Doubting Fanatics

“The fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.”

George Smiley, author of spy novels, said this. I have no idea what the context is because I do not read spy novels.

I will, however, use my ignorance of the context to pontificate on an idea.

A fanatic is someone, in my opinion, completely sold out to an idea to the extent of being willing to fight for it. Not just willing to fight if a fight comes, but itching to fight for it, starting fights for the sole opportunity of fighting for it.

People who yell and scream and get mad at those who disagree with them. These are fanatics.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

People who make a scene of defending their cause, who use violence, vitriol, and red-faced arguing, are actually displaying their insecurity.

Emotional rage is a substitute for intellectual reasoning.

Observe our modern political landscape. There are few calm voices. Everyone is yelling. Most Americans who are yelling can’t name the three branches of their government or the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Theologically, Calvinists are largely fanatical. Calvinists have no monopoly on fanaticism, but they are a handy example since this response is prevalent among them, which makes a guy like me have that much more confidence in my own stance on the issue.

One Calvinist posted on this page for years, made everything about Calvinism, and argued every post. I eventually blocked him.

He changed his username and email and tried posting under a new identity. But I had ways in place to block him and knew it was him changing his identity. He then sent me emails for months, few of which I read, continuing to fight.

This was all very weird to me. I make no secret of not liking Calvinism. But I do not hunt them down to fight with them. I do not troll their blogs.

The reason behind our responses, in my opinion, is because I have confidence the Bible is on my side; he did not.

Several times in our discussions over the years he could not answer my arguments and told me to talk to his pastor or read some book someone wrote.

Anytime someone says that to you it’s because they do not know what they are talking about. People who don’t know what they are talking about have doubts. People with doubts get loud and argumentative.

It is a waste of time to argue with fanatics. They are not listening. They are just arguing to give them a confident feeling their intellect can not. They go to bed at night knowing they defended the faith against the nay-sayers.

Watch out for yelly, argumentative fanatics of any camp: political, doctrinal, religious, etc. They don’t know what they’re talking about and use the number of fights they are in as proof of certainty.

Don’t give them that certainty. Calmly state your opinion and then move on.

Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.

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Jesus Christ Does Not Drag His Followers Kicking and Screaming

Jesus’ desire is that people repent. “Repent” means to turn. We turn from our old life to a new life in Christ. A life headed in Christ’s direction, not the direction our flesh was planning on going.

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If this is God’s desire, and God has all authority and power, why doesn’t He just make it happen then?

This is where the Calvinist will tell you that God has many different kinds of will. They redefine words to fit their theory even though the Bible never speaks of differing wills of God.

If God desires (the same Greek word as “wills”) all men to repent, and yet also has a will that prevents people from repenting, then God is a house divided.

Instead, we should just go with what the Bible says. Sola Scriptura, don’t ya know.

God wills all people to repent. Not all repent. Therefore, we must conclude that God’s will is not always being done on earth.

In fact, we can see that clearly in the Lord’s Prayer where we request the Father’s will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s will is not being done here.

God leaves it up to us. Notice His words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“If any man will” is an important part of the verse. Jesus does not force people to follow Him.

What He says is: if you desire to follow Him, if you are willing to follow Him, then deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow.

Jesus Christ does not drag people behind Him kicking and screaming. If you want to come, then come. He tells you how. It’s up to you whether you come or not. He’s done everything necessary by His grace to provide the way.

You just need to decide to follow Him in The Way.

The Overstated Doctrine of Sola Gratia

After critiquing Sola Scriptura and a little bit of Sola Fide last week, one of my faithful readers asked if I would talk about Sola Gratia.

I am always up for critiquing Reformed Theology, so sure! Let’s do it.

Sola Gratia, yet another Sola of the Reformation, also sounds wonderful. But any time you hear an absolute statement, think on it for a bit. Sola Gratia is an absolute statement. Let’s look at some definitions.

The Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God, His unmerited favor, alone. This doctrine means that nothing the sinner does commends him to the grace of God, and that the sinner does not cooperate with God in order to merit his salvation.

This is what Sola Gratia means, quoting Reformed Theology types themselves. These are not my words. Here’s another definition just to let you know I’m not making anything up.

Sola gratia is a Latin phrase that means “grace alone.” Sola gratia means that salvation from sin and death is provided by God’s unmerited favor alone, and we can do nothing to earn it.

As I’ve said before, Reformed Theology is a response to Catholic Theology. As much as Catholic Theology was wrong, combating it with an equally wrong theology does little good. Often, when combating a doctrine, we drive ourselves into the opposite ridiculous corner.

The Reformers wanted to eliminate penance, indulgences, and various other churchy things Catholics said to do to get forgiveness of sins. The Reformers moved as far away from this as possible (in theory anyway). Instead of correcting Catholic error, they eliminated works of any kind from the discussion by saying that salvation has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Certainly this will keep you from the dangers of works!

