Coords, Richard, “Emotions”

, posted by Martin Glynn

According to Calvinism, God decreed whatsoever comes to pass. Such belief in exhaustive determinism has then led to the longstanding objections made against Calvinism in that God’s emotions would no longer make any sense if He unilaterally causes everything that happens:

  • Why marvel over people’s faith if God (according to Calvinism) flipped a regeneration-switch and unilaterally caused it? Matthew 8:10 states: “Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.’”
  • Why the tears of Jesus over Israel’s rejection of God if God (according to Calvinism) never intended for them to respond in larger numbers? Luke 19:41 states: “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it.”
  • Why plead with people whom Jesus says are not His sheep if God (according to Calvinism) made it so that they can never be saved? John 10:37-38 states concerning those whom Jesus just said in v.26 were not His sheep: “‘If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.’”

In other words, if God has already exhaustively determined, fixed, scripted and meticulously decreed whatsoever comes to pass, then what are these emotions all about? For some Calvinists, this is explained by invoking a Revealed Will vs. Secret Will, in which a Revealed Will signifies an anthropomorphism for expressing various divine attributes. The problem in alleging that God condescends to humanity with a Revealed Will naturally erodes divine authenticity. More commonly, Calvinists will cite divine omniscience as a set up for a You Too Fallacy. The way it works is by suggesting that your criticism of an opponent also affects you as well (i.e. You Too!110), and so you’re told to drop the whole argument altogether in order to prevent hurting both sides. Proponents of this technique enjoy the advantage of never having to explain anything.

What do Calvinists believe?

“You do affirm that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all events, and so that then raises the question as to whether some of these objections are not valid against both of us, that is, if God chose to create the universe that He created, and at the time of creation, He knew exactly what was going to happen, then we either have to believe that He had a purpose in everything happening, or He just simply gave this concept of freedom and sort of rolled the cosmic dice and said, ‘Ah, I win at the end,’ but if He created this particular universe with all the events in it, then the question as to why He does that is a question that really any Christian theist has to answer.”111

 Our reply:

The underlying fallacy of this argument is a non-existent common ground. In other words, although both sides believe in divine omniscience in which God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all events, both sides do not share the same foundational understanding behind it. For instance, with Calvinists, exhaustive omniscience is only made possible by exhaustive determinism, whereas with non-Calvinists, God doesn’t need to cause something in order to have advance knowledge of it. In other words, from the non-Calvinist perspective, just because God knows something is going to happen, doesn’t make Him the One causing it.

As an analogy, consider an encounter about a friend (who we will call “Dave”) who tells me about another friend (who we will call “Jimmy”) who is pressuring him to lend him a thousand dollars which he promises to quickly return. I try to convince Dave not to lend the money to Jimmy because I overheard that Jimmy has no intention of ever paying it back, but intends to take it and skip town. Unfortunately, I knew that Dave wouldn’t listen to me and he ended up lending the money to Jimmy, who of course does exactly what I forewarned. Now, I may grieve with Dave over the loss of his hard-earned money—with total authenticity and without the slightest contradiction on my part—because despite my advance knowledge over the matter, I neither caused Jimmy’s dishonesty nor Dave’s naivety. Each made their own choices which I did not cause, and that’s precisely why Calvinists and non-Calvinists are not in the same boat.

In summary, Jesus marvels over people’s faith (which He knew would happen since God knows what is in the heart of man) but they self[1]determined their own choices, which alternatively means that they could have negatively chosen against believing, instead. Jesus laments people’s unbelief (which He knew would happen because He knows the heart of man) but they didn’t have to, as they alternatively could have done the opposite, like the other people just mentioned who acted positively in faith, instead. Jesus persuades the lost (knowing the ultimate outcome of their choices) but the certainty of His knowledge does not make their choices necessary, meaning that they could have chosen something different and if they had, then God’s knowledge would reflect whatever else they chose. As a result, only non-Calvinists can demonstrate Jesus’ displayed emotions as being truly genuine and authentic, whereas with Calvinism’s eternally fixed decree, you’d have God playing both sides of the chessboard, marveling at each other’s moves that God Himself would be causing.


110 Leighton Flowers, You Too!

111 James White, Day 1 – Arminianism (Dr. Michael Brown) vs Calvinism (Dr. James White), 15:39-16:21: