Friday, February 19, 2010

On Contingency

The Oxford Dictionary defines “contingent” as:

“conditional; dependent. That may or may not occur. Accidental.”

For something to be “contingent” means, as the Oxford Dictionary tells us, that it is a “dependent” factor. Because the event or thing depends on other events or things, it “may or may not occur.” It will not necessarily happen; but there is the possibility. Dr. Ken Keathley defines contingency in this manner:

“Contingency, simply put, is the notion that something could have been otherwise. A contingent truth is something that happens to be true but obviously could have been false” (Kenneth Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, page 28).

For instance, when I was a child, my mother used to tell me and my twin sister the importance of not fighting at school. She used to always say, “You don’t have to hit someone because they hit you back.” In mom’s eyes, we had options: we could either hit the person and get in a fight, or we could refrain and report it to the teacher. Either way, it wasn’t necessary to do either action. Both actions were “contingent” in that they depended upon personal choice.

Dr. Ken Keathley, in his book “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach, argues the biblical basis for Molinism in his section titled “Creation and Creaturely Freedom,” where he discusses the idea of contingency. Contingency is both a philosophical and theological idea:

“Philosophers and theologians often speak of contingency in terms of modal logic. Terms like ‘contingency’ and ‘modal’ seem imposing, but they really refer to ways of thinking we use in everyday life. Modal logic is the systematic study of common terms such as ‘might,’ ‘must,’ ‘possibly,’ ‘necessarily,’ ‘ought to,’ ‘have to,’ and ‘could not have done otherwise.’ We have a pretty good intuitive sense of what these expressions mean, but working out the relationship between these concepts can be difficult” (28).

Keathley’s point here is a fine one. Here, he goes into an area I call “the philosophy of language,” where he talks about language and what language means as worked out in Scripture. If we as genuine Christians believe in “Verbal-plenary” inspiration, then we must believe that every word (verbal) is fully inspired, not just concepts or sentences or paragraphs (verbal-plenary inspiration is supported by the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy). This is where Calvinists face real problems, for “might” does not mean the same as “must,” and “should” does not mean the same as “could.” If one desires to test this theory out, confuse the terms in everyday life and examine the problems it causes. If a person reads a medicine bottle with the directions, “you must take three pills a day,” and decides he will take one pill a day (“must” confused with “might”), or no pills at all, wait and see if he will get better physically...or worse...

But the idea of contingency is not just a philosophical concept, it is also theological and confirms the biblical idea of human responsibility:

“When Samuel informed Saul that God had rejected him as king, he told him that it could have been otherwise, Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the LORD your God gave you. IT WAS AT THIS TIME THAT THE LORD WOULD [emphasis added] have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure’ (1 Sam. 13:13-14). Samuel pointed out Saul’s failure did not have to happen” (29).

This is quite a fascinating passage of Scripture to me. Here we see that God desired something that did not come to pass: “it was at this time that the Lord would have PERMANENTLY ESTABLISHED YOUR REIGN OVER ISRAEL...”

Saul’s choice, however, went against the plan of God; as a result, “now your reign will not endure.” Saul had no one to blame for his reign ending but himself. Scripture here very plainly speaks of Saul’s responsibility and his failure to obey the Lord. Contingency, placed within the language of the Bible, does so with theological reason: to show man that he cannot escape responsibility from his choices before his Maker.

Jesus Himself in the New Testament speaks of contingency as well, while weeping over Jerusalem:

“ ‘Jerusalem! Jerusalem! The city 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, YET YOU WERE NOT WILLING!’ (Matt. 23:37)” (30).

Notice that Jesus says “I wanted to...BUT you were not willing.” What Jesus’ words tell us is that Jerusalem (its inhabitants) did not desire what the Lord desired for them. This is why the words “I wanted to...but...” are so important. If we hold to a philosophy of language where language makes sense, we must affirm that the word “but” is a word of contrast---it means that something goes against what we expect to happen. For instance, if I say that “I wanted to go to the game, but I went home and watched a movie instead,” everyone understands that I did something completely opposite to what I had intended to do. No one looks at my example and says, “Oh, but you didn’t really wanna go to the game.” The contrast word (“but”) and our knowledge of English grammar allow us to see word functions. Words really do have meaning, and they do not all function in the same ways. If this is true, then when Jesus says “I wanted this for you, but you did not want it,” He is saying that Jerusalem (symbolic for “the Jews”) was able to resist His desire for them. God did not force Jerusalem to come to Himself, nor did He force them to resist Him and then mourn their resistance.

