The documentary Hellbound? premieres September 2012.

Mark Driscoll, Kevin DeYoung, and I were among those interviewed for the film, though I suspect only Driscoll made the final cut. On the other side of the theological spectrum are folks like Edward Fudge, Greg Boyd, and Frank Schaeffer. Based on the early positive reviews by Boyd and Schaeffer, along with people like Phyllis Tickle and Brian McLaren, I don’t think it’s a mystery the direction the film is intended to lead viewers.

I would rather interview than be interviewed, but I like Kevin Miller and welcomed the opportunity for civil discourse with someone who didn’t share my beliefs.

In the clip below from our conversation (which is not in the film), you can see my on-the-fly attempt to respond to the charge that eternal punishment entails that God is a moral monster. If I had a “do over” I might have challenged the premise of the analogy: if a father can rescue his children from destruction but only saves some we consider him morally culpable, but in the Christian worldview we are rebelling against the Judge and receive a free offer of mercy which we reject. Instead, I focused on the underlying issue I see at play not only in this debate but in so many aspects of progressive revisionism: namely the desire to create God in our own image, to create a functional canon within a canon, to reason from the ground-up rather than the top-down, and to require that God’s authoritative revelation first meet with our approval.

Here is the trailer for the film:

For those wanting to read more on the biblical understanding of hell, here are a couple of books you should consider

Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go To Heaven? ed. Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (with contributions from Keller, Packer, Mohler, and others)

Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment, by Robert Peterson.

Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We Made Up, by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle.

Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins,” by Michael Wittmer.

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Comments:


121 thoughts on “Is the God of Calvinism a Moral Monster?”

  1. Scott says:

    A nice, shorter book that might be worth engaging with is Andrew Perriman’s Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective. Perriman is a proponent of the historical-narrative hermeneutic. He even just recently engaged with Tim Challies’ posts on hell and God’s wrath. You can see his blog at http://www.postost.net.

    1. Daniel says:

      I second and third and fourth this.
      I would love for a credible Reformed blogger to interact/respond to Perriman, b/c his arguments are much better than other annhilationist arguments that I see. They are exegetical, and not based on perceived philosophical inconsistencies with the love of God.

      1. phillip says:

        Thank you Daniel and Scott for pointing out Perriman’s book. After 30 years in the Reformed faith I have come to believe in the ultimate reconciliation of all– in other words, “evangelical universalism.” But I am eager to understand better the annihilationist POV. I will check out this book per both your recommendations!

        Annihilationism is a much more reasonable position for those struggling with the contradictions found within the eternal conscious torment view. However, the problem I see with annihilationism is that it does not fulfill a Biblical sense of justice. The words justice and righteousness are the SAME word in the Greek and righteousness means literally returning to “right-useness.” We are conditioned to think of justice in terms of GETTING justice whereas the Bible speaks of DOING justice. Many evangelicals such as Charles Colson, Tim Keller, and Marvin Olasky have pointed this out:

        http://godslovewins.com/blog/dr-marvin-olasky-justice-as-righteousness/

        1. Dan Vincent says:

          Phillip, I came from Arminianism to Calvinism, and finally to Ultimate Restoration (mislabeled “universalism”). Glad to see others awaking to this truth!

          Yes, biblical justice is exactly what I see as the glaring elephant in the room in this discussion. Eternal punishment is a far cry from biblical justice. It’s almost laughable the extent its proponents go to in defending that position. God expressly forbids torture – why would He do it himself. God repeatedly exhorts us to have unconditional forgiveness for our fellow man. Why would that not be a part of His ultimate plan as well? He mandates eye-for-eye – meaning the punishment fits the crime. Eternal torture hardly fits the crime of making an irrational, uninformed, or foolish decision to reject Christ.

          No, it’s all a matter of timing, as Paul says.. “each in His own order.” If we get past the mistranslation of “aionian” and understand God’s Plan for the Ages, things are much more clear.

          1. phillip says:

            Hello Dan, I also came from Arminianism (10 years), then into Reformed theology (30 years) and finally about 5 years ago to ultimate reconciliation. It was the likes of J. I Packer, Tim Keller and John Piper, Carson etc., that convinced me that “God’s word will not return to Him void,” and that ALL glory and worship must go to Him in the end (Phil 2). This must be sincere for false worship is something He HATES–and we are told He “created all things for His pleasure.”

            It was Packer who brought me initially into Calvinism and then into ultimate reconciliation nearly 30 years later:

            http://godslovewins.com/blog/j-i-packers-intro-to-john-owens-death-of-death-in-the-death-of-christ/

      2. K. Cisco says:

        Phillip, Dan V., and Beloved Friends in Christ: It’s interesting how we come to (how the Lord gets us to) the truth. A more fundamental question than the the nature of hell or the Lake of Fire is the question of God’s nature.

        We know that God is not schizophrenic: loving one minute, and angry the next. After all, He is omniscient; how can He become angry, or surprised, or disappointed?

        I assert that our loving God is never violent. Nor does God use Satan as an instrument of wrath. Although it raises as many questions as it answers, please read this fascinating essay by Richard K. Murray, entitled “The Forgotten Key To The Old Testament,” at
        http://www.thegoodnessofgod.com/forgottenkeytooldtestament.html

        A quote from this essay: “Jewish and Christian scholars alike have both noted that the Old Testament view of God differs SIGNIFICANTLY from the New Testament view in one key aspect– the way Satan is viewed. THE WAY SATAN IS VIEWED explains all discrepancies between the Old and New Testaments.”

  2. Justin, excellent response, well worded. Thank you for presenting the doctrines of grace in a gracious manner.

  3. Clayton says:

    Justin, your answer was very helpful and penetrating – so helpful, in fact, that they probably didn’t include it in the documentary because it shut down 90% of the opposing arguments. But I also agree with you, that it would have been even better if you switched the analogy from “father to son” to “merciful judge to guilty criminal.” I think we need to do a better job of showing both that (1) both “God is love” and “God damns” are in the Bible, and (2) this logically coheres (think Edwardsian arguments). While the first answer really helps someone who is deeply committed to the inerrancy of the Bible, it is not very helpful (and possibly even damaging) to someone who’s not so committed.

    1. Dan Vincent says:

      You are assuming that all of those who do not agree with eternal punishment have decided to just chuck proper hermeneutics and translation out the window. What the eternal-hell camp fails to realize is that there are indeed very, very smart people, who aren’t trying to read anything into the Word, that come up with different conclusions. Yes, they probably were prompted by their (God-given) consciences to investigate the matter more thoroughly, but they are not ignoring anything. For every passage a “restorationist” might have difficulty with, I can name several more that eternal punishment proponents have no good answer for.

  4. I simply want to examine one of your statements against the biblical text, the one bit where you say, “If I had a “do over” I might have challenged the premise of the analogy: if a father can rescue his children from destruction but only saves some we consider him morally culpable, but in the Christian worldview we are rebelling against the Judge and receive a free offer of mercy which we reject.”

    This is highly problematic for me on a few levels and betrays your Calvinistic starting position as much as the position you are rejecting does by primarily utilizing the imagery of father. Both images are employed in scripture and we need to attempt to understand how they might function together, taking into account what the tradition calls the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS). While the DDS traditionally deals with the attributes of God, it easily applies here since the analogical relations posited by both parties are primarily meant to evoke imagery of particular attributes (say love and grace for the father and justice/holinesss for the judge) possesed by the figures utilized analogically. Thus the question shouldn’t be posed in terms of either/or, but rather in how the two images relate if we are to be faithful to the DDS.

    I found that Challies’ recent series failed on this mark as well because both sides of the issue tend to weight their reading of scripture and then emphasize particular attributes over against other attributes. If we do this we end up with a God who seems schizophrenic rather than the consistent and faithful God we see revealed in the entirety of the canon. I’d challenge you and those who over emphasize the justice/holiness of God to view God in a more holistic way that is actually in line with the impulse of our tradition (which has adhered to the DDS from Calvin onward to Barth); attempt to understand how the biblical narrative teaches us about a God whose justice is loving and whose love is just.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks, Randy. Keep in mind that this was a short, suggestive aside in a blog post, not a precise theological elaboration. I do hold to DDS, and your statement at the end would be a good summary of my view: we must hold to just love and loving justice. I do think the primary referent of the fatherhood imagery in Scripture has to do with Israel and the church, not with all of humanity. Oversimplifying, we could say analogously that through adoption the Judge becomes my Father.

      1. AF says:

        Yeah, I just thought the father example is a false comparison, because according to scripture, it’s only those in Christ who are God’s children – we have to be adopted as sons.

  5. Raj says:

    (1) W.R.T.(With regards to) the Father/Children analogy, it might be worth taking a look at Feinberg on Compatibilism in No One Like Him and seeing how that ties in with the doctrine of Hell. That illustration is tough because in the minds of everyone, children are always presumed to be innocent.

    (2) Might I grind an axe for a second?

    I wonder if the documentary will discuss the issue of justice and hell. My reading has been limited but I my limited impression has been that justice w.r.t. Hell has not been discussed much for the certain types of cases such as that of James Holmes who killed 12 and Anders Breivik who murdered 69 people, mostly teens.

    Think of this:

    Now if a single human life has infinite value, and these murderers took 81 (= 12 + 69) lives then what sort of punishment could they receive for this? 81 death penalties? Can they be executed 81 times? Or perhaps they ought to be given life in prison.

    Then consider James “Whitey” Bulger a mobster arrested at age 79 and who killed 18 people as far as we know. What does it mean to give a 79 year old man the death penalty? He will probably die of natural causes soon. Similarly so – what does it mean to give a 79 year old man life in prison. He will probably die of natural causes soon anyway.

    My point: Cases such as these help us to see only Hell can secure justice. If there is no Hell, there is no justice and the crimes of these wicked men did pay.

    1. Joel says:

      After watching both the interview and the trailer, I think Raj you summed up my thoughts. I thought Justin’s point to dismiss the hypothetical situation was right on. I know it was probably really hard to answer with all the pressure of cameras and lights. Unfortunately I think we will be seeing a lot more of these types of questions. We need to be able to step back and help people asking these question put things in perspective. Children in a cultural context are seen as innocent, so essentially they are asking how a loving father could condemn innocent his children? But in reality this doesn’t portray a biblical perspective of the situation. If we can take questions like this and keep their hypothetical situation but put it in perspective, I think we can begin to see hearts change. For example could the loving father of Mao, Stalin and Hitler let their sons sins go unpunished? Should he save them so they can continue to commit mass genocide? (The example seems extreme but you need to take people there because this generation doesn’t see people as sinners or wicked.)

      Last point I would throw out there is that I find people’s problem is less with the election aspects of Calvinism and more with original sin. Most people don’t know it, but their real struggle is with the fact that it is JUST for us to be condemned. People all over the world think they are basically good not basically sinful! When people understand this truth then they can begin to see salvation come out of mercy and grace. Hell is simply justice.

