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The real question is why anyone would want to define themselves (or others) by a meaningless and ambiguous phrase. To Calvinists "evangelical" means Calvinists. To Arminians it means Arminian. Its a worthless label. It means nothing.

Jim Getz

See, this is where my definition of an Evangelical as a white, suburban, middle-class, protestant republican becomes a real time saver....

Peter Kirk

John, thanks for the support, at least that is how I read it, for what I wrote at and (I won't suggest that we agree about Todd Bentley, just about Obama).

Andrew C

Darryl Hart, an American church historian, has noted how slippery the term "evangelical" really is. I think he even once said that an evangelical is someone who likes Billy Graham. (He might have lifted that from someone else though.) His book, "The Lost Soul of American Protestantism" has some interesting critiques of the labels used.

John Hobbins


"Evangelical" is a meaningless label if you think Charles Simeon was wrong.

Charles Simeon recounts this conversation with John Wesley, a well-known Arminian:

S: Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

W: Yes, I do indeed.

S: And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

W: Yes, solely through Christ.

S: But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

W: No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

S: Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

W: No.

S: What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?

W: Yes, altogether.

S: And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

W: Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

S: Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.

I stand, rev, with Charles Simeon. A spirit of divisiveness and contention has often characterized Christians. I urge you to reconsider your position.

John Hobbins


That's delightful. I've got too many self-identifying evangelical friends who don't fit your box however.

For the rest, I seem to have a fondness for labels others wish to hold in disrepute. I am happy be called any of the following: orthodox (a glorious term); catholic (very cool); evangelical (Amen and Hallelujah); inerrantist (a la the Catholic Cathechism); (former) Communist (an enduring piece of my autobiography); last but not least, Waldensian (I actually believe what's written in the Waldensian confessione di fede).

John Hobbins


For me the point is that a label like evangelical is best used to build bridges, not burn them.


I would think that evangelicals would want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt as much as possible, just as they seem to do with, say, John McCain and George W. Bush. Otherwise, the discussion isn't about versions of Christianity, but partisan politics. Strategically, furthermore, it ought to be obvious that it is a plus for the evangelical movement to have a strong representation in both parties.

But what is obvious to me is clearly far from obvious to others.


John, I don't know what exactly you are trying to say by busting out some crusty old quote like that, but if you're saying that being an "Evangelical" means believing the false doctrine of inherited sin that is condemned in Ezekiel 18:20 and shown to be false in Romans 7:9, then count me out. Even in Psalm 51:5, we don't find inherited guilt being taught as you think, but we find David's lie in prayer to God (from verse 4) "Against Thee only have I sinned" being miraculously contradicted by his unborn illegitimate child "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" and the we see in verse 6 David's response to God for the miracle "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part [i.e. Bathsheba's womb] thou shalt make me to know wisdom."


Interestingly enough I just brought up an important issue of Hebrew poetry without even realizing it or connecting it to the title of the blog. But I'm sure you are well aware of the phenomena of unannounced speaker changes in the Psalms. There's an obvious one in Psalm 2:7 and again in Psalm 2:10. Yet strangely hardly anyone even considers the possibility in Psalm 51:5 and 51:6, although it solves the issue of David's clear lie in verse 4. Most would rather provide some weak attempt to justify the lie rather than properly exegete. Its sad that the malevolent view of God inherent in Calvinism is so deeply ingrained as to prevent a proper examination of the text.

John Hobbins


It seems that you have a tidy little system on the basis of which you wish make divisions and accuse those who see other sides of the situation of rank falsehood. I smell a sectarian spirit.

It hadn't crossed my mind how much forced exegesis of Ps 51 might be necessary to do away with the doctrine of original sin, which, as Chesterton aptly remarked, "is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved" (Orthodoxy, chap. 2). But now I see it.

In Chesterton's analogy, you are denying the existence of the cat:

If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.

Finally, your appeal to Ezek 18:20 takes no notice of the fact that this passage in one among many in Scripture, all of which must be given their due in a systematic theology: e.g., Exod 20:5; Deut 5:9; Jer 18:21; Job 27:14; and Lam 5:7. Even if one agrees with BT Makkot 24a that Exod 20 is abrogated by Ezek 18, it has to be admitted that the abrogation has never been complete. From another point of view, Deut 24:16 serves to mitigate, not overcome, a pervasive fact of human life, to wit, that we inherit, by nature and nurture, blessings but also curses.

