Wednesday, January 29, 2014

George Mueller Apparently Was A Calvinist



Mueller stated:

1....I had not before seen from the Scriptures that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world; that in Him that wonderful plan of our redemption originated, and that He also appointed all the means by which it was to be brought about...

2. Before this period I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and final persevering grace: so much so that, a few days after my arrival at Teignmouth I called election a devilish doctrine. I did not believe that I had brought myself to the Lord, for that was too manifestly false; but yet I held, that I might have resisted finally. And further, I knew nothing about the choice of God's people, and did not believe that the child of God, when once made so; was safe for ever. In my fleshly mind I had repeatedly said, If once I could prove that I am a child of God for ever, I might go back into the world for a year or two, and then return to the Lord, and at last be saved. But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the word of God. Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely as an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said; I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths. To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines. As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state, for God's glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period. My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before. And for this have I been strengthened by the Lord, in a great measure, through the instrumentality of these truths. For in the time of temptation, I have been repeatedly led to say: Should I thus sin? I should only bring misery into my soul for a time, and dishonour God; for, being a son of God for ever, I should have to be brought back again, though it might be in the way of severe chastisement. Thus, I say, the electing love of God in Christ (when I have been able to realize it) has often been, the means of producing holiness, instead of leading me into sin. It is only the notional apprehension of such truths, the want of having them in the heart, whilst they are in the head, which is dangerous.
- George Muller of Bristol: His Witness to a Prayer-Hearing God by Arthur T. Pierson, Appendix B

Unless George Mueller changed his mind between writing the above sentiments and his death, then Mueller was clearly a Calvinist.

More Resources on or by George Mueller HERE.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Figures of Speech Used In the Bible by E.W. Bullinger




For those interested here's Figures of Speech Used In the Bible by E.W. Bullinger. If I recall correctly, he lists 217 types of figures of speech used in the Bible. Some of them can be subdivided further.

I don't always agree with Bullinger's identification of a figure of speech and/or his interpretation of genuinely recognized. I also have serious disagreements with his Hyper-Dispensationalism. Nevertheless, both this book and his The Companion Bible have some interesting nuggets of truth and information.  Here's a link to his The Companion Bible:

http://www.heavendwellers.com/hd_complete_companion_bible.htm

Friday, January 10, 2014

Evidence and Arguments Against Materialism and Naturalism


The following links are to resources that call into question the truth of materialism and naturalism (and therefore of atheism as well). They don't necessarily attempt to prove the existence of God, or even the Christian God. Some of the resources imply that standard versions of materialism and naturalism are false by providing evidence that paranormal and/or supernatural events actually occur. Some of the resources would suggest that Christian supernaturalism in particular is true (or more likely true) even if they don't "prove" it. Admittedly there are versions of materialism and naturalism that could allow for the paranormal while at the same time denying the supernatural. Just as there are versions of supernatural worldviews which allow for both paranormal and supernatural events even though they don't affirm a transcendent monotheistic God (as in Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). Such non-Christian worldviews can often account for the supernatural and paranormal occurring among Christians. But it is also true that Christianity allows for supernatural (maybe even paranormal) events to occur among non-Christians either by demonic activity or God's gracious activity among non-Christians. Either directly, or indirectly through the agency of His angels. Since there's nothing in Christianity that denies the possibility that God answers the prayers or helps non-Christians.

For example John Calvin wrote:

There is one psalm which clearly teaches that prayers are not without effect, though they do not penetrate to heaven by faith (Ps. 107:6, 13, 19). For it enumerates the prayers which, by natural instinct, necessity extorts from unbelievers not less than from believers, and to which it shows by the event, that God is, notwithstanding, propitious. Is it to testify by such readiness to hear that their prayers [i.e. non-Christians'] are agreeable to him? Nay; it is, first, to magnify or display his mercy by the circumstance, that even the wishes of unbelievers are not denied; and, secondly, to stimulate his true worshippers to more urgent prayer, when they see that sometimes even the wailings of the ungodly are not without avail. [Calvin's Institutes third book, chapter 20 section 15]
Finally, Christians are divided on the issue of whether all apparently supernatural or paranormal occurrences are always either from God's side or the side of demons. Some Christians allow for the bare possibility of neutral paranormal activity that's neither from God's or demons. For example, some Christians are open to the possibility that some psychic abilities may be naturally possessed by some individuals apart from added demonic or divine enablement.



