Monday, June 16, 2008

Responses to Candice Watters Part II

In this section of my responses to Candice Watters I will be addressing the issue of marriage as an idol, and the issue of marriage and the sovereignty of God.

Marriage, an Idol???? YES!!!!!!!!!!!

One of the major things that I have brought up is that, while it is fine, and, indeed, good and right to want marriage, we must be careful of making marriage an idol. I remember bringing this up when, in my first dialogue with Debbie Maken, she said that there were many women who were “rightly loathing singleness.” I replied that we should not be loathing anything as the scriptures tell us not to worry about our life, even when it comes to essential things such as food and clothing [Matthew 6:25-34]! This is a powerful argument, because we can challenge these folks to consider the fact that God’s truth is more important than marriage. We can challenge them to read the text of the scriptures, and to think about marriage in a Biblical way, rather than a way that is based solely upon their emotions and desires. Hence, the Bible then can control and regulate these desires so that they remain desires that are honoring and glorifying to God. Of course, this is why, a priori, we must deal with the scriptures that have to do with marriage with consistent Biblical exegesis. That is why I have dealt with the exegesis of the Biblical text before I have addressed this issue.

Here is the heart of Candice’s argument against this line of argumentation:

Can the desire for marriage really become an idol? It’s technically possible. But that notion has been blown out of proportion. And repeatedly suggesting the possibility of idolatry has done more harm than good. It’s caused a lot of women to tepid in their approach to marriage and made them afraid that any amount of thinking or acting on their desire might be a sin. Both have the unfortunate consequence of making marriage even less likely to happen [p.47].

Candice’s argument is that there have been bad results of presenting this argument, and therefore, it should not be presented. However, this is simply bad logic. Simply because there are bad consequences to making a true argument that does not mean that the argument should not be made. Martin Luther, for example, had his writings misused to try to institute a violent revolution. I am speaking of the pheasant revolt. Luther’s argumentation was misused, but does that mean that Luther should not have revolted against the Roman Catholic Church? Of course not. People can misuse and misunderstand another person’s argumentation, and simply because people misuse an argument does not mean that the argumentation is not valid, and should not be used.

Candice explains more about her line of thinking:

Such caution is rarely urged with other desires. No one would discourage a woman from praying fervently, even daily, for an unsaved family member. And we’d applaud intense and passionate faith for the healing of a friend who was dying of cancer. Even desires that more easily border on idolatry-education, career pursuits, and hobbies-get a near-universal pass. But giving a fraction of such attention to the desire for marriage solicits dire warnings of overdoing it. Fervency when petitioning God for a mate comes under singular scrutiny [p.47].

Of course, this is all a logical fallacy. Just because there is erroneous thinking in the other side’s application of their argumentation against you does not mean that your argumentation is valid. Hence, we have two fallacies, assuming that simply because good argumentation leads to misunderstanding, and because other people have a fallacy in the application of their argument, that therefore means that what I believe is consistent with the scriptures.

However, I think Candice’s point is a good observation about our culture…not in our view of marriage, but in our view of idolatry. Idolatry, yes even of prayer, can, indeed, be a problem. If you trust in your praying to save an unsaved family member, or in your praying to heal an unsaved family member rather than the God to whom you are praying to save an unsaved family member, then you are engaging in idolatry. If you do not believe that God has the right to punish an unsaved family member in hell for their sins, or to take the life of your friend with cancer, just simply because you prayed, then you are, indeed, engaging in idolatry. It is the same thing with carrier pursuits and hobbies. When, in the pursuit of your carrier, or in pursuit of a particular hobby, you neglect the things of God, you are, indeed, making these things an idol. While this caution is something that is not urged in these areas, it is something that must be urged in these areas, and the fact that is not shows that our culture really does not care about idolatry today.

We live in a day in age where the breaking of the first four commandments occurs on a regular basis. Just walk around a typical shopping mall this Sunday, and you will see what I mean. Is the commandment about the Sabbath the only thing that is being broken? Look at all of the people who complain because they have to have what they want right now. Look at how many people get nasty when things don’t go their way, and use the name of God and Jesus in vain. Look at how many people openly walk around with symbols of paganism around their neck, and pierced into their body. Go into the bookstore, and look at the books on Hinduism and Buddhism that talk about the use of statues. The first four commandments are things which are broken all around us. Are we really meaning to suggest that this has had no effect on the church? The purity of worship is a grave concern of mine. Worship is so man-centered today rather than God-centered in most churches, that you wonder if it is man or God that is being worshipped!!!!!! The fact that churches have become more of a self-help program than true Biblical teaching should be evidence of the fact that these ideas have, indeed, infiltrated our church. How many people switch churches like most of us change dirty socks? No, we are living in a culture of idolatry, and we must caution people to be careful in all these areas, just as they are careful in their pursuit of marriage.

Furthermore, I think that, in many instances, we can say that it is not true that we do not give attention to these things as idols. For instance, consider carriers. I have seen a good many movies about a father who is never home because he is the owner of a major business. His children basically grow up without a father, and the whole movie is about the damage that this does to his children, and the father coming to regret the fact that he didn’t spend more time with his children. How is this not making your carrier pursuit an idol? Of course, most of these movies were on family stations that were, in fact, run by Christians. Not only that, but why is it that we so oppose the word-faith movement? We so oppose it because it makes an idol out of faith. I heard one critic of word-faith movement say that it is faith in faith, rather than faith in God. The more Christian the society the more likely it is going to be to take precautions against making these things an idol.

So, in all of this, Candice has not escaped the fact that many women today do make marriage an idol. I can’t tell you how many letters I have gotten from women who, upon reading Albert Mohler, Debbie Maken, and Candice Watters have tried to convince their churches, and when they cannot do it, they end up leaving that church for the Roman Catholic Church. How is this not making marriage an idol? Is this text not saying that my marital state is more important than the gospel of Jesus Christ? What you are in essence saying is that it is more important to me to be married than to be obedient in marrying a man who believes in the true gospel of Jesus Christ rather than a man who believes in a false gospel. Also, it is saying that the truth of the gospel doesn’t really matter. It is not, really, a dividing line between one who is truly a believer, and one who is not truly a believer. It is just fine to join a church who tries to add your merit, the merit of Mary and the saints, and the suffering of purification in purgatory to the sufficient, once for all sacrifice of Christ for salvation, even though the scriptures say that the only way in which a man is justified is through the merit of Jesus Christ alone, and say that anyone who denies that is eternally condemned [Galatians 1:6-9]? Let us also not forget about the idolatrous adoration of the host in the mass, the veneration of saints, angels, and images, and the denial of sola scriptura that we can throw in there. You might say that the Roman church actually honors marriage. Consider the perpetual virginity of Mary, the celibate sacramental priesthood, and the pornocracy and see if the Roman Catholic Church really does honor marriage. The only way to honor marriage is to teach what the Bible says about it. These things are grossly unbiblical.

I remember reading a review of Debbie Maken’s book on of a woman who, upon not being able to convince her church of these ideas, ended up leaving that church for a liberal, mainstream protestant church. Apparently, since liberals can be intimidated easily, as they often are with Islam, she was able to convince these people. However, today she does not believe in inerrancy, and neither does her husband. Now, all of the sudden, marriage is even more important than the truth of the scriptures. It is just fine to believe that the scriptures contain falsehoods, so long as I get my spouse.

