Cialis, Viagra spam attacking Calvin

Portait  of John CalvinWell, the spam bots are still at it, beating away on the Askimet-flavored invisible shell that protects this site from a flood of vile and unwanted comments. If you’re not familiar with spam bots, the way they work is that someone writes a program that knows how to go out on the web and visit blogs. Once the program finds a blog, it clicks on the link for a particular post and then tries to leave a comment advertising whatever evil product it was designed to promote (pornography, drugs, Jessica Simpson, etc.) What’s interesting though is that the latest round of Viagra and Cialis bots that come to this site are exclusively attacking articles about John Calvin and Calvinism. Which is ironic, because hawking vitality enhancers using Calvin is like using Chewbacca to sell Rogaine, Dick Clark to sell anti-aging cream, or Joel Osteen to sell pseudo-Christian heresy. What I’m saying is, Calvin is potent and the bots know it!! But this has set me to thinking (a rare and lofty achievement), what will be the next Reformation figure tie-in? What will the bots try to advertise on articles about Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, and so on?

If you have an idea, leave a comment. But be forewarned — somewhere in this wild and crazy world, bathed in the dim glow of a monitor, and with nothing but thoughts of personal gain, a programmer is already thinking about it. (Except, you know, not really…)

New Book on the Way: The Expository Genius of John Calvin

Yesterday, after hearing about it at Challies.com, I ordered The Expository Genius of John Calvin a book by Steven Lawson in his A Long Line of Godly Men series. Calvin is one of those people who have been much maligned in recent years, to the point that where I live in NC, the term Calvinism is practically synonymous with the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism. I find that sad, and am quite interested in learning more about the man that Karl Barth described as follows:

Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin (Letter to Eduard Thurneysen, June 8, 1922).

I’ll write up a review once the book is in and I’ve had a chance to read and (hopefully) digest it.

Predestination, Free Will, and Obedience

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that predestination and free will are mutually exclusive, but I’m not so sure that I buy it. Scripture talks about both predestination and choice and from my understanding of this issue, the two can exist quite happily side by side.

The best analogy that I have for what I’m talking about is this: Let’s say you and I sit down to play a game of chess, and I have absolute foreknowledge (i.e. I know every outcome to any move I make). From my point of view, I can determine your resulting actions with my first move, what’s more, the knowledge I possess makes the actions that I cause you to make, a conscious choice on my part. But this is the interesting part: from your perspective, you are just playing a game of chess. My foreknowledge does not affect your game in any way, unless you choose to think about it (and to dwell on it). Of course, if we were to flesh the analogy out a little more to represent Him more fully, God would also have the advantage of having created/fashioned his “opponent”, the chess board, the rules of the game, and everything else involved.

So how can God hold people accountable for what he has pre-determined?

The short answer is because he is God. Come to think of it, that’s the long answer as well. As a parent, I have to say that it’s not that much different with my 18 month old son, and I’m not anywhere close to being omni-anything (omnivourous, maybe). There are plenty of times that I know he is tired, or very suceptible to some temptation and I choose to put him into a situation where I “know” he will fail. And I punish him. Even though I’ve been responsible for his training, even though I can see it before it happens.

But doesn’t that make us into puppets? How can God take pleasure in puppets?

Ask an author. Ask a movie director. If a human being can write a story and love his creation, if a director can make a film and be pleased and thrilled with his work, why can’t an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God create a universe, tell a story, and reveal himself in all His glory and be pleased with what he has done? Or to say it a different way: On the seventh day of creation, did you think that was going to be the last time that God looked at what He had done and said it was very good? Do you believe that when the world has run its course and God reveals to us His grand design, that He will look back at any place in time and say, “This was not supposed to happen…” do you believe there will be any blemish upon the canvas?

But if God has “stacked the deck” and pre-determined all things, why do we proclaim the gospel? Why bother?

In such a scenario, the reason for doing anything is obedience. In the chess game analogy above, we know the objective, but in life, we have a more limited sense of understanding of God’s ultimate goals. What I mean to say, is to some extent, we don’t know exactly what God is about. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

In the end, this ties back to everything I’ve said previously on this blog about gender issues and the church. We know that wives represent the church and husbands represent Christ, we know that the oneness of flesh and the mystery even of sexual union has some symbolism of God’s ultimate plan, but it’s not clear. And so we obey. Usually with great hesitation and with horrible motives, but as we draw closer to Him, with greater and greater fervency. And all the while, we think: When the light on the other side of the glass comes on and it becomes clear, what will we see, what will we be, and what will we know and understand of Him?