In this episode Kurt speaks to Nate Taylor about the TULIP of Calvinism.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It’s a pleasure to be with you here yet again week after week exploring different topics and a number of different issues pertaining to one’s worldview and today’s topic is Calvinism, what is the TULIP? Calvinism is something that we’ve spoken on the show before. We’ve had an Arminian come on the show. We’ve had the traditional Southern Baptist position, that’s sort of explained, but we haven’t had a Calvinist come on to talk about Calvinism and so we’re going to be talking about that today, but before we get to the main topic of the show, I’ve just got I think one main announcement. Defenders Media has signed up with Mustard Seed. Mustard Seed is something that I only found out through social media actually, I saw a Facebook ad and looked into it. Chris. I know you’re familiar with the concept of people saving their spare change and then donating that spare change to a ministry that they might be interested in. I don’t know if your church does that.
Chris: Yeah. I do that from time to time.
Kurt: And our church does something for Carenet. What about your digital spare change? Everyone’s using cards now.
Kurt: Yes. So here this is ahead of the curb. Basically, Mustard Seed is an organization that will connect your bank account and round up your charges on your card, your debit or credit card. Let’s say your cup of coffee is $2.50. They will then round it up fifty cents and take that fifty cents and put it in a fund towards a ministry of your choice. Defenders Media has now set up with Mustard Seed so if you want to donate your spare change to Defenders Media, all you do is go to Mustardseedapp.org/Defenders and you can sign up to have your spare change come to our ministry, and for those of you who might be wondering how much money does that roughly come out to be, I think Mustard Seed says roughly on average it’s about $20, $22 maybe a month. That would just be a great way for you to support our ministry work we do not just here on the Podcast, but the support network that is Defenders. We’ve love to get your support and that url is mustardseedapp.org/defenders and I’ll put a link up on the Veracity Hill website and we’ll put that up at the Defenders web site as well. Before we jump into the main thrust of the program, if you want to join us in on that discussion, there’s a number of ways you can get in touch with us. You can give us a call. The number is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. You can also text the word VERACITY to the number 555-888. I will actually, I forgot to sign into that program, but I will do that right now, so if you want to text with me, you can do so. Alright. Good. Well, without further ado, let me get this program going here. Our guest today, this was something that a couple of people had brought up. They wondered when would we bring a Calvinist on to talk about Calvinism. It’s a topic I feel like I kind of know like the back of my hand so it’s a bit, I never felt like it was a weak point, should I say, on this, so if people ever had questions about it I think I could do it very well. Nevertheless, we would like to invite Nate Taylor who is the pastor of Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church in Utah on to the show. Nate. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Nate: Thanks for having me Kurt. It’s a blessing to be on here and to have a friendly and fun discussion with you.
Kurt: Yeah. For those of you wondering, Nate has a bachelor’s in theology from BIOLA University. He’s got an M. Div from Westminster Seminary in California, and an M.A. in philosophy of religion from Talbot School of Theology and for those of you wondering if maybe we’ve got some connection, I’m still trying to figure that out myself Nate. I went to BIOLA from ’06 to 2011. I don’t know if you were there at that time. When were you at BIOLA or Talbot?
Nate: I did my courses in Junior College to save money, but I was there at the time you were there and we actually had mutual friends. I had heard of you before I even talked to you even on Facebook and everything. We’ve had fun interactions and that sort of thing about God’s sovereignty and freedom and so on. I actually knew about you for about three years before even meeting you. Again, you’ve kind of amassed quite a reputation for yourself I guess I would say.
Kurt: I guess so. You did your online stuff, so when did you do your undergrad though because that probably wasn’t mostly online back then?
Nate: No. It wasn’t. I did it I think if memory serves and it usually doesn’t, I did it 2008-2010. I was there two years. Got in and out.
Kurt: So we did some overlap.
Nate: We did. I don’t know if I ever saw you on campus because I didn’t know about you then, but we did have mutual friends I went to Westminster with. Of course, Talbot as well to get my M.A. in philosophy there. We had mutual friends as well.
Kurt: Nice. That’s right. I know we’ve met online and had numerous discussions. I know you’re a sharp guy so I’m glad, especially, so someone like yourself who has studied philosophy, that’s something, philosophy was my undergrad, and I very much appreciate it who have studied theology have also studied philosophy and recognize the importance of thinking well and thinking critically in theological areas. I’m very glad that you’ve agreed to come on the show. Let’s get rolling here since there are five points, now let me ask you. Are you a five pointer or a four pointer?
Nate: If there were seven points, I would affirm all of them.
Nate: I’m kind of a, I guess you’d say, a classically reformed Calvinist. I not only hold to the five points of Calvinism, but I hold to.
Kurt: You ascribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Nate: Yeah. I would also hold the…God determines all events. He’s foreordained, I guess is the theological term, but in philosophy he’s determined all events and He is the causal source of human activity as well as impersonal events and so on so I would say, yeah, I’m a determinist and a compatibilist, so like I said if there were seven points I’d be a seven-point Calvinist, but alas there’s only five so I am a five-point Calvinist.
