Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Is Van Till an Apostate?

There is an amusing thread going on over at Dembski’s blog concerning the religious views of Howard Van Till, who recently made available this speech that he gave to the West Michigan Freethought Association. Howard is a friend and a fellow board member of Michigan Citizens for Science; he is also an emeritus professor of astronomy and physics at Calvin College, a theologically conservative Christian university. Dembski wonders whether Van Till should be an emeritus professor since his religious views have strayed so far from Calvinist theology.

That question doesn’t concern me a bit. Howard has been through his battles with Calvin and the church in the past, having literally been subject to an investigation for heresy a few years ago (yes, such trials actually do still go on, medieval as they seem today). What I find amusing about the whole conversation is the incessant effort to apply a label to his views, as though the application of such a label would prove or disprove his views. I’ve had many long discussions with Howard about the evolution (pun intended) of his religious views (and mine, for that matter) and it has never occured to me that I should be searching for a way to label them. I’d much rather engage the substance of them.

Comments

  1. #1 ThomasHobbes
    July 27, 2006

    Ed, do you have any more information or links about Van Till’s investigation for heresy? That such trials still exist is appalling to me, but not really all that surprising–the Calvinist doctrines have always seemed to be some of the least forgiving in existence. Thanks!

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    July 27, 2006

    I don’t know if there is any discussion on the web about the heresy investigation or not. What I know of it comes from personal conversations with him. I know there is some information about another of his Calvin College colleagues, the chemist Terry Gray, who had to undergo a heresy trial from the same denomination. A google search would turn up accounts of that trial from Terry and others. But I’ve never looked for information about Howard’s situation other than from him personally.

  3. #3 Uber
    July 27, 2006

    Ed,

    That is a wonderful post and Howard is a special man for penning that piece. I am better for having read it.

    Thanks for posting it.

  4. #4 David Heddle
    July 27, 2006

    Ed and ThomasHobbes,

    I don’t know any details about Van Till’s investigation.

    But I want to ask, what exactly is wrong with declaring someone apostate? Why is it “medieval” or “appalling”? Demanding that one religion or denomination be respectful of and peaceful towards another is one thing–that form of tolerance is clearly demonstrated “even” in the bible (except, of course, for those cases when the Promised Land was being ethnically cleansed by divine decree.) However, within a religion or denomination, why are sensibilities ruffled if someone is judged a heretic? Do you think that a religion should admit those who deny what it considers essential truths? Maybe everyone should have the rank of bishop too, just so nobody feels slighted?

    Although many modern Catholics usually won’t admit it, as a hard-core “Calvinist” I am considered apostate by Rome based on about a score of never-revoked anathemas I am subject to by the pronouncements of the Council of Trent. It doesn’t bother me a bit–in fact I admire Rome for drawing a line in the sand, even as I believe that in doing so she placed herself on the wrong side.

    I think in the modern era, freed from the worry of execution, a person declared a heretic from a Christian denomination for denying credal beliefs is more often than not bemused. As I said, I don’t know much about Van Till’s situation, but if he has repudiated Calvinist beliefs, especially given that I do know he is a very smart man, I doubt that it would surprise him or bother him if he ends up or has ended up excommunicated. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

    Come to think of it, what about scienceblogs.com? My science credentials are better than most of its contributors, and I write about science as much or more than many of them do. But what would happen if I applied to move my blog to scienceblogs.com? I don’t know what the review process is, but whatever it is, I’d fail miserably–as I should—but isn’t that like a heresy trial? Do you find that medieval or appalling?

    And (ThomasHobbes) exactly what Calvinist doctrines are some of the “least forgiving” in existence? I’m looking for doctrines that are so unforgiving that I cannot find their equal in arbitrary “intolerance units” in Catholicism, the Church of Latter Day Saints, Islam, etc. Please be specific.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    July 27, 2006

    David-

    Notice that I said it seems medieval, obviously because it evokes memories of heresy trials that actually resulted in not only excommunication but torture and death. Of course no such thing goes on today, and I fully expect that any church has the right to police its organization and throw out anyone it wants for whatever reason it wants (like any other private group). I will only note that at the time the investigation took place, Howard’s views were in fact fairly orthodox (they no longer are) and that is why he was eventually acquitted despite enormous pressure from one wealthy church member in particular. Now that his views have changed away from such orthodoxy, he no longer concerns himself with whether he is a member of that particular church, but at the time it caused him a great deal of personal grief, and that certainly bothers me because he’s my friend.

