Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Did Martin Luther Suffer from Neurosis? Some Protestant Biographers Think So

By Dave Armstrong (4-28-10)

1) Mark U. Edwards, Jr., in Donald K. McKim, The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), p. 205:

Most scholars freely concede the unusual and perhaps even abnormal aspects of Luther's personality, without accepting the diagnosis that attributes these traits to an underlying psychosis. By most standards, Luther was a neurotic man who, later in life, suffered from bouts of depression. Given all the evidence of productivity, clarity of thought, and ability to work with others, however, it is highly doubtful that he can be properly diagnosed as a psychotic.

2) Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2nd edition, 1914 ), Preface to the Second Edition, p. viii:

Of Luther's early life and development prior to 1517 I have now arrived at a somewhat different conception from that set forth in the present biography. Sturdy as was the Saxon's constitution, a neurotic vein may be detected in his violence of language, in his obsession by the devil, and, one is tempted to add, in that conception of God as a cruel and capricious tyrant, which he himself confessed was repugnant to natural feeling.

3) R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, revised edition of 1997; paperback edition of 2000), p. 78:

Luther's chronic stomach troubles have also been linked to a psychosomatic problem. His neurotic phobias all seemed to go directly to his stomach, destroying his digestion.

4) Michael A. Mullett, Martin Luther (Florence, Kentucky: Routledge, 2004), p. 101:

. . . the kind of extreme scrupulosity that Luther himself had known over trivial offenses . . .

[Overscruposity is considered a neurosis]

Addendum: My Strong Disagreement With Attempts to Classify Luther as a Psychotic, Madman, Demon-Possessed, or Insane

[written in reply to a Catholic who thinks this]

We have some disagreement on Luther. I think he suffered from cyclical depression and overscrupulosity. I don't think he was "nuts," though. Manic-depression or bipolar disorder (even if he suffered from that, and I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility, though I don't positively assert it) is more of an emotional malady than a mental one. One doesn't usually lose touch with reality. It is emotional highs and lows. I minored in psychology and know a little bit about this stuff.

Neurosis is a different thing. We know that Luther was overscrupulous, from the reports of his ridiculously detailed confessions as a Catholic monk. Talking to the devil doesn't necessarily prove anything. Jesus did that. I'm sure many saints have as well. It could possibly be a weird thing, but not necessarily.

I don't see the benefit of arguing that he was nuts. It is only seen as a personal attack. I prefer to stick to his false theology and ideas. That's where the heart of the discussion lies. As for this other stuff, I go with what almost all Protestant biographers believe: he suffered from periodic serious depression and had some other eccentricities.

We need not regard a man as either evil or insincere (let alone nuts or demon-possessed) because he taught some false theology. He was still a Christian.

Related Posts of Mine:

Luther's Frequent Depression, Spiritual Crises, and Erroneous Projection Onto St. Paul of His "Evangelical Experience"

Did Martin Luther Suffer From (Probably Biochemically Produced) Serious Psychological Maladies (Particularly Recurring Severe Depression)?

Erik Erikson Believed That Martin Luther Was a "Manic-Depressive" (Bipolar)


Monday, April 26, 2010

Loving Ourselves as God Loves Us

By Dave Armstrong (4-26-10)

Here's something a bit different from my usual writing. It came about on the CHNI forum. One woman was expressing her fears about "measuring up" as a Catholic and of being lukewarm and not fully surrendering to God; not being "perfect," etc. I had a few thoughts on that:

* * * * *

It's all about God's mercy and love. We are all part of the fall, and we struggle with concupiscence, temptation, and various manifest shortcomings in our lives every day. But God loves us now: not some ideal of what we will be one day by His grace. Therefore, it is foolish for us to have higher standards for ourselves, in order to love and accept ourselves (faults and sins notwithstanding), than God Himself does.

It is the case with most of us that our heads can understand these things, but not our heart. All we can do is truly fall on our faces and rely on God's mercy. If we keep doing that, as a deliberate act of the will, eventually it does indeed filter down to our hearts, and we begin to feel it, too.

Human beings are that way. Many times in life we have to decide to do something because it is right (or true). And so we make an act of the will. If we keep doing that, it becomes a habit. If we keep up the habit it becomes a virtue, and eventually it becomes part of us and is as natural as breathing.

I think that is the case here. We have to keep "conditioning" ourselves that God loves us as we are. We have to get out of the mold or rut we have gotten into, and start looking at things from God's perspective.

You (and anyone else) can do this! And you can because if you know it is right you can decide to start thinking in a different way so it becomes part of your heart in due course. And you can do all this primarily because God gives you the grace and strength to do anything He wants you to do.

Even on a human level we can observe such a dynamic. My wife, for example, had some problems in terms of self-image and what she had often been told in her life before I met her. I rejected these. I told her that they were not true: that she was not what folks thought, in certain aspects. Well, lo and behold, after some years of having her husband positively reinforce her, now she no longer believes those things. It was a matter of reinforcement and thinking about something in a different way.

I see the same thing in my children. Sometimes they don't feel loved (due to discipline) or feel that one is being favored or whatever (typical sibling, children stuff). But we just keep telling them how much we love and admire them for who they are, and eventually it sinks in and they feel better about themselves.

One of my sons in particular had some self-image issues because he was strong-willed and hence, was disciplined a bit more than the others. But he has come out fine. Yesterday, in fact, he just got an award for outstanding service of young people in their churches. Out of 12 parishes, only six young people were given this award (and just one other young man), and there was my son (16yo): one of them. I was so proud I think I busted three buttons on my shirt. And of course my wife felt just as I did. It was wonderful.

That's like God, "rooting" for us and loving us unconditionally. All we have to do is learn to trust in His mercy and love. If we keep doing that, our own opinions will change, too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview for Catholic Books and Gifts / Catholic Free Shipping
Dave and Judy Armstrong: December 1991: I was a father, a Catholic, and had a driving / delivery job (all new things in that year). My first published article (in The Catholic Answer) was just 13 months away. I had already written by this time my conversion story in Surprised by Truth and portions of my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

By Dave Armstrong (4-23-10)

Please visit Catholic Books and Gifts and purchase their products. You can see this interview on that website, too.

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1. What influenced you to take up apologetics?

Initially it was exposure to C. S. Lewis in the late 70s that pushed me in that direction. I read Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters and enjoyed them all very much. I was in college at the time and concerned, as an evangelical Protestant, about being able to defend my faith in a rational manner, over against all the secularism that one gets in colleges these days. I wanted to integrate faith and reason; religion and rationality: to love God with my mind as well as my heart, soul, and strength (as our Lord Jesus Himself commanded us to do). But my Christian faith was still forming at that time: having been very secularized and indeed, almost nonexistent for the previous ten or so years.

The next phase was to become acquainted with the historical apologetics of Josh McDowell: his book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The name of my old website (1997-2007) and current blog is derived from that book: Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. I was also highly influenced by the Presbyterian apologist Francis Schaeffer in the early 80s. I started reading a lot, doing "Bible research" projects like studying the biblical rationale for the Trinity and deity of Christ, and also learning about heretical sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses and doing outreach to them along with street witnessing: particularly at the Ann Arbor Art Fair all through the 80s.

Also, I got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship in college. From 1985 to 1989 I did campus outreach and evangelism at the University of Michigan, sponsored by my churches. So I was trying to cultivate a "thinking man's evangelicalism" in those years. Once I became a Catholic in 1990, it was natural to progress right along to Catholic apologetics as well. I still do general Christian apologetics, but now I also defend the teachings of the Catholic Church, and especially try to show that they are as grounded in the Bible as any Protestant denomination.

2. What is the hardest part about apologetics? Easiest? The most satisfying? The most disappointing?

The hardest part (and most disappointing) is when you come up against a will or a mind that is immune to argument and reasoning: as with the fringe group of anti-Catholics or many atheists, and some other categories that I won't name! I find that very difficult when I feel that a person has a closed mind because of the environment he is in. It's immensely frustrating. I have seen many times the dynamic of the old saying: "a man convinced against his will retains his original beliefs still." Of course, the Holy Spirit has to break down the will that is opposing the truth. But hopefully, He uses us apologists -- weak vessels that we are -- to help "remove roadblocks" and eliminate groundless objections.

The easiest part of it is doing what I love and showing how falsehoods are untrue. In other words, if the truth is on our side it is a lot easier to defend that than to defend opinions that are false in the first place. It's like being an attorney with a terrible case to try to win: where the person truly seems guilty of the crime.

The most satisfying aspect of apologetics is to see people come into the fullness of the Catholic Church and to observe the joy and enthusiasm they have at that time and thereafter. I work part-time at The Coming Home Network, on their forum, and this Easter we had at least 30 people enter the Church. That's why I do what I do. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. This is what God called me to do with my life. I want to do my part to help Catholics be happier, more fulfilled, and confident in what they believe, so that they can in turn effectively share their faith, and the "pearl of great price" with others. The harvest is ready . . .

3. What is the most common question you find yourself defending?

The basis of Catholic beliefs in the Bible (far and away), and especially the basis of Catholic authority (which gets into the areas of sola Scriptura -- i.e., the Protestant notion of "Scripture Alone" as the only infallible authority -- and the papacy and various aspects of Sacred Tradition). That's convenient for me because that has always been my deliberate emphasis in my apostolate: showing the biblical rationale for Catholic beliefs. One can see that theme in my books. The Bible is the common ground that we share with our Protestant brethren, so if we wish to persuade them, we have to argue from that ground. They don't accept what "some pope said 200 years ago." That is not their authority. But if one makes a solid argument from the Bible, they have to grapple with that; they can't casually dismiss it as what they see as "arbitrary authority."

4. What advice would you give to a person who is struggling with accepting a tenet of their Catholic faith?

I would tell them first to pray about it: ask God to reveal to them that it is true (if indeed it is, and they already suspect that it is or they wouldn't be struggling), since faith is not merely about reason. It is supernatural and a gift from God. Therefore, we have to exercise faith and pray. Secondly, I would direct them to resources (including my own) that can explain exactly what it is we believe as Catholics (catechetics) and how and why we believe it (apologetics). And I usually direct them to free information on the Internet. If they are mightily struggling with one particular thing, then I recommend books that I think can help them to reach certitude, in faith. I feel that solid answers can be given for anything to do with the Catholic faith: if not from my own body of work, then certainly from someone else: including the great saints and Doctors of the Church.

5. What are your thoughts on recent events in our Church, namely with the attacks on Benedict XVI and health care?

I think the Holy Father is being treated abominably. The sexual scandal is not his fault at all. He is probably doing more than anyone else in the Church to stop this horrific abuse from taking place. Yet he is the target. I think the enemies of the Church know full well who to attack if they want to minimize the impact of the Church. But it will backfire, as these attempts always do. It reminds me a lot of how Pope Pius XII is treated over the Holocaust issue. It is estimated that he was responsible for saving 800,000 Jews: a lot more than any secular group, for sure. Yet he is the one who is lied about and pilloried. It is a gross injustice. We need to defend our popes when they are innocent of these absurd charges.

The Church's position on health care is exactly right, in my opinion. It is concerned for availability of health care to all; providing for the poor, but in a way that does not promote either abortion or socialism. The Church favors subsidiarity: things ought to be run on as local a level as possible, and truly helping all people, including the smallest and oldest and weakest among us. The Church, as so often, teaches and preaches a "third way" that is neither conservative nor liberal, in political terms.

6. What are you working on now?

I've been doing some writing on Calvinism, preparing some audio collections on themes (basically reading of Internet papers), and will soon be working on a revision of my book on sola Scriptura, for likely publication with a major Catholic publisher. In the next six months I'd also like to compile books on the biblical evidences for Catholic soteriology (theology of salvation) and Mariology.

7. What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy when not writing books?

I absolutely love the outdoors and travel. We are planning a family trip out west, which will be our third such trip in five years, and it is no small project, starting from southeast Michigan. We camp and take a lot of our own food, to save money, and avoid expensive museums! I'm a nature freak and also an avid music lover and collector (many kinds of music, including classical, and I can play about nine instruments). My third great non-theological love is sports. I still play softball, tennis, ping pong, pool, basketball, like swimming, and have taken up bowling recently. I once went hang gliding, and have been in gliders, small planes, and a helicopter. I also went whitewater rafting on one occasion. I have a daredevil aspect of my personality. I love good movies and documentaries (we watch TV as a family almost every night: strict quality control of what we watch!), and playing chess. I like group discussions and "heavy" dialogues (not just about theology). I love history and philosophy, and they often tie in with my work. And of course I love books of all sorts!

8. Who is your Confirmation Patron Saint, and why did you choose him/her?

It was a little different. I chose John Henry. By that I meant Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, because he was the biggest intellectual / theological influence on my conversion. I had read his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and that put me over the edge. Development remains one of my very favorite sub-topics in apologetics, but it is generally very difficult to discuss, since people often have a poor understanding of it, and confuse it with the heretical "evolution of dogma".

9. What is your favorite book in the Bible? Verse? Biblical figure?

The book is probably John. I love Isaiah in the Old Testament: sweeping, majestic language. My favorite verse is Romans 8:28: "all things work together for good . . . " That's wonderful: a whole philosophy of life right there . . . And my favorite biblical figure (after our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, I suppose) is the Apostle Paul. I love him, and I am constantly thinking about his reasoning and writings in doing apologetics. It is said that Paul could have been the greatest philosopher of his time if he weren't an apostle. I think he is one of the most extraordinary thinkers who ever lived. He's amazing.

10. Name a Catholic person you admire who provides a positive and inspiring model of our faith, and why.

St. Francis of Assisi. I immensely admire him because he was totally committed to God, and had such a beautiful approach to life: a gentleness and holiness and simplicity (of exactly the right sort) that is immediately striking and "draws one in." That kind of complete dedication has always appealed to me, and I should be more than happy to attain one-tenth of the zeal that he had.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bible vs. Double Predestination: Lack of Parallelism in Descriptions of the Damned / Non-Calvinist Exegesis of Romans 9

By Dave Armstrong (4-22-10)

Hats off to blog regular Maroun for citing a great argument of this sort in an open forum combox, from St. John Chrysostom, who wrote:

Of what honor, of what blessedness are these words? And He said not, Take, but, “Inherit,” as one’s own, as your Father’s, as yours, as due to you from the first. For, before you were, saith He, these things had been prepared, and made ready for you, forasmuch as I knew you would be such as you are. 
And in return for what do they receive such things? For the covering of a roof, for a garment, for bread, for cold water, for visiting, for going into the prison. For indeed in every case it is for what is needed; and sometimes not even for that. For surely, as I have said, the sick and he that is in bonds seeks not for this only, but the one to be loosed, the other to be delivered from his infirmity. But He, being gracious, requires only what is within our power, or rather even less than what is within our power, leaving to us to exert our generosity in doing more. 
But to the others He saith, “Depart from me, ye cursed,” (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), “into the everlasting fire, prepared,” not for you, but “for the devil and his angels.” For concerning the kingdom indeed, when He had said, “Come, inherit the kingdom,” He added, “prepared for you before the foundation of the world;” but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, “prepared for the devil.” I, saith He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but “for the devil and his angels;” but since ye cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. And not in this way only, but by what follows also, like as though He were excusing Himself to them, He sets forth the causes. 
(Homily 78 on Matthew 25:1-30; NPNF 1-10]

This put in my head the idea of doing a Scripture study of "prepare" and "called" and "predestined" and other similar terms, in relation to heaven, to see if these are ever used in a parallel fashion of hell as well, so that there is an equivalence: "prepared (etc.) for heaven" / "prepared for hell." Matthew 25 shows that this is not the case. What do other related passages teach us about this?

* * * * *

[all Bible passages: RSV]

Green highlighting = allusions to heaven or election
Blue highlighting = "prepare" motifs
Red highlighting = hell or damnation motifs

Matthew 25:34, 41 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world';. . . [41] Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels';

Matthew 20:23 He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."

Mark 10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.

John 10:27-28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; [28] and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

John 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [3] And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 17:2-3 since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

Acts 13:46, 48 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. . . . [48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

We see precisely what the Catholic Church -- and Orthodoxy and Lutheran and Arminian and Wesleyan Protestantism -- teaches, and what Calvinism rejects: God didn't select the damned from all eternity; they judged themselves by rejecting the gospel, making themselves "unworthy of eternal life." But those who would attain eternal life were ordained or predestined to that, though not without their free will consent.

Romans 1:6-7 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; [7] To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: . . .

Romans 2:6-8 For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.

Note the lack of equivalent descriptions: to the elect God will "give eternal life." But for the reprobate "there will be wrath and fury": a more neutral description that doesn't on the face of it seem to imply predestination from all eternity.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, we see a lack of parallelism: the fate of the damned is more passive in relation to God's hand in it, whereas the predestination of the elect is the positive "free gift of God".

Romans 8:28-30 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 9:23-24 in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Romans 11:2, 5 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. . . . [5] So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

1 Corinthians 1:2, 9 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: . . . [9] God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:24 . . . those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, . . . (cf. 7:20-22, 24; Eph 4:1, 4; Col 3:15; 1 Thess 4:7; 1 Pet 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 2 Pet 1:3)

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,"

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. [5] He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Galatians 1:15 . . . he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,

Yet Galatians 1:6 shows that this call and grace is not irrevocable or irresistible; i.e., not ordered by God apart from our free will, since it can be deserted: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel".

Ephesians 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. [5] He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace [8] which he lavished upon us. (cf. 1:9, 11-12)

Ephesians 1:17-20 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Colossians 3:12 . . . God's chosen ones . . .

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you;

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

The latter passage might be interpreted as implying the possibility of being predestined to damnation, and indeed this is logically possible, but it doesn't necessarily follow from this language. In the absence of positive assertions elsewhere in Scripture of predestination to damnation (along with positive ones about election: see, e.g., Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29-20; Eph 1:4-5; Rev 13:8 elsewhere in this paper) , it is more plausible to interpret this as simply saying, "God did not do x in our case" -- theologically extrapolated in light of the absence of cross-reference corroboration to, "God does not do x."

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, [8] inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. [9] They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

The damned are in that horrible state not only because of the fall of Adam and Eve and God's decree from all eternity, but precisely because they did "not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." Judgment as to whether one is saved or not is consistently rendered on this basis in Scripture. I found, in fact, 50 passages asserting this notion; this not only asserts aspects of Calvinism and TULIP, but also the sola fide doctrine of larger Protestantism. Cf. Heb 5:9: "he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him".

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. [14] To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

This is very interesting insofar as the calling seems to take place at the time the confession is made, rather than from all eternity; there can be different senses of "call" in the Bible, as with most words, but it is fascinating that "eternal life" seems directly tied with individual acceptance rather than God's predestination. Again, we see the mysterious paradoxical existence of free will alongside predestination. Both are asserted in Scripture, so the Bible student must accept both; not rule one out because some man-made tradition dictates it.

2 Timothy 1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago,

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Hebrews 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappado'cia, Asia, and Bithyn'ia, [2] chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: (cf. 2:4, 9)

1 Peter 5:10 . . .
the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ . . .

Jude 6-8 And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; [7] just as Sodom and Gomor'rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. [8] Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones.

Behavior and rejection of God is the cause for damnation, not a predestined decree by God that made it impossible for the fate of the damned to be otherwise.

2 Peter 2:1, 15 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.. . . [15] Forsaking the right way they have gone astray . . .

This contradicts Calvinism all over the place (a very fitting thing for the first Catholic pope to do!). If these are people who never were saved (as a Calvinist would say), then how can it be stated that Jesus "bought them"? That would refute Limited Atonement, since Jesus only "buys" those who are indeed saved and of the elect, and Perseverance as well, since they were bought by Jesus but yet later denied Him. Secondly, they are here sentencing themselves and in effect casting themselves into hell (with free will and post-Fall rebellion against God), rather than God decreeing and ordaining and predestining and deciding that from all eternity.

They were once "in" the "right way," otherwise they could not be described as "forsaking" it. Nor can one go "astray" from a state one was never in. Peter states in 2:17 that "for them the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved," but this is not the same as saying it was predestined for eternity that they should go there. This is one of many many cases where the Bible teaches one thing, Calvinism another. Later in the chapter, Peter makes a very strong denial of Perseverance of the Saints and Irresistible Grace:

2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. [21] For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. [22] It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.

These people escaped "the defilements," meaning they were in good graces with God by means of Jesus' work. They went from a "bad" state to a "good" one. They left their "vomit" but then later returned to it. When Peter says "they are again entangled in them and overpowered," it is yet more proof that they were in the pool of the saved and the justified, but went back to their old ways. If indeed this was not possible: that no one can ever go from one state to the other, then the very words "again" and "escaped" and "turned back" comparisons of one state over against another (with these folks having been in both camps) would be perfectly senseless; literally nonsense. But we can't accuse inspired Scripture of that, so it must be Calvinism that is the nonsense.

While we're on the theme of additional disproofs of Calvinism, here is another refutation of Limited Atonement:
Acts 3:26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.

God doesn't select just a few for His elect and let the others go to hell by His non-action. He desires to save "every one".

Revelation 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

Revelation 17:8 . . . the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world . . .(cf. 17:14: "called and chosen and faithful")

There is no "book of death," as if that were predestined from all eternity, too. There is only a "book of life": positive predestination for the elect, but not predestined reprobation, or negative predestination (or, double predestination).

See also the biblical use of "elect" -- referring to those who will be eschatologically saved and attain heaven, but never applied to the damned (Matt 24:22, 24, 31; Mk 13:20, 22, 27; Lk 18:7; Rom 8:33; 11:7; 2 Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet 1:10).

There are only a few passages I could find in my fairly comprehensive scriptural survey that imply that God predestines the damned to their fate:

Romans 11:7-10 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, [8] as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day." [9] And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; [10] let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever."

This language of "hardening," I have explained adequately, I think, in several past papers, showing that it is pungent Hebraic idiomatic language for God's Providence. He utilizes men's sin for His purposes and plan, but it doesn't follow that He Himself hardens anyone apart from their own previous free will decision (or that He ever is the author of sin and evil).

Even beyond the argument from use of biblical language and anthropomorphic language with reference to God, this cannot logically apply to predestination from eternity anyway, unless it is applied to a supralapsarian scenario, whereby God predestined even the fall of man (rather than it being a free choice). Supralapsarianism is rejected by the majority of Calvinists throughout history. Many Calvinists claim that even John Calvin rejected it (my position is that he was indeed a supralapsarian).

If it is an eternal decree of hardening, it had to apply to the state of man before the fall, because at that time he was good, since God created him good. But this would entail a good God after a good creation deliberately decreeing that certain of his good created men would be damned. They were created to be damned. This would clearly make God the author of evil and cast serious doubts on His character as a loving, merciful God and His justice. That is supralapsarian, and we can readily see why even most Calvinists, historically, and presently, reject it.

The same Scripture cannot apply to infralapsarianism because after the fall, the whole of humanity was in sin and fallen; therefore, men (all men) already were hardened and He couldn't have chosen from the whole group to harden some. If they already were in such a state, then God couldn't have decreed that some should attain to that, unless He had in fact decreed it before the fall ever took place, or (more accurately, if we want to get technical) as applied logically to pre-fallen man.

Romans 11:28-32 As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. [29] For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. [30] Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, [31] so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. [32] For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. (cf. 1 Peter 2:8)

This looks like a very difficult passage for a Calvinist to explain according to his system. The Jews are described as "enemies of God" insofar as they largely rejected the gospel. Yet they are also described as of the elect, since "the call of God" is "irrevocable." If this call of God can never be affected by free will, then it looks like Paul is here teaching that all Jews will be saved, since they are elect and chosen. But we know that to not be the case. Therefore, Paul's type of language and idiom must somehow explain his thought otherwise. To top it off, he says that "God has consigned all men to disobedience" (that is, they all fell). That doesn't work with Calvinism, either, because according to them, He only consigned some to that. Nor does having "mercy upon all" fit into the Limited Atonement schema. For the Calvinist, God doesn't even desire of decree mercy for all; He does so only for some: the elect.

The Great Calvinist Bible Argument: their favorite by far, and one trumpeted endlessly, is Romans 9. Here is the portion that Calvinists employ to defend their theological system of TULIP:

Romans 9:6-24 But it is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7] and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." [8] This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants. [9] For this is what the promise said, "About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son." [10] And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11] though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, [12] she was told, "The elder will serve the younger." [13] As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." [14]What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." [16] So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy. [17] For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." [18] So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. [19] You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" [20] But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me thus?" [21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? [22] What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

This seems very strong and invulnerable, but it is also almost unique in the Bible, in its pattern of argument or presentation, as we can see from all the other scriptures collected above. Is there a way to exegete this in a fashion that is consistent with a non-Calvinist interpretation of predestination and election, over against the distinctive Calvinist doctrines of TULIP?

One possible (and to me, quite plausible) way of providing a non-Calvinist take of Romans 9 came from Protestant apologist James Patrick Holding, drawing in turn from scholar Marvin Wilson's Our Father Abraham, and the notion of Hebrew "block logic". Wilson's writings include A Workbook for New Testament Greek: Grammar and Exegesis in First John and Dictionary of Bible Manners and Customs (with highly respected Evangelical scholars Edwin Yamauchi and R. K. Harrison). Holding writes:

Let me state further that Wilson's "block logic" comment is further substantiated by points made in Pilch and Malina's Handbook of Biblical Social Values, which describes the ancient mind as one practiced in dualistic thought. Put another way, there is no "middle ground" where neutral value is assigned, and expressions are made in terms of "black and white". I would add that Wilson is far from my only source; nor are Pilch and Malina, as indeed in the same article I go on to relate the matter to Ecclesiastes, based on solid OT scholarship. . . . 
Hebrew "block logic" operated on similar principles. "...[C]oncepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern, particularly when one block represented the human perspective on truth and the other represented the divine. This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antimony, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension -- and often illogical relation -- to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic." Examples of this in practice are the alternate hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God, or by Pharaoh himself; and the reference to loving Jacob while hating Esau -- both of which, significantly, are referred to often by Calvinist writers. 

Wilson continues: "Consideration of certain forms of block logic may give one the impression that divine sovereignty and human responsibility were incompatible. The Hebrews, however, sense no violation of their freedom as they accomplish God's purposes." The back and forth between human freedom and divine sovereignty is a function of block logic and the Hebrew mindset. Writers like Palmer who proudly declare that they believe what they read in spite of what they see as an apparent absurdity are ultimately viewing the Scriptures, wrongly, through their own Western lens in which they assume that all that they read is all that there is. 
What this boils down to is that Paul presents us with a paradox in Romans 9, one which he, as a Hebrew, saw no need to explain. "..[T]he Hebrew mind could handle this dynamic tension of the language of paradox" and saw no need to unravel it as we do. And that means that we are not obliged to simply accept Romans 9 at "face value" as it were, because it is a problem offered with a solution that we are left to think out for ourselves. There will be nothing illicit about inserting concepts like primary causality, otherwise unknown in the text. 
. . . as we have noted, expression in extremes is not a characteristic of Hebrew thought alone. 
Second and more importantly, Paul was a Hebrew; he quotes from sources in Hebrew . . . and communicating in Greek changes neither of these points. Indeed, lingusitic studies by such as Casey indicate . . . that bilingual interference points to Paul preserving his Hebrew linguistic and thought-forms, even as he communicates in Greek. . . . 
It remains that Paul is not making a logical argument, any more than God made one (or had to) before Job. Indeed, the example of Job points to what I am talking about, and what Wilson otherwise relates: The Hebrews had experienced God personally at Sinai; it would be absurd to come to such people and say (for example), "You need the logic of the kalam cosmological argument to prove that God exists." . . . Romans 9 is no "answer" at all in the Western sense; like the book of Job, it is God from the whirlwind saying, "That's none of your concern." 
. . . I agree that mercy and compassion -- the offering of covenant kinship and consideration -- are free. It is once we are within that relationship that rewards and punishments begin to come into play . . . Nevertheless this does not prove in any sense that God did not create people with certain characteristics that suited His purposes. . . . And yes, there does remain a contrast, in my view, between mercy and hardening: It is the stark contrast between covenant concern and non-covenant disregard. And yes, the will of God is to decide who He enters into kinship relationships with. But no, this still doesn't eliminate characteristics as a factor in God choosing people for specific assignments; and it does not eliminate free choice of humans as a factor in salvation . . .

For more on this sort of analysis of Hebrew "block logic" and Hebrew thought in general, see:

The Hebrew Mind vs. the Western Mind (Brian Knowles)

Hebrew Thought Compared to Greek (Western) Thought (N'tan Lawrence)

The Bible Idea of Time: How Archaic Hebrew Thought Is Constructed Differently than Our Thought Today (Kerry A. Shirts)

Biblical Paradox: Does Revelation Challenge Logic? (David Basinger, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 1987, 205-213)

St. John Chrysostom interpreted this passage in a non-Calvinistic fashion also:

Paul says this in order not to do away with free will but rather to show to what extent we ought to obey God. We should be as little inclined to call God to account as a piece of clay is."

