Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Freedom of man

Reading Calvinists I am not certain they always understand the opposing view. There are several things that need to be understood by Calvinists if they are to adequately interact with those who do not subscribe to the reformed view.

I myself have not read Calvin or a great deal of defence of Calvinism. I have however read a lot of material written by Calvinists, some of which covers questions of salvation and predestination. And my current Bible is a Reformation Study Bible.

An aside: I am somewhat concerned that "reformed" is synonymous with "Calvinism." Protestants in general trace theological ancestry back to the Reformation and many of them do not hold to a "reformed" view; but the term is well established. I actually object to Open View being called consistent Arminianism because it steals a term which already has meaning, and makes a judgment about deniers of Open View theology—that of inconsistency. Always be wary of those who frame debates in terms of manipulating language and the meanings of words!

Further, I have not studied up on Arminian theology, I just disagree with Calvinism so I think my ideas likely have an Arminian flavour.

Problems I have with Calvinist theology

  • I cannot see how God can cause something to happen directly and not be the source of it. Therefore I think that Calvinism makes God the author of sin. This is so contrary to what the Bible seems to teach that I cannot bide by it.
  • God repeatedly calls us to repent. The Bible is full of examples of God calling men to obey him and punishing men for disobedience. That God causes the disobedience that he so frequently rebukes men for just seems preposterous.
  • Other than a few verses (eg. Romans 9) the Bible does not seem to read in a Calvinist way.
  • Verses that seem to contradict Calvinism are given interpretations by Calvinists that seem to me to be unusual or bizarre.
  • A genetic fallacy I know—but it seems, from the little I know, that Calvin was influenced by Augustine who wrongly married aspects of Greek philosophy to Christianity.

How I see some Calvinists misunderstand non-Calvinists

We do not necessarily take the polar opposite to Calvinists.

Men are created in the image of God. They are also fallen. So they have many aspects in common with God but these aspects are frequently broken. They are broken beyond repair in that they can only be fixed by Christ, but they are not broken beyond recognition, nor use.

Take reason. Our ability to reason is because of God's image in us, but we make mistakes in our reason.
  • We may not follow logic completely
  • We accept false premises
  • We prefer to think reality conforms to our sinful nature
  • We will defend our sin rather than face it.
But also
  • We can follow some logical arguments
  • We accept some true premises (to a varying degree) even if we do not know Christ
  • Some men do realise that things are not all right with man
  • And, even if we are unwilling to see evil in ourselves, most see it to some degree in others.
Now it may well be God's sustaining power and work in our lives that allows us to do things while broken, but those thoughts remain ours, at least at the level of whether we choose to agree with God or disagree with him. That is, God is not forcing certain men to reject him, rather he is calling all, and all can respond, though not all choose to.

While God gives us much freedom, this does not mean we deny that God can override that freedom, at least in action; though he may prevent a thought or prevent a thought developing. Nor is deism true— God did not set up the world leaving us to do what we may, God is very actively involved in his creation. He responds to our prayers, he guides us, he gives us ideas, he speaks in dreams, visions and audibly at times. God is probably far more active in this world than most people appreciate.

But the key idea is that we have freedom of choice. While God has preferences for us we can choose to accept them or choose to rebel against them. We can oppose God. While God's ultimate will (final plan or thing that he has determined to happen) cannot be thwarted, we can surely rage against him.

God is able to bring good out of evil, even greater good than would have been had the evil not occurred, but that he does that is testimony to his goodness; to claim that God willed evil to bring about a greater good seems, to me, to be inconsistent with the nature of God.

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