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  • Writer's pictureThe Other Paul

A Response to Provisionist Perspective Throwing Bananas at the Lost

First of all, a blessed New Year to all my readers! At least those who reside in the future with me, whilst others like the Yanks still wallow about in 2022. I've just ordered my flying car here in future land.

I likewise wish a blessed New Year to the gents at The Provisionist Perspective (PP). With that said, I'll be responding to a quote they Tweeted as an attempted demonstration of the absurdity of "Calvinism," though it applies to all Monergistic views with a conception of the Divine Decree (Augustinianism, Lutheranism, Thomism, etc.). Their Tweet is as follows:

"If Calvinism is true, one could throw bananas at the lost or sing the national anthem of Bangladesh in Swahili, and it would have the same effect upon the lost as praying, witnessing, or hearing the gospel." -Rogers "Does God Love All or Some?" @PastorRWR {I}

Now, a number of people have given good replies to aspects of this Tweet, including how it very strongly misrepresents the system. However, PP claims they have received "crickets" on the fact that this quote was not theirs but from a pastor and former Calvinist of almost 30 years {II}. I'll address it myself and why it isn't significant. First, I haven't seen PP clarify if this quote was given while or after the pastor was a Calvinist, which is important because conversion from a system can easily result in one throwing poor caricatures at it, thus mitigating any alleged significance of it coming from a former Calvinist pastor. This obviously isn't to say leaving a system renders you a vegetable in your understanding of it; it's just a common phenomena that can explain why even a former Calvinist can get things wrong. And this post will later demonstrate how the quote at minimum lacks a key nuance.

But granting for the moment that the quote was given while he was a Calvinist, I'd also say the rhetorical impact in appealing to it to show how Calvinists will accuse even other Calvinists of misunderstanding them is neutered by the basic fact that there are people in all systems of thought who gravely misunderstand them. Would my pulling up of a Romanist Priest who clearly misunderstands Rome's position on sexuality and is accused of such by other Romanists thereby prove that Rome's position on sexuality is muddled or confused? Or worse, that they're just BS'ing these accusations? No, not in the slightest. Misunderstanding is real, especially which is held to by millions worldwide, like Calvinism, and which has experienced modern renovations not representative of its original form (which is why one should invest time in reading the classical Reformed sources, something which PP has unfortunately attempted to excuse themselves from {III}).

With that out of the way, let's see the Tweet itself. Is throwing bananas or singing the national anthem of Bangladesh in Swahili as (in)effective in converting the lost as praying to them, witnessing to them, or letting them hear the Gospel?

The key error of this quote is its failure to distinguish between the truly lost and unregenerate yet elect persons. In the latter case, the quote is factually untrue. God ordains not merely the ends but the means by which they come to pass. This is clearly explicated in two treatises by John Calvin and Theodore Beza against the Libertines, a group of Occasionalists, who believed God directly and immediately causes every event in time (so, the caricature of Calvinism that is often disseminated by anti-Calvinists) {IV}. Calvin and Beza's chief concern here was to defeat this philosophy and protect God from the accusation of being the author of sin, and they do so by noting the reality of secondary causes by which things occur. Two quotes from Beza in his treatise are most illustrative to this effect. He first says in Proposition 10 that:

God puts in execution the counsels of his will by second causes and mid-instruments, not as bound unto them, as the Stoics did affirm, but freely and potently making, moving and directing them as it pleases his wisdom.

And in Proposition 23:

And so He works by those instruments that not only He permits and suffers to work, neither does He only moderate the event or chance, but also He raises them up. He moves, He directs, and that which is most of all, He also creates, to the end that by them He shall work that which He has appointed. Which things God does righteously, and without any injustice.

And so, with this distinction proven by classical Protestant sources, we can thus apply it to the witnessing and preaching of the Gospel to the unregenerate. Yes, it is effectual, for those who are elect. Throwing bananas and swinging foreign anthems is not an effectual means for converting the elect.

However - and maybe they only intended this - what about the reprobate? Is praying for them, witnessing to them, and preaching the Gospel to them as ineffective as throwing bananas and singing the Bangladeshi anthem in Swahili to them?

Yes. And so what?

Let us remember the clear point of this quote; demonstrate an alleged absurdity in the Calvinist system. But we need only take a step back and ask why it's absurd. It's because, uhh... throwing bananas and singing anthems in Swahili is silly? Okay, sure. You know what else sounds silly? In the Provisionist system, preaching the Gospel to a literal corpse is as effective as throwing bananas and singing anthems in Swahili at it. Wow, how silly does that sound?

Only if you grant the premise that it is silly. Specifically, that there needs to be a difference in the efficacy of these actions towards a particular subject. But if we don't grant that in the first place, who cares? A properly effective argument ad absurdum plays on premises actually granted by the interlocutor. This might work on a very malformed and unread Calvinist, but not in a consistent one.

I hope the gents at PP and other non-Calvinists can take to heart what I've said here. One again, a blessed New Year to everyone.


III - See their replies to my quote Tweet telling them how they can demonstrate their understanding of Calvinism as they asked on Twitter:

IV - Calvin & Beza on Providence: Translations by Knox. Reformed Books Online.

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