Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is the Calvinist God a cosmic rapist?

I have mentioned before that Yahoo! Answers is one of my personal mission fields. I go over there to defend the faith as best I can, to hear some new criticisms of Christianity from non-Christians (this does not happen very often), and generally to witness to people. I have met a number of interesting people over there, including atheists, Muslims, and Wiccans. I had the honor of speaking to a very intelligent and sensitive Wiccan in an extended email conversation a few months back. As a defense again my monergistic ideas of God's election and, indirectly, against the idea of any kind of sovereign God at all, she mentioned that Hank Hanegraaff said that the God of Calvinism would be equivalent to a cosmic rapist. I had never heard this ridiculous quote before, so I had to find whether he had really said this.

A little searching led to an article by Hank titled "Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?", where he said:
Furthermore, without choice, love is meaningless. God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces His love on people nor a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love Him. Instead, God, the personification of love, grants us freedom of choice. Without such freedom, we would be little more than preprogrammed robots.
I wish I could say that I was shocked by this, but sadly I am not. This is the kind of stuff that Hank comes out with too often today. This kind of thing can only have the effect of turning people off from the Biblical God to a god of their own making. It gives them one more arrow they can use to not to believe in the God of the Bible, a quiver which is tragically quite full already. In the case of the Wiccan above, it was another reason why she did not accept God's claims on her. And from her point of view it makes sense: why should she accept the claims of a cosmic rapist?

In addition, it shows an unfortunate lack of understanding of Calvinist theology which is common from people with less theological sophistication, but which I had hoped better for from Hank. Specifically, these comparisons are ludicrous for several reasons:
  • What is a rapist? A person who does something against the person's will that will harm them. Even with any greater understanding of Calvinist theology, the comparison is terrible because God is doing something indescribably wonderful for the person.
  • What is a puppeteer? A person who animates a dead body to give it the illusion of life. This one actually does have a bit of Biblical support: for what can a dead man do for himself? However, the Bible does not say God gives us the illusion of life. It says He gives us life, and that more abundantly, eternal life with Him ruling in the heavens. What's more, our fallen will is not neutral: it is actively fighting against God, hating Him.
No, God does not cosmically rape us. He, who created us to love Him, sees us in our pitiful fallen state and, despite the fact that we hate Him, made way for us to be reconciled to Him. None of us deserve to be saved, we all deserve the hell we desire. Due to our fallen will, nobody wants to be saved; the dog returns to its vomit. Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.

However, God's justice would be a travesty if everybody were saved. Thus, God, with an intelligence and wisdom not only infinite but untainted by sin, wisely decides which of us to graciously save. I cannot imagine on what basis He makes that decision; but then I am not God. I can't figure out most things He does; His thoughts are not our thoughts. Because none of us wants to be saved, He must regenerate our wills, at which point we can accept His offer of salvation.

The Calvinist's God is not a Cosmic Rapist or puppeteer. The comparison is crass. Even if you're not a Calvinist, you must understand this. Hank, I expected better from you.

26 comments:

bethyada said...

Even though I am not a Calvinist, I must say that the analogy to rape is inaccurate. There may be something to the puppet or robot analogy though.

The problem with the rape analogy is that the victim opposes the action (they retain free thought even though not free action) and rape is a negative action whereas God insisting on his will is not a negative action.

One could argue against a theology where God causes evil but even then the analogy would fail as the victim is not doing evil.

With regards to your dead man comment, that is a metaphor. Careful what you carry over from analogies (see here)

TMYU said...

It surprises me that you could be so enthusiastic about God arbitrarily choosing who is to be saved and who is not. Although I don't claim to understand much about the tension between chosen and choice, it seems to go against a lot of I have understood about God to say that there is no point to our own volition.

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

When did I say that God's decisions were arbitrary? This seems to me the typical Arminian response - we cannot understand how God makes certain decisions, therefore they must be arbitrary. Don't think I lack sympathy with this point of view - I held it for several years myself.

I have come to believe, however, that it's preferable to let the Biblical data inform me rather than to make the decision on my own and then read the Bible in light of my decision.

Anonymous said...

we all read biblical data in light of our beliefs. we can't help it! as much as we attempt to distance ourselves from our or others' thoughts on the matter, when we read scripture all of the sermons, c.s. lewis books, or whatever....they all are sitting there in the back of our minds while we take it in. all we can do is hope and pray that God reveals Himself and His plans to us in spite of ourselves.

i guess the one comfort is that the main things are very clear-
1. love God and love one another.
those will take me my whole life to sort out anyway! :)

new to NoVa

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

I certainly agree with you about that. We try to let the text speak to us, but it's a fallacy to think that we go into the text without any preconceived ideas at all. The best we can do is to try to accept what the text has to say in spite of our preconceived ideas.

