Monday, July 19, 2010

Does God Sin By Allowing Evil - Part 1


This topic came up as a result of this blog, posted by Peter Pike over at Triablogue: Does Permission Exculpate God?

Pike puts forward the the idea that, according to Arminianism, if God foreknows everything and then still allows sin, He would become culpable for all evil that occurs. I commented, and as me and Peter debated back and forth, it quickly became a very fascinating discussion. I was half-tempted to just repost the conversation here, but I generally feel that reposting conversations is a very unstructured and sloppy way of presenting information, and so I decided to make this more of a proper blog.

During the course of the debate, three interrelated but separate topics were discussed:

  • Is it immoral for us to permit sin and harm? From an Arminian point of view, is it immoral for God to permit sin and harm?

  • Calvinist premise: God is held to a different standard than we are. Therefore, He can permit and cause sin without sinning. Does this hold true?

  • Does Arminianism contradict itself or claim this: God would be culpable for causing sin, since He is held to the same moral standard as man, but would not be culpable for allowing sin, since He is not held to the same moral standard as man.

I will post three blogs, and in each blog, one of these topics will be addressed. The blogs will be posted in the order listed above.

Topic 1 - Is it immoral for us to permit sin and harm? From an Arminian point of view, is it immoral for God to permit sin and harm?

Here I will quote a chunk of Pike's blog post:

“I do not wish to rehash old ground anew, but instead to add yet one more Scriptural proof that permission alone is insufficient to exempt someone from culpability. And that Scriptural proof is found in the Law of Moses.

Exodus 21:28 states:
When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable.

Now an ox is an animal, and as such it as a rudimentary will. It is not an inanimate object, in other words, and it will often do things that the owner does not wish for it to do. Anyone who has ever owned livestock—or even pets, for that matter—knows of the frustration of wanting an animal to do something and the animal not doing it.

… What is clear from this verse is that the owner of the ox is not held responsible for the actions of the ox. Presumably, this would be due to the fact that the ox’s will is not the owner’s will, and that is why the owner is not liable. The owner did not wish for the ox to kill anyone, the owner did not plan for this, therefore the owner is not culpable.

Thus far, it looks like this would be evidence for the position that if God permits something evil to occur He is not culpable for that. However, the very next verse reads:

But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.

And here we see that the escape to “permission” cannot remove culpability from God. For we see that it is still the case that the owner of the ox does not will that the ox gore anyone, and we still see that the owner does not plan this event to happen, yet nevertheless the owner is held responsible with the same penalty imposed as if he had murdered the man himself. Why is the owner culpable? Because he did not take measures needed to reign in an ox “accustomed to gore.” He is negligent for not stopping that which he knew was dangerous, and therefore he receives the same penalty as if he had personally acted instead of the ox.

… And if the owner of an ox is culpable when he knows full well that he has a dangerous ox, then God surely must likewise be culpable if He knows full well that a created being He put on Earth is a danger to others.”


Issues brought up:

Here we establish the Biblical principle that if a person allows his non-moral beast, who he owns, who he is responsible for, and who he knows is dangerous, to hurt people, he is in the wrong. But this doesn't say anything about God permitting us to sin, because God does not relate to us in the same way that we relate to non-moral oxen that we own and can in good conscience lock up in the backyard for their entire life! I put forward to Pike the idea that if we “own” an animal we are accepting responsibility for them in a different way than we accept responsibility for other people, and different then any way God takes responsibility for our actions.

Pike answers this by setting forward this idea: It is not only immoral for a person to allow his beast to kill someone, it is also immoral to allow harm to come to another person when you could prevent it. He gives two reasons for this argument. Reason #1 - Ezekiel's watchman is warned that if he does not attempt to save others by warning them, he is held responsible for their deaths. Reason #2 – It would be unloving to not stop harm from occurring, if you have the power to stop it. (He adds a side note that he is not talking about instances in which it is right and proper for you to avoid interfering.)


Here is the direct question:
“If we allow someone to be harmed when it is in our power to stop that harm, is that loving him as we love ourselves?”

