19 April 2010

Notes from a Reluctant Calvinist

by Phil Johnson



The following excerpt is from a message I gave to a group of college students about five years ago. I'm posting this excerpt to encourage you to listen to the entire message, titled, "The Story of Calvinism," which you can download (or stream) from HERE.

     have not always been a Calvinist. As a matter of fact, I was raised in the context of a liberal Methodist church, so long before I ever became a Christian, my mind was poisoned with a blend of liberalism and Wesleyan theology. And after I became a Christian, it was several years before I finally came to the point where I could affirm the biblical doctrine of election without trying to explain away clear statements of Scripture like Ephesians 1:4 (which says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world). Or Romans 9:15-16, where God says, "'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

I resisted those ideas for years. I knew the word election is biblical, but I had a friend who explained it this way: "God voted for you the devil voted against you. You cast the deciding vote."

That made perfect sense to me.

Very early in my Christian experience, I went to a small church in the town where I attended college, and my Sunday-school teacher there was decidedly anti-Calvinistic. Almost every week, he would warn us against the dangers of putting too much stress on the sovereignty of God. Almost every week he would work into his lesson the idea that human free-will is sovereign, and the choice is ultimately left entirely up to each sinner to decide what to do with Christ. That seemed reasonable to me. It reinforced what I was inclined to believe anyway.

But at the same time, in my own study of the Scriptures and my reading of church history, I kept running into biblical statements and doctrinal issues that posed a severe challenge to that sort of free-will theology.

Then one Sunday while this guy was taking prayer requests, a girl in the class raised her hand and asked, "Should we really be praying for our lost relatives? It seems like it's a wasted effort to pray to God for their salvation if He can't do any more than he has already done to save them."

And I vividly remember the look on the face of this Sunday School teacher. This was clearly a question that had never occurred to him. So he thought about it for a moment, and you could see the wheels in his head turning while he tried to think of a good reason to pray for the salvation of the lost. And finally, he said, "Well, yeah, I guess you're right." And from that Sunday on, he never accepted any more prayer requests for people's lost loved ones.

That didn't seem quite right to me, even as a dyed-in-the-wool Arminian. I had just done a Bible study in Romans 10:1, where Paul says, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved." Not only that, I began to wonder why we should pray about anything in the realm of human relationships if God never intrudes on the sanctity of human free will. You know: Why should I pray for God to move my English teacher to look favorably on my work when she graded my paper if she is ultimately sovereign over her own heart? Those were questions I couldn't answer.

And the more I studied the Bible, the more it seemed to challenge my ideas about free will and the sovereignty of God. One by one over a period of more than 10 years, the doctrines of election, and God's sovereignty, and the total depravity of sinners became more and more clear to me from Scripture.

It was a sermon series by John MacArthur on the doctrine of election from Ephesians 2 that finally turned me into a full-fledged Calvinist, and that was at least 15 years after I first came to the Lord.

So I know what it is like to be baffled by these truths and to resist what seems like a dangerous tendency to go overboard with the doctrine of God's sovereignty. I've been there, and I feel your pain.

Phil's signature

229 comments:

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NoGood said...

Yep, the more you stare at scripture and let the word of God speak for itself the more Arminianism will be pealed back layer after layer from your thinking. Plus listening to Arminians justify what they believe will also turn you to Calvinism. Thanks Hank!

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I would say that I was a "frothing-at-the-mouth Arminian." I had resolved to write a book entitled, "Chosen by Choice" but then encountered Romans 9. In addition to the Scriptures, I had a Calvinist roommate that was very gentle and patient with me.

Eddie Eddings said...

