Was Joseph a Calvinist?

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backwoodsman
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by backwoodsman » Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:46 am

Part of the equation is that Joseph was basically a spoiled favorite child who didn't have the sense not to tell his brothers about his dreams which he surely must've known would antagonize them. Not telling them those things, and probably a zillion other things we don't know about, would've gone a long way toward bad stuff not happening to him. I'm sure God could've figured out how to get Joseph into position in Egypt had his brothers not so obligingly helped. Much more importantly, there were some serious character issues God needed to deal with before He could use Joseph as He intended.

To sum up: Bad stuff didn't happen to Joseph because God had to do (or allow) it in order to save people down the road. Bad stuff happened to Joseph because God needed to take care of those serious character issues.

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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:51 am

backwoodsman wrote:Part of the equation is that Joseph was basically a spoiled favorite child who didn't have the sense not to tell his brothers about his dreams which he surely must've known would antagonize them. Not telling them those things, and probably a zillion other things we don't know about, would've gone a long way toward bad stuff not happening to him. I'm sure God could've figured out how to get Joseph into position in Egypt had his brothers not so obligingly helped. Much more importantly, there were some serious character issues God needed to deal with before He could use Joseph as He intended.

To sum up: Bad stuff didn't happen to Joseph because God had to do (or allow) it in order to save people down the road. Bad stuff happened to Joseph because God needed to take care of those serious character issues.
The text doesn't really make clear that Joseph was in need of character development. It's a possible interpretation of some of the plot points, but the author certainly doesn't emphasize it.

When Joseph reflects on the whole set of circumstances later on, he doesn't say anything about his own character development. He specifically says it was to save people.

I agree with a lot of what you said here, but there's more tension in the text.

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Paidion
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by Paidion » Sat Jul 14, 2018 12:04 pm

Matt wrote: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.
That's basically how I see it, too, Matt. I might have a problem with 2) if you hadn't included the phrase "in many cases."
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TK
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by TK » Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:34 am

backwoodsman wrote:Part of the equation is that Joseph was basically a spoiled favorite child who didn't have the sense not to tell his brothers about his dreams which he surely must've known would antagonize them. Not telling them those things, and probably a zillion other things we don't know about, would've gone a long way toward bad stuff not happening to him. I'm sure God could've figured out how to get Joseph into position in Egypt had his brothers not so obligingly helped. Much more importantly, there were some serious character issues God needed to deal with before He could use Joseph as He intended.

To sum up: Bad stuff didn't happen to Joseph because God had to do (or allow) it in order to save people down the road. Bad stuff happened to Joseph because God needed to take care of those serious character issues.
A while back, there were some very good made for television movies on various Bible characters-- Abraham (starred Richard Harris), Isaac, Joseph, David. They were pretty well done we thought.

Anyway in the Joseph movie they brought out some of Joseph's lack of judgment- not to justify the brothers' horrid behavior but to show why they were so darn angry at Joseph. After all, they were pretty darn mad at him and there had to be a reason. Joseph was a spoiled child and unfortunately he flaunted this in front of his brothers and he had no filter on his mouth.

I think there is truth in what Backwoodsman says.

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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:57 pm

Yeah, I think it's reasonable to conclude that Joseph was a spoiled brat. He was the favorite child of his father despite being the 11th son born. The older 10 were out working and Joseph was sent to check on them and gave them a bad report. That could be interpreted as either helpful to his dad or simply as him being a tattle-tale. He was given a special coat/robe. Whether he flaunted this or felt embarrassed is guesswork. He shared his dreams, which even upset Jacob. Whether this was youthful naivete or brash arrogance is, again, a matter of guesswork.

I'd lean toward the idea that he was spoiled, but there are ways of reading it without thinking less of Joseph in his youth.

My point was... even IF he was spoiled... that's not really something the author ever emphasizes. Nor does Joseph emphasize it. He doesn't say "You meant it to harm me, but God used it to develop my character"

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robbyyoung
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by robbyyoung » Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:31 pm

Hi Brothers,

I enjoyed reading this thread and have learned a great deal on possible back stories regarding Joseph’s adolescent life. However, we must not forget that God sovereignly chose Joseph, despite his shortcomings, over his brothers to narrate His own purpose, mercy, and exaltation regarding covenant promises; isn’t this the real story of grace that inevitably saved millions and secured the path to the eventual Messiah? Gen 39:2 says that God was with Joseph; that pretty much sets the standard when we seek to gain a higher understanding to the question of “why?” within the story.

