Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Tension Between Calvinism and the Gospel

I came across the above interview with John MacArthur, titled: “The Tension Between Calvinism and the Gospel”. That is a strange title. Describing the relationship between Calvinism and the gospel in terms of a “tension” is curiously optimistic. Calvinism is the antithesis of the gospel of Jesus Christ; it is the very negation of it. And an analysis of this interview in that regard will prove instructive. The interviewer begins by asking him the following question:

“Well, speaking of that; and it is perfect transition into the first question that we had several of, and that relates to last night in your discussions about the atonement; and the question is, If that is true [i.e. the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement, unconditional election, and predestination to salvation and damnation], then why witness [i.e. proselytize]? How do we tell people God loves them, and that Jesus Christ did not die for them? Or do we tell them that?”

To this John MacArthur gives the following reply:

“Well, you tell them whatever the Bible tells you to tell them; and the Bible tells you to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And that is what you do because that is what the scripture says.”

That is a disingenuous response, and dodges the question. The question being asked is, What kind of gospel message do you give them? Do you tell them that Jesus died for, and atoned for their sins, or don’t you? What if they are not among the “elect,” according to Calvinistic theology; and Jesus didn’t in fact die for them, and didn’t atone for their sins? Then you would be lying to tell them that he did! That is the question that is being asked. Dodging the question doesn’t help.

The commandment of God in the Bible is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). And the “gospel” is the good news that Jesus has died for, and atoned for their sins. If in fact he didn’t (according to Calvinism), and you tell them that he did, then you are lying, and making God to be a liar too. If Calvinism makes God a liar, then it cannot be of God. If the Bible tells you to go and preach the gospel to everyone without exception, telling them that Jesus died for and atoned for their sins—when in fact he didn’t according to Calvinism—that is preaching a lie according to Calvinism. Either God is lying, or Calvinism is false, take your pick. You can’t believe the Bible and Calvinism at the same time. He continues:

“Any tension you have between that and the nature of the atonement; any tension you have between that and the doctrine of divine election and predestination; any tension you feel in those areas, I feel. I feel the same tension. I ask the same question.”

I am sure he does; but that doesn’t get him off the hook for accepting and preaching a false theology. There is no “tension” in the Bible. The “tension” exists when you believe in a false theology that is contrary to the Bible. When that happens, the solution is to ditch the theology, not endure the “tension”. And his smug, self-confident, “I am right” attitude isn’t going to help him either. He continues:

“I don’t know that there’s some kind of quick answer to the question.”

There is! The quick answer is that Calvinism is false. It is not biblical. He continues:

“I am, however, happy to concede that God can resolve things that I can’t. Really!”

Even God can’t resolve Calvinism. The only way to resolve Calvinism is to ditch it. And that is what he needs to do, not God. God didn’t invent Calvinism; he picked it up from somewhere else. He continues:

“I don’t expect of you, and you shouldn’t expect of me, to be able to unscrew the inscrutable. You really don’t think that I’m going to solve all the vast theological dilemmas that have existed since the scriptures were penned.”

Calvinism is not a “theological dilemma” that needs to be “resolved;” it is a heresy that needs to be abandoned. Calvinism is heretical and false all the way through. There is absolutely nothing right about Calvinism. Ditching his false theology of Calvinism is the only option he has. At this point the interviewer retorts: “Actually some people do!” to which John MacArthur replies:

“Yeah! The best answer to this question is, My brother, I feel your pain! That is the best answer to that question.”

That is his pain, not my pain! I believe what the Bible teaches; and there is no “pain” in that. The pain comes when you try to reconcile his false theology with the Bible, and the two are irreconcilable. I don’t have that problem, so I don’t have any “pain”. His attempt at imputing his “pain” to everybody else doesn’t solve his problem. Nobody can take painkillers on his behalf. He will have to take them for himself. He continues:

“I’m not here to give you an answer, but I will tell you this: I do not believe that Jesus died for nobody; I believe he died for somebody; and I believe he died specifically for those who would believe in him. And those who believe in him are those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit based upon the eternal sovereign electing purpose of God.”

The Bible says that he died for everybody; and that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). How hard is that to understand? He continues:

“I think his atonement was an actual one, not a potential one. I don’t think it was a general one, I think it was a specific one. I think it was a real death for sin. The issue here is the nature of the atonement.”

No idea where he gets those strange words and ideas from. Calvinism has led him far astray! The Atonement is actual and potential, specific and general, and everything else that it can be and needs to be. Some aspects of the Atonement are indeed universal. The resurrection is universal. Everybody will be resurrected, the wicked as well as the righteous: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Salvation and eternal life, however, depends on their faithfulness. Jesus’ Atonement makes it possible for everyone to be saved. The choice is theirs: “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). The choice, the decision is theirs. That is why the gospel is preached to everyone, not just to the “elect”. How hard is that to understand? He continues:

“Forget the dilemma; you are going to have the dilemma no matter what you do.”

No you don’t! The dilemma exists only if you believe in Calvinism, and try to reconcile that with the Bible: which are irreconcilable. There is no “dilemma” within the biblical teaching. He continues:

“The dilemma is, Why didn’t he send everybody to heaven? The dilemma is, Why is there hell, and why are people going there? That is a legitimately difficult question to ask.”

That is Calvinism’s dilemma. It is not the gospel’s dilemma, or the Bible’s dilemma. The Bible tells you why there is a heaven and a hell, and why there are people going there. John 5:29 quoted above (and lots more scriptures like it) gives the answer. Why that is so hard for Calvinists to understand, I have no idea. He continues:

“The only answer I can give you is that if God purposed to do that—Romans 9—who are we to question his purpose? If he gets glory from judgment the way he gets glory from salvation, who are we to question that?”

But what if he doesn’t? What if it is his Calvinistic theology that is wrong? His real difficulty is that he is too sold out to Calvinism to allow for that possibility, and get in line with the Bible. He continues:

“The other issue is, nobody goes to hell for any other reason than that they are guilty of sin and unbelief. How that fits, I don’t know.”

