A “Grand Paradox”?

“Mingled vanity and pride appear in this, that when miserable men do seek after God, instead of ascending higher than themselves as they ought to do, they measure him by their own carnal stupidity, and neglecting solid inquiry, fly off to indulge their curiosity in vain speculation. Hence, they do not conceive of him in the character in which he is manifested, but imagine him to be whatever their own rashness has devised. This abyss standing open, they cannot move one footstep without rushing headlong to destruction. With such an idea of God, nothing which they may attempt to offer in the way of worship or obedience can have any value in his sight, because it is not him they worship, but, instead of him, the dream and figment of their own heart. This corrupt procedure is admirably described by Paul, when he says, that ‘thinking to be wise, they became fools'” (Rom. 1: 22.) [John Calvin, Institutes,1.4.1]

Most who call themselves “Reformed” or “Calvinist” measure God by their own carnal stupidity by presupposing that human responsibility implies human freedom from the active control of the Sovereign God of heaven and earth. In Scripture, we see that human responsibility implies a Sovereign God who commands obedience to His laws and threatens punishment for disobedience to His laws. The Calvinist Reformed consensus is that Divine sovereignty + human responsibility = “Grand Paradox.” They prattle on in their false piety about how both are indeed true and do not contradict, though they cannot see exactly how this can be.

Curt Daniel, in his History and Theology of Calvinism, says that Divine sovereignty and human responsibility “form an antinomy” (p. 213). Daniel then quotes J.I. Packer’s observation (presumably this quote is taken from Packer’s, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God):

“It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable…You see that each must be true on its own, but you do not see how they can be true together.” [End Packer quote–CD]

To adapt a Calvin quote: Men like Curt Daniel and J.I. Packer, by means of tortuous windings, make a show of being near to God at the very time they are rebelling against Him.

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might display My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth.’ So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, Why did You make me like this? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory, whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations” (Romans 9:17-24).

Paul’s critic labors under the same exact delusion as Daniel and Packer, which is that the Sovereign King cannot also be Judge UNLESS He fits into their carnal mutinous mold. The reason why Daniel and Packer speak the blasphemous nonsense that they do is because they do not see how God can hold humans responsible while irresistibly hardening them and making them sinners in order to show His power and wrath. What it boils down to in the blinded minds of the apostolic critics (e.g., J.I. Packer, Curt Daniel) of the world is this:

Man cannot be judged responsible by His Maker unless he is his own maker. The irony here is that if pots could indeed make themselves, then they would be responsible to no one–for they, in making themselves, would actually become the Potter. Of course, the Potter does not “make Himself” since He is eternal and self-existent, but the point is that the pots would become the Potter insofar as they are the ultimate metaphysical cause of their own actions and destiny.

God is accountable to no one precisely because He IS free. Man is accountable to God precisely because he is NOT free. If men were free from God’s active control, then they would NOT be accountable to God (for they would be God). If men were free from God actively controlling them, then they would be the ultimate metaphysical controllers of their own actions, which means that they would be God, rather than God being God.

Curt Daniel quotes W.J. Styles [I’ve never heard of Styles–CD]:

“Since human responsibility and divine sovereignty do not simply involve a paradox but are destructive to each other, one must be untrue.” [end of Styles quote–CD]

Daniel labels Styles as a hyper-calvinist and comments further:

“Styles thus denied human responsibility, though he did accept that man is accountable. One outcome was that Styles said that lack of faith is not a sin” (Curt Daniel, p. 214).

What Paul’s critic, Styles, Daniel, and Packer insist on clinging to is the heretical assumption that man is free from God. Styles is seemingly more honest in his mutiny against his Maker, while the others seek to vainly cloak their mutiny in “reverence” and “humility.”

In short, Divine sovereignty and human responsibility is NOT a paradox, antinomy, or a contradiction. If you believe they are, then you are Paul’s objector, a God-hater who is blurring the distinction between Potter and pot, between Creator and creature.