23rd Apr, 2008

Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism and the 3 Friends of Job

I just have to wonder if all the time we spend trying to understand the whys of God,His work in this world, the free will of man, and the “problem” of evil, is much ado about nothing and more akin to us being the philosophizing friends of Job. At the end of the day I think we can – and must – rest in the cross of Christ rather than trying to proclaim to the world that we have a perfect understanding of the work of God.

One man says, “God is sovereign and controls all,” and can find great scriptural support for his claims. Another says, “God is sovereign but in His sovereignty He gives man sovereignty over his own will, having created man in His own image, and allows man to choose his own way.” And, she can find scriptural support for her ideas. Another person says, “God is sovereign but He can only know what is knowable and, as such, God doesn’t know the future or what choices we will make. God dynamically interacts with the choices we make in an infinitely incredible way.” And, we can find scriptural support for such ideas.

At the end of the day, the cross puts all this to rest, does it not? At the cross you have both judgment and mercy, two seemingly irreconcilable attributes, displayed in one act. At the cross you have death and life in one act. At the cross you have a consuming fire and living water in one act. At the cross you have God choosing to lay down His life and raising it again. At the cross one could even say you have the Father’s will, but not Jesus’ will, and yet the cross represents Jesus’ willingness and obedience simultaneously, even though willingness and obedience seem contrary.

Why do we continue to argue and divide over such matters? Don’t we remember how often God tells us that His ways are higher than our own? That His mind is different than our own? That we weren’t there when He created everything? That He made us? That we are the clay and that He is the potter? That He is? That all consists in Him, including us? Isn’t “such knowledge too wonderful for” us?

Since when can we fight and divide self-righteously over something like how God works in this world and interacts with us when He tells us absolutely to unite in the cross of Christ??? Who are we to disobey God because our minds don’t understand something about Him? Why aren’t we laying these things down and saying with Job: ” I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” Job 42:2-3. I pray that we don’t need Job’s circumstances to come to this conclusion.


i want you to know god orchestrated the timeliness of this post for me.
you’re totally right, those positions we may never fully understand and none of them change what god wants us to do- love god, love others, go and make disciples.
jesus said that our unity will show the world that he is who he said he is and that he was sent from god. that is of much greater importance!
great post as usual.

Thanks, Meredith, for letting me know. It is very encouraging and this is something I feel strongly about.

Good post. I’ve got my views on everything from armenianism vs calvanism to pre-trib rapture to post-trib rapture…

In the end though, regardless of our position, we all have the same commands from Christ. That is consistant regardless of our view on these other issues. I guess that’s why I tire so easily over endless theological debates, while the work of the Kingdom is left undone.

John Lunt’s last blog post..Updates on Jobs

“God doesn’t know the future”

I can surely love my brother who may believe this, but I must at the same time say it is a false teaching, and out side of Orthodoxy.

I do believe your post is a good one and one the Church needs to hear.

John, great call to us all – to be about the Kingdom and God’s plan and work!

Don, I too believe it to be wrong and have discussed this with brothers and sisters who would say “God doesn’t know the future” on several occasions. At the same time, I’ve seen the fruit and the godliness of people who believe this on the mission field and do not believe we should separate from someone for what may be a misunderstanding on their part of God’s workings in the world and God’s omniscience. All our dogmatism on these types of tertiary issues does is increase the dogmatism of those who disagree with us. We need to be so Christ-like that we always give the Holy Spirit plenty of room to work. He’ll do his job just fine.

Jesus could have spelled out how the sovereignty of God and the free will of man works while He was here but He didn’t. I see no reason why we think we have to do so now.

Heresy, like Open theism, can really cause someone to worship a fasle God, and they do teach against Scripture, some of the bigger names, like Sanders,Boyd, and Pinnock.

Pinnock said that Jesus wasn’t sure if He was really going to the Cross or not when praying in the Garden.
And they twist many verses of Scripture, like Jesus telling Peter he would deny Him 3 times.

God not knowing the future, and this making Him a more compassionate God is dangerous ground to tread.
But I believe these same men can surely be godly, and have passion for the Gospel, but there’s no knowing how this will turn out, even God won’t know till it happens. In fact, we could be right wth our guessing, and God could be wrong, and tremdously surprised, how we are brighter than He.

This is the God of open theism, and humanistic God, not the God of Scripture.

Greg Boyd has been refuted by many scholars, both Arminian and Calvinist together.

Thanks for letting me share my heart here.
Keep on.

Thank you for doing so, Don. But even men like Greg Boyd, who are saved sinners as are we, have incredible additions to the Body of Christ like Greg’s book on Repenting from Religion. And, many of these men preach the gospel of Jesus all over the world and men and women become followers of JEsus through their ministry. I hear you and, as I said, have discussed the problems of their thinking with them, but in love and in a way that points to scripture and the fact that they are often coming to their conclusions more out of fear that people will blame God for things.

Their fallacy in this is that they believe they need to defend God – I always say God can defend Himself just fine. They of course point to scriptures like the one where Abraham and God debate the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, or where Abraham is tested by God with regard to Isaac, and so they have “scriptural” bases for their views. But it is hard to take their conclusions down the path of most of the scripture or the traditional view of Who God Is.

Nevertheless, I will gladly work beside such believers to take the gospel of Christ to the world. I appreciate their sincere faith and belief that they must work alongside God obediently and willingly. They pray with great faith. One might say that it is faith in self, but I don’t believe so. I also think that one can even argue that their approach to God shows a greater faith in Him than the one that you and I share in a more “Calvinistic” God. It is because of one’s ability to so reason that I often find it is better to rest in the cross and in our trust in God than it is to argue about such. (That and our duty to unity in Jesus!)

