From Triablogue - Steve Hays


In the following post Steve Hays posted a discussion between Thomas Talbott, Jason Pratt and a few others on the topic of Calvinism and Universalism. I thought others might like to sift through this and discuss some of content.

I’m going to paste section by section because the whole is too long.

** Also note it’s a bit hard to follow because it’s only steves responses to Talbott and Pratt. **
** not every point will be posted **

For a full read follow the link provided … inism.html

the Whole dialogue: (thanks for pointing that out) … ivlac.html


Does God love those He "reprobates"? (Arm vs Calv vs Kath)

He gives a link to the thread on DangIdea to which he’s replying. The full conversation is even better (though very much longer, of course) with full replies from everyone involved (including myself and Thomas. Of some note is that Thomas and I disagree on… hm… the facililty of his attempted illustration.)

Also, the original post at DangIdea contains a link (in the title of the thread, where Victor usually puts such things) to Thomas’ online series of articles, from which Prof. Reppert (a mutual friend of Thomas’ and mine) was calling attention to the “Nivlac” parable for commentary. Plenty of great stuff there all around! (Even if I thought the Nivlac parable substantially fails at its intention, and that the Triablogue guys do have a leg to stand on in their critique of it.)

Steve’s comments (and Paul Manata’s, somewhat less acidically) are still good for discussing, of course. Just pointing out, there’s a lot more to that thread. (Including my replies to Steve’s final comments–he didn’t report them because I was late in posting them up and he thought the discussion had run its course. I didn’t realize until much later that he had reposted a digest of his side of the discussion up to that point. Not his fault–although I’m a little surprised that Blogger didn’t alert him to the arrival of more comments. But, he may not have told the system to send him mail alerts; or his email system may have flagged them off. As far as I know, he hasn’t replied to the continuation anywhere; but he may not know of it, and I don’t check up on Triablogue often enough so he may have said something further that I’ve missed.)

Anyway, I certainly appreciate calling attention to this discussion; and unless there are specific questions I’ll stay out of commenting further, to help simplify matters. :laughing: (I do hope you’ll post my final replies to Steve and to Paul in that thread, however.)


[size=85]Friday, November 09, 2007[/size]
[size=200]Universalism v. Calvinism by Steve Hays [/size]
[size=85]I recently got draw into an impromptu debate over universalism with Tom Talbott and Jason Pratt (not to be confused with Jason Engwer): … ivlac.html
Since that debate has apparently run its course, I’ll reproduce a slightly edited version of my side of the exchange.

I’d add that Paul Manata was one of the contributors to this debate as well, and I think his arguments and counterarguments are quite cogent. I didn’t reduplicate his arguments in my own reply to Talbott since I might be charged with shoplifting if I stole all the best arguments—so I’d advise you to read what he had to say as well. [/size]

It seems we universalists do have an appeal because we see everyone as being guilty. WAIT A SECOND…don’t calvinists think that too?

I don’t think this illustration fares well under scripture. It would seem to me that there is a major flaw in it’s parallel.
Here is the problem:

  1. The mother does not understand that her daughter is the murderer and the rapist.
  2. The mother does not understand that she is the murderer and the rapist.

If under Calvinism God’s grace is magnified by showing some mercy when NONE deserved it then ALL DESERVE DAMNATION. I think Calvinists including Hays agrees.

However then the mother has no right to complain that God might love the rapist but not lover her child. Now if the child is not innocent, that is the child was born deserving damnation then God could not love the child and the child is as guilty as the rapist before God.

Is it not the reformed view that the God holds the sole perfect right to love the rapist and hate her daughter. FOR IT IS NOTHING OF THEMSELVES THAT SAVES THEM. So why would the woman complain. It seems Hays could only look to the woman and say, God shows mercy on whom he shows mercy. Thus the rapist can receive mercy while God DAMNS her daughter. in short “Tough Luck!”

I’m not even sure it’s fair for a calvinist to use such a illustration: Perhaps this might be more fitting.

