children differently from their neighbors, Jesus’ selective healings & resurrections of the dead (e.g. Lazarus), and so on, to prove that in actuality, God does show favoritism. As I pointed out at the beginning, God’s impartiality is descriptive of His judgment and acceptance, trying to twist it to mean that people should have identical circumstances in the world is stretching it well beyond its intended meaning. Nonetheless, we now start to see a subtle shift in Hendryx’s argument: he was just arguing that condtional election (as opposed to his view of unconditional election) makes God out to be playing favorites, but now he’s actually acknowledging that he believes God is showing favoritism, and that he extends it to election as well. He argues,

…everyone is born equally guilty in Adam and so it is perfectly just that not all get the same benefits in this life when they are born. If this is true of everyday life why is it such a stretch to carry the same idea into eternity? it is hypocrisy not to recognize this inconsistency.

The question really is not whether God shows favorites but IN WHAT SENSE does God not show favorites because God chose Abraham out of all the people’s of the earth, not because he saw something good in him, nor because he earned God’s favor, but because God chose to.

I agree that not everyone gets an equal lot in this life; I don’t believe that’s what the Bible’s teachings about God’s fairness and impartiality are in reference to. But Hendryx has turned it into a problem for himself: No sooner has he finished arguing that conditional election implies God playing favorites, than he takes supposed examples of God’s “favoritism” in regards to people’s life circumstances and tries to extend them to election. As the saying goes, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” It’s a stunning display of cognitive dissonance for him to condemn one view of election for allegedly being partial (and therefore inferior to his view), then holding up alleged examples of partiality, and proceeding to use those to promote his own view of election! This inconsistency is Hendryx’s fourth major error. First he tries to blast conditional election for making God partial in His choosing, yet now he’s backpedaling and making the claim that God is partial in His choosing, He’s just partial in a different way.

If God doesn’t satisfactorily explain to you the good reasons He has for what he does, do you thereby condemn Him for it?

No one’s arguing that God needs to explain all of His reasons, we’re discussing how God’s revelation of His impartiality relates to divine election. Despite his decrial of condemning God based upon not understanding His reasons, Hendryx himself is quick to condemn the Arminian understanding of God as partial, and he does so without even understanding what partiality in judgment means.

Sanity Check

The issue of people having different circumstances in life doesn’t necessarily denote God being partial at all. As a counter-example, if I give my children different chores according to their ability, different bedtimes appropriate to their ages, different gifts to fit different interests, and different rewards and punishments fitting for differing behavior, I’m not playing favorites. However, if both are equally guilty of willfully disobeying a rule that carries a standard penalty, it would be playing favorites and partial judgment for me to unconditionally punish one and unconditionally pardon the other. The last major underlying error apparent in Hendryx’s reasoning is the idea that everyone being guilty makes God’s choosing some unto salvation impartial. Everyone being guilty of offending the supreme God would make His treatment, at the very least, equal to or less than what we deserve. I must stress though that this is not the same thing as impartiality. The issue is not fairness to just an individual, but partiality between individuals.

Take for instance a judge who is rendering his judgment against two men who have been proven to be equally guilty of the same crime. If he unconditionally shows leniency to the one, but condemns the other, his judgments are at worst, what the men deserve, but they are not impartial, as he is showing favoritism to one over the other. While this example pertains to judgment, not election, it is nonetheless exactly analogous to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. Hendryx condemns conditional election as making God partial, yet himself proposes a scheme of election that is partial by definition. By that token, conditional election would be akin to the judge offering both men an opportunity for acquittal: say he offers that if one or both of them will sign a pledge of loyalty and service to their rightful ruler that apologizes for and renounces their evil acts, then the judge will show undeserved leniency to whoever signs it. One signs it and goes free, the other does not and is condemned. Was the judge showing favoritism in giving a different verdict? Not at all. The conditions were laid out; he judged them worthy of condemnation by the same standard to both, and showed undeserved leniency (or not) based upon the same objective (yet non-meritorious) condition to both. This is likewise analogous to how election is conditional per the Arminian view, and plainly demonstrates that God shows no respect of persons, but rather shows leniency based upon the objective standard of faith in Christ.

If God’s impartiality does apply to election, then unconditional election will invariably be shown wanting. The only options when choosing impartially are,

1.) Everyone is chosen unconditionally.
2.) No one is chosen unconditionally.
3.) Only some are chosen, but upon an objective basis.

