Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Prooftext Roundup

From Facebook group Open Theism. Adapted from a series of posts by John McCormick in response to the following Calvinist post:

I’m a determinist, I believe that libertarian free will is unBiblical.
I love God and love the Bible, I just want to be more Biblical in my life
and my theology.

Here are a few verses supporting determinism: (there many more)

Psalm 33:10-11
The LORD fails the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the
peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (immutability)

Lamentations 3:37-38
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” (this verse is a tough one to make it say it’s opposite)

Proverbs 19:21
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”(God is in control not us)

Deuteronomy 32:39
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who puts to death and gives life. I have wounded, and it is I who heals; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. (God claims credit for life,death, wounding)

Daniel 4:35
He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done? (Do we really think we can change God)

1 Pe 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (God makes people suffer, for his good purpose)

Act 4:28
to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Our ways and decisions are set according to His will)

Eph 1:9
making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (According to his purpose or ours)

Eph 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of (Not our doing but his, not our choice but his)

Isa 14:27
For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back
(How silly for us to think God changes depending on our decisions)

Isa 46:10
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
(The end from the beginning not the beginning from the end)

John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing
(does nothing really mean nothing, yes. What about in Greek, yes)

Pro 16:4
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble(God makes the wicked for a purpose, sounds like God makes everything)

Rom 9:11
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— (wow one kid didn’t even get a chance to change Gods mind with his works)

Rom 9:18
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills(Yes God hardens hearts)

Eph 1:11
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.
(According to his purpose, who will ALL things, not some things)(predestined, even in GreeK it means limiting beforehand)

Determinism wins?

I’ll address each of the passages you posted regarding Open Theism versus determinism…

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Psalm 33:10-11
The LORD fails the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (immutability)
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ANSWER: Immutability does not imply determinism. Nor is this strong immutability. This is described as “weak immutability” or constancy of God’s character.

Nor does this show determinism. It simply shows that God makes plans and has the power to cause those plans to happen despite the purposes of humans, and that He stands firm on those plans and won’t change His mind.

His plans as recorded in Scripture, which He gave to His prophets, were couched in symbolic terminology. God could match many situations to those plans and there still be only a single possible fulfillment. Thus history only had to be manipulated in a simple manner to accomplish His grand design, while the minor details were not important.

I like to say that God controls the macro-events while we get to control micro-events.

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Lamentations 3:37-38
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” (this verse is a tough one to make it say it’s opposite)
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ANSWER: Contextually, the Lamentations is a poetic genre, and this passage is rhetorical in nature. It asks a question related to the rest of the passage.

Lamentations 3:34-37
(34) To bring down under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
(35) to turn aside the judgment of a man before the face of the Most High,
(36) to condemn a man unjustly in his judgment which the Lord has not given commandment.
(37) Who has thus spoken, and it has come to pass? the Lord has not commanded it.

The context is that God has made a declaration of judgment, but someone is trying to countermand His judgment. The question asks how anyone can countermand what God has commanded.

What this passage does not say is that God decrees everything that someone speaks which happens.

If we take a verse out of its context, it can lead us far astray from what the passage was originally meant to say.

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Proverbs 19:21
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”(God is in control not us)
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ANSWER: This doesn’t say that God is in control, not us. It says that when there is a difference of opinion, God has the power to cause His purpose to prevail. It doesn’t suggest that people cannot make plans happen at all. It just means they can’t do anything in opposition to God’s plan.

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Deuteronomy 32:39
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who puts to death and gives life. I have wounded, and it is I who heals; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. (God claims credit for life,death, wounding)
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ANSWER: All true, but this offers no argument in favor of determinism. It simply says that He has the ultimate power.

The translation you use has a bit of bias. Here’s a better translation, the Young’s Literal Translation, which often provides a more accurate translation of a passage:

Deuteronomy 32:39
(39) See ye, now, that I — I [am] He, And there is no god with Me: I put to death, and I keep alive; I have smitten, and I heal; And there is not from My hand a deliverer…

As can be seen from the literal translation, it doesn’t imply that every life and death are personally caused by God. What it plainly states is that He has the power to wound, kill, or make alive and nobody can prevent Him because nobody is as powerful as He.

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Daniel 4:35
He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done? (Do we really think we can change God)
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ANSWER: Again, all this demonstrates is that nobody can resist His power. It doesn’t mean that God does not change in the simple sense that He hears what we say.

You should study immutability, particularly the logical flaws of the strong immutability theory. Here’s a great resource to do that:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-immu/#H3

When you read the passages put forth against Open Theism, consider whether they ABSOLUTELY refute the element they are said to refute, or if it has a wider possible interpretation. It’s also best to try to examine, if possible, every passage in regards to the original languages of Scripture within the context of those cultures.

For instance, the ancient Hebrew culture did not have the concept of eternity or infinity. Those “absolutes” were not known at that time, and the first evidence of that concept didn’t occur until around the time of Christ. It didn’t even originate with Greek philosophy, though the idea of eternity/infinity was further developed in that culture.

