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.