Christianity / Faith / Religion

New Theology: Omni-benevolence?

God's character hangs in the balance...

God’s character hangs in the balance…

So I’m talking with another Christian on here and I mentioned that I believe Calvinism causes many problems when it comes to God’s omni-benevolence. “Omni-benevolence,” He says; “I’ve never heard that one. Care to explain and back it up with Scripture.”  I was pretty taken aback. I mean, the man’s a pastor, and I have to explain and back up God’s goodness? When I tell him omnibenevolent simply means that God is all-good like God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, he told me that my theology is new and has many problems. I’m sorry. Am I crazy? Is this theodicy thing new? I thought it was widely considered fact in most circles of Christianity that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good. That’s why we have Calvinism in the first place is it not? Calvinism itself is a theodicy, yes? The basis of Calvinism is that God is all the things I mentioned, but it does not seek to reconcile them with free will, but with predestination, total depravity, and irresistible grace. The term and theological idea of Calvinism came from John Calvin’s personal apologia and defense of his personal faith statement.

My understanding of Calvinism, in essentials, is this:

  • God created man.
  • Man sinned.
  • All men are completely depraved.
  • God chose who will and will not be saved. (Unconditional Election)
  • Salvation comes only from God and there is nothing we can do to ask for it or resist it. (Irresistible Grace)
  • Only for the chosen did Jesus die. (Limited Atonement)
  • Once saved always saved. (Perseverance of Saints)
  • God is sovereign over Everything

This means that God created some people knowing (omniscience) that they would not have any other choice or path but than to go to hell. Not putting the choice of choosing to except or reject God’s grace and thus escape hell, put’s the responsibility on God rather than on us for our damnation. A Calvinist would say that God is good and gracious because God chooses to create us at all, though we disgust God. Perhaps they would even say (as the preacher in a video the website provided said) that we have no right to ask how a good God could send us to Hell without first giving us the chance to repent, because God is so thoroughly repulsed by us in our complete depravity.

Basically, Calvin answered why does evil exist with: because we are a disgusting and completely depraved creation and that has no bearing on our creator’s character because we had free will when we sinned the first time. But what I don’t understand is nothing is outside of God’s sovereignty, which means that nothing happens without God making it happen. Not allowing, because free will is muddled in this theology, but making it happen. Theologically this would place us back into an Old Testament kind of God. God created, designed, and caused the Iraq War, Holocaust, Katrina, etc, etc. And further back than that, we had no choice but to sin originally. Thus, the whole reason we are depraved is because God caused us to be in the first place.

I’m not really sure I can understand the very subtle difference between making it happen and allowing it to happen as it can only happen. To try and do the idea justice, I’m going to quote Pastor Timothy Hammons: “God doesn’t cause men to sin, even when He decrees that they will sin. We sin because we freely choose to do so, in fact, that is all we can choose to do, it is only when we have become born again that we are free NOT to sin. God is not causing fallen mankind to sin, just allowing them to be what they are.”

Anyway, yes, I have a problem with Calvinism. No, that’s not a radical new theology. Yes, other Christians don’t believe in Calvinism, and no not all reject it. I’m not trolling, just saying I agree that Calvinism causes many problems in trying to believe that God is good.

Can someone Please explain to me what part of this theology is new?? Is God’s goodness no longer a “tenable position?”

http://timothyjhammons.com/

We’re continuing the discussion here: Is God Omnibenevolent?

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15 thoughts on “New Theology: Omni-benevolence?

  1. I have no liking for Calvinism, and I think it is a waste of time even bothering with it. Hang on to the parts of it that are true, because they are found in the Bible, but don’t even bother with all the bits that are human add-ons.

    I think omnibenevolence is a very Biblical concept – surely the Bible teaches that God is all good? But the other “omnis” are not so clearly taught. God is powerful, but can he do anything? He is wise but does he know everything? I and most christians think so because it seems logical, but some do not, and I don’t think the Bible actually says so in so many words.

