f The Wittenberg Door: Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 7 – Arminianism: Unlimited Atonement

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who’s Sovereign in Salvation? – Part 7 – Arminianism: Unlimited Atonement

In Part 6 we learned that, despite the teaching of Arminianism, God grants salvation to those whom He choses; and that His choice is not based upon any foreseen faith or works, but on His own sovereign will and gracious good pleasure.

In this installment, we’ll consider the Arminian doctrine of Unlimited Atonement. According to this teaching, it was God’s intention to save every person without exception, even though the application of Christ’s death is made to believers only. Furthermore, Christ death did not actually save anyone; it just made salvation possible.

Conceptual Problems

The doctrine of Unlimited Atonement runs into various conceptual issues. The following are just a few:

Problem One: Universalism or Failure
If God intended for every person to be saved without exception, then every person would be saved. In Ehp. 1:11 Paul tells us that God “works all things according to the council of His will.” Furthermore, Daniel tells us that nothing can keep God from accomplishing His intentions:

. . . He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand…
(Daniel 4:35 )

Arminians reject Universalism—they do not believe that all are saved, even though God wanted to save all men. But what can we say about a god who wants to accomplish something but can’t because his creation won’t let him? Indeed, the god who emerges from this view is not a sovereign god whose hand can’t be restrained, but one who is impotent to accomplish His intentions.

John Owen (1616-1683) provides us with the only logical options:

Christ either paid for . . .

  • All of the sins of all men (Universalism)

  • Some of the of all men (no one would be saved on this view, for God requires perfect holiness, Mat. 5:48)
    Or

  • All of the sins of some men (we’ll consider the Scriptures for this view in the next post)

Problem Two: Hell
Supposedly, the divine intention behind Christ’s death was to save every man, woman, and child who ever lived. The problem is, Christ’s death occurred 2,000 years ago. What about the people who lived in the preceding millenniums?

At the time of His death there were already millions, if not billions, of people in Hell. What about them? Did Christ die with the intention of saving the unsavable? He must have if the Arminian claim were true.

A common Arminian retort is that Christ made a post-crucifixion appearance in Hell where He offered them salvation. Apparently, though, they chose to stay in torment rather than accepting an invitation to paradise (I guess the rich man changed his mind, Luke 16:19-31).

Problem Tree: The Unjust Judge
One of the main problems with the Arminian view is that it makes God an unjust judge. Here's why: Say you are about to be sentenced for a crime you've committed and a man steps forward and says that he'll take your punishment upon himself. The judge agrees to accept the substitute and punishes the man accordingly.

What if, however, after punishing the substitute, the judge then exacts the same punishment upon you? Would that be just? Of course not. But this is exactly what Unlimited Atonement teaches—Christ paid the price for the unrepentant sinner, which God accepts; then, upon the man's death, he punishes the man for the same crimes already paid for by Christ. God wouldn't be a just judge, but a devil!

Conclusion

As we've seen so far, Unlimited Atonement carries with it serious doctrinal consequences. In my next post in this series we'll consider the Scriptures that address the questions, “For whom did Christ die?” and “Did Christ actually save anyone? Or did He simply make salvation possible?”

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30 Comments:

Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

A laughable display of logical fallacy. First off, Arminianism is a branch of orthodox Christianity (i.e. not heretical). Contrary to your fallacious claim that Christ's death didn't save anyone by the Armininan view, it does save in that people believe in Him and actually are saved, a rather obvious error. The pretended "problems" with unlimited atonement are no better.

Problem one requires assuming that God irresistibly executes His will for men. God does work in men for their salvation, but does not choose to do so to the point where they cannot reject what He desires of them.

What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? (Isaiah 5:4)

But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. (Luke 7:30)

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37)


The key is that atonement is provisional. Were it not, we would always have been atoned for and never have been children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) as the scriptures state.


Problem two is quite contrived, Christ died specifically to save all who believe (1 Timothy 4:10), walking in the steps of faithful Abraham (Romans 4:12), which included quite a few people in the Old Testament (Hebrews 11).


Problem Three is solved with the same solution as the first: since the benefit of the atonement being applied is provisioned upon being in Christ, then condemning someone for whom Christ died, but does not have forgiveness through His death because of faithlessness does not make God an unjust Judge. Or has no one ever taught you that you are no one to reply against God?

1:04 PM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

In this installment, we’ll consider the Arminian doctrine of Unlimited Atonement. According to this teaching, it was God’s intention to save every person without exception, even though the application of Christ’s death is made to believers only. Furthermore, Christ death did not actually save anyone; it just made salvation possible.

The problems with the logic in this post begin here. You assume that the efficacy of Christ's saving work is only meaningful if it can be framed within the presupposed strong-arm nature of "salvation" presumed by your theological convictions. You have provided, however, no criterion besides that which you already assume for making this categorical statement. In other words, you have "proven" the falsity of the Arminian position by arguing that it contradicts your theological assumptions--hardly an objective assessment, I must say.

The doctrine of Unlimited Atonement runs into various conceptual issues when compared to orthodox Christianity.

Huh? How does this have anything to do with "Orthodox" Christianity? There was orthodoxy long before the Reformation...

If God intended for every person to be saved without exception, then every person would be saved. In Ehp. 1:11 Paul tells us that God “works all things according to the council of His will.” Furthermore, Daniel tells us that nothing can keep God from accomplishing His intentions:

. . . He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand…
(Daniel 4:35 )


This is only a necessary conclusion if one can prove that the enactment or non-enactment of God's will must be or even ca be precisely correlated to the over-power view of God's sovereignty as offered by Reformed theology. You have not even attempted to do this and reject the doctrine you attempt to critique here on the baseless assumption that the words which you invoke from the Scriptures have some meaningful correlation to your philosophical understanding of God's sovereignty. Perhaps you should start by showing that the latter is the case before you attempt to naively use such assumptions as proofs against other's perspectives.

Arminians reject Universalism—they do not believe that all are saved, even though God wanted to save all men. But what can we say about a god who wants to accomplish something but can’t because his creation won’t let him? Indeed, the god who emerges from this view is not a sovereign god whose hand can’t be restrained, but one who is impotent to accomplish His intentions.

They probably do the same as those who must answer the question about a God who is defined eternally as one who creates with the eternal intention of damning according to the "good pleasure" of the divine will. They stammer, contradict themselves, and retreat to philosophically vacuous creeds and truisms that have no argumentative weight.

Problem Two: Hell
Supposedly, the divine intention behind Christ’s death was to save every man, woman, and child who ever lived. The problem is, Christ’s death occurred 2,000 years ago. What about the people who lived in the preceding millenniums?

At the time of His death there were already millions, if not billions, of people in Hell. What about them? Did Christ die with the intention of saving the unsavable? He must have if the Arminian claim were true.

A common Arminian retort is that Christ made a post-crucifixion appearance in Hell where He offered them salvation. Apparently, though, they chose to stay in torment rather than accepting an invitation to paradise (I guess the rich man changed his mind, Luke 16:19-31).


This is poor reasoning. If all who are saved, are saved through Christ, then any theological system must wrestle with this issue.

Problem Tree: The Unjust Judge
One of the main problems with the Arminian view is that it makes God an unjust judge. Here's why: Say you are about to be sentenced for a crime you've committed and a man steps forward and says that he'll take your punishment upon himself. The judge agrees to accept the substitute and punishes the man accordingly.

What if, however, after punishing the substitute, the judge then exacts the same punishment upon you? Would that be just? Of course not. But this is exactly what Unlimited Atonement teaches—Christ paid the price for the unrepentant sinner, which God accepts; then, upon the man's death, he punishes the man for the same crimes already paid for by Christ. God wouldn't be a just judge, but a devil!


I see nothing compelling about this argument. If God is just, then God is just because that is what God is, not because of what God does. Isn't that what the Reformed think, anyway, given that God is just despite the fact that God has been pleased from all of eternity to damn that which God has created for the ultimate reason that it is God's eternal will and desire that the same should occur? So if God is truly sovereign and just in all that God does precisely because God is God (and therefore just), the objection which you raise is not only entirely with merit, but is equally a challenge for you. After all, if God's just-ness is going to be now determined by the opinions of humans about the essential nature of just-ness, then your position is no more valid than anyone else's.

Which leads me to the crescendo of the absurdity of your argument. You are basing your entire thesis on a view of atonement that is only concerned with Christ being punished by God for that which God has eternally willed to do. Perhaps Christ's death has more to do with defeating the powers of sin and death (as the NT writers claimed) than with satisfying the neurotic blood-lust of the divine.

As we've seen so far, Unlimited Atonement carries with it serious doctrinal consequences, causing it to be at odds with Orthodox Christianity

I still don't understand how it is at odds with Orthodox Christianity, and you have not proven this thesis to a meaningful extent as far as I can tell.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Rev. said...

What the heck! I'm just gonna jump in with both feet...

