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GOTT-February 18, 2007

Election-but no reprobation?

The previous post was a platform for Dean Zimmerman’s raising of the question of why Calvinism (where, again, we mean by this specifically Divine Determinism [or Theological Determinism, as it’s also known], and other aspects of Calvinist theology closely related to Divine Determinism) is not catching on with Christian philosophers even as it seems to be making gains in Protestant churches and among theologians.  In addition to Dean’s own suggestion, there are some extremely interesting thoughts expressed in the comments.

I’ll here put forward what seems to me, not the whole explanation or even the most important part of the explanation, but one important contributing factor –- or, at least, an enabling factor.

I don’t have much of a feel for the situation among theologians, and I don’t know where this is all coming from, and my grounds for this are anecdotal, but it seems that among ordinary church-goers, there is a popular and comforting idea floating around out there that Calvinism doesn’t necessarily — and, indeed, in its true or best forms doesn’t at all — involve “double predestination,” but only “single predestination”: God predestines the eternal fate of the saved (to use evangelical-speak) or the elect (to use Calvin-speak), but not of the lost/reprobate.

Now, the meanings of the key terms here can be gerrymandered so that something sensible –- and true! -– can be meant by saying that Calvinism doesn’t necessarily involve “double predestination.”  There’s nothing in Calvin’s views, or in most versions of Calvinism, that rules out the possibility of important differences between just how the elect and the reprobate are predestined to their respective fates.  The differences can be quite significant within a Calvinist framework.  So, one can use “double predestination” to denote the view that the predestination of the reprobate works just like the predestination of the elect in all important respects, and then sensibly insist that it’s no part of Calvinism to embrace such a doctrine.

But what “single” and “double predestination” would most naturally be taken to mean is that, on the former, only the fate of the elect is predestined by God at all, while on the latter, the eternal fate of the elect and of the reprobate are both predestined by God.  Often the terms are used in this more natural way.  And, whatever various higher-ups (theologians? –- I don’t know) may mean by their official use of the terms, by the time the word filters down to the people I’ve talked to, these folks quite clearly take the received wisdom that Calvinism only really involves “single predestination” to mean, not just that there might be differences between how predestination works in the two cases, but that on Calvinism God does not predestine the fate of the reprobate at all.

And, insofar as people in the churches buy that story, it can certainly help to make Calvinism more attractive.  That God is in complete sovereign control of everything is a very attractive part of the Calvinist picture to many.  And that the salvation of the saved, in particular, is predestined by God can also be attractive.  This is especially attractive to those who share Calvin’s own profound sense of how radically messed up fallen humans are.  It’s hard to see how things could work out well if matters depended at all upon us.  That our response, and our salvation, are all predestined by God’s eternal decrees can be extremely comforting (if we’re among the elect!).  And, for many, this picture, in giving God an even more all-important role in the process of salvation, takes away any tendency to give us any credit at all for our own salvation, and more securely puts the praise exclusively on God.  (This seems to be what Calvin saw as one of the great virtues of his doctrine of election.)  That can all be extremely attractive.

But this picture on which God predestines everything can appear not so lovely when one instead looks at those who are not saved.  I don’t mean to be speaking for everyone here.  Some real hard-core Calvinists can come to see even this part of the picture as an advantage: It’s even better if there are some — perhaps many, maybe even the vast majority (which, I take it, was Calvin’s own view) — who are instead predestined to a horrible fate.  But for many, including many who are newcomers or potential newcomers to Calvinism (as well as for many of us who grew up mired in this stuff), God’s treatment of the reprobate on the Calvinist view can be a real problem.

But the “single predestination” picture seems to promise the lovely benefits of the Calvinist picture without having to face this problem.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  That this very nice “single predestination” picture can seem like, and is presented as, a genuine possibility can partially explain Calvinism’s currently growing popularity, I think.  (And that philosophers would be unlikely to see this as a possibility might partially explain why they aren’t participating in this growth movement.)

