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Friday, December 17, 2010

Response to Roger Olson: A More Biblical Analogy

Roger Olson has offered a challenge to Calvinists in this post: A Good Analagy to the ULI of TULIP.
In answer to his question: "Which scenario better fits the biblical data, our understanding of God’s character, and our sense of justice?" . . . I'd have to say, "Neither." 
The distorted Calvinistic scenario Olson borrows from William Klein reinforces my suspicion that even the most irenic Arminians really don't "get" Calvinism. Which reinforces my suspicion that real, Biblical Calvinism can only be grasped by revelation, not mere human reasoning. Fundamental to Olson's misconception is the fact that mankind did not merely put himself in a position to become spiritually dead through the fall - no, man killed himself through his transgression. Spiritual death is not something that is going to happen to sinful man; it is something that already has happened to Him. "For on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die."
Here is an alternative scenario with a more accurate Calvinism, complete with the "reversified" names:
1. The people now known as Srennis were once infinitely blessed by their Lord and Maker, Rotaerc, and enjoyed splendid fellowship with Him. For reasons no one can fathom, they decided to rebel against Him. As a result, they went insane and committed suicide, one and all alike.

2. Rotaerc loves the Srennis greatly, but He respects their freely made choice to kill themselves out of their sheer irrational hatred for Him.

3. Rotaerc sends a miracle-working Hero named Susej to the Srennis. The Hero raises 40% of them from the dead. As they awaken, they are at first deeply ashamed of their inexcusible rebellion and wish only to die again. But the Hero's assistant, Tirips, assures every one of them individually that Susej has paid an immeasurable price for their transgression, and they are fully forgiven. Then, as Tirips whispers reassuringly to them, they raise their heads with delight to look upon the Hero's luminous countenance and find rest for their hearts in His grace-filled eyes. They are so grateful and captivated that they never take their eyes off of the Hero again.

4. In their peripheral vision, the Srennis can still see the carnage around them, and each one realizes he could have been - and by any just measure should have been - left dead like the others. The Hero looks upon the Srennis with deep compassion and tells them not to fear, for they are His chosen and His beloved. Each one marvels that the Hero has chosen to bring him to life, and is mystified as to why he would be the undeserving recipient of such amazing kindness. And the Hero gives the Srennis a new name: Srennis-Devas!

5.  Through His assistant, Tirips, the Hero reveals the wonders of Rotaerc's undying love, and promises to lead the Srennis-Devas back to Him.  They follow the Hero onto a huge, brightly gleaming boat made of pure polished diamonds, provided by Rotaerc Himself. Susej takes them away to a new land where there is no possibility of rebellion or the horrible results it brings. As they travel, the Srennis-Devas remember how Susej looked with pity even on the dead, and how Tirips whispered to all of the dead and offered them water, even though they remained stone cold and unresponsive. Only 40% of the boat's capacity is filled, and some say they can hear the unmistakable sound of weeping from within the Captain's quarters.

6. The Srennis-Devas arrive safely in Rotaerc's land and rejoice with Him forever, basking in the glorious glow of their beloved Hero and Lord - His Son Susej - and enjoying blessed fellowship with Tirips the Holy. Although they do not know why Susej left many of their brothers dead, the Srennis-Devas do not accuse Him of injustice. Rather, they fall down breathless before His goodness and enduringly trust in His pure justice and mercy.

As is the case with all analogies, this one is not perfectly accurate and has limits. However, it's a sight better, more Biblical, more fitting to the concept of justice, and more like the character of God than the ones offered in Dr. Olson's blog post. Wouldn't you say so?


  1. Which reinforces my suspicion that real, Biblical Calvinism can only be grasped by revelation, not mere human reasoning.

    Amen to that!

  2. We might add also that the downfall of Biblical Calvinism, and a sure path toward hyper-Calvinism, is the over confident exaltation of human reasoning to the neglect of Scriptural balance. Calvin saw this danger, Spurgeon saw it, and even A.W. Pink came to see it. Those who didn't see it have forged some cold strains of Calvinism.

  3. I left comments at Roger's blog but they are in moderation. I'll leave them here also for your consideration.

    “Tirips whispered to all of the dead and offered them water, even though they remained stone cold and unresponsive”

    This action by Tirips is only play-acting. Tirips did the same for the Srennis-Devas but also gave them life. The whispering and water-offering to the others but doing nothing else does not demonstrate any kind of “love” for the world but only a cruel dangling mockery of what “love” truly offers.

    And apparently the whispering of Tirips is resistible and ineffective.

    “Only 40% of the boat’s capacity is filled, and some say they can hear the unmistakable sound of weeping from within the Captain’s quarters.”