John Hobbins


You are digging your hole deeper. The speaker changes in Psalm 2 are sudden but not unannounced. The content flow requires the assumption of speaker changes therein.

The opposite is true in Ps 51. It is not strange at all that no one has posited a change in speaker in Ps 51. The verse you despise, in any case, is backed up by many others, for example, Job 14:4; 15:14-16, the empirical truth of which, I repeat, is hardly open to question.

Peter Kirk

Rey, the easier way to understand Psalm 51, as I'm sure John would realise if he got off his theological hobby-horse, is that this is poetry expressing David's emotional response in a particular situation, not an attempt to teach systematic theology.

John Hobbins


A look at the Job passages I cite will show you that the human depravity language of Ps 51 is traditional in content. You are right that the recollection of it suits the context of a situation of sin (David) or a situation of great distress (Job), but it is an unwarranted conclusion to suppose that the language does not express a general truth. That supposition is, to be clear, preposterous. I don't think better grounded Arminians would dare say otherwise.

Perhaps you need to take a look at Genesis 6:8 compared to 8:21 (no change) combined with 6:11. This is just for starters. Human depravity really is a given in the Bible. Beyond that, the effort to conceive of sin in purely individualistic terms is surely helpful in the context of moral exhortation, but should not be seen as in final contradiction with nature and nurture dimensions of sin.

Charles Simeon lays out a very large common ground shared by all evangelicals and all Christians so far as I know (though some Christians are reluctant to express themselves in that way). The same emphases are found in recent Roman Catholic theology in tune with Augustine.

Peter Kirk

John, there is a real difference between "every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood", which I accept as do Simeon and Wesley, and the immoral doctrine of Augustine, with no biblical support except arguably Psalm 51:5b but explicitly rejected in Ezekiel 18, that newborn babies are held guilty and condemned to eternal punishment on the basis of the sin of Adam.

John Hobbins


It pains me to say that I think you need to study the history of theology more. On the one hand you hardly give Augustine credit for his intense wrestling with the issue, which you would be aware of if you had read his sermons.

On the other hand, you imply that Wesley and Simeon thought otherwise from Augustine on this issue. But they didn't.

Here is John Wesley, in his Doctrinal Tracts:

What are the benefits we receive by baptism, is the next point to be considered. And the first of these is the washing away of original sin, by the application of Christ's death. That we are all born under the guilt of Adam's sin, and that all sin deserves eternal misery, was the unanimous sense of the ancient church, and is expressed in the ninth article of our own. And the scripture asserts that we were shapen in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us; that we were all by nature the children of wrath, and dead in trespasses and sins; that in Adam all die; that by one man's disobedience all were made sinners; that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, which came upon all men, because all had sinned. This plainly includes infants, for they too die; therefore they have sinned; but not by actual sin, therefore by original sin, else what need have they of the death of Christ? Yea, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned actually, according to the similitude of Adam's transgression. This, which can relate to infants only, is a clear proof that the whole race of mankind are obnoxious both to the guilt and punishment of Adam's transgression.

But as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." "And the virtue of that free gift, the merits of Christ's life and death, are applied to us in baptism."


Calvinists, of course, inclusive of Charles Simeon, are famous for holding to this kind of position.

In short, if you distance yourself from Augustine on this issue, you also distance yourself from Wesley and an evangelical Anglican like Simeon. For all three, it should be emphasized, the teaching that unbaptized infants are unsaved, and the corollary doctrine of baptismal regeneration (huge disputes, of course, about how to intend it) are part and parcel of a larger stress on extra ecclesia nullam salus, "outside of the church there is no salvation."

Specifically, it is not all clear how unbaptized infants are to be saved if faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (which is of course comes to us via the church), and salvation by faith alone. It is already a stretch if you will to affirm that baptized infants will be saved in light of that line of thought.

Please don't think that I am unsympathetic to your concerns. They are mine as well, and ultimately they remained unanswered questions. One might ask as follows:

"What kind of justice is it that so many thousands of souls should be damned because they departed from their bodies by death in infancy, without the grace of the Christian sacrament . . . when [God] certainly knew that each one of them by no fault of his own would leave the body without the baptism of Christ?"

Those are Augustine's words, in a letter to Jerome. Jerome did not find it in him to supply an answer. The difficulty Augustine felt is perfectly clear. Elsewhere Augustine admits that his "powers are not sufficient to get to the bottom of it ... I have no explanation."