The first church I attended after my conversion was an Independant Baptist Church in Houston. I bought a book by John R. Rice, entitled, "Predestined for Hell? No!" where he attacks Boettner's book on Predestination. I thought I had all I needed to fire theological bullets at any Calvinist I ran into.
There was one man in the Church there that took me under his wing and taught me N.T. Greek and Theology in his home - along with a handful of other young preachers he hand picked from the Church. We butted heads about the Sovereignty of God many times. He was praying for me as I was wrestling with so many difficult verses. One night as I was reading John 17 it "hit me". If Jesus was God ANYTHING He would ask for would be granted. His prayers were a sure thing...and He didn't pray for the world to be saved. He prayed for those given to Him by the Father. Our High Priest with His elect on His breastplate.
God graciously revealed His Truth to me. Two years later, I picked up Rice's book again and read it. It was evident Rice never even read "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" by Lorraine Boettner. I couldn't believe how weak his logic was or how unscriptual his interpretations.
One side note -
In his newspaper "The Sword of the Lord" Rice would headline a Spurgeon sermon each issue. He edited out any "Calvinism" without indicating so. Bob Ross, a friend of mine who owns Pilgrim Publishers in Pasadena, Texas, and who has published all of Spurgeons works, wrote Rice about this. John R. Rice wrote Bob a letter stating that Spurgeon would approve of his editing because now that Spurgeon was in Heaven, he knew better.

Ye said...

John R. Rice and Arminius both became Calvinists.

Will Marks said...

Arminianism makes sense to me, and I still see no reason for Calvinism. When you pray for people to get saved, you are really praying for the Holy Spirit to speak to them - I believe this happens at some point in everyone's life. I agree with Spurgeon that no-one can be saved apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.

It is at that point that the person has the free will to accept or reject - resistable grace. John 3:16.

If I am in need of correction, please tell me where I am going wrong here.

On election, I believe that God knows who will accept or refuse Christ, before the foundation of the world. Knows, not forces. It is our inability to understand how knowing the future doesn't change it (or God's will) that leads to the confusion.

God is all powerful, but I think he has chosen not to force people into salvation, and not to limit his atonement. He has given free will.

So hit me with it....

Oh and thanks for this post. I really needed it, as I trying to seperate what has been drummed into me, from what I believe from my own studies of the scripture.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Phil, yours is a good example. No one should come to a conclusion on such crucial points without years-long study and contemplation in the Word. And it's always interesting to hear about those moments that create questions in the mind, motivating one toward further investigation. (And having bad teachers teaching flabby theology can create many of those moments). My definitive turn toward Arminianism came when I studied the doctrine of Limited Atonement in earnest and found it scripturally deficient. After that it was a dominoe effect.

donsands said...

"I began to wonder why we should pray about anything in the realm of human relationships if God never intrudes on the sanctity of human free will."

That's something that never occured to me.

Thanks for sharing this post. I'll have to take time later to listen to your whole message. Thanks.

I visited a ministry website yesterday after I heard them advertise on WRBS, my local Christian radio station: http://www.notreligion.com/

Here's an excerpt which shows how they share the truth of God and the Gospel:

"Ever cried out into the void ..The void won’t give us answers, but there is Someone who can fill your every need, bring hope to desperation and give purpose to your life.

That Someone is God. He’s been wanting a relationship with you since before you were born. ....

But how do you meet Jesus? And you might be wondering "Would He even want to meet me?" Well, the answer is yes. Jesus does want to know you--personally. He wants to be your friend, savior, mentor and constant companion. But Jesus won't force Himself into your life. Instead, He's waiting for you to invite Him in."

Mark B. Hanson said...

I used this sort of argument with my Arminian pastor of many years: "How do you pray for your children? Do you pray, 'God, please leave their will absolutely free, so that they can freely choose for or against you. Don't influence them in any way.'?

"Or do you pray, 'Lord, show yourself to them. Convince them. Do anything that's necessary to bring them to you.'?

"By the look on your face, I see that, even though you are an Arminian, when praying for your children, you pray like a Calvinist."

olan strickland said...

Will,

First of all, if man has "free will" then why would he need the help of the Holy Spirit in coming to Christ? For Arminianism to be a sound explanation of the Gospel its doctrine of "free will" would have to be bibically proven. The Bible doesn't prove "free will" it proves the "bondage of the will."

Also your version of election is conditioned upon something that God sees in man (his acceptance of Christ) rather than being unconditional. This would mean that God chose you because you chose Him and your salvation depends on you (a clear violation of Romans 9:16 and John 1:12-13; 6:44; etc.)and not God.

How does God's election unto salvation "force people into salvation"? The biblical record is not that they are forced but that they are freed.

