More On the Impossibility of Calvinistic Christian Psychotherapy

I wrote a post last week about the theological impossibility of Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy. The basic idea was that Christian psychotherapy assumes that psychological well-being is intimately associated with, if not synonymous with, spiritual well-being, being reconciled and in intimate communion with God. More, given that Christian psychotherapy is, well, psychotherapy there is the assumption that the human agent--the client--has a capacity to make choices, decisions and changes that can move him or her toward that state of spiritual well-being, a reconciled relationship with God.

And yet, Calvinistic anthropology denies this agentic capacity, this ability through your choices and changes to move toward God and a state of grace. And in denying that capacity it seems that a Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy is rendered logically impossible. A person cannot do anything to move, in a decisive way, into a state of grace. And without attaining that state of grace full psychological well-being cannot be achieved. The therapist and client must wait upon the saving action of God. The therapist can pray for the client, but she can't do therapy. At least not therapy that might produce rich and robust psychological outcomes.

Arminian anthropology, by contrast, grants a human capacity to make choices, decisions and changes that can decisively move a person toward union with God. This capacity is granted by the Arminian conviction that humans have free will and are expected to exercise that will in moving toward God. Because of this anthropology Arminian Christian psychotherapy is logically coherent. In an Arminian Christian psychotherapy the human efforts of both client and therapist are believed to be efficacious in moving the client toward God--toward spiritual well-being--which in turn profoundly affects and supports psychological well-being. This is not to deny the activity of the Holy Spirit in the therapeutic process. It is simply the recognition that beyond prayer therapy works as therapy, as human agentic activity that can move a person into a state of spiritual well-being. Basically, the relationship between seeking spiritual well-being and human effort in psychotherapy makes sense given how Arminians view human agency.

To make the logical issues here more clear, we can imagine three premises:
The Therapeutic Premise:
Therapy involves human agents making choices and changes that lead to greater well-being.

The Well-Being Premise:
Psychological well-being is dependent upon being in a state of grace, a reconciled relationship with God.

The Anthropological Premise:
  1. Calvinistic Version: Human agency lacks the capacity to move a person into a state of grace, into a reconciled relationship with God.
  2. Arminian Version: Human agency is capable of moving a person into a state of grace, into a reconciled relationship with God.
If I was a better logician I probably could re-word these premises to tighten up the logical associations between them. Still, I think the basic idea is made clear. If you accept the the Therapeutic Premise, the Well-Being Premise, and the Calvinistic Version of the Anthropological Premise you have, what seems to my eye, a logical impossibility:
Therapy involves making choices and changes to move toward greater well-being. Well-being is dependent upon being in a reconciled relationship with God. However, humans lack the capacity to make choices or changes to bring about being in a reconciled relationship with God. Therefore, the logical outcome: Therapy cannot improve well-being.
If, however, you are working with the Arminian Version of the Anthropological Premise you have something that is logically consistent and coherent:
Therapy involves making choices and changes to move toward greater well-being. Well-being is dependent upon being in a reconciled relationship with God. Humans have the capacity to make choices or changes to bring about being in a reconciled relationship with God. Therefore, the logical outcome: Therapy can improve well-being.
Which brings us back to my conclusion from last week.

A Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy is an impossibility.

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69 thoughts on “More On the Impossibility of Calvinistic Christian Psychotherapy”

  1. Richard,

    I’m not a Calvinist, and yet I can’t help but feel that this is somehow missing the mark of the Calvinist position. What makes me nervous is the tight relations being drawn between psychological well-being and soteriology. Now I fully agree in a holism that eschews any rigid lines cut between spiritual and psychological issues (or with that physical and the social as well, for that matter); however, it is the Calvinist position, I believe, that in issues of salvation we cannot effect our own turning. Put the other way, what you seem to be saying is:

    Being is a right-relation with God is a choice.

    As free-will agents we are free to make the choice to that right relationship.

    In a sense, then, therapy is an alternative to Christianity. I suppose we can keep the stories, and we can pretend that there is a physical gift that we are free to receive—in the life and death of Jesus—but in the end it is about us and our choice, about our freedom, our well-being. We are able to get there. We can do it. We can do it together.

    If only we had therapy a way back when, maybe we could have avoided all of the messy biblical stuff.

    In the end, I think Calvinists have simply solidified and fortified the importance of making God the author of all that is good. From what I have read (not that much) it seems that Calvinists do believe in free-will, but they have made the somewhat abstract and scholastic move to harden thanksgiving and supremacy into concrete theological principles. I think deep down Calvinists hope and believe just as much as anyone in the striving and hoping and choosing a better path, but they we not fail to blame God for all well-being we receive—even the well-being seen among non-Christians from ‘common grace’…

  2. Hi Ryan, a comment about this bit you write:

    "But in the end it is about us and our choice, about our freedom, our well-being. We are able to get there. We can do it. We can do it together."

    First, I don't think this worry is any different than the standard criticism that Calvinists level at Arminians, particularly when Arminians drift closer to Pelagianism. The point being, this isn't really a rebuttal of my argument, just a rehashing of the old debate between these two views. Which is fine, but it doesn't much get at my point, that a Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy doesn't make much sense.

    But second, and more importantly, I don't want to paint a vision that Christian psychotherapy doesn't have robust theology of God's work in our lives and a robust view of the Holy Spirit. What we are talking about here isn't a vision of the human agent, all alone, working toward being a better spiritual person. Because, yes, that smacks of a "works based" righteousness. What we are talking about, rather, is the universal capacity (or the denial of that capacity) to accept God. Arminians believe in this universal capacity. Calvinists deny it. But to be clear, Arminians believe that once God is "chosen," once we respond, God enters our lives, gives us grace, gives us the Spirit and, thus, the supernatural ccapacity going forward for spiritual well-being.

  3. A follow-up comment based on last week's post.

    My sense is that the premise in the post most likely to be rejected is the Well-Being premise by positing a disjoint between psychological well-being and spiritual well-being, to separate salvation from mental health.

    No doubt if one does that they save therapy as therapy, but what they fail to save is Christian therapy. I'm not saying a Calvinist can't do regular old therapy in mental health industry. That's not what we are talking about.

    But if you reject the intimate associations between psychological and spiritual well-being you reject the prospect of Christian therapy. Which might be all well and good. But if one wanted to preserve Christian therapy then I think they'd need to wrestle with the theological underpinnings of that project if they were a Calvinist.

