Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Do Not Even Understand This Stuff !!??

I received three more books in the mail today supporting Calvinism and ordered one more. The three I added to my Calvinistic library were  
  • Letters to a Young Calvinist by Smith,  
  • Young, Restless, Reformed by Hansen 
  • a new book suggested by Arminian Roger Olson, Ten Myths About Calvinism by Stewart. 
My bibliography for my current research now stands at 45 books about Calvinism, not counting commentaries, histories and exegetical study tools.

Today I began reading Craig R. Brown's book entitled The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism. It is a small, short book (126 pages) that explains the great dilemmas that challenge the logic and legitimacy of the Calvinistic doctrine. As I read through page after page of pro-Calvinistic theology and book after book by Calvinistic authors I keep running over these theological speed bumps that soon become concrete barriers. About the time I start thinking in agreement with these Calvinistic writers I suddenly find myself reading something that makes me think, "Whoa, how did they reach this conclusion?" or "What? That isn't even a logical thought progression!" In fact, I just read something in Brown's book that caused me to want to stop and write this blog.

In chapter 3 (pages 43-53) Brown is answering the Calvinistic dilemma that concerns man's responsibility in a world that is totally controlled by a sovereign God. The dilemma is "how can man be held accountable for what he does" if God is causing everything man does. (Even as I write this I am thinking how ridiculous the concept is, but, even so, it is an issue the Calvinist repeatedly want to claim, defend, and give God all the glory for it.) Brown writes:
God is sovereign and man is able to make choices for which he is responsible.
What does Brown mean when he says "God is sovereign?
He (God) determines everything that is going to happen." (p.45)
Brown claims that this "so-called contradiction... is one of the fundamental truths of the Reformed faith." He also calls it "one of the highest mysteries of the Scriptures."

Brown makes these statements:
He (God) works behind the scenes from the beginning of time to plan and initiate everything that happens.
If you decide right now to shut this book because you do not like what you are reading, you will be doing so of your own free will. No one will be forcing you to do it. Yet if you do it , it will be because God predetermined that you would.
 "Predetermined" that I would read this book? "Predetermined" that I would write this blog? "Predetermined" that I would ____________? The dictionary definition of "predetermine" is:
  1. set in advance; a preset plan of action; at a predetermined time
  2. fated, preordained, meant, doomed, foreordained 
  3. prearranged, set, agreed, set up, fixed
  4. determined in advance; to decide something in advance
Do not confuse "foreknowledge" with "predetermination." Foreknowledge means to be aware of something before it happens or exists. Predetermination means to set something up in advance. It means God meant for it to happen. It means God prearranged it. He set it up. He fixed it. God determined or decided in advance that something should and would happen. Brown is saying that God predetermined in advance everything that has, is and will ever happen in the history of man!! Again, Brown says on page 45 that God "determines everything that is going to happen!" 

At times I agree with Brown, for example, when he says:
Human freedom is real, but it is everywhere limited by God's freedom.
But, then he goes off on one of those mystical Calvinistic "glory be to God" utterances that leaves me needing the gift of interpretation to unravel this ecstatic statement of illogical praise:
God is much greater than we can possibly imagine. A deity so powerful that He can allow His creatures to make free choices, yet determine from the foundation of time what those choices will be, leaves us in total awe. This truth should make us want to fall on our knees in total praise and submission to Him.
I am sorry. But, "a deity so powerful" that my "free choices" have been determined "from the foundation of time" does not leave me "in total awe."  It leaves me thinking, "What the...?" It leaves me confused. It leaves me thinking, "I have no clue what is going on concerning reality, scripture, theology or God."

Is it even logical to say God "can allow His creatures to make free choices, yet determine from the foundation of time what those choices will be." Is this not the same thing as saying God can make a square with only three sides? This has nothing to do with the power of God, the sovereignty of God or the praise of God. This is a twisted reality. This is a mockery of God's character and God's created universe.

And then, as I read Brown's closing statements in this chapter I write in the margin of his book beside the paragraph quoted below, "I do not even understand this...":
At the same time, this truth should bring tears of thankfulness to our eyes. It is nearly incomprehensible that a God this powerful loved you and me enough not only to choose us from the beginning of time, but also to work all things together for our good. Only an all-powerful God could do this. 
How can we speak of God's love when multitudes are in hell because God predetermined it? How can we rejoice in God's love for us when it is based on a system the world calls fate? How can I, with a straight face, teach that individuals, churches, societies and nations will be held accountable to God in time and in eternity if their behavior is predetermined? It is not because the Calvinistic concept is so glorious that it is "incomprehensible," but because it is so filled with contradictions and so void of reality that it is "incomprehensible".

I am trying, but I do not even understand this stuff!

Galyn Wiemers
Generation Word