Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Jerry Walls lectures on the main problem with Calvinist theology

WARNING: This lecture is a very sharp and pointed critique of Calvinist theology. Viewer discretion is advised. 

In Protestant Christianity, there is a division between people who accept Calvinist doctrines and those who don’t. Both groups think that the other group are genuine Christians, but the debate has more to do with the human free will, human responsibility and who God loves.

About Dr. Jerry Walls:

  • BA in Religion and Philosophy, Houghton College
  • MDiv, Princeton Seminary
  • STM, Yale Divinity School
  • PhD in Philosophy, Notre Dame

He is a professor at Houston Baptist University. You can find a more detailed profile here.

Dr. Walls is Protestant (like me). He is a substance dualist (like me). And he believes in a real eternal Hell (like me). And he is very, very assertive. Definitely no confidence problems here. And you’re not going to have a problem keeping your attention on this lecture!

Note that I do not agree with or endorse Dr. Walls on all of his views.

Here’s the lecture: (64 minutes)

The MP3 file is here.

Summary:

  • What are the main doctrines of Calvinism? (TULIP)
  • A look at the Westminster Confession
  • The nature of freedom and free will
  • Calvinist doctrine of freedom: compatibilism
  • The implications of compatibilism
  • Who determines what each person will desire on Calvinism?
  • Who does God love on Calvinism?
  • The law of non-contradiction
  • Does God make a genuine offer of salvation to all people on Calvinism?
  • Does God love “the elect” differently than the “non-elect” on Calvinism?

He quotes at least a half-dozen Calvinist theologians in this lecture, including John Piper, J.I. Packer and D.A. Carson. And he also mentions 3 videos at the end of the lecture where he goes over specific Bible verses that seem to support Calvinism (part 4, part 5, part 6 are the ones he mentioned).

This lecture is very strong stuff, and I think that he could have been nicer when presenting it, but he hit on every single objection that I have to Calvinism, and he worked through my reasoning too! So I really liked that he validated all of my concerns about Calvinism. I’m not as bothered about the problems with Calvinism as he is, though. I don’t think it’s a big divisive issue. I almost always read Calvinist theologians when I am reading theology. I just conjoin Calvinism with middle knowledge and resistible grace, and it’s fine. Calvinists are some of the best theologians, they are just wrong on the things he discusses in his lecture.

You may also be interested in these debates on salvation between a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist.

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Jerry Walls lectures on objections to Calvinism

WARNING: This lecture is a very sharp and pointed critique of Calvinist theology. Viewer discretion is advised. 

In Protestant Christianity, there is a division between people who accept Calvinist doctrines and those who don’t. Both groups think that the other group are genuine Christians, but the debate has more to do with the human free will, human responsibility and who God loves.

About Dr. Jerry Walls:

  • BA in Religion and Philosophy, Houghton College
  • MDiv, Princeton Seminary
  • STM, Yale Divinity School
  • PhD in Philosophy, Notre Dame

He is a professor at Houston Baptist University. You can find a more detailed profile here.

Dr. Walls is Protestant (like me). He is a substance dualist (like me). And he believes in a real eternal Hell (like me). And he is very, very assertive. Definitely no confidence problems here. And you’re not going to have a problem keeping your attention on this lecture!

Note that I do not agree with or endorse Dr. Walls on all of his views.

Here’s the lecture: (64 minutes)

The MP3 file is here.

Summary:

  • What are the main doctrines of Calvinism? (TULIP)
  • A look at the Westminster Confession
  • The nature of freedom and free will
  • Calvinist doctrine of freedom: compatibilism
  • The implications of compatibilism
  • Who determines what each person will desire on Calvinism?
  • Who does God love on Calvinism?
  • The law of non-contradiction
  • Does God make a genuine offer of salvation to all people on Calvinism?
  • Does God love “the elect” differently than the “non-elect” on Calvinism?

He quotes at least a half-dozen Calvinist theologians in this lecture, including John Piper, J.I. Packer and D.A. Carson. And he also mentions 3 videos at the end of the lecture where he goes over specific Bible verses that seem to support Calvinism (part 4, part 5, part 6 are the ones he mentioned).

This lecture is very strong stuff, and I think that he could have been nicer when presenting it, but he hit on every single objection that I have to Calvinism, and he worked through my reasoning too! So I really liked that he validated all of my concerns about Calvinism. I’m not as bothered about the problems with Calvinism as he is, though. I don’t think it’s a big divisive issue. I almost always read Calvinist theologians when I am reading theology. I just conjoin Calvinism with middle knowledge and resistible grace, and it’s fine. Calvinists are some of the best theologians, they are just wrong on the things he discusses in his lecture.