  4. I guess my point above is that the focus of the Calvinism/Arminian divide is over soteriology, not therapy. Arguing that a Calvinistic worldview makes therapy impossible, or otherwise difficult or what have you, is to bring the
    wellness sought for from therapy too close to the well-being sought for from faith by grace.

    I agree therapy should have a robust theology—whether Christian or not—but the issues between Arminians and Calvinist seem to me to be merely semantic. That perhaps these abstract lines only hold some abstract
    fight. Really, I’m not sure Calvinists or Arminians, in practice, act or think or hope much differently from one another.

    Again, the Calvinist position is set (why am I arguing this, I’m not a Calvinist!) to give credit and thanks to God—even for the grace to make the turning choice. This way we can boast about nothing. Whether this is silly or not, it is a valid position.

  5. "I guess my point above is that the focus of the Calvinism/Arminian divide is over soteriology, not therapy."

    That goes to rejecting the Well-Being premise in the post, that salvation has no mental health consequences or correlates. As I mentioned in this thread, that's a perfectly fine thing to argue, but it effectively denies the prospect of Christian therapy, which is what I'm talking out.

    As to if the differences between Calvinists and Arminians are merely semantic. Perhaps. Seems, though, that a lot of very smart people over the centuries wouldn't be arguing over something a small as a verbal confusion. There are legitimate issues of difference. But still, I tend to agree with you. As I noted in the post last week, most Calvinists I know tend to operate as Arminians, they assume that everyone has the potential and capacity to respond to God. And if that's the case, it merely goes to prove the point I've been making: an Arminian view best supports the prospect of Christian therapy.

  6. I should have said, “the focus of the Calvinism/Arminian divide is primarily about soteriology, not therapy.”
    And I’m not sure that most Calvinists are practicing Arminians anymore than the opposite is true—that, in the end, Arminians thank God for even the grace to have made the right choices in life. Even they eventually throw that crown down…

    I'm not here persuaded why I should take sides in this at all. Why does it matter? For I can see why a Calvinist would see his practices analogically to that of the grace required by God. That his/her practice is an intervention from the outside as an act of grace to a sick soul, and that this grace is a way of activating the power within an individual and not simply downloading a new and better program for them. But it is important for the Calvinist to see this relationship as analogical and not univocal—thereby avoiding the collapse of therapy and soteriology.

  7. It only matters if a Christian therapist wants to have a coherent theology of what they are doing in the therapy room.

  8. A hard disjunction between psychological well-being and spiritual well-being must be avoided. Agreed. But can it not be the case that the Calvinist comes closer to a proper analogical relationship between the two? That the therapist is a mediator that does not subvert a patient's will but instead offers help to activate a sick soul towards restoration. The therapist is a vanishing mediator, a conduit of grace.

    The Calvinist position is that we are not the author of any aspect of our lives. Yet we are still paradoxically free to choose. This compatibilist notion is perhaps best seen in the move 'Stranger than Fiction'—where Dustin Hoffman,
    playing a university English professor, could be seen as a type of Calvinist therapist...

  9. A couple of questions. One: Is human agency rooted in creation or redemption, or, to put it another way, are the human agents mentioned in the Therapeutic premise redeemed or not? Two: how does the person with autism get moved "into a reconciled relationship with God" under the Arminian anthropologial premise if they are not already in that relationship? I'm not trying to play gotcha, but I'm struggling to agree that, theologically speaking, the premises are actually true.

  10. It has been a bit unclear. I've always been talking about Christian therapy. In the last post it was assumed given the context of the posts from that week. In this more stand-alone post I've made that assumption explicit.

    To your question about the distinctiveness of Christian therapy is a huge one. Opinions are all over the map and what constitutes Christian therapy can vary wildly. All that to say, I'm bracketing those questions as my criticisms here aren't really about techniques and the distinctiveness (or lack thereof) of those techniques among, say, a Christian, Jewish, or secular therapy session. Let alone that there is no generic brand of "Christian" therapy. My criticism has to do with the theological coherence of the Christian therapeutic enterprise, theoretically understood.

  11. If you add the premise: "God, in his plan, cause use the means of therapy to reconcile an individual to himself" then the contradiction goes away.

    You're right in a sense, that Calvinists believe that _without God_ therapy will not improve well-being. That however is true about roughly everything. "Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain." Psalm 127.

  12. I suppose I am missing the point. Perhaps I have just never met those Calvinists.

    But I think the type of hard determinism that you are skewering Calvinists for is really not always present among their better thinkers. Just as semi-Pelagianism is not present among the better articulations of classical Arminian thought. Perhaps it is a wrong assumption on my part, but these two contrasting views both seem hypothetical and perspectival. Beyond being dogmatic, I don’t see how either camp can prove their case, and in the end I see little practical difference, and that is NOT to say that the Calvinist side practically caters to the Arminian perspective—but that both sides are really saying both things at different times and in respective to different questions (framing questions)…

    For instance John Piper's views on election:

    or on irresistible grace:

    Can you offer some examples of Calvinists who would say that we do not have free-will or that we have no ability to respond to God's grace? Again, I think most Calvinist do make a distinction (not a dichotomy) between saving grace, which is monergistic, and other graces, which are synergistic.

  13. I agree and, to be honest, this is one of the reasons I can't be a Calvinist. It just...doesn't make sense to me in any sort of practical way. It seems like the more practical you are interested in getting (in the case, helping other people through counseling), the further away you find yourself from central tennets of Calvinism. As far as I'm concerned, for a theology to be viable it needs to be practical.

  14. “Analogy, man's surest guide below” Night Thoughts, Edward Young...

    My appeal to analogy is in the interest of opening a path between the saving monergistic grace that Calvinism speaks of and the synergistic grace that they teach in regards to sanctification. What I have been trying to say, perhaps rudely, and much to my surprise—since I’m not a Calvinist, nor will I ever be one!—is that there can be a distinction between monergistic saving grace and synergistic sanctification, of which Calvinism teaches. I think the idea of synergistic sanctification makes Calvinistic, Christian therapy readily possible and coherent.

    My appeal to analogy is not made inductively but deductively, I simply believe it false that the association between Tracy’s, I mean Richard’s, view of therapeutic well-being and saving well-being should not be seen equivocally or univocally. Therefore it makes sense to see them in some sort of analogical relationship. Yes, what kind of analogical relation is yet to be debated…

  15. I'm not talking about "hard determinism" I'm talking about the universal potentiality to be reconciled to God, a key tenet of Arminiansim.

  16. "I think the idea synergistic sanctification makes Calvinist, Christian therapy readily possible and coherent."

