We’ve seen it coming for a while now. With the entrance of Mitt Romney into the 2008 presidential election, the subject of Mormonism would be front and center. But, given the mind-set of Secular America (might as well capitalize it: it’s the official religion of the nation), I for one expected exactly what we are getting. First, anyone who dares assert that there is truth in the area of religion (resulting in the logical necessity of the existence of error in religion) will be laughed to scorn before two sentences can be uttered. Our society has a 3 second timer built into its thinking when it comes to someone trying to make a theological assertion in public dialogue. Only in “Christian” media will there be any willingness for a serious discussion of the teachings of Mormonism, and even then, there will be resistance to the promulgation of any firm conclusions. For secularists, Mormons are Christians, period, end of discussion, move on.
But on the second front, the theological ignorance of Christians, joined with the widespread incapacity to express theological postions succinctly and with clarity, results in this kind of embarrassing result:
Was anything accomplished here? Outside of mockery of the entire idea that Mormonism does, in fact, present a false God, Christ, and gospel, not really. Political town-halls are not the venue for a discussion of the fundamentally non-Christian nature of the LDS Church. That will require sober, sound, accurate discussion by individual believers in the market place of ideas, and, of course, that first requires a solid grasp on the necessity and importance of biblical monotheism to all of the Christian faith. And given the willingness of many post-evangelicals to throw the Trinity under the bus as an irrelevant dogma of the past anyway (witness the continued popularity of Phillips, Craig and Dean on your local “Christian” station), I’m not overly optimistic about the over-all conversation we will be enduring for the next number of months. Of course, no matter how badly that goes in the over-all culture, you and I as believers are responsible to glorify our Lord in the matter all the same.
Moving onward, Paul Owen seems an utter glutton for punishment. Having failed to interact with anything written in refutation of his own writings last week, he seems incapable of removing my blog from his URL list, but must keep coming back to take shots at “Calvinists” and continue his campaign against those things he once pretended to believe. I posted a clip from my debate with John Sanders (a scholar who openly professes the name “Arminian”) wherein we discussed Genesis 50:20. How shocking to find Owen writing the following yesterday:
Does Genesis 50:20 Prove Calvinism?
You sometimes hear Calvinists confidently assert that Genesis 50:20 proves their deterministic and compatibilist position. Leaving aside the fact that philosophical determinism is not even necessitated by the Calvinistic system, this method of proof-texting against Arminian libertarianism is deeply flawed.
Owen’s MO remains consistent: straw-man argumentation looks good to your cadre of followers. Has anyone ever said Genesis 50:20 proves Calvinism? I sure haven’t heard anyone say that. I have often said the only consistent reading of the text proves that there is a biblically mandated compatibilism between God’s sovereign decree and the wills and desires of men, and that this compatibilism does not either make God the author of sin nor does it remove the grounds of man’s culpability. That is not the same thing as proving all of Calvinism. The point of the text, despite the Herculean efforts of proponents of libertarianism, remains clear and obvious: God intended to save many people alive. It was His purpose to work the redemption of Israel so that it involved the destruction of the gods of Egypt, the Exodus, Passover, etc. The deliverance of Joseph into his brother’s hands, then into Egypt, his exaltation to the pinnacle of power, etc., was all a part of God’s decree. This was not “plan B” or anything else. God had His intentions in the matter, man had his. God’s intentions were holy, man’s intentions were evil. Just that simple.
Now you can see below how Dr. Sanders responded to the text. But Owen, the pretended Calvinist, cannot pass by an opportunity to attack Calvinism at its root, so he only demonstrates his ignorance of Sanders’ writings and of those of the leading Open theists in general, in his first comments. But I wanted to especially note this assertion:
3. In any case, the verse does not even go so far as to say that God either made it certain, or causally determined it to be the case, that Joseph’s brothers would sell him into slavery. Just because God intended the brothers to do what they did, and it turned out in this instance that they did so, does not automatically prove that they could not have done otherwise. It would only need be the case that in this instance, Joseph’s brothers did what God wanted them to do (to serve a higher purpose). It might also have been the case that Joseph’s brothers had refused to sell him into slavery; in which case, God would have had to bring Joseph to power in Egypt through some other means.
Think about this assertion for a moment. “Just because God intended the brothers to do what they did, and it turned out in this instance that they did so, does not automatically prove that they could not have done otherwise.” Forget for a moment that the man making this statement often reminds us of his great academic accomplishments and prowess. What is missing here? Yes, anyone reading the text can see the following: “in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” God’s intentions had a purpose, a divine purpose, in fact, a purpose defined by His decree. God did what He did because He purposed to preserve many people alive. Just as the famine was a part of His decree, so too was the means by which He would preserve His people through it. The theocentric thrust of the text, let alone the entirety of the biblical message, is lost on our pseudo-Calvinist scholar. If God had a purpose, then the means by which He would accomplish it is no more left to chance than saying the cross was the chance means by which God somehow managed to provide salvation. That is indeed the frightening conclusion of Open Theism: God is always adjusting His path, changing His plans, altering His course, in response to the awesome power of the actions of “free creatures.” But it is not even a slightly possible interpretation of this divine text of Scripture. Owen’s reading is utterly a-contextual, and there is a reason for it. It comes out in the really important assertion he makes following this one:
4. Now I happen to read this passage as a Calvinist. I take it to mean that God, who foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, foreordained to permit this sin of Joseph’s brothers, in order ultimately to bring Joseph to power in Egypt and save many lives. But I read the text that way because of the way I understand the broader biblical and theological landscape, not because this text on its own really proves much of anything one way or t’other.
Please see what is being said here. Listen carefully and realize that, by sleight of hand, Owen has promoted his campaign not only against Calvinism but against the faith as a whole. How so? If you accept the mindset revealed here, you have to conclude that Scripture really does not communicate any kind of divine truth that is discernable across societal, linguistic, or cultural barriers. It’s all a matter of your “lens,” your perspective, your tradition, and isn’t that the primary argument of all of those attacking sola scriptura today? It most surely is. There is nothing in the text that would allow for the “alternative” reading Owen mentioned above. Neither Joseph, nor his brothers, would have ever conceived of such a view of God wildly running about trying to save His plans in light of the awesome sovereignty of sinful creatures. But what we are being told is that divine truth is subject to our traditions, our “ways of reading,” and of course, we get to choose those “ways of reading” anyway. This is the voice of faithless academia, where every “reading” must be given equal validity with all others. And it is the very reason you so rarely hear vibrant, passionate, convinced proclamation on the part of those whose faith has been compromised at such a fundamental level.
Ironically, Greg Stafford has echoed Owen’s own words in a recent article he has posted attempting to refute the very same texts that teach that God’s eternal decree and man’s will are compatible truths. Since Stafford first addresses Isaiah 10 before coming to Genesis 50, it will take more space and time to respond to his attempt to read the Bible through the lens of the Watchtower. It is interesting to note that Stafford has come up with his own acronym in opposition to the TULIP of Calvinism, “OASIS.” As someone in my chat channel noted earlier, “the problem with an oasis is that it often turns out to be a mirage.” Quite true.
Finally, a very interesting video link from the UK.