What about even Debbie Maken herself, whose book is filled with some of the most sexist comments towards single men I have ever seen. In other words, it is simply fine to use that kind of language, so that women can get their spouse, even though the Bible is completely against it [2 Timothy 2:24-26]. Yet, I have run into women who use even more nasty language than what I have encountered from the King James Only folks in order to try to shame men into marrying them. This type of behavior is so contrary to the Bible, and yet, women are willing to do it in service to marriage.

Not only that, but the same blog that tried to argue that “the gift of singleness is dead” has also been urging Christian women to go outside the church to find “Christian men outside of the church,” which, of course, is an oxymoron. God tells us in his word that we are not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:24-25]. A person who willfully rebels against that commandment of God on a consistent basis is not a Christian. The scripture also says that we are to obey our elders and submit to them [1 Peter 5:5]. How can a person do that if they are not a part of a local church? Hence, what we have here is encouragement to marry unbelievers, since there are no believers outside of the Christian church. Hence, we have encouragement to disobey God, again, all in service to getting married.

Again, I have to ask. How are these things not “making marriage an idol?” The commandments of God against believing false gospels, the sufficiency of the scriptures, commandments against physical idolatry [in Roman Catholicism], the truth of the scriptures [denied by liberalism], wholesome talk, and obedience to the commandment of God about the church, and not marrying unbelievers are all lowered in importance far below marriage. Marriage is so important that you can disobey God in any of these areas so long as you get your spouse. These things go far beyond simple loathing the fact that you do not have a spouse. Even that would be idolatry, as I mentioned above. However, these things are much more blatant and gross examples of idolatry than simply loathing a spouse.

If Candice does not believe this stuff is going on, she is just simply sticking her head in the sand. These people need to be rebuked for these horrid examples of idolatry, and called back to pursue marriage in a way that is God honoring, and God glorifying. The fact that Candice Watters quotes Debbie Maken in her book, and even recommends her book in the “recommended reading” section is not helping the afore mentioned attitudes. Yes, I believe what I said earlier that this idolatry is simply reflecting the idolatry of our culture. We need to be wary of this sin in all areas, including this area.

Candice writes:

But can we really make marriage an idol in our postmarriage culture? Not in the way that’s often implied. Where we most often sin in our desire for marriage is not worshiping marriage itself, but in doubting God’s ability to bring it about [p.48].

Candice further explains what she means later on in her book:

It’s not that I disbelieved God could bring me a mate-I just didn’t think He would. Still my heart longed to be married. And on it went. Till Mary Morken helped me to see my prayers for what they were: faithless requests for something I wasn’t even sure it was OK to want [pgs. 146-147].

The reason why I have addressed the topics of marriage as an idol and God’s sovereignty together is because they go together. As a Calvinist, I don’t doubt God’s ability to bring marriage about. I doubt his willingness to do so just because we desire it. God is under no obligation whatsoever to give us a spouse just because we desire to have one. He is the king of our lives, and he can say no to our request for a spouse anytime he wants to do so. I have always asked the question, “Can God say no to your request for a spouse such that you are single for the rest of your life?” The most often answer I get is “no.” That is where I believe the problem lies. If God wants you to be single for the rest of your life, you will be single for the rest of your life no matter how much you “Get Serious about Getting Married” or “Help it Happen.” Not only that, but, if he does decide to give you a spouse, God will cause it to happen exactly when he wants it to happen. You might say that, earlier in your life you didn’t do things that are conducive to marriage. I would say that God ordained that as well. As the Westminster Confession says, God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. I will get into this more in the section on God’s sovereignty, but for right now, we need to understand that God decrees whether or not we will search for a spouse, and whether or not that search will be successful.

For some reason, Candice seems to think that if you say that God is free to give a spouse to whomever he wants, you are simply making “faithless requests for something you aren’t even sure is OK to want.” However, unfortunately, she never describes the logic that Mary Morken used to convince her of this. How is it somehow self-contradictory to say that a desire for something is good, but we need to trust that God knows what his best for our lives, and he will cause our search to be successful if he so desires? It sounds to me that this is much more true faith in God, because we can trust him that, if he says “no” to our request for a spouse, he has done so for a good reason. However, I can’t avoid the conclusion that Candice’s position must ultimately end in saying that God could never have a good reason for saying “no” to a person’s request for a spouse so long as they do the things suggested by herself, Debbie Maken, Albert Mohler and others. As long as we believe that marriage is necessary us as individuals, one wonders if we have faith in marriage, or faith in God.

Candice continues:

That some would make women doubt the rightness of desiring marriage shouldn’t surprise us. Paul told us it would happen. He wrote:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

(1 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB)

Again, this is a canard. No one has said that desiring marriage is not right. What we have said is that the desire for marriage is not more important than the commandments of God, and, if it becomes so important to you that you neglect other aspects of the Christian life, disobey God’s commandments, and engage in worry [all things forbidden by the scriptures] you are engaging in idolatry. I think anyone can see that. I hope that no one would ever say that when you do those things in an effort to find a spouse, it is just fine.

Candice then goes on to say that “the ‘marriage as idol’ warning prevents many young women from gratefully sharing in what God has created as good” [p.49]. How does it do that? How does wanting your pursuit of something good to be pure necessarily stop a person from actually pursuing it? Again, there is no logical connection whatsoever here.

Now, the reason why I have addressed Candice’s usage of scripture before this is because it is so important to show that this position has no scriptural foundation. We have just seen Candice engage in two logical fallacies, make a statement that is a total canard, and the give us a non sequitor. All in all, Candice has not addressed the argument at all. I almost wonder if she knows that, because tries to go back to scripture to give her some foundation. She writes:

Paul said, “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Not only is it unlikely that a godly woman’s desire for a biblical marriage would become an idol, biblical marriage is the antidote to much of the idolatry-“sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed”-that plagues our culture. And it is a plague, and epidemic [p.50].

This is why it is so important to understand what is happening in Genesis 3:15-17, and also why it is important to understand why it is highly unlikely that this is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 7:2. Marriage cannot be the antidote to much idolatry, because it was corrupted by our idolatry in the fall. Where do you think that the competition between the man and the woman where a woman will deny her husband sexual relations, and run off and commit adultery and divorce him comes from? It comes from the very heart of the fall itself in Genesis 3:16, and the sin with which mankind has tainted the marriage relationship. How can such a situation be an “antidote to much of the idolatry…that plagues our culture?” In fact, if the sin problem is not dealt with by the blood of Christ, the woman or the man will take those same sins right into marriage. Now, I am not saying that the problem must be totally dealt with before marriage, but there must always be that battle to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. It is this that is the only antidote to the idolatries that Candice mentioned. The only antidote to the idolatries of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed that plagues our culture is the shed blood of Jesus Christ which is the only thing upon which my sanctification is based. It is the only reason why any believer struggles day in and day out to deny himself.

However, someone might say, “Yes, but doesn’t God also use means to sanctify us?” Yes, he does. However, if you think about it, the Bible never anywhere says that God works through marriage to sanctify us. The only marriage which sanctifies us is our union with Christ. The idea that marriage is a means of grace is something that is held by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches alone, and if people who believe this must become Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox in order to believe it, then so be it.

You might say, “But I have grown so much going through the things I have gone through in marriage!” I reply. Yes, and others have gone through those same struggles and have left the faith altogether. The key is that the person must be regenerated, and thus be willing to apply the word of God to those situations. Then, they will be sanctified. Thus, it is not marriage that is sanctifying, but it is the word of God which is sanctifying them! Our marriages here on earth have absolutely positively nothing whatsoever to do with our sanctification or our salvation. The only thing upon which my sanctification is founded is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is only because Christ shed his blood for me two thousand years ago on the cross of Calvary that I will be with him for all eternity. I bring nothing in my hands for my own salvation, including my future marriage.