    Again, that's missing the point, as this "synergistic sanctification" is only not universally available in Calvinsism as it is believed to be in Arminiansim.

  17. I struggle a bit with the tautological nature of this sort of argument. If it happens the Lord wills it. If the Lord wills it it happens.

    So the relevant issue, for me, is how Calvinist or Arminianism sets up the generalized therapeutic expectation that everyone has access to and can respond to God's grace.

  18. In other words, a complete answer is probably beyond the scope of this thread. :)

    I do appreciate the response, however, and completely understand that the focus is on the paradoxical nature of therapy from a strict Calvinist perspective.

  19. Well, at least beyond the bounds of the three minutes I had to respond before running off to class!

    But a bit longer answer...

    To one extreme you have Christian therapists that don't practice any differently from "secular" therapists. Same way a Christian plumber doesn't practice any differently, technique-wise, from a non-Christian plumber.

    To the other extreme you'd have a therapy that would look very much like spiritual direction, bible study or pastoral counseling, where mental health isn't much discussed but spiritual health is the focus. A version of this is what is called "biblical counseling" (for example:

    And then anything in between.

  20. I’m no expert on Calvinism, but I don’t see how this is different from their view. All mankind has this universal potential (for whatever, I guess it doesn’t matter here). The question is: how do we move from potential to actual? Who does the acting? Is this from man or God? If it is from God, do we know when and who? No. If it is from God, does he use people, even non-Christians, to effect His purposes? Why not? Practically, I don’t see the difference?

  21. To suss out why, I think it helps to ask whether grace "perfects" or destroys nature. If "destroys" is chosen, a category outside or "above" nature must supervene, and the therapist can make no claim to super nature, except as an instrument of it, which I think has no cash value in analogy (and Ryan seemed to agree). But if grace perfects nature, there's no problem. So to me it's the "total depravity" bit that makes it unworkable: grace and nature can't overlap. Given that starting point, human agency supplies only dirty rags, a la Luther, and God applies the detergent...but by means of the therapist? Then the therapist qua therapist isn't an "agent" in the process.

    I note this because I think Ryan would want to say that a therapist acts secondarily--in some sense--as an agent of grace/healing. But underlying principles block the "deductive" approach he wanted to keep open.

    Ever the nerd.

  22. Yeah, I reject the Well-Being premise from both sides. I think it is dangerous to reason in either direction: that a person is mentally well-adjusted = they must be reconciled to God OR you are reconciled to god = you should be (at least on the path toward becoming) mentally well-adjusted.

    Too many saints showed way too many symptoms of mental illness for me to readily believe that moral virtue and deep spirituality are very well connected to mental health / sanity. I'm tempted to suggest that there is a pretty strong correlation between a life lived passionately for God and various mental afflictions. Societal images of health and well-being may actually be gently opposed to discipleship under the resurrected and still wounded Lord.

    Furthermore, I'm suspicious of calling any enterprise particularly "Christian". I'm quite okay with doing away with Christian therapy and instead just asking how a particular follower of Christ might engage in therapy generally. To me therapy is amply justified from a theological perspective just as a work of mercy. If we can offer compassion and healing in any amount (whether that conduces to what we might call salvation or not) then it is fitting work for Christians to engage in.

  23. I thought I'd provide a pre-protestant (Medieval Scholastic) view against which I think Calvinism, following Luther, was positioning his theology:

    In Thomas' Summa Theologica the section on "The Perfection of God" (Question 4 of Part One) states that "All created perfections are in God." (Second Article) That in itself assures that there is a progression from nature to God, which is--in fact--the starting position of the entire work: " is directed to God as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason." (Part One, Question One, Article One)

    The scriptures cited in the section on "The Perfection of God" include: Matt. 5.48: "Be you perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect..."; Gen. 1.26: "Let us make man to our own image..."; and 1 Jn. 3.2: "When he appears...we shall be like him..."

    I think that the Medieval RC view forms the antithetical context for Calvinism--and it seems obvious, when you look at it--which is my excuse for advancing the idea without proper credentials...

    Interestingly, Thomas quotes Augustine in the following question (#5, "Of Goodness in General") that "inasmuch as we exist we are good." (From The Doctrine of Christ) "Interestingly," because Luther and Calvin were supposed to have followed Augustine in contradistinction to the later Scholastic tradition, against which they fulminated.

    Just some background.

  24. Tracy, I think Richard wants the therapist and patient to be in some cooperative relationship, somehow analogous to God and sinner in conversion, based on his telling of the Arminian versus Calvinist model. I don’t see how this particular analogy works. For I don’t see how psychic well-being relates to spiritual well-being univocally (on a one-to-one basis); and I don’t see how Calvinism equalates to a denial of free-will; and I don’t see how Calvinism denies that people can change or enact change or move towards better living (all while affirming that they can’t effect their own ‘saving grace’); and I don’t see how therapists play any efficacious roles akin to God.

    The whole thing seems like a caricature of both Arminian and Calvinist thought, the issues they entail, and the history of the debate. It seems more like we are arguing about Augustinian versus Pelagian views of anthropology—or perhaps this is more of a segue into a more eastern church view of man and God, I don’t know. What I do know is that Arminian and Calvinist thought both fall into large problems when they become overly individualistic—which is primarily the thrust of therapy.

    In my opinion, a solid view of how much God loves man, a biblical view of good versus evil, a living view of how we are to love our neighbor—whether from an Arminian or a Calvinist—should make for a good theological backdrop for therapy, no matter who the patient might be.

  25. I completely concur with the last paragraph. But in claiming that this post rests on caricature I think you're pulling an obscurantist move: to put the popular conception of Calvinism put out of bounds (basically, the TULIP/no-free-will version). The attempt to provide some historical context--see right below--was motivated to show that "popularly conceived" Calvinism seems to be justified in that it looks like a reaction to the R.C. tradition to which, in fact, the Reformers were reacting. And beyond that it is the popular version that impacts the theology of a great many people who take it more or less as both accurate and authoritative. But of course the history of the debate is much, much more complex.

    So I guess I'd ask this, if the post had been framed as a reaction to Calvinism as popularly conceived--and no Christian therapists I know (my wife and her friends from work, in my case) are experts on any theological viewpoint--would you have had reservations?

    For my part, one of several things I like about this blog is that Richard makes them relevant to non-experts. Too much theology--in my view--dies the death of a thousand qualifications. I'm a nerd, but I'm also a pragmatist: I don't want theology to lose relevance to the meanings most people go into theological discussions using. That's one reason I'm pushing against your "obscurantism" (in my view) and trying to support a post based on the popular version of Calvinism.

