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!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Response to Scot McKnight Regarding Roger Olson's "5 Conundrums of Calvinism"

Scot McKnight, who says he abandoned Calvinism for an Anabaptist-flavored Pietism, recently posted and commented on Roger Olson's "5 Conundrums of Calvinism." McKnight makes this astounding claim:
"There are often better, non-Calvinist explanations, and the Calvinist appeal to conundrum, or antinomy, masks the illogic and fails to deal with the more adequate rational, logical answer of others. Divine determinism and meticulous providence create more problems for God’s character than they solve problems. Divine self-limitation and human free will are better, more rational explanations."
Really? Does McKnight truly think the Bible leaves those options open? I don't mean to be harsh, but one can only reach this conclusion by miniaturizing God, exalting man, and playing fast-and-loose with Scripture. It is better to have philosophical conundrums on our hands and remain uncompromising with Scripture than to construct pretend "explanations" of the Word of God using mere man-made speculation. I responded as follows:
First, It is obvious that God self-limits (however, His self-limiting - or condescension, divine humility, etc. - is itself an expression of His eternal glory). For a Calvinist, there is no problem in any of that. The major problem, in fact, is not that God self-limits, but that human beings self-exalt. For example, we magnify ourselves by imagining that we can devise better "logical" explanations for the philosophical conundrums created by the Bible rather than simply accepting God's own testimony and admitting we are limited in our logic, information and understanding. We don't particularly like God's testimony because it leaves a lot of holes and seems to create logical conflicts. Our rationalistic minds demand resolution; we don't want to live in the lowliness of our own limits, or the discomfort of mysteries and paradoxes. We easily commit the error of filling in the gaps with our own thoughts. However, because the contradictions themselves are only apparent, the resolutions we create are also only apparent. They are a mirage designed to make us feel better - but in reality we have solved nothing. There was nothing to solve because God never saw any conflict between the two sides we supposedly resolved (e.g. His meticulous sovereignty and our freedom of choice). In fact, if we "solved" the apparent problem by contradicting a single Biblical proposition, we only succeeded in creating a bigger problem for ourselves! 
Second, it is true that "explanations" have been devised which fill in the logical gaps left by the Bible. However, I daresay this has only been done at the expense of the Bible. There is no way to take ALL of the Bible at full face value without accepting a great deal of mystery and some degree of paradox or antinomy. We stand in great danger of overstepping whenever we begin to demand answers to questions God Himself has left unanswered. 
In conclusion, I remain a Calvinist because it is the only system I know of that allows me to give full credit to God's revelation in the Bible without delving presumptuously into the matters He has not revealed. At the same time, the Reformed system leaves me the freedom to explore philosophical matters with the understanding that I am only thinking the lowly thoughts of a man - so I can rest in God's wisdom even when I can't get it all figured out "logically." It teaches me to take my own thoughts less seriously, and God's thoughts with absolute confidence. If my system is criticized because it doesn't answer all of the questions to the satisfaction of a fallen human being, I can live with that. 
I believe any true Pietist can and should find such an arrangement refreshingly humbling. Pietists and Calvinists ought to be the best of friends. :)

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