Homepro-life philosophyThe glory of God’s sovereign love


The glory of God’s sovereign love — 10 Comments

  1. Who defines love; God or man? “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” Rom. 13:10 Some claim to holier than God and outlaw the death penalty in the name of mercy. If there is one thing that is outside the sovereignty of God, then God isn’t God. As J. Calvin said, “Lord, thy hand is heavy upon me, yet I thank thee that it is thy hand and not another.”
    Humanism says, ‘I am god, therefore I define my ethics, morality and ultimately, my destiny.’

  2. God Himself defines love for us. We read His definition in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

    Verse 5 is rendered this way in the NLT translation: “It does not demand its own way.” This seems like the best way to understand this phrase, considering the meaning of the word ζητέω (“require” or “demand”) which some translations render “seek” here.

    So if God Himself defines love, and if He says that He Himself “is” love (1 John 4:8), and if love does not demand its own way, who are we to say that this love as He defines it doesn’t fit with our definition of who God is?

    If our definitions don’t match what the Bible says, God isn’t the one who is wrong. We are.

    If you really believe that “If there is one thing that is outside the sovereignty of God, then God isn’t God,” then there is much of the Bible you would need to throw out! God Himself chooses to surrender His sovereignty in certain situations, while ultimately ensuring sovereignly that everything will work together for good (and His glory) according to His plan.

    Clearly there are many situations throughout scripture where God tells us that He did not ordain specific things which happened. For example:

    “And they built the high places of Baal, which [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through [the fire] unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” (Jeremiah 32:35)

    We see this key character attribute of God modeled in Jesus, as He “emptied” Himself (κενόω, Philippians 2:7) in the Incarnation.

    Do we really believe God’s Word, or only when it fits with our preconceived ideas of who God is? His ways are above our ways!

    Yes, God is sovereign, but He is no Dictator. He certainly could be if He wanted to be, but He chooses not to be!

    It seems to me that there are a lot of “humanists” parading as Christians out there who think they know better than God and His Word! Clearly God gives us a choice, telling us to choose the right path, but not forcing His will upon us.

  3. Tim, very deep stuff. Took me a while to read and understand. I am not qualified to wade into such deep theological waters at this time. But I do agree with a great deal you had to say especially “Glorify Jesus.” God is love, he does not just love others or do loving things. He is the Personification of Love.
    In Him, your friend,

  4. Hello. It is always an encouragement to see a family who is so passionate about their faith in Jesus. However, I’m sorry to see that you have misunderstood, mischaracterized and missed out on the beauty of the doctrines of grace as taught in scripture. It is a silly thing to point out that TULIP isn’t enumerated in the bible. The word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the bible either, but that is a central Christian doctrine that is ESSENTIAL to the faith. Before that you erroneously says that Calvinists reject John 3:16, but that is completely false, we just reject the eisegesis and poor hermeneutic applied to it by semi-pelagians. You go as far as to declare that Calvinism is satanic! You then provides a random (your word) list of scriptures out of context to make your point denying God’s holiness as if He is loving only but you don’t bother to exegete John 6:37-44, Romans 8-9, Ephesians 1:2-11. No handling of the texts themselves that are the primary sources on the subject of God’s sovereignty in salvation. It is a pure appeal to tradition, no intellectual rigor. You clearly love the Lord, so it is sad to see that you are missing out on the joy of assurance in God’s absolute sovereignty over his creation. If you would like a fair-minded representation of the doctrines of grace as found in scripture, I recommend that you view the outline provided here: http://bit.ly/r6WW6g Thanks for your time and I hope I haven’t been personally offensive, it is not my intention. I just believe that if you are going to call a comprehensive doctrine like those lumped under the name “Calvinism” satanic or false, you had better be a lot more rigorous about what the best the other side has to say have brought to the table, including the word of God that I mentioned before. God bless.

  5. Good evening Mr. Palmquist, I would like to respond to your blog entry. It is a rather lengthy response, so I ask that you bear with me as I try to go through several parts of your entry.

    “But could I see God in His sovereignty ordaining all of history, from beginning to end, ordaining every sin, every evil, all because in the end it resulted in bringing Him more “glory”?”

