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» Ship of Fools   » Ship's Locker   » Limbo   » Purgatory: Is Calvinism the Asperger's Syndrome of Protestantism? (Page 6)

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: Is Calvinism the Asperger's Syndrome of Protestantism?
mousethief

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Not the place and the hell threads are getting tedious.

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Zach82
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Aye, mortally tedious. How about I just take a break from the ship? Either I have become remarkably more vicious in the past few weeks or breaking my butt is just the new thing to do.

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by Sir Pellinore (ret'd):
Interesting, Zach82 and his witting or unwitting board playmates seem to have turned this thread into a discussion about Zach himself.

I would hesitate to suggest Zach has "intellectual Asperger's Syndrome", as that would be Hellish.

But, good grief, didn't someone previously drag him there for almost exactly the same reason? [Killing me]

Well, this thread has already generated one Hell call, yes.

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Gamaliel
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I'm surprised Zach82 isn't in Hell permanently.

Well, in recent weeks at least ...

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Barnabas62
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A general warning. The regular contributors to this thread have many years on board, quite sufficient to tell the difference between criticism of content and crossing the line into personal abuse.

The next line-crosser gets a personal warning. Take the personal stuff to Hell.

Barnabas62
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Robert Armin

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Some general observations, if I may.

Firstly, I am surprised by the Calvinists on this thread who have rejected TULIP as being a fair representation of Calvinism. While I accept that they know a lot more about the topic than I do, I first came across Calvinism when I went to university. The Calvinist students I met used TULIP to introduce me to this way of thinking, and tried to persuade me to accept it.

Secondly, I am not convinced that Calvinism does result in freedom from anxiety about final salvation. IIUC Calvin himself taught that only God knows who is Elect, so none of us on earth can be sure. In practice Calvinism is often seen (and this may be an unfair caricature, I know) as obsessed with rule keeping moral behaviour, to demonstrate one's membership of the Elect, and disapproval of rule breakers, who are clearly Reprobate. I find Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress disturbing in this regard. (Bunyan is widely taken to be a Calvinist, but I gather there is debate on this point. I can just see a new tangent developing...). Christian is graphically saved at the cross, when his burden of sin falls away. Yet, as he makes his journey after that, he meets many people who had started on the same path, made one mistake, and are now cast away. It is only by an intense act of will that he avoids all these snares, keeps going, and finally gets to Heaven. Frankly it sends shivers down my spine, as there seems no possibility of forgiveness within the Christian life. (Part 2, dealing with his wife Christiana, is much kinder as she helps many who had fallen away back onto the right path. However it isn't nearly so compelling as literature.)

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balaam

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I don't think that anyone has denied that TULIP is a fair representation of certain aspects of Calvinism. What people (including me) are saying is that there is more to Calvinism than the topics covered by TULIP.

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Gamaliel
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If you were referring to me, Barnabas, I was teasing but can see that I drew very close to the line. I will withdraw a few paces.

@Balaam, I would certainly accept that there is more to Calvinism than TULIP and - despite the OP - that is more nuanced than it is often given credit for. I tend to use a rhetorical device whereby I post something provocative to get the ball rolling then gradually adopt a more balanced or centrist position.

It may irritate some people and it clearly puzzles some. Over on the thread about regular Bible reading I could cite one or two people who don't seem to have 'got' where I was coming from ie. deliberately exaggerating to make a point.

Anyway, back to this thread ... I do think that it is axiomatic that certain highly conservative or fundamentalist positions will attract people of a particular personality type or mindset. I'm not saying that's wrong, just observing that this is the way these things work.

I could certainly balance my comments and questions out by citing aspects of the Calvinist tradition and legacy that I believe to be commendable and praiseworthy. It'd be less fun, but I would be prepared to do it ... [Biased]

Don't forget that I used to be fairly Calvinistic myself at one point - partly as a reaction to the prevailing Arminianism of the restorationist house-church network that I was involved with, which was largely Arminian as it was led by people from a Pentecostal background. There were Calvinistic elements there, but there were not as prominent as they were in parallel movements such as New Frontiers.

These days, I find both viewpoints unsatisfactory. They both strike me as too neat and too cut-and-dried and, with some caveats and concerns, I do find myself drawn towards the Orthodox position on this one which is neither Calvinist nor Arminian - although some would accuse it of semi-Pelagianism of course.

I've been criticised for mush and slush and intellectual laziness for not taking clear sides. I don't accept that charge, but then neither would those I am accusing of lack of nuance and of spikey and inflexible thinking would accept that charge either.

'Who can discern his errors?'

They might be right about me and I might be right about them. We might both be right. We might neither of us be right.

I can live with the ambiguity.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
These days, I find both viewpoints unsatisfactory. They both strike me as too neat and too cut-and-dried and, with some caveats and concerns, I do find myself drawn towards the Orthodox position on this one which is neither Calvinist nor Arminian - although some would accuse it of semi-Pelagianism of course.

Warning - grotesque over-simplifications approaching fast...

So if you find both Calvinism (God chooses who is saved) and Arminianism (each individual chooses) unsatisfactory, what is your opinion? Indeed, what do you mean when you say 'the Orthodox position'?

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Gamaliel
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Better ask the Orthodox, South Coast Kevin, they understand it better than I do.

In a nutshell, gross oversimplification, they have a different view of original sin (ancestral sin) and a more positive anthropology (view of human nature) whilst acknowledging that it is Christ who saves us and not we ourselves.

They also, it seems to me, tend to take a more holistic and less reductionist view - ie. it isn't down to saying this or that prayer or simply giving intellectual assent to a series of propositions - as it can sometimes come across in some Western circles. Although I would defend both Arminians and Calvinists against that charge.