    And for the record, I don’t much care who is declared an apostate. I just found it interesting that in the UD thread, so much effort was made to apply a label with very little attention paid to his actual position.

  6. #6 Gh
    July 27, 2006

    Declaring someone an apostate is simply amusing. It’s like saying someone doesn’t belive in Santa Claus and should be given the same understanding EXCEPT for the fact that this often makes the person break familiar bonds with those that used to embrace them.

    But what would happen if I applied to move my blog to scienceblogs.com? I don’t know what the review process is, but whatever it is, I’d fail miserably–as I should—but isn’t that like a heresy trial?

    No, as no one is casting you out. Your applying for the position. No one is essentially removing you from a community becuase of an opinion.

    If you write some of the crazy stuff you have in the past and come across as an ID’er as you often have thats enough to make one question whether your qualifications merit inclusion in a science blog.

    Perhaps ID blog groups would welcome you.

    p.s. if your position has changed since some of your past ideas on ID, remove above.:-)

  7. #7 ThomasHobbes
    July 27, 2006

    Dave–I agree with Ed on this one. Of course churches are free to police their own membership as they see fit. However, the concept of heresy trials hearkens to a day when church authority extended to torture and executions, as noted above; it seems that doctrinal disputes among members would best be settled with education, rather than force, especially seeing as how church participation is strictly voluntary today, and without serious risk, which of course has not always been the case.

    Additionally, removal from the congregation is the most serious punishment one can face in the church today. As such, there is much less of a need for members to defend their beliefs in a formal setting when the worst that will happen is their removal from the church. If what they believe is counter-doctrinal, then the effort expended should be on the part of the church to bring those misguided believers back into the flock. Expending effort to try them for heresy runs counter to the idea of offering salvation to everyone.

    As for your second point, don’t be foolish. There is no way to quantify the goodness or badness of doctrine; I will only note here that most religions–and most sects of Christianity–hold out a possibility for believers and nonbelievers alike to be saved, or converted for later salvation (the Jews, for instance, believe that non-Jews need only obey a small subset of the Talmudic law; Muslims variously hold out salvation to the “People of the Book”; and Christians, of course, in general believe that the truly converted will be saved.

    Contrast that with the predestination doctrine of Calvinism, which condemns many otherwise noble believers without apparent recourse, here quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “The reprobate have only apparent faith. Yet they may feel as do the elect, experience similar fervours, and to the best of their judgment be accounted saints. All that is mere delusion; they are hypocrites ‘into whose minds God insinuates Himself, so that, not having the adoption of sons, they may yet taste the goodness of the Spirit.’ Thus Calvin explained how in the Gospel many are called believers who did not persevere; and so the visible Church is made up of saints that can never lose their crown, and sinners that by no effort could attain to salvation.”

    That is why Calvinism seems particularly barbarous to me.

  8. #8 Christopher Heard
    July 27, 2006

    If ID is really nonreligious, then what does it matter who’s an apostate or not?

  9. #9 ThomasHobbes
    July 27, 2006

    Also Ed–I found a good bit of material on Terry Gray’s situation, so thank you for directing me there.

  10. #10 George Cauldron
    July 27, 2006

    If ID is really nonreligious, then what does it matter who’s an apostate or not?

    Indeed. One can only assume WD’s underlying motive for this issue is to refute people who say “but Christians can believe in evolution!” by retorting “no they can’t! They’re not REAL Christians!” Fine, nothing we haven’t seen before, but what’s WD’s point? Hasn’t he been trying to claim that ID *isn’t* just religious apologetics? If so, what’s the point in claiming that ‘evolutionists’ are nothin’ but a big bunch a’ wicked sinners? His flunkies already believe that…

  11. #11 David Heddle
    July 27, 2006

    ThomasHobbes,

    it seems that doctrinal disputes among members would best be settled with education, rather than force, especially seeing as how church participation is strictly voluntary today, and without serious risk, which of course has not always been the case.

    I am not sure how doctrinal disputes can be settled with education. They usually occur between two highly educated camps.

    A heresy trial is the church’s due process. And those with which I have experience are not over doctrinal differences–in those cases the person would normally just quit the church–it happens all the time–and people who quit, even if it gets nasty, are not subsequently excommunicated. To be placed on trial for doctrinal heresy would almost always require that the accused had decided to take a stand. Or, in what might apply to Van Till or a maverick pastor, he might seek acquittal in order to save his job. The cases with which I am familiar involve adultery. Not just committing adultery, but living openly in an adulterous relationship and repeatedly refusing to repent. In these cases the accused is simply saying “go to hell” to the church and typically doesn’t bother to resign formally his membership, and so he is excommunicated and removed.