    But I've just made myself an easy target for not basing my view on a detailed history of the controversy...

  26. My hunch, Ryan, is that you don't actually think Arminianism and Calvinism are distinctive theological views (e.g., you've suggested that there is just some semantic confusion). If that's true then I can see how we aren't making any progress as you're denying that these two schools of thought exist. People like Roger Olson would be surprised to hear that.

    Do you believe that Arminianism and Calvinism have distinct areas of disagreement? If so, can you describe these disagreements?

    If your answer to the first question is no, then I'm not sure we'll make any more progress as we can't agree on the presuppositions. No worries about that, happens all the time.

  27. Your therapeutic expectation clearly begs the question in favor of Arminianism. The entire premise of Calvinism is that it is false that everyone has access to God's grace, as we are "Dead in trespasses and sin... by nature children of wrath" (Ephesians 2). Your conclusion is part of your premise.

    The entire question is "Does therapy carry a general expectation that _everyone_ has access to and can respond to God's grace". Or, put another way "Is therapy a pointless endeavor if anything less than 100% of patients (everyone) can be healed?".

    Both are clearly false from empirical data alone. Not all who enter therapy improve. Not all who enter hospitals live. God is free to use the occasion of the therapy to bring someone to himself. So long as it seems that he does so (which the empirical data also supports) then it is rational to pursue it as a means. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Eph 2:10. Such works, like therapy God uses for our good and the good of those around us. The question is not about proximate causes but rather of the ultimate cause, which is God.

    Thus from the Calvinist perspective one chooses to engage in therapy for precisely the same reason one does anything else: as an outworking of God's goodness in our own lives and towards others.

    Unrelated note: I really like the font on this website.

  28. As a minor addendum: you contrast Calvinist and Armenian "Anthropology" but it isn't anthropology, it's soteriology. Calvinism doesn't make claims about human agents qua agents, but rather human moral will as fallen.

  29. Surely there is an Arminian and a Calvinist school of thought (among others); but I think that both these two positions tend to talk past one another. And I think Roger Olsen would agree that both parties often caricature the other position to the point of being unhelpful. (I’d love to hear his take
    on this post.) Have you read what Olson has written in regards to the misrepresentations of both? Frankly, this discussion sounds as awkward as whether Democrats or Republicans make for better bankers…!

    Both Arminians and Calvinists believe in total depravity. Both groups believe that God works first toward saving man. Arminians believe that once awoken by prevenient grace, man can choose autonomously the free gift of salvation. Calvinists deny this move of man toward God. As John Mark Hick’s has said, both of these parties are basically different responses to the question “Why
    are some people damned?”

    Practically, both of these positions (against which, again, there are others!) turn out to be the same. Both theologies incite preaching and teaching and missions, etc. Both groups say they love God, both parties say they love their neighbor. While Calvinism tends to treat God’s glory above the love of God, Arminianism can tend toward the love of God over that of God’s glory. Which is better? I don’t know. Is this all I have to choose from? Is it not possible that these two parties hold one another in check--part of the fractured modern, American, Protestant metaphysics?

    But what on earth does any of this have to do with therapists and therapy? Why on earth would any of this lead me to affirm the proposition: “Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy is an impossibility”?

  30. I don’t find any lasting value in skewering the popular Arminian view of Calvinism. If that makes my protestations obscurantist, then so be it. But let’s just say that that was the expressed point of this post: that popular notions of Calvinism are incompatible with therapy. Okay, so the Arminian believes that people can respond to God, and so they too believe that people can respond to therapy. The Calvinist who denies free-will thinks that therapy is impossible—it’s pointless. People are who they are, end of story. If God wants them to get better, then they’ll get better.

    We’re just automatons. See that preaching over there, that’s God work, not man’s. See that missions, it’s all a ruse because God does whatever he wants. See that Calvinist therapist—either he thinks he’s a part of God’s scheming or he’s secretly an Arminian.

    This seems like a non sequitur to me. Do Calvinists believe this? I didn't choose my clothes this morning, God did? I didn't pick that cereal, God did? I didn't find this blog, God did? Come on! I don’t believe this is what Calvinism is teaching any more than I believe that Arminians are saying "I saved myself because I was presented the evidence and I chose the correct answer.”

    So if it's an ad populum claim versus an obscurantism, then I'll take the obscurantism, because whether you're a Calvinist or an Arminian, both somehow believe that education is possible. And so maybe we'll climb out of this obscure hole yet...there but for the grace of God go I.

  31. I don’t find any lasting value in skewering the popular Arminian view of Calvinism. If that makes my disagreements obscurantist, then so be it. But let’s just say that that was the expressed point of this post: that popular notions of Calvinism are incompatible with therapy. Okay, so the Arminian believes that people can respond to God, and so they too believe that people can respond to therapy. The Calvinist who denies free-will thinks that therapy is impossible—it’s pointless. People are who they are, end of story. If God wants them to get better, then they’ll get better.

    We’re just automatons. See that preaching over there, that’s God work, not man’s. See that missionary; it’s all a ruse because God does whatever he wants. See that Calvinist therapist—either he thinks he’s a part of God’s scheming or he’s secretly an Arminian.

    This seems like a non sequitur to me. Do Calvinists believe this? I didn't choose my clothes this morning, God did? I didn't pick my cereal, God did? I didn't find this blog, God did? Come on! I don’t believe this is what Calvinism is teaching any more than I believe that Arminians are saying ‘I saved myself because I was presented the evidence and I chose the correct answer.”

    Given the choice between obscurantism and an ad populum, I’d choose the obscure. For though it might seem unimaginable for some, both parties do believe education is possible, therefore I hope yet that we might find our way out of what seems obscure...There but for the grace of God go I.

  32. The fact that Calvinism does not make sense to you is not a valid argument. The Scripture says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Not that God does not want us to use our sense of logic, but there are times that the things of the Bible and of God become counter-intuitive. Much of the teachings of Jesus are counter-intuitive in fact, like turning the other cheek. Not a very practical teaching either. In fact, I struggle to understand what you mean by "for a theology to be viable it needs to be practical."

  33. This part--"Arminians believe that once awoken by prevenient grace, man can choose autonomously the free gift of salvation. Calvinists deny this move of man toward God."--I'm arguing makes Arminiainsim logically fit with the working assumptions of psychotherapy, as the client is believed to be able to "choose autonomously the free gift of salvation" which, as you've agreed to elsewhere in this thread, is critical to psychological well-being.

