Arminian Today

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Grace For All Book Review (Chapter 3) Part 1

You can find the previous posts here and here.

This is chapter 3 of the book Grace For All.  This chapter is entitled, “Calvinism and Problematic Readings of New Testament Texts or, Why I Am Not a Calvinist.”

This was an excellent chapter.  The first two chapters laid down the biblical and philosophical foundations to why Arminians reject Calvinism but now we turn completely to the Word of God for our understanding of why Calvinism is flawed.  It begins with what Arminians have the most problem with in regard to Calvinism and that is the Calvinistic teaching of divine determinism.  I was surprised once when talking with an educated Calvinist and he said that he had never heard of divine determinism.  However, we Arminians view Calvinism as divine determinism.  As Glen Shellrude points out in the opening of this chapter, “Theological determinism affirms that everything that happens does so because God has ordained it to happen that way.”  Shellrude points to the Westminster Confession of Faith which clearly teaches that all things come to pass by the ordaining of God.  While many Calvinists affirm unconditional election and thus they affirm divine determinism from a salvation perspective, many Calvinists fail to see that Calvinism (when taken logically) must affirm God’s sovereignty (all-power and all-rule) as “specific sovereignty” meaning that even the “trajectory of the smallest raindrop” is controlled and ordained by God.

Taken further, divine determinism affirms not just the good of the saints (Romans 8:28) but the evil as well (Genesis 50:20).  Yet as Austin Fischer asks, “What about the reprobate? How does God work good for them?”  Of course, He doesn’t.  God’s plan for the reprobate in Calvinism is hell.  This is said to be for His glory.  Reading Calvinist works on the issue of God’s love and the reprobate one understands why John Wesley said that unconditional predestination makes our blood boil.  It simply doesn’t fit the picture of the Bible about God, His nature, His creation, His love, and those whom He created in His image.

Shellrude points out that Calvinists often try to use the language of permission when speaking of evil and divine determinism but this will not fit with the Calvinist understanding of the sovereignty of God.  Divine determinism means that all that happens happens not because God merely permitted it but rather that He plans and renders everything certain for His glory.  So what about evil deeds done by evil men that God did not permit but purposed and rendered certain?  Some Calvinists simply appeal to mystery but some such as Gordon Clark affirm the goodness of God despite His planning evil deeds and events:

God is the ultimate cause of sin, He is not the author of sin. The author is the immediate cause of an action. Man is the immediate cause of his sin. But he was not free to do otherwise. For God is the ultimate cause of sin.

God’s causing a man to sin is not sin. There is no law, superior to God, which forbids him to decree sinful acts. Sin presupposes a law, for sin is lawlessness.

So how does God in Calvinism escape sinning?  Because He is God.  Because God can do what He wants, God cannot be held responsible for sin since He is above the law.  Reminds me of the cops I see flying down the highway going too fast without their emergency lights on yet cops would argue that they are above the law.  I find Clark’s answer less than satisfying.

In the next post I want to jump into this chapter.  Chapter 3 was excellent at exploring how Calvinism fits into the Bible but it doesn’t.  One must have presuppositions of Calvinism to make Calvinism fit into the Bible.  We will examine the many texts that Shellrude looks at in this chapter.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/05/2015 at 1:11 PM

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