In the end, Augustine preferred to stick to what he understood to be the clear teaching of Scripture, which conceives of people as being, if God wills it, "vessels of wrath" quite apart from superior wickedness on their part.

All of the above to say that I think your polemics are uninformed and lacking in humility and charity.

I would also add, though you have not shown an interest in the past, that a compromise solution was more common in the ancient church. Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus (circa 329 - circa 390) commented in Orat., XL, 23 that infants dying without baptism "will neither be admitted by the just judge to the glory of Heaven nor condemned to suffer punishment, since, though unsealed [by baptism], they are not wicked."

And thus we come to the development of the concept of limbo (Thomas of Aquinas, for example).

Once again, you may choose to deride theologians of past generations from whatever Mt. Olympus you feel you stand on.

I, for one, find your accusations of immorality immoral in turn.


I also think it well to examine the way "sin" is used in these arguments; in older writings, and I think in scripture, and its corallaries in other languages, "sin" isn't just used as what one does, but also, as in Scripture, describes people, as the very state of our being, our very nature; that our nature is wickedness, our wills enslaved to this "sin nature"; kind of like the "baptized into Christ" is used to describe a state; these days "original sin" is often taken to mean "inherited guilt", but this hasn't been the way it was used, it seems either the uninformed or the factious alway attempt to spin its traditional use and accuse those who mean something else altogether of teaching that it is guilt, and not this nature that is abhorrent to God, that is inherited.

What is very interesting to me is that even clarifying this, many people still calumniate this teaching as if it isn't evident throughout God's Word, hating that yes, we're very wicked, and deserving of all judgment; and that, yes, God has mercy on some, undeserved, "by grace through faith"; speaking of evangelicals, this has to be one of the most despised teachings in its untampered form because, when elucidated clearly and shown from Scripture, it denies the inherent loveliness of ourselves as if that is what God wanted to save and love us for, and changes the very nature of God's love to one that loved despite utter unloveliness, even being what is deserving of all hatred. This latter love, however, is the God that I cling to: "in me there is no good thing."

I also am concerned for the infants, as I think everyone has been; it doesn't actually trouble me (God is just), but I think Christians must be their very nature wish good will towards all men, being that they themselves received mercy when they deserved wrath.


Go on worshiping your false god if you please, but oh please. You should be sure, by the way, when you quote Job that you are quoting Job and not his Calvinist friends of whom God says "Who is this that darkens council by words with no knowledge?" (Job 38:2) and to whom God says "you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (Job 42:8) For Job says in Job 31:18 "But from my youth I reared the orphan as a father, and from my mother's womb I guided the widow;"--is he teaching inherited sin like his refuted opponents? but serve your malevolent idol if that is what suits you. Your god has a "secret will" that is contrary to his "revealed will." But Amos says of my God in Amos 3:7 "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets." Your god reveals one thing and means another. Your idol reveals that he so loved the world that he gave his son whereas he really means that he loves only the elect and hates all others. But my God reveals that he loves the world that he gave his son, and he actually means it! That's how I know that on Judgement Day my God will not say as your god will to you (or as he would if he were real and not an idol) "I said in my revealed will that I would save some by arbitrary election, but in reality in my hidden or secret will I always intended to send every last one of you to hell for I never loved even the elect, now go burn forever for my glory." Because the idol who reveals one thing but means another, the god of Calvin, is a liar (or would be if he were real) but the true God is "God, that cannot lie." (Titus 1:2)

John Hobbins


You just dug your hole deeper. It has become a bottomless pit. Job 38:2 is addressed to Job, not to Job's friends as you imply. For the rest, I purposely quoted from Job's speeches (Job 14:4; 27:13-14) and from a speech of a friend (Job 15:14-16) to demonstrate the ubiquity of the teaching you deny.

It's seems as though you accept the plain sense of scripture, except when you don't like what it says, in which case you don't.

It has been my experience that those who speak of Calvin as having a false god play fast and loose with Scripture, just as you have done in your comments.

Your comments reinforce within me the desire to uphold the key tenets of Calvinism - which Charles Simeon cited above notes with care - without becoming as ungracious toward others and as manipulative of Scripture as you are.

John Hobbins


To Calvinists I say, and therefore to myself, since I am one:

it is important to note that some passages of scripture do not fit well into the tidy little system that many Calvinists seem to prefer to the words and emphases of Scripture itself.