There are aspects of the Orthodox position that I struggle with - my view of the atonement remains a Western one - but I quite like the way that they blow the whole Arminian/Calvinist thing apart by not having either in the first place.

[Big Grin]

Perhaps it's perverse of me, but I quite like that. 'A plague on both your houses ...' sort of thing.

In short, it is more 'Mysterious' it seems to me and less 'Scholastic'. I might be completely wrong of course, but there's something pleasingly exotic about it. With the Arminian/Calvinist dichotomy it all gets very juridical and legalistic and a bit too black-and-white for my taste.

Perhaps I like things to be a bit more messy ... a bit more open-ended ...

Who knows?

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
They also, it seems to me, tend to take a more holistic and less reductionist view - ie. it isn't down to saying this or that prayer or simply giving intellectual assent to a series of propositions -

I understand - and thoroughly agree with - this point, but I don't really get the rest of your comment, sorry! I don't feel I'm any clearer as to the Orthodox position on whose initiative salvation is. Or do most Orthodox believe that all people will be right with God in the end, thus rendering the question moot?

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mousethief

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Actually I think Josephine and I are on the unusual side of Orthodoxy for being "soft" universalists. (The Church has specifically anathematized "hard" universalism -- i.e. that God saves everyone whether they will or no.)

The initiative in salvation is, of course God's. We love because he first loved us. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Yet we also believe 2 things: (1) God doesn't force anybody to be saved, i.e. we must voluntarily accept God's salvation (this is the semi-Pelagian part that drives Calvinists to distraction), and (2) We are capable of accepting the offer referred to in (1).

And I would argue (can't speak for my fellow Orthodoxen here) that if you call (1) works righteousness, then saying the Jesus prayer is a work. Every system has some kind of "response" expectation.

It seems to me that in TULIP Calvinism, we don't respond at all; God responds to God using us as meat puppets. We have no choice in the matter. To the Orthodox, the ability to accept or deny God's gift is part and parcel of what it means to be made in His image, and God will not take that away from us.

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Anyuta
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I always sort of saw the difference between the Othodox view and the classic Calvinist view as being about our "starting point" . The classic Calvinist view as I understand it can be simplified as: we start out depraved. We deserve eternal damnation from the moment we are born, but can escape this, if God chose us to accept his Grace. The Orthodox view could perhaps be simplified as: we start out in the image of God, sinless. We certainly don't inherit any sin. But due to our separation from God, we are in a constant state of being drawn into a sinful state. With Gods grace, we can resist this, but it is a lifelong struggle.

We don't spend too much time thinking about who initiates this...clearly God initiated everything, and Christ's incarnation sealed the deal, so to speak. But we have to play our part. We have the capacity to do so.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
The initiative in salvation is, of course God's. We love because he first loved us. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Yet we also believe 2 things: (1) God doesn't force anybody to be saved, i.e. we must voluntarily accept God's salvation (this is the semi-Pelagian part that drives Calvinists to distraction), and (2) We are capable of accepting the offer referred to in (1).

Cheers for this, mousethief. It sounds pretty much like Arminianism to me, unless I've severely misunderstood! God is the initiator but all are free (within the bounds of our own circumstances, background etc.) to choose whether or not we accept God's offer of forgiveness and healing.

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Gamaliel
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It's closer to Arminianism, South Coast Kevin, but I think the Orthodox would claim that it is different as the underlying assumptions are different in terms of the effects of 'ancestral sin' as opposed to 'original sin.' Arminianism would still posit 'original sin' in the Western, Augustinian understanding of it.

It is no accident, though, that the Orthodox tend to feel themselves closer to Wesleyan elements within Protestantism than they do to the Calvinist elements. Whilst maintaining that their view differs from both.

I s'pose that's what I've been getting at when I've been saying that it isn't a matter of there being such a stark choice as some posters have made out - ie. you are either Calvinist or you are Arminian. There is a third way, as it were ... to cite Tony Blair (not someone I would often quote in polite company but ...) [Big Grin]

Mudfrog's citation of Wesleyanism as some kind of middle-ground between full-on Calvinism and full-on Arminianism is a useful one, I think, but even that falls within a 'Western' framework which is subtly different to the Orthodox one.

There's a useful and very balanced discussion of this issue in an Evangelical Alliance (UK) Commission on Unity and Truth report called 'Evangelicalism and the Orthodox Church' from 2001.

It has contributions from both Orthodox and evangelicals and the Orthodox contributors concede that the Orthodox position can sometimes be misconstrued as promoting 'works righteousness' and that some Orthodox themselves may mistakenly promote this view.

One of the good things about Calvinism, it seems to me, is that it does take away any sense that our own works or righteousness saves us - but it can set up a false dichotomy, introducing an unbiblical (there, I've said it) separation between faith and works. Of course, they are aware of this and that's why the Calvinist caveat, 'the faith that saves is never alone' is a good one.

But the whole premise is different to that found in Orthodoxy and the issue, as Anyuta has identified, comes down to the question of anthropology. Calvinists emphasise that we are 'dead in trespasses and sins' and that only God's grace can save us. Great. I'm all for that.

However, the 'depravity' thing, if I understand it correctly, means that we are 'depraved' in the sense that we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts. It doesn't necessarily mean, as some Calvinists appear to take it, that we inveterately hate God with every fibre of our being unless we are among the Elect and become regenerate.

Sure, I can see what they're getting at and would have strongly argued as much myself at one time. But now I tend to think it over-states the case. Not that this means that I'm a semi-Pelagian - although no doubt I'll be accused of being one by some of the more full-on Calvinistic posters.

And why would they accuse me of that? Because their system forces them into an incredibly bi-polar and dualistic position. It forces an extreme, as it were.

Hence my rather offensive analogy in the OP.

That's the sort of thing I was getting at. In the Calvinistic schema, if there is any 'human' element involved at all then somehow God is robbed of the glory he deserves. Why so? Why cannot God be glorified in someone who, by divine grace, obeys and loves him? Does it rob the conductor of an orchestra of any glory if the technicians from behind the scenes are invited onto the stage after a performance to share the applause? Is the contribution of the tympanist diminished if the second violins are acknowledged?

No, of course not.

It's this bi-polarity that bothers me about the more TULIP-end of Calvinism. There are equal and opposite errors in Arminianism. It can become anthropocentric. I'd side with the Calvinists against altar-calls and so on and so forth - all of which, as Mousethief has hinted, can lead to a form of 'works-righteousness' mentality.

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Why cannot God be glorified in someone who, by divine grace, obeys and loves him?


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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Why cannot God be glorified in someone who, by divine grace, obeys and loves him?

Precisely.

The only way out of the impasse that Calvinists get themselves into is to postulate a prevenient grace which God makes available to all who hear the gospel, making the offer of salvation (to the whole of humanity whom God loves, whom Christ died for, and whom God wills and invites to be saved) a genuine offer and not the insincere, rigged offer which Calvinists are obliged to believe in.

Sure, people are given a genuine freedom to accept the gospel, but any pseudo-objection that this choice constitiutes some sort of “work” pales into insignificance compared with the infinitely greater problem with which Calvinists are stuck: that a universe with no genuine choice afforded to creatures must be a universe in which God is the author of sin.

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Gamaliel
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There will be a Calvinist answer to this conundrum, Kaplan, as I'm sure you'll be aware and if we stick around long enough someone will enlighten us as to what it is.

But, being provocative here, don't you think that some of those who might oppose the Calvinist schema on those grounds might themselves fall into the same bi-polar and dualistic binaryness that I've been accusing them (or some of them) of espousing?

So the argument would run something like this:

Calvinist: Your position necessitates something 'extra' being added to divine grace. You are saying that grace alone is not sufficient. Therefore you must be trying to be justified by works - heretick!

Non-Calvinist: Your position completely robs humanity of any choice or freedom or action and reduces humankind to the level of meat-puppets (nice phrase, Mousethief). In fact, you tie God into the knots of your own schema and instead of defending God's sovereignty you actually limit it by preventing God from actually being God - heretick!

I s'pose what I'm saying is that both Calvinistic and Arminian schemes can run into equal and opposite errors. I don't say this to be all mushy, squishy and cuddly - simply to point out something that I feel to be flawed in both systems when taken to their logical conclusion.

I am quite happy to sing the old Wesleyan hymn 'And can it be ...' which includes lines that would warm the cockles of any Calvinistic heart (and I fully acknowledge that they have one ... [Biased] ):

'Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast-bound in sin and nature's night,
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light'

etc

I once discussed this hymn with an Orthodox priest and he was happy with it too. He didn't think it contained anything that they would quibble with.

What I wouldn't do, though, is construct some kind of meccano-like edifice of 'prevenient grace' and this, that and the other - because I tend to think that these things operate on another and more mysterious level and are far beyond our workings out.

'The wind bloweth where it listeth.'

I am no more capable of working out a join-the-dots or painting-by-numbers or Venn Diagram, Gantt Chart or Periodic Table approach to soteriology than I am of telling God how to make the rhinoceros.

I'm with Toplady when he sings, 'Thou must save and thou alone' - but I'm not sure I could draw a chart of how that works in practice.

Which is one reason why I find the Orthodox approach quite attractive - even though it niggles and narks at my intrinsic Western legalistic and juridical mindset (I'm a product of that just as much as anyone else here). Because they don't tie themselves up in knots about prevenient grace and irrestible grace and this, that and the other kinds of grace. They just get on with whatever it is they do - some more effectively than others, but that's true over here in the West too.

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mousethief

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I don't know about Arminianism -- even when I was an Evangelical I never studied theological niceties very closely -- but one thing the Orthodox would say is that our "acceptance" of God is an ongoing thing. Theosis is a product of synthesis between the wills of, and actions of, God and man.* Think of it as God leading the dance and us following. We still have to follow. Ginger Rogers didn't stand on Fred Astaire's toes when they danced. She danced too, but wherever he led her.

The mystery is suggested pretty loudly in St. Paul's letter to the Philippians. St. Clive pointed this out precisely as a paradox of who's doing what: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (our job) for it is God who works within you (His job).

I like to liken it to a person stuck at the bottom of a well. God throws down a rope and says, "Tie this around your waist, and I'll pull you up! Watch you don't bump against the sides!" Who does the pulling? God. Can we pull ourselves out? No. Do we have something to do? Yes. We have to tie the rope around our waist, and push off from the walls with our feet. An imperfect metaphor, as all are. But it allows for the fact that God is the one who saves us, not we ourselves, YET, there is something we must do; accept God's salvation, and cooperate with his work in us.


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*Well, God's energies, but that's a distinction it probably wouldn't help to get into right now.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Anyuta:
I always sort of saw the difference between the Othodox view and the classic Calvinist view as being about our "starting point" . The classic Calvinist view as I understand it can be simplified as: we start out depraved. We deserve eternal damnation from the moment we are born, but can escape this, if God chose us to accept his Grace. The Orthodox view could perhaps be simplified as: we start out in the image of God, sinless. We certainly don't inherit any sin. But due to our separation from God, we are in a constant state of being drawn into a sinful state. With Gods grace, we can resist this, but it is a lifelong struggle.

Calvin's "starting point" is that the best interpretation of scripture is the one that most glorifies God.

He concludes that the view that most glorifies God is the one that makes God solely responsible for all the good that is ever done: and in consequence allows no credit whatever for going good or avoiding evil to humans. On that principle, the whole TULIP edifice is constructed - not, of course, with that five-point formulation until later, but it is all in Calvin.

If we can have no credit for any good, to the extent that the only reason we can even give for not doing some wickedness we might plausibly have done is that God restrained us, then God's decision to save cannot be based on any condition of merit, because we have none. Further, no amount of resistible grace suffices to save us. If God leaves any part of the process dependent on us, we necessarily fail to cooperate with him. The decision to accept grace, being a meritorious one, cannot be ours - if it were ours, we would refuse it.

Therefore God must be utterly sovereign concerning salvation. If anyone is saved it is because God would have it so. If anyone is lost, that must also be God's will. Saving grace (ie grace actually effective for salvation) can only be offered to those who are actually saved, since grace offered with the possibility of loss inevitably results in loss, and therefore cannot be effective. God's plan of salvation, which is the atonement made by Christ, is effective for, and offered to, only the Elect. And if the Elect are subsequently lost, it cannot have been God's will to save them, so they cannot have been Elect.

Orthodoxy seems to me to be the polar opposite of that (bearing in mind that both Orthodoxy and Calvinism are types of Christianity, so have plenty in common despite being opposites within the Christian fold). Orthodoxy utterly rejects the idea that God has to be solely responsible for goodness in order to be honoured by it - to the extent of holding that one can venerate even a picture of what a good man or woman is imagined to look like, and by doing so glorify their creator. Therefore Orthodoxy does not need to contrast divine and human goodness. Calvin would say that such honour as is given to a human being for their personal goodness, is so much that has been stolen from God. Orthodoxy says that one way of honouring God is by venerating the holiest of his works, because the goodness of the saints belongs both to them and to him.

The reason that I'm not a Calvinist is that, accepting Calvin's first principle that I should prefer the account which most glorifies God, I find that other Christian theologies seem to me to glorify him much more than does Calvinism.

quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
However, the 'depravity' thing, if I understand it correctly, means that we are 'depraved' in the sense that we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts. It doesn't necessarily mean, as some Calvinists appear to take it, that we inveterately hate God with every fibre of our being unless we are among the Elect and become regenerate.

That is how every modern Calvinist view I have ever seen has presented it. It doesn't actually fit with Calvin's theological system. It is essential, in that scheme, not just that we are depraved in our deepest nature, but that we have absolutely no merit of our our, and that we cannot ever refrain from sin to any degree at all without God restraining us.

This applies to all human beings, of course, not just the Elect. Calvin has God's grace actively at work in the reprobate, so that whenever anyone does good or refrains from evil, God is at work, and deserves sole credit. So it is not the case that the reprobate "inveterately hate God with every fibre of their being" - it is that the reason why the reprobate do not so hate God is that God, in his mercy and for the present, prevents them from hating him as much as their inherently meritless nature would naturally cause them to. Once God's foot is lifted off the brake pedal, they will hate him exactly that much (just as the Elect would - the difference is only that God will never take the brake off in their case).

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I like to liken it to a person stuck at the bottom of a well. God throws down a rope and says, "Tie this around your waist, and I'll pull you up! Watch you don't bump against the sides!" Who does the pulling? God. Can we pull ourselves out? No. Do we have something to do? Yes. We have to tie the rope around our waist, and push off from the walls with our feet. An imperfect metaphor, as all are. But it allows for the fact that God is the one who saves us, not we ourselves, YET, there is something we must do; accept God's salvation, and cooperate with his work in us.

Thanks, mousethief. I wonder how any Christian would disagree with the broad point of this metaphor, that God initiates our rescuing but that we also have a role to play. As you say, 'Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works within you'.

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Gamaliel
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If we wait long enough, South Coast Kevin, someone might come along and tell us just that ... by putting some immensely Scholastic spin on those verses to suggest that it's not us holding onto the rope but God enabling us to hold on ... etc

@Eliab - that's a very clear and thought-provoking post and sums the dilemmas up very well, I think. As a point of information, though, I don't think that the Orthodox would seriously claim that their icons are portraits of how they imagined people to look - although some might, certainly those who go in for St Luke painting the likeness of Christ or the Virgin Mary and Veronica's Cloth and so on.

My understanding of it is that Orthodox iconography is deliberately non-naturalistic. But your point is well made and still holds - they glorify and venerate matter because, in Christ, God has united himself with matter ...

I'm going to be on shore-leave for a while.

May I wish you all well, Calvinist, Arminian, Semi-Pelagian, Pelagian or all points in between ... [Biased] Not that we have many (or any?) Pelagians on these boards. At least, none that I can see.

And to each and every one, be they Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, liberal or whatever else ...

[Votive]

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tclune
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
May I wish you all well, Calvinist, Arminian, Semi-Pelagian, Pelagian or all points in between ... [Biased] Not that we have many (or any?) Pelagians on these boards. At least, none that I can see.

Not to worry. To a true Calvinist, "Arminian" and "semi-Pelagian" are just alternate spellings of "Pelagian."

