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  • One on One: Calvinism and the immutability of God.

    This thread is dedicated to allowing Hilston to straighten me out on the topic of God's immutability according to Calvinism.

    In the past Jim has accused me of carelessly plowing over this topic and using false information in the process.

    I am guessing I am guilty as charged as I tend to only debate the statements that are being made in front of me.

    It is not my intention to use this thread as a debate thread but instead I would rather just let Jim explain his position to me so I have a more clear understanding of it. That doesn't mean I wont make an objection here or there but for the most part I have made a commitment to myself to keep my guns in my holsters and simply learn from Jim whom I have a great deal of respect for.

    My only request for Jim is that we go in small "bite size" chunks because as usual I am extremely busy.

    Lets begin....
    I have often battled folks on TOL who call themselves Calvinists that have claimed that God cannot change in any way whatsoever. This seems to me an easy target and one that is easily refuted.

    I believe Jim would say all of this is irrelevant because that notion is NOT an actual tenant of Calvinism.

    Jim thanks for taking the time to explain this to me. Tag your it.
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  • #2
    Unqualified vs. qualified immutability

    First of all, it should be noted that I do not claim to be a Calvinist. There's a whole host of baggage that comes along with that term, the vast majority of which I do not wish to have associated with me or my beliefs, not the least of which is covenantalist eschatology or ecclesiology, presbyterianism, sacerdotalism, etc. I have Calvinistic views, in particular, with respect to the efficacy and extent of the atoning work of Christ, which, in my view is particular and not universal, and applies specially to each of three households of God's elect, the elect of the Nations, the elect of Israel, and the Body of Christ. So, in a sense, you might call me a 15-pointer, instead of a 5-pointer.

    Second, I would like to state that it is not my intention in this discussion to advance Calvinism. Ditto for Augustine, but rather it is to expose the misinformation promulgated by Open Theists in general, and TOL Open Theists in particular. See the following examples:

    Open Theists such as Bob Hill and Bob Enyart (henceforth, the Bobs) claim that Augustine had a strong loyalty to Plato, even to the extent of following the teachings of Plato over scripture. What the Bobs will not tell you is that Augustine chucked some of Plato's teachings in the bin. If Augustine's allegiance were to Plato and Platonistic thought, why did he betray that allegiance by dissenting on certain Platonistic doctrines?

    Those who have read the Bobs' writings on immutability, impassibility, etc. should know that they selectively quote Augustine to characterize him in a way that is not supported by his own writing, to say that Augustine believed God could not change at all in any way whatsoever (i.e. unqualified immutability), when it is clear as day that he believed otherwise (qualified immutability).

    Bob Enyart has written:
    "... absolute immutability which denies that God can change at all, The doctrine of immutability imported into Christianity the pagan Greek conception that God is utterly unchangeable. Whereas the traditional doctrine of immutability followed the Greeks, through Augustine, in denying any change whatsoever to God, which depicted Him more like a cold stone idol than like the God of Scripture.
    Note that Enyart's characterization of Augustine espousing unqualified immutability is contrary to Augustine's own words:
    ... this Word of God, I say, took to Himself, in a manner entirely different from that in which He is present to other creatures, the soul and body of a man, and made, by the union of Himself therewith, the one person Jesus Christ, Mediator between God and men, His Deity equal with the Father, in His flesh, i.e. in His human nature, inferior to the Father, unchangeably immortal in respect of the divine nature, in which He is equal with the Father, and yet changeable and mortal in respect of the infirmity which was His through participation with our nature.
    ~ From the Letters of Augustine, pp. 949, 950

    Perhaps the worst part is that other Open Theists, who look up to these men, will uncritically read the specious claims of the Bobs and thereby formulate their opinions about Calvinists and Augustinians. The numbers of Open Theists who bandy about this distortion are legion. Every time I meet one that says, "You Calvinists believe that God can't change at all in anyway whatsoever," I say, "No they don't. Where did you get this idea?" Then they pretend to have read Augustine and Calvin, but when pressed, they admit that they've only read the Bobs' writings about Augustine and Calvin.

    Because of this relatively recent distortion, we now need to clarify something that has been understood for centuries: Immutability is qualified. Calvin and Augustine did not teach unqualified immutability (i.e., that God could not change at all in anyway whatsoever), but rather a qualified immutability (i.e. that God is unchanging in His nature and essence ~ or "substance," which was Augustine's word for essence). When Calvin et al used the phrase "absolute immutability," it was in reference to God's nature and essence, not His actions, not His relationships, not His emotions, not His manifestations, not the expressions of His glory.

    Originally posted by Knight
    I have often battled folks on TOL who call themselves Calvinists that have claimed that God cannot change in any way whatsoever.
    In past discussions, I asked Clete to provide me the names of Calvinists who affirm such a view of immutability. I contacted every one of them and they denied it. I asked him for others and he couldn't give any. I will ask the same thing of Knight. If he (or anyone) can point me to a Calvinist who believes in unqualified immutability, I will happily interview him or her to find out why they believe such a fallacy, and do my best to set them straight.

    Jim

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Hilston
      First of all, it should be noted that I do not claim to be a Calvinist. There's a whole host of baggage that comes along with that term, the vast majority of which I do not wish to have associated with me or my beliefs, not the least of which is covenantalist eschatology or ecclesiology, presbyterianism, sacerdotalism, etc. I have Calvinistic views, in particular, with respect to the efficacy and extent of the atoning work of Christ, which, in my view is particular and not universal, and applies specially to each of three households of God's elect, the elect of the Nations, the elect of Israel, and the Body of Christ. So, in a sense, you might call me a 15-pointer, instead of a 5-pointer.
      Yet as it relates to God's foreknowldge isn't there really only three reasonable options....

      1. God ordains the entire future in every detail (the best label for this belief might be Calvinism)
      2. God does not ordain the future but is outside of time and has seen the entire future (the best label for this belief might be Arminianism)
      3. Other than specific events that He brings to pass, God leaves the future open (the best label for this belief might be Open Theism)

      Setting aside all the other implications of these beliefs, which one of the above views most closely matches your views on God's foreknowledge?


