Dr James Ach and J/A
In a few recent articles*, we have exposed Calvinists for using dishonest rhetoric to maintain credibility among churches and the Christian community at large. James White, of Alpha & Omega Ministry, shows us again how Reformers-as many modern Calvinists refer to themselves as-employ the use of misleading lingo in order to stay relevant in a culture already blown about with every wind of doctrine.
White often claims to have coined a term “Theology Matters”, and we would certainly agree with that. So far so good. But the problem is that theology is not the only important thing to God, and we doubt White would disagree with that; in fact, he would probably retort that if one’s theology is right then a proper character should follow, and we would agree with that, too. However, we must emphasize that character is important because Calvinists don’t seem to think that they need to tell the truth about what they really believe in, or risk being viewed as mean, unloving, cultish, as well as expressing a view of God and “love” that most people find detestable and unacceptable.
White posted the following quote on his website with a picture of what presumably is a man who attacked four police officers in New York.
Combine a wrathful God, a strict law, capricious forgiveness, no emphasis upon justice and equity and the fulfillment of God’s law as reflected in His nature, with the fatal exclusion of a Mediator who can show us God’s mercy and love and grace in perfection, and here is the result. Few things prove the truth of this more clearly: THEOLOGY MATTERS.
At face value, the above quote seems innocuous and theologically sound. The problem is, is does this reflect what Calvinists and James White actually believe? And if not, then why continue using rhetoric that is unsupported by Calvinist theology? Let us explain some points here that support our accusation.
Justice and Equity?
Equity (meyshar, Prov 1:3) is a legal term. When Roman and English jurisprudence was developed, judges sometimes ran into problems in the court room of deciding an issue of law where there was no clearly established rule or governing principle. The Hebrew concept of meyshar was the wisdom of a mediator to bring justice that made the parties involved whole or “leveled the playing field”. Solomon demonstrated this kind of wisdom in suggesting to divide a disputed child in two (1 Kings 3:25). In American jurisprudence there is a federal statute at 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that allows for legal actions “at law AND EQUITY [action in law, suit in equity]” that permits a court to grant relief using discretion that the strict letter of the law may not cover.
Applying this principle theologically, however, is problematic for Calvinism because equity is used to exercise discretion in “gray areas” or adiaphora (matters in Scripture that have no clearly defined rule where morality can not be proscribed by simply pointing to a verse on “that” specific issue). If God had “determined all things whatsoever come to pass” as the Calvinists confessions claim, equitable discretion is not possible. Calvinism is not known for claiming to color outside of the lines of moral responsibility; it’s either black or white. It’s a governing principle behind much the Calvinists who employ Nouthetic counseling.
Yet I don’t believe that Calvinists themselves have really thought it through when they claim to believe in justice and equity. They can usually “defend” the justice of God-in their own way-but I’m not sure if Calvinists really understand the inconsistency between Calvinist determinism and the principles of equity. The concept of equity is completely incongruent with Calvinism because it permits God to “change His mind” as He did with the Ninevites in Jonah 3:8-10. Calvinists assume that God doing anything differently than what they perceive has already been determined would be an adherence to Open Theism. Although this is an absurd claim, it’s one that shows that Calvinists develop their Biblical views around their philosophy, instead of developing their philosophy around the Bible. If Jonah said God did something other then what He said He would do, and did so because of a response that depended upon human repentance, then the serious Bible student has to begin with what Scripture says, and build on that, not what some creed or confession claims and then interpret Scripture based upon said traditions.
White also explains theodicy in terms of “permission”. God restrains evil and permits a certain amount of evil for His glory. However, it is erroneous to hold that God determines all events and yet at some point in time grants permission for event to take place. Permission implies that an event in time COULD HAVE happened differently had it not been for God’s permitting it to happen otherwise. Yet if all events have already been determined, then the concept of permission would be redundant to Calvinist theology, and gives the Calvinist the same problem as equity.
With The Fatal EXCLUSION of a Mediator
Do not Calvinists claim that sinners are determined to live in and by the nature that God has given them? Why then expect sinners to act differently? If God determined that Cain would kill Abel, why should anyone be surprised that Cain committed murder? Why not thank God and rejoice for causing these sinful creatures to do His will! These murderers are doing exactly what God wants them to do because He determined them to do so, or at least (if you don’t claim to be “hyper Calvinist”) He gave them a nature that He never intended on saving, and of which will never be able to do anything other than the evil it has been programmed to carry out (this compatibilist explanation for human responsibility is how Calvinists avoid the so-called [and quite imaginary] “hyper” Calvinist label, although the results inevitably still leads to exhaustive determinism. The “hyper” term is a sleight-of-hand trick to make you stop looking at the inconsistency, if you stop thinking about the contradiction and focus instead on the imaginary scarecrow called “Hyper” then presto, problem solved!).
