January 27, 2020

Riffs: 09:10:07 Adam Omelianchuk on “Why I Am Not A Calvinist.”

whycalvinist.jpgMany of you who read Adam Omelianchuk’s “Why I am Not An Open Theist” will want to read his new essay: “Why I Am Not a Calvinist.”

Adam is part of the absolutely incredible Rock TV Comedy Group.

I appreciate this kind of discussion, because you rarely hear it in the Christian blogosphere.

The pictured book is Walls and Dongal, “Why I Am Not A Calvinist.” Here’s a brief review by Denver Seminary’s William Klein.

Comments

  1. Thanks Michael!

  2. Omelianchuk raises some interesting opposition to TULIP. But if I read him correctly, his main objections was he could not “know” he was saved. Well, duh. Faith? Faith is not equal to empirical verification.

    John Calvin had an interesting view on assurance that Puritans altogether ignored as far as I know. Basically, if you ever doubt your salvation, believe in Christ. Faith is its own assurance. To believe by nature is to have assurance. You belive God on His promises, and by default you are assured as you believe.

    This is a more organic way of looking for “evidence” than many of the Puritan’s methods. If you have faith that Christ can save you, you will act like He can. If you don’t have faith He will, you won’t act like it, and you won’t have assurance.

    Omelianchuck didn’t really answer his objections though. Which is always frustrating.

  3. Thanks for posting that link Michael. A long read, but a good read. I’m always glad to discover such discussions on the net. I guess if it wasn’t for the blogsphere I’d be stuck with the cheap charicatures and nonesense writings of the mass media. . . perish the thought!

  4. Hi Michael,

    Check the link to the review. Appears to point to the book at amazon.

    – Craig

  5. Mike

    what would you say in response to his article in points of agreement or disagreement?

    TX

  6. I’ve struggled with similar things Adam has, yet I remain a Calvinist…however, I must say I am more a Calvinist*. That is, a Calvinist with one of the finest theological tools available to the common believer – the asterisk.

    Here is what I mean…

    http://pillowfreechristianity.blogspot.com/2007/09/im-asterisk-theologian.html

    Blessings,
    Joe

  7. @jmanning:

    “Faith is its own assurance. To believe by nature is to have assurance. You belive God on His promises, and by default you are assured as you believe.”

    So doubt is a sign of our damnation? How may we distinguish acceptable doubt (“Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief”) from lack of saving faith? According to 1 John, God’s intent is for the saved to know they are saved.

    Put another way, it is probably safe to assume 1 John was specifically written to address doubting believers. How, then are we to compare/contrast our own doubts with those addressed in 1 John? From a pastoral perspective, how does one comfort the doubting believer? Offering “If you have faith, you’re already saved; if you don’t, there’s nothing to help that” is cold comfort at best.

    I think Omelianchuk’s article assumed a lot of logic with his jump from Calvinism to Arminianism–that is, he assumed that his new viewpoint would be understood as the basis for his later statements. I still think his major proposition stands: If our salvation rests only in our election, and our election is unknowable, how are we to have assurance? Any test of our works or behavior can be counterfeited by our flesh–after all, the lost match and often surpass the good that Christians do, and are often more faithful in their observance of their beliefs.

  8. Ais merely to bring you into a settled state of faith…that’s how you comfort a doubting believer. You bring them back to the basics.

    Do you tell a doubting believer, “look, you’re saved by faith, so go do some works.” Or do you guide them back to faith? Doubt is not a sign of damnation, because doubt assumes the existence of something: belief. You are doubting a belief.

    Unbelief is a sign of damnation. It is a lack of faith, a refusal of faith.

  9. Ah, messed up, it should read “Assurance is merely to bring you into a settle state of faith…”

  10. jmanning: How do you know with certainty that you are elect?

    Not what evidence do you have, but how do you know with certainty that you are one of the elect.

  11. Michael,
    Tim LaHaye said it’s written in invisible ink on my forehead. I’m just waiting for the tribulation for it to become visible 🙂

    Seriously, I don’t know I’m elect. Scripture doesn’t lead me to speculate on that. I know what I believe, and to an extent I must hold it at faith’s distance. I can believe God is true to His word, that He will save those who come to Him in faith and hold it firm until the end.

    I take that, and I believe it. I can doubt it, but those doubts must lead me back to believe it anew. I cannot disbelieve it, since that is against faith. If I were to disbelieve it, I would no longer believe I could have any assurance since faith is assurance in the New Testament.

    Why are you asking me this? You only question those you wish to pick on usually.

