Thursday, 19 February 2009

Introduction

This blog is a clean place for ideas to do battle. Not people, but ideas. As people, we will all be friends, and brothers (or sisters). And having thus established that, we will let our ideas inform, instruct, and deconstruct one anothers' ideas.

The topic? Calvinism vs. Open Theism, and every other theory that comes up for discussion in between those two.

Goal for the blog: to have at least 3 people representing each doctrinal position actively participating in order that we might most fully explore all the tenets of each position and collectively uncover the weaknesses of both and/or one. The greater goal being that, in the places where any of us "see through a glass darkly" in regards to the testimony of the Scripture as to the nature of God and our salvation as it pertains to these ideas, that we will be vessels of mutual edification to one another and the result would be that we would all more clearly see the Lord and His salvation by the time we cease to participate together in this forum.

So - introduce yourself to the blog - state your name (first name, last initial at least), and your position on these matters!

17 comments:

  1. I am not entirely sure, or clear in my own mind, of my theological beliefs, but I'll at least try to explain what I do believe, or what seems to make sense, and why. I remember awkwardly debating this same thing in high school and having a theological rift between my teacher and I over it (otherwise we were good friends, and agreed on most things) but it left a bad taste in my memory of the topic. Therefore I too would like to have a proper discussion about it, whether or not it can produce a solid, simple answer (which I doubt, but at the same time there must be some kind of answer!). I'm still currently trying to re-read up on the subject before saying something stupid, uninformed or unrelated, but I'll be sure to post again with something or other. (Would it help to re-iterate the basics of each argument here, or just leave that to good old wikipedia and other external sources? Either way is fine by me).

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  2. Sorry I forgot to (re)introduce myself - this is Chris S.

    I don't think I can agree with Calvinism on some of its tenets, at least not to the extreme to which Calvinism takes them. For instance, Total Depravity asserts that since we inherit a sinful nature, we are helplessly compelled to act according to its whims. I strongly disagree with that assertion (anything that denies the existence of free will also seems inherently absurd, if not impossible to logically accept, for many reasons which would take more paragraphs to explain). If we are totally helpless against sin, then why does the bible give us commands, urging people to repent, clearly implying that we do have a choice in the matter? Wouldn't that make people like Enoch just luckier than everyone else, for reasons that we may as well not even bother trying to understand? The whole concept of not having a free will (to choose good or evil) is inherently ridiculous to me, which is probably my biggest problem with Calvinism. I believe that we do have the tendency to sin, but are not thereby controlled by it - we have the freedom to resist and act otherwise. I also believe this act of choosing good or evil is largely (but not completely?) influenced by external factors (physical, mental, social, spiritual) but not that we are a complete slave to anything beyond our own will. This brings to mind the whole Struggling With Sin thing (do we our our will, or just the cross, what is "the cross", etc.) which I would also love to go into but not just now.

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  3. Hi I am Matt holding to a form of "Calvinism" that is compatibilist, i.e. that allows for real human freedom. This is quite close to the position laid out in "Chosen But Free" by Norm Geisler, though I suppose I have my minor disagreements with that book. This view is not usually well liked by strong Calvinists, who attack it as incoherent and semi-Pelagian. That is understandable as he completely and purposely redefines the Five Points of the Synod of Dort - every one not just the pesky middle one (in my opinion, this brings them closer in line with the Scriptures). For example, along the points Chris S. raised, he might like the way that Total Depravity is defined within this "moderate Calvinism." Human nature is totally marred by sin. But the image of God (which includes rationality, will, morality, etc.), while "effaced" by sin, is not erased. The reach of the effects of sin are extensive, meaning that they covers every part of human existence, from our thoughts to actions to will, but not intensive, meaning that it does not fully annihilate any part of a human being.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. I promise not to be too scrupulous about editing, but if I could edit just the last sentence, it would look more like this:

    "The reach of the effects of sin is extensive, meaning that it covers every part of human existence, but not intensive, meaning that it does not annihilate any part of a human being."

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  6. I'm M.joshua Cauller. I'm a screwball.

    When an open theist (Harold Eberle) talked at my church, my friends who came to visit thought my whole church was in deep deception and literally kept me from going.

    They took the tape from his message and played it over and over highlighting his deceptions to me. Interestingly enough, I was filled with the Holy Spirit about two months later.

    Another 8 months later, I met Harold in my church network's Leadership School and my trust level was about nil. Nevertheless, he completely deconstructed Reformed Theology and indexed the reasons why Open Theism is better. Having very little mastery of the Text at the time, I agreed without opposition.

