A Rebuttal to an Open Theist Email
A couple of months ago, I have come across an interesting, and I would say, an extremely hate-filled email, titled Frankie's Powerful Message, which attacks Calvinism. The curious thing about this email is that it is hosted on a Buddhist website in Singapore (Hmm … I wonder why it is so).
According to the email, the author is identified as Frankie Lee. And judging by his email address, Frankie is probably a Singaporean and it seems his beliefs are quite consistent with Open Theism. He denies the omniscience of God – that God has any foreknowledge of the future. For the most part of his email, he denounces the doctrines of Calvinism as the “Lies of Satan.” The email can be found at this link.
I have divided my rebuttal into the following sections:
- On John Calvin and Michael Servetus
- On Open Theism
- On Irresistible Grace
- On John Wesley’s View of John Calvin
- On Augustine’s View of Astrology
- On the Fall of Adam
- On the Anthropomorphic View of God
- On the Total Depravity of Man
- On the Absolute Sovereignty of God
- On God’s Sovereignty over Evil and Suffering
Frankie Lee wrote,
Due to the deep rooted mindsets of Christians who were mostly influenced by Calvin's misleading doctrines, my teachings from Truths will shock and disillusioned many Christians. It is unthinkable that anyone will ever believe in the words of John Calvin, who was infamous for slandering God, blasphemies, and he actually burned a human being alive, and in order to satisfy his rage and hatred against Servetus, he asked for green wood to slowly torture him ....via slow- cook.Yet, his followers are aplenty.It amazes me that many opponents of Calvinism have to resort to blaming John Calvin for the death of Michael Servetus, who denied the doctrine of the Trinity. This is an ad hominem fallacy, as it has absolutely nothing to do with refuting the theological doctrines of Calvinism.
Philip Schaff (1819-1893), author of History of the Christian Church, wrote,
From the standpoint of modern Christianity and civilization, the burning of Servetus admits of no justification. Even the most admiring biographers of Calvin lament and disapprove his conduct in this tragedy, which has spotted his fame and given to Servetus the glory of martyrdom.Most contrary to Frankie Lee’s overly exaggerated statement “asked for green wood to slowly torture him ....via slow- cook,” Philip Schaff wrote,
But if we consider Calvin’s course in the light of the sixteenth century, we must come to the conclusion that he acted his part from a strict sense of duty and in harmony with the public law and dominant sentiment of his age, which justified the death penalty for heresy and blasphemy, and abhorred toleration as involving indifference to truth Even Servetus admitted the principle under which he suffered; for he said, that incorrigible obstinacy and malice deserved death before God and men.
Calvin’s prominence for intolerance was his misfortune. It was an error of judgment, but not of the heart, and must be excused, though it cannot be justified, by the spirit of his age.
In one respect [John Calvin] was in advance of his times, by recommending to the Council of Geneva, though in vain, a mitigation of punishment and the substitution of the sword for the stake.It must also be noted John Calvin does not have any formal power in Geneva. Here is an excerpt from an article by Matthew Gross,
In considering these executions, is important to note that Calvin never held any formal power outside the Church during his time in Geneva. The government of the church in Geneva was Presbyterian ¬– it had a pastor and a consistory, or board of ruling elders. Contrary to popular portrayal, the government of the church was not the government of the city. … The consistory handled moral matters, and the maximum penalty it could impose was excommunication. … Calvin himself was not a citizen of Geneva during the upheaval in Geneva, and thus was disqualified from voting, holding public office, or even serving on the Council of Two Hundred until very late in his life, and at least four years after he achieved “the height of his power” to which so many Calvin detractors refer. Thus, it is with this understanding, the understanding that Calvin held no formal secular power, and that any power he did have was subject to the review of two different citizen’s councils...And lastly, to sum it up, William Wileman has given an excellent concise summary of the facts in his article Calvin and Servetus:
- That Servetus was guilty of blasphemy, of a kind and degree which is still punishable here in England by imprisonment.
- That his sentence was in accordance with the spirit of the age.
- That he had been sentenced to the same punishment by the Inquisition at Vienne.
- That the sentence was pronounced by the Councils of Geneva, Calvin having no power either to condemn or to save him.
- That Calvin and others visited the unhappy man in his last hours, treated him with much kindness, and did all they could to have the sentence mitigated.