--Tom Clune

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Fineline
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I know this has been said before, and the conversation is moved on, but I'm going to say it more strongly, because it's still there in the title, for anyone who happens upon this debate to see. The comparison with Asperger Syndrome is totally ignorant, and not at all helpful in understanding Calvinism, as far as I can see, if the main point is simply that Calvinists take the Bible literally and are logical in their approach. It is also perpetuating unhelpful stereotypes about people with Aspergers - such a throw-away, ignorant, stereotypical comment about, say, gay people, or transexual people, wouldn't be accepted.

Taking things literally is just one small part of Aspergers - and is more about the mind processing things one at a time, so a person might not immediately realise that something is non-literal, because they've simply processed the literal meaning first. It's not about being actually unable to see that something might be non-literal. Just about processing things one at a time.

And people with Asperger Syndrome are not necessarily always logical - it's more about disruptions between the left and right side of the brain, so the logical and the emotional sides of a person often don't both show together.

The analogy is completely inappropriate and disrespectful. It's like suggesting that charismatics are like the homosexuality of Protestantism, because, hey, gay people are loud and colourful and emotional.

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orfeo

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
Calvin's "starting point" is that the best interpretation of scripture is the one that most glorifies God.

He concludes that the view that most glorifies God is the one that makes God solely responsible for all the good that is ever done: and in consequence allows no credit whatever for going good or avoiding evil to humans.

And that was pretty much the first point that just looked like faulty reasoning to me. If humans are God's creation, then surely their actions are to his credit as well? Surely he delights when we DO do good?


The other thing that I found very odd in some of the earlier conversation was the notion that the little action of responding to God's grace constitutes a 'work' and that because there's this absolute ban on us having anything to do with our own salvation, you can't have this 'work'.

It seems to be stretching the meaning of 'work' to an extreme, and to be honest the thing it brought to mind was the Pharisees and the Sabbath, with the injunction to not do any work on the Sabbath. Again, this has got taken by some elements of Judaism to an extreme.

I honestly can't see how the idea that you can't get to heaven under your own steam got translated into the idea that you cannot move a muscle in that direction, but instead you lie there comatose.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
I honestly can't see how the idea that you can't get to heaven under your own steam got translated into the idea that you cannot move a muscle in that direction, but instead you lie there comatose.

Think of England.

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
The other thing that I found very odd in some of the earlier conversation was the notion that the little action of responding to God's grace constitutes a 'work' and that because there's this absolute ban on us having anything to do with our own salvation, you can't have this 'work'.

Perhaps an example might help then.

Many Christians struggle with doubt. For some this is further compounded by issues like depression.

IME to people in this situation the description of Christianity that you are portraying it sounds as if God will only accept them if they carry on believing (which in their heads = have enough faith = feel as if they have enough faith).

Again, IME, such people find great comfort knowing that their salvation is dependent on God holding on to them and not the other way round.

This does not mean that there is no expectation of their faith to be evidenced by a changed life but more a strong sense of where their trust ultimately rests - in God rather than in themselves. To use MT's analogy (which, in general, I don't have much of a problem with) this gives confidence to those who feel that they have no strength left to hold on to the rope.

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Gamaliel
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@Fineline - well yes. And if you looked back over the thread you'll see that I apologised for using the analogy.

As I've explained elsewhere, I tend to use a rhetorical device whereby I overstate my case or use provocative or even potentially offensive examples to get the ball rolling. I then pull back to a more moderate position.

That's what I've been doing here.

On reflection, I wish I had used another analogy as this one has created rather more heat than light. All analogies are partial at best.

I can think of others that would have expressed what I was trying to say more clearly and without causing so much offence.

In fact, Tclune has very helpfully done the job for me:

'Not to worry. To a true Calvinist, "Arminian" and "semi-Pelagian" are just alternate spellings of "Pelagian."

My point entirely.

[Biased] [Razz]

It isn't simply a matter of taking things literally - other conservative forms of Christianity do that - but of somehow reducing everything to a very limited set of propositions and alternatives.

As tClune (sp?) has helpfully demonstrated for us. Tongue in cheek, no doubt.

[Biased]

Peace, be to all.

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Gamaliel
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All analogies are partial, Johnny S.

I daresay Mousethief's could have been improved by the rope also having a loop or hook attached which the person being hauled out of the well could attach to their belt or tie around their waist ...

[Biased]

But even that would be partial. And even then they would have to do the tying or attaching ...

And the strength and ability to do so ultimately comes from God anyway - the fact that we have arms and legs and brains and so on ...

This is where the God only being glorified if there's nothing of anyone else involved thing falls down. 'For in him and from him and to him are all things ...'

To Him be the glory both now and forever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny S:
This does not mean that there is no expectation of their faith to be evidenced by a changed life but more a strong sense of where their trust ultimately rests - in God rather than in themselves. To use MT's analogy (which, in general, I don't have much of a problem with) this gives confidence to those who feel that they have no strength left to hold on to the rope.

In my analogy you don't hold onto the rope. It's not dependent on your strength. You tie it around your waist. Quite a different thing. This seems to have been missed by more people than just yourself.

The whole "I'm conforted because God is in charge" thing has been addressed already. If you believe those who backslide were never really saved in the first place, even though they may have felt like they were saved, then how can you know you're saved and not just deluding yourself the way they were? Perseverance of the saints means you have no assurance whatsoever that you are saved, regardless of how "saved" you might feel at any given moment. Because it remains to be seen if you fall away, and if you do, you were never really saved in the first place.