The only way for God’s choosing to be impartial is if only some are chosen unconditionally, AKA unconditional election. If God is impartial in election, and only some are elect, then conditional election is the only game in town.

Bottom Line:

* The impartiality that the Bible attributes to God has to do with His righteous judgments and acceptance of righteous men; it doesn’t follow from this that everyone will have identical life circumstances.
* Hendryx’s definition of partiality is too narrow. There are more ways to be partial than simply judging based upon personal traits or for personal gain.
* The act of choosing one over another by fiat is, by definition, showing favoritism.
* That all men are guilty of sin is irrelevant to the issue of God’s impartiality: choosing one over another unconditionally is still being partial.
* God choosing according to one’s belief is not basing His choice upon a personal trait.
* God choosing based upon objective and relevant criteria (like faith) is not showing personal favoritism.
* Something being conditional is not the same as it being obtained by merit.
* If God’s impartiality does extend to election, then conditional election is the only impartial method by which some (not all or none) can be chosen. Thus such an argument ultimately backfires on the Calvinist.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacies #12 & #13: The Arminian View of Divine Foreknowledge Attacks God’s Simplicity and Immutability

Related Fallacies:
Conflation
Hasty Generalization

Oversimplification

Tim Prussic attempts to salvage his hopeless case after I pointed out his fallacious reasoning concerning God’s aseity. Tim makes a tenuous appeal to divine simplicity; in his words,

Now, since, in God, the self-existent One, essence and attributes are identical, his knowledge is of necessity tied in with his essence – his being. God IS his knowledge. So, if God is dependent upon creation for knowledge, then we have a serious theological problem.

Problems with this logic

Mr. Prussic’s case relies heavily upon conflating God’s attribute of omniscience with what His knowledge references. This line of reasoning begins to collapse in on itself when applied, for instance, to God’s attribute of love. Now the Bible plainly tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that it’s because of His love for us that Christ died (Romans 5:8). But since God loves people, then that love for people necessarily requires people, clearly making God’s love for man dependent upon man. According to Mr. Prussic’s comical views of divine simplicity, this love for man would be intrinsic to God’s essence, and would inevitably lead to the conclusion that God’s being is necessarily tied to the people He loves -making man essential to God’s nature. Ironically, Tim’s view, taken to its logical conclusions, ends up being the theory that attacks God’s aseity, since God’s very essence would depend upon man!

My counter is that we shouldn’t confuse God’s attributes like love and knowledge with who or what those attributes reference. Contrary to Mr. Prussic’s misaimed remark of this making God, “less than perfect in one attribute”: God would still be loving and omniscient even if there were no such thing as man, because that is who He is; He isn’t changing His attributes by creating man, weighing his heart (Proverbs 21:2) or setting His love upon him (Deuteronomy 7:7). He would always be loving and omniscient even if He’d never created anything.

Further ridiculousness of the view Mr. Prussic espouses can be seen from a simple reductio:

If God’s knowledge is innate to Him, then everything He knows is innate to Him. My existence is one of the things God knows about. If God innately knows that I was born some time in the latter part of the last century, then that fact has eternally been an innate part of God’s knowledge; God therefore had no choice but to create me, else He would falsify His knowledge. Thus God’s omniscience is now dependent upon my existence.

This could even be taken a step further: I’m a believer in Christ, part of the elect. God has innately and eternally known that I’ll be part of the elect -that fact is part of His divine essence (according to Mr. Prussic anyway). By that logic, God not only had to create me, but to make His knowledge true, had no choice but to elect me as well (and Calvinists accuse me of being “man-centered”), else falsify His knowledge. Even the Potter doesn’t have any real freedom by such backwards thinking! We could go on and on, but suffice it to say that divine simplicity interpreted in such a way as Mr. Prussic does breaks down into complete incoherence. He goes on to ask,

If that paradigm works with God’s attribute of knowledge, why not all his other attributes? Would we be opposed to the notion that, in certain areas, God’s not all-powerful, but actual gains power from his creation? What if God, in a certain area, were not completely truthful, but gained truth from his creation?

Given the ramifications I cited above to Mr. Prussic’s position, his “truthfulness” example ends up backfiring on him: If God innately knows about my existence, then the truth of that knowledge is dependent upon my existence. God in fact would depend upon me for His intrinsic knowledge to be true. Therefore the truth of God’s knowledge must depend upon me if Tim’s logic is to be consistently applied. Tim also again fails to address the previously cited example of God’s faithfulness to His promises being dependent upon those to whom the promises were made. This was not unexpected, as inconsistent logic such as he propounds can seldom coherently deal with realistic situations.