That's the reason I gave up my free will presuppositions, because they were opposed to what the text was saying. When that happens, you can either close your eyes and hold onto the comfortable presuppositions, or you can accept what the text is saying and change your philosophy.

Marc said...

It seems to me that Calvinists are those who have over-reacted to the heresy of salvation by works so that the idea of doing anything, absolutely anything, which leads to salvation is counted as works-based and thus not biblical.

Take the example of a person who calls out to God and receives mercy in the form of salvation. A neutral observer would say he sought God and chose mercy. A Calvinist would note that this is incompatible with Totally Depravity and also implied Free Will. Therefore, they would conclude, it cannot be like that. Instead, they posit, God regenerated their will, they called out, He saved.

This strikes me as unverifiable. God regenerating their will can be inserted into every conversion story without anyone being able to confirm or deny it. Did I choose or did God make me choose...

Ironically Total Depravity denies Sole Fide because it says, not even your faith saved you - God did it all and you were a passive, impartial, even unwilling recipient.

Texas Craig said...

Gary:

I am someone who started out Calvinist and came to the opposite conclusion, now believing in the free will of man to accept or reject God's gift of grace. Unsurprisingly, I too say it is solely because of reading scripture that I came to this conclusion.

To be intellectually honest, scripture supports both views in different verses. The problem is that both sides often attempt to argue that scripture supports only their view if one gives an unbiased reading of scripture. That is simply false. The reality is that, like many things, scripture supports both views and we believers should be generous with each other on points that ultimately have no bearing upon salvation.

Just my $.02

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Texas Craig, I agree with you that we should be kind in dealing with each other. That's why I am so disappointed at the harsh words poured out against Calvinism from at least some on the synergist side. Hank's "cosmic rapist" comments are but one example. I am sure some on the monergist side have used similar words in talking about synergists, but I personally have never heard such.

Marc, I suggest you need to read up a bit more on the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. You seem to think Calvinists discount our will, and that is completely wrong. You also need to read up a bit on sola fide, since it and the other solas are from our point of view, not God's.

What's more, your comments imply that it is our unaided faith that saves us, which is dangerously close to Pelagianism. It's not due to our supposed presupposition of lack of free will that drives us to this conclusion: it's the Bible's very clear teaching that in us nothing good dwells, that God has to take out our hearts of stone and put in hearts of flesh.

Texas Craig said...

Gary:

I agree that there is too much bluster and harshness and that can be directed toward Calvinism. And, Hank Hannegraff is a person that I have absolutely no respect for, based upon what I have heard him say and observed about his life. It is sad to say that about another professed believer, but it reflects my genuine feelings.

But, having said that, my perception is also that more condescension and hostility comes from some of the Reformed/Calvinist preachers I have heard. Honestly, it is shocking to me how patronizing and condescending some of them can be when discussing some of these issues.

What is often presented is the idea that any reasonable reading of the scripture would lead inescapably to the conclusion that Calvinism is correct and people who reject Calvinism either are not knowledgable about scripture or are relying upon their own emotions. To make such statements to me is incredibly condescending and shows a lack of charity and a lack of knowledge of scripture on their part.

I agree wholeheartedly that we need to be convinced of what we believe. But, at the same time, we should readily acknowledge that scripture can support alternate views.

For example, I firmly believe that a woman does not need to cover her head in church. But, if someone believes that and follows their conscience on that, I can respect that and acknowledge that their view has some basis in scripture. Or, if someone believes that baptism is an essential act for salvation, I can understand why they might draw that conclusion from scripture, even though I disagree with it and will happily debate them on it.

So, for me, the issue is that I rarely hear Calvinists indicate that there is a reasonable basis in scripture for disagreeing with their views. I think honesty and humility would dictate that we all be willing to make such acknowledgments about non-essentials of the Christian faith. It is possible to be firmly convinced, and yet also acknowledge that scripture can be read to support alternate views.

I greatly appreciate your heart, as it has been displayed in some of your posts. But, even you can fall into the trap of which I discuss. For example, you make the statement

"That's the reason I gave up my free will presuppositions, because they were opposed to what the text was saying. When that happens, you can either close your eyes and hold onto the comfortable presuppositions, or you can accept what the text is saying and change your philosophy."

You do not say that is what "you believed the text was saying." Rather, your statement indicates that text is abundantly clear and is contrary to free will. On that point, I am quite confident that I can show a voluminous amount of scripture to prove that the scripture is, at a minimum, equally supporting free will over predestination.