Kurt: For those wondering what is a seven-point Calvinist, Nate, feel free to correct me here, but at least the way I talk about seven-point Calvinism is I incorporate two letters, the O and the S, so I would say it’s OTULIPS. The O referring to Original Sin and the Reformed positions on that and there are some slight differences on the O, for example if you’re an Augustinian vs. a federal headship type of guy, so there are differences there. The S is the Strong upplay on the sovereignty of God. Sort of as you had just mentioned, that God’s sovereignty entails determinism. That can be sort of strong in a couple different ways as well.
Nate: Right. I would actually say I hold the TULIPS. The O is embedded in the T in the traditional confessions of the Reformed Faith, The Canons of Dordt for instance, and their condemnations and so on. Embedded in there would be Original Sin, the corruption, and Original Guilt, the imputation, or the transfer of Adam’s sinful act in the Garden of Eden. I would just be a TULIPS I guess, to use your terminology.
Kurt: Good. This is a good starting point then. The TULIP as many of you know is an English acronym. It wasn’t there when John Calvin lived and in fact at least the systemization of the points was a response to Jacob Arminius historically, but now of course it’s just popularly known as the TULIP and this is where the term, I mean Calvinism is a bit broader than the TULIP because of the various positions on divine providence or foreknowledge and different views of election, but essentially Calvinism is roughly synonymous with the TULIP. Is that a fair statement?
Nate: Well, some people get uptight. Right? Some people would say…purpose of discussion, so the way I’ve heard it in our contemporary discussion, that if you’re Reformed, you hold to at least one Reformed Confession whether it be the Westminster, The Heidelberg Catechism, but in just our linguistic framework and how we speak just today, people who are Calvinists can be Baptist, Pentecostal, in terms of holding to the TULIP, and so I guess you might want to say it might be near Calvinism, right, that the TULIP is, but the Calvinist system obviously originates from Calvinism and Beza and those thinkers and the Reformed scholastics and that’s a whole system of thought. It’s my belief and contention that if you take out one of those aspects of Reformed thought, then it ends up being an inconsistent system of thought, but that’s another discussion for another time as I’m sure you do.
Nate: But roughly I would say yes.
Kurt: And there are of course some fierce debates over the L being the big one there on whether the four-pointer or the five-pointer, but I’m glad that we’ve got a five-pointer because now no one can tell me that we haven’t had a five-pointer represented yet on the show. So we’ve got the T and the T stands for Total Depravity. There are some Calvinists in my experience who, when I read Calvin I come across a number of passages that suggest not only Calvin but some other authors like Edwin Palmer, who suggests here that depravity refers to man, unregenerate humans, only doing what is evil and even if there is some appearance to goodness, that goodness is only a relative good and it’s not an objective good. I know some Calvinists would push against that and so I’d like to get your take on that.
Nate: Well, I would make a distinction between civic good or public good and spiritual good standing before a holy and righteous God. Romans 8 says those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 3 talks about no one being good, not even one. No one seeks after God. Jeremiah talks about the leopard and not being able to change its spot. So are those who do evil and so they have this complete inability apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit to perform any spiritually good action. That’s not to say that they can’t perform good actions like helping an old lady across the street, being nice to your neighbors, having friendly discussion and so on and so forth, but as Romans 1 says, they know that God exists and they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They know God and they self-deceive themselves I would say and so when someone does an action, take any action, helping an old lady, if it’s not done in reference to the greatest possible good, which is God, God the greatest possible being, and so He’s the greatest possible good, if you do an action in the face of and without any regards and indeed hatred towards the greatest good, it’s impossible for that action to be good I would say. I think that’s pretty intuitive to me that if it’s the greatest good and this action you perform is completely without regard and indeed in defiance against the greatest good which is God then I would say the action is obviously evil. Yeah.
Kurt: Okay. So let me take another example here. You’ve got a mother who feeds her children. Is that a truly objective good action or is that….?
Kurt: Go ahead.
Nate: I would say that a mother feeding her children does biological good and civic good, helps a family and helps society raising well-ordered children and protecting them is a civic good. I would say that it’s not as evil as say Hitler terminating six million Jews, right? So the Confession says, and I believe Scripture teaches, that obviously there are degrees of wickedness one can perform and that would be a very very small degree of wickedness and the reason why it would be wicked at all is because every action is done in defiance and again, the greatest good, and how can an action be good if it’s against the greatest good, seems kind of inconsistent, and in virtue of that I would say yeah.
Kurt: Yeah. So even though it’s a civic good, it’s a biological good, it’s still ultimately a small spiritual wicked action. Is that fair?
Nate: Yes. That’s right.
