Calvinism grates against my nerves like eating asparagus and lima beans with a side of durian fruit. Calvinists are the most articulate of God’s creatures in weaving an intelligent sounding compilation of confusion that masks itself as spiritually insightful. It is no secret that Calvinists insist that every event throughout human history is the effect in time of what God foreordained or predetermined in eternity past. Non-Calvinists are quick to retort that if that were true than human responsibility is consigned to oblivion. For if God has predetermined everything that occurs there no longer remains a reason for me to be concerned about my disobedience or motivated towards obedience. Why should I reflect on any of my actions or lack thereof if everything I do or not do has already been causally determined for me before I was born? Why should I feel compelled to obey for the sake of God’s purposes being realized on earth if every one of my acts of disobedience was decreed by God such that I could not have done otherwise?
“Oh, not to worry,” says the Calvinist, “I left out the part that God not only foreordained the end results (i.e. the achievement of his purposes) but also the means to reach those ends–such as our obedience. So we are still responsible to be obedient to God so that our obedience can be his means to carry out his foreordained ends.”
What the heck is that supposed to mean? How does that answer the question? If God causally predetermined EVERYTHING through an irresistible decree— that necessarily means he determined “the means to reach his own ends.” Thus he predetermined both my obedience and disobedience! If I am found to be obedient it is ultimately the result of God unilaterally determining that I would be obedient. And if I am a lazy-ass, disobedient slacker it too is ultimately the way I was determined to be. I could not have been one iota more obedient than that which God foreordained for me.
Obviously then individuals have every reason to excuse their disobedience and absolve themselves of slothful faithfulness in both prayer and action. “No!” the Calvinist responds, “You should not be dismissive and passive about obedience…”– oblivious again to the noose they have tightened around their own necks. For my being “dismissive and passive” would still encompass “everything” that God foreordained.
Calvinists have a reputation of being the “smart guys,” but when one truly fleshes out their beliefs and takes them to their logical conclusions one is left with more questions than answers. In fact one is left with a system that is wholly untenable– a three ring circus of doctrinal assertions that run afoul of cognitive dissonance at almost every turn. For example if everything that occurs is foreordained by God that necessarily means Arminianism! So whence comes the vigorous determination to write so many books against Arminianism as if it is an insidious infection of the mind that opposes God’s will– and as such must be contained and eradicated?
According to their own theology are they not writing books against what the will of God has determined? Unfortunately questions like this ask far too much of the Calvinist. He is simply unwilling to think through his own beliefs in any way that would require him to deal honestly with its widespread logical implications.
With that said it is only fitting that I re-post an insightful humorous piece of satire by Ben Henshaw who takes Calvinists to task on their stubborn refusal to let their own theological pronouncements inform them of their logical conclusions. The original article can be found here.
Calvinist Prayer (and many other things) Explained
Application 1: God is sovereign. Prayer moves the hand of God. The Christian life is like being drawn and quartered. Therefore, don’t allow the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions to prevent immediate, glad-hearted obedience.
Application 2: God ordains means as well as ends. God is the Author. This is his story. We are his characters. Therefore, Be a faithful character in God’s story.*
Taken from a sermon by Joe Rigney defending the purpose of prayer in a world exhaustively pre-determined by eternal divine decree [you can find a link to it here].
Interesting that he calls on us to “be a faithful character in God’s story” as if we had any choice about what kind of character we will have or be in “God’s story”. Oh wait, I’ll bet that his saying “Be a faithful character in God’s story” is the ordained “means” for causing those God ordained to be “faithful character[s]” to be “faithful character[s]”. But what of those God ordained to be unfaithful? Is this message not for them? If not, shouldn’t we make that clear? If so, how can he call on those God ordained to be unfaithful to “be faithful” based, somehow, on the fact that this is God’s story and He is the author and we should “Therefore[???], Be a faithful character in God’s story”? If God has written that they be unfaithful, then who is he to tell them to act or “be” contrary to what the author has written for them to act or “be”?
Ahhh, but God has ordained him to say such seemingly nonsensical things because that is what God wrote him to say. And when I pray that God will help people see the absurdities of Calvinism and reject it, why would God write me to pray such things? I’m so confused. But hey, God wrote me to be confused. He ordained my confusion from eternity in such a way that I cannot possibly not be confused. He wrote that confusion for me. In fact, God wrote all of the confusion in this world and all of the contradictory opinions and all of the debates and disagreements between Christians on issues like these (despite Scripture saying that God is not the author of confusion, which is further confusing since God authored that He is not the author of confusion and also authored confusion of every kind). He authored our every thought, desire, and action, whether holy or wicked. He ordained our evil thoughts as well as the desire behind the evil thought, as well as any other “means” to our evil thoughts.
No doubt some Calvinists will have something to say about this and get a little mad at me, just as God authors them to do. But I hope that God will author them to remember that He authored me to say all of this and to find Calvinist prayer and explanations of Calvinist prayer, like this one, to be absurd and self-defeating. And I can’t help but wonder why God would cause one of His children to reject Calvinism and to reject explanations like the one by this good pastor as absurd. Why didn’t God write me to understand Calvinism and embrace it if it is true and the purest form of Christianity? No doubt Calvinists wonder such things as well. Maybe that is why they can so easily take the step that non-Calvinists are probably not regenerated or at the most sub-Christians. But then again, God wrote them to think such things just as He wrote me to think that Calvinism is unbiblical. Maybe I should just say “God ordains the means as well as the ends” and leave it at that. Yeah, that should answer things well enough.
In the comments section of Justin Taylor’s post “Arminian” gave the following appropriate response: “While God knowing everything is consistent with prayer, God planning everything in the Calvinistic sense of unconditionally decreeing it is not. Calvinism cannot account for the Bible’s portrayal of prayer as a cause of God’s answers to prayer because it holds that God unconditionally decides all that he wants to happen and then irresistibly causes it to come to pass, including the prayer that supposedly causes him to respond to it with action that grants the request. It would be like saying that with putting a sock puppet on your hand and having the puppet ask you to do something, that the request made by the sock puppet is a cause of you doing what you had the sock puppet ask you to do.”