You’ll find attached a presentation I did many months ago for the local apologetic discussion group I am a member of. It refutes the argument from a local atheist, claiming that Judaism, and Christianity by extension had borrowed its eschatology and thanatology from Zoroastrianism. Universalists also make this kind of claim from time to time. I hope you find it helpful.
Februrary 10th there will be airing an interview on Ancient Faith Radio by Kevin Allen with myself on the subject of Universalism. For logistical reasons the interview will be recorded earlier (Feb 5th) but listeners can submit questions now via the AFR web page. Listen in and share!
“From other passages, in which God is said to draw or bend Satan himself, and all the reprobate, to his will, a more difficult question arises. For the carnal mind can scarcely comprehend how, when acting by their means, he contracts no taint from their impurity, nay, how, in a common operation, he is exempt from all guilt, and can justly condemn his own ministers. Hence a distinction has been invented between doing and permitting because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that he directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and employs their iniquities to execute his Judgments. The modesty of those who are thus alarmed at the appearance of absurdity might perhaps be excused, did they not endeavour to vindicate the justice of God from every semblance of stigma by defending an untruth. It seems absurd that man should be blinded by the will and command of God, and yet be forthwith punished for his blindness. Hence, recourse is had to the evasion that this is done only by the permission, and not also by the will of God. He himself, however, openly declaring that he does this, repudiates the evasion. That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture. What we formerly quoted from the Psalms, to the effect that he does whatever pleases him, certainly extends to all the actions of men. If God is the arbiter of peace and war, as is there said, and that without any exception, who will venture to say that men are borne along at random with a blind impulse, while He is unconscious or quiescent?…And hence it appears that they are impelled by the sure appointment of God. I admit, indeed, that God often acts in the reprobate by interposing the agency of Satan; but in such a manner, that Satan himself performs his part, just as he is impelled, and succeeds only in so far as he is permitted…The sum of the whole is this,—since the will of God is said to be the cause of all things, all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed by his providence; so that he not only exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the Holy Spirit, but also forces the reprobate to do him service.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religon 1.18. 1-2
If you read enough in a given area you learn to recognize patterns, or at least you should. You begin to see the same issues come up or the same solutions more or less, but just in different dress. Once you get the pattern of problems in Origen, it is amazing how pervasive and long lasting they are. People go ground and round for centuries. This is one reason why the theology of Maximus the Confessor is so important and so liberating. Maxmus freed me from these problems. By the grace of God, he can free you too.
Here in John Piper’s remarks, you can see the implicit Origenism. In order for God to be God he must be God over something or more properly a cause of something.
It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all.…
Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it.
There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired.…
So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect. (Concerning the Divine Decrees, 528, emphasis added. On page 350 of Desiring God) HT to Inhabitatio Dei
I suppose the appropriate set of questions for Piper would be the following. Is creation necessary in order for God to be Lord? Is the Son subodinate in essence in order for the Father to be Father and Lord over someone, lest God’s attribute of being Lord go unrealized? Is it any wonder that modern Arianism (Unitarianism) came out of theology like this? It doesn’t seem to dawn on Piper that he is now advocating a kind of daulism with the good dependent on the evil. What relation has God with the devil? Piper seems to think plenty. He has fully imbibed it seems the Hellenistic view that morality is dialetically conditioned, good has an opposite. (And people charge that Orthodoxy is baptized Platonism! Where Mr. Piper is this stuff stated in Scripture? So much for Sola Scriptura! ) I suppose the devil must be eternal now in order for God to be God too?! (I must confess I’d pay real money to see an exchange between James White and Piper on White’s claim that God fulfills the conditions on libertarian free will and Piper’s claim that evil is necessary for God to be fully God-Ah, the monkey and the weasel!)
As an aside, Piper’s view is also in principle reemniscient of Open Theism or Process Theism-God is incomplete without the world. Please, someone call Bruce Ware, quick! Who would have thought that Calvinism and Open Theism had so much in common?
Heaven deliver us from such madness. St. Maximus, pray for us!
Prosblogion is a blog for the philosophy of religion, written by philosophy profs and grad students. The discussion is always sufficient to give the average person a mental nose bleed. Fairly recently, a post engaged Alvin Platninga’s curent endorsement of a Felix Culpa type theodicy/defense after a long personal history of advocating a free will defense. What was interesting about the discussion was that you had all of the basic ingredients of the Origenist dialectic-freedom, foreknowledge, universalism, supralapsarianism, impeccability, Hickian soul making, etc. This I suspect is due to a few major defects in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.
I wrote this a long time ago, before this blog existed when I was writing on Kimel’s Pontificationsblog. I get requests for it and it is easier to just post it than to send out emails over and over again. Since it was originally a blog post, I have cleaned it up a bit and made it more or less a stand alone piece.
Anglicans in Exile
As a former Anglican myself I can sympathize with the troubles of my former brethren. On the one hand they do not see any good reason to abandon the tradition as it was handed on to them. Their problem is that they seem to be forced to leave the communion, but not the tradition that they are in. It is this loyalty that keeps them in place. Certainly loyalty has its limits and there is eventually a point where someone has to jump ship. I agree with many people who have already articulated the idea that going to Rome the eternal city (because after all, there’s always Rome!) because of problems in Anglicanism seems less than justified. By the same token I would agree with them that going to Constantinople for the same reason also lacks justification on that basis alone. But still, there is the pressing reality of what is going on in ECUSA and even in England. These are something like William James’ “forced decisions.” One doesn’t have eternity (let alone the brains) to study through all of the issues completely and yet one is compelled to make some decision. You have to dosomething. If Anglicanism does recover, it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better, at least in the long run. As an Anglican I never found a move to either body justified on strictly the basis of the quackadoxy of Spong or other individuals. What one needs is a positive reason that will tip the scale in favor of one body or another. And a positive reason that also cuts against Anglicanism would be even better since it would motivate one to leave Anglicanism for some other reason other than the presence of quackadoxy. Such a reason would allay the fears that one is being disloyal.