      Second, I would like to state that it is not my intention in this discussion to advance Calvinism. Ditto for Augustine, but rather it is to expose the misinformation promulgated by Open Theists in general, and TOL Open Theists in particular. See the following examples:

      Open Theists such as Bob Hill and Bob Enyart (henceforth, the Bobs) claim that Augustine had a strong loyalty to Plato, even to the extent of following the teachings of Plato over scripture. What the Bobs will not tell you is that Augustine chucked some of Plato's teachings in the bin. If Augustine's allegiance were to Plato and Platonistic thought, why did he betray that allegiance by dissenting on certain Platonistic doctrines?
      Which Platonistic doctrines did Augustine "chuck"?

      More specifically... which Platonistic doctrines that relate to the topic at hand did Augustine "chuck"?


      Perhaps the worst part is that other Open Theists, who look up to these men, will uncritically read the specious claims of the Bobs and thereby formulate their opinions about Calvinists and Augustinians. The numbers of Open Theists who bandy about this distortion are legion. Every time I meet one that says, "You Calvinists believe that God can't change at all in anyway whatsoever," I say, "No they don't. Where did you get this idea?" Then they pretend to have read Augustine and Calvin, but when pressed, they admit that they've only read the Bobs' writings about Augustine and Calvin.
      That description certainly doesn't fit me.

      I have never read Augustine nor do I care to.

      I really don't even care what Augustine wrote or thought. Maybe I should, but I don't.

      My strategy is to simply consider the argument that is being made in front of me. Is it or is it not biblical? That's all I really care about.

      Because of this relatively recent distortion, we now need to clarify something that has been understood for centuries: Immutability is qualified. Calvin and Augustine did not teach unqualified immutability (i.e., that God could not change at all in anyway whatsoever), but rather a qualified immutability (i.e. that God is unchanging in His nature and essence ~ or "substance," which was Augustine's word for essence). When Calvin et al used the phrase "absolute immutability," it was in reference to God's nature and essence, not His actions, not His relationships, not His emotions, not His manifestations, not the expressions of His glory.
      That's great stuff, thanks.

      So basically what you are saying (and tell me if you disagree) if John Calvin were alive today he would have an identical view (or at least very close to identical view) of God's "qualified immutability" as do us open theists?

      After all, I cannot tell you how many times I have had to explain to folks that we Open Theists believe that God DOES NOT CHANGE in His righteous character, His essence and His divine nature.

      And also... if what you are saying is accurate would you also agree that if John Calvin were alive today he should have no logical objection to the notion that God could change His mind, relent or repent from something He intended to do?

      In past discussions, I asked Clete to provide me the names of Calvinists who affirm such a view of immutability. I contacted every one of them and they denied it. I asked him for others and he couldn't give any. I will ask the same thing of Knight. If he (or anyone) can point me to a Calvinist who believes in unqualified immutability, I will happily interview him or her to find out why they believe such a fallacy, and do my best to set them straight.

      Jim
      Jim, I have been running TOL for almost 10 years now. And I seriously cannot tell you how many times I have been told by "so called Calvinists" that "God cannot change in ANY WAY WHATSOEVER for if He did, He would no longer be perfect".

      Seriously, I wish I had a dime for everytime I have read that exact statement or something very close to it on TOL.

      From this point forward I will try to make a note of it every time I hear it or see it so I can keep better track. At this point I really don't have the time to go back and sift through all the TOL posts to find examples, although I will assure you they are here.

      This is all very interesting stuff so far and I am really thankful for your input as I am learning already!

      (I put my questions in blue so you could easily find them)
      Last edited by Knight; February 26th, 2006, 06:24 PM.
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      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Knight
        Yet as it relates to God's foreknowldge isn't there really only three reasonable options....

        1. God ordains the entire future in every detail (the best label for this belief might Calvinism)
        I'm blown away by this, because the only way this can even remotely makes sense must be through Open Theist lenses. It appears to me that the eagerness of Open Theists to characterize all non-open views as "Calvinism" demonstrates (a) an obscurantist approach to doctrinal debate, and (b) an insulated and self-perpetuating distortion of doctrinal history. Labels for those who affirm exhaustive foreknowledge vary widely, including, but not limited to: Amyraldian, Reformed, Covenantalist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, mid-Act dispensationalist. It is completely unwarranted to lump them all together as "Calvinism." A more general and less-denominationally charged label might be "determinist." Or even "Settled View" is fine.

        Originally posted by Knight
        2. God is outside of time and has seen the entire future (the best label for this belief might Arminianism)
        Every one of the above labels I mentioned above would fit here as well. Are you aware that the 5 points of Calvinism (Synod of Dordt, C.E. 1618-19) were formulated as a counterargument to the Arminian Articles of Remonstrance (i.e. the 5 points of Arminianism, C.E. 1610)?

        Originally posted by Knight
        3. Other than specific events that He brings to pass, God leaves the future open (the best label for this belief might Open Theism)
        I can think of other labels, but I will keep them to myself.

        Originally posted by Knight
        Setting aside all the other implications of these beliefs, which one of the above views most closely matches your views on God's foreknowledge?
        1. and 2.

        Originally posted by Knight
        More specifically... which Platonistic doctrines that relate to the topic at hand did Augustine "chuck"?
        I don't know off the top of my head. Nor does it matter. If you're were simply curious, I could find some excerpts and post them here. Regardless of what it was, the fact remains, Augustine jettisoned some of Plato's teachings. Period. If Augustine had the kind of blind sycophantic loyalty that the Bobs (Hill & Enyart) have accused of him, this would seem incongruous to that loyalty.

        Originally posted by Knight
        I have never read Augustine nor do I care to. I really don't even care what Augustine wrote or thought. Maybe I should, but I don't. ? My strategy is to simply consider the argument that is being made in front of me. Is it or is it not biblical? That's all I really care about.
        Doesn't it concern you that you've mischaracterized your opponents' theologies? If you wish to communicate intelligently and to minimize confusion, wouldn't it behoove you to use words and descriptions correctly and to rightly characterize opposing positions? Do you believe you are accountable for what you say and teach? Aren't you concerned that those whom you teach are getting a distorted view of doctrinal history and opposing theologies?

