In lieu of my recent interaction with C. Michael Patton’s “The Irrationality of Calvinism”, I thought I would highlight a relevant post from a while back:
Application 2: God ordains means as well as ends. God is the Author. This is his story. We are his characters. Therefore, Be a faithful character in God’s story.*
Taken from a sermon by Joe Rigney defending the purpose of prayer in a world exhaustively pre-determined by eternal divine decree [you can find a link to it here].
Interesting that he calls on us to “be a faithful character in God’s story” as if we had any choice about what kind of character we will have or be in “God’s story”. Oh wait, I’ll bet that his saying “Be a faithful character in God’s story” is the ordained “means” for causing those God ordained to be “faithful character[s]” to be “faithful character[s]”. But what of those God ordained to be unfaithful? Is this message not for them? If not, shouldn’t we make that clear? If so, how can he call on those God ordained to be unfaithful to “be faithful” based, somehow, on the fact that this is God’s story and He is the author and we should “Therefore [???], Be a faithful character in God’s story”? If God has written that they be unfaithful, then who is he to tell them to act or “be” contrary to what the author has written for them to act or “be”?
Ahhh, but God has ordained him to say such seemingly nonsensical things because that is what God wrote him to say. And when I pray that God will help people see the absurdities of Calvinism and reject it, why would God write me to pray such things? I’m so confused. But hey, God wrote me to be confused. He ordained my confusion from eternity in such a way that I cannot possibly not be confused. He wrote that confusion for me. In fact, God wrote all of the confusion in this world and all of the contradictory opinions and all of the debates and disagreements between Christians on issues like these (despite Scripture saying that God is not the author of confusion, which is further confusing since God authored that He is not the author of confusion and also authored confusion of every kind). He authored our every thought, desire, and action, whether holy or wicked. He ordained our evil thoughts as well as the desire behind the evil thought, as well as any other “means” to our evil thoughts.
No doubt some Calvinists will have something to say about this and get a little mad at me, just as God authors them to do. But I hope that God will author them to remember that He authored me to say all of this and to find Calvinist prayer and explanations of Calvinist prayer, like this one, to be absurd and self-defeating. And I can’t help but wonder why God would cause one of His children to reject Calvinism and to reject explanations like the one by this good pastor as absurd. Why didn’t God write me to understand Calvinism and embrace it if it is true and the purest form of Christianity? No doubt Calvinists wonder such things as well. Maybe that is why they can so easily take the step that non-Calvinists are probably not regenerated or at the most sub-Christians. But then again, God wrote them to think such things just as He wrote me to think that Calvinism is unbiblical. Maybe I should just say “God ordains the means as well as the ends” and leave it at that. Yeah, that should answer things well enough.
In the comments section of Justin Taylor’s post “Arminian” gave the following appropriate response: “While God knowing everything is consistent with prayer, God planning everything in the Calvinistic sense of unconditionally decreeing it is not. Calvinism cannot account for the Bible’s portrayal of prayer as a cause of God’s answers to prayer because it holds that God unconditionally decides all that he wants to happen and then irresistibly causes it to come to pass, including the prayer that supposedly causes him to respond to it with action that grants the request. It would be like saying that with putting a sock puppet on your hand and having the puppet ask you to do something, that the request made by the sock puppet is a cause of you doing what you had the sock puppet ask you to do.”
The situation was grim for Police Chief, Captain Everett Justus. The most powerful and cunning crime boss in all the city, Moriarty Norton, had constantly evaded capture, and had recently stepped up his criminal activities. This would be bad enough normally, but a dispatch with potentially worse news had come into the office. Looked like a shipment of Guffinite, a cerebral phlebotinum of unstoppable power, was being transported through their city and put into secure storage. Justus knew this was a disaster in the making. Norton, formerly a rookie he’d taken under his wing, had turned his considerable genius and talents to a life of crime; and a substance that could control the human mind could make him the most powerful man in the nation if he got his hands on it. Justus knew how his ambitious former protégé thought, and knew he would never pass such an opportunity up. Later that evening, his suspicions were confirmed when surveillance on two of Norton’s wanted associates revealed that they were planning a heist of the Guffinite the very next night! If there was any possible way to get that stuff, Norton was going to get it. The next morning, Captain Justus implemented a daring plan: instead of increasing the guard on the Guffinite shipment, he placed his forces in strategic positions around the city and put them on standby.