Matt, Joseph’s brothers hated him because Jacob loved him more than they, due to his love for Rachel over Leah and all other concubines. Since God was with Joseph, I would be careful surmising that Joseph’s conclusion was in error concerning his brothers’ folly at God’s direction. Remember, God intervenes all the time to compel men and women to say and do certain things to accomplish His will; for example, see 1 Kings 22:22.

I don’t know if God sovereign acts in these matters promote Calvin doctrine, but it nonetheless exhibits His character of holiness and purpose that all must eventually yield too. Joseph simply understood that God was the architect of his successes and troubles; this was not only comforting to Joseph but also a revelation to his understanding of God’s ways. In other words, God wanted Joseph in Egypt to accomplish will and his brothers were instrumental in His plan; but the Calvinist argument will always be willingly or not?

Blessings.
Last edited by robbyyoung on Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:47 pm

robbyyoung wrote: I would be careful surmising that Joseph’s conclusion was in error concerning his brothers’ folly at God’s direction.
Actually, I did not suggest that Joseph's conclusion was in error. I suggested that calvinistic interpretations of his statements were in error. There are multiple ways of interpreting his statement. The calvinistic interpretation makes the least sense given the circles of context (the Joseph narrative, Genesis, and the entire Canon).

The story is clear. Laban did something wrong that created bad situation. Jacob did things wrong that made the situation worse. So did Leah and Rachel. Possibly Joseph did too. The brothers certainly sinned. Potiphar's wife sinned. I even think there are clues in the text that Potiphar knew Joseph was innocent and still threw him in jail. The cupbearer forgot about Joseph.

These people did bad things. There is absolutely zero indication in these accounts that God put the desire to do those bad things in their hearts as part of some master plan. The only possible indication that maybe we should read calvinism back into the story are the statements Joseph made in chapters 45 & 50. But it makes more sense to read those passages as relational language intending to make a relational point than it does to read them as theological language intending to make a theological point. Joseph was telling his brothers that he wasn't going to hold the negative past against them because he was more interested in focusing on the positive present that God had brought about. There is simply no good reason to read God's secret activity into the evil actions of the characters earlier in the story.

I think one of the problems we have is that most people who teach the Bible (and participate in message boards) are theologically inclined. Because of this, we often miss what I would call 'relational' meanings in a text. We read every statement as if it supports or speaks against some theological position. We fail to remember that Joseph was a real human being who had suffered for 13 years and then had 9 years to reflect on his suffering. We fail to acknowledge that these statements were made in the midst of an emotional family reunion. Joseph wasn't trying to teach his brothers a particular view of divine sovereignty. Joseph was trying to help his brothers move on.

If Joseph really had concluded that the calvinist position were true... there would have been no reason to put his brothers through so much distress in the previous chapters. There would have been no reason to put Judah in a position to have to make the speech that he eventually made.

But we ignore all that, for all intents and purposes. We imagine Joseph saying "Don't be distressed brothers. It wasn't really you that did all those bad things. God put those evil desires in you so that..." That reading simply doesn't make an ounce of sense. Joseph wanted them to be distressed in chapters 42-44. His statement in 45 is not calvinistic doctrine. It's simply time for relational reunion. He's tested their character and come to an emotional conclusion.

They did evil. God responded with good.

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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by robbyyoung » Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:47 pm

Hi Matt,

Your reply is noteworthy but speculative. With all due respect, you stated:
Joseph wasn't trying to teach his brothers a particular view of divine sovereignty. Joseph was trying to help his brothers move on.
This is your opinion. What if God moved Joseph to say and act out what was written? As you know, it isn’t unheard of that God actually speaks His truths through His servants? Although I may have some speculations of my own, the scriptures does say that God was with Joseph; this is a critical piece of information that may give Joseph’s actions and words some holy reverence.