    Most of his points contested things like "God doesn't change his mind": Then what about when Noah, Abraham and Moses clearly stop God from wiping out entire peoples?

    At the same time, I'm a fan of Neo-Calvie, Mark Driscoll (though I hate most of his doctrinal teachings). "Doctrinal teachings" always seem to me as non-relational and un-earthy.

    As for TULIP (the five Calvie points), I think I agree and disagree with all of them (with possible exclusion of Limited Atonement - Limited? Really? What about the redemption of all creation?).

    Anyway, I love arguing and contesting things. Maybe the TULIP is a good subject to argue over?

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  7. My name is Lauren. I grew up with a strictly Calvinist doctrine, and in my church and family any views other than this were considered ignorant and unbiblical and sometimes even a false gospel. First of all, I want to apologize for any pain we Calvinists have caused the rest of the church by asserting that we are smarter and holier because of this belief, and have considered others lesser than ourselves. "This knowledge puffs up but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God." 1 Cor 8:1-3. Amen?

    I agreed completely with Calvinism for a long time but in the last few years have begun to change my beliefs as I read Scripture. This has become my view (but I'm open to God changing it again like he always does):

    *When the Scripture says that God elects people, that's exactly what it means. God chose his flock before the world existed, not because he is impartial, but because he poured out extravagant mercy on a remnant of us, though none of us deserve it. (Eph 1, Rom 9)
    *The Scripture is very clear that we are responsible for our own actions and decisions. John 3:18 "Whoever believes in the Son of God is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the only Son of God." We must make a free, personal decision to believe or not to believe.
    *We can only believe with the Holy Spirit does a supernatural work to open our eyes. We cannot bear ourselves again but must be born again.
    *Just because we have made a commitment to Christ does not mean we are off the hook regarding our actions. There are some who will taste and experience the things of Christ, but later reject him and fall away. Hebrews 6:4-8. James 5:19-20. Mark 4:14-20. Matthew 24:24. Plus Christ is always telling us in the gospels and in Revelation that we must endure to the end and we will be saved.
    *This does not mean we are saved by our works. We are saved by faith in the work that Christ did. The question is, what does faith look like? And that has a lot to do with the way we live our lives.
    *I am aware that these views appear to contradict each other. But I also think the Scripture strongly supports them all. I think God did that on purpose. How can both predestination and free will be true? Well, how can Christ be fully God and fully man? Maybe we are not supposed to understand. The purpose of these truths is not so that we will comprehend exactly how they work, but so that we will live our lives in a certain way.

    The purpose of knowing that God is sovereign over our salvation: that we would not be prideful but give him all the glory and credit, and that we would fully trust his hand in all things and not ourselves; and that we could rest assure in his ability to accomplish everything perfectly for our good (Rom 8); that we could delight in the overwhelming truth that he adopted us by choice.

    The purpose of knowing that we are responsible for our choices/actions: So that we will not say the prayer and sit down and wait for heaven, but run the race before us; that we will not only love God, but fear God and work out our salvation with fear and trembling; so that when we are tempted by the anti-Christ system, we will remember Jesus' words that we must endure; so that he can be honored by the fact that we choose him because we love him; so that when we fail we do not blame him but take responsibility.

    That concludes my views. So basically I don't want to figure out what these things mean, but rather want to figure out how God wants us to live. Obedience comes before knowledge.

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  8. Hi everyone,

    Well, my position is hard to define. I really have enjoyed fellowshipping with most of the Calvinists I know. It's too bad I have to excommunicate all of you now :) (Ok, that was a joke.)

    Seriously, I have found Calvinists to be among those with the greatest appreciation for the Lord's glory, for His truth, and for His ways. That said, I disagree with the Calvinist understanding of which set of doctrines indeed gives God the most glory, which is the most true, and which most clearly expresses His ways.
    Still, I really really find a lot of commonality of heart with my reformed friends, at times much more so than with friends I would have more doctrinal similarities with.

    This puts me in an odd position - disagreeing with the ideas of those I have the most affinity with at times. I do believe in Open Theism, although on some occasions I think I might be wrong. I also have really found agreement with much that I've read under the heading, "The Christocentric view of predestination."

    I believe in Total Depravity, but as someone else said here, I don't see it perhaps as leading to the same conclusions that my reformed friends do.
    I believe in election, but not the same way that my reformed friends do.
    I *don't* believe that atonement is limited. At all.
    I believe grace IS resistable. "You stiffnecked people..you do always resist the Holy Spirit..."
    But I do believe in the perseverance of the saints, I am much more inclined to believe there is a sense in which grace is irresistable to those who have once partaken of it. Yet not completely.

