Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Lest You Think Calvinists Wise

I was browsing through one of the polemical websites, being somewhat polemical myself, and came across a brief column presented by one Jamin Hubner regarding a commonly discussed passage from Matthew's Gospel.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Mt 23:37-39 AV)

Arminians, myself included, often point to this passage (and its second witness, Luke 13:34) as a lamentation of Christ for the rejection of the LORD's willing embrace of a people He desired. The willingness and desire of God to gather together the children of Jerusalem (representing the people of Israel's loins and not just a physical city on a hill) demonstrates His love and purpose in raising up a people to call His own. This is not a passage extolling the virtues of an imagined free will. Instead it is a confirmation of God's own sorrow at being rejected and thwarted by a people and its leaders, its various kings, the false prophets over the years. It is a picture of true remorse and not the expression of crocodile tears as John Wesley once phrased it.

This brings me to my browsing. Hubner was taking issue with how the passage was presented in a non-Calvinist text, objecting to a feigned presentation of "free will" doctrine. That is generally the objection of most Calvinists, that the passage demands some support of "free will" in opposition to the deterministic theology of the Calvinist. In one sense, they are correct however it is a freed will that must be discussed and not an innate, libertine free will as is often misrepresented. The fellow represented this particular passage as Jesus bemoaning the Pharisees interference in keeping the people of the city away from Him, ultimately preventing Him from embracing them. Now, this raises a striking quandary that goes unaddressed but before doing so, let's see Hubner's understanding of the passage through the words of James White (Hubner's quote of White).

The ones the Lord desired to gather are not the ones who "were not willing"! Jesus speaks to the leaders about their children that they, the leaders, would not allow Him to "gather." Jesus was not seeking to gather the leaders, but their children. This one consideration alone renders the passage useless for the Arminian seeking to establish freewillism. The "children" of the leaders would be Jews who were hindered by the Jewish leaders from hearing Christ. (Potter's Freedom, 138, 2nd ed.)

Now the quandary comes into play. How is it that the Pharisees are able to thwart the will and desires of God? How is it that the leaders of Jerusalem were able to prevent a single soul from turning to the LORD? Calvinism has no room for such antics. It is an impossibility to thwart the will of God, according to the Calvinist philosopher. Yet, Hubner, through White, has the LORD Jesus Christ in submission to ungodly Pharisees and a people that He desires kept from being His people! Hubris is a term that comes to mind regarding such understanding. Certainly there is a poverty of insight into the passage on the part of the Calvinist if not an outright deception. Oh often God would have gathered the children like a hen and her chicks but not for the all powerful Pharisees who have the power over spiritual life and death were the Calvinist "interpretation" correct. I hesitate to call it an interpretation for I see it more as willful deceit in an effort to cling to a disreputable philosophy.

Hubner's short column can be found here.


Pumice said...

As I was reading this I came across a term that I don't remember seeing before but I think is excellent. You wrote of a "freed will." Is this something that I should have seen in my reading but just glossed over or is it a new expression of an old truth? Did you come up with it? If so, good job. If not, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Grace and Peace

A.M. Mallett said...

I think the phrase "freed will" was presented by F. Leroy Forlines, either him or Picirilli, I'm not sure. Dr. Brian Abasciano used the phrase in pulling together the Arminian acronym FACTS. It has always struck as a great distinction.