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Calvinism -- Ten Little Caveats*

by Bob Moore

Copyright 1998


Calvinism's View Of Bible Language

The Bible describes God in human terms, using human characteristics. We read, for example, that the "arm of the LORD" (Is.51:9) does something, or that "the LORD smelled the pleasing odor" (Gen.8:21). This kind of language is called "anthropomorphism" which means that we are ascribing human attributes to God.

The Calvinist tends to soften the revelational content of such Bible-language because of his commitment to his particular presuppositions about God. When the Bible uses anthropomorphisms it reveals something about God, but Calvinists sometimes so restrict what is really revealed, that it makes the anthropomorphism meaningless. I will give some examples shortly.

We should avoid the temptations of idolatry which is to make God in our own image and in corruptible forms and for that reason Christians have emphasized the radical differences that exist between God and man. His thoughts are higher than ours and too wonderful for us to fully understand (Is.55:8,9). There is so much that is too difficult for man, but "nothing is too hard for God" (Gen.18:14, Lk.1:37). Man can predict so little, but God "declares the end from the beginning" (Is.46:10). Man is only one place at a time, but God is everywhere at once; some men have done honorable things, but God is a source of total moral obligation and worthy of all honor and praise; and so on.

Even though God is so radically different, He is a person (in some sense) as man is a person. But since He is a person with qualities to such unusual degrees we pause to consider the differences when texts liken His life to ours. Calvinists, though, have emphasized the radical difference between God and man and have tended to discount what God has taught about Himself in anthropomorphic language. There are ways, however, to arrive at the meaning of anthropomorphisms without imposing non-Biblical presuppositions on them and thereby deciding in advance what they must and must not say.


The Bible teaches us that God speaks. What we normally understand the word "speak" to mean is to communicate by means of the vocal cords. The Bible, however, teaches us that God speaks and that He is also a spirit without human bodily form (Deut.4:15) and thus without vocal cords as humans have them. This seems to be a contradiction. The idea of vocal cords in the anthropomorphism seems to prevent the meaning of "speaks" from being applied to God. But, if we subtract the vocal-cords element and have any meaning left that makes sense, then we apply that sense to God. That is, God effects communication. we have cut off the uniquely human element of vocal cords to arrive at the real meaning. This method is generally good but there is a danger to it. For one thing, God may use the vocal cords of one of His people to speak; for another, He may have vocal cords in some other spiritual sense. We may not know what is uniquely human in a given anthropomorphism.

Actual human vocal cords may give us a dim, shadowy indication of some greater, concrete reality about God. We have with the word "speak", images of air movement causing vibrations in other elements producing sound transmissions, etc. All these things reflect the divine being. Air reflects the idea of spirit; movement intimates life; sound suggest word, etc. Much that we might initially think to be unique to man may, upon reflection, give uncanny insight into the nature of God. He, after all, said, "Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness" (Gen.1:26,27). Man, it seems, is a "Theomorphism"; a God-form. That is very close to being a copy in some way.

Our eyes and our seeing, for example, are used as a form of what God does. God monitors His creation and works it after the counsel of His will. "In Him all things hold together" (or "endure" Col.1:17). God looks after His creation and keeps it going. our eyes are a microcosm-like representation of what God's eyes are. Our eyes may be created and named after something in God which their function is like. In the same way, our earthly fatherhood derives its name from the heavenly Father. Ephesians 3:14,15 says, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, of whom every fatherhood [patria] in heaven and on earth is named." Our physical hands, our feet, ears, nostrils, etc. all are really only a semblance of a much more solid spiritual reality of what would be God's hands, ears, etc. I'm not implying that God has a body. I am suggesting that the organs and functions that are man's suggest to us something in God that is like them.

2 Chron. 16:9 says, for instance, "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His ...." Certainly our conception of this illustration will be anthropomorphic. That is to say, we may have a mental image of God scanning humanity in a search that, were it like our own searches, might involve overlooking things. The movement of "to and fro" may suggest that when the gaze is in one direction, action occurring in an opposite direction might be missed by God. From our knowledge of God in all the Scripture we know that these faults would not be true of God. What we can't deny is that God finds out about our faith.

