Defining Terms

It is pointless to debate an issue if your terms are not properly defined.  Pizzaman has done us all a great service by providing us with the Calvinist Dictionary.  Be sure to check it out.

The Bronze Serpent Explained: A Monergist View of Divine Healing

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, that 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.

Zimri: Ah.

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.

Zimri: Really?

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.

Enjoying Consistent Calvinism

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.

The Whole Armor of Calvinism

The following link is satire. It is all in good fun and not intended to be insulting to anyone. Like they often said in the juvenile shelters I used to work in, “If it don’t apply, let it fly.” On the flip side it may help some of our Calvinist friends take an honest look at some of their unfair debating tactics and controlling traditions. Yes, that’s right, Calvinists have traditions. If that is hard for you to swallow, then this link is especially for you. Enjoy.

The Whole Armor of Calvinism

I will be away from the computer until next Wednesday. I hope to make a follow-up post to being “dead in sin” sometime next week. If you leave a comment, please know that I will not be able to respond until late next week.

Debate Tips For Calvinists

I stumbled upon this blog while visiting the Calvinist Gadfly. It basically makes fun of the way that some Arminians debate with Calvinists. It is followed by some 45 comments, most of which consist of laughing Calvinists high five-ing each other. I have not personally known any Arminians to use the techniques that Gordan ridicules, but I am sure that there are some out there that would. I thought it might be fun to have my own list of debate tips for Calvinists based on my own experience in on-line debates. I mean no disrespect with the following tips. I believe that Calvinists, who are so quick to criticize how Arminians argue their case, should be made aware of some of their own inept and unfruitful debating tactics as well. It is all in good fun, and hopefully it may even help to un-clutter meaningful dialogue between the two theological camps in this growing debate. Since most Calvinists I have debated with seem to have a rich sense of humor, I am sure that they will not be offended by what follows. If you are, feel free to tell me all about it in the “comments” section. I look forward to the interaction.

DEBATE TIPS FOR CALVINISTS:

Got your horns tangled with an Arminian who has backed you into a theological corner? Just memorize the following tips, and you should be able to get yourself out of any debating jam…

1) If the Arminian begins making a strong case, quoting Rom. 9:20 will usually put them in their place…”Who are you O’ man to talk back to me…er, I mean…God!”

2) Always remember that God knew Calvinism would “seem” incoherent, and therefore ordained from all eternity that you should make frequent use of Deu. 29:29 whenever you find that there is no way out of a logical dilemma.

3) Whenever it is pointed out that compatibilism is no different than determinism and still leads to the conclusion that God authored sin, just say, “Stop worshipping at the alter of free will!”, and remind them that they have Romanizing tendencies. Hopefully they will be so ashamed of themselves that they will forget all about the point they were making.

4) It is helpful to make frequent use of obscure theological terms like “exegesis”, and “hermeneutics”. Most Arminians won’t even know what you are talking about and will realize that they are way out of their league in debating you.

Note: Extreme caution should be used whenever mentioning “hermeneutics” as the spelling is a bit tricky, and a knowledgeable Arminian may point out that you had better not use big words that you can’t even spell. That would be embarrassing and cause you to lose the intellectual high ground you worked so hard to establish. The main trick is to remember that “e” comes before “u”. Spell check will probably not recognize such a sophisticated word, so make sure you practice.

5) If the Arminian is starting to make some good points, rebuke him for being like a pot talking back to the Potter. If this fails to shut him up, try #1 above. If that doesn’t work, tell him you don’t have the time to waste on someone so ignorant and blinded by traditions.

6) Remind the silly Arminian that the problem with his theology is that it leaves no room for contradictions…er, I mean…mystery!

7) If the Arminian starts going with all that mushy “God is love” garbage, just remind him that the real issue is God’s sovereignty and just hatred of sinners, and “who are you O’ man to talk back to me…er, I mean…God, anyway!”

8 ) Continually remind the Arminian that when he says he is saved by faith he really means that he is saved by works (as faith is obviously just a “work” in Arminianism). He will eventually get frustrated and stop arguing with you.