Finally, it's always best, when thinking through these issues, to begin with an example about which scripture speaks clearly and often. For example, with respect to election, Jacob and Esau. God, says Scripture, loved Jacob, but hated Esau. End of story, right? Hardly. Read through all the relevant texts. It is enormously helpful, I think, to see how both sides of the "I love X, I hate Y" statement must be qualified in light of the full witness of the canon.


Not trying to fit in what's neat and tidy; not trying to set Scripture at-edge against itself either; the thing that brought me to be "Calvinistic" was reading Jesus's statements to the crowds, that they couldn't believe, the Father hadn't given them to Him; this was from a previous stance and background with a Word-Faith mother, and the hybridized Evangelical Therapeutic "Christianity" that's practically Pelagian (in the sense it's a mixed system of contradictory positions the adherents hardly evaluate)!

Anyway, that was a lot of grace to be shown, to be rescued from such errors; and since, even rey here, I feel for: why not, I was in, perhaps, bad or worse a state of unbelief?

I think it's interesting that I noted that what properly taught (that's scriptural) is the inheritance of a wicked nature, and from it will, not the guilt of fathers, and that despite making these clarifications regarding the meaning of "original sin" (though there's lots of misteaching when people use those terms too) people still often accuse "Calvinists" of teaching inherited "sin" in the sense of the term which means "the sins of the fathers"; that after mentioning these false characters and accusations made based upon them, rey went right ahead to continue and make those accusations! It's astonishing, absurd, but, nevertheless, human.

Peter Kirk

John H, I did not intend to imply that I agreed with Wesley on original sin, only on human depravity. Wesley is wrong here for the simple reason that he is quite explicitly quoting Psalm 51 as if it is systematic theology.

Thank you for clarifying that Augustine had his own doubts about the horrific doctrine which he eventually espoused. Unfortunately in his own study of Scripture on this he was led astray by not knowing the original languages, as I explained at (does this now work as a link?)

The other John got it right: what is inherited is not guilt but sin, i.e. a nature with a propensity to sin.

John Hobbins


Lots of problems here. Suffice it to say that I continue to find your dismissal of Augustine, Wesley, and Simeon, insofar they are in large agreement on the issues at hand, cavalier to say the least. For the rest, your distinction between guilt, sin, and a nature with a propensity to sin has no obvious basis in Scripture. All three are held together in the Bible, and cohere in life as well.

As far as Ezekiel goes, the point is not that we do not inherit guilt/sin/the propensity to sin from our fathers (we inherit all three, look around you).

The point is that Ezekiel endeavored to show that the punishment his generation did receive and was about to receive was justified on the basis of their own sinning, quite apart from the weight of nature, nurture, and history.


I "came to the Lord" in an Arminian context. But I knew from the start that it was the Lord who had come to me, not the other way around. My experience of conversion was vivid enough and in contrast enough with the Arminian framework in which it occurred that I could not help but look elsewhere for a framework that cohered with it.

But I am a firm believer that the gift of salvation is not the same thing as being able to conceptualize it accurately. The paradox is rich: there are plenty of people who cannot conceptualize salvation accurately but who are clearly saved, that is, their lives are endowed with the fruits of the Spirit. On the other hand, there are a few people who can conceptualize it well, and use that fact as a bludgeon against others. They are apparently not saved, that is, their lives are not endowed with the fruits of the Spirit. Woe unto them.

Which brings me back to Obama, McCain, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Carter, Ford, Palin, whoever. Each of these people is subject to criticism from any number of points of view, but since each self-identifies or self-identified as a Christian and, as a matter of historical record, owes or owed more than a little to evangelical Christianity in particular, it would seem appropriate for evangelicals to emphasize rather than minimize said facts.

If not, one wonders what kind of partisan game is being played.


If you will read Romans 9 with an open mind and not to contort it to the Calvinist system you will see that Ishmael and Isaac then Jacob and Esau are brought up not as examples of arbitrary election, but of conditional election based on foreseen faith rather than race. The whole point of Romans 9 to one that reads it in context is that Paul is arguing against a bigoted Jewish notion that God is under some obligation to save all Jews regardless of whether they have faith and to condemn all Gentiles regardless of whatever they have faith or not. He uses Ishmael and Esau to show that even when physical blessings related to descent from Abraham were given out, unbelievers were weeded out of receiving them. This is all to show that FAITH not race is the basis of election.

