I'm a "Calminian" too

Craig Blomberg has just posted at the Koinonia blog a simple post explaining Why I’m a “Calminian” – that is, why he holds a mediating position between Calvinism and Arminianism, upholding both God’s sovereignty in election and human freedom and responsibility.

To summarise and even further simplify his position, also known as “Middle Knowledge”, God knows what choices would be made in every circumstance by each person whom he creates or could create. God sovereignly chooses which people he creates, knowing in advance which of them will turn to him and which will reject him. But each person makes their own free choice which way to go, and has to take full responsibility for that choice.

I too would want to consider myself a “Calminian”. And while I would not want to be too dogmatic about Blomberg’s particular middle way, it certainly seems to make a lot of sense of the otherwise apparently conflicting biblical evidence.

55 thoughts on “I'm a "Calminian" too

  1. Pingback: Calminianism and Open Theism

  2. The problem with Middle Knowledge is that it doesn’t really get you a middle view. It gets you Calvinism. Middle knowledge doesn’t work to explain how God knows what free beings will do unless there are truths about what free beings will do in certain situations. That automatically rules out open theism, of course, but I think it leaves libertarian accounts of freedom with serious problems. For a Wesleyan/Arminian view to work, freedom better be libertarian. But if God knows what free beings will do in any situation, then there’s a fact of what those beings will do in those situations.

    Philosophers call such facts “counterfactuals of freedom” because they’re truths about what we would freely do given a different set of preconditions. What would generate such facts? What would make it true that I do something different if I had different preconditions applying to me before I act? You lose the preconditions causing me to do something, but you’re left with no explanation of the fact that I would do such-and-such if faced with the alternative case. Somehow such facts exist, but nothing makes them true, because if something made them true then my actions would be caused by what makes them true.

    In short, there are truths about what I would do in any situation, and there is absolutely no explanation for why there are such truths unless the compatibilist view of freedom is correct, in which case there’s no objection to Calvinism, because Calvinists insist on a compatibilist view of freedom, and that’s what’s so objectionable to Wesleyans/Arminians.

  3. Here’s my comment over at He Is Sufficient:

    Because God creates only a finite number of persons between the beginning of the universe and Christ’s return, his sovereign choice is preserved, because he must choose to create some beings and not others.

    This pegs God as a puppet master. Is this the best way to frame things? I don’t think so.

  4. But I don’t think it makes him a puppet master, because each of the beings he does create has complete freedom.

    I agree. But what are the implications of “and not others”? What in the world is the meaning of that expression?

  5. Jeremy, I realise that by your definitions middle knowledge is a variety of Calvinism, and of compatibilism. I don’t think it is on other definitions. It certainly isn’t strict five point Calvinism. All I can say is that from my point of view it avoids the biblical and moral objections which I and many others have to Calvinism as often popularly presented. So maybe it isn’t as objectionable as you think it should be to Wesleyans and Arminians.

  6. TC, I too am not sure “he must choose to create some beings and not others” is quite the best way to frame things. But I don’t think it makes him a puppet master, because each of the beings he does create has complete freedom.

  7. Well, TC, presumably God could have chosen to create all manner of other kinds of humans and other intelligent creatures, in whatever numbers he wished. He has chosen to create the number and selection that he has created, of course using human parents as his instruments in doing so. There are lots of people who could have been created but haven’t been, such as the children I could have had if I had chosen to sleep around rather than wait for my bride-to-be. If the whole process is under God’s control, as Blomberg as well as Calvinists insists, then God has chosen not to create those children who have not been born. We can only speculate about how they might have turned out (of course my children would have turned out wonderfully!), but the omniscient God knows what choices they would have made. I suppose this is what this idea means.

  8. No, I’m definitely not defining Middle Knowledge as a variety of Calvinism. I’m arguing that the view has no foundation unless Calvinism is true. Molinists are definitely not Calvinists. This isn’t an argument that they are but an argument that the view doesn’t make sense unless Calvinists are right about the one issue where Molinists depart from Calvinism. So they reject Calvinism but then take on a view that doesn’t make sense unless Calvinism is true.

    The question is how it is that God knows these facts about what free beings would do in certain situations. If God knows the facts, then there must be such facts. So if I would freely have rejected God’s offer of salvation if I had been raised by a particular atheist pair of parents instead of my Christian parents, then there must be some set of facts that explains why it’s true that I would have done so in that scenario. Molinists have to say there’s no explanation of why I would freely have done so, but nevertheless there’s still a fact. There’s nothing that makes it true that I would have chosen otherwise, but it’s still true that I would have chosen otherwise.

    I can’t make sense of the view unless there are facts about the world in such a situation that explain my choice in that alternative possibility. But once you grant that, you better be a compatibilist if you think we’re free, and once you do that it’s not God’s middle knowledge that accounts for our freedom. It’s compatibilist freedom that does, and then the middle knowledge is just a side-effect. So I don’t think middle knowledge is a solution to explaining how God can know the future if Calvinism is false.

  9. Jeremy, you seem to be arguing that it is impossible even for God to know what would have happened in hypothetical circumstances which did not occur. But it is possible even for us humans to know (with a very high degree of certainty but not perfectly) what would have happened in certain circumstances. Consider the sentences in John 11:21,32. Are you saying that Martha’s and Mary’s statements, and all of that kind, are logically meaningless? And if we can know such things imperfectly, why can’t God know them perfectly?

    Are you claiming that compatibilism contradicts middle knowledge = Molinism? I was understanding them as different formulations of the same thing.

  10. I’m not an expert on Calvinism. I consider myself a new convert to Calvinism because it seems to make a lot more sense to me now. I’m not sure if Blomberg’s case makes sense because the scriptures he uses (Philippians 2:12-13; Isaiah 10:5-13; Genesis 50:20) are used logically to defend Calvinism too. Calvinism does seem recognize the agency of both God and human beings in th kingdom of God (if I’m not mistaken).

  11. Kevin, I don’t think you are mistaken concerning Calvinism as properly presented, especially the compatibilist variety Jeremy Pierce likes. But many people are put off Calvinism by the way it is sometimes presented which disallows any human agency. I don’t think this is true Calvinism but something else.

  12. Hello Peter,

    “Kevin, I don’t think you are mistaken concerning Calvinism as properly presented, especially the compatibilist variety Jeremy Pierce likes.”

    And what version of compatibilism/determinism is that?

    “But many people are put off Calvinism by the way it is sometimes presented which disallows any human agency. I don’t think this is true Calvinism but something else.”

    I think you are mistaken here.

    Any version of Calvinism which maintains that “God ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”/exhaustive determinism of all events (and most advocates of Calvinism are advocates of exhaustive determinism whether they call themselves “soft determinists” or not) is going to mess up “human agency”.

    Whether you want to look at Calvin in the Institutes or Calvin’s discussions in response to Pighius, or Jonathan Edwards’ book on freedom of the will, or Luther’s “The bondage of the Will”, they all propose ****exhaustive determinism*** of all events (a determinism that eliminates free will). They all make the claim that all events are predecided and predetermined by God so that we do not have free will as ordinarily understood. Or put simply, these proposals of exhaustive determinism rule out, exclude, eliminate, preclude us, from **ever having choices**.

    And if we **never ever have choices** then human agency **is** being disallowed. Most determinists/Calvinists are not forthright about their views however. They will speak of “human agency”, of “free will”,”that people are free to do whatever they want”, etc. What their exhaustive determinism cannot allow for however, is us ever having a choice. We may believe that we could choose this or that font or this or that font size or these or those words as we type our post, but in an exhaustively determined world this is completely illusory (we never ever have a choice, we only do what we were predetermined to do: just like a puppet whose every string is directly controlled and manipulated by the divine puppet master).

    Robert

  13. Robert, I hope Jeremy reads your comment and this one and answers for himself. Or you might be able to find the answer somewhere on his blog. But to summarise, compatibilism as he described it reconciles exhaustive determinism with human free will. You really should read about that and understand it properly before claiming that determinism eliminates free will.

  14. I don’t know anything about exhaustive determinism; but from what I’ve read about Calvinism, it can allow for synergism (both God and human agency) in one’s own sanctification process. But everything from predestination, regeneration, justification, and adoption, is all monogeristic (God’s agency). This understanding may make it easier for those who want to take the middle position.

  15. Kevin, thanks for bringing in the distinction between synergism and monergism. I think I would want to deny a strong form of monergism, because the Bible clearly shows that there is human agency involved in salvation. But I might accept a compatibilist form of monergism, that from one point of view everything is God’s agency, but from the other there is human agency involved in salvation. As I just commented elsewhere, this is rather like the person of Christ: not a half human and half divine, but depending how you look at him fully human and fully divine.

  16. I said I might wade in on this one.

    I have hinted in the past, and also on New Leaven, that I have been called (even accused of being) a closet Calvinist. Yet the stricter Calvinists would no doubt see me a a heretic beyond the elect.

