Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Of Squeamish Calvinists and Hyper-Arminians
03/18/2009 - James White
"Unless you impute human-like irrationality to God, I will call you names." This seems to be the attitude of many squeamish Calvinists on the net these days. Unless you are willing to drag God down to the level of a flummoxed suitor, who is torn between contradictory desires, you will be called to repent and labeled with terms meant only to damage your ministry, nothing more.
Those who have not been on the frontlines find it amenable to sit in their comfy computer chairs and opine away at the keyboard. They know they will never be called upon to present a consistent defense of the faith, especially in the face of competing world religions. So they have little concern about the use of words like "tension" and "mystery," which are so often used to do little more than cover over contradiction and irrationality. Some actually think they are giving a meaningful apologetic when they openly confess the contradictions in their proclamation.
There is everything right in pointing out that God is God and is under no obligation to explain Himself beyond what He feels is appropriate, right, and self-glorifying. Man has no grounds upon which to demand further explanation than God in His sovereign power and grace deigns to give. But it is quite another to take the revelation He hasgiven and turn it on its head, forcing it into self-contradictory and absurd stances. And to what end?
It seems many modern Calvinists are very squeamish about God being...a big meanie. The post-modern dedication to servile fear of the Horriblus Maximus of the offended man has propelled many into the realm of "God editing" so as to avoid that great cultural heresy. We need a God who is sufficiently like us that He can be as double-minded and bemused as we often are. Never mind His eternal existence outside of time, His imperturbable majesty, His solitary sufficiency. We need to insist that God has freely and inalterably decreed that which completely bums Him out. God has issues. He's conflicted. He has decreed to glorify Himself in the salvation of a peculiar people. He has chosen to glorify Himself in the just punishment of sinners, and He has even chosen to glorify Himself through the patient and gracious withholding of punishment of those sinners, replete with gifts of joy and happiness even in their rebellion, all to demonstrate His justice and mans unyielding rebellion. But since we as creatures cannot even begin to imagine such eternal consistency, such transcendent purpose, we get nervous. Such a God, being so...different, is in danger of offending the creature, man, and that simply is not going to be allowed. If one is going to dare to assert that God possesses a divine and eternal decree, one needs to soften that decree with some conflict, some issues, some doubt on God's part.
"Yes, God has chosen a particular people...."
"What? Thats not fair! What about all the other innocent people!"
"Well, they arent really innocent, but anyway...."
"But, God has to love everyone the same, you see, or I will be offended and will refuse to express warm fuzzies His direction!"
"OK, well, you see, God is actually conflicted about this eternal decree thing. He would like to save everyone, and really, really wants to, and will be eternally bummed that He didn't, and will often regret His actions, but He's in a tough spot. See, there's this idea of the demonstration of cosmic justice and all...."
"Oh! Well, if He is conflicted and is sort of acting against His own desires, much like I often have to do, then thats good. I like a God I can relate to."
Ah, wonderful! And all is well.
Now, if you dare to question this perspective, the response will be swift, and predictable. The reply will not be based upon providing sound biblical exegesis that overwhelms you with evidence that God is, in fact, deeply conflicted, and has been, eternally. It is hard to come up with that kind of idea from the descriptions of the Triune Yahweh in the Bible. Oh, sure, there are a few anthropomorphisms that can be shared gleefully with the open theists and the inclusivists and the universalists, etc., but you won't be in any danger of getting hit with a ton of sound exegesis on all the passages that plainly state that God is pursuing an eternal purpose that will result in His own singular glory. No,the retort you will receive will have little to do with exegesis, and everything to do with monikers. Nick-names. Associations.
Want a modern example? Consider Robert Reymond, a fine theologian, teacher, and godly man. Hyper-Calvinist! is the cry when he dares to point out the absurdity of attributing to God a self-imposed internal conflict that results, inevitably, in His own eternal unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. If you ask, "But, how do you respond to his actual argument?" you get back, "Hyper-Calvinist!" Evidently the very harshness of the phrase (especially its association with various and sundry nutcases on the Internet) is meant to stun your thought processes and cause you to curl up in the theological fetal position. You are to immediately run for cover, or join the growing throng that is gathering wood and fire to rid the earth of such a vile creature. The idea that the phrase has historical meaning is not in the forefront. The fact that it had a meaning in Spurgeon's England that is different in many respects from modern day America is likewise cast to the wind. No, once the Hyper epithet has been used, you might as well try naming your kid Hitler and get away with it. The argument is over.
What has this mini-Reformed-jihad gotten us? Well, thanks to these folks most are afraid to even admit to owning a single volume of John Gill's works. Heres how the conversation goes.
"Well, I noted that on that particular text relating to the resurrection John Gill said...."
"JOHN GILL!!?? You're a hyper-Calvinist!"
"What? I was talking about his comments on the resurrection."
"But he was a hyper-Calvinist, and every person who has ever read a word he wrote is a hyper-Calvinist, and every person with one of his books in their library is a hyper-Calvinist, and every person who has ever owned a John Gill book believes and lives and thinks exactly like John Gill, and is therefore a hyper-Calvinist. And to agree with anything John Gill ever said is to prove, beyond all dispute and argument, that you are a hyper-Calvinist!"
"But...John Gill masterfully defended such things at the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the resurrection...."
"I can't believe you are a hyper-Calvinist! I had so much respect for you before!"
About the only positive thing I can see that has come from the SC movement (Squeamish Calvinists) has been the sale of plain book covers---used to hide The Cause of God and Truth so that you don't offend them when they are scanning your library shelves for evidence of unorthodoxy. But the general fear that exists in those writing for the Reformed community at running afoul of one of these self-appointed label-makers is most lamentable. If you dare disagree with the comments of Spurgeon or Murray (never mind being able to fairly, soundly cite others who have done the same) your reasons for doing so will not matter. Labels defy reason, they defy argument, they defy consistency. Allow me to throw myself upon the sacrificial pyre in hopes of edifying the reader....
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The Potter's Freedom: 2nd Edition
03/11/2009 - James WhiteI am exciting to announce that we now have the second edition of The Potter's Freedom in stock. The text has not changed: instead, I have added a new foreword and two appendices including my response to Geisler's attempted reply to the book, along with materials on 2 Peter 2:1 and 1 Timothy 4:10, for a total of thirty-two additional pages. Check it out in our bookstore!
Also, just for those wondering, I was informed by Bethany House that their expected release date for the second edition of The King James Only Controversy is April 15th. I would prefer the 14th! Or the 16th.