As expected, Norton and his men put their plan into action that night. He’d positioned several identical cars around the area and waited for his opportunity. Guards had been posted out in front of the storage building, with one watchman inside. When Norton’s spotter saw him go out the side of the building for a smoke break, they made their move. Stealthily breaking into the rear entrance, they were in and out with the metallic cargo container in a flash. The watchman stepped back in just in time to see the rear entrance door close behind them, and sounded the alarm.
As the getaway car sped off, Norton gave the order, and the other identical cars formed a convoy around his. On the chief’s order, a few squad cars pursued the thieves, but at a junction, Norton gave another order, and the identical cars all split up into different directions, with no way for the officers to tell which one was bringing the stolen cargo back to their hideout!
Norton was delighted at his good fortune. The heist had been too easy of course; but he’d sprung the trap for a clean getaway. As his car neared his hideout, he opened the metal container to get a good look at his prize. Powering up the high-tech equipment used to contain the Guffinite, he opened the chamber to get a good look at it -only to find that he’d been suckered! This wasn’t the Guffinite! It resembled it upon first glance, but his trained eye recognized it as fake. He tore through the container’s insulation and confirmed the presence of what he feared it would also contain: a tracking device. Norton looked up out his window to see squad cars and SWAT vehicles approaching his hideout from every direction. It was over. His old mentor had won.
Several weeks later, at the trial, the defense lawyer for Moriarty Norton, by the name of Petey Foggery, started to cross-examine Chief Justus….
Petey Foggery: “…so now, we come then to the real question: who authored this crime? Will you tell us Captain?”
Everett Justus: “Your client, obviously.”
PF: “But captain, it was in fact you that arranged the situation in which he allegedly stole the item, was it not?”
EJ: “Do you mean by placing only minimal guards on the stolen item?”
PF: “Yes, did you place only minimal safeguards on the item in question, thereby creating a situation in which my client would be able to steal it?”
EJ: “Yes I did.”
PF: “So you now admit that you authored the crime?”
EJ: “I only allowed Mr. Norton opportunity to steal if he wanted to. The opportunity by itself doesn’t constitute the crime. The author of the wicked act is the one who comes up with it, not the one who leaves an opportunity open for him to pull it off.”
PF: “But since you allowed him opportunity, you must have wanted him to steal it, right?”
EJ: “I didn’t want him to commit any crimes at all. I hate evil and love what’s right; but if someone’s gonna choose to follow evil, I’ll make sure it’ll bring em’ down.”
PF: “So you laid a trap! That’s entrapment!”
EJ: “I neither asked him nor induced him to commit this crime, I was just ready when he made his move.”
PF: “Now Chief Justus, since you had the resources at your disposal, you could have prevented my client from stealing in the first place by increasing the guard, right?”
EJ: “Yes, I could have.”
PF: “So your failure to prevent the crime in fact implies that you authored it!”
EJ: “What are you talking about? How does my not putting more guards on the item amount to me planning the heist?”
PF: “By…by…not preventing it, you’re at least partially culpable!!”
EJ: “My job is to enforce the law, not make you incapable of breaking it. I’m not obliged to prevent the crime if I have power to set things right and bring the perpetrator to justice! And I’m well within my rights to set up a sting operation.”
PF: “But your surveillance confirms that you knew he’d steal it. You knew beforehand that he’d try, isn’t that right?”
EJ: “Yes, I knew.”
PF: “And because you knew he’d try and steal it, and arranged things so it was possible for him to do so, then isn’t it fair to say that you’re really the one who authored this crime?”
EJ: “Exactly how would my knowing that he was going to commit the crime imply that I’m the one that planned it for him?”
PF: “Um…you knowing about it causes it to happen, doesn’t it? Because, I mean, if you know something for a fact, then things can’t be different than what you know if your knowledge is in fact, factual… so that would mean your knowledge in effect caused the fact to be….”
