Talking to Megan Phelps-Roper 2007-08-22 Creative Commons by-nc-sa licensed

This is a full transcript (slightly cleaned up) of an interview I had with Megan Phelps-Roper about Calvinism, predestination, whom god loves and why (and when).

We got into some interesting points, IMHO; covers some issues that most people don't seem to realize are major differences and thus they just bash their heads on it.

A couple notes in summary:

  1. They are strict Calvinists. They believe that God doesn't hate people for being gay; rather, he makes them gay because he hated them to begin with.
  2. They don't believe that people can be converted. They preach strictly because they're told to do so as loud as possible. They don't believe it wil have any effect. I think they've been spectacularly successful.
  3. I held this interview using a voice over IP relay service ("RO" refers to the relay operator, who speaks what I type and types what they speak). I have episodic muteness due to a neurological disorder, and in this case I wanted it to be via text anyway for better logging and less bothering of people around me at the time. I used a throwaway pseudonym just in case they would target me for it.
  4. This is pretty much how I feel about their speech.

14:12 Sai RO: fyi, this person is quite likely to be hostile. Try to be polite / calm. My apologies in advance. [Ed.: It seems that the relay operator actually voiced this comment, that was directed at HIM (which he wasn't supposed to). Confusion ensued.]
14:13 operator GA [go ahead]
14:13 Sai Hello, my name is Amir Larkin and I'm writing an article about your church. Would you mind answering a few short questions?
14:13 Phelps Please, I'll probably hang up on them.
14:13 Phelps Sure.
14:13 Sai Thank you. First off, whom am I speaking to?
14:13 Phelps Journalist's quite likely to be hostile (laugh) Umm I don't know if I want Megan Phelps-Roper
14:14 Sai ro: I'm nice ;) also, I'm confused - is that you or the other party?
14:15 operator ((The party on the line. Go ahead.))
14:15 Sai I'm sorry, I'm a bit confused - am I speaking to Megan Phelps-Roper, or Shirley? And I think you'll find that I'm not at all hostile.
14:15 Phelps Megan.
14:16 Sai Okay, thank you Megan. Do you mind answering questions about WBC?
14:16 Phelps Now I'm confused who I'm... just ok, ask your questions, as long as they are appropriate.
14:16 Sai Of course. First off, one thing I have noticed most journalists ignoring is your church's commitment against the concept of 'free will', a stance broadly known as 'calvinism'. Could you comment on how this influences your beliefs and actions?
14:18 Phelps I don't understand. Are you asking how you ignore the stand of free will or how it affects us?
14:19 Sai Well, first off - I believe Fred Phelps has put up messages declaiming other pastors for having gone to "freewillism"; is that correct?
14:19 Phelps Yeah.
14:19 Sai Could you tell me why?
14:20 Phelps Because humans do not have free will. There can only be one free will in the universe; the Lord is sovreign and therefore ordained everything in the council halls of eternity. Humans are the clay and God is the potter. The clay has no free will or power to influence the potter in any way. If you have free will the Lord said, "why don't you grow a foot and a half? which of you can add a cubic to your stature?". You don't have power over the simplest of matter like life; what makes you think you have power over the fate of your eternal soul?
14:21 Sai Thank you. I believe Fred Phelps is also on the record as saying that he does believe in homosexuality being in some way inherent, whether genetically or by God's destiny. Is that correct?
14:22 Phelps Homosexuality is a behavior voluntarily engaged in. What Pastor Phelps has said is that even if it were genetic the standard set by God is the same. That conduct is an abomination, and their duty is to not engage in it, and also just as every other matter that is determined or ordained by God almighty. So you can look at it like this: God doesn't hate you because you're a homosexual, you're a homosexual because God hates you and predestined you to be among the repervain?? that God will send to Hell for all eternity.
14:24 Sai I understand. In that case, could you tell me on what basis god decides to hate someone, THEN foreordain them to be gay, and as a result of their foreordained behavior condemn them to hell? As you said, it is not because the person is already gay. And you believe that God is just. So surely he must have a good reason for hating that person to begin with?
14:25 Phelps Yeah. I can tell you that God by definition is just and righteous and everything is by definition just and righteous. You need to get a handle on Romans 1. He hated them before they had done good nor evil. If you look at Jacob and Esau they were twins before they had done either good or evil. God loved Jacob and hated Esau.
14:27 Sai why was this?
14:27 Phelps ... The basis for his hatred is his sovreign divine will and pleasure. The fact is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; only by the grace of God that any are saved by fiery destruction.
14:27 Sai I understand that part. But you said that he hated them BEFORE they had sinned, and therefore, because of his hatred for them, ordained them to sin
14:28 Phelps It says in Romans 1, God created... yeah, that's what the scriptures say. Read Romans 1. It says God created some vessels of mercy - those are the people he loves - he created others as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and the clay can not ask the potter "why did you make me like this?".