These two biblical examples show us that contingency is not just a philosophical concept, but a theological concept---one rooted in the VERY WORDS of Scripture. In our approach to the Bible, we cannot claim that “every word of God is pure” (Prov. 30:5) and then turn around and deny the meaning of each word. We cannot have it both ways.


Kaitiaki said...

I confess I did not know anything about Molinism or the man himself before trying to read your postings so I went to wikipedia (not the best of resources I will grant you) and discovered what they said was meant by independent, dependent and middle facts.

I would like (at some future date) to respond to the structure of this thinking - assuming of course that it is an accurate portrayal of Moilinist thinking.

For the moment let me say a word about continguency as you have dealt with it here. Please note I am using the term as I understand you mean it - not as it might be used by others.

So, that said, I agree contingency is a theological not just philosophical term. Though perhaps it would be more accurately put "contingency has theological as well as philosophical significance." You are right that certain events in the Bible come about because of the actions of the participants. Had they acted differently God would have changed the outcome.

You are also right to draw the conclusion that responsibility rests on the idea of contingency. The result, in each case you mentioned, went against the expressed desire of the Lord God himself. I have no quarrel with you on any of these points at all.

Now you are aware I am a Calvinist and I can imagine you thinking to yourself "but Calvinists are not supposed to think this way." I do not agree ... the Bible says the things you point out and, as a Calvinist, it is my desire to uphold the teaching of the Bible.

The texts you have quoted speak of the fact that God has ordained that our decisions will have consequences. It is no different from the statement "God does not wish that any should perish but that all should repent and come to the knowledge of Christ." Clearly not all will be saved but, because the Bible says it, I have to believe that God really would love to see every single human being come to repentance and salvation. It's one of the reasons I labor in missions and evangelism.

This has become a booklet ... let me deal with the "but ..." which you know is coming in the next post. Please rest assured I will not retract anything said here. :)

Kaitiaki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaitiaki said...

Part II.

Now, I have to be a little provocative. You have quoted the Scriptures which you know are difficult for a Calvinist to harmonize with his doctrines of the absolute sovereignty of God; and the idea that God predestines everything which comes to pass. It is your right to remind me and others like me that these passages exist in Scripture and that they need to be taken seriously. I thank you for that reminder.

Yet, are you willing to accept that we also have some scriptures which need to be considered when we talk about the relationship of our decisions to those of God? Passages like "God does as he wills in the armies of heaven and in the earth and none can stay his hand or say to him, what doest thou?" Realities like God hardening the heart of Pharoah in case he might let the people go - before the death of the first born; or that passage in John 1 which teaches that the reason why some came to Christ was because they had been born "... not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God."

The fact is that the Bible teaches both the sovereign decrees of God which always come to pass (prophecy cannot work otherwise) and the responsibility of man for his decisions. Calvinists accept both these ideas as the teaching of Scripture and, though we sometimes make attempts to reconcile the logic behind them ... when it comes right down to it we say: "Enough, it is the Lord. Let him do as seems fit in his sight."

In other words. I recognize I am a creature and there are some things I will never understand this side of heaven (suppose I even understand them then). As a Calvinist I am satisfied to love God and strive to accept what he says - even when it don't seem to be logically consistent. If God says it, that's enough.

I am a worshiper of God and if he says the fruit is going to kill me, that's good enough. Even if there is no logical reason to accept it as true, I will, just because my God says so. I know this is off the point of contingency but I did think it fair to point out that while some Calvinists minimize some passages of Scripture, it's not as simple as it might appear on the evidence either side tends to present in this debate.

I still liked your original post. You made your points well enough to not have needed Molina's comments to back you up :)

Deidre Richardson said...


Part I (more to follow)

I am glad that I did this post...and I am glad that you decided to contribute to this discussion.

First off, let me say that it takes a mark of humility to acknowledge that there are problematic passages for the Calvinist within Scripture. I've not met one Calvinist yet who has acknowledged that---until you. In fact, in the Baptist seminary I attend, the predominant majority of students and faculty are Calvinist in their theology, with the exception of some who are Molinists. And no one Calvinist I've ever talked to has ever acknowledged that the biblical evidence is problematic. Instead, those I've talked to seem to state that if man has choices, then God is "dependent" upon man's choices...which is absurd! How can God be dependent upon man's choices if He is the one who gave the power of choice to begin with?