He doesn’t know because his theology has led him astray. If one sticks with the Bible, that question doesn’t even arise. That problem is the byproduct of Calvinism and predestination, which are not biblical. He continues:

“But there are a lot of things I don’t know. I’ve said this so many times. I don’t even know how my own spiritual life works. I don’t! Look, Paul says in Galatians 2:20, I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I. He didn’t know either. He didn’t know! So you know if you have I asked you the question, who lives your spirit, who lives your Christian life, who lives your spiritual life, who is in charge of your spiritual life? Well some of us are going to rise and say, Well it is the Holy Spirit. I don’t really think you want to blame him! And if it is all the Holy Spirit, what are all the commands in the Bible about? And yet … you know, you must obey; and the Spirit must work; and it is the mystery of how that comes together. It is the same issue between the security of the believer held in the father’s hand, and the necessity of perseverance of faith, a persevering faith. It is the same issue that we have in the in the volitional aspects of salvation and in the sovereign aspects. There is a sort of a resolution in the center of that that is known only in the mind of God. But I will not resolve the problem of the lost any other way than to do what the scripture tells me to do, and that is that the Bible affirms to me that God loves the world, the specific people in the world, the specific human beings. I don’t know who they are. Spurgeon said, If you will pull up their shirts and show me an E stamped on their back, and I know the elect, I’ll limit my work to them. But since there is no such stamp, I am committed to obey the command to preach the gospel to every creature.”

The reason why the commandment is to preach the gospel to “every creature,” is that every creature is capable of being saved. That is why the “preaching” has two effects: it not only saves those who believe (and repent); it also damns those who don’t. That is why the responsibility is to preach the gospel to everyone, not just to the “elect”. If the gospel was only preached to the “elect,” the rest would have an excuse. They would say on judgement day, “We never heard!” “Nobody told us!” Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). If they never heard the word of God, they would have an excuse for not believing. That is why the “elect” are not “predestined”. The “elect” become the “elect” by their own choice—by hearing, believing, and repenting. That is why there is no “E” stamp on anyone’s back. No one is “predestined” to be the elect. All have the ability to be, if they would believe and repent. It is their choice. That is why the gospel is preached to everyone, so that the “unbelievers” (by their own choice) are left without excuse—while the “believers” (by their own choice) are saved. The fact that God knows ahead of time who will believe and who won’t (and “elects” them accordingly), does not make them “predestined”. He continues:

“And I can say to them that the love of God has been expressed through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, and you will know and experience that love if you put your faith in Him.”

Unless they are among “reprobate” rather than the “elect,” in which case they are out of luck before they start, according to Calvinism! He continues:

“And if you don’t do that, you’ll perish in your sins; and Jesus said, You will perish in your sins because you believe not on me.”

Unless they are among the “elect,” in which case they won’t have to worry about that, and he will be wasting his time! He continues:

“I am very comfortable to just take the biblical aspect; but I don’t think it is a good solution to diminish the nature of the atonement, and have Jesus dying for everybody.”

What “diminishes the nature of the Atonement” is to say that Jesus didn’t die for everybody, when the Bible says that he did. That is the greatest “diminution” of the Atonement that has been invented so far. He continues:

“If you say that he paid in full the penalty for all the sins of all the world, then what does anybody doing in hell?”

Because the Atonement saves people on condition of repentance. There is no scripture that says that the Atonement saves people unconditionally. Faith and repentance are necessary prerequisites. And repentance is a volitional act. We decide whether to repent or not; God doesn’t do it for us. And repentance is made possible by the Atonement. If there had been no Atonement, no one would be saved, with or without repentance. The Atonement brings about the condition of repentance, which makes it possible for people to repent and be saved. But the choice is theirs.

The reason why he thinks that a universal Atonement would necessitate a universal salvation is because his theology is based on predestination. The will of the creature plays no part in his salvation or damnation. All has been predestined and predetermined by God beforehand. God has predetermined who will be saved and who will be damned, and there is nothing that anybody can do to change that. And God has only atoned for the sins of the “elect” who are “predestined” to be saved. Under those criteria, a universal or unlimited Atonement would necessitate a universal salvation. The only trouble with that is that it is not biblical. Predestination is a damnable heresy. There is no other way to describe it. It is false. He continues:

“That is double jeopardy. That doesn’t work.”

Why? He needs to explain that. He continues:

“So people don’t want to say that, so they say, Well, he died a potentially saving death. In that sense he died for nobody in particular, and everybody in general; and the sinner who is depraved is the one who activates the potential atonement. Well that is impossible.”

People “don’t want to say” what? And what is “impossible”? He died for everyone in general, and everyone in particular. There is no sense of the term in which he didn’t “die for everyone”. The Bible places conditions for salvation and redemption. It is not unconditional. That is written all over the Bible. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven …” (Matt. 7:21–22). “… they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life …” (John 5:29). The list is endless. The Bible does not teach Calvinism. Calvinism and the Bible are diametrically opposed. Calvinism is abhorrent to everything that is taught in the Bible. He continues:

“So I just don’t want to find the answer to the dilemma of the death of Christ by diminishing the nature of the atonement.”

He has already diminished the nature of the Atonement by denying its universality and unlimited nature. He continues:

“It is a real death for those who died in him. That is what the text says. ‘I lay down my life for my sheep,’ and we looked at that.”

There are two answers to that. Firstly, a primary rule of sound biblical exegesis is that you don’t take a verse in isolation. You examine it in the context of other biblical passages that have a bearing on the same subject; and there are many more verses in the Bible that teach an unambiguous universal or unlimited Atonement, such as these:

Secondly, although Jesus’ Atonement is unlimited and universal, only those benefit from it who will believe and repent—whom he calls his “sheep”. The rest don’t. Therefore when he says that he “lays down his life for his sheep,” that is a rhetorical way of acknowledging his sheep. It does not mean that the Atonement was limited to his sheep. He continues:

“So it is a good question to answer because you guys want to be very careful in the tensions that are in this; and it flows through every major doctrine in Scripture that connects the sinner with God.”

The “tension” only exists when you believe in his false theology. There is no “tension” in the biblical narrative. He continues:

“You don’t want to resolve that tension by asking philosophical questions. You always want to live in that tension by being obedient to Scripture, okay?”

That is his way of saying, “Don’t ask hard questions which challenges my false theology which I don’t have answers to!” He continues:

“But I do feel your pain because I don’t have an answer to all those questions; and I’m at times profoundly exercised over the non-resolution, because I like to find the resolution to things.”

That is his “pain,” not my pain. And the cause of his pain is his false theology. The Bible does have an answer to those questions; it is his false theology that stands in the way. Ditch that, and his “pain” will disappear fast. At this point the interviewer asks him this question:

“But the issue on why witness, you wouldn’t suggest bringing up the discussion of the limitations of the atonement in a witnessing context?”