As to limited atonement even arminians believe in that. The only difference is that arminians believe that the atonement is limited by man rather than by God.

donsands said...

"On election, I believe that God knows who will accept or refuse Christ, before the foundation of the world. Knows, not forces."-Will

So, God is not really needed to be involved if this the case. He simply sees people freely deciding to accept His offer.

Actually, there's no guarantee that any of us would accept His offer of giving His Son, and Jesus laying down His life.

I see Christ laying down His life for those the Father has given Him. Jesus died for for me. My soul and heart always feel awkward when I think of Jesus Christ dying for me, personally. And it also fills my soul with joy, that Christ would die for such a wretch as me.

And I beleive that each and every one of God's elect were precious to God, and He, in Christ, died for each and every one of us personally.


Jesus died for Peter, His friend. He died for Abraham, His friend. Christ took our sins upon Himself on that first Good Friday, and He dealt with them forever. He took the Father's cup, and rank it to the last drop of His wrath; the wrath due us, the cursed. Jesus became a curse for us, the cursed ones.

So, I see salvation as purpose of the Lord, and He came to earth to save, not to make it possible.

David Rudd said...

Will,

I would ask a simple question.

"Upon whom is your salvation dependent?"

- If it depends on you, then you are correct.
- If it depends on someone other than you, then you may want to rethink things.

Gabby said...

After my salvation a few years ago, I, too, was under the impression that I had found God and by His grace and my free will, I had found eternal life. That was before I stumbled across Romans 9. One reading of Romans 9 and the sky seemed to open and my understanding was increased and I could suddenly and clearly see what Scripture actually taught on who chose who first. I've never been the same since. It was a though a veil lifted and suddenly Scripture came alive as the Holy Spirit taught me the truth of God's amazing, beyond all I could ever dream of gift of salvation.

stratagem said...

Thanks for fitting the graphic of the Icelandic volcano eruption into the logo.

Interesting article - I have now had my interest piqued and have downloaded the entire message to be listened to, tonight!
Thanks Phil

William Watson Birch said...

"God voted for you the devil voted against you. You cast the deciding vote."

That is both sad and unfortunate at the same time.

"Should we really be praying for our lost relatives? It seems like it's a wasted effort to pray to God for their salvation if He can't do any more than he has already done to save them."

Should we really be praying for our lost relatives? It seems like it's a wasted effort to pray to God for their salvation if He has already unconditionally preselected whom He is going to regenerate / save and grant faith.

Though the brand of "Arminianism" in this post and in Phil's experiences is tragic, it is not the Arminianism of Arminius. How disconcerting that more "non-Calvinists" of "anti-Calvinists" do not take up Arminius and read. (I suspect that Arminius is too Calvinistic for some folks.)

I wonder if Phil's experience is the best example of Classical Arminianism? I suspect it isn't. This is like suggesting that Classical Calvinism is best represented by Fred Phelps. Sad.

donsands said...

"..seems like it's a wasted effort to pray to God for their salvation if He has already unconditionally preselected whom He is going to regenerate / save and grant faith."

Doesn't the Potter have the right to make vessels from the same lump of Clay?

And surely we can pray for God's mercy, which He bestows to whom He will, for all people, and we leave the giving of mercy, and the hardening to the sovereign God almighty, and great in mercy.

And I don't get your remark about Fred Phelps.

He's not a believer.

William Watson Birch said...

Don,

We're talking about "wasted effort," remember?

If you're praying for "Joe," and God has not unconditionally elected "Joe," then your prayer is a wasted effort.

William Watson Birch said...

Don,

I agree with you about Calvinist-cult leader Fred Phelps. He doesn't rightly represent Calvinism any more than he does Christianity.

But from Phil's experiences with those "Arminians," they do not rightly represent Arminius any more than they do Calvinism.

Citizen Grim said...

I had a similar experience. Grew up Baptist in south Jersey and went to a non-denominational Christian university in the Midwest, and basically considered myself Arminian, but I recognized that there were elements of Calvinism that were undeniably in Scripture.