But “single predestination,” on this more natural sense of that phrase (on which God just plain doesn’t predestine the fate of the reprobate at all) just isn’t available on Calvinism.  And since Calvin himself clearly recognized that, it’s not Calvin’s own view — and he’s as good a Calvinist as anybody!

Quite simply, if God predestines everything, then God predestines the fate of the lost.  The tough-to-swallow-(at-least-for-many) claim that God does indeed predestine the (awful) fate of the damned is inseparable from the very thing that’s drawing many to Calvinism.

What many newcomers and potential newcomers cite as a main — or, often, the main — attraction of Calvinism is its “high view of God’s sovereignty.”  And this is being put forward as a particular attraction of Calvinism: a respect in which it fares better than the competition.  But consider the distinction between Calvinism and its competition.  Calvinism, Arminianism, and (dreaded!) Open Theism are each quite big theological tents, with room within each of them for significantly different views.  But what separates the tents from one another?  There’s room within both Arminianism and Open Theism for God to predestine (causally determine) a lot of things to happen.  If He wants to, God can even predestine certain human actions — although they will not in those cases be free actions.  How much can God control through predestination on these broad families of views?  As long as God doesn’t predestine everything, you can remain in either the two rival tents.  (For this reason, I think the more accurate name for “Open Theism” would be “Not-Fully-Closed Theism.”  Just how “open” this view works out to be can vary.  The difference between Arminianism and Open Theism is that God foreknows with absolute certainty even what’s left open on Arminianism, not on Open Theism, but the scope of what’s left “open” on each view is a variable matter within each tent.)  You move into the Calvinist tent when God predestines everything.  So, if what draws you to Calvinism is its advantage with respect to having a “high view of God’s sovereignty,” what would seem to be drawing you is that on Calvinism God predestines everything.  But then it’s going to be hard, to say the least, while retaining that “advantage,” to avoid the conclusion that God predestines the fate of the lost.  Calvinism, in the sense in which we’re currently using it, just doesn’t have room for this comforting pseudo-possibility of “single predestination.”

Calvin realized that, and was admirably up-front about it.  The chapter of his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book III, Chapter XXI) in which the topic of predestination is first introduced for careful treatment, is entitled (in my handy Ford Lewis Battles translation), “Eternal Election, by Which God Has Predestined Some to Salvation, Others to Destruction.”  Note the clear acknowledgement that God predestines those “others” to destruction.  And in case there’s any doubt, when we get to Chapter XXIII, “Refutation of the False Accusations with Which this Doctrine Has Always Been Unjustly Burdened,” section 1 of that Chapter is entitled “Election—but no reprobation?” (which I adopted for the title of this post), and in it Calvin makes it clear that the condemnation of many is part of God’s eternal plan, and a part that God made sure, by his determining eternal decrees, would be made true.

(Hoping to forestall certain comments:) Yes, I know, not everyone who is attracted to Calvinism is being drawn by the false hope of “single predestination.”  I’m just reporting that for many with whom I’ve spoken, that possibility plays a big role.  (I’ve even heard two different people describe their learning that Calvinism only really involves single predestination as the key realization in their finally becoming Calvinists.)  So, as I said, while this isn’t the whole story, or even part of the story when it comes to some of Calvinism’s recent converts, I think this may be an enabling factor in some of Calvinism’s growth.  And, yes, I realize that many are attracted to Calvinism by completely different aspects of it, that have nothing to do with such issues as sovereignty, predestination, election, and determinism.

Posted by Keith DeRose |


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Keith, this is really interesting, and the pressure against single predestination by any deep attraction from calvinist sovereignty is hard to avoid.

But I’ll try just a little! Let’s not mean causal determination by ‘predestination’, but rather causal determination incompatible with compatibilist accounts of freedom. Then a calvinist could maintain that God predestines salvation (because we can’t freely choose God, even in the compatibilist sense of ‘free’), but we do make lots of free choices in life that are responsible for damnation. Those who go to hell thus deserve it and not as a result of being predestined to it.