Non-Christian Resources

Skeptiko podcasts explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. Calling into question standard versions of materialism and naturalism, Skeptiko discusses the scientific evidence for the paranormal and/or the supernatural from a Non-Christian perspective.  I include the Skeptiko link because it attempts to give some scientific rigor to many  paranormal and/or supernatural claims. As a Christian, I would obviously disagree with some of their non-Christian conclusions and practices discussed in Skeptiko podcast and the other Non-Christian books I recommend below.

http://www.skeptiko.com
[Peeranormal podcast is a Christian podcast similar to Skeptiko. See the link below in the Christian resources section]


Recommended Non-Christian books:

The Night Side of Nature by Catherine Crowe [a forgotten classic book of paranormal stories. Available here, or here, here, here, here, here, here] The author is "spiritual" and even quotes the Bible but is nevertheless NOT a Christian. Also, being written in the 19th century, the author mentions antiquated scientific theories of the day.


Entangled Minds by Dean Radin
The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin
Supernormal by Dean Radin
Science and Psychic Phenomena by Chris Carter and Rupert Sheldrake
Parapsychology and the Skeptics by Chris Carter
Extraordinary Knowing by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer
Irreducible Mind by Edward Kelly and Emily Williams Kelly
Psi Wars by James Alcock, Jean Burns and Anthony Freeman
Outside the Gates of Science by Damien Broderick
Varieties of Anomalous Experience edited by Etzel Cardena, Steven Jay Lynn and and Stanley Krippner

I recommend doing a search for Dean Radin's videos on YouTube. For example:

"Science and the taboo of psi" with Dean Radin
http://youtu.be/qw_O9Qiwqew

Men Who Stare at Photons, Part 1
http://youtu.be/FMXqyf13HeM

Men Who Stare at Photons, Part 2
http://youtu.be/wJwsSbiVE2g

Dean Radin
http://www.skeptiko.com/2-the-perils-of-psi-research/


Often skeptics of the supernatural and paranormal argue that such things don't happen because if they did then they would pass James Randi's challenge and win the million dollars. But but both Christian and non-Christians have argued that Randi's challenge is bogus. Here's a non-Christian link that provides evidence that Randi's challenge isn't real.

Apparently, "The Amazing Randi" Is NOT So Amazing :
http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/Page30.htm



Christian Resources

Peeranormal is a Christian podcast that discusses the peer reviewed cases of apparently paranormal activity. Here's Peeranormal's podcast link:
http://www.peeranormal.com/
[Skeptiko is a NON-Christian podcast that deals with controversial science and the paranormal. See the link above in the NON-Christian resources section]


Scientific Evidence Against Materialism
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/09/scientific-evidence-against-materialism.html



36 Essays Arguing Against Naturalism
http://www.lastseminary.com/against-naturalism


Apologetics 315 posts with the label "Naturalism" and "Materialism"


Links on the Subject of Miracles in the Context of Craig Keener's Recent Book
http://gospelcrumbs.blogspot.com/2012/11/links-on-subject-of-miracles-in-context.html


Testimonies of the Supernatural Among Respected Christian Leaders (some of whom are cessationists)
http://charismatamatters.blogspot.com/2013/12/testimonies-of-respected-christian.html


Near Death Experiences and Christianity
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/01/near-death-experiences-and-christianity.html

(see also  Apparitions and deadbed visions by Steve Hays where he links to non-Christian links that provide some evidence for apparent apparitions and deathbed visions)


Book Reviews of Recent Atheist Authors by Christian Apologists
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/09/book-reviews-of-recent-atheist-authors.html


Evidence and Testimonies of Demonic and Angelic Encounters
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/04/evidence-and-testimonies-of-demonic-and.html