    And omnipresence is even more problematic – God is a Spirit, so he doesn’t actually exist in our physical universe at all, but is “outside” it. Of course he can be experienced anywhere, which is where I guess the concept came from, but that isn’t actually the same thing.

    I think you are on the right track in this post (don’t know if my approval is much of a recommendation though!).

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    • Yes, the Christian circles themselves have debated internally these characteristics of God. They are difficult to defend and very problematic. You can find verses on either side for each different one, so really you have to choose what you believe.
      And thank you for your comment. I always look forward to hearing form you. Congrats on your new book! Looks like I would love it.

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  2. So here are my thoughts on this in a very condensed version. First, just because someone is a pastor doesn’t mean they have any theological acumen. In fact, they may have a PhD from a Seminary and have very limited insight, which for me is very disappointing.

    The problem I have with Galvanism is that they don’t struggle with the issues that you have presented. It is a defacto, God is good don’t think past that. That kind of theology works until you hit real life and something really bad happens,or someone you love dies without proclaiming Christ.

    There is a component of the Calvinistic argument that you left out that they seem to hang their hat on which is superlapsarianism and infralapsarianism. This distinction determines whether God predestines the reprobate (those God predestines for Hell) before or after the fall of man. This is asinine in my opinion. If God is all knowing, why does the sequence hold any bearing?

    The problem is that Arminianism doesn’t really solve the problem in my opinion. Previent grace ( the idea that the God extends grace to people to give them the ability to choose) is helpful, but doesn’t resolve the problem completely. Depending on how exclusive or inclusive you are in your soteriology, God’s determination to set things in motion knowing that people would choose eternal damnation in mass numbers, or any numbers really makes you wonder. The existence of Satan brings up the same issue with omniscience.

    The only answer I have for all the questions that derive from these issues is to have a Christocentric lens and experience. When I have a question about how these issues function I look through the perspective of the Cross and know that God is good. I also rely on the experiences that I have where God shows up in my life in a way that is undeniably a divine intervention of benevolence.

    God is omnibenevolent! He intervened for me eternally with Christ and continues to with all my battles with different stage four cancers.

    -Andrew Heard
    http://www.andrewbheard.com

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    • As far superlapsarianism and infralapsarianism, though I don’t explain it I mentioned it in passing. I think it would be important to their theology if they had any questions about God’s goodness. It’s a whole different ball game if the “all-good God” actually caused the original sin that we may or may not find ourselves eternally punished for.

      I agree that even previent garce still doesn’t resolve it completely. Though I accept the idea of previent grace, I still need more to prove to myself that God is good. I still have a theodicy on top of that like you do.

      There are logic issues and tons of theological implications with all of it, but it doesn’t mean we should just throw our hands up and either say for get trying to make sense of it or that’s not who God is. We’ve got to try to come to a place like you have in seeing God as all those things and still loving God.

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  3. Kind of odd that a Christian would question God’s inherent goodness. Yeah, I just finished a theology semester and we talked about Calvinism. I see good points in there, but with bad extremes. I see the same with the Armenian side, too. Extremes are dangerous because they put an all-or-nothing stamp on things that really aren’t radically important.

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    • Yeah. I always liked the idea in kabbalah of the different aspects of God, and how we are made with the same aspects but we are out of balance and God is in perfect balance. I think that ‘s really profound and important.

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    • Well, I hope that if I’ve misrepresented, which was not at all my intention, people can head on over to your blog and get a fair representation. I don’t know what to tell you about he idea that no one uses that word. I have used it with my classmates and peers while discussing theology and never had a problem. I’m glad you stopped by. Sometimes writing in comments it is quite difficult for me to get my point across. So I’m glad you got to read what I was thinking in it’s entirety.

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    • I forgive you of course. I too, can get quite passionate about my beliefs and have not always conducted myself in a Christ-like way. We try the best we can and apologize when we fail. That’s all that can be asked or expected of us.

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