Next, I want to say that I agree with you regarding texts on both sides of the debate. I think there are problematic texts for both sides---but I also believe that, depending on which side of the debate one falls, one can either reconcile those problematic texts or one cannot. When it comes to the passages that you cite, such as John 1 for example, Classical Arminians can reconcile this with their system. How? if it were not for the "will of God," man could not be saved. This is why Classical Arminians argue for prevenient and cooperating grace. If it weren't for either (the evidence of grace showing the "will of God" that man should come to repentance, 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9), man could never repent, and he certainly would not be able to “endure to the end and be saved.” This due to the will of God; but at the same time, “His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). Because God has given us all that we need in order to be victorious and reign with Him in the end, God is not at fault if, in our human responsibility, we fall short. God is not guilty of not equipping us with the necessary power to endure the race (1 Peter 1:5).

In discussing God “doing whatever He pleases,” Classical Arminians can affirm this. Yes, God does whatever He pleases---but this also includes giving man the power to act in the world and then holding him responsible for his actions (2 Cor. 5:10). This is also a part of what “pleases God” and part of His actions in the world.

But this is where it gets slippery. God does what He pleases, but He does nothing that is contrary to His nature (2 Tim. 2:13). Because He has given man choice, He cannot override the freedom of choice He has given to man. This means, then, that every little single act of life can be “foreknown,” but cannot be “predetermined.” If every single act of life is predetermined by God, and God predetermines based on what He wants to see done, then God becomes the author of sin and evil, which is a direct violation of Scripture (James 1:13). Even Adam and Eve didn’t eat the fruit because “God tempted” them! They ate because “they were drawn away by their own lusts, and enticed” (James 1:13).

Deidre Richardson said...


Part II

As to the issue of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, we have testimony within Scripture that Pharaoh hardens his heart first. God states twice before the event that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, but God first places responsibility on Pharaoh himself (Exodus 7:14), which tells us that God concurs with human decision. God does not override Pharaoh and “make Him” let the children of Israel go. Rather, God allows Pharaoh to harden his own heart, and then God punishes him (which is the impetus to let the Jews leave Egypt). Notice Pharaoh’s first response to Moses: “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice...?” (Exod. 5:2, NKJV)

Regarding the sovereign decrees, I believe that what God determines to do in the world He will accomplish. For instance, when God told Rebekah, “and the older shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23), the Lord had predecreed that this would happen. The question then becomes, “What is the nature of God’s predecree?” Does God sovereignly declare it to be because He “caused” Esau or “determined of His own choosing” that Esau give up his birthright? Or does Esau give it up because of his own immorality? And if Esau sells his birthright because of immorality, then how can God decree it to be so unless He knew the heart and mind of Esau before he was even born? If we say that God “predetermined” of His own will that Esau sell his birthright, then we are implicating God in doing evil, and saying that He favors some over others. In this, I stand with Molinists who argue that God knows what we will do just because He knows it. I do not agree with the idea of God “looking down the corridor of time” to see who will believe. By virtue of God creating us, He knows everything about us. God doesn’t allow us to be born into the world without knowing every little detail. After all, He did reach down and mold man from the dust...and breathed the breath of life into him, did He not?

Look at Psalm 139. We find David saying (of the Lord), “You understand my thought afar off...there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether,” (Ps. 139:2, 4); now, does God determine my every thought, even if it is evil? Does God determine my every word, even if it is evil? I think the answer to these questions is “no.” And if God doesn’t predetermine evil, then He can still predetermine that man would have choice over his actions. He can predetermine the power of choosing without predetermining the choice itself.

Deidre Richardson said...


Part III

Let me say two more things. First, because Scripture states that God is not guilty of tempting someone or leading them into evil (James 1:13), we must affirm this in our theology. If we do not, then God is the author of sin and evil, and God becomes “inconsistent” in His character. This poses problems for Calvinism...and this is why so many “Calvinisms” [including four-point Calvinism (Amyraldianism), and even three-point Calvinism, a.k.a. Molinism, have become pretty popular theologies to hold to]. Most people have come to understand that five-point Supralapsarian Calvinism just isn’t biblical. And hyper-Calvinism is heretical, to say the least...

Secondly, let me say this. I noticed earlier in your most recent comment that you referred to the idea of living with inconsistencies in your theology, that, if God says something, you must affirm it (even if it doesn’t sit well with the rest of your theology).

I don’t think you are alone in that statement. And I was right there with you, up until about nine to ten months ago. I’ve only studied the subject of Calvinism and Arminianism over the last soon to be 10 months. That’s right--- I’ve only had a year’s worth of study in this theological debate. But the number of years or time in this study is not what’s important...what is important, though, is the knowledge gained.

Back to my story...up until ten months ago, I believed in the same manner as you. I was “Calminian” in my theology---I was Arminian in the points of election, atonement, and grace, but I was Calvinist in my view of eternal security. I was “Calminian” in my theology. But while reading on this debate, it hit me that my theology was inconsistent. How could I hold to human responsibility on one hand, and deny it on the other? How could I argue that man, with the grace of God, can receive Christ---but on the other hand, could not walk away from Christ and reject God’s grace? My theology was inconsistent. I affirmed a statement I’ve coined in my study of this debate: I was “free to come,” but “determined to stay.”

