On The Calvinism Debate In Chicago Last Week

Image by OldOnliner via Flickr

Image by OldOnliner via Flickr

For those of you who were unaware of it, there was a debate in Chicago last week on New Calvinism that was sponsored by Sojourn Network. Our friend T. C. Moore did an outstanding job of covering it. You can read his impressions over on his blog by clicking here. He also has embedded video of the debate if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

Just to whet your whistle and encourage you to check out T. C.’s article, we want to feature a point of the debate that we’re pretty passionate about. One of the metaphors that Austin Fischer presented to highlight the problem with New Calvinism was the image of a “firefighting arsonist”. T. C. expounds on it here:

The first killer metaphor was employed by Fischer. He wanted those who would watch this debate to know that despite the New Calvinists’ clever attempts to disguise it, the reality is that whatever condition they claim God is saving humanity from, their theology necessitates that God caused it. If it is true, like the Calvinists claim, that God rescues a group of preselected people from the tortures of their conception of hell, it is only because God “ordained” that humanity would be damned in the first place.

Fischer’s metaphor of God wanting the world to “burn down” conjures the image of the firefighter who has a narcissistic pathology which tempts him or her to start the very fires he or she is charged to rescue citizens from. This firefighter puts lives in danger only for the “glory” of being the one who swoops in to the rescue.

The reason this metaphor is so damning (pun intended), is because the New Calvinist routinely use the idea of God “saving some” from hell as the pinnacle of their argument for God’s redemptive glory. “Everyone should go to hell for their sins” Calvinists routinely shout. But, this is only just if human beings are responsible for their sin. In New Calvinism’s conception of why people go to hell, it isn’t because they have sinned and must suffer the consequences. No, it is because God “ordained” that they would sin and suffer the consequences before God brought creation into being. If any theology “robs God of glory,” it is the one that makes God out to be a psychopathic firefighting arsonist.

Related Reading

The End and Beginning of Faith

Eduardo Amorim via Compfight Micah J. Murray shared the story of how his doubts and loss of faith led him to a truer, deeper faith. While we fear the doubts that sometimes sneak in, sometimes those doubts lead us to a place of goodness. Be not afraid. From Micah’s story: Eventually I gave up on…

Do All Roads Lead to God?

First, if it’s really true that Jesus is the way to Father and that no one comes to the Father except through him, (Jn 14:6) then it seems that no other religious leader or religious doctrine can bring us to the Father. “The” is a definite article, and it implies singularity. “A dog” could refer…

Grieving with the God who Pulled the Trigger?

Lawrence Krauss recently wrote a thought-provoking, soul-searching essay for CNN Opinion entitled, “Why must a nation grieve with God?” Krauss was disturbed by a comment made by President Obama at a memorial service for the victims of the tragedy at Newtown CT.  Commenting on Jesus’ statement to “Let the little children come to me,” Obama opined:…

5 Ways the Bible Supports Open Theism

Open Theism refers to the belief that God created a world in which possibilities are real. It contrasts with Classical Theism which holds that all the facts of world history are eternally settled, either by God willing them so (as in Calvinism) or simply in God’s knowledge (as in Arminianism). Open Theists believe God created humans and…

Divine Wisdom

Why doesn’t God end it all and stop the slaughter? Why does God allow suffering and evil to go on so long? Here, Greg offers two possible answers to these questions. Option A is that all evil somehow is designed by God and somehow brings glory to him. But Greg thinks Option B is a better explanation, and it involves…

A Dear John Letter to John Calvin

Zack Hunt of The American Jesus wrote a brilliant “Dear John” letter after reading Calvin’s most famous work, Institutes of the Christian Religion. If you want to hear a well-articulated and engaging challenge of classic Calvinism, you should read the whole post. Here’s a little snippet to spark your interest: But, John, I think the ultimate…