You may also be interested in these debates on salvation between a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

John Piper writes a pro-life article with broad appeal to everyone

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Previously, I have held Pastor John Piper accountable for expressing opposition to same-sex marriage in ways that would only be persuasive to Christians. I didn’t like the way that he would not use arguments outside the Bible to argue against same-sex marriage, so that non-Christians would also be persuaded. I wanted him to have arguments and evidence to offer people who are not conservative evangelical Christians. I also disagreed with him for doing the same thing on the issue of abortion.

Well, something changed. And now I guess it’s time for me to eat crow.

Take a look at his new reasons for opposing abortion:

4. Being small does not disqualify personhood.

The five-foot-eight frame of a teenage son guarantees him no more right to life than the 23-inch frame of his little sister in her mother’s arms. Size is morally irrelevant. One inch, 23 inches, 68 inches — does not matter. It is morally irrelevant in deciding who should be protected. We know what we are doing in killing the smallest.

5. Not having developed reasoning does not disqualify personhood.

A one-month-old infant, nursing at his mother’s breast, does not have reasoning powers. But only a few dare argue that infanticide is therefore acceptable. Most know better. Outside and inside the womb the infant cannot yet reason, but is a human person. We know what we are doing.

6. Being in the womb does not disqualify human personhood.

Location or environment does not determine a right to life. Scott Klusendorf asks, “How does a simple journey of seven inches down the birth canal suddenly transform the essential nature of the fetus from non-person to person?” We know what we are doing.

7. Being dependent on mommy does not disqualify personhood.

We consider persons on respirators or dialysis to be human beings. The unborn cannot be disqualified from human personhood because they are dependent on their mother for food and oxygen. In fact, we operate on the exact opposite principle: The more dependent a little one is on us, the more responsibility we feel to protect him, not the less. We know what we are doing.

(Those last four observations, #4-7, were summed up by Scott Klusendorf under the acronym SLED: Size, Level of development, Environment, Degree of dependence — none is morally relevant for the definition of human life.)

8. The genetic make up of humans is unique.

The genetic make up of a human is different from all other creatures from the moment of conception. The human code is complete and unique from the start. Once that was not known. Now we know.

9. All the organs are present at eight weeks of gestation.

At eight weeks of gestation all the organs are present. The brain is functioning, the heart pumping, the liver making blood cells, the kidney cleaning the fluids, the finger has a print. Yet almost all abortions happen later than this date. We know what we are doing.

10. We have seen the photographs.

The marvel of ultrasound has given a stunning window into the womb that shows the unborn, for example, at 8 weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. Watch this four-minute video of the developing unborn child. We know that they are children.

Now note that he makes those arguments to non-Christians, and he has even more arguments to make to Christians:

For Christians who believe the Bible, we could add at least ten more reasons why we know what is happening in abortion, and why it is wrong. But the aim here is threefold.

    1. To make clear that we will not be able to defend ourselves with the claim of ignorance. We knew. All of us.
    2. To solidify our conviction to resist this horrific evil.
    3. To intensify our prayer and our preaching toward gospel-based soul-renovation in our land, because hardness of heart, not ignorance, is at the root of this carnage.

He’s not changing really, he’s adding more to what he already had said, by targeting a new audience, while still addressing the old one. It’s a both-and. It’s a win-win.

Scott Klusendorf and Life Training Institute

Pastor Piper credits some of his arguments to Scott Klusendorf in his article. Mr. Klusendorf is the top pro-life debater in the world, in my opinion. I recently wrote about an interview that Scott did with Brian Auten of Apologetics 315, too. And I also posted a debate that he did with Nadine Strossen.

You’ll remember that I picked Scott’s “Life Training Institute” as my charity of the year for 2012. I really recommend LTI if you are looking for a charity to support. Scott is the William Wilberforce of our age, and that goes for all pro-lifers who can make the pro-life case to anyone, not just Christians.

If you’re looking for a good pro-life book, check out Scott’s “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture”.

And he has a new book out as well, called “Stand for Life: Answering the Call, Making the Case, Saving Lives”:

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John Piper argues that same-sex marriage could threaten religious liberty

John Piper’s latest blog post is a step in the right direction.

Ful text:

When I preached on the implications of the legalizing of so-called same sex marriage I said, “Pretending that [marriage] can exist between people of the same sex will send ripple effects of dysfunction and destruction in every direction, most of which are now unforeseen.”

Here is an example you may not have foreseen. There are hundreds of others on the way.