Alleged Visions, Dreams and Visitations of Jesus to Muslims
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/04/alleged-visions-dreams-and-visitations.html


UFOs and Christianity
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/08/ufos-and-christianity.html


Sleep Paralysis, Old Hag Syndrome and Alien Abductions
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/03/sleep-paralysis-old-hag-syndrome.html


Scientific Evidence for Supernatural Events (audio lecture) by Gary Habermas
http://www.garyhabermas.com/audio/Habermas_Apologia%2019-10-2013%20ScientificEvidenceOfSupernatural%201%20E1b.mp3

Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism (speculative thought provoking video)
http://youtu.be/4C5pq7W5yRM


Intelligent Design would also suggest that standard versions of materialism and naturalism are false. Intelligent Design arguments have been made from both the biological and cosmological evidence. If intelligent design is true, then that would mean that a personal agent or agents (or maybe Agent, i.e. God) had a hand in the existence of life in the universe. Even if intelligent design is true, that does not automatically disprove all forms of materialism, naturalism and atheism.
[links soon to be added]




Related links:

Ten Presuppositions of Science
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/07/ten-presuppositions-of-science.html

Scientists Discover that Atheists Might Not Exist
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/10/scientists-discover-that-atheists-might.html


Book Reviews of Recent Atheist Authors by Christian Apologists

Detecting and Finding God

"Unveiling" The Hiddenness of God


Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Lottery Coincidence



The following is a reproduction of my comments in a blog post by Steve Hays titled, "The mystery of providence." These comments are adapted from previous comments I made at another blog Steve previously wrote title, "Hiding in plain sight"



Here's a possible example of a public demonstration of a special providence in modern times.

EXACTLY one year (TO THE DAY) after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 2001, one of the New York lotteries picked the numbers 9, 1, 1 as the winning numbers.
See HERE for a video.

Many consider the coincidence not that extraordinary. See this ABC News article:
The 9-11 Lottery Coincidence

Snopes' article on the topic and its statistical insignificance: HERE

For myself, I'm not convinced that it should be dismissed as a mere coincidence based on the following questions I have.

1. Why was the exact order of the numbers picked 9-1-1 instead of 1-9-1 or 1-1-9?

2. Why would the 911 pop up in the New York lottery instead of one of the other 49 states on that anniversary?

3. Why exactly the date of the anniversary (i.e. 9/11/2002)?

4. Why not some other day within the 365 days of that first year or past 365 but within the second year mark?

5. Why not in some future anniversary like the 2nd year or 3rd year, or 4th year or 10th year? Why THAT VERY FIRST anniversary?

6. Why should the lottery game that has only three numbers to be picked be the one that this coincidence shows up in and not one of the other lotteries that play on that same day. For example, of 6 picked numbers, three of them correspond to 9,1,1, or two of them correspond to 9,11?
Like 5, 9, 11, 27, 33, 45.
In the video above, there was a second lottery that took place immediately afterward which required 4 numbers to be picked. Why didn't the coincidence happen in that one? I don't know if there was a morning and evening drawing on that day.

7. While it's possible, why would a single human or group of humans fix the outcome? Those in position to do so would most likely be employed by the lottery establishment. In which case they would be endangering their own jobs. Since such an outcome would be so outstanding many people would (and did) cry "foul!"; claiming the results were (humanly) fixed. Some people were probably demanding a criminal investigation.

Both articles above do their own math to argue for its statistical insignificance.

From a Calvinist perspective, everything God allows by His providence is positively ordained by Him. Even of humanly fixed lotteries.

This lottery coincidence seems so outstanding to me personally, that I can't help but think there almost HAS to be human fixing of the results involved. Either that or an especial Divine providence (rather than ordinary Divine providence).

[[My revised view:   From my Calvinist perspective it could be mere "coincidence" such that it happened by God's ordinary providence without human intervention. But it seems to me that it is more likely 1. a case of God's ordinary providence by human fixing; 2. it was a case of God's special providence with special meaning or 3. God's extraordinary providence with special meaning.]]