It depends on our position, and our motives. If we are the person's bodyguard (a position), and we allow them to be harmed, that would be unethical and wrong. If we allow that person to be harmed out of a lack of love, then that would be unloving. There are, however, other cases in which we may allow people to be harmed, in which we do no wrong. I allow people to be harmed everyday, when I have the power to stop that harm, because I choose to go to work at an office job instead of being a detective or police or military or Social Services worker. I do not permit harm because I am not loving. I permit harm because I do not feel called to go and prevent that particular harm. People permit harm to those on death row (namely, death) – this, also, is not unloving. I could go on and on, but my point is this: Whether permitting someone to hurt someone else is right or wrong depends on your position(and thereby responsibility) and motives.

Position or relationship of responsibility: If I own an oxen, I am in a position of authority and responsibility over a non-moral being. If I allow it to hurt people, I am abusing my position. If I am a watchman, and I don't warn people, I am neglecting my duty. But what if I don't own the ox? What if I'm not a watchman? Then I have no responsibility in those cases (except for the moral responsibility of motive) If you let your ox kill someone, shame on you. On the other hand, if my little sister goes and slugs some guy at school, I am not culpable for that, even if I know that my little sister has violent tendencies. Why? I am not in a position of authority or responsibility over my little sister in the same way I would be over an ox. For this reason also, God is not culpable for allowing sin, since He does not take responsibility, as an owner of a non-moral being, nor signed up to be a “watchman.” He did not take those positions, and therefore is not culpable for not fulfilling the responsibilities that go along with them.

Moral character: It's all about the motive here. This goes back to what was said about the commandment to love. If we let our animals go around killing people, and we don't warn people of an attack, it's probably become we are not pursuing righteousness or love. We would rather sleep at home than warn people of impending danger, and if my animals hurts you – well tough for you. Is that loving? No. However, if we permit something for a good moral reason (IE it would be illegal to do otherwise, we are dedicating our time to a different cause that God has put on our hearts, we know that we need to allow our children the freedom to make mistakes rather than just locking them up, etc), then it can be fine. God's moral character is always pure and holy, and so if He allows something, you can bet your life that it is with morally pure, righteous, and loving intent.

A Final Question from Pike:

“Are you actually saying that God is not responsible for His own creation?”

God is responsible for His choice to create. He is responsible for His choice to create moral beings who could then choose to sin. He is not responsible for what those moral beings choose to do. [From an Arminian perspective in which those moral beings cause themselves to do things. If one assumes that God causes all the actions of the beings, then yes He would be responsible for any good or evil that they carry out, at His decree] He is responsible for His actions, and not ours. We will be held responsible and culpable for our actions, except in the case where God choose to take our punishment on the cross, and we trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, in which case our culpability was put on Him.


Stay tuned for my next three blog posts, which will cover the other aspects of this same discussion! But, just to reiterate the points that I put forward here:

  1. Man would be culpable for allowing his non-moral beast, which he owns, to go off and kill someone, if he knew that the ox was dangerous.

  2. It does not follow that we are also culpable for allowing anyone to be harmed. Whether or not it is a fault to allow harm to befall someone depends on these two factors: Our responsibility/positon/role, and our moral character/intent.

  3. God is not culpable for allowing man to hurt each each other, or for allowing oxen to hurt people for two reasons. First of all, He does not take a role in which He has the responsibility to protect us from all harm (as a watchmen would) or to keep us from hurting each other (like locking up an ox). Secondly, His moral character and intent in allowing harm is already righteous and pure.

Does God Sin By Allowing Evil - Part 2 (Special Pleading)

Topic 2: Calvinist premise: God is held to a different standard than we are.

Therefore, He can permit and cause sin without sinning. Does this hold true?

Issues Brought Up

Now, by the end of the last post, you can see that I support the idea that the relationship between God and man and the relationship between an animal owner and his animals. Pike says that we can extend this further, and develop the concept that there is a difference in the relationship between God and man and between man and other men. Well – so far, so good. I actually agree! God's relationship IS different than our relationship with each other! However, Pike goes on to say that because God's relationship to us is different than our relationship to us, what may be wrong for us may be right for Him. At first glance, this may make sense – after all, it would be wrong for us to judge the world, but it's right for Him to do that. However, the form of calvinism that Pike holds to claims that there is a lot that is wrong for us that is right for God: It would be wrong for us to cause sin, but it's right for Him to cause sin. It would be wrong for us not to love people, but its righteous if God doesn't love people, etc. I disagree with this view.

In the last blog, I touched on the two categories of position/role and moral character/intent. I will bring these two concepts up again in this discussion.

God has a different position/role than we do
but He holds us to the same moral standard that He holds Himself to.

Now, I agree with Pike that God does relate to man differently than man relates to man. Additionally, I agree that God can restrict men from doing things that He Himself does, and He can command men to do things that He Himself does not do. For example – He judges the world, and we repent. However, I do not see this this logically points to the idea that God does not conform to the same standard of moral perfection that He strives to mold us into – in fact, the Bible states specifically that He wants to conform us into His own moral image: the image of His Son.

The difference between what God is culpable for and what we would be culpable for only applies to position/role. For example – God takes the role of judge over the earth – we do not. However, while God does not take that role – as in, when He came to take the role of a mere man – He operated by the same moral principles that are always a part of his nature. We are never going to take His role, even in heaven, but we will be conformed to the moral standard of perfection, in the likeness of His Son, who took on our submissive role.

Our role is different from God's role. But God holds us to the same moral standard that He holds Himself to. The most fundamental part of God's nature is love. As we are told: God is love. Even the two most important commandments for us reflect this: Love the Lord your God, and Love your neighbor as yourself. You'll notice that what He is and what He calls us to be are not two distinct and separate moral standards. No. Rather, in learning to love and obey God (He who loves Christ will keep Christ's commandments that we should love), we become conformed to HIS image – which is love. You may notice a repeating theme here. So, even though our relationship to each other is not the same as God's relationship to us, we can count on the fact that He is always more holy, and not less. If He calls us to love, it's because He loves more. And if He calls us to demonstrate justice, it's because He reigns justly over the entire universe. We are to imitate Him. This is only possible because of the moral standard that He holds Himself to, and expects us to hold ourselves to, in an ever-increasing way.

Okay well - What standard does God hold Himself to?

Now, obviously Pike still believes that God is perfectly holy and righteous when He causally-determines evil, and so he continues the discussion with a discussion of what moral standard God holds himself to.

“Of course, we'd have to get even deeper here. Is God holy because holiness is a standard that God must follow; or is God holy because whatever He does is by definition holy? I maintain the second, as there is no morality apart from God, and thus there is no standard of behavior He has to follow external to Himself. Which means that it is true that if God determines x, it is impossible for God's determining of x to be a sin, even if He declares that x is itself a sin.”

Now I agree, of course, that there is no force outside of God that God is accountable to. God is the highest moral law in the universe. However, going one step further, me and Pike disagree again. I believe in Divine Essentialism, and not Voluntarism. Voluntarism is the position that maintains, basically, that God's will is above His nature. What God chooses is righteous. If God suddenly commanded us all to torture each other, it would be a sin to disobey! I do not hold to this point of view. I believe in Divine Essentialism – God is always true to His essence. His will and His nature are always perfectly in sync. It is impossible for God to choose to something that His nature finds abhorrent. And yes – God does record in the Scripture that He finds sin abhorrent. (see Amos 6:8) God is the great “I am.” He is unchangeable. There is no deceit in Him. There is no shadow of turning with Him.

God would be culpable for causing sin for two reasons:

Reason #1 - It would go against His Holy and Perfect character. He does not even look on sin (Hab 1:13-14). He disavows even thinking up specific sins (Jer. 32:35). There is no shadow of turning in Him. Why then, would He with one hand abhor sin, and with the other hand cause it?

Reason #2 - In the Bible, God specifically that anyone or anything that causes sin commits sin. For Him to cause sin, by His own standard, would mean that He would be committing sin. (See The Culpability of Causing Sin)

God Was Not the Mastermind Behind this Sin

Earlier in this blog, I made the claim that “[God] disavows even thinking up specific sins (Jer. 32:35)” Here's the verse I was referring to:
Jeremiah 32:35
“They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

Pike responds with this absolutely fascinating interpretation of this verse. (What will they think of next?)
“By the way, your quotation of Jeremiah 32:35 is incorrect, when you imply that God cannot think on sin. What "didn't enter God's mind" was that they ought to engage in this behavior. It's the moral imperative that God didn't consider.”

I can just image the tonal inflection of the discussion between a calvinist and a non-calvinist reading the same verse...
  • Non-Calvinist: “...Nor did it enter into my mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin!”

  • Calvinist: No, no, no. “Nor did it enter into my mind that they should do this abomination!”

Anyway, first of all, Pike said that I imply that God cannot think on sin – what I actually said was that God didn't think up (invent, mastermind) that sin. There is a difference there.

Going back to his interpretation of the verse, am I really expected believe that God causally-determined Israel to offer up sons and daughters to Molech, and then turned around to say, with an air of indignant innocence: “I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination...” A lawyer could say “Yes, yes – you see? He did not command it. It wasn't something they should, by His revealed will, have done. God never says that He didn't make it happen.” But I think that's missing the whole point. I think that God's commentary could be more likened to this: “You think this was my idea??? It wasn't. I didn't mastermind this! This is sickening – an abomination! Abhorrent to my soul!” At face value, that seems a lot more like what God is saying. I mean, just look at it for a moment, without bias if you can:

Quote: “I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination...”

Interpretation 1: “I didn't command this in my revealed will! I caused it, sure, but they shouldn't have done it! They are going to pay.”

Interpretation 2: “You think this was my idea??? It wasn't. I didn't mastermind this! This is sickening – an abomination! Abhorrent to my soul!”

Enough said.


Just to give a brief re-cap of the various main points that were put forward in this blog, here is a short outline:

  • God relates to man differently than man relates to man

  • There are different moral obligations that go with different roles - We will never take God's position/role

  • On the other hand, God's moral standard for us and for Himself are the same. His commands reflect His character.

  • God's will is not above His nature. He Himself cannot do anything against His own divine essence.

  • God would not cause, and then later disavow, evil that His soul abhors

Does God Sin By Allowing Evil - Part 3 (Contradiction)

Topic 3: Does Arminianism contradict itself?

Now at last, I get to the point which probably starting this whole discussion. Pike's main point was that Arminians contradict themselves. He does not believe that God is culpable for allowing or causing sin, because He believes that God is not held to the same standards that we are held to. The reason he wrote about how there could be culpability involved in allowing sin was to make the point that Arminian theology is internally inconsistent - that it contradicts itself.

In his own words, Peter Pike writes:

"Iif a Calvinist says that God is not culpable for the sins of a person even though He foreordained that the sins would occur, the Arminian claim is that we are held culpable if we force others to sin, so God would be too... The Calvinist then says, 'God's relationship to man is not the same as man's relationship to other men, therefore He is not culpable.'

On the other hand, the Arminian (in addressing the problem of evil) states: God is not culpable for the sins of a person even though He allowed those sins to occur, and the atheist says if we allowed those things to occur to other people we would be held culpable. The Arminian then responds: 'God's relationship to man is not the same as man's relationship to other men, therefore He is not culpable.'"

The Dilemma

So what exactly is the supposed contradiction? From Pike's point of view, the internal contradiction is that Arminians seem to hold to these two contradictory positions:

  • God's relationship to man is different from man's relationship to man - therefore, He is not culpable for permitting sin, when we might be.

  • God's relationship to man is not different from man's relationship to man - therefore, He could be culpable for causing men to sin, because we would be help culpable for causing others to sin.


That would be an internal contradiction, if we actually believed it. However, Pike fails to take into account a few factors here. Firstly, God's relationship to man may be different from man's relationship to man, but His moral character is the same as that which He seeks to conform us to - namely, love. God's relationship to man is different from man's relationship to man, and certainly different from man's relationship to an ox. [In fact, it would be immoral if we treated other people like owned oxen.]

The actual belief:
  • God is not culpable for permitting sin, because He does not have a role of responsibility (like the ox owner would, or the watchman would), and everything He does is in accordance with His pure motive and essence of love.

  • God would be culpable for causing men to sin, not because He has the same role in life as we do, but because it would go against His nature to cause what He abhors, and because in the Bible He condemns anything that causes sin.

So, the doctrine may be detailed, and even confusing to some, but it certainly does not rely on the logic that some calvinists represent, and it certainly does not contradict itself. These two beliefs are consistent with each other.

Does God Sin By Allowing Evil - Part 4 (C.S. Lewis)

In Part 2 of this short series of blogs, I addressed the Calvinist idea that God's standards for Himself are completely different from the standards that we are held to. This reminded me of a section of C.S. Lewis' book, The Problem of Pain, which discusses a very similar dilemma: How we would even be able to recognize the goodness of God, if His standards are so much higher than ours.

Now, in a different book, Mere Christianity, Lewis discusses some other topics that are relevant to this series of posts. Lewis does believe that God allows sin in the world, and in this section of his book, He explains how God can be in charge, holy, and yet let sin happen: Free Will

I would strongly recommend that you all read these two insightful books, especially The Problem of Pain.

Except from Chapter Three of The Problem of Pain, "The Goodness of God:"

Any consideration of the goodness of God at once threatens us with the following dilemma.

On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.

On the other hand, if God’s moral judgement differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what’. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot

give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear—and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity— when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing— may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.

The escape from this dilemma depends on observing what happens, in human relations, when the man of inferior moral standards enters the society of those who are better and wiser than he and gradually learns to accept their standards—a process which, as it happens, I can describe fairly accurately, since I have undergone it. When I came first to the University I was as nearly with- out a moral conscience as a boy could be. Some faint distaste for cruelty and for meanness about money was my utmost reach—of chastity, truthfulness, and self-sacrifice I thought as a baboon thinks of classical music. By the mercy of God I fell among a set of young men (none of them, by the way, Christians) who were sufficiently close to me in intellect and imagination to secure immediate intimacy, but who knew, and tried to obey, the moral law. Thus their judgement of good and evil was very different from mine. Now what happens in such a case is not in the least like being asked to treat as ‘white’ what was hitherto called black. The new moral judgements never enter the mind as mere reversals (though they do reverse them) of
previous judgements but ‘as lords that are certainly expected’.

You can have no doubt in which direction you are moving: they are more like good than the little shreds of good you already had, but are, in a sense, continuous with them. But the great test is that the recognition of the new standards is accompanied with the sense of shame and guilt: one is conscious of having blundered into society that one is unfit for. It is in the light of such experiences that we must consider the goodness of God. Beyond all doubt, His idea of ‘goodness’ differs from ours; but you need have no fear that, as you approach it, you will be asked simply to reverse your moral standards. When the relevant difference between the Divine ethics and your own appears to you, you will not, in fact, be in any doubt that the change demanded of you is in the direction you already call ‘better’.

The Divine ‘goodness’ differs from ours, but it is not sheerly different: it differs from ours not as white from black but as a perfect circle from a child’s first attempt to draw a wheel. But when the child has learned to draw, it will know that the circle it then makes is what it was trying to make from the very beginning.

This doctrine is presupposed in Scripture. Christ calls men to repent—a call which would be meaningless if God’s standards were sheerly different from that which they already knew and failed to practice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Captain EO - And Irresistible Grace

Well folks, I finally have seen the sentimental draw of the doctrine of Irresistible Grace

Now, after years of me ranting and raving against Calvinism, you may wonder what it was that brought about this new perspective. Let me first say that just because a doctrine has emotional appeal does not mean that the doctrine is true, and so please do not misunderstand me to be saying that I now agree that Irresistible Grace is taught in the Scripture. With that said, it was a visit to Disneyland that changed my perspective about this. Captain EO is a show which was played at Disneyland 9/18/86 - 4/7/97, and now also 2/23/10 - the present. Some of you may have seen it when it originally played, but I only had the chance of seeing it this year. It's a musical that stars Michael Jackson (back when he was black) as "Captain EO," who comes to make a world a better place by giving a gift, which has to do with music and beauty, and is described by Caption EO as "a key to unlock" those things. If you have not seen the show, then you are probably wondering how it could possible relate to the doctrine of Irresistible Grace, and so before I go on, I will briefly outline some main parts of the

Captain EO flies around in outer space, with his band of obvious misfits, in a spaceship that strongly resembles a turkey. After tripping an intrusion alarm, and finding out that "Hooter" has eaten the map, he and his hardly-competent team land more or less successfully on a planet that looks a lot like "the death star" from Star Wars. They all set off to find "the Supreme Leader," and fulfill that goal by being almost immediately captured by some scary-looking goons, who conveniently take them directly to the ruler of the whole planet.

The Supreme Leader

Naturally, the supreme leader decides that she wants two of them to be turned into trashcans, and sentences Captain EO to a hundred years of torture. This would be looking pretty bad, but Captain EO expresses that he just wants to bring a gift to her, which will unlock her inner beauty. Before Hooter has time to correctly set up the instruments involved, the Supreme Leader gets inpatient and sends her troops to take Captain EO into custody. As soon as the musical instruments are working, Captain EO escapes their clutches by sending out a blast of energy, which knocks them all back.

The second blast of energy actually transforms the goons, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Later, when the Supreme leader sends out her more fearsome guards, he does pretty much the same thing, and using his special magical-energy-light-beams to transform them into friendly, obedient souls. He's never met these guys before, but after the transformation, they dance perfectly in step with Captain EO, without even needing instruction or practice.

The show ends victoriously when Captain EO, together with all of his new transformed followers give out one final blast of transforming energy which changes the Supreme Leader to be beautiful and docile, and changes the whole planet to be a beautiful place, alive with vegetation, color, and architecture.

"So do surrender
’cause the power’s deep inside my soul
Sing it

(we are here to change the world)
Gonna change the world, sing it
(we are here to change the world)
Hee, gonna change the world, ooo"

And as he leaves, singing a song of course, he waves goodbye to world that he had changed utterly from ugly, dark, and cruel to beautiful, kind, and coordinated.

Very magical, very disney, and all that. But what does it have to do with theology? Well, let us first take a look at the doctrine of Efficacious Grace, or as it is more commonly known, Irresistible Grace. The Westminster Confession defines it like this:

“All those whom God has predestined unto life, and those only, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone and giving them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ, yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace” (Chapter X, Section 1,2).

In the words of Loraine Boettner,
"It is a common thing for opponents to represent this doctrine as implying that men are forced to believe and turn to God against their wills, or, that it reduces men to the level of machines in the matter of salvation. This is a misrepresentation. Calvinists hold no such opinion, and in fact the full statement of the doctrine excludes or contradicts it. The Westminster Confession, after stating that this efficacious grace which results in conversion is an exercise of omnipotence and cannot be defeated, adds, “Yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.” The power by which the work of regeneration is effected is not of an outward and compelling nature. Regeneration does no more violence to the soul than demonstration does to the intellect, or persuasion the heart. Man is not dealt with as if he were a stone or a log. Neither is he treated as a slave, and driven against his own will to seek salvation. Rather the mind is illuminated, and the entire range of conceptions with regard to God, self, and sin, is changed. God sends His Spirit and, in a way which shall forever redound to the praise of His mercy and grace, sweetly constrains the person to yield." (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, pp 176)

What does that mean, in English? Simply it means that, by that doctrine, a man cannot have faith in Christ unless God first imparts to him such an amount of Grace that the sinner is regenerated: transformed so completely that without question they submit to God's authority and trust in Christ as Savior. This regeneration comes before faith. First sinners are enemies of God, and then God sends some transforming grace their way, and then they become beautiful on the inside and follow Him rather than fighting against him. Why is this called Irresistible Grace? Because man cannot resist it. If God singles out a man to be saved, and gives him that kind of grace, that man will be transformed against his will, and only then will he freely choose to follow to follow Christ. Man does not have the power to resist this grace enough to stop it from transforming his heart and mind. That is why efficacious grace is generally described as irresistible grace.

It is probably obvious, as this point, how Captain EO clearly reflects the main points of this doctrine. The Captain's Transforming Energy has pretty much the exact same effect as Irresistible Grace. It changes worlds, people, and lives against their will, in such a way that after they are transformed, they are kind, happy, and glad for the transformation. Not only that, but they submit to his every whim, which is more analogous to God's secret will than to His revealed will, because Captain EO never told them how to dance, and yet they all stayed in step perfectly.

You can see just how much this transformation was against the natural will of the people involved if you glance at this screenshot of the face of the Supreme Leader while she was starting to be transformed:

But, it was a beautiful show, and I watched it again and again. I loved seeing the ugliness of the planet fade to beauty. I loved seeing all the enemy troops magically transformed into obedient allies, who are were very musically coordinated. I loved the music about changing the world. It was beautiful! And for a moment, I could really see why people would enjoy believing the real world is like that, except with God in charge rather than Michael Jackson. Sometimes, even I would like to use that power to transform people who are unkind to me. One main difference, though, between Captain EO and the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible Grace, is that Captain EO transformed everyone. Now, obviously God is powerful enough to change people this way, even without having to use the lights and special effects. At first glance, it may even seem that this sort of forced transformation may be the best way for God to relate to people, or even the only way that He could possible save them. But is this really the only way God could change people? Is this His best and favorite tactic for bringing people from darkness into light? Those are some interesting questions, and they should be pondered in light of God's character, as revealed throughout Scripture.

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