Over the next five or six years after college I adopted each of the "five points" one at a time, in this order:
Total Depravity - It seemed pretty obvious to me that every part of us is affected by sin, not just superficially. This one really should have triggered all the rest, since they all progress out of it.
Perseverance of the Saints - Even coming from an Arminian perspective, this one is affirmed all throughout the Bible. The only seemingly-contrary passage was Heb 6:4-6, and one should be cautious of forming a doctrine around a single verse. (I've since come to believe that this verse in Hebrews refers to the same type of people as in Jesus' parable of the Sower when he mentions the seed sown on rocky & thorny ground. They hear the word and respond joyfully but they don't actually put salvific trust in Christ.)
Unconditional Election - Even as an Arminian, I'd say that nothing in us merits salvation, but I struggled with whether "faith" itself was a work that earned salvation. I gradually began to understand that faith is a work, but not ours. Rather, it's God's work in us, for his own sovereign, mysterious reasons.
Irresistible Grace - At this point, I was at the "Four-Point Calvinist" position, having recognized Arminian theology as Biblically untenable, and therefore, in violation of the principle of Sola Scriptura. Its popularity in the West is probably best explained by our obession with Enlightenment principles of individualism and humanism, etc.
Limited Atonement - This one came last because I didn't understand it for so long. I watched an R.C. Sproul lecture over at the Ligonier website that finally clicked for me. I had been misinterpreting it and rejecting it in a negative sense: "Christ didn't die for the whole world", when I should have been interpreting it in a positive sense: "Christ died specifically for his sheep." Once I looked at it from that angle, all of a sudden it made complete sense that although Christ's death is so valuable it could cover everyone in the world, of course Christ's death doesn't cover the sins of those who reject him; their penalty still awaits them.

FWIW, I found Sproul's series here to be incredibly helpful: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/what_is_reformed_theology/

He also feels like the names of the five points can be misleading, and he prefers terms he thinks are more accurate, such as "Definite Atonement" instead of "Limited Atonement."

Daryl said...

But from Phil's experiences with those "Arminians," they do not rightly represent Arminius any more than they do Calvinism."

Listen to his whole message. Phil makes it clear that modern-day arminianism is really semi-pelagianism, and then proceeds to point out the errors inherent in the Remonstrance itself.

He's not going after the low-lying fruit, but after the tree itself.

Gabby said...

@William Watson Birch - you said:
"Should we really be praying for our lost relatives? It seems like it's a wasted effort to pray to God for their salvation if He has already unconditionally preselected whom He is going to regenerate / save and grant faith."

The way I see it is the same sovereign God who elects His own also puts in His own the burden and desire to pray for our loved one's salvation. The desire itself to pray for them comes from Him. So it all works together.

stratagem said...

Look, there are mysteries involved in salvation whether you accept Arminianism or Calvinism.

As Mr. Birch points out, if people are pre-selected, then it's silly to pray that someone who wasn't elected by God from the beginning, now be elected just because we are praying for it.

OTOH, as Phil points out, if it's totally a matter of the will then praying that God violate their will is also silly.

We pray for peoples' salvation because we are commanded to... we can't say "until I understand everything, I refuse!" or something like that.

Do we need to understand everything about the Bible, to obey it? I sure hope not, or none of us will ever
obey.

Aren't there a lot of places in Scripture which ask "who can fathom His ways?" as a rhetorical question?

I tend toward the Calvinist side but also understand that it is a pipe dream to think we can have answers to every question our minds can dream up, unless God has directly addressed them in his Word.

wamalo said...

Will,

The usual rhetoric levelled against Calvinists goes something like this, "You're telling me God chose some people to go to heaven and others to go to hell! I can't believe in a God like that."

Unfortunately non-Calvinists simply haven't thought through that line of reasoning. Take your comment for example: "On election, I believe that God knows who will accept or refuse Christ, before the foundation of the world. Knows, not forces." If God knows way beforehand who will reject Him, why does He still create them and this world knowing that they will end up in hell? Is it possible for God to create a world in which everyone accepts Him? And if He can why didn't He? I believe the answer to that question begins to move us away from an egocentric view.

William Watson Birch said...

Listen to his whole message. Phil makes it clear that modern-day arminianism is really semi-pelagianism, and then proceeds to point out the errors inherent in the Remonstrance itself.