To adopt the causal determinism account of predestination is, in one way, a strange thing for a Calvinist to do. Or at least it is strange for a compatibilist about freedom to accept. Predestination precludes anyone taking glory away from God for salvation, according to Calvinists, but if predestination is compatible with a free choice of salvation, it is no longer obvious that such preclusion is preserved. It’s almost as if one first thinks like a libertarian, so that causal determination does preclude us from getting any credit. But if one takes predestination to preclude credit, I would think it ought to preclude freedom as well, and so if you think like a compatibilist about freedom, it is more than causal determination. But then room for single predestination is opened up again.

Posted by: jon kvanvig | February 19, 2007 at 10:49 AM

Very interesting suggestion, Jon. A quick (& picky) terminological remark now; hopefully more (& more substantive) thoughts later.

Let’s not mean causal determination by ‘predestination’, but rather causal determination incompatible with compatibilist accounts of freedom.

I usually just go with such terminological stipulations. (We’re philosophers. As long as we all keep in mind what we’re meaning by these terms…)

But in this setting, where I’m (among other things) trying to explain why views are or are not attractive/popular, I think it’s worth being a little bit difficult here and complain that that’s not how the term sounds — at least to me. ‘Predestination’ sounds like just a causal term, potentially relevant to, but not itself yet involved in issues of morality: If God’s eternal decrees causally determine it that such-and-such will happen, then He predestines it to happen. If such-and-such is a human action, then whether God is determining it to happen under circumstances which will make the action satisfy compatibilist accounts of freedom or not is just a matter of HOW he is predestining it to happen, not WHETHER he is predestining it to happen.

And I don’t think that’s just the incompatibilist in me speaking (though I am a pretty strong incompatibilist). I put the point neutrally above in terms of an action “satisfying compatibilist accounts of freedom.” But let me now just give the compatibilist the word “free,” so instead of saying “satisfies compatibilist accounts of freedom,” I’ll just say “free.” And I’ll try to give the compatibilist not just the WORD “free,” but, as much as I can, my thoughts about freedom: I’ll try to adopt a compatibilist mind-set, and will try to enforce that on myself by not just saying “free,” but “really free.” STILL, I want to say: If God’s decrees causally determine my action to happen, he is predestining it. Whether he determines it to happen under circumstances in which I’m really acting freely or not, that’s just a matter of HOW he is predestining it, not WHETHER he is predestining it.

Hopefully, more later….

Posted by: Keith DeRose | February 19, 2007 at 01:15 PM

That’s good, Keith. I was being cryptic because I don’t want to propose any particular compatibilist account (they are, after all, all false!). But your idea is just what I was thinking about. So suppose that God causally determines my actions in two different ways. Some causal paths run through the internal states favored by compatibilists, some bypass these internal states. So there are two different ways of predestining, if you prefer to keep the term for any kind of causal determination. But for the two different ways, one tracks freedom and, calvinists might hope, moral responsibility, and the other doesn’t. So if X ends up in hell, X deserves it and is to be blamed for the actions that got X there. And if Y ends up in heaven, Y deserves no credit at all.

I hate this way of talking about hell, but I’m trying to speak from the calvinist point of view! 🙂

Posted by: jon kvanvig | February 19, 2007 at 01:39 PM

So if X ends up in hell, X deserves it and is to be blamed for the actions that got X there. And if Y ends up in heaven, Y deserves no credit at all.

Calvin certainly believed what is stated above, and he did not believe it was incomapatible with a robust view of predestination.

But he did not believe, nor I think did any serious Calvinst theologian ever believe, that predestination has anything to do with “causal determination.”

I for my part certainly believe that it should be possible for philosophers to read theological texts without suffering from a tin ear.

