Calvinist Student Fails Multiple Choice Exam

Sioux Center, IA

Honor student Matthew Van Duyken recently failed a final exam when he refused to answer a third of the questions on the Advanced Studies in Ephesians test. Van Duyken, a junior at Dordt College in Sioux Center, probably lost his opportunity to become the valedictorian of the class of 2018.

“The test wasn’t fair,” Van Duyken said. “We’ve always been taught that man doesn’t have free will, so how can Professor Jacobus expect students to choose between A, B, C, or D?”

Van Duyken was not alone in venting frustrations. James Beza answered the questions but later complained about the professor. “I can’t believe he’s allowed to teach here. As if multiple choice questions weren’t a form of Pelagianism already, at least three of questions didn’t even include ‘God is sovereign’ as an option. What other answer could I give?”

Classmate Amber Allen took her protests to Twitter. “He’s destroying God’s sovereignty by implying that we have free will. #NoSynergism #FireJacobus

School officials said they understood the concerns shared by the students but added that they would not give another opportunity to take the test.

Van Duyken said he is considering legal action against Dordt. “I’m trying to decide whether I should sue the school to give us a test in line with the statement of faith. But I know God must have sovereignly ordained this turn of events, so I should probably just choose to trust in His sovereignty and let it go.”

———————————————————————

Here are some tulips to add color to this post. For those who don’t know, TULIP is an acronym summarizing certain Calvinist beliefs.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the above article is a piece of satire. It is intended to be a fun critique of some things I have heard Calvinists say. Of course, Calvinism, as a general term, encompasses a variety of beliefs and proponents may differ on many things, even the question of man’s freedom. That is, some deny man’s freedom, believing that God is “meticulously sovereign” in that He is the instrumental cause behind everything that happens—even something as mundane as the decision of what you will drink with dinner tonight. Others hold to views that allow man to have freedom in most areas of life, but not when it comes to the decision to follow Christ.

I don’t often discuss Calvinism and Arminianism on my blog (see my post on Romans 9:13 for the one article I’ve done addressing certain related issues). I do not consider myself to be either of these. I wanted to have a little fun pointing out a few amusing and sometimes annoying things I’ve heard from some of my Calvinist friends.

A few people have accused me of destroying God’s sovereignty after suggesting that man does indeed have “free will.” As if I, or any other person for that matter, could destroy the sovereignty of the Almighty. He is infinitely more powerful than I am. At most, if man indeed has free will, it would destroy versions of Calvinism that deny any human freedom, such as the position commonly referred to as hyper-Calvinism. I’m certain the vast majority of Calvinists would never say that someone could destroy God’s sovereignty.

I also wanted to call attention to the overuse of the word sovereign, particularly when it is made into an adverb. God is sovereign, so every time He does anything, He “sovereignly” does it. He can never “unsovereignly” do anything. Yet, time and time again, I hear Calvinists say that God “sovereignly” did this or that. Well, obviously. For some Calvinists, it seems as if they have a “sovereignty quota” where the word must be mentioned a certain number of times per paragraph. God is also loving and just, and yet we don’t repeatedly say, “God lovingly did this” or “God justly did that.”

And finally, the main character in the satire, Matthew Van Duyken, believes God is meticulously sovereign. So even though he believes God is the instrumental cause behind everything that ever happens (that God decrees, ordains, and brings to pass every thought and action), Matthew complains about things that God must have “sovereignly” brought to pass—the hiring of Professor Jacobus and the professor’s decision to include multiple choice questions on the exam. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard those who hold this view complain about certain events or warn people about false teachings. Yet if God is meticulously sovereign then He made those events happen, and He made those people teach false ideas. Matthew also pulled the “Pelagius” card by labeling anyone deemed a non-Calvinist as a Pelagian.

I hope you enjoyed this bit of satire. If you have a good idea for an Arminian satire, let me hear it. If you decide to comment, please note that I am not going to debate Calvinism/Arminianism, predestination/free will, or any of the related discussions that I’ve already had countless times. Attempts to draw me into such a debate will probably not be approved for posting.

The Case for Christ—a film review

The Case for Christ is an excellent film about Lee Strobel’s journey from atheism to Christianity.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to watch The Case for Christ at a local theater with my wife. Since the movie addresses many of the subjects that I write and speak about on a regular basis, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it. There are a few minor spoilers here, although they aren’t spoilers if you already know the true story behind the film.