      Thanks Justin for posting these videos. Please continue to take these opportunities, also thanks for your vulnerability. I have learned a lot from your post and interview and everyone’s comments.

  6. Even if we just reasoned philosophically: God is the infinite, absolute Being and therefore the final standard of what is good and evil. Then the answer is obvious: no, God cannot be a “moral monster.” Calvinism is simply God-centered and Biblical theology. It is when people try to think of God in a human-centered way that they conclude that “the God of Calvinism is a moral monster.”

    1. BruceS says:

      And the word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father … he has made him known … Have I been with you so long and yet you do not know me Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”?

  7. JoeS says:

    Justin, I think they didn’t use your interview because you didn’t provide the judgmental bombast that Driscoll did. The trailer uses Driscoll, Hanegraaff, and company to set up believers in hell as arrogant bullies. I hope the film is better, but like you said, the endorsements aren’t encouraging.

  8. John Weis says:

    Justin, I just want to say that I feel you did very well under pressure. The mention of Paul’s arguments in Romans was really key. Great job.

    1. Dan Vincent says:

      Paul’s arguments can also be seen in an entirely different vein (Paul is, of course, the most vocal proponent of the universal reconciliation theme in scripture). I fail to see how Paul, in Romans, says anything contrary to ultimate restoration.

  9. Arminian says:

    May I ask why this is being framed as a Calvinist issue? The vast majority of evangelicals, including the vast majority of Arminians, believe in Hell. I believe Hanegraaff, for example, who is in the trailer as an advocate of the reality of Hell, is not a Calvinist but more of an Arminian. Am I missing something?

    1. Greg says:

      The Calvinist has another hurdle to get over–namely belief in God’s sovereign election and the relative unimportance of man’s decision in the matter. More accurately, the Calvinist position is that man will not seek God without first being awakened to the reality of his truth by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is the prerogative of God to choose, and his only. Man’s responsibility, while not a thing Calvinists would deny, is downplayed slightly. It’s a rather tough thing to explain, as all Calvinists I know would say that man is entirely responsible for his actions, yet it is still God who chooses.

      That is the particular problem for Calvinists; the atheist sees this, and in his foolishness jumps on it, proclaiming that if God not only makes the rules but also decides who will follow them, he is a moral monster. The problem with this objection, however, is that it assumes a man-centered rather than God-centered worldview–as if we are all that intrinsically important without God saying so.

      I probably haven’t explained well, and I probably made some generalizations or perhaps errors in my understanding of the classical Calvinist doctrines of grace, but I think this sums up the issue at stake here for Calvinist doctrines in particular.

      1. Arminian says:

        Oh, I do think that Calvinism “makes God a moral monster”, as it logically leads to God being the author of all sin and evil (even though most Calvinists disagree that it does). And I agree that Calvinists have a greater hurdle with Hell, as it is an especially heinous expression of that problem. But it doesn’t seem like the video is focused on Calvinist advocacy of the biblical truth of the reality of Hell or frames it as Calvinist issue. So I could see why some Calvinists might especially feel the need to address the issue. But it does not seem like a Calvinist issue.

        1. steve hays says:

          Arminian

          “Oh, I do think that Calvinism ‘makes God a moral monster’, as it logically leads to God being the author of all sin and evil (even though most Calvinists disagree that it does)”

          i) Notice that Arminian doesn’t bother to define his terms (“author of sin”).

          ii) Why should we judge God by an extrabiblical category? It’s the height of impiety to judge God by an extrabiblical category.

          1. AF says:

            And one could easily argue that Arminianism ‘logically leads’ to open theism.. but that would be equally as unfair.

            1. Arminian says:

              That wouldn’t be unfair, just wrong. Many Calvinists make that very argument. I disagree with them, but I would not suggest that they should not make the argument if they think it is true. It would be unfair for them to say that Arminianism teaches or holds to open theism, but not to criticize Arminianism as logically entailing open theism.

              1. AF says:

                I think it’s both wrong, and unfair.

              2. Arminian says:

                How is it unfair? You seem to suggest that people should not be able to voice reasons for disagreement with a position. That seems unreasonable and unworkable. It seems like you must disagree with tons and tons of Calvinist writing and preaching for its criticism of Arminian theology not to mention countless criticisms of all manner of theological positions. And shouldn’t someone who thinks it is fair regard your charge that it is unfair to be unfair? Am I missing something in your reasoning?

              3. AF says:

                I’m not sure there’s a significant distinction between saying that a view ‘entails’ something and that it holds to it. I just think arguments from ‘logically lead to’ are unfair (apart from being a fallacy of argument from consequences) because it doesn’t take an opponent’s argument as they are presenting it. I think there’s a difference between saying that I’d if I accepted a particular viewpoint I’d be led to hold to a further view of x, but to say that it logically leads to it doesn’t seem to allow room for proponents of a view to explain why it doesn’t necessarily lead to it, and instead charges them with illogic, which I don’t think is warranted.

              4. Arminian says:

                “I’m not sure there’s a significant distinction between saying that a view ‘entails’ something and that it holds to it.”

                ***** I think there is a huge difference and that this is obvious and even self-evident.

                “I just think arguments from ‘logically lead to’ are unfair (apart from being a fallacy of argument from consequences) because it doesn’t take an opponent’s argument as they are presenting it.”

                **** This also seems false. There is no reason one cannot take and present an argument one disagrees with as it has been presented by its proponent, and conclude it entails something its proponent does not think it entails. Scholars do this all the time.

                “I think there’s a difference between saying that I’d if I accepted a particular viewpoint I’d be led to hold to a further view of x, but to say that it logically leads to it doesn’t seem to allow room for proponents of a view to explain why it doesn’t necessarily lead to it, and instead charges them with illogic, which I don’t think is warranted.”

                **** I agree that it charges the person with illogic, but disagree that it does not allow room for the proponent to explain. Again, this happens all the time. One person advocates a position, another responds that it is incoherent because of x, and the proponent responds by explaining why the opponent’s criticism is wrong. Sometimes one person is actually convinced by the other. often each person’s view is sharpened though they continue to hold their opposing views. This is all standard fare, and quite fair in my opinion.

                It’s actually hard to believe that you think it is unfair to charge a view as being illogical. That seems to entail that one cannot reject a view based on thinking it illogical, or that one at least cannot voice that reason. And do you not see that your claims here seem to go against your point, since you are not merely saying that if you thought as I, you would then have to think x, but you are saying that you think it is unfair because x. To argue in that fashion seems quite normal and fair. But it seems inconsistent for the very position you are arguing for.

                It’s funny: You think there is little difference between saying a position states such and such vs. saying that it logically leads to such and such a consequence, whereas I think that there is a huge and obvious difference. But then I would say there is very little difference between saying a view logically leads to such and such vs. saying if I accepted a particular viewpoint I’d be led to hold to a further view of x. When debating viewpoints, everyone knows that each person is arguing his opinion. Saying that’s how I see the logic of it and charging the logic to be a certain way are practically the same. I suppose the former might give a more humble impression, but surely we all think true what we think is true! Hopefully, it is understood that we are imperfect and offer our fallible opinion. It seems way too rigid to insist that when someone thinks something is illogical that he voice it by saying something like, “if I accepted that, I would be led to such and such conclusion” rather than being able to say I believe that logically leads to such and such, or, that is logically incoherent because of x.

                BTW, I also disagree with your claim that arguments from ‘logically lead to’ commit a fallacy of argument from consequences, but that would get us too far off topic.

              5. AF says:

                Well.. I was pushing my argument harder than I really hold it (to see if it would stand) and you’ve changed my mind – you’re right, at least in the sense that you’re putting it forward (making a distinction between what something teaches and what you perceive it entail), saying it’s unfair is… well, unfair.
                I do think you’re wrong that it logically entails what you think it does, though ;)

              6. Arminian says:

                “I do think you’re wrong that it logically entails what you think it does, though ;)”

                **** And I respect that even though I disagree, and count you a brother in Christ.

                Thanks for the dialogue.

    2. Justin Taylor says:

      I think you’re right. They framed it that way on the Hellbound blog and I was picking up on that. I think Arminians are faced with a similar problem, though it’s compounded for the Calvinist.

      I’m sorry to see you endorse the language that the God we worship is actually a moral monster.

      1. Arminian says:

        Oh, I don’t think the God you worship is a moral monster, but that your distinctive doctrines logically imply that he is. We worship the same God!

        It is similar to Calvinists arguing that the Arminian view of God logically leads to God not really being sovereign (though far too many, probably most, unfortunately simply state that Arminianism does not believe in the sovereignty of God) or charging that Arminianism is man-centered. Surely you appreciate the difference in our assessment of the logical implications of Calvinist and Arminian theology.

        You quoted Michael Horton yourself in a blog post one time, saying “Any view that makes God the author of sin does indeed turn the object of our worship into a moral monster.” Now Arminians and most Calvinists disagree on whether Calvinism makes God the author of sin. But it is a classic criticism of Calvinism that its doctrines logically lead to God being the author of sin. Surely you don’t think it inappropriate that believers who draw that conclusion point it out, even if you disagree with their conclusion? It is not stating that Calvinists believe that God is the author of sin (though some Calvinists do) or that Calvinists worship a God who is the author of sin, but that Calvinist doctrine logically leads to the conclusion that God is the author of sin, disagreeing with Calvinists who deny this. Does that make sense?

        1. Josh says:

          The issue with God as the author of sin is a big one, but I truly believe the question arises because of our massive ignorance that all of humanity shares toward God’s Holiness. What we see in the Bible is a God that is not man made, and therefore, He is not going to be completely understandable unless He provides the understanding.

          I talked to some students about this same issue not too long ago, and I think revealing our ignorance is helpful in accepting all of Scripture. We think too highly of ourselves, our own thinking capacities, our own self worth, etc. We would call that pride and it is a huge fruit of sin.

          Can any believer explain that God has existed from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90)? Of course not, that simply doesn’t work within our logical framework/capacities. We just say, “Well, God is Holy and eternal and I accept that.” That’s all we really can do. I believe the same goes for God’s sovereignty. So if we cannot even explain who and what God is to the fullest, then how can we possibly understand how our own existence works within His existence?

          God gives us specific doctrines for certain purposes in our lives. Sovereignty in election gives God full credit for our salvation. Sovereignty empowers evangelism in the sense that our cunning, our speech, etc, isn’t the ultimate thing that sways a man to accept/receive Christ. We can entrust every evangelistic attempt to the Lord who saves.

          I would be happy to talk more, but I don’t want to write a book. Hope that helps :)

          1. John Thomson says:

            Josh

            A good answer. God has revealed himself sufficiently to answer our need for intellectual integrity (we have good reason to trust) but he does not pander to our intellectual conceit. There are questions ‘too wonderful for us’. Who is the creature to say to the Creator, ‘why have you made me thus’?

            We may add that the dynamic between sovereignty and responsibility is not one to which we are fully privy.