        Originally posted by Knight
        So basically what you are saying (and tell me if you disagree) if John Calvin were alive today he would have an identical view of God's "qualified immutability" as do us open theists?
        Probably not, because of how other Open View doctrines ramify as a system of thought and belief. But it doesn't have to be identical for Bob Hill and Bob Enyart to be guilty of mischaracterizing Calvinism.

        Originally posted by Knight
        After all, I cannot tell you how many times I have had to explain to folks that we Open Theists believe that God DOES NOT CHANGE in His righteous character, His essence and His divine nature.
        So you apparently, at least partly, agree with Calvinists, Amyraldians, Presbyterians, Covenantalists, Reformed Baptists, Congregationalists, mid-Acts Dispensationalists and Augustine when he writes:
        "For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? ... Thou lovest, and burnest not; art jealous, yet free from care; repentest, and hast no sorrow; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy ways, leaving unchanged Thy plans; recoverest what Thou findest, having yet never lost; art never in want, whilst Thou rejoicest in gain; never covetous, though requiring usury ..." From Augustine's Confessions, pp 78,79.

        Originally posted by Knight
        And also ... if what you are saying is accurate would you also agree that if John Calvin were alive today he should have no logical objection to the notion that God could change His mind, relent or repent from something He intended to do?
        That's is a different discussion. These anthro-figures (e.g. mind and intentionality) were understood by the original audience as describing changes in God's actions, not His plans/decrees. Calvin would undoubtedly have massive problems with the whole system of Open Theist thought, not the least of which is its humanistic existentialism and denigration of God's transcendent attributes.

        Originally posted by Knight
        Jim, I have been running TOL for almost 10 years now. And I seriously cannot tell you how many times I have been told by "so called Calvinists" that "God cannot change in ANY WAY WHATSOEVER for if He did, He would no longer be perfect".
        I've seen time and again, Bob Hill and Bob Enyart being the most high-profile offenders, how Open Theists read only what they want to read and hear only what they want to hear. Check my recent post to Bob Hill in the "Open Theism" thread in which he quotes, yet again, Augustine's statement about the immutability of God's substance and nature. Substance and nature.

        Substance.

        ... and ...

        Nature.

        Substance and nature.


        Will Bob retract his accusation after I've pointed this out to him? Probably not. Why? Because he apparently refuses to see it. This is characteristic of Open Theists. They so badly want Calvinists to believe in unqualified immutability that they'll deny Augustine's own words and say, "Auggie didn't really know what he was saying. Even though he says he believes God can change, he really doesn't." I saw an Open Theist nearly lose his mind in anger because of all the quotes I was giving him that showed otherwise. He was so spitting mad that he called me a liar. He called me intellectually dishonest. He claimed that he had been attacking the Calvinist view of immutability for eons and that there was no way he was going to let little-old-me come along and teach him anything he didn't already know about what Calvin and Augustine believed. Yet the quotes I gave him are undeniable.

        So what am I to think when an Open Theist claims to have heard a Calvinist make such a claim, while I've never heard a Calvinist say such a thing.

        When Bob Hill ~ "a fine man of God" who "has forgotten more about the Bible than I will ever know" ~ refuses to see this and to retract his false claims, should I expect anything different from his followers?

        Originally posted by Knight
        Seriously, I wish I had a dime for everytime I have read that exact statement or something very close to it on TOL.
        If there are so many, it should not be that difficult to find one or two.

        Originally posted by Knight
        From this point forward I will try to make a note of it every time I hear it or see it so I can keep better track. At this point I really don't have the time to go back and sift through all the TOL posts to find examples, although I will assure you they are here.
        I've looked, Knight. I can't find them. Please try to find some time to search. I would really like to know where these people, who claim to be Calvinists, get this idea that God cannot change at all in any way whatsoever. It's contrary to Calvin's teachings. It's contrary to Augustine's teachings. It is contrary to so-called Reformed Orthodoxy. It is contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith and just about every Christian creed in the history of Christendumb.

        So if you can find some time to show me where such things are being said by Calvinists, and who they are, I will pursue the matter aggressively and report back.

        Jim

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Hilston
          I'm blown away by this, because the only way this can even remotely makes sense must be through Open Theist lenses. It appears to me that the eagerness of Open Theists to characterize all non-open views as "Calvinism" demonstrates (a) an obscurantist approach to doctrinal debate, and (b) an insulated and self-perpetuating distortion of doctrinal history. Labels for those who affirm exhaustive foreknowledge vary widely, including, but not limited to: Amyraldian, Reformed, Covenantalist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, mid-Act dispensationalist. It is completely unwarranted to lump them all together as "Calvinism." A more general and less-denominationally charged label might be "determinist." Or even "Settled View" is fine.
          Good point. I agree that "settled view" would be a better description.

          The only problem with that is that many "settled viewers" (at least those on TOL) reject that label and prefer "Calvinist".

          But I do agree that it is a better term.

          I don't know off the top of my head. Nor does it matter. If you're were simply curious, I could find some excerpts and post them here. Regardless of what it was, the fact remains, Augustine jettisoned some of Plato's teachings. Period. If Augustine had the kind of blind sycophantic loyalty that the Bobs (Hill & Enyart) have accused of him, this would seem incongruous to that loyalty.
          Fair enough.

          I didn't make the assertion.... you did. So I was simply asking you to build on your assertion but frankly I don't really find it that important and apparently neither do you so we may as well drop it.

          Doesn't it concern you that you've mischaracterized your opponents?
          I haven't "mischaracterized my opponents".

          When they tell me that "God cannot change in any way whatsoever" and they refer to themselves as "Calvinists" if there is any misrepresenting going on it's done on their part.