Kurt: Good. That’s the way I’ve understood it given my reading of Calvin and of Edwin Palmer’s book, The Five Points of Calvinism, I think it’s called. Great. I’m glad to see that I at least, personally, I don’t misunderstand the T and I think I’ve come across Calvinists who have misunderstood the T even.
Nate: Me too.
Kurt: There’s people that misunderstand their own positions across the board or across the spectrum. That’s not a point against Calvinists by any means. You mentioned a number of Bible passages. Long time listeners of the show will know that often times when you’re dealing with a controversy, there’s different ways to understand the passages in Scripture and sometimes it just boils down to interpretation. How does one interpret something? One passage you mentioned which is a big one on the T is Romans 3, there are none who do good, none that seek God. Do you think that, Paul’s quoting from there and how do you interpret him? I take him to be making a number, he’s taking a number of passages from the Old Testament and then formulating an argument from that and of course the way I understand his argument’s different. You take him here to sort of be, is he giving new meaning to these passages when he uses them? I’m trying to ask that in a fair way, cause at least the way Calvin, I actually wrote that he treats Paul as if Paul is using these words for the first time and sometimes we do see New Testament authors giving a new meaning to Old Testament phrases. You know, don’t muzzle an ox. Paul gives a new meaning to that elsewhere. What’s your take on that?
Nate: Right. Two things. I’ve read your take on this. It’s online and your interaction with Aaron Break and J. Warner Wallace on these issues. I read your interaction on that and my understanding of this text is that this text is not even very much difficult to give Acts 15, you have them reinterpreting or what seems to be reinterpreting or adding new meaning to a prophecy of Amos about rebuilding the tent of everything and being applies to the Gentiles. I have no problem with the New Testament authors interpreting the Old, but I think in this case, it’s a pretty easy way of handling this. I would take it to be about a condemnation on humanity being wicked and that these are taken from a number of Psalms and so on in which specific wicked men are mentioned. Right? In this case, I think Paul is saying that, taking the Psalm, and saying these wicked men are not just an accident, but this is a representation of wickedness in all humanity indeed and it’s kind of like the Sufjan Stevens song, John Wayne Gacy, and he talks about this heinous murdered, he says underneath the floorboards we’re all really just look like him. Look under the floorboards and see what I have hid. He’s saying in a sense the wickedness of John Wayne Gacy is present in all of our hearts. We think I think many times continually sinful thoughts, even the regenerate at times because…features that and so on and so forth. I think common sense teaches that, so I think that what Romans 3 to be more direct is just taking these as representative samples of the wickedness inside of all unregenerate human beings.
Kurt: And certainly I think in Romans 2 and in 3 Paul says, and this is a point against Christians, he says we do the same things and so I think that’s very interesting point on that. Alright. I’d love to keep going on this and of course there’s other passages we could look at and talk about, but for the sake of getting in all of the five points, let’s move along to the U, unconditional election. Tell me, what’s that about?
Nate: Yes. That’s probably the most offensive if you want my honest opinion. Offensiveness exists in the eye, the most offensive one, but I think they can be defended by philosophy and reason of course, I think all the Bible can, but I would say that this one is the unconditional election, there is no condition in you, no intrinsic feature of you, nothing about you, that made God choose you. The reasons for choosing you is extrinsic in the divine will and nature, so it’s God who has the basis for you, not for anything in you, but purely on God’s desires and greater good. It’s not arbitrary. That’s a misunderstanding. It’s not like sort of this voluntarist, willing picking and choosing. Not eeny meeny minie no, this one’s saved and this one’s not.
Kurt: In all my years of discussing Calvinism I have yet to have the Calvinist refer to the eeny meeny minie mo….
Nate: Right. Right. Sometimes I can be a character. I’m sorry.
Kurt: But you’re right. On Calvinism it’s not an arbitrary thing. There are reasons and correct me if I’m mistaken, someone like yourself would say that we don’t necessarily know what these reasons are. We aren’t in an epistemic place to know why. Perhaps it is because it maximizes God’s glory or something like that, but ultimately we can’t know. Is that fair?
Nate: I think so. I think it depends on how you want and go interpret the Scripture. I think for that you’d probably want to stick with the defense, but you can also give a theodicy for that kind of thing, which is an actual reasoned defense based on actual Scripture texts. People tend to do that in debating Calvinism and the problem of evil. You have people get something close to that. I would say it’s for God’s glory. I am okay with that, but you must ask further questions. How does it contribute to God’s glory and then you would kind of have the skeptical theist response at that point or perhaps other reasons depending on that. You might say God has a reason and we don’t know about it. I think that’s very fair Kurt. Something to mention at this point is that obviously just to contrast it with the Arminian position is not based on foreseeing or if you’re Boethian, or seeing faith. It’s not based on what you will or would do in the future. It’s based on God’s decision whether or not one will be going to glory or to hell basically and that’s basically how I would say it. I also would say that God saves, everybody when God saves them is in a state of condemnation, but God saves those out of that state of condemnation is the way I would put it. More I guess, less extreme view I guess.