          2. Arminian says:

            Josh,

            Thank you for your comments, but I don’t think they help the Calvinist view at all. There is a huge difference between mystery (when something is logically coherent but we don’t know how it works etc.) and logical contradiction. Arminians fully appreciate the concept of mystery and the fact that we cannot fully understand God. But it will not work to accept logical contradictions and chalk that up to us not understanding God. If one takes that path, then one gives up all right to criticize or reject other points of view based on reasoning (since reasoning relies on the application logic). Do you realize that the doctrines you speak of are perceived by use of logic? In my opinion and the opinion of Arminians generally, the problem for Calvinism with respect to its distinctive doctrines is that they do not comport with Scripture. So it’s not as if Arminians in general agree with Calvinists that Scripture teaches such and such, but then object to that teaching on logical grounds. No; it is that Arminians disagree with Calvinists that Scripture teaches the distinctive doctrines of Calvinism, while both Calvinists and Arminians use logic in determining what Scripture actually teaches.

            1. Josh says:

              Well, I guess I don’t quite understand your position.

              One thing that I do not seem to agree with is your comments on mystery and logic/contradiction. It literally makes no sense that God never had a beginning. We cannot rationalize that. Saying that God “always was and will be” is not something logic can swallow. So I wouldn’t consider that anything more than a mystery of God’s holiness and power.

              How we draw the line and say, “well it is just a mystery” should be determined by Scripture. When it comes to sovereignty, it seems pretty clear to me that Scripture makes no attempt to try to sync them together in a logical framework that we can understand. Psalm 139 is all about his sovereignty and David ends with amazing wonder of God. Romans 9 rhetorically asks a difficult question challenging God’s election and our will, but Paul quiets it (he is speaking to Christians in Rome mind you). Romans 10 to 11 continue election and sovereignty and Paul ends with bewilderment and praise for God’s holiness.

              I don’t see any Scripture that finally and decisively tries to remedy the two ideas that *seem* to be in conflict, yet they are both there serving certain purposes and are in unity.

              Sometimes logic can only lead to mystery and I’m comfortable with that.

              thanks for your reply,

        2. steve hays says:

          Arminian

          “But it is a classic criticism of Calvinism that its doctrines logically lead to God being the author of sin. Surely you don’t think it inappropriate that believers who draw that conclusion point it out, even if you disagree with their conclusion? It is not stating that Calvinists believe that God is the author of sin (though some Calvinists do) or that Calvinists worship a God who is the author of sin, but that Calvinist doctrine logically leads to the conclusion that God is the author of sin, disagreeing with Calvinists who deny this. Does that make sense?”

          No, it doesn’t make sense to frame the issue in unbiblical terms. It’s highly presumptuous to judge God by a vague, unscriptural phrase like “author of sin.”

      2. Arminian says:

        Justin,

        Did you understand my reply concerning the criticism of Calvinism implying God to be a moral monster? I value Calvinists as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and do not want to be offensive in criticizing Calvinism. But don’t you agree that if a believer thinks Calvinism makes God the author of sin (a moral monster) despite Calvinist denials of this (i.e., there is a disagreement of the logical entailment of Calvinist doctrine), that it is completely appropriate to point that out as long as one does not claim that Calvinism or Calvinists themselves believe God to be the author of sin? Otherwise, would you not be essentially arguing that Arminians should not voice their concerns or disagreements with Calvinism, at least on the question of whether Calvinism logically entails that God is the author of sin/a moral monster? Should that question somehow be out of bounds?

        I guess I am looking for you to concede that it is entirely appropriate for Arminians and other non-Calvinist evangelicals to voice what they believe Calvinism logically entails by way of criticism and disagreement as long as they don’t claim that that is what Calvinism itself teaches. I am not sure how else there could be any dialogue on these issues. And would not that standard have to be applied to Calvinists too, so that they could not voice their criticisms of Arminian doctrine?

        1. steve hays says:

          Arminian

          “But don’t you agree that if a believer thinks Calvinism makes God the author of sin (a moral monster) despite Calvinist denials of this (i.e., there is a disagreement of the logical entailment of Calvinist doctrine), that it is completely appropriate to point that out as long as one does not claim that Calvinism or Calvinists themselves believe God to be the author of sin?”

          It is impudent to judge God by a made-up standard like the “author of sin.” I’m struck by how many professing Christians presume to stand in judgement of the their Judge based on their made-up standards.

          “Otherwise, would you not be essentially arguing that Arminians should not voice their concerns or disagreements with Calvinism, at least on the question of whether Calvinism logically entails that God is the author of sin/a moral monster? Should that question somehow be out of bounds?”

          i) Is Arminian claiming that “moral monster” is synonymous with “author of sin”? If so, how did he come up with that definition? Is that just his ad hoc definition?

          ii) Notice that Arminian is skewing the issue. The question at issue isn’t whether one should take a position to its logical conclusion, but whether the framework is the right framework. He who frames the debate wins the debate. Why frame the issue in terms of “authorship of sin”?

          “And would not that standard have to be applied to Calvinists too, so that they could not voice their criticisms of Arminian doctrine?”

          Let’s take him up on his invitation. One can argue, on Arminian assumptions, that the Arminian God is a “moral monster.” For instance, Roger Olson recently said:

          “I’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past. No Arminian I know denies that God ever interferes with free will. The Bible is full of it. The point is that in matters pertaining to salvation God does not decide for people. If he did, he’d save everyone. The issue is personal relationship. God cannot and will not override a person’s free will when what is at stake is his or her personal relationship with God of love. But God certainly can and does knock people off their horses (as with Saul). I think you are over interpreting Arminianism’s view of freewill. Free will, as I have often said, is not the central issue. The central issue (and only reason we believe in free will) is the character of God including the nature of responsible relationality.”

          And:

          “The difference lies in the character of God. I don’t have a problem with God manipulating people’s wills so long as it doesn’t coerce them to do evil or force them to enter into a relationship with him. If God causes a person to turn one way at a corner rather than the other way, so that the person sees a sign that brings attention to his or her need of God, I don’t have any problem with that. You seem to be laboring under the misconception that Arminians believe in free will above everything. We don’t. That’s never been the point of Arminian theology as I have shown in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.”

          Notice that by his own admission there are only two restrictions on God’s liberty to “manipulate,” “override,” or “interfere” with human freewill: he “doesn’t coerce them to do evil or force them to enter into a relationship with him.”

          The Arminian God could intervene to prevent the Holocaust without coercing the Nazis to do evil or forcing them into a saving relationship with himself.

          God was at liberty to manipulate the wills of the Nazis. God was at liberty to override the will of the murderer, torturer, or rapist.

          By the same token, the Arminian God is free to prevent or minimize a natural disaster which, absent divine intervention, will kill many men, women, and children.

  10. Thomas Karrer says:

    Hi Justin,

    Brother, I just wanted to say that I found your response to be very concise and yet helpful, especially consdering the fact that you were “performing under pressure”. Your answers seemed to genuinely convey a gracious heart and a humble mind.

    All glory be to God. Stay humble and keep up the good work!

  11. Ryan says:

    Depends on the Calvinist. The God of double-predestination is a moral monster, but that view is hardly subscribed to by the majority of Calvinists, as far as I know.

    I myself reject both Calvinism and Arminianism as I feel that a believer cannot adhere to either one nor the other without rejecting at least a part of Scripture. I’ve held to more middling views (Lutheranism at one point, now Molinism). I would go so far as to say that the issue I have with both Calvinists and Arminians is that they try to turn the debate into a false dichotomy, simply ignoring the myriad other positions on the debate.

    But that’s neither here nor there.

    Where I was going with the above is that even though I’m not a Calvinist, I’ve spent enough time with them to understand that Calvinism does not make God out to be a moral monster. Sometimes Calvinists themselves become moral monsters, when they start saying things like “I praise God for the people burning in Hell because He is glorified through that,” but those seem very rare. All in all, I resonate with the need to depict God as being the Ultimate in morality – in other words, to answer Kierkegaard’s famous question, yes, there is a teleological suspension of the ethical.

    So it is unfortunate that a documentary dealing with a topic as controversial and widely misunderstood as hell seems to be bearing heavy bias. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to educate people on an aspect of Christianity that has become wildly distorted from its Biblical roots (I’ve always said “hell” is a very appropriate name for it since our common picture of it seems to be more Hellenistic than Scriptural in origin), but unfortunately without an even-handed presentation of both sides, it is doomed to fall flat.

    1. steve hays says:

      Ryan

      “Depends on the Calvinist. The God of double-predestination is a moral monster…”

      You give no reason for your value judgment.

      “…but that view is hardly subscribed to by the majority of Calvinists, as far as I know.”

      Actually, double predestination is standard mainstream Calvinism. That distinguishes Calvinism from Lutheranism, which affirms single predestination (election, but not reprobation).

      1. Ryan says:

        The God of double-predestination is a God who knits together a child in the womb, saying “Child, I love you. You are my creation, and I have made you into a unique reflection of my image. But you’re going to hell and there’s nothing that will ever change that. In fact, I don’t even know why you’re being born. I might as well just cut out the middle man and send you right to the eternal torture chamber. Because justice.”

        I would be surprised if it were standard mainstream Calvinism, since a) I myself don’t know many Calvinists who adhere to it (and I ran in Calvinist circles for many years), and b) it’s a classical heresy.

        I don’t know if I’d go so far as to brand anyone embracing double-predestination as a heretic, but they are certainly heterodox.

        I mean, I know Calvin himself was a fan, but he also came up with that whole “Regulative Principle of Worship” thing, so you can’t trust everything he says.

        1. steve hays says:

          Ryan
          August 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

          “The God of double-predestination is a God who knits together a child in the womb, saying ‘Child, I love you. You are my creation, and I have made you into a unique reflection of my image. But you’re going to hell and there’s nothing that will ever change that. In fact, I don’t even know why you’re being born. I might as well just cut out the middle man and send you right to the eternal torture chamber. Because justice.’”

          That’s just a polemical caricature.

          “I would be surprised if it were standard mainstream Calvinism, since a) I myself don’t know many Calvinists who adhere to it (and I ran in Calvinist circles for many years), and b) it’s a classical heresy.”

          Well, to take one obvious example:

          “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto eternal life, and others foreordained to everlasting death” (WCF 3.3).

          “I don’t know if I’d go so far as to brand anyone embracing double-predestination as a heretic, but they are certainly heterodox.”

          That’s what you say, but you don’t give us a reason to agree with you. That’s just your unargued opinion.

          “I mean, I know Calvin himself was a fan, but he also came up with that whole ‘Regulative Principle of Worship’ thing, so you can’t trust everything he says.”

          To cast the issue in terms of “trusting” Calvin is another polemical caricature.

          1. Ryan says:

            If what I’m arguing is a caricature, then give me the non-caricaturized version. Show me how double-predestination can line up with Scripture.

            As for its heterodoxy, it was, as I said, ruled as being a heresy by the early church. This was in response to Augustine’s view of it, so you can imagine how the early Christians would have felt about Calvin’s active double-predestination. As far as I’m aware, anything that’s been ruled as a heresy by the early church is the height of heterodoxy (guess where orthodox theology stems from? Hint: It’s not the Reformation).

