This was the topic of the last post of Arminian theologian Roger Olson, who besides debunking Calvinism deals with social problems plaguing the American society.
If he (and his sources) are right, this is truly depressing.
My eyes were opened when I recently served as a potential juror in a criminal case in the city/country where I live. I sat with about one hundred fellow citizens of all ages, ethnicities, genders, educational levels, etc., and endured an entire day of being lectured about the American justice system and questioned by the prosecutor and defense attorney (“jury selection”). The defendant was an African-American male. He was charged with possession of cocaine. We potential jurors were informed that, if convicted, he could be sentenced to five to twenty-five years in prison. Also, it was revealed almost as an aside, that if he was convicted he might be sentenced to life in prison. I assume this would be his third conviction.
The defense attorney asked the potential jurors how many of us asked ourselves “What did he do?” when we entered the courtroom and saw the defendant. The majority of hands went up. The defense attorney asked several people “Why did you think that?” Most of them said something like “Well, he had to have done something to be here.” Then the defense attorney asked us, the potential jurors, to choose between two answers to the question what our duty as jurors is. Answer one (clearly displayed on a large screen) was “My duty as a juror is to protect society from people accused of crimes.” The other answer was “My duty as a juror is to protect innocent people who have been wrongly accused of crimes.” Every juror before me affirmed the first answer. When he pointed to me I said “Answer one says ‘accused,’ not ‘convicted. So if I have to choose I choose answer two.” Every juror after me answered two.
I think that the war on drug greatly contributes to this evil state of affair and is responsible for many personal tragedies Afro-Americans are victim of.
He concluded with these words:
I used to watch some of the “police procedural” television shows called “Law and Order” (there were at one time several different but related shows under that “franchise”). Then I stopped when it became clear to me (my opinion) that the shows had an agenda. The police and prosecuting attorneys are almost always right and at least well-intentioned AND are justified in using illegal or at least questionable methods in conducting investigations including interrogations of suspects. (One female police officer frequently threatens young males with being raped in prison if they don’t confess or reveal evidence—as if being raped in prison is a good thing—if you are a criminal. Often it turns out the person she so threatened is innocent but there is rarely if ever an apology given for the terroristic threat.) A contrary show called “Injustice” aired for about six episodes—it was all about a team of attorneys who exonerated innocent convicts.
Our society is biased in favor of law enforcement to the point of turning a blind eye to their abuses of power. That’s how we are evolving into a police state—if we are.
Jesus wandered in Nashville while challenging the religious folks there. Yet nobody recognized Him as the savior of the world but all took great offense at His teaching.
“If you believe you can rely on faith alone for despising the works of compassion towards towards your neighbor, I assure you that you won’t see the kingdom of God.”
Utterly indignant about this, an influential member of the Southern Baptist Confession rushed to Him.
“What are you talking about? We are not saved by works!!! And who is this neighbor?”
Jesus looked at him tenderly and smiled.
“A man was going down from Franklin to Spring Hills, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
A presbyterian happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. He had no time to lose, for he had to give a talk at an important conference aiming at saving the true nature of marriage.
So too, an Evangelical Lutheran, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. He had no time to lose, for he had to give a talk to expose false unbiblical teaching polluting the Church which had to remain doctrinally pure.
So too, a pentecostal business man, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. He had no time to lose, for he had to give a talk to hinder the progression of universal healthcare which was the first step of a worldwide government which will itself eventually be led by the Antichrist.
But a queer atheist, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He knew he was a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, but at that very moment he managed to overcome his anger and just saw him as a fellow human in need of his help.
The hated fagot went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on the most delicious and precious oil of Marijuana in the whole world. Then he put the man on his own car, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two thousand dollars and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these four do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The southern Baptist wept and gnashed his teeth before reluctantly answering:
“The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
P.S: If you want to quote this, you ought to refer to it as the inerrant gospel of Lotharson, written under the guidance of the Holy Ghost and delivered once and for all to all progressive saints.
Young Earth Presuppositionalism
Presuppositionalism is an apologetic method developed by reformed theologians and philosophers which consists of showing that all worldviews except Christianity (and by that they really mean Calvinism) are self-contradictory.