    Why would there be weeping, the boat’s capacity is supposedly exactly what Rotaerc wanted it to be? Why would Susej weep over the perfect enacting of Rotaerc’s will? His intentions were carried out perfectly to the exact measure of salvation’s glory desired. Instead there should be rejoicing over those in the boat and rejoicing that the dead were left in their death on the land.

    p.s. loved the video below

    David Rogers (Not Adrian Rogers' son)

  4. David,

    Thanks for commenting, and I'm glad you enjoyed the video.

    To answer your question about irresistible grace: bear in mind that Calvinists teach grace is irresistible only for the elect. When grace is offered to the non-elect, they resist it. There is an indiscriminate offer of saving mercy from God to all, but only the elect respond by repenting and believing the Gospel. These are some of the paradoxes implicit in Historic Moderate Calvinism.

    Regarding your other questions, which admittedly follow a certain line of logic, Calvin's comments on Psalm 81:13 are instructive in two ways. First, they back most elements included in my illustration; and second, they predict and answer the logical objections you have raised. The quote is lengthy, but notice the way Calvin warns repeatedly against drawing some of the apparently logical conclusions you hint at:

    Isaiah 81:13 "Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways!"

    "If it is objected, that God in vain and without ground utters this complaint, since it was in his power to bend the stiff necks of the people, and that, when he was not pleased to do this, he had no reason to compare himself to a man deeply grieved; I answer, that he very properly makes use of this style of speaking on our account, that we may seek for the procuring cause of our misery nowhere but in ourselves. We must here beware of mingling together things which are totally different as widely different from each other as heaven is distant from the earth. God, in coming down to us by his word, and addressing his invitations to all men without exception, disappoints nobody. All who sincerely come to him are received, and find from actual experience that they were not called in vain. At the same time, we are to trace to the fountain of the secret electing purpose of God this difference, that the word enters into the heart of some, while others only hear the sound of it. And yet there is no inconsistency in his complaining, as it were, with tears, of our folly when we do not obey him.

    In the invitations which he addresses to us by the external word, he shows himself to be a father; and why may he not also be understood as still representing himself under the image of a father in using this form of complaint? In Ezekiel 18:32, he declares with the strictest regard to truth, 'I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,' provided in the interpretation of the passage we candidly and dispassionately take into view the whole scope of it. God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner: How? Because he would have all men turned to himself. But it is abundantly evident, that men by their own free-will cannot turn to God, until he first change their stony hearts into hearts of flesh: yea, this renovation, as Augustine judiciously observes, is a work surpassing that of the creation itself.

    Now what hinders God from bending and framing the hearts of all men equally in submission to him? Here modesty and sobriety must be observed, that instead of presuming to intrude into his incomprehensible decrees, we may rest contented with the revelation which he has made of his will in his word. There is the justest ground for saying that he wills the salvation of those to whom that language is addressed, (Isaiah 21:12,) 'Come unto me, and be ye converted.'"

    I have disucussed some related issues in a series about the Free Offer of the Gospel, and also a series about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, both of which may be found on this blog (see the "Article Series" tab at the top of the page if you're interested).

    Thanks again for the thought provoking comments and questions.


  5. I appreciate the lengthy response. I am interested in the Reformed responses, I just do not find them sufficient and, honestly, I think they are less than biblical. However, I do want to understand the way Calvinists see things and so appreciate your provision of responses.

    Blessings upon you and yours in this Season of Incarnation Celebration,

    David Rogers

  6. Derek,

    Since the boat is only filled to 40 percent capacity, does that imply provision was made for all (unlimited atonement)?

  7. Don,

    You are very perceptive. We might call that little detail an analogy of the phrase, "sufficient for all" - though obviously efficient for the elect only.


  8. Derek,

    Though there maybe others, you're the first person I know of who proclaim the 5 solas and is a 4 point Calvinist.

  9. Don,

    I wouldn't identify myself as a 4-pointer, but at one point I called myself a 4.5-pointer. That was before I looked at Calvin's own statements on the subject and the development of particular redemption/unlimited atonement by some of the Westminster divines and certain Puritans - especially Richard Baxter - then also later theologians like Dabney, Shedd and others. Now I self-identify as a 5 point Calvinist with paradoxes on some of the points (making them a little less sharp and "pointy," and hopefully more reflective of Scripture).

    I would guess, though, that Amyraut himself held to the 5 solas, and I think self-identified 4-pointers like Randy Alcorn and Bruce Ware also hold to them. In fact, to the best of my knowledge Arminians believe in the 5 solas, too.



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