Marriage and the Sovereignty of God

I really wonder why it is that Tim Challies has been giving Albert Mohler, Candice Watters, and Debbie Maken his support in his reviews of their books and writings on this topic. Tim is reformed, as far as I know, and thus, he, like me, is a monergist. He likewise believes that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. It is difficult then, in light of chapter 4 of Candice’s book which explains the whole anatomy of how one gets to marriage, to understand why he would put his endorsement upon this book. This chapter is synergistic throughout. It very clearly makes what happens in this world partially dependent on man, and partially dependent on God.

Such is simply not hard to prove. It starts from the very beginning of the chapter. She tells a story about a friend of hers named Amy. Here is what it says:

Amy was still recovering, but she was making progress. Only recently unattached against, she was at our house with some of her single friends talking about how she viewed her failed romance; the one she had thought would end, not with a breakup, but a proposal. “It was a roller-coaster ride,” she said. “But now I can look back and see God’s hand in each twist and turn. I believe He wanted me to go through all that to learn some things.” Amy is a devout believer. But here she was, rationalizing a relationship that left her feeling jerked around and hurth, with no marriage to show for it. It’s like she was casting God in her efforts to get married as some kind of cosmic puzzle maker-constructing a picture too mysterious and grand for her to really understand. Because she couldn’t see the lid to the box with the picture of the completed puzzle, the best she could do was guess, after the fact, what He was to. I believe God plays a much more benevolent role in our journey toward marriage [p. 67]

Now, to any Calvinist, that last statement is a complete denial of the providence of God. According to us, the role that Amy described is a benevolent role, because God is changing us, in his perfect time, into the people he wants us to be. That is the most benevolent thing that God can do for us!!!!! Whether we get married or not, our ultimate goal is to become “holy and blameless” in his sight, and that is the very thing God has predestined us to be [Ephesians 1:4]! Hence, God gives us marriage when he wants to give us marriage.

Candice uses language that sounds like it is compatible with Calvinism, but then she goes on to explain exactly what she means. Take this passage for instance:

God is sovereign. He is all-powerful. He delights in giving good gifts to His children. All that and more is true. But none of it lets me off the hook for the things God has placed under my authority. I’m responsible for a big part of the getting married equation, much more than I realized. This was one of the most important things Mary Morken helped me to see [p.70].

Now, a Calvinist could say “amen” to all of that. However, he believes that God has ordained whether or not you will pursue marriage, as well as whether or not that pursuit will be successful. Hence, even if I have to deal with the fact that I want marriage, but my life has not been consistent with that desire, God has ordained both that my life was inconsistent, and that I would not find a spouse, and he has done so in order to teach me a lesson about the fact that the Bible does, indeed, teach that God uses means. God ordains everything for his good and sovereign purposes.

However, that is not how Candice understands what she has said. Here is how she interprets her own words:

I had a role to play. God was working on my behalf; but for marriage to happen, I needed to cooperate with what He was doing. I had to take responsibility for the things that were under my control by God’s design [p.70].

Now, that statement is a complete denial of everything that a Calvinist believes about the sovereignty of God. Once you start talking about a cooperative effort between man and God that brings about things that happen in this world, you have just flat out denied what reformed theology teaches. This is why it is hard to understand why folks like Tim Challies and Albert Mohler support these ideas. It is absolutely amazing to think that Albert Mohler wrote the forward to a book that denies the very reformed doctrine of God’s providence.

I must keep hammering this home. Candice writes the following:

We have the ability to undermine the good things God is trying to do on our behalf [p.71].

Again, how is this statement true in a reformed belief system? Calvinists believe that what ever God wants to do, he does [Daniel 4:35]. Psalm 135:6 repeats this. Psalm 115:3 says that the Lord does as he pleases. In Job 42:2, Job says that no purpose of the Lord can be thwarted. Now, let me ask all of the Calvinists out there, in the light of all of these passages, is it true that we have the ability to undermine the good things God is trying to do on our behalf? It sounds to me like these passages teach us that if God is trying to do it, he will do it because he does whatever he pleases, and no purpose of his can be thwarted!!!!!

Women who are appropriately waiting for guys to initiate still have plenty of things to do-as well as things to stop doing-to help marriage happen; all the while trusting God to play His part [pgs. 71-72].

Again, we have the synergistic cooperation between man and God to bring things about in this world.

Women must do all they can to prepare. Then we can trust God for the rest, knowing we’ve been faithful to do our part [p.77].

Again, I can’t figure out how it is that one Calvinist can write the forward to this book, and another can endorse it when you have a flat out denial of the very reformed belief in divine providence in describing the very anatomy of how one gets married!!!!!!!

Yes, I know Candice uses reformed language such as “means,” but, apparently, according to these texts, she suggests God is obligated to use those means. He just simply is not. Many times God will ordain that a woman will desire a spouse, and they say “no” to their prayers and pursuit of a spouse is so he can teach them to stop trusting in marriage and start trusting only in him. Not only that, but saying that God works through means is not the same thing as saying that God has also ordained those means. The Westminster Confession of Faith states both. As I said, we must remember that Albert Mohler wrote the forward to this book, and Tim Challies has endorsed it. Again, this is simply unbelievable.

Candice keeps on hammering home the point that there are consequences to our actions. To that I agree. However, let me ask a simple question. Are those consequences to those actions meaningless? Are you willing to tell a girl who has an STD or a crisis pregnancy that all of those things are totally pointless? Indeed, it may have been those things which brought the girl back to repentance in the first place! Yes, even the consequences of our sin work together for good. Paul says that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Does God only cause our righteous actions to work together for our good, or does he not also ordain our sin for our own good? We must think about this. We do have consequences which we must certainly face for the things that we do. No question about it. However, it is often times these very consequences that bring us back to living a life that is honoring and pleasing to God. We can very often be used of God, as many women have in these situations, to warn other men and women about the dangers of premarital sexual relations. Yet, are not these ends good? Indeed they are.

Candice also talks about how, in trusting God, we are to be active. She really tries to hammer home the fact that God’s sovereignty does not negate our responsibility. True enough. However, that does not mean that, because we have responsibility, that it is therefore a cooperative effort, and that we can undermine the good things God is trying to do on our behalf. Such is totally irrational. God ordains both whether or not we will “play our part,” and, if we “play our part” whether or not it will be successful. He is ultimately in control.

This concludes part II of my responses to Candice Watters.


kt said...

Alrighty then -- God decreed that all these believing women would be left single so that the conditions in our churches that enable men to be passive, ignorant, absent and disobedient may be revealed!

Better add "sparing us from our own stupidity" to the pile of things that, as you say, "God is under no obligation whatsoever to give us"

PS... Adam, what is YOUR idol? Fruitless debate, perhaps?

Paul said...

Hey, Adam,

Speaking of the Sovereignty of God and His will, now that your classes are over for the summer and you have a little more time, why don't you call "Bob Enyart Live" some afternoon to debate free-will, predestination, providence, etc.

Just tell the producer that you're a Calvinist seminary student and I guarantee you that Bob will want to talk to you!

If it goes well for you (in your opinion), you can post a link to the show on your blog to prove to all the marriage mandaters the danger of going too far in a "free will" direction in their theology.