Posted by: George Hunsinger | February 19, 2007 at 04:15 PM

So which part involves the tin ear? That God determines things, or that the actions of God in bringing about is legitimately thought of in terms of causation? The charge might make sense if causation is understood in terms of laws of nature, perhaps, thereby limiting talk of causation to natural relations between events. But it is hard to see how God doesn’t determine things and do so by bringing them about in way typically described by theories of agent causation.

Posted by: jon kvanvig | February 19, 2007 at 04:36 PM

Calvin takes great pains to distinguish his view from those according to which God merely foreknows everything that will happen. No, God’s eternal decrees in SOME sense make things happen (in SOME sense cause them to happen). To take the causal element out of Calvin’s picture would be to kill it. And is the causal push (of whatever kind) that God’s decrees bestow on events strong enough to guarantee that they happen the way that God decrees? Is this causal determination? I really can’t see how it’s possible to read the INSTITUTES in any other way. Once we see that theological determinists can be (and often are) compatibilists, so that the fact that they hold that, say, we’re often responsible and blameworthy for our actions doesn’t count against their being determinists [they think we’re both causally determined and responsible, that God determines that I do something and yet I perform the action, etc.], I can’t think of — and haven’t seen here — any reason at all to deny that Calvin is a theological determinist, at least in the INSTITUTES (the work I know best, though I’d be surprised if things are different elsewhere). There are whole long passages where Calvin is making the classic moves of a compatibilist, and it’s about as clear as anything gets that he’s doing this because he wants to hold on to both items (causal determinism & responsibility, or causal determinism & being properly subject to punishment, etc.), and then passages where Calvin makes not-so-classic moves on behalf of compatibilism (appeals to mystery, warnings about questioning God). If Calvin isn’t a theological determinist, I have a hard time seeing how to begin to understand those passages. As one commonly reads, Calvin’s INSTITUTES is a (or sometimes THE) “classic exposition of theological determinism” and Edwards’s FREEDOM OF THE WILL is a/the “classic defense of theological determinism.” And that’s sure how they seem to read. [Well, I do have quite a bit of sympathy with those who claim that predestination wasn’t as central to Calvin himself as it is to some presentations of his views. If, in denying that the INSTITUTES is an exposition of theological determinism someone was objecting that the book isn’t CENTRALLY about such matters, I’d agree with them. But that it just doesn’t contain theological determinism is hard to swallow.] Commmon wisdom can be wrong, and surface appearances can be misleading, but one would want to hear some explanation for why what seems pretty clear on the surface should be rejected.

At any rate, the unsubstantiated “tin ear” charge seems WAY out of line. I’ll resist any smug lines about what I think it should be possible to expect from theologians. 🙂

Posted by: Keith DeRose | February 19, 2007 at 05:28 PM

Using allcaps COMPEL to designate the relation God has to some human actions of causally determining them to happen in such a way that they are not free (they don’t even satisfy compatibilist conditions for freedom), I understand your suggestion, Jon, to be that God causally determines everything that happens to happen (including all human actions), but that God COMPELS the acts by which the saved are saved, but does not COMPEL the acts (or omissions) by which the lost are lost. He causally determines the latter (as he causally determines all things), but in such a way that they are nonetheless free. Thus, while we don’t get single predestination (where predestination means what I’ve said it seems to mean), but we do get single-sided COMPELLING.

You’re right: That does seem to give you something appealing to certain old-school Calvinist sensibilities, what with those being punished being blameworthy for their state, while those who are blest not being at all worthy of praise.

But I suspect it would have severe costs with respect to making Calvinism appealing to many very evangelical evangelicals. I mean, the free choice for or against Christ can be centrally important to many. Reconciling/compatibilist Calvinism goes down easier in such settings: Yes, yes, it all does come down to that free choice. But, you see, wonderfully, it’s your free choice AND it’s decreed by God as an infallible part of His eternal plan. A view on which nobody freely chooses for God would seem to do considerable violence to this reconciling project.