            To me, heterodoxy doesn’t necessarily mean that double-predestination is wrong, but it does mean that the onus of proof is upon those who would affirm double-predestination, not those who would deny it, as they are already in line with orthodoxy on this particular issue.

            1. steve hays says:

              Ryan

              “If what I’m arguing is a caricature, then give me the non-caricaturized version. Show me how double-predestination can line up with Scripture.”

              E.g. Lk 2:34, Jn 9:39; 1 Pet 2:7-9.

              Keep in mind that double predestination doesn’t require a direct prooftext. It’s sufficient to combine two revealed truths: on the one hand, whoever is saved is saved by grace alone; on the other hand, not everyone is saved.

              “As for its heterodoxy, it was, as I said, ruled as being a heresy by the early church. This was in response to Augustine’s view of it, so you can imagine how the early Christians would have felt about Calvin’s active double-predestination. As far as I’m aware, anything that’s been ruled as a heresy by the early church is the height of heterodoxy (guess where orthodox theology stems from? Hint: It’s not the Reformation).”

              Unless you’re Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, that’s a red herring.

              “To me, heterodoxy doesn’t necessarily mean that double-predestination is wrong, but it does mean that the onus of proof is upon those who would affirm double-predestination, not those who would deny it, as they are already in line with orthodoxy on this particular issue.”

              The only burden of proof lies on Christians to acquit their doctrines before the bar of Scripture.

              1. Ryan says:

                “E.g. Lk 2:34, Jn 9:39; 1 Pet 2:7-9.”

                To be honest, I don’t find those terrible convincing. The fact that some will reject God’s message does not necessarily entail that those who do reject the message were selected by God before the beginnings of Creation to be condemned for all eternity.

                Fundamentally, I’m sensing a pervasive denial of free will entirely, suggesting that no one turns from Christ but rather is forced to turn away from Him by the hand of God, which to me sounds more like hyper-calvinism.

                “Unless you’re Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, that’s a red herring.”

                I disagree completely. The fact that we are Protestant does not release us for a second from the tradition of our faith. I know that many Calvinists agree with me on this because they do not hesitate to call people out on Pelagianism, Gnosticism or Arianism when they come up (or even sometimes when they don’t). It leaves me a bit confused, when Calvinists are so eager to promote and endorse the Early Church’s teachings against Pelagianism, but then when the heretical status of double-predestination comes up, well, that’s just some aspect of church tradition we don’t need to pay attention to because we’re not Roman Catholic.

                I know an increasing number of younger people who are growing disillusioned with Calvinism because of the historical tunnel vision that it often endorses – the sense one often receives from a Calvinist church is that God’s true revelation of the Body of Christ came in the 16th century CE and everything before that was just a bunch of mistakes and corruption that we can safely ignore.

                I myself remember feeling a bit disillusioned when I was browsing the book selection at a TGC conference and noticed that all the books venerating the great thinkers and doers of Christianity were comprised almost entirely of post-Reformation figures.

                I know we’re getting a bit far afield, but there is both a growing want and need, I think, within Protestant circles in general and Calvinist circles in particular, to get in touch with our roots. To read less of Calvin and Luther and more of Irenaeus and Justin Martyr.

                “The only burden of proof lies on Christians to acquit their doctrines before the bar of Scripture.”

                I agree, but the point that I was trying to make was that 1500 years ago, the doctrine of double-predestination was measured against the light of Scripture and found to be inadequate; a falsehood. So what I was getting at is that should someone desire to promote double-predestination, they need to first demonstrate why the rulings of it as a heresy were in error.

                In other words, as it is already in poor standing, one must first demonstrate why double-predestination ought to be taken seriously.

            2. steve hays says:

              Ryan

              “To be honest, I don’t find those terrible convincing.”

              To be honest, I don’t find your subjective response terribly convincing either.

              “The fact that some will reject God’s message does not necessarily entail that those who do reject the message were selected by God before the beginnings of Creation to be condemned for all eternity.”

              In Lk 2:34 and Jn 9:39, rejecting God’s message (or messenger) is a divinely intended reaction. The message is designed to have that polarizing effect.

              It’s not merely that some will reject the message, but that God intended the message to be a means of achieving that end-result. That was its purpose.

              In 1 Pet 2:7-9, God destines some people to reject Jesus while, in back-to-back contrast, God chose believers.

              And unless you think God is undecided, unless you think God makes up his mind what to do with people after he creates them, then this was decided before the creation of the world.

              “Fundamentally, I’m sensing a pervasive denial of free will entirely, suggesting that no one turns from Christ but rather is forced to turn away from Him by the hand of God, which to me sounds more like hyper-calvinism.”

              You ask for prooftexts, then avoid them and change the subject.

              And your definition of hyper-Calvinism is idiosyncratic.

              Having lost the argument on the merits, you try to win the debate through labeling.

              “I disagree completely. The fact that we are Protestant does not release us for a second from the tradition of our faith.”

              Tradition only binds us insofar as tradition is true.

              “I know that many Calvinists agree with me on this because they do not hesitate to call people out on Pelagianism, Gnosticism or Arianism when they come up (or even sometimes when they don’t).”

              Because Pelagianism, Gnosticism, and Arianism are actually, demonstrably wrong.

              “It leaves me a bit confused, when Calvinists are so eager to promote and endorse the Early Church’s teachings against Pelagianism, but then when the heretical status of double-predestination comes up, well, that’s just some aspect of church tradition we don’t need to pay attention to because we’re not Roman Catholic.”

              Once again, that’s a diversion.

              “I know an increasing number of younger people who are growing disillusioned with Calvinism because of the historical tunnel vision that it often endorses – the sense one often receives from a Calvinist church is that God’s true revelation of the Body of Christ came in the 16th century CE and everything before that was just a bunch of mistakes and corruption that we can safely ignore.”

              There are degrees of truth and error.

              “I know we’re getting a bit far afield, but there is both a growing want and
              need, I think, within Protestant circles in general and Calvinist circles in
              particular, to get in touch with our roots. To read less of Calvin and Luther
              and more of Irenaeus and Justin Martyr.”

              Our roots lie in God’s biblical revelation. You need to go deeper than the church fathers.

              “I agree, but the point that I was trying to make was that 1500 years ago, the
              doctrine of double-predestination was measured against the light of Scripture
              and found to be inadequate; a falsehood. So what I was getting at is that should someone desire to promote double-predestination, they need to first demonstrate why the rulings of it as a heresy were in error. In other words, as it is already in poor standing, one must first demonstrate why double-predestination ought to be taken seriously.”

              Prior “rulings” don’t create any presumption one way or the other. That just tells you what some bishops believed back then. You can’t use that to shortcut the authority of Scripture. You have to do exegesis.

            3. steve hays says:

              Ryan

              “If what I’m arguing is a caricature, then give me the non-caricaturized version. Show me how double-predestination can line up with Scripture.”

              You said: “In fact, I don’t even know why you’re being born. I might as well just cut out the middle man and send you right to the eternal torture chamber. Because justice.”

              i) To begin with, describing hell as an “eternal torture chamber” is how atheists typically caricature hell.

              ii) In addition, God doesn’t create the reprobate merely to damn them. Among other things, the reprobate are secondary agents in world history. They contribute to God’s historical narrative. They have a role to play, like all of us.

  12. donsands says:

    “It’s a rather tough thing to explain, as all Calvinists I know would say that man is entirely responsible for his actions, yet it is still God who chooses.

    That is the particular problem for Calvinists;..”-Greg

    Not really a problem Greg. I like how you shared your heart though.

    In Adam’s sin this whole world and age is under God’s wrath and condemnation. The adversary rules with a wounded head now, ever since Jesus crushed His head.

    God is God, and we need to pray and study His Word, and see what he says to the best of ability. Do not lean unto our own understanding. This is the difficult portion of knowing the truth of God in the Sacred Scriptures, which is our truth: OT & NT.

    There is a truth from Christ Himself where He said to Judas: “You would have been better off to have never been born.”
    And surely this statement is not for him alone, but for all who reject Christ, and go another way. Though the “son of perdition” was quite wicked, wasn’t he.
    I try to always remember but for the Grace of God there go I. Whetehre it is a child molester, a Hitler, or a Judas, or a Pharisee, or any self-righteous pastor, or religious person.

    The Gospel for me is magnificient! It is the truth that God, before the foundations of the world loved me, a wretched wretch. And He came down to Earth, and became a baby in a woman’s womb, and He wore dirty diapers, and He grew up knowing all sorts of heartache and pain, and this awesome God, who became a Man, went to a Cross for me, to save me from His wrath.

    I long to go and tell all the other humans on this Earth about this awesome loving God, before it is too late for them.

    Weall, everyone of us, are going to die and stand before the God of Scripture, and His Word is eternal, and will never become old or obsolete.
    We had better study it, and fear with prayer as we do. When we do this then all fear will be gone, and our hearts will full of love and joy!

    Thanks Justin for the great post. I pray our Lord will use this film for His glory, and for the quickening, and salvation of many souls. Amen.

    1. Greg says:

      Ahh, thanks for that. I meant it only in the sense that it is the additional “problem” that the Calvinist must overcome in his apologetics. In other words, a position that often encounters a particular objection due to presuppositions commonly held by opponents and others.

  13. Kevin Miller says:

    Hi Justin,

    A couple of things:

    1) The only team members from “Expelled” who are on “Hellbound?” are my editor and me. Furthermore, I did not have editorial control on “Expelled.” So it’s not accurate to say the films are from the same folks.

    2) I just posted a lengthy response to your comments here and in the video: http://www.hellboundthemovie.com/a-response-to-justin-taylors-response/

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Kevin,

      Thanks for this. I didn’t mean anything nefarious with the opening line; sorry I misunderstood. I’ve deleted it.

      Thanks, too, for writing the detailed response to my answer. I appreciate the engagement, though I’m not sure it helps the perception of an even-handed film when the director writes an 1800+ word response to an unscripted answer for the side he disagrees with!

      For what it’s worth, here’s a little piece trying to explain more why I think getting the Creator-creature distinction and order is crucial to this discussion:

      http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/03/23/getting-the-creator-creature-order-right/

      All the best,

      Justin

    2. John K. says:

      Thanks for establishing in “A response to Justin Taylor’s… response” that your new film is biased towards one side. I’d be more impressed if you had stayed neutral and let McLaren, Bell, and Boyd defend themselves. They are big boys after all, and can take account for their own words. Taylor’s accusations are not that off-based (especially with McLaren). I had hoped that this film would’ve been a very even-handed un-biased production, but now it seems very apparent that is not the case. Such a shame.

  14. Cole says:

    It definitely seems like it’s going to be a one sided documentary; and if they don’t present a view of Hell as it relates to the holiness of God it will be pointless.

  15. Kevin Miller says:

    I appreciate the concern, Justin. However, having a point of view does not equate to an uneven or one-sided film. I’ll check out your link.