JCT is correct in his assertion that Arminianism is a branch of orthodox Christianity (i.e., not heretical).

JCT is incorrect, I believe, in his assertion regarding God "irresistibly" executing His will. The reason he does so is because He confuses free agency with human autonomy. There is a difference. Ask Nebuchadnezzar or Pharaoh about that. He also confuses the issue (no doubt, in part, because of the terminology used by many "Calvinists" - namely, "irresistible grace") in failing to understand that fallen human beings all refuse to come to God or obey God's commands unless God intervenes by His grace. God's grace liberates those who are blind in their sin, as Newton understood ("I once was blind, but now I see"; 2 Cor. 4:3-6), so they may comprehend the Gospel and trust in Christ alone for salvation.

Another problem with the proof-texting JCT does is that it fails to consider what Scripture means by "the will of God." It can often mean different things. Scripture speaks of God's decretive will (e.g., God's decrees, Is. 46:10), God's preceptive will (e.g., commands), and God's will of disposition (e.g., Mt 23:37).

JCT, I hope it doesn't sound like I'm trying to pick on you, 'cause I'm not. From our interactions elsewhere, I think you're a great! But, one last thing... Eph. 2:3 says we were *by nature* children of wrath, not merely "children of wrath." Plus, the application of the atonement is not eternal, but takes place in time and space by the power of the Holy Spirit. While we may disagree on the extent of the atonement, we agree that no one is forgiven unless they trust Christ and His work alone for their salvation. Amen?!?

Exist-Dissolve dives into the same problem, it seems to me, in regard to his understanding of "Calvinism." This comes through when he speaks of the "strong-arm nature of 'salvation' presumed by your theological convictions." I'm glad God has saved us with His strong arm and mighty hand! (Is 40).

ED delves into the same issues regarding God's will, failing to understand that Scripture speaks of His will in various ways.

Another problem, if ED would remain consistent, is what one does with God who declares He knows the beginning from the end. ED, do you believe in the omniscience of God? If so, then at a bare minimum, you must confess that God knew some would reject Him and that He would punish them eternally as a result.

There is no problem in relation to Christ's death and those who lived prior to that death (e.g., Adam, Abraham, Moses). While we look back, they looked forward. Christ was the promise of God in Genesis 3 (e.g., "seed of the woman" and symbolized by the coverings of skin).

To view substitutionary atonement as "the neurotic blood-lust of the divine" is a bit much.

Just my $.02

7:40 PM  
Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

Hey Rev, what's happening bro?

As far as free agency/autonomy, I do believe that men have libertarian free will to an extent, but that man's will is still subject to the will of God. That is to say, God gives us a degree of autonomy in general, but also has the power to override it (e.g. in the cases you cited, Rehoboam, Absalom, et al). I also believe that LFW apart from God's grace is still in bondage to sin, I clarify my view a bit here.

About the 'separate wills of God,' I understand the concept, though I'm not really sure about such a view scripturally, especially when such wills are apparently at odds with each other. I personally have a very difficult time believing that God honestly desired many in Jerusalem to come to Him, yet from eternity past had unconditionally appointed them to eternal destruction (or simply let them perish with no genuine opportunity of salvation if you take the softer view of reprobation). It seems that one would have to presuppose absolute determinism to arrive at such a conclusion.

While we may disagree on the extent of the atonement, we agree that no one is forgiven unless they trust Christ and His work alone for their salvation. Amen?!?

A hearty amen to that. And don't worry, I don't feel 'picked on' if someone challenges my beliefs, I enjoy the interaction.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

Exist-Dissolve dives into the same problem, it seems to me, in regard to his understanding of "Calvinism." This comes through when he speaks of the "strong-arm nature of 'salvation' presumed by your theological convictions." I'm glad God has saved us with His strong arm and mighty hand! (Is 40).

But saved from what? If the reality of your salvation is something that is inexorably essential with the being of God by virtue of it existing and being enacted eternally by within will of God (which is inseparable from the eternal be-ing of God), then the only thing which one could possibly be saved from is God's will regarding your for a different end. So in essence, all you have been saved from (from the perspective of the theological system you espouse) is the more sinister side of God that could have damned you from all of eternity just as capriciously as this same God has eternally willed to save you.

ED delves into the same issues regarding God's will, failing to understand that Scripture speaks of His will in various ways.

What have I failed to understand? I am not talking about Scripture's voice concerning the will of God; to the contrary, my critique is Reformed theology's philosophizing about God's will and it's thoroughly obtuse rendering thereof.

Another problem, if ED would remain consistent, is what one does with God who declares He knows the beginning from the end.

I have no problem with that at all. What problem do you think I have?

ED, do you believe in the omniscience of God? If so, then at a bare minimum, you must confess that God knew some would reject Him and that He would punish them eternally as a result.

According to some definitions of omniscience, I suppose this could be a conclusion, although I would not accept them as necessary or philosophically compelling. Moreover, I am wary of theological definitions that attempt to make categorical and propositional statements about that to which human epistemology has absolutely no access, e.g., the eternal being and nature of the divine. I find that those who espouse such views rarely have sufficient philosophical proofs to support them, and retreat to their own presuppositions and a shaky reliance upon human language which is incapable of encapsulating the reality of the Godhead within its petty theological statements.

There is no problem in relation to Christ's death and those who lived prior to that death (e.g., Adam, Abraham, Moses). While we look back, they looked forward. Christ was the promise of God in Genesis 3 (e.g., "seed of the woman" and symbolized by the coverings of skin).

If God had planned it right, they should not have needed atonement. If God had truly chosen them from all of eternity, this same ever-choosing God should have preserved them from the sin into which God concomitantly decreed they should fall. That this God did not only underscores my earlier point that the slaughter of Christ within the Reformed theological paradigm was simply the satisfaction of the divine bloodlust, for the atonement would not have been necessary whatsoever had not God desired, from all of eternity, that Christ should be killed. The ultimate display of sado-masochism.

To view substitutionary atonement as "the neurotic blood-lust of the divine" is a bit much.

How so? If God has, from eternity, not only willed but also desired (for how can God will that which God does not desire) that Christ should be killed for the enactment of God's own will, then the cross is really just a grisly display of the depths of divine hatred and self-loathing. After all, even as the will of God is essential with the desire of God, so too is the will of God essential with the being of God. So if God desires the death of Godself in Christ as a consequence of God enacting God's own eternal will, then the death of Christ heralds the final self-negation of the divine person.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Rev. said...

What do you think individuals are saved from, ED? Do you believe they are, in any way, saved from the wrath of God?

If damnation is in accordance with the rebellion and will of individuals, then how is it capricious?

ED, you've failed to understand that when Reformed Theology speaks of "God's will" it may (as does Scripture) speak of God's will in various ways. You at least imply that RT "philosophizes" about God's will in an "obtuse rendering thereof." Not so. RT does not speak of God's will merely as God's decrees. There are different facets of God's will - decretive, preceptive and His will of disposition.

Some definitions of omniscience? There's only one. "All-knowing." If God knows people are going to reject Him, no matter what, and He is going to send them to Hell because of it, then how is He merciful, loving and gracious (in your scheme)? Wouldn't He have been much more loving to not let them be born than to condemn them to eternal torment?

In your view, "If God had planned it right, they should not have needed atonement." So, does that mean God's plan was a failure? That God is a failure? That God isn't really omniscient?

So, the cross is "The ultimate display of sado-masochism" and a "grisly display of the depths of divine hatred and self-loathing"? Or, I guess I should ask, what is your view of the atonement? What was accomplished at the cross?

10:53 PM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

What do you think individuals are saved from, ED? Do you believe they are, in any way, saved from the wrath of God?

I believe that humans are saved from the consequences of their cycles of violence and hatred; in that God's wrath is manifest not in the active punishment of humans for their sinfulness, but rather in the passive allowing of the consequences of these things to accrue to human persons in keeping with the desires of their sinful hearts, then yes, I believe they are indeed saved from the wrath of God.

If damnation is in accordance with the rebellion and will of individuals, then how is it capricious?

Because in the Reformed system, this "rebellion" of which you speak is non sequitur. As I pointed out earlier, if all things that happen, happen as a direct result of the eternal decrees of God, then it is necessary that one acknowledge that it is not only God's will, but also God's desire that this so-called rebellion occur, for how can that which occurs (according to the Calvinists) not be God's will, and furthermore how can God will that which God does not desire? But more profoundly, we must ultimately conclude that this rebellion is actually inherent to the nature of God, for that which God wills is essential with God's very being. So if God's will and being are essential with one another and equally eternal, it must be reasoned that whatever God wills is the direct outflowing of the very nature of God; e.g., if God wills that sin come into being, it can only come into being in that it properly belongs to the eternal nature of God (whereby it could be an object of God's eternal will).

ED, you've failed to understand that when Reformed Theology speaks of "God's will" it may (as does Scripture) speak of God's will in various ways.