Kurt: We’ve got a couple questions here from our Facebook livestream. Thank you to those that are tuning here on Facebook. It’s related to the U here. Kyle asks this question. He says, “I teach Christian worldview to high school students. Given the sovereignty of God and the concept of election, is it intellectually honest to tell a student it is their free choice that condemns people to hell for eternity.”?
Nate: Yes. I’m a compatibilist. I would say that’s very intellectually honest. Indeed, it’s what I would say so I hope it’s intellectually honest. You know? Yes. I believe in free will. Who could deny such a thing? It seems sort of obvious to me that we have free will. I, of course, hold to that. I hold to compatibilism, which is free will is compatible with predestination. Some people think, “Wow. You’ve got to be a nut to believe that.”: Actually, about 60% of philosophers hold that position. Most of them. Many of them work in action theory, so I’m not a nut for saying that. I know people who listen to a lot of Craig and stuff and a lot of Christian apologists may be shocked by that, but those are the numbers, I think it might be from 2005-6. I may be wrong. My memory’s not the best at times.
Kurt: I don’t know how carefully Kyle intended to craft his question. He does ask whether it’s their free choice that condemns. What sends people to hell? Maybe he means them to hell. Just exploring this point a bit further. What about unborn babies for example? What would be your view there? They haven’t made a free choice, but given inherited guilt, what do you think their eternal state would be?
Nate: I think the Scripture and plain reason teach that unborn babies, all of them, without exception, those are mentally handicapped and don’t have the cognitive faculties and so on all go to Heaven which actually is very high, because most births, 75%, so by my views 75% of people end up going to Heaven right there. I would base it on Deuteronomy 1. The children going into the land which is a type of Heaven according to Hebrews, on the basis they neither knew evil or good, that’s the basis for them entering the Promised Land and of course you have the classic text in 2 Samuel where you have David say he’s going to see his son again basically in Heaven. Paraphrasing, but that’s what it says. That’s how I would take that passage. You have these passages and you have God so loved the world. I don’t think it’s a few select people. I think it’s an overwhelming amount of people that will be in Heaven. After all, if God’s in control we would expect that sort of thing wouldn’t we? All these all and world phrases I think apply to the fact that a vast majority of human beings will be in Heaven and I’m a post-millennialist…
Kurt; That would explain that because generally speaking, and by generally I pretty much mean in my experience, Calvinists typically aren’t so optimistic about that. Would you agree that maybe you’re in the minority on that position?
Nate: In both Reformed circles and in Evangelical circles, you have people like, Ken Gentry’s a postmillenialist, and John MacArthur holds to infant salvation so it’s out there, and by the way John MacArthur’s book, I think it’s In The Hands of God, is just a terrific defense of infant salvation, the biblical basis for it. I find that book very helpful and very useful, but there’s numerous passages I think that suggest that basically. I would say it can be a minority view. I’ve not counted that, but I would say it’s out there and I’ve explained this in Reformed Churches and no one loses their mind. Yeah.
Kurt: They don’t burn you at the stake?
Nate: Not yet. Not yet.
Kurt: Funny. Alright. Let me take another question here from Ben online. He asks, “How can God be said to be loving if God could save every individual from a terrible fate through irresistible grace into a loving relationship with Him, but chooses not to?”
Nate: Oh. I see. We’re going after Irresistible Grace….
Kurt: It’s kind of a question to the U. Why doesn’t God choose everyone? So this is Amyraldianism historically. Right?
Nate: You could apply it both to irresistable grace, it’s kind of both the way you’re understanding it. I see. I see. I would say that there’s a general sense of love that God has for every human person and Matthew 5 says that. We’re to love others because we’re to emulate our Father in Heaven and that would presuppose that Father in Heaven loves everybody, but I would say that He does, but there are greater goods that need to be accomplished, so a fraction, a margin, a small minority of individuals end up in Hell for God’s intertrinitarian love for Himself. Love is not just directed towards humanity, but God’s multi-personal love toward each other for maximalization of glory and indeed justice and hatred towards evil, or I could just say, I could just say that God has a good reason for sending these individuals to Hell that we don’t know about that is consistent and justifiable with His love toward him.
Kurt: Alright. Well Ben, if you’ve got a follow-up you can write below there in the little Livestream. Let’s keep moving along here. Actually, I’m looking at the time though and we’ve got to take a break Nate so when we come back we will touch on the rest of the TULIP, the three, or four if you’re holding to the seven-point. Stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt:Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. I am here with Nate Taylor and we are talking about Calvinism, the five points of the TULIP, and during the first half of the show we were able to make it through two, the T and the U, but Nate, let’s take a moment now and talk about the L, especially because this is not only a point of contention among Calvinists, but this is actually where personally I hold to half of a point. This is the only half of the point that I find myself in agreement with in the TULIP. This is also one of the reasons why because, at least classical Arminians would affirm the T, would affirm the total depravity, and insofar as I disagree with them and a couple other issues I don’t call myself an Arminian. I guess that makes me like a hodgepodge, but I don’t consider myself the buffet style theologian.