    1. Aaron says:

      Kevin, Of course your film might not be prejudicial or unfair. . but it will, in some sense, be “one sided”. You are bringing your perspective to it.

      Also, it is not unfair or biased to offer the opinion, (as Justin has) that McLaren, Bell, etc. . are re-crafting God in their image. That is not an unfair assessment. You may disagree with it, which is your prerogative. But, many agree with Justin that they are not attempting to harmonize texts, but leaving many out. . . . and when they are harmonizing. . .they are doing it wrongly. Not trying to be hateful, or rude. . I just think that on the subject of eternal punishment, they’ve exegeted wrongly. It’s not the right way to use the text in my view.

      Are all who think so judgmental and close-minded in your view? If so, that would speak to the “even-ness” of your film.

  16. Thank you Justin for your faithfulness in times when needed.

    I would have accepted that God saves all His children. But who are the children of God. Are they not those whom Christ gave them the right to become one?(John 1:12)

    Following John’s reasoning, if Christ gave the right to become children of God then it follows that we did not have the right.

    Prayson

  17. Like you, I enjoyed dialoging with Kevin very much–qnd did so for about two hours on and off camera. Double blessing, bscause of the hospitality of the magnificent Lanier Theological Llbrary in Houston (www.LanierTheologicalLibrary.org). Also like you, I was finally left on the proverbial cutting-room floor.

    But there is good news yet, in the already-completed, award-winning (Platinum–Houston International Film Festival 2012) feature film “Hell and Mr. Fudge,” based on the true human story behind the scenes of The Fire That Consumes, the book that some both blame and credit for helping to start this whole controversy 30 years ago.

    I suppose Greg Boyd and I share a label as to our conclusions; Brian MacLaren gives my book good attention in his The Last Word…, I was a panelist recently opposite Jerry Walls (and Tom Talbott), but what do I have in common with the angry Frank Schaeffer?

    By the way, I like your blog and read it regularly. (Sad not to make your reading list, since TFTC does have positive forewords by FF Bruce, John Wenham, and Richard Bauckham.)

    Keep an open mind –Westminster is not the final word!

  18. donsands says:

    “Westminster is not the final word!”

    It’s pretty darn good stuff though, wouldn’t you agree. It’s nice to know we have other brothers in Christ who were serious about the Word.

  19. Paul Walker says:

    A question for Justin Taylor:

    5:58 You make the point that God is actively slaughtering the first born sons of Israel. Any close reading of the text would reveal that it is not God slaughtering the first born sons of Egypt… it’s the “destroying angel” or “angel of death”. So we don’t have a picture of a God who ‘smites” but a God who gives us over to the powers of satan, sin, death, and sickness.

    So why did you neglect to mention the ‘destroying angel’?

    Second question…. Why did you read scripture ‘flat’ an not as a unfolding narrative culiminating in Christ?

  20. Andrew says:

    Justin, I really enjoyed your interview. I think you are completely right that it comes down to affirming scripture’s authority in a certain way (many people “affirm” it, but do so differently). I happen to not affirm that statement the same way that you might. What I came to say is thank you for being such a respectful and civil interviewee. I just couldn’t believe how open and conciliatory your words were. I think you were demonized after the Love Wins introduction, and I myself considered you to be a very backwards Christian, I confess sadly. What I have seen here shows me that you are a respectful and honest Christian and seem like someone I would enjoy being friends with. Thanks for shattering that false dichotomy for me!

    Respectfully,
    Andrew

  21. Casey says:

    Hell Under Fire is another great resource, Justin.

    You can find it here:
    http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Under-Fire-Scholarship-Punishment/dp/0310240417

  22. Peter says:

    In response to the title, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” The god of the Westminster Confession of Faith makes men sin, makes them unable to repent, and saves very few so that he appears glorious to those he saved. It’s like an arsonist who sets buildings on fire, blocks the exits, and saves a few so he can get credit for saving a few.

  23. donsands says:

    “The god of the Westminster Confession of Faith makes men sin, makes them unable to repent, and saves very few..”

    How is that?

    The doctrine simply shows the truth of Scripture.

    For instance: ” the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.[9]

    “..this faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ,who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

    When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, or only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.”

    The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only

    1. Peter says:

      I would argue that the WCOF is very inconsistent with the Bible, but I will tell you why that’s a necessary implication of the WCOF.

      WCOF 3.1: God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass

      WCOF 2.1: [God] working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory;

      So make no mistake, the god of the WCOF did everything. He willed it, ordained it, and worked it. Everything. Included in the set of “everything” is man’s sin. If the WCOF is true and all men are sinners, then god made all men sinners. What’s more, the WCOF explicitly admits as much in 6.1:

      This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

      So it’s quite clear that WCOF god makes them sinners. Yes, it tries to contradict itself by saying its god is perfect, isn’t the author of sin, etc., but that’s just blatant contradiction. The God of Christianity told David through the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12) that the killing of Uriah was David’s doing because he planned it, ordained it, and worked it, even though he didn’t actually slay Uriah personally.

      So yes, WCOF god makes all men sin and is guilty of it the same as David was guilty for the murder of Uriah. By that sin, WCOF god makes them unable to repent (WCOF 6.4):

      From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good

      Included in the set of “all” is repentance. So, yes. What I said is very consistent with that blasphemous document.

      1. steve hays says:

        The WCF is simply a public statement of faith that attempts to summarize some major teachings of Scripture. It’s not an extended defense of the faith. It doesn’t attempt to harmonize various Biblical teachings.

        You can disagree with it, but don’t act as though it failed to do something it never intended to accomplish in the first place.

  24. Great and gracious response. I felt the lump in my throat expand as those questions were asked. I can only imagine what my mind would have been searching for in those moments. But you went to Scripture and stood on it’s authority…encouraging.

  25. donsands says:

    You disagree with the Holy Scriptures then, when they say we are dead in our sin, and the Spirit has to make us alive?

    Jesus said you have to be born again. Can we born again ourselves?

    Jesus said to the Jews in John 10, “You are not my sheep, because you do not believe.”
    Actually, the truth is that Jesus said to them, “You do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep will hear My voice, and they will follow Me.”

    Salvation is all of God. And surely we need to repent and believe in Jesus, and even love Him, but no sinner will ever do this unless God shows us mercy.
    Why did He show me mercy? I have no idea, for I was a blasphemer, and even worse. “But God….” Eph. 2:4

    One last Holy verse of Scripture: ” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”-Paul, to the Romans 9:18

    I know we will forever disagree with this truth, and so have God blessed day my friend, it’s been good to discuss these things here on Justin’s blog.
    Thank you Justin.

  26. John Thomson says:

    Some of these latter comments encroach on the subject of whether God’s electing purposes are supralapsarian or infralapsarian, that is the logical order of God’s eternal decrees. Do God’s eternal decrees as revealed presuppose the fall (infralapsarian) or not (supralapsarian)?

    I would argue they are infralapsarian. God may be truly described as monstrous if his decrees started from a good creation some of which he destined to be bad and damned and others of which he destined to be good and blessed. But this is not what is revealed of his decrees. We are told that hell was initially created for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41), not people. In Romans 9 the decree assumes a fallen humanity (I will have mercy on whom I will… and harden whom I will…). Mercy and hardening assume an already fallen creation.

  27. steve hays says:

    John Thomson

    “God may be truly described as monstrous if his decrees started from a good creation some of which he destined to be bad and damned and others of which he destined to be good and blessed.”

    You offer no supporting argument for your assertion. Why should we accept it?

  28. John Thomson says:

    Steve

    I’d begin by saying I am largely on your side in this matter.

    However,

    a) I am not sure that most calvinists are supralapsarian. Calvin himself seems to be more infralapsarian http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/sup_infr.htm

    b) I do think a full blown supralapsarianism goes beyond what Scripture reveals and even opposes it. I have already given some reasons for believing Romans 9 assumes marred clay (already sinful humanity).

    c) God himself continually condemns those who condemn the good and commend the evil. By destine humanity to condemnation apart from any consideration of their moral nature seems very close to condemning the good. Where do we find statements in Scripture that support this? Double-predestination within an infralapsarian perspective is one thing but within a supralapsarian perspective is something else.

    d) I agree with Justin that we must allow God to define what is right and just. However, he has also placed within us the ability to recognise what is evil and what is good, albeit this knowledge is marred by the fall. In believers, who have the life of God in their souls, there should be greater sensitivity to what is good and what is not. I submit that most Christian instincts revolt against any idea of God creating merely for the delight of destroying. I submit that this instinct coheres with what is revealed in Scripture without inventive hermeneutics.

    That we ought to know the difference between good and evil is clear.

    Isa 5:20 (ESV)
    ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who call evil good ​​​​​​​and good evil, ​​​​​​​who put darkness for light ​​​​​​​and light for darkness, ​​​​​​​who put bitter for sweet ​​​​​​​and sweet for bitter! ​​​

    God cannot be tempted by evil and tempts no man with evil. Every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lusts and enticed. The most we can say about Adam from Scripture is that he was tested by God to see if he would remain faithful (Just as Israel and Jesus were tested in the wilderness). God ordained that the loyalty of man would be tested.

    We are not at liberty to say that God had malevolent intentions to encourage and incite sin. James refuses such a notion. We must go where Scripture allows and no further. God works out all things for the praise of his glory and is sovereign yet he is not the author of sin nor incites to sin. If this seems like contradiction then so be it.

    1. steve hays says:

      i) I didn’t say that most Calvinists were supra. Rather, I said reprobation/double predestination is standard, mainstream Calvinism. Both infras and supras hold to reprobation.

      ii) Reprobation isn’t unconditional. Rather, sin is a necessary, but insufficient condition, of reprobation (unlike election, which is unconditional).

      iii) God hasn’t given us the ability to judge that God is evil. That’s self-refuting.

      iv) Alluding to Jas 1:13 is too facile, for that passage has both semantic and syntactical ambiguities.

      Moreover, there are other passages to take into account, viz. 1 Kgs 22:19-23.

      v) You can’t isolate God’s intentions regarding any particular event from his overall objectives.

      vi) The “author of sin” is a cipher which critics bandy about without defining it or showing why we should judge God by that unscriptural form of words.

  29. John Thomson says:

    Steve

    #Reprobation isn’t unconditional. Rather, sin is a necessary, but insufficient condition, of reprobation (unlike election, which is unconditional).

    Amen. However, I think many do not know that this is what Calvinists believe others wilfully refuse to see this distinction.

    #God hasn’t given us the ability to judge that God is evil. That’s self-refuting.

    God hasn’t given him the right to judge him for he is God, however, he has given us the ability to distinguish between good and evil and when a full blown supra position is posited it seems to militate against these instincts. If we find the supra arguments biblically lacking we are right to judge them as wrong. There is a difference between judging God and judging what theologians tell us is true of God.

    #Alluding to Jas 1:13 is too facile, for that passage has both semantic and syntactical ambiguities.

    I think you are being evasive here. The texts are fairly clear. Every passage we don’t like has ‘both semantic and syntactical ambiguities.’