    Emotional argument, not Scriptural. “Could I see God in His sovereignty ordaining all of history, from beginning to end”? Have you read Isaiah 46:9-10? “Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; [I am]God, and no one is like Me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will” (HCSB). If God does not ordain all of history, how is it that He can declare “from long ago what is not yet done”? If He declares all that is not yet come, and if His “plan will take place,” and He will do His will, does not it logically follow that all things ultimately function for His glory? Both good and evil?
    Could evil have existed apart from God’s decree? (unless you’re an open theist and will grant creative power to something outside of God). What was Joseph’s reply to his brothers’ evil? “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (Genesis 50:20, HCSB). You will have to grant that the verse (and the context) clearly indicates God’s actually planning evil for His glory. Would not this fit with your desire for life to be preserved? After all, in this case, God’s planning evil actually ended up saving people’s lives. What if God had not planned the evil of Joseph’s brothers? How would the people of Israel have ended up becoming the slaves of Egypt? (which, by the way, was also ordained by God long before it happened and declared to Abraham long before Joseph even existed. Many Israelites died because of this slavery. According to your argumentation, if you were Abraham, you would have had to raise your fist against God and say “Now I see what satanic and twisted view is responsible for this disgrace, curse you God! I will have nothing with a God who is declaring to me such suffering!”).

    “There is no room for evil in God’s “good.”…. “Was the sin of Adam and Eve part of God’s plan?” I asked my Calvinist friends. The response came without hesitation. “Yes, because it brought Him more glory in the end, because it made it possible for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.”
    So God took this perfect, innocent, man and woman and subjected them to the serpent’s deception, all because it brought him more “glory”? That thought made me sick! To me this belief is, by its very definition, satanic, because it involvedGod handing over His own precious, innocent children to Satan. As a father, I just could not imagine doing that to my own children.”
    “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, KJV).
    If there is no room for evil in God’s “good,” why did the Father decree that the Son would be slain from before the foundation of the world for sinners?
    Unless you’re an open theist and believe that God is not omniscient and that He is not omnipotent (if God did not decree evil then it came about by itself or was created by something or someone else. Does anyone apart from God have the power of creation or decree of the future?), then I can see how you would think that way. But the problem (for you) still remains: the Father decreed to crush His own Son to display His glory and bring sinners to His feet for forgiveness and praise of His name (by the way, according to your argumentation, you would have to be repulsed at that as well) before time began, before He created anything and everything, even before Adam and Eve existed.

    “So God took this perfect, innocent, man and woman and subjected them to the serpent’s deception, all because it brought him more “glory”? That thought made me sick! To me this belief is, by its very definition, satanic, because it involvedGod handing over His own precious, innocent children to Satan. As a father, I just could not imagine doing that to my own children.”
    You give too much praise and credit to Adam and Eve. Firstly, they were creatures, and by definition they owed their everything to God: their “perfection,” and their “innocence,” belonged to God. Adam acted according to his desires, no one “forced” him to transgress against God’s law. At the same time, however, the plan of redemption was already set (Revelation 13:8), before Adam and Eve existed, so they were not even given a chance. After all, why, according to your argumentation, would you need the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world if Adam and Eve were perfect?

    “As a father, I gain joy by seeing my children’s creativity, and especially by seeing them willingly obey me. If I must force them to obey, virtually all of the joy vanishes (though as a father, it is sometimes necessary for me to claim such “sovereignty” over my children). That means that they are often put into a position where they can choose not only to obey me, but they can also choose to disobey me. The possibility of rebellion is unavoidable. But without that possibility, there is no joy. There is no glory.”
    I will grant you that there are some parallels we can draw between human parent-son relationships and God-man relationship. However, you forget one very important fact in your analogy: both you and your children are sinners, whereas God is not a sinner, for He cannot sin, it is against His nature. With that said, Calvinism never denies that men have a will (you seem to be arguing that Calvinism denies man all will, but you fail to define the nature of that will in the post lapsarian era (after the Flood), we must define our terms when making conclusions). You give too much credit to man, and you seem also to be using the old “Robot” argument. For one, comparing man to robots is giving them way too much credit, allow me to show you what man is compared to in the Bible,
    “Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20-21, ESV).
    We are compared to clay. If we were robots we would be given way too much power over God. Clay is a much better, more fitting, and more realistic analogy of what man is before an Almighty Sovereign God. This is coming from the lips of Paul himself, not me. I would advise that next time before you think of man so highly and so elevated you search the Scriptures to discover the Bible’s definition of man, the state of his will, and his standing before God.
    With that said, I believe it is in order to define the nature of man’s will according to Scripture.
    – is deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9).
    – is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23).
    – loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
    – is unrighteous, does not understand, does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12).
    – is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
    – is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).
    – is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
    – cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).
    – is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:16-20).
    It is God who:
    – draws PEOPLES to Himself (John 6:44,65).
    – creates a clean heart (Psalm 51:10).
    – appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48).
    – works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29).
    – chooses who is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4).
    – chooses us for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13-14).
    – grants the act of believing (Phil. 1:29).
    – grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
    – calls according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9).
    – causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3).
    – predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30).
    – predestines us to adoption (Eph. 1:5).
    – predestines us according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11).
    – makes us born again not by OUR will but by HIS will(John 1:12-13).

