Thursday, July 07, 2011

Vatican & TULIP: Metaphysics of Divine-Human Action


Roman Catholicism is sometimes being rejected as less-Christian, if not non-Christian, by Protestants in general, and by certain cohort belonging to the Reformed circle in particular.

The usual reason for such rejection is that the Protestant thinks that Roman Catholic does not share their view on the doctrine of justification, sanctification, etc.

It worths bearing in mind that the central dispute in the mentioned doctrines lies not in the doctrines themselves but in another doctrine: the assumed differences on the idea of the God-human dynamics, commonly known as the Divine-Human action.

Both sides missed this important metaphysical issue when they leaped straight into the scriptures to quote passages that apparently supporting their view on justification, sanctification, etc.

Yet despite all the differences between Roman Catholicism and certain circle of the Reformed tradition that holds on to the Five-Points Calvinism, there is a central convergence between the two that those from both sides seem to have often missed.

As I looked into two official documents by each group in October 2006, I discovered that there are two shared convictions on this metaphysical problem:

(1) the necessity of divine initiative for human redemptive decisive action, and

(2) the real possibility that the influence of the divine can be resisted.

Let's take a look at these metaphysical affirmations:

From Roman Catholicism:
"When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight..."
(Vatican website: 'Council of Trent (1547): DS 1525', quoted in the Cathecism of the Catholic Church, Article 2:1:1993, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P6Y.HTM [accessed 7 July 2011]. Emphasis added.)

From Five-Point Calvinism:
"Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God...The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible... The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills."
(Desiring God website: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, dated March 1998, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism [accessed 7 July 2011]. Emphasis added.)

Both converges on two points. Roman Catholicism's metaphysics in this aspect is not that different from the view of those who hold on to TULIP. Many differences can be better understood, if not eliminated, if we pay attention to what each others are really talking about.

The artwork above by Pietro da Cortona titled 'Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power' covers the ceiling of the Gran Salone of the Palazzo Barberini in Italy, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in the early 17th century. The Pope meant the artwork to glorify his reign but those who look at it today admire little of his achievement. Rather they are directed to a glory that surpasses all human action even though the art itself is a product of creaturely effort.

42 comments:

reasonable said...

I think, if we go just by the quoted statements of Roman Catholic Church & the 5-Point type of Reformed Church, there is this important difference:

5 Point-Calvinism: IRRESISTIBLE GRACE - human resistance cannot overcome the Holy Ghost's influence in the end

Roman Catholicism: RESISTIBLE GRACE - human resistance can reject the Holy Ghost's influence

I requote and emphasize the same quote differently:

Roman Cat:
"When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since HE COULD REJECT IT; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight..."

Five-Point Calvinism:
"The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can OVERCOME ALL RESISTANCE and make His influence IRRESISTIBLE... The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can OVERCOME ALL RESISTANCE when he wills."


Wesleyans would of course side with Roman Catholics on this point of resistible grace. Wesleyanism would go on the side of resistible saving grace (though prevenient grace would be irresistible).



:)


.

reasonable said...

btw, I like this artwork very much

reasonable said...

To elaborate a little on irresistible grace:

Five-Point Calvinism:
"The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can OVERCOME ALL RESISTANCE and make His influence IRRESISTIBLE... The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can OVERCOME ALL RESISTANCE when he wills."

According to the above, when God WILLS the Grace to save a person, it will be futile for that person to try to resist God's Grace for in the end, as long as God WILLs it, that Grace will be irresistible.

This easily leads to the next step: Whoever God WILLs to be saved, the saving grace will be irresistible and that person will be saved. Any resistance from that person would be overcome by God. In the end, as long as God wills a person to be saved, it will be accomplished successfully. Once God wills it, the saving grace will be irresistible.

tfoo said...

hey this is an interesting post and series of comments. in the 3rd comment, reasonable said "as long as God wills a person to be saved, it will be accomplished successfully. " That's true but it's almost like a tautalogy and should apply to anything. To say that God wills something and to say that that thing will be acoomplished are almost 2 different ways of saying the same thing. but 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God wants all men to be saved. doesn't Ephesians 1:10 seem to imply that all will be saved at *some* point? ("in the dispensation of the fullness of the times"). but this is a really difficult topic and i've seen an attempt to sort out the apparent discrepancy by analyzing the greek word "aion" and it's derivatives. (otherwise, what does Ephesians 1:10 mean?) i think this is a nice idea but i cannot presently say for sure one way or another.

reasonable said...

Hi tfoo,

You said, "reasonable said "as long as God wills a person to be saved, it will be accomplished successfully. " That's true but it's almost like a tautalogy and should apply to anything. To say that God wills something and to say that that thing will be acoomplished are almost 2 different ways of saying the same thing."