    Against that background I rather like what you have put forward here and the way the discussion has been going. I am proably less uncomfortable with Calvinism than Robert. There is of course a lot more to it than dear old TULIP, seemingly surely a later anglicised summary of part only of his teaching. For example he had useful thingss to say about Baptism and Holy Communion, also the nature and running of the Church. And we need to remember neither Calvin nor Arminus were not writing inspired Scripture, but their own (dare I say fallible) interpretation of it. But I am fairly OK with Total Depravity when understood as meaning our whole being is contaminated to some extent by sin, such that we can only be saved by God’s Grace not by our own efforts. Unconditional Election makes sense in that we cannot come to Christ except by that Grace; in other words the Spirit is already stiring in us and convicting us (the Arminian Wesley’s Preventient Grace?). And I incline to the Perseverance of the Saints, while I admit I struggle with Hebrews 6 . Saying that apparent backsliders were evidently not really saved can look like a too easy cop out. I ask similar questions of Limited Attonement and Irresistable Grace as others have already posed. That said, one or two of the more recent converts in our own congregation speak of being drawn to Christ.

    The debate largely hinges on the understanding and interplay of our free will and God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty dominates the doxology of Ephesians 1 v 3-14. When preaching on this recently, I admit I avoided this subject, but then I sensed my Parish that day needed to hear more about the Spirit and how He works in and for us (v13-14). I have long felt we have a paradox here; a both/and rather than an either/or situation.

    So perhaps with a different emphasis and a greater leaning towards Calvin than some here, I may be a Calminian as well!

  17. Hello Peter,

    “Robert, yes, compatibilism does imply from one point of view exhaustive determinism. But from another point of view there is complete freedom of choice.”

    I do not buy this at all. The compatibilist has to redefine freedom of choice so that it fits determinism and in doing so goes away from the common and ordinary understanding of free will as: having and making choices. When people commonly speak of having free will they usually mean that they believe that with respect to at least some of their actions they have a choice and then make a choice (in making the choice of one option they believe, and believe correctly that they could have done otherwise and chosen the other option instead, e.g. in class when the professor asked the question the student could choose to raise his hand or the student could choose to keep his arm down and talk to the professor about the question after class or even privately). But exhaustive determinism rules that out completely. If all things are predetermined then the student will either raise his hand (if that is the predetermined action) or keep his hand down (if that is the predetermined action). If his action is predetermined he has to do what he does, his action is necessitate and HE HAS NO CHOICE.

    “It is not a matter of half and half but of fully one and fully the other from different viewpoints. A bit like the person of Christ, perhaps: not half man, half God but fully human and fully God.”

    While the two natures of Christ are compatible, and biblically presented truths, exhaustive determinism and having and making choices are not compatible, they are mutually exclusive categories, they are contradictory.

    “I see your point about “two mutually exclusive categories”, but if freedom of choice is properly understood, as Jeremy has explained on his blog, it does not really contradict determinism.”

    If Pierce is a compatibilist then his conception of “freedom of choice” must preclude our ever having a choice. Having a choice most definitely contradicts exhaustive determinism. If my action is predetermined then I have to do it, and in that case I HAVE NO CHOICE. On the other hand, if my action is not predetermined then I may have a choice and could do this or that (but not both simultaneously if they are mutually exclusive actions).

    Here is an analogy that may help make my point more clearly in this discussion. Imagine an author who conceives of a play (he conceives of the characters the events that will occur as part of the play, ***every detail*** of HIS PLAY. He then has the play executed by actors who do and say everything and only what the author had predecided would be part of the play. The actors never deviate at all from anything the author had first conceived of as HIS PLAY, they follow the script with no deviations whatsoever. In fact if their actions are completely predetermined then they cannot deviate from the script at all. Do the actors **have choices** during this play? Or is their every action and word predecided and predetermined?

    That would be predeterminism of all events or exhaustive determinism (every event was predecided by the author who then brings about the preconceived story in its every detail). That is the picture presented by calvinism. It is no wonder that people throughout church history have rejected this view and seen immediately that if true, then God is the author of all evil and sin and we become mere puppets whose every action is directly controlled and dictated by a divine puppet master. All of it happens exactly the way that he, the puppet master, wants it to happen. Call this the completely pre-scripted world or “puppet world” (world A)
    Now contrast this picture of total predetermination/exhaustive determinism, with another scenario. In the United States we have (or had, not sure if it is on Television anymore) a show where a well known actor would be sent to a dressing room and dressed in some specified way. He or she would then come out and meet the host of the show before the audience and be briefly interviewed. He or she would then be sent through a door (and on the other side of the door seen by the audience but not seen by the actor until the actor walked through the door would be an already prepared scene with some other actors dressed up to play their part with the actor who would enter the room). I loved this show as you would see these actors have to enter the room and improvise their entire scene (they would decide on their actions and their words, it was up to them, none of it was pre-scripted, it was spontaneous). It was very funny to see actors engage in total unscripted improve. The actors when would evaluated afterwards for their “performance”. Call this the unscripted world, the world of genuinely free moral agents, (world B)

    Now Peter do you believe that world A and world B are compatible? Are they even similar? In world A everything is pre-scripted (everything goes exactly as the author conceived his story to go with no deviation from his total plan whatsoever, the actors had no choices they just acted out what they were pre-scripted to do or say), in world B some things are pre-scripted (so there is an interplay between some things set, the rooms the actors entered into the theme of the room, etc.; and some things that were freely chosen, the words and actions of the actors when they were in those rooms).

    I submit my experience and the bible point to World B not World A as the actual world that we live in. And world A is not compatible with free will as ordinarily understood. In world A there is no freedom, no one ever has any choices. In world B sometimes the actors have choices where they decide what to do or say and could have done otherwise than they end up choosing to do and say.

    Now Peter I would like to see how world A has any free will as ordinarily understood. Please explain this to me.

    Robert

  18. Robert, thank you for bringing in this play analogy. But there is a serious weakness in how you have presented this analogy in that you have made the analogy between us humans and the actors in a play. I suggest that a better analogy is between us and the characters in a play.

    Imagine for example Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In any one production of the play, of course the actor playing the title role is predetermined to kill the king (but not of course really to kill the actor playing the king). But to me that is not the question.

    I would want to look instead into the world of the play. Within that world, was the character Macbeth predetermined to kill the king, or did he have a free choice? It is no answer to that question to say that he was predetermined to kill because that is how Shakespeare wrote the play. No, the answer to that question is that he had a free choice – or perhaps not, if he was bound to kill because of the witches’ prophecies and curses. Indeed, from my limited memory, this issue of free will or determinism is one of the main concerns of the play. But it is not answered by looking outside the play to Shakespeare’s authorship and sovereign choice of which characters did what in the play. (Here I ignore the fact that the play was loosely historical, which did not stop Shakespeare making many changes and additions to the historical truth.)

    Thus, within the world of the author Macbeth was predetermined to kill, but within the world of the play he had free will, or perhaps not. Similarly, in a compatibilist picture, in the divine realm “before the foundation of the world” God predetermined every detail of each of our lives, but within the real created world each of us has free will.

    I realise that there are still some issues with this compatibilist picture, but I hope at least you understand it better now.

  19. I think I should add to my previous comment that there is an aspect to it that I missed out, which is that God has “written” himself into the story, most clearly in the person of his Son, who is God in the divine realm but human in the real created world. Well, that analogy is not complete as his divinity is also seen in the created world. But I hope you see where I am getting at, in repeating that compatibilism is similar to the two natures of Christ.

  20. Hello Peter,

    “But there is a serious weakness in how you have presented this analogy in that you have made the analogy between us humans and the actors in a play. I suggest that a better analogy is between us and the characters in a play.”

    Correct, I should have said that God would be the author of the play and we would be characters in the Play as conceived by him.

    “Imagine for example Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In any one production of the play, of course the actor playing the title role is predetermined to kill the king (but not of course really to kill the actor playing the king). But to me that is not the question.”

    In a play the Actors do whatever the pre-written script calls for, they have no choices. They cannot change the dialogue, but have to say and do whatever the author wants them to say and do, whatever was prewritten that they would say and do.

    “I would want to look instead into the world of the play. Within that world, was the character Macbeth predetermined to kill the king, or did he have a free choice?”

    If the actor goes by the script then He has no choice, he has to do whatever he was pre-scripted to do.

    “It is no answer to that question to say that he was predetermined to kill because that is how Shakespeare wrote the play. No, the answer to that question is that he had a free choice – or perhaps not, if he was bound to kill because of the witches’ prophecies and curses.”

    I think you are missing the point of the analogy, the prewritten script **includes** the Witches’ prophecies and curses, and in fact includes EVERYTHING THAT MAKES UP THAT PARTICULAR STORY. A character who is a witch in the story as written cannot in the middle of the story decide: Oh well I don’t want to be a witch and I don’t want to make this prophecy.” Instead the actor playing the witch will say exactly what Shakespeare had written that she would say.

    You are not taking my point properly into account. When Shakespeare writes Macbeth or whatever other story he writes, when that story is done on a stage as a play the actors follow the lines and actions exactly as Shakespeare had written them with no deviations from the pre-written script.

    “Indeed, from my limited memory, this issue of free will or determinism is one of the main concerns of the play. But it is not answered by looking outside the play to Shakespeare’s authorship and sovereign choice of which characters did what in the play.”

    You are confusing the philosophical issue of free will and determinism (which Shakespeare may have had various opinions on) and the actual prewritten story that Shakespeare wrote. The written story is fixed and each and every character and action in that story is equally decided, fixed and determined by the author, Shakespeare.