It is contrasted with evidentialism which accepts the reliability of logic and our sense perceptions as a common ground with the unbeliever and tries from there to provide evidence for the truth of the Christian faith.
There was recently a discussion about presuppositionalism involving young-earth creationists.
This discussion makes it clear that there are different degrees of fundamentalism.
Dr. Richard Hell is an evidential philosopher and he took Ken Ham to task for calling creationists taking into account data from the external world “compromisers”.
He rightly pointed out that before Galileo, almost everyone thought that the sun once literally stood still as described in the book of Joshua. Only after heliocentrism had been accepted was the current interpretation considered as valid.
Dr. Jason Lisle does not agree and believe that the text of Genesis is clear and that we are not allowed to depart from the most obvious meaning,. He wrote a book “The ultimate proof of creation” arguing that the Genesis account must be true because there is NO OTHER alternative.
Towards the end of the video there was an interesting discussion about the viability of proving the truth of the Protestant Canon using a presupositional approach.
Dr. Hell asked wittily: “Would the laws of logic still be valid if the third book of John were not included?”
In a way typical of Calvinist fundamentalists, Dr. Lisle answered that if we reject the slightest verse of the Bible, we would no longer have any grounds for believing anything else in the Bible and consequently would no longer have any way to ground rationality and knowledge because this wholly hangs on the truth of Scripture.
I think that these folks give Christianity a very bad name and are creating insurmountable obstacles for intellectual people. Actually, I am sure that Ken Ham and his minions have brought much more people away from God than Dawkins and his minions could ever hope for.
Finally, we would happen if presuppositional young earth creationist were to have full power in a state? I consider it very likely that they would not content themselves with “teaching the controversy” but would also banish all other views.
Definition do matters. Many political and philosophical disagreements simply stem from the different meaning of the words people engaged in a debate use.
Given that, I am going to define some important words I have used and will use on my blog.
A Christian is someone believing that God showed us His true face through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
An Evangelical Christian is someone believing that the Bible is our only infallible authority.
A Conservative Evangelical believes that everything a Biblical writer intended to convey is true.
A fundamentalist is a Conservative Evangelical believing that those not agreeing with that are second-class Christians or no Christians at all.
A progressive Evangelical believes that God may have intended to include erroneous writings in His Canon to teach us some lessons.
An agnostic is someone who does not know (within reasonable margins of uncertainties) if there is a God or not.
Now comes the most controversial part of my post, namely the definition of an atheist.
The French dictionary Larousse reflects well the historical understanding of the word as it states:
- Doctrine qui nie l’existence de Dieu. (Cette position philosophique ne se confond ni avec l’agnosticisme, qui est le refus de prendre parti dans les débats métaphysiques, ni avec le panthéisme, qui implique que Dieu puisse exister partout dans l’univers et se confondre avec lui.)
- Doctrine which negates God’s existence. (This philosophical position is not to be confused with either agnosticism, which is the refusal to take part in metaphysical debates, or with pantheism, which involves that God can exist everywhere in the universe and be identical with him.)
Modern (English-speaking) atheists don’t like too much that definition because it goes hand in hand with a burden of proof to explain why there is NO God.
As a consequence, they have redefined the word as meaning “lacking a belief in God” (making it compatible with being an agnostic) while under other circumstances they act as if it meant “believing God’s existence to be extremely unlikely”.
Being an old-school boy, I like to stick to the historical meaning of things. So in my entire blog I will abide by the following definitions:
An atheist is someone who sees God’s existence as being very implausible.
An ANTItheist (or New Atheist, militant atheist, atheistic fundamentalist…) is an atheist believing that all religions ought to disappear and that it is morally permissible (if not mandatory) to use ridicule, mockery and emotional bullying to destroy the faith of all religious believers.
A fascistic atheist is an antitheist believing that it is good for the state to introduce laws which would quicken the demise of all religions. A modern example is Richard Dawkins and his suggestion to forbid all kinds of religious educations, even for liberal and progressive religious parents. .
Of course, the former Soviet Union where countless priests and religious persons were slaughtered or sent to lunatic asylums is another example of fascistic atheism.
