“And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’”
What was the goading? Was it a conscience?
Can we prove that we have a conscience? Apparently, it not only exists, but is “hard” to kick against. But to be fair, Atheists do admit that there are things that exist that we are unable to observe, though I think that the original point wasn’t necessarily what we can presently prove scientifically, but rather that all things which exist, must necessarily be subject to the Scientific Method. But what does this say about things that reside outside of our material universe and dimension? What if we had a spirit and a soul which existed outside of this dimension? In fact, what it we had a conscience, and that’s exactly where it resides, that is, outside of this dimension, in our soul and spirit? It wouldn’t be presently observable under the Scientific Method, but yet we strangely know that it is there, just as Jesus alluded to, and that brings me to the next point.
I don’t believe that the top right picture is accurate, regarding how Christians perceive Atheists, and I definitely don’t think that the bottom middle picture is accurate at all, regarding how it feels to be an Atheist, since I don’t think that conscience permits it, which I think can be a gnawing reminder, and an everpresent torment, which people subconsciously try to silence through (1) cursing, (2) anger and (3) seeking to deconvert others (in order to gain personal affirmation). Those who yield to their conscience by turning and confessing their sins to God and asking Jesus to personally forgive them, give further testament to the existence of their conscience by saying such things as, “It felt like the weight of the world came off my shoulders.” “All of the guilt and shame went away.” “For the first time, I felt a true sense of peace.” Just like everyone else, I too have a conscience, which is why I think that although there may be momentary elements of the bottom middle picture, it is ultimately fleeting, which is why I think that people subconsciously try to destroy and silence it, through combinations of the three elements named above. Christians who rebuff Atheists and remain glued to Jesus must seem like quite a spectacle to Atheists, and I think that the peace of mind through a happy and reaffirming conscience plays a big part of it.
Adding in the Calvinist element, I perceive that Calvinists seek out non-Calvinists to “debate,” because like Atheists wanting to debate Christians, is because they too are seeking personal affirmation. Calvinists have a conscience, just like everyone else, and I believe that our conscience repels Calvinism.
Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, states: “But it does not say anything about fitting men for destruction; they fitted themselves. They did that: God had nothing to do with it. ... My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man’s soul at God’s door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that.” (Jacob and Esau, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, writes: “Again and again we see that people are predestined (elected) to salvation--but nowhere do we see that anyone is ever predestined to condemnation of Hell. When we think of God as unfairly, arbitrarily electing people to Heaven or Hell, it is as if we have a mental picture of a row of people sitting on a fence, and God passes down the line and points at each one, ‘It’s Hell for you, Heaven for you, Hell, Hell, Hell, Heaven, Hell...’ Now, that would be unfair--and absolutely capricious! But that’s not the kind of God we love and serve.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.29, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, speaking of his conversion to Calvinism, writes: “I no longer feared the demons of fatalism or the ugly thought that I was being reduced to a puppet. Now I rejoiced in a gracious Savior who alone was immortal, invisible, the only wise God.” (Chosen by God, p.13, emphasis mine)
Conscience plays a very big part of this, and Sproul’s comments are actually the silencing of conscience. However, when a Calvinist leaves Christianity and becomes an Atheist, often those former demons that Sproul spoke of, return. Here are some examples of the secret Calvinist conscience, speaking out, what had previously being silenced.
Former Calvinist, Atheist Byron Smith, adds: “I’m curious. As you might remember from my comments (as Byroniac), I was a five-point Calvinist, then became an Agnostic. I saw nothing externally that I could use to justify my salvation. So I turned inward, and found nothing really solid there, either. I reasoned (then, as a Christian) that without the genuine conversion from the Holy Spirit, a false convert might have everything else one could wish to show externally, good works showing strong faith and reasonable hope of salvation. But I could not rid myself of the nagging thought: what if I am not actually elect? I have no way to determine my own genuine conversion, and given the Parable of the Sower, the seed is good but the end result might be ruin, and that is not always known immediately. I want to ask the question, not as an atheist (what I am currently), but as-if from a Christian viewpoint, how does a Calvinist justify his/her salvation? Anything you point to, good works, strong faith, whatever, can all disappear and fall by the way side (I speak from personal experience, there).” (Coming soon - What is calvinism -Everything you need to know about Calvinism and then some, emphasis mine) This is why I say that a non-Calvinist is a Christian by promise, that is, simply trusting in the promises of Jesus to forgive those who turn to Him and seek His forgiveness and salvation, whereas a Calvinist is a Christian by presumption, that is, simply presuming that they were part of an eternal draft, and placing their focus and hope on a draft of whether or not Jesus ever died for them (though thankfully Calvinists such as Charles Spurgeon did steer people to Jesus, and even away from thinking about Election, believe it or not, but which he did, as I would argue, not because of Calvinism, but in spite of Calvinism.) Former Calvinist, Atheist Byron Smith, adds: “...I mean you no personal offense, but I disagree with the sentiment that I will never get it, and never be able to spiritually discern things. Those are your beliefs, not mine, based on your view of the operation of the Holy Spirit on people’s souls. To me, no offense, but it might as well be magic in my view. I used to believe this same way, too, as a Calvinist, until one day it finally dawned on me that ‘lost’ people COULD and DID understand the Bible, at times better than I did. All I wanted was your personal theological view for curiosity’s sake. I understand you take your religion seriously, and I respect that. But are you afraid that you cannot just answer my question directly for some spiritual reason? Anyways, take care, and have an excellent day.” (Coming soon - What is calvinism -Everything you need to know about Calvinism and then some, emphasis mine)
It’s interesting that Calvinists so often use the “you don’t get it” argument, when being called to explain the merry-go-round logic of Calvinism. What is amazing is that the Calvinist is imploring the Atheist to turn back to Christ, and encouraging him that he is praying for him, while at the same time saying that “until you’re born again you’ll never really get it. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned,” which of course comes from an alleged Irresistible Grace. So does the Calvinist suppose that man, when implored by a Calvinist, can induce God to give them an Irresistible Grace? Of course not, since Total Depravity absolutely forbids it. So you have a perfect merry-go-round. So the Calvinist is encouraging something that is absolutely impossible without being preemptively Born Again through an Irresistible Grace. If the individual can’t do anything, apart from first receiving a secret Irresistible Grace, then the Calvinist is essentially asking the individual to try to believe, because who knows, maybe you have an Irresistible Grace, this time around, perhaps? What a far cry this is from the real evangelical message of the Gospel.