As outlined above, I think it is clear that I understand precisely what is wrong with the Reformed view of God's will; it is the Reformed who are generally reticent to admit to the logic which is required of their presuppositions.

You at least imply that RT "philosophizes" about God's will in an "obtuse rendering thereof." Not so. RT does not speak of God's will merely as God's decrees. There are different facets of God's will - decretive, preceptive and His will of disposition.

Semantics. If God's will is eternal, and is sufficiently the basis for the eternal decretals of God, then it is necessary to conclude what I have outlined above if one wishes to be consistent philosophically. To speak of variations or facets of this will beyond this conclusion is ultimately a game of wordplay, for the primordial eternality of God's will as the operative basis for everything-that-is undermines any attempt at subtle differentiations based upon it. Deal first with my critique of your underlying understanding of God's will, and then we will get into these "facets". Starting with the latter is putting the cart before the horse.

Some definitions of omniscience? There's only one. "All-knowing."

Not exactly. What does "all" entail?

If God knows people are going to reject Him, no matter what, and He is going to send them to Hell because of it, then how is He merciful, loving and gracious (in your scheme)?

But that's just it. I don't believe that the idea of omniscience has to touch this question at all. You ask it because you presuppose that for God to "know" something requires for God to cause it to happen; I assume no such thing.

Wouldn't He have been much more loving to not let them be born than to condemn them to eternal torment?

Equally, would it not have been more loving for God to desist from creating them than to eternally long for, and bring to pass, their damnation?

In your view, "If God had planned it right, they should not have needed atonement." So, does that mean God's plan was a failure? That God is a failure? That God isn't really omniscient?

Not at all. If Reformed theology is right, then God's plan is completely successful, for all that comes to pass is entirely commensurate with the will and being of God. The problem would arise in the assessment of such a God who has such a psychological disorder that God would require the death of Godself for nothing other than God doing what God had planned to do from eternity. God would be completely omniscient, but one would have to wonder about the psychological health of a deity that has not only know, but planned for and brought to pass the self-negation of Godself.

So, the cross is "The ultimate display of sado-masochism" and a "grisly display of the depths of divine hatred and self-loathing"?

If God has willed and desired that the same should happen from all of eternity, and that this same desire sprang ultimately from the essential nature of God, then yes, this is the only conclusion.

Or, I guess I should ask, what is your view of the atonement? What was accomplished at the cross?

The power of sin and death to which humans had enslaved themselves was defeated and destroyed in Christ's victory over the forces of evil. It was the outplaying of God's rescue plan for humanity, not the flagellation of Godself for nothing other than the fulfillment of God's eternal delight in the suffering of God in Christ.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Rev. said...

So God's wrath is not active punishment? God threatens "tribulation and anguish" to those who spurn His grace and continue in their self-seeking (Romans 2:5-9). This isn't the mere facing of consequences, but the actual just punishment of sin.

Your assertion that "in the Reformed system, this 'rebellion' of which you speak is non sequitur" is false. You are confusing Reformed Theology with fatalism. There is a difference between fatalism and divine sovereignty.

Rebellion is not "inherent to the nature of God" if He has ordained (permitted) it. You are painting with broad brush strokes to argue for your theological system, yet failing to see how this affects Christian theology.

Did God will to create Lucifer? Adam & Eve? Did God know Lucifer would rebel? Adam and Eve? Certainly He did. Does that make Him the author of sin or mean that He gives His moral approval to rebellion? Not in the least.

You ask me to "Deal first with my critique of your underlying understanding of God's will, and then we will get into these 'facets'. Starting with the latter is putting the cart before the horse." If you want to deal with the facet of God's decretive will, then that's fine. However, you seem unable to grasp that "God's will" does not always mean God's decretive will in Scripture. I'm not putting the cart before the horse in the least.

You said there's "not exactly" one definition of omniscience and inquired, "What does 'all entail?" Well, there *is* only one definition of omniscience and it means God knows ALL. Everything without exception. Somehow I'm thinking you're going to head straight for those anthropomorphic portions of Scripture and argue God isn't really omniscient. Is that right?

You stated, "If Reformed theology is right, then God's plan is completely successful, for all that comes to pass is entirely commensurate with the will and being of God." At least you've got that part right. So, how is it that God has a "psychological disorder"? Just because He knows everything and has determined to glorify Himself, magnifying both His mercy and His justice, His love and His wrath?

Is man a victim in your view of things?

What is God able to do in your view of things?

5:22 PM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

So God's wrath is not active punishment? God threatens "tribulation and anguish" to those who spurn His grace and continue in their self-seeking (Romans 2:5-9). This isn't the mere facing of consequences, but the actual just punishment of sin.

I believe humans will most certainly inherit the consequences of their sin; however, this consequence is separation from God, the most ghastly form of horror that could be possible. I see no need for God to do anything "active" upon this ultimate consequence, unless God has some need to vent about something.

Your assertion that "in the Reformed system, this 'rebellion' of which you speak is non sequitur" is false. You are confusing Reformed Theology with fatalism. There is a difference between fatalism and divine sovereignty.

I fail to see the difference, and given your complete lack of engagement with the critique I have leveled against your system, I can only presume that you do not have a sufficient answer to differentiate the two in a philosophically honest way. I welcome your efforts, however, if you wish.

Rebellion is not "inherent to the nature of God" if He has ordained (permitted) it.

Follow the logic of your system here. You believe that that which God wills, God will infallibly bring to pass, for how can something happen without God willing it? Yet at the same time you must also acknowledge that God's will is eternal.

Ok, still with me? God's will, as eternal, is also essential with God's being, for how can God will that which God is not? Therefore, if God wills something, one must necessarily conclude that because God's eternal will is essential with God's eternal being, all that which God wills must itself be an overflow of God's being, for how can God will that which is contrary to God's being?

So then it must necessarily be concluded that if God's wills rebellion against God, there must be something intrinsic to the eternal being of God that is harmonious with rebellion against God (self-rebellion, in this case), for if God wills something, and that from eternity, the object of God's will must be eternally and intractably consistent with the very nature of God. Therefore, to speak of God willing rebellion against God reveals a deep neurosis in the psychology of the eternal, for only a schizophrenic God would eternally desire, will and bring to pass the self-negation of Godself through that which God decrees.

You are painting with broad brush strokes to argue for your theological system, yet failing to see how this affects Christian theology.

Broad strokes? Huh? I have been painfully explicit and particular in my critiques of your theological system.

Moreover, I am not arguing against Christian theology as a whole, but only against the philosophical basis upon which Reformed theology is based. And yes, there is a difference.

Did God will to create Lucifer? Adam & Eve? Did God know Lucifer would rebel? Adam and Eve? Certainly He did.

God "knew" these things? What does that mean? You are projecting a human paradigm of epistemology upon God, presuming that God "knows" things in the same way that humans do. However, this obviously cannot be the case. Knowledge as humans understand it is not an objective, commoditized thing. Rather, knowledge is gained through experience and learning. So if we presume that human categories of epistemology apply to God, when did God learn about these things of which you presume God has knowledge? Was God taught them? Did another tutor God so that God might gain the appropriate experiences to formulate knowledge of these things?

Certainly, the scenario is ridiculous, but it is equally ridiculous to uncritically cast a human conception of knowledge upon the eternality of God, assuming that is somehow binding or even meaningful in its description of God's eternal "knowledge". Yet this is what you do and use it as a proof--vacuous as it has now been shown to be--for your argument. I would suggest that establish a philosophically defensible definition of knowledge and how it pertains to God before continuing with this aspect of the discussion.

Does that make Him the author of sin or mean that He gives His moral approval to rebellion? Not in the least.

I do not see how this is possible. If God has eternally willed the sinfulness of humanity, as I have already shown sufficiently this requires that human sinfulness is necessarily commensurate with the very being of God. After all, how is it possible that God could will something which Go does not desire, and how can God desire that which is not consistent with the very nature of God. So then, in the willing of humanity rebellion against God, the very act of willing, as essential with the nature of God, lends explicit moral approval to the consequences of the willing-ness. The only way out of this is to advocate that human sinfulness, in fact, was not the result of God's willing-ness and was foreign not only to God's will, but equally to God's desire for God's creation (and therefore God's essential nature).

But honestly, I don't see why you are trying to split the hairs. God's holiness should not, of course, be relegated to what God does, but who God is. If God desires that humans rebel against God, so be it. If God punishes humans for that which God is ultimately responsible (by being, desiring and enacting the very thing which God supposedly despises), this should not, philosophically, affect the holiness of God. It calls into question God's sanity, but that's beside the point...

You ask me to "Deal first with my critique of your underlying understanding of God's will, and then we will get into these 'facets'. Starting with the latter is putting the cart before the horse." If you want to deal with the facet of God's decretive will, then that's fine. However, you seem unable to grasp that "God's will" does not always mean God's decretive will in Scripture. I'm not putting the cart before the horse in the least.