    By contrast, as you note, "Calvinists deny this move of man toward God" which logically clashes with the expectations of both client and therapist that they can, as the Arminians contend, "choose autonomously the free gift of salvation" and thus improve their emotional well-being.

    Basically, if spiritual well-being is intimately associated with emotional well-being (which you've granted) and "Calvinists deny this move of man toward God" (your words) then therapy as therapy, as human agents making choices toward well-being, is rendered logically impossible.

    All this seems clear to me.

  34. The do have distinct antropologies regarding their view of the will and its relative freedom or bondage. When, say, Arminians claim that humans have "free will" that's an anthropological statement. When that belief is denied a rival anthropology is being posited. Every soteriology has an anthropology sitting behind it.

  35. It does beg the question in favor of Arminianism, which is sort of my point, that therapy assumes Arminianism. That may be boo on the assumptions of psychotherapy (e.g., psychotherapy might be too humanistic for Calvinists), but that's fine, Calvinists just won't want to become therapists. And that's sort of my point.

    But I do think you comment about the failures of therapy being a sign of God's election (or lack thereof) is interesting. An attempted summary of your argument:

    An unregenerate person comes to therapy. The therapist tries to help, and can help to a point, but ultimately has to await the saving election of God. The client, after a long course of therapy, doesn't dramatically improve. From this we can assume that during the course of therapy God didn't elect/regenerate the client, thus the failure of therapy. Therapy can't work until election takes place.

    Is that a fair summary? If so, I'd argue that you are rejecting the Therapeutic Premise of the post, that therapy as therapy can improve well-being. Basically you're arguing that therapy is useless until God elects. Which is fine, maybe that is the case, but it undermines the working premise of Christian psychotherapy.

  36. A generally fair rendering, although I'd argue I'm not opposed to your therapeutic or well being premises.

    I agree that maximal well-being can only be had in a saving relationship with God. However well being comes in gradation. The greater the degree one is oriented towards the truth, the better off will one be. This is true about trivial things (a better understanding of nutrition is healthy) as well as intellectual things (logical thinking is helpful) and even higher things like wisdom or how to navigate relationships. There are a large set of things that a non saved person can grasp that are true and will improve his well being. Nonetheless unless he's rightly oriented towards God and his Grace he will be doing those things for himself, and not as an expression of love for God.

    Christian therapy is perfectly capable of improving an individual's well being in that sense. But let's say however that we're really just interested in bringing someone to grace, and that it's useless if it fails to do that. In some sense, your argument is functionally identical to the one which argues that preaching in a Calvinist world view is also a pointless exercise.

    Let's examine what's going on in the case of preaching or therapy and see if it's truly worthless. You have the preacher / therapist, who gets to articulate the truths of God's word and express them lovingly towards someone else. The recipient of this is the recipient of an incredible gift, towards which they, if God has worked in their heart, will turn towards lovingly, or continue in rebellion towards. Either the recipient becomes an example of God's perfect and glorious grace, or his perfect and glorious justice. Such a scenario is worthless? Even if not a single subject of therapy were brought to Christ it would still be our calling to preach the truth in whatever way fits our natural gifts and abilities, even were we like the judges of old to be preaching to dry bones. It is but an additional gift to us that God often chooses such circumstances to bring about change in the recipient.

    To return briefly to your Therapeutic Premise. I agree with it whole heartedly. The Calvinist argument about choice however goes "One always chooses whatever they want most in a circumstance". They may well want other things of course, but it's the strongest desire that wins. In fallen man, the strongest desire is to be God, or to substitute things in his place. God's saving work is the reorientation of that desire, such that the individual loves God. This love however is often poorly understood and at odds with the sinful inclinations still at work in the individual. Thus there is all kinds of therapy needed! Choices to be made! Changes to happen! BUT crucially those now happen rightly oriented. The world is full of such people, and God can often choose preaching and therapy to be the occasion for such a change of heart. Therapy is valuable before, on the occasion of, and after such a change.

    Expanding on this concept of choice would lengthen an already drawn out post but hopefully that's at least significantly clear.

  37. The points I ceded were what I thought you believed, not what I thought Calvinists believe. Do you also find Calvinist missionaries, evangelism, and preaching to be incoherent? Are these things equally impossible?

    Look, I get why we Arminians say and believe what we do, I just don't see why the Calvinist position has to be so obscure for us. In the end, it feels like Calvinism has become 'unclean' (intellectually) for you; like you're not even giving it a chance within the boundaries of what is possible.

  38. I do confess that I'm not a psychology person, and am not very familiar with precisely all the aims or necessary premises of Christian Psychotherapy. I've been viewing it so far as simply "normal therapy from a Christian perspective". If it means something stronger however to the effect of "Therapy by which someone OUGHT to be brought to a saving understanding of God, for their own well being" then that's a good goal, but it's going to run into the same problems all the philosophical arguments for God have. They SHOULD bring someone to a rational conclusion about God, but they don't. Sin gums up the workings of the mind such that it does not love the truth as God's truth.

    Just as some find the philosophical arguments persuasive and other's don't, Christian Psychotherapy will be effective for some and not others. The only version of Psychotherapy I see myself having an issue with is one that proposed that, if done perfectly would ALWAYS bring a person to God, but I think it's unlikely that that's what you espouse.

  39. But isnt Calvinism itself a form of individual and collective psychosis?
    Despite and contary to all the self-destructive permissiveness that saturates USA so called culture, the USA is saturated with puritannical (Calvinistic) double-mindedness relative to sexuality, and even bodily pleasure.
    By contrast, only men and women of intrinsic uncaused pleasure are capable of knowing the Truth, and thus of living the Truth in relationship to all other beings, and in all circumstances.

  40. The best outcome in an exchange, it seems to me, is when all parties believe education has been actual. I think that's what's happened here; we each see more and better than otherwise. Thanks for playing your part well!

  41. If the points you ceded were not what Calvinists believe then I'm unclear about if you answered the question above: In your understanding, what are the substantive areas of theological disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians?

  42. Richard, In my view, Arminians and Calvinists differ in perspective alone. For one believes that God is doing something prior to and through circumstance to initiate a change in an individual; the other believes that an individual makes some move or choice towards what one has been awoken to see as good. Both positions held too tightly lead to problems. Both groups who hold their respective positions see the opposite as having the greater danger. What scares me is the psychology behind how some demonize the other—on a sliding scale between academic dismissal to outright blaming and accusation.

