Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Calvinism as a Nominalist Project

Great discussion over on Jesus Creed about Calvinism, Arminianism, double predestination, and the character of God. 

I especially appreciated comment#2:

The closer I get to this debate the more I am convinced that underneath it is the ongoing issue of realism vs. nominalism. Luther was a nominalist, a strong and growing movement of his time. Nominalists believe that attributes like love, goodness, beauty, etc. are not real existences. They are only names we give those attributes, hence nominalism. When applied to God categories like the good, the true and the beautiful are not real in and of themselves, as if for God to be those things he has to meet a standard outside of himself. This would seem to make God less than God since he is subject to a measure and it would seem to make God less free since he is constrained by that measure. Luther’s response? He glories in the God who simply is apart from categories that do not arise from his own being. What this can lead to is an arbitrary God, who no matter what he does is always glorious. Therefore, God can be exalted for what on the face of it would normally be considered horrendous evil – i.e., damning people you could save. So we can end up with the strange configuration of being willing to go to hell for the glory of God as a sign of true salvation. To which I respond, huh? In fact, the more arbitrary God seems to be, the more glorious he is. And in some of the Reformed circles I have been exposed to, moral categories for God can seem unstable. And in such a case arguing as Olson does seems to diminish God’s glory. This is always the Reformed response. Olson is simply pleading for the existence of real moral categories. If these are thrown out, there is nothing left to discuss anymore and moral debate becomes senseless. So, to sum it up, I am not so sure that the debate is primarily about free will in man. It might be more about free will in God. I think pursuing the debate along these lines would be more fruitful. I am hoping that Olson presses this trajectory a bit more.

Comment by don bryant — November 9, 2011 @ 2:48 am

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