The movie tells the story of Lee Strobel and his journey from atheism to Christianity. Based on his book by the same title, the film highlights Strobel’s investigation into the central claims of Christianity—Jesus died on the Cross and was seen alive again three days later because He rose from the dead.

The movie really is well done. Christian films are often maligned for their level of quality, but I don’t think this would be a valid criticism of this film. The acting and storytelling is very good. It really feels like 1980, and viewers get a good look inside the Chicago Tribune newsroom where Strobel was an award-winning journalist.

Strobel’s testimony is well documented. After his wife Leslie converted to Christianity, he set out to prove that Christianity was false. In the film, he asks a coworker where he should start in his effort to debunk the faith. The coworker was a Christian and challenged him to go for the jugular—disprove the Resurrection and Christianity crumbles. So that’s what Strobel focused his efforts on.

The investigative reporter interviewed experts in various disciplines trying to punch holes in the Resurrection narratives. Were the manuscripts reliable? Did Jesus really die on the Cross? Were the disciples just hallucinating when they saw Jesus alive again? Is there credible evidence for Jesus outside of early Christian sources? The answers to these questions and many others shook Strobel’s atheism to its core.

In the beginning of his book, The Case for Christ, Strobel tells the story of James Dixon, a man convicted of shooting a police officer in the stomach during a scuffle. Everyone knew Dixon was guilty, all the evidence presented at the trial pointed to that fact, and Dixon even admitted that he did it. Yet, one piece of evidence was missing, and it was that one bit that changed everything and led to Dixon’s acquittal. This story is woven throughout the film and serves as an analogy for the way evidence is often viewed from a skewed perspective based on one’s starting point.

The film also shows the difficulties Lee and Leslie faced as they started growing apart. As Lee became more and more frustrated with his wife’s newfound faith, he became more determined to disprove it. Eventually, he realized that he couldn’t debunk Christianity, but he still didn’t want to convert.

His testimony highlights the fact that oftentimes the rejection of Christianity is not due to a lack of evidence. In an interview, Strobel said that there is often an emotional underpinning to one’s atheism. In his case, it stemmed from a very difficult relationship with his father, and he cited many other similar stories. He added that there are often moral issues at play. He didn’t want to change his lifestyle—he enjoyed getting drunk and didn’t want to give that up.

Eventually, Strobel gave his life to the Lord, and the film shows this in a dramatic scene with his wife. He told her that her faith was based on solid facts, and that he had come to accept that it was true. But he also told her that it wasn’t only the facts that persuaded him; his wife’s changed life played a major role in Strobel placing his faith in Jesus Christ. This scene shows how God reaches people in a variety of ways. For some, like Strobel, God uses the evidence for Christianity to bring them to the Christ.

Lee Strobel is now a very well-known Christian apologist. He is the author of numerous books dedicated to demonstrating the truth of Christianity, including The Case for Christ and The Case for the Real Jesus (both of which I highly recommend). He is an excellent writer so the books are engaging and easy to read.

I truly enjoyed the film, and it wasn’t just because he drove a Camaro (which is what I drive), although that was very cool. At times, it seemed like I was listening to my own Resurrection presentation on the big screen. It was interesting to see how one of my professors, Dr. Gary Habermas, was portrayed. That scene demonstrated the only “shortcoming” of the film I found, although I think shortcoming is too strong of a term. In Strobel’s encounter with Dr. Habermas, the professor tells him about the death of his first wife, Debbie. But Debbie died in 1995, 15 years after the scene takes place in the movie. Strobel did interview Dr. Habermas after 1995, and that interview makes up one of the chapters in his book. So the film took that particular detail and stuck it in 1980. It works well for the film, but it isn’t technically accurate. In the interview mentioned earlier, Strobel estimated that 15–20% of the movie doesn’t line up with his life in exact detail, but for the purpose of the script, certain details, like this one, were tweaked a little to make for a more compelling film.

I highly recommend this movie. For Christians, The Case for Christ is a wonderful film that will encourage you and demonstrate that the foundation of our faith, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, can withstand skeptical scrutiny and historical examination. For unbelievers, I urge you to see this film as well and undertake your own investigation of these events.