Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Mail Call (Cont.)

Continuing now with Robert Bauer’s objections to Calvinism.

The second objection is one of consciousness. If some have been predestined to be unrepentant sinners, then why are they conscious? Wouldn't it be better for them to be merely "furniture" for the Elect?

Yes it would be better for them. Just as it would have been better for Judas. However, we don’t get to make that call. God has prepared these unfortunates according to His own plan, as much as it seems pointless and cruel to us.

Again, this problem is not just for Calvinists. On average, every day more people die who have not heard the gospel than on any other day in history. (I would give proper attribution if I could remember where I heard it.) Arminian theology teaches that, at least in the normative sense, these poor souls who have not made a personal commitment to Christ are lost. It would also be better for them to have never been born.

For that matter, why would the Elect be conscious if their consciousness had no bearing on their actions, as God knows exactly what they'll do in a given circumstance and manipulates events to cause the Elect to follow their inclinations in such a way as to be led to Salvation?

God's knowing what people will do in a given circumstance is part of his Sovereignty. Arminians do not deny this attribute. Predestination is taught by both Calvinists and Arminians, It has to be, it is mentioned so prominently is scripture. Calvinists teach "classic" predestination, while Arminians teach the "foreknowledge based" version.

The only manipulation suggested by Calvinism, and I agree it is radical, is that man is given a new heart, one that seeks God. And it is true that by this means he inevitably draws us to Him. At the same time, the free will is not dead and the old self is alive and kicking, causing a great deal of mischief for which we will have to make an accounting. So Calvinism does teach that (a) God violates our will be giving us a new heart and (b) The elect are irresistibly and inevitably drawn to him. But it also teaches that, far from robots, we are engaged in a constant, personal battle of the will against temptation and sin.

It seems to me that at least *some* volition is necessary on the part of the sinner. Let's say a man has fallen into a ravine, and while he's not seriously hurt, he's going to die if he can't get out. He's got a park safety brochure with him, and so he pulls out his cell phone and dials the ranger station for help, and they dispatch forces to help him. The rangers throw him a rope and tell him that if he'll just grab it and keep hold of it, they'll pull him up to safety. If he does so, then it is not of any act of his own that he got out except by calling for help. He is free to let go of the rope at any time, if for instance he distrusts the rangers or wants to make a go of extracting himself without their help. Similarly, when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge, I'm not sure they fell into utter helplessness. As they now had knowledge, they not only knew that many earthly pleasures might make them happier than obeying God, but also (or at least their later descendants did) that they had an escape from pain available by God's outstreched hand.

Yes, that is a classic Arminian metaphor. The problem is that it is not found anywhere in scripture, as much as we would wish it so. (Personally I don’t wish it so. I am happy that the only thing I contribute to my salvation is my sin.) What scripture says about fallen man is not that he is gravely ill, but that he is dead, and he can contribute no more to his rebirth that Lazarus could have assisted in being brought back to life. To wit, scripture teaches:

Not a pretty picture. Just look at one of them: We cannot please God. Would not our assent to the Gospel, from our natural will as demanded by Arminianism, please God?

Arminianism demands the impossible.

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