*"Look, Nivlac, I love Morg with all my heart, and I believe that the Book of Morg is indeed his holy Word. And I don’t know what to say about your fancy arguments that seem to imply such awful things about Morg. But I do know this. No holy or just or loving Creator like Morg, no Creator of the kind that I worship, could possibly love and save **my son **the rapist and me the tormenter and killer of my little girl. Indeed, if he loves my little girl, as you say he does, then he cannot also love **my son *the rapist and me the tormenter and killer of my little girl. So if you are right about the meaning of these verses–mind you, I’m not saying you are right–but IF you are right, then these verses are just wrong; they are not a true revelation from Morg."

He’s answered nothing of Talbotts argument here. It seems to me that his illustration flys in the face of calvinism.

Any thoughts?

(and oh yes, we are heading into the shaky grounds of forgiveness :slight_smile: )


Yes; an excellent analysis of one of the problems to Steve’s attempt at a rebuttal.

(As an incidental aside, Steve has accidentally treated “Nivlac” as though “Nivlac” is proposing that God loves and will save the rapist/murderer from sin; i.e. as though “Nivlac” == Tom Talbott, instead of “Nivlac” being the Calvin-analogue defender of God’s condemnation of the non-elect (vs. the Mother), as in Tom’s actual illustration.

I thought I should mention it, though, in case someone goes to read Tom’s series and finds the exchange between the mother and Nivlac being very different from the thrust of Steve’s rejoinder. It isn’t Auggy’s fault; Steve really did put it this way. :slight_smile: To clarify again, in Tom’s original illustration, to which Steve was trying to reply, “Nivlac” is the religious authority figurehead for Calvinism, whose Calvinistic interpretation of scripture the mother is challenging. Steve’s intentions sometime get ahead of his coherency. :wink: However, Steve’s rebuttal attempt can be understood as a Calvinist mother answering Tom against the sinner, not the mother from Tom’s parable answering Nivlac against the “non-elect” per se. After which Auggy’s analysis follows quite well. :slight_smile: )

Very much looking forward to more of your comments on this! :smiley: :smiley: :ugeek: :sunglasses:


I did realize that my analysis was a bit off track since Steve was not really making any claim to use such an analogy. His point, as I understood it was to show that any illustration can be substituted to jerk the tear of any eye. So he alters Talbott’s and thus showed how the Illustration no longer jerks the tear.

However to the point…
the reason why the Universliast illustrations appeal are so meaningful is for the very reasons we call the gospel “the good news”, because it appeals to the hopeless. I am simply showing that I feel Steve should have altered the illustration so that it aligns well with scripture. It simply does not, but then again, I think Steve would agree (being it’s not truly his illustration).

You can’t just make up any analogy or parable without it having relevance to the subject. To show that all one needs to do is submit a different illustration and suddenly God saving the rapists is wrong is a bit akward to say the least.


I think to simply say it’s easy to compose tearjerkers that illustrate opposing positions is not correct. Is there a bright side to Hitler cooking families in ovens? Is there a spin on the holocaust that I’m missing? Perhaps I’m not as creative as our brother calvinists. I’m not able to reach into a bag of tricks and pull out the humor of the nazis commiting genocide upon families. Universalism is the ONLY paradigm I know of that can see a bright side to things. It is the only way I know one can rejoice in the wrath of God and in his salvation of the wicked. If it’s not then I want to see Steve or Manata put a spin on the holocaust. After all, all one needs to do is change the illustration, right?

Surely this is Talbott’s point. What bright side can be illustrated in a God who makes a person to hate him and demands that person love him and torments that person for hating him? I’ll wait patiently for the “bright side” (to coin Monty Python)…It’s gonna be a long long eternal wait :slight_smile:



Actually, Steve was in fact making such a claim to use that analogy (of the sort you reported). It fits exactly with his complaint that universalism only has appeal to people like Tom who (according to Steve, not to Tom) have lived a charmed existence.