1. What I mentioned is my understanding of what the 5-point Calvinism's quote, but not what I believe in.

2. I would say it is not true that ""as long as God wills a person to be saved, it will be accomplished successfully." I believe in resistible grace. Saving grace can be effectively resisted by human beings. God cannot overcome all such human resistance. I am more in line with Roman Catholicism and Wesleyan thinking on this.

3. Once you step into the shoes of my line of thought (or Roman Catholic line of thought or Wesleyan line of thought) on this matter of RESISTIBLE GRACE, then you probably can understand why there is no tautology involved. God wills something and that thing being accomplished are not necessarily the same thing. God may will some things, but some of those things may not be accomplished. There are some things that even if God desires it, it would not be accomplished. For example, God desires all to be saved but this desire of his would probably not be fulfilled.

reasonable said...

Hi tfoo,

To continue, you mentioned about Ephesians and what is implied or meant by a certain passage in it. Some thoughts:

1. Ephesians may not be written by Paul.

2. Even if it was written by Paul, it does not necessarily meant everything written inside Ephesians (or any documents bounded in the bible) is true. Paul's opinion could be mistaken.

3. So even IF (a big if) Paul believed in the ultimate salvation of every individual beings, that belief can be a mistaken belief.

4. But Ephesians 1.10 does not seem to imply the salvation of every single human being.

(a separate note: salvation of whole creation does not need to involve the salvation of every single human being... even when we see the word "all" in the bible, there are times it does not mean a literal "all")



:)



.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

I don't see that difference in both the quoted passages.

I think you find that there is a difference is perhaps due to your pursue on the logical conclusion of irresistible grace. The hint from which I deduced this guess was from your phrase "in the end" in your second paragraph of your first comment.

One can certainly say that the quoted paragraph of the Reformed group is illogical or self-contradictory. Or one may say that it is a paradox. However, it is difficult to emphasize one portion of the quoted to the extend that it overshadows the other portion and claim that the emphasized portion is the ONLY meaningful portion in the quoted statement.

While you capitalized the portion where they both differ, I have emphasized the converging points between the two quoted statements.

I should have made it clearer by showing how these two points correspond.

I'll make it up here by using Bold and Italic.

The Bold signifies (1) the necessity of divine initiative for human redemptive decisive action.

The Italic signifies (2) the real possibility that the influence of the divine can be resisted.

Roman Catholicism:
"When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight..."

From Five-Point Calvinism:
"Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God...The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible... The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills."

Is this clearer? :)

Sze Zeng said...

tfoo,

Thanks for your comment. If you are not sure, keep exploring. :)

tfoo said...

hi reasonable and sze zeng,

reasonable, you say :
"1. Ephesians may not be written by Paul.

2. Even if it was written by Paul, it does not necessarily meant everything written inside Ephesians (or any documents bounded in the bible) is true. Paul's opinion could be mistaken."

but even if i grant that for the sake of argument, i can see no benefit in doing so. the following is a poor analogy, but this is like trying to play a game of chess without defining the rules for how the pieces move! :)

if we grant that Ephesians was written by Paul and that everything written by Paul is correct, (and that all means all), we can at least make the statement:
if Ephesians was written by Paul and if everything written by Paul is correct and if all means all, then all will be saved. (the implication is true.)
but if we deny any of the premises, we can say nothing! :)

of course, if the above premises are true and all means all, then maybe "aion" and its derivatives as they occur elsewhere cannot mean "eternal", and conversely if "aion" and its derivatives as they occur elsewhere mean "eternal", then "all" in Ephesians 1:10 cannot really mean all. but how to choose between these 2? i'd rather believe "all" means "all" because this picture is more aesthetically pleasing. of course that doesn't make it necessarily true, but if not, then who decides? the theologians? (no offence to sze zeng :) )

does this make sense? i hope i haven't said anything silly.

reasonable said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

1. All my comments posted here highlighted the existence of the difference and explained what that difference was. It did not say that there is no similarity between the quoted Roman Catholic statements and the quoted 5-point Calvinist statements. For example, there is the obvious similarity between Rom Catholicism & 5-point Calvinism regarding divine initiative (as pointed out in your blog already). When I did not comment on this similarity on divine initiative, it does not mean I disagree with the presence of this similarity.

2. Regarding your expression: "it is difficult to emphasize one portion of the quoted to the extend that it overshadows the other portion and claim that the emphasized portion is the ONLY meaningful portion in the quoted statement."

Just in case I was perceived to have said or implied that those portion I emphasized is the ONLY meaningful portion in the quoted statement, I better mention here that all my previous comments did not say anything to the effect that "the emphasized portion is the ONLY meaningful portion in the quoted statement".

3. All my previous comments posted here basically concentrates on the aspect of saving grace, and my comments basically elaborated on difference between them regarding saving grace. Those comments did not say that there exist no similarity at all between the two positions.


Dunno if we are getting a better understanding on what each is saying, hehe....


Cheers!


:)


.

reasonable said...

The gist of the 5-point Calvinistic statements on the effectiveness of saving grace is: Human resistance CANNOT succeed in resisting God's saving grace when God wills the salvation of a person.

This is in opposition to the Roman Catholic position where saving grace can be effectively rejected by human effort: Human resistance CAN succeed in resisting God's saving grace when God wills the salvation of a person.

The major issue between the two positions on the effectiveness of saving grace is thus:

saving grace cannot be resisted successfully (Calvinistic)

vs

saving grace can be resisted successfully (Roman Catholic)


.

reasonable said...

Clarification 1.

I wrote: "All my previous comments posted here basically concentrates on the aspect of saving grace" (I should not have left out "effectiveness")

I meant: All my previous comments posted here basically concentrates on the effectiveness aspect of saving grace. (i.e. its effectiveness depends on whether it is possible for human beings to resist saving grace successfully).

5-pt Calvinism: It is impossible to resist successfully saving grace

Roman Catholicism: It is possible to resist successfully saving grace

reasonable said...

Clarification 2.

My first comment posted here, at the beginning part, contains this phrase "there is this important difference".

Not sure if this is the phrase that has resulted in a misreading?

"There is this important difference" basically bring forth an important difference and is silent regarding whether or not there exist any similarity.

The rest of the things said after "there is THIS important difference:" basically brings out what thing "THIS" refers to. By emphasizing the quoted positional statements in a different way, it served to show how the thing denoted by "THIS" is being contained in the positional statements, without denying the existence/non-existence or importance/unimportance of other elements contained in those positional statements.

:)

.

ps there is no clarification 3 :D

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

You wrote:

"saving grace cannot be resisted successfully (Calvinistic)

vs

saving grace can be resisted successfully (Roman Catholic)"

By reducing 5-points Calvinism's point on saving grace to only the irresistible portion seems to me as overshawdowing the emphasis on one portion of the quoted to the extent that it became the ONLY meaningful portion in the quoted statement. It is precisely on IRRESISTIBLE GRACE that 5-points Calvinism's statement states that it can and cannot be resisted. So you may say that it is illogical or contradictory.

From Five-Point Calvinism:
"Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God...The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible... The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills."

And by reducing Roman Catholicism's statement to the resisted portion seems to me that you have emphasize this to the extent that it overshadows the portion that human's active receiving is also grace since human cannot by his/her own free will to receive.

I know you are trying to point out the difference between the two groups by contrasting two propositions on saving grace by themselves.

On my part, I am trying to point out that these two propositions cannot be contrasted by themselves in this way without the other portion of the statements. And when the both portions in both statements are read, then we have similarity rather than difference. :)

Sze Zeng said...

reasonable,

In other words, in both the Roman Catholicism (RC) and 5-Point Calvinism (5PC) statements contain two portion A and B.

A and B are qualifier to each other. This means that A cannot be understood apart from B, and vice versa.

What you are proposing is to contrast RC's A without its qualification B with 5PC's B without its qualification A.

In that case, you are right that they are contrasting and opposite to each other.

While to me, both A and B in both statements are distorted without their qualification.

So, we cannot just dissect one portion from the other since each acts as a qualifier that brings out each other's meaning. If we separate the qualifier, then the statement is opened to be interpreted without qualification, which also mean its meaning being distorted. And that is what I'm trying to avoid in the post. So I think here lies our major difference :)

John Foxe said...

I think you are missing an important, if subtle distinction, between the two positions.

For the Roman Catholic man needs to cooperate with God's justifying grace. It is resistable and if resisted man will not be justified. That is what your quotation states.

The paragraph from the Reformed position does not say every influence of the Holy Spirit can be resisted. Rather, the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about regeneration and consequently to renew the will of a person thus leading to justification is irresistable.

This was a central point in Reformation debates. I trust the above comment, and further reading you may do on the subject, will help you appreciate the two paragraphs you quote are mutually contradictory.

(And as I note you are a member of the WRF I trust you are happy to subscribe to the doctrine of irresistable grace as set out in the canons of the only ecumenical Reformed held, Dordt.)

Yours in Christ,

James Horgan.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi John Foxe,

Thank you for your comment.

I think you are missing an important, though subtle, similarity between two positions.

There are two portions in the two statements quoted in the post. Each portion qualifies the other.

Hence to take only one portion without its qualification, which you are suggesting, is to distort the point of the statement. As the part is not the whole.

I'm sure none of us want other people to ignore the careful qualification that we have stated just for the sake of disagreement. Perhaps we may also extend our attention to others' qualification.

John Foxe said...

Having just been in Malaysia and spending time with Malaysian English speakers I wonder if you are tripping up over the double negative in the quote from Bethlehem Baptist. Having been preparing cross-examination questions for use in the Malaysian courts I realise UK/US double negatives elicit an answer opposite to that intended!

"The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted."

This is not saying that all influences of the Holy Spirit can be resisted. Rather it is saying that not all actions of the Holy Spirit are 'irresistable.'

