Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Three Good Reads in Reformed Theology

I've been enjoying these and finding them very beneficial.

#1 The first "good read" is this group of extended quotations from some leading theologians regarding the secret and revealed will of GodThis is direct source material, so you can get it from the proverbial horse's mouth. I like this bit from Calvin:
"In fine, give up all fondness for your puerile dilemma, for the Scriptures assure me of the secret will of God; asserting what I have learned from them I do speak of an ascertained truth; but because I do not reach so great a height, I reverently adore with fear and trembling what is too sublime for the angels themselves. Often therefore in my writings I admonish my readers, that on this subject nothing is better than a learned ignorance; for those rave like madmen who arrogate to know more about it than is fit."
And this one from Jonathan Edwards caught my attention:
"... all that own the being of a God own that he knows all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident, that if he knows all things beforehand, he either doth approve of them, or he doth not approve of them; that is, he either is willing they should be, or he is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be, is to decree them."
Apparently Edwards never met an open theist! God alone knows if Edwards will ever meet one in the future (think about it).


#2 A second "good read" is Paul Manata's Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and Reformed Theology - A Contemporary IntroductionLots of deep philosophical stuff here. Manata has a gift, and I am grateful that he uses it to advance good theology! He argues that Reformed Theology is, by definition, both deterministic and compatibilistic, and decidedly unaffirming of libertarian free will. It's all worth reading and considering, and well documented, too.


#3  The third "good read" is David Ponter's response to James Anderson's attempt to reconcile the Free Offer of the Gospel with a provisionally Limited Atonement using Newcomb's Paradox (see here and here). It's a deeply complicated argument, but worth thinking about. To me, this is a little bit like Gandalf vs. Saruman (I won't say which one is which). Although James Anderson is a personal hero for expounding so brilliantly on theological paradox, in this case I concur with Ponter (also a personal hero for expounding brilliantly on historic Moderate Calvinism) in his closing remarks:
"Anderson wants to argue that if a moderate Calvinist insists that limited atonement precludes a sincere offer, he must accept that election likewise precludes a sincere offer, for the same reasons. However, a proper rebuttal rejects the assumed univocal relationship between limited atonement and election in relation to the sincere offer, such that one can counter that limited atonement is incompatible with the free offer, while election is not. The only avenue Anderson can have, as I see it, is to attempt to claim that we should see election as equally incompatible with a sincere offer (given our assumptions?). But on what grounds could he suggest that? and does he really want to argue that in the first place? Perhaps Anderson might say both election and limited atonement bare a paradoxical relationship to the sincere offer. My reply would be limited atonement and the sincere free offer entail a contradiction (you cannot offer what you are not able to give), while election and the free offer entail a paradox (one offers, by revealed will, what one does not intend to give, by secret will). We would say we are warranted in rejecting the contradiction, while retaining the paradox. Anderson could only claim that one can indeed sincerely offer what one is not able to give."
The issues in these three "good reads" are tied together, and each of them has bearing on both hyper Calvinism and Arminianism (mind you, I'm not saying any of the people mentioned in this post are hyper Calvinists - far from it - only that the issues covered have direct bearing on refuting that error). To be balanced, I believe we must hold to the paradox of God's revealed and secret wills which are united perfectly in the glorious mystery of His eternal wisdom; we must hold to the paradox of compatibilism so that man is responsible for his actions under the total sovereignty of God; and we must hold to the Free Offer of the Gospel backed up by an infinitely powerful atonement, which, paradoxically, is not intended to save all people. Thank God it saves some!


  1. Hi Derek, thanks for the link. Here's the most up-to-date version, much cleaner than the version you posted

  2. Paul,

    The link is now updated. Thanks!



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