I haven't read both articles in a while, but browsing the Snopes article, it does say there was a midday drawing. It also says, "Lottery officials said that 5,631 people had selected the symbolic numbers, and each winner took home $500." This reminds me of the scene in the movie Bruce Almighty where so many people won the lottery that they only got something like $17 instead of millions. LOL!

Steve wrote:
One of the enigmatic features of divine providence is the apparent randomness of divine providence. There are two popular explanations for this phenomenon. One is atheism.

and

There are, however, some fundamental problems with that explanation..............There's ample evidence for answered prayer. What's puzzling is their often inscrutable distribution in time and place.

Steve is absolutely right. Here's a link to one of my blogs:

Testimonies of the Supernatural Among Respected Christian Leaders (some of whom are cessationists)
http://charismatamatters.blogspot.com/2013/12/testimonies-of-respected-christian.html

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Near Death Experiences and Christianity





Some links to resources that directly or indirectly deal with Near Death Experiences from a Christian
perspective. Sometimes the discussion is in the comments section rather than main body of a blog.

Non-Christians who believe in the genuineness of the NDE as indicating the reality of the persistence of consciousness after death and to an afterlife often argue that the NDE data disproves Christianity. As a Christian I have to ask the following: Does the data point away from Christianity? Or does the data merely not point toward Christianity? The latter is consistent with the truth of Christianity, while the former would seems to militate against the truth of Christianity. Even if some (or most) of the evidence points away from Christianity, that would not necessary disprove Christianity since what is actually going on in NDEs isn't clear. At the most, what the data does seems to clearly demonstrate is that human consciousness is not tied up with the human brain. And thus suggesting the reality of something like the concept of the soul or spirit of human beings.


Links from Triablogue
(listed chronologically)


Apocalypse redux
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2004/11/apocalypse-redux.html

Unreasonable reasons
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/11/unreasonable-reasons.html

Sense And Nonsense About Heaven And Hell
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/08/sense-and-nonsense-about-heaven-and.html

Bell, book, & candle
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/02/bell-book-candle.html

Why Would A Non-Christian Have A Positive Near-Death Experience
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-would-non-christian-have-positive.html

Drain bamage
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/08/drain-bamage.html

Unexpected Miracles
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/04/unexpected-miracles.html

Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/04/near-death-experiences.html

Evaluating NDEs
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/04/evaluating-ndes.html

Hellish Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/05/hellish-near-death-experiences.html

Dream-Like Aspects Of Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/05/dream-like-aspects-of-near-death.html

The Credibility And Commonality Of Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/08/credibility-and-commonality-of-near.html

The Moral Dimension Of Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/10/moral-dimension-of-near-death.html

An Evangelical View Of Near-Death Experiences And Related Phenomena
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/12/evangelical-view-of-near-death.html

Suppression Of The More Dream-Like Aspects Of Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/01/suppression-of-more-dream-like-aspects.html

Further Thoughts On The Moral Aspect Of Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/02/further-thoughts-on-moral-aspect-of.html

Beauregard on NDEs
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/05/beauregard-on-ndes.html

Luke 16, 2 Corinthians 12, And Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/06/luke-16-2-corinthians-12-and-near-death.html

Susan Blackmore's OBE
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/07/susan-blackmores-obe.html

People Raised From The Dead In Modern Times
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/07/people-raised-from-dead-in-modern-times.html

Following Breadcrumbs Through The Woods
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/07/following-breadcrumbs-through-woods.html

A Neurosurgeon’s Near Death Experience
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-neurosurgeons-near-death-experience.html

NDEs and the argument from religious experience
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/02/ndes-and-argument-from-religious.html

Suicide: "You've got to go back"
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/02/suicide-youve-got-to-go-back.html

Déjà vu
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/03/deja-vu.html

Erasing death
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/04/erasing-death.html

Be Honest About Your Life
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/07/be-honest-about-your-life.html

Be Prepared To Address Paranormal Phenomena
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/07/be-prepared-to-address-paranormal.html

The gay part of "gay marriage"
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-gay-part-of-gay-marriage.html

Interpreting Old-Hag syndrome
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/08/interpreting-old-hag-syndrome.html