I'm glad you put "sounds" because of course the issue is not God accepting us, but us accepting God. God accepts us before we even repent--the father in the Prodigal Son story had no idea whether his son was going to repent, and when he did, rather brushed it off. The fact that he came back home was what mattered. So, no, I don't think God "will only accept us" if we do this or that. But we need to abide in him as He abides in us; we need to run with perseverence the race that is set before us. Again, God will not do anything to us against our will. If we want the benefits of salvation and theosis, we must open ourselves to them, take up our cross daily, as somebody once said.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
But we need to abide in him as He abides in us; we need to run with perseverence the race that is set before us. Again, God will not do anything to us against our will. If we want the benefits of salvation and theosis, we must open ourselves to them, take up our cross daily, as somebody once said.

This is the tricky part for those (and I think I'm one) who don't believe in 'once saved, always saved'. Unless we believe all will ultimately be saved and made right with God, our salvation is surely in jeopardy to the extent that we fail to abide in God and to take up our cross daily.

But then this could easily be described as works-based salvation, couldn't it? We either have 'once saved, always saved' or 'salvation by works', don't we? Hmm... Help me out, someone!

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orfeo

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I prefer 'salvation by relationship', personally.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
I prefer 'salvation by relationship', personally.

This.

The problem is, why would someone who doesn't want to be saved worry that they won't be saved? And if they do want to be saved, then they are at least in that much cooperating with God. "If only the will to walk is there, he is pleased even with their stumbles."

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Johnny S
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
In my analogy you don't hold onto the rope. It's not dependent on your strength. You tie it around your waist. Quite a different thing. This seems to have been missed by more people than just yourself.

Isn't that a form of decisionism loved by many Prostestants then? (i.e. as long as you've prayed the sinners prayer / been baptised / done the one off thing your church counts as 'tying the rope' nothing else matters.)

Now I know you don't believe that. I'm only pointing it out because, as Gamaliel said, analogies have their limits.

In fact that was my point originally. I'm not sure I'd call myself a Calvinist, probably more 'reformed' (with a small 'r'). However, it seems as if several people on this thread are willing to cut the arminian position some slack when it comes to limited analogies but will not do the same for Calvinism.

What draws me to some aspects of Calvinism are the emphases on God's sovereignty and his grace which are pastorally relevant in the way I described in my last post. That is all I was saying. I don't think there is a perfect analogy for salvation. For me it is just a question of holding various biblical themes in tension with each other and not getting too stressed about it all.

Ever since the OP it seems (to me at least) that Calvinists are being accused of being too binary and exposing cold logic and then any reply they give is discounted unless it is binary and logical.

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balaam

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# 4543

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
In my analogy you don't hold onto the rope. It's not dependent on your strength. You tie it around your waist. Quite a different thing.

Looks like you are arguing with the Calvinists here mousethief. Could it be (to stretch the analogy to almost breaking point) that while the Calvinists and Orthodox are being hauled up by God, that the Arminians are trying to climb the rope?

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Kaplan Corday
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Does the Calvinist critique of Arminian soteriology boil down to "give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves", and the Arminian summation of Calvinist soteriology, a version of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali's expression "rope a dope"?

Any applications for "money for old rope"....?

Didn't think so.

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W Hyatt
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
But we need to abide in him as He abides in us; we need to run with perseverence the race that is set before us. Again, God will not do anything to us against our will. If we want the benefits of salvation and theosis, we must open ourselves to them, take up our cross daily, as somebody once said.

This is the tricky part for those (and I think I'm one) who don't believe in 'once saved, always saved'. Unless we believe all will ultimately be saved and made right with God, our salvation is surely in jeopardy to the extent that we fail to abide in God and to take up our cross daily.

But then this could easily be described as works-based salvation, couldn't it? We either have 'once saved, always saved' or 'salvation by works', don't we? Hmm... Help me out, someone!

I don't know if it will help, but there is another way of looking at the issue.

It seems to me that the question as you have phrased it implicitly assumes that works are connected to merit and that one has to pick a point on a continuum. At one end is 'salvation by [merit based on] works' and at the other is 'once saved, always saved', which successfully removes all merit. However, a major problem for some is that on such a continuum, free will would seem to be associated only with the "merit" end and not at all with the 'once saved, always saved' end.

But if you look at the need for a response on our part to God's offer of salvation as having no connection to merit at all, it's possible to preserve free will and still attribute everything of salvation to God. All that is necessary is to realize that "works" can serve simply as a way to fully exercise our God-given free-will and commit ourselves to our choice to accept salvation and follow Him, with no connection to merit.

God gives us the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and gives us the power to choose (over and over again) between them, and he gives both to us moment to moment. However, he also allows them to appear as though they are from ourselves and allows us to use them as though that appearance is the reality. When we make a intellectual choice for what is right and good and our choice is sincere, then that is a real choice. But when we then compel ourselves to try to live accordingly, we don't gain any merit by doing so, but we do commit ourselves more fully to our choice, and the more we continue to compel ourselves, the more we commit ourselves to our choice. It's not a matter of all or nothing, but rather one of degree. And to the degree that we commit ourselves, we are giving him our permission to that same degree to change us, which is what I think salvation actually is.

So I don't go for 'once saved, always saved' or 'salvation by works,' I go for a scenario where God gives all of us two things: salvation and the power to accept or reject that salvation, but where salvation is a matter of degree that depends on the degree of our commitment to accepting it. And where our commitment is strengthened to the degree that we try to live our life accordingly.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
I prefer 'salvation by relationship', personally.