In Christ,

James.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi James,

Thank you for highlighting the double negatives.

I noticed that when I read it and understand it as how you put it: "not all actions of the Holy Spirit are 'irresistable.'"

That means some actions of the Holy Spirit are irresistible. And that means some actions of the Holy Spirit are resistible.

Yet the Bethlehem Baptist's statement qualifies that notion in the same way how the Roman Catholicism's statement qualifies theirs: the necessity of divine initiative for human redemptive decisive action. :)

reasonable said...

This post addresses the alleged contradiction or paradox or mystery in the Calvinistic statement.

Hi Sze Zeng, you wrote that “It is precisely on IRRESISTIBLE GRACE that 5-points Calvinism's statement states that it can and cannot be resisted. So you may say that it is illogical or contradictory.”

There seems to be no contradiction within the 5-points Calvinism’s positional statement.

First, the 5-points Calvinism’s statement did not say that IRRESTIBLE GRACE can be successfully resisted. (It only implied that some of the influences of the Holy Ghost can be resisted). That statement did not say that it is resistible and irresistible in the same sense.

Second, while it implied that some (not all) influences of the Holy Spirit may be resisted, it stated that all resistance is guaranteed to be a failure when God wills a person to be benefited by God's grace.

A person can resist all he likes, but when God wills the salvation of that person, it is impossible for that person to resist saving grace successfully.

He can resist, but his resistance is guaranteed to fail. So in the end, saving grace is effectively irresistible.

In other words, the statement is going by a round-about way to say: when God wills saving grace to be benefit a person, this saving grace is irresistible IN THE SENSE that any resistance is guaranteed to fail.

It is going by a round-about way to say that when God wills a person to be saved, then it is impossible for that person to resist successfully. He can resist, but his resistance WILL certainly fails. In this sense, saving grace is irresistible.

I will address the qualifications in my next comment-post.

Basically, my next post is to say that the idea of God taking the initiative in salvation in the Roman Catholic positional statement does not affect the meaning of that part of the Roman Catholic statement that says God’s grace can be rejected.

My next post is also going to say that God’s divine initiative as mentioned in the Calvinistic position-statement does not affect the meaning of that part of the Calvinistic statement that states that all resistance will failed when God wills his saving grace to benefit a person.

In the Calvinistic statement, with or without the part about divine initiative, the meaning of the second part on irresistible grace remains the same, namely, resistance against God’s willed saving grace WILL fail without exception.

In what sense is saving grace irresistible according to the Calvinistic statement? It is irresistible In the sense that all resistance against God’s willed saving grace towards a person is guaranteed to fail.

[using my previous running on thread mill analogy: a person may run on the thread mill in the direction heading towards the head of the threadmill, but if the threadmill speed is faster than the speed of the runner, he will in effect be further and further away from the head of the threadmill. Same for a person trying to resist the saving grace of God when God willed to benefit that person: his resistance will fail just as the runner on threadmill will get further and further away from his intended destination even though he may try to run as fast as he could towards that destination.]

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

I think the 5PC's statement notes that Irresistible Grace (IG) is referring specifically to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Hence it does not distinguish IG from "influence of the Holy Spirit" as you suggest by writing that the resistibility of the influence of the Holy Spirit is only implied while IG cannot be successfully resisted.

Yes, the 5PC's statement does not say the resistibility and irresistibility of the Holy Spirit occur in the same sense. Neither does it say that they occur in different sense. I think the statement maintains the which sense question as a mystery.

I don't think the 5PC is a round-about-way. It is more like they are affirming the effectiveness of God's sovereignty while at the same time affirming the real possibility that the effectiveness can be resisted.

John Foxe said...

Dear Sze,

then we've nearly cleared up the 'apparent' inconsistency.

Saving grace in Reformed theology is one of those acts of God that is not resistable.

On the other hand, you will note that the Roman Catholic statement leaves it open that all the gracious acts of the Holy Spirit. of salvation can be resisted. This is, indeed, standard Roman Catholic theology and is a critical difference with Reformed theology.

One can also say it was the difference between Erasmus (The Freedom of the Will) and Luther (The Bondage of the Will). Luther praised Erasmus for being almost alone amongst his opponents in understanding this asa a key difference between the Reformers and Medieval Scholasticism.

Yours in Christ,

James.

reasonable said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

If I am not mistaken, you were saying that the Calvinistic statement is claiming the absolute effectiveness of God’s sovereignty while at the same time claiming that it is really possible (i.e. it is not impossible) to resist SUCCESSFULLY the saving grace of God. I interpreted what you were saying base on your last statement in your latest response to me (Jul 12, 5:12pm).

I submit that the Calvinistic statement was not saying that at all. The Calvinistic statement was saying that when God wills a person to be saved, it is impossible for that person to resist successfully God’s saving grace for him.

In other words, the Calvinistic statement was saying that there is no real possibility for that person to resist SUCCESSFULLY God’s saving grace if God willed that person to be saved.