Immutably absurd theology

Prussic:

The semi-thoughtful reader will already know that, in J.C.’s thought, the classic doctrine of divine immutability was tossed out the window a long time ago. For, manifestly, if God doesn’t change, his knowledge cannot increase. His knowledge would (like all his other attributes) be infinite, eternal and unchangeable. Learning is growth. Growth is change. The Bible says that God doesn’t change.

Indeed, only a semi-thoughtful reader who’s failed to think the issue through could come to such a conclusion. Divine immutability implies that God always remains who He is, not that He never experiences any kind of change in any sense. Experience or action of any kind (without which an entity is utterly static) implies some sense of change, but not necessarily in one’s essential being.

Christ, for instance, has always been divine (and thus immutable) and One with God the Father. Yet Christ experienced and became things He was not before: He was incarnated, He was killed, He is risen from the grave, He was made perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10), He was tempted, and He is now the heavenly High Priest who can aid those who are likewise tempted (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15). Yet these experiences did not change who He is, for the scriptures declare that He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Further to the point, God’s attribute of faithfulness is absolute; He cannot be unfaithful. Nevertheless, who God can’t cease to show His covenant mercy to has changed since God made the world. God made His covenant with Abraham, and thus cannot now go back on His word, whereas He didn’t have this obligation before the covenant was made. Does this promise to the man Abraham becoming encompassed by God’s faithfulness constitute some change to God’s nature? Hardly. This is a good example of how an attribute of God remains immutably unchanged even if who/what that attribute references does change (in this case, a promise to Abraham being added to what God is faithful to). God didn’t depend upon Abraham to “make Him faithful,” He by nature has always been faithful.

God’s immutability doesn’t convey that He’s some sort of static entity, it implies that no matter what He chooses to do, He necessarily and eternally remains God.

Still more problems for the Necessitarian

Besides not dealing with the counter-example, Prussic’s attempt fails to deal with the problem of the origin of sin that I raised in my first reply. This particular problem along with the ramifications of innate knowledge shown above devastates his simplicity/immutability appeals while simultaneously tipping his “non-aseity” accusations back onto him.

If all of God’s knowledge is innate to His being, and sin is something encompassed in His knowledge, then sin itself is essential to God’s being. God has to have sin for His knowledge to be true, otherwise He isn’t omniscient. Therefore God’s being God depends upon sin (if this whole “innate knowledge” canard is to be believed anyway).

Conclusion

Beyond just determinism, Mr. Prussic’s unscriptural and man-made twisting of God’s divine attributes outright subjects God Himself to strict necessity, making His essence intrinsically dependent upon man and everything else He creates. So if His knowledge about my being redeemed and glorified is essential to His being, then God literally had to save me to make His knowledge true. Worse still, God goes from authoring sin (which error many Calvinists unwittingly promote by their teachings) to actually needing sin to be God. Against those who accept the biblical truth of free will, Necessitarians are quite eager to level the charge of attacking God’s aseity; but the pit they dig winds up being the one they themselves fall into: for if God needs mankind and its sinfulness for His innate knowledge to hold true, as their reasoning dictates, then the omniscient God has an intrinsic need of creation.

God willing, Mr. Prussic will learn from these glaring errors and cease relying upon Calvinism’s bizarre and self-contradicting set of assumptions about God’s nature, and instead turn to scriptures to draw his understanding of who God is.

Bottom Line:

* Given the crucial distinction between God’s attributes and the objects that they reference, that God knows everything about us as His creations is an essential aspect of His Being; what He knows about us is not, as we ourselves are not essential to His Being. Thus the simplicity of God and His divine attributes isn’t threatened by free will.

* At least some of the objects which pertain to God’s attributes (e.g. what He knows about some creature, who He is faithfully in covenant with) aren’t intrinsic to His nature, but hinge upon His own sovereign choices. His immutability is not in these objects being fixed within His nature (for where we are concerned, this would imply that we are fixed in His nature), but in that whatever choices He makes, He eternally and unchangeably remains the all-knowing, all-powerful and completely faithful God.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #11: The Arminian View of Divine Foreknowledge Attacks God’s Aseity

Related fallacies:
Non Sequitur
Equivocation
Special Pleading

One apparent ramification of holding to both libertarian free will and God’s omniscience is that God (apparently) derives His knowledge of our choices from us, since our choices ultimately come from us. A while back I had a run-in with a Mr. Tim Prussic, who employed an argument I’ve seen before: Calvinists who hold to exhaustive determinism will often argue that God having knowledge that is in some way based upon human will undermines His aseity.