We assume too much of our own intellectual superiority to OT people if we think they did not conceive of God as far more than the anthropomorphic image presented them. It's not that OT people had to have crude illustrations to understand God whereas we, with greater intellectual awareness, can relegate anthropomorphisms to less weighty positions. Those who do so will have to guard themselves from thinking they have better notions of God that are more in harmony with Platonic-like ideals. The ancients understood that God monitored all of His cosmos instantaneously ("all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Heb 4:13 cf. Provb.15:3).


Man-forms (i.e. anthropomorphisms) appear to limit God, which fact tempts those with Calvinist presuppositions to favor the so-called "unlimiting" Bible passages over the "limiting" Bible passages. A hermeneutical (interpretational) principle is employed which at first seems good: Statements about the "unlimited" extent of God's knowledge and power, for example, must control the anthropomorphic statements and not vice versa. If, on the other hand. anthropomorphisms controlled our understanding of God, they say, we would be reducing Him to idolatrous, human proportions. We would be giving precedence to a language of ignorance, indecision, and change over an all- powerful and all-knowing type of language.

But, when I give what is considered too much credence to anthropomorphisms that tend to modify "unlimiting-type" Bible passages, I am faced with Calvinistic accusations that are defamatory and libelous. They would accuse me of maintaining that God is ignorant; that He capriciously changes His mind; that His purposes of goodness are thwarted; that He is vacillating; and so on.

I maintain that something is lost if either principle of interpretation is used in exclusion of the other and I plead what D. A. Carson would call a "disjunctive fallacy" which is false logic. It is the wrong exclusion of what might be an acceptable "in-between" in certain supposedly either/or situations. [1] If the idea that God is changeless, for example, takes precedence over anthropomorphisms that show God making changes, then the total changelessness of the Greek philosophy begins to dominate. If anthropomorphisms are given undiscerning precedence, then our view of God becomes dominated by the ever-changing emotional life of the Pagan deities. We might then tend to think that perhaps God has a body and is located somewhere in particular.

The unexcluded middle position gives the correct hermeneutical principle which teaches us that God reacts to man without loss or change of His character.


Calvin said that God often describes [reveals?] Himself in a way that "accommodates" our limited capacity to understand Him. So at times He represents Himself to us not as He is in Himself, but "as He seems to us." [2] Calvin believes that because God wants people to respond to Him that He must represent Himself as one who is also responsive; that He reacts to human action. [3] Calvin apparently thinks that God represents Himself as responsive but with the truth being that He is not; that it is really eternal decrees that are made to look like responses so that man will act towards God in apparent freedom. So, for example, when God reveals that "He regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel" (1 Sam. 15:11,35), Calvinists would say that God is revealing "what it seems to us that He did." Such would be a false revelation if God in actuality did not want Saul and his descendants to be kings (c.f. 1 Sam. 13:13).


An arrogant attitude toward the worth of anthropomorphisms would tend to empty their content of didactic use. Of what, for example, are we to learn about God from the following revelation?

Gen.6:5-7; "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the LORD said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.'"

If we dismiss that God reacts to man, what is left of this crude portrayal of disappointment; this being touched with deep feelings of hurt? If nothing unexpected happens with God, this revelation is meaningless. What an inappropriate way to teach that corruption has been appointed to reach a level where it will have to be totally dismantled. God, on the contrary, was distressed to the core (v.6). He was not so from eternity past. God's grief is incomprehensible if not temporal in nature (as when we grieve the Holy Spirit). To truly know God's deep feelings about His unrequited love (c.f. Lk. 19: 10, 41) makes our own repentance more grievous.