It has been reported that in the case of Elane Photography v. Willock (NM Ct. App., May 31, 2012) a New Mexico state appeals court held that a photography firm’s refusal to provide its services to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony violates the New Mexico Human Rights Act’s prohibition on discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation.

According to the court:

Elane Photography’s owners are Christians who believe that marriage is a sacred union of one man and one woman. They also believe that photography is an artistically expressive form of communication and photographing a same-sex commitment ceremony would disobey God and the teachings of the Bible by communicating a message contrary to their religious and personal beliefs.

Rejecting Elane Photography’s free expression arguments, the court held:

The mere fact that a business provides a good or service with a recognized expressive element does not allow the business to engage in discriminatory practices… While Elane Photography does exercise some degree of control over the photographs it is hired to take… this control does not transform the photographs into a message from Elane Photography.

This is why on a recent panel discussion of pastors at a TGC meeting there was general consensus that if so-called same sex marriage is legalized, there will be a lot of conscientious, loving Christians going to jail.

Now this is more like it. This is better.

The example of Wayne Grudem

Now take a listen to John Piper’s friend Wayne Grudem being interviewed about a pastor’s role in politics, on the Frank Turek show.

The MP3 file is here.

Listen closely to the part where Grudem says that pastors who do not get involved politically will face judgment. That’s right.

I think John Piper could do even more good by bringing up research like Wayne Grudem does in his book “Politics According to the Bible”. He has an entire section in that book on arguments against same-sex marriage from “reason and experience”.

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Gay marriage: John Piper won’t endorse traditional marriage amendment

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, headline: “Key Minnesota pastors opt out of marriage fight.”

Excerpt:

Two key conservative evangelical leaders in Minnesota are not endorsing the marriage amendment or directing followers to vote for it, marking the first time during debate over the measure that major faith leaders have not encouraged members to take a stand on the issue.

Influential preacher and theologian the Rev. John Piper came out against gay marriage during a sermon Sunday but did not explicitly urge members of his Minneapolis church to vote for the amendment.

The Rev. Leith Anderson, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s longtime pastor, also said this week he does not plan to take a public side on the amendment, which would change the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Religious observers say the lack of formal backing from the two influential figures could signal that evangelical leaders in Minnesota are taking a less active role in supporting the amendment — a marked departure from evangelicals in dozens of other states where similar amendments have passed.

“Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism,” Piper said during his sermon, posted on Bethlehem Baptist Church’s website.

[...]Piper had been under pressure from conservative groups to weigh in on the amendment, according to his spokesman David Mathis, adding that Piper did not hold back over concerns the church could lose its tax-exempt status.

“Basically our position is, we’re not taking one as a church,” Mathis said.

John Piper has no opinion about whether the state of Minnesota legalizes gay marriage or not – he doesn’t want to get involved in politics. He is famous for pushing “Christian Hedonism” in his books, and also believes in predestination.

My advice for pastors who are pro-marriage

I think that it is important for pastors who want to take conservative positions and really have an effect on the real world to base their positions on logical arguments and evidence. Many pastors seem to just read what the Bible says to people in their churches, but they don’t really think about how the Bible applies to public policy. They don’t really think that the Bible has any bearing outside of the church – this is called subjectivism, and in Christian circles, it is closely tied to fideism.

Pastors who pass on studying apologetics often find themselves having to back away from what the Bible says in public, because they are afraid of being labeled bigots. If your views on moral questions are just held on faith, then it’s hard to tell people that public policy should be based on private faith. It’s like condemning people to Hell because they don’t like the same flavor of ice cream as you. It is much easier to tell someone that smoking is bad for their health though. Why? Because if you put the work in, you can use arguments and evidence, and it’s easy to be bold when you have arguments and evidence. But it takes work to build your case.

Neil and other people are telling me that Piper has stated his view against gay marriage in a sermon, and he cites Bible verses. My problem with this is that Piper’s sermon only applies to people who are inerrantists – who think that the Bible is authoritative. If Piper really opposed gay marriage, then he would support the marriage amendment, and he would persuade people in his state – not just his choir and congregation – using arguments and evidence that people in his state find convincing.