Defining “Aseity”

Aseity is defined as, “existence originating from and having no source other than itself.” God, according to all branches of orthodox Christian theology, is the only Being who is self-existent. The issue at hand, briefly, is that if God has endowed His creations with a measure of free will, then the creatures’ own actions come from themselves (i.e. from their own self-determination) and hence the transcendent God’s knowledge of what they will do apparently is also rooted in that self-determination. Determinists such as Mr. Prussic contend that God’s knowledge being rooted in anything men will or do somehow attacks His aseity, since this would imply a dependency relationship, viz. God being dependent upon man for knowledge (of what that man will choose, specifically).

Problems with this logic

For starters, God clearly isn’t dependent upon man for His existence. God having freedom of His own will entails that He didn’t have to create mankind at all. Clearly, knowledge derived from what created men do is no threat to His self-existence. The only objection the determinist could offer here would be a knowledge dependency -God using men to be omniscient concerning men’s wills. Would that be tantamount to saying that one of God’s attributes (His omniscience) comes from man? Not at all: such a scenario would imply that God had to create man to become omniscient, but this clearly isn’t the case, since God would have been all-knowing even if He had never created man at all.

The only dependency upon man (i.e. God knowing what a man will choose due to the man himself) is itself rooted in God’s will to create man in the first place, so no such dependency can exist apart from God’s being willing that it exist. Asserting that God entering into such a dependency relationship somehow attacks His self-existence apparently doesn’t follow from any sound argumentation.

Counter Example

Unimpeded by minor obstacles such as their argument lacking coherence, determinists like Mr. Prussic continue to press the issue, claiming that God is made “less than God,” since He’s now created a dependency upon man, the implication being that any kind of dependency relationship destroys God’s aseity. Does this novel definition of “aseity” hold any water in light of scripture?

Let’s look at another one of God’s attributes: faithfulness. God is indeed called “faithful and true” (Revelation 19:11, see also Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 49:7, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Knowing this, I ask, has God ever made a promise or oath to anyone? He certainly has. His covenant with Abraham and his descendants is a prominent example (Genesis 22:16-18). Second question: for God to remain faithful to what He has promised, does the one(s) to whom He made such promises have to exist? I would think so: Abraham and his descendents apparently must exist for God to remain faithful to His promises that He made to them.

So then God’s attribute of faithfulness actually does depend upon His creations (their existence in this case), provided that He has chosen to make a promise to them. This type of dependency wouldn’t attack God’s aseity, as making the promises in the first place (and thus establishing that dependence) was His decision alone. This clearly wouldn’t imply that He has some innate need of creation, but would definitely indicate that such a dependency exists according to His will.

If God’s faithfulness to His promises in relation to people is dependent upon the existence of the people He made promises to, then why is it suddenly an attack on His aseity if His knowledge in relation to people’s choices is similarly dependent upon them? If God needs to have people to be faithful to His promises made to those He created, then why is it any difficulty for Him to need people to know the choices of those He has created? The Calvinist charge amounts to a form of rather lame special pleading that simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

Even bigger problems

Ironically, a much larger problem lies with the determinist view of God where the origins of sin are concerned. If all of God’s knowledge necessarily comes from Himself, then everything He has knowledge of must also arise from within Himself -that includes sin. Such a view inevitably ends up making God the author of sin and the source of every lie, evil motive and abominable thought. This stands in complete contrast with the apostle John, who declares,

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)

Conclusion

The Calvinist case here is a rather strained attempt to save a very contrived redefinition of God’s aseity. Their accusation is in fact so impotent that when I confronted Mr. Prussic with the counter-example cited above, his only recourse was to pronounce that I was “guilty” without even offering the slightest interaction with the evidence presented. God being self-existent and having need of nothing doesn’t imply that He can’t establish some sort of dependency, it simply means that God innately has no need of anything external to Himself. God allowing some sort of dependency to exist because of His interactions with man doesn’t undermine His aseity, since no such dependency is innate to God, they can only exist according to His will. The exhaustive determinist position only saves its own self-serving and unworkable definition of aseity, while at the same time abominably making God into the origin of all sin.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #10: Wait, Now Faith is a “Work?”

