A Conversation I Saw On A Facebook Page I Belong To


#1

Warning realy long post ahead

This is a conversation I saw on a FB page I belong to that is Arminian. The discussion brought in universalism an wanted to get your opinion on what they said:

Do we REALLY want to say, that “God’s desire to display His justice is greater than His desire to save all”? Surely that’s not the right way to put it? Surely God’s display of justice at the cross was sufficient…it’s not as though God still has some good old-fashioned punishin’ he needs to get out of his system.

There’s that option, or, we could suggest that God desires to save all, but just can’t get it accomplished. Or, we could say that all will be saved and be universalists.
God is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). This begs the question if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t everyone come to repentance?
While God is willing that none should perish, He has also willed to allow some to reject Him and continue in their rebellion, in order to display His holy and righteous justice. And His desire for the latter is stronger than the first. I don’t see another option.

I should make clear that it’s not only to display His Justice, but also His mercy.
Scripture tells us that He desires to make “the riches of His glory” known to His people, and does so by serving justice to those who reject Him. Rom.9

“While God is willing that none should perish, He has also willed to allow some to reject Him and continue in their rebellion, in order to display His holy and righteous justice. And His desire for the latter is stronger than the first. I don’t see another option.”
No. He allows people to reject him because without that option, nobody could really “accept” him either. He does not delight in the death of the wicked, but would rather that they repent and live. God doesn’t need to punish people in order to display who he is.
And of course God can’t save someone against their will. What constitutes saving? A wicked person who hates God, but is forced for eternity to be in the direct, felt presence of God? What in the world would you call that except hell?

“He does not delight in the death of the wicked, but would rather that they repent and live.”
Agreed. I’ve already stated that He desires all to be saved, but His desire to allow them to reject is stronger.
“God doesn’t need to punish people in order to display who he is.”
Of course He doesn’t “need” anything, including people to “really accept Him.”
“And of course God can’t save someone against their will.”
I hope you mean that He won’t, because saying He can’t just sounds silly. He’s God after all.
“A wicked person who hates God, but is forced for eternity to be in the direct, felt presence of God? What in the world would you call that except hell?”
Not even 5 Point Calvinists believe that “God forces people” to spend eternity with Him. Surely you know the position. When we see ourselves for who we really are, and see Him for who He really is, we run to Him in desperation. No “force” needed.
And as far as God desiring to show His wrath… that’s Biblical, whether we like that view of Him or not.
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”

No, he CAN’T.
Again: What constitutes “saving”? What do you think goes into it?
He can’t just put a wicked person into heaven and say “Alright, I saved you!” Because now the wicked person is eternally in the felt presence of God, who he hates. The wicked person is, essentially, in hell.
And if he forcibly “regenerates” the person? Well, he’s just killing the old person and creating a brand-new person in their place - a person he’s irresistibly programmed to obey him.
God CAN’T save someone against their will. If it’s against their will, then it’s not salvation, but either damnation or annihilation.

Because you can’t comprehend God’s ways, you limit Him by stating what He can and can’t do, and how He must accomplish something.
God is bigger than our mind. His ways are higher than ours.

How is that different from the Calvinists saying that God can determine something without causing it? You’ve just shut down discussion by making an argument that can’t be falsified, so I guess we’re done.

It’s different because The Calvinist is saying that God can do what seems impossible to us. You are saying God cannot do what seems impossible to us.

There’s no difference at all in those two things. If it’s good for the goose it’s good for the gander: If it’s bad for the goose…well, whatever a gander is, it’s bad for that too.
Again: There are only two things that can happen: Either the unrepentant person is annihilated and a repentant person created in their place, or they’re essentially damned to be in the eternal presence of God (whom they hate). In arguing otherwise without putting forward an alternative, you’re no different then the Calvinist who says “God determined for Adam to freely sin.” (Just saw that this morning, actually). It’s just a contradiction.

“Again: There are only two things that can happen:”
No. There are only two things that can happen…as you see it. Doesn’t mean that’s the only options available to God. He’s limitless, and it’s silly to place limits on Him. As Spurgeon stated, what can seem like a contradiction to us, here, with our limitations, can meet in eternity and be in unity.
Just because we can’t see the point where they meet, doesn’t mean they don’t, or can’t meet.

And for the record, I don’t believe God determined that Adam sin, or somehow made him do it. Adam had a genuine free will that could genuinely go good or bad. Even the LBC states as much.