14:29 Sai So is it accurate to say that your answer to my question, of why god chooses one person to hate, to condemn to homosexuality because of his hatred, and to condemn to hell because of their homosexual behavior, is that you do not know? That is, why god chooses that person instead of another?
14:30 Phelps He hates them because it is his good will and pleasure to do so.
14:31 Sai Certainly. But why that person and not the next?
14:31 Phelps Hold on... it's Romans 9, and because it's his good will and pleasure to do so. Romans 9:19 says 'thou wilt say unto me, "why does he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will?"'. That is the question. You're asking me why God finds fault with those people
14:32 Sai No.
14:32 Phelps ... if he created them that way. 9:20 Romans which says "nay, but Oman who art thou that replieth against God, show the thing formed..."
14:32 Sai I am asking why he foreordains them to be faultful, as you said earlier - he does not hate them because they are gay, but they are gay because he hates them.
14:32 Phelps ... the thing formed it, why hast thou made me...
14:33 Sai As you said, he has judged them before they have commited a sin
14:33 Phelps Thus he created them that way as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. Romans 9:21 says, 'doesn't the potter have power over the clay, to make a vessel of honor and one of dishonor?" He created them as vessels of wrath.
14:34 Sai Thank you. Is it accurate to say that you preach against homosexuality not out of any intent to convert others - because you do not believe they have free will, and thus they cannot convert, but are still judged by the same standard - but simply because the bible says that you should preach?
14:35 Phelps Yeah, it says by the foolishness of preaching that God's elect(??) are saved. Preaching is used for two things - one is that it's a mechanism used by God to call his people, and it also serves the function of condemning those who hear it and reject it. We don't want to convert anyone, that's not our job or prerogative how the word of God lands on the ears of men. God's elected are saved.
14:37 Sai Thank you. Would you be willing to guess at how people react to your message - do you believe that they are more or less likely to engage in homosexual behavior?
14:38 Sai Or do you believe that they will not be affected at all, because their behavior is foreordained?
14:38 Phelps I think that the word of God is quick-living and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, and that it is a discerner of the thought and intent of the heart. What the word of God does when it's preached is that it causes what's already in your heart to come out of your mouth. Gets people off the fence. You either serve him or not. So how it lands in the heart of our hearers... we know most will reject it. Christ said they hated him and those that preach his message. Blessed are you when men hate you 'cause you preach. Christ and all these false prophets that lie that God loves everyone... God says woe unto you when all men speak well of you. So did their fathers to the false prophets...
14:40 Sai Thank you. But you didn't quite answer my question. Suppose you were to take two groups of 100 homosexuals. One of them hear your preaching, and the other does not. Which group is more likely to have people still actively engaged in homosexual behavior 10 years from now?
14:40 Phelps We don't have any control how people respond. I have no idea, that is not my prerogative. If God foreordained one of them or some of them to be his elect, then whether they hear the words that we preach or not, they will at some point receive their calling and repent, but that's not within my power to decide.
14:42 Sai So you don't believe that the two groups would be any different, correct? Those who are foreordained to repent, in both groups, would repent. It would not make a difference whether they had heard your preaching or not.
14:42 Phelps I don't know.
14:43 Sai Thank you, that's okay.
14:43 Phelps The preaching will have the effect God foreordained to have, but regardless my job and your job is to preach it. That is the standard met by God. I am not God and I don't decide how it land...
14:43 Sai Thank you. Are you familiar with the site "Encyclopedia Dramatica"?
14:43 Phelps No... no
14:44 Sai Are you aware that there is currently an attempt to take down your website,
14:44 Phelps I think they are always trying to take down our website. The attacks never stop. And I also know God is in charge of that, so it's not our ... we're not gonna worry about that. We're gonna do our job, and then God will take care of the rest. Those websites are an awesome preaching tool and the Lord has always helped us with that.
14:45 Sai Thank you. Do you find it difficult to pay for bandwidth? Do these attacks cost your church money?
14:45 Phelps Hahaha... we don't worry about that. God has blessed us with the resources we need and we are content. If we didn't use the money for that, what better thing do we have to use it on than to preach the word of God?
14:46 Sai Thank you. Do you believe that the public in general understands your message, especially the part about foreordination of events and the lack of free will?
14:47 Phelps I think that the vast majority of people hear this message are Bible ignorant, hate God, hate his standard, ...
14:48 Sai My question was not whether people hear the message, but whether they understand it.