Whattaya say? :)

Call Bob Enyart live weekdays from 5:00-5:30pm ET at 1-800-8Enyart

RedKnight said...

"However, someone might say, “Yes, but doesn’t God also use means to sanctify us?” Yes, he does. However, if you think about it, the Bible never anywhere says that God works through marriage to sanctify us. The only marriage which sanctifies us is our union with Christ. The idea that marriage is a means of grace is something that is held by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches alone, and if people who believe this must become Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox in order to believe it, then so be it." Then what do you make of this Bible passage? 1 Corinthians 7:14 "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."

PuritanCalvinist said...

Hey Paul,

I would consider it only if you would be willing to call into Dr. White's program The Dividing Line. We could then link to both programs, and let the listener decide.


The Greek term hagiazw has a much wider range than you are giving it. For instance, given your logic, you would have to say that every child of a believing parent will be perfected in holiness!!!!! The Greek term also has the idea of "setting apart." This is a very important verse for the paedobaptist position on the place of children in the new covenant.

God Bless,

Paul said...

"I would consider it only if you would be willing to call into Dr. White's program The Dividing Line. We could then link to both programs, and let the listener decide."

Adam, I would be willing to do that but what I think would carry more weight in the blogosphere than either of us calling these shows (especially me, since I have nowhere near the formal training that you do, and I'm not a good debater anyway) is if we could somehow get White and Enyart to debate each other.

I emailed Enyart yesterday asking if he's ever made an overture to White to debate this topic. I got this reply from his show's general manager:

"I offered James White like $5000 to debate Bob on this topic. (Money talks.) He still turned us down and said he had too much on his plate. He's pretty content with his debate with Sanders. If we can get Calvinists to ask White to debate Bob, we will have more luck."

So it doesn't look too promising for a White/Enyart debate...unless there's a groundswell of support for it from White's Calvinist fans.

Here's another idea: is there a Calvinist professor at Trinity who is a fairly highly-regarded theologian and who would be willing to debate Enyart? He doesn't have to be as well known as R.C. Sproul; just someone who would bring some "cred" to a debate so that it would get everyone's attention (marriage mandaters and GoS's alike).

The reason it matters so much in the context of the marriage/singleness issue (as I think you'd agree) is that the debate about the "gift of singleness" is at its core a theological debate about the Sovereignty of God, and to what extent man has freedom to make choices.

I respect you for the fact that you at least see the theological root of this debate clearly, whereas I'm not sure many of the other participants do. I haven't read Candice Watter's book, but I think you're right that she is an Arminian -- at least that's what I would infer from reading her writings on Boundless. And as we both agree, Arminianism is inherently inconsistent. And I would describe Debbie Maken as an "inconsistent Calvinist" -- as opposed to someone like you who is a thoroughgoing, consistent Calvinist.

Anyway, if you have any ideas, feel free to shoot me an email:

Take care.

Anakin Niceguy said...

Hi Adam,

Regarding Tim Challies, I suspect there is a difference between this Calvinism and this Calvinism. I am led to believe that Tim Challies is more of the former camp. The "New Calvinism" is ecumenical in many ways and I wonder just how theologically deep it is. You have a Charismatic (Mahaney), a dispensationalist (Macarthur), a open-membership credobaptist (Piper), a SBC heavyweight (Mohler), all on stage with Sproul. No talk about scriptural baptism - no discussion about the regulative principle of worship and how that might apply to CCM crowd at the New Attitude conferences. They get up on stage and called themselves "Reformed" and "Calvinist". The man must be rolling in his grave.

gortexgrrl said...

Paul, you said: "The reason it matters so much in the context of the marriage/singleness issue (as I think you'd agree) is that the debate about the "gift of singleness" is at its core a theological debate about the Sovereignty of God, and to what extent man has freedom to make choices."

Sovereignty is NOT at the core of this debate, however Adam may try to distract us with it, or use it as a springboard to show off his fancy theological footwork -- it's a red herring and he knows it.

Maken and Watters have never disparaged sovereignty, they merely (and rightly) challenge us not to presume on it, which is what we are doing when we, for the first time in history, start calling the protracted singleness of those who hoped to marry "a gift". There is no "gift of unemployment" for those who don't look for work or "gift of failed exams" for those who don't study. Likewise, there's no "gift of serial rape" or "gift of radiation poisoning" for those who befall those misfortunes through no fault of their own. Even if those things happen under the sovereignty of God and can be used for His good (even if mostly a consequence of things happening within the natural order of a fallen world originally designed to His perfection).

It's the misappropriation of the word "gift" out of sync with biblical examples of its usage that's the issue -- and its insidious effects that undermine the confident pursuit of marriage.

Paul said...


Imo, the faulty "singleness is a gift" teaching rests on the foundation of another faulty teaching: that everything that happens is God's will. Therefore, if someone is experiencing unwanted singleness, she is told that she should just learn to be content with her situation because this is all part of God's "plan for her life." That's why one of the propagators of the GoS teaching, Elizabeth Elliott, has taught that singleness is a gift -- because in her theology everything that happens in life is a "gift" from God (i.e. His will), including the murder of her first husband in the mission field.

"It's the misappropriation of the word "gift" out of sync with biblical examples of its usage that's the issue..."

But the misappropriation of the word "gift" hasn't happened in isolation; it's connected to certain presuppositions about God's will, His foreknowledge, and whether or not circumstances in our lives (like marriage and singleness) are part of a predetermined "plan" that God has for us. In other words, whether or not the entire future is "settled" from all eternity past, or whether it is open and can change, based on the choices we make as beings who have been created with a will.

The members of the translation committees of every Bible version have certain theological biases (as we all do) which come out in their translations. The misuse of "gift of singleness" in the NLT (at least until recently :) was at least in part due to some unquestioned presuppositions on the part of the translators -- specifically, that a single person is single because God wants her to be single (it's His "gift" to her, at least for today) and that a married person is married because God wants her to be married (it's His gift to her).

As an Open Theist, I believe many things happen that God does not want to happen, and therefore there is such a thing as circumstantial singleness. You, Maken and Watters obviously agree with that. However, Maken and Watters still believe that the future is settled, even if they don't believe that God has decreed every aspect of it, as Adam does.

"There is no "gift of unemployment" for those who don't look for work or "gift of failed exams" for those who don't study. Likewise, there's no "gift of serial rape" or "gift of radiation poisoning" for those who befall those misfortunes through no fault of their own."

Amen to all of that! Of course, Adam believes that all of those things were ordained by God - both the "ends" and the "means." So in his view, God ordained for someone to be unemployed, and He also ordained that the unemployed person would fail to look for work -- and all for His glory!

Even other Calvinists (the more casual ones, who might describe Adam as a "Hyper-Calvinist") and Arminians believe that those things would be God's will if they happened, although they might use the phrase "permissive will" in saying it. That's because both Calvinism and Arminianism teach that the future is eternally settled and that God has exhaustive knowledge of it. If He has exhaustive knowledge of the future, it cannot turn out differently from what He knows will happen.

Open Theism says that the future is not settled because our choices and actions affect what will happen; and therefore the future cannot be known in advance because it does not yet exist to be known.

For example, Candice Watters has said that women should pray for their future husbands. Adam would probably say that that advice is misguided, because a woman would thus be presuming that God has ordained for her to get married in the future, and she is not promised marriage. I, on the other hand, would say that the advice is misguided because God does not know whether or not a woman will marry in the future -- much less to whom -- because the future does not yet exist as settled reality and God can only know that which it's logically possible to know.