Here’s my argument:

1) If Piper sincerely opposes gay marriage, then he doesn’t want gay marriage to be legalized
2) To stop gay marriage from being legalized, the marriage amendment must pass
3) To pass the marriage amendment, the majority of Minnesotans must vote for it
4) The majority of Minnesotans are not Biblical inerrantists who are persuaded by Piper’s sermon and his citing of Bible verses
5) Piper’s flock cannot persuade the majority of Minnesotans with Piper’s sermon and his citing of  Bible verses
6) Therefore, Piper will have to have some way to persuade these non-inerrantist Minnesotans, if he sincerely opposes gay marriage

If your friend is on fire, you do not preach a sermon and quote the Bible to him. You throw a bucket of water on him – that’s what works. If you really want something to happen, you do what works. Preaching sermons with Bible verses to your flock and then declining to support the marriage amendment in public with evidence and arguments that appeal to the majority of Minnesota voters is not going to stop gay marriage. There are other pastors, like Wayne Grudem and Mark Driscoll who do study the research that bears on these sorts of issues and they do use evidence to persuade others – even non-Christians. They have arguments and evidence – they are bold and they do not care about sounding nice. Grudem even writes about politics and urges Christians to be involved in specific policies and legislation.

The secular left is very happy with pastors who don’t make any arguments or cite any evidence in public. They are easily marginalized and then non-Christians have NO REASON AT ALL to vote with us on social issues. It even has an effect on Jews and other religions, because they are told by the media “the only reason to oppose gay marriage is religious bigotry”. It’s similar to how Darwinists can marginalize opposition to evolution by pointing to fideistic pastors and then claiming that the only opposition to evolution is religious, not scientific. The pastors who refuse to study and make public arguments and cite research papers play right into this. They make it easy for non-Christians to vote against us because this is just “our view”. It’s not true of the real world. It’s just Bible verses. It’s not Bible verses supported by evidence.

Many pastors also kept silent during the time of slavery and Nazism, and said that they didn’t want to get involved in politics or approve specific legislation. Presumably, they expressed their personal opinions to their church choirs behind closed church doors, citing Bible verses which slave-owners and Nazis would not find convincing. But they thought that this was the best they could do since “you can’t argue anyone into the Kingdom of God” and “Jesus isn’t a Republican or a Democrat”. Not every pastor is going to be bold like a William Wilberforce or a Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and make their case in public.

The continuous refusal to engage in the public square with reasons and evidence is not good for Christianity. In fact, we may even lose our religious liberty when we only speak about Bible verses to the church choir behind closed church doors.

Look at what happened in Canada where gay marriage is legal:

In what they are touting as a “world first,” a Quebec homosexual activist group has launched a “registry of homophobic acts” with support and funding from the Quebec Government’s Justice Department.  Standing alongside Montreal Police Chief Johanne Paquin and Commander Alain Gagnon, the leadership of the group Gai Ecoute launched the anonymous tipster registry at a press conference today.

Included in the definition of actions classified as “homophobic” and deemed worthy of reporting to the registry are: “any negative word or act toward a homosexual or homosexuality in general: physical abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, offensive graffiti, abuse, injurious mockery, inappropriate media coverage and discrimination.”

A press release from the group says that anyone who has experienced or witnessed an act of homophobia “must” report it to the registry of homophobic acts.

And here’s what happened in Denmark where gay marriage is legal:

Homosexual couples in Denmark have won the right to get married in any church they choose, even though nearly one third of the country’s priests have said they will refuse to carry out the ceremonies.

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.

Giving sermons in church is safe. But speaking out against gay marriage in public on public policy is not completely safe. If pastors pass on making arguments and producing objective evidence and pointing to current events now – when it is still relatively safe to do so – then we mustn’t shed a tear when the next piece of legislation forces pastors to have to perform gay wedding ceremonies in their churches.  Knowledge and practical wisdom are needed to be a good faithful pastor, I think. By being unable to speak out persuasively on moral issues, we leave ourselves open to the things that happen in Canada and Denmark… and around the world. We shouldn’t wait too long before we make our stand – voting “present” is not a good idea.

UPDATE: People are asking me what arguments Piper should be using instead of the sermons and Bible verses, which have limited appeal to the majority of Minnesota voters.

In order to influence the culture as a whole, Piper would have to use arguments like these:

Philosophical:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

Evidential:
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/06/5640

Human rights:
http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No3_Severinoonline.pdf

If Piper’s goal is to DO GOOD at a practical level, then he has to use public square arguments that are convincing to people who do not accept a very very conservative view of the Bible (which I accept). He has to decide whether Christianity is something subjective and private (about him and his life, and maybe the people who hear his sermons in his church) or public and practical (about society and law). Right now, he is enjoying the liberties that exist because the foundation of the United States is Judeo-Christian, but he has to do his part in public using secular arguments and evidence to protect those foundations, or they could be taken away.

If Piper wants children to *actually* have a mother and a father, and wants Christians to *actually* retain their religious liberty and freedom of conscience, then he will have to GO PUBLIC and use PUBLIC means of persuasion. If every single person in his church agreed with him, and every fundamentalist Christian in Minnesota agreed with him, that would still not be enough to defend marriage.

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