    You slander Calvinism. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in Calvinist doctrine that states that any believer would not be saved. The equation for Calvinists is the same as for any Christian denomination: all believers in the power of Christ’s blood for redemption are saved. In fact, Calvinism is even more generous, for it says that not only are all believers saved, but that they cannot lose their salvation, ever. In Catholicism, you can be saved one day and not the next.

    You are perhaps referring to people who claim to be believers, who may even believe they are believers, but are not saved. Yes, Calvinism acknowledges there are those with a false assurance. So does every other denomination. They have to, such people are clearly described in the bible.

    About the most support I can find for your contention is that Calvinism (like Catholicism) discourages the easy-belief-ism of modern evangelical fundamentalist denominations. A fundamentalist Baptist, for example, might try to get you to say the sinner’s prayer, and then tell you if you really believe it you are saved. Both Calvinism and Catholicism discourage this type of evangelism, precisely because it is thought to cruelly increase the likelyhood of a person with this dreaded false assurance. But, to reiterate the rebuttal of you main point–there is no possibility entertained in Calvinism that a genuine believer is lost because, sorry, he is not of the elect.

    While I think the Catholic Encyclopedia is great, and I use it all the time, you might consider that is no more reliable on Calvinist doctrine than Protestant texts would be in describing Marian doctrine. When I want to know what the Catholics really teach about Catholic dogma, I go to Catholic sources. If you want to know what Calvinism teaches, you should read Calvinists.

    Even more interesting and counter to your view of Calvinism would be to ask: how many people do you expect to be saved? Modern non-Calvinistic evangelicals with their pessimistic “left-behind” eschatology tend to think relatively few will be saved and that the world is going to hell in an handbasket.

    Calvinism, biased by a subset with an optimistic post-millennial eschatology believes that the church will be victorious, and than vast multitudes will be saved.

  12. #12 GH
    July 27, 2006

    I am not sure how doctrinal disputes can be settled with education.

    I agree with David here. Now matter how educated one cannot reason people out of things they arrived at unreasonably. Education will most likely make you question the entire structure rather than make doctrine more clear.

    Not just committing adultery, but living openly in an adulterous relationship and repeatedly refusing to repent.

    You mean a fellow who has a mistress and won’t give her up? Isn’t that his wifes business and none of the churches? If he is that open about it perhaps he and his wife have an ‘arrangement’. People always want to stick there nose into others business.

    In fact, Calvinism is even more generous, for it says that not only are all believers saved, but that they cannot lose their salvation, ever. In Catholicism, you can be saved one day and not the next.

    I agree with David here. I think this is actually more solid theology than Catholicism. If such a thing is possible that is.

    You are perhaps referring to people who claim to be believers, who may even believe they are believers, but are not saved.

    This makes no sense. If they believe they believe they are believers and hence saved. Period. But isn’t this just so stupid to actually think about?

    A fundamentalist Baptist, for example, might try to get you to say the sinner’s prayer, and then tell you if you really believe it you are saved. Both Calvinism and Catholicism discourage this type of evangelism, precisely because it is thought to cruelly increase the likelyhood of a person with this dreaded false assurance. But, to reiterate the rebuttal of you main point–there is no possibility entertained in Calvinism that a genuine believer is lost because, sorry, he is not of the elect.

    I’m sorry but in this regard your argument is particuarlly weak. You end up with the same scenario as the Catholics you disagree with, that is never knowing if you are ‘saved’ or not. You can never know if you have salvation of ‘false assurance’. In this regard it is particuarly loathesome. Imagine believing all this stuff and going through ones life believing only to find out it was ‘false’. How stupid. Religion can definetly rot the brain.

    If you believe you believe, if you have believed then you have believed. It’s simple. In this regard give me the Baptists any day.

  13. #13 George Cauldron
    July 27, 2006

    Oh great, now we have David Heddle ‘witnessing’… [roll eyes here]

  14. #14 ThomasHobbes
    July 27, 2006

    Personally, Dave, I’m an atheist, so I happen to believe that no one gets “saved”; there is no fundamental salvation from death. However, from what I recall of my earlier days, those who have been brought Christ’s word and truthfully accepted it, along with a broad collection of others (infants, those who lived justly without ever hearing of Christ, the martyrs, etc.) are the ones who get saved. It is potentially open to all, in that regard.