Kurt: I’ve got my points and I think they’re coherent and connected. At any rate, we’ve got the L, Limited Atonement. Explain to us why is this a point of contention even amongst Calvinists?
Nate: I would call them an Amyraldian because it’s from Amyraut, a French Protestant and so Amyraldianism is the four points. I guess it’s a TUIP. That’s sort of how it goes, particular redemption, limited atonement. I prefer particular redemption or if you’re a postmillenialist and believe in infant salvation, it’s not so limited is it? It’s very vast. But nonetheless, Jesus died specifically for His sheep, for the elect, for His bride, as it says in Ephesians 5, that He died exclusively for His bride, the church, and husbands are to lay down their life for their wife, not any other woman but for their wife, and so Jesus lays down His life exclusively and only for the elect, for His sheep. That’s basically the limited or particular redemption viewpoint and so obviously, it can be offensive to people who said Jesus died for every single individual. Judas, Hitler, so on. People say the atonement is for them and I would say it’s not. That would be basically the view and it gets people’s feathers ruffled, but I think there’s ample Biblical support and indeed theological support given the nature of substitutionary atonement where Jesus takes Hell in their place. Does He take Hell for everyone? No one’s going to Hell, but Matthew 25 says that there will be those who go to eternal punishment in Hell. That would be basically a quick summary of it.
Kurt: Yeah. And I want to thank you for the quick summary. Let’s flesh out some of the concepts there though. In what way could we say that Jesus died for Hitler or some other evil person that we could think of? Is there a way that we could say that Jesus died for that person?
Nate: I would say that He died…A couple things. You have 2 Peter 1 who says that those who are in the covenant were bought by the Lord, by Christ. It’s a reference to Jude, parallel, they’re obviously dependent on each other if you parallel the text. It’s referencing Christ buying individuals and I would say it’s covenantal buying. So they’re part of the external covenant, part of the people of God. Not all Israel is Israel so Jesus died to bring about a new covenant where you have a mixed community of believers and unbelievers and so there’s unbelievers in the covenant receiving Gospel benefits, help support from the ministers and so on, part of the new covenant but they’re obviously not saved, and then again you have the idea where you have Jesus dying for the sins of the people and dies for the purpose of the proclamation of the Gospel. If Jesus doesn’t die there’s no Gospel, and so you could say in that indirect sense that we can give a Gospel presentation to everyone because of the death of Christ. There’s definite implications for unbelievers in the death of Christ, but there’s no salvific and special grace given to unbelievers on the basis of Christ’s atonement that is specifically and exclusively for the elect I would say.
Kurt: We might be close here on this. Would you say, so the language of sufficiency, this is the way I’ve explained it. I think Christ’s atoning work is and will be effective only for the elect. However, it’s sufficient for all, so it’s sufficient for all would they or if they believed. Would you agree with that or would you have a point of disagreement there?
Nate: Two things. That language is in confessions and obviously Reformed people affirm that. The question is what do you mean by sufficient? Sufficient for what and sufficient for whom? What does sufficiency mean there? I think the sufficiency clause in the Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption qualification to mean it’s Jesus Christ, Son of God Himself. He could atone for millions and billions and an infinite amount of people. You don’t need two Jesuses dying. You don’t need two Sons of God dying. You only need one. That’s it. If they were to believe, would that have the atonement? That would be like a totally different counterfactual situation. I can’t even make sense of that phrase in light of possible world talk because, in counterfactual talk, because if they believed and Jesus only died for them, well it’s sort of impossible because if Jesus dies for anybody and they believe, there’s always a connection or co-extension there. If I believe Jesus died for me, I can’t envision a situation, I think it’s impossible, that we have someone believing in Christ and no atonement for you. No soup for you. Right? I can’t imagine.
Kurt: A Seinfeld reference!
Nate: Right. I would say that’s logically impossible actually.
Kurt: Right. Okay. I’m glad I asked that because I was thinking we were a bit closer, but no, it’s good to see there that you’re holding to the traditional view on that. Okay. Thanks for explaining that. Let’s go over to the I which is as you had said maybe the second most, either the first or second most, you didn’t use the word repulsive, provocative, or controversial….
Nate: I’m okay with you being politically incorrect and saying offensive. No problem with that.
Kurt: It does offend some people.