To this he replies:

“I think we have to be careful of what we say. I think there are unlimited benefits tied into the atonement. You can show in the New Testament that you know the expression of God’s love in the atonement is the expression of the same love that is demonstrated in common grace. He rains, you know, on the just and the unjust. There is common grace, there is a kindness of God; there is even a salvation of God, demonstrating in the temporal way. He is the Savior of all men, temporally, physically, in this sense that the world is full of sinners who aren’t dead. What is that? That God is saying to them, You don’t get what you deserve, when you deserve it; that is my nature. So that demonstration is there for them to see temporarily.”

I see! So those who are predestined to be damned should still be grateful to God because he did not damn them fast enough! How very generous of God! I am sure those who are predestined to be damned will be very appreciative of God’s generosity and goodness towards them. LOL! What a joke. He continues:

“But especially of those who believe, he is the Savior of them not temporarily and not physically, but eternally and spiritually. But he puts his saving nature on display even in the gospel offer, and in common grace, and in the withholding of judgment. And so I think we can say to sinners that God is merciful, and God is compassionate, and God calls you to repent, and calls you to believe, and he has offered his son as a sacrifice for those who do, and that is the way I would say it.”

Unless they are predestined to be damned, and know that there is nothing that they can do to change it! I wonder what his answer will be to Acts 10:34–35: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

“A New Apostle!”—R.C. Sproul

In a message board in which I occasionally post, my attention was drawn to a podcast in the “Renewing Your Mind” series on the Ligonier website called “A New Apostle” seen above, in which RC Sproul tries to argue that there cannot be any true Apostles today in the biblical sense, because no one today meets the criteria. But the argument he brings in support of that is a hypocritical one. At first he says that there are three criteria that need to be met before one can legitimately claim to be an Apostle, which he says none of the modern “claimants” to that office now possess. Then he proceeds to admit that Paul was a true Apostle who also did not fulfill that criteria—which invalidates the earlier claim. Then he continues with his original claim which he has just invalidated as if nothing had happened. LOL! He is kidding, right? That simply exposes the hypocrisy and dishonesty of his argument. If his argument is valid, then Paul was not a true Apostle either. If, however, Paul was a true Apostle, then his argument against modern Apostles by the same token becomes invalid. He is exercising sleight of hand. He knows that the story of Paul would invalidate his argument, so he tries to pre-empt that by telling us about it ahead of time in the hope of forestalling that objection before it is made! He thinks that people are stupid and can’t see though that. Well, Evangelicals and Calvinists may be, but nobody else is.

Now that does not mean that there may not be many false claims to the apostolic office today. That may very well be the case. But just because there are false Apostles today, it does not follow that there cannot be true ones; just as the existence of false prophets today does not mean that there cannot be true ones. But his argument that there cannot be true Apostles today is invalidated by his own logic, which makes it both hypocritical and dishonest. As an aside, he may have also overlooked the following verses:

Ephesians 4:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

In these verses the office of Apostle is listed along side the other offices as required for the ministry of the Church. You can’t argue that the office of Apostle was abolished, but the rest of them remained. That would be an arbitrary assumption without any scriptural validation. Why pick on the offices of Apostle and prophet, but not on the offices of evangelist, pastor, or teacher? Either all of them were done away, or none of them were done away. The scripture says that all of them are required “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. You can’t arbitrarily pick the ones you like, and leave out the ones you don’t. And notice that they are listed in the order of importance. The most important offices come first, and the less important ones come last. You can’t cut out the most important offices, and leave the less important ones remaining. You either cut out all of them, or keep all of them—unless, of course, you have lost the most important ones, and have no way of getting them back!

Actually, they have lost all of the offices, and have no way of getting them back. The reason why they have kept the lesser officers (in name) is because they are easy to fake; but the offices of Apostle and prophet are not so easy to fake; so the solution is to deny them altogether. The truth of course is that all of the ecclesiastical officers mentioned in Ephesians 4:11–13 require divine appointment and authorization. The original ones were called and ordained, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, by the original Apostles, who had the legitimate authority from God (see 1 Tim. 4:14). Where there are no genuine Apostles, there cannot be genuine evangelists, pastors, or teachers either, because there is no one with proper authority to appoint and ordain them. The authority was lost when the original church apostatized, which authority has now been restored in the LDS Church.

Also, the Apostle Paul was almost certainly called to succeed James, who was put to death by Herod. There is no historical data that suggests that the latter came before the former, contrary to RC Sproul’s claim.

That podcast, by the way, is an abridged and jumbled up version of an earlier talk he gave, the full version of which be found here.


After I had posted the above message, it was brought to my attention that in his original lecture RC Sproul had not attempted to “pre-empt” the challenge of Paul’s conversion; but that his original lecture had been poorly edited for the purpose of the “Renewing Your Mind” podcast that made it look like that! Therefore my accusation of dishonesty on his part was unjustified. After listening carefully to his original lecture, I came to the conclusion that that was a valid observation. That is not how it had been in his original lecture. Those who had edited it for the podcast had done him a disservice by making it look like that. The bits that were edited out occur in the following passage, with the cut-out bits highlighted:

“There is a reason why three times in the book of Acts Paul’s call to be an Apostle is recited as we will look at when that occurs in the text, when Christ himself directly and immediately calls Paul to be an Apostle. But even then—you see, that is why people say today, ‘Hey, Paul got to be an Apostle without being part of the entourage of Jesus during his earthly ministry; Paul got to be an Apostle without being an eyewitness of the resurrection; why can’t I? Why can’t Benny Hinn be an Apostle?’ People claim all the time that they have the credentials of an Apostle today because God called them, or God spoke to them; and God said, ‘You can be my Apostle to this generation.’ But even when Paul did not have the first two of the criteria, he was instructed to go back to the Jerusalem to be confirmed in that office by those about whom there was no doubt of the fullness of their credentials. You see, I can say I have a call to be an Apostle today; but there is nobody left to confirm me. That is why the early church by the end of the first century, the sub-apostolic fathers clearly understood the difference between their authority in the church, and the authority of the original Apostles; because after the last Apostle died there were still teachers, there were ministers, there were preachers, there were evangelists, but no more Apostles.”