Gortexgrrl, understand that I support the "rethinking the GoS" movement (except for the marriage mandate part of it). I've been trying to gently nudge some of the participants on your side to what I believe is a more theologically consistent position - Open Theism - because I believe that most of the false teaching that has harmed singles and even hindered the pursuit of marriage rests on a foundation of faulty theology.

I don't want to open up another debate on this subject on Adam's blog, but please do me the favor of listening to the following linked radio program (it's only 30 minutes long). Then if you're further interested in the discussed topic, I urge you to read the linked debate.

Audio: "Calvary Chapel's Ed Taylor & Bob Enyart" (approx. 30 min.)

Debate: "Openness Theology - Does God Know Your Entire Future?"

* (Especially read this post within the debate, which discusses the issue of God's Sovereignty.)

God bless you.

Paul said...

Gortexgrrl (and anyone else who's interested):

I would also encourage you to listen to this show (~28 minutes) which is a compliment to the other one I linked to. It discusses God's knowledge of the future and whether the future is settled.

==> God said to Abraham, "Now I know..." (And He meant exactly that)

PuritanCalvinist said...


Sovereignty is NOT at the core of this debate, however Adam may try to distract us with it, or use it as a springboard to show off his fancy theological footwork -- it's a red herring and he knows it.

Lol, I love when people try to presume upon my thinking as if they could somehow look into my mind. The reality is, as I documented on this very blog post, Candice Watters [and Debbie Maken too] believes that, whatever happens to us is a cooperative effort between man and God. That is a flat out denial of the *reformed* view of God's sovereignty, which is what I am referring to when I talk about this. How can people such as Tim Challies and Albert Mohler, who are clearly reformed, endorse a book that has a complete denial of the reformed doctrine of God's providence?

As far as your "gift of unemployment" misrepresentation, I will simply point out that I have never said that a person who wishes to be married should just sit around and do nothing. When it becomes a "gift" is where you pursue it, and God says "no." At this point, you have to submit to God, and recognize that he knows what is best. Apparently, according to you, God cannot say no to a person's request for a spouse. If a woman is unmarried, it must either be because of the church, single men, or both.

Gortexgrrl, we have been dealing with your arguments, Captain Sensible's arguments, Debbie Maken's arguments, and Candice Watters' arguments for a long time. It is time you guys actually start dealing with the responses we have given to your position rather than continuing in the gross misrepresentations of our position. I even documented how hermeneutically unsound it is to just look at every instance in which a particular word is used, and then, if "singleness" is not specifically used there, then, therefore, singleness cannot be a gift. That is a faulty methodology all of the way around, and it caused you to misrepresent the NLT translators so that you could say that the "Gift of Singleness" is somehow "dead," just because some translators decided to make it less specific to connect it to Paul's later discussion of spiritual gifts. They even said that this was not their intent. Yet, you persist, and just give a "whatever" in response. Again, I think we can see what happens when this becomes such a hobby horse to someone, that they cannot even listen to reason.It is sad that you continue to use this methodology, even after a clear refutation of that methodology has been given, and refuse to offer any response to the refutation. If that is the case, there is nothing more that need be said about the version of this movement that you and Captain Sensible are presenting.

Paul said...

Adam said: "...I have never said that a person who wishes to be married should just sit around and do nothing."

Adam, this is a perfect example of where your theology falls apart in the "real world." Because whenever anyone says to singles (Debbie Maken, Candice Watters, Gortexgrrl, Captain Sensible, me ... whomever): "You cannot just sit around and do nothing if you want to get married -- and here are some practical things you can do to make marriage more likely to happen..." you then come back and say (as you have in the past): "There's nothing anyone can do to make marriage more likely to happen."

According to you, marriage is either a part of God's preordained plan for a person's life or it isn't, and there isn't a bloody thing that he can do to make it more likely to happen. So if someone has been ordained to marry, even if he sits around and does "nothing," God will make sure he gets married. And conversely, if someone is ordained to stay single his whole life, it doesn't matter how proactive he is about looking for a wife -- God will make sure he stays single.

Any practical advice to singles on how they can help increase the likelihood of marrying in the future would thus be a gigantic waste of time. And after all, that is the only reason to offer practical advice on the matter: because someone believes the advice will help increase the prospects of the person receiving it!

You might as well say, "It doesn't really matter what you do, because your entire future has been ordained by the eternal decree of God. So, do something or don't do anything ... whatever." But of course, even a strong five-point Calvinist like you knows instinctively that such advice would be misguided, even if you can't reconcile that with your deterministic theology.

So, if you are NOT saying to marriage-minded singles: "Don't just sit around and do nothing," I'm left to assume that you ARE saying: "do something to proactively pursue marriage." Oh, but wait a minute... if there's nothing anyone can do to make marriage more likely to happen (because it's either ordained for you or it isn't), then why would it matter one way or the other?? It must matter, or else you wouldn't feel the need to point out that you aren't telling singles to just sit around and do nothing!!

The late Greg Bahnsen used to say this in debates against atheists, "You can say that God doesn't exist, but you can't live that way." I've made a twist on his statement to apply to Calvinism [And really, it applies equally to Arminianism too, since it also posits an eternally settled future]: "You can say that the future is settled but you can't live that way."

Reality, meet Adam. Adam, meet reality.

PuritanCalvinist said...


So if someone has been ordained to marry, even if he sits around and does "nothing," God will make sure he gets married.

Not at all. God uses means. If a person has been ordained to marry, God will ordain both the ends as well as the means to get them there. However, even if a person does all that they can, God is under no obligation to use the alleged "means" in any sense.

So, in other words, God has made both the ends and the means certain for those who are predestined to be married. However, he has refused to use the means to bring a person a spouse for those who would like to be married, but are not predestined to be such.

Again, I really have to wonder how much the followers of Bob Enyart really understand Calvinism. The fact that they continue to confuse several aspects of Greek Philosophy with Calvinism should be evidence of this. You have just confused Calvinism with fatalism. Fatalism denies that God uses means in bringing about his desired ends. However, Calvinists have *never* denied such a thing. It is only if you build a strawman that Calvinism doesn't work in the "real world."

So, if you have to misrepresent us in order to say our position is not workable, then one has to wonder just how "workable" open theism is as a system.

I would also encourage you to listen to this show (~28 minutes) which is a compliment to the other one I linked to. It discusses God's knowledge of the future and whether the future is settled.

==> God said to Abraham, "Now I know..." (And He meant exactly that)

Which is interesting since that passage destroys open theism as much as Calvinism. Genesis 22 is not a passage that would be referring to future knowledge, but rather to *present* knowledge. The question is, did God, at the beginning of Genesis 22, know that Abraham feared him? If you say "no" on the basis of Genesis 22:12, then you are caught believing that God did not have present knowledge at the beginning of Genesis 22. However, open theists *do* believe that God has present knowledge! They believe that God knows all that can be known, and the present is certainly something that can be known according to the open view.


Paul said...

Adam said: "You have just confused Calvinism with fatalism. Fatalism denies that God uses means in bringing about his desired ends. However, Calvinists have *never* denied such a thing."

Adam, here are some definitions of "fatalism" that I found:

American Heritage Dictionary: "The doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable." "A philosophical doctrine holding that all events are predetermined in advance for all time and human beings are powerless to change them." "The doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable."

Wikipedia: "Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate or inevitable predetermination."