9) Never let the Arminian define his beliefs. Tell him that he is confused, and if he really wants to know what he believes he should read a Reformed author’s critique of Arminianism; after all, that is the only way one can properly understand Arminian theology.

10) Tell him you don’t give a hoot about church history prior to Augustine. The Greek fathers were obviously misled, confused, and ignorant if they weren’t Calvinists. Thank God a Gnostic who converted to Catholicism wrote enough to clear up the mess those Greek fathers left us.

11) Tell em’, “John Gill said it, I believe it, that’s good enough for me”.

12) Overwhelm your opponent with long lists of Reformed writers whenever you feel the debate is slipping. For example,

Hhmmm…let’s see, should I believe you or Spurgeon, Edwards, Owen, Gill, Perkins, Toplady, Beza, Whitefield, Frame, Hodge, Pink, Van Til, Bahnsen, Murray, Piper, MacArthur, Berkhof, Sproul, Carson, Palmer, Packer, etc.? Uhh…I think I will go with the really smart Reformed guys”

or…

“No I can’t make sense of it, but Spurgeon, Edwards, Owen, Gill, Perkins, Toplady, Beza, Whitefield, Frame, Hodge, Pink, Van Til, Bahnsen, Murray, Piper, MacArthur, Berkhof, Sproul, Carson, Palmer, Packer etc. can’t possibly be wrong. They are certainly smarter than you.”

or…

“The problem with you is that you are so blinded by your traditions. If you want to understand the pure word of God and break free from your man made traditions, then I suggest you read Spurgeon, Edwards, Owen, Gill, Perkins, Toplady, Beza, Whitefield, Frame, Hodge, Pink, Van Til, Bahnsen, Murray, Piper, MacArthur, Berkhof, Sproul, Carson, Palmer, Packer etc.

or…

The reason those warning passages bother you so much is because you haven’t been sufficiently brainwashed by Reformed theology. Try reading Spurgeon, Edwards, Owen, Gill, Perkins, Toplady, Beza, Whitefield, Frame, Hodge, Pink, Van Til, Bahnsen, Murray, Piper, MacArthur, Berkhof, Sproul, Carson, Palmer, Packer, etc. If you do that, I promise you will feel better.

13) Tell them that you haven’t got time to do an exposition of the tricky verses they are mentioning, and just tell them to read some reformed commentaries if they “really are interested in how a Reformed theologian would handle that passage”; then demand answers to the questions you have posed concerning the proof texts you offered to support your position.

14) Make sure that the Arminian debater understands that if he cannot answer your questions, or make sense of your proof texts, that it proves Arminiansm is false and the Arminian is quite plainly blinded by the traditions of men. If they appeal to mystery, gently remind them that only Calvinists are allowed to do that (see #2 above).

15) When things get tough, just refer to God’s “inscrutable counsel”.

16) When dealing with “warning passages” tell them that they should certainly be taken seriously, for they are God’s way of scaring his elect into perseverance, but of course you have no need to worry about them since you know that you are eternally secure.

17) If you find yourself losing the debate just call them Pelagians or semi-Pelagians, or tell them they are closet Roman Catholics, etc. If they insist otherwise, just keep saying it until they get so frustrated that they will forget that they had you on the ropes and end correspondence.

18 ) Always be patient with those poor blinded Arminians. Try to think back to how stupid you were before you became a Calvinist and it might help you to pity them some.

19) Make sure they understand the proper meanings of “exegesis” and “eisegesis“. “Exegesis” is whatever ingenious interpretation a Calvinist can come up with to rescue his theology from a problem passage. “Eisegesis” is basically any interpretation an Arminian assigns to any passage that would seem to contradict Reformed theology, or support Arminianism.

20) Remind the poor deceived Arminian that Arminianism was condemned as heresy at Dort by a bunch of Calvinists who judged the Arminian doctrines by a bunch of Calvinistic creeds and confessions. He is probably so ignorant that he doesn’t even know this.

I think these 20 tips should sufficiently help the Calvinist debater to tackle any silly argument an Arminian can come up with. If you find that you are still having trouble just drop a comment and I will give you some more.

Good Luck and God bless.