    Other than that, I have no particular beef with Calvinism, other than viewing it (at least as you have defended it) as unclear and indeed pernicious on the issue of salvation, as GH has described above. Calvinism does not seem to take us any clearer to distinguishing between those with false assurances and the Elect, who outwardly (and apparently inwardly too) seem to be believers.

    I will clarify on the use of the Catholic Encyclopedia: of course it is no more reliable than its editors, and in turn no more reliable than its source material. However, if I believed it to unfairly represent Calvinist doctrines, I would not have used it as a reference. It was convenient and accurate in this case, and it aided in my desire not to cite Wikipedia.

    As to the heresy trials, which is part of what started this all, you may indeed have a point. I can think of a danger that may result, though; there is always the potential for conflict between doctrinal teachings and conflicting or contrary evidence about the world (consider Van Till’s case). If the doctrine can adapt to this new information, then charges of heresy will probably not be raised in regard to it. If there is resistance, then it may be declared heretical regardless of its correspondance with the natural world.

    To George: Sorry, I try not to get into doctrinal debates. Sometimes, like car accidents, they just happen.

  15. #15 RBH
    July 28, 2006

    Ed wrote

    Notice that I said it seems medieval, obviously because it evokes memories of heresy trials that actually resulted in not only excommunication but torture and death. Of course no such thing goes on today, and I fully expect that any church has the right to police its organization and throw out anyone it wants for whatever reason it wants (like any other private group).

    That’s a kind of parochial view, though, isn’t it? For example, there’s this:

    [Sheik Abdalla] also vowed during his speech they will kill any body that fails to practice daily prayer (Salaad).

    Or consider this from closer to home:

    In a world run by Rushdoony followers, sots would escape capital punishment–which would make them happy exceptions indeed. Those who would face execution include not only gays but a very long list of others: blasphemers, heretics, apostate Christians, people who cursed or struck their parents, females guilty of “unchastity before marriage,” “incorrigible” juvenile delinquents, adulterers, and (probably) telephone psychics.

    Medievalism isn’t all that far away, geographically or temporally.

  16. #16 Daniel Morgan
    July 28, 2006

    I’m sorry, but I can’t pass this gem up:

    David Heddle — Demanding that one religion or denomination be respectful of and peaceful towards another is one thing–that form of tolerance is clearly demonstrated “even” in the bible (except, of course, for those cases when the Promised Land was being ethnically cleansed by divine decree.)

    Of course, just as it still is being today, “by divine decree”.

    Interesting that he thinks tolerance is exemplified in the Bible, I thought intolerance in the Bible was well-documented (see the SAB). And that whole “ethnic cleansing” thing — didn’t that occupy, like, the whole Hebrew Bible, basically? And didn’t Jesus say, “He that is not with me is against me”?

    Sort of an intolerant statement, wouldn’t you say, Dave?

  17. #17 David Heddle
    July 28, 2006

    GH,

    You mean a fellow who has a mistress and won’t give her up? Isn’t that his wifes business and none of the churches?

    Of course not–and obviously the objection to its members living openly and unrepentantly in an adulterous relationship is by no means peculiar to Calvinism.

    This makes no sense. If they believe they believe they are believers and hence saved. Period.

    Not according to any denomination that I know of–not just Calvinism. Every denomination acknowledges that some people think they are saved, but they aren’t. Familiar passages that speak to this are James 2:19 which in effect reads: “you believe? Big deal–even the demons believe!” and, more frighteningly Matt 7:21-23 which (again paraphrasing) reads that on the judgment day some who are expecting heaven will be told by Jesus “depart from me, I never knew you.”

    Christianity in general has always held that simple intellectual assent that God exists and that Jesus is his son is not enough–although this is how the gospel call is usually portrayed. Instead, it is actually faith, not belief, that is demanded. Belief is passive, faith is active. Faith is belief plus a whole lot more. It is those who think that either saying a prayer and inviting Jesus into their heart or that simple intellectual assent is all that is needed who risk having a false assurance. And not to beat a dead horse: this is not particular to Calvinism.

    I’m sorry but in this regard your argument is particuarlly weak. You end up with the same scenario as the Catholics you disagree with, that is never knowing if you are ‘saved’ or not.