Homilies in Romans 16, NPNF 1 11:467)

God does nothing at random or by mere chance, even if you do not understand the secrets of his wisdom. You allow the potter to make different things from the same lump of clay and find no fault with him, but you do not grant the same freedom to God! . . . How monstrous this is. It is not on the potter that the honor or dishonor of the vessel depends but rather on those who make use of it. It is the same way with people - it all depends on their own free choice."

(Homilies on Romans 16.46; NPNF 1 11:468)

Methodist commentator Adam Clarke provides another plausible non-Calvinist take on Paul's mention of Jacob and Esau:

Verse 12. The elder shall serve the younger] These words, with those of Malachi, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, are cited by the apostle to prove, according to their typical signification, that the purpose of God, according to election, does and will stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; that is, that the purpose of God, which is the ground of that election which he makes among men, unto the honour of being Abraham's seed, might appear to remain unchangeable in him; and to be even the same which he had declared unto Abraham. That these words are used in a national and not in a personal sense, is evident from this: that, taken in the latter sense they are not true, for Jacob never did exercise any power over Esau, nor was Esau ever subject to him. Jacob, on the contrary, was rather subject to Esau, and was sorely afraid of him; and, first, by his messengers, and afterwards personally, acknowledged his brother to be his lord, and himself to be his servant; see Gen. xxxii. 4; xxxiii. 8, 13. And hence it appears that neither Esau nor Jacob, nor even their posterities, are brought here by the apostle as instances of any personal reprobation from eternity: for, it is very certain that very many, if not the far greatest part, of Jacob's posterity were wicked, and rejected by God; and it is not less certain that some of Esau's posterity were partakers of the faith of their father Abraham.

. . . Verse 21. Hath not the potter power over the clay] The apostle continues his answer to the Jew. Hath not God shown, by the parable of the potter, Jer. xviii. 1, &c., that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular, according as he in his infinite wisdom may judge most right and fitting; even as the potter has a right, out of the same lump of clay, to make one vessel to a more honourable and another to a less honourable use, as his own judgment and skill may direct; for no potter will take pains to make a vessel merely that he may show that he has power to dash it to pieces? For the word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work upon the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. It was not fit for the more honourable place in the mansion, and therefore he made it for a less honourable place, but as necessary for the master's use there, as it could have been in a more honourable situation. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation-to build and to plant it; is it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them. The reference to this parable shows most positively that the apostle is speaking of men, not individually, but nationally; and it is strange that men should have given his words any other application with this scripture before their eyes.
Verse 22. What if God, willing to show his wrath] The apostle refers here to the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to which he applies Jeremiah's parable of the potter, and, from them, to the then state of the Jews. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were vessels of wrath-persons deeply guilty before God; and by their obstinate refusal of his grace, and abuse of his goodness, they had fitted themselves for that destruction which the wrath, the vindictive justice of God, inflicted, after he had endured their obstinate rebellion with much long-suffering; which is a most absolute proof that the hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate punishment, were the consequences of their obstinate refusal of his grace and abuse of his goodness; as the history in Exodus sufficiently shows. As the Jews of the apostle's time had sinned after the similitude of the Egyptians, hardening their hearts and abusing his goodness, after every display of his long-suffering kindness, being now fitted for destruction, they were ripe for punishment; and that power, which God was making known for their salvation, having been so long and so much abused and provoked, was now about to show itself in their destruction as a nation. But even in this case there is not a word of their final damnation; much less that either they or any others were, by a sovereign decree, reprobated from all eternity; and that their very sins, the proximate cause of their punishment, were the necessary effect of that decree which had from all eternity doomed them to endless torments. As such a doctrine could never come from God, so it never can be found in the words of his apostle.
(Clarke's Commentary)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dialogue with a Calvinist on Predestination of the Damned, Limited Atonement, and Total Depravity (Tons of Scripture!)

By Dave Armstrong (4-14-10)

This is drawn from statements made by my Reformed, Presbyterian (OPC) friend "Pilgrimsarbour" in the most recent Open Forum. He requested that I make some sort of answer, so here I am! As a sort of preamble, I was asked by a Catholic in the discussion what I thought of the Reformed opinions on predestination, etc. I wrote:

I'll let PA speak for himself on this one (and he did). I think there are insuperable difficulties in the Calvinist position, including things having to do with God's very nature.

But On the other hand, the problem of evil and existence of hell do raise very difficult questions for every Christian position, even if one accepts free will. Why did God allow the fall? Why did He ever allow evil to get off the ground, knowing what was to happen? Etc. No position, in my opinion, offers completely satisfying answers. It is ultimately beyond our understanding.

We can only say (and this is how I have argued) that He knew what would happen and thought that free will was better than all-good robots who couldn't choose otherwise. But emotionally and at a gut level it is still very difficult to comprehend.

In the end we must all exercise much faith.

* * * * *

As far as pleasing God with good works, we have to adopt His definition of what good is:

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God (Luke 18:19).

Now by the human definition of good, all kinds of human beings do all kinds of good things all of the time, relative to our own varying definitions of good. But that is not what the doctrine is speaking to.

So often believers fall into the trap of comparing themselves with other people and think in terms of relative "goodness" when compared with them. But that is not the standard. The standard for goodness is God Himself, which is perfection.

This is classic fallacious Calvinist doctrine. The reasoning is that "only God is good; therefore nothing [unregenerate] man does is good." It's the old, tiresome "either/or" mentality again. God is absolutely, perfectly good, so man must be a worm, with absolutely nothing good in him, due to this rebellion in the fall.

The trouble is that this is a basic misunderstanding of Hebrew idiom and how comparisons were made. Jesus was saying that only God is perfectly good. He was not trying to imply that there were no good men. He couldn't, because that contradicts Bible teaching. Jesus also said "The good person brings good things out of a good treasure" (Mt 12:35; cf. 5:45, 7:17-20, 22:10). He was merely drawing a contrast between our righteousness and God's, but He doesn't deny that we can be "good" in a lesser sense.

The Calvinist reads this and interprets: "God is [completely] good, therefore man is [completely] bad." But Catholics reason from it: "God is perfectly good; therefore, man is good by His grace." Calvinists see in that works-salvation. But we're not denying that man can't save himself; only that he is destitute of any truly good thing whatever before he is regenerated (total depravity).

I explored this at great length in my paper, The Calvinist Doctrine of Total Depravity and Romans 3:10-11 ("None is Righteous . . . No One Seeks For God"): Reply to James White; also to a lesser extent in my piece, "All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?). I need not reiterate all that. Let me just highlight a few points presently, citing the former paper:

Paul doesn't teach, in context [Romans 1], that absolutely all unregenerated men know that God exist but deny Him anyway, for in the very next chapter (and the chapter right before our text under consideration): Romans 2, he talks about "righteous" people who can do "good" and who are capable of "well-doing" even without the Law, let alone the gospel of Jesus Christ:
6: For he will render to every man according to his works:
7: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

10 . . . glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

13: For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

14: When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15: They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them
16: on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

26: So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

27: Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
How fascinating. All of this is about Gentiles who don't even have the law. They haven't heard the gospel at all. The New Testament has not yet been out together. They (obviously) don't yet have the benefit of Romans itself. Paul never says that they have heard the gospel. . . .
And Like Psalm 14, we see other proximate Psalms refer to the "righteous" or "godly" (e.g., 52:1,6,9; 55:22; 58:10-11). David himself eagerly seeks God in Psalms 51, 52:8-9, 54, 55, 56, , 57, 61, 62, 63, etc. Obviously, then, it is not the case that "no one" whatsoever seeks God. It is Hebrew hyperbole and exaggeration to make a point. And this is, remember, poetic language in the first place. Therefore, it is fairly clear that there -- far from "none" -- plenty of righteous people to go around.
How about those who "seek God"? Can "none" of those be found, either, according to White's and Calvinism's literalistic interpretations? How about King Jehoshaphat? Here is a very interesting case study indeed. He was subjected to the wrath of God, yet it is stated that he had some "good" and sought God:
2: But Jehu the son of Hana'ni the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehosh'aphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD.
3: Nevertheless some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Ashe'rahs out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God."