Calvin's accommodation view, because it appeals to God's level of understanding as being superior to ours (which I readily grant), insists that "anthropomorphisms" such as Genesis+6:5-7 to be a case of God in His grace, coming down to our level to converse with us in our own speech. It insists that the meaning is not "regret" on God's part, but the abhorrence of a holy God at the awful wickedness and corruption into which man had fallen. I agree that it means this too, but it is not as though Moses (or his sources) could not have expressed what I have just expressed. He, in fact, expresses God's abhorrence several places including Leviticus 26:44 which states, "... neither will I [God] abhor them [Israelites] to destroy them [actually] ...."

Man's wholesale rejection of faith in the face of God's grace was apparently worse than what God's prognosis had been. Interestingly, the NT word for foreknowledge (proginosko) was sometimes used by the Greeks in the medical sense that I have just employed: "a prediction based on a diagnosis." [4]

I know the way I am interpreting anthropomorphisms here urges the question of God's sovereignty and majesty and for that reason I need to make a short digression. The simple answer is that a Sovereign may self-limit His sovereignty in a way that will not transgress His overall will. For example, the Calvinist friend of mine (prior to becoming a Calvinist) gave me this illustration of God's sovereignty and man's freedom. He had been an excellent basket ball player in high school and college. He told me that when he played his little brother at home that his abilities allowed him to "declare the end from the beginning." He said, "I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it" (Is. 6:10,11). Instead of merely looking into a virtual future to see what would happen and then make his announcement, my friend was actively involved in bringing events to the place where he could fulfill his announcements. By his superior power he could have the game end with any point values that he wanted to predict at the beginning. This he could do by regulating his brother's progress by limiting himself in some ways. When God made man, He also had made a creature who, by the nature of the case, demonstrated God's action of self-limitation without the loss of His sovereignty. This is a higher view of God's sovereignty than the view espoused by the Calvinist.

As Jack W. Cottrell has said, "Such limitations as these in no way contradict God's sovereignty, simply because they are self-limitations. They are part of the sovereign decree, not a violation of it. If they were limitations imposed on God from outside God, then his own sovereignty would indeed be compromised. But they are God's own choice, and as such are not the negation of sovereignty, but the very expression of it. The sovereign God is free to do as he pleases, and this includes the freedom to limit himself". [5]

If I were to say, "I don't think of my God as being a wrathful or just, but a loving and merciful God." And I proceeded to strip off something of what God is, then I would be making an idol for myself. Now, from the Calvinist's point of view, this is what I am doing with the concept of God's sovereignty. They say that I am making an idol when I describe God's sovereignty in a way that shows God freely limiting Himself. They think I am making an idol whereas the truth is that they are making God out to be the way they imagine He should be. That is to say, they are the ones who have made an image from their imagination -- an idol! My conception of God is closer to what He has revealed Himself to be in His written word. The Calvinist, on the other hand, has taken a concept represented by the word "sovereignty" and has made God conform to their notion of the concept.

Thus (getting back), through Bible anthropomorphisms, we may be touched with the feelings of God's "infirmities" so to speak; His self limitations. God knows ours and we His by virtue of there being a correspondence between object and image. God truly grieves (Eph.4:30), rejoices (Zeph.3:17), is pleased or displeased (Heb. 11:6), etc., but He has not lost control of what He wants to control.


Calvinists have tried to salvage their unresponsive notions of God by reference to what is called the "analogical" nature of descriptive terms. When men use words to describe a thing and then use the same word to describe something else, the meaning intended for each use might have 1.) no difference, 2.) have some difference, or 3.), it might have a high degree of difference.

Meanings that don't change when used are precise. They call this kind of word usage "univocal". If a word's meaning does not remain precise when used of two different things they call its usage, "analogical". A large difference in usage they call "equivocable." [6]

The point Calvinists try to make is that man's language is incapable of being precise about God but is capable of being understandable and useful because we can imagine things proportionately. [7] For example, because I am the father of my children, I can know quite precisely what it is for others to be fathers of their children. By analogy I can know what it would mean to say that I am the father of several generations of Moores. There are some differences introduced when I begin speaking of "generations" but the meaning is still understandable. By analogy I can understand what it means to say that Jubal was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe, that Abraham was the father of all those who are having faith, that Einstein was the father of the theory of relativity, or that the Church Fathers were instrumental in guiding the Church through the early stages. But, the Calvinist would say that my understanding of the fatherhood of God would be useful but much less precise than all of these examples because of the "great" proportionate differences between God and man.