    Look, is mental health and psychological well-being more important than physical health? No. Can there be such a thing as Christian medicine? Sure. Rejecting modern dichotomous thinking of body versus soul, should a Christian doctor not possess a good theology of the body? I think so. So, then, is the old fashioned ‘our bodies go in the ground our souls go up to heaven’, body/spirit split-type Christians, are these people oxymoronic to become doctors? How would we make this logical leap???

    Can someone have great mental health, to the eyes of any self-respecting psychologist, and still be “dead in their trespasses”? Can someone have “saving grace” and be extremely mentally ill? I don’t know. But according to the thrust of your post, these two things are impossible, and so Christian therapy becomes a kind of salvation that threatens to confuse anything special about the Christian hope and promise.

  43. The reason these two views differ in perspective alone is because both can explain the exact same facts by their internally coherent logic. What one psychologist believes is a real move and choice of an individual toward Christ, another sees a mere reaction to a prior movement of God’s grace, perhaps through and in the circumstance of doing Christian therapy. To ensure their position, Calvinist therapist will explicitly focus on the God, making their “biblical counseling” Christ-centered. This is to ensure no one chalks up what is accomplished to some human fad. But otherwise, I don’t see any practical differences. Both will use similar techniques in different ways and with different emphases.

  44. So to be clear, in your opinion, there are no substantive theological disagreements between Calvinism and Arminianism?

    If that's your case, theologians will be greatly relieved to find this out. We can tell scholars like Roger Olson to stop writing books like Against Calvinism ( Poor soul seems to be confused...

    Joking aside, Ryan, I appreciate your unifying spirit and your efforts to seek common ground. And insofar as we are talking about theological generalities, yes, there is much overlap. As there is between Protestants and Catholics. And perhaps we should, for spiritually formative reasons, focus on and celebrate such things. I'm willing to admit my sin in this regard, in not doing this more. But to ignore the legitimate theological debate that exists and refuse to give it critical scrutiny seems to bail on the great theological adventure of "faith seeking understanding."

  45. Ah, the binary thinking!
    Truly, I am the poor soul. I can read Olson’s Against Calvinism and agree wholeheartedly. I can then read Horton’s For Calvinism and wholeheartedly agree. Has no one else experienced something so frustrating? Does this mean there is not a substantial theological difference between the two? Maybe there is. But where is the neutral ground from which to judge? Is it not possible that both answers are wrong in some ways? Could it not be that there are perspective—more narrative and collective based—that could assuage these 'substantial' issues. Is a mediating view impossible? Call me a dreamer... Truly, I think there have been some times and places where none of this Arminian/Calvinist nonsense has had any sway. But as I look south to the States, I see this kind of two party bifurcation is all the rage. Have fun with it…

  46. It's not binary thinking. It's called critical thinking and--surprise, surprise--that involves logic and sifting through entailments which--surprise, surprise--often obey things like law of the excluded middle.

    (And BTW, did you really insinuate that I'm theologically confused because I'm an American? Really?)

    Here's the thing, if all you are saying is that both Calvinists and Arminians believe that God is sovereign and active and working, everywhere, to reconcile the world to himself and that view works very well with the prospect of Christian therapy, well, you've got no disagreement from me. Why? Because you are speaking in such generalities that your observation is not helpful in sorting out distinct theological viewpoints. Every Christian--from Protestant to Catholic to Orthodox--believes those generalities. Which is why you likely can, at that level, agree with every Christian writer you read. I get that. But to go on to ignore the specific theological content or particular viewpoints, convincing yourself that the generalities are somehow helpful, insightful or illuminating in sorting out those distinctive theological viewpoints, is to abandon the project and hard work of critical theological inquiry.

  47. Critical thinking, if only that what this was about. One person pulls the 'law of the excluded middle' card, the other says it’s a false dichotomy. Really, I don’t see how we have yet plumbed to the essence of
    things. And without doing that, without showing what is essentially antithetical in these positions, then there is no point. Have I helped in this regard? Probably not. And for this I’m sorry to have wasted your time. But when a statement is affirmed like, “A Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy is an impossibility”, it seems the onus is on you to prove why this is necessarily the case. Aside from preaching to the choir, I don’t see how this could possibly persuade an actual Calvinist. But I would pay good money to be proved wrong!

    You say elsewhere that you don’t think that Calvinists deny free-will, that they do not preach that we are mindless automatons. So, if Calvinists do not deny free-will, if instead all they state is that God’s grace is a necessary prerequisite for us make a move toward God, whether we see this empirically or not, then what is the real, substantial difference? Please, spend 10 minutes searching the web for the 'substantial differences' between these two camps, and you will find that both sides are very well equipped to delineate a coherent view from their side as to why the other side is missing the point and fails to do justice to the issue.

    So you agree there are differences and yet you feel compelled to pick between the two. Pragmatism aside, in your mind one view is right and the other view wrong. In your view there is no higher path to sublate or other options to circumvent the apparent impasse. Is this correct? (I know Olson believes that no synthesis is possible.)

  48. Critically thinking, please consider the following:

    Psychotherapy promotes well-being
    Becoming a Christian promotes well-being
    Therefore psychotherapy is the same as becoming a Christian

    Psychological well-being is dependent upon being in a state of grace, a right relationship with God.
    Most psychotherapy brackets any notion of ‘a relationship with God’
    Therefore most psychotherapy fails to offer well-being

    Calvinism believes that human agency lacks the capacity to move a person into a state of grace.
    Grace is required for salvation
    Therefore, if Calvinism is true, no one can be saved

    In therapy an individual is moves toward right living and right relations with the help of a therapist
    If a therapist is helping, then it is not truly the individual doing the moving

    Christian doctors should have a robust theology of the body.
    Some Christians believe in a strict spirit/body divide.
    Therefore, these Christians should not be doctors.

    Calvinists believe in predestination; if you are physically ill, then it is by God’s choice
    Doctors seek to heal people physically
    Therefore to be a Calvinist and a doctor would be to willingly thwart God’s will.

    Understanding why these arguments are fallacious will help you understand my difficulty with this post.

  49. I'm not above wondering if there is really any possibility for Christian counseling but wouldn't an Arminian one be more dangerous? My logic being that it places way too much emphasis on the realm of human action and understanding. From Calvinist view you can have a view that leaves everything up to divine action but having positive view of the human predicament seems far more dangerous. So a full Arminian counselor would lack the humility to see the limits of their point of view, understanding, and help are, while the counseled could live under the burden of feeling that they aren't enough of anything to make the changes. It would basically be a battle of will that could drive both further into a god-complex.