You're missing the point. My critique is of the primordial place of God's decretive will within Reformed theology. Regardless of the subtleties you wish to attach to this, you cannot deny that this is the foundation upon which the discussion of all other "facets" of God's will is based. So then, I again suggest that you should deal with my critique of this aspect, for any other discussion about subtleties of God's will-ing will ultimately be based upon the conclusions reached on this element.

You said there's "not exactly" one definition of omniscience and inquired, "What does 'all entail?" Well, there *is* only one definition of omniscience and it means God knows ALL. Everything without exception. Somehow I'm thinking you're going to head straight for those anthropomorphic portions of Scripture and argue God isn't really omniscient. Is that right?

No, I'm still waiting for you to answer what "all" entails. Does all entail realities that might have existed if God had willed other than God has willed? Does all entail that which does not have existence, but may yet attain to existence? Does all entail that of which God has no knowledge? You are presuming too much on the value of the word "all" without carefully defining exactly the weight it is meant to carry. For those who might understand "all" in different ways, surely you can understand the difficulties in communication that might occur.

And what are the anthropomorphic portions of Scripture? Who defines which sections those are? Perhaps you interpret them anthropomorphically because they do not fit into your theological methodology?

You stated, "If Reformed theology is right, then God's plan is completely successful, for all that comes to pass is entirely commensurate with the will and being of God." At least you've got that part right. So, how is it that God has a "psychological disorder"? Just because He knows everything and has determined to glorify Himself, magnifying both His mercy and His justice, His love and His wrath?


The God of Reformed theology has a psychological disorder because this God wills that to which this same God is supposedly opposed. This God desires that the things which are hated of God should attain to reality (and solidifies this desire by infallibly bringing to pass), yet punishes God's creation for that which God has ultimately desired. This God creates a reality from the bowels of God's own being which is supposedly contrary to Godself (but actually isn't, as this reality is part of God's eternal will, and therefore, necessarily essential with God's very nature), and punishes Godself in Christ for the reality which God eternally desired to create. The history of creation then becomes the history of God's eternal self-loathing, a inward hatred of Godself that is ultimately reconciled only through the self-negation of God in the self-murder of Christ. The cross then becomes not the reconciliation of creation to God, but only the reconciliation of God to Godself as God finally discovers the resolution of an eternal conflict within the nature and will of God.

Is man a victim in your view of things?

No.

What is God able to do in your view of things?

God is able to do all things God is able to do.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Rev. said...

JCT:

First, a question. Is God's will that anyone should be murdered?

Second, the people in Jerusalem had a "genuine opportunity of salvation." The problem was not with a deficiency in God's work or Christ's atonement; neither is the problem to be placed upon election/predestination. The problem with the people in Jerusalem (and elsewhere) was (is) their own willful rebellion and their refusal to embrace Christ Jesus.

2:54 AM  
Blogger Rev. said...

ED:
Thanks for letting me know I follow a "sado-masochistic" deity with a "psychological disorder." But what else can I do? He declares, "I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose.'" (Is 46:9-10); and, "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable." (Is 40:28)

In light of this, Christians are to live their lives in the following manner: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." (Jas 4:13-16)

Just curious as a result of your responses... Are you an Open Theist or hold to Openness/Process Theology?

3:11 AM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

Thanks for letting me know I follow a "sado-masochistic" deity with a "psychological disorder." But what else can I do? He declares, "I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose.'" (Is 46:9-10); and, "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable." (Is 40:28)

In light of this, Christians are to live their lives in the following manner: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." (Jas 4:13-16)


Rev--these are not really answers to my questions, for I would affirm the same verses that you list above, but come to dramatically different conclusions about their meaning. So again, I will refer you to my previous comments and questions about the theological system you espouse.

Just curious as a result of your responses... Are you an Open Theist or hold to Openness/Process Theology?

No, I am neither of these. Open Theists and the Reformed have precisely the same view of God, and God's knowledge of the universe. They differ only in how they define the "extent" of God's knowledge. But both are equally guilty of forcing an all-too-human understanding of "knowledge" upon God, supposing that such application is somehow meaningfully referential to the actual reality. However, I have yet to read a writer from either camp that even attempts to provide a philosophical rationale for such an approach. All too often, each side simply assumes the veracity of their shared conception of "knowledge," and blunder forward uncriticially into error upon theological error.

4:00 AM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

Thanks for letting me know I follow a "sado-masochistic" deity with a "psychological disorder." But what else can I do?

I would suggest that such a realization should be cause to reevaluate the philosophical presuppositions that lead to such a conclusion.

4:03 AM  
Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

Hey Rev,

Okay, first off, God does not desire that men murder each other. As far as how this applies to the death of Christ (where I conjecture this is leading), since Christ's death was to bring men to salvation in Him, God was willing and pleased that He died to save those who would believe. So while God hates the sin of murder, His desire to save sinners is greater, and hence the death of Christ by the hands of sinful men was in accordance with His will.

“...You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50)

This does not require multiple, [sometimes] contradictory wills, but simply that God hold mercy towards sinners above judgment.

Secondly, if the people whom Christ lamented over in Jerusalem indeed had 'genuine opportunity for salvation,' are you stating that:

1. It could indeed have been otherwise (they would be saved) if they had heeded Him?

and,

2. God had granted them any such ability/grace/opportunity to heed Him?

2:52 PM  
Blogger Rev. said...

JCT:
You stated God doesn't desire men to murder each other. I agree completely. That is, it is His moral will that no one murder another. You also stated, "hence the death of Christ...was in accordance with His will." Exactly! It was within the scope of His decretive will that the Lord Jesus Christ - the "Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world" - be murdered by sinful men.

Judas went "as it was written of him," yet it "would have been better if he had never been born" because he is responsible for his own sinful actions. Joseph's brothers "meant evil" against him (breaking God's moral will with murder in their hearts, etc.), yet "God meant it for good" (God's decretive will).

In response to your questions...

1. Yes, had they heeded Him they would have been saved.

2. God granted them the opportunity through the proclamation / invitation of His Word. The fault was not with God, but with them. They were the ones who continued in unbelief, rebellion, etc.


ED: C'mon!!! "Open Theists and the Reformed have precisely the same view of God..."?!?

You are tied to *your* philosophical presuppositions and a particular epistemological framework. I'm more concerned with a theological framework, namely, understanding what God declares in Scripture and then submitting to it. Do you really believe God "declares the end from the beginning" or that He will "accomplish all His purpose"? Do you take these verses at face value? Do you believe God knows *all* things? Past, present and future? What shall be and what "could" be (all contingencies)? All thoughts within the hearts and minds of His creatures?

It is not my philosophical presuppositions that lead to my conclusions, but what is written in Scripture.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

ED: C'mon!!! "Open Theists and the Reformed have precisely the same view of God..."?!?

That's not what I said, precisely. If you'll read my comment more closely, I argued that OT's and Reformed have precisely the same view of God's knowledge--you forgot to include that in your quote. As to the reasons why, I'll refer you to my previous comments, and expand further upon your request.

You are tied to *your* philosophical presuppositions and a particular epistemological framework.

Yes, and I will readily admit it. We all have particular philosophical predispositions that lead us to the conclusions we draw about theology. While I am not free from the pressures of these, I do attempt to be self-aware of them, realizing how they influence the conclusions I reach.

I'm more concerned with a theological framework, namely, understanding what God declares in Scripture and then submitting to it.

That's fine, as long as you realize the part that your philosophical presuppositions play in the formulation of this framework. From your following comments, I must conclude that the answer is no.

Do you really believe God "declares the end from the beginning" or that He will "accomplish all His purpose"?

Yes, I do believe these things. Not in the same way as you, of course...

Do you take these verses at face value?

Huh? Who determines face value? Not only do words lack objective meaning (whereby the concept of "face value" might have some meaningful import), but more importantly it is impossible that one can fully anticipate the meanings which the authors of the texts in question intended. Therefore, how is one to determine, in an objective fashion, what the "face value" of a particular text is supposed to be? What criterion would you provide for establishing this, besides your own philosophical assumptions about the nature of God in relation to the world?

Do you believe God knows *all* things? Past, present and future? What shall be and what "could" be (all contingencies)? All thoughts within the hearts and minds of His creatures?

Sure, but without some meaningful definition of what these things you have outlined (past, present, all, etc.) actually mean, it is hard to understand your criticism of my skepticism regarding your view. Just as an example, the notions of "past, present and future" presume a framework of linear reality. As most theologians and philosophers would argue that God is not bound to these categories of being, one might legitimately question what knowledge of that to which God is not bound actually looks like, or if such knowledge--for God--even exists in a form recognizable to human epistemology. So you see, the task is great, but you seem content to brush it aside with an easy acquiescence to the comfortable categories of human epistemology, regardless of how well these categories actually cohere with the reality of things from God's perspective.