Deidre Richardson said...


Part IV

And this is where you said that even if your system was inconsistent, you would still affirm it in your theology. I applaud you for that, and that is totally admirable. However, I would say that if you are affirming biblical principles in your theology, and your theology becomes inconsistent, then the problem is not the biblical principles, but the theology you are holding to. According to 2 Tim. 2:13, God “cannot deny Himself.” If this is true, then we cannot hold to a “consistent” God but an “inconsistent” theology. As I’ve stated here at the blog, the word “theology” comes from two Greek words, “theos” (God) and “logia” (word), producing the literal translation of “word of God.” If theology is “the Word of God,” then we must affirm what the Bible says (since the Bible is “the Word of God”). Notice too, that Christ is called “The Word of God” in John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13. Thus, what theologies we hold to reflect what we think about God. And we cannot hold to a theology that says, “God predetermines everything, including evil,” and still turn around and say that “God is just, God will judge me for my actions,” etc. We cannot have it both ways.

And I would challenge you to look for another theological system that will better line up with principles you believe to be true, yet matches the Bible more than your current theology. There is such a theology out there---and I’ve found Classical Arminianism to be that theology. You may not agree with me, but I would challenge you to read Roger Olson’s “Arminian Theology.” Olson’s book eliminates the false claims made about Arminianism. Perhaps you’ve even heard of many yourself. Olson’s book will show you, quote by quote, theologian by theologian, why, for instance, Jacob Arminius held to a different theology than Charles Finney (for example). Once you’re done with that, I would suggest reading Thomas Oden’s “The Transforming Power of Grace.” I’ve read excerpts of that book and am trying to finish reading it amidst all the work of seminary life.

Just remember that what we say about the Bible reflects what we say about God. And in the same way that we cannot claim to love God without loving our neighbor, we cannot say good about God while saying bad about God in our theologies.

Please continue to write. Your responses give me hope that one day, God may grace me to sit down with staunch Calvinists and bring them to the end of themselves.

Kaitiaki said...

Diedre, In response to this quote: "... Instead, those I've talked to seem to state that if man has choices, then God is "dependent" upon man's choices...which is absurd! How can God be dependent upon man's choices if He is the one who gave the power of choice to begin with? Had I been there with you when this was said (assuming I've understood the situation accurately of course - I am assuming it was you saying the bit after the "that's absurd ...") would have been standing next to you and saying: "That's not true - Calvinists would deny that God is ever dependent on man's choices!" So, one point to our side! I would even have worded the "power of choice" thing exactly as you did. Bravo!! (or is it brava if it's to a woman?) ;)

Kaitiaki said...

Just a small correction on this: "... I also believe that, depending on which side of the debate one falls, one can either reconcile those problematic texts or one cannot." It's actually important to remember that both of the groups in discussion can reconcile the verses of Scripture with their system of belief. What I meant (probably not expressed as well as it should have been) is that we cannot reconcile some text with with the logical implications of one part of the system.

That would (or should) be true of both Arminian and Calvinistic systems. If not, we have a God who is completely understandable - and that would not be the God of Scripture.

Kaitiaki said...

I am sorry - this should be on the end of the last post I made. With respect to this: " ... If every single act of life is predetermined by God, and God predetermines based on what He wants to see done, then God becomes the author of sin and evil, which is a direct violation of Scripture (James 1:13)." I assume you believe that God determined that Jesus was to be born of the virgin Mary. I also assume that contingency allows you to believe that God foresees every choice every man will make in his life and chooses to ordain, taking into account those choices.

Suppose then, since man has freedom of choice, that though ... ok. I can see how logically the system would work. I don't agree that the texts of Scripture are given the full weight they should, but I accept that (to your way of thinking) it makes sense of Scripture.

I prefer to accept that God ordains all that comes to pass (a logical conclusion or there could be no such thing as prophecy) and that he is not the author of sin (in both cases because that's what I can show the Bible says). To me it's the same as trying to rationalize the doctrine of the trinity or explaining how Mary was the mother of God (without separating the divine and human natures of Christ).

*returns to reading* - moving on to part II

Kaitiaki said...

When talking about Pharaoh we read that: God told Moses Pharaoh would not let the people go unless he was forced to (Exodus 3:19) and then says that Moses is to perform before Pharaoh all the wonders God has put in his power then adds: "but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go" (Exodus 4:21).