Near-Death Experiences In The News
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/08/near-death-experiences-in-news.html

A Fundamentalist Makes A Rare Appearance
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-fundamentalist-makes-rare-appearance.html

Reporting miracles
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/08/reporting-miracles.html

J. Steve Miller on Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/08/j-steve-miller-on-near-death-experiences.html

Rat nirvana
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/08/rat-nirvana.html

"Heaven is for real"
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/01/heaven-is-for-real.html

Hellish NDEs
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/02/hellish-ndes.html

When heaven is hell
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/02/when-heaven-is-hell.html

"90 Minutes in Heaven"
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/02/90-minutes-in-heaven.html

I Disagree With John Piper About Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/03/i-disagree-with-john-piper-about-near.html

Interpreting NDEs
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/04/interpreting-ndes.html

Is Heaven is for Real a hoax?
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/04/is-heaven-is-for-real-hoax.html

Habermas on NDEs
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/04/habermas-on-ndes.html

Tom McCall on NDEs
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/04/tom-mccall-on-ndes.html

Potential Christian Explanations Of Near-Death Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/07/potential-christian-explanations-of.html

Patricia Pearson's Opening Heaven's Door
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/08/patricia-pearsons-opening-heavens-door.html

Why You Should Be Prepared To Address Paranormal Experiences
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/08/why-you-should-be-prepared-to-address.html

"Needing To Fend Off The Evangelicals"
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/08/needing-to-fend-off-evangelicals.html

Playing football with NDEs
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2015/01/playing-football-with-ndes.html

Sifting visions
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2015/01/sifting-visions.html

Blindsight
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/10/blindsight.html




Some other related links on Triablogue:

Apparitions and deadbed visions
http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/06/apparitions-and-deadbed-visions.html

Terminal lucidity
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/08/terminal-lucidity.html

Ayer's red light
http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2017/01/ayers-red-light.html






Links from Apologetics315


Book Review: Near-Death Experiences as Evidence for the Existence of God and Heaven by J. Steve Miller
http://www.apologetics315.com/2013/09/book-review-near-death-experiences-as.html

 Interview: J. Steve Miller on Near-Death Experiences
http://www.apologetics315.com/2013/03/interview-j-steve-miller-on-near-death.html

 Near-Death Experiences: Evidence for an Afterlife? - Gary Habermas MP3 Audio
http://www.apologetics315.com/2009/07/near-death-experiences-evidence-for.html


Gary Habermas on Infidel Guy Radio Show MP3 Audio
http://www.apologetics315.com/2008/11/gary-habermas-on-infidel-guy-radio-show.html




Christians interviewed at the Non-Christian Skeptiko podcast show on the topic of NDEs

Gary Habermas

J. Steve Miller

Michael S. Heiser



Gary Habermas Audio on NDEs   (lectures and debates)

There's an ever growing list of resources on the topic at Habermas' website:
AUDIO
VIDEO

Here's a link to some of them:

Near Death Experiences: Empirically Verifiable Aspects
Radio Interview: The Sci Phi Show, Outcast #65 - Australia - Jason Rennie
Date: June 19, 2008
PART I (5MB) :|: PART II (5MB)


Near-Death Experiences: Evidence for an Afterlife?
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo | Veritas Forum
2003 | Also Available at http://www.veritas.org/media/talks/447
PART I (8MB) :|: PART II (9MB) [MP3 files]
By Permission: Veritas.org

 
Radio Dialog: Near Death Experiences, Dr. Habermas vs. Keith Augustine
(Executive Director, Internet Infidels)
PART I (3MB) :|: PART II (4MB) :|: PART III (4MB) [MP3 files]
From "The Things That Matter Most" live radio program
Interviewers Rick Davis and Aaron Edwards - 700 AM KSEV, Houston, TX


Near Death Experiences as Empirical Evidence Against Naturalism
PART I (6MB) :|: PART II (7MB) [wave files]
Lecture given at the Apologetics Interfaith Evangelism Conference
April 7, 2006, Woodland Hills Baptist Church, Asheville, North Carolina