This is how they invariably account for texts that would otherwise give the idea of God as a responsive person. Because God's insight, for example, is proportionately so much greater than man's, the volatile reaction we may have to things (of which we have little insight) is so much greater than that of Him who has unlimited insight. [8] In fact, they would say, God would have no reaction because the proportionality is carried out infinitely.

How does the "analogical" understanding of language, then, help one to understand texts like Genesis 6:6 where God grieved in His heart and was sorry that He had made man? If one has already decided that God is unmoved then even the "analogical" description of word meanings here is useless.

We ought not operate on the assumption of the univocal validity of language for both God and man, because it is clear that things like the Father to Son relationship of God is not exactly the same thing it is for me and my son. it is also clear that we cannot impose the same limitations on God's grief that are implicit in man's grief, but, as I have shown, the difference is not totally beyond our understanding.

Calvinists make a point of saying that analogical language introduces not just quantitative differences, but qualitative differences. For example, they say God's knowledge is not just many times greater than our knowledge, but of a different quality. By this they mean to show that although we can understand something of one whose knowledge is quantitatively greater than ours, we might not grasp the significance of a knowledge that is qualitatively different than ours. Although they say analogical language gives us an understanding of God, they imply that because words are not used precisely in the same way with us and with God, we may be susceptible to misunderstandings. I agree with that possibility, but would like to give an illustration that shows the effectiveness of analogical language for communicating truth.

Building upon the note above, concerning the analogical nature of the Flatland story, I would like for you to imagine what the Square would think of a Cube. Having never been able to see a Cube in his two dimensions, the Square would probably be focused on the quantitative differences between himself (one square) and a Cube (six square faces). To us three dimensional creatures, we know that the Square's thoughts can't really take in the qualitative difference of perpendicularity of the Cube's square faces to each other (except to believe it to be true in some mysterious way because of lower dimensional relationships). The Square on Flatland might imagine that when he sees one square face of a Cube resting on his Flatland, that the five other alleged faces are somewhere else on Flatland so far removed that they are out of sight. The Square is susceptible to misunderstandings because of tendencies to think quantitatively. Nevertheless, when the Square is transported out of his Flatland and given the ability to see in three dimensions, he must marvel at what he did understand about the Cube's squareness and yet, what more there was to it qualitatively (c.f. 2 Thes 1:10; 1 Jn 3:2; Jn 20:19).

I believe that it will be the same with us and God. We know that God reacts to men, but we will be astonished at the quality of that reaction. That God "reacts", makes sense just as the fatherhood of God makes sense (Eph. 3:14-15). God does not make man His pattern, but rather, since we are in the pattern of God, we are able to understand Him in a very important and loving way.


We, ourselves, may understand how an all knowing agent can experience disappointment or surprise and delight by considering the following: Reflect for a moment on the way you felt, for example, when several of you and your friends began to play a game involving the throw of dice. If your first throw was sixes, you were shocked and elated; if snake eyes, the opposite unbelief. Intellectually, one throw is as likely as another (we would be all knowing in the sense of knowing all possibilities in this case), but the odds against any particular throw are remote for us.

Much of our revelation concerning God tends to show that the all knowing (omniscient) attribute of God is to be understood, in part, in the sense of His knowing all possibilities. This is my view of what I call "unnecessitated knowledge". It is unnecessitated in the sense that this kind of knowledge does not have to be actualized but it may be actualized with God remaining sovereign. First of all, though, God knows all that is (i.e. all that has existed or is now existing -- Prov. 15:3) and all that He will cause to come into being (Acts 15:18). This kind of all-knowing has to do with all that is actual. God knows the future truths in willing them (not unlike my basket ball playing friend). But, second, the Bible teaches that there are some things that may come to pass apart from God making it necessary even though He made it possible (e.g. Ex. 4:8,9; Is. 54:14,15). The fall of man is the first and best example of this. Because He knows all possibilities, He has what I call "unnecessitated knowledge." This is one view of God's omniscience that is rejected by the Calvinist.