So I take back the accusation of dishonesty. That was not his original intent. The cut-out bits distort what he had originally said. Those who had edited his lecture for the purpose of the podcast had done him a disservice. They had made him look more dishonest than he is! But the rest of the criticisms that I had made of his main argument, that there cannot be any true Apostles today because no one can fulfill the necessary requirements, are still valid. Just as Paul was able to fulfill the requirements, so can people today, when they are properly called and appointed by Jesus Christ as Paul had been.

But to briefly comment on the above passage, however, it is not correct to say that Paul had not fulfilled the second criterion for being an Apostle by not being an “eyewitness” of Christ’s resurrection. He was an eyewitness, although not at the same time as the original Apostles; but he was still an eyewitness, because Jesus appeared to him more than once after his resurrection. The “timing” is not important. Anyone who has the experience of Jesus appearing to him after his resurrection, is an eyewitness of his resurrection, it makes no difference when that happens. If Jesus appeared to me tomorrow, I can claim to be an eyewitness of his resurrection, even though it is 2,000 years afterwards.

As far as the legitimacy of the apostolic claims of people living in our time is concerned, I can only vouch for the LDS claims, not anybody else’s. There is only one true Church on earth today that has true prophets and Apostles, and that is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nobody else does. And they got their authority originally by a revelation to Joseph Smith, and subsequently by succession to the present day. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received their ordination under the hand of Peter, James, and John, who appeared to them as resurrected beings and ordained them; and they in turn ordained others. Since then the office has continued in the Church by succession. Since the authority already existed in the Church to ordain new Apostles, it could be perpetuated indefinitely without the need for a new ordination by a special revelation from heaven. That is how we have true Apostles today. And they have the same authority that the original Apostles had; no difference.

Monday, June 26, 2017

“Predestination” and “Faith-alone”—the Twin Pillars of Calvinism

Calvinism may have five “points,” but it actually has two pillars on which it rests: they are predestination, and justification by faith alone without works. Demolish these two, and you have destroyed Calvinism forever—which is not at all difficult to do. Both concepts are deeply unbiblical and heretical, and can be easily disproved with reference to the Bible, as I have already demonstrated in my previous posts. Every verse and every passage in the Bible which directly or indirectly exhorts mankind to do good and refrain from evil, with the promise of a reward or punishment, in this world or the next, is a verdict against both predestination and faith-aloneand there are hundreds of them. Every one of them is a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. When Isaiah says:

Isaiah 1: 

19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

That is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. When Jesus says, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5), that is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. When Jesus mourns over Jerusalem and says: 

Matthew 23:

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

That is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. The whole of the Sermon on the Mount is a verdict against predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. Every verse in the Bible that says that mankind will be judged according to their “works” (John 5:28–29; Rom. 2:6; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17; Rev. 20:12–13; Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12), is a verdict against both predestination and faith-alone, and a nail in the coffin of Calvinism. The whole of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, from the beginning to the end, from Genesis to Revelation, is a verdict against predestination and faith-alone, and a nail (hundreds of nails in fact) in the coffin of Calvinism.

There is actually a third pillar that holds up Calvinism; but it is an invisible one; and it is not theological. The third pillar is dishonesty, deception, hypocrisy, subterfuge, aggression, and guile. Those are the pillars that hold up Calvinism. Demolish those, and you have destroyed Calvinism for good—which is an easy thing to do.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Why We Can Choose God!

I came across the above video clip, recently published by Ligonier Ministries, and taken from an older teaching material by RC Sproul, in which he discusses the doctrine of freewill from a Reformed or Calvinistic point of view. The title of the clip is, “Why We Can’t Choose God”. I think, however, that we can choose God! And I will be happy to show him how. The video contains the typical Calvinistic theological errors dealing with the subject of freewill. The video, plus a written transcript of it can also be seen on the Ligonier website hereBut the transcript appears to have been taken from YouTube’s automatic transcription algorithm without proper editing, and therefore contains a number of errors that I had to correct. It is a short video clip, so I will quote the entire transcript as I discuss it. This is what he says:

“I was interviewed yesterday for a series of programs that were being presented about Reformed theology, and the person who was running this program asked me what the basic issue was between Augustinian theology or Reformed theology and historic semi-Pelagianism? I said I think it comes down to a different understanding of freedom and of freewill. I think the principle problem that people have with divine sovereignty, with divine election, is immediately they say, ‘Well, we believe that man has freewill.’ Well, I don’t know any Augustinian in all of church history who didn’t strongly affirm that we have freewill. We are volitional creatures. God has given us minds and hearts, and He has given us wills. And we exercise that will all the time. We make choices every minute of the day, and we choose what we want. We choose freely. Nobody’s coercing us, putting a gun to our head—we’re not robots. Robots don’t have minds. Robots don’t have wills. Robots don’t have hearts. We’re human beings. We make choices.”

That is a disingenuous, if not less than honest statement. The Calvinistic idea of “freewill” is nothing more than a pretense. It is a fake freewill. It pretends to be freewill, when it isn’t. The Calvinistic idea of freewill (as articulated by RC Sproul himself; see my most recent previous posts) is that people are free to make choices; but their choices are driven by, and hence limited to, those which they have an “inclination” towards—which is another way of saying that they don’t really have a choice! There are two kinds of choices that people can make: moral choices and a-moral choices. Moral choices are those which have moral implication: they are either “right” or “wrong”. A-moral choices don’t have moral implications​, such as which tie I should wear when I go to work this morning. This discussion is about moral choices. RC Sproul’s argument amounts to saying that people are incapable of making moral choices. The choices they make are determined by their “inclination” towards that choice, rather than based on a moral judgement of the “rights” and “wrongs” of the case—which is another way of saying that they don’t have a choice at all. They don’t have a moral compass which tells them which choice is morally “right” and which is morally “wrong,” and decide for themselves which one to take on that basis. They​ go by whichever choice they are “inclined” towards. That amounts​ to a denial of moral agency of the creature altogether. It means that they are incapable of acting as free moral agents—which is a complete negation of “freewill,” and contrary to both experience as well as the teachings of the Bible.