    I am aware of 1 Kings 22. It is true God turns the evil hearts of men in the direction he wishes. He will harden sinful hearts (normally by removing restraints and allowing them to give full reign to their wickedness). That seems to me quite different from turning what is good (Adam!)and deliberately making it bad.

    #You can’t isolate God’s intentions regarding any particular event from his overall objectives.

    In your own words, ‘You offer no supporting argument for your assertion. Why should we accept it?’.

    #The “author of sin” is a cipher which critics bandy about without defining it or showing why we should judge God by that unscriptural form of words.

    I agree with your sentiment here though the fact that the words are non-scriptural does not mean they are unscriptural. In fact, I think that James is saying in the text I cited that God is not the author of sin. I am happy to say that in his sovereign purpose God allowed sin and uses and directs even the sinfulness of man to praise him, while still asserting that God will not encourage or incite to sin.

    I am aware of 1 Kings 22. It is true God will turn evil hearts in the direction he wishes. He will harden sinful hearts (normally by removing restraints and allowing them to give full reign to their wickedness).

    I repeat Steve, you and I are largely on the same page.

    1. steve hays says:

      John Thomson

      “God hasn’t given him the right to judge him for he is God, however, he has given us the ability to distinguish between good and evil…”

      He hasn’t given us the ability to discern whether his actions are good or evil. For one thing, whether a given action is right or wrong often depends on the larger context. We lack the larger context. We have a spotty knowledge of the past and present, while knowing next to nothing about the distant future. You’d have to be privy to God’s intentions and goals.

      “…and when a full blown supra position is posited it seems to militate against these instincts.”

      It doesn’t militate against my moral instincts. Hence, you’re instinctual appeal backfires.

      “If we find the supra arguments biblically lacking we are right to judge them as wrong.”

      You’re speaking for yourself, not for me. Don’t presume to speak on behalf of others who don’t share your assumptions.

      “There is a difference between judging God and judging what theologians tell us is true of God.”

      If you’re appealing to a vague moral “instinct,” then you are, indeed, judging God.

      “I think you are being evasive here. The texts are fairly clear. Every passage we don’t like has ‘both semantic and syntactical ambiguities.’”

      If you’d bothered to consult standard commentaries on the text (e.g. Blomberg, Davids, Johnson, McCartney, Moo), you wouldn’t be so glibly dismissively. And if you have consulted them, you have even less excuse for your dismissive remark.

      “That seems to me quite different from turning what is good (Adam!)and deliberately making it bad.”

      i) You’re shifting ground. The question at issue is how this passage is consistent with what you said about James.

      ii) Why do you imagine reprobation means God turned Adam from good to bad?

      “In your own words, ‘You offer no supporting argument for your assertion. Why should we accept it?’”

      Maybe because, if you’re going to hurl charges of “moral monstrosity,” you need to bring a modicum of moral sophistication to the table. Among other things, that means evaluating events in light of other events, as they contribute to an overall design. Otherwise, your objections are fatally shortsighted.

      “I agree with your sentiment here though the fact that the words are non-scriptural does not mean they are unscriptural. In fact, I think that James is saying in the text I cited that God is not the author of sin.”

      You haven’t defined your terms.

      “I am happy to say that in his sovereign purpose God allowed sin and uses and directs even the sinfulness of man to praise him, while still asserting that God will not encourage or incite to sin.”

      And how do you square that claim with 1 Kings 22?

      1. John Thomson says:

        Steve

        We all seek to understand what God reveals of himself from the revelation he has given. That is what theology is. I’m sorry you feel the need to be so abrasive. You are quite mistaken in some of your assertions.

        #“…and when a full blown supra position is posited it seems to militate against these instincts.”

        It doesn’t militate against my moral instincts. Hence, you’re instinctual appeal backfires.#

        It seems to militate against the instincts of many believers including many Reformed believers. Perhaps you are hardened in this area.

        #“If we find the supra arguments biblically lacking we are right to judge them as wrong.”

        You’re speaking for yourself, not for me. Don’t presume to speak on behalf of others who don’t share your assumptions.#

        I don’t. The ‘we’ stands for all who find supra arguments unbiblical or at least not biblically proven.

        #“There is a difference between judging God and judging what theologians tell us is true of God.”

        If you’re appealing to a vague moral “instinct,” then you are, indeed, judging God.#

        I am not appealing to ‘vague moral instincts but I am not surprised when moral instincts of one who has been for many years a Christian and has ‘senses trained by practise to distinguish between right and wrong’ also cohere with what Scripture reveals. My authority is what Scripture teaches not what theologians teach.

        #“I think you are being evasive here. The texts are fairly clear. Every passage we don’t like has ‘both semantic and syntactical ambiguities.’”

        If you’d bothered to consult standard commentaries on the text (e.g. Blomberg, Davids, Johnson, McCartney, Moo), you wouldn’t be so glibly dismissively. And if you have consulted them, you have even less excuse for your dismissive remark.#

        Tell me a passage that isn’t a battlefield. Is 1 Kings 22 an easy passage to interpret? Is it not equally open to charges of such ambiguity? What happened to biblical perspicuity?

        Steve, until you come down from the high horse of apparent sneering superiority conversation is hardly worthwhile. You are not discussing with a heretic, not even someone arminian in persuasion, but a brother very near your own position yet you insist on a pugnacious adversarial tone… is this consistent with the God you worship? Does this tone commend him to others and and is it likely to win your brother?

        1. steve hays says:

          John Thomson

          “We all seek to understand what God reveals of himself from the revelation he has given.”

          No, we don’t all seek that.

          “It seems to militate against the instincts of many believers including many Reformed believers. Perhaps you are hardened in this area.”

          Perhaps your “instincts” are hardened against God’s revelation in this area.

          “I am not appealing to ‘vague moral instincts but I am not surprised when moral instincts of one who has been for many years a Christian and has ‘senses trained by practise to distinguish between right and wrong’ also cohere with what Scripture reveals. My authority is what Scripture teaches not what theologians teach.”

          Your authority is the instinct you keep appealing to.

          “What happened to biblical perspicuity?”

          That’s a popular caricature of perspicuity.

          “Steve, until you come down from the high horse of apparent sneering superiority conversation is hardly worthwhile. You are not discussing with a heretic, not even someone arminian in persuasion, but a brother very near your own position yet you insist on a pugnacious adversarial tone… is this consistent with the God you worship? Does this tone commend him to others and and is it likely to win your brother?”

          i) Actually, you’ve the one who’s resorting to harsh adjectives.

          ii) If you insist, then as a matter of fact the God I worship often adopts a “pugnacious, abrasive, adversarial” tone in Scripture.

          iii) You and I are perfect strangers. I don’t have to make any assumptions about you, or vice versa. The Internet is not the local church.

          iv) If you’re already my brother, why do I have to “win” you?

    2. steve hays says:

      John Thomson

      “If we find the supra arguments biblically lacking we are right to judge them as wrong.”

      Supra arguments aren’t biblically lacking. For instance, God ordains natural and moral evil as a means of manifesting his mercy and justice, viz. Jn 9:1-3; 11:2; Rom 5:20; 9:17,22-23; 11:32; Gal 3:22; Rev 11:13.

  30. phillip says:

    First I would agree with everyone’s assessment of Justin’s gracious and humble spirit. I appreciate and respect this brother even more after hearing this interview. I do understand his position after being in the Reformed/Calvinist camp for over 30 years.

    But I’d like to add that it appears that Justin and others here believe that questioning the nature of hell is a “liberal” issue and that therefore to engage in it must sweep one up into a total liberal theological paradigm. But if you take a look at our websites you will see how there are increasingly more Reformed/conservative believers espousing to a hopeful theology (and this is BECAUSE of Scripture not in spite of it or a revision of it).

    All truth is God’s truth and we believe Kevin Miller is spot on in his deconstruction of the eternal hell myth whether or not he is from inside our “theological camp.” The Church needs to wrestle with his substantial challenges to the traditional view of eternal conscious torment even if they do not agree with all he represents theologically.

    Ultimately we have come to see that the Church —taken together as a Body— has always taught universalism. We now see that both Calvin and Arminius– together–reveal the God who is both willing AND able to save all. As it is, and as demonstrated within these comments even here, both camps call one another “heretics” and accuse the other of “maligning God’s character.” Ironically Packer says Arminianism leads to universalism while Roger Olson claims Calvinism leads to universalism!

    For articles on how leaders such as Keller, Carson, Piper, Chandler, Tchividjian etc., are actually supporting a “wider hope” theology:

    http://godslovewins.com/blog/how-the-body-of-christ-is-supporting-christian-universalism/

    godslovewins.com
    christianuniversalism.com

    1. steve hays says:

      Other issues to one side, why are you trying to convince us that universalism is true? After all, if universalism is true, then it doesn’t matter what you believe. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Calvinist or Lutheran or Arminian or Hindu or Buddhist or atheist or suicide bomber. Universalist is classically fatalistic.

      1. phillip says:

        If there is a fatalistic paradigm within Christianity it is Calvinism: a few people chosen before the foundation of the world to be saved while billions who were born out of no will of their own are destined for eternal conscious torment. No growth, no change, no future freedom for those destined to hell…just “endless cycling of sin and punishment” (D. A. Carson) That is fatalism.

        But I’d say that both the Arminian’s enslavement to his own so-called “free-will” and the Calvinist’s belief in predestination represent fatalistic paradigms.

        The problem lies I believe in how we see our condition at present. We are fatally flawed and fallen, enslaved to our sinful nature, paying the wages of sin which is death. We are presently NOT FREE. But the Scriptures say we are being redeemed and restored by God who is the freest Being in the universe. God is redeeming our true free-will and will give it back to us, healed and whole.

        Salvation is not our freedom to choose God so as to avoid “fatalism” but rather God redeeming us from our own chosen “fatalism” (of enslavement to our sinful nature and fear of death.) It DOES matter what you believe–there is plenty to be saved from without subscribing to a place of eternal conscious torment.

        God’s ultimate reconciliation is saving mankind FROM fatalism into His glorious freedom.

        “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

  31. donsands says:

    “As it is, and as demonstrated within these comments even here, both camps call one another “heretics” and accuse the other of “maligning God’s character.””

    I don’t recall doing that.

    And there is a time to speak out against false teachers, don’t you agree.
    And those of us who are brothers, and who have disagreements, debating can be good, and yet it can become heated.
    Luther was known to have some heated debates. It’s good for the Church to have such, and yet we fall back and see our brothers as brothers as well.
    As Paul did when he rebuked Peter and Barnabus.

    I hope we don’t all just “get along to get along” for get alongs sake. That smells.

    1. phillip says:

      You’re right, a feigned unity “stinks” to the world. It must be genuine, as in what Jesus prayed for in John 17. We need to face the fact that it is much more serious than just disagreements. J. I. Packer says that the Arminians and the Calvinists worship “two different deities.” (just google his Intro to John Owen’s Death of Death) Likewise Olson calls the Calvinist God “a moral monster.”

