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For God so loved the world: A Calvinist Response to Richard Brian Davis

This piece is co-authored by Guillaume Bignon and James A. Gibson. Order is alphabetical.  In "Calvinism's Gospel Tautology," Richard Brian Davis argues that John 3:16 is evidence against the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement. According to that doctrine, the death and resurrection of Christ is intended for only a subset of humanity, the elect. How, then, is a Calvinist to understand "world" in this passage? Davis considers one possibility suggested by R.C. Sproul.  "The world for whom Christ died cannot mean the entire human family. It must refer to the universality of the elect (people from every tribe and nation) or to the inclusion of Gentiles in addition to the world of the Jews" (Sproul, cited in Davis). Davis argues that it is a fundamental mistake to take the [...]

2018-04-08T13:32:05+00:00 April 7th, 2018|2 Comments

The Moral Psychology of Depravity and the Difficulty of Living in the Kingdom

Unconditional election is one of the infamous doctrines of Calvinism. How broadly unconditional election is understood varies among Calvinist writers. Lorraine Boettner defines the doctrine by citing the Westminster Confession, III.iii-vii (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 84), and that includes a passage on the purpose of election as well as a passage about God passing over those who were not extended divine mercy. The latter passage is suggestive of infralapsarianism, which Boettner goes on to discuss. It is less important to get into the details of Boettner's account than it is to see that he provides a broad characterization which encompasses other robust doctrines. Other Calvinist writers are more narrow in their characterization. Louis Berkhof characterizes election as unconditional. "Election does not in any way depend the on foreseen faith or good [...]

2018-04-04T15:47:12+00:00 March 30th, 2018|0 Comments

Agency and Bottom-Up Determinative Causation

I am reading through a book on theories of the nature of the mind and I wanted to comment on an argument discussed in a chapter by William Hasker. For one thing, Hasker is a very good philosopher worth reading and reflecting upon. For another, his argument is worth discussing because it is interesting and not obviously wrong. This will provide an occasion, as well, to see how arguments against determinism can often be tied to other metaphysical theses without that being made explicit. And once so explicit, we can see that arguments against naturalistic determinism do not as easily slide over against theologically deterministic views like Calvinism. Nancy Murphy distinguishes between ontological and causal reductionism. The former is a thesis about the the ontology of different levels (physics, chemistry, [...]

2018-03-10T10:21:15+00:00 March 10th, 2018|0 Comments

Final Remarks on the 1 John 4 Dispute Pertaining to Calvin and His Glaring Omission

My initial criticism of Jerry Walls' book, Does God Love Everyone?, has generated a series of responses. Thomas Talbott, who is also a proponent of the same point that I criticized, wrote a criticism of my first post, to which I rushed a rejoinder. Talbott has written a two part-series response: Part I Part II This post will correct a mistake I made in an earlier post, where I badly interpreted, or better, attributed to Talbott an argument which I did not read carefully (i.e. hardly skimmed). In addition, I will clarify how my argument is to be understood. The responses against my original argument are unsuccessful, although it is entertaining to read about how many "fatal" mistakes I have made. In any case, I do not see much benefit to continuing this. For this [...]

2016-11-05T09:07:30+00:00 November 3rd, 2016|4 Comments

Eternalist Theological Determinism

In "Theological Determinism and the 'Authoring Sin' Objection," the third article in the book Calvinism and the Problem of Evil, Heath White lays out a model of theological determinism that, he argues, withstands the objection that God is the author of evil. An interesting feature of White's view is that it is theologically deterministic without being necessarily Calvinistic with respect to soteriology. White does not reject Calvin's soteriology in this article and nothing he says, so far as I can tell, commits him to it. The main historical figures lurking in the background, I believe, are Augustine and Aquinas rather than Calvin. Anyway, what this post will do is describe White's theological determinism and how he responds to the charge that God is culpably bound up with evil given determinism. [...]

2016-10-26T00:38:41+00:00 October 26th, 2016|4 Comments

A Rejoinder to Thomas Talbott on Calvin and the Love of God in 1 John

In Calvin and the Love of God in 1 John, I examine a quote from Jerry Walls' book, Does God Love Everyone? The Heart of What is Wrong with Calvinism. Walls believes it to be a stunning omission that Calvin never cited two verses - 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 - in the 1500 or so pages of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. In response, I point out that almost no one in the ecclesiastical corpus cited those verses, and moreover, only one person among all those who cited the verses had the slightest chance of thinking the verses might mean what Walls took them to mean. Furthermore, almost every commentator minus one had the same interpretation of 1 John 4 as did Calvin. As a result, it would be strange [...]

2016-09-28T21:55:03+00:00 September 27th, 2016|3 Comments

Calvin and the Love of God in 1 John

In his book, Does God Love Everyone? The Heart of What is Wrong with Calvinism, Jerry Walls writes the following: But here is what is truly remarkable: not one time in this book [the Institutes] does Calvin ever quote "God is love." In his massive book that is 1,521 pages long and that discusses thousands for biblical texts and discusses God's nature extensively, Calvin never one time cited 1 John 4:8 or 1 John 4:16. Not even once! This is a stunning omission. (Page 5) Walls finds this striking, because for so many pages and for what Walls describes as a "systematic theology" on the previous page, he would expect that Calvin would cite these two passages in particular. The only other discussion Walls gives of Calvin's Institutes is on pp. 17-18, where he quotes Calvin on [...]

2016-09-20T22:00:21+00:00 September 20th, 2016|9 Comments

Does Molinism Avoid Making God the Author of Sin? | Welty on Molinism

In "Molinist Gunslingers: God and the Authorship of Sin," Greg Welty argues that if Calvinism has a distinct problem of making God the author of sin, then so does Molinism. Although the expression "author of sin" has different meanings, the sense at play here in the article is primarily about culpability. In this post, I will look at Welty's argument for the claim that Molinists have a similar problem and I will suggest a couple ways a Molinist might respond, which are not considered in the paper. These might or might not work. The Molinist's Concern with Calvinism The concern the Molinist brings against the Calvinist is this: if Calvinism is true, then theological determinism is true; but if theological determinism is true, then God acts as a sufficient cause for the evils [...]

2016-09-14T22:18:50+00:00 September 13th, 2016|5 Comments

Anselm on Freedom and Grace

Here's a copy of a my paper. As I suggest at the end, I think this strategy generalizes to other libertarian accounts, although how the argument goes will likely need to be changed depending on the account of how libertarian freedom works with grace - i.e., how the nitty gritty details or mechanics are spelled out. Anselm actually says enough to give us a detailed account of what happens when God changes an agent rather than saying merely that "God influences" human agents. Anyway, enjoy. Or don't enjoy. [pdf-embedder url="http://www.jamesagibson.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Anselm-on-Freedom-and-Grace.pdf" title="Anselm on Freedom and Grace"]

2016-09-03T12:31:45+00:00 September 3rd, 2016|1 Comment

The Divine Glory Defense

In the previous two posts, I looked at Daniel Johnson's explanation of what Calvinism is and an objection to Calvinism, that is the objection that if Calvinism is true then God intentionally causes evil and God cannot do that. This will be my last post on Johnson's article, "Calvinism and the Problem of Evil." Although there is much else in his chapter worth reading and discussing, it is time to wrap things up. In this post, I will discuss the section on the more general problem of evil. I want to focus on the discussion of the divine glory defense. The problem of evil stated The problem starts with a question: why is there evil if there is an all good, all powerful, and all knowing being? This question gets reformulated into [...]

2016-08-28T21:10:57+00:00 August 27th, 2016|1 Comment