July 31, 2011
However, I do want to make the point that I am not a Non-Calvinist. Well, to some degree I am, in the sense that I am indeed not a Calvinist, but I don't define my soteriology based off of my opinion of Calvinism.
I am an Arminian, and very proud to be one. Jacob Arminius himself was a great theologian, and a great man of God, and while I don't agree with him on everything, I do agree with his commitment to biblical theology, orthopraxy, and concern for the character of God. I am not an Arminian because I am not Calvinist. Instead, I am not Calvinist because I am already Arminian.
Some may say that they don't like to be extreme. Believe me, I understand that. I always shy away from extremes. But considering that Arminianism isn't extreme at all, and represents a very balanced approach to divine soveriegnty, human autonomy, and general soteriology, it is surprising that this would be an objection.
Some may say that they don't like theology, they are fine with "Jesus is the Son of God, and He saved me." What they fail to understand though is that that is theology. It is like 1+1=2 is math just as much as calculus is. There is nothing wrong with having a thought-out robust theological understanding. Indeed, it is invaluable for being asked a lot of questions, and needing to aply our worldview to new situations. Systematic theology allows us to be flexible in our practice, because we know what we believe, and why we believe it.
Those of you are are simply Non-Calvinist, I would encourage you to really look into Arminianism, especially Arminianism as it is defined by Arminians. You do not have to choose between Calvinism and not having a thought-out systematic view of salvation. There is a stance you can take.
July 28, 2011
July 24, 2011
Many Calvinists have attempted to argue that Arminianism falls short of this passage by making faith something to boast about. I believe this argument is based off at least one of four problems:
- The Calvinist not understanding the Arminian position of prevenient grace
- The application of Calvinist presuppositions that Arminians don't hold
- A complete misunderstanding of the nature of faith.
- A complete misunderstanding of the nature of boasting.
In this post, I will be dealing with each of these mistakes in turn.
One of the ways that Calvinists have expressed the reasons why Arminians should be "able to boast" is because "faith is something that originates inside of man, and thus the thing that saves you comes from you."
There are a couple of different problems with this, but the issue that I wish to point out here is that Arminians do not hold that faith is something that originates within you. Faith is made possible by the prevenient grace of God.
Prevenient grace simply means grace which comes before. In this case, it is the sum total of all those acts of grace which God bestows upon us before salvation which prepares us for salvation. All Arminians believe that prevenient grace is necessary in order for us to be saved. Indeed, it is necessary in order for us to have faith.
Now some Calvinists may argue that the notion of prevenient grace doesn't solve the problem. This seems to be based off of the idea that if man is not 100% passive, than man is 100% responsible for the result, even if God does all the actual work. I have read multiple reasons why Calvinists think this (none of which I find convincing obviously), but I don't have space to go into each one now. What is important for the purposes of this article is that Arminians believe that God is the source of our faith.
It is important for the Calvinist to realize that no one would ever boast off of something that they "should" logically conclude. Instead, if they are going to boast, they are going to boast based off of what they actually believe, and we don't believe that faith originates within us.
One of the common mistakes of Calvinist Apologetics is claiming that Arminianism is internally inconsistent. The term "Internally Inconsistent" means that there are 2 or more beliefs which exist within a system of thought that are contradictory ideas. However, what most Calvinists seem to mean by this term is that certain Arminian conclusions do not naturally follow from Calvinist presuppositions.
There is an excellent example of this within this particular subject. Many Calvinist would argue that because the difference between one saved and one who is not saved is faith, that therefore faith is something to boast about. However, this assumes the idea that any condition within man that God uses is therefore meritous (which it isn't), and it assumes that if God does not directly cause something than it is purely man's accomplishment (which is silly). Both of these ideas derive from the idea of unconditional election, and is therefore a circular argument.
These are Calvinist presuppositions that Arminians do not hold, and because we do not hold them, we are not being inconsistent. We just simply disagree with Calvinists.
The Nature of Faith
Probably the silliest aspect of Calvinists claiming that Arminians "can boast" is that it is impossible to boast about real faith. You can't do it. To boast about faith is like boasting about humility: you negate it by boasting. Just try and think about what that would really sound like:
"I have more faith in my complete depravity and absolute necessity in my great, powerful merciful savior to atone for the sum of my sinful and worthless deeds than you do. You loser!"
I cannot imagine how someone who understands how necessarily humbling true biblical faith is can possibly claim it is something someone can boast about. And as silly as it sounds just by calmly thinking about what it must mean, it amazes me that people are convinced by this. Indeed, it saddens me that this is one of the most popular and successful Calvinist arguments. It shows me that we Arminians have done a poor job articulating our theology.
The Nature of Boasting
So far I have talked about how it false to argue that Arminianism can lead to boasting. Now I am going to change gears a bit and explain why Calvinism doesn't protect one from it.
First of all, let's deal with a misunderstanding of the Biblical text. Here it is again for those who may want to reference it:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Many Calvinists believe that the point of this text is that grace is supposed to take away the ability for humans to boast (as opposed to taking away all reason for boasting). At least, this is how the argument seems to me.
However, history and common experience tells us that humans do not only boast about accomplishment. Indeed, we will boast about any status to makes us superior to someone else, whether that be accomplishments, race, class, etc... Therefore, because being saved is superior to not being saved, it is possible for someone to boast about it, regardless of how one is saved.