Peter Kirk

John, we must agree to differ. But you should at least give me the credit with agreeing with a significant strand of Christian thought through the centuries, from many of the fathers before Augustine, through the Roman Catholic tradition that infants who die go not to hell but to limbo, and indeed current official RC teaching, to huge numbers of modern theologians including many who identify themselves as evangelicals.

John Hobbins


That's fine. But let's be clear about where we differ. I differ with you in your characterization of Augustine's position as immoral, and in your apparent claim that we inherit a propensity to sin but no consequences of sin from those who preceded us. Unlike Augustine, Aquinas, and many modern theologians, all of whom "answer" the question in various ways, I argue that the question is best left undecided.


We too will have to agree to disagree. I do not question your intentions but, so far as I can see, you are quick to impute evil to those you disagree with and slow to recognize weaknesses in your own approach.


There is no weakness in standing by Scripture in opposition to Augustine's Manichean heresy, to the doctrine of inherited sin that was taught by no 'father' prior to the half-Gnostic convert who prayed "give me chastity, but not yet." My conclusion is what I began with: no point in using the ambiguous label "evangelical" because as both Calvinists and Arminians use it, to call yourself by it is to have fellowship with Calvinism which is to have fellowship with Manichean darkness.


"But let's be clear about where we differ."

I like that. : )

"I differ with you in your characterization of Augustine's position as immoral,"

At least with what I know of Augustine (not too much) I have to agree here.

"and in your apparent claim that we inherit a propensity to sin but no consequences of sin from those who preceded us."

To use evangelingo, (not too sure of more traditional terms in this particular case), the consequence was "spiritual death", correct? I too hold that this consequence is inherited; what I mean by sin vs. guilt is that we inherit a wicked nature, a "sin nature", born of the flesh, those who are spiritually dead, we too are dead; life does not proceed from death, but from God. I don't know that I'd characterize it as we inheriting the guilt of our fathers, as stated before, (though it is surely good, I think, when in the word we see people asking God's forgiveness and mercy when their fathers had sinned); nevertheless everything begets after its kind, the spiritual dead proceed from the spiritually dead.

I'm sorry if you were at all confused with what I said, as if we do not inherit the consequences of sin; how can we not, however, when we ourselves are so horribly "depraved" (to use traditional lingo!); God is by nature good, Holy, Just, Right...we by nature are opposite these, "vessels of wrath"; only saved from that by His mercy.

And you're right to state it in the terms that it is God that comes to those whom He will, not the other way around; and I agree with your statement that people can misstate or understand this, but be saved; I think it's an important point to correct, because of the practicals that flow out of that false understanding, but nonetheless, evaluating your statement about it, I think it's true.


Jim Getz

John [FH],

I'm glad for any friends you might have that don't fit that box and will still call themselves Evangelical.

Unfortunately, in my personal experience any who can't get crammed into that little box have been strongly encouraged to look elsewhere.

John Hobbins


My problem is that the very thing many people fear most, that the color line among evangelicals be definitively broken, is what I desire and what I have already lived in the flesh. Conservatives fear this because they know it would dilute preoccupation with their hot button issues. Outsiders fear it because they are afraid that evangelicalism would, if everyone from black and white Baptists, Pentecostals, and Methodists to Wisconsin and Missouri Synod Lutherans formed a common front, be king of the hill in more ways than one.

I also see a lot of common ground between evangelicals, Catholics, and the Orthodox.

I think the most exciting theological work being done is self-consciously evangelical, catholic, and orthodox, or at the very least, exhibits great openness in all directions.

This same work tends to shows an openness to the specific contributions of Judaism and to the riches of fundagelical Christianity globally defined. Check out Books & Culture if you wonder what I have in mind.

This new ecumenism comes in many forms, from Jason Byassee who writes for both CC and CT, to Oden, Webber, Wilken, Alistair McGrath, Pelikan and, in another way, Hauerwas.

That each group with a capital letter (Evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox) prefers to emphasize differences and discourage people from pursuing cross-fertilization strikes me as parochial and short-sighted.

In any case, I won't stand for it. I grew up with the great debates in the Reformed Journal between Calvinists and Anabaptists, appreciate First Things now for the dialogue that occurs in that setting, and consider the work of evangelicals like (e.g.) Wolterstorff, Plantinga, McGrath, Noll, Marsden, and Volf to be of great interest. Isn't it interesting that they all teach in non-evangelical institutions?


"If you will read Romans 9 with an open mind and not to contort it to the Calvinist system you will see that Ishmael and Isaac then Jacob and Esau are brought up not as examples of arbitrary election, but of conditional election based on foreseen faith rather than race."