Great post. That’s the beauty of the Deity, mystery. Would I really want to serve a God that I could understand 100% with my small finite mind. I have a feeling we’re going to hear alot of “oh’s” and “oops” when we get to heaven and begin to understand the ways of God.

Camel Rider’s last blog post..Getting unstuck from the moment

Thank you, Camel guy…. my heart grieves deeply when I enter into discussions with people who go to the mat over these issues. I feel hopeless for our unity and for the Body at times as the heat of arguments go up and as more denominations and local churches divide and fight.

“Since when can we fight and divide self-righteously over something like how God works in this world and interacts with us when He tells us absolutely to unite in the cross of Christ???”

You say this as if God’s Word tells us nothing about how He works in the world and interacts with us. These are huge factors in understanding Christ’s Gospel.

It is easy to take this tack whilst standing on 2000 years of Church history – 2000 years of martyrs’ blood. I wonder what kind of faith you and I would have if Athanasius or Augustine or Luther, or Paul for that matter, would have taken a laissez faire attitude toward Christian doctrine.

Unity and sound doctrine do not stand at odds with one another. Unity on the foundation of sound doctrine should be our aim.

God Bless

Jim B.’s last blog post..A Self-Inflicted Crisis?

Jim B.,

Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the brevity of my post, which may be why you write as you do. Although, even the aspect you question with your quotation follows the opening and primary paragraph where I say:

“I just have to wonder if all the time we spend trying to understand the whys of God,His work in this world, the free will of man, and the “problem” of evil, is much ado about nothing and more akin to us being the philosophizing friends of Job. At the end of the day I think we can – and must – rest in the cross of Christ rather than trying to proclaim to the world that we have a perfect understanding of the work of God.”

Please note the “I just have to wonder” and the “perfect understanding of the work of God.” And consider Psalm 103, Isaiah 55, Job 42, Psalm 131.

Please know that I said “how God works in this world” rather than the “sovereignty of God” because people have different definitions for the sovereignty of God – a loaded phrase and one that I didn’t think would be helpful to understanding unless I unpacked it. I would agree with you that we know that God works in the world, that God created the world, that God is ever present and holding all things together, and so much more. However, exactly how his mind works and how it impacts our wills isn’t spelled out in scripture – not in a way that our finite minds can understand in my opinion. In fact, that is why we’ve been arguing that point, biblically, for a couple thousand years. Don’t you think?

As to what kind of faith you and I would have… one would say that as faith comes from God we would have the same faith, especially if one were a Calvinist. But that is not what you mean by your sentence there.

You implicitly accuse me of being laissez faire toward doctrine. I am not nor did I intend to be read in that way. I would simply ask what you mean by doctrine.

So, what do you mean by doctrine?


I responded to your similar comment at my blog here:


“As to what kind of faith you and I would have… one would say that as faith comes from God we would have the same faith, especially if one were a Calvinist. But that is not what you mean by your sentence there.”

No, it wasn’t. While God certainly accomplishes all that He purposes to accomplish, He doesn’t do so in a vacuum. He uses means to reach His ends, and for 2000 years, He has used various “self-righteous dividers” to safeguard and persevere the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

I would reposit the question: What if Athanasius had taken your tack regarding doctrine and unity? After all, haven’t professing believers been arguing about and stumbling over the doctrine of the trinity for the last 2000 years?

God Bless

Jim B.’s last blog post..A Self-Inflicted Crisis?

I can’t respond to your question until I understand how you define doctrine, Jim. Please help me there and let me know.

I just saw where you provided a dictionary defintion of doctrine over at your site. Yes, I agree that the word means “teaching.” I suppose then the next question is, what was Jesus’ teaching? How did he teach His disciples?

I’m having a hard time having this conversation in two places at once. I’ve responded to you at my blog. If you wish to permanently move the conversation here, let me know.

Jim B.’s last blog post..Lakeland Revival & Roman Catholic Pilgrimages

I just came across your post while browsing. I think the arguments over calvinism and arminianism hinge on a misunderstanding of the eternal nature of God. When we ask “did God know I was going to repent and believe before I did so?” we are forgetting that God is eternal, not time-bound as we are. So the words ‘before’ and ‘after’ don’t apply to God. God is in the eternal present.
I do think the two positions need each other, though, if they are to avoid either indifference or having to re-write Scripture. Arminianism alone means I can decide to become a Christian any time I choose so I may as well have a good time as a sinner first! Calvinism alone means if I’m one of the elect the Hound of Heaven will get me sooner or later but if I’m not, there’s nothing I can do about it. Calvinism alone has to rewrite 2 Peter 3 9 as ‘God is not willing that all should perish but that the elect should come to repentance’. When Jesus says (John 15.16) ‘you did not choose me but I chose you’, Arminianism alone would need to say, ‘No, Lord, we did actually choose you… and we bet you’re glad we did!’
So election and free will is a paradox which we need to hold in tension and not slide into one extreme or the other.

John B., well said. I think each extreme is like riding a horse with a loose saddle and beginning to lean to the right or the left and the saddle keeps slipping until you eventually fall off. We need to rest in the paradox of Who God Is, and I think the answer lies in the Cross of Christ. That’s part of the glory of the Cross and the amazing God whom we serve!

Thank you for commenting and adding to the conversation.

I’d add that I think extreme Calvinism is no different than fatalism and Islamic beliefs about God. Extreme open theism is no different than making ourselves god.

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