Let us look at the various claims contained in the 5-pointCalvinistic statements:

1. quote from Calvinistic statement: "Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God".
Explanation: God’s grace is necessary for a person to be saved. Without God’s grace, it is impossible for a person to be saved.

2. quotes from Calvinistic statement: "The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when He wills.” & “the Holy Spirit can overcome ALL RESISTANCE and make His influence irresistible"
Explanation: When God wills his saving grace to benefit a person, there is no real possibility for that person to resist that saving grace SUCCESSFULLY (i.e. it is impossible for that person to resist it successfully) –

3. quote: "The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted."
Explanation: The quote here only says that some of the influences of the Holy Spirit may be resisted. However, the quote here is silent on whether such resistance will succeed or fail.

4. Taking into account of point 2, the implication on point 3 is this: For those situations where God wills His saving influences to be effective, it is IMPOSSIBLE for a person to resist successfully. In those situations where God wills his influences to achieve its intended goal, there is NO REAL POSSIBILITY for human resistance to be successful.


:)


.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi James,

There is interpretive space in the quoted 5-Point Calvinism (5PC) statement that saving grace is resistible, though the statement also affirms that God can overcome the resistance.

Hence 5PC affirms the real possibility of resistibility and God's ability to overcome the resistance.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

Yes, I am saying that I understand the 5PC's statement as affirming that (1) it is possible to resist successfully the saving grace of God, and (2) God can overcome resistance when he wills.

I do not try to logically harmonize all the things the statement tries to convey, but merely affirming what I understand as what the statement affirms. Therefore I don't have difficulty to see that the 5PC's statement as affirming (1) and (2).

Sze Zeng said...

On the quote "The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted."

You stated that "the quote here is silent on whether such resistance will succeed or fail."

I think the quote is not silent as it is plain that resistance is a real possibility as in it can be successful.

For instance, if I say "Studying at TTC does not mean the influence of Roland Chia cannot be resisted" is an affirmation of the possibility that the influence of Roland Chia can be successfully resisted. :)

John Foxe said...

Dear Sze,

I am struggling to see how your last comment in response to me can make sense logically.

The DG quote explicitly states "the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible". Thus it is not leaving open the possibility that this influence of the Holy Spirit can be resisted.

Taking a step back we are therefore faced with three possibilities.

1. For the first time after 500 years you have discovered a that Roman Catholicism and the Reformed faith are both teaching that the saving work of the Holy Spirit can be resisted.

2. Desiring God has botched it's statement on the work of the Holy Spirit and, mistakenly or otherwise, is holding the same view as Roman Catholicism rather than the Reformed view. Again, you are the first to spot this.

3. Despite clarificatory comments from reasonable and myself you have misunderstood the Desiring God statement.

Have I missed any options?

Yours in Christ,

James.

PS I must apologise to reasonable that I have not interacted with any of his comments but it does look like we are trying to make the same overall points.

PPS We should also bear in mind that the DG statement presupposes distinctions between saving and non-saving influences of the Holy Spirit. All would agree that some (non-saving)influences of the Holy Spirit can be resisted.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi James,

Yes, I agree with you that my last sentence in my previous comment to you make logical sense. I am fully aware of this (as I have emphasize more than one time in my correspondence with reasonable).

I think my last sentence is the result of what seems to me a fair representation. I have to represent what the 5PC's statement affirms without first requiring it to satisfy logic.

The principle underlying the blog post is to represent the positions in a fair way, not by putting them into a box of logic where because the statement affirms X, it must necessarily affirms anti-X.

This is the same principle which Roger Olson was trying to share:

"The only solution to [misrepresentation of position] is for both Arminians and Calvinists to stop attributing to the others beliefs they do NOT hold just because they think those beliefs are good and necessary consequences of what they believe. This is an all-too-common tactic of critics on both sides and it is unfair and even unchristian."

Olson goes on to say:

"It is perfectly proper for Calvinists to say “Arminians don’t believe that the atonement doesn’t actually save anyone, but we don’t see how they can deny it given what they do believe. That seems a good and necessary consequence of what they believe.” Too often, however, that isn’t what Calvinists say. One leading Calvinist critic of Arminianism says that Arminians “must say” that the atonement only gives people an opportunity to save themselves. That’s too ambiguous. He ought to add “But they don’t say that.”

Similarly, Arminians are perfectly fair to say “Calvinists don’t believe that God is the author of sin and evil, but we don’t see how they can deny it given what they do believe. That seems a good and necessary consequence of what they believe.” What would be wrong would be for an Arminian (or anyone else) to say “Calvinists believe God is the author of sin and evil.” Most of them don’t.

So, to reiterate, we must make a clear distinction between criticism and misrepresentation.


So, the other option that is available, besides the 3 you have listed, is that those two statements have been required by you and reasonable to satisfy logic first before it is read as what it is saying.