Now I acknowledge God knows beforehand what we will do. I agree that Pharaoh decided himself that he would refuse to let the people go. But we also have the word of God that God would, and did, harden Pharaoh's heart (cf Exodus 7:3,13; 9:12,35; 10:1,20,27; 14:4,8). As we look at these passages we see both that Pharaoh hardened his heart and that God did as well. That is not the same as saying" "... God concurs with human decision" as if Pharaoh had made that decision before God told Moses that was exactly what would happen.

It's not which comes first is the key here but whether both are true. Did God actually harden Pharaoh's heart? Then (using your logic) he was making Pharaoh sin. But God is not the author of sin therefore he could not have hardened Pharaoh's heart. You see the dilemma? Do we accept logic or the Bible. I say the latter (as, from your writings) so do you. Yet the logic says ...

You see, one possibility is that if God had not hardened Pharaoh's heart he might have let the people go before the death of the firstborn - who was to be a type of Christ's death. I know ... God is not the author if sin - I actually do agree with you on that. It's just that wrestling with what Scripture actually says can make us realize things are a little more complicated than our systems make them out to be.

I prefer to make the assertions: "God ordains whatever comes to pass." That I can prove. Then "God holds us responsible for all our choices" That also I can prove. Then "We choose freely, without violating our nature." Again I can prove that. "Our nature is desperately wicked (since the fall)." That also I can prove. And, finally (so there is no doubt) "God is not the author of sin." (Plenty of evidence for that one).

I am content to do this because I am persuaded it is not logical argument that convinces a man to become a Christian (that would be the meaning of the "will of man") nor is it emotion (that would be the "will of the flesh") it's the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.

I spent some time on this particular issue because it is sometimes necessary to look closely at a passage to see what it actually says. The thrust of the section of Scripture is that Pharaoh's heart was hardened by both the man himself and by God. Yet, in noticing that, we may not (if we wish to remain biblical) draw the conclusion God is the author of sin.

Molina, if I have understood you correctly, chooses to attempt to construct a framework of thinking that will allow him to explain how this might be logically. I choose to accept that there are some things I can never fully understand but will accept just because God says they are so. I accept that you may consider this to be foolish "when there is a better way to describe it" but ask only that you believe we are both concerned to safeguard the same things albeit from different sides of a logical fence.

Kaitiaki said...

Actually I cannot agree "Most people have come to understand that five-point Supralapsarian Calvinism just isn’t biblical. And hyper-Calvinism is heretical, to say the least..." Perhaps with respect to hyper-Calvinism being heretical. But there are both Supralapsarian and Infralapsarian theologians who can demonstrate the Scriptures fit with their systems.

I guess my problem is (apart from a certain imprecision - I don't seem to be as precise as I used to for some reason) what I meant to say: I live with logical inconsistencies in my system. You see I don't believe logic is the final arbiter of truth. I think that is reserved to God (and his word).

Let me take one of your pair of paradigms. "I cannot affirm man's responsibility and deny it as well." The Calvinist (as I understand the system of doctrine) never denies man's responsibility even while affirming God's absolute sovereignty. He holds both truths as the teaching of Scripture.

Does this means we can be lost (human responsibility)? Yes it does - but if so, then it shows were were never of Christ in the fist place ... (God's sovereignty over his choice)"they went out from us that it might be manifest they were not all of us." Does this make us strive to "make our calling and election sure" as our Arminian brothers and sisters urge on us? It should (and sometimes does j/k)!!

I'm glad you discovered you were "free to come and determined to stay," My discovery was that even as wicked as I was "before I had done anything bad or good, Christ loved me and gave himself for me." In both cases, I believe it is God's character that draws us and holds us, overcome with wonder that he could love even us.

Kaitiaki said...


first a quibble theos does indeed mean God but the suffix logia is not just word (though it may be as in (say) philology "The term philology is derived from the Greek φιλολογία (philologia)[4], from the terms φίλος (philos), meaning "loved, beloved, dear, friend" and λόγος (logos), meaning "word, articulation, reason", describing a love of learning, of literature as well as of argument and reasoning, reflecting the range of activities included under the notion of λόγος. The term changed little with the Latin philologia, and later entered the English language in the 16th century, from the Middle French philologie, in the sense of "love of literature". - from wikipedia) "reason" or "articulation" as equivalent to "knowledge."

My contention is that theology is "knowledge of God" in the biblcal sense this would make it referring to God himself and not merely the Bible. I do remember that what I am saying about God reflects my view of him. In that sense I believe God is incomprehensible - he is beyond our reasoning - and he is never inconsistent (even though my lisping about him might be).

