Monday, December 22, 2008

Pyromaniac Simplicity or Simply Playing With Matches?

There is a sharp distinction between being simple and touting your own simpleton approach to logic. Simplicity is to be admired, if in its concise approach, it brings a defining resolution to the issue. offers up what they feel is a simple exoneration of their philosophical approach to God's Word. Instead, it appears to be yet another overly simplistic slow pitch falling short of home plate. Phil Johnson offers the following tidbit of bologna to whet our appetites.

If God knows the future with certainty, then the future is (by definition) already predetermined. If tomorrow is predetermined and you don't want to acknowledge that the plan was decreed by God, you have only two choices: Some being other than God determines the future and is therefore more sovereign than He. That is a kind of idolatry. Some impersonal force does the determining without reason or coherence. That is a kind of fatalism.

While clearly there is a problem with his false dilemma, such a statement exposes a greater problem with his lack of fully comprehending the matter of God's omniscience. Arminians are often accused of clinging to some notion of God having to peer down through the annals of time to know what will be. As silly as such a notion is, it is even worse still to observe those who make the charge fall prey to their own imaginations. The first sentence of Mr. Johnson's mistake has the LORD doing what? .. predetermining everything that will be as a prerequisite for his omniscience. I am sure he has not thought of this in such a manner but he should give further thought to his premise. The Calvinist omniscient LORD is such only through his predetermining all events. It is a silly notion and I am sure most Calvinists would agree yet they cling to their determinism with such fervor. Additionally, the notion of this false dilemma leading to the possibility of theistic fatalism on the part of Arminians is quite absurd given the theistic fatalism inherent in Calvinism's hard determinism. At best this is a sophomoric attempt to lob a poorly handled tar brush all the while painting one's face with irredeemable pitch. It is wiser for the Calvinist, Mr. Johnson and , yes, those Arminians predisposed as such, to understand that God's knowledge, His omniscience, is not a matter of peering though time in order to know or predetermine anything. The LORD is the Alpha and the Omega (sorry J. White, He beat you to it). He is the beginning and the ending of all things, of all knowledge. He is, in a word, eternal and transcends any notion we might have of time. He simply knows and in a manner that neither you or I can truly and fully comprehend. We can put words to it and attempt to describe it but the idea of an omniscient LORD peering through time or having his omniscience subject to predetermining every action is preposterous.

Let's demonstrate Mr. Johnson's absurdity with a simple example. I posit that God's omniscience is challenged under the Calvinist scheme if I choose my eggs over easy tomorrow morning rather than fried lightly or scrambled. Perhaps my choosing brown socks over grey will diminish His sovereignty over my dress? Of course this is silly yet if my choice of eggs has been predetermined rather than known and my grey socks were picked for me by the LORD before the foundations of the world (yes, an active or hard determinism for there is no other rational alternative in Calvinism) then the LORD has indeed constructed a fatalistic scheme in which men are given only the appearance of living lives. Instead we are fodder for destiny, some to be glorified board pieces, others the sawdust under the table. Such is the false dilemma Mr. Johnson presents. If Christians reject his theistic fatalism, his deterministic notion of omniscience and the enslavement of God's sovereignty to the wiles of Calvinist predestination, we are relegated to being either idolaters or fatalists (the latter charge still being an amusement in light of determinism). Not only that but in rejecting Calvinist philosophy, Mr. Johnson has us on the slippery slope to Open Theism. This has been a frequent charge in recent years but each and every one of those who sling such a charge around fail to realize many proponents of open theism have their roots in Calvinism rather than Arminianism, having been poorly grounded in plain truth, jumped feet first into a bigger cauldron.

The plain Christian truth is the LORD is Omniscient, He is Eternal and He is Sovereign. As such He has in His sovereign wisdom chosen to give men a synergistic plan of salvation in which He uses men to preach a gospel to men and frees their wills through grace to enable men to respond to the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has admonished, warned and extolled men to do and be what he desires men to be through Christ. He does not desire that men perish and rather than worry about labeling Christians as idolaters or worse for rejecting the philosophical musings of men raised up in dead bone churches, the Calvinist should have greater concern for the exalting of a philosophy that blasphemes the LORD as the author of sin. Hard words perhaps but they are in response to a calloused heart.


Billy Birch said...

I understand up front that I am a wee bit biased, but this is a great post. I just got involved in the discussion in the combox at Pyro.

As much as Calvinists love to say that we simply do not truly understand Calvinism, the same can be said about the Calvinist's knowledge of Arminianism, IMO.

God bless,


A.M. Mallett said...

Billy, thank you for the good word. I have rarely replied to a post at Pyro for I think my words would fall on deaf ears to a degree. Instead I pray the LORD will soften their hearts.

Blessings in Christ

DonaldH said...

Oh my brother they are playing with matches. I wish I could give you the rest of that saying.

But many so-called calvinist try to distant themselves from the hyper-perspective, and they have no answer for the fact that James White by many definitions (including Phil Johnson's) is one.

A.M. Mallett said...

Some have referred to this Calvinism the church is dealing with as Neo-Calvinism sensing that their grasp of the issues at hand is clouded by a misguided zealotry. I have encountered few Calvinist teachers or leaders on the internet that are not misguided zealots at heart.

DonaldH said...


I agree. And it has been my experience as well dealing with misguided zealots. Oh, forgot to mention love the blog my brother.