    “Thus, within the world of the author Macbeth was predetermined to kill, but within the world of the play he had free will, or perhaps not.”

    Within that world none of the characters has free will, none of them can do otherwise than what the author conceived for them to say and do. That is the key point of the analogy; a pre-written script provides a good analogy for a completely predetermined world.

    Perhaps another way to express the difference is compare a puppet show where the puppets always and only do what the puppet master has them do by pulling their strings and the TV show with actors freely choosing to do what they do and say. Puppets have no choices, but the actors on the TV show had choices. Puppets actions are necessitated, while the actors on the TV show choose to do their actions. Puppets have no free agency while the actors on the TV show do.

    “Similarly, in a compatibilist picture, in the divine realm “before the foundation of the world” God predetermined every detail of each of our lives, but within the real created world each of us has free will.”

    No, you can’t have a completely predetermined world and have the people or “characters” in **that** story ever having choices. They have to, by necessity, do and say whatever was written.

    I think everyone understands that when we speak of God predetermining some event, then that event has to occur and has to occur in exactly the way that God wants it to occur and it was impossible that anything about it be different. I don’t know of anyone who claims that God predetermines something and then a human person does otherwise. That is not how we use that term. The term conveys necessity not merely that God knows it is or will happen. I would claim that while God foreknows everything, he does not predetermine everything. Foreknowledge and predetermination are two very different things. Anything predetermined is necessitated, it must happen the way that it does; something foreknown will happen with certainty, but it did not happen by necessity. Take the fall of Adam in the garden. If it was predetermined, then Adam sinned by necessity, he had to do so, he had no choice. On the other hand if the fall was not predetermined but was foreknown, then Adam could have done otherwise but God knew that in fact he would fall.

    How are you defining free will by the way Peter? How do **you** define free will? Do you believe that we ever have choices? Do you believe that God has predetermined every event that occurs?

    I define it as sometimes having and then making choices. The sophisticated philosophical words for it are “libertarian free will”/LFW. In my examination of this subject I have found that the common denominator of all proponents of LFW is the claim that we sometimes have and make choices. A person who believes in exhaustive determinism can speak of us making choices, but NEVER HAVING CHOICES And the ordinary understanding of free will also reflects this common sense notion that we have free will when we have a genuine choice.

    “I realise that there are still some issues with this compatibilist picture, but I hope at least you understand it better now.”

    In the providence of God, I just happened to have a conversation with a friend of mine who is a professional actor. I live in a part of the United States famous for acting and movies. So I know some professional actors. I was talking to Mike about our interaction and asked him about plays and improvisation. He said that the first, a play with a prewritten script that had to be meticulously followed, and an improv like the show where they go through the door (he said that was actually a common acting training technique) and do improvisation without a prewritten script are “completely different animals.” He sees my point that the play is analogous for a completely predetermined world while the TV show is analogous to situations where we have free will, we have a choice. I asked him which of the two he preferred and he said actually the challenge of perfectly following a script for a play is actually harder but that doing the improv would be more fun. He also pointed out that in a play you have to do exactly what is prewritten while when doing a movie for example there is a little more leeway for the actor in some of the words and actions that they do. Interesting that I would just happen to run into him now. 🙂 I am sure that it was just chance! 🙂 🙂

    Robert

  21. Robert, you have missed my point. I am not talking about any particular stage performance of the play, but about the world in which the play is set, populated by its characters, not by actors or puppets. In the case of Macbeth, this world is similar but not identical to mediaeval Scotland. Of course in a performance the actor playing Macbeth has no freedom of choice. But in the world of the play the character Macbeth had the choice, to kill or not, and chose to kill.

    In fact the point might be clearer if instead of a play we talk about a novel, which is never performed. So I am talking about the world of the play or novel, an imagined fictional world (which may be similar to a real historical world, but that is a separate matter). Within that world, the characters (not the actors or puppets, that’s beside the point) have real freedom. But of course that whole world is “created” by the author. Similarly God has created the real world we live in, and within it we have freedom.

  22. The term conveys necessity not merely that God knows it is or will happen. I would claim that while God foreknows everything, he does not predetermine everything. Foreknowledge and predetermination are two very different things. Anything predetermined is necessitated, it must happen the way that it does; something foreknown will happen with certainty, but it did not happen by necessity.

    Then what do you do with all the occurrences of ‘predestined’ in the bible.

    If Pierce is a compatibilist then his conception of “freedom of choice” must preclude our ever having a choice.

    No, it merely precludes us taking actions without any prior cause, inclination, reason, etc.

    If ‘free will’ was purely a case of spontaneous action of the sort you subscribe to, then there is no reason to hold people morally culpable for some – or indeed all – of the actions that they perform.

  23. Hello Chris E.,

    “Then what do you do with all the occurrences of ‘predestined’ in the bible.”

    Not sure what you mean here.

    First there are actually very few bible verses that refer to “predestination”, you can count them on almost one hand.

    Second, I take these verses to be referring (when it is speaking of God predestinating an event or process) to God pre-deciding for something to occur and then bringing these events to pass. Some are unilateral acts of God alone where he does something and it will happen (e.g. bible verses that speak of God raising the dead at the end of history, He has predecided to do so, He will do so and we have nothing to do with it, and it will happen with certainty). Others are events that will involve the actions of human persons including their freely chosen actions (e.g. a perfect example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus which God predecided was going to happen and He used the freely made choices of evil persons including the Romans and Jewish leadership which He foreknew to accomplish this outcome, see Acts 2:23 and consider the way Peterson renders it in THE MESSAGE: “this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought out plan of God”, this captures the idea that God predecided it, it did not happen by accident or chance, God was intentional in wanting this outcome to occur, and we know from other bible verses some of the reasons that he predecided this, in the NASB the verse is rendered: “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” which captures both the idea that the outcome was predecided by God as well as that God used his ability to foreknow future freely chosen actions by men to accomplish this outcome, and God is sovereign in that He gets the outcome that He desired, and yet the evil men who made the evil choices are held responsible as they freely and without coercion did their evil actions). I have no difficulty holding to both the sovereignty of God and the free will and responsibility of man. Sovereignty and free will and responsibility only become contradictory and problematic if you wrongly equate sovereignty with exhaustive determinism as many calvinists do.

    “No, it merely precludes us taking actions without any prior cause, inclination, reason, etc.

    If ‘free will’ was purely a case of spontaneous action of the sort you subscribe to, then there is no reason to hold people morally culpable for some – or indeed all – of the actions that they perform.”

    You misrepresent my view here with your words. That is a caricature of my view. If you are arguing a point you are presenting a “straw man”. When did I say that freely performed actions are “spontaneous actions” that do not involve reasons?

    It is my view that when we do a freely performed intentional action (i.e. we have a choice and then make a choice, with our choice not being necessitated) we **always** do so for reasons. As our freely performed action is done for a reason it is not random nor is it a chance event. Say I am deciding what restaurant to go to this evening, and say that I have different reasons to go to different restaurants (at one restaurant I have a discount coupon that is good only today, so if I want to use that coupon and make the dinner less expensive then I have to go to that restaurant today; on the other hand, and let’s limit it to only two viable options to keep it simple [though in real life there are often many more options than two that are accessible to us] say that one of my best friends is planning on going to a different restaurant tonight, so I have a good reason to go to that restaurant). Which ever restaurant that I end up choosing, in either case, I will make my choice for reasons, so my action cannot be construed as random or a chance event.

    I would also not deny that our choices are influenced by multiple factors such as our “inclinations” our “past experiences”, both our knowledge and ignorance concerning various options, etc. etc. And yet I would also argue that these factors do not **necessitate** my actions.

    Robert

  24. You misrepresent my view here with your words. That is a caricature of my view. If you are arguing a point you are presenting a “straw man”. When did I say that freely performed actions are “spontaneous actions” that do not involve reasons?

    With all due respect, I think you are misunderstanding your own argument.

    It is my view that when we do a freely performed intentional action (i.e. we have a choice and then make a choice, with our choice not being necessitated) we **always** do so for reasons.

    No, because in your restaurant example you set out a scenario in which there is no reason for you to strongly prefer one restaurant over the other. The mental processes by which you choose one from the other are the product of the current state of your mind – if this weren’t so, you wouldn’t be ‘free’. However the current state of your mind is the product of everything that has influenced your mind in the past – including your internal makeup (which eventually originates from causes external to you), and any external events.

  25. Chris and Robert, thanks for keeping this debate going, and for doing it in a respectful manner.

    I wonder, are there any actions which we take which are truly random? I wouldn’t include when we decide in advance to follow the results of a random process, such as the toss of a coin, or, as used by some randomising processors like ERNIE, thermal fluctuations of quantum origin. Of course a true determinist would hold that even these apparently random quantum fluctuations are in fact predetermined.

  26. Chris E thinks that I do not even understand my own view. If that is the case, I see little reason to continue this little chat.

    I also find that an amazing comment by someone who neither knows me nor my views personally.

    Chris E wrote:

    “With all due respect, I think you are misunderstanding your own argument.