          So you apparently, at least partly, agree with Calvinists, Amyraldians, Presbyterians, Covenantalists, Reformed Baptists, Congregationalists, mid-Acts Dispensationalists and Augustine when he writes:

          "For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? ... Thou lovest, and burnest not; art jealous, yet free from care; repentest, and hast no sorrow; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy ways, leaving unchanged Thy plans; recoverest what Thou findest, having yet never lost; art never in want, whilst Thou rejoicest in gain; never covetous, though requiring usury ..." From Augustine's Confessions, pp 78,79.
          Yikes!!!

          I can hardly make sense of that!

          I agree with some of it and clearly disagree with other parts of it i.e., "and hast no sorrow".

          I've seen time and again, Bob Hill and Bob Enyart being the most high-profile offenders, how Open Theists read only what they want to read and hear only what they want to hear. Check my recent post to Bob Hill in the "Open Theism" thread in which he quotes, yet again, Augustine's statement about the immutability of God's substance and nature. Substance and nature.
          I will try to check that out ASAP.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Knight
            The only problem with that is that many "settled viewers" (at least those on TOL) reject that label and prefer "Calvinist".
            That's not a problem as long as they align themselves with Calvin's views. Have you found any Calvinists who believe in unqualified immutabilty yet?

            Hilston wrote: Regardless of what it was, the fact remains, Augustine jettisoned some of Plato's teachings. Period. If Augustine had the kind of blind sycophantic loyalty that the Bobs (Hill & Enyart) have accused of him, this would seem incongruous to that loyalty.

            Originally posted by Knight
            Fair enough. I didn't make the assertion.... you did. So I was simply asking you to build on your assertion but frankly I don't really find it that important and apparently neither do you so we may as well drop it. ?
            It served its purpose, which was to show that the accusation against Augustine as putting Platonic loyalty over the Bible is dubious at best.

            Hilston wrote: Doesn't it concern you that you've mischaracterized your opponents?[
            Originally posted by Knight
            I haven't "mischaracterized my opponents".
            You've mischaracterized Calvinists, albeit unwittingly, that much is sure. Now that you've been informed about the actual claims of Calvinism regarding God's immutability, wouldn't it be better to tell misguided or misinformed Calvinists what Calvinism actually teaches? I will happily join you in this if you can provide some names, at which point I'll begin my investigation to discover the extent to which their misrepresentations have caused you to mischaracterize Calvinism. I will do my best to set them straight.

            Originally posted by Knight
            When they tell me that "God cannot change in any way whatsoever" and they refer to themselves as "Calvinists" if there is any misrepresenting going on it's done on their part.
            If that's truly the case, I agree with you. Those are the people I want to set straight. However, I'm not convinced that they're as prevalent as you claim they are. I think Open Theists, under the influences of Bob Hill and Bob Enyart, mischaracterize Calvinists before they even get started. For a real live example, note Clete Pfeiffer's blind fixation on this doctrine. He doesn't care that Calvin and Augustine specify the ways in which God is mutable and immutable. Clete is so determined to pin unqualified immutability on Calvin and Augustine that he won't even process the words that they penned. Note the double-standard special pleading that Clete invokes by allowing Bob Enyart to qualify immutability, but when the Calvin or Augustine want to do it, Clete calls it an oxymoron. So if you're anything like Clete, I'm guessing that any discussion about divine immutability you might have with a Calvinist is already encumbered by these false assumptions, and you're going to interpret things that the Calvinist says in light of those assumptions.

            Hilston wrote: So you apparently, at least partly, agree with Calvinists, Amyraldians, Presbyterians, Covenantalists, Reformed Baptists, Congregationalists, mid-Acts Dispensationalists and Augustine when he writes:
            "For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? ... Thou lovest, and burnest not; art jealous, yet free from care; repentest, and hast no sorrow; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy ways, leaving unchanged Thy plans; recoverest what Thou findest, having yet never lost; art never in want, whilst Thou rejoicest in gain; never covetous, though requiring usury ..." From Augustine's Confessions, pp 78,79.

            Originally posted by Knight
            Yikes!!! I can hardly make sense of that! ? I agree with some of it and clearly disagree with other parts of it ...[Emphases added]
            Um, isn't that what I said above? "So you apparently, at least partly, agree with Calvinists, Amyraldians, Presbyterians, Covenantalists, Reformed Baptists, Congregationalists, mid-Acts Dispensationalists and Augustine when he writes ..."

            Do you now acknowledge that Augustine says God can change, contrary to Bob Hill's and Bob Enyart's accusations?

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi Knight,

              Just now, in an Instant Message from Clete, he informed me that Calvinists argue against the incarnation and deny that the Son of God died.

              This illustrates a point pertinent to this discussion. Open Theists like Clete (and there are many, sadly) who take specific cases of uncritical, sloppy-thinking Calvinists who don't know what they believe (and there are many of those, too, sadly), and use them to represent the theology and body of doctrine called Calvinism. Just because there is a Calvinist or two who says something so patently ludicrous and anti-biblical as denying the incarnation, does not suddenly mean that Calvinism now teaches such a thing. This is what the liberal media does when they want to make conservatives look stupid. They find stupid people who are willing to speak out in stupid ways, as if they're representing all conservatives.

              Likewise, Clete finds a couple of self-described Calvinists and decides that they will represent Calvinism. Instead of using his own knowledge to inform them that Calvinism doesn't teach that, Clete just quotes them as representing all Calvinists. I use Clete as an example, because this appears to be characteristic of Open Theists, be they Bob Hill, Bob Enyart, or Knight. I read the Open Theist literature. I've been through Sanders' and Boyd's books several times. I've read reams of Open Theist writings from the most reputable and respected men of that system. Whereas, Clete goes after internet forum hacks and Knight has no interest in reading Augustine or Calvin for himself.

              What would you think if I found every Open Theist whack-job I could find and intimidated them into saying ridiculous things and then proceeded to argue that those things are what all Open Theists believe? This is what is going on.

              When Clete told me these things, as if they represented Calvinism, I ended our conversation. Every last shred of credibility and respect for Clete left my mind when he wrote that. His follow-up to my sign-off follows:

              "Would you like a link to the debate I'm having with a Calvinist who has argued against these very points?"