(2 Chronicles 19:2-3)
Not only the king, but many people in Judah also sought the Lord:
3: Then Jehosh'aphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
4: And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

(2 Chronicles 20:3-4)
How can this be? Was he (and all these multitudes who "came to seek the Lord"), therefore, regenerate? The text doesn't say. He hadn't heard the gospel, though; that's for sure. Nor had the people of Judah. According to White (and Calvinism as a whole?) no one can do any "spiritual good" (as opposed to a merely natural good or natural moral virtue) whatsoever unless they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Were all these people "good men and women"? Did they seek God or not? And how can this be if the passages in Psalms 14 and 53 says that no one does so; "no, not one"?

[much more along these lines in this paper]

* * *

They are totally unable to save themselves, yes.

Catholics completely agree with this. It is not at issue.

* * *

No man wants God's true salvation plan, nor do they seek it; they pursue evil continually and do not fear God

This is not what the Bible shows, as I showed at great length in one of my papers, cited above. Paul casually assumes that at least some Gentiles "who have not the law do by nature what the law requires" (Rom 2:14). The law is even lower in the scheme of things than the gospel, but Paul says that some men are able to fulfil it (i.e., be righteous). He again assumed that it was possible for people to "seek God" in his sermon on Mars Hill to the pagan Greeks (Acts 17:27; cf. James in Acts 15:17).
Romans 3:9-18 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. 13 Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. 14 Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:11-18)

I dealt with this in the old paper. It can't possibly be taken in an absolutely literal sense, or the Bible would contradict itself. Elsewhere I wrote:

We find examples of a non-literal intent elsewhere in Romans. . . . Paul writes that "all Israel will be saved," (11:26), but we know that many will not be saved. And in 15:14, Paul describes members of the Roman church as "....filled with all knowledge...." (cf. 1 Cor 1:5 in KJV), which clearly cannot be taken literally. . . . 
One might also note 1 Corinthians 15:22: "As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" {NIV}. As far as physical death is concerned (the context of 1 Cor 15), not "all" people have died (e.g., Enoch: Gen 5:24; cf. Heb 11:5, Elijah: 2 Kings 2:11). Likewise, "all" will not be made spiritually alive by Christ, as some will choose to suffer eternal spiritual death in hell.

And in the paper on total depravity, I observed, regarding Romans 3:

St. Paul appears to be citing Psalm 14:1-3:
1: The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.
2: The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God.
3: They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.
Now, does the context in the earlier passage suggest that what is meant is "absolutely every person, without exception"? No. We've already seen the latitude of the notion "all" in the Hebrew understanding. Context supports a less literal interpretation.
In the immediately preceding Psalm, David proclaims "I have trusted in thy steadfast love" (13:5), which certainly is "seeking" after God. Indeed, the very next Psalm is entirely devoted to "good people":
1: O LORD, who shall sojourn in thy tent? Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?
2: He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart;
3: who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
4: in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5: who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.
Even two verses after our cited passage in Psalms David writes that "God is with the generation of the righteous" (14:5). In the very next verse (14:4) David refers to "the evildoers who eat up my people". Now, if he is contrasting the evildoers with His people, then obviously, he is not meaning to imply that everyone is evil, and there are no righteous. So obviously his lament in 14:2-3 is an indignant hyperbole and not intended as a literal utterance. Such remarks are common to Jewish poetic idiom. The anonymous psalmist in 112:5 refers to a good man (Heb. tob), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly (11:23, 12:2, 13:22, 14:14,19), using the same word, tob, which appears in Ps 14:2-3.
And references to righteous men are innumerable (e.g., Job 17:9, 22:19, Ps 5:12, 32:11, 34:15, 37:16,32, Mt 9:13, 13:17, 25:37,46, Rom 5:19, Heb 11:4, Jas 5;16, 1 Pet 3:12, 4:18, etc., etc.).
There are many biblical counter-examples to this Calvinist mythology. The Bible states that King Uzziah did truly good things:
2 Chronicles 26:4-5 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amazi'ah had done. [5] He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechari'ah, who instructed him in the fear of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.
Yet he went astray: "when he was strong he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was false to the LORD his God" (2 Chron 26:16), and died out of favor with God; he seems to likely have been lost:

2 Chronicles 26:20-21 And Azari'ah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they thrust him out quickly, and he himself hastened to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. [21] And King Uzzi'ah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper dwelt in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king's household, governing the people of the land.

This is, of course, not possible in the Calvinist schema. If he was not regenerated and saved, he had to be (in this flawed thinking) completely evil and incapable of good. But the Bible says that he at one time "did what was right in the eyes of the LORD" and " sought the LORD." But he died unrepentant. One must, therefore, make a choice: the inspired revelation in the Bible or the very fallible mere tradition of men: Calvinism. I choose the Bible. It's clear, and it decisively refutes Calvinism. I gave another fascinating narrative example in my paper on total depravity: that of King Asa

Many of the people of Judah in the reign of King Asa, determined that anyone who didn't seek God would be put to death! So what did they do: commit mass suicide, like the Jonestown cult, because no one is righteous, and no one did or could seek God?:
12: And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul;
13: and that whoever would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.
(2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
The case of King Asa himself presents yet another difficulty for Calvinists and their sometimes unbiblical doctrines. We see his initial zeal for God in the above passage. We are informed that "all Judah" (huh? all? everybody?) "had sought him [God] with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest round about" (2 Chron 15:15). He destroyed idols (15:16) but not the ones in the high places (15:17a), "nevertheless the heart of Asa was blameless all his days" (15:17b). "Blameless"? "All" his days? Huh? How can this be? The Bible says here he was blameless "all his days" yet in the next chapter it proceeds to deny this very thing:
7: At that time Hana'ni the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, "Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.
8: Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand.
9: For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars."
10: Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.
11: The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
12: In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.

(2 Chronicles 16:7-12)
Does it sound like this guy was regenerated and saved? Not much . . . so how could he be "blameless all his days"? Even when it is said that "he did not seek the LORD," it seems apparent that the writer is assuming that it is possible to do so (or else why would it be necessary to point out that one man didn't, when no one could do so?). No one says that someone didn't do something that was impossible from the outset. We don't say, for example, that "Sam didn't swim from San Francisco to Hawaii." 
How does one harmoniously interpret all this? It's really rather simple. I've already provided the only sensible answer: always interpret Scripture in context, and understand Hebrew idiom; especially hyperbole, used constantly in Hebrew poetry. Paul was citing Psalms; that is poetry. It cannot always be taken literally. But when we look at narratives like the two books of Chronicles, then we see that there are exceptions to the rule. And we see that Paul doesn't even follow his own supposedly all-inclusive, universal statements. 
In fact, there is no contradiction here at all. The contradiction lies in the erroneous interpretation of Calvinism, and the superimposing onto Scripture doctrines that are foreign to it.