So when we look at “eternity” in the Old Testament, we need to understand that the ancient Hebrews didn’t know of the absolute form of eternity or infinity, so we can’t use that concept in passages which appear to speak of eternity. They only understood the future as the “vanishing point”, or further than they could see.

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1 Pe 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (God makes people suffer, for his good purpose)
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ANSWER: Ditto earlier arguments. This indicates God’s will dominates over all others, but not that He necessarily makes everything happen.

Think of it this way. My children when young suffered according to my will, because I had more power (and knowledge). When they did not do good, I punished them and they had no power to resist. But my children could do things without my guidance. My power over them didn’t mean that they couldn’t function independently, but only that when our wills clashed, mine would prevail.

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Act 4:28
to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Our ways and decisions are set according to His will)
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ANSWER: Again, context is important.

Acts 4:24-28
(24) and they having heard, with one accord did lift up the voice unto God, and said, `Lord, thou art God, who didst make the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are in them,
(25) who, through the mouth of David thy servant, did say, Why did nations rage, and peoples meditate vain things?
(26) the rulers of the land stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ;
(27) for gathered together of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, were both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with nations and peoples of Israel,
(28) to do whatever Thy hand and Thy counsel did determine before to come to pass.

This passage, taken alone, may seem to suggest that everything is predestined.

However, within context, it’s plain that this passage is restricted to the particular event where the people of Israel, their leaders, as well as Herod and Pontius Pilate, gathered together to put Jesus to death.

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Eph 1:9
making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (According to his purpose or ours)
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ANSWER: This indicates that God has a plan. It doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING that happens EVERYWHERE is part of that plan, in a deterministic sense.

God made a plan that entailed certain things: That He would demonstrate His love through the nation of Israel, which was the vessel through which He would walk among us, but that His own people would reject Him, to sacrifice Him on the Cross, that He would rise in victory and show God’s glory to all.

That’s a gross simplification of His plan, but even so, we can see that it doesn’t include infinite detail. It doesn’t specify who all the players would be nor exact dates or times. Around His plan many billions of personal choices were made by humans that had no direct bearing on or direct connection to His plan.

So demonstrating that God has a Plan or that God makes things occur according to His Plan, according to His purpose, is no argument for determinism.

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Eph 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of (Not our doing but his, not our choice but his)
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ANSWER: This passage doesn’t speak of choice at all.

God made salvation available freely. We can’t work for that gift, because it’s not available through works.

BUT, we do make the choice to accept that gift, which it plainly states in this passage: “you have been saved through faith”. It’s not God’s faith that receives that free gift, but our own. Gifts are free to reject. Nobody is forced to take a gift or it’s not a gift. If we don’t have the choice to refuse the gift or accept it as our will decides, then it’s no gift but a penalty.

Faith indicates a free-will choice to accept or refuse the free gift of salvation.

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Isa 14:27
For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back (How silly for us to think God changes depending on our decisions)
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ANSWER: Your conclusion makes the unwarranted assumption that God has purposed EVERY single event.

But it doesn’t. It simply states as noted previously that WHEN God purposes a thing, nobody can change it. That’s an indication of the greatness of His power, not an indication of the scope of the use of that power.

After finishing my commentary on the passages you posted, I’ll post some passages which prove that Open Theism is correct.

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Isa 46:10
declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (The end from the beginning not the beginning from the end)
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ANSWER: He DECLARES the end from the beginning. He states what is going to happen–not in EVERY DETAIL, because that is in no way implied–but only according to His plan.

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John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (does nothing really mean nothing, yes. What about in Greek, yes)
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ANSWER: Again, “context is king”.

John 15:1-8
(1) `I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman;
(2) every branch in me not bearing fruit, He doth take it away, and every one bearing fruit, He doth cleanse by pruning it, that it may bear more fruit;
(3) already ye are clean, because of the word that I have spoken to you;
(4) remain in me, and I in you, as the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself, if it may not remain in the vine, so neither ye, if ye may not remain in me.
(5) `I am the vine, ye the branches; he who is remaining in me, and I in him, this one doth bear much fruit, because apart from me ye are not able to do anything;
(6) if any one may not remain in me, he was cast forth without as the branch, and was withered, and they gather them, and cast to fire, and they are burned;
(7) if ye may remain in me, and my sayings in you may remain, whatever ye may wish ye shall ask, and it shall be done to you.
(8) `In this was my Father glorified, that ye may bear much fruit, and ye shall become my disciples.

First, even if we were to accept that nothing in this context means that not one single thing they ever did happened apart from Jesus’ control, this passage doesn’t apply to all of mankind. This is part of a private speech between Jesus and His Twelve Disciples. So if a determinist argues that “nothing” applies in the extreme sense, they can hardly then argue logically against the extreme sense that it applied only to the Twelve Apostles.

But nothing in this context doesn’t really mean “nothing at all”. It’s “nothing” restricted to the context of the passage. The disciples could do nothing WHEN IT CAME TO THE MATTER OF BEARING SPIRITUAL FRUIT (vs. 4). Nothing in the context indicates that the “nothing” in verse 5 refers to all things whatsoever. That would go beyond the thesis of the passage.

