Was Joseph a Calvinist?

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mattrose
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Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:43 pm

Many have taken Joseph's words in Genesis 45:5-8 & 50:20 to mean that God had authored the whole series of events in Joseph's life.

I don't think so and here's why:

1. The Bible is clear that God is not the author of evil. Evil things were done to Joseph.
2. The text explicitly says that the human agents did the evil things (brothers, Potiphar's wife)
3. The text does tell us specifically what God was doing in the story. God was WITH Joseph (39:2, 3, 5, 21, 23)*
*We can also safely assume that God actively gave Joseph dreams and helped him interpret the dreams of others.

Furthermore, I believe it is worth pointing out that Joseph's statements in 45:5-8 and 50:20 were not made at the front of a theological lecture hall. They were made in intensely emotional moments in his relationship with his brothers.

He starts off in 45:5 with "Do not be distressed"
But we must keep in mind that he spent the previous chapters STRESSING them out!

He said "Do not be angry"
But he only revealed his identity after he saw ample evidence that they WERE ANGRY at their past sin

So when he says "it was not you who sent me", I think it is wrong to take that to mean something like 'God determined that the brothers should sell him into slavery'. I take it to mean that Joseph has chosen NOT TO FOCUS on their past role, but on God's accomplishments through it all. After all, when he restates it in 50:20 (after a little more time for reflection) he says that indeed "You intended to harm me". That is Joseph admitting their role. They had brought Joseph low. God's role was to raise him back up each time he was brought low.

The story, then, reflects the message of Jesus and the cross. We (humans) intended to harm Jesus. We killed the Son of God. But God raised Jesus from the dead. God did not send Joseph into slavery any more than God killed Jesus. God raised Joseph and Jesus up.

What I will say is that God, with great wisdom, was able to utilize the tragedies that happened to Joseph to accomplish divine purposes. At Potiphar's house, Joseph was able to learn to steward abundant resources (assuming Potiphar was a well paid government official). In Prison, Joseph was able to learn to steward minimal resources (assuming that prison resources were scarce). These events helped to prepare Joseph to be steward over all of Egypt for 7 years of abundant resources and 7 years of minimal resources.

God didn't cause the suffering, but God was able to use the suffering for a good purpose.

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Paidion
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by Paidion » Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:39 pm

I agree entirely with your outlook, Matt.
But many believe that God CAUSED these things to happen to Joseph, in order to bring forth good for people. They justify this view by quoting Joseph's words to his brothers as recorded in Genesis 50:20
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Also, the apostle Paul wrote:
And why not do evil that good may come? —  as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8)
That being the case, it is highly unlikely that God would bring about Joseph's suffering at his brothers hands IN ORDER TO save the lives of many others. Rather, God brought good out of this evil that had already been done.
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Homer
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by Homer » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:14 pm

It seems to me we must say that God at least allowed the evil things that happened to Joseph; otherwise we would have to say God could neither foresee nor prevent the evil. Mighty fine is the line between God allowing suffering when He could prevent it, and Him directly causing it.

Given that Job did not sin when he saw God as ultimately sovereign over his circumstances:

Job 2:6-10 (NASB)
6. So the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”
7. Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.
9. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10. But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.


And consider:

Isaiah 53:10 (NASB)
10. But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

Acts 2:23 (NASB)
23. this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

Paidion quoted:
And why not do evil that good may come? — as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8)
I believe Paul had another subject in mind in this place; the quotaion is irrelevant to the subject matter.

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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:55 am

Paidion wrote:But many believe that God CAUSED these things to happen to Joseph, in order to bring forth good for people. They justify this view by quoting Joseph's words to his brothers as recorded in Genesis 50:20
Yes, I referred to Genesis 50:20 in the first line of my post. That statement, and Joseph's similar statements from chapter 45, were the reason for my post. My goal was to offer a better interpretation of those verses.

The small-scale context (37-50) doesn't encourage us to interpret Joseph's words in a Calvinistic ways b/c the humans are the ones who are said to have made the evil decisions. Nor can it be argued that the text simply 'hides' God's involvement since it is more than willing to say that God was actively 'with' Joseph. The larger context (Genesis) shows that God is the author of what is 'good' and humans and the serpent brought evil into the world. The largest context (Canon) shows that God is wholly good. There is no darkness in God at all.