    He went on to say:

    “No, because in your restaurant example you set out a scenario in which there is no reason for you to strongly prefer one restaurant over the other.”

    Not true at all, in my example I gave a good reason for my choosing either restaurant. One restaurant involved a coupon which would make the dinner there less expensive (and if your monetary funds are an issue at the time then that becomes a strong and good reason to choose that restaurant). On the other hand, if you value friendship highly as I do, then there was a strong and good reason to choose that restaurant. I was making a simple point: that when we do intentional actions **we always do them for reasons**. And as they are done for reasons they are neither random nor chance events (unless one wants to argue that doing things for reasons is irrational behavior).

    So I think that I understand my own point that I was making and view just fine.

    Peter Kirk asked:

    “I wonder, are there any actions which we take which are truly random?”

    Depends on whether the action is intentional or not. If the action is an intentional action then I would say that these actions are always done for reasons and so never “truly random” (random means accidental, non-intentional does it not?) If we are doing an action for a reason, then it was no accident nor was it random. An intentional action is also done voluntarily. Contrast an involuntary action like a **blink** of one’s eye versus a voluntary action which is an intentional action done for a reason, like a **wink**. The physical action of blinking or winking is identical, and yet one involves intentionality and is done for a reason while the other does not involve intentionality and is not done for a reason but is merely a physical and instinctual reaction.

    Robert

  27. Thanks, Robert. Well, blinking can be intentional – I did it intentionally several times yesterday, as requested by my optician. But of course blinking can also be unintentional – I have to physically hold my eyelids open to stop myself blinking while putting in my contact lenses. So I take your point. But this is a different issue from determinism – my involuntary blinking is not predetermined, but in this case is a response to my freely chosen action of putting a lens in my eye.

  28. Robert, determinism only precludes free will if you assume from the outset a libertarian conception of free will. If you don’t, and compatibilist accounts of freedom are correct (as they are), then the incompatibility disappears.

    I do think compatibilist accounts of freedom are much better at capturing our intuitions about choices. Even if everything I do is predetermined, there’s a huge difference between putting a gun to my head and telling me to do something and simply telling me to do it without coercion. When someone fasts because they have no accessible food, they aren’t free, but when someone fasts because they have a moral reason to do so we call that freedom. It doesn’t matter if some events in their brain caused them to want to do that moral thing.

    Furthermore, assume our choices are fully determined by our background and DNA. I think it’s more complicated than that, but assume that for simplicity’s sake. If so, then everything I do happens because certain states of my brain are caused in certain ways. But those causes involve me wanting certain things and liking certain things. Those causes involve me coming to the conclusion that certain options are better than others, and I do consider those various options. So I make choices. I consider those options and make a determination of which ones I prefer. It shouldn’t matter that those actions are caused, because I still do it.

    In fact, if those actions are not caused then there’s no explanation of why I do it. If there’s no explanation, then it’s merely random and not under my control at all. Once you accept reasons and internal explanations, then you have either explained it (in which case you’ve provided a cause) or you’ve left it unexplained (in which case random events are still what caused it to occur rather than the other possibility, since the only thing determining which happened of the reasons you had was not your choice, which would involve one reason being stronger than the other, but a random event selecting one of the reasons rather than the other).

    So it must be caused if it’s to be free. Compatibilist accounts of freedom explain how our action can stem from who we are, whereas libertarian accounts cannot. It’s libertarian accounts that undermine the voluntariness of freedom.

    I also think you’ve underestimated the resources compatibilists have to talk about possibility. Some compatibilists do accept the libertarian conclusion that determinism implies no freedom to do otherwise. But I think that’s a mistake. I do have the freedom to choose otherwise. If I considered the options and concluded that a different course of action was best, I could have and would have chosen that course of action. But I didn’t. I chose the one I did determine to be best. I did have the ability to do otherwise. I just wouldn’t have done so given that my actual path of reasoning led me to conclude that I shouldn’t do it. So I think compatibilism not only is the best way to make sense of freedom but works fine with the ability to do otherwise.

    Peter is also right that the proper analogy is between author and characters. The author does make the characters do things. The author doesn’t make the actors do anything. They can go off-script at any moment if they want to. The characters in the written script can’t. Yet they’re still free. The characters don’t know what they’re going to do next, as if they’re following a script. Actors do. But we obviously don’t follow a script, or we would know the future. So if determinism is true, then we’re not like actors. We’re like characters. The characters obviously do make choices. Hamlet considers whether to kill himself, running through various considerations about that, and if a character comes to a choice on the matter it’s because of the character’s own internal character traits, beliefs, desires, and so on (at least if the play is written well). So the character is free. But we’re free in exactly the same way, since those same things lead to our choices. Just like characters in a play, I also can’t decide to stop being the person I find myself being. I can change my legal name and start living my life differently, but I have no choice about the fact that I’m the guy who married my wife and the fifth son of my parents. But I do have the kind of choices Hamlet does have, and I have no further kinds of choices. I can decide to do things when I have the power to consider options.

    You seem to be talking as if plays have predetermination. Maybe some have it written in that events earlier in the play cause later ones, but they certainly don’t have exhaustive predetermination. You’re confusing (1) the fact that we who have the script can look at the ending before we look at the beginning if we so choose with (2) the idea that events earlier in the play cause the events later in the play. The first notion is more akin to divine foreknowledge and control over what happens. The second is more akin to physical determinism within the world. Those theses need to be kept separate. Calvinists don’t need to assume the second view. In fact, most deny it, even if they think it might occur much of the time whenever God isn’t intervening. But given that God is behind the laws of nature, it’s not as if God isn’t intervening even in those cases.

    The point, though, is not the compatibilism is true. It’s that compatibilists do in fact insist on human freedom of choice. Calvinists therefore do not deny human freedom. Anyone who does is a hyper-Calvinist. Calvinists all reject libertarian accounts of what freedom is, but a genuine Calvinist accepts that we are morally responsible for our choices, as the Bible insists when it attributes human actions to God’s will (as in Isaiah 10, to take an absolutely clear case, and it’s interesting that you mention Acts 2, since that chapter and Acts 4 also have instances of this, with the free choices of those responsible for Jesus’ death being condemned by God despite being said to be part of his ordained plan).

    Monergism and synergism are confusing to bring in here, because they’re talking about a different issue. Monergism as it’s usually understood is the view that human salvation can’t be achieved without fully being achieved at God’s initiative. Any human role is a human role also initiated by God. But Calvinists have no problem talking about such human roles. So a compatibilist account of freedom allows monergism in that sense while certainly accepting human freedom with regard to salvation.

    Peter is right that the Incarnation is a good analogy. Monergism is compatible with seeing the human role as fully present. What it rejects is that part of human choice comes from God, while part comes from us. What it allows is that it all comes from God but also all comes from us (since what comes from us also must come from God, given God’s control over all events, including our genuinely-free choices).

  29. Thank you, Jeremy. As always you are very clear on this, clearer than I could have been. With this argument in another place you persuaded me to accept compatibilism and with it the version of Calvinism which you describe – although not the (hyper-?) Calvinism that some prominent people are preaching today. I hope that your words convince Robert at least that there is a genuine form of freedom other than the libertarian one which he seems to espouse.

  30. Hello Peter and Jeremy,

    Both you and Jeremy both made statements distancing yourself from “hyper-calvinism” as if you both reject it.

    Jeremy what is your definition of hyper-calvinism as opposed to the calvinism that you hold to?

    Could you briefly describe and differentiate your own version of calvinism from what you believe to be “hyper-calvinism”?

    Peter your statement on this was:

    “With this argument in another place you persuaded me to accept compatibilism and with it the version of Calvinism which you describe – although not the (hyper-?) Calvinism that some prominent people are preaching today.”

    Two questions for you Peter, both based on your own statement here:

    (1) what do you mean by “hyper-calvinism”?

    (2) And second, could you name who these “prominent people” preaching it today are that you are referring to here? I would like specific names in your answer.

    I believe that if they are who I think they are, they are not preaching hyper-calvinism at all, but are preaching and teaching the same kind of calvinism as seen in John Calvin, Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards. So before I go further I want to see what you mean by “hyper-calvinists.

    Robert

  31. Someone claiming to be a Calvinist who accepts any of the following is a hyper-Calvinist, in my view:

    1. We don’t have genuine freedom and moral responsibility (i.e. adopting hard determinism as opposed to compatibilism)
    2. There’s no legitimate sense of possibility or potentiality except the actual (i.e. absolute necessitarianism in every sense).
    3. Evangelism is needless, useless, or morally wrong.
    4. There’s no sense in which God loves those who will not be saved.
    5. Election has nothing to do with anything we do (including not just works but also faith). This is basically a denial of repentance and faith as the means by which God brings about salvation in the elect.
    6. There’s no sense in which the atonement covers the non-elect. (I admit that this is more controversial to call hyper-Calvinism, but I do classify it as a kind of hyper-Calvinism.)
    7. Denial of common grace
    8. Denial of a moral obligation on the part of the non-elect to respond to the gospel and repent
    9 Not just faith in Christ but faith in Calvinism is required for salvation
    10. Calvinists should not have fellowship with non-Calvinists
    11. Again, controversially, I would say that supralapsarianism is a form of hyper-Calvinism. The decrees that some will be damned logically precede the decree of the fall.
    12. I would even go so far as to say that equal ultimacy is a kind of hyper-Calvinism, and that’s probably the most controversial of these claims. This is the view that God’s decree of damnation is equal to God’s decree of salvation (which is hard to square with the passive voice for salvation and the middle voice for damnation in Romans 9).