Now of course, it is pretty obvious that if God's knowledge is transcendent of human knowledge, then it is a safe bet that human epistemology cannot grasp it. The reaction to this realization, then, should not be propositionalizing about that which cannot be known (as happens all-too-frequently in Reformed theology), but rather a humble, reverent agnosticism about the things of God that cannot be encapsulated by human epistemology.

It is not my philosophical presuppositions that lead to my conclusions, but what is written in Scripture.

Not possible. To draw conclusions from Scripture, one must interpret it. To interpret Scripture, one must inevitably bring a constellation of philosophical tools to bear in order to make a coherent framework of it. This holds true for any epistemological task. Contrary to your assumption, there is no such thing as letting something "speak for itself"--just as the theory of relativity suggests in the physical realm, to engage something epistemological is to irrevocably alter it into something different through one's encounter. This is not a bad thing, however; it is simply how things are, and how we form and are formed by our experiences.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Rev. said...

ED:
Thanks for your post-modern explanations. You're right, one's philosophy does come into play with interpretation. Guess that's why, as a Scottish Common Sense Realist, I take things at face value. :)

9:33 AM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

Thanks for your post-modern explanations.

I know you mean this pejoratively, but I think post-modernism gets a bad wrap. While PM does often go too far, it exists precisely because the modern mind became intoxicated with its own ability to comprehend and delineate reality, and theology was not at all immune from this disease. It is the self-assuredness of the modern mind in its application of scientific methodology to epistemology that has created what so many despise within PM. However, the motivation for this despising should be questioned, for it seems more likely that those who reject PM's legitimacy do so not because of legitimate objections to its conclusions, but rather because its conclusions eliminate the hegemonies of thought upon which these same used to derive so much epistemology over-power. All that post-modernism has done, then, is to try to bring back mystery and unknowableness to human epistemology, although as with all systems of philosophy, it has itself gone too far.

You're right, one's philosophy does come into play with interpretation. Guess that's why, as a Scottish Common Sense Realist, I take things at face value. :)

As with all of us, hopefully you will realize that this "face" looks alot like your own...

10:08 AM  
Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

Rev,

I think what your synopsis is missing is the fact that Christ's murder (and laying down His life) was not in and of itself the reason that it was God's will; it was God's will because of His desire to save sinful men. This does not require two separate wills, since the choice of "let my own Son die by men breaking My law" or "let all men perish minus one major sin" is a dilemma that can be resolved within a singular will. Also of note is that while the motives and actions of those who crucified Christ were necessary for His death, these things in and of themselves did not please God (He was pleased by the end result -- Christ bringing in salvation by His sacrifice), else we should think that God would reward the transgressors for doing exactly what pleased Him. Scripture makes it clear that while God may appropriate men's wickedness towards His own ends, and thus they unwittingly end up performing the will of God, the reasons they have for doing so often displease Him and incur judgment. In playing chess, it doesn't please one to have one's queen taken by his opponent, but if it it allows him to achieve victory, an intelligent player will gladly make such a sacrifice. Likewise the end result of sinful men's actions may please God perfectly, while the steps they took to get there do just the opposite. The Babylonians for instance, were the servants of God, bringing judgment to His enemies (Jeremiah 27), yet for their cruelty in executing their tasks, God punished them as well (Jeremiah 50-51).

God having a law that He normally wants men to obey does not stop Him from putting men into situations where He knows they will disobey to further the plans He has in mind. God's commands aren't mindlessly static definitions like one would expect in a computer program, but general expressions of the will of a complex and personal being. To illustrate, in Mark 2:25-28 Jesus speaks of David eating the bread that was lawful for only the priests to eat, yet He was not doing wrong in the eyes of God; God commanded Hosea to take a prostitute (a lifestyle clearly forbidden in Deuteronomy 23) as wife. Do we then need to invent another 'will of God,' some 'exceptive moral will' that supersedes and occasionally contradicts His 'normal moral will'? Hardly. A standing order in all branches of the military is not to assault superior officers, yet a theater commander can lawfully give the special order to a lowly private to shoot anyone who attempts forced entry into the perimeter he is guarding, regardless of rank. The general commands of God versus His special commands and engineering events by His counsel and foreknowledge that involve human elements displeasing to Him to achieve ends that are pleasing to Him don't entail multiple wills of God. Such is tantamount to claiming that multiple wills are required for commanding officers issuing general and specific orders, or chess players making painful, but necessary sacrifices to win.

Relating this to the second question you reply that the fault was with the people of Jerusalem who did not repent, not God. Rightly said, but the question was whether God had granted them the ability/grace/opportunity to heed Him. Since you are a 5-point Calvinist (please correct me if I'm mistaken), you believe that it is utterly impossible for one to repent and believe in Christ unless he is 'regenerated' first, which in your view, God did not do for those Christ lamented over, effectively guaranteeing that they would never repent. An invitation to Christ that God grants men no ability to receive whatsoever is not a genuine opportunity for salvation. Hence the idea of God's refusal to allow them genuine opportunity to repent, stemming either from His desire for or what amounts to indifference to their perdition comes into heavy conflict with His desire that they be saved.


E.D.,

while I agree with many of your criticisms of Reformed Theology (especially concerning the issue of God willing what He does not desire), I don't believe that "neurotic blood-lust" is prudent or accurate language to use in describing their view of God and the atonement (though I differ from the Reformed view, I don't deny that Christ bore our penalty of death - a good defense of PSA from a non-reformed perspective can be seen here). If we are not able to accurately gauge God's knowledge through human epistemology, it can't be wise for us to think we can pass such psychoanalytical judgments upon the Almighty if for some reason He requires the shedding of innocent blood for the remission of sins. Additionally, such language is fairly inflammatory, and very likely to put people on the defensive, turning them off to anything you have to say.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

while I agree with many of your criticisms of Reformed Theology (especially concerning the issue of God willing what He does not desire), I don't believe that "neurotic blood-lust" is prudent or accurate language to use in describing their view of God and the atonement (though I differ from the Reformed view, I don't deny that Christ bore our penalty of death - a good defense of PSA from a non-reformed perspective can be seen here).

Thanks for the link, but this article does not really deal with my critique of Reformed theology's view of atonement. I don't have a problem with saying that God would be just in destroying Godself in Christ; after all, if God is just, it is because of who God is, not what God does. And as an aside, I find at least one of the author's main assumptions (that God's honor is somehow diminished by human sinfulness; one would question why this is, or how it could possibly be true, given that God's glory is self-referential, and not derived from the existence of God's creation) to be philosophically indefensible, and a poor foundation for making the argument that is made.

But back to the point....my issue goes back to the point you also disagree with Reformed theology on (God having a self-contradictory and self-negating will), which if you would follow the logic of your objection its entire length, you'd probably come to different conclusions regarding penal conceptions of atonement.

If we are not able to accurately gauge God's knowledge through human epistemology, it can't be wise for us to think we can pass such psychoanalytical judgments upon the Almighty if for some reason He requires the shedding of innocent blood for the remission of sins.

If God requires that Godself in Christ be murdered, that is fine. As I've contended all along, God is free to do as God wishes, and the actions of God should in no way affect how one speaks of the justice of God. All that I am trying to point out is that there is nothing philosophically necessary to the notion of either God or sin that would require one to conclude that such a particular view of the atonement is a natural and necessary corolary to the reality of God. So then, if these are not necessary to the idea of God, then one can only conclude that these things flow exclusively from the desire and will of God. In this scenario, it is immediately appropriate to use the term "blood-lust", for the object in question (e.g., God's death in Christ) is no longer the object of necessity, but rather of whim.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Rev. said...

ED: You stated, precisely, "Open Theists and the Reformed have precisely the same view of God, and God's knowledge of the universe."

What makes you say that I'm speaking of your post-modern explanations pejoratively. I'm merely acknowledging your philosophical framework.

JCT: I agree with you, the laying down of Christ's life was not in and of itself the reason it was God's will for Him to face the cross, but salvation. However, the two are intricately linked. It pleased God to "bruise" Him, put Him to "shame," etc. (e.g., Is 53) in the place of sinners. God was certainly pleased in the death of His Son for salvation, etc., but certainly *not* pleased with Judas, Pilate and others who carried out their heinous actions.

You stated, "Scripture makes it clear that while God may appropriate men's wickedness towards His own ends, and thus they unwittingly end up performing the will of God, the reasons they have for doing so often displease Him and incur judgment." I couldn't agree more!!! Exactly! We agree, friend, really we do. :)

Yes, again (in relation to the second question), the fault was with the people in Jerusalem, not God. God granted them the opportunity to repent when they heard the word. They refused, not because God didn't elect them, etc., but because of their own willful rebellion and hardness of heart. They chose themselves to spurn God's offer of forgiveness; they decided themselves to remain in their sin. The fault lies with them, not God.

Those who are saved are saved only because of the grace of God. Those who are lost are lost because of their own decisions, rebellion and failures.