But it’s overstated, as most reactionary stances are.

Every time Sola Gratia is brought up, Ephesians 2 is brought up, with emphasis on verses 8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”

A simple reading lets you know salvation is not by grace alone because he just said, “for by grace are you saved through faith.” Grace and faith are both there. Which, of course, they admit: that’s why they also have Sola Fide.

And again, this is where I wonder if words mean anything to people anymore. If it’s by faith alone, how is it also by grace alone?

Calvinists even understand this tension and some eliminate faith from the equation (I saw RC Sproul recently say Reformed Theology is founded on the idea that regeneration comes before faith, which is contrary to many verses). If Reformed Theology folks were honest, they would believe in Sola Electio, by election alone. They think salvation is entirely up to God, you have no say, you’re either one of the lucky ones whom He picked, or you’re not. This doctrine is officially called “Monergism.”

Irresistible Grace is what Sola Gratia means. I think Irresistible Grace is a human invention, thus I think Sola Gratia is also a human invention. If you are not a Calvinist, you do not hold Sola Gratia. Sola Gratia is Calvinism.

Sola Gratia says we can’t earn salvation. I agree. Sola Gratia goes on to say we have no part in our salvation, because if we did, then we would have earned it. I disagree.

This is a false conclusion. Me exercising Faith is not a work that earns/merits salvation. It’s fulfilling a condition that God placed on us that we are equipped to respond to or deny.

“God gives grace to the humble” is said a couple of times in the Bible. God does not arbitrarily give some people grace and not others. He tells us who He gives grace to: the humble.

If God says we can humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, then we can. If He says He gives grace to people who do that, then He does.

We should then act accordingly.

Beware any theology that eliminates human responsibility. It is of the devil.

In our desires to celebrate Grace, which indeed deserves our celebration, let’s not deny Scripture to push it out of reasonableness.

Calvinism and a House Divided

If there were a sixth point to Calvinism’s TULIP, it would be Meticulous Determinism. Unfortunately, this would make it TULIPM, which doesn’t sound right. Perhaps TULIMP?

Meticulous Determinism is best defined by The Westminster Confession of Faith like so:

God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.

This includes sin and bad stuff.

One of the particularly bad things that has occurred in the course of human events is demon possession. Demons make people crazy. They throw them into fires and convulse them and all manner of other physically harmful things.

Jesus took the opportunity to demonstrate His divinity by casting out demons.

On one particular day, Jesus was charged with being a tool of Satan. Various Jewish religious leaders said the demons were cast out by the power of Satan.

Jesus said that was silly.

How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.

If Satan casts out Satan, then Satan is divided and he will fail.

The Calvinist, who believes God has ordained whatever comes to pass, thinks it’s the exact opposite: God has cast out God.

Satan gets little playtime in Calvinist/Reformed Theology. That’s because in that system, Satan is rather superfluous. God seems to be messing things up quite well on His own, thank you very much.

If The Westminster Confession of Faith is true, then people are demon possessed because God made them be demon possessed. Then Christ came along and cast out the demons God put in them.

Therefore, God is casting out God. God’s Kingdom is divided against itself and His house cannot stand.

If God is ordaining sin, making people do what He Himself says He hates, then God is divided. The Calvinistic skewed view of sovereignty says that if anyone else (Satan, man, etc) is doing things in the equation, then God isn’t sovereign.

Therefore, the only solution (since changing your theology is apparently not an option), is to distort the character of God and contradict the teaching of Jesus Christ.

It seems like a heavy price to pay.

God’s Determinate Counsel and Other Things People Can Mess Up

A particular branch of Calvinism believes that everything is a result of God’s determinate counsel. Everything that happens, even sin, is a result of God’s ordination.

God said it should happen, therefore it happens.

In this elaborate structure, God, who makes people sin, is also released of blame. I have never been able to figure out why, nor has the Calvinist. “It’s a mystery” is the closest they will come to explaining it.

Which is fine, probably their safest answer, but it may also signify that the initial doctrine is illogical.

“Determinate counsel” appears one time in the Bible in Acts 2:23:

Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain

The “Him” is obviously Christ. “Determinate,” according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, means, “to mark out the boundaries or limits, to ordain, determine, or appoint.” Counsel means purpose or will.

Therefore, Acts 2:23 says that Christ’s crucifixion, rather than being a massive mistake in an otherwise pretty fantastic Messianic life, was part of God’s plan.

The Calvinist concludes that the people who killed Christ had no choice. God made them do it because His determinate counsel (His marked out boundary of His will) forced them to kill Jesus.

Continue reading “God’s Determinate Counsel and Other Things People Can Mess Up”

What does the “Goodness of God” Mean?

Romans 2:4 says that people repent because of the goodness of God. To not repent, to continue on your own way, is to despise the riches of God’s goodness.