    As far as predestination goes, I believe in the "Christ horizon" theory of predestination, in keeping with the Christocentric view.

    But anyway, this is the introduction thread, so here the goal is not to persuade or debate, but simply introduce ourselves and our position. I will be creating more threads for all of us to debate specific points together. :)

    We first need to find some more open theists or armenians to take part in this!

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  9. For those who have subscribed to receive updates to this thread via email, I would like to let you know that the newest thread is up and ready for commenting: http://calvinismvopenness.blogspot.com/2009/02/whats-at-stake.html

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  10. Oh and by the way, I forgot to post my name! Heather W.

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  11. Hi, my name is T. C. and I'm an Open theist. I've participated in several discussions of this type in the past, and I'm happy to participate in this one because I'm convinced that whichever framework one begins with colors not just one's theology, but also their practice. And it is our practice that the world witnesses and as a result either glorifies our Father in heaven, or maligns the word of God. Put simply, the implications of either framework are far-reaching and fundamental to our faith.

    However, at the outset, I hope I'll be permitted to make a few observational comments.

    Firstly, the Calvinist framework (commonly understood today as the 5-points abbreviated T.U.L.I.P.) is an outflow of the Reformation that wrestled with the nature of grace and justification amidst an institutional form of Christianity which had neglected these biblical . As a result, Calvinism is primarily concerned with Soteriology. Conversely, the Openness framework (commonly understood from the writing of such authors as Pinnock, Sanders, and Boyd) is not a product of Reformation theology, and does not concern itself primarily with Soteriology nor does it neatly correspond to the Five Points of Calvinism. Therefore, the comparison of Calvinism and Openness it is not quite 'one-for-one.' In fact, from my experience, the vast majority of Open theists affirm an Arminianist approach to Soteriology.

    Perhaps a more 'one-to-one' comparison would be the Exhaustively Settled View of the Future held by Classical theist of both the Calvinist and Arminianist ilk vs. the Partly Settled, Partly Open View of the Future held by Open theists.

    Secondly, from reading some of the other introductions, I detect a familiar tone I've heard in past discussions that concerns me. Several of the introductions included disclaimers, amendments, or caveats to their affirmation of Calvinism. I've found this to be very common.

    Are there no more 'true Calvinists?' Where have all the TULIP proponents gone? What precipitates this compulsion in Calvinists to disavow their essential tenets for more "nuanced" ones?

    For example, one introduction mentioned Geisler's book "Chosen but Free" and describes it as a redefinition of Calvinism. Why does Calvinism need redefining? If Calvinism is true, let it be affirmed unabashedly. If it is false, let it be condemned.

    Would anyone else join me in this commitment: I will not hide behind cop-outs. I will present as true only what I can defend with scripture, reason, and experience. I will not retreat into paradox and mystery for shelter from admitting I don't have all the answers. No one writing here possesses all truth; this is understood. So, there is no need for preemptive sandbagging. Let's just be honest. If we believe something is true, say so.

    Finally, I am glad to see an early post about "What is at stake?" because all too often I have encountered thinkers who put what they consider "orthodoxy" before charity, sharpness before sharpening, and rightness before righteousness. I only want to participate in discussions that draw us closer to the revelation of God in Christ, and in this process the end must be present in the means. Therefore, I commit to strive in this discussion for Christ-likeness before rightness and humility before vanity.

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  12. Bloody chunks, Heather!

    I hate it when all you and I do is agree. :(

    ;)

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  13. T.C., I agree that the two poles in the given spectrum are not "one-to-one." I appreciate the critique. I will try to explain myself more clearly.

    This is my first debate on open theism.

    You ask, "why does Calvinism need redefining?" One reason given is that the traditional TULIP does not reflect the soteriology of Calvin. So one wants to reject the views necessitated by TULIP, while still affirming much or most of the soteriology of Calvin. So Geisler, for example, thinks his soteriology - which include a 'new and improved' TULIP, quite similar to what Heather W. details above - would think his view reflect the thought of Calvin than most Calvinists, and so he calls his rejection/revision "moderate Calvinism."

    I don't want my posts to become insufferable factories of caveat-production, and we can leave all that aside: I am not defending Calvinism. I hold to classical theism. I reject TULIP-Calvinism for reasons you detail as well.

    Classical theism, as I hold to it, is the view that God, as the Creator of all that is, has certain traditional attributes. These include (not to be exhaustive), simplicity, pure actuality, eternality (in the sense of timelessness), immateriality, immutability (that God cannot change), omnipresence, unity, triunity, omnibenevolence, righteousness, perfection, jealousy, etc. Some of these are denied by open theists: for example, simplicity, eternality, and immutability. Therein lies the disagreement.