Of course, it is common and right that we assume every formulated doctrinal statement as logical.

However that is different from requiring certain doctrinal statement to be logical when the object of affirmation of those statements is beyond the domain of logic. :)

Sze Zeng said...

The link to Roger Olson's sharing: http://www.patheos.com/community/rogereolson/2011/06/20/fair-and-unfair-criticisms-of-calvinism-and-arminianism/

reasonable said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

Hmmm…I try to show below that the Calvinistic statement objects to the idea that a person have a real possibility of success in resisting God’s influence IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome resistance to achieve the goal of His influence. In other words, I am about to show that base on the Calvinistic statement, it is impossible for a person to have any real possibility of success when that person resist God’s influence IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome resistance to achieve the goal of His influence.

There is a real possibility of success for a person to resist God’s influence ONLY in those situations where God does not will to overcome resistance.

Let us look at the context in the 5-point Calvinistic statement and see what it says about what God can do, and what human resistance can achieve.

What God can do regarding overcoming human resistance:
God can overcome ALL RESISTANCE so that His influence achieves the goal. I guess you agree that the Calvinistic statement is claiming this.

Do you agree with this elaboration below regarding what the Calvinistic statement calims about God’s ability?

Elaboration: According to the explicit claims made by the statement, God can overcome all resistance when God wills to do so, therefore AS LONG AS GOD WILLS His saving grace to overcome a person's resistance to benefit a person, then there is no real possibility for that person to succeed in his resistance since the statement says God can overcome ALL resistance. Success in resistance will be impossible so long as this criteria is present: God wills His influence to achieve the goal. As long as God wills to overcome resistance, ALL RESISTANCE can be overcome by God. Quote: “The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when He wills.” & “the Holy Spirit can overcome ALL RESISTANCE and make His influence irresistible.”

Do you also agree that the Calvinistic statement did not say anything to the effect that a person can resist successfully IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome that resistance to achieve the goal of God’s influence? (the bold words are very impt)

What human beings can do regarding resisting God’s influence according to that Calvinistic statement: The statement did not explicitly say whether or not human beings can resist any influence of God. It only explicitly said what it is not claiming, namely, it is not claiming that every God’s influence cannot be resisted.

The idea that a person can resist some types of influences of God is not what the statement says, but our own assumption, not what the statement says.

Nevertheless, the statement does not object to our assumption that we “can resist” at least some influences of God.

The question is: does this “can resist” come with any real possibility of success IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome human resistance to achieve the goal of His influence?

The Calvinistic position-statement EXPLICITLY states that all human resistance can be resisted by God if God wills it, this implies that IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome human resistance to achieve the goal of His influence, there is NO REAL POSSIBILITY for human resistance to succeed; it will be impossible for human resistance to succeed.

In other words, the Calvinistic statement objects to the idea that a person can resist successfully IN THE SITUATION where God wills his influence to overcome human resistance to achieve His goal. Where there is a battle of wills, divine will wins according to the Calvinistic statement.

There is a real possibility of success for a person to resist God’s influence ONLY in those situations where God does not will to overcome resistance.

Not sure if there is anything wrong with my explanation above?



:)


.

reasonable said...

“can resist” – this phrase alone does not intrinsically include the presence a real possibility of success of resistance… the context itself will help to determine whether or not the phrase include the possibility of success.

Say, for example, we have this context: an army section of 7 soldiers, armed only with knives and rifles and nothing else, stayed on to guard their post to resist their advancing enemies. The size of the enemy army were about 5000 soldiers, armed with rifles, machine-guns and tanks. The 7 soldiers decided to resist the advancing enemy with their remaining ammunition. The 7 soldiers can choose to run away before the enemy arrives, or the 7 soldiers can choose to resist. The soldiers can run. Or the soldiers can resist.

Or another situation: The robber resisted arrest even though he was surrounded by 50 armed policemen. If the robber The robber can surrender if he so chooses. Or the robber can resist if he so chooses.

The enemy soldiers in the 1st situation and the policemen in the 2nd situation can be resisted, but there is no real possibility for the resistance to be successful in both cases, as long as the enemy soldiers WILL to crush the 7 soldiers, or as long as the 50 policemen WILL to capture the robber.

The 7 soldiers “can resist” their stronger enemies, and the robber “can resist” the well-armed policemen with his knife, but such resistance does not include any real possibility of success.

So when it is said that a human being “can resist” the saving grace of God, we should not assume that “can resist” intrinsically includes a real possibility of success. We should see the context to know whether there is any real possibility of success in the resistance. The context is of course what is described in the 5-point Calvinistic statement.

reasonable said...

Hi James,

Yes, we are making same overrall points. So it is quite natural that you have not interacted with my points :D

reasonable said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

Regarding: "I think my last sentence is the result of what seems to me a fair representation. I have to represent what the 5PC's statement affirms without first requiring it to satisfy logic...So, the other option that is available, besides the 3 you have listed, is that those two statements have been required by you and reasonable to satisfy logic first before it is read as what it is saying."