So yes, we certainly agree with White, that when Christ is excluded, men do heinous things. But, according to Reformed theology, these sinners are really acting in perfect obedience to God because they are doing precisely what He has fitted them to do. So why do Calvinists complain so much when sinners are being obedient to God? In fact, I’d say sinners are far more obedient to God than most Christians. At least Flip Wilson can honestly say that God gave him the nature and desires that he has if Calvinism is true. What’s the Christians excuse? If God determines the blasphemy of the sinner, does He also determine the recalcitrance of the saints? I mean, after- all, doesn’t Eph 2:10 say that the believers works are ORDAINED?
..Who Can Show Us His Love And Mercy
And now we arrive at the pet peeve I have against Calvinism. STOP TELLING SINNERS ABOUT GOD’S LOVE WHEN YOU DON’T MEAN IT OR BELIEVE IT. No honest and consistent Calvinist believes that God loves everybody. Consistent Calvinism maintains that Christ died ONLY for the elect (particular redemption or limited atonement). James White debated Dr. Michael Brown on this very issue. White has plainly stated that God does not love everyone, and admitted that it was the question of Christ’ intention on the cross after reading Palmer’s “Five Points of Calvinism” that led him to become a “full 5 pointer”, in the which if Christ’s intention was to save everyone, then everyone would be saved, but since everyone isn’t saved, then Christ must not have intended to save everyone. Although his reasoning here is backwards (not to mention fails to distinguish provision from application) because it forces Christ’s intentions to be based on an a posteriori hypothesis making the outcome prescriptive, it provides insight into White’s mens rea in committing the spiritual felony of uttering false information to prospective converts.
Of course, when the Calvinists are cornered on the issue of God’s love, they will use misleading rhetoric by spelling out that God loves people differently (an argument that White used against Dave Hunt***). But if even that is what they believe, then why not just say so instead of mixing the love of God in general terms with the wrath of God as if the contrast has a salvific meaning to a sinner?. When you see “love of God” used in contexts like what you see above, and in such general terms, it sure doesn’t sound like the Calvinist is trying to tell the sinner ” Oh by the way, God doesn’t love every one …..equally”. Why don’t they just be honest and tell them that God merely sends a gardener to water their lawn (“rain on the just and the unjust” **). Now I personally have a problem with someone that tells me that they love me even as a friend or “providentially” or hate me, and then waters my garden, but that’s the non sense Calvinists expect us to swallow when they attempt to explain Limited Atonement and Unconditional Election. They expect you to believe that God hates the sinner but shows love at the same time by watering his garden. That’s not love, that’s Bipolar Disorder. But, they know that most of the world has a common understanding of what love is, so to accommodate the listeners they use dishonest rhetoric to avoid having their motives questioned for using “funny language”.
We can debate the theology of preterition or atonement ’til the cows come home, and neither of us will budge. So we don’t expect White or other Calvinists to change their views, we are just simply asking them TO BE HONEST IN THEIR PRESENTATIONS. Tell people what you REALLY believe first and forthright instead of using dishonest and misleading rhetoric that you think and believe they will understand only to later on send them an April Fool’s post card with a map to the golden chain of redemption on the back.
This is probably a big reason why Calvinists ALWAYS claim they are misrepresented and misunderstood. It’s partly because they can’t be honest about what they really believe. One has to wonder is this part of the Calvinist ploy to take over Baptist churches and colleges? Conquer by deceit? It certainly smacks of just more similarities between Calvinism and Islam (in addition to Islamic views on sovereignty, determinism, election, love and responsibility). But if Calvinists genuinely expect to have meaningful dialogue with their opponents, then they need to start being forthright and honest about what they truly believe about their theology, because as much as theology matters, so does character:
Ye are our epistles written in our hearts, known and read of all men. 2 Cor 3:2
“God loves sinners and desires that they be saved. ~Paul Washer”
“God hates sinners” Paul Washer
**Calvinists claim that this (Matthew 5:45) is an example of “providential” love, that God provides love for sinners in His “providence” for them. However, Jesus used this story to explain a REDEMPTIVE love-“that YE MAY BE THE CHILDREN OF YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN”. Christ does not speak of a different kind of rain. Jesus didn’t say that the “elect” get fresh mountain water but the unelect get rust water. THE WATER THAT BOTH JUST AND UNJUST GET IS THE SAME, JUST AS THE LOVE HE SHOWS IN HIS OFFER OF REDEMPTION IS THE SAME. The Calvinists have focused on the analogy as if Jesus was giving farming lessons, instead of examining this passage in the actual context of which Jesus was trying to express; why a person needs to offer forgiveness beyond what is expected (like the publicans). Given the context of WHY Jesus said what He did about the rain, there’s just no excuse for the kind of bad “exegesis” that Calvinists force on this passage to impose a philosophy upon the text that is simply isn’t there. Christ is not speaking of any so-called ‘providential love” here, and Calvinists need to stop acting like that’s what this verse means.
*** “And the love God has for His own people, the elect, is different than the love He shows to the creation in general or to rebel sinners outside of His grace in particular.” (James White/Dave Hunt: Debating Calvinism, p.268)
“There is no basis in the Bible for asserting that God’s love knows no levels, kinds, or types.” (ibid, p.267).