Once you say God can do what is logically impossible, then you give up any ability to argue for your position or reasoning for holding whatever position you hold, since it gives up rationality. it is one thing to say that God can do what is impossible for us. That’s biblical and true. But God cannot do the logically impossible, such as creating a married bachelor or a square circle. Otherwise, one could take any position and argue it is true, and when contradicted by what Scripture says or other blatant facts, one could simply say that those things that Scripture says actually mean the opposite. Or that God does both. Univeralists could claim that God both sends us to Hell for eternity and saves everyone for eternity, because, hey, he’s God and is limitless. Once one accepts that God can perform contradictions, then you have given up rationality and any ability to have meaning.
It is one thing to say that something might seem like a contradiction, but not really be one. But beware of embracing the idea that God can do the logically impossible. And there are many things we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are contradictions and there fore God cannot do them, such as unconditionally determining all things and yet us be free.

Again: Your argument is LITERALLY identical to the Calvinist who says that God can determine without causing. There’s no difference at all.
We say, “God can’t determine evil without causing it.” The Calvinist says “Because you can’t comprehend God’s ways, you limit Him by stating what He can and can’t do, and how He must accomplish something…He’s limitless, and it’s silly to place limits on Him. As Spurgeon stated, what can seem like a contradiction to us, here, with our limitations, can meet in eternity and be in unity.”
It’s literally the exact same argument. It can’t be falsified, it can’t be argued with: it ends all discussion.

“Univeralists could claim that God both sends us to Hell for eternity and saves everyone for eternity, because, hey, he’s God and is limitless. Once one accepts that God can perform contradictions, then you have given up rationality and any ability to have meaning.”
They could, but they’d be wrong, simply because Scripture doesn’t hint at such.
I think the difference in this conversation and in Universalism, is that Scripture, as well as great Christians throughout history, have rejected Universalism as false. However, this discussion is not so clear in Scripture, and great Christians throughout history have struggled with it and have come to different conclusions. Some never coming to a conclusion.
This issue is not as clear cut as Universalism. The Bible is clear about heaven, hell and salvation, but less clear on how sovereignty and responsibility fit together.
There are some Scriptures that just seem contradictory to us. So rather than attempt to explain them away, or say the Bible has contradictions, men like Spurgeon and Tozer for example, accepted “seeming contradictions” in order to attempt to be as true as possible to Scripture. They would blame our frail minds and inability to grasp all things, rather than blame Scripture or try to explain it away.
One day, this will all be clear. But for now, some issues, like Universalism, are perfectly clear.

I think it would be better to state that “God could determine evil and man freely carry it out with no contradiction, because He’s God and has creative word, but He chooses not to operate that way”, than to say that He just can’t period.
God has only limited Himself to His Word. When something contradicts Scripture, we can safely reject it. But on issues that are less clear, it’s silly to place limits on Him where He hasn’t limited Himself.

Well then, as Brian said above, you have disqualified yourself from using logic in any doctrinal argument at all, because literally anybody could say the exact same thing about literally anything. You can’t say “I can rationally attack your argument and interpretation of scripture, but you can’t do the same to me!” It doesn’t work like that.

Which is why I made it clear, that God has limited Himself to His Word. When something contradicts Scripture, we can safely reject it. Someone may attempt to use the same argument for say, Universalism, but Scripture clearly states the opposite throughout.
However, Scripture does not state that God “can’t” work beyond human reasoning and logic.

Except to a universalist. And how are you determining what God’s word says and doesn’t say, what it rules out and doesn’t rule out, if not for using logic?
This is getting silly. It’s no good arguing with someone who denies basic logic, which is why I quit talking with Calvinists once they get to that step.

Well if it’s silly, then you should have no trouble winning the argument and having the last word, and shutting my argument down.
You said you are done, and that’s fine, but I will answer your last question. Then I’ll walk away as well, with no hard feelings.
I can determine what God plainly says and doesn’t say, using my human logic, because God has chosen to speak to me on a level I can grasp, trough His Word. He used other humans to speak to humans on the same level, because He loves us. However, that does not mean that there is no mystery. Scripture is quite clear that there is much mystery with God and His ways. We look through a glass darkly. But thankfully, because of His love for humanity, He has spoken through, and preserved for us what He would have us do, and made His plan of salvation simple enough that a child could grasp it.
So if I can make my position plainer, it’s not bad to use human logic, it’s just silly to attempt to explain things that Scripture isn’t clear about (like sovereignty and responsibility), using human logic. You may think my position is silly, but it’s one that great minds throughout history have struggled with.
Grace and peace.

are you asserting that God can do things that are logically impossible with you statement that scripture doesn’t teach that God can’t work beyond logic?
If so that is a odd point you are making. You might as well say that God can create another being that didn’t have a beginning. If an entity is brought into existence it necessarily follows that there was a timeframe in which such an entity did not exist.
God cannot do logically impossible things brother in this life or the next. He can’t make a married bachelor because if you are married it logically follows that you are not a bachelor. Anything else would be pretty much adultery. None are given in marriage in the next life.
It would be logically impossible for God to swear by one greater than himself since he is the greatest conceivable being.
“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself,” (Hebrews 6:13)
I would like to see you rethink this issue of God being able to do the logically impossible.
It would be logically impossible for God, the Alpha and Omega, to go out of existence since God exists necessarily. He exists necessarily because he did not begin to exist.
If God negates freed will in the process of salvation then no one comes to him freely.

Can you explain, using only human logic, how a being can have no beginning and no end? How does that work? How is it possible according to human logic? Logic says anything that is, must have had a beginning.
With God, all things are possible, even the impossible. Because we can’t find an answer here, doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. As I said above, what seems contradictory here, might possibly meet in Heaven. To deny that fact simply because we can’t see the “contradictions” meet, is just as silly as an atheist denying God because He can’t see God and wrap his mind around it.

And yes, I’m saying that God can do what seems logically impossible to mere humans.

God having no beginning and no end does NOT contradict logic in any way. It just shows that God exists necessarily like numbers do.
Name some logically impossible things God can do.

so you are saying that you can logically explain how something can have no beginning? Creating something out of nothing is another logical impossibility.
I don’t desire to hijack this post anymore than I already have, and present a view contrary to what this group is about. That wasn’t my original intention.
I do think that non-Calvinists would be better off, as Brian has stated, avoiding the “God can’t” lingo as much as possible. It really does give Calvinists unnecessary ammo.
Grace and peace my brothers! I apologize if I have offended anyone.

God has no beginning because he IS the beginning. He is what Aristotle would call the Unmoved Mover. Applying logic to it would go like this: whatever begins to exist has a cause. God did not begin his existence. Therefore, God has no cause. There is no logical contradiction there whatsoever. An all powerful being creating something out of nothing is not a logical impossibility because it does not contradict the most fundamental laws of being. Creation out nothing does not precede being. The cause of the creation is God himself so that is not a logical impossibility. A logical impossibility would be the statement that creation came into existence itself WITHOUT a cause. You didn’t really answer the question. Either name some logically impossible things God can do or go rethink the issue. Ill make another statement for you. It would be logically impossible for God to make Jeremy worthy of worship. Why? Because God alone is worthy of worship. Any being not worthy of worship is not God.

Honestly, I would rather just say “I don’t know”, than to elevate free will above sovereignty by saying God can’t do something just because I think it’s a contradiction.
With that said, we might be miscategorizing a bit. Sovereignty & responsibility might be more in the “mystery” category than in the logical contradictions category.
Also some of the examples you used don’t work, for the same reason the Universalism comparison doesn’t work. I’ve stated that God is bound to his word and not logical contradictions. Somethings are impossible, not because they are logical contradictions, but because God’s word plainly states otherwise.
None the less, this will be my last comment, as I’ve said, I don’t wish to hijack this post further. Mackenzie has already stepped out and I don’t wish to just go from one person to the next, repeating my point over and over. Blessings.

which examples don’t work? Be specific.
If God could swear by one greater than himself then that being would be God. But that would entail a logical contradiction since God is the greatest conceivable being. You cannot have two greatest conceivable beings. One would have to be greater than the other to be the greatest. That’s why God cannot swear by one greater than himself. Logic underlies that part of Hebrews 6:13).
God can do all things that are logically possible. Period.
Just like there is good theology and bad theology there is also good philosophy and bad philosophy. Scripture does not go against good philosophy. In fact some authors of scripture (like John and Paul) used some ancient philosophers concepts (logos, hamartia, etc.) to make theological points. That’s clear when you study certain Greek terms and how they are used.
I’m no expert in philosophy but on this particular issue you don’t know what you’re talking about which is why you couldn’t name a logically impossible thing God can do.

