For anyone reading this blog post, you may want to visit this link “Open Question to Presuppositionalists” before continuing. You see, I am a Calvinist and a Presuppositionalist and it is my honest desire to know the truth as God has revealed it in Scripture and I will follow God’s Word wherever it leads. Can you see the difference between me and Spencer? Spencer says he will follow the evidence wherever it leads. But I sort of think if that were really the case, Spencer would be a Calvinist and a Presuppositionalist.
Spencer begins with the following statement:
“That being said, It is my understanding that according to the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile. Unless and until the Holy Spirit regenerates the reprobate mind, a person will continue to suppress the truth regardless of how well it is articulated or argued for.”
Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Rom. 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Rom. 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
1 Cor. 1:17-18 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Cor. 1: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
1 Cor. 2:4-5 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Rom. 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
So, I suppose that we Presuppositionalists do in fact believe that the doctrine of total depravity involves the fall and subsequent corruption of the intellect. Yes, we do affirm this truth but only because the Scriptures seem to clearly to affirm this truth. The evidence from Scripture clearly indicates that human reason sets itself over against God and his divine revelation in Scripture, not just by way of volition, but because of its very nature. You see, the Calvinist knows that this is not just an epistemic concern, it is an ontological one. The two are interdependent.
“In addition, the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty entails that God causally ordains all things that come to pass. There is no sense in which God merely “permits” things to occur. Everything that comes to pass, to include the unbelief of the reprobate, comes to pass because in so happening God will bring the most glory to Himself.”
Most Calvinists would say that what God permits he permits efficaciously. This means that God never permits x and x fails to happen. Whatever God permits, happens. To say otherwise is to end in a denial of God’s sovereignty, or it is to end with an incoherent system of belief. Neither option is very attractive.
Here in lies a problem I don’t believe the Presuppositionalist will be able to get out of. Obviously, I understand that the Calvinist believes that God ordains means as well as ends. He has not revealed the content of His Divine Decree to us and therefore we are only accountable to what He has revealed in Scripture (i.e. preaching the Gospel to everyone since we are commanded to and we do not know the identities of the elect). Still, while an understanding of this may lead to a Calvinist carefully weighing the decisions he makes in the future, he still must acknowledge that all events in the past have occurred the way they did due to the Sovereign Decree of God.
Uh, amen. If past events occurred any other way than by the Sovereign Decree of God, that would mean that God is not sovereign in any meaningful sense of the word ‘sovereign.’ This is directly linked to the Enlightenment influence of deism that infects the modern churches and seminaries today.
This being said, I would like you to consider someone like Dr. Frank Turek who is not a Calvinist and uses the Classical Apologetics method. Based on the admission of Reformed theologians themselves, it seems to me that a Calvinist has to believe that ultimately the reason that Dr. Turek is in error regarding God’s Sovereignty and the proper apologetic method is because God has not granted it to him to understand these things. Just as the reprobate man’s fallen reason can never lead him to God, neither can Dr. Turek’s reason lead him to the truth of Reformed theology unless and until the Holy Spirit grants it to him to understand it. If Dr. Turek persists in his error, he does so only because God has sovereignly determined before the foundation of the world that he would be in error, for through Dr. Turek’s theological errors God will bring the most glory to Himself.
This is essentially a red herring. We are not dealing with God’s secret counsel. We are dealing with God’s revealed will in Scripture. We are moving, speaking, and acting according to God’s Word. What Spencer has done is create a straw man of hyper-Calvinism and attempted to paint it as Calvinism. He is either being unethical in his approach or he is ignorant of the differences between hyper-Calvinism and a Calvinism. Neither option is very attractive. Hyper-Calvinism does exactly what Spencer talks about. Historic Calvinism repudiates such thinking. Spencer should realize this and that raises the question as to what he is doing in this paragraph.
Spencer then launches into a role play scenario between a classical apologist and a presuppositional apologist. The scenario is about as poor an attempt to defend the Classical approach as I have seen. This too is a red herring. What does Scripture say? I listed several Scriptures that clearly teach us that unregenerate human reason is a hostile enemy of God and is not only unwilling to see and accept the truth of God, it is unable to do so. What we need is for Spencer, if he wants to refute Calvinism and Presuppositional apologetics, to provide an exegesis of those texts that stands up to the test of the rest of Scripture.
CA: “But if that’s the case how could you ever confidently know that anything you believe is true? I suspect you’ll say because God has revealed it to you, but that would just be arguing in a circle. You just admitted that if God wants someone to be in error then they will certainly be in error, including me and including you! How can you know that what God has revealed to you isn’t an error so that He can bring more glory to Himself by your being incorrect?”
Now, Spencer seems to be terribly confused for one thing. He seems to be suggesting that if God’s decree is unknowable, and orthodox Christianity has affirmed from the beginning that it most certainly is unknowable, then skepticism wins the day. Spencer wants to force us to accept a God who is either unknowable or one that is not sovereign. The God Spencer seems to be positing is not sovereign. The God Spencer claims the Calvinist believes in is actually unknowable. Spencer hangs all our knowledge of God on knowing the secret counsel of God. He fails to take into consideration that we are not just talking about knowing what God says and when God acts. We are talking about knowing God. We can know that God has not left us in error precisely because we have assurance that God reveals himself to us through Scripture. Moreover, the principle that Scripture is self-interpreting protects us from ourselves.
I always turn to Jer. 31:31-34 for my epistemology:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. Jer. 32:38-40
What we see coming out of the Classical Apologetics camp recently are men who are wholly enamored with Greek Philosophy. They are obsessed with the ability of human reason. They are, for the most part, wholly given over to Enlightenment philosophies to one degree or another. If I am wrong, can you please explain to me why Spencer Toy, in his open question to Calvinists/Presuppositionalists, never once turn to an argument from exegesis? What text of Scripture did Spencer reference to support his case? He didn’t appeal to Scripture at all. He appealed to human reason. He made what he thinks is a sound logical case against presuppositionalism. The problem is that Spencer, like the unbeliever, uses autonomous human reason as his standard for what justifies belief. The presuppositionalist is going to go to Scripture every time.
It is always a bad idea for finite human beings to focus on what God’s plan for permitting x might be, that is, above and beyond the revealed truth that it is for His glory. We know that God efficacious permits men to reject Christ, passing over them, and he does so for his own glory. And when we are tempted to push that conversation too far, we must put our hands to our mouth and remember the words of Paul: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Rom. 9:20