Related Fallacies:
Equivocation
Category Mistake

“[Arminianism] denies sola fide (faith alone) by changing the character of faith so that it is basically a work.” (Rev. Richard Phillips [Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals], Is Arminianism a Biblical View or Is it Heresy?)

“Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminian, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works, lifted up; for he always thinks faith is a work of the creature and a condition of his acceptance. It is as false to say that man is saved by faith as a work, as that he is saved by the deeds of the law” (Spurgeon, C.H., “Effects of Sound Doctrine”)

Continuing on the theme of faith, another odd assertion often made by Calvinists is that non-Calvinists somehow make faith into a “work” (as in “salvation by works”). If true, this would of course spell disaster for any competing belief system, since the scriptures clearly deny that a man can be justified by works. The simplistic logic behind the argument is rashly demonstrated by Fred Butler of Grace to You Ministries in my exchange with him:

“If God requires that we cooperate with His plan of salvation … then how is this NOT works?”

Their reasoning is straightforward enough: all human acts are “works” of some kind, therefore to believe that faith is something people do makes faith into a work. While seemingly sound, this decontextualized logic begins to fall apart quickly when the scriptures are examined. To dismantle this fallacy, let’s examine a few incontrovertible facts from scripture:

1. Salvation and righteousness are by faith

This should go without saying. To be thorough:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….” (Romans 5:1)

“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.” (Romans 4:11)

2. Faith is believing

Some may try to draw some artificial distinction between faith and believing; no such differentiation exists in the Bible, the two are synonymous. It’s accepted by all sides that righteousness is by faith (see Romans 4:11 above), and it’s stated directly in scripture that it is believing that is accounted as righteousness:

“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”” (Romans 4:3) [see also Genesis 15:6, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23]

So faith is synonymous with belief in Christ.

3. Believing is a human action

To put it simply, God doesn’t believe for us, it is we who believe in our hearts, to which the scriptures plainly attest:

“For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

As I commented on the last post:

“…it’s vital to differentiate between the condition to salvation and the actual saving work. Coming to faith in Christ freely isn’t 99.99% God saving me and 0.01% me saving me. I do exactly 100% of my own believing in Christ, to which God has graciously responded with doing exactly 100% of the saving work.”

So putting the facts we’ve learned together syllogistically:

(P1) Salvation and righteousness are by faith
(P2) Faith is believing
(P3) Believing is a human action
(C1) Therefore, salvation and righteousness come about through a human action – believing

The conclusion here correlates perfectly with the preceding thought in Romans 10:10a, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified….”

The Calvinist may object at this point that he believes that faith is irresistibly conferred by God through regeneration or some such, but that’s quite beside the point when addressing their ‘salvation by works / works-righteousness’ charges. Regardless of whether people believe in a truly free sense, or are irresistibly changed so that they have no other choice, believing something with one’s heart is still a human action, which brings us to our next point.

4. Scripture teaches that salvation is by faith, not works; and that no one can be justified by works

“David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works….” (Romans 4:6)

So given these facts,

(P1a) Salvation and righteousness come about through a human action – believing (C1 above)
(P2a) Scripture teaches that salvation is by faith, not works; and that no one can be justified by works
(C2) Therefore the action of believing isn’t comparable to the “works” scripture says no one can be justified by

Obviously, when the scriptures refer to our righteousness not being by works, the action of believing logically can’t be included in such a set if one reads the scriptures with any consistency. The unscriptural charges of the Reformed apologists begins to further unravel when the obvious resolution is shown….

The simple solution from the context

There really isn’t any deep mystery or paradox here. the “works” which men cannot be justified by are the works of the law as the contexts in Paul’s teachings on faith and justification easily bear out.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

“Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”” (Romans 9:32)

“…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

“Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”” (Galatians 3:11)

Nowhere does the Bible equate believing in Christ with keeping some work of the law, and hence salvation by faith can never be “salvation by works” in the sense Paul condemns. Some Calvinists may insist that it being a human action still makes it into some sort of work, but this really isn’t an objection, since even though anything one does can be classified as a ‘work’ in some sense, such actions wouldn’t necessarily have relevance to the topic of the law. When Christ spoke of laboring for the food which doesn’t perish, the crowd asked how they could do so.