1:25 PM  
Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

E.D.,

(that God's honor is somehow diminished by human sinfulness; one would question why this is, or how it could possibly be true, given that God's glory is self-referential, and not derived from the existence of God's creation)

I would disagree with you to an extent, when dealing with Moses in Numbers 20, God punishes him for not honoring Him in the sight of Israel. It's also written,

Do not abhor us, for Your name's sake; Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory. Remember, do not break Your covenant with us. (Jeremiah 14:12)

I believe there is a human element to God's glory as well; that is to say, while God's glory is itself existent apart from His creation, He also desires to be glorified in the sight of His creation (of course such an honor/shame paradigm only makes sense if the creatures are actually free agents rather than preprogrammed automatons). That said, I don't believe that God's requirement of blood being shed as the price of sin is arbitrary. Scripture does inform us of some limitations upon God due to His holy and righteous nature: Within the scope of power He possesses, He is unlimited, but there are conceptual things He cannot do, such as lie or deny Himself. Romans 3:6 makes it clear that God will judge the world for its sins, and He is by nature a perfect, impartial, and righteous Judge. I believe that it is both for the sake of God's honor among His creations and His innate sense of justice that He requires a price be paid for sin. Hence the wicked one will perish in eternal flames, along with all who have joined in his rebellion against God and incurred His wrath, for that is the price rebellion carries -- its wages are death. If you look at what atonement is in the Old Testament, you'll find that it has much to do with turning away God's wrath,

"And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary." (Numbers 8:19)

So Moses said to Aaron, "Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun." (Numbers 16:46)

The sacrifices were plainly to appease the holy and just wrath of God due to the sins committed by the people. The parallel between the sacrifices of the Old Testament and Christ's death is unmistakable in Hebrews 7-10. Indeed, Christ's death and resurrection being greater than, and accomplishing what the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood ultimately could not do with regards to the sins of the people is the very basis of Christ's unchanging priesthood, for His sacrifice took away our sins by paying the price of death for them. Hence the scriptures say that we are "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).

I believe that Christ's death was broader than just turning away the wrath of God, and agree with you that it was effective for "defeating the powers of sin and death," for just as many gems of great worth, it has many facets. It's also brought reconciliation between men and God, purged our consciences from dead works, effected the new covenant, and it stands as the perfect sacrifice once for all that does what no animal sacrifice could; but I don't see how any of those concepts are mutually exclusive with it also paying the penalty for sin.


Rev,

Thanks for the word brother. I'm glad there's much that we do agree upon.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

I would disagree with you to an extent, when dealing with Moses in Numbers 20, God punishes him for not honoring Him in the sight of Israel.

I'm not sure that one could definitively classify this example as a "punishment." All that God says to Moses is that he will not enter into the land because of disbelief; I see no necessity to interpret this as an active outpouring of the penal wrath of God in reaction to Moses' transgression.

It's also written,

I believe there is a human element to God's glory as well; that is to say, while God's glory is itself existent apart from His creation, He also desires to be glorified in the sight of His creation (of course such an honor/shame paradigm only makes sense if the creatures are actually free agents rather than preprogrammed automatons).


I'm not sure I follow. If this is the case, then God's punishment of humans would be for their lack of ability to fully comprehend the infinite and eternal glory of God? Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is the case, what does God accomplish through punishment? As nothing accrues to God through punishment of humans (as God's glory and honor are inviolable by nature of their ever consubstantial existence with God), the only answer can be that God desires to punish for punishment's sake (back to the blood-lust) as all other logical motivations for punishment have already been shown to be inapplicable.

That said, I don't believe that God's requirement of blood being shed as the price of sin is arbitrary.

If God does require blood, I would agree completely that this requirement is necessarily bourne out of something intrinsic to the character of God. However, to reiterate the point that I've been making, if there is nothing lacking in God that can be repaired through the punishment of humans; and if the punishment of humans does not ultimately benefit the human (given normal Protestant assumptions about the nature of punishment and hell); then the only logical conclusion that maintains the necessity of blood without utter divine caprice is that this requirement proceeds directly from the eternal will and desire of God; that is, that something eternal and intrinsic to the divine nature requires blood.

Scripture does inform us of some limitations upon God due to His holy and righteous nature: Within the scope of power He possesses, He is unlimited, but there are conceptual things He cannot do, such as lie or deny Himself.

These are not really inabilities, of course. Lying, denial of self, etc. do not have objective reality, but ultimately exist only insofar as they are the negation of the realities of what God is. They are not actual realities in which God can/not engage. Rather, as the logic proceeds that if God can exist, God must exist, then God can do all that God can do without qualification. All conceptual "inabilities" are not actual limitations, but only negations of that which God does.

Romans 3:6 makes it clear that God will judge the world for its sins, and He is by nature a perfect, impartial, and righteous Judge.

But what is the nature of this judgment? The passage you cite does not specify, and it is plain that you are jumping to conclusions about the Pauline author's intent without substantive proof to corroborate the thesis. Is this judgment a penal retribution of sins (which is plainly contradicted later on in this chapter), or is it God letting humanity inherit the natural consequences of their sinfulness and violence? The text is pregnant with possibilities and opportunities for interpretation, but has little in the way of a systematic theology for understanding the "wrath" of God.

I believe that it is both for the sake of God's honor among His creations and His innate sense of justice that He requires a price be paid for sin. Hence the wicked one will perish in eternal flames, along with all who have joined in his rebellion against God and incurred His wrath, for that is the price rebellion carries -- its wages are death.

I agree that the wages of human sinfulness is death and dissolution. But that's not the question. The question is whether this death is a retributive act of God, or the inheritance of natural consequences of severing oneself from the life of God.

If you look at what atonement is in the Old Testament, you'll find that it has much to do with turning away God's wrath,

"And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary." (Numbers 8:19)

So Moses said to Aaron, "Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun." (Numbers 16:46)

The sacrifices were plainly to appease the holy and just wrath of God due to the sins committed by the people.


I have to strenuously disagree. The OT cultus of sacrifice, while perhaps understood by some at the time as satisfying the bloodlust of the local deity, was within the broader religious sphere more about orienting the people back to communion and right relationship with God than appeasing the tirades of the divine.

Think of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. Rather than its blood being shed, the scapegoat is driven into the wilderness, a symbol of the sins of the people being removed from the community of the people of God. Unless the Jews understood a ravenous deity to hunt down and destroy the scapegoat outside of the camp, it is clear that the blood-orientation is set aside in this most important of rituals.

Furthermore, the prophets--interpreting the ceremonial law--continually attempt to disabuse the people of the idea that it is blood and retribution (the sacrificial system) that God is primarily interested in; rather, as they continually prophesy, it is hearts of the people that God desires, not their blood and satisfaction of the divine thirst for retributive "justice."

So this notion that the OT is all about retributive justice is simply not accurate.

The parallel between the sacrifices of the Old Testament and Christ's death is unmistakable in Hebrews 7-10. Indeed, Christ's death and resurrection being greater than, and accomplishing what the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood ultimately could not do with regards to the sins of the people is the very basis of Christ's unchanging priesthood, for His sacrifice took away our sins by paying the price of death for them. Hence the scriptures say that we are "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).

So now we're back to God requiring a payment...what was the reason, again? What is it that God lacks that God would need replaced?

...but I don't see how any of those concepts are mutually exclusive with it also paying the penalty for sin.

Because there is no necessary reason for a penalty. If God does not lack anything, either intrinsically nor because of the violation of humanity, then there remains no basis upon which a penalty would need to be paid to God whereby reparations would rendered by Christ on behalf of humanity to God. So if there is no necessity within God for the payment of a penalty, and if no benefit accrues to those who are punished (either Christ, or those who despite Christ's sacrifice are punished anyway), then one must seriously question the rationale of a system of atonement that advocates a penal-orientation, when such orientation is not only not required, but moreover creates severe conceptual problems in relation to thinking about God's eternal nature juxtaposed with the existence of the world.

12:14 AM  
Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

E.D.,

I'm not sure that one could definitively classify this example as a "punishment." All that God says to Moses is that he will not enter into the land because of disbelief; I see no necessity to interpret this as an active outpouring of the penal wrath of God in reaction to Moses' transgression.


Well, Moses does plainly state that God was angry with him and hence would not let him cross,

"Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 4:21)

As far as his faithfulness, through the course of his life Moses was faithful in the house of God (Numbers 12, affirmed again in Hebrews 3); the reason for God states for not letting him cross was specifically for the transgression at Meribah-Kadesh:

"And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered. For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes." (Numbers 27:13-14a)

Notice again the honor/shame paradigm, God did not forbid Moses entrance merely for a lapse of faithfulness, but because his act was a public defiance of God.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them. (Numbers 20:12-13)

In other words, Moses did not act in a manner that brought glory to God in the sight of Israel, but rather rebelled against His word. But despite Israel's contention, God still showed Himself holy among them, in punishing even Moses' display of a rebellious spirit.