    Interesting viewpoint. Again, even the most “easy-belief notch-in-the-belt” fundamentalist evangelicals acknowledge that not everyone who says the sinner’s prayer is saved, and that some are deluding themselves. And Catholics, at least those who actually practice their own religion, have a tremendous assurance of their own salvation–because for a practicing Catholic the sacraments are a guarantee–just don’t die stained by an unforgiven mortal sin. As for Calvinists, the assurance is based on the fact that we are known by our fruits. (The first time I heard about Calvinists was in public school, where this chain was presented: Calvinists – predestination – need for assurance – good citizenship – hard work – Protestant work ethic – capitalism – industrial revolution. Not saying that is correct, just commenting on public school education in the 1970′s) Now it is true that these assurances may be false–but the point is that neither practicing Catholics or practicing Calvinists are going about fretting “am I really saved?”

    ThomasHobbes,

    However, from what I recall of my earlier days, those who have been brought Christ’s word and truthfully accepted it, along with a broad collection of others (infants, those who lived justly without ever hearing of Christ, the martyrs, etc.) are the ones who get saved. It is potentially open to all, in that regard.

    Actually, this is not correct, although there are many denominations and what you describe may be preached by those that tend toward universalism. But Catholicism and especially non-Calvinistic evangelical denominations actually paint a grim picture for those who never hear the gospel. Catholics, for example, baptize children–not because they think it is a meaningful ritual for the parents, but because the infant is a sinner and will be lost without it. And non-Calvinistic evangelicals will tell you that you must hear the gospel and accept it–not offering much hope to the millions who die without ever hearing. (In fact, if they believed that it was easier if you didn’t hear the gospel, that then you just had to be a good person–it would be quite cruel to send missionaries just to make the test more difficult for those who were blissfully ignorant. Likewise, if they believed that all infants went to heaven, then instead of abortions being murder they would in fact be mercy killings) Calvinism essentially says: God has set aside some for salvation–we have no clue who they are–they could and probably do include many who have never heard the gospel–although the normative way as taught in the bible is to hear, believe, and live by faith. Apart from universalists, Calvinism alone offers some self-consistent hope to those who have died without hearing the gospel or being baptized.

    If a woman asks a fundamentalist pastor and a Calvinist pastor about the eternal fate of her infant dead at childbirth, both will probably say something to the effect that it is in God’s hands. However, in that case only the Calvinist pastor is actually being faithful to what his denomination teaches.

    Daniel,

    No, there were great periods in the OT where the Jews lived peacefully with their neighbors. And nowhere in the New Testament does it teach Christians to kill infidels. Quite the opposite from killing your enemy, you are taught to live under his rule–no rebellions, no jihads, etc. Of course, what is taught and what has been practiced are two different things.

  18. #18 Ed Darrell
    July 28, 2006

    David Heddle,

    Nothing wrong with allowing us to label apostates, so long as it’s done accurately and by proper church authorities, right?

    Dembski has no ordination, does he? On the other hand, many of us who do, note that all creationism ultimately denies God as the creator, and so is apostate.

    Surely you don’t mind accepting a poison-well argument as complete rebuttal to everything you claim about the heavens being designed, do you?

    Dembski uses the “apostate” label both to denigrate Van Till, which is an unethical argument in that use, and to avoid dealing with the substance of Van Till’s arguments, which is a simple dodge. Were I required to choose which one I regarded as the better or higher authority on Christianity, I would not hesitate to choose Van Till over Dembski.

    In short, the only hope Dembski has of rebutting anything Till says is to technically disqualify Van Till from the discussion. The difficulty is we’re talking about physical, chemical and biological processes here — disqualifying an opponent on a technicality cannot change the laws at work.

    Shorthand: Dembski’s claim is scurrilous and wrong.

  19. #19 Jay
    July 28, 2006

    Interesting discussion. I’ll throw in my two cents on my problems with putting someone on trial for apostacy.

    Basically, if the issues are like David is talking about — someone defiantly living in the sin of an adulterous relationship for example — then I wouldn’t fault any church for disfellowshiping someone after other options have failed. Of course the whole idea of disfellowshiping someone is that fellowship itself exists in the first place, and thus that it hurts and matters to cut those ties. The action is done with the aim of bringing someone back, not as vindictive retribution, for which their in no room in the church.

    That said, I am extremely disappointed with any church that would attempt to doctrinally cleanse itself over any but the biggest of issues. We find in Philliapians 2:12 the admonition to “continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Certainly their is a degree to which each person is reasonable for their own actions and positions on doctrinal issues.