Nate: And that’s what I mean by offensive too. I don’t mean it’s offensive to me or listeners to your program. I don’t want to be insensitive to that. Irresistible grace is the view is that when God saves you, He doesn’t fail. When He elects to save you, that process will be brought to completion and so He will if He draws you, His drawing will be successful. God, the greatest possible being, He’ll have every characteristic or attribute that it’s better to have rather than the lack. It’s better to be successful in your endeavors rather than unsuccessful, and so He’ll have that property of being successful in all His plans and intentions and accomplishing them. And so I would say that He accomplishes redemption in the elect by drawing them through being born again, 1 John 5:1 says that if you believe you’ve already been born again. He causes you to be born again and you have exerted faith through His Son Jesus Christ, you are redeemed. Now I would say this is taught in the Bible. John 6:44. No one can come to me unless the Father who sends me draws him and I will raise him up on the last day. John commenting on that in a little bit down in John 6 says you’re not going to come to Him unless it’s granted by the Father. Romans 9 says for why does He still find fault for who can resist His will? Who are you, Oh man, to answer back to God? No one can resist God’s will. No one can cause God to fail in His plans. If He calls you and redeems you and He causes you to be born again He will not fail in that process. His grace is irresistible and so, a pick-up line for girls, is, well honey, you know, you’re like grace, you’re irresistible. Calvinist pick up line there. It also works for you being incredibly charming if you’re a single Reformed, which I understand some Reformed males desperately need. I’m just kidding. That’s a joke.
Kurt: That’s hilarious. So basically, when God regenerates the will of someone whom He has elected, to use at least some philosophical jargon, would you say they don’t have the ability to choose otherwise?
Nate: Yeah. I deny that. I think most consistent Calvinists would deny, you can do otherwise
Kurt: So for those that want to know, Pap is the Principle of, what was that again?
Nate: Alternative possibilities.
Kurt: Alternative possibilities: Yes. Great. So for you, you would say that people don’t have another option. We’re just doing, we want to do it because at that point God has regenerated our wills.
Kurt: It’s not necessarily a choice. Right? It’s not a libertarian free choice. I’m getting into the jargon here and I’m trying not to.
Nate: Sure. Well actually, I don’t know about that. There are people like Dave Hunt and others who hold to the sourcehood condition, that the principle of alternative possibilities, having two pathways to go down is not necessary for free will and they’re libertarian. You have a similar thing if you hold to foreknowledge. This is why these guys hold it, infallible foreknowledge. God believes you’re going to perform an action. 2,000 years before you perform an action he believes you’re going to say, eat the right apple, and it happens 2,000 years later. You can’t render a belief God has as false, and so that belief entails that future decision. You couldn’t do any differently than what God believed you’re going to do. You can’t make God’s decisions false. If you hold to an A theory of time and that sort of thing, then this is a real issue for those libertarians, those Arminians. I would say I’m in the position of most Arminians, but not in the position of open theists who obviously hold the path I think in the…consistent way possible because of course, God doesn’t know the future infallibly. That’s kind of what I would take from all of that. I would say PAP is something you can deny and indeed even if you hold to the B theory of time, the Boethian view, that in God past, present, and future exist, I can make determinism compatible with PAP so it’s not, I think that the PAP discussion’s not even connected to this. I think logically you can separate it out in my mind as many have done.
Kurt: I know that there’s a huge philosophical debate on this, but let’s bring it back a little bit here. What might be some Biblical passages that support the I of the TULIP?
Nate: Yeah. I’d say John 6:44 is a big one. That’s a big enchilada. You have 2 Corinthians 4 where it talks about being in bondage and that God creates in you new life as He created from the world, sort of His causal sufficiency being stressed there. You have an implication from Romans 9. If God’s will is irresistible why does He still find fault, for who can resist His will? Then you have 1 John 5…go ahead.
Kurt: I was going to say in Romans 9, that’s a big one on election, on unconditional election and also the I. You’ve got the potter and the clay analogy. If I may sort of run with that, in Jeremiah 18, Jeremiah 18 is where I think Paul’s taking the potter and the clay analogy. What’s your take there because in Jeremiah 18 it’s very much about corporate language? I’ve got it up here. Let me just read a couple verses. “Then the Word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you Israel as this potter does’ declares the Lord. Like clay in the hand of the potter so you are in my hand Israel. If at any time that I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned, and then it continues on and on. So how would you understand Jeremiah 18 in the potter and the clay and maybe even how Paul’s using it?
Nate: Right. This kind of goes back to the Reformed tradition and how we interpret texts. We follow the apostles’ example of this and having the New Testament interpret the Old Testament rather than the Old Testament interpreting the New Testament, like in the case of Acts 16 and the tent being rebuilt and so on and being applied to Gentiles coming into the kingdom. The New Testament texts guide and control that, rather than having the Old Testament interpret the New Testament. That’s the first thing I would say. The second thing I’d say is that if you look at the New Testament texts themselves, it’s abundantly evident that it’s not talking about nations. I shouldn’t say abundantly evident. I would say it’s far more reasonable than not.
Kurt: That’s all you would need for your case.
