Response to "The glory of God’s sovereign love"

This is a response to this blog entry

Good evening, I would like to respond to your blog entry. It is a rather lengthy response, so I ask that you bear with me as I try to go through several parts of your entry.

But could I see God in His sovereignty ordaining all of history, from beginning to end, ordaining every sin, every evil, all because in the end it resulted in bringing Him more “glory”?”


Emotional argument, not Scriptural. “Could I see God in His sovereignty ordaining all of history, from beginning to end”? Have you read Isaiah 46:9-10? “Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; [I am]God, and no one is like Me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will” (HCSB). If God does not ordain all of history, how is it that He can declare “from long ago what is not yet done”? If He declares all that is not yet come, and if His “plan will take place,” and He will do His will, does not it logically follow that all things ultimately function for His glory? Both good and evil?



Could evil have existed apart from God’s decree? (unless you’re an open theist and will grant creative power to something outside of God). What was Joseph’s reply to his brothers’ evil? “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (Genesis 50:20, HCSB). You will have to grant that the verse (and the context) clearly indicates God’s actually planning evil for His glory. Would not this fit with your desire for life to be preserved? After all, in this case, God’s planning evil actually ended up saving people’s lives. What if God had not planned the evil of Joseph’s brothers? How would the people of Israel have ended up becoming the slaves of Egypt? (which, by the way, was also ordained by God long before it happened and declared to Abraham long before Joseph even existed. Many Israelites died because of this slavery. According to your argumentation, if you were Abraham, you would have had to raise your fist against God and say “Now I see what satanic and twisted view is responsible for this disgrace, curse you  God! I will have nothing with a God who is declaring to me such suffering!”).



There is no room for evil in God’s “good.”…. “Was the sin of Adam and Eve part of God’s plan?” I asked my Calvinist friends. The response came without hesitation. “Yes, because it brought Him more glory in the end, because it made it possible for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.” So God took this perfect, innocent, man and woman and subjected them to the serpent’s deception, all because it brought him more “glory”? That thought made me sick! To me this belief is, by its very definition, satanic, because it involvedGod handing over His own precious, innocent children to Satan. As a father, I just could not imagine doing that to my own children.



And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, KJV).


If there is no room for evil in God’s “good,” why did the Father decree that the Son would be slain from before the foundation of the world for sinners?
Unless you’re an open theist and believe that God is not omniscient and that He is not omnipotent (if God did not decree evil then it came about by itself or was created by something or someone else. Does anyone apart from God have the power of creation or decree of the future?), then I can see how you would think that way. But the problem (for you) still remains: the Father decreed to crush His own Son to display His glory and bring sinners to His feet for forgiveness and praise of His name (by the way, according to your argumentation, you would have to be repulsed at that as well) before time began, before He created anything and everything, even before Adam and Eve existed.


“So God took this perfect, innocent, man and woman and subjected them to the serpent’s deception, all because it brought him more “glory”? That thought made me sick! To me this belief is, by its very definition, satanic, because it involvedGod handing over His own precious, innocent children to Satan. As a father, I just could not imagine doing that to my own children.



You give too much praise and credit to Adam and Eve. Firstly, they were creatures, and by definition they owed their everything to God: their “perfection,” and their “innocence,” belonged to God. Adam acted according to his desires, no one “forced” him to transgress against God’s law. At the same time, however, the plan of redemption was already set (Revelation 13:8), before Adam and Eve existed, so they were not even given a chance. After all, why, according to your argumentation, would you need the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world if Adam and Eve were perfect?


“As a father, I gain joy by seeing my children’s creativity, and especially by seeing them willingly obey me. If I must force them to obey, virtually all of the joy vanishes (though as a father, it is sometimes necessary for me to claim such “sovereignty” over my children). That means that they are often put into a position where they can choose not only to obey me, but they can also choose to disobey me. The possibility of rebellion is unavoidable. But without that possibility, there is no joy. There is no glory.



I will grant you that there are some parallels we can draw between human parent-son relationships and God-man relationship. However, you forget one very important fact in your analogy: both you and your children are sinners, whereas God is not a sinner, for He cannot sin, it is against His nature. With that said, Calvinism never denies that men have a will (you seem to be arguing that Calvinism denies man all will, but you fail to define the nature of that will in the post lapsarian era (after the Flood), we must define our terms when making conclusions). You give too much credit to man, and you seem also to be using the old “Robot” argument. For one, comparing man to robots is giving them way too much credit, allow me to show you what man is compared to in the Bible,


Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20-21, ESV).