Calvinists are not honest in the presentation of their theology. They try to paint a respectable picture of it by hiding its true character. The truth is that in Calvinism there is no freewill at all, not even of the a-moral kind! It is predestination and predetermination all the way through. Its tenets demand absolute predestination at the most basic level. That is what Calvinist theology inevitably leads to when carried to its logical conclusion. The Calvinistic doctrine of “divine sovereignty” and “divine election” necessitate predestination of the most extreme kind. RC Sproul knows this, but he doesn’t want to admit it. He wants to sugarcoat it to make it more palatable rather than present it in its true colors. He continues:

“That’s why we’re in trouble with God, because the choices that we make in our fallen condition are sinful choices. We choose according to our desires which are only wicked continuously, the Bible tells us; and that we are as it were dead in sin and trespasses, even though biologically we are very much alive. And we are walking according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air—fulfilling the lusts of the flesh is what the Bible tells us.”

That is what Calvinism teaches, but not what the Bible teaches. What the Bible teaches is very different from what Calvinism teaches. This is what the Bible teaches:

Romans 2:

6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law [i.e. pagans, unbelievers, like the Greeks and Romans of his day], do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another;)
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Galatians 6:

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Acts 10:

34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation [and religion] he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

That does not square with Calvinism which RC Sproul is articulating. It is a complete negation of it. He continues:

“And so the Bible makes it very clear that we are actively involved in making choices for which we are responsible, and which expose us to the judgment of God. And yet at the same time, the Bible teaches us that we are enslaved. We are free from coercion, but we don’t have what Augustine called “royal liberty.” We are not free from ourselves. We’re not free from our own sinful inclinations, and our sinful appetites, and our sinful desires. We’re slaves to our sinful impulses. That’s what the Bible teaches us again, and again, and again.”

That is what Calvinism teaches “again, and again, and again,” not the Bible. Confusing Calvinism with the Bible is not a good​ idea. He continues:

“The humanist doctrine of freewill, the pagan view of freewill, says that man is free not only from coercion, but man is free in the sense that his will is indifferent. It has no predisposition, or inclination, bias, or bent towards sin because the pagan and the humanist deny the radical character of the fall.”

That is just a slander against those who have a different theological perspective from him. He is basically saying, “If you disagree with me theologically, you are a humanist or a pagan!” Not so! I don’t have to be a humanist or a pagan to disagree with his false theology. I don’t know what the “pagan” or “humanist” doctrine of freewill is, and I am not interested either. What I do know, and is obvious to see, is that If you strip the slander out of that statement, what you are left with is a statement that says: “Mankind are fallen, therefore they are incapable of making right moral choices.” If that was true, nobody in the world would be making any right moral choices—yet we know that they do. The majority of mankind for the most part are making right moral choices. If that statement was true, Rom. 2:6–16; Gal. 6:7–10; Acts 10:34–35 could never be true; yet the Bible says that it is true. James says, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) To sin, you must know that you are sinning. You must sin wilfully. If you don’t know that you are sinning, then you are not sinning. If you don’t know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and choose the wrong, then you are not sinning. That is what James says.

All mankind are endowed by their Creator with a moral compass which enables them to discern good from evil, right from wrong, moral choice from immoral choice; and which makes them accountable before God for the choices that they make. It is the “light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9). If that were not the case, they could not act as free moral agents, nor could they be held accountable before God for the decisions that they make. Their ability to make right moral choices can be impaired by their upbringing, or by their cultural environment. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). But it cannot be completely lost. In general, most mankind have a basic understanding of right and wrong which enables them to act as free moral agents, and which makes them accountable before God for the choices that they make. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (see Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31; Mark 12:31). That is known as the “Golden Rule” that everyone instinctively understands; a variation of which exists in every major culture and religion. He continues:

“But the Bible teaches us that we are fallen creatures who still choose and make decisions, but we make them in the context of our prison of sin. And the only way we can get out of that prison is if God sets us free.”

That is not true. The Bible belies that statement. It is a negation of Rom. 2:6–16; Gal. 6:7–10; Acts 10:34–35, and of everything else that is taught in the Bible. If that statement was true, nobody would be making right moral choices. Throughout the Bible, however, mankind are enjoined to do good and refrain from evil, with the assurance that God is “no respecter of persons,” and that he will judge everyone on an equal basis according to their “works”: “they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5: 29). That is written all over the Bible. The underlying implication of that is that mankind are capable of making such moral choices, otherwise the exhortations become hypocritical and deceitful, and make out God to be a dishonest hypocrite. Calvinists have to disregard 99% of the Bible in order to arrive at their heretical false theology based on a few misconstrued passages of Paul.

Going back to the title of the video clip, however: “Why We Can’t Choose God,” I think we need to examine some biblical passages with reference to that:

Acts 17:

26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

That “seeking” (choosing), and “finding” is available to everyone without exception. No one is exempted or excluded. There is no “partiality” with God. He does not have any “favorites”. He is “no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35). But seeking and choosing God is not something​ that happens in a vacuum. There has to be some preliminary introductions. Before you get to know somebody, you normally have to be introduced:

Romans​ 10:

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent?

To be “sent” in verse 15 means sent directly by God. Nobody “sends” himself. No one “taketh this honor unto himself” (Heb. 5:4). There are no “self-appointed” ministries​ here. Those who are thus ordained and “sent” from God speak with power and authority from God, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth of their message. That instils faith and conviction in the hearts of those who hear—unless they choose to “harden their hearts” (Heb. 3:8). But the choice is entirely theirs. There is no coercion, compulsion, or predestination. And everyone can choose God. There is absolutely no bar to anyone “choosing God”. It is the abominable heresy of Calvinism which says that nobody can “choose God” unless God makes them to.

Calvinism is the greatest perversion of the gospel that has ever been invented since Christianity came into existence. It is Satanic. It leads to utter ruin and damnation of anyone who goes anywhere near it—unless they repent of the evil, and never go back to it again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Problem of Evil Revisited—Part II

Continuing from where we left off in the previous post, he says:

“The second part of the question has to do with the origin of evil, and how evil could intrude into a universe created by a God who is altogether holy, altogether righteous; and not only is this universe created by such a God, it is also governed and ruled by such a God. And if this God is holy, and if he is righteous, how in the world can he tolerate so much evil in it?”