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Eph 1:11
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.
(According to his purpose, who will ALL things, not some things)(predestined, even in GreeK it means limiting beforehand)
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ANSWER: Literally this is translated,

Ephesians 1:11
(11) in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His will,

It simply means that He manipulates all things which are necessary to obtain the ends He has chosen. It doesn’t mean that God specifically manipulates absolutely every single thing.

Predestined DOES mean “limited beforehand” or “to limit in advance”. In other words, God chose use His power to limit how salvation would work in the future.

The word “predestined” doesn’t mean that people are individually “limited in advance” to become believers. It means that He generally chose that there would be believers, thus any who fit in that category fit within the limit He has set. They fit into that category by making a free-will decision to serve God.

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Pro 16:4
The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble(God makes the wicked for a purpose, sounds like God makes everything)
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ANSWER: Look at the passage carefully. God made everything for ITS PURPOSE. Not God’s purpose (at least in this passage).

In Hebrew it says that God made everything for “reply”, which is a way of saying that it answers to its purpose.

This is simply saying that the Universe and everything in it was designed by God–with which Open Theism does not disagree–and that wickedness has a purpose as well. (The term for “wicked” is generic, not specifically referring to people but just moral wickedness.)

This passage is as much in favor of Open Theism as it is for determinism.

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Rom 9:11
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— (wow one kid didn’t even get a chance to change Gods mind with his works)
Rom 9:18
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills(Yes God hardens hearts)
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ANSWER: This is a complex passage, but suffice to say that it has been misused in favor of determinism when it doesn’t really say what most people think.

When the entire passage is viewed in context, this has nothing to do with salvation or pre-destination, except in the weak sense that God had a basic plan that happened to be fulfilled in Esau and Jacob.

Here we have to look back to the analogy of parent/small child compared to God/humans.

At some point God chose to use Abraham, then Isaac rather than Ishmael, and then Jacob rather than Esau. But like a father direct his children, the children lived lives of many choices and decisions which weren’t directly related to God’s plan. Yes, God affected the path of their lives, as a parent directs a child into particular paths.

But God’s direction of major events according to His plan affected neither their basic free-will right to choose nor their free-will ability to choose salvation. He did not reject Ishmael or Esau’s salvation, only their pre-eminence within His plan. They still had the opportunity to live righteously or not, and to live eternally with Him.

At the time of their birth the only promise they had was that Esau would serve Jacob, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a condemnation of Esau in any way. It was simply that one would be pre-eminent between the two.

If you look in Scripture, God’s statement “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I have hated” (from Malachi 1:2-3) came long after the ends of their lives and referred not to Jacob and Esau as individual persons, but to Israel and Edom. Edom was the nation which descended from Esau. God “hated” that nation–or chose not to bless it as a corporate group–while still loving the individual Edomites. That “hatred” was simply a distinction of choice between nations, not “hatred” in the sense opposite to love.

Numerous theologians have pointed out that “hated” or “hatred” by God in passages like these don’t carry the absolute meaning of “hated”, but rather means the absence of an extra-special love or generally means “less love”. Evidence of this can be found in Genesis 29:30-33, Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26, John 12:25, et al.

Verse 18 speaks of God choosing to harden hearts or have mercy as He wills. Yet we know from other passages that His mercy is universal in scope.

In the best example from Scripture, Pharoah wouldn’t let the Israelites go to worship in the wilderness. Throughout the entire account, God and Pharoah took turns hardening Pharoah’s heart…but Pharoah’s wickedness was a pre-existing condition. He was headed away from God by his own choice.

John 12:40 paraphrases Isaiah 6:10 to say that God hardened the hearts of the children of Israel, “…that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” Yet many of those whose hearts were hardened still turned to the Lord in the end, so this wasn’t a wholesale condemnation of these people to Hell by God without a just opportunity for them to choose Him. God manipulated their hearts so that His purpose would be achieved, because that nation had sinned against Him corporately. Thus He blinded them to the truth until it was time for the truth (i.e. Jesus the Messiah) to be revealed.

Yet we don’t know how the hardening of the hearts took place in any of these situations. A determinist might assume that God directly manipulated their hearts. An Open Theist would believe that God manipulated the situation to harden their hearts, without compromising their free-wills. The question is which does Scripture support.

Since we know that God is both loving and just, we know that He would not condemn a person to an eternal place in Hell without giving that person a real opportunity to choose Him. God is long-suffering as well, so we know there is abundant opportunity for every person to choose to serve God.

Scripture supports this idea by proclaiming God’s righteousness, love, and justice, then defining what those terms mean for human beings. If they are defined materially different for God, then there is cognitive dissonance, a condition in which Scripture becomes nonsense and is certainly not true.

Again, when we look at passages which support Open Theism we’ll see that there is abundant evidence that Scripture supports free-will and God’s love over determinism and an arbitrary capricious puppetmaster of a God.

One comment

  1. the hardening your heart passages are a gross Calvinist mistranslation. There are there words used for hardening, meaning to make strong, to make heavy and only two verses actually saying to make hard. Most of the verses implies
    God strengthens Pharoah’s heart so he does not relent from physical pressure. God wanted Pharoah to change his mind based on the evidence.

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