Posted by: Keith DeRose | February 19, 2007 at 05:51 PM

George, do you think Augustine’s view is compatible with what Calvin says? Augustine insists that our choices are not determined in the sense of efficient causes. But he also insists that every event, including human choices, must be caused in some sense. The difference between human choices and other events is that our acts of the will are determined by final causes rather than efficient causes. He uses the metaphor of being pushed to do something for efficient causes, while final causes are more like being pulled by the reason you want to do something. Augustine denies the Stoic view, which is causal determinism according to efficient causes. But he insists that every action is caused and indeed is under the oversight of divine causation, since no cause doesn’t ultimately originate in God. God’s control over which choices we make is fully present in Augustine’s view, since we just choose whatever our strongest desires pull us toward, and God can transform our desires so that they are righteous, or God can leave them as they are so that they are fallen and arranged in the wrong order (not as good things higher on our priorities than better things, and so on). In this way he sounds as if he’s a determinist without being an efficient causal determinist. As far as I can tell, Calvin is open to such a view, as long as God is thoroughly behind every event that takes place. It need not be efficiently caused at all, never mind by God, for it to be ultimately caused by God in some other sense.

Posted by: Jeremy Pierce | February 19, 2007 at 06:07 PM


I’m trying to figure out these denials that Calvin (and Edwards, too, from the comments on the previous post) is a theological determinist and that God causally determines events to happen on Calvin’s view. It’s not easy because, given how *I* use the key terms, these denials seem incredible.

My best guess is that the key terms are being misunderstood, and the denials are based on the thought that attributing these views to Calvin amounts to ascribing to him the thought that the relation between God and his creation is just like certain relations among basic physical entities on current or recent deterministic versions of physics. But when people describe Calvin and Edwards as theological determinists (as is *very* commonly done), or discuss whether and where Augustine is one, they are not (at least not typically: I can’t rule out strange cases) anachronistically saying that or wondering whether these thinkers were attributing exactly those concepts specific to current physics to God’s relation to the world.

Well, then, what are we saying? Here’s how I think of it:

Causal notions are fundamental to human thought. Psychologists have discovered quite advanced forms of causal thinking evidenced in even very young children. Exactly which aspects of human causal thinking are shared by (almost) all of us, and which aspects vary is a topic I haven’t been keeping up with. But that we all have causal concepts – similar enough to one another’s to be profitably grouped together under that heading – is, I take it, abundantly clear. In this broad sense, natural human languages, including Calvin’s Latin and the Biblical languages, embed lots of causal information in them. The Bible uses clearly causal terms to describe various of God’s relations to us and to the world. How straightforwardly to take such accounts is an issue over which people disagree – sometimes vehemently. But it is clearly in there. (It takes a tin ear to *miss* it.) Of course, this isn’t to say that these ancient accounts have embedded in them the very same notion of causality that current Western physicists use in their thought about the world. It’s rather to say that causal notions – notions in the broad causal family – are applied (however seriously we decide to take these applications) to God’s relations to the world. And Calvin uses clearly causal language to describe various of God’s relations to the world – although it’s again open to read Calvin in some non-straightforward manner. Again, there’s nothing anachronistic in this observation when it’s properly understood.

Now, I don’t know whether this next part is universal among humans, but it is at least very common. A key distinction that shows up in at least many causal schemes by which humans understand the world is between something like mere positive causal factors (which can somehow or other “push” toward an effect happening, with no guarantee that the pushed-for effect will come about) and causes that do have the “oomph” (to use a very technical term!) to determine (to use the dreaded term that seems to set off alarm bells) their effects. (Incidentally, Edwards seems to have *loved* “determining,” finding it very handy for setting his view off from the “Arminians” by saying that on his view, God exerts “an universal *determining* providence.”) This type of distinction is very handy for moderately advanced causal thought, and it seems that at least many different languages have found ways to mark out some such distinction.