    The term often gets used something like the term ‘fundamentalist’, which is often used to mean “someone who is further along the continuum between evangelicals and fundamentalists than I am”. But I do think the above list includes views that Calvin and his most immediate followers would have considered false implications of their views of election, and that’s why I consider them hyper-Calvinist. So I’d try to ground its use in historical fact about Calvin’s own views, where those who accept his views on election and then conclude more extreme conclusions than he did are hyper-Calvinists.

    I know this means you’ll insist that hyper-Calvinists are the only consistent Calvinists. That follows from your view of compatibilism. But I’d like to insist that the term ‘Calvinism’ be reserved for the way Calvin himself thought about these things rather than some of the more extreme versions of the view that came along later (in some cases much later).

    I don’t know who Peter means by prominent people preaching it today. I don’t consider John Piper or Wayne Grudem to be hyper-Calvinists, and I know they’ve both been frequent targets of Peter’s criticisms of Calvinism.

  32. Jeremy, I won’t dispute what you write. But I would suggest that it implies that there are a lot of hyper-Calvinists out there. While I won’t insist that they include Piper or Grudem, they certainly include some of their less discerning supporters, who have definitely claimed things like “Not just faith in Christ but faith in Calvinism is required for salvation” and “Calvinists should not have fellowship with non-Calvinists”, as well as denying God’s love for the unsaved. Indeed if this last point alone is enough to make someone a hyper-Calvinist, then from what I wrote here and here Piper is one.

  33. I believe Piper’s view on that is like Calvin’s and Augustine’s before him. Augustine says the saving love that God has for the elect is compatible with the hatred of what we are before we are actually regenerate. We hate what’s actually evil about someone and love what’s actually good about them in addition to loving with anticipation of what God’s going to do. Total depravity doesn’t mean there’s no good, or there wouldn’t be an existent person remaining. So there’s some good to love even if it’s a detestable person. But what’s bad about them we should hate, as God does. Piper doesn’t say God doesn’t love unbelievers but that God hates them. So I don’t think the evidence you present shows that he’s a hyper-Calvinist in that sense. I think his view is my own and that of Augustine and D.A. Carson, who defends this view in his Love in Hard Places, one of the best reflections on difficult questions about love that I’ve ever read.

  34. Well, Jeremy, if Piper’s and even your version of Calvinism includes that God hates people, not just that he hates their evil deeds or what is evil about each person, then I have not been converted to Calvinism after all.

  35. I’m not claiming that Calvinism requires this. You can be a Calvinist without believing everything the Bible says. You can also be a Calvinist without believing everything Piper says or everything I say. I just happen to think this is biblical teaching, and I don’t think it counts as hyper-Calvinism to say it. The same is true of Piper’s views on God’s glory (and its relation to God’s other motivations) and human motivation (what he calls Christian hedonism). I believe neither of those views, at least in the form Piper does, but I don’t think it makes him a hyper-Calvinist to hold them, and I don’t think Calvinism requires either view. This is just like that.

    As for hate, I do think we have to allow for some room for it while also denouncing it, as the Bible does in various places. The author of Psalm 139 can hate those who hate God while still finding God’s thoughts precious, and God can say that he loved Jacob but hated Esau (which Paul in Romans 9 ties to the issue of salvation), but Jesus also says in Matthew 6:21-22 that anyone who hates is guilty of murder (and this is probably derived from Deuteronomy 19:4-6). I think we have to allow different senses that the word is being used, or we’re going to face contradictions in scripture. Jesus had such high respect for the psalms and the prophets that I very much doubt he’s using the term in the same way as either of the other passages, and I don’t think the other two passages are using it in the same way as each other either.

  36. Jeremy, thanks for the clarification about Calvinism. I realise that the Bible does speak of God hating the wicked – although only in the Old Testament apart from the quote in Romans 9. Of course it is not completely clear what this means. My real problem with Piper’s position is that he seems to give it priority over God’s love, not just for his people but for the world, which is a constant theme especially of the New Testament.

  37. I’m pretty sure Piper accepts John 3:16 to be about the fallen world. For example, I think this sermon seems to say as much. But I think this one is even clearer, because it distinguishes the different kinds of love God has for different groups. Maybe Piper’s emphasis is wrong in the few passages you’ve been directed to, but when Piper deals with evangelism and missions (and he did write a whole book on the subject, which is now coming out in its third edition, so he’s devoted plenty of time to it) he’s not going to be emphasizing God’s hatreds over God’s loves. From what I’ve read by him, it’s actually only a small fraction of the time when he deals with issues like this, and that’s only because he wants to be intellectually honest and not try to smooth over what he admits is a hard issue.

  38. Jeremy, you maybe right about Piper. But he has said some rather ambiguous things. However, I noted here that he does not take the line that God loves only the elect and hates the reprobate. But at least some of his fans understand John 3:16 as only about the elect. Perhaps he needs to draw them into line more clearly.

    But this doesn’t mean I agree with Piper. As I wrote in that old post, “maybe Piper has some way of making this into a consistent system, but it is different from the Calvinist system I described before, and even more different from the truth revealed in the Bible”.

  39. I don’t think taking John 3:16 to be only about the elect makes one a hyper-Calvinist on the grounds of divine love, as long as you do accept divine love for others as well. Some people think limited atonement requires Jesus not having died for the non-elect in any sense. Such people are hyper-Calvinists on the limited atonement criterion, not necessarily on the love criterion. But I do think that view, which is common enough among contemporary people who call themselves Calvinists, is hyper-Calvinism. It seems to me to step from a misunderstanding of a bad argument from a John Owen passage that Owen wrote on a bad day (since I’m told he doesn’t consistently hold that view throughout his writings, and Theopedia seems to confirm this, since Owen used the efficient for the elect/sufficient for all language elsewhere).

  40. Thanks, Jeremy. My real point is not so much that this misunderstanding of John 3:16, and the whole teaching of limited atonement, are hyper-Calvinism, but that they are simply wrong.

  41. Hello guys,

    Thanks for making an effort to answer my questions about hypercalvinism. You both explicitly distanced yourself from “hyper-calvinist” and I wanted to know what you meant by the term since it is a “weasel” word (i.e. meaning different things to different people, with different calvinists taking different approaches to it).

    Peter you did not actually give your definition of hyper-calvinist, so I still am not quite sure where you stand with that.

    Jeremy on the other hand listed elements that he believes distinguish hypers from non-hypers, though if he is correct then there are quite a few hypers running around including some modern calvinists who would not view themselves as such.

    “Someone claiming to be a Calvinist who accepts any of the following is a hyper-Calvinist, in my view:
    1. We don’t have genuine freedom and moral responsibility (i.e. adopting hard determinism as opposed to compatibilism)”

    Even the calvinists that you would consider to be hypers (e.g. Gordon Clark, Vincent Cheung, Beza, Robert Reymond, Geerhardus Vos, etc. etc.) believe that “freedom”(as defined by them, being a “free agent” and “acting freely” while not being puppets or robots) and moral responsibility are compatible with God’s sovereignty. What they would reject as you do, is libertarian free will.

    “2. There’s no legitimate sense of possibility or potentiality except the actual (i.e. absolute necessitarianism in every sense).”

    Actually I see this as a problem for all calvinists who believe that God prescripted the entire play (whether they be infras or supras). If God conceived the total plan and ensures that it go exactly as conceived, then every event must occur as predecided, and so every event occurs **necessarily** with no possibility of any contingency, no possibility that we ever have a choice.

    “3. Evangelism is needless, useless, or morally wrong.”

    I have heard this claim being made about hypers, and yet all of the hypers (at least those labeled as such by other calvinists) that I have read or seen in action, **all** believe in evangelism claiming that as it has been commanded by God it needs to be done, they just don’t know who the preselected elect are.

    “4. There’s no sense in which God loves those who will not be saved.”

    This is another place where weasel words come in. The biblical texts seem to clearly indicate that God has a love for people in the **salvific** sense, not just some general lovey-dovey for mankind in general. D. A. Carson tried to argue that God loves in four different senses, but in his analysis he argued that God’s love for those who never end up believing (i.e. “reprobates”) IS NOT SALVIFIC. Carson’s distinctions make sense, but the biblical texts continue to explicitly declare that God wants all to be saved and so provides Christ as an atonement for all (though not all will have the atonement applied to them, so in fact God has a salvific love for all contra Carson).

    “5. Election has nothing to do with anything we do (including not just works but also faith). This is basically a denial of repentance and faith as the means by which God brings about salvation in the elect.”

    But isn’t the notion that election has nothing to do with who we are or what we do, the heart of the doctrine of unconditional election? If you add anything about us, including whether or not we respond in faith or repent, then you are no longer affirming unconditional election (or is this a new version of Calvinism that affirms there **are** conditions and yet simultaneously affirms that it is unconditional despite being conditioned upon faith and repentance?).