Those Calvinists who admit that Arminianism is merely semi-Pelagianism do not understand nor have they read Arminius. This is typical in Calvinistic circles. Sad.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Monegism seems a more helpful way to introduce the Doctrines of Grace.

Also, the personal anecdote or sharing of your journey to the Doctrines of Grace was very helpful.

William Watson Birch said...

Gabby,

The way I see it is the same sovereign God who elects His own also puts in His own the burden and desire to pray for our loved one's salvation.

So, then, God only coerces His people to pray for those whom He has unconditionally elected to save? Is that what you're saying? How is it, then, that our church has prayed over and over for an individual, only to her die without knowing Christ?

William Watson Birch said...

Wamalo,

Did you just presume to know what I believe about election? I can't believe my eyes. I do not subscribe to the foreknowledge view.

Once again, the subject matter is about prayer being a wasted effort. You all are getting sidetracked trying to defend unconditionally election.

Gabby said...

William Watson Birch - "So, then, God only coerces His people to pray for those whom He has unconditionally elected to save? Is that what you're saying? How is it, then, that our church has prayed over and over for an individual, only to her die without knowing Christ?"

I'd dispute your phrasing - God doesn't 'coerce' anyone to do anything. But to address your question...no, I see no Scriptural support that God saves everyone we pray for. But we can't know what goes on behind the scenes in their lives. That's where I have a simple trust in God's goodness. He gives me the desire to pray, I obey and then I trust Him to bring good out of that. There is much, this side of heaven, that happens that we aren't aware of.

I don't believe there are any wasted efforts where prayers are concerned. We may not see with our eyes the results of our prayers, but that doesn't mean a result hasn't happened.

Katie said...

That's pretty surprising, I've never heard Arminians be accused of thinking prayer is a waste, it's the Calvinist that prays only because scripture commands it, they all know God has already decreed everything that happens anyway, but He commands you to pray, so you do. (that God wants us to pray alone teaches me that things are not as settled as we might think) I have never understood why it's not scriptural (to a Calvinist) that God can be completely sovereign and yet choose not to interfere with the God given human ability to reject Him, and the idea that He will certainly move in response to fervent prayers that agree with His will for all to come to salvation. God is drawing, wooing, calling everyone everywhere to repent, our cooperation with Him in fervent prayer and evangelism, for His will to be done, makes it possible for His will to succeed more often. This does not make God weak and dependent on humans, for HE chose to set it up this way. He desires relationship with us. I wouldn't want robot children who were 'designed' to love and accept me, I doubt God would either. I believe God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He has chosen to allow man, made in His image, a little of his own sovereignty over the choices he makes.

By the way 'Eddie Eddings', Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from Him and was not granted it. So even God's prayers can be denied. (thank goodness, in this case!)
So your logic that whatever Jesus asks for He gets is flawed. And because God has limited His power to completely coerce man's will, He knew the entire world would not come to Him, thus He prayed that those who would would be fruitful. (this prayer surely is answered, but with variable success, and why is Christ still at the right hand of God, interceding for us, if all is sovereignly settled?)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

William Watson Birch: "How is it, then, that our church has prayed over and over for an individual, only to her die without knowing Christ?"

That happens.

"How is it?" Apparently, God answered "No" to your church's fervent and persistent prayers.

That happens.

William Watson Birch said...

Apparently, God answered "No" to your church's fervent and persistent prayers.

Exactly. Wasted effort. Thank you for proving me right ; )

Chuck said...

W.W. Birch-

FWIW, as a Calvinist myself, I agree that what Arminius himself taught was not what Phil experienced. Unfortunately, what flies under the banner of Arminianism today is usually modified Wesleyanism, which does some to be veiled Semi-Pelagianism. I think that's what is being dumped on most of the time.

Much like the term Calvinist- which I don't like and find rather pejorative anyway- the term Arminian has become very broad. The Remonstrants themselves would not have been fans, IMHO.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Exactly. Wasted effort. Thank you for proving me right ; )"

That's not a "waste".

Why is that a waste?

Just because it's not the answer you and your church wanted, it doesn't mean your praying was a waste.

