Saturday, August 2, 2014
A Run of the Mill Attack on Calvinism
For Part One, see here.
Here is the first point on offer by Mr. Mills to support his claim that Calvinism leads one to Islam…
Both [Calvinism and Islam –AR] have a constricted view of the nature of God, a view that limits human responsibility.
In this post I will respond to Mr. Mills’ view of Calvinism, leaving a consideration of Islam’s doctrine of predestination to the next installment.
Since Mr. Mills, in an attempt to confirm the above charge, goes on to write that Calvinism teaches God’s comprehensive sovereignty over all created reality, or at least over who will be saved or damned, one can only wonder what Mills thinks the word “constricted” means. Such a scurrilous charge is all the more inexplicable in light of Mills’ claim that Calvinism’s view of the nature of God puts “limits on human responsibility.” If Calvinism’s view of God actually does limit human responsibility, it would seem only too obvious that Calvinism’s doctrine of God does not teach a constricted view of God’s nature but a constricted view of human nature. To make Mills’ statement coherent, it should be revised to say that Calvinism teaches “a constricting view of the nature of God, i.e. one that limits human responsibility.”
In any case, while it is certainly true that Calvinists believe in the sovereignty of God, and while this does place definite limits on all created reality, including mankind, confessional Calvinism has never thought or taught that this limits human responsibility. While God decreed, planned, and purposed everything that was and is to happen, by His providence He caused and causes it all to come to pass through that natural liberty with which He has endowed secondary agents. The Bible itself teaches the complete compatibility of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The following two verses are representative of this teaching, for in both the sovereign goodness of God in planning and bringing the events to pass is affirmed while at the same time the human agents that brought these events about are upbraided for their evil intent and the lawlessness of their actions.
When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, YOU meant evil against me, but GOD meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
In fact, Calvinism does not merely teach the utter compatibility of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, as if the two are merely to be thought of as consistent with one another and no more. Calvinism actually teaches that it is only on the Biblically grounded presupposition that God is the sovereign creator as well as providential sustainer and governor of everything is human responsibility a reality. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it:
God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (“Of God’s Eternal Decree,” Chapter III, Section 1.)
It is precisely because God created (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6), upholds (Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17), and governs all events, things, and people (Lamentations 3:37-38, Ephesians 1:11), and through the works of creation and all the motions of providence reveals Himself and His righteous requirements (Psalm 19:1-7, Romans 1:18-32, Acts 14:15-17, 17:24-28), that human beings are obligated at all points to render unto Him whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them. To deny God’s sovereign Lordship at any point is to deny human responsibility at precisely that point. According to Calvinism then, man, the special object of God’s works of creation and providence – indeed, man as the image bearer of God – is face to face with God everywhere and at all times, even when he looks in the mirror. We were made in His image and it is in Him that we live and move and have our being. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.
In short, the reality of human responsibility is grounded upon and presupposes divine sovereignty in order to even be possible or intelligible. To unseat God from His Lordly throne and place chance or human autonomy in His place is the only way one can hope to do away with human responsibility. Only on the assumption of human autonomy can it be said that man is not a responsible agent. Since Mr. Mills does not deny human responsibility but in fact affirms it and uses it in his argument, it must frankly be said that Mr. Mills has not only failed to impugn Calvinism but has shown that he can’t even intelligibly attempt to do so apart from depending on the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob…and, yes, Calvin.
For Part Three, go here.