I have difficulty with his nebulous use of the language here. What does he mean by “universe”? The universe is a pretty big place. This earth is a speck of dust compared to the rest of the universe. What does he know about what is going on in the Andromeda Galaxy, or the Sombrero Galaxy, or any of the other 200 billion galaxies that are out there in the observable universe? He doesn’t even know what is going on in the other side of our own galaxy, never mind in the rest of the universe. It is a bit presumptuous of him to assume that his knowledge and experience of this world makes him an authority on what is happening in the rest of the “universe”. He continues:

“The origin of evil has been called the Achilles heel of Christianity; …” 

That is a somewhat sloppy use of language. The phrase “origin of evil” can have two different meanings. It can either mean how the very idea or concept of “evil” came into existence; or it can refer to how the practice, perpetration, implementation, or commission of evil entered into the world. Those are two different concepts, and need to be separated. The context of his talk suggests that he is actually referring to the second concept, rather than the first; whereas the first is the more fundamental one, which I have already discussed here. He continues:

“Now sometimes as Christians we fail to feel the weight of that problem. The philosopher John Stuart Mill put it this way: The presence of evil makes the very existence of God problematic, because in the Christian view of God we say that on the one hand God is omnipotent, he possesses all power. On the other hand we say that God is loving and good. And Mill looks at the pain, and the sorrow, and the suffering, and the moral evil in this world; and he said, Wait a minute, these two ideas, the goodness of God and the omnipotence of God, in light of the reality of evil, cannot logically cohere or co-exist. His argument is this: if God is all-powerful, and has the power to create a universe without evil; or has the power to rid the universe of evil; and any given moment—if he has the power to do it, and he doesn’t do it, then he is not good, or he is not loving; because what kind of being who has omnipotent power could stand by and observe the pain the suffering and wickedness in a universe of his own creation, and not eliminate it? It can’t be good! If on the other hand God is good, and God is loving, and wants to get rid of evil, that brings so much of blemish to his creation, like the BP oil spill that everybody recognizes is a disaster, and God would see it as a disaster, and he would love to see it cleaned up, but he doesn’t have the power to do it—so do you see, one way or the other, God is either not good, or he is not all-powerful.”

This is also a question that I have already answered more than once in my previous posts; and it is by no means the hardest of the two questions. The reason why he finds it so hard to answer is because he is too stuck in “predestination” and “faith-alone” of Calvinism. If he would rid his mind of that baggage, and with a slight theological adjustment, it becomes easy to answer. He continues:

“Now I think there is an adequate answer to that question, and it is one God willing I will try to provide for you in the minutes that are left in this consideration; but before I go any further to answer the question of where evil came from, I have to give my short answer to the question, my down and dirty answer the question: Where did evil come from? And my answer is this, I don’t know! So maybe it is time for me to just sit down and shut up. But what I want to do in the time remaining is to tell you why I don’t know.”

Well, he has come to the right place to find out. I will be happy to give him the answer free of charge! He continues:

“Forty years ago I was giving a lecture on this subject back in Pittsburgh, and in the audience was my mentor Dr John Gerstner; and he heard me say on that occasion these things: I said I don’t know how to explain the origin of evil; and what else I can tell you is that I am sure that in this world I will never be able to answer that question. I don’t know of any philosopher or theologian who has answered it adequately, at least to satisfy my mind; and I am sure I am not going to go beyond the insights of Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, and the rest who have wrestled with this. When I was finished, my mentor took me aside and he was somewhat pained, and visibly irritated with me. And I said, What’s the matter? And he said, What’s the matter is your arrogance! I said, My arrogance? What did I do? He said, You told these people that you didn’t know where evil came from, and that you couldn’t explain the problem, and that is fine; but you are only thirty years old, and you assume that you have already reached the saturation point [of] all the knowledge that you ever acquire in your lifetime. How do you know RC Sproul that you won’t be able to solve this problem tomorrow? I said, Because Aquinas couldn’t do it, and Augustine couldn’t do it, and Edwards couldn’t do it, and you can’t do it, and these guys are so much more intelligent than I am. I am trying to tell you I don’t think there is much likelihood that I am going to solve a conundrum that they were unable to resolve. Well again he rebuked me for my arrogance, and assuming that I had already reached the pinnacle of my own knowledge, and that maybe someday I would be able to answer the question. Well, to defend the remarks that I made forty years ago, I still don’t know the answer to this question, and not for a lack of trying.”

Like I said, he has come to the right place to find out. The advice that John Gerstner failed to give him at that time was, “Ask, and it shall be given” (Matt. 7:7–11); or, as the Book of Mormon says it, “He that diligently seeketh shall find” (1 Nephi 10:19). The answer to all of these difficult theological questions have been right in front of his nose in the Book of Mormon, and in other revealed scriptures of Latter-day Saints for all these many years; but he has lacked the faith to seek for and find them. He continues:

“What this question demands philosophically and theologically is an adequate theodicy. For how many of you is the word theodicy a new word, a word that you would have difficulty defining? Thank you. Okay, we are going to learn a new word today, the word theodicy. … is a word that comes from a combination of two very important biblical words: there is the word theos, which is the New Testament word for God; and then there is the word dikaios, which is the New Testament word for justice or righteousness; a form of which is the word dikaiosuné, which is the New Testament word for justification. What a theodicy is, is an intellectual, reasoned defense of God for the problem of evil in the universe. So in other words, it is an attempt to answer the critique of John Stuart Mill and others, and to justify God for this problem of evil. I don’t know how many theodicies I have studied in my lifetime—quite a few of them. I have yet to find one completely satisfying to my own brain. In a few minutes I will provide the theodicy which I think comes the closest to solving the problem that I have ever seen, but still lacks final resolution.”

Well, I will be happy to give him the perfect “theodicy” that gives him the perfect answer to that question, so he doesn’t need to look elsewhere. As I have already mentioned, there are two separate issues or questions inherent in this that he fails to differentiate. The first question is, Where did the very idea or concept of “evil” come from? Who created or invented it in the first place? The second question is, Why did God allow the implementation, practice, or perpetration of evil to enter into his creation? The first question is the more fundamental one, to which he basically gives the wrong answer. The correct answer to the first question is actually God! When God created or invented the concept of “good,” he could have only done so in contrast with the concept of “evil,” because one concept cannot exist apart from the other, or except in contrast with the other. That is what he (along with other Christian theologians) has failed to grasp.

The second question is actually the easier of the two, for which he admits he doesn’t have a good answer—and I do! Evil has to exist in our present condition because that is the only way that man can have moral agency, or freewill. If God intervened to stop people from doing anything wrong every time somebody was going to, then they wouldn’t be free agents. They wouldn’t have moral agency. To be free moral agents, they must be allowed to make wrong choices as well as right ones. But that only applies to this brief period of mortality. After that we enter an eternal state in which that condition no longer applies. This brief period of mortality in which we now live is a testing ground to see who will be faithful and obedient to the will of God. In order for that to be possible, mankind have to be free to make wrong choices as well as right ones. And for that freedom to exist, they need to have the two option presented to them, hence the need for the temptations of the devil:

D&C 29:

39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.