What leads me to accept Calvinism is that it takes seriously the Bible's teaching that God is control of all things, he created all things, he never has an "oops!" moment and that man - no matter how powerful he might think himself to be - is absolutely powerless in his presence.

Thank you for the invitation to keep writing. I too am encouraged by your gracious responses - encouraged to believe we love the same Lord and that we will one day chuckle together at how inadequate our systems were to describe the reality of God's being and presence.

Deidre Richardson said...


Regarding the issue of Pharaoh: the Bible tells us in Exodus that Pharaoh hardened his heart, and God hardened Pharaoh's heart. However, that is the same as God concurring with human decision.

A good example by which to examine this is Romans 1:24, where "God also gave up" the ungodly to further immorality. Here we see God concurring with human decision.

You wrote in one of your most recent comments, "I prefer to accept that God ordains all that comes to pass (a logical conclusion or there could be no such thing as prophecy) and that he is not the author of sin (in both cases because that's what I can show the Bible says)." In response to this, let me say that not all prophecies were "unconditional." Some were conditional, such as the destruction of the city of Nineveh. God prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed, but the people repentend and God decided not to destroy them. Then, there is the passage of 1 Samuel 23. You believe that whatever God says comes to pass, but what about David's destiny? God tells him that he would be handed over to Saul, but he escapes instead. What about this passage? If God ordains whatever comes to pass, then God said one thing and another happened...thus making God's proclamations questionable (if your theology is correct) and the open theist right (with John Sanders' notion of God as "the divine forecaster"). If God had foreordained David to escape, why tell David that he would be handed over (unless there were a real possibility he could be)? Your theology cannot explain 1 Samuel 23.

I understand that you hold to your theology the way you do, and I respect that. However, there are problematic passages in the Bible for your theology, and you have admitted that here. God is a God of logic, contrary to popular belief. After all, He did create the world in an "orderly" fashion, as we don't believe "random processes" brought about all we see (like the atheist). God is called "The Word" in John 1 (as well as other passages), to demonstrate that our very communication via words comes from God. The fact that we are made in God's image after His likeness (Gen. 1:26) testifies to reason, since we are able to reason in the likeness of God, who possesses Intelligence. If God is intelligent, and so are we (being made like Him), then there are things that make sense and things that do not make sense. If that be the case, then God cannot be innocent and yet ordain everything that comes to pass. It's like saying a person is innocent of a crime even though he drove the getaway car. The fact that he drove the car makes the man an aider and abetter. If we took the logic of most people with regards to theology and applied that to the criminal system, no one who aided a crime would be responsible for what they do. Yet we know that the idea of "guilty, yet innocent" does not work in our world.

Believers apply logic all the time, when they "reconcile" one passage with another in Scripture. All Christians possess a fundamental belief that two verses in the Bible cannot contradict one another. And why do we do this? If there are illogical things that we have to accept, then it is perfectly fine (with that mindset) to assert that there are contradictions in the Bible. I choose not to live with contradictions because God doesn't contradict Himself (2 Tim. 2). And my theology, as reflective of God and His Word, should not contradict either.

The question comes down to, "What are you going to do about the holes in your theology?" If nothing, then we've come to an impasse and can go no further. If you are willing to do something, then the day is young...and even now, you can find yourself on a better path to knowing more about God.

Deidre Richardson said...


Let me just say that as a Classical Arminian, I too, believe in the sovereignty of God, that God is in control in my life. There are doors God has shut in my face to remind me of that, so I certainly can agree that God is in control.

Where I differ from Calvinism is in their view of man. I am Classical Arminian bc I believe that man is not a puppet, he is not just a puppet on a string that is pulled left and right by God. God certainly had the power to do that (and if He had done that, u and I may have never had this conversation), but He chose not to. God chose to grant man dominion over the earth as well as power over his own choices. That was due to the good pleasure of God. As such, our theologies should take into account man's responsibility. And I don't see how Calvinism does that when it doesn't incorporate anything about man's responsibility into its theological system (TULIP). Calvinism assents to responsibility with lip service, but it doesn't incorporate it into its five-point system. Although man has responsibility, God still pulls men and women to Himself (irresistible grace), and only dies for the ones He intended to save (limited atonement). In the Calvinist system, God becomes "less God" if He doesn't choose which ones to save and damn which ones He so pleases.

