Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Misrepresenting Calvinism

I was recently told that I was misrepresenting Calvinism when I said they interpret Romans 9 to mean God hated Esau before he was born or did anything evil.  However, this is exactly what Calvin said:

11. We come now to the reprobate, to whom the Apostle at the same time refers (Rom. 9:13). For as Jacob, who as yet had merited nothing by good works, is assumed into favor; so Esau, while as yet unpolluted by any crime, is hated. If we turn our view to works, we do injustice to the Apostle, as if he had failed to see the very thing which is clear to us. Moreover, there is complete proof of his not having seen it, since he expressly insists that when as yet they had done neither good nor evil, the one was elected, the other rejected, in order to prove that the foundation of divine predestination is not in works. Then after starting the objection, Is God unjust? instead of employing what would have been the surest and plainest defense of his justice—viz. that God had recompensed Esau according to his wickedness, he is contented with a different solution—viz. that the reprobate are expressly raised up, in order that the glory of God may thereby be displayed. At last, he concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom. 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will. When God is said to visit in mercy or harden whom he will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his will.  (Calvin's Institutes 3.23.11)

Further, it's taught in contemporary Calvinism as well:

God’s passing some by was not conditioned by their unbelief.  God did not foresee which ones by their own will would not accept Christ, and on that basis reject them.  Just as election is unconditional (God did not choose anybody because he foresaw that they would believe in Jesus), so also is preterition unconditional.  It is no more based on God’s foreknowledge of what an independent human being would do with Jesus than is election.  As the reason for election is found in God alone – and never in man – so also is the reason for preterition found in God alone and not in man.

The only reason given for the election of Jacob and the passing by of Esau is: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13).  The reason was in God and not in the foreknowledge of the good or bad that either one would do. Edwin H. Palmer.  Five Points of Calvinism, The: A Study Guide.  Baker Books, Apr 1, 2010 page 129

Now this charge of misrepresentation is not limited to "internet Calvinists".  Take for example, James White's accusing Norm Geisler of misrepresentation:

James White: On page 83 [of Geisler's Chosen but Free] an endnote appears that challenges Piper on the issue of the rejection of Esau. It is a classic example of out-of-context citation that should not appear in a work by a scholar of the rank of Norman Geisler. Here is what it says:

Geisler Quoted by White: John Piper, widely held by extreme Calvinists to have the best treatment on Romans 9, makes this mistake. Piper claims that “the divine decision to ‘hate’ Esau was made ‘before they were born or had done anything good or evil (9:11).’ But, as shown on the previous page, the reference here is not to something said in Genesis about the individuals Jacob and Esau before they were born.

James White: One might thing that this is being taken from the section of Piper’s work specifically on the topic of Jacob and Esau. It is not. Instead, this short snippet is a partial sentence from a summary of a completely different topic, as we will show by providing the full (and useful) quotation:

James White Quoting John Piper: In sum then I have tried to demonstrate with three arguments that the phrase, “whom He wills he hardens”, describes God’s freedom to choose the recipients of his hardening apart from any ground in their willing or acting. First, the parallel between 18a and 18b shows that the freedom of God to harden is parallel to his freedom to show mercy, which according to 9:16 has no ground in a person’s willing or running. Second, the correspondence between the pairs, mercy/hardening (9:18) and love/hate (9:13), shows that Paul does not intend for us to view the hardening as a “divine reaction” to sin, since the divine decision to “hate” Esau was made ‘before they were born or had done anything good or evil (9:11).’ Third, Paul’s selection and adaption of Ex 9:16, which summarizes the theme of Ex 4-14, shows that he understands God’s activity to be grounded in his own purposes, not in the plans or actions of men.

James White: Does CBF attempt to respond to the actual argumentation Piper provides regarding 9:13? No. Does it attempt to respond to even this summary of Piper’s argument which, if true, is utterly devastating to Geisler’s entire thesis? No. Unfortunately, Piper is misrepresented yet again within just a few pages…(James White. The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free. (2nd edition) Calvary Chapel Press. 2007. page 218)

James White claims Geisler misrepresented Piper and took him out of context, but Geisler quotes Piper accurately and conveys his idea correctly.  One searches in vain to find the out of context quotation.

My guess is that Calvinist simply do not like it when non-Calvinists point out God's treatment of the non-elect and it's easier to cry misrepresentation than face the distasteful parts of Calvinism.


Anonymous said...

I will have to check u out on the James White references because I have never heard him say that God didnt hate Esau redemptively.

I am curious to hear ur understanding of what Paul was trying to convey to the Jews that were in the church at Rome.

Godismyjudge said...

I take hated as loved less as in Genesis 29:30-1.

I think Paul's overall point is that God chose Jacob over Esau because he was younger and didn't have the birthright. That shows God doesn't save based on rights, or nationality or works, but rather based on His grace.

God be with you,

Anonymous said...

So u see it that Isaac still had love for Leah but had a special love for Rachel. Then using that understanding Paul is saying that before the twins were born before they knew right or wrong God had a special love for Jacob. Seeing that the context here is redemption then would it be saying God had redemptive love for Jacob and a love for Esau but not redemptively?

Godismyjudge said...

To be clear, I think God's choice of Esau over Jacob was for nation blessings rather than individual salvation. That's the literal interpretation of the OT passages. But here in Romans 9, Paul is using it as an illustration of how God's saves.

So yes, in that Paul is discussing redemption and no in the sense that the OT passages themselves, in the literal sense, were not about individual salvation.

God be with you,

Anonymous said...

Could you please elaborate your interpretation on this being nations not individuals?

If redemption is the context and the only thing in view then how is paul not saying on the one God chose to love redemptively and the other He did not.

Whether its individuals in view or nations shouldnt change the context or pauls overall premise here in Romans. So Im kind of confuse of your interpretation.

BTW, ppl make nations so it seems to me by your interpretation of nations are in view then instead of God hating an individual you have God hating thousands and millions of ppl. Land is just that land but once that land has population of ppl then a nation is born and if you remove the population then the nation dies.


Godismyjudge said...

Paul is using Isaac/Ishmael and Jacob/Esau as an allegory, similar to Galatians 4.

Notice how Romans 9:8 says "that is".

“In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

The ESV renders it "This means". It's standard jargon for interpreting a text. Paul quote Gen 21:12, but makes a point much broader than the literal interpretation of Gen 21:12. Gen 21:12 is about the establishment of the nation of Israel, but Paul is applying to prove individual salvation is by grace. Galatians 4 clearly says the story of Isaac/Ishmael in Genesis has an allegorical sense, and Paul is tapping into that sense in Romans 9. Even most Calvinist commentators note that Gen 21:12 is't literally about unconditional individual election to salvation. Also Paul introduces two senses for "Isreal", when he says "not all Israel is of Israel" (i.e. physical Israelites vs spiritual Israelites). Part of Paul's message is that being a national Israelite does not guarantee individual salvation.

Paul caries this allegory forward into Jacob/Esau by saying "And not only so, but also" in Romans 9:10.

God be with you,

Anonymous said...

Why are so many people trying to twist the Word of God? Is it because you are uncomfortable with the plain truth of God? That is never a good reason to alter the words that have gone forth from the lips of God. God hated Esau before he was born. Plain and simple. God has a right to raise people up to destroy them, to show forth His glory. You are too concerned with your own opinions, when you ought to bow to God and seek to glorify Him. God means what He says.