    You have clarified that this disagreement is not primarily soteriological. I'd add that while there are no doubt disagreements about time and future that will play into reasoning about this matter, the disagreement is fundamentally about the nature of God (and specifically those classical attributes deemed to be out of sync with the relational God of the Bible), and not about a disagreement on the the nature of the future or the nature of time per se. Do you agree?

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  14. Hi Ariel,

    Thank you for your thoughts and the tone of charity i sense in them. I will do my best to reciprocate that spirit. And for your encouragement: you're doing great for a first-timer! :-)

    Calvin and Calvinism

    You say what is considered Calvinism today (TULIP) does not accurately represent the theology of John Calvin. You are not the first Calvinist i have encountered who says this. But help me understand what you mean by saying this. Are you saying that the Five Points of Calvinism were not each affirmed by John Calvin? Are you saying he denied, say, Limited Atonement? Are you saying he denied, perhaps, Unconditional Election? If this is what you mean by saying "Modern Calvinism is not the theology of Calvin," would you mind pointing out for me which of the five doctrines he denied and where in his writings he did so? While it would come as a bit of a shock if you could produce evidence that Calvin did not affirm Calvinism, i don't ask this because i dont believe you. I ask this because i would love to have this evidence in hand to use against Calvinists LOL!

    In all seriousness though, while i trust you might have the sincerest of motives for why you wish to distance yourself from Calvinism, my suspicion is that other Calvinists who disclaim their Calvinism simply are not comfortable with the system's logical implications. Perhaps they are even uncomfortable with the lack of biblical support they find for their system in scripture. For example, someone mentioned Mark Driscoll in an earlier introduction. There was a time when i thought of him as a particularly articulate Calvinist. But I recently watched this YouTube video of Driscoll detailing his Calvinism in which he matter-of-factly disclaims is Calvinism saying he doesn't believe in Limited Atonement per se, but instead believes in an "Unlimited/Limited Atonement." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--iC5KHqaZk at 4:30-4:50) This is the type of nonsensical "nuancing" that makes discussion between Classical and Open theists unfruitful and pointless. I have met far too few Calvinists who are willing to stand by the system to its logical end.

    The Main Difference

    Open theists are not in complete agreement on what fundamentally differentiates Classical and Open theologies. While Boyd would argue that the the ontological status of the future is the fundamental difference, other leading proponents of Openness such as Pinnock and Sanders acknowledge there are in fact significant areas of departure for Classical and Open theists within the doctrine of God. I would agree that several of the attributes you mentioned are important, such as: Immutibility, Impassibility, and Eternality. And i think all would agree that the two frameworks begin with two very different sets of presuppositions. Which brings me to a subject i'd like to bring up and a few questions i'd like to ask you.

    Hermeneutics

    Would you agree with Paul that all scripture is "God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..."? I do not mean to sound condescending with this question, but i have unfortunately encountered far too many Calvinists who only offer a lip-service affirmation to this truth, while creating a canon within the canon by theologically subordinating large portions of scripture to far fewer portions that more neatly fit their theological framework. Asked another way: How do you interpret the plethora of passages in which future outcomes are depicted as contingency and not certainty? Do you write them off as less-than-truthful metaphors, saying in effect "these passages are not useful for teaching"? How do you interpret the plethora of passages in which God is shown to change his mind? Do you dismiss them with the Calvinist's favorite word for "untrue": "anthropomorphism?"

    The point i'm getting at with these questions is this: if we are going to claim all of scripture is true yet dismiss or subordinate some scripture to other scripture, then i think we are not being honest with ourselves, and do not have a basis for dialog. When one is not willing to let the scriptures speak for themselves, they can twist and manipulate scripture to say whatever it is they want.

    Please do not hear what i'm not saying: I am not suggesting that we should not consider the genre, audience, and other factors in our hermeneutic. I'm merely pointing out that at some point, we're not just interpret these passages in light of these factors, we're simply making excuses for them. As those who hold a high view of scripture, we cannot allow our hermeneutics to devolve into proof-texting.

    Having fun so far,
    ~T. C.

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  15. Wait, i missed that your name is Matt though your username is Ariel. Sorry about that.

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  16. I'm not sure I'm ready to do battle with ideas, but I left a comment, so here's info about me. I'm Marcus Goodyear, senior editor for TheHighCalling.org, HighCallingBlogs.com, and FaithInTheWorkplace.com. And I have a personal blog at GoodWordEditing.com.

    I also like zombie movies. And pirates and science fiction. And poetry.

    I have two kids and a great wife and live in the Texas hill country.

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