  12. >I don’t know I’m elect.

    Most Calvinists won’t say it. You get a point for honesty.

    The RCC teaches the same thing. I think that say something worth thinking about. When all is said and done, Calvinism gives us exactly what we had with the RCC before and after the reformation: No certainty that we will be in heaven.

  13. But the reformation did give us something the RCC didn’t: Christ alone, by faith alone, found in Scriptures alone…it is not certainty by the defintion of it today, but it is an object of faith on good authority. The pledge of God, in Scripture, to save…not the pledge of the Church.
    I know this is a “smug” answer, not what you are looking for. I am not being close-minded towards RCC, I was born and raised first 7 years RCC. Half of my family is good RCC, and lost, which I know can happen in any denom…I am not as TR as you think.

  14. What do you think of this hypothetical dialogue…

    A: Are you elect?

    B: Yes.

    A: How do you know?

    B: Because Jesus died for all my sins.

    A: How do you know that?

    B: Well, I heard the good news.

    A: Which was?

    B: Somebody shared the gospel with me. He said it was the word of God. He said that Christ died for my sins and then told me to therefore repent and believe this good news.

    A: But Christ didn’t die for everyone. How do you know He died for you?

    B: Look buddy. I don’t know whether Christ died for everybody or not. What I do know is that He told His people to share the gospel to every creature. It has to be a “good faith” offer or else God is a liar. The good news was heard in my ears. The word of God said to ME “Christ died for your sins. Repent and believe this good news.” If this gospel could be preached to me, yet Christ didn’t die for me who heard it, then the guy who told me this is peddling a lie and serving a God who lies.

    A: So you think that if you physically hear the gospel that that means your sins were paid for?

    B. Yes.

    A: Sounds too easy.

    B. Well, it’s alot better than racking your soul wondering whether you are elect or not with no rational or biblical relief on hand. It’s very nice, actually. If the gospel came to me, I was bought. I can “deny the Master who bought” (2Peter) me, and of course then I would have to pay Him back what He paid to the very last farthing, but why would I do that? I might as well just relax, rest in what He did, realize that all my future sin was comprehended in the death of Christ, so therefore even if I have periods of doubt that is not going to overthrow the promise of the Gospel – all I have to do is rest in what is irrevocably done, or was done 2000 years ago.

    A. So you think you have assurance?

    B. Yes. The only basis on which you can be sure is the work of Christ. Nothing else is sure. By the way, you might be encouraged by checking out some of the writings of Bunyan, Brine, Gill, Kuyper and Hoeksema on “eternal justification.” If your justification is an event that is focused only on something that occurs when you have faith, you will never be sure. They will help you understand a God “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which WAS GIVEN us in Christ Jesus BEFORE the eternal times.”
    (2Ti 1:9)

    blessings,
    Joe

  15. Don’t forget, we have his Spirit to confirm that we are his children. If you don’t have the witness of his Spirit then you are not saved. Maybe someone said this already, and I missed it, but thought I would bring it up…

    ih

  16. This is probably old territory for many of you, but I’d love to hear some people’s thoughts on Matthew 7:21-23.

  17. JayH, I don’t think that’s really about assurance. It’s about cases like John Shelby Spong who are willfully blind and rebellious in a Rom 1 kind of way.

    Regardless of what an Arminian thinks of predestination, he still has to deal with the phenomenon of people like Spong, who are knowingly evil, yet manage to deceive themselves and rationalize and harden their hearts to the point where they think they are the most virtuous people on the planet.

  18. Hmm. The “well duh thats faith” response certainly has a flavor to it that makes sense, but it doesn’t work if there is no OBJECT of faith. Faith does not grasp for secret knowledge that cannot be known, in this case hoping the chips fall the right way. It seeks a tangible promise backed on the character of God. Faith is a form of epistemology that obtains knowledge. At least for me, the knowledge that God loved and died for me needed to be absolutely certain to have assurance of salvation. That is an objection I really tried to answer but could not as a struggling Calvinist.

  19. Jay H,

    Regarding Matthew 7:21-23 and the will of God –

    The will of God, according to the authors of the New Testament, was the establishment of his kingdom on earth to be ruled over by his ‘anointed’ representative Jesus of Nazareth.

    Faith in Jesus is the conviction that what he did in the real world is the ‘way’ to eternal life, the ‘way’ to the Kingdom. Followers of Jesus are expected to emulate his actions in the real world – the world of war, politics, religion, commerce, etc. To stand up for truth and justice as he did, to champion the disenfranchised and disadvantaged as he did, and to challenge any and all authorities and institutions if necessary as he did. The living values that Jesus embodied can be energised and translated into action everywhere, all of the time.