              Answer: No, because despite what that "Calvinist" says, he's not a Calvinist if he denies the incarnation and the death of the Son of God. Clete should have been embarrassed to use such an obviously non-representative case to make his point. Is there no shame among Open Theists? Knight, will you tell your friend how shameful it is to debate in this way?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hilston
                That's not a problem as long as they align themselves with Calvin's views. Have you found any Calvinists who believe in unqualified immutabilty yet?
                Yes and no.

                I will make a concession....

                After poking and prodding and wading through mounds of obfuscation you can almost always get a settled viewer to admit that he/she believes in some form of change in God.

                If every settled viewer could acknowledge qualified immutability up-front I am guessing TOL's post database would be half its current size.


                ...wouldn't it be better to tell misguided or misinformed Calvinists what Calvinism actually teaches? I will happily join you in this if you can provide some names, at which point I'll begin my investigation to discover the extent to which their misrepresentations have caused you to mischaracterize Calvinism. I will do my best to set them straight.
                Excellent, I will hold you to it.

                Do you now acknowledge that Augustine says God can change, contrary to Bob Hill's and Bob Enyart's accusations?
                Based on your quote it sure looks that way.

                Which makes me wonder...

                Can you give me a specific examples of how you believe that God is NOT immutable?

                And furthermore...
                Would you agree with the following definition for the word "immutable":
                Not subject or susceptible to change.

                And if so.... I can only assume we would both agree that God's righteous character and His divine nature are indeed immutable, correct? Yet since you assert that God isn't entirely immutable (yet is limited to "qualified" immutability) would you feel comfortable making the general claim... God is not immutable?

                After all, almost everything in existence has some degree of qualified immutability, yet we couldn't make the general claim of immutability.

                Let me give you and example....
                Every human at conception acquires an immutable eternal existence. In other words, at the moment a new soul is created that soul will never cease to exist and therefore all souls have a immutable (never changing) eternal existence i.e., qualified immutability. Yet we would never make the more general claim that humans are immutable (or have unqualified immutability). Agree?

                It sounds to me that you are making that same claim in regard to God. You are claiming that God has qualified immutability but not unqualified immutability and therefore you wouldn't make the general claim that God is immutable.

                Would you feel comfortable making the general claim God is NOT immutable?

                Originally posted by Hilston
                Answer: No, because despite what that "Calvinist" says, he's not a Calvinist if he denies the incarnation and the death of the Son of God. Clete should have been embarrassed to use such an obviously non-representative case to make his point. Is there no shame among Open Theists? Knight, will you tell your friend how shameful it is to debate in this way?
                Could you spare me the dramatics? My 13 year old daughter would be jealous of your antics.

                Tell me...
                In your opinion where is credible source for Calvinist thought? Preferably a resource where I could ask questions and get answers? Do you know of such a source (besides yourself of course) that would be worthy of your recommendation?
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                • #9
                  Jim?

                  No rush just wanted to make sure you saw the last post.
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                  • #10
                    For some reason, I thought the ball was left in your court. Thanks for the reminder!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi Knight,

                      Hilston wrote: Have you found any Calvinists who believe in unqualified immutabilty yet?
                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Yes and no.
                      That actually looks like a "no," given the following:

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      I will make a concession....
                      After poking and prodding and wading through mounds of obfuscation you can almost always get a settled viewer to admit that he/she believes in some form of change in God.
                      OK! So based on that, would you agree that you and Bob and Bob and Clete should not be going around telling people that Calvinists believe God cannot change at all in anyway whatsoever?

                      The problem in the dialogue between OV and Calvinism lies in the fact that Open Theists go around trying to corner Calvinists into saying more about God's immutability than they actually do. This is evident from Clete's exchange in the Reformed.org forum. He was apparently bound and determined to find a Calvinist who believed in unqualified immutability. When they realized what he was trying to pin them, they made it clear that immutability is qualified. Clete then proceeded to insult them that they did understand their own beliefs. I can understand a Calvinist's resistance to the Open Theist's prodding, given the fact that Open Theist doctrine characterizes God as an ignorant Deity, subject to massive and continual moodswings that result from having so many humans with fingers on His emotional buttons.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      If every settled viewer could acknowledge qualified immutability up-front I am guessing TOL's post database would be half its current size. ?
                      If every Open Viewer would read Calvin and Augustine for themselves and properly quote them to Calvinists when the subject came up, Calvinists would agree and TOL's database would probably be half its current size. Or not. Who cares. Its only relevance, it appears to me, is that it shows how eager Open Theists are to demonize Calvinists using a straw-man argument.

                      Hilston wrote: ...wouldn't it be better to tell misguided or misinformed Calvinists what Calvinism actually teaches? I will happily join you in this if you can provide some names, at which point I'll begin my investigation to discover the extent to which their misrepresentations have caused you to mischaracterize Calvinism. I will do my best to set them straight.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Excellent, I will hold you to it.
                      I was hoping you would have sent some to me by now. Do you have any names yet?

                      Hilston wrote: Do you now acknowledge that Augustine says God can change, contrary to Bob Hill's and Bob Enyart's accusations?
                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Based on your quote it sure looks that way.

                      Which makes me wonder...