Nate: Right. That sort of threshold there. You have for instance calling and mercy and works used and throughout the book of Romans, that kind of language of specific individual salvation, so we’re working within a context here where Paul applies these words consistently to specific individuals. That’s one thing. That’s the second thing I should say. The third thing is that the objections generated in Romans 9 seem to be exactly what you want to say to a Calvinist and in these discussions and indeed I get them all the time. “If God’s in control, why does He hold people responsible? Why does He still find fault for who can resist His will?” Those are sort, I mean, you know Paul’s teaching Calvinism because he anticipates all the Calvinist objections. Is there injustice on God’s part? He talks about He hardens whoever He wills and He has mercy on whoever He wills and it’s not based and dependent on man’s will, but dependent on God. These are all the things Calvinist say and then general Calvinist responses, and then lastly I would add that there’s always specific individuals referenced. Pharaoh and Jacob and Esau. Those are the reasons why I prefer the individual specific form of salvation that’s taught in the traditional Reformed take of Romans 9.
Kurt: On one of those subpoints I actually agree with you so the passages in Romans 9 seem to suggest responses to the objections against Calvinism. They certainly can be used that way. Of course, I’ve got a different take on Romans 9 and I think Paul’s anticipating objections refer to some other objection, but you’re certainly right. The passages do, for me I would say they seem to suggest that. That’s why there is the controversy, the debate. What is the objection Paul is responding to? That’s sort of the difficulty with Biblical criticism. We’re trying to figure out that other side of the conversation. We don’t have the letter from the church of Rome to Paul.
Nate: Right. The idea I would have is that you look at a less controversial text where we’re more readily able to grant things. So when it says are we to sin all we want that grace may abound, we know that Paul has preached the Gospel of justification by faith alone and grace alone by Christ alone and so when you preach that, people will say that if that’s true you can just sin all you want and no one would have any difficulty granting that, but I think with the more heated texts have different ideas and that’s why you have this happening over the controversial texts.
Kurt: Before we leave the I, we do have a question here online. This is from Kevin. He writes, “Certainly Calvinism is deeply entrenched in the modern church, but I have yet to hear a good explanation for how Adam and Eve had free-will to not choose God, but have the inability to choose God.” Even to that I would say, Nate, maybe correct me if I’m mistaken, even Augustine believed that Adam and Eve did have the ability to choose God and it was only post-fall that humans inherited a nature of being unable to choose God. Is that correct?
Nate: Yeah. Once you get rid of, first of all, you have a broader definition of PAP or Principle of Alternative Possibilities. I would say it was not contrary to their natures to choose to do the good. For instance it’s not incompatible with Adam’s current nature, but if you’re an unregenerate sinner and have all these bad making properties, the depravity of sinfulness, then given that state of nature it’s impossible for you to choose God without God’s aid and in the case of Adam and Eve I would say their natures were unblemished, and though they did suffer weakness of will, which is itself a mystery in philosophy. Weakness of will is a very difficult topic and of course that’s what I think Adam and Eve had. They had this instance of weakness of will and obviously God foreknew it and He determined it so I would say that in that sense, even in the sense of the classical Arminian would hold that God’s foreknowledge determining their free choice in that sense, then yeah, I would say that they could do otherwise in that strict kind of PAP way, the background, and all you have the entire history of the world leading up to that one choice, being identical. In that sense, then yeah, I would say they didn’t have PAP, but in another sense that there are possible worlds or other possible scenarios where their nature is such that they did choose the good I would say.
Kurt: Last question before we leave the I, I promise. Last question.
Nate: No worries.
Kurt: So here we’ve got God instructing Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit and yet Calvinism seems to suggest that God has determined them to eat the fruit. Does it seem disingenuous for God to command something that He determined them to do anyway?
Nate: Right. In the case of the Bible, you have that happening even on the Arminian view. You have God determining people and doing things opposite of His revealed will. It’s going to happen on any view you have. Yeah. It seems that Calvinists, and I think Arminians have to hold to this commanding will and determining will or the prescriptive will or the descriptive will or the creed will, and so in this case, God would command, He would interact with Adam and Eve and command them not to eat the fruit of the tree and this was sort of like the authorial model or the author model of providence where God’s the offer of the plan. He authors it like the author of a book, Tolkien for instance, or C.S. Lewis in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He authors it and he writes what’s going to happen, but I don’t think Tolkien would approve of Gollum’s actions or anything like that, but he did write him to do evil things in there and indeed it would be contrary to Tolkien’s desires on some level. He thought Gollum was a morally repugnant character or Sauron was an evil guy. Right? But he wrote him in the story and wrote them to do so. That’s kind of how the analogy is with us and God. He writes in the story as plan and He commands them to, He tells them His revealed will, what He considers to be a good person and a bad person, just like you would in someone authoring a book for instance.
Kurt: Right. We’re running low on time. Let’s move along to the P, perseverance of the saints. This is something that many Arminians affirm, especially Southern Baptists hold to this idea, the once-saved, always-saved, tell us what does the P represent?