    If you call God regenerating sinners who would otherwise have never obeyed or come to Him because of their nature and calling them to an effectual salvation contingent upon nothing but the good pleasure of God to make them alive in order for them to be able and willing to come to Him diabolic, satanic, twisted, sick, disgraceful, then I fear you may be worshipping a god made out of emotion and perverse humanism; at the same time you may be sculpting an image of man that presents him as innocent, willing, perfect, and able to come to Christ, when Biblically he is the total opposite.

    Mr. Palmquist, I rejoice in the fact that, had Christ not broken into the door of my heart and dragged me to Him (the literal Greek in John 6:44), I would have never come to Him out of my own “free” will. I doubt that you would apply your same logic to a burning building with people inside: the building is crumbling down, but you cannot bring yourself to force them out, they must save themselves, correct? But what if there’s children caught in the fire? Or what if they are already unconscious? Surely you would snatch them out of the fire, would you not? Faith is not the precondition of divine initiative, divine initiative is the precondition of faith. According to John 6, we come to Christ because we were given by the Father unto the Son, and we were predestined, called, justified, and will be glorified, all the work of the Son to corpses that, left to themselves, would have remained rotten in their graves.

    “The only time God cannot be sovereign is when He chooses not to be. Jesus showed us that it is in His very nature to sovereignly choose to surrender His sovereignty(Philippians 2:6-8). This is part of the mystery of the Incarnation.”

    This part really scared me. “Jesus showed us that it is in His very nature to sovereignly choose to surrender His sovereignty (Philippians 2:6-8)”?? Forgive me, Mr. Palmquist, but this is outright heretical and disturbing. Philippians 2 never, in any way, shape or form, say that Christ surrendered His sovereignty. You are confusing the attributes that He stripped himself of. Furthermore, when you think of the fact that everything He did on this Earth was sovereignly planned by Him, to the minutest detail (place of birth, conditions of birth, name, virginity of earthly mother, performance of miracles, proclamation of the gospel of power, place and time of death by specific people, etc.), you’d be hard pressed to say He surrendered His sovereignty. What does Acts 4:27 say?
    “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

    “I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

    To say that Christ can strip Himself of His sovereignty is the same thing as saying that God can choose not to be God.

    “When Calvinists reject John 3:16 and claim that the scriptural truth that “God is not willing that any should perish” (Matthew 18:14, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9,Ezekiel 18:23, etc.) only applies to the “Elect” this does violence to the very nature of the Gospel.”

    We don’t “reject” John 3:16, we embrace the whole context in order to better grasp verse 16. What we do reject is the audacity to use the Bible as a spell book to come to a definite unbiblical conclusion based on nothing but singled out verses. And that is what you did with Matthew 18:14, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, and Ezekiel 18:23. None of those verses, when seen in their rightful context, support your theory, they do the very opposite. Furthermore, when this violation to Scripture is done (singling out verses while consciously ignoring the context), that’s when violence is done “to the very nature of the Gospel.”

    “Well, the label of “Calvinism” really doesn’t bother me (1 Corinthians 1:11-12notwithstanding) — what matters to me is Truth (primarily the Truth of God’s Word). I am particularly concerned about how that Truth relates to saving the innocent who are targeted for destruction by the devil.”

    Saving the “innocent.” Once more, Mr. Palmquist, you must remember what Romans 3 teaches, no one is innocent, no one is righteous, no, not one. Keep in mind that, if you wish to truly be consistent with your own literalistic hermeneutics, you must apply that here as well, no one, and that means no one, both Jews and Gentiles, are innocent. Furthermore, if you truly wish to find the Truth that relates to saving the guilty who are targeted for destruction primarily by themselves and God’s decree of Romans 9, then you must first have a Biblical understanding of the nature of man.

