The Petals Drop: Calvinism Implies Atheism

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

April 27, 2015

 Hopefully the subtitle caught your attention. Now, if you are of the reformed persuasion, please give me a chance to explain what I mean before it exponentially raises your ire. I initially began studying theology and apologetics because I noticed many young people being drawn towards atheism. This included students who were raised in the church and now were having severe doubts regarding Christianity. Some rejected it altogether and became militant atheists, while many more, although they stayed in the church, were so “rocked” by these objections that they were Christians by name only, not by lifestyle! Their faith was shattered and they basically lived as atheists except on Sunday mornings.

I began studying exactly what I believed (theology) and why I believed it (apologetics)! Moreover, I began to share this information (evangelism) with the many atheists in which I found myself surrounded. A couple of years ago I realized that many atheists have this revulsion against their idea of God’s character (“if He existed”). However, this was a caricature of God’s character; not the real thing. Many times, while engaged in deep conversation, I would have to stop the atheist and say, “You aren’t arguing against Christian theism; rather, you are arguing against the Calvinistic view of God!” I would follow that with, “I argue against that straw man (or ‘straw god’) too!”

What I discovered was that many of the atheists I was talking to had been raised in the church and had been taught reformed theology; namely, Calvinism. Moreover, they held to a view called, “theological determinism.” Simply stated: God causally determines and controls all things.” This led so many to see God as the author of evil. If God was even slightly evil, then He was not perfectly good, and if God is not perfectly good, then He is not worthy of worship. Since God, by definition, is worthy of worship, they concluded that God does not exist at all. These conversations ultimately led to the crafting an argument that I call the, Omni Argument Against Calvinism.

The Omni Argument

I recently published this argument in an article entitled, “The Petals Drop: Why Calvinism is Impossible,” and it has garnered much attention.[1] Let’s look at it again:

1. If 5-point Calvinism is true, then for any person x, if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell, then x will go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.

2. If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, then for any person x, God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.

3. There is at least one person who will not go to Heaven and suffer eternally in Hell.

4. Therefore, one cannot affirm both (i) that 5-point Calvinism is true and (ii) that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.

This argument forces the Calvinist to either deny eternal hell and become a universalist, like Rob Bell, or to deny one of God’s “omni” attributes. However, there is one other option available: They can also freely choose to reject Calvinism and embrace a different view reconciling God’s sovereignty and human responsibility! This is exactly what I did.

I adopted Molinism after utilizing my libertarian free will to freely infer that it seemed to be the best explanation of all the logical and biblical data.[2] Be that as it may, I am more committed to truth than I am to Molinism. Moreover, I am committed to defend the maximal greatness of God; therefore, any view which detracts from or rejects God’s maximal greatness, I will logically reject. This is why I am fervently committed against Calvinism as it ultimately denies God’s omnibenevolence, and hence, His maximal greatness.

The Omni Argument Part II

Let me explain: Any view which affirms that God is not a maximally great being[3] ultimately affirms that a being worthy of worship (GOD) does not exist. We can continue adding to our premises above. Let’s call it, “The Omni Argument Against Calvinism (Part 2)”:

5- If the Calvinist affirms eternal hell, and then subtracts from one of God’s omni-attributes from His nature, then God is no longer a Maximally Great Being.

6- Therefore, a Maximally Great Being (God) would not exist if Calvinism were true.

7- If a Maximally Great Being does not exist, then atheism is true.

8- Therefore, if atheism is false, Calvinism is also false.

9- Atheism is false.

10- Therefore, Calvinism is false.

In regards to premise (7) it must be understood that if we can conceive of a greater being than what we are imagining God to be, then we are not thinking about God is the first place as God is the maximally great being. The Bible makes it clear that God possesses all of his attributes in a maximal sense. This is why they are called his “omni” attributes. God’s omnibenevolence is implied is scriptures such as Psalms 145:9; 17; Mark 10:18; and Luke 18:19. God’s omnipotence is referred to in Genesis 1:1; Eph 1:19; Matt 19:26; Genesis 18:14; Job 42:1-2; Luke 1:36; and Jeremiah 32:27. Last but not least, God’s omniscience is referenced in such Bible verses as, Psalms 139:4; 147:5, and 1 John 3:19-20.

Now, to my surprise, many committed Calvinists will “bite the bullet” and deny God’s omnibenevolence in that they will state that God does not genuinely love ALL people.[4] This implies that there is unconditional election for those God loves, but there is unconditional hatred towards the non-elect. I appreciate their honesty; however, I think this is absurd! If one does not think the biblical data is clear enough on its own, let’s examine a logic-based argument I have tweaked which was originally inspired by Brenden Paul Burnett, based on the biblical data focusing on God’s omnibenevolence.[5]

(1) God the Father & God the Son are one (John 10:30).