    The modus operandi for each individual is to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

    In other words, set an example by personal conduct so those who see your good works will perhaps emulate you just as you emulate Jesus. Universal emulation of individual character in action is the means by which the Kingdom of God on earth will eventually become a reality.

    “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps:” (1 Peter 2:21)

  20. Yes, Adam, I believe that is something Calvinism (as a fenced-off theological view of soteriology) cannot answer. Calvinism is a big “why” explanation of salvation. It’s not so good on how, which is why so many Puritans came up with evidence schemes.

    It does go back to the character of God as a savior in my mind. Calvinism does allow a theological scheme in which God is chiefly active as a Savior for His own glory. His motivation is to spread His fame as a loving savior. That’s something that added to my assurance once I embraced it, but I came to it from the opposite direction. If I had started from where you did, I might have seen the same rivets and bolts come loose in my view.

    No scheme is a perfect explanation, its like a short blanket on a cold night. You can cover your head, but your feet get cold. You can trap the blanket beneath your feet and pull…but eventually it tears. Analogies break down.

  21. Reading all this and the various Olson/Piper posts and BHT I realize that I don’t struggle with why bridges fall. Why all kinds of things happen and go wrong. I don’t want to question God about the presence of evil in the world.

    I would like to ask him, as my eyes tear and itch and my nose runs and I sneeze my brains out, why the heck he had to create pollen as a means to propagate plants and trees. I must have a very low bar for the problems of theodicy.

  22. Bob Sacamento says

    I really liked that link. I’m decidedly in the Arminian camp, as anyone who has paid attention to my comments over the past few months ( — chirp chirp — chirp chirp — ) can tell. The merits of Calvinism and Arminianism can be argued forever (or thus it seems so far), but one of the things I have never understood about Calvinism is exactly what this link talks about: that Calvinists often claim it is more comforting to the saints because of the “P” in TULIP, and yet, you don’t get any comfort until you already know you are a saint. And how do you know that? I have never heard a clear Calvinist answer. (Though I hold out the possibility that there may be one.)

    Basically, if you ever doubt your salvation, believe in Christ. Faith is its own assurance. To believe by nature is to have assurance. You belive God on His promises, and by default you are assured as you believe.

    I know jmanning’s words were well meant here, but I can tell you from experience that this just doesn’t work. “From experience” because a Calvinist friend of mine just about went off the deep end over this very issue about ten years ago. He just kept asking, “But how do I know I am one of the elect?”
    “Well, you just have to have faith in Jesus.”
    “But Jesus didn’t die for everybody. How do I know he died for me?”
    “Well, you accepted him into your life didn’t you?” (or supply your own formula here if you don’t like that one. None of them worked anyway.)
    “But the issue is whether he accepts me and how do I know that?”
    and on and on and on …. His friends tried to help him. They used trite theological phrases and deep theological reasoning. Everything. I don’t live in the same town as this guy anymore. I don’t know what happened to him. But once he got that question in his head, faith was just no longer its own assurance anymore.

  23. You can know if you are elect/saved. Read First John. He repeatedly says “You know” or “You may know”.

    2 Corinthians 13:5 calls on us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. The result of that examination is assurance.

    Reading James can be very convicting of any areas where we are lacking.

  24. I agree to a large extent with Adam O., although my own parting with TULIP is over the L. Either Jesus died so salvation could come to everyone, or His sacrifice was less important than Adam’s sin. Somehow I just can’t make Adam more important than Jesus (nor can feel comfortable changing ‘Savior of the World’ to ‘Savior of a Certain Pre-Determined % of the World’). Of course, once you drop the hard double-underlined L, the P ceases to be a such problem.

    That view may mean I don’t glorify God enough or care enough about His glory. But then somehow it’s difficult for me to believe that the God that loves the small and humble and Who humbled Himself to enter the world not as a king but a carpenter’s son, is really such a self-obsessed, egomaniacal glory-hound as a lot of Calvinist discourse seems to make Him out to be.
    Afterall, the bible says ‘God so loved the world…’, not ‘God so desired to show His glory…’

    But I honestly think both Calvinism and Arminianism are a bit off. And part of that is that it seems to me that we are forcing a Western Enlightment definition on the term ‘elect’. What did Paul mean when he used it? I suspect it meant something a lot closer to ‘chosen’ inthe sense that most Jews would have used that term.

