f The Wittenberg Door: April 2009

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Was John Calvin a Murderer?

Was John Calvin responsible for the execution of Michael Servetus? That’s the question Jim McClarty answers over at Reformed Voices. Here’s how it begins . . .

This is a question that shows up in my email from time to time. It's a claim that is leveled by those who seek to besmirch Reformed Theology. Usually, the claim that Calvin was a murderer is an attempt to make all Calvinistic doctrine wrong through 'guilt by association.'

However, historically speaking, the so-called 'Doctrines of Grace' - which go by the nickname of Calvinism - did not originate with Calvin. They are the result of a Synod held in Dort, Holland in 1618/19, after Calvin was long dead. Those of us who hold to Reformed Theology do so not because we are attempting to replicate the theology or ecclesiology of John Calvin, but because we are convinced that the Biblical arguments and conclusions stemming from that Synod are valid and our own exegesis confirms the five points.

If it could be proven that John Calvin was indeed a murderous wretch, it would have no effect on the theology that sprung from the pen of the Reformers. In other words, the 'guilt by association' tactic has no teeth. That being said, let's clear up the history and let the proverbial chips fall where they will.

You can read the entire post here. For a well-reasoned contrary view, I recommend Standford Rives’ article, Servetus & Calvin: Was it Murder by Calvin?

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage and State Interest

Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," George wrote for the majority. "An individual's sexual orientation -- like a person's race or gender -- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

According to the California Supreme Court, marriage rights should be conferred upon same-sex couples because they can establish loving, long-term, committed relationships. Not to do so would be the same as denying fundamental rights to citizens based solely upon their skin color.

Loving, Long-Term, Committed Relationships

I love Frank Capra’s 1944 adaptation of Arsenic and Old Lace. It’s one of my favorite movies. So it's with great trepidation that I add this modern twist: What if the Brewsters lived somewhere in California instead of Brooklyn, New York; and one day, the sisters, Abby and Martha, hear on the radio that same-sex, loving, long-term couples can now receive the same benefits that married couples receive. Seeing as how they are of the same sex, they love each other, and they have pledged to spend their lives together, they must be eligible, right? Not so fast.

There’s a problem—they’re not having sex. The government is not interested in their loving, lifelong, same-sex relationship unless the wild mambo is involved. So out came plan B: Elaine.

Elaine, the minister’s daughter, moves in with the Brewster sisters; and since Elaine is looking to offset some gambling losses (she was sure Michigan could take North Carolina), she’s willing to have sex for money (i.e., tax benefits).

“But wait,” says the government! “We have some arbitrary rules to apply: sisters don’t count, and it can’t be three people, and Elaine is already married to Mortimer, so she’s out ...”

“But we love each other! Isn't it all about love?"

As this little exercise in reductio ad absurdam reveals, the court’s ruling is logically vacuous.

Is Homosexuality the Same as Ethnicity?

As the Los Angeles Times points out, “The ruling cited a 60-year-old precedent that struck down a ban on interracial marriage in California.” In the court’s mind, ethnicity and homosexuality are on the same moral plain. But is this the case?

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ethnicity is white. He was born that way and can do nothing to change it. His ethnicity is intrinsic to him. Consequently he had—and has—no choice in the matter. Those with homosexual desires, on the other hand, have a choice as to whether or not to act upon those desires. The latter is morally relevant, while the former is not. Thus ethnicity and homosexuality are not on the same moral plain (one involves choice and the other does not—one is intrinsic and the other a behavior). And since the state should only treat equals equally, it is in fact immoral to judicially conflate the two.

State Interest

The State should only have an interest in two types of contractual relationships: corporations and heterosexual marriages. The first because the State is required to regulate commerce (section 8, clause 3 of the constitution); and the second because it is the best way for it, the State, to perpetuate itself.

Mommies and daddies are from where the next generation of citizens will come. And the best environment for the raising of responsible citizens is a married, monogamist, heterosexual household. Married and monogamist because that brings stability to the home; heterosexual because both the mother and the father bring something in particular to the childrearing enterprise.

This unit is the best way to secure society’s future. Therefore, the State has an interest in favoring and protecting marriage between a man and a woman. It has no such interest in same-sex unions.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

God’s Aseity, Self-sufficiency, and Love—A Contradiction?

Two of God’s incommunicable attributes (belonging to God alone) are His aseity (self-existence, John 5:26) and His self-sufficiency (Psm. 50:12-13). His name “El Shaddai” (God all-sufficient, Gen. 17:1, 2) signifies these attributes. Being the great “I Am” (Ex. 3:14), God’s existence is not dependent on anything or anyone, nor does He need anything or anyone.

We also find in Scripture that God is love (1 John 4:8), meaning that He is characterized by love. This poses an interesting question when the previous two perfections are considered. Here’s what I mean: Love requires an object. It’s not possible to love something or someone unless there is something or someone to love. Let’s put this in a simple syllogism (a deductive argument where the conclusion is inferred from the supporting propositions):

God is love. Love needs an object. Therefore, God needs an object for His love.

The argument is valid (it's structured properly) and sound (the premises—supporting propositions—are true). Therefore, by force of logic, the conclusion is inescapable: God needs something. So how does this square with His aseity and self-sufficiency?

The Trinity

The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Spirit, and vise versa all around, and this from all eternity. This cannot be said of anything else, for all else is created by God (Gen. 1:1). Hence, the doctrine of the Trinity is the only explanation that avoids contradiction.

So next time you speak with a Jehovah’s Witness, Oneness Pentecostal, or anyone else of the non-Trinitarian stripe, give this line of reasoning a whirl.

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