To clarify, I do not require the Calvinistic statement to be logical, and I do not require it to be true. (in fact, I am happy if the Calvinistic statements are illogical as I being a Wesleyan would loves to have more ammunition to criticise Calvinism, haha). I am seeking to explain what I perceived the Calvinistic statements are claiming.

We are all now at the level of trying to see which explanation represents the quoted Calvinistic position correctly. At the moment we see each other's explanation of the statements as misrepresentations of those statements :D

But I believe there is a good chance that further nuanced scrutiny of those statements will bring about some results (whether I become aware of my blindspot or you become aware of yours) so it is still good to continue looking at it. :)

reasonable said...

I think it is worthwhile have a comment-post to focus mainly just on this sentence in the Calvinistic statement:

"The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted"

Looking at it very carefully, the above statement does NOT make any explicit positive affirmation, but only states what it is not affirming. That means the above quoted sentence alone does not give any explicit positive affirmation on:

a. whether a person can resist
b. whether a person's resistance can be successful
c. whether a person's ressitance can be defeated by God

By saying what it is not claiming, it thus leaves us to guess what stance is implied by those Calvinistic statements:

The implied stance can be either

1. The statements are agnostic regarding whether or not it is possible for a person to resist any of God's many types of influences

or

2. The statements imply a person can resist some types of influences of God but cannot resist some other types of influences of God (which means there is NO REAL POSSIBILITY for a person to resist the latter 'some other types of influences of God')

or

3. The statement implies a person can resist successfully the influences of God in some situations while that person will resist unsuccessfully in some other situations (in which case the rest of the Calvinistic statements basically give us the situations where resistance will be unsuccessful - resistance will be defeated in situations where God wills to overcome the resistance)

Given the lack of any positive affirmation on the nature and extent of human resistance in the Calvinistic statements, I propose we should not assume that the statements to mean human beings can resist God's influences even in the situations where God wills to overcome resistance to achieve the goal of His influences.

Unless the Calvinistic statements explicitly affirm a self-contradictory stance, I propose we do not attribute a self-contradictory stance to those quoted Calvinistic statements.

So far, the statements have made explicit positive affirmation only on what God can do (overcome all resistance when God wills to do so), but is silent on what a person can do positively. It only states that it does not say a person cannot resist every single influence of God.

Apparently, according to the Calvinistic statement, if a person can resist at all, the resistance has a real possibility of success ONLY when God does not will to overcome the resistance.

The statements explicitly limit human resistance this way: such resistance fails in all those situations where God wills to overcome the resistance, because according to the statements God can overcome all resistance when He wills to do so.



:)

John Foxe said...

Dear Sze,

with all due respect to Roger Olson, what we have in this conversion is me (a Calvinist) trying to explain that the logic of a statement by Desiring God (a group of Calvinists) to another (Sze Zen who claims to be a Calvinist) is indeed Calvinist. There are no Arminians around!

I agree, with Roger Olson, that all theological systems contain antinomies. The co-existence of the sovereignty of God and the existence of evil is one such in Calvinism. It's justification is that scripture affirms both.

However, the irresistability of the saving work of the Holy Spirit and ability of the human will to resist this work is simply not an antinomy taught by Calvinism.

I suspect we have gone as far as we can in this dialogue. I would, though, be intrigued to know whether you think all Reformed confessions agree with Roman Catholicism that the saving work of the Holy Spirit is resistable?

Yours in Christ,

James.

John Foxe said...

PS I should have added that you seem to have gone for my option 1.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

I'm not sure if the statement object to the idea that a person have a real possibility of success in resisting God’s influence IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome resistance to achieve the goal of His influence.

The statement affirms God can overcome human's resistance against his influence when he wills it.

Yet to say that it objects to your described opposite notion is to draw a logical mirror-reflective statement on the basis of the statement.

And that is bordering the principle of representation where because the statement affirms X, it must necessarily affirms anti-X.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi James,

The pointing out of Olson's post is not to draw similarity between contexts, which you take it to be, but to highlight the principle of representation.

Differing from you, I think that the irresistability of the saving work of the Holy Spirit and ability of the human will to resist this work is an antinomy affirmed by the 5PC's statement (unless your reference to "Calvinism" in your sentence "However, the irresistability of the saving work of the Holy Spirit and ability of the human will to resist this work is simply not an antinomy taught by Calvinism" is not referring to the particular quoted 5PC's statement).

Just to clarify (not necessarily a critique) in case we get digressed, we are focusing specifically on the quoted 5PC's statement and not what is affirmed by general Calvinism. Not saying that you are saying the latter, but just to highlight the conversation's focus to avoid particularity being mistaken as generality. So it is not all Reformed confessions that are the issue here. :-)

reasonable said...