For example, the potter and the clay in Romans 9 is one passage Calvinists often cite, without looking back on where that came from in scripture. The original potter and the clay reference goes back to Jeremiah, where God says He is like the potter and will form the clay based upon His desires. But, He also indicates that His desires and intentions for the clay will change, based upon whether the people (the clay) repent and turn or whether they continue in their sin. Perfect example of a passage that initially looks like it supports God's soverignty alone, regardless of human free will, but actually supports the idea of free will upon analysis.

Again, I am not slamming Calvinists as being absolutely wrong. I just would like to see more charity in recognizing scripture supports both views.

Anyway, again, that's my $.02.

Joca said...

"However, God's justice would be a travesty if everybody were saved"

I'm shocked you said this. In other words, for god to be just he needed to create people whom he'll condemn to an eternal hell and suffering?

Maybe God is not a Cosmic rapist, but he's just a little less evil that devil. Devil wants all people to go to hell, Calvinist God wants most of the people to go to hell. A slight difference, I agree, but not a great deal of difference.

The God i find in the Bible wants all people to be saved, ALL: who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.(1 Timothy 2;4).

It would be a travesty of LOVE if God does not offer salvation to all.

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Joca, the Arminian's God doesn't get off any easier. You believe God knew that billions of people, though offered salvation, would reject it. Why then did God create billions of people, knowing they would reject Him? Wouldn't it be better for Him, after looking down the corridor of time, to have not created them? Don't be deceived with words like "free will" and "it's their choice." The fact remains, God knew they would reject Him, and still He created them knowing that.

The difference is that the "Calvinist God" - i.e. what I believe to be the accurate description of the God of the Bible - has a purpose in creating those people for destruction. Namely, the demonstration of His justice. Your God has no purpose, He just sees the evil that's going to happen, and creates people anyway.

THAT would be truly evil, to create people who He knows are going to hell, with no particular purpose. Of course, perhaps you are a Universalist or an Open Theist: in which case your God would not be open to these charges. Other charges, of course, but not these.

Joca said...

You’re attacking the position I do not hold to. I'm an open theist, and as such God gives everybody equal opportunity to go to heaven.

But to say that God needed to create a hell where majority of the human race will suffer endlessly, without any possibility to choose heaven - because is all about God's glory, is to portray God worse than a devil.

God Bless

Joca said...

I must admit I'm no expert on Calvinism, but I've been pondering over your words, which I cannot understand.

You said: "The difference is that the "Calvinist God" - i.e. what I believe to be the accurate description of the God of the Bible - has a purpose in creating those people for destruction. Namely, the demonstration of His justice."

Here is what I don't understand. God, being who he is had a several options by which his glory could be maximized.

Don't you think the best option would have been to predestin the entire human race for haven?? Electing everybody to go to heaven would eliminate a need for hell, a need for anybody to burn for all eternity.

If God is who he is, why sin, shy hell, why people in hell when there was no need for all that.

By saying that he "has a purpose in creating those people for destruction. Namely, the demonstration of His justice' you're admitting that he was impotent ind devising a better plan than burning people.

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

It depends what you mean by the "best option." In certain moods, it would seem best to me to send everybody to heaven. But God's thoughts are (thankfully) not my thoughts. Even there, I'm not sure even with my human judgment that it's just to send an unrepentant evil man to heaven.

However, regardless of my own thoughts and philosophies, I have to submit to what the Bible says on the subject because I believe it to be the word of God. And I think it is abundantly clear that many are NOT headed for heaven, and God knows it.

In other words, I don't believe that you or I are competent judges of whether there is any need for all that.

Joca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joca said...

This is a classical answer I get from Calvinists when cannot answer the obvious logical inconsistencies ‘ God’s thoughts are not our thoughts’ . But why don’t we apply this verse to the passages dealing with the election and predestination?? To me it would seem more reasonable because we wouldn’t have to change the Biblical picture of God who wants to save ALL people into a celestial monster who purposefully creates people for hell so that his glory would be maximized?

Why be selective and apply to the passages that go against Calvinistic view?? Why not the other way around?

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

In fact, predestination is not particularly hard to understand. It's difficult sometimes to square with my emotions, and I don't perfectly see how it meshes with free will, but that doesn't mean it's totally incomprehensible. Besides, even if it was, how would that make me free to simply jettison it?

Joca said...

To me it doesn’t square only with one’s emotion, but it doesn’t square with the logic and, what is most importantly with an overall picture of God presented in the Bible.