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:27-29, emphasis added)

So believing can in fact be considered a work (in a very loose sense) by virtue of it being a human action. This fact comes into no conflict whatsoever with Paul’s teaching against salvation by works, since Paul isn’t condemning salvation through the action of belief, he’s decrying attempts to merit salvation by the keeping of the Mosaic law. This fact is further driven home by the fact that Paul draws a direct contrast between the two practices:

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:2-3 [emphasis added])

Notice that the action of Abraham’s believing itself is spoken of in direct contraposition to “works.” Clearly, since believing is an action men perform in their hearts (cf Romans 10:9-10 above), his dismissal of justification by works doesn’t imply exclusion of all human actions in obedience to the gospel such as hearing (Romans 10:17), receiving (John 1:12, James 1:21) or believing, but simply that the works of the law cannot justify.

“Salvation unto faith?”

To save the ill-founded case that they and their forebears have pushed for centuries, some Calvinists will actually go as far as to deny redemption through faith! Incredibly, Hendryx takes this stance:

“Again, it is true that the Bible contrasts faith and works, but biblical faith is never seen as something we, in our unregenerate condition, had to autonomously (apart form[sic] the invincible power of the Holy Spirit) contribute. … But the work of Christ redeems us unto faith, not on the condition of faith.” (Hendryx, J., ‘Can Faith Ever Be Considered a Work?1)

Myron Berg (a monergist Lutheran) apparently agrees:

Proponents of prevenient grace also make faith into a work. God’s purpose of declaring faith as essential to salvation was not to reduce God’s requirement of keeping the ten commandments down to just having faith, (which is a part of the first commandment) but to use faith as an indicator that the person had come to the realization that his condition is so repugnant to God that his only hope is that Christ can stand in his place before God. (Berg, M., ‘Prevenient Grace’)

To Hendryx’s assertion, the word for ‘redemption’ (apolytrosis) is used synonymously with forgiveness of sins.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace….” (Ephesians 1:7, see also Colossians 1:13-14)

Now it’s apparent that one cannot have such redemption/forgiveness from sins if he’s not justified in Christ (the terms ‘justification,’ ‘forgiveness’ are both used synonymously with being made righteous throughout Paul’s exposition on righteousness through faith in Romans 4). To assert we’re “[redeemed] unto faith” as Hendryx does is then tantamount to saying that redemption and justification precede (and therefore don’t come by) faith, contrary to scripture’s plain teaching on justification by faith (e.g. Romans 5:1, Galatians 3:24 cited above). The same problem permeates Berg’s commentary, since if believing is merely the indicator or symptom and not the condition to justification in Christ, then it can’t correctly be stated that we’re justified by faith. Such attempts to frame salvation conditioned upon faith as being “salvation by works” collapse under their own weight, since the one doing so must implicitly deny justification by faith.

Faith is a work of the law?

Berg raises an interesting objection that I’ve seen before. Some monergists retort that faith was a matter of the law, therefore if it’s a condition of salvation, one is still preaching “works righteousness.” For instance, Jesus states,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)

So is faith in the general context of Paul’s epistles a matter of the Mosaic law then? Consider, a man who seeks to establish his own righteousness by the deeds of the law may hold to some form of faithfulness or faith in God and His wondrous works as a point of duty to the law for his justification (as Paul doubtless did before his conversion). Yet despite this, such a one would be denying the work of Christ through attempting to establish his own righteousness. Just as those Jews who rejected their Messiah, one can be “zealous for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). So to show that faith in God is a matter of the Mosaic law hardly equates to faith in Christ being a work thereof. This abject ignorance of said accusation is also directly refuted by Paul’s clear distinction the law and faith that has come in Galatians chapter 3:

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” ), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.

Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:10-26 NKJV, emphasis added)

As it’s writen, the law isn’t against the promises of God through faith, but neither is it the substance thereof, for the law isn’t of faith, but was added centuries later because of transgressions. The law and prophets rightly do command belief in God (2 Chronicles 20:20). This does not encompass, but as a good schoolmaster, rather points to the superior faith in Christ (Luke 24:44, Galatians 3:24 quoted above).

One under the law can believe in God and that He does miraculous things as a point of the law’s righteous requirements, this is not the same as one who trusts Christ for his salvation. The former shows faithfulness as a matter of duty in attempt to justify himself, the later acknowledges his inability to be justified by the law and his need for the righteousness of Christ. As opposed to attempts to keep the law, faith itself is not what actually justifies, but He in whom the faith is placed graciously accounts it as righteousness. As opposed to one who believes in God as a matter of keeping the law unto self-righteousness, one who believes in Christ’s atoning work, in acknowledging his need for Him as Savior, has already admitted that he has fallen short (Romans 3:23) and that his own works are inadequate to justify him. That is why such a distinction is drawn in Paul’s epistles between the law and faith, and that it would be a critical error to equate saving faith in Christ with the works of the law.