Death, the Afterlife, and Near Death Experiences
PART I (3MB) :|: PART II (3MB) [MP3 files]
From the "Big Questions" live radio program provided by Winsome Media





Non-Christian Links

The Science of Near-Death Experiences
http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/the-science-of-near-death-experiences/386231/





Recommended Links:

Evidence and Arguments Against Materialism and Naturalism
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/01/evidence-and-arguments-against.html

Sleep Paralysis, Old Hag Syndrome and Alien Abductions
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/03/sleep-paralysis-old-hag-syndrome.html

UFOs and Christianity
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/08/ufos-and-christianity.html

Alleged Visions, Dreams and Visitations of Jesus to Muslims
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/04/alleged-visions-dreams-and-visitations.html

Links on the Subject of Miracles in the Context of Craig Keener's Recent Book
http://www.gospelcrumbs.blogspot.com/2012/11/links-on-subject-of-miracles-in-context.html

Charismata Matters
http://charismatamatters.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Atheists and Calvinism



Some atheists reject Calvinism because they complain that it's unfair. Or because they might be numbered among the non-elect if Calvinism were true. How can Calvinists respond to that?

Well, let me try to approach it logically. It seems to me that there are several issues involved.

1. The truth or falsity of Calvinism
2. The fairness or justice of Calvinism
3. The reality of one's election or non-election
4. The basis on which one could, would, or should come to believe in (and/or submit to) God.

Before discussing the possible falsity of Calvinism in particular (or theism in general), let's first assume that Calvinism is true.

What if Calvinism were true but unjust? If it were unjust/unfair, one would first have to show the standard and foundation upon which one could evaluate Calvinism and show it is unjust or unfair. But many theists AND atheists have argued that no such standard could exist given the non-existence of God. If that's true, then only some other form of theism (or non-Calvinistic form of Christianity) could possibly provide an ultimate standard to demonstrate that Calvinism is unjust and unfair. But this blog post isn't about comparative religion. Nor is it a post comparing the case for Christianity with the cases for other religions. Other Christian works have dealt with that issue. I'm confining myself in this blog primarily to the issue of how atheists should respond to Calvinism. It should also be noted that justice and fairness need not be equivalent. True justice would have to have some ontological grounding. Whereas in common everyday usage "fairness" is often only a concept that refers to the subjective and emotional consideration people expect from each other irrespective of the philosophical issue of moral grounding.

But despite the difficulty that atheism has in grounding justice and fairness, let's assume for the sake of argument that Calvinism is true AND IT REALLY IS UNJUST AND UNFAIR. With that assumption then, God does exist and WILL inexorably save some and damn others. Atheists may argue that therefore there's no point in trying to believing in God. Either one is elect or one isn't elect. If one is elect, then one will be saved eventually. If one isn't elect, one will never and could never be saved. Since no one can change his elect or non-elect status, there's no point to make any effort to come to God. Besides, who would want to believe in a God who is (per this hypothetical) unjust and unfair?

Well, at the very least one may choose to try to believe in God or look for good reasons to believe in this God (assuming Calvinism is true and unjust per this hypothetical) for PRUDENTIAL reasons. That is, for practical and pragmatic reasons for the sake of his own eternal good; and to prevent an eternal harm (i.e. hell). It's not as if no atheists have ever submitted to the rule of a human tyrants and dictators out of pure self-interest and survival (to increase pleasure and minimize suffering/pain). Of course atheists have. An atheist might argue that for the sake of one's own personal integrity, he would rather choose to go to hell than to believe in such an unfair God. But only if personal integrity were a true and ultimate virtue would such a decision really be rational. As explained above, without God it may not be that there are such ultimate virtues. Another atheist might argue that maybe God wouldn't accept that kind of mercenary and sycophantic belief and submission. Since it's not out of full acceptance. He wouldn't be welcoming and embracing (this unjust Calvinistic conception of) God out of joy. Well, per this hypothesis, this God would be unfair, unjust and unpredictable. Since such a God is unpredictable, it wouldn't hurt to give it a try/shot. Maybe this God doesn't mind that kind of loyalty. Many human tyrants and dictators didn't mind. They would rather be feared than truly loved. Obviously, as a Calvinist myself, I don't believe that God is unjust, tyrannical, arbitrary, or capricious.