The devil persuades them to do evil, while God persuades them to do good. Which side they go, is entirely their choice. There is no compulsion. When they make the wrong choice, then evil enters into the world. But they have the choice.

It is no good asking, Why do they make the wrong choice? The answer is, for the same reason that they make the right choice. It is because they have the choice. It is a real choice. If they made their choices based on some “inclination” which they were powerless to resist (as he claims), then it wouldn’t be a choice at all, and God would not be justified in holding them accountable. It is a real choice, and they are accountable for it. Then he continues:

“Now I don’t want to exaggerate, but my estimate is, and I don’t think this is hyperbole—Vesta could confirm it, you could ask her—at least it seems to me that about once a month, maybe it is not quite that frequently, but it seems to me that about once a month I get a letter from somebody out there who has solved the problem of the origin of evil, and they want to run it by me; and I have to answer these letters as politely and nicely as I know how, when I want to say, This is Amateur Night folks! And I don’t think you feel the weight of the problem, because the answers that I find in these letters that are addressed to me—and I do appreciate that people struggle with this question, and are trying to come up with answers—but it seems to me that the answers I hear again and again are not just simple, but they are simplistic. They don’t really see the depth of the problem. And of course, the most common answer I receive is that the origin of evil has to be located in human freewill.”

In a certain sense they are actually right—and he is wrong! They may not have fully comprehended all the ramifications of the argument, or thought their way through it; but “freewill” has a lot to do with it. Their instincts lead them to the right thinking, although they may not have fully thought through all the ramifications of it, or be able to fully articulate it. The reason why he can’t see it is because he is lumbered with the false theology of Calvinism which beclouds his thinking, and which in the back of his mind he is constantly trying to justify. He continues (emphasis added):

“And of course we all understand that the one who brings evil into the world, moral evil, is man, Adam and Eve, or before that the devil; and both of those personages were exercising the faculty of choosing, in which they have been endowed by their creator; and that they have made choices the result of which are evil. And so … what’s the problem? We answer this problem with the free will of man. Sin came into being because Adam or Eve or both of them freely decided to disobey God, just as Lucifer when he was a good angel was transformed into an evil, fallen angel when he exercised his free will by choosing to disobey God. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not denying that those choices were made, and I am not denying that they were evil choices. What I am saying is that they don’t solve the problem, because we know this, that before a choice can be made, prior to the choices being made, there has to be some kind of moral inclination; and if you examine it as carefully for example as Jonathan Edwards did in his classic work on the freedom of the will, Edwards comes to the conclusion that the only way you can account for an evil choice is by having an evil inclination or disposition to that choice—manifest that Adam and Eve’s choice was evil, and … and they chose it according to their will, and that is also true of Satan. But the question is, Where did their prior disposition come from? What was it that inclined Adam and Eve to disobey God?”

He makes two fundamental errors here. The first is that he (along with Christian theologians in general) has completely failed to grasp the theology of the Fall, as already discussed here. The second mistake he makes is in his conclusion (from Jonathan Edwards apparently) that, “the only way you can account for an evil choice is by having an evil inclination or disposition towards that choice.” I haven’t read Jonathan Edwards’ book; but I don’t think I need to read it in order to recognize the fallacy of that argument (which I have already discussed here).

Let us suppose someone is an alcoholic. He is addicted to consuming alcohol, getting drunk, and making life a misery for his family and everybody else around. Then he comes to his senses, decides that that is not the right way to live, seeks counselling, makes the effort, overcomes his addiction, and becomes a sober and nice guy from now on. First, that is a good example of repentance. That is what it means to repent. Secondly, it means that just because we have an “inclination” to do something wrong, that we have to succumb to that inclination. We have the choice (and power) not to. That is what it means to have a choice. If we were powerless to go against an evil inclination, then we wouldn’t have a choice. His argument is self-contradictory. On the one hand he likes to say that people have a choice. On the other hand he says that people make decisions based on the inclination they have towards that choice, which implies that they don’t really have a choice! He can’t have it both ways. Either people have a choice or they don’t. You can’t say that they have a choice, but that they are irresistibly bound by their inclination towards that choice. If that be the case, then they don’t have a choice at all. That is the negation of a choice. He wants to have his cake and eat it. He wants to give us a choice with one hand, and take it away with the other. The Bible tells us that we do have a choice—a real choice. Experience also tells us that we have a real choice. Calvinism, on the other hand, wants to tell us that we don’t! He pretends to give people a choice, when in reality it denies it. It is a deceptive choice. It is deceptive theology. It is a charade. It is not a choice at all. He continues (emphasis added):

“Now part of Roman Catholic theology is to struggle with this question, and talk about the doctrine of concupiscence. You may have heard of concupiscence, and Rome defines concupiscence in this manner: that concupiscence is of sin, and inclines to sin, but is not sin. Well in one respect I think that is right, that it is not an actual sin of disobedience in terms of the outward action; but that which is of sin, and inclines to sin is sinful; and so a being who has a desire to do something evil, before he chooses to do that evil, is already fallen before he makes the choice. Do you see that? That is the point that so many people miss. When they say, Oh, well, it was all because of the free choice of Adam and Eve. But the question is, why did these creatures who were made in the image of God, and who were made good, choose to disobey Him?”

The first thing that he needs to do is to cut Adam and Eve out of it, because he has got that story completely wrong. Secondly, experiencing a desire or inclination to sin is not itself a sin. It becomes a sin only if it is carried into action—otherwise it is just a temptation to sin. Experiencing the temptation to sin is not itself a sin. If the temptation to sin was itself a sin, then Jesus was a sinner, because he was “in all points tempted like as we are” (Heb. 4:15). But the ultimate question he is asking is, Why do people make wrong choices? The answer is, For the same reason that they make right choices—because they have the choice. People don’t always make wrong choices. More often than not, they make right choices. If people made wrong choices more often than right choices, the world would have been destroyed several times over by now. The reason why it hasn’t been, and even prospers, and civilization keeps improving and getting better, is because most people most of the time are making right choices. 