Man will have to stand before God and give an account of what he has done (2 Cor. 5:10). I don't understand how Calvinists can hold to God "ordaining" everything when surely, man will be judged for his own self-determined actions. I think that the Westminster document tries to "have its cake and eat it too" when it asserts that God ordains everything but does not ordain evil. Here's the syllogism:

I. God ordains whatsoever comes to pass (Westminster document)

II. evil comes to pass.

III. Therefore, God ordains evil.

I don't understand how Calvinists can get around that logic (except to say that God ordains that man should make His own choices). And if Calvinists say that, then they have just ditched their own theology. If God ordains whatever comes to pass, then He is the author of sin and evil. This is why Molina was considered as holding to "general sovereignty" in his day instead of "particular"---because he argued that God does not cause sin and evil. Those of his day labeled Molina the way they did because, if you hold to the view that God is not the author of sin and evil, then God cannot "ordain whatever (both good and evil) comes to pass."

Kaitiaki said...

Diedre, I am not sure if this will answer both your posts but here goes:
First: Prophesy - was the prophecy actually conditionally what God intended with Jonah? Jonah fled to Tarshish because, he said, he knew they would repent and that God would forgive them. It was to prevent that happening that Jonah tried to avoid going to Nineveh. Yet, in spite of Jonah's decision God made him go where he was sent.

I looked at I Samuel 23:6-14. I hope that is the passage you referred to - it seemed to be the one that came closest to the conditions you described. There is a problem with the weight you put on the words used. When David inquired of the Lord he was not asking "Is this what will happen (regardless of what I do)" He was asking "Is this what will happen (if I stay here)"

It was that question which God was answering. The difference is not plucking at straws as history shows us. Luther and Zwingli met to discuss the presence of Christ in the supper. Luther said the verse said "This is my body which is given ..." Zwingli said those words obviously meant "This signifies my body ..." since Christ's body was actually holding the bread.

When Abraham asked that the city of Sodom be spared if there were a number of people in it who were not wicked he wasn't interested in sparing the city. He wanted to save Lot - God didn't spare the city (there were insufficient numbers for that) but he saved Lot. Were this God's intentions from the beginning? I believe so. He has done all these things and had them recorded for our instruction - what we needed to know from I Samuel (and from Genesis) is that God cares for and protects his children. The prophecy, by the way, would have been voided if David *had* been taken - so it was obviously God's intention that David survive till at least Solomon was born.

Has my theology been disturbed by this passage of Scripture - I don't think so. Not if I read it carefully. Saul came to Keilah and David had been told, David was not there so the intention of the Kielahites was thwarted as (I believe) God intended all along. Did you wonder why David asked? He thought he was safe - so why check? I would answer it was an impulse from God.

Kaitiaki said...

Here's the second part. We don't have an impasses but we do have a little explaining to do. I do not believe I have holes in my theology. My logic is not as watertight as I would like. But that's because I think by analogy.

Lets think about what we mean when we say God is a God of order. Does that mean his order takes precedence over (say) his mercy? No, all parts of his nature (if we may talk this way) are in perfect harmony.

Then as we consider (say) God's love: is our love different from God's love? Is God's love infinitely greater than our own but has sufficiently similar characteristics that we can use it to describe (however haltingly) something of God's love? My answer to both these questions is yes (unequivocally). I hope yours are too because then we have a basis for discussion.

Let's use an example you raised yourself. "Because He has given man choice, He cannot override the freedom of choice He has given to man. This means, then, that every little single act of life can be “foreknown,” but cannot be “predetermined.” Illustration - Jonah. God gave him a command: "Go to Nineveh." Jonah disobeyed. He set off to go to Tarshish. God had a choice, override his free choice or make him *want* to go to Nineveh. Either way he was overriding Jonah's freely made choice to go to Tarshish. Why send him to Nineveh in the first place?

God had a message for Israel. He was going to bless Israel through the hands of one of the most wicked kings in her history. Now if preaching damnation to Nineveh was bad enough, imagine preaching blessing to a wicked Israel. God was preparing Jonah for his message so he had to go to Nineveh.

Did that make Jonah a puppet? No more than making a willful child obey one of your commands makes him your puppet. God chose a method of changing his mind that made him see the consequences of his actions. And would have continued to do so until Jonah obeyed. Did God know beforehand what Jonah was going to choose - of course, he knows everything. Did God ordain what he knew was going to happen (insofar as everything comes to pass as God has said it will) yes. Did that make God the author of Jonah's sin? NO! Did that bring about a conflict in God's nature between his ordaining purpose and his foreseeing the results of God's own actions?

Wait! you say back up. Logic states that you ought to say yes to the question about being the author of sin. Maybe logic does. But to assert that God merely concurred with Jonah's decision infringes on both God's sovereignty and immutability. That means there are such things as "oops" moments and the chain in Romans 8:29,30 could possibly be broken. Then I can no longer have confidence that there is *nothing* that can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Diedre, I hope you can allow that both systems are flawed - we cannot explain God's nature any other way than by analogy and all analogies break down at some point. This is why we confine our logic to the way Scripture teaches us.