Yes, that's a neat way of describing it, thanks. We still have to do something, though, and I wonder if (some) Calvinists would be unhappy with that.
quote:
Originally posted by W Hyatt:
But if you look at the need for a response on our part to God's offer of salvation as having no connection to merit at all, it's possible to preserve free will and still attribute everything of salvation to God. All that is necessary is to realize that "works" can serve simply as a way to fully exercise our God-given free-will and commit ourselves to our choice to accept salvation and follow Him, with no connection to merit.

Yes, I'm happy to go with this. I imagine some might still describe it as 'salvation by works' but I don't see a viable alternative. The only other option as I see it is to hold that God chooses some to be saved and those chosen cannot do anything other than accept this salvation. So you're then at the extreme end of Calvinism which, I think, paints God as a grossly unfair monster, who picks some to save and others for the eternal torment of hell.

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mousethief

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Sounds very Orthodox, W Hyatt.

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orfeo

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Can I ask, if any Calvinists are still willing to pop up in here, what Calvinism makes of the parable of the Prodigal Son?

This popped into my head partly because I once acted in a version of it. And the fact is that the son came back. Rather than being dragged back home by his father.

And so the call is often made, alluding to that parable, to 'come home'.

That simply doesn't seem to gel with a theology that leaves the whole thing entirely up to God.

[ 29. July 2012, 23:51: Message edited by: orfeo ]

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balaam

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# 4543

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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
The only other option as I see it is to hold that God chooses some to be saved and those chosen cannot do anything other than accept this salvation.

God does not save people against their will, but the Holy Spirit moves in their lives until they are able to respond. This is Calvinism.

There is some free will in Calvinism but the ability to respond in free will is a gift from God. At every stage God is Sovereign.

quote:
Originally posted by orfeo:
Can I ask, if any Calvinists are still willing to pop up in here, what Calvinism makes of the parable of the Prodigal Son?

This popped into my head partly because I once acted in a version of it. And the fact is that the son came back. Rather than being dragged back home by his father.

The father would not drag the son back, because God does not force people to do anything against heir will.

The younger son never stops being a son. Even when indulging in drunken orgies or farming pigs he is still a son. And he never fully forgets his father. That the parable of the prodigal son goes against the Calvinist idea of perseverance of the saints is only true if the son ever stops being a son. When the father hands over the share of the inheritance he does not disinherit the son. The prodigal may not be acting like a good son should, but he is still a son.

The idea that the younger son is disinherited is not that of the father, but of the elder son.

It is the father that welcomes the son home. It is the father that reinstates him to his former position. It is the Father who throws the party.

But the point of the parable comes at the end. The elder brother is the one who would have disinherited his younger brother. The father never does and the father gives his elder son a right bollocking for wanting his brother disinherited.

When someone seemingly walks away from Christianity, from Christ, we do not know if there is something in there from God that will eventually cause them to remember and return. God only knows. We have not to write them off.

As far as the parable of the prodigal son goes, it is the fatted calf that I feel sorry for.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Balaam:
quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
The only other option as I see it is to hold that God chooses some to be saved and those chosen cannot do anything other than accept this salvation.

God does not save people against their will, but the Holy Spirit moves in their lives until they are able to respond. This is Calvinism.

There is some free will in Calvinism but the ability to respond in free will is a gift from God. At every stage God is Sovereign.

I'm not sure how this helps me, though - if the ability to respond to God's offer of salvation comes entirely from God Himself then why does God only give that ability to some people? Especially if the consequence of not accepting God's offer is eternal torment. How does this square with 'God is love' and 'For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son...'?

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
I'm not sure how this helps me, though - if the ability to respond to God's offer of salvation comes entirely from God Himself then why does God only give that ability to some people?

Unless you are universalist or some form of open theist then this is always a problem.

Since God knows the future (with or without either kind of free will - and free will of the libertarian sort is very difficult to defend philosophically), before he creates he knows who in that creation would end up in hell and who wouldn't.

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South Coast Kevin
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# 16130

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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
Unless you are universalist or some form of open theist then this is always a problem.

I think I might indeed be some form of open theist...

[ 30. July 2012, 11:18: Message edited by: South Coast Kevin ]

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balaam

Making an ass of myself
# 4543

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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
I'm not sure how this helps me, though - if the ability to respond to God's offer of salvation comes entirely from God Himself then why does God only give that ability to some people?

God's offer of salvation is for all. But God has foreknowledge and knows those who will not receive it. Take mousethief's well analogy, some people will not tie the rope around their waist and allow themselves to be hauled up.

quote:
Especially if the consequence of not accepting God's offer is eternal torment. How does this square with 'God is love' and 'For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son...'?
I did say twice on this thread that I that although I found much of Calvinism to be great, a few parts I find horrendous. This is one of them.

To finish your quote: '...that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.' The choice is not between eternal life or eternal punishment, but between eternal life and annihilation. I got this from reading a book by John Stott, but this was some years ago, and I can't remember the name of the book.

Calvinism makes a lot more sense if you are an annihilationist (apart from the bits about eternal suffering).

[ 30. July 2012, 11:25: Message edited by: Balaam ]

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South Coast Kevin
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# 16130

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quote:
Originally posted by Balaam:
God's offer of salvation is for all. But God has foreknowledge and knows those who will not receive it. Take mousethief's well analogy, some people will not tie the rope around their waist and allow themselves to be hauled up.

But God foreknowing who will choose to tie the rope round their waist and Him giving people the ability to do it are two different things. Aren't they?

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Eliab
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# 9153

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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I like to liken it to a person stuck at the bottom of a well. God throws down a rope and says, "Tie this around your waist, and I'll pull you up! Watch you don't bump against the sides!" Who does the pulling? God. Can we pull ourselves out? No. Do we have something to do? Yes. We have to tie the rope around our waist, and push off from the walls with our feet. An imperfect metaphor, as all are. But it allows for the fact that God is the one who saves us, not we ourselves, YET, there is something we must do; accept God's salvation, and cooperate with his work in us.