    “6. There’s no sense in which the atonement covers the non-elect. (I admit that this is more controversial to call hyper-Calvinism, but I do classify it as a kind of hyper-Calvinism.)”

    What does it mean to claim that the atonement covers the “non-elect” in some sense?

    The atonement of Christ either covers you/atones for your sin (and you are saved) or it does not cover you (in which case you are unsaved). There is no such thing as a full atonement of believers and a partial atonement in some sense of the unbelievers. There are many calvinists that I would refer to as holding limited atonement who do not believe that the atonement covers non-believers at all in any sense (though they will then claim there are “benefits” for unbelievers provided by the cross).

    It is true that those described as hypers all hold to “limited atonement” but so do other calvinists whether they be infras or supras. And most of these advocates of limited atonement do not believe that the cross atones for or covers the sins of unbelievers in any sense.

    “7. Denial of common grace”

    Again “common grace” is another weasel word meaning different things to different calvinists. And again I have read and seen those who would be labeled as hypers by other calvinists and yet they did hold to the concept of common grace (believing that the reprobates did receive common grace merely by being present in this world where God has common grace for all of mankind).

    “8. Denial of a moral obligation on the part of the non-elect to respond to the gospel and repent”

    Again who actually says this?

    I have read those labeled as “hypers” who believed that the non-elect were obligated to respond and that God used this non-response on their part to justify their damnation.

    “9 Not just faith in Christ but faith in Calvinism is required for salvation”

    Now this one may actually be on target as I have seen some professing calvinists explicitly declare that unless you were calvinist you could not be and were not saved (e.g., had a calvinist who runs a prominent calvinist site claim that I was a false teacher and hell bound for challenging his Calvinism despite the fact that I have been a bible teacher for thirty years, and I affirm all of the essentials of the Christian faith such as the deity of Christ, the trinity, the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead, etc.). Actually from what they say on this and the hatefulness with which they say it, it possibly indicates that they themselves are not saved (cf. the apostle John said that if you claim to love God whom you have not seen but hate men, then you are a liar and the truth is not in you: he also says that one of the characteristics of saved persons is that they love other believers and it doesn’t and a qualifier and say only if they believe the same things that you do).

    “10. Calvinists should not have fellowship with non-Calvinists”

    Again, as with point #9, this is serious, serious error. I have friends and acquaintances that are Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox and from what I have seen from them and their beliefs in essential Christianity, they seem to be saved. And my bible makes no distinction between saved calvinists and unsaved everybody else. Does yours???

    “11. Again, controversially, I would say that supralapsarianism is a form of hyper-Calvinism. The decrees that some will be damned logically precede the decree of the fall.”

    This one is surprising as that would mean that some significant calvinists, some “big guns” according to Jeremy are hypers. I disagree, I don’t believe that a calvinist’s view on the infra/supra debate determines whether one is a hyper calvinist or not.

    “12. I would even go so far as to say that equal ultimacy is a kind of hyper-Calvinism, and that’s probably the most controversial of these claims. This is the view that God’s decree of damnation is equal to God’s decree of salvation (which is hard to square with the passive voice for salvation and the middle voice for damnation in Romans 9).”

    This one is surprising, as again, I believe those who hold to “equal ultimacy” are not necessarily “hypers”. From my reading and listening and interacting with calvinists it seems people like Piper and MacArthur and their followers do affirm “equal ultimacy”. They don’t see the “hardening” in Romans 9”22-23 to be a middle in the Greek, but see it as God **actively** hardening the “reprobates” he had preselected for reprobation. I would also submit that Calvin himself seems to be a hyper then according to Jeremy’s criteria here. If you read Calvin he does not argue for the middle of “hardening” in the Greek, and he makes statements that lead to the conclusion that he believed in “equal ultimacy” and double predestination.

    Have you read Calvin’s statements on this, in his responses to Pighius?

    From a logical standpoint it also seems to me that if you are going to argue that God first conceived every detail of history, decided how every last detail would go, then it is hard to see how “equal ultimacy” would not be true (he picked the heroes/elect and villains/reprobates before they existed for their roles in his drama, he didn’t merely “pass over them” more weasel words).

    “The term often gets used something like the term ‘fundamentalist’, which is often used to mean “someone who is further along the continuum between evangelicals and fundamentalists than I am”. But I do think the above list includes views that Calvin and his most immediate followers would have considered false implications of their views of election, and that’s why I consider them hyper-Calvinist.”

    Calvin and his most immediate followers? Both Calvin and Beza held to “equal ultimacy”, double predestination, I don’t think either affirmed the middle for hardening in Romans 9:22-23. So there was no gap between Calvin and his earliest followers and later followers who became more extreme. The modern proponents of Calvinism that most closely follow Calvin, **are** not extremists, they simply follow Calvin more consistently. I think Gordon Clark follows Calvin’s logic and positions very closely (and yet you would probably label Clark as a hyper, as a later follower who developed falsely implications of Calvin’s views, when in reality he parroted the master quite closely). I do think that Calvin did not hold to limited atonement as proposed by contemporary proponents of limited atonement (that is a change from what the master taught versus what his modern disciples teach, I can provide good Calvinist websites that demonstrate that very clearly).

    “So I’d try to ground its use in historical fact about Calvin’s own views, where those who accept his views on election and then conclude more extreme conclusions than he did are hyper-Calvinists.”

    Again I would disagree, it seems to me that many that you would consider hypers by your criteria set forth here, are more consistent with Calvin than you are. And I don’t consider them to be hypers.

    “I know this means you’ll insist that hyper-Calvinists are the only consistent Calvinists.”

    I am not sure I would make that claim in that way. It seems the more that I study Calvinism and calvinists, there is no distinct “party line” that they all hold to (in fact they disagree among themselves on all sorts of things including but not limited to limited atonement/universal atonement, infra/supra, hard determinist/soft determinist, regeneration precedes faith/regeneration does not precede faith, denial of libertarian free will/affirmation of libertarian free will (e.g. Greg Koukl of “Stand to Reason” an acquaintance of mine believes that we have libertarian free will with “mundane” choices of daily life but he simultaneously holds to the five points of TULIP as his view on soteriology), amillennial/postmillennial, believer baptism (e.g. Reformed Baptists)/ paedoBaptists (Presbyterians), physicalist/substance dualist, etc. etc. etc.). The only places where they all seem to agree is that they affirm some form of unconditional election, total depravity, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints.

    “That follows from your view of compatibilism.”

    And what is my view of compatibilism according to you?

    “But I’d like to insist that the term ‘Calvinism’ be reserved for the way Calvin himself thought about these things rather than some of the more extreme versions of the view that came along later (in some cases much later).”

    I just recently listened to a sermon by a guy who was quoting directly from Calvin’s comments aimed at Pighius, you would probably label him as a hyper and yet he sounded like Calvin reincarnated today! So who is more consistent with the master, you or him? Could you quote Calvin’s words to Pighius to support your infralapsarian Calvinism which denies “equal ultimacy” and argues that the hardening in Romans 9:22-23 is middle in the Greek? I don’t think so. And yet he could quote him directly to affirm his version of Calvinism. So your distinction does not seem accurate to me.

    “I don’t know who Peter means by prominent people preaching it today. I don’t consider John Piper or Wayne Grudem to be hyper-Calvinists, and I know they’ve both been frequent targets of Peter’s criticisms of Calvinism.”

    Isn’t Piper a supra? I know in his book THE JUSTIFICATION OF GOD he strongly argues against the middle position in the Greek for “hardening” arguing that God actively hardens those whom he preselected to be reprobates and he, like Calvin, makes comments suggesting that he holds to “equal ultimacy” and double predestination (I recall that Piper calls himself a “seven pointer” meaning he holds the five points of TULIP plus the exhaustive predetermination of all events and double predestination). Grudem takes an agnostic position on the supra/infra debate in a footnote in his systematic theology book, but says there are strong arguments for both and the truth contains both! And what about someone like James White, he seems to be supra and “equal ultimacy” and double predestination, and argues the same way as Piper on Romans 9, is he a hyper as well?

    Peter wrote in response:

    “Jeremy, I won’t dispute what you write.”

    So you agree with Jeremy then?

    “But I would suggest that it implies that there are a lot of hyper-Calvinists out there.”

    I think you are correct Peter, by Jeremy’s distinctions there are many, many hyper calvinists running around today including some big names among contemporary calvinists. I would suggest that if there is such a thing as a hyper Calvinist there are very, very few of them and they are not to be confused with folks like Piper, MacArthur or White. But again it depends on how you define things and on the interpretations of certain weasel words. 🙂

    “While I won’t insist that they include Piper or Grudem, they certainly include some of their less discerning supporters, who have definitely claimed things like “Not just faith in Christ but faith in Calvinism is required for salvation” and “Calvinists should not have fellowship with non-Calvinists”, as well as denying God’s love for the unsaved. Indeed if this last point alone is enough to make someone a hyper-Calvinist, then from what I wrote here and here Piper is one.”

    Peter here you started out right but then inexplicably veered off the road at the end! 🙂 If Piper is hyper then again a whole lot of contemporary calvinists are hypers as well.

    Now that I know neither of you are even close to being hypers, 🙂 we can move on with the discussion.