EJ: “I don’t know what you’ve been drinking, but no! I came up with a plan to catch a criminal, I left something open for him to steal knowing he’d try to take it so I could catch him in the act. I didn’t tell him to steal it, I didn’t coerce him to steal it, I didn’t make the decision for him to steal it, and I didn’t come up with the idea that he steal it! He did his decision-making, planning, and action all by himself. He is the author of his own crime, and justice demands he be condemned!”
PF: “No! No! You’re the author! You are! You are! You are!! The author is the one who knows about and allows it, and since you knew about it and didn’t prevent it, that means you’re the author!! That’s right! That’s what ‘author’ means! Isn’t that right your honor? Your honor? Why are you rolling your eyes? Isn’t that right your honor? Isn’t it?!?”
Judge: “Bailiff [points to Foggery], club this man!”
After the conviction of Moriarty Norton, Everett Justus was hailed as a national hero. Meanwhile in another city, Chief Preston Tenser looked on with envy. Now Tenser wasn’t nearly as good a detective as Justus. Whereas the latter could put the pieces together and make advanced deductions to predict the behavior of the criminal mind, Tenser really had no clue as to what people would do next unless he made them do it (and was consequently a natural micro-manager).
When the city council was called together, Chief Tenser was secretly briefed that the Guffinite would be shipped through his city next, but due to recent events, the information as to its whereabouts was much more tightly controlled. Chief Tenser was entrusted with the key to the storage and named chief protector of the Guffinite. Tenser decided that he wanted to be a champion of justice like his counterpart was, so he used his key to open the unit where the Guffinite was being securely held and filled a few syringes with it. He turned to his aide, a Lieutenant Byron Stander, then quickly injected him with the Guffinite. Stander stood up and followed Chief Tenser. The chief then went out into town and likewise injected two more people by the names of Dee Creed and Deuce Causington.
Chief Tenser looked over the three people now under his control. “I can’t tell a person to commit a crime…I’ll just have someone else do it!” So Tenser started to play ‘telephone’ with his captives, and said, “Ms. Creed, tell Mr. Causington to tell Lt. Stander to go to the lab and steal the Guffinite.” Ms. Creed obediently turned and told Mr. Causington, “Tell Lt. Stander to go to the lab and steal the Guffinite.” Mr. Causington turned to Lt. Stander and said, “Go to the lab and steal the Guffinite.” Chief Tenser added, “Sander, stealing is against the law, don’t do it.” Lt. Stander stood paralyzed by the contradictory orders. Tenser relayed another message to Stander in the same telephone game fashion: “Ignore Chief Tenser’s warning and steal the Guffinite.” Lt. Stander obeyed the order and went on his way.
Lt. Stander walked into the lab, which Tenser left open for him, and made off with the Guffinite container. As he got into his car and made his way back to his apartment, several police cars turned on their flashers and pulled him over. Captain Tenser stepped out of one of the vehicles and pulled out his gun, flashed his badge, and ordered his aide to step out of the car. Lt. Stander complied, and was handcuffed and brought in as Chief Tenser smiled for the cameras.
Several weeks later, at the trial, the lab confirmed its analysis that traces of Guffinite had been found in not only Lt. Stander’s blood, but also in that of Ms. Creed and Mr. Causington. Stander’s defense lawyer, Rahm Ifikeishun, calls Chief Preston Tenser to the stand….
RI: “…so now, we come then to the real question: who authored this crime? Will you tell us Captain?”
Preston Tenser: “It wasn’t me.”
RI: “You were the only one with access to the Guffinite…did you use it?”
PT: “Yeah, so what?”
RI: “And did my client commit the crime of theft as a result of you using it?”
PT: “Uh huh. He definitely did it -which is why he deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law!”
RI: “So… you in fact detest the crime that was perpetrated?”
PT: “I loathe it with all my being, which is why I say lock that kid away! The crime he committed was utterly despicable!”
RI: “Can it then be rightly said that there was nothing in my client’s power that could have been done to resist this effect?”
PT: “You bet. That stuff’s unstoppable! But he wanted to do it, so he’s still responsible.”
RI: “Did he want to do it because the Guffinite made him want to do it?”
PT: “Of course; but he’s still responsible. Besides, it’s not like I didn’t warn him to try and stop him….”
RI: “You tried to stop him? So…he could have chosen to not commit the crime?”