Calvin seems an easy case. His Latin (the Latin available at his time and, more particularly, his own personal use of it) is quite advanced in various respects relevant to this discussion (in terms of being able to express various situations that differ subtly from one another in terms of causal structure). Calvin clearly had the wherewithal to describe a world in which God didn’t causally determine everything that happened – pictures on which God left some things up to us without Himself exerting any influence, and also other pictures on which He exerted only some kind of mere inclining-but-not-determining influence on certain events. (He would then have been describing a picture more like my own.) But he clearly rejected such pictures, opting instead for one on which God’s influence is of the basic guaranteeing, determining variety. No doubt, the specifics of Calvin’s causal concepts likely differ in some ways from my own, so some caution is called for when I compare my own thoughts to Calvin’s. But that, whatever the exact nature of Calvin’s causal concepts, he opted for a picture on which God’s decrees *somehow* completely determine what happens, as opposed to a view on which they leave certain matters undetermined and open, seems quite clear. Calvin’s term that shows up in English translations as “predestine,” and in particular his own personal use of it, is about as clear a case of causal term, and a causal term of the determining, not just inclining, variety, as you could hope to find in any language. (If you doubt that Calvin’s use of “predestine” expresses a causal relation of the basic determining variety, you might as well consider doubting that *my* use of “causally determines” expresses a causal relation of the basic determining variety. [After all, I was raised in a Dutch-American Calvinist family and community. No telling what that might have done to my causal concepts. Perhaps make them similar to Calvin’s?] And then what would happen to the worry that I’m misrepresenting Calvin here, I wonder?) That’s not Calvin’s only causal term, of course, but I’ll stop here.

Posted by: Keith DeRose | February 20, 2007 at 12:54 PM

Steve, what about a view that combines both Calvinism AND Amenianism? We know that double prestination in the extreme is wrong AND Amenianism in the extreme is wrong in that Amenianism has selective omniscience that I feel goes against who God is. I always considered myself Calviminianist in that God know beforehand everything from His diminsion but that within our diminsion we have choices to accept or reject Christ kind of like God watching events on a videotape (imperfect analogy but closest I could come up with). I think those who reject entirely any Calvinism misunderstand the concept of condemnation of the unbeliever to hell. Jesus says they condemned themselves because they are condemned already which is the very nature of “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” in conjuction “Without Faith it is impossible to please God.” So when people say “Jesus condemns people” is an incorrect statement in that people condemn themselves by choosing to reject the free gift of Salvation and heaven made available to all at the cross and resurrection of Christ. It seems Christ does everything but the “accept and reject” “If WE CONFESS with your mouth the LJ and Believe in your heart that God has risen from the dead you shall be saved.” It seems there is some level of “choice” on our part but God knows beforehand before the foundation of the world before we were created what our choice will be. However, within our diminsion we make that choice independent of what God knows beforehand. Does that make sense? Does anyone have any further insight that clarifies this postion better?

Posted by: dh | February 20, 2007 at 04:44 PM

Further clarification. Don’t get me wrong. The videotape of us God has is not “deist perspective” in that I do not adhere to that theology. Just thought I would state that so as not to lead people astray. That is why I mentioned the “videotape analogy” is imperfect but the closest example that I could come up with.

Posted by: dh | February 20, 2007 at 04:46 PM

Suppose the COMPEL move works, or that the Calvinist can somehow-or-other defend single predestination. I’m personally inclined to think it doesn’t help all that much; I still have severe moral reservations about the whole business.

The Calvinist God still knows that, if he doesn’t COMPEL individuals, they freely wind up in hell. Unless the Calvinist God has some good reason for why he can’t COMPEL more and indeed all individuals—which as I understand it Calvinism denies, hence the ‘U’ in TULIP—it’s not clear to me that the Calvinist God who exercises single predestination is, at the end of the day, all that better morally speaking than the one who exercises double predestination.

Suppose I’ve got a nifty crystal ball that gives me certain foreknowledge of my teenage son’s future free actions. Consulting the ball, I see that tomorrow my son will freely get drunk, freely smash his car into a tree, and wind up paralyzed. I consider taking the keys away from him, or intervening in some other way, but decide not to. My son crashes the car. He does so freely, of course. But does this really make my decision to refrain from intervening any better? I don’t see it.