  50. Absolutely. It's a canard that is decades old that a Calvinist can't do missionary work because God is either going to save those people or he won't. This is fallacious because a sovereign God can command (and work through) human agents, as his chosen and predestined instruments, to do what He has predetermined to do.

    Similarly, a sovereign God can command (and work through) doctors, including psychotherapists, to offer spiritual/ mental/ emotional healing--but those psychotherapists might look a little different from your standard (do-it-yourself, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps) psychotherapists.

  51. O.K., Richard, I get that it's tautological. (I'm not a big fan of Calvinism.) But the tautology doesn't preclude therapy. Because it assumes that the person wouldn't have walked into your office if not led there by God.

  52. What about if we substitute another, less Arminian Therapeutic Premise? A premise like, "People seek healing, not from their own sinful/ sick will, but when prompted by God's Spirit." Or "Therapy involves people being used by God to help other people who are being led to healing by God." Of COURSE a Calvinist is going to have a glib answer for why some people aren't helped ("God didn't elect them"). But Arminians also have a glib answer for why some people aren't helped ("They didn't make the right choices"). Neither preclude the faith that any particular client will hopefully move toward healing--either because of their own choices, or because God is choosing that time/ process to help them.

  53. I think you're skewed here as a Universalist. As I've experienced it, Arminians don't think every person who walks in the door WILL respond to God's offer of grace--the "capacity" is empty and leads to no practical difference, since some people will NOT choose to respond to grace. Hence, functionally, an Arminian can only help a subset of clients (those who fall into the category, "Will ultimately choose to receive grace") just as a Calvinist can functionally only help a subset of clients (those who fall into the category, "Is ultimately elected by God to receive grace"). Functionally, these don't look that different. You hope any given client fits the category, and you work from there.

  54. But isn't this "potentiality" a bit too theoretical and abstract to make a difference?

  55. There's a line from J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey that you remind me of: "For a psychoanalyst to be any good with Franny at all, he'd have to be a pretty particular type. I don't know. He'd have to believe that it was through the grace of God that he'd been inspired to study psychoanalysis in the first place. He'd have to believe that it was through the grace of God that he wasn't run over by a goddam truck before he even got his license to practice. . . . I don't know any good analysts who think along those lines."

    Not to mean that Arminians can't appreciate God's grace. Just to say that a psychoanalyst could, I think, practice on the assumption that he was elected to hold that job, and that his clients were elected to be his clients, and that this would be a fine therapeutic set of assumptions. In other words, I think your "Therapeutic Premise" simply imports Arminianism, an unnecessary Arminianism, into the hope that any therapist should have that any given client might be a client that this particular therapist might be able to help. A Calvinist can feel that same hope; and an Arminian can feel the same helplessness (not, granted, because this particular client "isn't elect," but because this particular client "isn't choosing to receive grace"--which in some ways, at the practical level, comes to the same thing).

  56. Richard, does it help to compare this to other positions where theologians differ? Say, Protestantism versus Catholicism? Because I know Protestants who are always saying, "Well, you can't be a Catholic and a true believer in the uniqueness of Christ, because Catholics add in Mary and other saints"; and I know Catholics who are always saying, "Well, you can't be a Protestant and a true believer in the value of the Church, because without the Pope you don't really have a church." These statements may illuminate some differences between Catholics and Protestants; but they seem to obscure a lot, not least because they don't take the vocabulary of the opposing party on its own terms. I keep getting the feeling that you're doing this with Calvinists.

    Surely the claim that you are only doing critical thinking, and that the law of the excluded middle means that people have to mean things they don't think they mean (since Calvinists think they can be therapists), is not your usual conversational style.

  57. Good point, Richard. I'm just not sure how different the anthropologies are. As you note elsewhere, Calvinists don't deny (per se) that humans are making choices--they simply think that God's grace has preveniently determined what those choices will be. Yes, that may not sound like a "choice" in its absolutely purist sense, but if I remember right, you agree with most psychologists in not really believing that "choice" is ever really "pure."

  58. Tracy, this makes a lot of sense. But I've noticed something about Richard--whenever the "popular view" would "logically" lead to making false conclusions about a whole group of people, Richard backs up and challenges the popular view. (And "Calvinists aren't therapists" is of course a false conclusion--I've known some.)

    If a "popular view" of Hindus "logically" implies that Hindus can't be scholars, or if a "popular view" of atheists "logically" implies that atheists can't have a code of ethics, then maybe we should be a little more "obscurantist" in the interests of not misrepresenting a group we don't really know that well, or like that well.

  59. I just wish you'd have been a bit more creative in thinking through what a Calvinist therapist might think (coherently, theologically) she is doing in the therapy room. Instead, you seem to present what an Arminian therapist thinks (coherently, theologically) she is doing, and then note that a Calvinist doesn't think like an Arminian. (Duh!)

    So, for example, a Calvinist might say: a) I am one of God's predetermined tools, by which 2) God is moving God's predetermined recipients, 3) along God's predetermined path for wholeness/ healing in those clients' life. Is there anything incoherent or untheological about that?

    Granted, it might give the therapist a particular attitude toward those who don't move toward healing (they must not have been God's predetermined recipients), which is different from the Arminian's attitude toward those who don't move toward healing (they must not be willing to make choices to receive healing). But both conclusions are always, equally provisional. For the Arminian, tomorrow this client might still make a choice to receive healing, vindicating my work to bring her to that point. For the Calvinist, tomorrow this client might still reveal herself to be one of God's predetermined recipients, vindicating my work as God's fore-ordained path to bring this fore-ordained recipient healing.

  60. All this talk of Calvinism makes me so sad... and confused. Where's the hope? If God chooses you, count yourself lucky (or blessed, I suppose). If he doesn't, well you didn't deserve to be chosen anyway. Is that a God of love or is that a sadistic monster? And I know some people will reply, "God is love because he chose me (and my friends and family) even though I am evil. And because I am so evil and depraved he is not beholden to save me or anyone else." What bothers me is that it seems so many Calvinists are okay with this theology. Does it not trouble them that God has given humanity no choice? A dictator gives his people no choice. It's such a horrific concept to me. I just don't get it and I guess I will never understand people who do.