Hi Sze Zeng & James,

Seeking your thoughts for what I am saying below (split into two posts):

The quoted Calvinistic stance comprises 4 statements. 1st touches on the necessity of Gods’ grace for people to have a chance to turn to God, 3rd and 4th statements touches on the ability of God to overcome all human resistance so that God’s influence can achieve the goal. Perhaps then, it is from the 2nd statement that you draw your interpretation that a person is able to resist the influence of God even in the situation where God wills to overcome tht resistance to achieve the goal of that influence.

Therefore, perhaps by taking a very close look at the 2nd statement within the 5p Calvinistic statements, the discussion might be able to reach a new level. The 2nd statement reads:

“The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted.”

The above statement actually does not say that a person can resist God’s influence. It only states what irresistible does not claim. It tells us what it is not claiming (i.e. giving us a negative statement); it does not tell us any positive claim. That leaves us to a few different possibilities on what is unsaid by the statement.

What are the unsaid possible stance of the Calvinistic statement? I list out 4 below:

Either

Option 1. The statement takes an agnostic position regarding whether or not a person can resist any influence of God at all.

Or

Option 2. The statement’s unsaid position is some types of influences of God can be resisted while some other influences of God cannot be resisted. This means that for the latter “some other types of influences of God that cannot be resisted” there is NO REAL POSSIBILITY for a person to resist successfully those influences of God. The latter type of influences will be irresistible type of influences.

Or

Option 3. The statement’s unsaid position is that in some situations God’s influences can be resisted successfully while in some other situations God’s influences cannot be resisted successfully. (the 3rd & 4th sentences in the Calvinistic statements would therefore be giving us situations where God’s influences cannot be resisted successfully and those situations are when God wills to overcome resistance to achieve the goal of His influences.)

Or

Option 4. The statement’s unsaid position is that in ALL situations, God’s influence can be resisted successfully even IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome resistance to achieve the goals of His influence.

Whether it is in options 1, 2 or 3, the 2nd sentence in the Calvinistic statements did not explicitly or implicitly claim that IN THE SITUATION where God wills to overcome resistance to achieve the goal of His influence, a person can still resist successfully God’s influence. Only in option 4 then would the statement be assuming your ( Sze Zeng) interpretation.

Given that the 2nd sentence is silent about resistance (it only said what it is not claiming but it did not say it is claiming) and there are at least 4 possible different options for what is unsaid, we should not force an self-contradictory stance onto the Calvinistic positions. It will be unfair to the Calvinistic statements if we attribute a self-contradictory position onto the Calvinistic statements if those statements did not clearly adopt such a self-contradictory position.

reasonable said...

continued here...


For example, see these hypothetical statements (these hypothetical statements do not serve as analogy to our topic here, but just to illustrate the point of not forcing a self-contradictory position onto them when the statements themselves do not explicitly or implicitly claiming a self-contradictory position):

“That one-armed artist loves to draw squares. This does not mean he does not love to draw circles. That artist is now drawing a square.” It will be unfair to these statement to say that the statements ‘s meaning is the one-armed artist is drawing a figure that is a square and a circle at the same time. It is unfair to the statements to say the statements meant the artist is drawing a circular square now.

Unless the Calvinistic clearly affirms a self-contradictory position, it is right that we presume the statements are not affirming a self-contradictory position.

I do not require the Calvinistic position in those statements to be logical. In fact, I as a Wesleyan would loves to have more illogical Calvinistic positional statements because that gives me more ammunition to criticize Calvinism, hehe… We are at the level to work out what represents and what misrepresents those quoted Calvinistic statements.

reasonable said...

Hi James,

Regarding your "p.s." note...

Yes we share similar overall points... :)

So u are a Calvinist... I am a Wesleyan/Arminian here, hehehe

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

Yes, there are four points made in the 5PC's statement.

Can see that you have at present focus from the 4th (overcoming resistance) to the 2nd point (human resistibility).

Yes, the 2nd point does not explicitly or implicitly affirm resistance can be successful in the situation where God wills to overcome resistance.

I take your raising of this to mean that there is a possibility that if I agree with this point, then I would have misrepresented the 5PC's statement on the real possibility of human resistance.

Yet I remember writing that "I think the statement maintains the which sense [of resistibility] question as a mystery" (July 12, 2011 5:12PM). The mystery here is on the fact that resistance is a reality in the first place, yet it contrasts with the expressed differences between God's influence from the situation where he wills to overcome resistance, that the statement may contain. If it is true that the statement do contain this differentiation, then I think I have misrepresented it. However, that has to denounce the mystery of resistance to which the statement does not touch on. And without that, there is an interpretive space to represent the 5PC's statement as how I have hopefully managed to present with clarity.

And it is on that mysterious basis that I wrote "I understand the 5PC's statement as affirming that (1) it is possible to resist successfully the saving grace of God [even in the situation when God wills to overcome resistance], and (2) God can overcome resistance when he wills." (July 13, 2011 11:56PM)

:)