    “(For clarification, I don’t consider myself to be Arminian, although I would tend to agree with Arminians on this particular point. Calvinism and Arminianism are both structures man has imposed upon the Bible. Neither Calvinism’s TULIP nor the 5 points of Arminianism are enumerated in the Bible.)”

    Neither is the concept of the Trinity; neither is the fact that people go to the restroom to relieve themselves (therefore it doesn’t exist, correct?).

    “So if, as Piper outlines above, the choice is between emphasizing sovereignty or love, I ask “which does the Bible emphasize?” Here are a few scriptures which come to mind:
    • The First Commandment (“love God…”): Mark 12:29-30, Matthew 22:36-38
    • The intimate fellowship God experienced in the Garden with Adam and Eve, who were naked and unashamed: Genesis 1:26-3:10
    • God’s sovereign choice to let Adam name the animals, waiting “to see what he would call them”: Genesis 2:19
    • “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”: James 4:8
    • “…seek Me with all your heart…”: Jeremiah 29:13
    • “I desire mercy and not sacrifice…”: Hosea 6:6
    • “Mary has chosen what is better…”: Luke 10:42
    • “…we cry out ‘Abba, Father’”: Romans 8:15
    • “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”: John 14:15
    • and of course 1 John 4:7-8:
    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
    and 1 John 4:19:
    We love Him because He first loved us.”

    So is God reduced to being only love? What is love without the concept of justice? What is love without the concept of wrath? What is love without the concept of hate? (all clearly “enumerated” in Scripture).

    For this I cite J.C. Ryle,

    “God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible, there is no God at all.”
    Now this indeed would make great damage to the Gospel.

    “Yes, I believe that it is correct to focus upon God’s love instead of focusing on God’s sovereignty (not that it should need to be either-or, but as Piper outlines above, such a choice may sometimes be necessary). I believe that God’s Word is a Love Story, not a Dictator’s Diary.”

    Again, chop up God, and you’re left with no God at all. You have made it either/or with no Biblical support for taking such a stance. You cannot understand God’s love if you do not fully embrace His wrath and His justice and His election and reprobation; likewise, you cannot understand God’s wrath, justice, election, reprobation, etc., if you do not understand His love. Such a choice is not necessary or valid in this case. This is too serious to be played around with so arrogantly. How dare we chop up God’s nature? His attributes? How dare we reduce Him to what our human feelings and thoughts restrict Him to?

    “Which brings Him more glory: focusing on His sovereignty or focusing on His love?”

    Why either/or? Again, how will you understand His sovereignty if you do not understand His love (and His hate, and His justice, and His wrath, etc.) and viceversa? Why do you arbitrarily have to choose only sovereignty and love? Why not His hate, justice, wrath, and holiness?

    I pray that just as you passionately seek to defend the unborn (something I very much admire about you), you seek to put aside unbiblical conclusions and understanding that really do cause harm to the gospel and you seek to pursue what Paul called “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33) in order to have a right understanding of God and in order that you may be established in the faith.

    “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

    “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people, and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people, there they will be called ‘sons of the living God’” (Romans 9:14-27, ESV).

    God bless you and have a great night. May we all strive to know our Lord and God Biblically and avoid trusting our hearts, which are “desperately wicked and beyond repair, who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

    Side note: These are some things I noticed that are irrelevant to the subject in discussion.

    -The arrogance of a Calvinist friend in High School.
    -There are many non-Calvinists who are likewise very arrogant. It is an evil both sides suffer from.

    -Harold Camping.
    -Camping has long ago renounced the true Reformed faith. It is dishonest to generalize and relate his teachings and his deception to true Reformed theology. Both are completely different.

    -Pastor who believes in the damnation of some babies.
    -Congregation didn’t come to pray to 40 Days For Life.
    -This is irrelevant because there are many Calvinists who believe that all babies will go to heaven, others that believe that all will go to hell, and yet others who say “we don’t know, we leave that to God’s perfect wisdom.” It is therefore very dishonest to generalize this to Calvinism per se, it makes no connection and it is irrelevant. There are many Arminians who believe that some babies will not go to heaven, would it be fair of me to say that they believe so because of their belief in free will? It would be the opposite, it would not be consistent with their belief in free will, it is not related, it is therefore irrelevant.

