Thursday, May 19, 2011

Question on Calvinism

In Calvinist theology, all people are depraved and sinful. God chooses some of them to be redeemed. The evidence of their election is their belief in and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for them. God chooses others to be damned for their sins so that He can demonstrate divine punishment on them forever to further His own glory.

Presumably, under this system, God loves people differently. He loves the elect more than the damned, and this is why He saves them. If this is so, then God cannot be “all loving”. This is because there are people that He is loving less than others, and therefore He is loving less than the maximum possible amount.

So God is all powerful, but not all loving. Again, He is choosing some to redeem and some not to redeem, and if there are different levels of love, then there is some love that he is choosing not to exercise.

So if God is not all loving, can God be properly described as all holy or all righteous? Can the terms “righteous” or “holy” be meaningful if they are separated from love?

Consider Matthew 22:35-40:35

and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

So all the law hinges on commandments to love and to love fully. Is God righteous if He chooses to love less than He is able? If righteousness and holiness are conceptually divorced from love, do they have any meaning? Or are people praising God with statements like “God is holy” simply saying “God is God”, which tells us nothing about His character?


  1. Hi, Steven-

    Perhaps it is time to get down to a deeper level. Suppose that religious theology, and especially Calvinist theology, is a psychological construction whose aim is the maintenance of patriarchy. The fourth commandment instructs us to love our parents, no matter what. Likewise, every other instruction is to love God, who is the father, even if "he" is inexplicable, remote, aloof, brutal, misogynistic, and not an all-around pleasant fellow.

    Suppose that the cultural construct amplifies the needs and self-image of the "father" into an all-powerful totem, who lives by the sacrifices of "his" children, is voraciously unquenchable in "his" demands, even for a false love, and into the bargain denigrates "his" children as being irredeemably depraved and unworthy from the very outset. - Unworthy of the entirely mythical self-sacrifice "he" had performed for us without our consent, desire, or knowledge, which we must forever bow down before and whose blood we must drink as a reminder.

    Well, it sounds very Germanic to me, frankly. It also sounds to me like we need look no farther than our current and historical social systems to find god.

  2. Burk, I agree with the gist of what you are saying.

    I think many different systems of thought can be divided into the worship of power (authority and stability) and the worship of goodness (empathy).

    And theology falls along those lines as well, as it provides a mythic framework with which to explore our deepest feelings about these things.

  3. I definitely see this as a "God is God" type worship for many many people, who are probably Calvinistic in theology whether they are aware or not. The interesting thing is that a lot of people to believe that whatever God does is righteous, however, if someone else did those same things they would consider it a sin. Certainly the main issue is that people really choose not to think about that paradox much as it makes their head hurt.

  4. John, I think you hit the nail on the head. If something God does is "good" just because God did it, but if a person did it it would be considered bad, then the word "good" loses its meaning.

    I think there is a large amount of moral compartmentalization - holding religious beliefs to different standards than our everyday sense of right and wrong.