Nate: Right. The P, perseverance of the saints, that once you have salvation you’re not going to lose it. As it says in Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ and John 10 says nothing can snatch you out of my hand. My Father’s greater than all. Nothing can snatch you out of His hand. So this is John 6:44, you’re drawn and you’re raised up on the last day. All those who are drawn are raised. Romans 8. You have those who are predestined or those who are glorified. It’s this golden chain of redemption. When God accomplishes something, He finishes it. That’s the basic idea there. Now there’s two conceptions of this. There’s the Zane Hodges anti-non-Lordship salvation which says at a Billy Graham crusade you can walk down the aisle and say you believe in Jesus and you can die in your last breath as an atheist prostitute doing crack cocaine and denying Jesus in your last breath and you’ll go to Heaven because once saved, always saved. That’s the Zane Hodges free grace non-Lordship view as opposed to the Calvinist position which is the Lordship view which is that when God regenerates you and calls you to Himself and you exert saving faith in Jesus, that God will continue that work and that includes fruits. The fruits do not contribute to your salvation. They are a result of your salvation and they function as evidences. That’s basically the difference there that people get confused on.
Kurt: Let’s take a hypothetical example here and in fact for some of us maybe this can be very realistic. Suppose we know someone who claims to be a Christian for many many years and in fact they do what we would consider bear the fruit of the Spirit. They show these evidences. Nevertheless, time goes on, say a few years, and they begin to falter, to stray away from the faith, and ultimately become an atheist. I don’t just mean propositionally an atheist, I mean functionally an atheist. Was this person ever saved?
Nate: So you’re asking me that as a question?
Kurt: Yes. Would we still think that they are saved or were they just not really a Christian in the first place despite having those evidences for a period of their life?
Nate: Well you know in a sense, we can’t know someone’s heart and I have seen many people fall away from out of the church from being a Christian ten years at times and in every case and there’s always little things. For instance, there’s the fact, some people, I’ve heard people say this to me. It’s ridiculous. I go to church just because I want to pick up on Christian girls or I go there to get attention. People have all sorts of ulterior motives to being a community of people who believe in the Gospel and believe in grace and believe in a lifestyle honoring to God. People want to be a part of that and so when people fake it, they’re hypocrites, they lead a secret double life and this kind of thing, when people fake that for other reasons all that shows me is that people get into Christianity for sinful reasons. That’s a fact of life. People have had affairs on their spouses. They didn’t know for ten years. People are devious and as Jeremiah said the heart is desperately wicked. Who can even understand it? And with that kind of framework on the fallenness of humanity, it’s not surprising at all that they’re hypocrites in the church that pretend for a long time, just as hypocrites pretend in their marriages and relationships to love people and to do things and so on and so forth. That’s what I’d say.
Kurt; I would say certainly agree with you that there are cases like that, but do you think that that would cover all of the cases? Do you think that people who say that they’re Christian, who even show evidences of the Spirit in their life are just pretending or disingenuous?
Nate: In Hebrews 6 it says that they will do even acts of the Spirit and Jesus in Matthew 7 says I never knew you. I never knew you. Even if we did all these wonderful works. That’s because they were banking on their works and not Christ’s works and so they had a bit of legalism. They did it for self-righteousness. Indeed, out in Utah, there are plenty of people who are experts at faking religion. To someone who lives out here you’re not surprised one bit from the stories you hear. It doesn’t faze me I guess is what I’m trying to say.
Kurt: That’s a good point. I like that last point there. You are right. Mormons are some of the nicest people, but you don’t necessarily know what their motives are and they very well likely have selfish motivations. We are running low on time here Nate, but let me thank you for coming on the show today and for describing and explaining the five points of Calvinism. It’s always good to have someone from that perspective come to talk about those things and I’m also glad to see that my understanding of at least a few of the points has been spot on, even though some Calvinists I’ve spoken to would say I don’t understand, it seems at least I think I have.
Nate: Yeah. It’s been great to be on here Kurt and I appreciate your friendliness and kindness and bringing a fun discussion as always so thank you.
Kurt: Of course. Thanks Nate. We’ll have to have you on sometime again.
Nate; Love it. God bless.
Kurt: Alright. Same to you. God bless you.
Kurt: That does it for our show today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons, for the partnerships with our sponsors. Defenders Media. Consult Kevin. The Sky Floor. Rethinking Hell. The Illinois Family Institute. Evolution 2.0, and Ratio Christi. Thank you to the tech team as always, Chris Yiesla, thank you so much. I appreciate your helping me out week after week. Thanks for that. Also again, let me say a special thanks to Nate Taylor for coming to talk about Calvinism and the various five points of the TULIP, though really it’s kind of like seven points, and if you have any questions about Calvinism or a number of the Bible passages that Nate mentioned today, like I mentioned in the show earlier, there are alternative ways for interpreting those texts. I’d be happy to answer those questions so feel free to submit those my way. Thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.