    -Members of his congregation having abortions.
    -Same as above, irrelevant.

    -John Piper’s understanding of God’s “two wills.”
    -Many Calvinists would disagree with what seems as a semi-Arminian understanding on the part of Piper of verses like 2 Timothy 2:4. However, there is obviously a context to your quote from Piper, and it is thus dishonest to conclude that Calvinism is what Piper says. It is thus an irrelevant argument.

  6.     Thank you, Eliezer, for reading what I wrote, and for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response (and for the scriptures you cited). However, from my perspective, it seems that in many places you were responding emotionally and not really paying attention to the actual words I wrote. It especially concerned me that you cavalierly disregarded some of the most important concerns I cited, dismissing them as “irrelevant.”

    From the very first sentence of my blog entry, it should have been clear that what I wrote was about my personal experience and perspective relating to Calvinism. Furthermore, it should be clear that our concerns about those who experience abortion are central not only to this particular blog entry but to everything on this website.

    So when a major pastor tells me personally that his Calvinism leads him to the conclusion that “God has ordained many of these babies for destruction,” and when the “Calvinist” spin on scriptures such as 1 Timothy 2:4 seems backs up this conclusion, that is very relevant to the topic at hand, is it not? When Pastor John Piper states that “Calvinists… affirm two wills in God” and that “God wills for all to be saved,” how can you claim that this is irrelevant? Are you claiming that Piper is not a genuine Calvinist? Are you claiming that Piper is bearing false witness about Calvinists? If so, you will need to take that up with him (and you might want to think about whether or not you should keep the many links to him which exist on your own blog). The Piper quote I included was completely in context and I was not in any way “dishonest” in using it (contrary to your accusation), as anyone who reads what Piper wrote will see (or even if you just read the title of what he wrote “Are There Two Wills in God?”).

    You counter my question about “God in His sovereignty ordaining all of history, from beginning to end, ordaining every sin, every evil” with Isaiah 46:9-10 (“I declare the end from the beginning…”). I wonder if I should call your response “dishonest” (responding in the manner in which you responded to me), because your response ignores the clear context of what I wrote. Here it is again:

    I even agreed as Calvinists pointed with great accuracy to many “evil” things God ordained throughout Biblical history, such as the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and the crucifixion of Jesus. Obviously these “evils” were an essential part of God’s plan. But could I see God in His sovereignty ordaining all of history, from beginning to end, ordaining every sin, every evil, all because in the end it resulted in bringing Him more “glory”? (And I cannot dispute the fact that in the end, all of these evils do work together for God’s glory.)

    The question is not whether God declared the end from the beginning. I already agreed that He has done so, as you can see. The question is not even whether or not God ordained certain historical events which we call “evil.” I already agreed that He has done so, as you can see. The question is not whether or not “all things ultimately function for His glory.” I already agreed that He will ensure this, as you can see.

    The question is whether or not he specifically ordains every sin, or more specifically (going to the focus of my concerns as expressed in the original blog entry) whether he is the one who is truly the author of every abortion “choice,” that we should somehow picture a God who smiles every time a little baby is ripped apart.

    Could He be the author of this? No, the God revealed in the Bible says “I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination….” (Jeremiah 32:25). Is this the sovereign God who knows everything? Or could it be that because of the holiness of this sovereign God, He chooses not to know some things?

    The God of the Bible did not motivate the Abortion Holocaust, and He was not the author of the sin of Adam. No, the Bible says “through one man sin entered the world” (Romans 5:12, referring specifically to the “transgression of Adam”). God declared His original creation of man to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). You say that “Adam acted according to his desires,” but by your own definition Adam owed his desires to God! How can you believe that God created Adam with a desire to sin without denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture?

    The Biblical God sovereignly chose to create “man in His own image” and according to His “likeness” (Genesis 1:26-27). Then God sovereignly chose to give this man “dominion” over the other creatures of the world. The “dominion” which God gave man clearly involved God delegating some tasks to the man, allowing the man to creatively exercise his own will (an important part of what it means to be created in the “image” and “likeness” of our creative God). Emphasizing the volition which God delegated to man, our inspired Word of God says in Genesis 2:19 that God waited to see what name Adam would give to each animal. As a father, I can imagine what fun this must have been for God. But from a Calvinist perspective, this doesn’t make any sense. Those who deny God’s plan to create humans who were not his puppets deny the essence of why God created us in the first place. From my perspective, it seems that such people effectively seek to rob God of glory (as if it were possible). But God will not be mocked.

