Crazy-smart and ALWAYS welcome LydiaSellerOfPurple posted this comment today under my last post. My response was so long, it warranted making the whole exchange a separate post. In my response, I affirm Lydia’s observation of the confusing and ultimately incoherent “explanations” of Calvinist doctrine; in particular, the seeming concession of “free will”, as exemplified by Wade Burleson in an exchange I had with him on the blog “Wartburg Watch” the other day:
Argo, I used to read Wade’s blog back in 2006-7 and came to the conclusion he was more antinomian than anything. Also, I think the Calvinist doctrine is pretty much embedded in his family history. Did you ever read about the letter AW Pink wrote his grandfather? (I think it was his grandfather…might have been “great great”)
But as time goes on and you read Calvinists you see they insert what we might call “free will” statements into comments or teaching. And these references negate what their doctrine teaches (or even what they said earlier!) so it gets very confusing. It is like they live in a cognitive dissonance and when you try to flesh it out there is always some wordy confusing explanation that really makes no sense or answers the actual questions.
Which leads me to Calvinism works on paper and from pulpits only. I have come to see this more and more clearly over the last few years. You cannot “live” out Calvinism without it causing tons of problems in the long run. The simple belief that man has no real volition starts to wreck havoc in practical application of beliefs! And then the leaders start to try and explain that you have freedom to sin but not freedom to accept Christ as Savior. It gets very strange. It is like a big black hole where green is red and sky is land.
The sheer confusion inherent in Calvinism makes it look intellectual at first. But if one is serious about it and digs in, it starts to look like institutionalized confusion and chaos.
I have come to think of Calvin as having a personality disorder. I get this from his behavior in life to his writings. He thrived on power, control and keeping people off balance. He did not suffer anyone to disagree with him including his close friends like Castillo whom he eventually banished and ruined.
It is like waking up one day and realizing you were following the dictates of Hitler without realizing it. The man was a creep and he systematized what folks are following today no matter how much they claim otherwise.
John Immel says that Calvinism appeals to people because it is the most systematized, comprehensive, and organized version of protestant ideas. While I agree with this, I think there is another reason…and it is the reason I find the doctrine has mass appeal for both smart and average-thinkers. It is simply what you pointed out already in your comment: the confusion. Smart people enjoy yet one more chance to use their cognitive acumen to “be in the know”, and dumb people like feeling smart by claiming a kindred spirit with “the know”. And the “know” is even that much better when it is the functional difference between being on a path to heaven and the wide road to hell. Damnation and life. More importantly, YOUR life, and and the much deserved damnation for all the people you hate: liberals, homosexuals, feminists, Obama, deists, Arminians and other assorted heretics, Catholics, atheists, MSNBC, R-Rated movie watchers, daters not courters, those who won’t serve on the UCCC (Urinal Cake Cleaning Committee), boys with long hair, and public school teachers…among others.
And because the theology is SO systematic…well, it just sounds so doggone intellectual.
Funny how it stops sounding intellectual and just sounds INSANE once you are finally able to apply this one simple truth to it: EVERYTHING in Calvin’s doctrine…and I do mean EVERYTHING is designed to remove YOU from YOU. To put YOU inexorably beyond TRUTH; beyond God, beyond salvation…even beyond damnation. If you are anywhere around, even in hell, you are “doing it wrong”.
I think people just really, really enjoy believing they know something that other “ordinary” people don’t. They LOVE to be the ones who have “truth”; who reeeeally understand. They love being the ones who reeeeally know that up is down and down is up and black is white. I think they feel empowered by this in some way…like they have some kind of uniqueness that impresses themselves, and gives them a mandate to somehow dictate the terms of reality for everyone else.
Also…now that I think about it (again), I think this is why so many scientists, particularly physicists, I have known are so doggone pretentious…possessing a sense of innate haughtiness which taints their persona’s, and they talk to the “regular” folks almost in something akin to parental tones. They are just so giddy at the fact that they somehow understand the master and the strings; the “language” of the cosmos, which is hidden from the lesser minds.