                      Can you give me a specific examples of how you believe that God is NOT immutable?
                      Yes. God is not immutable in His actions. Specific examples: In His covenant with Israel, God promised to bless them if they were obedient, and to curse them if they were not obedient. Even more specifically, God initially fought for Israel as they were taking the Land of Caanan, but later changed His actions and ceased from fighting for them. Also, God is not immutable in His manifestations. The Second Person was not always incarnate. He manifested Himself in a finite form, taking on human flesh.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      And furthermore...
                      Would you agree with the following definition for the word "immutable":
                      Not subject or susceptible to change.
                      Yes.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      And if so.... I can only assume we would both agree that God's righteous character and His divine nature are indeed immutable, correct?
                      Assume no longer. Consider this a definitive "yes." Would you agree that you've just described "qualified immutability," something that Clete calls an "oxymoron"? By the way, my repeated mention of Clete is based primarily on his being such a vociferous opponent of qualified immutability, even for Open Theists, and highly regarded by his Open Theist peers.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Yet since you assert that God isn't entirely immutable (yet is limited to "qualified" immutability) would you feel comfortable making the general claim ... God is not immutable?
                      Not without qualification. God is immutable in His essence and character, but He is not immutable in His actions or His manifestations.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      After all, almost everything in existence has some degree of qualified immutability, yet we couldn't make the general claim of immutability.
                      It depends on what we're talking about. You and I are immutable in our existence and essence.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Let me give you and example....
                      Every human at conception acquires an immutable eternal existence. In other words, at the moment a new soul is created that soul will never cease to exist and therefore all souls have a immutable (never changing) eternal existence i.e., qualified immutability. Yet we would never make the more general claim that humans are immutable (or have unqualified immutability). Agree?
                      The soul is immutable in its existence and essence. But the soul is not immutable in its actions and manifestations.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      It sounds to me that you are making that same claim in regard to God. You are claiming that God has qualified immutability but not unqualified immutability and therefore you wouldn't make the general claim that God is immutable.
                      I would, as long as it is understood that I'm talking about God's essence and character, just as Augustine and Calvin do in their writings.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Would you feel comfortable making the general claim God is NOT immutable?
                      If I were speaking or writing regarding God's essence and character, no. If I were speaking or writing concerning God's actions or manifestations, yes.

                      Hilston wrote: ... despite what that "Calvinist" says, he's not a Calvinist if he denies the incarnation and the death of the Son of God. Clete should have been embarrassed to use such an obviously non-representative case to make his point.

                      If you were to meet a Calvinist who denied the incarnation and the death of the Son of God, would that incline you to think that Calvinism has been keeping this denial a secret, or would that incline you to think that this particular Calvinist doesn't know what he is talking about? Clete the thinks the former. Please excuse the dramatics, but aren't you concerned about your friend Clete?

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Tell me...
                      In your opinion where is credible source for Calvinist thought? Preferably a resource where I could ask questions and get answers?
                      I have no idea. I wouldn't recommend learning Calvinism from other people. This approach seems to have failed you guys so miserably that you just don't know what Calvinism teaches. You end up with all kinds of whacky distortions that only get perpetuated by other Open Theists going around spreading those same distortions. What makes all this so inexcusable is the fact Calvinism has such a long-standing and well-documented history, and you can go right to the source without buying a single book. Some much of Calvin's and Augustine's writings are available online. If you do want to buy their books, they're very inexpensive. Shouldn't we go right to the source, especially when someone states a belief that seems completely at odds with what the Bible says? That's why I've read Boyd and Sanders and Enyart and Hill. Since Open Theism does not have much of an established literary history, I decided, from interaction with dozens if not hundreds of Open Theists, that those guys are the best source around. Open Theists, on the other hand, have no excuse for misrepresenting Calvinism.

                      Originally posted by Knight
                      Do you know of such a source (besides yourself of course) that would be worthy of your recommendation?
                      I'm not that worthy. I'm not even a Calvinist. I have Calvinistic doctrines that I hold, but I only use the label as a descriptor, for lack of a better term. Ultimately, I simply view those certain doctrines as "biblical." But it does little good, if one were to ask me if I have Calvinistic views, for me to say, "I have biblical views." Duh. Every professing Christian believes that. Hence, the labels; sometimes helpful, sometimes not, always needing clarification and qualification. But the fact that such labels need clarification and qualification does not excuse us from seeking to understand accurately our opponents' positions.

                      Question: Would you feel comfortable telling other Open Theists that they are misrepresenting Calvinism when they say that Calvinists believe that God cannot change at all in anyway whatsoever?

                      Question: Will you be retracting the charge against Calvinism that you've been making for so many years?

                      Question: Since neither of them will hear me on the matter, would you be willing to ask Bob Enyart and Bob Hill to retract this accusation against Calvinists from their debates, reports and articles, and please report their responses back to this thread?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Hilston
                        OK! So based on that, would you agree that you and Bob and Bob and Clete should not be going around telling people that Calvinists believe God cannot change at all in anyway whatsoever?
                        No absolutely not!

                        You are missing the point.

                        Think of it this way....

                        When a Mormon comes to your door ask them if they believe they are saved by grace. They will tell you "yes!"

                        Yet after two hours of "discussions" with them you will be able to show them they have no idea what grace is and in fact they DO NOT believe in grace whatsoever.

                        This is just like your typical Calvinist or Settled Viewer. They will argue that God cannot change in any whatsoever. I usually invite them to come up with their own definition of change if they feel uncomfortable with mine but it doesn't matter because they cling to the "no change in ANY WAY" line until I can show them how they don't REALLY believe that even though they dogmatically make the claim.

                        Therefore my original answer of "yes and no" is highly accurate.

                        You can reject my testimony that Calvinists make this claim if you like, frankly I really don't see why you would even bother arguing with me about it.

                        I have been debating Calvinists on TOL since 1997. You on the other hand stated when asked about good Calvinist sources....
                        I have no idea.
                        Therefore it's clear I have more experience in this area than you do and you should listen to me and learn from me, Bob, Bob, Clete and the rest who do have experience.

                        You continue....
                        If every Open Viewer would read Calvin and Augustine for themselves and properly quote them to Calvinists when the subject came up, Calvinists would agree and TOL's database would probably be half its current size. Or not. Who cares. Its only relevance, it appears to me, is that it shows how eager Open Theists are to demonize Calvinists using a straw-man argument.
                        I only argue against the argument in front of me.

                        I do not consider myself a theologian. I really do not care what Calvin or Augustine wrote. But I do care when my close friends who call themselves Calvinists make claims that are not biblical.

                        Even more specifically, God initially fought for Israel as they were taking the Land of Caanan, but later changed His actions and ceased from fighting for them.
                        Do you really believe this was a change in action for God?