That was our beef as Protestants against Rome. Scripture we said is the only rule of faith and life. The systems we develop are marks that we are sincerely trying and are, we think, the best we have come up with so far.

ok, like I'll have to do a third post to fit in the bit about tulip after all.

Kaitiaki said...

The problem with debates is that we usually only hear a part of the argument. The part that is different from our own. I begin this way because I confess I have probably not read as much as I could have of Arminian writers. I have spent far more time reading and thinking about what the Bible teaches.

Nor do I find that every single thing that has been written by a Calvinistic writer is what I think myself. What makes me a Calvinist and what makes me stand with the Westminster Confession (thanks for taking the time to read it - you'd be surprised how many "Calvinists" have not) is the view of the role of Scripture. That role I see in evidence in each statement WCoF makes - "all things necessary for faith and life are either expressly set forth or may, by good and necessary consequence, be deduced from the same." cited from memory.

Now, when it comes to TULIP - that wonderfully short acronym - it needs to be remembered that the source for this is the Canons of Dort. The subtitle of this document is "Articles against the Remonstrants." These Articles were written by those who felt the doctrine of God's Sovereignty was under attack. It was, sadly, unlikely that any dealing with man's responsibility would receive any more than a cursory statement and would avoid any language which might be construed as agreeing with what the opposition said.

The really sad thing is that there are still people today who give a knee-jerk reaction to what they imagine is false teaching just because it sounds like something the opposition might say. The letters of Paul show this is not a new problem.

Calvinists DO believe man is responsible for every choice he makes - as well as for the motivation behind that choice. Matt. 25 spells out the final consequence of our choices and motivations most clearly in the record of what the Last Judgment is going to be like. Oh, and I think there will be both "Arminian" sheep and goats and maybe a few more "Calvinist" goats among our group of sheep (in case you're wondering).

One last comment: "I don't understand how Calvinists can get around that logic (except to say that God ordains that man should make His own choices)." As long as we recognize that what we are talking about is man's responsibility for the consequences of his choices and not a freedom of choice divorced from our sinful human nature, why would this require the Calvinist to void his theology? He will still aver God is not the author of sin even if a hypothetical gainsayer were to say logic requires it.

Is this any different from saying "God, the Father is God, God, the Son is God and God, the Holy Spirit is God." then: "These three are but one God." And then arguing that both statements have to be taken together. It's not logical - it transcends logic.

Deidre Richardson said...


It's interesting that you used Romans 8:39 about nothing separating us from "the love of God." Notice that the verse tells us that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39, NKJV).

And I agree with Paul's words there. But there's a problem. The passage is providing comfort to the Christians at Rome who are enduring various tribulations. This is why Paul says, "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. 8:35) The issue here is not one of God departing from us. As it says here, and as we read Jesus' words to His disciples in Matthew 28:20, we discover that Jesus will never leave us, nor forsake us. But the problem with Calvin's doctrine of temporary faith is that Calvin said that the Lord abandons some whom He ordained from the beginning to be reprobate. The Lord doesn't leave us and yet, He leaves some of us. That doesn't make any sense...what it does is contradict Jesus' statement about never leaving nor forsaking those who are His. If, as you presume, the Lord plants the faith into the elect, why then would He leave some of the elect?

Romans 8, however, shows that God's love will remain despite what we do. That doesn't mean, however, that God's love is not just. For God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), but He punishes sin and rewards righteousness. As Hebrews 12 says, God chastises those He loves (Heb. 12:5-10). Read Hebrews 12 and u will find that it tells us, "if you are without chastening (which all receive) then you are illegitimate and not sons." Clearly, one can be in the love of God (God loves him) and yet, he can choose to reject God's chastening and be counted "illegitimate." And illegitimate sons do not inherit; legitimate ones do. This is the Hebrew writer's point: that, if you do not receive God's chastening (which is a demonstration of God's love), then, although you are loved by God, you will still fail to obtain the inheritance. This is why the Hebrews writer talks about Esau and not inhering the birthright...and then reminds us, "you have the general assembly and church of the FIRSTBORN (caps for emphasis)" (Heb. 12:22, 23).

Romans 8, then, is not saying that being in God's love equals me going to heaven or being the elect, etc. Being in God's love means that He will fulfill His promise to never depart from me. That says nothing, however, about me departing from Him... God loves us first (1 Jn. 4:19), but that doesn't exclude us from our responsibility of loving in return (1 Jn.4:19).