    As I stated in the original blog entry “salvation is an act of God and not an act of man, not something that any of us can boast about.” Nevertheless the inspired Scriptures tell us that God in His grace seeks to reveal Himself to even those who are unrighteous, clearly indicating that even in their fallen state God gave them the capacity to “know” Him:

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)

    But you say “they were not even given a chance”? God, it seems, disagrees (at least if we believe the words of the Bible).

    You say that I “scared” you when I wrote “Jesus showed us that it is in His very nature to sovereignly choose to surrender His sovereignty (Philippians 2:6-8). This is part of the mystery of the Incarnation.” I can see why this would be scary to a Calvinist, one who seeks to limit God’s ability to limit Himself. Nevertheless, this “scary” truth is inspired Scripture! Study the word κενόω (which is used in Philippians 2:7) for yourself to see how our sovereign God chose to “empty” Himself because of His love for us.

    Was Jesus always and at every moment the sovereign God of the universe? Yes, of course. As the hymn says, He could have called ten thousand angels at any moment. But He sovereignly chose to limit the exercise of His sovereignty, finally experiencing the lonely moment when He cried “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) How could such words be uttered by Jesus except in the context of surrendered sovereignty?

    Those who join Peter in seeking to rebuke our sovereign Lord for surrendering His sovereiegnty may find themselves joining Peter in facing an uncomfortable rebuke (Matthew 16:23).

    You ridicule the concerns I state about “saving the innocent who are targeted for destruction by the devil,” claiming that I erred by using the word “innocent.” Your argument is not with me, but with the inspired words of our sovereign God as recorded in the Bible. For example, consider Psalm 106:38: “…shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters….” I could cite many other scriptures, relating not only to the “innocent blood” of babies but even to “innocent” adults such as Abel (Matthew 23:35). The topic of innocent blood is one of the most important topics in the Bible — if someone fails to understand this, how can they understand the sacrifice of the innocent blood of the Lamb of God on the cross?

    God has ordained the Gospel message of repentance to extend to “all men everywhere” (Acts 17:30). Those who seek to limit the extension of this message to only the “Elect” violate the Gospel by rebelling against this divine command. When they do it all in the name of God’s sovereignty, do you think He is impressed? Or will He respond to such people the way Jesus said the master would respond to the servant who buried his master’s money in the ground instead of seeking to increase the resources which his master delegated to him (Matthew 25:28)?

    You accuse me of reducing God only to “love,” claiming that I have made it “either/or.” However, I was clearly responding to Piper’s assessment that understanding the “two wills” of God requires an understanding of what the “higher commitment is.” The either-or choice was presented by Piper. As I clearly wrote in the original blog entry “not that it should need to be either-or, but as Piper outlines above, such a choice may sometimes be necessary.”

    From my limited understanding of God’s plan as revealed through His infallible Word, neither His sovereignty nor His love are diluted in any way. Man’s free will is part of God’s sovereign, loving choice.

    If we don’t like that, or if we teach otherwise, we are rebels.

  7. Thanks for your response, Nick. (I didn’t see it until just now, because I have been off-line for about a week.)

    Your comment distorts the thrust of what I said somewhat. In particular, please note the context of my comment relating to the belief which I identify as “satanic”:

    So God took this perfect, innocent, man and woman and subjected them to the serpent’s deception, all because it brought him more “glory”? That thought made me sick! To me this belief is, by its very definition, satanic, because it involved God handing over His own precious, innocent children to Satan. As a father, I just could not imagine doing that to my own children.

    As you see, it is the concept of God creating a “good” man and woman and then delivering these innocent people into the hands of the devil which I consider to be, by definition, “satanic” (because it portrays God as leading innocent people to Satan). As Jesus would say (see Matthew 18:6), it would be better for someone who planned to lead innocent people to the devil “if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

    To clarify, I am not calling anyone who believes in TULIP “satanic.” If they believe the specific point as outlined above relating to Adam, I assert that such a belief is by definition “satanic.” (If someone opposes such a label, getting rid of the label is as simple as deciding to no longer teach God leading innocent people to Satan.) If there is a “Calvinism” which does not involve God choosing to hand innocent people over to Satan, I am certainly not calling such a Calvinism “satanic” (and I would sincerely like to know if such a “Calvinism” exists, as I am discovering that the schisms wrought by Calvinism seem to be innumerable and quite diverse).