PT: “Yeah, if I’d wanted him to listen, but because I had complete power over them, I made him ignore it so I could justly punish him for his stubbornness and criminal motives!”
RI: “But…weren’t those motives something you implanted in him?”
PT: “Definitely, which is why I can hold him responsible!”
RI: “So…if you hate this crime so much, yet aren’t the mastermind, then who is?”
PT: “The perpetrator of course. He’s the one that did it.”
RI: “But he didn’t author the crime, he was helplessly following someone else’s plan.”
PT: “Oh yeah, he was following Mr. Causington’s directions.”
RI: “And of course, lab analysis confirms that Mr. Causington and the alleged conspirator Ms. Creed were injected with Guffinite as well. If they were all injected, and therefore were all being controlled, then who masterminded this crime?”
PT: “One or more of them. Not me, obviously.”
RI: “But weren’t you the one that injected them?”
PT: “And is that wrong? Is there some law somewhere that specifically says that I can’t inject people with Guffinite? I’m the chief protector of the Guffinite! Who are you to talk back to me?!?”
RI: “That’s not the point, we were talking about who authored this crime. So did they all do exactly as they were told to do?”
RI: “And doing exactly what they were told to do resulted in Lt. Stander stealing, right?”
PT: “That’s why we’re here. To condemn Stander for his evil, evil deed….”
RI: “And the one that told them to do it, was in fact you, was it not?”
PT: “Of course. Who else do you think did it?”
RI: “So then you are the mastermind!”
PT: “But see, I’m not responsible, cause I’m only the remote cause that made em’ do it, it’s the proximate causin’ people who actually commit the crime that should be punished.”
RI: “If you came up with it and made them do it, then how are you not the author?!?”
PT: “Well see, being the one that came up with the plan doesn’t make me the author, since he did it because other people made him do it- “
RI: ” -those other people also being left with no choice but to follow your orders to that end!”
PT: “You just don’t understand true justice, do ya? That’s not an excuse! You commit the crime, you’re guilty! No excuses! You can’t really finger me for it, because I didn’t actually do anything wrong, I wasn’t even near the lab when it was robbed! The fact that they were acting while completely bent to my will doesn’t change a thing. That’s real justice! They did it, not me! I’m not the author! I am justice!”
RI: “Defense rests your honor.”
Which of these men (if any) is a hero?
Which one executes justice?
Which is just playing word games?
Which one rightly judges his subordinates who turn villainous?
Which one turns his subordinates villainous so they can be judged?
Which one authored the crime he condemned?
Which of these men held a form of justice that we should strive to imitate?
That’s right, I have converted. It finally got to me. My Arminianism finally led to the inevitable Open Theist conclusion. I just don’t think that God can foreknow future free will choices if they are truly free. Sorry. But! I have decided to also hold to God’s exhaustive foreknowledge of all future choices and events, even choices which are truly free and contingent. I know this may “seem” like I am holding to two contradictory premises, but that is just an “apparent” contradiction and not a real one. The Bible seems to hold that God doesn’t know some future choices if they are truly free and also seems to hold that He has exhaustive foreknowledge of all future choices and events, even truly free ones. So I just hold these twin truths in tension. Call it an “antinomy” or “paradox” if you will.
Really, I think that everyone should follow my lead on this instead of trying to smooth over certain passages that just don’t seem to add up from either side. Maybe God will reveal to us how such seeming contradictions are not real contradictions someday. I hope He will. In the meantime, I will just trust that there is no contradiction and hold to both a severely limited and exhaustive view of foreknowledge. Now if you resist this, well, maybe you just don’t have the same respect for Scripture that I do. Maybe you are just trying to put your own limited man centered rationalism above divine revelation. If anything, it seems to me that my view is far more Biblical than either of the other extreme views. It is truly a shame that so many refuse to submit to what the Bible has to say on this issue because they just cannot live with tension in their theology. As for me I will embrace the tension in order to remain perfectly Biblical.
Here are a few YouTube cartoon videos taking a humorous stab at witnessing from the Arminian or Calvinist perspective. The Calvinist one was done first and the Arminian ones were done in response. Of course, I think the Arminian ones are better and more accurate. I also found the Calvinist one a little annoying because of the canned laughter added in between each of the Calvinist responses. That seemed a little childish to me. The third one deals more specifically with the opposing views of atonement. Check them out and let me know what you think of them.