Again, should I change the Biblical picture of God based on few passages that could also have an alternative explanation. Even if they don’t, shouldn’t be safer to say, with Peter there are some hard things to understand written by Paul and others than to jump to a conclusion that God created evil, then gave a solution for it by creating and then burning people in hell. No, that’s not the God we find in the Bible.

While you say ‘God’s ways are not our ways’ Paul says we have the mind of Christ, which means, we can understand who God is and what He is like, and He is not the celestial monster.

God bless

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Joca, all I can suggest is that I believe a reading of the Bible as a whole leads me to believe that God does not exist for our benefit. It's not all, as they say, "all about us." You seem to have a different reading of the "overall picture of God."

Joca said...

Thanks for your note. The phrase ‘it’s all about God’ has been used in many different context. I believe that God is the main character in the Bible no doubt about it
As I read the Bible I see from cover to cover that the most predominant picture and attribute of God is love. John says ”… God is love”, (1 John 4:8)- everything that has been said and written about God is exactly that, God is love.

I know Calvinist will always, immediately add, yes, but there are other sides to God, such as wrath, justice, anger….” I agree, but whenever he executed his anger and justice, he does that with mercy, because God is Love.
Since God is Love he longed to communicate that love, so created human beings with whom he could share this love.

Having said that Love is an overriding Biblical picture of God, somehow it is quite difficult for me fit the Calvinistic picture of God within this overriding picture. A picture of God who initiates evil, and then solves it by sending people to hell, to me is not the picture of God in the Bible.

As someone has said it would be hard to differentiate this picture of God from Devil. Devil wants all people to go to hell. This God wants most of the people to go to hell. I’d add that this kind of God is even worse than devil. Devil wants people to go to hell, this God creates people for hell.

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Joca, God is love, definitely. But I submit that a view that the "most predominant picture and attribute of God is love," interpreted specifically to mean "the most predominant picture and attribute of God is salvific love for every single human individual" is not at all in keeping with the Bible. That's what I mean by "it's not all about us." I honestly don't know how you can read the New Testament (let alone the Old Testament) and come up with this conclusion.

Besides, what about the fallen angels? Does God not love them, or does His love only extend to the human race?

Joca said...

Well, somehow I see it differently. I definitely disagree with you when you “ … God is salvific love for every single human individual" is not at all in keeping with the Bible. When Paul says: “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 timothy 3:3, 4) I interpret this to mean all indeed, every single individual who had ever been borne on this planet. It could not refer to only the elected ones, because by the virtue of being elected they’re already saved- no need for god to wish for them to be saved .And He wants that because he’s god of love.”

The chief implication of Calvinistic doctrine is that God is solely responsible for the souls lost in hell. He creates evil, than creates men and makes them responsible for the evil he had created by burning them for all the eternity. Now, with this in mind how could Calvinist talk about God of Love at all.

As far as fallen angels are concern, I have no problem because I believe free choice.

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Well, God only "wishes" for some to be saved in your sense if you are an Open Theist. All traditional orthodox Christians (Arminian or Calvinist) agree that God wants things for people even though He knows they are either saved or damned. Only by holding an open theistic presupposition can "wishes" here have the sense you are giving it.

1 Timothy 2:4 (not 3:4) is, of course, a standard Arminian prooftext. I have never heard anybody interpret it to mean "only the elect." The normal Calvinistic interpretation - which I admit that I don't buy 100% myself - is that it refers to all kinds of people. The context does indicate that; it's just the verse itself I haven't fully grasped yet.

However, this is the only Arminian prooftext that isn't (in my opinion) better interpreted the way the Calvinists interpret it. 2 Peter 3:9, Matthew 23:37, and even John 3:16 are so badly misused by Arminians it's almost criminal.

Your free will argument for angels only works if, again, you hold open theistic presuppositions. I'm not sure how those possibly square with the God of the Bible. How does He know He will even triumph over evil in the end? What if something happens He's not prepared for?

Joca said...

I do not claim I can present an airtight argument. Neither do you, nor any other position. I realized that philosophical/scientific arguments for Gods existence are not airtight neither. The real question is who can present the arguments that are faithful to the text and consistent with the overall picture of God found in the Bible. Since we’re dealing with the documents several thousand year old and we’re dealing with different presupposition about the Bible, it is difficult to agree in every aspect.

I view the Bible as an inspired word of God, but I do not hold to a verbal inspiration of the Bible. I also do not believe that people are burn forever and ever, the concept of hell as an never ending punishment is simply not there.

