Calvinism and Robots

It’s not uncommon to hear that the view of God’s sovereignty manintained by Calvinists reduces human beings to the role of a mere robot. Here John Frame thinks through this objection:

Scripture is concerned, above all, to glorify God. Sometimes glorifying God humbles man, and those who believe Scripture must be willing to accept that consequence. We covet for ourselves ever more dignity, honor, and status, and we resist accepting a lower place. But Scripture assaults our pride and honors the humble. Scripture compares us, after all, not to sophisticated robots, but to simple potter’s clay.

What if it turns out that we are robots, after all—clay fashioned into marvelous robots, rather than being left as mere clay? Should we complain to God about that? Or should we rather feel honored that our bodies and minds are fashioned so completely to fulfill our assigned roles in God’s great drama? Some creatures are born as rabbits, some as cockroaches, and some as bacteria. By comparison, would it not be a privilege to be born as an intelligent robot?

Indeed, what remarkable robots we would be—capable of love and intimacy with God, and assigned to rule over all the creatures. Is it not a wonderful blessing of grace that, when we sinned in Adam, God did not simply discard us, as a potter might very well do with his clay, and as a robot operator might well do with his malfunctioning machine, but sent his only Son to die for us? Risen with him to new life, believers enjoy unimaginably wonderful fellowship with him forever.

As we meditate upon these dignities and blessings, the image of the robot becomes less and less appropriate, not because God’s control over us appears less complete, but because one doesn’t treat robots with such love and honor.

-John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God

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Posted on September 3, 2013, in John Frame, Reformed Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. The problem with being robots isn’t that we will be less than we believe we are, but that we were programed to sin. This not only exacerbates the problem of evil (what reason could God have for forcing us to commit acts He believes to be evil) it also seems to create problems for the traditional Christian position that God is the basis of morality. And if there is no morally sufficient reason for God to predestine people to sin it seems to force the Christian into a sort Open Theism because he would have to accept a strict Divine Command meta-ethic and accept that God somehow changed His mind on what is moral and immoral after He created mankind, but couldn’t do anything about it. Its either that or God is immoral according to His own system of ethics. Both options seem absurd and heretical.

    As I understand it the traditional Calvinist response is that mankind is free in the sense that he can do what he desires to do. The problem is man, if left to his own devices, will only desire to rebel against God. Putting aside the disturbing implications for virtues such as responsibility, this doesn’t seem to solve the issues described above, for if God formed the state’s of affairs in the world such that our desires could only be to hate him, then He is just as guilty as He would be if free will was purely non-existent in the will of man. This is even more true if as many Calvinists seem to believe God could have created a world such that all mankind only desired to love Him. After-all if we are to emphasize sovereignty as much as the Calvinist desires us to, how could we deny that God could do such a thing?

    But perhaps Adam and Eve solve this problem. After all, surely they were free in a libertarian sense. I suppose if this is the case and A and E’s decision to sin caused mankind to be incapable of desiring God of their own power then obviously God doesn’t have to directly cause everything that happens in the universe, and indeed didn’t. If this is the case then why did God not give us back our free will in regards to the common grace provided by Christ? Furthermore, if such freedom could not be restored without a person being elect then why didn’t God make everyone the elect? It seems that for these reasons and others, Calvinism is indefensible.

  2. Though we were made with clay, we were not made in the image of a robot no matter how marvelous it may be, but in the image of God himself. While the former is not due love and honor, the latter clearly is. We should love each other.

  3. What a humbling doctrine

  4. Amen brother. What magnanimous grace is the grace of our Sovereign God
    -Romans 9-11

  5. Why does Jesus teach us to pray by saying ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ if such prayers don’t really matter?

    Seems the whole Calvinist thought process, as I see it, is an avoidance of responsibility. Just embrace free will AND the fact that God is sovereign. It am not finding it that hard to do :)

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