(2) This implies both Father & Son are omniscient and share the same thoughts, wills, desires, intentions, and beliefs.

(3) The Son of God loves his enemies. (Lev 19:1-2; Matt. 22:37-40; cf. 1 Cor. 11:1ff)

(4) Therefore, God the Father loves his enemies.

(5) All sinners are God the Father’s enemies. (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21)

(6) Therefore, God the Father loves all sinners.

(7) All humans are sinners. (Rom. 3:23)

(8) Therefore, God the Father loves all humans.

When one examines all of the biblical data, and engages in perfect being theology, it is obvious that a Maximally Great Being (MGB) would be infinitely good and all loving. Now, some might be confused regarding premise (7) of the second part of my “Omni Argument Against Calvinism.” In regards to this premise, we need to understand the logical law of identity. The law of identity is as follows:

Something is what it is. ‘A’ is ‘A’. Things that exist have specific properties that identify them.

Thus, if God exists, He is a Maximally Great Being. If a Maximally Great Being exists, He is God. They are the same thing just as Water and H2O are the same thing. Just as stating that oxygen does not exist would imply that water does not exist, to state that God is not omnibenevolent (for example) would be to imply that a maximally great being does not exist. Therefore, to take anything away from God’s maximal greatness is to say, “God does not exist!”

Indeed, we are left with some weird form of atheism at this point as we still may have a supernatural cause and creator of the universe; however, if this creator is to a degree that he is not perfect, to that same degree he is evil.[6] If the creator is to any degree evil, then he is not worthy of worship and not a maximally great being. Thus, although naturalism would be demonstrated as false, atheism would be true! However, we know that God does exist through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit,[7] the Bible, and several logic-based arguments such as the Moral Argument of the existence of God[8] and the Ontological Argument.[9] These deductive arguments prove a Maximally Great Being does exist. Therefore, since atheism is false and a Maximally Great Being does exist, we must logically conclude that Calvinism is also false.

Many ask me why I relentlessly argue against Calvinism and if this is a “colossal waste of time.” I think this topic is of great importance. I believe God has called me to help all people (whether they be church-goers, atheists, or anyone in between) see God for who He really is – to see God as a Maximally Great Being. When people see God as a Maximally Great Being, their lives are radically transformed! Since the philosophy of Calvinism is one of the reasons why atheists are coming out of the church (instead of disciples that make disciples), I will continue to demonstrate why Calvinism creates a mockery of God and a caricature of Christ’s true character.

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton


NOTES:

[1] The Petals Drop: Why Calvinism is Impossible. Here is the original formulation of the argument:

1- If Calvinism is true, whomever God provides “irresistible grace” to will go to Heaven and not suffer eternal hell.
2- If God is omnibenevolent, He would not desire to, nor would He, send anyone to suffer eternal hell for choices they were powerless to make without God’s irresistible grace.
3- If God is omnipotent, he could provide irresistible grace to all people.
4- If God is omniscient, he would know how to provide irresistible grace to all people.
5- Some people suffer eternal hell.
6- Therefore, either God is not omnibenevolent, or not omnipotent, or not omniscient (pick at least one), or Calvinism is false.

[2] Here is an article I wrote regarding hermeneutical interpretation of Romans 9 and other scripture.

[3] Here is a short video of William Lane Craig explaining why God is a Maximally Great Being: https://youtu.be/zde-bgmXtyc

[4] Jerry Walls makes a great case against Calvinism and quotes the Calvinist, Arthur Pink. Walls states that Pink “bites the bullet” and admits the Calvinistic view of God is that God does not love all people. Walls encourages all Calvinists to come clean and be as honest as Pink.https://youtu.be/Daomzm3nyIg (46:20)

[5] Biblical Proof For God’s Omnibenevolence by Brenden Paul Burnett via Evan Minton: http://cerebralfaith.blogspot.com/2013/07/biblical-proof-for-gods-omnibenevolence.html

[6] I believe I heard Dr. Garrett DeWeesee say something similar to this regarding creation and metaphysical evil.

[7] To learn more regarding the inner witness of the Holy Spirit start here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-witness-of-the-holy-spirit

[8] Here is an article I wrote regarding the Moral Argument

[9] To learn more about the Ontological Argument watch this very short video: https://youtu.be/W_sCDNFJIHs

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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