Conclusion

The accusations of works righteousness that Calvinists are so well-known for flinging really don’t hold any water when the scriptures are examined. The very suggestion that Arminians/Synergists believe in such betrays a fundamental ignorance of what faith and works really are within their scriptural contexts on the part of the accusers.

The assertion that faith is a “work” because it’s something people do is incoherent in light of the Bible equating faith with believing (an action); the plain resolution being that the “works” in the context of scripture’s teaching of “faith, not works” are the works of the law. Failure to recognize this has led to even mainstream Calvinists such as Hendryx into advocating “redemption unto faith” in opposition to the “justification by faith” taught in the New Testament. Their counter that faith is commanded in the law is hopelessly erroneous in that it, a.) ignores the strong distinction drawn by Paul between faith in Christ and the works of the law in Galatians, and b.) winds up effectively making the self-contradictory claim that it’s a matter of keeping the law to trust Christ to do for me what my keeping of the law cannot.

The charge that Arminians “turn faith into a work” being shown to be simple equivocation of terms (conflating works of the law with faith), the associated charges they level against those who believe that free will plays some role in whether we believe collapse as well.

“And a point I have yet to see explained as well is how making a decision qualifies as a “work.” The Jews were forbidden to work on the Sabbath; did this prohibit them from thinking or making a decision? Is there any evidence that the Greek word behind “works” (ergon) ever refers to a thought or a decision? It is my earnest wish that an enterprising Calvinist will step to the plate and answer this question, for it seems to me that this is a flawed premise upon which the Calvinistic case rests.” (Holding, J.P. [Tektonics.org], Un Conditioning)

It’s apparent then that the charges of “salvation by works” that Calvinists typically employ are based upon their elementary misunderstanding of the nature of saving faith and works of the law. Such charges then constitute mere pointless quibbling founded in decontextualization of terms, and the error of equating the works of the Old Covenant unto our own righteousness with obedience to the New Covenant for the righteousness of Christ.

Footnotes:

1. Hendryx’s further objection, “The question we need to be asking ourselves is, “what makes us to differ from other men who do not believe?” … the grace of God in Christ or the will of man? If we say “the will of man” it is a boast and therefore not the kind of faith that is contrasted with works in the Bible.” was answered in our previous post.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #9: Faith is Some Reason to Boast?

Related fallacies:
Pettifoggery
Category Mistake

A charge typically leveled by Calvinists is that Christians who don’t believe in irresistible grace would have some reason to boast in their faith. John Hendryx concisely expresses this fallacious line of reasoning:

The question we need to be asking ourselves is, “what makes us to differ from other men who do not believe?” … the grace of God in Christ or the will of man? If we say “the will of man” it is a boast and therefore not the kind of faith that is contrasted with works in the Bible. (Hendryx, J., ‘Can Faith Ever Be Considered a Work?’)

We’ll ignore his indirect misapplication of 1 Cor 4:7 for now and focus on his ‘boasting’ claim. To get a clearer picture of the issue, let’s examine what the scriptures tell us:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.” (Romans 3:27)

The Calvinist assertion is that these scriptures would be violated if we have any choice in whether we believe or not, apparently since someone could theoretically boast about having faith. But can this claim stand up to scrutiny? The hollowness of such a claim can first be shown with one question:

Does the Calvinist view make boasting impossible?

Is it actually impossible for Calvinists to make boasts of any sort? Hardly, I’ve seen it happen quite a few times myself. So holding to a monergistic belief doesn’t forcefully stop one from boasting in any way. What about salvation? Could a Calvinist boast about their role in salvation? I don’t see why they couldn’t. They could either employ inconsistency/cognitive dissonance, or follow through with their doctrine until they reach some strange implications (e.g. “Me being saved glorifies God MORE than any of the non-elect!”). So even a Calvinistic view won’t make boasting utterly impossible, in fact no point of doctrine can stop one from making ridiculous boasts. So scripturally speaking, how is boasting ‘excluded’ then? Since anyone can boast about anything for an invalid reason, Paul obviously isn’t implying that it’s literally impossible to boast if one is saved by faith, he’s saying that salvation through faith leaves one with no valid reason to boast of himself with regards to salvation.

