An Arminian Response to C. Michael Patton’s “The Irrationality of Calvinism” Part 3: False Assumptions and Question Begging

, posted by Ben Henshaw

Part 3: False Assumptions and Question Begging

Patton: Therefore, [according to Arminianism] God’s predestination of people is “fair” and makes sense. After all, there are too many questions left unanswered when one says that God chooses who will be saved and who will not. Why did he choose some and not others? Did God make people to go to hell? Is God fair? “Why does he still find fault, for who resists his will?”

The Arminian chooses this position because, for them, it is the only way to reconcile human freedom and God’s election.

Here is where Mr. Patton really missteps.  First, Patton assumes that the Calvinist view is the Biblical view.  This assumption is essential for his further argument regarding why Arminians hold to Arminianism and reject Calvinism.  Since he assumes the Calvinist view is the Biblical view, he assumes the only reason an Arminian would have for rejecting that view would be a matter of desiring fairness, answers to questions Calvinism can’t answer, emotional reasons, or a need for consistency.

But what if Calvinism is not the Biblical view?  In that case, none of this would follow.  Even if it is the Biblical view, none of this necessarily follows.  Arminians might reject the Calvinist view simply because they do not find it Biblical! Why should they be called on to accept Calvinism just because Calvinists think it is so Biblical?  And why should they be thought to reject it for the reasons Patton describes, if it can simply be the case that they do not think the Calvinist interpretation of Scripture is correct?  Mr. Patton’s assumptions are rooted in blatant question begging, in assuming that since Calvinism is so obviously Biblical, one can only have non-Biblical reasons for rejecting it.

Patton: Both [human freedom and God’s election] are clearly taught in Scripture.

Amen!  They are indeed, and there is no “tension” there, because Biblical election is not Calvinist election!  So the problem of “tension” is a Calvinist problem, and not a Biblical problem, unless it can be proven that Calvinism is entirely Biblical, which is the very issue in dispute between Calvinists and Arminians.

Patton: Therefore, in order to have a reasonable and consistent theology, one or the other must be altered.

Again, here is where Mr. Patton’s argument against non-Calvinists entirely breaks down.  Arminians don’t need to alter freedom or election since Arminians are convinced that the Bible does not teach Calvinist unconditional election.  Patton assumes that the Arminian starts with an assumption and then “alters” what the Bible teaches in order to get the Bible to fit that assumption and remain “reasonable and consistent.”  But on what basis can Patton make such an assumption?  On the basis of his “assumption” that Calvinist election is Biblical election.  But again, that is the very issue in dispute! I pointed this out to Patton in a comment in a similar post he wrote called “Why Calvinism is the Least Rational Option.”  (I corrected some typos to make it more readable)

Mr. Patton,

Just a few quick comments with regards to two of your statements:

In the end, my argument is that the Arminian tradition attempts to reconcile tensions that are best left in tact for the sake of a rational understanding.

and…

This post is primarily focused on the issue of unconditional election. This concept creates too much tension for the Arminian.

I can only speak for myself but I do not reject unconditional election because it creates too much tension for me. I reject unconditional election because I do not see it in Scripture. I don’t see the need to reconcile tensions that do not exist in the Bible. Now you may say they exist but that brings us back to a matter of exegesis and interpretation.

I also reject Calvinism because I see so many Scriptures that seem to plainly contradict it as a system. And I do mean contradict (I am not referring to creating “tension”).

Now it seems that you became a Calvinist because you found some tensions in the Bible that you could not resolve without becoming a Calvinist but then you also affirm that you see Calvinism as superior because it holds to so many tensions. Strange.

Anyway, I am fine with you being a Calvinist but I get a little frustrated when Calvinists tell me why I hold to Arminianism and it seems that the two statements above get quite close to that. You are welcome to your tensions and you are welcome to see them as evidence for the truthfulness of your system but I think it is pushing it to tell Arminians that they are Arminians because certain concepts “create too much tension” for them, etc.

You can see my full comments here.  Unfortunately, Mr. Patton did not really interact with my comments at all.  He  did make some general comments that might have partially been in response to me here.  I left some follow-up comments here.

Therefore, it is not a matter of Arminianism not “allowing” inconsistencies and Calvinism “allowing” them (which apparently appeals to Mr. Patton).  Rather, Arminianism simply does not “create” the same tensions that Calvinism does.  Arminianism doesn’t need to “allow” for inconsistencies that are foreign to Arminianism (i.e., since they are foreign to how the Arminian understands and interprets the Bible).  Only Calvinism needs to do that. So it is inaccurate and question begging to paint Arminianism as a system that “cannot allow” inconsistencies, simply because it does not interpret the Bible in the same way as the Calvinist.  This is also an easily reversible argument (as we shall see in Part 4).

Patton: However, the Calvinist is not satisfied with a redefining of God’s election to make it fit.

Could the question begging be any more blatant than this?  Patton assumes the Calvinist definition of election is correct, and then says that Arminians “redefine” it to “make it fit.”  But that is not the case.  The Arminian does not see Calvinist unconditional election in Scripture, and therefore has no need to make anything “fit.”  As I said to Mr. Patton in the comments quoted above, “I don’t see the need to reconcile tensions that do not exist in the Bible.”

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