    If a person is willing to come to a church, and actively participate in that body in a peaceful and humble way, though they hold a minority position on some issue of doctrine, why they need to purge them? Isn’t the issue how they go about holding that minority position? As David noted, most of the time people will go elsewhere. I think it’s commendable when people can maintain unity despite differences. I choose to worship in a tradition in which I disagree with some issues on doctrine, largely because I consider myself a hypocrite if I can’t work past those differences to find unity.

    This seems exactly what a Christian should do. Ephesians 4:2-3 says it best.

    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

    I think church tribunals over doctrinal issues that are not of the gravest importance (evolution would fall directly into this category) are in direct opposition to verses like these.

  20. #20 David Heddle
    July 28, 2006

    Jay,

    any church that would attempt to doctrinally cleanse itself over any but the biggest of issues. We find in Philliapians 2:12 the admonition to “continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Certainly their is a degree to which each person is reasonable for their own actions and positions on doctrinal issues.

    I think most churches are rather flexible. At least that has been my experience. At the moment I am in a Baptist church with a YEC pastor who is also dispensational pre-mill, yet I am OEC, post-mill, and–in what should be a showstopper, support infant baptism–and yet I teach adult Sunday School.

    Ed,

    I can’t make much sense out of your post. Did Dembski actually label Van Till apostate? I didn’t read that post on UD closely, I simply corrected some mistakes regarding Calvinism. But my impression was that he was posing the question–can’t check because UD is doen at the moment. On the other hand, there is no problem in principle with a “lay-person” (we all are priests) labelling someone an apostate, far from “not judging” we are admonished to judge carefully. And I have no clue what you mean by “note that all creationism ultimately denies God as the creator, and so is apostate.” which is obviously not true for either YECs or OECs–maybe you meant it tongue in cheek.

  21. #21 Ed Brayton
    July 28, 2006

    David-

    The point of my post was that everyone in that thread seems to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to justify attaching a label to Howard’s views, and virtually no time to actually engaging those views.

  22. #22 David Heddle
    July 28, 2006

    Ed Brayton,

    Oops, I meant Ed Darrell in the previous comment. My bad.

  23. #23 GH
    July 28, 2006

    David it seems to me that your arguments falls short simply because it skirts the very simple nature of what the religion started to do, forgiveness through love. It seems you’ve turned a great idea into an ugly one on some levels.

    ‘He that believeth in me shall not perish’ is pretty straight forward. What your ideas seem in effect to do is make the death of Jesus on the cross meaningless unless one does this or that in the proper form.

    Now it is true that these assurances may be false–but the point is that neither practicing Catholics or practicing Calvinists are going about fretting “am I really saved?”

    I think your wrong here. Many Catholics I know are always saying that only God judges and they don’t know if they will be good enough until that time. The ‘sacraments’ are a way of essentially hedging your bets. Just becuase Calvinists don’t worry doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Nor does it bolster any claim to be ‘the elect’.

    Actually, this is not correct, although there are many denominations and what you describe may be preached by those that tend toward universalism. But Catholicism and especially non-Calvinistic evangelical denominations actually paint a grim picture for those who never hear the gospel. Catholics, for example, baptize children–not because they think it is a meaningful ritual for the parents, but because the infant is a sinner and will be lost without it. And non-Calvinistic evangelicals will tell you that you must hear the gospel and accept it–not offering much hope to the millions who die without ever hearing. (In fact, if they believed that it was easier if you didn’t hear the gospel, that then you just had to be a good person–it would be quite cruel to send missionaries just to make the test more difficult for those who were blissfully ignorant. Likewise, if they believed that all infants went to heaven, then instead of abortions being murder they would in fact be mercy killings) Calvinism essentially says: God has set aside some for salvation–we have no clue who they are–they could and probably do include many who have never heard the gospel–although the normative way as taught in the bible is to hear, believe, and live by faith. Apart from universalists, Calvinism alone offers some self-consistent hope to those who have died without hearing the gospel or being baptized

    This entire paragraph highlights what an illness religion is and why one is no better than another. To even think such thoughts about children is A. abhorent B. evil. Only a depraved mind indoctrinated could believe such rubbish.

    And lastly this entire post shows why religion has very little rational whatsoever and it is impossible to come up with a compelling proof of any of it. Which is why my pappy never told me to argue about it, it’s fools gold.

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