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Fatalism is the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do."

All of these similar definitions - which is by far the most common - is basically the same thing you are saying: that God (or "the gods" or "fate") ordains both the ends and the means. "All events" would certainly include both the "ends" and the "means."

Your definition is definitely in the minority, but it sounds similar to these:

Oxford University Press: "The doctrine that what will be will be, or that human action has no influence on events." "The doctrine that no choice or act of the individual can affect the fate to which he is destined."

The only other place I found your definition was from other Calvinist theologians who were trying to explain that Calvinism is not the same thing as fatalism.

Adam said: "It is only if you build a strawman that Calvinism doesn't work in the "real world. ... if you have to misrepresent us in order to say our position is not workable, then one has to wonder just how "workable" open theism is as a system."

Well, read this excerpt from a Calvinist named Blaine Smith in which he acknowledges how "unhelpful" your view (which he shares) can be when Christian singles are pursuing marriage:

From "Is God A Matchmaker?" :

"A member of the church I attended as a single Christian wrote a song that became a favorite at weddings there. Many couples included it in their wedding ceremonies, and Evie and I began our own service with it. The first verse sets forth the theme that continues throughout the song: "Before God gave us life . . . He planned us for each other."

The song proclaims a belief which Christians have long held sacred--that God predetermines whom you marry. If he wants you to be married, he has one ideal choice in mind. And he works in many mysterious ways to bring you to the one for whom you are destined....

...I find that...[frequently] this viewpoint has an adverse effect on Christians....

...Most the paralyzing effect this notion sometimes has on single Christians who want to be married. Some conclude that any personal effort to find a spouse is outside the bounds of faith. Changing jobs or churches to improve the prospects of meeting someone compatible, for instance, is out of the question. Faith demands that you sit still and wait for God to bring the right person to your doorstep.

In one extreme case a Christian woman told me she felt she must avoid any situation that would make it too easy to find a husband. She had four opportunities for missionary service. In three of these situations there were single men whom she would consider marrying. Thus she felt compelled to choose the fourth. Though this woman, who was past forty, deeply wanted to be married, she greatly feared getting her own will mixed up with God's in the matter. Making it as difficult as possible for God to bring a man into her life would help ensure that marriage would come about only if God willed....

...My that most Christians do not find this notion [the premise of the song] helpful when it comes to decisions related to marriage...."

Oh, and here's some good reading on how Greek philosophy influenced your theology. Not that you care, but maybe one of your readers does:

From post 5B of the Enyart/Lamerson debate:

Exhaustive Foreknowledge comes from Greek Philosophy

Plato and Aristotle, with neo-platonists after them, presented to the world the classic arguments for immutability. Saint Augustine’s extraordinary commitment to pagan Greek philosophy survived his conversion with only some repositioning. As the most influential Christian theologian, Augustine based much of his theology on his commitment to the pagan doctrine of immutability and he bragged about this in his writings, and refers to the arguments of Plato and neo-platonic philosophers explicitly in defense of immutability and a Settled Future (which the Greeks referred to as fate and sometimes as providence). Scholars credit Augustine with preventing Christianity from being “cut off from the Classics.” Christian monks and theologians through the Middle Ages gave enormous priority to the study of Greek classics, and Christianity even fiercely maintained a Greek cosmology, all of this directly following Augustine. Like their leader, Monks would sanitize Greek ideas by twisting a few verses into proof-texts, as quoting that the sun rises and sets in defense of Aristotle. (Incidentally, ascetic monasticism itself was an eastern pagan influence on the church, with no scriptural support for monasteries, and Greek thought erased any biblical balance to denying one’s self, for “Plato viewed asceticism as a means of… conditioning the body… to a point at which the soul… could be free.”) Overcoming extraordinary intellectual repression, Christians like Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton were more committed to Scripture than to the Greeks, and as Galileo’s character Simplicio (Simpleton) played the Aristotelian, they consciously broke with Aristotle’s stifling defense of geo-centrism. And Christian theology will be as muddled as our dark-ages cosmology had been, until our ministers likewise deliver themselves from the bondage of pagan humanism. The Reformation broke with Rome, but not from Greece. The lead Reformer, Augustinian monk Martin Luther, was annoyed with Kepler’s scientifically liberating laws of planetary motion, preferring to ignore the proof because Aristotle’s circular orbits had a single divine center, while Kepler’s elliptical orbits had two centers; and evidence or not, passionate Greek commitment does not die readily. The Reformation was tainted with neoplatonism from the start. The great educational establishment of the Reformation was built by neo-platonists, who of course taught Scripture and Greek philosophy together, confidently writing and teaching from textbooks on the Classics. At the time, the study of Greek philosophy was fondly, but properly, called humanism. Reformation theologians and ministers were trained in their own colleges, which were established to teach Scripture as Augustine taught it, by defending their theology with Greek philosophy, and by promoting significant neo-platonic influence on Christianity.

...the following quotes and summaries are not taken out of context, but come from passages regarding God’s fundamental nature. [Read the post for the linked sources]

Divine Immutability

Plato: “The gods are themselves unchangeable;” “he changes not.”
Aristotle: “it is impassive and unalterable;” The divine mind “does not change”
Plotinus (father of neoplatonism): “knowing nothing of change;” “that Being… neither in process of change nor having ever changed;” “never varying”
Augustine: “absolute unchangeableness”
Aquinas: “God alone is altogether immutable;” “God is supremely immutable”
Luther: Immutablity” is the core of his entire Bondage of the Will
Calvin: “God, it is certain, is absolutely immutable;” “God remains unchangeably the same”
Scripture: A thousand verses, corroborated by the Incarnation, prove that God changes. We should trust Christ because of God’s commitment to righteousness, not because immutability makes it impossible for Him to turn against us.

Divine Immobility

Plato: the Creator is “immovably the same.”
Aristotle: “there is something which moves without being moved;” [God] “does not change, for change would be… a movement.”
Plotinus: “Life [i.e., God is] changelessly motionless;” “nothing in it ever knows development”
Augustine: God is “without movement;” “Neither is there any growth;” “without any movement”
Aquinas: “God cannot be moved”
Luther: “Immovable Thyself”
Calvin: “he remains unmoved;” He “is incapable of every feeling”
Scripture: The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters. God the Son came down from heaven. We have emotion because God is passionate. He experiences love and anger, grief and joy.

Remember, the Greeks were talking about a pagan deity, but for these Christians, it seems like I lifted these excerpts from their descriptions of a stone idol, but I have not misquoted them.

Divine Timelessness

Plotinus (father of Augustine’s neoplatonism): “What future… could bring to that Being anything… that standing present… it cannot include any past… Futurity, similarly, is banned”
Augustine: “whereas no time is all at once present” “not in our fashion does He look forward to what is future… nor back upon what is past”
Aquinas: “The idea of eternity follows immutability” “eternity is simultaneously whole”
Scripture: God’s “years” (Ps. 102:27; Heb. 1:12) never end. Jesus is waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. God is not co-eternal with creation, but made heaven and earth, which are not eternal. He created in the past, somberly looked forward to the crucifixion, endured the cross, which He suffered once for all time and does not continually hang on the cross, and now looks forward to Judgment Day.


Aristotle: The divine mind “does not change, for change would be for the worse…”
Augustine: He “beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness” “nor does His present knowledge differ from that which it ever was or shall be”
Aquinas: “just as His substance is altogether immutable… so His knowledge likewise must be altogether invariable”
Luther: “the immutably of His foreknowledge;” “God foreknows nothing contingently”
Scripture: In Scripture God presents Himself as making creatures that can be creative and themselves bring brand new thoughts and actions into existence.