JCT:
I believe there is a human element to God's glory as well; that is to say, while God's glory is itself existent apart from His creation, He also desires to be glorified in the sight of His creation (of course such an honor/shame paradigm only makes sense if the creatures are actually free agents rather than preprogrammed automatons).

ED:
If this is the case, then God's punishment of humans would be for their lack of ability to fully comprehend the infinite and eternal glory of God?


Not exactly, one reason God punishes sinners is for not rendering Him the honor He is due. Rebellion against Him is, metaphorically speaking, 'spitting in the face' of the Almighty. And while human rebellion cannot detract from God's inherent, eternal glory, for a creature to rebel against Him lowers the perception (in the eyes of the rest of creation) of Him as ruler. Thus just as in Moses' case, rebellion carries a price, for God will not be mocked, nor let insults against His honor and rulership slide unvindicated.

Though the concept of public honor is logically enough to for God to demand blood, I also believe that, "something eternal and intrinsic to the divine nature requires blood," not as a 'stand-alone' requirement, but one contingent as price for rebellion.



But what is the nature of this judgment? The passage you cite does not specify, and it is plain that you are jumping to conclusions about the Pauline author's intent without substantive proof to corroborate the thesis. Is this judgment a penal retribution of sins (which is plainly contradicted later on in this chapter), or is it God letting humanity inherit the natural consequences of their sinfulness and violence? The text is pregnant with possibilities and opportunities for interpretation, but has little in the way of a systematic theology for understanding the "wrath" of God.

I don't see where such a judgment is supposed to be contradicted, indeed vs 19 speaks of the law rendering all guilty before God, and the concept of God taking final vengeance upon His enemies is affirmed throughout scripture.

...that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. (1 Thessalonians 4:6)

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:3-11)

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:6-7)

"Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 14-15)

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)

While we being free agents do in a sense 'damn ourselves' through willful rebellion, the sentence of damnation itself is handed down in God's retribution upon His enemies.


JCT:
The sacrifices were plainly to appease the holy and just wrath of God due to the sins committed by the people.

ED:
I have to strenuously disagree. The OT cultus of sacrifice, while perhaps understood by some at the time as satisfying the bloodlust of the local deity, was within the broader religious sphere more about orienting the people back to communion and right relationship with God than appeasing the tirades of the divine.

Think of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. Rather than its blood being shed, the scapegoat is driven into the wilderness, a symbol of the sins of the people being removed from the community of the people of God. Unless the Jews understood a ravenous deity to hunt down and destroy the scapegoat outside of the camp, it is clear that the blood-orientation is set aside in this most important of rituals.


Few problems with that view,

1. The idea of their transgressions being paid for is well in line with people being brought back into a right relationship with God.

2. The idea of turning away God's wrath was not merely human conjecture, but stated by God Himself:

"Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal." (Numbers 25:11)

In this particular case, retribution not being by sacrifice, but the slaying of the offenders themselves.

3. If you'll recall, the ritual of the scapegoat spoken of in Leviticus 16 was twofold: Two goats were chosen, then one of those chosen by lot was killed as an offering for sin (vs 15), and the other had the sins of the people laid upon its head was released, symbolizing that God, by the sacrifice of one, putting our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.


Furthermore, the prophets--interpreting the ceremonial law--continually attempt to disabuse the people of the idea that it is blood and retribution (the sacrificial system) that God is primarily interested in; rather, as they continually prophesy, it is hearts of the people that God desires, not their blood and satisfaction of the divine thirst for retributive "justice." So this notion that the OT is all about retributive justice is simply not accurate.

You're partially correct. Love of God, as far as what is within human capability, is more important than all burnt offerings (as Christ Himself stated), but this is due to the fact that sinful men are incapable of offering a perfect, acceptable sacrifice to God; the Old Testament sacrifices only cleansed ceremonially, and as far as true purging of sin was concerned were merely symbolic, for the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin. The contrast between the two is drawn in Hebrews 10,

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
"Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come-- In the volume of the book it is written of Me-- To do Your will, O God.'" Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 10:5-10)

The prophets were not undercutting the concept of the necessity of sacrifice for sin, but clarifying that paying the penalty of such was not within the power of earthly priests, affirming with Abraham, "...God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering."

11:03 AM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Greetings, Thibodaux. This is in response to your original comment. I hope to add a little clarity to my position so that you better understand where I’m coming from.

First thing I’d like to mention is that this post is part of a series where I’m comparing and contrasting Calvinism with classical Arminianism, and it is meant to be viewed within that context (not as a stand-alone presentation). So I recommend reading its predecessors to provide context.

Arminianism and Orthodoxy
I agree that Arminianism is a branch of orthodox Christianity, even though I consider parts hetrodox. As I’m pointing out in my illustrations, I think Arminianism runs into trouble when followed to, what I think are, its logical conclusions.

Your read regarding Arminianism and orthodoxy is a result of my sloppiness. You make a great point, so I’ll remove those references from my post. I appreciate you pointing that out.

Christ’s Saving Work
When it comes to for whom did Christ die, I have a real difference of opinion with classical Arminianism. In my view, Christ died for me because I’m of the elect (he did not shed blood for the non-elect). However, that saving work is not applied until the Spirit works faith in my heart at a later point of time. Thus my salvation was accomplished on the cross, even though it is applied later.

In the classical Arminian view, God’s intention was to save every person without exception, even though the application of Christ’s death is made to believers only. So, in this view, He died for everyone (not me imparticular) and it only becomes mine when I believe. Thus my salvation was made possible, but as to whether or not I’ll actually be saved depends on my later choices.

I believe this view runs into the consquences I outlined in my post.

By the way, my next post in this series might help clarify this, so I hope you come back.

The Will of God
The Bible speaks of God’s will in two ways: One where His will seems to be thwarted, like in Mat. 23:37 and 2 Pet. 3:9, and the other where His will can’t be thwarted, like in Dan. 4:35. So, the question is, can God’s will be thwarted or not?

I think the answer is that there are two ways in which the Scriptures talk about God’s will. One is when He is expressing His moral desires, like for us to not lust, but He does not enforce it. The other is when the Scriptures speak of God setting the boundaries of the nations, or establishing the time of Christ’s return, etc. When the Scriptures speak in this way, we see that God’s will cannot be thwarted. So my conclusion is that God has a moral will, that He desires but does not enforce, and a sovereign will, that he both desires and enforces.

I hope that this helps to clarify a bit. Like I said, I recommend reading the other installments in this series (and the ones to come—if I ever get around to writing them). I think they will answer your other concerns.

Thanks for stopping by, and again, thanks for pointing out the orthodoxy thing.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Exist-Dissolve said...

Well, Moses does plainly state that God was angry with him and hence would not let him cross,

"Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 4:21)


I still do not see that one need interpret this through a retributive paradigm. I think you are erring by conceiving of the consequences which Moses is attributed to a personal level, rather than understanding the persona of Moses as a foil for the nation of Israel. As we look at it this way, a lot questions begin to resolve themselves. While you look at Moses not entering the Promised Land as an act of active punishment by God, I see it as an inheriting of the consequences of rejecting Yahweh. If we take Moses as a foil in this instance for the faithless, wandering generation that did not enter the Promised Land (as the author of this particular section of text seems to intend), then we must ask why this generation did not enter the promised land. In a very real sense, it is because they have sinned against Yahweh. However, the notion of their sin underlines a deeper current running throughout which bespeaks the sort of people which Yahweh desires--those who are faithful.

So then, if the Promised Land, in the mythos of the Israelites, is understood as the land of Yahweh, then the people who enter the land of God are those who are faithful to Yahweh. Those who do not enter fail to do so not because they are forcefully banned, but rather because in their unfaithfulness they are themselves unable to recognize the path that would lead them in, symbolized in the desert wandering.

As far as his faithfulness, through the course of his life Moses was faithful in the house of God (Numbers 12, affirmed again in Hebrews 3); the reason for God states for not letting him cross was specifically for the transgression at Meribah-Kadesh:

"And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered. For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes." (Numbers 27:13-14a)

Notice again the honor/shame paradigm, God did not forbid Moses entrance merely for a lapse of faithfulness, but because his act was a public defiance of God.


But as I mention above, this is about much more than a isolated public defiance of God. In this story, Moses becomes to the author the archetype of the faithless generation of Israel who chose wandering in the desert to entering the land of Yahweh. It becomes a powerful moral call for national Israel to renew its allegiance to Yahweh, for as the author powerfully illustrates in this tale, faithlessness is ultimately SELF-destructive and is not a respecter of persons, taking down and consuming even the mighty Moses.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them. (Numbers 20:12-13)

In other words, Moses did not act in a manner that brought glory to God in the sight of Israel, but rather rebelled against His word. But despite Israel's contention, God still showed Himself holy among them, in punishing even Moses' display of a rebellious spirit.


Again, you are extrapolating that the cause of their failure to enter is the retributive act of God. I see nothing explicit in the texts that would require this rendering. And if my explanation given above is taken into account, other more compelling arguments can be made that do not include this notion whatsoever.

