Did God “Ordain” and “Decree” Heresy?

Posted: March 4, 2016 in Calvinism

James A. ThM, PhD a/b/t

Calvinist Colin Maxwell posted a photo with comment on 1 Corinthians 11:19 (from the Geneva Bible) insinuating that God “decreed” heresy among believers. This is a gross distortion of the Bible and demonstrates the problem with Calvinist eisegesis and how they redefine simple etymology.

Geneva -1 Cor 11v18.jpg

First of all, we’ll deal with what Paul did NOT say. Let’s put this quote in context from the King James Version:

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.” I Corinthians 11:17-21.

Paul did NOT say God “decreed” this, that is Calvinist Gnostic speak for anything they want to blame God for as the cause of evil that He uses for His purposes (see our article on The Decrees of God). Furthermore, the word “must” does not mean “decree” or “ordain” or “caused”.

What it does say.

If I walk into a room and smell smoke, then my conclusion is that there must be a fire (Where there’s smoke there’s fire). This does not mean that fire is necessarily there for some preordained purpose (formal cause). This confuses the efficient cause with the instrumental cause of the event. In this case, the fire is the instrumental cause of the smoke (that through which the smoke arose) it is not the efficient cause of the smoke (that by which the smoke arose). Maxwell’s assessment demonstrates a fundamental error in the laws of causation. Maxwell assumes (as do other Calvinists) that God is the efficient cause of heresy, whereas the text shows that the self-determined acts of heresy and division were the instrumental cause and the efficient cause was the believers in error, not God.

Paul is not arguing about who or what “must have” caused the heresy, in this case, God, according to his logic. Paul is giving the explanation of why there are divisions among the Corinthians (vs 18) not that they MUST be there. Put another way, if I say, “You MUST be joking”, that does not mean that the person “making” the joke must make it or was forced, or ordained to be ironic. Clearly, because Paul told the church to be of one mind (Phil 2:1-5) to avoid schisms in the church (1 Cor 12:25), God wouldn’t ordain something that He proscribed against.

Another explanation for this verse are that heresies is often used to describe sects (Acts 5:17, 15:5, 24:5, 26:5, 28:22, taken from αἵρεσις). The very fact that the etymology behind this word is one that describes CHOICE shows that αἵρεσις is not and can not be something that is decreed or ordained. That’s like the Drill SGT saying that he orders you not to choose your next choice of action. That’s called a Hobson’s Choice. Nevertheless, if Paul was using “must” in a prescriptive sense, it would be the kind of division that purposely separates from those who espouse to false doctrine (Romans 16:17) so that other believers who had Paul’s approval would be manifest among the real believers. In other words, “You must DIVIDE” is not the same as-and holds a different emphasis than- “You MUST Divide” because the division and the heresy itself is an action caused by God.

There is simply no logical or Biblical reason to interpret this verse as a “decree” by God that results in and causes the division and heretical doctrines among believers in the church. God is not sitting in heaven talking false doctrine with the devil and then approving which of the devil’s ideas (or God’s since Calvinists claim it’s His decree) would be the best used heresy or division to cause God’s church members to embrace heresy. It’s bad enough that Calvinists claim God does this between believers and unbelievers (preterition), but to endorse this kind of rhetoric among God’s own children is preposterous.

  1. DaveW says:

    Another good article. Keep up the good work.

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