After doing and teaching exegesis and hermeneutist for number of years I realize that you can stretch the Bible and find biblical support for almost any view. However, the most important hermeneutical principle is this: what the text could not have possible meant to the inspired Biblical author it cannot possible mean today.

We can go back and forth on John 3;16, but if you insist that the passage supports a Calvinistic view you’d be able to find that concept in his other writings. If the ‘kosmos’ in 3;16 refers to a selected group of people, we should be able to find John being consistent with that concept elsewhere in his writings.

My conclusion is that the terms “whole world” and “world” as used in First John apply to the entire world. The same world that is under the control of Satan is the same world for which Jesus died. The Calvinist interpretation is not viable. The Arminian Jesus is Savior of the entire world. His propitiation applies to the whole world.

People have asked me if Christ is the propitiation for the literal entire world, why are there men in hell? I don’t believe in hell, but even if I did His propitiation doesn’t make men believe.

From First John:
“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.”

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

All I'd say to the argument that "kosmos" always means "every single individual" is to look at how it's used in John's writings. I have not looked it up myself, but I have heard John alone uses the word at least 15 ways. Even in your own quote from 1 John 5:5, “Who is it that overcomes the world?", kosmos clearly does not mean "every single individual."

I don't think we're getting anywhere in this discussion. But I thank you for your thoughts and wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

Clues::
Air France Concorde
Christa McAuliffe, Concord, NH
Carnaval's Costa Concordia
Concord:::In the "eye of The Beast"
Downey Savings
90s:: "He gets 4 years.", "(His chance is OVER!!)":::2.1.03 (SS Columbia) & 11.26.03 (Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde).
My miracle of Ocean Beach, witnessed by MILLIONS on the West Coast
Mt. Zion:::Slowly being eaten away until one day paradise is gone forever
Carry That Weight
Unit 731::TSUSHOGO
Zastava Koral

The Jews who abandoned their faith, no longer remaining devout, were punished, consistant with their gross level of disfavor.
It's very much like blacks:::Without some "enforcer" stricktly regulating their behavior (slavery, KKK) their level of disfavor dictated the gods push them into indecent behavior, and they become out of control. Only through a good relationship with the gods through devout faith can they avoid this fate.
Whereas once it was forced on American blacks, because of the deterioration of the 20th century changes it must now be voluntary, throught Islam, and too many fail to embrace or remain devout.
Trusting Jews is like trusting Italians, and the gods have sent AMPLE clues.

The gods are monsters::Jeffrey Dahmer, Speed Freak Killers, Japanese nuclear crisis, Holocaust. In all disturbing cases the gods at least telepathically led the victims if not indirectly participated by compelling each of these events, atrocity after horrific atrocity, in the name of poetic justice:::Monster Japanese (Rataan Death March, Rape of Nanking, Korean Comfort Women). The gods positioned the wicked Jews to "take back" the Second Coming, compelling them to believe it is rightfully theirs and sabotaging the Situation. Considering the real/Matrix Second Coming duality perhaps this relationship existed with Jesus as well and the Jesus spoke of in the Bible isn't the real Jesus Christ.
Jesus spoke of in the Bible was a dirty Jew. He pimped women for money. His mother was a prostitute.
This area is so disfavored too many used this method for their livlihood. This is why the gods used this region as the platform of "Western Civilization" (Judeo/xtian) which infected and altered all decent people.


In the course of decay and deterioration of the favor of the people the gods instructed their clone host tools in corporate to make changes to their products and subsequently in people's lives. The switch to plastic/disposable-based packaging is an outstanding example. Another is the extensive use/proliferation of disposable diapers. Whereas diaper services were the norm during the 20th cenutry a change occurred in the 70s/80s and parents began to incurr evil upon their children, and sadly in some cases think they were "earning" off their own infant children!!!

"Poisoning their brainwashed minds." xtainity brainwashed you. Liberalism is the poison.
The gods used xtainity to demonize Lucifer, ensuring people refused to heed the teachings of THE SECOND COMING!!!. Lucifer is the Second Coming of Christ!!!
xtianity is the product of the Apostle's books of the New Testiment and can't be trusted to contain the true teachings of Jesus Christ. Just like each one of you corrupt whores, the gods could have tempted them with immortality if they lied when writing the New Tesatiment. Then the gods dictated verbatim specifically to parlay into the destructive phenominah known as xtianity.
We have seen the gods engage in similar behavior to keep people away from good religions, with the Jews in Palestine and Muslims recently post-9.11, demonizing both.
This is another of the god's wicked curveballs, their reverse positioning tool extensively employed, utilizing positioning to prepare for the Apocalypse and your "consolation prize" of "1000 years with Jesus on Earth".