“Jesus loves the little children…
All the children of the world…
Red and yellow, black and white…
They are precious in His sight…
Jesus loves the little children of the world”
Herman: Well, that song was quite obviously written by an Arminian
Calvin: Why do you say that?
Herman: Well, the song says that Jesus loves “all” the little children of the “world”. That is what Arminians believe, that Christ died for all and loves the world in such a way that He truly desires all to believe in Christ and be saved.
Calvin: Oh, well you have just misunderstood the context of the song.
Herman: What do you mean?
Calvin: Well, the context plainly demonstrates that “all” doesn’t mean “every child without exception.”
Herman: It doesn’t?
Calvin: Of course not. Look at that one line that says, “Red and yellow, black and white”.
Calvin: Well, it seems obvious to me that when he says “all the children of the world” he only means all the different colors of children in the world. You see, he is really concerned about racism and guarding against the false teaching that Jesus might only love red children and not any black children, etc.
Herman: Is that right? I never realized that?
Calvin: Well, most people don’t, but that is just because they pay no attention to context. That is why God gave us Reformed theologians to explain these things to us. I could give you a good book by a Calvinist where he spends about twenty pages explaining why “all the children of the world” really means “only a relatively few children from among all the various races of the world”.
Herman: Wow, it is amazing to me that I never realized that before. I think I would like to read that book. Thank God he didn’t leave us on our own to interpret songs like this one or we might come to some really bizarre conclusions. I don’t know what we would ever do without those Reformed theologians you mentioned. I think from now on I will just read from them so I don’t misunderstand something else as I am obviously easily confused.
Calvin: Absolutely. Just make sure you don’t put their writings above what the songs actually say while understanding that it is impossible to rightly understand what the songs actually say and mean without reading from them.
Herman: Uh, sure. That makes sense. I think. Are you suggesting that they might be wrong about this song after all?
Calvin: Of course not. They are right because that is what the verse plainly means when considered in context and you can be sure that the song plainly means that because the Reformed theologians say so. Got it?
Herman: Yeah, I got it. Well, I’m off to buy some of those books you recommended. Thanks for all your help. Imagine, if I had never talked to you I would have just gone right on foolishly believing that the song was saying that Jesus actually loved “all” the children of the “world”.
Calvin: No problem. That’s what I’m here for.
And the LORD said unto Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
[Scene: The border of Canaan near the land of Midian, two Israelite men from the tribes led by Moses and a silent young woman all stand at a high point and look out over the promised land]
Zimri: Ah, finally on the border of the promised land!
Carmi: Yes, we’ve come a long ways.
Zimri: Now we get to enjoy the good part. Been quite a journey here, hasn’t it?
Carmi: Indeed. We’ve known nothing but the desert our whole lives.
Zimri: Yeah, the was was pretty dangerous too, but God’s been faithful to deliver us, even when we failed Him. Remember that time we all complained so much against Moses that God sent those vipers into the camp?
Carmi: All too well…
Zimri: But even then God’s mercy was amazing; when Moses put up that bronze serpent, all we had to do was look at it and God cured us. It was awesome, all God asked was that I look up and acknowledge my need for His help, and He healed me.
Carmi: But, what you are in effect saying is that you cured yourself.
Zimri: Cured myself? What are you talking about?
Carmi: I’m saying that you hold a man-centered view of divine healing, and lack vital understanding as to how God cured us.
Zimri: Vital understanding?
Carmi: Yes, when God delivered those He wished to from the serpents, He did so all of His own power, with no inherent cooperation from those bitten. This important teaching is commonly called the doctrine of snakes.
Zimri: You lost me. How did I cure myself?
Carmi: Looking up at the snake, in your beliefs, is something you did, and therefore you caused your own cure.
Zimri: That seems to be a bit of a stretch. God was the one who gave the cure, and commanded Moses to put up the bronze serpent, all he told us to do was look at it and-
Carmi: But looking at it was a work, it was something that you did.
Zimri: Wait, now looking is work? Remind me not to wake up on the Sabbath.