Here standard pragmatic arguments for belief in God can be useful. Here's a link to my blog on Pascal's Wager which has links to articles on Pascal's Wager and other pragmatic arguments for belief in God.

Pascal's Wager
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/12/pascals-wager.html

While pragmatic arguments AREN'T the best reasons to believe in God, they aren't impermissible reasons to believe in God either. Remember, there's a different between not being sure God exists and willing to believe in hopes that God, if He exists will makes Himself real in one's life, AND in positively believing God does NOT exist and having to overcome that disbelief (rather than mere unbelief). Pragmatic arguments can be useful in the former even if they may not be for the latter.

Next some atheists may admit and then ask, "Sure believing in God (or at least submitting to the rule of God) for mercenary reasons makes some rational sense, but what if I'm non-elect? I can't change my elect or non-elect status." It's true that one can't change his predestined election or non-election. The same answer can be given here as above. If such a God were unjust and unpredictable, he might change his mind. Or he doesn't change his mind, it nevertheless only makes sense to try to get on his good side. It makes sense that one might have a better chance of being saved by trying to please God. Just as it seems that one would have a poorer chance of being saved by not trying to please him.

As a matter of fact Calvinism does teach that God's predestination is not unjust and that God is good, gracious and loving. Assuming that God is just and good, what follows? How can Calvinists answer the atheist question and complaint that he might be non-elect? Well, while one cannot change one's elect or non-elect status, Calvinism teaches that God not only preordains the "ends" (i.e. what will happen), God also preordains the "means" (i.e. how they will happen). Therefore, if God preordained that someone will be saved because he is elect, God has also preordained that he will believe as a result of seeking God. As I've shown HERE, both the elect and the non-elect can search for God in some sense even if only the elect can do so sincerely and profitably. It's true that God has ordained all of our choices, but He has done so (according to Calvinism) in such a way that it can seem (at least at times from our psychological perspective) that we have libertarian free will and the power of contrary choice. That's why Calvinists can affirm free moral agency, the reality of human wills and the genuineness of choices while at the same time denying libertarian free will to humans (as knowledgeable Calvinists generally do). Both elect and non-elect persons can begin a search for God insincerely but for the elect God may use that initial insincere search for Him to eventually find Him. That is, God can change an initially insincere search for Him into a sincere search by His regenerating power. Since no atheist in this world knows (or can know) whether he is elect or not, he isn't rationally barred from initiating a search for God even if he knows it might initially be insincere. Since God may use such a search by the atheist to bring him into a sincere search. This is also one reason why it's foolish for any atheist to ever give up searching for God. Since one can never know if or when he will find and come to experience God.

Also, since God sometimes ordains that the elect or the non-elect fulfill their destinies via their psychological belief that they are or are not numbered among the elect, that's reason not to prematurely judge oneself non-elect. Psychologically speaking, fear of being non-elect (or resenting that possibility) can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If one is non-elect, there's no point in fearing it since you can't change your destiny. But as pointed out above, God ordains ends and means. Therefore, if one were to assume the truth of predestination (or at least its possibility), it's in one's best interest to focus on living in such a way that meets the distinguishing marks of election. Namely, seeking God. Even if one is currently not a Christian, in hopes of finding God. Or if one is currently a professing Christian, to continue pursuing God and living the Christian life of sanctification. That's what 2 Pet. 1:10 is about. It's not about "securing" one's election as if it hangs in the balance or as if it's not yet determined. That verse (2 Peter 1:10) is about living in such a way that you have personal psychological assurance that one is among the elect because one is living in a way that the elect live. By pursuing holiness and living a life of daily faith and repentance.

"Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." - 2 Pet. 1:10

Atheists might say that's fine and dandy if the God of Calvinism is actually just. Maybe he isn't. But it's also a logical possiblity that He is just. For all the atheist knows, Calvinism may not only be true, BUT ALSO BE JUST (i.e. in keeping with justice). Merel because Calvinism may SEEM unjust to him (according to his limited and finite understanding), doesn't necessarily mean it is. If God is as transcendant as Calvinism claims, it only makes sense that some things may at present seem to be unjust and irrational, yet in the end may be revealed and demonstrated to actually be just and rational on the Day of Judgement. Just as there may be morally and rationally sufficient reasons for God allowing (even ordaining) the evil and suffering in this world even though we might at present not be privy to those reasons, so (in like manner) there may be morally and rationally sufficient reasons for God electing some and passing over the non-elect. That's not to say that Calvinists haven't offered some reasons. They have, but they don't claim to exhaust all the possible reasons for why God elects in the way He does.

We started this blog with the assumption that Calvinism true, and God is unjust. Then that Calvinism is true, and God is just. It's now time to explore the possibility that Calvinism false.

Let's make the hypothetical assumption that Calvinism and any other form of theism is false (even non-Calvinistic forms of Christianity). If God doesn't exist then no one is actually elect or non-elect. In which case, there would be no actual problem with predestination. More importantly, if God doesn't exist it's very difficult to argue for the objective reality of justice and/or fairness. If it's true (as many theists AND atheists argue) that apart from God there are no moral absolutes or no objective moral duties that humans are obligated to obey and follow, then there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the concept of election or non-election. Nor with anyone BELIEVING in those concepts. Therefore, there would really be no basis upon which to judge Calvinism's doctrine of predestination as immoral, unjust or unfair. Believing in Calvinism would be morally equivalent to any other choice of a worldview (whether it be atheism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism etc.). Therefore, there would be nothing morally wrong in believing in Calvinism or being a Calvinist. Given that assumption, atheists cannot judge or criticize Calvinism (as a system) or Calvinists (themselves as people) for being morally abhorent or beliving what they do, or for being "cold hearted." As if it were "wrong" to be "cold hearted."

The question that's left then is whether Calvinism is actually true and how to determine it.

And so, finally, atheists may respond by saying, "I don't want to believe anything for which 1. I don't have sufficient evidence to believe, or 2. which I find irrational, or 3. which I find immoral and abhorrent."

In answer to that, I recommend atheists read a wide range of Christian apologetical literature. By so doing, one can encounter evidence and arguments that may persuade one of the plausiblity or truth of Christianity. For some, pragmatic arguments may be enough to tip the scales that they are willing to pursue God or believe in Him provisionally. That in itself, while not the best way to approach God, is still nevertheless something God sometimes uses to draw someone to Himself. For those who cannot believe something for which they're convinced is false, I applaud them. From a Christian perspective, it's immoral to try to believe something you really don't believe is true or postively believe is false. That's not to say that Christians don't sometimes doubt the truth of Christianity or that they don't have an obligation to strengthen their faith. Christians, if they truly are Christians, already are born again, have been regenerated and are in relationship with God. They should know better than to persist in doubt. That's what Jesus was referring to when He said that those who are to enter the Kingdom of God must do so with child-like faith. It about trusting one's heavenly Father. That's a different context from an atheist who doesn't believe in God and has no relationship with Him. Choosing to believe something is true by sheer willpower (i.e. doxastic voluntarism) is either nearly impossible or actually impossible. The way to overcome negative doubt or postive disbelief belief is to immerse oneself in the evidences for God's existence. Those evidence may eventually lead one to the conclusion that God really does exist.

J.P. Moreland makes some good points about the psychology of belief in the following lecture which I highly recommend:

 "Love Your God With All Your Mind" by J. P. Moreland 
(there are two versions of the lecture at the below link)

http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/j-p-moreland-lectures-on-love-your-god-with-all-your-mind/


More of my blogs on J.P. Moreland can be accessed HERE. Which is the same link as the bottom of this blog where J.P. Moreland is one of the labels.


Recommended Books:

A Call to the Unconverted by Richard Baxter (or HERE, HERE, HERE)

Alarm to the Unconverted by Joseph Alleine (or HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE)