Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Why Calvinism has nothing to do with fatalism

I have decided to take up the slack from my friend Hanmin over here, ever since he raised the issue (and then decided that it was not profitable for him to carry on with it).

Anyway, before we start, it would be advisible for those who do not know much of the issue to read the following articles: Soteriology, and Differences between Pelagianism, its derivatives and Christianity, in order to gain some insight into the issue first. Simply put, the doctrinal system known simply as Calvinism or the Doctrines of Grace is biblical as opposed to its other alternatives. For a refutation of Amyraldism, readers may refer to the relevant section in the article The Gospel and its proclaimation for a biblical and logical refutation of this hybrid compromise system.

With this established, what then is the difference between Calvinism and fatalism? Is Calvinism just 'a hair shy' of fatalism? By postulating a God who is absolutely sovereign over all, does this make God the *gasp* author of sin, or render us robots?

First of all, let us define our terms. Calvinism broadly speaking is that system of theology whereby God who is sovereign works out ALL things for His own good purpose, which is hereby especially emphasized in the realm of salvation or soteriology. This is done through the use of primary and secondary, and active and passive causes. By primary, we mean that God did it directly. By seondary, we mean that God did it through intermediaries, who may not by themselves be fully obedient to God's commands. Active causes refer to God doing such an action by an positive extension of His will, while passive causes refer to God doing such an action by NOT interfering and thus causing the event to be aborted.

Now, all these terms are not found in the Bible per se, but they are used so as to give the issues we face clarity, much as how the term Trinity expresses a vital Truth of the Godhead. From this categorization, we can obtain the following chart:

ActiveGod personally does this action by a positive extension of His willGod does this action through intermediaries by a positive extension of His will
PassiveGod personally does this action by not doing something in order to accomplish His willGod does this action through intermediaries by not doing something in order to accomplish His will

We will look at this chart later on, but for now, let us look at fatalism. Fatalism teaches that everything has been predetermined, thus regardless of what we do, everything has already been decided, and thus whatever has been decreed to happen will happen, and nothing anyone can do will thwart this event from happening. The conclusion drawn from this is that we might as well do nothing, since whatever we do will not matter; all has been predetermined anyway.

As a cursory look between Christianity and Fatalism would show, Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with Fatalism. Christianity has God working through intermediary causes, which includes us humans by the way, while fatalism denies the presence of intermediaries. In fatalism, God cannot work His will through using a person to implement it, which God often does as shown in the biblical narratives.

Nevertheless, doesn't Calvinism approach fatalism in a certain way? After all, if God is absolutely sovereign, doesn't that mean that nothing we do will ever change the will and actions of God?

To this question, we answer: Yes and No. Yes, if by that it is meant that we cannot alter God's wills and foil or determine God's actions. No, if by that is meant that we cannot seem to alter God's wills and redirect God's plans. The key word here is 'seem'. God's will is something that will be done, but as He does work through intermediaries to implement it, and no one except God Himself know what His will is, sometimes God may not appear to get His way, but rest assured that whatever we do, the outcome is exactly as what God has planned and desired, even when it seemed otherwise and go against what we think we know about what God desires.

It is because of this reason that Calvinists are not fatalists. We acknowledge that God works through secondary causes (intermediaries) which include us. Whatever we do, we do so boldly, knowing that regardless of what we do, God's plans will still be accomplished. In fact, if anyone behaves like a fatalist, their idea of God is too small as compared to the true biblical God. To the fatalist, what their beliefs basically amount to is that God could possibly be thwarted by their actions, or the other extreme that God does not have use of me, of which both are refuted by Scripture. For the latter, God desires to use us in His endaevors, as the men of God throughout the Bible have known. For the former, they have a very small view of God, to think that their actions could in any way change God's plans.

In the area of Evangelism, for example, Evangelism is ultimately of God. Yet the reason why we do Evangelism is that God has commanded us to do so, and that He has made it such that we are the intermediaries of His will through the proclaimation of the Gospel. Evangelism is thus implemented by God through primary active and secondary active causes; the former through the Spirit's regeneration and the latter through us in priviledge of the Gospel proclaimation. And lest anyone should think that the idea of God including us in His plans means that the job might be botched, let them mediate on the words of Scripture which says that God is able from the stones to raise up children for Abraham (Mt. 3:9, Lk. 3:8). If any person thinks that his/her disobedience would foil the plans of God, let them think twice, for their disobedience has already been planned by God and would be punished by Him, and others will have taken up the duty which was not attended to by him/her.

Others might then ask, what about the Fall? Was the Fall of Adam predetermined by God? Well, since God is absolutely sovereign, the Fall must be something which He has ordained to happen. Furthermore, if election in Christ was done before the foundation of the world, that means that God has already known beforehand that men would fall and thus needed to be elected in Christ in order to be saved. In fact, since before the foundation of the world, and thus before the Fall, God has already elected some to salvation, the Fall must be seen as unavoidable and thus in a sense decreed in the eyes of God, otherwise God's election makes no sense, as it would be foiled if Adam did not sin.

Nonetheless, God is not responsible for the Fall. The Fall was wholely due to Man's disobedience towards God. Since God did not cause Adam and Eve to fall, yet that event was inevitable, the implementation of the Fall was through secondary, passive causes. God did not cause Adam to sin, but let him do so, thus it was passive, and He was not the one primarily involved in the entire episode also, with Satan being the chief instigator and God only allowing it to happen.

What then of the decree of election and reprobation? Election is something whereby God does so personally and actively (Eph. 1:1-11), thus it is a primary active action. Reprobation, however was never said to be something God did actively, as God does not cause anyone to go to hell, but Scripture does say that God is personally involved in the process of reprobation (Rom. 9:17-22; Prov. 16:4; Jude 1:4; 1 Peter 2:8), therefore the process of reprobation is of a primary, passive nature.

With this settled, it is hoped that it can be seen that Calvnism is NOT fatalism. Those who choose to continue to think it is show their ignorance of Calvinism, Scripture, and even philosophy, from which their objection is supposedly grounded in (since fatalism is not a biblical word or concept).

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