    Your statement that what I wrote is “a pure appeal to tradition” seems to me to be out of line and without foundation. In fact, I don’t see any “appeal to tradition” anywhere in what I wrote. What am I missing?

    I agree that what I wrote does not show “intellectual rigor.” I don’t claim to be a scholar; I don’t have time in my schedule to write much of anything that I write (though I wish I did). I certainly am not trying to glorify my intellect nor to cause people to focus upon how much I have studied, but instead I seek to motivate people to focus upon the glorious love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  8. Hi, Tim. The doctrines of grace (I prefer this name to Calvinism because they are doctrines that were taught before and independently of John Calvin in scripture and articulated by men like Augustine of Hippo) do not teach that man was “delivered into the hands of the devil.” God had a plan to redeem mankind before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:2-11). He needed not cause men to fall but rather let man choose out of the desires of his heart. Knowing before He created the universe whom He would save meant that God knew man would fall before He made him. And further, He knew what Satan, a created being, would do to tempt mankind. Why else would there have been a plan of redemption unless God knew perfectly what mankind would bring upon themselves and what He would have to do to restore us to Him? Just thinking of that makes me awe that He would even create us – knowing full well the extent of our sin and the terrible sacrifice of the perfect lamb on the cross – His very son!

    Now, having said that, I believe that the same God who holds the very universe together – effortlessly – is in complete control of his creation and ordains all of history and what is to come. But that does not make God morally responsible for man’s choices. God uses man’s evil intentions and actions for good in spite of us (Genesis 50:20). Similarly, the fall was used to bring about the means of redemption.

    Adam and Eve were the only members of mankind to have the opportunity to be “born” without the immediate influence of original sin. We do not have that luxury as inheritors of the curse. Apart from God’s sovereign act of regeneration, we choose only out of the desires of our heart which is depraved indeed (Genesis 6:5, Romans 3:9-12). It is for this reason that the bible teaches that it is by faith through grace that we are saved, for if it was by my will that I would be saved, I would never choose it. Who grants repentance and faith? God does (John 6:63-65, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18 1 Cor 4:7, 2 Tim 2:25-26). To whom does He give it? To those whom He has predestined before the foundation of the world (to salvation: Psa 65:4; Mat 24:24; John 6:37; John 15:16; Acts 13:48; Rom 8:28-30; Rom 9:10-24; Rom 11:5-7; Eph 1:3-6; Eph 1:11-12; 1Thes 1:4; 1Thes 5:9; 2Thes 2:13-14 to condemnation: Exo 4:21; Rom 9:13; Rom 9:17-18; Rom 9:21-22; 1Pet 2:8). It really is that simple and it is in the text.

    “It always seems inexplicable to me that those who claim free will so very boldly for man should not also allow some free will to God. Why should not Jesus Christ have the right to choose his own bride?” – C.H. Spurgeon

    Lastly, while I certainly agree that theology is about God and not our intellect, it is still presumptuous of you to publish a piece that slams a comprehensive set of doctrines that can be shown to be biblically based (as the link I provided – http://bit.ly/r6WW6g – does rather well, in my opinion) without having done the work to look beyond what is traditionally taught about passages like John 3:16 that are frequently ascribed meanings that simply aren’t in the text without any consideration of conservative historical/grammatical hermeneutical practices. I am quoted the same texts over and over by those promoting libertarian concepts of free will and I catalog those along with a biblical response here if you should care to reference it: http://bit.ly/p44wch
    and John 3:16 is among those covered.

    Tim, I don’t expect to change your opinion about these, but I do hope that the information I have provided at least gives some indication of 1) The love and awe of God that is inspired by these doctrines and 2) The care and attention to detail in the theology and biblical basis for these doctrines. I am well aware of my tendency to be puffed up by knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but I can tell you this for sure: theology inevitably leads to doxology and nothing is wrong that gives the glory to God and his true character which is – as we agree – is both holy and loving beyond human comprehension.