Citizen Grim said...

Birch:God only coerces His people to pray

Katie:it's the Calvinist that prays only because scripture commands it"


Both of you are misinterpreting the Calvinist understanding of prayer. As I understand it, Calvinism asserts that human actions (such as prayer, evangelism, etc) are the means that bring about God's sovereign ends.

As for the subject of free will: Do you, or do you not, agree with Scriptures assertion that without God, our will is enslaved to sin? If that's so, how can we call it "free" in any meaningful sense?

As a former Arminian, I found that an honest reading of passages such as John 6, Romans 6, Romans 8 and 9, and Ephesians 2 (among many others) extremely eye-opening. Through his self-revelation, God demonstrated who he truly is, and cast aside my worldy notions of who I thought he should be.

William Watson Birch said...

Chuck,

100% agreed, brother.

Phil Johnson said...

William Watson Birch: "But from Phil's experiences with those 'Arminians,' they do not rightly represent Arminius any more than they do Calvinism."

Yes, I actually made that point myself, which is what Daryl was trying to tell you. The typical champion of human free will nowadays (including many people from Arminian traditions like Methodism & Nazarene Wesleyanism) aren't true Arminians at all but are semipelagian or worse. Arminius was FAR more Calvinistic than the typical Internet-warrior-style champion of free-will today.

Surely, given your interest in historic Arminianism, you have noticed this trend for yourself. You're a thousand times more likely to run into an overzealous Finney clone or some other variety of Pelagian or semi-pelagian in the typical Internet forum than you are to run into an authentic Arminian who understands and would affirm what Arminius and the Remonstrants actually believed.

We have a couple of true Arminians who are regular commenters here. And we see hordes of roving Pelagians and semi-pelagians who leave drive-by comments in our combox.

Take some time and read what we're saying and you might even be pleasantly surprised.

William Watson Birch said...

Just because it's not the answer you and your church wanted, it doesn't mean your praying was a waste.

It was a waste because God never had any intention on saving her. There was no possibility whatsoever that she could be saved, for, though He claims to love her, He had not unconditionally elected her. And it was this way from eternity past.

We prayed and prayed and prayed. If those prayers and the effort and the tears were not wasted, please explain to us how. The prayers, tears, and effort were for her. God refused to save her because of His decree, so you say. And the effort was not a waste. Why?

William Watson Birch said...

Phil,

I mean no disrespect to you, trust me. I was merely responding to Daryl's message to me:

Listen to his whole message. Phil makes it clear that modern-day arminianism is really semi-pelagianism, and then proceeds to point out the errors inherent in the Remonstrance itself.

His comment is not "pleasantly surprising" : )

I knew that many of your regular commenters would jump on the knock-Arminianism-down band wagon with this post and message. I just want the like to know that not all those who appear "Arminian" are like those Finney-ites, as you pointed out. God bless.

Citizen Grim said...

Katie also said: "He desires relationship with us. I wouldn't want robot children who were 'designed' to love and accept me, I doubt God would either."

This is the standard argument in support of free will (as well as a popular theodicy), but I think it's mistaken to assume that God's number one goal is relationship. God already had relationship - perfect relationship - within the Trinity. Instead, Scripture declares that God's number one goal is recognition of his own glory.

Paul makes this exact point in Romans 9:22-23: "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory...?"

Paul takes the time to defend and explain his position because he knows it sounds jarring and unfair and arbitrary to our worldly ears.

If Paul was affirming free will, why would he need to defend God's fairness and justice? All he would have to say is, "God doesn't want automatons. Next chapter."

But he doesn't. Paul asserts that God selects certain people to be saved from their sins and explains why he is completely just in doing so.

wamalo said...

William Birch,

Apparently you are not the only "Will' in this meta. I didn't presume anything in connection to you. I was responding to Will Marks. I thought the fact that I had quoted him in my comment made that clear.

I may be wrong, but it's not a sidetrack issue. If it was why did Phil raise the point of election.

Phil Johnson said...

Citizen Grim: "As I understand it, Calvinism asserts that human actions (such as prayer, evangelism, etc) are the means that bring about God's sovereign ends."