Goodness means, according to Thayer’s Definitions, “moral goodness, integrity, benignity, kindness.” According to Strong’s Dictionary it means, “usefulness, that is, moral excellence (in character or demeanor): – gentleness, good (-ness), kindness.”

God’s goodness is what brings people to Him. If God were bad, if He did morally questionable things where His kindness was fickle and couldn’t be counted on, who in their right mind would take a chance of approaching Him?

Some of you had bad fathers. You never knew what dad you were going to get. You never knew what would set him off next. Living in that situation made you tentative to approach your dad. You probably stayed as far away from him as possible.

We would do that with God too, if He were not good. But He is good. Paul also assumes that we know He’s good, because this is what brings us to repentance. We didn’t see He was good sometime after we repented, but beforehand, which led us to repent. In other words, even a non-believer can see that God is good.

Knowing that God responds to us out of His goodness is what gives us the confidence to approach Him.

In order for people to know that God is good, God must do things that we recognize as being good.

Continue reading “What does the “Goodness of God” Mean?”

Trying to Humbly Be Right

Yesterday I talked about being humble in our opinions whether we are scientific, religious, or both, or neither. Not everyone knows everything.

At the same time, some people do know some things! We’re not floating around in an incomprehensible void of mush. Some things can be known.

Science can help us know many things, but not all things. The Bible can help us know many things, but not all things. I think both have their place and the person who embraces both will know more than the one who embraces only one or neither.

But humility is key. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Being humble is how learning starts.

Some people are right and some are wrong. There are times when the person who is right needs to correct the person who is wrong, but that correction must be humble too.

Here is a recent conversation I had on the internet, which did not involve me desiring to be in any argument. The question I responded to was asked by a non-Calvinist on his non-Calvinist web site. Here is his question:

What are the potential effects of teaching the Calvinistic claim that if God wants you then He will make you want Him?

Here is my answer:

Then God doesn’t want everyone, eliminates God being good & not a respecter of persons, Christ not a propitiation for sins of the world etc

Not bad for 140 characters! Of course, being the internet, it devolved into an argument. Here is the flow of what ensued.

ANONYMOUS INTERNET ARGUER: Eliminates God being good????? Even if He chose to not save anyone at all He would still be good! He owes us no mercy!!

ME: You are defending the point that being unmerciful would be consistent with being good?

AIA: Yes because He is God and doesn’t HAVE to be merciful. He is good to give justice. Is He not good to give justice to unbelievers? That’s what mercy is!! Exodus 33:19 Titus 3:5
He doesn’t owe anyone mercy. He could damn us all to hell like we deserve. He would still be good. Sorry you have a poor view of Him.

ME: I’m aware of what mercy is. Your point is that God can still be good if He were unmerciful and I disagree.

AIA: God is not unmerciful……He does however withhold His mercy from some….He is still good though.

ME: thank you for making my point. Been a pleasure.

The conversation was dropped here, much to my surprise. I can only assume it’s because the Calvinist at hand was not male.

Now, I have a certain amount of pride in posting this. I think I have a very legitimate point and I think I made it well without going into personal attacks and diversions. I stuck to the original point and I think I made it.

That’s right, so you might want to back off.

AIA’s point is that God is good, therefore, everything He does is inherently good. So, even if God did something that wasn’t good–if He were always unmerciful–He would still be good. Therefore, His hypothetical mercilessness would be good.

This is very bad logic. This rips the word “good” right out of any common-sensical meaning. In order for someone to be good, someone else must be able to recognize the goodness.

God is good, which is why He’s merciful; and God is merciful, which is why God is good. It’s not like one came before the other.

To claim you are good means you do things that are good in and of themselves. Saying you are good, and then doing all manner of bad things, and yet claiming your bad things still define good, is arbitrary and not very orderly. Language falls apart at that point. Words don’t mean anything, so we might as well figglemunch dasser wooblesnouse.

I believe I am right. I believe I am right based on scripture, logic, and word etymology.

I believe I am right based on the arguments against me. The main issue is not addressed, but verse references are given about mercy that don’t touch on the pivotal point at hand, points that are not essential to the debate are brought up, and then there’s this nugget, “Sorry you have a poor view of Him.”

Anytime such responses are used, you know you’re on to something. I ignored it and went back to the original point.

Again, I’m showing this to you so you can see what flawless arguing looks like. I nailed it! Notice my “Been a pleasure!” At the end? That is one sarcastic “!”! I am now an arrogant jerk bragging about my awesomeness to others, thus showing I did not argue out of love, but rather to show intellectual superiority and frustration with non-sensical Calvinist reasoning.

Knowledge puffs up. That’s what it does. I don’t know how to beat it. I just know it when I sees it. I seens it big time. Good luck out there. Stay humble, my friends.