If God has created in Man an agent that may bring something uncaused into being (uncaused by God), then God may not know the actuality of its being; merely the possibility. The Scriptures plainly teach that God learns of the actuality of our faith and love coming into being (or, being rejected) whereas He knew them only as possibilities beforehand. The nature of what God learns does not change God's nature at all. He does not learn in the sense that He adds to what makes Him God.

The following are some examples of God learning actualities, and are "proofs" that there are some things that He does not know in the sense of knowing their actuality by virtue of causing them:

Deut 8:2 "And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."

Deut 13:3 "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."

2 Chron 32:31 "And even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart."

Gen 22:12 "And he said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'"

Jer 3:7, 19-20 "I thought that after she had done all this she would return to Me, but she did not ...."

(I will omit discussion here of the many passages on God's repentance in response to something in man)

The deep, uncertain and wishful feeling of God is expressed again in Deut 5:29; "Oh, that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments ...."

This is an expression of God's will. It shows that God has granted the possibility of such a heart but not an irresistible necessity or actuality. Deut 29:4 says, "Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear." This shows that the initiative in making faith a possibility lies in God's grace and in that respect, when they do have faith it is to God's credit. This point is not obvious to those steeped in the Reformed tradition. These scriptures teach us that God wants to give the Israelites a heart to know but they are refusing to have faith in Him. Deut 31:21 explains it further; " ... for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore." God sees the developments of our faith or unbelief apparently as they develop.

Genesis 18:21 appears to be a case of God testing to know a people's faith response to His grace. It is sometimes dismissed too easily as crudely anthropomorphic. It says, "I [the LORD] will go down now, and see if they [Sodom] have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not I will know." Superficially it tends to reveal that from afar God cannot discern what exists in our location. I suggest, however, that what He will come to know is whether or not He will elicit any faith upon His special visitation. Up until this visitation, complete non-faith rejection has been Sodom's response to their knowledge of God. (On the other hand, God's visitation on Nineveh, through Jonah, elicited faith. c.f. Lu. 19:44)

An interesting aspect of this particular text is the revelation of God's deliberation about whether or not He would even share His intentions with Abraham (Gen. 18:17-19). This tends to support the notion that some of God's intentions are formed in our time.

Because I part with the Calvinist over accepting the Greek, "Unmoved Mover" description of God as an influence in my interpretation of Scripture, I hold a view of anthropomorphisms that reveals truths about God that the Calvinist rejects on non-Biblical grounds. In some sense, God actually waits on our response to Him (Is.30:18).


Some Calvinists have tried to persuade me that some Bible truth is in the form of an "antinomy". An antinomy is defined as an apparent contradiction between two ideas; a paradox. In the case before us, these Calvinists say the Bible teaches both a), that God controls the occurrence of absolutely everything and b), man is responsible for what he does. As J.I. Packer puts it,

An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable. There are cogent reasons for believing each of them; each rests on clear solid evidence; but it is a mystery to you how they can be squared with each other. You see that each must be true on its own, but you do not see how they both can be true together. [9]

Packer believes Bible antinomies to be only apparent and (hopefully) only unreconciled until the resurrection:

We may be sure that they all find their reconciliation in the mind and counsel of God, and we may hope that in heaven we shall understand them ourselves. But meanwhile, our wisdom is to maintain with equal emphasis both the apparently conflicting truths in each case, to hold them together in the relation in which the Bible itself sets them, and to recognize that here is a mystery which we cannot expect to solve in this world. [10]

If it were a given that God controls the occurrence of absolutely everything, I would be tempted to join the Calvinists. You know by now, however, that I don't believe the Bible teaches this view of God's control; so the antinomy argument doesn't persuade me. I don't see the Bible teaching both a) and b). I know some people who think that the case is similar to light being modeled by unreconcilable particles and waves. They say that mysteriously, both models are true of light. Even if the particle model and the wave model are both true of light I am not enjoined thereby to make the Calvinist's view of God's sovereignty true. Some Calvinists have urged me to look at the "problem" as one of the mysteries of God. This I would be willing to do if it were necessary, but the Bible doesn't make it necessary. In fact, many of the Bible "mysteries" were temporal in nature; they were designed to be revealed.