  25. Nicholas Anton says

    Augustine is to have made the statement; “The world was created with time, but not in time”. You may ask, “What has this got to do with the ‘Calvinist’ versus ‘Armenian’ discussion?” Actually, most everything! We as humans, though we have no real concept as to what time is with the exception that it is (as we perceive it) progressive, though we are declared in Scripture to be eternal beings (from conception), nevertheless only operate within time. God, on the other hand, Who is timeless, understands both eternity/timelessness and time, because He is the author of both.
    Because of these dynamics, Calvinism answers the questions better from God’s perspective, whereas Arminianism answers the questions better from the human perspective/experience.
    May I therefore suggest that God is capable of creating a universe in which both the Sovereignty of God and the free will of humankind function freely, without contradiction and compromise. Though God created Pharaoh for a specific purpose, Pharaoh made all his decisions on his own free will. Likewise with Judas. Likewise with you and I.

  26. Caplight: LMTO! ROTFL! Just choice!

    Ibanezhead: “If you don’t have the witness of his Spirit…” I’ve heard this before: what exactly does that witness consist of? How does it manifest itself? I ask not to be cantankerous, but bec. I’ve heard this the whole 31 years I’ve been a believer (and of course, I’m familiar with the verse in ROMANS), yet nobody every defines or clarifies how to recognize the “witness of the Spirit.” Is it the fact that my hope rests on nothing else besides Jesus and what He has done, inspite of my frequent self-doubts? Is it my continually returning to His Word and clinging to it as the repository of ultimate truth and manna for my soul? Is it the moments that come periodically where my soul just SINGS praise to Him when I see or hear about some amazing creature or process in His creation?

    Please help me to finally understand this expression, once for all. Thankee.

  27. Bookdragon,
    I’m not nitpicking, but it’s not “God so loved the world” OR “God so loved His glory”
    I think it’s God so loved His glory that He so loved the world in a way consistent with the expression of that glory in His love. John 17 interweaves the expression of God’s glory (17:4-5)through the manifestation of Christ to His disciples, and (17:26) the manifestation of love to us is contingent on the manifestation of God’s name to us.

    I wouldn’t say anything if the theme of glory and love wasn’t so intertwined in the same book. It is textual in John, not just theologically constructed by Dr’s on a seminary campus.

  28. bookdragon wrote…

    “is really such a self-obsessed, egomaniacal glory-hound as a lot of Calvinist discourse seems to make Him out to be.”

    He demands glory for Himself BECAUSE He loves others. Others are only fulfilled as they are “obsessed with Him.” He is the highest good. That’s why He is “self-obsessed” to use your word, though I don’t like it.

    Blessings,
    Joe

  29. Jazzki

    John Wesley’s classic sermon on “The Witness of the Spirit” can be found here:
    http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/10/

    It might help.

  30. Jazzki

    Also this on Wesley’s explication of the witness of the Spirit:

    http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/21-25/23-12.htm

  31. Why do we need to justify God by ascribing to him what we imagine to be a morally sufficient motive for loving the world? If God says he loves the world, he doesn’t need to give a reason, and it’s not incumbent upon us to justify him in that.

  32. Here’s a quote I found today in a book and it made me think of this thread again….

    “While we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety” -John Calvin(Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.2.17)

  33. Sounds exactly like Robert Bellermine. Might as well be the RCC.

  34. The Jews have a saying regarding Moses Maimonides…

    “From Moses to Moses there were none like Moses…”

    But I’d like to think that might be said of another Moses…Moses Amyraut.

    He was a real “pillow-free” Calvinist. He believed in unconditional election, total depravity, irresistable grace, perserverance of the saints…but his conscience wouldn’t allow him to hold to limited atonement even though the “logic of theology” tempted him to that. He taught a “hypothetical universalism” alongside a particular election.

    Now here is a species of Calvinism upon which you can get assurance. I just don’t see how you can have it if you cling to limited atonement. That one petal of the tulip needs to be plucked. I mean, if you believe that everyone’s sins were paid for, you can go ahead and take hold of it in agreement without going through the typical “well, what if Christ didn’t die for me?” angst.

    A good argument in this type of theology’s favor is that such an angst is NEVER seen in the NT writings. Never. Christ was presented as the savior of the world, and sinners streamed to Him.