We are compared to clay. If we were robots we would be given way too much power over God. Clay is a much better, more fitting, and more realistic analogy of what man is before an Almighty Sovereign God. This is coming from the lips of Paul himself, not me. I would advise that next time before you think of man so highly and so elevated you search the Scriptures to discover the Bible’s definition of man, the state of his will, and his standing before God.


With that said, I believe it is in order to define the nature of man’s will according to Scripture:


– is deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). 
– is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23). 
– loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19). 
– is unrighteous, does not understand, does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). 
– is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6). 
– is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). 
– is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). 
– cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). 
– is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:16-20).





It is God who:


– draws PEOPLES to Himself (John 6:44,65). 
– creates a clean heart (Psalm 51:10). 
– appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48). 
– works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29). 
– chooses who is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4). 
– chooses us for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13-14). 
– grants the act of believing (Phil. 1:29). 
– grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-26). 
– calls according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9). 
– causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3). 
– predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30). 
– predestines us to adoption (Eph. 1:5). 
– predestines us according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11). 
– makes us born again not by OUR will but by HIS will(John 1:12-13).



If you call God regenerating sinners who would otherwise have never obeyed or come to Him because of their nature and calling them to an effectual salvation contingent upon nothing but the good pleasure of God to make them alive in order for them to be able and willing to come to Him diabolic, satanic, twisted, sick, disgraceful, then I fear you may be worshipping a god made out of emotion and perverse humanism; at the same time you may be sculpting an image of man that presents him as innocent, willing, perfect, and able to come to Christ, when Biblically he is the total opposite.


Sir, I rejoice in the fact that, had Christ not broken into the door of my heart and dragged me to Him (the literal Greek in John 6:44), I would have never come to Him out of my own “free” will. I doubt that you would apply your same logic to a burning building with people inside: the building is crumbling down, but you cannot bring yourself to force them out, they must save themselves, correct? But what if there’s children caught in the fire? Or what if they are already unconscious? Surely you would snatch them out of the fire, would you not? Faith is not the precondition of divine initiative, divine initiative is the precondition of faith. According to John 6, we come to Christ because we were given by the Father unto the Son, and we were predestined, called, justified, and will be glorified, all the work of the Son to corpses that, left to themselves, would have remained rotten in their graves.


The only time God cannot be sovereign is when He chooses not to be. Jesus showed us that it is in His very nature to sovereignly choose to surrender His sovereignty(Philippians 2:6-8). This is part of the mystery of the Incarnation.



This part really scared me. “Jesus showed us that it is in His very nature to sovereignly choose to surrender His sovereignty (Philippians 2:6-8)”?? Forgive me, Mr. Palmquist, but this is outright heretical and disturbing. Philippians 2 never, in any way, shape or form, say that Christ surrendered His sovereignty. You are confusing the attributes that He stripped himself of. Furthermore, when you think of the fact that everything He did on this Earth was sovereignly planned by Him, to the minutest detail (place of birth, conditions of birth, name, virginity of earthly mother, performance of miracles, proclamation of the gospel of power, place and time of death by specific people, etc.), you’d be hard pressed to say He surrendered His sovereignty. What does Acts 4:27 say?


“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.


And,


I lay down my life for the sheep. AndI have other sheep that are not of this fold.I must bring them also, andthey will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock,one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me,becauseI lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”


To say that Christ can strip Himself of His sovereignty is the same thing as saying that God can choose not to be God.


When Calvinists reject John 3:16 and claim that the scriptural truth that “God is not willing that any should perish” (Matthew 18:14, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9,Ezekiel 18:23, etc.) only applies to the “Elect” this does violence to the very nature of the Gospel.

We don’t “reject” John 3:16, we embrace the whole context in order to better grasp verse 16. What we do reject is the audacity to use the Bible as a spell book to come to a definite unbiblical conclusion based on nothing but singled out verses. And that is what you did with Matthew 18:14, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, and Ezekiel 18:23. None of those verses, when seen in their rightful context, support your theory, they do the very opposite. Furthermore, when this violation to Scripture is done (singling out verses while consciously ignoring the context), that’s when violence is done “to the very nature of the Gospel.”


“Well, the label of “Calvinism” really doesn’t bother me (1 Corinthians 1:11-12notwithstanding) — what matters to me is Truth (primarily the Truth of God’s Word). I am particularly concerned about how that Truth relates to saving the innocent who are targeted for destruction by the devil.

Saving the “innocent.” Once more, Mr. Palmquist, you must remember what Romans 3 teaches, no one is innocent, no one is righteous, no, not one. Keep in mind that, if you wish to truly be consistent with your own literalistic hermeneutics, you must apply that here as well, no one, and that means no one, both Jews and Gentiles, are innocent. Furthermore, if you truly wish to find the Truth that relates to saving the guilty who are targeted for destruction primarily by themselves and God’s decree of Romans 9, then you must first have a Biblical understanding of the nature of man.

