Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Universal Grace is Cruelty

It’s time to turn a myth on its head. Arminians of the last 450 years and the Pelagians before them have always appealed to their doctrine of Universal Grace as a sign of God’s goodwill toward men. The Augustinian or Calvinistic scheme of a limited grace for the elect alone, they claim is unjust and unkind. How, they ask, can a loving God predestinate men to live in unrepentant sin, and then punish them with eternal hellfire for doing what was predestined? There’s nary a Pelagian or Arminian in the world who hasn’t pulled this stunt at some time in a debate with a Calvinist.

Let’s dispatch with the niceties. First of all, the objection is a gross mischaracterization of the facts to begin with. It is built on the assumption that the divine decree and human responsibility are incompatible. This is patently false and we know so because Scripture plainly teaches so. Anyone who doesn’t see this is reading with their eyes closed. Judas Iscariot, we are told, did what was foretold of him, yet Christ says it would have been better for him to have never been born, thus expressing Judas’ culpability. Herod and Pilate had a hand in executing Christ, but both did what God’s decree had ordained. Scripture is replete with examples which demonstrate this, both from positive and negative perspectives.

But that isn’t what we’re interested in right now. I wish to show you that the chimerical Arminian objection is more accurately a depiction of its own principles. To show this, let’s go back to the Arminian doctrine of Universal Grace and ask a question. Does God know, or does He not know beforehand how everyone will respond to His grace? In other words: Does God know who will accept and who will reject it? The only possible answers are “Yes,” or “No.” If you say “No,” you are an atheist, regardless of what you call yourself. A God who is not omniscient is no God at all. Open Theism is thinly veiled atheism, as is its mother Arminianism.

Right about now I anticipate someone objecting that Open Theism is not necessarily an Arminian issue. After all, Thomas Oden decries Open Theism as heresy. I have looked at the subject from every possible angle and there is no way you can convince me that Open Theism is not the legitimate offspring of Arminianism. The whole reason for dreaming up Open Theism in the first place was to make a way for God’s knowledge to square with the Arminian conception of free-will. Toss Arminian free-will back in the pit that it came from, and the need for an Open view of God dissipates.

Back to my question. If you answer, “Yes, God knows unmistakably who will accept His grace and who will reject it,” then we have a bigger problem. Your system entails this uncomfortable consequence: God, fully aware that such and such a person will unfailingly and willfully persist in sin, rejecting God’s grace till his dying day, thrusts this grace upon him anyway, thus amplifying his guilt a million times. Where is the love of God now? This is nothing but unmitigated cruelty and hatred. Offering grace and atonement to one whom God know will only spurn it, is an intentional exacerbating of their sin. If the Arminian deity had any love at all, He would withhold the grace He knows will be rejected. In other words, if the Arminian deity had any love at all, He’d be the God of the Bible who is best expressed in Calvinistic terms. Can we suppose that God is even earnest when He offers grace to those He knows will refuse it?

The Arminian replies, “But this makes takes away man’s excuse for sinfulness.” Let’s assume for a moment that this is true. Ok, it takes away man’s excuse. But this means that God knowingly makes a man more inexcusable because He loves that man so much.

4 comments:

  1. One thing that I have always found curious about this habit of Arminians is that they dare to ask a question to which Scripture gives such a stinging reply. You phrase the question, "How, they ask, can a loving God predestinate men to live in unrepentant sin, and then punish them with eternal hellfire for doing what was predestined?" Paul , speaking in the voice of the questioner, phrases the same question (Romans 9:19), "You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?'" Then, in response (verses 20 and 21), "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?" The Arminians forget that God is Creator, and they merely creatures. Who are they to accuse God of injustice?

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    1. Well, If I read the bible with just a few scriptures in the forefront, I might conclude the same. However, if I understood God this way, would it really matter if I replied against God since I was destined to this condemnation? The ignorance that Calvinists have about actual real arminian doctrine never ceases to amaze me. You charge us with your paper tiger arguments with things we clearly do not believe. If I believed like the Calvinists purported that I did, I would also call it heresy.

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    2. Well, If I read the bible with just a few scriptures in the forefront, I might conclude the same. However, if I understood God this way, would it really matter if I replied against God since I was destined to this condemnation? The ignorance that Calvinists have about actual real arminian doctrine never ceases to amaze me. You charge us with your paper tiger arguments with things we clearly do not believe. If I believed like the Calvinists purported that I did, I would also call it heresy.

      Let me say a few things by way of response:
      1. I typically refuse to approve comments that are submitted anonymously, especially if they are critical comments. If you haven't the courage to affix your name to your objections, I haven't the time or necessity to take you seriously. I approved your comment precisely because your response proves the assertion I made in the article. You literally said “would it really matter if I replied against God since I was destined to this condemnation?”. This is exactly what I affirmed Arminians to reply when faced with the Bible's teaching on election.
      2. It isn't a matter of a few stray passages. When Paul builds his case in Romans and Ephesians, he cites numerous Old Testament passages to demonstrate his case. Moreover in Romans 9, his opponents present the exact objection I have heard from Arminians with my own ears and have read in standard Arminian texts with my own eyes. “If God has predestined everything, then if a person sins (as he is undoubtedly predestined to do), why does God fault him for it? After all, he is only doing what he was predestined to do.” Notice that Paul doesn't dance around the assertion and claim that he has been misunderstood. Neither does Paul appeal to mystery or paradox. He flatly rebukes the objector: “O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” You might object that there is a difference between a man and a piece of inanimate clay. Of course there is, but the difference is still only a finite difference, because both are mere creatures. Whereas the difference between God and a potter is infinite: God is infinitely more than a potter. Whatever rights a potter has over his clay, God's has infinitely more rights over man whom He has created to dispose of as He pleases.
      3. I put to you this challenge: Provide me with solid arguments culled from the standard accepted Arminian theology texts that disclaim the arguments I have put into their mouths – your so-called “paper tigers.” Then we'll talk. Go and read Girardeau's Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism. In it you will find plenty of citations from the standard Arminian authoritative writers on every locus of theology - demonstrating Arminianism to be far worse than I presented it in this article.
      4. As for “paper tigers:” Do Arminians believe in universal grace or not? Of course they do. Do Arminians believe in free-will? Of course they do. Do Arminians believe that God looks down the corridors of time and sees who will and will not believe on Him? Of course they do. Say what you want, everyone of these positions logically terminates in Atheism. The fact that most Arminians do not follow their own system to its logical conclusion does not negate this fact. A “god” who creates beings over whom he has no meaningful control, who wants to save everyone but can't because he absent-mindedly gave them a will which enables them to frustrate His almighty power, who, while being eternal himself, has no eternal thoughts or plans regarding his creation because he can only react to what they do in time – this is a feebler “god” than Baal. It is rank atheism.

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  2. It never ceases to amaze me that people who are presumably acquainted with Scripture fall so easily into the negative categories Scripture foretells: Rome calls its leader vicar of Christ (which is ἀντίχριστος in Greek). You'd think someone would've said, "You know, that's not really the best title." Then the Arminians present the exact same arguments Paul's opponents did, and nobody says, "Wait a minute; this doesn't help our cause."

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