The Incarnation shatters all this Greek philosophy.

Only time and space limits kept me from adding so many more quotes. The closest concept scripturally to the philosophic perversion of immutability is the eternal steadfastness of the Living God (Dan. 6:26). Period. No twisted metaphysical contortions are required. Biblical immutability speaks of the God’s commitment of God’s will to righteousness (Heb. 6:17-18), His eternal existence (Ps. 102:27); His faithfulness to Abraham (Mal. 3:6); His resolute commitment to truth (Heb. 13:8-9); and His trustworthiness to do only good (Jam. 1:17). And unlike Sam’s typical Settled View rational in Post 2B, none of this is because God can not but because He will not do evil. But when Sam denies the very Strength of Israel, which is God’s will to do right, reducing Him to a being who simply has no choice in the matter, no wonder Sam now thinks that every filthy perversion flows as a command from the mind of God (resisting Jer. 19:5; 32:35). Rather, God provides our salvation in righteousness, which He maintains immutably only by the commitment of His will, thus, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast,” (Heb. 6:19).

This frees the student of God’s Word to begin again at Genesis, and read through, seeing the glory of a relational God, actually uncompromised by evil, fully engaged and greatly affected by our love and hurt by our disobedience. Now, let’s fill in some particulars.

Plato (B.C. 427–347)

Plato had a high IQ, as do many who hate God and righteousness, and yet the Open View does not say that unbelievers are always wrong. Hollywood ends their blockbuster movies with the wicked punished, and the righteous vindicated, even though they hate themselves for it. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. So we can take an occasional illustration from Hollywood, and benefit from the scientific observations of atheists, but for Christians to allow Plato to influence their doctrine, as otherwise insightful Arminian Settled Viewers do, is downright foolishness. But what can it be called, other than the irony of the ages, when Sam with all five-point Calvinists who say they believe in Total Depravity, conform God’s Word to the influence of pagan Greek philosophy?

Plato by his darkened mind, gave the classic argument for immutability, arguing that God cannot change at all because God must be perfect, and any change could only be “for the worse [thus…] it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change…”

But he forgot to consider acorns. And perfect oceans, and perfect stars, and perfect newborn babies. For the Living God mirrored His own vitality in His creation. However by Augustine’s lifetime commitment to philosophy, he imposed Plato’s perspective on Christianity. But Augustine loved the guy, so perhaps he’s not so bad? Well, he will remind us why God despises paganism, by this glimpse into his Greek mind, from Plato’s Republic, Book VI. For Plato recommended a utopian state in which he would require for the philosophers and the soldiers:
that the wives of our guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent… [and] a woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear children to the State, and continue to bear them until forty.”
But what if a teenager or a fortyish woman becomes pregnant? Plato has a delicate solution: just kill the baby. For if he became ruler (the wise philosopher king), Plato would allow childbirth:
“only to those who are within the specified age [with] strict orders to prevent any embryo which may come into being from seeing the light; and if any force a way to the birth, the parents must understand that the offspring of such an union cannot be maintained, and arrange [that is: kill it] accordingly.
It is this same Plato of whom we read, by Augustine, City of God, Book VIII, Ch. 4:
But, among the disciples of Socrates, Plato was the one who shone with a glory which far excelled that of the others, and who not unjustly eclipsed them all… To Plato is given the praise of having perfected philosophy… We must, nevertheless, insert into our work certain of those opinions which he expresses in his writings, whether he himself uttered them, or narrates them as expressed by others, and seems himself to approve of,-opinions sometimes favorable to the true religion, which our faith takes up and defends, and sometimes contrary to it… Plato… is justly preferred to all the other philosophers of the Gentiles…
Sam, if the doctrine of exhaustive foreknowledge has developed directly from Christianity's mingling with pagan philosophy, then the force of the entire story of the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the future is open and both man and God change it continually.

Aristotle (B.C. 384-322)

Neoplatonism won the theologian’s popularity contest over Aristotle, but he still left his mark. He is famous for the unmovable mover, the Source of all is that which is eternal and unmovable and so our theological giants in unison chant: God is unmovable. Aristotle was against divine change (which is required for Life), and he described four species of movement: change in location, alteration, diminution, and growth. And thus to classical and reformed theology, the enemy of God’s glory is not—ordaining evil—it’s change!

Plotinus (A.D. 204-270)

The father of Augustine’s beloved neoplatonism, Plotinus wrote in Enneads III, Ch. 7, sec. 3:
Then we reconstruct… a sole Life in the Supreme… a Life never varying, not becoming what previously it was not, the thing immutably itself… and knowing this, we know Eternity. We know it as a Life changelessly motionless…; not this now and now that other, but always all; not existing now in one mode and now in another… nothing in it ever knows development: all remains identical within itself, knowing nothing of change, for ever in a Now since nothing of it has passed away or will come into being, but what it is now, that it is ever. … “…the Identity in the Divine… has no futurity… and could it come to be anything which it is not once for all? …it cannot include any past; … Futurity, similarly, is banned; … that which enjoys stable existence as neither in process of change nor having ever changed- that is Eternity. Thus we come to the definition: the Life- instantaneously entire, complete, at no point broken into period or part- which belongs to the Authentic Existent by its very existence, this is the thing we were probing for- this is Eternity.”
All of Christianity went after pagan Plotinus, who declared, God as “that which neither has been nor will be, but simply possesses being,” whereas the true God reveals Himself as, “Him who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1:4)!

Augustine (A.D. 354-430)

As God made the heavens and the earth, He “saw that it was good,” and immediately after the great sixth day of creation, God rejoiced at the work of His hands, for “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good!” But the cold pagan Greek conception of God could allow the deity no such enjoyment, or enrichment, or appreciation, or increase, by His becoming the Creator. But if the Son could become flesh (one of the greatest conceivable changes), then surely God could become the Creator, and He did, and He enjoyed it! But for centuries, Christian theology could not allow that such to be said of God, because Plato once uttered a similar sentiment, but Augustine was wise enough to know his true meaning, that God’s immutability would not allow Him even to be blessed by the work of His hands, and so interpreting Moses by Plato’s principles, Augustine, City of God, Book XI, Ch. 21:
…when the universe was completed… Plato was not so foolish as to mean by this that God was rendered more blessed by the novelty of His creation… For He… beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness… -Saint Augustine
Absolute unchangeableness? Absolute unchangeableness? Sam, that sounds just like “utter immutability,” doesn’t it? (And by the way, below I’m finally going to quote Reymond, but about the Greeks.) So neo-platonic thought permeated Augustine’s hermeneutic, and those committed first to God will search for that intellectual virus and eradicate it and its symptoms from Christian theology.

And finally, in City of God, Book V, Ch. 9:
Now the expression, "Once hath He spoken," is to be understood as meaning "immovably," that is, unchangeably hath He spoken, inasmuch as He knows unchangeably all things which shall be, and all things which He will do.
That means that? Sam, meet Sam. That means that only if you’re a neo-platonist. Yet in this chapter Augustine says, “to deny that He has foreknowledge of future things, is the most manifest folly.” This Greek philosopher is unqualified to make that judgment! He’s too biased.