Smith adds: “...thank you for your genuine concern for my spiritual state (if such a thing even exists). I must politely decline any invitations to conversion as I am sincerely disinterested in acquiring any religious beliefs. I have an external observer’s interest in theology, though, for whatever its worth, I am drawn to the five-point soteriology of Piper, Sproul, and James White, over non-Calvinist perspectives. But I’m not looking for personal assurance or anything else. I am simply resigned to apostasy in my personal view, to use Christian terminology in which I no longer fully believe.” (Coming soon - What is calvinism -Everything you need to know about Calvinism and then some, emphasis mine) Smith adds: “...I am no longer able to believe any of the fundamental tenets of Christianity or God (at least in any Christian sense). So essentially my ‘unbelief’ goes much deeper than differences over soteriology, though those are also primary to many Christians. I would still be a five-point Calvinist, if I could become a Christian. I was as genuine as I could be for 25 years, mentally assenting to the essential doctrines of the faith (and many non-essentials, especially in the periphera of Calvinism). I am sorry, Mary. I used to think I knew it all, and now I realize I did not: not as a Christian, and certainly not now. I do not know as much about the religion I used to believe as is possible. But of course, this assertion excludes the possibility of Christianity actually being true and actual conversion and spiritual faith abiding in souls which exist as real entities. There are three components to Christian faith, as I see it from a secular standpoint: cognitive understanding, mental assent, and social framework. Of course, Christians would add a fourth which is primary: the spiritual realm, under the authority of God and subject to His decrees, and interpreted to humans by the Holy Spirit through the inerrant Word of God, which bears witness to Christ and His work of divine redemption. To call James White a lunatic is to claim his irrationality, and I do not think that can be sustained. His beliefs have definitely been polarizing, especially in the area of soteriology, however. From what I can see, the debate centers upon different interpretations and harmonization of key scripture passages. I no longer believe in the Bible either, so I no longer feel the need to defend or oppose any particular interpretation with any passion. That can simply give way to curiosity on my part.” (Coming soon - What is calvinism -Everything you need to know about Calvinism and then some, emphasis mine) Smith concludes: “...though I’m an apostate atheist (or perhaps agnostic), and no longer Calvinist (or Christian), I find myself still drawn to to the Calvinist side of Christianity, as opposed to the non-Calvinist side. But I feel conflicted when I ponder which theology I would choose if I still believed. On the one hand, I find myself agreeing with the horror expressed at predestination and especially that of reprobation. I can step back and examine my apostasy from the standpoint of Calvinism, which, if true, presents a truly horrible finality and sternness in the justice of Almighty God. In this view I am simply a vessel fitted for destruction. Predestination is just the means to accomplish God’s desired end: my condemnation and eternal punishment, for His Glory. But, on the other hand, and in my opinion as a non-believer, I think the very key idea here is one of divine authority. I find it also very difficult to deny the right of a Sovereign, Omnipotent, Omniscient Creator to do with His creation as He pleases. I am not trying to insinuate that you or others attempt to do this at all, or even would. But I wonder if the Calvinistic side of the equation, that I held to, stresses righteous authority to such an extent that even morality cannot (and need not) be fully qualified or understood in the context of the divine. Authority itself, without explanation of morality, is sufficient. Whereas in non-Calvinism, perhaps authority and the need for explanatory morality are balanced equally? These are just my thoughts. I am just curious, so I am asking this because I still occasionally enjoy thinking about these concepts.” (Byron Smith, emphasis mine)
So now it comes out. That’s the conscience that was speaking to him, all the while that he had been a Calvinist, and now looking from the outside-in, the honesty comes out. Suddenly now, he can confess to the “truly horrible” nature of Calvinism, but he still has the ancient Greek philosophical perspective of an all-determining Deity, which the early Church had battled against in defense of free will, during the first 300 years of early Church history, in its disputes against the Gnostics, prior to the arrival of Augustine.