14:48 Phelps ... and live to serve themselves and their lusts. If they had one interest in their eternal soul they'd get to the bottom of it. Yeah, I think they do understand it and they hate it 'cause they want it to be about them and their power and their mind...
14:48 Sai What do you think of people who are not ignorant of the bible, have even studied it significantly, but still reject your message?
14:48 Phelps Then they are going to Hell. You can't reject the standard of God, refuse to obey him, and expect to go to Heaven when you die.
14:49 Sai Approximately how many people do you believe are going to go to Heaven?
14:50 Phelps We don't know the number. The way it's described in scriptures is a very small remnant; the vast majority of mankind are headed for Hell.
14:51 Sai What would count as a small remnant? 1 person? 50? 500? 5 million?
14:51 Phelps Well, you know it's more than one but that is the description that we have. you can look at the examples in the scriptures - three out of the five cities of Gamora were saved when God destroyed the antediluvian world there were billions alive, some estimate 10-16 billion, and eight were saved. Eight out of billions of people. That's the remnant I'm looking at. But we don't know the exact number, only God. We don't know the number. The way it's described in scriptures is a very small remnant; the vast majority of mankind are headed for Hell. Know the name he has written in the book of life...
14:53 Sai Thank you. Are you familiar with Ray Comfort and his TV and radio show entitled "Way of the Master"?
14:53 Phelps Nope.
14:53 Sai Have you heard of something he advocates, which he calls the "Good Person Test"? In it he asks people if they think they are a good person, and then tests this by leading them through the 10 commandments, and then tries to use this as a demonstration that God does not believe they are a good person.
14:54 Phelps nope not fmaililar with that
14:54 Sai ... and therefore they need Jesus to save them from hell. What do you think of this method of evangelizing?
14:55 Phelps I think that hahahaha you tell you can tell if someone is a good person if they obey the commandments of God, which is more than the listing of the 10 commandments. Look at the person orderly flock or lack thereof and without knowing more about him i dont know what else to say about that.
14:55 Sai Usually he finds that the 10 commandments are enough, because everyone has lied, lusted, or been angry at least once in their life. And he quotes Jesus as saying that anger, to God, is the same as murder
14:56 Phelps ... i dont understand exactly what he is doing...
14:56 Sai ... and lust is the same as adultery, so everyone deserves to go to Hell and only Jesus can save them. Would you agree with this message?
14:57 Phelps Yeah, that's what I said earlier. All have sinned, fallen short of the glory of God and, it's only those who god has mercy on and are covered by the righteous blood of Christ will go to heaven. Everyone is a sinner the question is do u have grace or not? Did Christ die for you or not? Everyone needs the blood of Christ. Not all have the gift bestowed on them.
14:57 Sai Do you believe that Ray Comfort is misguided when he tries to plead with people to change, so that they will not go to hell?
14:58 Phelps I think he ... yeah i think he is misguided. When his disciples ask Christ why he spoke to the masses in parable, Christ said he fufuilling the prophecy of Isiah. When you preach the word of god it blinds the eyse stops at the ear and hardens the heart of tha vast majority of people. The only way someone is going to respond and positively to the word if he God has given the faith and repentance, and no amount of pleading can change a heart that God has hardened.
15:00 Sai I understand. Why would god harden someone's heart to hear his message? Isn't he just and loving?
15:01 Phelps You're right back to Romans 9, the potter and the clay...
15:01 Sai Wouldn't he want his flock to hear the message and come to him?
15:01 Phelps Yeah, he does want his flock to hear his message and come to him but contrary to popular belief it's not every individual in the world... "my flock will hear my voice" no one else will hear his voice
15:02 Sai You seem to be contradicting yourself. You say that he does want people to hear his message, but that he also purposefully hardens some peoples' hearts and blocks their ears so that they will not hear it.
15:03 Phelps No, what I said was he wants his flock to hear his voice. His sheep will hear his voice; his sheep are those who he chose and loved before the world began. Those are the people he loves and will cause to hear his voice. It says in Romans 9 "the elect have obtained it and the rest were hardened"...
15:04 Sai I see. So would it be accurate to say that you believe that "his sheep" only refers to the very small set of foreordained people he loves, and that everyone else is not included?
Connection is briefly disconnected
15:07 Phelps .. the last last message I sent was referring to Matthew 25, and that's right.
15:08 Sai Thank you. That clarifies much about your beliefs.
15:08 Phelps (Sigh)
15:09 Sai Do you believe that you are going to heaven?
15:09 Phelps I have a hope okay... but now I have to go, thanks for calling, bye.
15:09 Sai Thank you for your time.
15:09 operator (PERSON HUNG UP) [Relay operator ID] OR SK [stop keying]
15:09 Sai ro: thank you for your patience. I hope it wasn't too difficult talking with her
15:09 operator ((You're welcome lol... felt the same way as you did. Have a great day, relay disconnecting.))
15:10 Sai Thanks a lot :) You make this a lot easier to do.