So…like you said. Confusing. With confusing concepts and words that have just enough of a ring of truth and spoken with just enough “authority”, and systematic just enough..yes, this combination takes people right where they are dying to go. To the place where they are special and smarter than everyone else who foolishly think that what they see is actually what is real. And the really ironic part is that this kind of thinking is actually accomplished with doctrines like “total depravity”. Have you noticed the level of arrogance displayed by those adhering to reformed doctrine? They speak to you like you are a child; or worse, rebuke your “heresy” or block you from their blogs altogether. As if somehow depravity doesn’t apply to them…as if, for some reason THEY are exempt from the depravity of the mind, and that through the mine-laden obstacle course of TULIP they have come out the other side with understanding. Which, of course, is completely contradictory to their doctrine, which categorically declares that men can know nothing at all. There is no human agency capable of understanding GOOD; which is to say TRUTH.
But at the end of the day, for all of their pomp and circumstance, they are really third-rate thinkers. The fact that someone as intelligent as Stephen Hawking or Leon Lederman–both Nobel Prize winners–cannot see the inherent logical fallacies in scientific determinism astounds me. The fact that they cannot understand that you simply cannot claim that the TRUTH of things is this: TRUTH cannot be known, by definition, since all of reality is simply an EFFECT.
Scientific determinism makes every mathematical equation ever devised utterly moot before it leaves the gate. All these great equations they use to “prove” their deterministic ideas are dead on arrival based on their OWN assumptions that everything is determined by natural law.
But if this is the case–that natural law “governs” (determines)–you cannot describe the cause and effect of reality because everything you observe is mutually exclusive to the CAUSE. That is, the CAUSE can never be known because everything, including man’s very thoughts have already been determined FOR him. If your reality–everything that ever is or was–is merely the effect, what is the cause? They pretend to know, but by their OWN tacit admission understanding is IMPOSSIBLE. They CANNOT know the cause. And if they cannot know the cause, they cannot know that we are all determined. If you don’t know what is determining, then you can’t claim determinism. It just doesn’t work. And you can’t use math to determine the cause, because math, by definition is part of everything that is ALREADY determined. Mathematical proofs and physical laws are not cause, they are EFFECT.
It is a logic that doubles back on itself and destroys its own assumptions.
Also, I am shocked that they cannot understand that determinism is an absolute. That is, if everything is determined, then that which determines must ALSO be determined. You can NEVER arrive at any kind of cause…there is no such thing as something being determined by that which is arbitrary. You cannot ever make the equation ARBITRARY + DETERMINISM = DETERMINISM work unless you make ARBITRARY equal to zero. And that leaves you with what? Determinism. Going back as far as the eye can see.
And the fact that someone as “wise” as RC Sproul cannot see the impossibility of a concept like “God controls every molecule” makes me crazy. The fact that he cannot see that this makes everything GOD (according to Argo’s Universal Truth #7: Anything which precedes directly from an absolute is the absolute), and utterly eradicates any line between God and Creation and ALSO makes man’s ability to then understand anything at all totally impossible, because man cannot EXIST in this construct…well, let’s just say I remain unimpressed with the turning wheels behind their eyes. They could use some grease.
And the fact that Wade Burleson can say with a straight face and honestly believe he speaks the truth that it is his WILL by which he chooses Christ but that that his will is utterly UNABLE to resist God’s calling reveals just how little these men truly understand the world they pretend they can bring good to with such nonsense. The fact that they won’t or can’t see the glaring rational larceny in such a view is staggering. And they get PAID to preach ideas that are wholly irreconcilable with what can be true. A will that is ALWAYS inexorably bound by something outside of it is NOT FREE. If God is absolute, and our will is ultimately subject to HIS will, then what does Argo’s Universal Truth #7 say?