And what of Ezekiel 3:20?:

Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. (cf. 3:21-26; 18:24, 26; 33:18; 2 Pet 2:20-22)

The false Calvinist system forces folks to play all sorts of special pleading games with the Bible. I love Calvinists; they're some of my favorite Christians; they have a lot of things going for them, but I can't agree with these false, literally anti-biblical elements of their doctrines and teachings. In my older paper, I noted that the word "righteous" appeared 346 times in the prophets and writings alone. Then I observed:
But the Calvinist will find a few verses of hyperbole and typical Hebrew hyper-exaggerated contrast and conclude that the overwhelming consensus of the other instances must all be interpreted in light of the few: wrongly regarded as literal. They don't even abide by one of their own supposedly important hermeneutical principles: interpret less clear biblical passages in light of more clear related cross-references.
Perhaps you think St. Paul is speaking hyperbolically? For my own part, I am going to take St. Paul's descriptions and admonitions very seriously and literally.

I think I have shown the many considerations involved in interpreting these Pauline statements about the universality of sin and rebellion. They have to be qualified in a sensible manner, according to cross-referencing and Hebrew idiom.

The free gift of grace we receive is freely accepted by us. No one forces us to take it.

And it is also freely rejected by those who don't want God and His grace. Calvinists deny this by asserting that those who are saved are saved because of a grace that they can't resist, whereas those who are unfortunate enough to not be among those whom God has chosen to save, cannot possibly freely choose to reject God, since they could not have done otherwise, in any event. If some are irresistibly chosen, apart from their will, then others are, by logical necessity, irresistibly lost, also apart from their will. But this is not what the Bible teaches (a small problem, perhaps, but one at least worth worth pondering, I submit).

He gives us the gift of replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh so that we will want to accept His free gift of eternal salvation in Christ.

We agree with this, but we deny that it is impossible for either the damned or the saved to do otherwise.

Why doesn't your concept of the love of God preclude anyone from going to Hell?

Why doesn't your concept of the love of a father for his son or daughter God preclude them from going astray and possibly forsaking the Christian faith? Obviously, they have free will, and can decide to spurn even a very good Christian upbringing. So it is also with God and is children (even the extent of hell existing, since it is the place where a man can remove himself from God forever). God can love us and at the same time allow us to reject Him without ceasing to love us. Just because He judges sinners and the reprobate doesn't require a cessation of love. That simply doesn't follow. When an earthly judge sentences a man to hanging, he doesn't necessarily have to hate the man. Chances are he pities him, which is as much an aspect of love as anything else. Why should we think that God has less mercy and pity in Him than even a virtuous pagan does? This is one of the things we find so objectionable and incomprehensible about Calvinism.

In fact, why is there a Hell at all?

Because God gave men the free will to either accept Him and be saved entirely by His grace or to reject Him and suffer the eternal consequences. It was originally for the devil and his fallen angels, but it seems that many human beings would rather go there than follow God's commands and accept His free offer of grace and salvation and be with Him forever.

If you answer "people choose to go to Hell," that still does not answer why God will still be putting some people there.

Sure it does. Both things are simultaneously true. The damned have made their fatal choice. God simply calls a spade a spade and makes it irrevocable by his judgment. Their time to repent has run out, and so God judges them. And His judgment is just. But justice is not antithetical to love. They are not opposite characteristics. They are complementaries.

Is it a loving thing for God to do that He sends people to Hell?

It's not a function of love, but of justice. But in a sense He loves men so much that He honors their free will even to the extent that they choose to deny Him. God allowed men to utterly reject Him in His Passion and Crucifixion: all the while asking the Father to forgive them in their ignorance. He kept loving them. What sense does it make to believe that God stops loving men who choose to reject Him and therefore end up in hell?

I've gotta think that most people in Hell really don't want to be there and won't think that God loves them and that's why He put them there.

I think they do want to go there: at least at first. Even during this life we hear jokes about parties in hell, and all the fun and the best rock and roll and women, etc. being present there rather than in heaven. Sure, they are deceived, but they don't want God, and hell is the utter absence of God and all that flows from Him. No doubt they will regret their choice of going there after not too long of a time ("time" used loosely). But will they think God "sent" them there because of a lack of love? They might (since a distorted self-image and notion of God ties into all this), but I think part of the "hell" (no pun intended) will be to realize for eternity that God did indeed offer them a free gift of salvation, and they refused to accept it.

They will be made aware of this (if they didn't already know, down deep) at the judgment. Bitter regret is no fun at all. I've had some experiences of that sort and I would rather go through almost anything else. It's extremely hard to take. And that will be part of the horrific experience of hell: "I never had to end up here at all, but I chose to reject every overture that God and Christians made, to urge and help me to change my evil ways."

Your concept of the love of God must honestly address the concept of Hell.

I think I have.

Do you think God has an equal love for Hitler as He does for Saint Paul, for example?

He does in the sense that He wanted the best for Hitler, just as for anyone and everyone else (the essence of love). Love is a matter of the will: wanting the best for another person. This is why we proclaim the gospel and desire to see men saved. Its certainly my motivation in devoting my life to Christian service by way of apologetics and evangelism. That's not to say that no distinctions whatever can be made, as if I love some guy in the wilds of Mongolia as much as my daughter or something. No. God loves all men. What does the Bible say?:

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Compare the above two passages with the following three:

Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Luke 6:27 But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.

Romans 2:11
For God shows no partiality. (cf. Gal 2:6)

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:3-5 Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Ephesians 6:9 . . . there is no partiality with him. (cf. Col 3:25)

1 Timothy 2:3-6 . . . God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, . . .

1 John 4:8, 11 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (cf. 4:16)

Note how in the following passage (as in Rom 5:8 and Eph 2:3-5 above) God loved the sinners who did not love Him back or decide to follow Him and do His will (by tanalogy, many of those who would end up in hell):
Matthew 23:37-38 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! [38] Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

God loves and is merciful, but He is also just. The two are not opposites. They exist side-by-side.

Why or why not? Was Paul just luckier than old Adolf? Did he make better decisions? Did Paul hate Jesus Christ less than Adolf did before Paul had his conversion experience? Why was Paul converted and Der F├╝hrer was not?

You had fun with your questions (I've already provided my answer and rationale, with Scripture), now let me try a few of my own:

Why did Jesus love the rebels of Jerusalem Who rejected Him? Why did He mention this desire and love with an analogy of a mother hen and her chicks, even in the midst of a jeremiad against Pharisaical hypocrisy? How does this square with the Calvinist notion that God loved and died for the elect only and not also the ones who are lost in the end? How can Asa do such good things (as the Bible clearly states) and yet die unrepentant as a leper? You tell me. I'd love to hear your replies (and any other Calvinist's replies, who wants to give it a shot) to all my arguments.

No, we must let God speak to this matter of the nature of His love for His creation and understand that there are different degrees of love, just as He designed differing kinds and degrees of love for human beings.

I have let God speak by citing His inspired word. I didn't see you citing much of it in this regard (perhaps it is yet to come).

God wants me to love my wife as Christ loved the Church, right? He doesn't want me to love my neighbour's wife as Christ loved the Church, does He? Yet, I am to love her, am I not?