People make wrong choices because they are tempted by the devil, and yield to that temptation. They make right choices because they are persuaded by that Spirit which “giveth light to every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9); and follow the moral norms of right and wrong that exist in every society. If the temptation of the devil didn’t exist, the choice to sin wouldn’t exist either, and nobody would sin. Suffering and evil enters into the world because people make wrong choices. God allows them to make wrong choices because to do otherwise would deprive them of their moral agency. But they will be held accountable for their actions in the day of judgement (unless they repent). That is the simple and easy answer to that question that he (and every other Christian theologian apparently) has not been able to find an answer to. He continues:

“Well if you say [the choice was made] for no reason, that there was no prior inclination, no prior desire or disposition, then you have described a choice that is not a moral action at all. You have denied the moral agency of the creature when you say, he does it arbitrarily.”

The truth is the exact opposite of what he is stating here. It is not an arbitrary decision. It is a real choice. They are “moral agents” precisely because they are not obliged to follow their “inclinations,” but can resist and act against it if their moral judgement tells them that it is not the right thing to do. If they were powerless to resist their “inclinations” (or to know better), that would indicate lack of “moral agency of the creature,” or an inability to act as moral agents. His argument turns the true doctrine on its head. Then he embarks on a lengthy discussion in which he reiterates mostly what he has said before, which I will skip until we get to this point:

“You know, the Swiss theologian Karl Barth called the problem of evil the unmögliche möglichkeit, the ‘impossible possibility,’ which is a contradictory statement. It is a nonsense statement. Well, in that case Barth was not just merely practicing his favorite tool of dialectical thinking, or the use of paradox to make a point; he understood that evil had to be possible, or it couldn’t have happened. But we cannot find any way in which it was possible. It seems at least on the outside that was impossible, and yet it happened, and that is why he calls it an impossible possible; and that is his way as a theologian to throw up his hands and say, I give up! I don’t know! Dr Gerstner would have said to Dr Barth, You haven’t died yet Karl; don’t give up so easily, or you are surrendering to the same arrogance that this kid in Pittsburgh has suffered from.”

Well, I think I have already demonstrated that it is not such an “impossible” possibility. To briefly recap on what I have already said, there are two questions here: (1) Where did the concept or idea of evil come from? And (2) How did the evil enter into God’s creation, which he had pronounced to be “good”? The concept or idea of evil came from God! In the day that God pronounced all things that he had created to be “good,” he could have only done so in contrast with the idea or concept of “evil,” because one concept is a necessary prerequisite for the existence of the other. At the same time that God created or invented the idea or concept of “good,” he also created or invented the idea or concept of “evil,” because one concept cannot exist, or have meaning, except in contrast with the other. Evil has no meaning except in contrast with good; and likewise, good has no meaning except in contrast with evil. It is impossible to conceive of one apart from the other.

The answer to the second question is, Evil entered into God’s creation in the day that God gave man freewill, and allowed Satan to tempt them. Some choose to do evil rather than good (or some choose to repent and some don’t), and that is how evil has entered, and continues to enter into the world.

In answer to the question of why men choose to do evil at all―in the first place? The answer is, For the same reason that they choose to do good—because they have the choice. Calvinism likes to tell us that they don’t really have a choice. RC Sproul wants to give them their freewill with one hand, and take it away with the other. He wants to tell us that they have a choice, but in reality they don’t, so he obfuscates it. He argues that they have a choice, but their “choice” is irresistibly arrived at by their “inclination” towards that choice―which amounts to saying that they don’t really have a choice. It is a negation of a choice. If their “choices” are irresistibly determined by their “inclination” towards that choice, which they are powerless to go against, then it is not a choice. A real choice exists only when they are able to go against an “inclination” towards a particular choice, because their moral compass tells them that that might not be the right thing to do. Calvinism is inherently dishonest. It is impossible to be a Calvinist and maintain your integrity at the same time. You have to be deceptive in order to preserve it. Skipping several more paragraphs of his talk, however, we come to the following:

“Evil is not good, but it is good that there is evil, otherwise it wouldn’t be in a universe ruled by a perfect God. God has his purpose for the entrance of evil into this world; and in a certain sense, as Augustine said centuries ago, God even ordained that evil come into the world. If he did not ordained it, it wouldn’t be here, because evil has no power to overcome the sovereign providential government of this universe.”

He has come close to the truth, but he hasn’t managed to quite get there. God has not “ordained” evil. He has not “ordained” that there should be evil in the world. What he has ordained is that mankind should be free to choose good and evil for themselves; and he has also ordained that Satan should tempt them in order to provide them with that alternative choice. If the temptations of the devil did not exist, men would not have that alternative choice, and therefore would not be “free” to choose good or evil for themselves—and no one would sin. It is the wrong exercise of that choice that is the cause of evil entering into the world. However since God is sovereign, and also omnipotent and omniscient, and knows the end from the beginning, he is able to make use of or direct that evil so as to make it work towards his own righteous ends—without at the same time infringing on man’s freewill. He continues:

“Now the the favorite verse that is annually voted by evangelical Christians as people’s favorite verse in the Bible, is Romans 8:28: ‘all things work together for good for those who love the Lord, and who are called according to his purpose’. Now unless God has sovereign power over evil, he will not be able to keep that promise. That promise that we cling to, that promise we rely on, that promise that encourages us, that no matter how many bad things we suffer in this world—it is not that God is saying that those bad things are good things; but he is saying that they are working for good. I am using it ultimately for good. Unless God has the power over good and evil, he can’t make that promise. Do you see that?”

That is right of course, subject to the provisos mentioned above. He continues:

“And so for purposes I don’t know, and I don’t understand, God as Augustine qualified, in a certain sense ordained that evil come into this world—not naively, so that you may experience the difference between good and evil. My daddy used to say, you don’t have to live in a garbage can to know that it stinks; but for a redemptive purpose.”

His daddy was wrong! That is in fact one of the consequences or rationale for the existence of suffering and evil in the world. If Jesus had to “learn obedience by the things that he suffered” (Heb. 5:8); and was “made perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2: 10); what makes him think that we can do without? Does he think that he is smarter than Jesus, or can do something that Jesus couldn’t do? If Jesus couldn’t be “perfected” or “learn obedience” without being exposed to the pains and sufferings of this world, it is unlikely that we would be able to either. If Jesus couldn’t be “perfected” without experiencing this “garbage can,” chances are that we won’t be able to either. For the remainder of his talk he doesn’t say anything that has not already been addressed, therefore no further comment is needed.