Martin Luther (A.D. 1483-1546)

The Reformation’s theology and education was co-mingled with neoplatonism. Martin Luther, himself an Augustinian monk, worked to bring Humanism (Greek philosophy), into the service of the Gospel. He wrote of his primary ally, Philip Melanchthon, “This little Greek even surpasses me in theology”, for Melanchthon took a Greek name for himself as part of his studies in Humanism. Melanchthon, sometimes called the “father of evangelical theology,” wrote the first great confession of the Reformation, Confessio Augustana, and the first summary of Reformed theology. Also influenced by Aquinas, Melanchthon developed the concept of the modern high school, and wrote many “textbooks and founded schools” all influenced by Greek philosophy, and once planned, but never produce, a “genuine text of Aristotle,” although throughout his life was identified with Humanism.

Calvin (A.D. 1509-1564)

Writing about God’s eternal foreordination of the elect and the damned, Calvin quoted Augustine and then summed up his influence from, and personal allegiance to, Augustine:

Were we disposed to frame an entire volume out of Augustine, it were easy to show the reader that I have no occasion to use any other words than his [than Augustine’s!]” -Calvin’s Institutes, Book 3, Chap 22, Sec 8
Neoplatonism disallows God changing, moving, emoting, knowing something different, etc., therefore when the Bible says that God repents, Calvin insists that is only a figure of speech meaning that He does not repent, and here he offers the rationale that since there is no “emotion in him” and yet the Bible says often God exhibits emotion, thus we should interpret all such passages as mere figures of speech:

God “is incapable of every feeling… when we hear that God is angry, we ought not to imagine that there is any emotion in him, but ought rather to consider the mode [figure] of speech…” -Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1, XVII, xiii
Calvin used not a biblical but a neo-platonic hermeneutic. Thus:

When it is said that God repented of having made Saul king, the term change is used figuratively. Shortly after, it is added, "The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent," (1 Sam. 15:29.) In these words, his immutability is plainly asserted without figure. -Calvin’s Institutes, Book I, Ch. 17
The historical context shows that God actually did repent of offering Saul a perpetual dynasty, and God will not “repent” of having actually repented concerning His offer to Saul. Calvin can ignore the historical context because he prioritizes neo-platonic immutability above all.

Secondary Sources

Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia entry for Philosophy, Western, Medieval:
The religious teachings of the Gospels were combined by the Fathers of the Church with many of the philosophical concepts of the Greek and Roman schools… which drew upon metaphysical ideas of Aristotle and Plotinus to establish important Christian doctrines…
Clement (d. 215), head of the Christian Catechetical seminary in Alexandria, extolled “the divine character of the philosophy of Plato.”

The scholarly textbook you teach from, Sam, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, written by your former professor, Dr. Reymond, has a section about those who deny either Christ’s deity or His humanity, so it is not indexed or directly related to this topic of Greek philosophy, but thankfully, in a 1,200 page book, I happened upon it. Covering A.D. 325-451 on the controversy among church fathers about who Christ is, Reymond writes:
…their creedal terms were sometimes the terms of earlier and current philosophy, those terms nonetheless served the church well… [and the terms included] “without change” (or [without] transmutation)… -Reymond, p. 1,096
And not speaking of himself, Reymond describes “a modern dissatisfaction with [these church father’s] usage of Greek philosophical terminology…” (ibid.). And Reymond describes that earlier church period, “A.D. 418,” as exhibiting the church’s “best creedal moments” (ibid. p. 468) for “every Christian should be in this sense ‘Augustinian’ in his soteric [salvation] beliefs.”

While Reymond treats the historical development of theology at length including positive and negative influences, of the major Greek thinkers his Index of Persons has only a single, solitary entry under just one philosopher, Plato, pointing to a positive influence. His Index of Subjects makes no mention of any related topic such as Aristoteleanism, Platonism, neoplatonism, etc. And in his section on the teachings of Christ from the apostolic fathers, Reymond writes (p. 585), “we find nothing doctrinally definite, (that is, definitive) in regard to… the relationship of the divine and human in his person.” And later he writes about Origen (d. 254 A.D.):
Origen became the greatest biblical scholar… and philosopher-theologian (see his De principiis) of his day. But regrettably it must be acknowledged that Origen’s writings are seriously flawed due to his commitment to Platonism.

[And though] a Christian theologian… his depiction of God was in some significant respects more Greek than biblical.

[Yet] he continues to hold a place in the front ranks of early Christian theologians simply because he is so important to an understanding of the history of Christian doctrine that followed him. -Reymond, pp. 593, 595

Christian theology began amidst a crisis of pagan Greek influence, and that crisis entered Roman Catholicism unabated, and was welcomed into the Reformation. And if not for the Openness movement authors and unknown heroes, virtually all Christians today would still be completely unaware of the pagan Greek heritage preached from the pulpits.

World Book Encyclopedia 1986, Reformation Schools, "Protestant leaders… promoted literacy, an educational curriculum based on ancient Greek and Roman literature…"

When I call Augustine the most influential Christian theologian, that is true even if you include the prophets and the apostles who wrote the Bible, because Christianity filters biblical truth through his platonic commitments. However, if we broaden the potential candidate list to include pagans, then indisputably Plato, the pagan Greek philosopher, is the most influential Christian theologian.

Paul said...


There's a post on another popular blog I read that I thought you would find interesting ==> "Does God Really Plan Evil?"

I think everyone over there would be interested in your thoughts on the subject, if you'd be inclined to chime in.

PuritanCalvinist said...


Oxford University Press: "The doctrine that what will be will be, or that human action has no influence on events." "The doctrine that no choice or act of the individual can affect the fate to which he is destined."

That's the whole point, Paul. We *do* believe that human actions have influence on events. We just believe that even the human actions have also been ordained by God. That is the whole point. God ordains both the means [the human actions] as well as the results of the human actions. The reformed view is that *both* are ordained by God.

So, no, I was operating under the same definition, you just don't understand my position.

As far as the alleged parallels to Greek philosophy, remember that I said that when Calvinists talk of immobility and immutability, they are talking about immobility of God's nature, not of him en toto. Again, this is a strawman.

As far as atemporality, there are many reformed theologians who reject that notion of God. However, what is interesting is that this is about the only parallel you can establish, and it is not even uniformly held amongst reformed theologians.

As far as your discussion of termonology in Robert Reymond, we are talking about the terminology that is used. What is being spoken of is the fact that early Christians would use Greek philosophical terms [such as the logos of John 1:1], and yet, apply different meanings to them [c.f. John 1:14]. That is the whole point. All you have done is shown us similarity in language, but have not shown us that they mean the same thing. That will forever be the achillies heel of anyone who tries to make parallels to Greek Philosophy.

Also, what in heavens name is the "Encarta Encyclopedia" doing being cited? I would flunk if I *ever* cited that for a class.

Again, you have posted this alleged "information" before, and I have responded to it a thousand times. Even someone such as James Barr, who is by no means a friend to the Christian faith, and would have easily used this against Christianity if he had the chance, wrote *against* this perspective. It is unbelievable to see this coming up with someone like Bob Enyart who obviously has an agenda to spread his false teaching.

Not only that, but Michael Horton wrote responses to this stuff in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Again, none of his arguments were touched. I almost wonder how much of this parallel to Greek Philosophy nonsense is to distract the readers from the fact that Open Theism is simply an unbiblical system.


Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Just FYI...

James White and Bob Enyart recently debated the topic of Open Theism (7/8/14).

Full audio is available here:
James White vs. Bob Enyart Open Theism Debate