Carmi: Since it was you who effected the condition, it was in essence you who effected the cure.
Zimri: So you’re saying God just gave us the power to cure ourselves or something?
Carmi: Oh no, not at all. God had to revive you before you could look up at the snake at all.
Zimri: Revive me?
Carmi: Yes, you were actually already dead from your snake bite.
Zimri: Dead, like hyperbole ‘dead?’ Like a Genesis 20:3 ‘dead man?’
Carmi: No, literally dead.
Zimri: Like, “I am dead Horatio” dead?
Carmi: No, dead as in ‘physically decomposing’ dead, and therefore totally powerless to do anything but be a corpse.
Zimri: Uh, I don’t recall this.
Carmi: Of course not, you were dead at the time.
Zimri: Oh right, right.
Carmi: And because you were already dead from your snake bite, you weren’t capable of looking up at the snake, so you had to be brought back to life to do so.
Zimri: Well, I was certainly pretty delirious and weakened from the venom, so I have no problem buying that it was God who gave me strength to look up….
Carmi: No, no, God didn’t merely give you strength to look at the snake, He irresistibly changed you so you would both be capable and irresistibly drawn to look up at the snake.
Zimri: Changed me?
Carmi: By reviving you of course.
Carmi: It’s called the ‘irresistible snake.’ So you were literally dead and helpless, but God brought you back to life so you would be able and willing to look at the snake. See, it’s written right here, “…and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”
Zimri: Um, isn’t that saying that the people who looked at the bronze serpent survived?
Carmi: No, it’s saying that those who lived, or rather were brought to life, looked on the bronze serpent.
Zimri: That sounds a bit backwards. It seems that our living was contingent on looking at the bronze serpent, and I distinctly recall feeling the effects of the poison subside when I looked at it, not before.
Carmi: Your mistake is a common one, but your being revived, cured, and looking at the serpent all happened at the same instant in time, it’s simply a logical necessity that your being revived came first. You have to study and think about it real hard for a long, long, long time before arriving at this important truth.
Zimri: I’m sure you do.
Carmi: Of course you being a Phinehasite wouldn’t understand it.
Zimri: A what?
Carmi: A Phinehasite. Followers of the beliefs of Phinehas, you know, Aaron’s grandkid – the priest.
Zimri: Oh, him.
Carmi: He holds to the heretical view that those bitten by the snakes weren’t yet completely, physically dead, but merely had the sentence of death working in them. Phinehas is under the delusion that he wasn’t irresistibly compelled to obey by being literally resurrected, but thinks that he somehow just ‘cooperated’ with God in performing the impossibly difficult task of looking up at the snake so that he could be healed! And since he believes that he had to make some kind of decision to look up (obviously a work meritorious beyond imagining), he is therefore robbing God of the glory in healing him! So anyone who believes that free will plays any role in divine healing is a Phinehasite.
Zimri: I barely know Phinehas, much less studied anything he wrote or said.
Carmi: Doesn’t matter, you still fall into that category. If you don’t believe in totally monergistic divine healing, then you’re automatically a Phinehasite of some kind. Of course, Phinehasism is really just semi-Nimrodism, and everyone knows that the Phinehasism eventually leads to either spirit channeling or sun worship, as that’s really what consistent Phinehasism amounts to….
Zimri: And I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Carmi: Hopefully God will reveal it to you and save you from your Phinehasite blindness. In fact, here’s a list of scrolls I recommend you read on the subject that will give you a better understanding of monergist divine healing and the Phinehasite error.
Zimri: So if God actually revived us so we could look at the serpent, then why did some people stay dead from the snake bites?
Carmi: Because God didn’t want everyone to look at the snake. God only intended that certain people look at it.
Zimri: Really? I didn’t get that indication at all.
Carmi: God’s ways are very mysterious.
Zimri: Yeah, but Moses invited anyone who was bitten to look at it.
Carmi: Yes, that was the ‘outward hiss’ but not the ‘effectual hiss.’
Zimri: The what?
Carmi: God only wanted certain people to be cured, so He made only a limited amount of antivenin,
Zimri: I wasn’t told this.
Carmi: -then He chose certain people to be cured and let the rest die.
