This has given me new angles on troubling questions, questions I have guessed were less about God and more about neo-Calvinistas in the U.S.A. I posed several of those questions in a previous post, “A Question About Christian Theology.”
But what about HELL? This is always the first question posed when confronted with Robert W. Jenson’s understanding of the gospel as unconditional promise. If the Church is authorized to speak the Kingdom to all comers, does this not imply universal salvation? In his youthful systematics, Story and Promise, Jenson refuses to answer yay or nay:
What is the point of the traditional language about damnation? Two points only. First, damnation is not part of the gospel. The gospel is not a carrot and a stick: it is unconditional promise. Damnation is a possibility I pose to myself when I hear the gospel and instead of believing it begin to speculate about it—which we all regularly do. Therefore, this book, which tries to explain the gospel, has talked only about Fulfillment and will continue to do so. Second, damnation would be that we were finally successful in self-alienation from our…
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Posted in Christian Humanism
Tagged Calvinism, damnation, doctrine, eastern orthodox, Eclectic Orthodoxy, freedom, Gospel, hell, predestination, Robert W. Jensen, theology
Why would God tell us to love our enemies if at least some of our enemies are beyond redemption¹ and God has already decided to destroy at least some of them², so by asking us to love them, God therefore is asking us to do something that would be loftier and nobler than what God is willing to do³? †
¹ This phrase assumes, for the sake of argument, some are predetermined to be beyond redemption (predetermined in this case because of points made in the following notes). Then again, maybe none of “our enemies,” the ones who ultimately really are enemies, are beyond redemption. Furthermore, it might not be clear right now who “our enemies” really are, which might be one reason to love those who appear to be enemies.
² By choosing to save some and to damn others. This point of view, while very present in Christian theology, is difficult because God cannot choose to save some without choosing to not-save others. When One is an all-powerful being*, not-doing must be just as volitional as doing. When all-powerful, choosing not to embrace one sentient being You have created must be just as volitional as choosing to embrace another sentient being You have created.
*or even all-powerful and outside of being
³ This phrase assumes, for the sake of argument, that God does not love those whom He created yet knows ultimately will be His enemies, and additionally, assumes that God has decided to create some to ultimately become His enemies. In other words, God creates some people He does not love or plans to stop loving. So, by calling humans to love their enemies as themselves, God has asked us to do something noble and good that He neither is willing to do nor desiring to do, which you should admit is kind of strange. Again, choosing not to embrace one sentient being You have created must be just as volitional as choosing to embrace another sentient being You have created. Oddly enough, two verses later, Jesus asks, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” So maybe by asking us to love our enemies, God is asking us to follow His characteristics or part of His nature.
† The question seeks a coherent explanation of both the command to love our enemies and the interpretative and systematic traditions which affirm non-universalist positions on predestination and election in which some individuals are intentionally created by God for the purposes of committing sins and thereafter being held accountable for the sins without being given grace and therefore damned. Is there some achievable coherence between God’s decision to create some people to experience His wrath and God’s command to love our enemies?
Posted in Bible, biblical living, biblical worldview, Calvinism, Christian Humanism, Christianity, love, Reformed, sovereignty, theology
Tagged Bible, coherence, election, enemies, God, Jesus, limited atonement, love, predestination, questions, Reformed, sovereignty, theology, universalism
In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton begins an illuminating passage on madness, predestination, reason, and poetry with some observations about the English poet William Cowper:
“[O]nly one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health. He could sometimes forget the red and thirsty hell to which his hideous necessitarianism dragged him among the wide waters and the white flat lilies of the Ouse. He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin. Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets. Homer is complete and calm enough; it is his critics who tear him into extravagant tatters. Shakespeare is quite himself; it is only some of his critics who have discovered that he was somebody else. And though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators. The general fact is simple. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion, like the physical exhaustion of Mr. Holbein. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”
Posted in Calvinism, Christian Humanism, G.K. Chesterton, poetry
Tagged G.K. Chesterton, John Calvin, John Gilpin, madness, poetry, predestination, reason, William Cowper
Thanks to Randy Ferebee for sharing Ben Irwin’s series on his departure from Calvinism.
In Part 9 of the series, Irwin says something that deals with part of the backdrop for my post about the John Piper-Charles Spurgeon perspective on predestination and predetermination.
That backdrop deals with how language is used, and whether language can be used, to discuss an inspired text with any sense of clarity.
On a related note, Irwin writes:
“In linguistics, there’s a fallacy known as illegitimate totality transfer. It’s when you take one possible meaning of a word and read it into every occurrence without regard for context. (For example, ‘green’ can be an idiom for money. But that doesn’t mean ‘green’ always means money.)
“We run a similar risk when we read the accounts of people like Abraham and Moses. We see they were chosen by God in some way, so we assume everyone who comes to know God was predestined in exactly the same way. But on what basis?” — from The day the tulip died, part 9, by Ben Irwin
“Illegitimate totality transfer” sounds a lot like a particularly philosophical use of “equivocation” and “equivocal” meanings.
As I noted in my post, John Piper seems to think along the following lines: if God predetermined certain things, like Jesus’s betrayer, then God must have predetermined everything.
He goes on to say some people have driven themselves mad by trying to figure out how God can predetermine (not merely predestine) everything, even the position of a dust speck in a sunbeam, thus nullifying all human choosing (while still holding humans responsible).
Maybe that’s because pondering madness begets madness.
Posted in Christian, fundamentalism, God, language
Tagged Ben Irwin, Bible, equivocation, fallacies, fundamentalism, John Piper, predestination, predetermination
When Jason Stellman wrote a sincere and respectful letter to the Presbyterian Church in America about his decision to leave that denomination, the arrogant and hateful blowback from some members was so severe that he decided to stop blogging for a while just to keep his Christian composure.
I guess being Truly Reformed means never having to demonstrate the Fruits of the Spirit.
Your election to salvation is irrevocable, so you can act like a total shit.
And everyone else already has been damned or saved, so you don’t have to worry about your Christian witness. Just hold the occasional lecture on sovereignty and anticipate your great reward.