Frankly speaking, if the New Atheists were to obtain full political power in the Western world, I would not be stunned if they ended up introducing the same kind of laws an in the Soviet Union.
As antitheists themselves constantly remind us, beliefs (especially irrational ones) can really have dreadful consequences.
If one really views all religions the way they do, namely as one of the most horrendous evils plaguing mankind, it is a very small step to conclude that the end justifies the means.
All Calvinists who try to be consistent face a formidable challenge.
On the one hand, they believe that God forbids us to commit sins such as adultery, thief, murder, homosexual lifestyle and so on and so forth.
On the other hand, they also believe that God predetermined and ultimately caused people to carry out all these wicked sins.
To alleviate this tension, they resort to the notion of the secret will of God.
A Calvinist website gives us a nice illustration of how this plays out in practice:
“Think of David on the roof of his palace looking down and seeing beautiful Bathsheba washing. What was he to do? What was God’s will for him? Surely the Bible makes it plain. The Seventh Commandment states clearly: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. God’s revealed will tells him what God wants him to do. God hates sin and desires His people to obey His commandments. But is there not another will in God? What about predestination and the decrees of God? God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. His plan includes everything and nothing is left to chance. God “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph.1 :11). He is not the author of sin and yet, since everything is included in His decrees, sin must be there too. This means that in a certain sense it was God’s will that David commit adultery. Nothing can happen but what God wills and David did commit adultery. The implication of this is that there are two “wills” in God…
…Surely it is impossible to have two “wills” in one individual. From the case of David we see that the two “wills” in God appear to be contradictory. The secret will determines that David should sin while the revealed will tells him that he must not sin. Of course there is no conflict in the mind of God. We find it impossible to understand how God can will that an individual sin and yet not be the author of that sin. What we often forget is that God’s mind is infinitely great. We are grasshoppers in comparison to the One who sits on the circle of the earth. We cannot comprehend God fully and even after an eternity of studying Him He will still be mysterious to us.”
Following my methodology, I won’t really go into the favorite prooftexts that Calvanists use to defend this
blasphemous non-sense profound truth, since if I can only show that only one text is hugely at odds with reformed theology, I would have refuted the whole system since it cannot exist without an inerrant Bible.
That said, I cannot help but notice that divine determinism is not the only plausible interpretation of most of the texts they use. It is worth noting that the text explicitely speaking of two wills, namely Leviticus 29.29
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law”
does not say that these secret things contradict the revealed will of God and it is a stretch to think this is what the author of Leviticus thought.
There are other Biblical texts which make clear that God cannot lie (according to the authors):
Titus 1:2: “[I]n hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”
Hebrews 6:18: “[I]t is impossible for God to lie.”
Calvinists are obliged to considerably water down the meaning of the texts and pretend they just mean that God cannot directly lie but can order men not to rape while predetermining them to commit this very sin.
Jeremiah 32:35 is extremely embarassing for all divine determinists holding fast to Biblical inerrancy.
“35 They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.”
I think it is already very hard to reconcile the non-deceptive character of God with the blue text due to the same reasons I mentionned about David and Bathsheba. But the red text seems to be a fatal blow to all kinds of Calvinist claims.
Reformed apologists do the only thing they can and try to argue that the red phrase has to be considered as an allegory or hyperbole, or that “mind” could be translated as “heart”.
But try a moment to think about what that means.
God predetermined the Israelites to commit these very atrocities. He could have given them other desires but He decided they would sacrifice their children, He is the ultimate cause of their horrible behavior.
And then, while speaking to them, he told them that He never wanted them to commit these horrendous acts, without giving them any indication this was just a figure of speech.
If Calvinism is true and God really spoke at that time, I see only two possibilities: this was either an odious and destable act of deception or God suffered under a split-brain or multiple personality disorder back then.
Now I know what many Calvinists are going to quote:
““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55.8)
But there is a big irony here. Reading the verse in its immediate context shows it is all about reconciliation, that God invites all evildoers to give up their wicked ways and come back to Him. This verse seems rather to indicate that God is much more loving, much more forgiving than any man can be and even than any man could ever imagine to be.
For reformed theologians, this verse means than God is probably more vicious than the worst criminal who has ever lived.