Why does faith preclude boasting?

The answer lies in what we have faith in. ‘Faith’ in context of Paul’s epistles is obviously faith in Christ Jesus as our Lord and the One who saves us from our sins. With regards to salvation, what exactly would one be boasting in if one needs a Savior? As opposed to the law, which could make one righteous if he could keep it (which none but Christ could), faith is rather the acknowledgment that our own righteousness is inadequate, and that we need the righteous Christ as our Savior. There would in fact be no need for a Savior if we could do something that would in and of itself secure forgiveness for our sins! Faith in Jesus Christ and His saving work then effectively is an admission that we have nothing worthy of eternal life, and of ourselves deserve only condemnation.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

Our believing then constitutes nothing meritorious nor inherently worthy of eternal life -not even as ‘partial payment.’ Faith itself isn’t righteousness, but it’s rather because of God’s graciousness that He has accounted the faith of we who believe as righteousness through Christ despite our undeserving sinfulness and lack of any way to atone for ourselves. Thus the arguments that Calvinists such as Hendryx present betray their fundamental misunderstanding of what faith is, as they attribute to it things it can’t possibly possess by pretending that believing could somehow merit God’s gift of eternal life or be some suitable cause to boast about ourselves because of our acknowledging our total dependence upon the merits of Christ! On the subject of the nature of saving faith, Ben cited an reply by Robert Shank against Berkouwer’s charge that synergistic faith “results in a certain amount of human self conceit”, and “self-esteem.” Shank irreparably shatters the sophist facade:

Conceit and self-esteem for what, Professor Berkouwer? For totally renouncing all claim to self righteousness? For completely repudiating all dependence on good works? For renouncing all claim to personal merit? For abjectly humbling oneself before God as a broken sinner, deserving of death, helpless, unable to save himself? For casting oneself on the mercies of God and hoping only on the merits and grace of Jesus Christ? These are the elements that are of the essence of saving faith, and where true faith exists, there can be no pride or self-esteem. Pride and faith are mutually exclusive. (Shank, R., Elect in the Son, pg. 144)

Whether you freely believe in Christ or not makes a difference only in what you obtain, not what you deserve. But since what you obtain is only what you’ve freely received from God, the One who makes you differ from those with no hope is God, for without His grace and mercy, you’d be no better off than demons who believe. Therefore no flesh can legitimately boast in His sight.

But you did something other people didn’t do!

Much like The Da Vinci Code, the Calvinist argument that Synergists make faith something to boast in looks convincing at first glance, but upon examination, it becomes quite apparent that those who have bought into it have been wholly Dan Browned by its pseudo-logic. Desperate to salvage the polemically effective but badly flawed argument, some have resorted to appeal to comparison: They argue that because believing is something you can say you freely did that other people freely didn’t do (despite being given opportunity), it is therefore something that can be boasted in.

Is there any correctness to this argument? Is my doing something that someone else didn’t do necessarily some cause to boast? Let’s see, Jonas Salk came up with a polio vaccine while his peers didn’t. Could that be grounds for boasting? I suppose it could. But is difference always boastworthy? I wore Nike running shoes today while others wore Keds and ASICS. Does this constitute some reason to brag? Of course not. Simply doing what other people don’t do isn’t in and of itself cause to boast. To argue that one is able to boast about something that one did differently than others, one must necessarily presuppose that what is done differently is something boastworthy. As we’ve established above, faith is in fact not boastworthy for a Christian, and therefore there’s no valid grounds for one who believes to brag about it. Obedience to Christ and His gospel is what God requires of men before He will save them, not something that somehow makes us worthy of His mercy. Jesus Himself clearly communicates this concept:

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” (Luke 17:10)

So even following the gospel command to believe, we are still the unprofitable servants of a very gracious Lord, and we would be more than foolish to think we could boast in anything but knowing Him.


Bottom Line:

* No belief makes boasting impossible, when the Bible tells us that boasting is excluded, it’s implying that no one has valid grounds to boast.

* Because faith doesn’t earn or merit eternal life but rather only obtains it by God’s grace, believing isn’t a valid reason to boast. Who does or doesn’t freely believe doesn’t alter that fact.

* Because faith in Christ is an acknowledgment of dependence upon Him and His merits rather than our own, to someone who is consistent, faith and boasting are mutually exclusive.

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.

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