I agree that there is this sort of distinction. Familial and marital love will obviously be greater in the sense of affinity, affection, specific commitment, etc. Eros or romantic love is obviously appropriate only with one's spouse. None of these truisms demonstrate that God doesn't love all men or that He doesn't want them to be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that He does. That is good enough for me. I see what God is like, especially, in observing Jesus and getting to know Him the longer I walk as His disciple.

Hitler has no power or ability to send his own spirit to Hell; Christ as judge must perform the actual act of sending him there, yes?

Sinners certainly do have the power to resist God's grace (which means hell in the end). Scripture teaches this:
Mark 7:9 And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!

Acts 7:51-52 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. [52] Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,

Galatians 1:6-7 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel -- [7] not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

1 Timothy 1:19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith,

Titus 1:14 instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth.

Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled;

Jude 1:4 For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Do we say of the convicted criminal, "he is in jail because of the jury [or the judge]"? We could say that (it is true in terms of verdict and sentencing), but we are much more likely to say he is there because of the crime he committed. We place the blame and the cause back on him, not on the ones who were executing justice and protecting society. Likewise, by analogy, we can say that people choose to go to hell, and they are there through their own fault and choice. There is nothing inconsistent with saying that while at the same time asserting that there was such a thing as sentencing and legal justice, too.

Was it a loving act of God toward Hitler to send his spirit to Hell?

It was an act of a just God Who is also a loving God and does not cease to be so in exercising His just wrath and punishment and judgment, just as Jesus did not cease to be loving when He cleared the temple or excoriated the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. It's a false dichotomy. We reject the premise, that somehow the justice of God contradicts His lovingkindness. That is what this whole line of questioning is trying to imply: as if it is supposedly a dilemma for the non-Calvinist.

Before the foundation of the earth, God looked down the corridors of time and knew who would choose Him and who would not, according to your point of view, correct? So God knew that, for example, John Smith would choose Him but John Doe would not, though He loved them exactly the same?

Yes; God knowing everything and being outside of time.

Was it loving of God toward John Doe to create John Doe although He knew before the foundation of the earth that John Doe would not accept Him and would end up in Hell? If so, why?

Yes, because it is better to exist than never to have existed, and because God gave him a chance to be saved, had he so chosen. The lack of love is entailed by the Calvinist position, which requires God to create the damned from all eternity, knowing that He was predestining them to hell from all eternity and that no choice of theirs could possibly overcome that decision.

If God knew ahead of time that John Doe would be in Hell but created him anyway, how does God "respect his freedom" in John Doe's decision to accept or reject Him?

This confuses foreknowledge and predestination. God can know what men will do and what they choose, without necessarily causing it. The example I always use is the sun coming up tomorrow. I "know" that it will happen. At the same time I didn't cause that act to happen, just because I knew about it. Likewise, God can know that John Doe will reject Him, without causing that.

How does God's decision to create a person who He knows will end up in Hell differ to any degree from the Reformed understanding that God determines who will be in Heaven and who will be in Hell?

Because Calvinism (having denied human free will to choose damnation or accept God's free grace of salvation) makes the decision wholly God's, whereas the biblical view makes it a decision of the person who has decided to reject God. He could have been saved; God offers all men sufficient grace to be saved. But they have free will and God chooses to not override that (so that we don't become, in effect, robots). For the Calvinist, then, the ultimate cause of why a man ends up in hell, is God's choice to send him there from all eternity. But for the non-Calvinist Christian, the ultimate cause is the man's rejection of God's free grace.

To put it another way, if God does not intervene in the life of John Doe that he might be saved, is He not then determining what will happen to John Doe?

In the Calvinist system, this follows. But since we reject certain premises therein, it is not a difficulty for us.

Aren't God's knowing and His determining essentially the same thing since He has the power, as God, to intervene in the lives of people that they may be saved or not?

No. Foreknowledge is distinct from predestination. The latter necessarily involves direct cause whereas the former does not.

In what ways did God "respect" Saul's freedom to choose Him or not?

Paul wasn't forced at swordpoint to go into Damascus or consort with Ananias. He chose to, and that opened up the doors to regeneration (by baptism). He could have refused to cooperate. So by that reasoning his freedom of choice was still intact.

* * *

Christ died for His Church:

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Of course He did, because He died for all men:

John 4:42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."

John 12:32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.

Acts 17:22-31 So Paul, standing in the middle of the Are-op'agus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. [23] For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, `To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. [24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, [27] that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, [28] for `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.' [29] Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. [30] The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead."

Romans 5:18 Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

Romans 11:32 For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.

Ephesians 3:8-9 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, [9] and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;

1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.

Saying that Christ died for the Church (as Paul does in Ephesians) is not at all contradictory to saying that He died for all men, or for the world. But to maintain that He died only for the Church or only for the elect (Limited Atonement) does indeed contradict the passages above. Therefore, on the principles Scripture aids in interpreting itself through cross-referencing, and that inspired Scripture does not contradict itself, Limited Atonement is disproven from Holy Scripture. Another tradition of men has gone by the wayside . . .

* * *

I can't imagine the mechanism by which we are able to send ourselves to hell after we die. You must know something I don't.

You miss the point. We don't send ourselves in the way that a judge passes sentence and a guy is carted off to jail against his will. We send ourselves in the sense of having made the choice to reject God, which in turn consigns us to hell by default, so to speak. We set the wheels in motion that lead to the end result of hellfire for eternity.

I don't disagree with you that we are responsible for our behaviour and that our sins send us to hell. How you can remove God entirely from the equation, though, is a mystery to me.

The Catholic position (and indeed any non-Calvinist Christian position on these matters) does not require moving God out of the equation. God passes sentence and judges. But He judges based on how a person has behaved and whether the person accepted His free gift of salvation or not. That is the criterion. But the criteria in Scriptural accounts overwhelmingly emphasize the works that a person did or didn't do. I collected 50 such passages. This strongly suggests that the person's free will decisions led him or her to hell, in that terrible event that they are damned, not God's choice from eternity, so that they were essentially created from the beginning to wind up in hell (a notion that is perfectly senseless and outrageous to me and always has been).

I have explained over and over again that no one attains heaven who does not want to be there.

Nor does anyone attain hell who did not choose to go there and to reject God. They may very well be deluded about what it is like (a large part of the devil's job is to foster that very illusion and self-deception). But it is their choice.

God draws, He inclines their wills toward Him, those whose wills are inclined to evil. We are not conceived and born in a "neutral" state. We are conceived and born in sin, that is, we have a sin nature from the start, prone toward transgressing God's laws. Something has to happen for that to change.

Exactly. I and Catholics agree 100% with this.

Only the non-elect will never come to Him in faith to receive His precious gift of salvation.

That's right. The difference lies in why this is. In some senses it is a deep unexplainable mystery for every Christian position, as I stated at the top. But the non-Calvinist at least doesn't fall into the serious error of implicating God and making Him the primary cause of a person going to hell, since (by the same premises) he could not have done otherwise because God didn't ever give Him the grace to act in a different fashion had he chosen to do so.

I think I have exhausted this topic, at least for myself.

Not till you reply to all this! :-) I eagerly look forward to those replies. If you truly have a more compelling biblical case, then surely you will find it easy to shoot down everything I have offered. Be my guest! I don't think you or any other Calvinist can do so. That's how confident I am in the Catholic position. It can withstand everything thrown against it because it is ultra-biblical, thoroughly biblical, exhaustively biblical, and doesn't ignore large portions of the Bible, as Calvinism is forced to do, being untrue, in terms of TULIP.