By the way, rey, the problem with that statement is that, assuming you're referring to how God "foreknew", the Greek "foreknew" isn't used in the sense of choosing anyone for their faith, or on the basis of that faith; that's the rub for anyone wanting to assert such a thing; I hear your claim more than often and once thought it myself...until learning about how that word is used in the originals from people who read them (including people who would take your stand against Calvinism, yet know better than to think the God chose people on the basis of his "foreknowledge" of their faith).

There are a few useful works on Greek that say what you're saying, and thought I like these resources, I find them to be more than a little enthusiastic (rather than rigorous and sober handling of the language), and that no specialist of Greek really takes those seriously (the popular Vine's Dictionary is one of them: whenever someone asks about it Greek specialists point them to another source because it is more enthusiastic in places than carefully studious of what it's trying to define).

Also, I believe Hebraists who also read that Greek have also said that, when considering how the NT is written semitically, using terms in many places semitically, even the grammar showing influence (it's not just odd grammar because it's koine, but often shows signs of the kind of someone thinking in English but writing in Spanish! or someone heavily influenced by Semitic thought), they've said they just wouldn't argue (from either a semitic perspective on word use, or a Greek perspective as used in the NT) that the "foreknew" is about seeing their faith beforehand, and choosing anyone on that basis.

Perhaps John, being a lover of literature, and which entails such details, and translator of these languages, could put it much better, more concisely, and more considerately, than I could hope to in a decade!

Furthermore, however, when people teach that God's choosing is predicated upon the foreknowledge of who will/not believe, who will/not choose such and such, it is making a claim to defend human will: to will one way or another; but this contradicts Romans 9 at verses 8-9, 11, 15-16, 18,19-...oh wait, basically Romans 9. In verses 8-9 Salvation is according to His promise, 11 it is not according not to works but according to God's purpose in election (choosing), [14] says there is no injustice with Him, 15-16 says He'll mercy or not mercy whom He'll will, etc. the point being made is God does His will, and He is not unjust.

Correct me wherever I may be incorrect John.


Justin Richter


Brother, seriously, you confuse me. Calvinism= Manichean Darkness. But Augustine is against the Manicheans. Yet Calvinism≈ Augustinianism. So does Augustine stand against himself? Or is Calvin against Augustine? Are they all Manicheans in your book? And how can a Cretan truthfully say that all Cretans are liars? I'm not sure why you hate on Calvinist so much, Rey. But it seems like your circle of orthodoxy probably doesn't cover a lot of ground. You might be interested in reading some Augustine where he refutes the Donatist. It would be helpful. I love you. Its always good to have a stalwort standing for pure unadulterated and glorified doctrine.

John Hobbins


I think Rey is making a hash of things, but it is also true that theologians, like people in general, are gifted at disagreeing with themselves. Sometimes that is even for the best. But I digress.

Augustine is great stuff, and so are other Church Fathers: Irenaeus, Gregory Nazianzus, Chrysostom, Clement, Athanasius, and Cyril of Alexandria; Ephrem and Aphrahaat - such unity and diversity within a single time period. My feeling is that if Rey learned to appreciate just one of the above, he would eventually learn to appreciate them all.


It seems to me that a lot of nonsense has been spouted about foreknowledge and the lack of it. My point of departure, which I think is unassailable, is that God is often portrayed as initiating a discovery process. In short, the texts often emphasize something quite different from foreknowledge, though not necessarily in contradiction to it.

Here's what I mean. God is love. That is a good baseline datum. If you are married, John, you will know that foreknowledge is often your enemy, not your friend. That is, you already know what your wife is going to say, and she knows what you are going to say, by the first syllable. Operating on the basis of that foreknowledge can be devastating to a marriage insofar as old negative habits are in play.

If instead you put foreknowledge aside, and "hope all things and believe all things," a version of the uncertainty principle comes into play, whereby you may impact the outcome of the events you are observing in a positive way.

In short, God chooses not to foreknow in the sense of predicting the course that things would take apart from intervention on his part. He then goes about his business of rescuing and protecting but also saving thanks to judgment and through fire.

Put another way: foreknowledge and discovery are cognitive tools both of which a fiercely loving God uses. In the process, we merit what grief comes our way, except when we don't (like Job), but we never merit what grace we receive, which is a pure gift of God often enough dispenses into the teeth of our rebellion.

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