Frankie Lee wrote,
The scriptures revealed many accidents that happened to human beings, and it shock God and surprise Him but many professed-believers-and stickler- of- the -Word "refute" the Bible because they had find it hard to trust the Bible. While they claimed that they do not understand many mysteries of God, and were ignorant about many things about God, then why they comments on something that they have no knowledge of?It is in this paragraph where Frankie Lee revealed his real theological leanings. His statement “many accidents that happened to human beings, and it shock God and surprise Him” exposes him as an Open Theist.
One of the heretical teachings of Open Theism states that God has no foreknowledge of human choices; that God can be shocked, surprised and can repent like we do. Now, unlike Open Theism, both Calvinists and Arminians do affirm the foreknowledge of God. John Piper compares the statements by John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius in his article Is the Glory of God at Stake in God's Foreknowledge of Human Choices?,
John Calvin wrote, "[God] foresees future events only by reason of the fact that he decreed that they take place." And Jacobus Arminius wrote, "[God] has known from eternity which persons should believe . . . and which should persevere through subsequent grace." Denying God's foreknowledge of human choices has never been part of Christian orthodoxy.Even John Wesley, whom Frankie Lee later described in his email as “the genuine servant of God,” affirmed the foreknowledge of God in his sermon on the doctrine of predestination.
The first point is, the foreknowledge of God. God foreknew those in every nation, those who would believe, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things. But, in order to throw light upon this dark question, it should be well observed, that when we speak of God's foreknowledge, we do not speak according to the nature of things, but after the manner of men. For, if we speak properly, there is no such thing as either foreknowledge or afterknowledge in God. All time, or rather all eternity, (for the children of men,) being present to him at once, he does not know one thing in one point of view from everlasting to everlasting. As all time, with everything that exists therein, is present with him at once, so he sees at once, whatever was is, or will be, to the end of time.On Irresistible Grace
Frankie Lee wrote,
A lot of confusion stems from Calvin's definition of God, denigrating God and place God as "Sovereign", having "Foreknowledge", and "All Powerful", intruding into affairs of human beings, and "Overriding all human will", to the point of "Invasion of privacies", that had become" God's Will has become Irresistible".Not only Frankie Lee denies the foreknowledge of God, he also denies the sovereign will of God. The question is – can anyone thwart the will of God? We find in the Scriptures that no one can.
I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. – Job 42:2As God of all creation, it would seem preposterous to imply that God is not allowed to be “intruding into affairs of human beings.” Isn’t it clearly written in the Scriptures,
For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back? – Isaiah 14:27
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. – Romans 11:36The question is, if God does not “override human will,” how could anyone willingly seek God? It is written that “no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11); that the “man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them” (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is also written,
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? – Romans 9:20-21
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. … No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. – John 6:37, 44Because no man has the natural ability to choose God, it is solely up to the sovereign will of God to overcome the hardened hearts of men and to draw men to Him. And because the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:30 that those whom God calls, He also justifies, it is clear that the electing grace of God is irresistible.
On John Wesley’s View of John Calvin
Frankie Lee wrote,
"Nothing can happen chance, and there is no accident in God", with such ideas emanating from Calvin, obviously fooled the world, in his definitions and wrong views about the Bible. John Wesley, the genuine servant of God preached that Calvin was a Blasphemer. But Calvin was infamously known as a wicked human being, and a murderer. Some believe that he was an anti-Christ, a wolf in sheep clothing's in Christendom, and I find the latter is more accurate portrayal of Calvinism.It is likely Frankie Lee received his information that “John Wesley … preached that Calvin was a Blasphemer” from the Wesley’s sermon on Free Grace in 1740,
This is the blasphemy for which (however I love the persons who assert it) I abhor the doctrine of predestination, a doctrine, upon the supposition of which, if one could possibly suppose it for a moment, (call it election, reprobation, or what you please, for all comes to the same thing) one might say to our adversary, the devil, "Thou fool, why dost thou roar about any longer?Now, John Wesley did not directly accuse John Calvin of being a blasphemer. It is important that we need to balance the above words of John Wesley with his other sermons. And here is an excerpt of another sermon that he later preached in 1770,
John Calvin was a pious, learned, sensible man; and so was James Harmens. Many Calvinists are pious, learned, sensible men; and so are many Arminians. Only the former hold absolute predestination; the latter, conditional.What could have caused this change? Well, if one knows the history of Methodism, one would know that George Whitefield, a friend of John Wesley and the co-founder of Methodism, is a Calvinist. After Wesley’s sermon on Free Grace was published, George Whitefield wrote a letter to John Wesley in response to the Free Grace sermon. Here are a couple of excerpts,
One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? -- a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity.
But perhaps you may say, that Luther and Arndt were no Christians, at least very weak ones. I know you think meanly of Abraham, though he was eminently called the friend of God: and, I believe, also of David, the man after God's own heart. No wonder, therefore, that in a letter you sent me not long since, you should tell me that no Baptist or Presbyterian writer whom you have read knew anything of the liberties of Christ. What? Neither Bunyan, Henry, Flavel, Halyburton, nor any of the New England and Scots divines? See, dear Sir, what narrow-spiritedness and want of charity arise from your principles, and then do not cry out against election any more on account of its being "destructive of meekness and love."On Augustine’s View of Astrology
How then, in holding this doctrine, do we join with modern unbelievers in making the Christian revelation unnecessary? No, dear Sir, you mistake. Infidels of all kinds are on your side of the question. Deists, Arians, and Socinians arraign God's sovereignty and stand up for universal redemption. I pray God that dear Mr. Wesley's sermon, as it has grieved the hearts of many of God's children, may not also strengthen the hands of many of his most avowed enemies!
I would hint further, that you unjustly charge the doctrine of reprobation with blasphemy, whereas the doctrine of universal redemption, as you set it forth, is really the highest reproach upon the dignity of the Son of God, and the merit of his blood. Consider whether it be not rather blasphemy to say as you do, "Christ not only died for those that are saved, but also for those that perish."
Dear, dear Sir, O be not offended! For Christ's sake be not rash! Give yourself to reading. Study the covenant of grace. Down with your carnal reasoning. Be a little child; and then, instead of pawning your salvation, as you have done in a late hymn book, if the doctrine of universal redemption be not true; instead of talking of sinless perfection, as you have done in the preface to that hymn book, and making man's salvation to depend on his own free will, as you have in this sermon; you will compose a hymn in praise of sovereign distinguishing love. You will caution believers against striving to work a perfection out of their own hearts, and print another sermon the reverse of this, and entitle it "Free Grace Indeed." Free, not because free to all; but free, because God may withhold or give it to whom and when he pleases.
Frankie Lee wrote,
Augustine, a worshipper of Mary, was an astrology who believed in the superstition about Stars in the sky. The practice of astrology is understood as abominations and affront to God, and even sorceries were rudely condemned. The idea of Predestinations was seem to have passed from him to Calvin, and that concept became the mindsets of our world, which gave us "Fate"," Once saved always saved", Omnipotent God, Sovereign God, and Almighty God.History reveals to us Augustine rejected the practice of astrology in his work The Confessions,
By now I had also repudiated the lying divinations and impious absurdities of the astrologers. Let thy mercies, out of the depth of my soul, confess this to thee also, O my God. For thou, thou only (for who else is it who calls us back from the death of all errors except the Life which does not know how to die and the Wisdom which gives light to minds that need it, although it itself has no need of light--by which the whole universe is governed, even to the fluttering leaves of the trees?)--thou alone providedst also for my obstinacy with which I struggled against Vindicianus, a sagacious old man, and Nebridius, that remarkably talented young man. The former declared vehemently and the latter frequently--though with some reservation--that no art existed by which we foresee future things. But men's surmises have oftentimes the help of chance, and out of many things which they foretold some came to pass unawares to the predictors, who lighted on the truth by making so many guesses.On the Fall of Adam
Frankie Lee wrote,
When God was surprised and shocked that Adam sinned, the Slanderer explained that God was in pretense of a shock, for God had foreknowledge and knew in advance of all events. An accident occurred in the Garden of Eden, but the Devil teaches that, in God there is no accident. Yet the Word told us that there was accidents, with the exceptional cases whereby, unless a Child love and obey God, all things will work for his own good as directed by Him.What Frankie fails to understand is that God’s envisioning of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is contingent upon God’s foreknowledge of the Fall of Adam. If God has been “surprised and shocked” at the Fall of Adam, then it is quite out of the question that God has set apart the elect from the rest of the sinners before the creation of the world since He would not have anticipated any sinners in the first place. In other words, the foreknowledge of God is vital for salvation to work. For it is written,
For he chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love [God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – Ephesians 1:4-5On the Anthropomorphic View of God
Frankie Lee wrote,
God spoke that He regretted creating man, but Christendom cannot, would not, and refuse to believe in God's words, for they rather trust in the lies of an Evil-one than God, who spoke the Truths. Very few "Christians" believe in the innocence of God, for they rather believed that "He" is guilty, thus blaspheming God without being conscious about it. Up till this day, Christians still believed, and doubt God, and rather see that God surely must have participated in the fall of Man, presuming guilt on God the Creator, just like Eve who trusted the words of Serpent. Who have you place your confidence about your personal eternity, or with whom have you trusted for Eternity?Frankie’s statement is a prime example of an Open Theist taking a particular anthropomorphic text of the Scriptures to a literal extreme that is not consistently supported by the rest of the Scriptures. By the rest of the Scriptures, I would mean the following,
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it. (Numbers 23:19-20)As we can see, it is dangerous to interpret the divine nature of God using such anthropomorphic texts that seems to imply a limit to the omniscience of God. For example, in Genesis 3:9 where God is seeking Adam in the garden, God said, “Where are you?” If an Open Theist wishes to be consistent in his interpretations, he would have to suggest God has a poor knowledge of geography and that His range of vision is limited.
He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind. (1 Samuel 15:29)
Furthermore, the Open Theist also shows a simplistic understanding of God’s emotional capacities, revealing his inability of reconciling two seemingly opposing emotions within the divine heart of God. However, if one is able to understand the difference between the divine will of decree and the divine will of command, one would be able see how God is able to, at the same time, desire one thing while decreeing another.
The most indubitable example of the two wills of God is found in the execution and death of Jesus Christ at the cross. While God, through His will of command, does not desire an innocent man to be executed, God, through His will of decree, declared that Jesus Christ should die to atone for the sins of the elect. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to conclude that God would have expressed regret or felt sorrow in His heart that Christ had to die. However this does not mean God, at any time, regretted His decision and would have changed His mind to send Christ to the cross.
On the Total Depravity of Man
Frankie Lee wrote,
Up till this day, the independent Will of man, of the Devil, and many human events and spiritual events which are uncontrolled by God, such Truths will never be accepted by Fundamental Leaders. Up till this day, the free moral Will of man, this teachings has never really sank in into the hearts of Christians, the implications and the significance about it. In real actual life, there is really a free moral will of human being, and of the Devil and of God, and even Angels.The Scriptures clearly establish the moral inability of Man to freely choose God.
- “Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (John 1:13)
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)
- “You did not choose me, but I chose you...” (John 15:16)
- “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:11)
- “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Frankie Lee wrote,
God's will was not carried out in this world, and God was not in full control of this World, so Christians must obey God, to bring God's will into this world, to bring Him over here to control most of the things in this world, and Christians are to participate in praying that God's name be not blaspheme, and be kept Holy, from the Lord's Prayers.Apparently, Frankie Lee thinks that God is not in control; that everything happens by chance. However, the Scriptures indicate that the Open Theist deviates from the correct understanding of God.
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. - Isaiah 46:9-10As we can see, these verses clearly state God knows the future. Not only has He known “what is still to come,” it is written “[God’s] purpose will stand.” It is astonishing that Open Theists would go as far as to imply the sovereign plan of God is subjected to chances and accidents. In other words, God is capable of making mistakes.
I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, 'My idols did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.' - Isaiah 48:3,5
On God’s Sovereignty over Evil and Suffering
Frankie Lee wrote,
Obviously, it is accurate by statements and facts, and by reality, we can safely say that Satan is the source of all diseases, the troubles for humanity, and "responsible" for the death of human beings and caused all human sufferings. However, the Devil had the consenting Adults, and the cooperation of our Ancestors, and they sold human beings to bondage, so the problems existed mutually with man and cooperation with the Devils, leaving God out of the equations, so to speak.The trouble with this sort of thinking is that the person forgets Satan is only one of God’s created creatures. To imagine that God is not in full control and the actions of Satan and humans are not under God’s sovereignty absolutely gives ourselves way too much credit and mocks the power of God. The Scriptures indicate of no such thing. Contrary to Frankie’s theory that “God [is] out of the equations,” or that God is not sovereign over suffering, the following verse refute his theory:
The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? – Exodus 4:11We can also observe in the Book of Job where God not only allowed Satan to harm Job, God claimed responsibility for the actions of Satan.
Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." – Job 2:3God is responsible for deaths, as we can see from this verse:
See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. – Deuteronomy 32:39For further reading on the sovereignty of God over evil, John Piper has written an excellent article Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained that Evil Be?
Monergism.com on Open Theism
CARM on Open Theism
Open Theism: A Florida Baptist Witness Special Report
Articles on the Openness of God Debate