A Calvinist might respond that Romans 11:36 definitely teaches a), above: "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." This is not a full, precise expression that makes definitive whether "all" refers to all possibilities or all actualities. We draw too much doctrine from this one source if we neglect to consider all that the Bible teaches on the subject. When everything is weighed, compared , and harmonized we see a God who does not cause the sin of man, but a man who is responsible for his own sin.

The antinomy argument tries to preserve both the God- caused and man-responsible notions together. I argue that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of men are not logically contradictory, but I urge it from the Biblical view of the way God controls everything. Packer's view even when we consider it on its own presuppositions, for the sake of argument, may turn out to be holding to real inconsistencies and not just apparent contradictions.


I am told that I should be persuaded to hold both a) and b) above because the Bible reveals both that God is one and that He is three and these are consistent though apparently inconsistent. Although I have already begun to show that a) is not Biblical I would also respond by saying that I look at the Trinity as a truth whose nature is mysterious but as a case upon which I think I have some insight concerning its consistency. But, even if I had no such insight, I believe the concept to be consistent because it is Biblical.

Concerning my alleged insight: I see that the Flatlanders in Abbott's book [11] could call a three dimensional cube (or "super square" as they might say) both one and six. Flatlanders are two dimensional squares and, according to the scenario, if a cube rested on their plain they would perceive only the one square face of it that was in their dimension even though the cube would have five other faces. By analogy I can see where the Flatlander's apparent inconsistency (with the concept of a being that was both six and one) is similar to the apparent inconsistency of the Trinity. There are extra-biblical reasons for the idea of the Trinity to be consistent though it may not seem to be so on the face of it (pun intended).

I have not been persuaded, however, to see any similar consistency of a) and b). They are held by the Calvinist as a consequence of non-biblical presuppositions about God.


Much of what God reveals about Himself is in the form of anthropomorphisms (man-form language). This seems to be a natural way of getting us to understand Him since we are created in His likeness.

Eliminating the uniquely human element in anthropomorphisms seems to be a good way of arriving at an understanding of what God is like. But, this assumes that we already know enough of what God is like to know what is uniquely human and thus what is revealed about God in an anthropomorphism. We should be cautious about assuming too much here since we are explicitly made like God.

Many Bible statements about God seem to represent Him in an unlimited sense. For example, in Isaiah 46:10, God says that He declares the end from the beginning. We might infer from this that God's knowledge of everything that will actually come to pass is totally unlimited (in the sense that He always knows it as an actuality). On the other hand, from anthropomorphisms we might infer that God is limited in His knowledge of every future actuality. one initial approach to a guide for interpreting these apparent inconsistencies is to let the "unlimiting" notions about God overrule the "limiting" notions. Letting one notion exclude the other does a disservice to Biblical revelation. There is no reason to believe that God has lost control of the future if He limits Himself by creating a creature whose faith is not determined or known beforehand. Such a self- limit seems to be the teaching of much Bible revelation concerning God's knowledge about our faith.

Calvin's "accommodation" view does not account for the content of what is revealed about God in many situations, and in fact seems to allow for obscuring of truths about God.

From Bible language we learn that God knows a) all that is true now, b) all that He will cause to be true in the future, and c) all that is allowed to be possible but not necessarily true. The last of these I, myself, refer to as "unnecessitated knowledge".

The fact that the Bible uses "analogical" meanings when speaking of God will not serve to completely alter the sense of anthropomorphic texts. It is useful language for giving us a good understanding of many things we talk about including such things as God, mind, logic, goodness, etc.