Zimri: Ah, so He chose them because He knew they’d hear and respond?
Carmi: No, He chose them from eternity past based on nothing whatsoever about them, then after they died from the snake bites, He revived the ones He chose so that they would both have the innate desire and the irresistible unction to perform the action of looking up at the bronze serpent, thereby receiving a dose of the limited supply of antivenin that He’d prepared beforehand.
Zimri: Where exactly are you getting all this?
Carmi: I…it’s…it’s so elementary, even a child could see it.
Zimri: But, didn’t He say that anyone who was bitten could look and be cured?
Carmi: Oh He did, but that was God’s “I don’t really mean this, I just say stuff like this to relate to people” will talking. In God’s “super-duper-secret really, really I actually mean this” will, He didn’t really want everyone who was bitten to look at it, and hence wouldn’t revive them, which is why the antivenin was limited.
Zimri: ….This seems like a somewhat overly complicated system of beliefs.
Carmi: Well it has to be true, otherwise you must logically have cured yourself.
Zimri: Hmmmm…I see. So since the antivenin is limited, then what if I get bitten by another viper? Could God not cure me?
Carmi: That’s the best part. The fact that you were cured of your snake bite guarantees that you will make it into the promised land.
Carmi: Yes, it’s like a divine seal of approval. To those who have been chosen and cured, God has unconditionally chosen to provide final entrance into the new land.
Zimri: I seem to recall Him listing some stuff we’d better not do, as well as what would happen if we disobeyed….
Carmi: Oh that’s just something God’s “I don’t mean this” will says to goad you into living right. It’s all up to His sovereign “super-duper-secret” will really.
Zimri: Hey, that kind of makes sense. I mean, He wouldn’t have cured us if He’d wanted us to die in the desert.
Carmi: Exactly. While being brought to life again will certainly make you want to avoid future snake bites, there’s no actual chance for you to fall short of entering, even should you run across every viper this side of the Jordan. You can rest in complete assurance that you will make it through.
Zimri: Oh wait, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few of the people die who had previously been cured.
Carmi: They were never really cured. The belief that they were actually cured stems not from objective observation, but the influence of biased Phinehasite teachings.
Zimri: But they were, you know, walking around with no apparent problems.
Carmi: God provided them with a temporary means to give the illusion that they were alive and had been cured, so that we and even they thought that they were, but the fact that they have failed to make it to the promised land demonstrates that they were never truly cured.
Zimri: How could they think they were cured, or even move around at all if they were already dead?
Carmi: That- …That’s a mystery.
Zimri: So if someone might be walking around like they’re perfectly healthy, but in reality still be poisoned, and dead no less, then isn’t it possible that you or I might not really be cured as well?
Carmi: Technically, yes, but unlikely; and if you aren’t truly cured there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, so you really shouldn’t waste time troubling yourself about such things.
Zimri: Wow, that’s a relief. I was kind of worried about bringing this Midianite chick back to camp with me. If I didn’t know for sure that God was going to preserve me, I’d be scared of what Phinehas might try and do.
Carmi: I for one find it highly doubtful that he was ever cured in the first place.
Zimri: You’re definitely right on that one. He is so man-centered. Come on Cozbi, let’s get to the camp. I’ll show you the Tabernacle.
I have recently been accused of being an inconsistent Arminian because I reject Open Theism. I find it interesting that Calvinists are so concerned with consistency seeing as how they both affirm that God causes all things and is yet somehow not the author of sin.
I admit that I love consistency. I reject Calvinism primarily because I find no support for it in the pages of Scripture, and secondarily because it is so internally inconsistent. I admire Calvinists who are not afraid to “take it in the face”, so to speak, and call God the author of sin. “Traditional” Calvinists call these types “hyper” Calvinists, but in the spirit of my recent conversation, I think it is more accurate to just call them “consistent” Calvinists.
Vincent Young is an example of such a bravely consistent Calvinistic fellow, and I direct my Calvinist readers to his blog to enjoy his consistency. I especially recommend The Author of Sin, Compatibilist Freedom, and Confusion in Calvinism . Enjoy.
For more fun with inconsitency within Calvinism, I recommend Objections to Calvinism As It Is.