      We clearly need a “Gospel Third Way.”

      1. donsands says:

        James Packer and Roger are my brothers and I love them. I’m also sure if they were together they might love one another.

        There’s quite a diversity in the Church, and you need to see it for what it is.

        And there are false teachers who either bring heresies, and false gospels, and cause division, or they simply “love” no matter what the gospel is, as long as we are can be nice and respectful to each other.

        Some of my best friends are non-Reformed, and yet we love one another, support one another, and we argue sometimes, and even take cheap shots.
        But we forgive, and ask to be forgiven.
        Hopefully this pleases our Savior, and brings glory to His truth and Spirit, and helps us grow a bit less sinful, and bit more godly and humble.

        1. phillip says:

          Donsands. I don’t think the problem in the Church is “diversity,” but rather serious division. The Arminians and the Calvinists cannot and will not worship together. I did not say they couldn’t be friends or pray together or act loving toward one another. But they can’t go very deep when they begin to discuss the character of their God–one God chooses to love the world while the other chooses to love only an elect. And again, they call one another “heretics.”

          The Bible says we are to “be of the same mind.” I think that means contending for the same Gospel. The current division is over the very nature of who God is! Is He a God of love but who can’t do what He wills? Or is He a sovereign God who limits His love to a few elect allowing billions of others to experience endless punishment?

          I believe the “Gospel third way” is that the division is only an apparent division. If you take the God who loves and died for all mankind (Arminianism) and unify Him with the God “whose will cannot be thwarted” and whose “word does not return void” (Calvinism) then you have a cohesive and unified Gospel that encompasses all the corresponding Scriptures. (In other words, you unify …the parts of His Body!)

          For the first time in my Christian life I can worship in both Calvinist and Arminian fellowships for now I see that they are simply proclaiming different essential parts of the glorious Gospel of Christ. Together they form the ONE Story of God: The God who loves all and “is not willing that any should perish…and desires all men to be saved” is the same God who is able by His grace to irresistibly “draw all men unto Himself.”

          Further evidence I see for this is the way in which the Calvinists love to talk about God’s sovereign will in our salvation proclaiming how it is “all of grace from first to last.” We say Hallelujah to that!

          On the other hand the Arminians treasure the fact that God in Christ loved and provided redemption for all mankind, no exceptions. Again, what a wonderful reality– “God so loved the WORLD…”!

          Now the Calvinists aren’t supposed to believe that God loves all the world equally and the Arminians aren’t supposed to believe God’s will is ultimately effectual over man’s choice. Now the question is: why do they usually hide certain aspects of their theology and then borrow language and doctrine from the other to make it more, perhaps, reasonable? For instance, Tim Keller answered like a pure Arminian when asked about his view on eternal hell (google it–short video on YouTube). Arminians likewise inconsistently testify to the sovereignty of God in salvation. But you can’t have both Calvinism and Arminianism in the same room…unless you are ready to embrace…universalism.

  32. Melody says:

    Justin, I think you gave a great answer. But the trailer for that film makes me so sad :(

  33. You missed a great opportunity by not telling him that Christ held out His arms to the Jews saying, how oft he would have brought them to His breast as a hen does her chicks . . . but they would not! Whosoever will may come, but they won’t! They all run from God without exception. If He in mercy and grace did not save some, all would be eternally lost. That He would cast His eye toward such a rotten humanity is unbelievable. Yet, His love is so vast He sets forth Himself in a myriad of ways for man to see, Romans 1, and they see Him, but refuse His generous offers. So He, by His own good pleasure chooses to save some in spite of themselves in sovereign election! That the rest run into Hell is their own doing.

  34. Matthew says:

    Why do movies like this always start with the idea, “You are not allowed to ask questions about x, y and z.” Seriously who is keeping these people from asking questions about hell? To me the statement implies that the person might end up being imprisoned and tortured because they asked questions about hell. If you are at a church that does not let you wrestle with questions about the bible and have leaders at that church who can help in growing in knowledge of God then you should leave. Even Thomas doubted with the risen Jesus in front of him so how much so are we going to have doubts. Please do ask questions but make sure that you are receiving answers from the right people.

  35. Dr. James E. Horton says:

    Brother justin,

    I appreciate your candid approach. I would like to insert I too believe the totality of God’s truth applies. When Paul writes in Romans 9 That God has mercy on whom He wills and not on others does not suggest or confirm that the ones not receiving mercy were not offered. In Revelation in the final days angels will participate in spreading the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. God can present His Gospel by whom and through any course He chooses. It is not God’s desire any perish would easily support this. God taking the first born of Egypt is not substantial to imply they were predestined to destruction when God says elsewhere that all will give an account (personal responsibility in regards to the Gospel of Jesus Christ) before the throne of God therefore babes that cannot know or speak are not fodder for the fires of hell. God knowing who the elect are and those who are not of the elect is drastically different than saying God precondemns. The Scriptures are filled with the personal accountability of the individual for his sins without diminishing the soveriengty of God. God says Abel’s blood cries out from the ground declaring Cain’s guilt and responsibility to God. God does not tell us everything only that which we need to know. Because He does not tell us the condemned were made aware of their condition and refused does not allow us to conclude they were not.
    If God is responsible for the creation of sinners condemned then Genesis 1 is a myth. It clearly says Adam walked with God and therefore was without sin. Because of Adam’s personal accountability when he chose to disobey, he was made accountable. All born of Adam’s race are born of a fallen nature and upon life and choices will be personally accountable. If not then it would make a holy and righteous God responsible for the creation of evil and sin having created them not in a fallen nature with desire to sin and waiting a way of escape (I Cor.10:13) but the creation of God thus making God the source of sin. Of course that is not the case because in His sovereign wisdom He created us with a soul thus a conscious that must respond to God freely either trusting or rejecting. In no way does this diminish the sovereignty and power of God.
    I am thankful for all my Calvinist and traditionalist brothers and sisters and I implore us all to let God rule in His sovereignty and let us stay faithful to what He called us; REDEEMED SINNERS MADE TO BE DISCIPLE MAKERS. Nowhere in Scripture does God allow us to judge anyone (who is elect or not)unto salvation. He commands we live in the peace and harmony of salvation faithfully worshiping and serving as we wait the appearing of the Lord!

    1. steve hays says:

      You’re raising stale objections to Calvinism, as if these haven’t been dealt with before. Obviously Justin wasn’t attempting to make a fullblown case for his position, either in the interview or in a blog post.

  36. donsands says:

    “But you can’t have both Calvinism and Arminianism in the same room…unless you are ready to embrace…universalism.”

    I guess we’ll have to wait till all Go’s beloved children get to heaven then.
    To God be all the sovereign glory for His name and for His Gospel! Amen

    1. donsands says:

      That should be God’s beloved children.
      My computer needs some work; as does my typing.

    2. phillip says:

      I will have to disagree that we will have to wait till heaven to have unity. I believe Jesus will have what He prayed for:

      “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THAT YOU SENT ME AND LOVED THEM EVEN AS YOU LOVED ME.” John 17:20-23

      Unity is God’s most powerful missional “strategy.” It is the miracle, “the greater work,” that Jesus said we would do in His name. It is when the world sees DIVERSE people heading in the same direction that they will begin to consider the power moving them. Just as fish swimming in the same direction indicates a current, or birds flying together a wind, or dancers indicate there is music, the “world will know” that there is a supernatural power behind the Church when they witness our genuine unity.

  37. donsands says:

    Well, let’s start right now Phillip.

    I believe that the Word of God teaches us that God saves His chosen Children from His wrath. And he did this with His sovereign powerful will.

    I don’t know why he loved us so much, but the Word shows us that Christ did die for me, and all His chosen personally.

    And all sinners are dead spiritually, and only God, through His Spirit and truth can quicken a dead sinner to life.

    If you believe this then you can come to my church and worship.
    And even if you don’t, you can come to my church and worship this Lord’s Day.

    I’m at Bishop Cummins REC church in Baltimore MD.

    1. phillip says:

      donsands, I would be honored to visit your fellowship and I would be very blessed and encouraged I am sure. Unfortunately I am not in your area, but thanks for the invitation : )

      But of course it isn’t just a matter of visiting. Many Christians can do that. But most/all Arminians would not consider attending or joining a Calvinist church. They just could not in good conscious do it. The same for the Calvinists in an Arminian church.

      Again, my point is that I NOW have the freedom to worship in both Arminian and Calvinist churches because I no longer see the tension and contradiction. Both contain essential aspects to the Gospel Story of God. I treasure both the unfailing love of God for the world and the effectual redemption through the cross and resurrection of Christ.

      I had been an active member for 30+ years in the Reformed Presbyterian church (PCA) but now attend an Arminian church. I never could have done that before. I would not have been unkind or acted judgmental towards my Arminian brethren but I just could not accept their theology. But now I see the vital part of the Gospel they are trying to uphold and defend. It has been an incredible blessing to hear their passion for the lost and faith in the love of God …for the WHOLE world!

      grace and peace…

  38. donsands says:

    “I treasure both the unfailing love of God for the world and the effectual redemption through the cross and resurrection of Christ.”

    What do you mean by “unfailing love for the world”, if you don’t mind me asking? I’m thinking of 1st John 2:15 and what God says there.

    1. phillip says:

      donsands, I was talking about John 3:16 where it says “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” We are told that God’s love never fails and so I called it His “unfailing love” for the world. This is in contrast to how a true Calvinist would interpret John 3:16 as “God so loved the elect” or God so loved a world of all kinds of people, what they call “all without distinction.” I am appreciating the Arminian’s proclamation and offer of God’s love and redemption to “all without exception.” That is what I was trying to express.

  39. Most all these type questions stem from a faulty concept of God’s sovereignty. We count our rights, as people, as being a part of who we are. We can make choices based on our likes and dislikes, and turn out or cast aside anything that we find repugnant or objectionable. But with God, we expect something along the lines of extreme toleration. Always forgetting that He has every right to like, accept, and endear Himself to anyone He so chooses to. Remember, He is the one who is holy, righteous and good, and is THE Supreme Being and Creator of all things great and small that is being maligned and sinned against by evil and totally corrupted sinners.

    I am reminded that God’s attribute of wrath was with Him from all eternity past, along with all His other glorious attributes. So in a very real sense, knowing God had/has this attribute from eternity past, it was/is very evident that He would create human beings that would sin against His glory. What other reason would this attribute of wrath be necessary for from eternity past? If we can imagine a God without likes/dislikes/preferences, and without the freedom to do as He so pleases, then we would SURELY have a God without the attribute of wrath. Why, if we give ourselves the right to make choices, do we deny the Creator of the Universe the very same rights?

    God’s freedom to choose whosoever He will is His divine, prerogative: and none can stay His hand or say to Him, what doest thou? We need to get a real dose of our creatureliness; we are in the hands of a sovereign Creator, who makes some vessels for honor and other vessels for dishonor. Live with it.