Again you said:
If Joseph really had concluded that the Calvinist position were true... there would have been no reason to put his brothers through so much distress in the previous chapters. There would have been no reason to put Judah in a position to have to make the speech that he eventually made.
But maybe it was God who chose to put the brothers in distress? Joseph would simply be His instrument. There are plenty of instances throughout God’s Word when this would be the case.

Lastly, you stated:
But we ignore all that, for all intents and purposes. We imagine Joseph saying "Don't be distressed brothers. It wasn't really you that did all those bad things. God put those evil desires in you so that..." That reading simply doesn't make an ounce of sense. Joseph wanted them to be distressed in chapters 42-44. His statement in 45 is not calvinistic doctrine. It's simply time for relational reunion. He's tested their character and come to an emotional conclusion.
Matt, none of this would have taken place without God first giving Joseph his dreams. God facilitated or even tested what was in the heart of the brothers and even Jacob, did He not? One can argue, their response could have only gone one way, the way played out in scripture. Without God’s hand, there would be no Joseph story. We are all useless clay, instruments and vessels that God sovereignly uses for honor and dishonor. Salvation aside, we are all used for His purpose and glory. Although the brothers did evil, God exposed or illuminated what was in their heart for His overall purpose. I can clearly see this play out as God ordained. However, your argument would be valid if God was “hands off” regarding the brothers decisions, but I contend this wasn’t the case.

Blessings.

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mattrose
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by mattrose » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:27 am

My postings are always my speculative opinion. I argue for my views not because they are facts, but because I believe them.

My point is that the opinion I am presenting is an alternative (non-calvinistic) way of reading the Joseph story AND that it actually takes the context of the story more seriously (in my opinion given the many reasons I've listed).

The fact that God was "With" Joseph (mentioned in 39 numerous times) is, to my mind, evidence of MY interpretation moreso than yours because it shows that the author of the story was not shy about attributing God's role in the story to God. This makes the calvinistic interpretation less likely since the author says nothing about God authoring or co-authoring the evils done to Joseph for some yet to be revealed (before chapter 45) reasons.
none of this would have taken place without God first giving Joseph his dreams. God facilitated or even tested what was in the heart of the brothers and even Jacob, did He not? One can argue, their response could have only gone one way, the way played out in scripture. Without God’s hand, there would be no Joseph story. We are all useless clay, instruments and vessels that God sovereignly uses for honor and dishonor.
Yes, I do believe God gave Joseph the dreams in 37. This presented his family with a choice on what to do in response. I have no idea why you think their response could have only gone one way. That seems like an incredibly strange assertion. Do you really believe that the brothers had no alternative bought to intend to kill Joseph... simply because he had a dream where they'd become his subjects? That's the kind of crazy calvinistic-style interpretive jump I'm exposing as completely unnecessary. And it leads you to make another statement "we are useless clay" which takes a biblical metaphor and tries to make it walk on all fours (when even the context of that metaphor speaks against that interpretation).

God gave human beings genuine libertarian freedom. People do evil things. God brings good out of evil. People sinned to knock Joseph down. God raised Joseph back up time and time again. It could have happened a myriad of ways. God had a purpose to save Israel. God creatively accomplished that purpose despite heinous crimes committed against Joseph in much the same way that God accomplished the salvation of the world through the cross (another heinous crime committed by humans).

Thank you for the dialogue. It's exactly what I was hoping for to sharpen my thoughts on this story :)

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robbyyoung
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Re: Was Joseph a Calvinist?

Post by robbyyoung » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:08 am

Hi Matt,

I didn’t say the brothers had no alternatives, I said their ultimate response was God ordained, that's if you take Joseph’s words at face-value in Gen 45 & 50. But don’t you know your argument contends that Joseph made fallacious statements against God? So to disprove a Calvinistic proclivity, you jump to making Joseph sin against God by making false statements? The Joseph story invokes no such sinful behavior on Joseph’s part, but your argument causes more harm than good against Joseph’s character. Your “belief” is bringing unnecessary and unwarranted baggage to the story.

So, if Joseph didn’t lie and sin against God by ascribing these actions to Him, a Calvinistic propensity stands without further scriptural gymnastics that weakens Joseph’s character. I’m glad I can be of some assistance in “sharpening” your thoughts. ;)

But seriously, can you defend the dilemma you caused that makes Joseph sin against God, which is alien to the context of the story?

Blessings.

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