    I quote the (above linked) Pastor Cole of Flagstaff regarding Christian psychology:

    this elder and I were discussing Cloud’s approach, he told me that
    people like his wife who were from dysfunctional homes could not relate
    to my preaching because I emphasize obedience to God’s Word. Because
    they had strict, cold, authoritarian fathers, they don’t relate well to
    authority. I replied that I thought that I also put a strong emphasis on
    God’s grace as the motivation for obedience. But he responded that his
    wife couldn’t even relate to God’s grace — it went right by her. I was a
    bit taken aback, and so I said, ‘You mean that the many times I have
    spoken on God’s grace, she didn’t hear me?’ He said yes, in her 20 years
    on Crusade staff, never once had she felt God’s grace and love on a
    personal level.

    “I thought about what he had
    said and asked some clarifying questions to make sure I understood him.
    Then I responded, ‘If your wife has never felt God’s love and grace, she
    is not converted!’ I had been reading Jonathan Edwards’ classic, A
    Treatise on Religious Affections, in which he makes a strong biblical
    case that saving faith is not mere intellectual assent to the gospel,
    but that it affects the heart.”

    Pastor Cole
    reaches the conclusion that this woman is not saved. It fits in well
    with his Reformed theology, which holds that one must be drawn to
    salvation by the Father and that this grace is irresistible. However,
    this observation fits in well with a non-Reformed view of salvation as
    well, at least until you add in Christian Psychology.
    the point is that Christian Psychology makes the claim that some people
    who have certain psychological issues can’t experience God fully. If
    they could, they wouldn’t have psychological issues. Pastor Cole is
    correct in labeling Christian Psychology as heresy, at least from the
    standpoint of traditional, Biblical, Christian doctrine.

    Pastor Cole’s treatment of the subject misses another solution to this
    problem. Admittedly, it is a solution totally antithetical to
    Christianity, more so than the Christian Psychology he despises. It is
    this—what humans perceive as an experience with God is really no more
    than a psychological construct. The exact nature of that construct
    differs between religions. Christianity is an authoritarian religion, so
    its psychological construct requires a certain level of comfort with
    authority. Even grace itself is a gift bestowed on either the chosen
    ones (Reformed) or the properly yielded ones (non-Reformed) at God’s
    In this view of the problem we find that Christian
    Psychology, if true in its assertions, makes our concept of God to be a
    human invention. Christian Psychology has ended up disproving God.

    troubles me because I can relate to the elder’s wife. My choice then,
    is between one of two conclusions. If I uphold the Reformed view, God
    has not chosen me. If I do not subscribe to Reformed theology, God does
    not exist.
    Additionally, the concept that God is a
    psychological construct finds support in the numerous experiences of God
    we find in other religions. If Christianity is the one true way, they
    are not, but then what differentiates their communion with the divine
    from ours? The alternative is the idea that there are many ways to God.

    have always taken some solace in the concept that we must rely on the
    Word of God and not feelings. However, if Jonathan Edwards (and Pastor
    Cole) is correct, I'm in a pickle.

  62. The thesis here is that an Arminian anthropology is better suited for becoming a therapist. The idea, I think, is that an Arminian anthropology is more optimistic about man’s ability to change, and, by extension, the therapist is better situated to be a facilitator. The problem of course is that Calvinism is not as concerned with the anthropological question; and while it might influence some to be cold and fatalistic, I don’t see the necessary relationship.

    What would be interesting would be to note the reasons there are for a Universalist to become a therapist. Personally, I gravitate to some form of universalism—on the order of Gregory of Nyssa’s view, as best as I can reconstruct it. Universalism seems trite, though, coming from someone living all-too-comfortably (seemingly) in the first world. So perhaps out of some self-loathing (or an inner knowing of some looming purging fire) I find I can’t dismiss the more morbid possibilities of a Calvinist worldview—what if some are objects of His wrath—me?

    Paradoxically, I find myself with a split personality on this topic, because I don’t see how one can settle with any real conviction in any one camp for long. I was raised Arminian; and so that is like breathing to me. On many counts I find it wanting, however. So, Calvinism makes for a nice counterpoint. But again, it is obvious that Calvinism has its problems too. Universalism makes a lot of sense to me, and I don’t know why it gets such a bad rap. But all of these views have their idolatrous nooks and crannies. I don’t see how one can wear the badge of any of these views for too long without
    reconsidering the positive points of the other positions.

    So much like the atonement (or with the resurrection) I think we can see these questions through different lens at different times. And from that perspective, I’m not sure why a Calvinist can’t make a good therapist.
    Or perhaps I need an Arminian therapist for my double-mindedness...

  63. A Calvinist would say humanity does not have the capacity to say "yes" back to God, save one, Jesus Christ. The critical offering of faith is received by God from humanity in Jesus Christ. Lee, could you consider that central to the good news is that Jesus Christ has believed for us, for humanity, when we could not ourselves believe?

  64. I don't know if you are still reading, but. . . . .

    A better Calvinist would say that your struggles with the issue, your awareness that you are not (fully?) experiencing grace, your desire to "know" God and grace in a different way than you do now, are all hopeful signs. I think there is a real danger in human impatience--in thinking that God will never, never, never do more in your life than He has done up to this point.

    Pastor Cole put the issue, perhaps, a bit too starkly--to say she is "not converted" could sound like blaming her. A different way would be to say: This person's difficulty experiencing God's grace is not, ultimately, about the preaching (flawed though it may be), or the pastor's theology, or her theology, or anything else. It is, ultimately, about the ways that God has (or has not) yet revealed God's self to her. So our proper place is not simply to deal with the window-dressing, but to earnestly pray that God will reveal God's self to her. And we may find that her own dissatisfaction with her current experience of church MAY be the very means by which God is taking the first step toward revealing God's self to her. . . .

    Praying that you (and I) experience God more directly than we have so far.

  65. I've got pretty huge problems with this because I think it doesn't accurately represent Calvinism. The Westminster Confession states the following concerning God's work in ordaining the future: "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (WCF 3.1)

    Reformed theology maintains that God's decree of future occurrences does not cause any violence to be done to the will of the creatures, nor hinder the liberty or efficacy of secondary causes. Humans are perfectly free to act and will, but those actions work together according to the purpose of God because He established them.

    Yes, it is true that Calvinists do not believe that humans are capable in themselves to move towards a state of grace, but we would absolutely affirm that it is God "who works it in us both to work and will for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). So then, people actually do work and will for God's good pleasure, but He inspires such action through grace.

    Why then could a Calvinist not recognize and celebrate psychotherapy as a potential avenue through which God may work? I don't think they are even remotely contradictory or inconsistent. At least, they most definitely don't need to be.

  66. I am a Calvinist and I make conscious decisions and choices to move into God's grace. The only difference is, when I asked to give credit for those decisions, I must give credit to God.

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