                        Choose the most accurate of the following two options...

                        1. God's plan was to continue fighting for Israel. And when Israel disobeyed it was NOT part of God's plan. God DID NOT plan, decree or cause Israel to disobey.

                        2. God planned, decreed and or caused Israel to disobey and also that He would no longer fight for Israel prior to any of these events actually taking place.

                        Assume no longer. Consider this a definitive "yes." Would you agree that you've just described "qualified immutability," something that Clete calls an "oxymoron"? By the way, my repeated mention of Clete is based primarily on his being such a vociferous opponent of qualified immutability, even for Open Theists, and highly regarded by his Open Theist peers.
                        Jim, you do not consider yourself a Calvinist.

                        Therefore getting a "yes" from you is like a Catholic telling me that a Mormon believes in Grace.

                        I'm not that worthy. I'm not even a Calvinist.
                        You should start debating them, it's a hoot!

                        Question: Would you feel comfortable telling other Open Theists that they are misrepresenting Calvinism when they say that Calvinists believe that God cannot change at all in anyway whatsoever?
                        Of course not! See my first response on this thread.

                        Question: Will you be retracting the charge against Calvinism that you've been making for so many years?
                        Of course not! See my first response on this thread.

                        Question: Since neither of them will hear me on the matter, would you be willing to ask Bob Enyart and Bob Hill to retract this accusation against Calvinists from their debates, reports and articles, and please report their responses back to this thread?
                        Call Bob on his show, I am sure he will "hear" you.

                        Mon-Fri at 5 pm ET 1-800-8Enyart.
                        Last edited by Knight; March 15th, 2006, 02:07 PM.
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                        • #13
                          Hi Knight,

                          You previously wrote:
                          Originally posted by Knight
                          I will make a concession....

                          After poking and prodding and wading through mounds of obfuscation you can almost always get a settled viewer to admit that he/she believes in some form of change in God.
                          To which I replied:OK! So based on that, would you agree that you and Bob and Bob and Clete should not be going around telling people that Calvinists believe God cannot change at all in anyway whatsoever?"

                          You rejoin:
                          Originally posted by Knight
                          No absolutely not! You are missing the point.

                          Think of it this way....

                          When a Mormon comes to your door ask them if they believe they are saved by grace. They will tell you "yes!"

                          Yet after two hours of "discussions" with them you will be able to show them they have no idea what grace is and in fact they DO NOT believe in grace whatsoever.
                          That is exactly the way I'm looking at it, Knight. Note that your poking and prodding reveals that the Mormons do not really believe in grace. Just as your poking and prodding reveals that Calvinists do not really believe in unqualified immutability. I'm sure, if you were to read Mormon writings, you would discover that they do not believe in grace. Just as, if you were to read Calvin and Augustine, you would discover that they do not believe in unqualified immutability. You go around telling people that Calvinists believe in unqualified immutability.

                          You say that you will "absolutely not" agree that you should stop telling people that Calvinists believe in unqualified immutability. Do you go around telling people that Mormons believe in grace? Will you also say that you will "absolutely not" agree that you should stop telling people that Mormons believe in grace?

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          This is just like your typical Calvinist or Settled Viewer. They will argue that God cannot change in any whatsoever. I usually invite them to come up with their own definition of change if they feel uncomfortable with mine but it doesn't matter because they cling to the "no change in ANY WAY" line until I can show them how they don't REALLY believe that even though they dogmatically make the claim.
                          Just like you show Mormons that they don't believe in grace, even though they dogmatically make the claim. Do you go around telling people that Mormons believe in grace?

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          Therefore my original answer of "yes and no" is highly accurate.
                          Then, if I understand you correctly, to the question "Do Mormons believe in grace," you would say: "Yes and no."

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          You can reject my testimony that Calvinists make this claim if you like, frankly I really don't see why you would even bother arguing with me about it.
                          Read your opening post. You wrote:
                          This thread is dedicated to allowing Hilston to straighten me out on the topic of God's immutability according to Calvinism. ... In the past Jim has accused me of carelessly plowing over this topic and using false information in the process. ... I am guessing I am guilty as charged as I tend to only debate the statements that are being made in front of me.
                          The whole point is that Open Theists, as a matter of course, as a matter of agenda, and as a matter of strategy, accuse Calvinists of believing something that they don't really believe, by your own words. You conceded above that "you can almost always get a settled viewer to admit that he/she believes in some form of change in God." Yet you and all the OV proponents I've ever encountered persist in this mischaracterization. You might as well go around saying that Mormons believe in grace.

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          I have been debating Calvinists on TOL since 1997. You on the other hand stated when asked about good Calvinist sources.... "I have no idea."
                          No, Knight. You asked me to whom you could talk to get questions answered (besides myself),and I said I had no idea. There is no "Pope" of Calvinism. Secondly, I gave you the best Calvinist source I know. I'll make it even easier: Here's the edition I've got: Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          Therefore it's clear I have more experience in this area than you do and you should listen to me and learn from me, Bob, Bob, Clete and the rest who do have experience.
                          OK, fine. I will listen to you. I will henceforth affirm, as you yourself said: "After poking and prodding and wading through mounds of obfuscation you can almost always get a settled viewer to admit that he/she believes in some form of change in God." Now, will you please inform Bob, Bob and Clete, because they disagree with us. Please tell them, just as Mormons claim to believe in grace but really don't, that Calvinists who claim to belief in unqualified immutability really don't.

                          Hilston wrote: "If every Open Viewer would read Calvin and Augustine for themselves and properly quote them to Calvinists when the subject came up, Calvinists would agree and TOL's database would probably be half its current size. Or not. Who cares. Its only relevance, it appears to me, is that it shows how eager Open Theists are to demonize Calvinists using a straw-man argument. "

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          I only argue against the argument in front of me.
                          Yes, and by your own words, the Calvinists in front of you do not believe in unqualified immutability, no more than Mormons believe in grace. So please, please inform the Bobs and Clete.