    1. phillip says:

      Mary, you said, “We need to get a real dose of our creatureliness; we are in the hands of a sovereign Creator, who makes some vessels for honor and other vessels for dishonor. Live with it.”

      Read on from Romans 9 through to the end of Paul’s train of thought:

      “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 FOR GOD HAS CONSIGNED ALL TO DISOBEDIENCE, THAT HE MAY HAVE MERCY ON ALL.

      33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

      34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
      or who has been his counselor?”
      35 “Or who has given a gift to him
      that he might be repaid?”

      36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

      Romans 11:31-36

      Notice the doxology comes forth from an astounding ultimate mercy upon all not upon just a few. The same goes with Isa 55 which is quoted habitually in defense of eternal conscious torment. But the context is MERCY not eternal hell. (“For He will freely pardon, for His ways are not our ways…”)

      The historical pattern in Scripture has always been to show how God is merciful beyond what man is comfortable with and man responds in anger. I believe God said to Jonah, the Elder Brother, the vineyard workers, and the Jews who didn’t want God to save and bless the sinners and the Gentiles something like: “Live with it.”

      Mary, this is not about whether we are sinners deserving of God’s wrath. We are. It is in the final analysis about the character and glory of God. In the traditional paradigm of eternal hell billions of His image-bearers cycle rebellion, hatred, and evil forever against Him. D. A. Carson says “sinners cycle sin and punishment eternally.” So we are told sin is therefore dealt with by a holy God with infinitely MORE sin. This is incoherent.

      “Every knee bowing” would amount to an empty obeisance (something He explicitly says in His word He HATES). In this story-line all the glory does not go to Him and most of mankind end up being as CS Lewis said “successful rebels to the end.” This is impossible of the God of the universe who decreed, “All the ends of the earth look to Me and be saved…for every knee will bow and tongue confess…” (Isa 45)

      God’s wrath is not incompatible with His love. We are told “God is love” not “God is wrath.” Therefore His wrath is in the context of His love. His “love never fails” and “His mercies never come to an end.” No, His wrath is “not safe …but it’s good.”

      “The Lord will judge HIS PEOPLE. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”

  40. donsands says:

    His “love never fails”

    Well, if God loves everyone in the world, and He died for them, and they go to hell, then His love has failed. He loved them, and they can’t be with Him.
    Yet, he loved me, and I shall be with Him.

    How about 1st John 2:15.

    1. phillip says:

      donsands, I am not sure why you are bringing up 1 John 2:15. It is about not loving the world as in its systems of lust, pride and power. John 3:16 is about loving the lost persons/souls of the world.

  41. phillip says:

    Well, that is the conundrum isn’t it? If you claim that Jesus loved and died for all and all are not saved then His love and power failed. Again Packer points this out in his “Intro to John Owen’s Death of Death.”

    The other option you have is Calvinism/Reformed which you appear to subscribe to that says simply God does not love everybody in the world, only a few elect. But theologians like Justin Taylor here will try and tell you that there is a love of God and then there is another type of love of God. There are two kinds of love coming from God. D. A. Carson tries to decipher these “two loves” in his book “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.” We call it his “blessed conundrum” because it logically leads to a wider hope theology:

    http://www.christianuniversalism.com/category/d-a-carson/

  42. donsands says:

    And most Non-calvinists simply say “God loves everybody, and He died for everybody.”
    It’s up to you to ask God to make that death real in your life. And if you believe it, then it has extra meaning since you believe He died for you, which He did, but you would not benefit from His death for you unless you believed it.
    God died for your sins, but he must cancel His forgiveness.

    Not sure how the Non-Calvinist can teach this. Seems to make God out to be someone who wants but can’t have. He more or less is fortunate that some people do accept Him.

    Is that about it?

    1. phillip says:

      That’s the Calvinist’s contribution to the Gospel: God will sovereignly have what He desires. When we add the focus of our Arminian brothers and sisters to the Storyline we have a God who loves all and desires all to be saved and who is also able to “draw all people to Himself.”

      1. Dan Vincent says:

        Only, apparently He *isn’t* able to “draw all to Himself” – at least that’s what 90% of humanity ending up in “Hell” would indicate. In fact, God would be somewhat “missing the mark”, wouldn’t He? Ooops, did I just say God would be “sinning”? :)

        1. phillip says:

          Yes, the Arminian God certainly “misses the mark” of His desire and intention. The Calvinist’s God however wouldn’t be missing the mark on that account because He had only purposed to save a definite number of elect. Those he purposed to save were redeemed at the cross and will be saved.

          But the fact that the Calvinist also believes that sin is punished with infinitely more sin (D. A. Carson says “hell is the sinner cycling sin and punishment forever”), now that seems like it’s missing the mark of a holy God who said “You SHALL love the Lord your God …and your neighbor as yourself” and “Be holy for I am holy.” (both imperatives, …these were not suggestions)

  43. Christopher says:

    He most certainly would be failing.

  44. donsands says:

    Hey Phillip, it seems we will have to disagree and worship in different congregations my friend.
    You come on a bit too anti-Calvinist for me. I do appreciate you as my brother though.

    personally, I don’t understand how any Christian cannot be a Calvinist, or reformed, after looking at the truth of God’s Word.

    Jesus said: “You do not believe, Because you are not My sheep. My sheep know me and they follow Me.”

    The great mystery is, and this is beyond comprehension, is why am I one of His beloved sheep?

    have a blessed Lord’s Day, in the Lord’s house with His people, on the Lord’s day, unless you are a 7 day Adventist.

    1. Christopher says:

      Donsands. Can I ask that you would at least prayerfully consider some of the things we have mentioned. Blessings.

  45. donsands says:

    What do you mean Christopher? I don’t mean to be ignorant, but I have no idea what you mean.

    1. Christopher says:

      I ment. To prayerfully consider what we have been saying on this and the hellbound blog, and the Greek words we had mentioned.

  46. donsands says:

    I think it’s the same word in the Greek isn’t it? Phil? So….

  47. donsands says:

    Sorry, I have too much going on right now, I’m watching the Ravens kill the Jags, and other things as well.

    The word world is the same in John 3:16 as it is in 1st John 2:15. And so your interpretation seems like you have the final say. Yet John the Apostle used the same word to love and not to love.

  48. Dr. James E. Horton says:

    So, when we go in tonight to tuck our children in, we don’t pray the Lord keep their souls. And as they come to understand the teachings of the Bible we tell them that the God of the Bible that told us to be fruitful and multiply has picked some of you to be saved and the others to be sent to eternal punishment and that’s the totality of life.
    I believe in the sovereignty of God and eternal damnation and His right as the Holy One to speak on final destiny. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved tells me that all my children will have the opportunity along with many other Scriptures that reveal the spiritual interaction between people and their Creator.I appreciate John Calvin and how God used him but I find it interesting this allegiance to a man that rejected the parts of the canon that didn’t support his doctrine?
    I will continual to invite all sinners to my church and preach the Gospel and trust the Lord for His mercy and grace. I am neither calvinist or arminian, I am a repentant, born again child of God. And I thank the Lord Jesus that in His holy wisdom He created this age of dispensation of grace to gather whosoever calls on His name in repentance. I am thankful the Lord doesn’t require me to be a disciple of Apollos, Peter, Paul, John Arminius or John Calvin. I am a follower of my Lord Jesus Christ trusting Him for my salvation. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day. And I have been given this through the promise of God’s Word in Scripture and not only to me but to all who call.
    I will spend my time telling ALL about Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross and His desire that none perish, and that all who CHOOSE (the evidence of transforming grace)to trust him will be saved.

    1. phillip says:

      Even if we abandon the labels we still have to admit that there are essentially two different views of God that Christians take: either God has loved and died for all humanity and has left the rest up to man’s free-will to choose this salvation OR God has predetermined before the foundation of the world to deliberately limit His redemption and power to save. Whether or not they use a label, most Christians fall into one or the other “camp.” Setting aside the founder’s names, there are still in fact two opposing interpretations of God. They both call each other heretics and say the other “maligns God’s character.”

      The only solution is to see that they are simply two harmonious and essential aspects to the same Story, the Gospel: The God who in Christ loved and died for the world’s redemption and restoration is the SAME God who is powerful and alluring enough to capture all of mankind with His “irresistible grace.” The God who is “not willing that any should perish” is “drawing all people to Himself” and “making all things new.”

      This is the good news of the Gospel and “it will not return to Him void or empty” but His word, His logos, will be accomplished just as surely as His first word of “Let there be light.” God can fulfill His desire to re-create (redeem) just as effectually as He fulfilled his desire to create in the first place. This is God’s sovereign ability.

      Calvinists such as Justin Taylor shouldn’t have a problem seeing this as a coherent argument for what God will do IF the saving of all sinners can be proven to indeed be His desire.

      This is when sovereign grace adherents such as Justin Taylor might find it interesting to listen to a free-will apologist’s claim that Jesus did indeed love all and desire to save all mankind when He died on the cross. See “What’s Wrong With Calvinism” by Jerry Walls:

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt9ENcBoMRE

  49. Ronald Murphy says:

    I will add to Phillip and other’s comments concerning the plain truth that “GOD WILL (not desires, wishes, or wants–as some translations have it) HAVE ALL MANKIND TO BE SAVED AND COME TO THE FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH” (future tense, of course) 1 Timothy 2:4. The Greek word (thelo,thelei,thelema) in a good Greek lexicon and in comparison to other biblical Greek references is always the stronger verb “to will” (as the KJV and Young’s Literal Translation have it), rather than “to wish or desire”-(boulomai,boulei) in Greek. Luke 22:42 bears this out where Jesus prays: “Father, if you desire(boulei),take this cup from me; yet not my will(thelema),but yours be done.”

  50. Ronald Murphy says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading “Hope Beyond Hell” by Gerry Beauchemin and other books of research that I have studied such as “Christ Triumphant”, by Thomas Allin (19th century Church of England minister and scholar), that reveal the truth of U/R-THE ULTIMATE AND UNIVERSAL RECONCILIATION OF ALL. The Literal Translation of the Bible confirms this, and the overwhelming majority of the Church Fathers in the primative, Apostolic Church (Catholic means Universal in Latin) taught and believed U/R for the first 5 centuries of church history (although some of the Church Fathers believed in keeping the final universal reconciliation in “reserve” for the “esoteric scholarly saints”, for fear that this truth might lead to more evil and crimes amoung the heathen–using a scripture, “don’t cast your pearls before swine”, as a reason).

    I first came to this Truth in 1971, after finding and studying: “Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible and “Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible”. The Holy Spirit led me to this “Apostolic Truth”, and has given me perfect assurance–“but when comes that One, The Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all truth…”John 16:13. Years of intense research have only confirmed what the Primative Apostolic Church taught and believed.

    I only hope that this movie (whatever it depicts Hell as) will not mislead people into thinking that there is no Hell at all–that Hell is only unconsciouness in the grave. The Bible does not teach this, neither did the Primative Church; but that Hell is a real place to purge away sinfulness, evils, and wickedness–not punish souls forever!

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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