    Robert

  42. Robert, thanks for your comment, but it is long! I won’t attempt to interact with it all, just with some specific points.

    I can’t help wondering if “hyper-Calvinist” means much more than “more extreme in the Calvinist direction than I can accept”. But I was basically working with Jeremy’s definition, which I disputed only to the extent that I suggested it implies that people like Piper are hyper-Calvinist.

    “**all** believe in evangelism claiming that as it has been commanded by God it needs to be done”

    In theory. In practice a lot of Calvinists, not just hypers, are weak on the practice of evangelism, seeming to believe that the elect are already in the church and the masses outside are probably reprobate and so it is a waste of good sermon and study time to evangelise them.

    I suppose the issue about whether God’s love is salvific is whether it is effective in salvation. I would hold that God’s love is of a kind which intends everyone to be saved, but it is not effective in saving everyone because, like any true love, it is not coercive but allows the loved ones to choose to reject it.

    The atonement of Christ either covers you/atones for your sin (and you are saved) or it does not cover you (in which case you are unsaved).

    No, there is an alternative. Someone’s sins may be atoned for and completely forgiven but even so they may end up outside God’s kingdom because they choose this, or because there are other conditions for being saved than being sinless. I’m not sure if it’s what I hold, but it is logically possible. Perhaps the point is that there is one “unforgivable” sin which will stop people being saved, and that is their rejection of the forgiveness they are offered in Christ. The sins of such people are certainly covered and atoned for, but they are not actually forgiven because forgiveness has to be accepted.

    I agree with you in seeing rejection of “equal ultimacy” as weasel words. In a human election if there are only two candidates, a vote for one is a vote against the other. If God elected only some for salvation, and the only alternative is damnation, then logically God elected the others for damnation. So on this basis, and Jeremy’s definitions, I will “insist that hyper-Calvinists are the only consistent Calvinists.”

    And on this basis, and the same definitions, I will continue to hold that the consistent Calvinist Piper is hyper.

  43. Chris E thinks that I do not even understand my own view. If that is the case, I see little reason to continue this little chat.

    Because you advanced an example that would fit very well within the terms of compatibilist free will – which Jeremy pointed out far more articulately than I did above.

    Incidentally, Calvin and Luther’s views weren’t exactly synonomous, and in some ways Jeremy’s views are closer to Luther’s than Calvin’s.

  44. Hello Peter,

    “Robert, thanks for your comment, but it is long! I won’t attempt to interact with it all, just with some specific points.”

    I am not the one who gave 12 criteria for spotting a hyper Calvinist! 🙂

    “I can’t help wondering if “hyper-Calvinist” means much more than “more extreme in the Calvinist direction than I can accept”.”

    I think it is another weasel word. It is interesting to see different calvinists labeling one another with this pejorative term (I forgot it was all predetermined to be that way!  ).

    “But I was basically working with Jeremy’s definition, which I disputed only to the extent that I suggested it implies that people like Piper are hyper-Calvinist.”

    And what is **your** definition???

    I had written:

    “**all** believe in evangelism claiming that as it has been commanded by God it needs to be done”

    To which you responded:

    “In theory. In practice a lot of Calvinists, not just hypers, are weak on the practice of evangelism, seeming to believe that the elect are already in the church and the masses outside are probably reprobate and so it is a waste of good sermon and study time to evangelise them.”

    Some calvinists are weak on evangelism, most notably those who are constantly posting their arguments against non-Calvinists. Another place where they appear to be weak in general, is in the area of sanctification. They are strong when discussing justification and arguing for it according to their understanding. But when it comes to changed lives, transformed lives, they are weak. They are known for logic not character or obedience.

    “I suppose the issue about whether God’s love is salvific is whether it is effective in salvation.”

    You are sounding like a Calvinist here: unless the person is saved then God’s efforts were a “failure”. I don’t see it that way at all. God’s plan of salvation is that he would provide an atonement (i.e. the cross of Christ) that would be provided for the world since God desires the salvation of all human persons (as He Himself explicitly and clearly states, and I am sure you know the verses). This atonement, this provision of salvation is provided for all and yet will become operative or be applied only to those who trust Him.

    And they cannot trust in Him unless the Holy Spirit does a supernatural work (cf. Jn. 6:44) in them leading them to trust in Jesus alone for salvation (enabling them to trust but not necessitating their actions; hence they can also choose to reject). God was completely “successful” in developing and then implementing this plan so that all who now call on the Lord for salvation (after having individually experienced the work of the Spirit) will be saved. It was God’s love that led him to develop and carry out His plan of salvation (if he operated strictly by justice alone, Adam and Eve would have immediately died and that would have been the end of the human race, fortunately He is also merciful towards human persons). It was God’s love that provided Jesus as the way of atonement. It is God’s love that is involved when the Spirit works on a person. In all of these things God accomplishes exactly what He wants and planned for. If we then reject this generous and completely undeserved salvation, then the blood is on our own hands.

    “I would hold that God’s love is of a kind which intends everyone to be saved, but it is not effective in saving everyone because, like any true love, it is not coercive but allows the loved ones to choose to reject it.”

    I would agree with this. But if you believe this then you cannot hold to irresistible grace. Nor can you hold to exhaustive predeterminism of all events by God (if he predecided every outcome and then ensures every one of those outcomes then we never ever have a choice, and any “love” of God was not freely chosen but occurred as a result of being forced to do so by God; not all coercion is against our will, if someone completely controls our mind and will and every part of us and then manipulates us to do something we are not **coerced** against our will rather someone else controls and dictates our will so that we do not freely choose to do what we do but must do what the external person forces us to do).

    I had stated:

    “The atonement of Christ either covers you/atones for your sin (and you are saved) or it does not cover you (in which case you are unsaved).”

    That is the biblical truth. At the final judgment there will only be two kinds of people, those whose sins are covered by the cross of Christ and those sins whose sins are not covered. The atonement of Christ is provided for every person (cf. 1 Jn. 2:2) and sufficient for every person, but is only applied to those who trust the Lord. The dynamics are similar to the snake in the wilderness story. The bronze serpent on the pole was provided by God to rescue all of the Israelites, and it was sufficient to do so and provided to do so, and yet only those who looked up at in faith were rescued/saved/delivered. Jesus uses this very story and likens his own future death on the cross to this story (cf. Jn. 3:14-15). And the dynamics are the same. A way of deliverance/rescue/salvation provided by God, provided for all, sufficient for all, involving faith alone and saving only those who have faith. And in both stories it is not the faith itself that had the power to save or deliver; it was God doing the saving of those who trusted Him the power was not in their faith but in the God who saved those who trust Him.

    “No, there is an alternative. Someone’s sins may be atoned for and completely forgiven but even so they may end up outside God’s kingdom because they choose this, or because there are other conditions for being saved than being sinless. I’m not sure if it’s what I hold, but it is logically possible.”

    God explicitly states the conditions for salvation being faith and repentance on our part. No faith = No salvation. No repentance = No salvation. One who truly repents and trusts is saved. The fun part is that many think of faith and repentance as disconnected not realizing that when the Holy Spirit leads someone to Christ that work enables both faith and repentance (e.g., how many of us thought one way about Christianity at first, say that it was false and man-made and a “crutch”, then the Spirit came revealed Christ to us, revealed our own sinfulness to us, revealed that Jesus was the way the truth and the life, revealed that we could not save ourselves but had to humble ourselves and trust in the Lord, so then we began to change our thinking [which is what repentance is, change of mind and thoughts] and came to a place where we choose to trust the Lord, in this we would be experiencing both repentance and then trusting/faith as a result of the work of the Spirit). Jesus also gave a parable about a wedding feast (cf. Matt.22:1-14) involving a person missing the dressing clothing and not being covered (he was not talking about an actual wedding feast but was using an analogy for the fact that at the end when God’s eschatological party commences, only those with clothing, only those who are covered by the atonement of Christ will be allowed in to participate in this kingdom).

    “Perhaps the point is that there is one “unforgivable” sin which will stop people being saved, and that is their rejection of the forgiveness they are offered in Christ. The sins of such people are certainly covered and atoned for, but they are not actually forgiven because forgiveness has to be accepted.”

    No, unless you as an individual have faith, your sins are not covered (**unless** you looked up at the snake on the pole you were not delivered; **unless** you personally and as an individual trust in the Lord the atonement of Christ will not cover you; **unless** you have the wedding garment on you will not be allowed to participate in that wedding).

    “I agree with you in seeing rejection of “equal ultimacy” as weasel words. In a human election if there are only two candidates, a vote for one is a vote against the other. If God elected only some for salvation, and the only alternative is damnation, then logically God elected the others for damnation. So on this basis, and Jeremy’s definitions, I will “insist that hyper-Calvinists are the only consistent Calvinists.””

    Glad to see that you agree about “equal ultimacy”/double predestination/election of both believers and unbelievers for their eternal destinies, and your illustration conveys this clearly. I would suggest that consistent calvinists all hold to equal ultimacy whether they be “hypers” or not. Equal ultimacy was Calvin’s own position, so if someone truly follows the teachings of Calvin they likewise will hold to “equal ultimacy”. But many modern proponents of Calvinism cannot stomach double predestination or God actively reprobating most of the human race (so they use **softening** language to make the medicine go down easier; instead of God actively planning the damnation of reprobates and actively hardening them in their sin, God is merely “passing over” them).