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          I do not consider myself a theologian. I really do not care what Calvin or Augustine wrote. But I do care when my close friends who call themselves Calvinists make claims that are not biblical.
                          And those friends, by your own admission, do not believe in unqualified immutability, so what are you worried about?

                          [Skipping irrelevant stuff about my personal beliefs.]

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          You should start debating [Calvinists], it's a hoot!
                          I've been debating Calvinists longer than I've been debating Open Theists (and I've been debating Open Theists since 1995), and I do so face-to-face. I've never met an Open Theist face-to-face. So you, the Bobs and Clete probably don't have as much an edge on me as you might think.

                          Hilston wrote:"Question: Would you feel comfortable telling other Open Theists that they are misrepresenting Calvinism when they say that Calvinists believe that God cannot change at all in anyway whatsoever?"

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          Of course not! See my first response on this thread.
                          So am I to understand that you would not correct another Open Theist who characteristically described Mormons as believing in grace?

                          Hilston wrote:"Question: Will you be retracting the charge against Calvinism that you've been making for so many years?"

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          Of course not! See my first response on this thread.
                          You've said above that Calvinists do not really believe in unqualified immutability. You've conceded this in unambiguous terms. You and I agree. Why will you not now retract the mischaracterizations for all those times that you've made statements to the contrary?

                          Hilston asked: Question: Since neither of them will hear me on the matter, would you be willing to ask Bob Enyart and Bob Hill to retract this accusation against Calvinists from their debates, reports and articles, and please report their responses back to this thread?

                          Originally posted by Knight
                          Call Bob on his show, I am sure he will "hear" you. Mon-Fri at 5 pm ET 1-800-8Enyart.
                          You misunderstand. I've written Bob about this. He has read my critique of his debate with Lamerson. I don't mean "hear" in the sensory meaning of the word, but in the biblical sense. He's read my words, but he doesn't acknowledge the facts of the case. Neither does the other Bob. They both put their heads in the sand, plug their ears and hum, as if the qualifiers in Augustine's writings do not exist.

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                          • #14
                            Jim, here is what I think you are doing.

                            You are focusing in on one tree and you are missing the entire forrest.

                            Self described Calvinists be they faithful to Calvin or not ARGUE that God is immutable. They argue that God is unqualified immutable. Even if you can show them that they actually do (at some point) qualify their the immutability it doesn't change their dogmatic assertion that God cannot change.

                            You can quarrel over the details if you like and you may even be right about their unfaithful approach to their theological forefathers but that doesn't change the fact that they argue these points the way that they do. And therefore I will respond to them the way I have been for years.

                            ------

                            You stated you believed that God changed His actions in the following way...
                            Even more specifically, God initially fought for Israel as they were taking the Land of Caanan, but later changed His actions and ceased from fighting for them.
                            To which I responded...

                            Do you really believe this was a change in action for God?

                            Choose the most accurate of the following two options...

                            1. God's plan was to continue fighting for Israel. And when Israel disobeyed it was NOT part of God's plan. God DID NOT plan, decree or cause Israel to disobey.

                            Or.......

                            2. God planned, decreed and or caused Israel to disobey and also that He would no longer fight for Israel prior to any of these events actually taking place.
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Knight
                              Jim, here is what I think you are doing.

                              You are focusing in on one tree and you are missing the entire forrest.
                              The forest is Calvinism; divine immutability is the tree. This thread is about that tree. I am happy to discuss how it relates to the forest.

                              Originally posted by Knight
                              Self described Calvinists be they faithful to Calvin or not ARGUE that God is immutable.
                              Correct. And if they understand their own belief system -- it is a system, i.e. a forest, and not just a single doctrine, i.e. a tree -- they qualify that immutability as regarding God's essence and character, not His actions or manifestations.

                              Originally posted by Knight
                              They argue that God is unqualified immutable.
                              Show me one, that's all I ask. I would really like to see a real one. For every post that goes by without you showing me one, out of the gazillion posts archived on this site, the more convinced I become that you're all under a collective delusion, sustained by the irrational and persistent accusation of a notion that has never actually been held by anyone who calls himself a Calvinist.

                              Originally posted by Knight
                              Even if you can show them that they actually do (at some point) qualify their the immutability it doesn't change their dogmatic assertion that God cannot change.
                              The dogmatic assertion refers to God essence and character, not His actions or manifestations.

                              Originally posted by Knight
                              You can quarrel over the details if you like and you may even be right about their unfaithful approach to their theological forefathers but that doesn't change the fact that they argue these points the way that they do.
                              Prove it. I want to see one. I want to interview that person.

                              Originally posted by Knight
                              And therefore I will respond to them the way I have been for years.
                              You're going to tell people that they believe in unqualified immutability, even though you know that they don't really believe in it. Do you also go around asserting that Mormons believe in grace, even though you know that they really don't believe in it?

                              If I met an Open Theist who believed that God decrees evil, I would tell him that the OV authorities I've read disagree with him. I would corner him into admitting that he is not really an Open Theist, or to admit that he is an anomaly among Open Theists. I would not make the mistake of taking him as a representative of all Open Theists or Open Theism in general. But this is what you and the Bobs and Clete are doing. You're apparently unashamed at Clete's behavior that I described previously. He takes one so-called Calvinist who claims not to believe in the incarnation and decides: Calvinists do not believe in the incarnation.

                              You say that you will "absolutely not" agree that you should stop telling people that Calvinists believe in unqualified immutability. Do you go around telling people that Mormons believe in grace? Will you also say that you will "absolutely not" agree that you should stop telling people that Mormons believe in grace?

                              You conceded above that "you can almost always get a settled viewer to admit that he/she believes in some form of change in God." Yet you and all the OV proponents I've ever encountered persist in this mischaracterization. Don't you agree that you might as well go around saying that Mormons believe in grace?

                              You said previously that I should listen to you on this matter. I agreed that I will henceforth affirm, as you yourself said: "After poking and prodding and wading through mounds of obfuscation you can almost always get a settled viewer to admit that he/she believes in some form of change in God." Now, will you please inform Bob, Bob and Clete, because they disagree with us?

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