Thus my observation that Steve’s counter-paragraph regarding the mother replying to Nivlac actually shows non-universalist mother (not even a Calv one particularly) replying to “Nivlac” as though “Nivlac” was supposed to be Tom Talbott–when Nivlac was supposed to be Calvin (very much vs. the mother) in Tom’s original parable.

(I didn’t bother pointing this out in our discussion at the DangIdea thread, btw. Mainly because I started the thread agreeing with the Triablogue guys that the parable wasn’t appropriate as an illustration of Calvinism, but disagreeing with the Triablogue guys about it not even being close to Calvinism. I later illustrated that “Nivlac”'s reply to/about the mother’s hope for her non-elect child, was structured by Tom almost exactly in 1:1 correspondence topically with a quote from Calvin’s Institutes, discussed by Tom on the subsequent page of his presentation. There was only one significant deviation; but I believed, and still believe, it was significant enough to foof the parable as a fair comparison with Calvin’s theology.)

True. And it fails for very much the reason you mentioned. (This won’t be the only place, either, where Steve or PaulM seem to completely forget that the elect are supposed to be on ethical and Divine-fate par with the non-elect, God’s gracious choice to lead the elect to salvation aside.)

It also fails, though (in a much more incidental fashion), because it utterly misrepresents the thrust of Tom’s “Nivlac and Morg” parable. Mainly I didn’t want readers to be confused if they went on to read Tom’s original parable, which is what was being discussed in the DangIdea thread. :slight_smile:

Good job so far, btw, Gene. :smiley: (My comments weren’t really against your analysis; only a somewhat incidental addendum.)


True, he’s kind of all over the place. While his point was to show that tear jerking using an illustration is dependent on the context of the story (thus substitution is easy to change the tear appeal) it does seem to fit his theology and complaint. Namely, God hates the wicked and will not save them. Ahhhh the double talk begins.

Moving on shall we…

This is part of the very setup you are pointing to Jason. It appears that Steve is submitting (no surprise) on what ground the elect and reprobate are chosen by God.

But how can any calvinist complain that the rapist will be saved? How can a calvinist complain that God love the wicked.

We’ll move into the nature of Calvinism as we move along this series of posts on Stevs blog. That nature most certainly is that God does not love the wicked and loves the righteouss; an interesting position indeed.



Btw, good idea to post the “Morg and Nivlac” parable content in the initial post!

Right, except for those wicked God doesn’t implacably hate and will graciously save instead. But His holy justice etc. requires that He implacably hate the wicked and hopelessly punish them etc. :unamused:

Also, Steve neglects to mention here that demerit is not in fact the necessary (albeit insufficient, in the unusual but not incorrect sense he’s using that word) condition of reprobation (in the typically bass-ackward sense in which he’s using that word, to mean something totally opposite to what the word-construction itself would imply).

There can be no demerit per se in the condition of original sin. It is the original sin condition which infallibly leads the person to demerit himself, but the original condition is inherited: a situation totally allowed (not to say enforced, though some Calvinists would go that distance, too) by God. “Total Depravity” is not a demerit of the person (except for original sinners like the rebel angels, or our first human ancestors Biblically speaking.)

But then, I think you will find (possibly even in Steve’s comments, although I don’t personally recall if he goes there here), that “merit” turns out to figure in “election”, too; at the very least, the “merits” of Christ. Thus we are hopelessly condemned by God for the demerits of Adam (not our own demerits, except secondarily to this), and saved by God for the merits of Christ (not our own merits).

And I think there are some doctrines there that Steve (and other Calvs) are correct in trying to preserve. We have (I believe) an inherited sin condition that God, being just, will sooner or later act toward redressing completely and fully; and while our personal cooperation with God is essential in our salvation, it is God Whose action is primarily responsible for this salvation.

The main problem, is the portion of the doctrinal set where God is acting to fulfill or to allow the fulfillment of hopelessness.


Agh! I said I wouldn’t comment much! :unamused: :unamused: :unamused:

Sorry. :mrgreen: I really do need to be working on some other things anyway. (So that I’ll have time to get back to commenting much on the boards. :laughing: )


NONSENSE Jason! Please comment away.