    “And on this basis, and the same definitions, I will continue to hold that the consistent Calvinist Piper is hyper.”

    If holding to double predestination makes you “hyper”, then Calvin and all consistent calvinists are “hypers” (which again shows the term “hyper-Calvinist” to be such a weasel word).

    Robert

  45. Robert, although we could argue about some of the details here, mainly about terminology, I think our positions are in fact rather close. If at times I sounded like a Calvinist, that was largely because I was echoing Calvinist language.

  46. Hello Peter,

    “Robert, although we could argue about some of the details here, mainly about terminology, I think our positions are in fact rather close.”

    Perhaps, what is your position on the ordinary understanding of free will? The ordinary understanding which is also designated as libertarian free will by philosophers is that we sometimes have and make choices.

    If the world is completely pre-decided and predetermined and fixed by God’s total plan and His efforts to ensure that that plan comes to pass, then we never ever have a choice. In a completely predecided world we may engage in the process of making a choice but WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE (God has already made every choice and determined every event that will occur). And **having a choice** is what most people mean when they speak of having “free will”. They mean that given a particular choice before them, where it seems they have access to two different options and are capable of doing either of these different options, they can select either option as their choice. If they **have to do one** and it is thus impossible for them to do the other option, then that is considered not having free will by most people.

    So Peter do we ever have a choice in any situation??

    “If at times I sounded like a Calvinist, that was largely because I was echoing Calvinist language.”

    Nobody ever accuses me of being a calvinist when I speak (though they have accused me of believing that God is sovereign because I constantly speak of Him doing as He pleases in any and all situations)! 🙂

    Perhaps we should compare notes on TULIP to see where we come out?

    Robert

  47. Robert, we have now come full circle to the issue that we started with. I accept what Jeremy has written that free will can be genuine without being libertarian as you define it. But I don’t want to commit myself to one or the other as a full and adequate expression of a reality which is probably beyond our complete comprehension. I really don’t think it is going to help anyone to go over this here yet again.

    Look back at the archives of this blog and I think you will find my position on TULIP.

  48. Hello Peter,

    “Robert, we have now come full circle to the issue that we started with. I accept what Jeremy has written that free will can be genuine without being libertarian as you define it.”

    As I define it? I define it very simply as the fact that **sometimes** (not always and always subject to God’s interventions) we have and make choices. If the world is fully determined as compatibilists believe, then we never ever have a choice. They have never come close to proving this conclusion. And this conclusion is contradicted by both the bible as well as our constant daily experience of having and making choices.

    “But I don’t want to commit myself to one or the other as a full and adequate expression of a reality which is probably beyond our complete comprehension.”

    Sorry I see no mystery in the claim that we have and make choices. It is not beyond our comprehension or understanding. Either we sometimes have choices or we do not. My four year old fully understands this concept, that when she has a choice she cannot select both options but must choose one option. That if she chooses the one option then she cannot choose the other option. She is smart enough to say: “why can’t I have both?” But we are working with her on the concept that some choices involve mutually exclusive options (if you choose to go to the park then we cannot at the same time go to the beach; of course again she is smart enough to then say: “why don’t we go to the beach first and then after that go to the park!” My point is simply to say that this concept of having a choice is simple. We all understand it just fine, and I would argue that we all live as if this concept is true in our daily life even if we deny it via sophisticated philosophical or theological argument in our speculations. The question is whether or not it is ever really present. I say that it is, those who claim the world is completely pre-decided and predetermined by God must argue against this claim.

    “I really don’t think it is going to help anyone to go over this here yet again.”

    Then why were we discussing it in the first place?

    “Look back at the archives of this blog and I think you will find my position on TULIP.”

    I don’t have time to go through your entire blog to see your views on this. Could you simply provide short statements or summaries of your views for me? If you don’t want to discuss that either, that is fine, that is your choice as well.

    Robert

  49. Robert, I’m sorry that I don’t have time at the moment to get into the kind of detailed discussion of TULIP which I think you might want to start. Suffice it to say that I reject L and would want to significantly redefine the other four petals, compared with a typical Calvinist presentation, before accepting them. See also what I wrote in a post What I don’t like about Calvinism and in one Apostasy, backsliding, and perseverance of the saints, in which I wrote the following:

    Well, no doubt the Calvinists among my readers are in despair at the way I am desecrating their TULIP. A couple of days ago I tore out the “L” petal, and now I seem to be doing the same with the “P” petal. Will this flower have any petals left when I have finished with it? Maybe just half a “T”.

  50. Robert, I won’t address everything that’s come up since I’ve been here last, but I did want to say a couple things.

    One is that contemporary philosophy has several ways of allowing for different senses of possibility in natural language. In particular, David Lewis, who did a lot of work on counterfactuals and has a paper on compatibilism and possibility and another on possibility and time travel, offers an elegant solution. (But solutions go back long before him. Leibniz, several medievals, and even Cleanthes the Stoic had ways of doing this.) Lewis’ approach is to take possibility-terms in natural language to restricted to certain contexts. If I say something is possible, I mean that it’s possible with respect to a certain set of facts that are relevant to the question at hand. If I say it’s impossible for me to fly, I mean that it’s impossible given the laws of physics. I don’t mean that God couldn’t alter them or alter my physical structure to allow it. If I say that it’s possible for me to do two options that appear before me, I don’t mean necessarily that both options are consistent with the past and the laws of nature but that both options are compatible with all the facts I know about the world. Depending on which facts are relevant to the question, you can have something that’s both impossible with respect to certain relevant facts for a certain question while possible with respect to all the relevant facts for a different question.

    Other little points:

    There have indeed been hyper-Calvinists who say evangelism is immoral and that the reprobate have no obligation to believe.. Those are in fact the first group to be called hyper-Calvinists. Read the Wikipedia article. It’s got way too limited a view of what counts as a hyper-Calvinist (and is perhaps inconsistent on that), and yet these are the positions it emphasizes as clear cases. I have also seen people denying common grace, in exactly those terms. They call the doctrine unbiblical or even heresy.

    I wonder if you’re oversimplifying Carson, and I’m not sure he’d restrict himself to four senses of love. I don’t have it in front of me, but I think he’d allow for both a salvific love in the sense of the love that actually saves and a different sense of love that would explain the desire for all to be saved. Most Calvinists accept different levels of desire in a hierarchy, with some desires being more important to achieve than others and no path to satisfy all of them fully given their logical incompatibility.

    Unconditional election is a misnomer, as all or most of the terms in TULIP are. I’m not alone in saying that God has reasons for choosing the particular people he chose. R.C. Sproul changes it to Sovereign Election. The point isn’t that there aren’t conditions. One obvious condition is that the person eventually displays faith. Another is that God has purposes in mind for the particular person, e.g. Paul was chosen because God wanted to do particular things through him. The original idea was that there are no conditions of the sort that would involve people earning salvation.

    The standard view of the atonement is that it is limited to only those who are actually saved in terms of actually paying for sin but that it covers all in the sense of being available to all if they were to repent and follow Christ. This is something that Calvinists and non-Calvinists often agree on.

    Calvin certainly believed in one thing called double predestination, i.e. the view that God predestined the reprobate to be reprobate. I’ve seen people claim that God predestined the elect while just doing nothing with regard to the unelect. Blomberg, for example, has stated that he holds such a view. It seems to me to make God ignorant or out of control with regard to the logical implications of his own actions. Any consistent Calvinist has to accept double predestination in that sense. But that’s not what equal ultimacy amounts to. Some people hold that God double predestines in the sense of intended the election and reprobation in the same way, desiring them in the same way, and willing them as part of the same level of decreeing in the logical order of the decrees in God’s overall will. I’m pretty sure Calvin thought such a view to be a heresy. There’s definitely something that was called double predestination that was declared a heresy by the early Calvinists, and I’m pretty sure it’s that view. So I think both of you are mixing up two different views and calling them the same view. The one that Calvin held, that I hold, and that all the people you’re telling me are hyper-Calvinists by my view is not the one that I’m denying and calling a kind of hyper-Calvinism.

    I don’t think any genuine Calvinist thinks regeneration occurs after genuine salvific faith. I’m not sure why you think some people hold such a view, but if they do then they’re not consistent.

    You’re making it sound like I think there is one univocal way of being a hyper-Calvinist and then would place lots of moderate Calvinists in that category. Again, I happen to think Calvinism is biblical, and I happen to think lots of people accept elements of Calvinism but go beyond what’s biblical, so I call that hyper-Calvinism. If Piper does go beyond what I think is proper Calvinism on essential elements, then he’s a hyper-Calvinist, but if that’s so then it’s in a pretty weak way compared to all the ways of being a hyper-Calvinist.

  51. Jeremy, thanks for this. As I think I have said before, I can almost accept TULIP as described by you, but almost not at all as presented by many of today’s Calvinists. Does that make me a Calvinist? It probably doesn’t matter. Perhaps I am a Calminian in the sense of being both a Calvinist and an Arminian, in compatibilist senses.

  52. Pingback: hyper calvinist

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