Thanks, mousethief. I wonder how any Christian would disagree with the broad point of this metaphor, that God initiates our rescuing but that we also have a role to play.
The problem many Calvinists would have with it would be asking what it is that makes the difference between mousethief at the top of the well and another sinner still at the bottom. If they were offered the same salvation, but didn't take it, the thing that made the difference was mousethief tying the rope. And why did he do that? Because he had a better sight of the rope, or better hearing of the instructions, and so realised that was the way out? In the Calvinist scheme, those things all come from God, so if mousethief did what the others would have done had they had the opportunity, then it is down to God giving him an opportunity which they did not get. Or was it because mousethief had exactly the same opportunity but somehow made a better choice than the other sinners? That is unthinkable in Calvin's theology - it would mean that mousethief could congratulate himself compared to the others on having the good sense to be saved, and God is therefore denied that part of the glory for his salvation.

If you start from the position that we all have to be equally impotent and unmeritorious for the theology of salvation to do justice to God, then there is no way to explain why some are saved and others are not, unless it is God, not us, who makes the difference.

quote:
The only other option as I see it is to hold that God chooses some to be saved and those chosen cannot do anything other than accept this salvation. So you're then at the extreme end of Calvinism
Only if you define "the extreme end of Calvinism" as being what Calvin actually believed.

And yes, I think if you get to that point, you have a monster God, and you run into all sorts of moral problems about what it means to say that God is good, and epistomological ones that come from believing in an omnipotent being who purposefully maintains most of the world in a deluded state. But it is, in my view, where you do in fact end up if you accept the contentious proposition that we have absolutely no merit of our own whatever, because then it becomes impossible to make any part of our salvation conditional on our response. All the more reason, in my view, not to start there, but if you do, the Calvinist scheme is sound.

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South Coast Kevin
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# 16130

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
The problem many Calvinists would have with it would be asking what it is that makes the difference between mousethief at the top of the well and another sinner still at the bottom. If they were offered the same salvation, but didn't take it, the thing that made the difference was mousethief tying the rope. And why did he do that? Because he had a better sight of the rope, or better hearing of the instructions, and so realised that was the way out?

Yes, I've wondered about this. Might it be that God treats us according to what we've done with what we received, like in the parable of the talents? So, for example, one who has many godly friends and family members who provide a great example of Christian discipleship will be judged more harshly (horrible phrase, can't think of better) than one who is mistreated by a Christian leader and subsequently rejects Jesus because 'all his followers are cruel hypocrites'.

That's not going to fly with many people, though, because it implies there is no single measure / indicator of whether you are 'in' or 'out' with God. What gets you 'in' might not be enough for me because I've not done enough with all the advantages life has handed me.

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mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by Balaam:
quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
The only other option as I see it is to hold that God chooses some to be saved and those chosen cannot do anything other than accept this salvation.

God does not save people against their will, but the Holy Spirit moves in their lives until they are able to respond. This is Calvinism.
Which makes no sense to me. God doesn't do it against their will, but God changes their will do want him to do it. Six of one...

quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
The problem many Calvinists would have with it would be asking what it is that makes the difference between mousethief at the top of the well and another sinner still at the bottom. If they were offered the same salvation, but didn't take it, the thing that made the difference was mousethief tying the rope. And why did he do that? Because he had a better sight of the rope, or better hearing of the instructions, and so realised that was the way out?

That would be my answer.

quote:
In the Calvinist scheme, those things all come from God, so if mousethief did what the others would have done had they had the opportunity, then it is down to God giving him an opportunity which they did not get.
See, here you are having it both ways. You take the universal causation of Calvinism and mate it with the kenosis of Orthodoxy and then hey presto! They don't make sense together.

quote:
But it is, in my view, where you do in fact end up if you accept the contentious proposition that we have absolutely no merit of our own whatever, because then it becomes impossible to make any part of our salvation conditional on our response. All the more reason, in my view, not to start there, but if you do, the Calvinist scheme is sound.
Here again the confusion between our response being necessary, and our response being meritorious in the sense of earning something from God. Or to put it another way, shoving us into Pelagianism.

quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
That's not going to fly with many people, though, because it implies there is no single measure / indicator of whether you are 'in' or 'out' with God. What gets you 'in' might not be enough for me because I've not done enough with all the advantages life has handed me.

Dammit, God, get your arse back into that box.

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orfeo

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# 13878

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quote:
Originally posted by Balaam:
quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
I'm not sure how this helps me, though - if the ability to respond to God's offer of salvation comes entirely from God Himself then why does God only give that ability to some people?

God's offer of salvation is for all. But God has foreknowledge and knows those who will not receive it. Take mousethief's well analogy, some people will not tie the rope around their waist and allow themselves to be hauled up.

Yes, but the point of introducing the rope concept was to distinguish foreknowledge from causation. The 'hard Calvinist' position that has been espoused would not allow an action undertaken by the person in the well, even an action that God foreknew.

If God actually causes the person to tie the rope around their waist, by giving some people that capacity and not giving it to others, you might as well take the tying around the waist out of the analogy, because the contribution of the person in the well is illusory. God reaches down into the well and yanks some people out, and doesn't yank other people out.

The proposition that God's offer of salvation is for all is much closer to the Arminian position, not the Calvinist one.

[ 31. July 2012, 10:42: Message edited by: orfeo ]

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