  9. I’m glad you brought Augustine into the discussion, Nick, because it has puzzled me to see Calvinists I know ignore or deny the roots of their beliefs in the Catholic church. I also appreciate your distinction about making reference to “the doctrines of grace” as opposed to “Calvinism”; nevertheless, I will continue to refer to “Calvinism” simply because it is the label used by those whose beliefs spurred me to write this blog post (such as the pastor who identified his “Calvinism” as the source of his belief that “many of these babies are ordained for destruction”).
    Responding to your Spurgeon quote, of course Jesus has the right to choose his own bride. But Jesus (as any honorable husband would do) also has the right to allow his intended bride to frame her own response, and not to manipulate a response from her. After all, manipulation is contrary to love. Marriage is the union of two wills, not one. But just as a honeymoon is a blissful event for any honorable couple, when we choose to unite our will with the will of our Lord it is the height of true ecstasy. When we recognize the joy we experience in these times of uniting with God’s will along with the emptiness we experience in times when we reject God’s will, we recognize that our own spirits testify to the fact that our submission to God’s will is our choice, not His (because by His own sovereign choice He chose for it to be this way).
    Have you ever read Augustine’s “On free choice of the will”? Here’s how it starts:

    Evodius: Please tell me: isn’t God the cause of evil?
    Augustine: I will tell you once you have made clear what kind of evil you are asking about. For we use the word ‘evil’ in two senses: first, when we say that someone has done evil; and second, when we say that someone has suffered evil.
    Evodius: I want to know about both.
    Augustine: But if you know or believe that God is good–and it is not right to believe otherwise–then he does no evil. On the other hand, if we acknowledge that God is just–and it is impious to deny it–then he rewards the good and punishes the wicked. Those punishments are certainly evils for those who suffer them. Therefore, if no one is punished unjustly–and we must believe this, since we believe that this universe is governed by divine providence–it follows that God is a cause of the second kind of evil, but in no way causes the first kind.
    Evodius: Then is there some other cause of the evil that God does not cause?
    Augustine: There certainly is. Such evil could not occur unless someone caused it. But if you ask who that someone is, it is impossible to say. For there is no single cause of evil; rather, everyone who does evil is the cause of his own evildoing. If you doubt this, recall what I said earlier: Evil deeds are punished by the justice of God. They would not be punished justly if they had not been performed voluntarily.

    Your responses to “Arminian Proof Verses” puzzled me. You seem to be making distinctions that scripture itself does not make. For example: “There are two kinds of calling described in the Bible. There is the general and outward call to all mankind of the gospel, calling all to repentance and faith in Christ. Then, there is the specific, effective, inward call to faith that is given only to God’s elect and which leads to saving faith in Jesus.” Does scripture itself make the distinction between these two callings, or is that some kind of mystery key that God intentionally left out of His Holy Word?
    The Calvinist insistence upon limiting the power of the atonement permeates your responses. To me this is one of the most damaging aspects of this doctrine: not only damaging in terms of its negative impact upon people and the gospel, but more importantly in terms of its negative impact upon the character of God. So your Christ never intended for the free gift of life he purchased through the sacrifice of his blood to be available to every sinner? The Christ in whom I believe said “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). This is a basic aspect of the character of God as revealed through Jesus Christ. Once again, it seems to me that the effect of Calvinist teachings is, more often than not, seeking to steal glory from God (as if that were possible).
    I realize that you will likely conclude that my responses here are intellectually inadequate. No, I don’t spend all day every day studying the Bible. I am not a monk. People like Augustine, Calvin, and Camping may have been able to do so, but I am not. But doesn’t an insistence upon intellectual rigor violate the spirit of the Reformation? Does the Holy Spirit interpret God’s Word to all believers or only to certain selected priests? I assert the former.
    Conversations such as this typically seem to stray from the main point, as this conversation has already done.
    How does this relate to the proclamation of the gospel, particularly in the context of innocent babies being brought to the slaughter?
    If we focus on such intellectual exercises at the expense of allowing our Lord to extend His hands and feet through us, I fear that we have become like the son in Jesus’ parable who said he would go to work for his father but did not go (Matthew 21:28-32 — a parable apparently addressed to those who devoted themselves to studying scripture).
    No matter how intellectually rigorous our studies are, we will always fall short of such a standard. All the books in the world could not contain the full truth of what Jesus has done (John 21:25). Rather than wearying ourselves by pursuing an endless study of books, we are to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:12-14). We are not called to try to figure out all the intricacies of God’s providence, but to fear and obey. Yes, what we do really does matter to God!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>