(For clarification, I don’t consider myself to be Arminian, although I would tend to agree with Arminians on this particular point. Calvinism and Arminianism are both structures man has imposed upon the Bible. Neither Calvinism’s TULIP nor the 5 points of Arminianism are enumerated in the Bible.)

Neither is the concept of the Trinity; neither is the fact that people go to the restroom to relieve themselves (therefore it doesn’t exist, correct?).

So if, as Piper outlines above, the choice is between emphasizing sovereignty or love, I ask “which does the Bible emphasize?” Here are a few scriptures which come to mind:
·         The First Commandment (“love God…”): Mark 12:29-30, Matthew 22:36-38·         The intimate fellowship God experienced in the Garden with Adam and Eve, who were naked and unashamed: Genesis 1:26-3:10·         God’s sovereign choice to let Adam name the animals, waiting “to see what he would call them”: Genesis 2:19·         “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”: James 4:8·         “…seek Me with all your heart…”: Jeremiah 29:13·         “I desire mercy and not sacrifice…”: Hosea 6:6·         “Mary has chosen what is better…”: Luke 10:42·         “…we cry out ‘Abba, Father’”: Romans 8:15·         “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”: John 14:15·         and of course 1 John 4:7-8:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.and 1 John 4:19:We love Him because He first loved us.”

So is God reduced to being only love? What is love without the concept of justice? What is love without the concept of wrath? What is love without the concept of hate? (all clearly “enumerated” in Scripture). For this I quote J.C. Ryle,

God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and broad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible, there is no God at all.”
Now this indeed would make great damage to the Gospel.

Yes, I believe that it is correct to focus upon God’s love instead of focusing on God’s sovereignty (not that it should need to be either-or, but as Piper outlines above, such a choice may sometimes be necessary). I believe that God’s Word is a Love Story, not a Dictator’s Diary.

Again, chop up God, and you’re left with no God at all. You have made it either/or with no Biblical support for taking such a stance. You cannot understand God’s love if you do not fully embrace His wrath and His justice and His election and reprobation; likewise, you cannot understand God’s wrath, justice, election, reprobation, etc., if you do not understand His love. Such a choice is not necessary or valid in this case. This is too serious to be played around with so arrogantly. How dare we chop up God’s nature? His attributes? How dare we reduce Him to what our human feelings and thoughts restrict Him to?

Which brings Him more glory: focusing on His sovereignty or focusing on His love?

Why either/or? Again, how will you understand His sovereignty if you do not understand His love (and His hate, and His justice, and His wrath, etc.) and viceversa? Why do you arbitrarily have to choose only sovereignty and love? Why not His hate, justice, wrath, and holiness? 
I pray that just as you passionately seek to defend the unborn (something I very much admire about you), you seek to put aside unbiblical conclusions and understanding that really do cause harm to the gospel and you seek to pursue what Paul called “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33) in order to have a right understanding of God and in order that you may be established in the faith.

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”  But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,  in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people, and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people, there they will be called ‘sons of the living God’” (Romans 9:14-27, ESV).

God bless you and have a great night. May we all strive to know our Lord and God Biblically and avoid trusting our hearts, which are “desperately wicked and beyond repair, who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).


 
Side note: These are some things I noticed that are irrelevant to the subject in discussion.
Generalizations:
The arrogance of a Calvinist friend in High School.
-There are many non-Calvinists who are likewise very arrogant. It is an evil both sides suffer from.
-Harold Camping.
-Camping has long ago renounced the true Reformed faith. It is dishonest to generalize and relate his teachings and his deception to true Reformed theology. Both are completely different.
-Pastor who believes in the damnation of some babies.
            -Congregation didn’t come to pray to 40 Days For Life.
-This is irrelevant because there are many Calvinists who believe that all babies will go to heaven, others that believe that all will go to hell, and yet others who say “we don’t know, we leave that to God’s perfect wisdom.” It is therefore very dishonest to generalize this to Calvinism per se, it makes no connection and it is irrelevant. There are many Arminians who believe that some babies will not go to heaven, would it be fair of me to say that they believe so because of their belief in free will? It would be the opposite, it would not be consistent with their belief in free will, it is not related, it is therefore irrelevant.
            -Members of his congregation having abortions.
                        -Same as above, irrelevant.
-John Piper’s understanding of God’s “two wills.”
-Many Calvinists would disagree with what seems as a semi-Arminian understanding on the part of Piper of verses like 2 Timothy 2:4. However, there is obviously a context to your quote from Piper, and it is thus dishonest to conclude that Calvinism is what Piper says. It is thus an irrelevant argument.
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