The antinomy view of some Bible revelation allows that both divine appointment of all that occurs and human responsibility are taught in the Bible; that they are both divinely revealed truths and must be consistent since truth is one. The weakness of resorting to this view is the doubt that it leaves concerning whether or not all reasonable steps have been taken to reconcile the two conflicting claims. Not having to claim the absolute view of divine appointment is admissible once the Greek presuppositions about God are not allowed to dominate our thinking.

The next chapter deals with how it is that God limits Himself without loosing control of what He wants to control.




D. A. Carson; _Exegetical Fallacies_ (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, pp.94-97

_Institutes_ I,17,13

Helm, _The Providence of God_ (IVP, Downers Grove, pp.51-54)

As referred to in _God's Strategy_, Forster& Marston, p.191

_The Grace of God and the Will of Man_, Clark Pinnock, ed., Bethany House Publishers, p. 110

e.g. "The glass was clear" vs. "That he ought to give thanks was clear". Or, "_that You might be clear in Your judging." (Ps.51:4). These are "equivocable" usages.

An example of using analogous proportions in trying to imagine something that does not exist in our perceptions is found in Abbott's _Flatland_ and in Dionys Burger's _Sphereland_. From these books we learn much about thinking by use of analogies and proportionalities. For example, as perpendicular and parallel lines are to a square, so are perpendicular and parallel squares to a cube_ Now then, to move beyond our experience, consider this: As perpendicular and parallel squares are to a cube, so are perpendicular and parallel cubes to a hypercube. A hypercube would be an object in four spatial dimensions which we could imagine only partially as having some sort of cube-ness properties. In the same way, "Flatlanders" could only imagine in some sort of impoverished way that a cube had square-ness properties. Just as a sphere, for instance, has circle- ness, so does a hypersphere have sphere-ness. Now, to bring it back to theology, just as men have responsibility (which is to say that they must satisfy God's justice), so, God has inconceivably greater responsibility (which is to say that He must answer to Himself in a way that we can't quite imagine). To further illustrate the "univocal"/"analogical" use of words I will use a syllogism. A "syllogism" is a logically consistent argument consisting of two propositions and a conclusion deduced from them. If the terms in the propositions and conclusion have identical ("univocal") meanings, then the conclusion is valid. If the terms have largely differing ("equivocable") senses, then the validity of the syllogism may be faulty. But if the differences are only ones of proportion ("analogical"), then there remains a qualified validity: Proposition 1.) If we are able to do either the right or the wrong in the choices we make, then we are responsible for the action we take. [note: c.f. Romans 2:15] Proposition 2.) If God makes it so that we are not able to do one of the apparent options (right or wrong), then He is responsible for our choice. [note: For instance, if God made Adam and Eve unable to do the right, then He is responsible for their choice, and He would have to satisfy His justice in the matter.] Conclusion: Hence, if we are responsible for an action, then God made us able to have done otherwise. Note that the word "able" here is spoken of with identical ("univocal") meanings in each case. "Responsible" is used analogously since in one case it means in control and having to give satisfaction to God, the other One, and in the next case it means in control and having to give satisfaction to Oneself. There is some greater degree of proportion with God than with man. Adam, for example, was responsible to obey God's command (i.e. "eat not of the one tree"). The Son of God, on the other hand, was responsible to obey the command of the Father in an expanded way (Jn. 12:49-50), i.e. He was given all that He should speak. The Father, likewise, was responsible to the Son (Ps. 2:8,9; Jn. 17:1,2). Analogically the responsibility is proportionately greater, but not incomprehensibly so.

It is unlimited except for the nature of cases where limits are understood or self-imposed. An "understood" limit, to use a different example, would be the limit to breaching the law of contradiction in logic. For God to do so would be to contradict His nature; it would be the same as to say that God can be both God and not God.

J.I. Packer, _Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God_ (Leicester: IVP 1961, pp.18,19)


Edwin A. Abbott, _Flatland_ (Harper Perennial, NY, NY ;94)


* Caveat:  a warning or explanation to prevent misinterpretation.