“Take It Up with Paul”

, posted by mackenzie

On Tuesday, I got a Calvinist to say, essentially, “Who cares that God made you sin; he’s God and he does what he wants.” Those weren’t the exact words, but if you read on, you will see that it is the exact sentiment.

Context: For the first time ever, on Tuesday, I twittered it up. I tweeted the first tweet that ever I tweeted. And it was, predictably, on the subject of Calvinism. The official Twitter for the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA) got into a Twitter spat with Reformed Pubcast (RP). Looking at the debate, I realized there were some things I wanted to say. So, I revived my Twitter account that I had created back in 2012 (and never used once), and jumped into the fray.

The subject was on God’s eternal decrees and how human free will fits into that. @ArminianSociety was maintaining that if God eternally and irresistibly decrees that we do something, it is just plain silly to talk of us doing that thing “freely” or of our own will. @Reformedpubcast, of course, was having none of it. And thus was born my first tweet ever:

God irresistibly ordains desires, acts disappointed when we follow them, then damns us for it. Calvinism!

Honestly, I’m pretty proud of it. I like it. It’s succinct, it’s accurate, and I believe the worst that any Calvinist could do about it is quibble about “acting disappointed”… they would have to say that yes, God did irresistibly decree for us to sin and that from the beginning of creation he meant for us to sin in precisely that way, but he is still, in some sense, “disappointed” that we followed the decree that he irresistibly set for us.

Predictably, that got no reaction, save a “like” and retweet from SEA. But a few minutes later, another opportunity presented itself. RP steadfastly maintained that “we do what we want most,” and that, because we’re following our desires, we are culpable for our sins (even though God is the one who irresistibly determined those desires). So I tweeted again:

Be right back, I meticulously conditioned my son to disobey me, now I gotta go punish him for it. Justice!

Again, I like this tweet. I think it is completely 100% accurate in Calvinism. I do not think that any honest Calvinist, taking into account the doctrine of meticulous providence and that God ordained the Fall and our sinful actions from the very beginning of creation, could find fault with the facts conveyed by the tweet. Still, RP’s reaction did surprise me — and this is where it gets really interesting.

Note that RP did not tweet, “Calvinists don’t believe that.”

RP did not say, “You’re misrepresenting our beliefs.”

RP didn’t say anything of the sort. Instead, RP tweeted back, “Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ — Romans 9:20 // Take it up with Paul.”

So I say to RP, in essence, “In Calvinist doctrine, God conditions us to sin and then punishes us for doing what he conditioned us to do.”

And instead of disputing any of that, RP merely responds, “Take it up with Paul.” RP grants the premise; RP merely maintains that it is a biblical stance.

And you know what? I could actually almost respect that … if it weren’t for one thing. Does it strike anyone else as pretty dishonest when RP spent so long talking about our freedom, and how it really does matter that we choose to sin, and how our culpability is found in following our desires when none of that really matters, and “God made you do it but he can do that because he’s God” really is the heart of the argument? Isn’t that pretty dishonest? That’s how it strikes me. This is at the core of Calvinism, but it’s an ugly, ugly core, so they do their darndest to lead people away from it with detours and shallow arguments that even they have to abandon when pressed. How is this anything less than intentional deception? When you pretend to care about human freedom, but you know that your theology is perfectly fine with getting rid of it and replacing it with “God conditioned you to sin and you’re guilty for following that conditioning”? That’s why i can’t respect his admission at the end; it’s because it was preceded by nigh-endless double-talk and obfuscation.

Oh, and by the way, this is an unbelievably easy claim to refute. All you have to do is look at the context, which  is 100% in favor of the Arminian interpretation (which, by the way, is why no aspect of determinism or unconditional election surfaced for the first three hundred years of the Church). All you have to do is look at where Paul is pulling from, Jeremiah 18:6-10, and see where else Paul used vessel language, cf. 2 Timothy 2:21, and it’s easy to see that this passage has nothing to do with Calvinism or unconditional individual election.

Anyway, that was a fun venture into the land of tweets. It’s not every day you’ll get a Calvinist to flat out admit that God makes people sin, but then say, “Take it up with Paul.” It was a good day!

For further reading, noting how the biblical authors espouse libertarian freedom and not exhaustive, divine determinism, consider the following:

Saving God from Philosophical Determinism” by David L. Hatton
The Dilemma of Theistic Determinism” by Günther H. Juncker
Can God Handle Sin Sinlessly? Determinism and the Relationship between God and Evil” by Denny Kuhn
A Denial of Theological Determinism” by J.W. Wartick
Why Determinism Should Not Be Embraced” by John H. Conway

Original Post at Imperfect Reflections, where comments can be made.