Maybe the Calvinist can appeal to double effect, but I can’t see that helping much. This b/c in the most intuitive cases of double effect (the ones with the best chance of working) the act the agent is permitted (and maybe required) to perform—an act whose bad consequences she does not intend, but nonetheless foresees—the agent isn’t faced with alternate possibilities. It might be permissible to divert the trolley to save ten lives at the cost of one, but presumably this holds only if there’s no other way for me to save the ten. So unless God is in this sort of bind, which is equivalent to saying that unless God can’t COMPEL more or all, double effect won’t help.

Posted by: Luke Gelinas | February 20, 2007 at 09:39 PM

Somebody is having “moral reservations”? You judge God. When you get to the point where you can see and accept that God is your Judge you will begin to catch on.

Posted by: Collage Unedducated | February 20, 2007 at 10:21 PM

This is reminiscent of Calvin himself. This warning against judging God was a favorite maneuver of his, if I’m remembering my INSTITUTES correctly. (Though Calvin himself would throw in some comment about the critics being “venemous dogs,” or something like that.)

But I think in making such a response, Calvin misunderstands the objections, at least in their best form. The critic isn’t accepting that Calvin’s picture of God is correct, and then judging that God actually isn’t so good. Rather, the critic is arguing that if God were like that, He wouldn’t be very good, and on those grounds seeks to conclude that Calvin has God all wrong. The critic isn’t judging God, but Calvin’s construal of God. So far from concluding that God’s not so good, the critic is using, and hanging onto, the premise that God is good in arguing that Calvin’s account is wrong.

Posted by: Keith DeRose | February 20, 2007 at 11:10 PM

Calvin had something called Holy Writ backing him up.

And a much less hardcore figure wrote famously of putting “God in the Dock” as well.

Posted by: Collage Unedducated | February 21, 2007 at 12:34 AM

To more or less just restate Keith’s response, critics of Calvinism do not put *God* in the dock; they put *Calvin’s VIEW of God* in the dock.

Imagine a Calvinist who objects to Open Theism: “Open Theism denies that God is truly sovereign; hence it is false.” The Openist replies: “Who are you, O Calvinist, to talk back to God? You would judge God, telling Him how much power he ought to have, putting him in the dock? When will you accept that God is who He is, no matter what you want Him to be like?”

Clearly the Calvinist would be rationally within her rights to reply “I judge not GOD, but YOUR CLAIMS about God. For your claims stand in tension with the plain meaning of Biblical passages x, y, and z…” The Openist’s reply is not much more than an exercise in begging the question, for the Calvinist is putting God in the dock only if we (or she) already know(s), antecedently, that the Openist’s description of God is correct – which is, of course, the very point in dispute between the two.

Anyway, sorry to detract from the main lines of conversation here…

Posted by: Brian Boeninger | February 21, 2007 at 02:42 AM

A short note on the idea of single predestination:

Thomas Aquinas can be said to hold a “single” predestination view, for predestination is the “direction of a rational creature towards the end of life eternal is called predestination” (ST I.23.1). Thus, one can only be predestined to glory (see Romans 8:29-30). However, reprobation is not a causal directing but a decision not to causally direct but to permit some people to remain in (their freely chosen) sin. Thus, those whom God reprobates, God leaves in their sin (with its consequences).

Interestingly–and I brought this up on the Calvin and Philosophy post–Aquinas holds that God’s foreknowledge stems from God’s self-knowledge (God knows what it is that God causes), yet maintains that divine causation is not competitive with human agency. God, by virtue of God’s creating and sustaining power, can move the human will naturally in a way that is proper to it. God’s causal activity is what allows human causal activity, not what competes against it.

Posted by: Tim McGee | February 28, 2007 at 05:56 PM

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