I don't see why it is impossible to say, "I'm elected and you're not. So I'm better than you." Well, in some degree you are! I mean God chose you didn't He? Even if His selection was arbitrary, God still chose you. That's pretty sweet, and means that you are in a better position than those who aren't.
"Wait a second," says the Calvinist, "even if someone were to boast about being unconditionally elected, that boasting would be completely unjustified." Well the same goes for having been saved by faith. If the text means that the person has no legitimate reason to boast, than the Calvinist has no basis to use it against Arminians, as I have already shown.
And ultimately, that's my point. Salvation is by faith, which the text clearly says, and it is because of the nature of faith that one cannot boast. Indeed, that fact that it is by faith is what makes it a grace, because God has the right to make us earn it if He wanted to. But we don't have to earn it; we just have to believe. The only boasting salvation encourages me to make is to boast in the glory and graciousness of my God and His Son, and it is vanity to argue otherwise.
July 8, 2011
Missing Data[Two caveats: First, I am not a scientist. I am a theologian. I am not trying to claim that I fully understand each and every reference about evolution that comes to me. My intent is to properly explain what Creationism believes about evolution, and to show that the differences between it and Darwinism are philosophical and not scientific.
Second, the article in question does not suggest that this proves Darwinism; I seriously doubt that was the intention of Mr. Ratcliff as well. Therefore what follows is not a criticism of the article or the experiment. Indeed, i do not feel qualified to critize either. Instead, it is a response to those that believe that this is a blow to Creationism, which it is not]
First of all, there is not enough data in this article to claim that evolution has really occured. There is no real dissicussion of the genetics: no mention of mutations. All that is recorded are differences of behavior, and biological lifeforms can change their behavior based off of their environment.
Second, there are no links to original sources (and I also could not find any in my research). I even attempted to find some but to no avail (the link to William Ratcliffe was also inaccurate). Therefore, there is very little I can do to verify or elucidate what went on here.
Why It Doesn't Matter
However, there really is not that much of a threat here to Creationism anyway. The problem with most Darwinists' criticisms of Creationism is that they think that we outright reject evolution. We don't. Evolution is nothing more the a discription of the process of biological adaptation. Consider this: all Creationists believe that the whole of the human race finds its origin in one man and one woman. Clearly we believe that biological lifeforms progenicly adapt to their environment. Therefore examples of speciation, adaptation, and genetic mutation do not, in of themselves, refute Creationism.
Now it is true that there are certain, shall we say, gaps in the evidence for Darwinism (including but not restricted to: the shift from procaryotic cells to eucaryotic cells, the introduction of sexual reproduction, the disentropic development of a global biosphere, the irreducible complexity of proteinic systems, and, of course, the advent of multicellularity), and it is true that Creationists do much to rhetorical exploit these gaps. But it would be ignorant to therefore think that the Creationist position is merely comprised of filling these gaps with God.
To be fair, many Creationists are responsible for this misunderstanding, using the term 'Evolution' to refer to Darwinism. Some use 'microevolution' and 'macroevolution' to distinguish between the two positions, which is better, but I prefer to spearhead straight to the heart and declare things as they are. We are dealing with 2 philosophies: Darwinism and Creationism. The reason why the difference is philosophical is that the difference between the two is not falsifiable.
Darwinism, generally, believes that evolution is progressive. I say "generally" because Darwinists will admit that evolution sometimes results in something "weaker" (such as albino lizards living in caves). However, the process as a whole is seen as progressive.
Creationism on the other hand considers the evolutionary process to be a form of specialization. In a special creative act, God formed a small but diverse population of lifeforms and from these lifeforms comes all of the creatures on the earth today. The original creatures possessed the potential for all of the forms that we currently have, but it was the various environments which their ancestors found themselves in that shaped the precise forms of modern day life.
The problem is that you cannot prove or disprove either of these ideas... yet. Any example of evolution can be interpreted through either lens. Unsurprising, the exmple at hand, the development of multicellular characteristics within a population of yeast cells, can easily be interpreted as a innate aspect of yeast to be able to exist on both a single cellular and multicellular level.
On To Particulars
Considering that what this needs to disprove is that yeast never had the capacity to exist in a multicellular way before, I offer the following explanations why it fails:
- Yeast are communial. Yeast already are single-cell organisms that interact with each other. Confining their environment to intensify this feature is not the same thing as generating multicellarity.
- All that is really discussed here is behavior. A change of behavior is not the same thing as evolution. Without a layout or discussion of the changes of genetic material, I cannot ascertain whether or not evolution has really occurred here at all.
- Yeast are fungi. Many fungi are multicellular, some are monocellular, and many fungi act in a somewhat middle ground manner between the two using hydrae. It is not surprising then that scientists would believe that the gap between single-celled organisms and multicelled organism could be crossed through the fungi kingdom. However, fungi also possess other unique properties that separate them from animals, plants and other lifeforms, and there is no way of indicating that this isn't just inherit to the design of fungi.
- The article itself actually says that yeast used to be multicellular. While I do not know what the source of this comment is, and whether or not I would agree with it, activating a quality that already exists within the species is essentially the Creationist position, and this is all that this project seems to have demonstrated.