My point was, Joseph was making a statement at an emotional moment. The statement wasn't wrong in any way... it has just been misunderstood. He wasn't saying "God's the one who sent me into slavery"... He's saying "I'm no longer focused on what you did to me in the past, I'm focused on what God did to help us all"

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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:21 pm

I guess my larger point boils down to this

Joseph's statements, today, are most often reflected on in systematic theology textbooks

Joseph's statement, originally, was in an extremely intense emotional moment

Many times, in my life, when I've been wronged (though I've never been wronged to the same scale as Joseph)... when I see that the person is remorseful, I might say something like "You know what? Don't worry about it... let's move on". In some cases, I might even say something like "Well, it all worked out alright in the end, so we're good."

To me, Joseph wasn't saying "God controlled this situation all the way through". Joseph was saying, you were doing bad stuff but God didn't give up on doing good stuff... in fact, God is so wise He was able to bring good even out of your bad."

To me, Homer, this actually IS quite different. Allowing IS different from doing.

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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by Paidion » Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:20 pm

It seems to me we must say that God at least allowed the evil things that happened to Joseph; otherwise we would have to say God could neither foresee nor prevent the evil. Mighty fine is the line between God allowing suffering when He could prevent it, and Him directly causing it.
Consider the immense suffering that is taking place hourly throughout the world—vicious rapes and tortures, starving people, people who have no access to unpolluted water to drink, rape and torture to death of little girls ten years old and younger. God COULD prevent these atrocities, but in fact He usually does nothing to stop them. Does that fact imply that God directly CAUSES these atrocities? If so, He wouldn't be the God whose essence is LOVE! (I John 4:8,16). Also God doesn't ALLOW these atrocities in the sense of His giving permission for them to take place. Rather, His great loving heart is broken to see all this suffering. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision once said, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."

This leads to the question, "Why does God usually do nothing to stop these atrocities?" The only explanation I have is that God in general values the free will of man, and so if He consistently intervened in these acts to prevent them, He would not be allowing mankind to exercise free will. He wants all people to freely choose Him of their own free will. It might also lead to inconsistency in the operation of natural laws. For example, if God always intervened when people stumbled and fell off cliffs, and caused them to float to the bottom of cliffs unhurt, then the law of gravity would not be operating in the normal way. We would never know for sure whether or not objects would fall in the usual manner.
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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:34 pm

I was thinking the other day of what God could have hypothetically done to intervene in Joseph's sufferings

Could God have given Joseph's brothers some sort of 'love potion' so that they no longer hated their brother and decided not to kill/sell him? Sure. Would that have been 'better'? NOT if the goal is authentic loving relationships.

Could God have broken the door of the prison Joseph was sitting in after the cupbearer forgot about him so that Joseph could have walked out freely? Sure. Would that have been 'better'? What would Joseph do next? Go back home to his brothers would hated him? Stay in Egypt where he was a slave?

Granted, it may be harder to see why God doesn't intervene in areas like disease and whatnot.

Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian who doesn't even like to use 'allow' language at all. He believes God cannot intervene in such cases. He's a bit too close to process theology in my opinion, but I do find some of his thoughts intriguing. If interested, I'd recommend his book 'The Uncontrolling Love of God'

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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by Homer » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:01 am

What got my attention was the question of Calvinism. I have a relatively strong view of God's sovereignty and a very negative view of the "TULIP" which to me sums up Calvinism. Many non-Calvinists believe strongly about this ("not a sparrow falls").

If we do not believe God can intervene even in what appears to be hopeless situations why pray for people?

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steve
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by steve » Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:10 am

Homer and I see this matter quite the same way.

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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:37 am

I mentioned Oord as an interesting dialogue partner, but stated that I don't agree with him.

I believe God can intervene. Part of the point of my post was to make 2 points

1) God is not the cause of evil things (does not 'cause' suffering)
2) God, in divine providence, has good reasons for not intervening in many cases (thus 'allowing' suffering)

The Joseph story has sometimes been used by those who believe in determinism to suggest that God put it in the mind of the brothers to be jealous of Joseph SO THAT he'd end up in Egypt and be in a place to save Israel. I reject that.

Joseph's brothers simply sinned. God was wise enough to use the effects of their sins in creative ways to bring about a good.

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