Triablogue’s use of Annotated Prooftexts

Triablogue states that he has made a compilation of quotes about the Bible that “support or [are] consistent” with Reformed theology:

I’ll quote Calvinists, Arminians, an open theist, and some scholars I don’t know how to classify. All the quotes will support or be consistent with Reformed theology. You might wonder why a non-Calvinist scholar would offer an interpretation consist with, or supportive of, Calvinism. One reason is that some commentators compartmentalize exegetical and systematic theology. They think you should interpret each book on its own terms, without shoehorning passages into a harmonious system of doctrine. Likewise, some scholars think some verses are more Calvinistic while others are more Arminian. They don’t interpret one in relation to the other. In addition, some liberal scholars don’t think Scripture has a consistent theological message.

Triablogue does not offer commentary on how the quotes that he does use can be considered supportive or consistent with Reformed theology, so each verse quote is a lesson in guesswork into Triablogue’s thoughts. The qualification that the quote might be “consistent” with Reformed theology seems to allow a broad brush. After all, commenting on Luke 2:1 by saying Caesar did decree a census is absolutely “consistent” with Reformed theology, but to pretend the commentary has anything to do with Reformed theology is a mistake.

Triablogue also seems to gloss over the areas in which his prooftexts counter Calvinism, opting to focus on points that support his premise rather than those that destroy it.

Triablogue quotes “K. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26 (B&H 2005), 2:813.” For his first prooftext:

Gen 45:5-8; 50:20

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today.

God used their crime for his purposes, purposes they could not have anticipated. Here Joseph sounds forth the overarching theological conviction of the Joseph Novel: God’s purposes are not thwarted by human sin, but rather advanced by it through his good graces. The hand of God is seen, not only in clearly miraculous interventions and revelations, but also in the working out of divine purpose through human agency, frail and broken as it is. Joseph knows it to be true: “You sold me…” but “God sent me…”

Joseph does not deny their evil intent. But the word play, using the same verb with different idioms, highlights the way God has turned the evil intent of humans into an opportunity to accomplish his good purposes. They planned harm, but God reconfigured their evil and produced good from it…The brothers sold Joseph to Egypt with evil intent, but it was really God who brought him to Egypt in order to preserve life. B. Arnold, Genesis (Cambridge 2009), 361,388.
God’s providence has directed everything, even the misdeeds of the brothers. It underscores the true purpose of the entire account of Joseph: God is the subject of the story, and he is moving all things to the end and goal that he has decreed (cf. 50:20). That goal is the preservation of a “remnant,” or seed on the earth.

Joseph again highlights the fact of the sovereignty and providence of God. He states emphatically that the true source of his coming to Egypt is not the brothers’ evil activity…Rather, it was the will of God that brought about the present circumstances: this opening statement clearly proclaims the doctrine of providence. It was God who placed Joseph in these various official positions.

Joseph simply believes that God even uses the sinfulness of humans to bring about his good purposes for the world. This theological concept is no stranger to the rest of Scripture (see Prov 16:1; 20:24; Ps 37:23; Jer 10:23). As Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but Yahweh directs his steps.” There is no stronger statement regarding the true meaning of the sovereignty of God in Scripture than what Joseph says here to his brothers. J. Currid, Genesis (EP 2003), 2:324-325; 397.

“But God sent me ahead of you” (v7a) reiterates Joseph’s interpretation of his travail in Egypt…Joseph viewed the families of Jacob as the surviving “remnant” of the world’s populations (cp. the Noah imagery, v5). If the Jacobites fail to survive, the whole of the human family will die without salvation hope. Joseph’s role as savior of the world from starvation typifies the salvation of the nations that the promises call for (e.g. 12:3).

A few things of note, just the text of Genesis 45:5-8; 50:20 negates Reformed theology on its own, much less the wording of the associated quote. The main issue is that Calvinists, Reformed, and often Arminians do not tend to talk about God as they actually believe God is. In Reformed theology, God is simple, outside of time, pure actuality. God cannot “do” things, but forever remains immutable. God cannot speak or interact with creation. God cannot be related to creation in any sense, for that would defy is transcendence and simplicity.

Does Genesis talk with this Reformed theology in mind, or does it talk like this Reformed theology is not even a consideration in the minds of the writers. Is God pure actuality or active and dynamic? Is God incomprehensibly transcendent, or does God interact with people? Let the verses speak for themselves.

The text of both Genesis and the quote depict God in a vastly different manner than Reformed theology. God “sends” (v 5). God takes precautions (v 7). God actively positions people into preferred places, as opposed to eternal decrees in which free actors are not a concern (v 8). God repurposes other people’s plans (v 20). None of these are actions of an immutable, simple, pure actuality God, not affected by creation and wholly transcendent.

The mere fact that the authors of Genesis have to point out this specific working of God suggests all listeners in the story do not automatically assume all things are the work of God. If they did, there would be no reason to attribute this specific action to God. Joseph and his audience are not Calvinists, but believe that God works within creation in specific instances to ensure success in His goals.

Likewise, the associated quote by Mathews is not a Calvinistic concept. God specifically acting in one instance to assure success is antithetical to Calvinism, which believes all things (no matter how minute) are the eternal decree of God.

Triablogue might not understand the logical fallacy of Composition, assuming something true of a part can be extrapolated to the whole. Yes, a car window is made out of glass, but this doesn’t suggest the entire car is made out of glass. Pointing out a car window is made of glass even suggests the entire car is NOT made out of glass or else it would be easier to just explain that the entire car is glass.

Yes, God might work a specific purpose in one instance, but that doesn’t mean God works every instance no matter how remote for some secretive purpose. God working to save Joseph from his brothers to make him powerful does not mean God gives children cancer for some sort of goal in mind. That is a terrible stretch of logic. The context does not even assume God controlled the intentions of Joseph’s brothers, much less most the actions in the story that worked counter to God’s plans. The point is that God overcame obsticles and used them to His advantage, and interesting action for a supposedly “immutable, impassible” God.

The Matthews quote affirms this; that God can use evil intentions for good results. If Triablogue wants to quote this as compatible with Reformed theology, he needs to ignore basically everything else being described in the text.

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