    “Moses Amyraut, originally a lawyer, but converted to the study of theology by the reading of Calvin’s ‘Institutes,’ an able divine and voluminous writer, developed the doctrine of hypothetical or conditional universalism, for which his teacher, John Cameron (1580-1625), a Scotchman, and for two years Professor at Saumur, had prepared the way. His object was not to set aside, but to moderate and liberalize Calvinism by ingrafting this doctrine upon the particularism of election, and thereby to fortify it against the objections of Roman Catholics, by whom the French Protestants were surrounded and threatened. Being employed by the Reformed Synod in important diplomatic negotiations with the government, he came in frequent contact with bishops, and with Cardinal Richelieu, who esteemed him highly. His system is an approach, not so much to Arminianism, which he decidedly rejected, as to Lutheranism, which likewise teaches a universal atonement and a limited election.

    Amyraut maintained the Calvinistic premises of an eternal foreordination and foreknowledge of God, whereby he caused all things inevitably to pass—the good efficiently, the bad permissively. He also admitted the double decree of election and reprobation. But in addition to this he taught that God foreordained a universal salvation through the universal sacrifice of Christ offered to all alike (駡lement pour tous), on condition of faith, so that on the part of God’s will and desire (voluntas, velleitas, affectus) the grace is universal, but as regards the condition it is particular, or only for those who do not reject it and thereby make it ineffective. The universal redemption scheme precedes the particular election scheme, and not vice versa. He reasons from the benevolence of God towards his creatures; Calvinism reasons from the result, and makes actual facts interpret the decrees. Amyraut distinguished between objective grace which is offered to all, and subjective grace in the heart which is given only to the elect. He also makes a distinction between natural ability and moral ability, or the power to believe and the willingness to believe; man possesses the former, but not the latter, in consequence of inherent depravity.”

    http://www.theopedia.com/Amyraldism

    Blessings,
    Joe

  35. Nicholas Anton says

    Why can’t we accept Salvation by Grace alone through Faith alone, in the finished work of Jesus alone, as Scripture describes it?
    We demand tangible proofs for our Salvation, other than the promises of God.
    Thus, we formalize it into required attitudes and actions.
    We encourage and even demand formula prayers; or going forward at a meeting; or doing penance.
    Should that not be deemed satisfactory, we conjure up human administers of grace who by liturgical hocus pocus can administer grace. Such as evangelists, who by the laying on of hands can forgive sins, or perhaps by clergy who have the authority to administer grace through the sacraments and take it back again by ex-communication.
    Or perhaps super saints who by their prayers can pray us into the kingdom of God.
    No, with the exception of the first sentence, Salvation is non of the above. There is enough Grace through the atonement of Jesus Christ for everyone who will believe (Rev 22:17).

  36. jmanning:

    Sorry, I just don’t see that in John (and given that Calvinim developed somewhat late in Christian history, it seems the earliest readers of that evangelion didn’t either). Yes, God is glorified, but the over-arching theme is God’s love. And yes, the two are intertwined, but not in the way you seem to suggest where God’s love is secondary to God’s glory and particularly not where God’s capacity to love is an artifact of God’s obsession with His own glory.

    “I think it’s God so loved His glory that He so loved the world in a way consistent with the expression of that glory in His love.”

    If I have read that tangle correctly, I’d say you have the cart before the horse. As Josh points out, you seem to be trying to find some excuse for God loving us. Real love doesn’t work that way. I don’t ‘so love myself that I can love my son in a way consistent with the expression of that self-love in my love’. I just love him. And I would sacrifice myself to save him, not to glorify myself, but just because I love him.

    And there in a way is my biggest objection to how you characterize God. The gospel story is incredibly powerful because God Almightly comes and suffers and dies on our behalf *because He loves us*. Change that story to say that He does it because He so wants to show His own glory or because He so loves His own glory that He is capable of loving us, and you get a different – and significantly less compelling – story altogether. You get in fact, not Christ emptying Himself for our sakes, Christ dying because he is so full of himself.

    Joe: “He demands glory for Himself BECAUSE He loves others. Others are only fulfilled as they are “obsessed with Him.” He is the highest good.” I agree with that. But if you read my comments to jmanning above, my problem is with a theology that puts it the other way round: ‘He loves others BECAUSE He so loves His own glory.’ The way you put it, His concern for His glory is based on wanting is best for those He loves. Yes! The other way, it comes off as He doesn’t *really* love us, we’re just a medium for Him to indulge His own desire to express His glory.

    btw, I mostly agree with Amyraut. Did you say he converted from Judaism? I wonder how much the concept of God’s grace for all people, but His particular election of Israel influenced his theology.

  37. bookdragon,
    That’s fine if you disagree….but Ephesians 1:3-14 makes the same point…in love predestined to the praise of His grace….
    Love and glory, together again.

  38. Thanx, Cap! I’ll go take a look @ those links.