“Anything which proceeds directly from an absolute IS the absolute”.
If our salvation proceeds directly from God’s will, then our will plays NO part in the salvation process, period. Further, our will MUST BE the exact same thing as God’s will, for we cannot function according to our will because his grace is irresistible…so by definition His will absolutely trumps our will. We become God.
How hard is that to understand? Really…you are going to nuance your argument to that extent…to blasphemy? You need to go there, to the place where contradiction is the root of God? That’s what the truth is now? Lies? Whether intentional or as a product of your elementary reason. This is what Christianity is? Irrational thinking?
Where is truth then? Nowhere. It is gone.
But see, this is the whole idea of irresistible grace and limited atonement. Oh, sure…Calvinists have no problem conceding free will. They’ll do it all day long. Why? Because, as always, they apply irrational, mystic, false logic to the definition. They concede man’s will, but the ULTIMATE decision belongs to God. In other words, man’s will profits him exactly zero. It is ALL up to God’s arbitrary graces. In the words of Wade Burleson “God is not obligated to save us”.
What I believe he is saying here is that whether you WILL Christ or not is irrelevant, because God gets the final say, and He is not obligated (I disagree completely with this; once Christ was sacrificed, indeed, He had obligated Himself to the salvation of those who would believe, otherwise He makes Himself a hypocrite). THAT is the essence of limited atonement. Regardless of what human will desires, God is going to choose who gets saved. You can accept Christ all day long, but it means nothing to God. YOUR will means nothing to Him. You are saved by His will only. And this of course means that your will isn’t free, because it amounts to nothing in the end. Your life concludes where it concludes based on God’s will only. YOU have nothing to do with it. Even your belief in Jesus is meaningless.
Of course, the REALLY wicked part of this is that it makes Jesus ultimately irrelevant; His sacrifice, pointless. If believing in Jesus isn’t efficacious to salvation, but the sacrifice is trumped by God’s predetermined will, then of what use is the sacrifice? It is of no use. It means nothing. God is going to save who God is going to save. You were saved, not by believing in Jesus, but by God’s arbitrary will. By definition if God is not going to save you based on your faith in Christ (choosing to believe), then belief in Christ cannot POSSIBLY MATTER. Which means that Christ’s sacrifice cannot POSSIBLY MATTER. It is neither here nor there. Believe if you want by your “will”. It matters not to God. God’s criteria is…well, who the heck knows? Even HE cannot know. It can only be utterly arbitrary. He cannot have a reason beyond Himself, and since He is an absolute, HE, alone, cannot have a set value…He is an INFINITE self. ANY reason He has then can only equal God. And as far as Creation is concerned, the functional value of that is ZERO.
Without real relationship, God can have NO reason for doing ANYTHING in Creation. Because He is what He is…and if that is His criteria for His will–Himself–then the applicable value of Him applied to anything NOT him is nothing.
I have said all along that Christ does NOT make election possible, but election makes Christ MOOT. And it does.
And so, here we are with Wade. Saying one thing, but what he says isn’t really what he is saying (incidentally, this was the whole beef people had with me on Wartburt…claiming that I was telling them “that they believed what they said they didnt”; all I was doing is telling them that what they were saying wasn’t really what was being said). He concedes certain things because the gymnastics of semantics, along with his “authority” as a “called” (gnostic) minister, allows him to twist reason in service to his “sound doctrine”. I believe this is what is happening. I’m not accusing him of willfully doing this…really, I think most of these guys are just not that deep. They don’t seem to posses the intellectual fortitude to follow their ideas to the places they must reasonably go. Or they don’t possess the will. Which makes sense, since they don’t believe their will effects much in the grand scheme.
But God only excuses ignorance so far. After a while, as a teacher, you are supposed to know. If you don’t, you are at best incompetent, and at worst a liar.
Okay…whew. That was long.
I’m going to make this a post, LOL