Not exactly, one reason God punishes sinners is for not rendering Him the honor He is due.

What honor is God "due"? If our conversation so far has revealed anything, one must conclude that God is "due" eternal and infinite honor. As nothing that is created by God is capable of rendering this to God (assuming, of course, that God's glory is sufficiently deficient to require such an supplement), so God--according to the logic of your view--would necessarily need to damn all of creation at the moment of creation for its inability to be God.

Rebellion against Him is, metaphorically speaking, 'spitting in the face' of the Almighty. And while human rebellion cannot detract from God's inherent, eternal glory, for a creature to rebel against Him lowers the perception (in the eyes of the rest of creation) of Him as ruler. Thus just as in Moses' case, rebellion carries a price, for God will not be mocked, nor let insults against His honor and rulership slide unvindicated.

If God's glory and honor are eternally and infinitely self-referential, then human perception of God's glory should be all but irrelevant, not to mention that any rendering of said perception would ultimately be blasphemous in that it is incapable of fully encapsulating the fullness and reality that is the glory of eternal God.

Moreover, if a particular perception of God's glory is intrinsically required in order that some criterion be met for the evaluation of God's glory, we are right back to the beginning fallacy of your argument wherein it would be necessary that God's creation exist in consubstantial union with God whereby the creation might render unto God the glory God is "due" (or at least the perception thereof), so that God's glory can be complete.

Though the concept of public honor is logically enough to for God to demand blood, I also believe that, "something eternal and intrinsic to the divine nature requires blood," not as a 'stand-alone' requirement, but one contingent as price for rebellion.

If this requirement for blood is intrinsic to the eternal nature of God, that is fine. I honestly don't have a problem with admitting the philosophical consistency of that position. However, if the possibility and necessary of reparation of God's honor is, in fact, essential with the divine will and being of God, one must also grant that the realities which might lead to the necessity of such reparations must equally exist consubstantially with God whereby the aforementioned requirement of blood might be meaningfully terminated within the primal eternity of the divine person.

I don't see where such a judgment is supposed to be contradicted, indeed vs 19 speaks of the law rendering all guilty before God, and the concept of God taking final vengeance upon His enemies is affirmed throughout scripture.

...that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. (1 Thessalonians 4:6)

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:3-11)

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:6-7)

"Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 14-15)

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)

While we being free agents do in a sense 'damn ourselves' through willful rebellion, the sentence of damnation itself is handed down in God's retribution upon His enemies.


But for all of this passage quotation, you have not answered the fundamental philosophical question, first, what the nature of this "judgment" actually is and, secondly (and more importantly) what the necessity for God is in executing it.

In other words, what does God gain from this retributive "justice?" We have already established that no diminution occurs for God as a result of humanity's sin, for were God to be diminished by sin, God would be the slave to that which is the anti-thesis and un-becoming of God. So obviously that's not the answer.

It also cannot be because God must satisfy some sense of "justice" and "balance" exterior to Godself, for the same conclusions just outlined would equally apply, although in a perhaps more disturbing form.

Moreover, if this dedication to "justice" and "balance" is itself an integral part of the divine ontology, one must answer the awkward question of how God can exercise such an intrinsic orientation apart from the concomitant existence of that to which the orientation could be applied.

Let's see, what else? Oh yes, the purpose of God's active punishment is obviously not for the sake of the one being punished, for nowhere within the epic of theories of divine punishment is restoration and reconciliation understood to be the byproduct of said punishment.

Therefore, if God punishes, it can only be concluded that it is because God has eternally desired to do so, that the necessity for such has compelled God to create a reality that is particularly constituted to fulfill this peculiar orientation within God. But in this only logical scenario, it must be equally concluded that the impetus for punishment is not, actually, human sinfulness. Rather, human sinfulness could only be understood as the phenomenological outplaying of the eternal impulse within God toward the same.

9:32 PM  
Blogger J.C. Thibodaux said...

E.D.,

Again, you are extrapolating that the cause of their failure to enter is the retributive act of God.

What part of "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them" are you missing? It was for that specific sin that God disallowed Moses from proceeding into the promised land, the text cannot be reasonably interpreted otherwise.


If we take Moses as a foil in this instance for the faithless, wandering generation that did not enter the Promised Land (as the author of this particular section of text seems to intend), then we must ask why this generation did not enter the promised land.

Incorrect, Moses was faithful to God as opposed to the majority of his generation; he was not the "archetype of the faithless generation of Israel," else he could hardly have been honored as a faithful steward as has been pointed out from Hebrews 3. Those who were continually faithless, God swore would never enter His eternal rest, as Hebrews 3:5-4:11 expounds, 4:8 differentiating between the temporal and eternal.


What honor is God "due"?

Our obedience for one. Your assertions of nothing that is created by God is capable of rendering this to God requires several unsubstantiated philosophical assumptions. We don't need to be God to glorify God, that's a rather ridiculous leap. Scripture states,

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8)

Though violation of this for a most holy God requires recompense of infinite degree, hence it comes as either eternal damnation, or the infinitely valuable sacrifice of Christ.


If God's glory and honor are eternally and infinitely self-referential, then human perception of God's glory should be all but irrelevant, not to mention that any rendering of said perception would ultimately be blasphemous in that it is incapable of fully encapsulating the fullness and reality that is the glory of eternal God.

Glory in the sense of honor and respect rendered from creature to Creator is a different type of glory than that which is self-referential (the former having no impact on the latter), trying to blend the two is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Otherwise the God who is perfectly glorious in His own right would be unconcerned with how He was perceived, yet He states concerning His sparing Israel,

"For My name's sake I will defer My anger,
And for My praise I will restrain it from you,
So that I do not cut you off."
(Isaiah 48:9)


However, if the possibility and necessary of reparation of God's honor is, in fact, essential with the divine will and being of God, one must also grant that the realities which might lead to the necessity of such reparations must equally exist consubstantially with God whereby the aforementioned requirement of blood might be meaningfully terminated within the primal eternity of the divine person.

and,

Therefore, if God punishes, it can only be concluded that it is because God has eternally desired to do so, that the necessity for such has compelled God to create a reality that is particularly constituted to fulfill this peculiar orientation within God. But in this only logical scenario, it must be equally concluded that the impetus for punishment is not, actually, human sinfulness. Rather, human sinfulness could only be understood as the phenomenological outplaying of the eternal impulse within God toward the same.

If I'm following you correctly, I'm not sure the theory you propose factors in libertarian free will (remember, I'm not a Calvinist). Since the factor of self-determination is created by, but by definition not developed in every respect by God, then a reality with wilfully sinful agents for which recompense is required is not essential to His nature (for nothing compelled Him to create this world), and hence the requirement for blood is not an unconditional aspect of His nature, but is rather contingent upon the choices (specifically, the transgressions) of free agents.


But for all of this passage quotation, you have not answered the fundamental philosophical question, first, what the nature of this "judgment" actually is and, secondly (and more importantly) what the necessity for God is in executing it.

For the first question, Romans 2 already spells it out pretty clearly, a working example of how divine judgment will be carried out is in Matthew 25:31-46; the second question is addressed above.



W.D.,

Thank you for the clarification. Concerning the will of God, God allowing some things to be conditional and making other things inevitable does not entail multiple wills, as Dr. Galyon and I hashed out above. God does not 'fail' in saving, for such a conclusion begs the question of God irresistibly drawing men. If God has made Christ's atonement available for all, but conditioned its benefit on faith in Him, then He succeeds by saving those who believe, not everyone to whom it was offered, and for that exact same reason He is perfectly just in condemning them if they reject Christ.

11:27 AM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Hello again, J.C. I believe my position makes most sense give Scriptures broader teaching on man’s plight and God’s sovereignty in salvation. Again, I recommend taking a look at the other posts in this series, where in most I simply let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Jon Daley said...

If it was made, I missed the response to the question about the difference between fatalism and Calvinism. I have a hard time understanding the difference.

And the Calvinist church I attended for a while was not able to convince the hyper-Calvinists in their midst that there was a difference either. Though, if you asked one of the pastors, they would have said there was a difference. If someone could explain that, that would be great.

I am currently (last handful of years) in an incorrect anti-Calvinist mindset, after seeing some damaging practical beliefs of the logical end of Calvinist beliefs, and I have swung too far the other way, and have trouble grasping God's sovereignty without ending up in fatalism.

8:40 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Greetings, Jon. In a nutshell, Fatalism is an impersonal lying out of history. God’s sovereignty, of course, is personal, and history has a purpose. With Fatalism, there is no purpose.

Keep in mind, Jon, that Arminians too have to answer the sovereignty question. Since God knows all things that will come to pass, and reality cannot be different from how he knows it, then the events and end are fixed. With Calvinism, God has a purpose for all that transpires. In Arminianism, he doesn’t. That makes Arminianism closer to Fatalism.

10:09 AM  

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