This is the first of a two-debate series. (Part two is here)
Format: (from James White’s blog)
For those interested, we will be covering three texts of Scripture on Thursday: John 6, Romans 8/9, and Ephesians 1. Each will have 8 minutes to provide their exegesis of the text; then we will have four minutes of cross-ex each, then three minute conclusions before moving on to the next text. I know, not a lot of time, but that still covers 90 full minutes (we will not be taking any breaks at all).
The following Thursday we will repeat the process, but this time covering Michael’s chosen texts, Luke 13:34-35 (Deuteronomy 5:28-29) Ezekiel 18:21-32 (Jeremiah 3:19-20; Ezekiel 22:30-31) I John 2:1-2 (2 Pet 2:1).
Michael Brown basically represents my view on these issues. This is a perfect debate – it’s 100% time well spent.
I blogged about their previous debate here. I highly, highly recommend this debate.
My own reservation about Calvinism is that it requires that God create people who go to Hell. They go to Hell only because God chooses not to draw them to him. So there are people pre-destined to Hell for eternity who are not responsible since it’s God’s choice where they are saved or not. Basically Calvinism has God creating some creatures, say, sheep, who have a predisposition to wander into lakes. These sheep then wander into a lake. He then picks some of them out who are no different than the others, and lets the rest drown. Then God turns to the ones he saved and says “aren’t I great for having saved you and not them?”, when he could have saved all of them. That’s not love.
I think a much better view, a more Biblical view, is that although all the sheep are initially rebelling against God, he still foreknows which will respond to his rescuing efforts. The sheep all want to try swimming to safety by themselves – none of them wants God’s help. So they are all doomed to death, unless God acts to save them. God can see which sheep will respond to his rescuing activities, so he reaches out to those sheep and they respond and they are saved. The rest die swimming away from him. That’s love. Love respects the free will of the beloved to resist, even if it means letting them choose their own destruction. And this view is different from Calvinism, because in this view God is all-loving and all-merciful. He is not willing that any sheep should perish, but that all the sheep would be saved. If all are not saved, then it is not God’s fault. He allows the sheep to choose to resist him.
I totally agree with Romans 9, where it says that God creates some people for destruction, and that those people cannot resist God’s will that they be created for destruction. But on my view, those people are people who would resist him in any time, in any place, even if he tried to save them. They cannot demand to be saved even though they resist God. They cannot say to their maker that they should not be created only to be damned, either, because being damned is their own fault. They don’t have a right to demand that they be saved because they would freely choose not to respond to God in any set of circumstances that God might try to place them in in order to save them. So God is permitted to create vessels of wrath for his own glory – but it’s their fault, not God’s.
I agree with Brown that vessels of wrath are free to repent and become part of the elect if they choose to respond to God’s drawing them towards him. Where does it say in the text that the vessels cannot change their destination by repentance? It doesn’t. People choose to respond to God or not, and that determines what kind of vessel they are going to be. God knows in advance what kind they are going to be and creates the vessels of wrath anyway.
My specific views are spelled out more here: What are the differences between Wesleyan Arminianism and Calvinism?