Jeremy, I think your position is unreasonable because you have to use logic to determine what Scripture says. The law of non-contradiction is the key to determining truth and meaning. You say the Universalism is ruled out by Scripture (I agree), but there are passages that sound Univeralistic. But you use logic to determine what Scripture means and to harmonize the various relevant passages. Taking your approach, someone could just say that because God can do the logically impossible, he has made it so that both Universaliasms and Exclusivism are true, and the chide you for denying God’s awesome power of being able to do the logically impossible and for putting limits on God, such as him saying he will save all and will save only some limits him to one or the other.

As C.S. Lewis put it,
“If you choose to say, ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words, ‘God can.’”
and
“It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

Excellent response


#2

I’m fuzzy about who is talking with who. :confused:

But as someone who has dictated all of Lewis’ theological work to tape (and listened to it a lot on the road), and who has read most of his other books (even the non-theological ones, including the OHEL! – sometimes several times, though not that one :wink: )… I can say that Lewis had a variable view of God’s ability to accomplish his saving will in relation to the free will of creatures. In the same book (or one of them, I don’t recall offhand if both those quotes are from The Problem of Pain or if one is from Mere Christianity) he also wrote that God is perfectly competent at beating Satan without withholding Satan’s free will – via Lewis’ famous chess analogy. “Go ahead and take my rook; I really thought you were smarter than that, but do so if you insist; because I move here, and here, and it is mate in three moves.”

If God is able to outmaneuver rebels by omnicompetence to ultimately defeat them without destroying their free will, then by tautology God is able to outmaneuver rebels by omnicompetence to ultimately defeat them without destroying their free will. :unamused: That means universal salvation doesn’t require negating the free will of rebels against God; it requires God being competent at leading rebels to repentance and back to loyalty eventually.

On a similar theme, of God’s omnicompetence to ultimately accomplish his will, Lewis poked fun once at people whom he said weren’t ready for Christianity yet and who should stick with Islam, quoting the Koran: “The enemies of the Lord plot deeply and plot well; but the Lord plots, too, and He is the best of plotters.”

In The Problem of Pain itself, Lewis spent much of a chapter in a detailed illustration that as Christians we ought to expect God never to give up on working toward saving sinners from sin; and that to expect or require God to give up is to ask for a God Who loves less, not Who loves more. The inconvenience of God’s object in His saving love is explicitly rejected as a factor: the puppy being trained might think its master is a terrible tormentor, and might say so to other dogs, but the grown adult and trained dog knows better. (This section is one reason why Calvinists like Lewis so much and sometimes argue that he was really a Calvinist!)

But Lewis was highly inconsistent about these positions, once it came down to the topic of final salvation or final perdition. Not one or two chapters later in TPoP, after arguing that we as Christians should never expect God to give up, Lewis explicitly if sadly argues that we should expect God to know when to give up trying to save someone because it’s just too difficult for even God to do so! :open_mouth: :laughing: (If I recall correctly one of those quotes at the end of your discussion comes from around that place.)

Lewis’ theology was sometimes better than what he thought Jesus and the inspired authors of the Bible were teaching: the discrepancy came from Lewis being personally unable to reconcile the two, but faithfully trying to adjust for what he thought was being taught. That doesn’t make his discrepancies any less discrepant though.

He didn’t have many such problems, but once I realized that the few I found tended to be clustered around soteriology… that got my attention, hard. :nerd: (Lewis was also where I found the trinitarian position of God’s active interpersonal love being His self-existent reality, from which I launched my project to work out a more coherent version of his philosophical arguments on theism to see if by incorporating this point I could reach the Trinity by his method, which he never quite did. And then, when i succeeded, I also to my surprise concluded trinitarian Christian universalism of some sort to be true – something I was adamantly opposed to when I started that project.)


#3

The reason why Christian universalism need neither be Calvinist, Arminian, or any brand of determinism or nondeterminism, to work well within the scriptures.

“If I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me”


#4

Yes, Jason always has good things to say (even if sometimes you have to read a couple times to make sure you’re understanding correctly–though not in the case of this response above). Just in case anyone isn’t aware, his links at the bottom of his posts point to FREE! versions of some of his writings. Sword to the Heart is where he lays out the argument to trinitarianism and through that, to universalism. It’s not an easy read, but well worth it.