Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Noah Meme

god-choosing-some

This meme seems to surface from time to time on Calvinist social media sites and on theological debate sites. It is often used by Calvinists to attempt to reinforce the Calvinist doctrine of election: that from time-eternal God chose some for salvation and not others based on God’s arbitrary grace. God spiritually regenerates some, but not others. Only the regenerates can be saved.

On face value the meme is absurd, which is quickly pointed out by non-Calvinists. The meme is in reference to Genesis 6:

Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Gen 6:8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
Gen 6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

There are a few things to note about this text which counter Calvinist theology:

1. Noah is chosen to be saved, not arbitrarily, but because he is righteous and blameless. No one claims that Noah was chosen unfairly, because it is definitely fair to choose to save righteous people rather than wicked for salvation. This is, in fact, a major claim of Christian Non-Calvinist theology, in contrast to the arbitrary nature of Calvinist election. This is literally a story against Calvinism, so it is very odd that the Calvinists would make a meme about it.

2. In the text, there is not even the concept that Noah has ever sinned (this is assumed on the text). As such, there is no concept of regeneration.

3. Noah seems to be saved as an afterthought. God resolves to destroy the world, and then only afterwards decides to save Noah. David Clines writes:

No, God cannot have decided at one and the same time to destroy all that lived and to spare Noah and his family and the animals and so ensure that humans and animals alike would not be wiped out. That would have been a logical impossibility; there must have been two decisions, the second effectively cancelling out the first.

This suggests no eternal knowledge of the future, and illustrates God changing His mind (both about creating man and then about uncreating man). The text is very contrary to Calvinist ideas of immutability of omniscience of future events.

4. Noah’s family is saved due to Noah’s righteousness and not their own, suggesting that God’s regard for Noah was so great that God saved unrighteous people for Noah’s sake. There is no indication in the text of Noah’s family being righteous. A future commentary even suggests that Noah’s family was not righteous:

Eze 14:13 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast,
Eze 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.

In this text, God declares that he will only save those who are righteous, and not their families. Noah is used as an example of one who would be saved but not his family.

This fact shows that God sometimes saves the unrighteous “unregenerate”, due to His concern for the righteous. This counters the entire idea of a saved elect (because the non-elect are being saved too).

5. The flood narrative is ultimately a story of failure. God wipes out man because they are evil. Then after the flood, God resolves to never again do the same thing although man will continue to be evil. In essence, God’s judgment changed nothing and God decides to forgo any future similar judgments. Clines writes:

It is indeed sometimes argued that 8.21 does not mean that Yhwh will not again curse the ground (with a Flood) because humans are sinful from their youth, but although humans are sinful from their youth…
Whether the sinfulness of humanity is the reason why another Flood will not occur, or whether another Flood will not occur despite the sinfulness of humanity, in both cases it is being affirmed that humanity is permanently sinful, both before and after the Flood.

This is a powerful theological statement. It reinforces the extravagant assessment of humanity in 6.5, but it also lets slip the fact that, according to the Flood narrative itself, the Flood changed nothing. The Flood was therefore pointless. It is not just that it achieved nothing, and that the world was no better off after it than before it. It is not a question of efficiency or effectiveness. More important is the moral issue at stake. It was bad enough to destroy humanity on account of its sins, but it was worse to do so when thereafter it is acknowledged that perennial and unrelieved sinfulness will never again be a reason for wiping out humanity. The failure of the Flood is fundamentally the deity’s failure.

The flood narrative is ultimately a major polemic against Calvinism. There is nothing Calvinistic about the text, and the actual story is quite shocking to Calvinist systematic theology.

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