Exactly. And sometimes His chosen purpose is for the benefit of the one doing the praying.

William Watson Birch: "If those prayers and the effort and the tears were not wasted, please explain to us how."

See above. If by your definition every prayer that fails to achieve its primary objective is just "wasted effort," I'm not clear on how Arminian theology makes the energy expended in such a prayer any less "wasted." Please explain to us how.

Christopher said...

"It was a waste because God never had any intention on saving her. There was no possibility whatsoever that she could be saved, for, though He claims to love her, He had not unconditionally elected her. And it was this way from eternity past."--Wm. Watson Birch

I try my best to stay out of such conversations. I cut my theological teeth at a very calvinistic church and a very calvinistic religion department at a Baptist school. This means I have seen my fair share of these conversations, and they have normally ended up with hurt feelings. Not saying this one will, I am just stating most have.

That being said, I find William Watson's comment interesting. Prayer is, fundamentally, about obedience to GOD. GOD may have not chosen such a woman from the foundations of the earth, but you all obediently prayed for her salvation. I see nothing inconsistent with that.

Phil Johnson said...

William Watson Birch:

I think you misinterpreted Daryl's point. His wording was perhaps somewhat ambiguous, but I took him to mean that many who claim to be "Arminian" are in fact defending semi-pelagian or worse. In my judgment, that's probably an accurate statement. Do you disagree?

I'll go even further: it may also be the case that lots of people who claim to be 3- or 4-point Calvinists are in fact Pelagian when you analyze what they really believe about original sin and human free will.

Anyway, please re-read the above post, and notice that I never once called that Sunday-school teacher (or anyone other than my own former-Methodist self) "Arminian," so you can leave the quotation marks off if you're going to persist in taking that line of argument.

Christopher said...

Now, that having been said (see my last comment) I would like to ask a question, as I do of many of my non-Calvinist brothers (and I do mean brothers):

The Bible says that you thoroughly hated GOD and wanted nothing to do with HIM (Rom. 3;John 3:19-20). So, Let's say you were saved at 12:05 after a sermon one Sunday morning. If the Bible is true, you hated GOD when you woke up that morning; you hated GOD when you walked into the church; you hated GOD when you sat down in the pew; you hated GOD when the choir sang; you hated GOD when the sermon began. Yet, when you left the church that day you wanted nothing but Christ. What explains that transformation?

William Watson Birch said...

Phil,

If by your definition every prayer that fails to achieve its primary objective is just "wasted effort," I'm not clear on how Arminian theology makes the energy expended in such a prayer any less "wasted." Please explain to us how.

I disagree with the student who asked, "Should we really be praying for our lost relatives? It seems like it's a wasted effort to pray to God for their salvation if He can't do any more than he has already done to save them." I don't think any prayer is necessarily wasted effort, from an Arminian perspective, for in the prayer is possibility. We cannot know what God knows, for He knows all that can be known. That is why we pray to Him and trust Him.

Therefore, when I pray for someone's salvation, I do so believing that such a person could possibly be saved (you may as well, though you do not know if God has unconditionally elected him or her). Scripture explicitly indicates that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:4), so I have confidence when I pray for an individual. God has confessed His love for the world (John 3:16) -- and love would not unconditionally consign a person to hell merely by a decree. If so, then that is a strange love indeed. Therefore I have confidence when I pray for an individual.

It appears, from God's perspective at least, knowing all things, that if people were praying for an individual whom He never intended to save, then those prayers were, from eternity's perspective, a "wasted effort." And I find it hard to believe that God would foreordain a person to pray for those whom He never intended on saving -- given the assumption that God strictly foreordains all things.

DJP said...

That was an excellent question you asked WWB, Phil.

I wonder if anyone will answer it?

William Watson Birch said...

Christopher,

Respectfully, I have met my quota for the number of people to whom I am going to respond. One man can only address so many people and comments. Should you freely choose to do so (a little theological humor for ya), you may read my Exegesis of Romans 3:10-18 and respond there. God bless.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"It was a waste because God never had any intention on saving her. There was no possibility whatsoever that she could be saved, for, though He claims to love her, He had not unconditionally elected her. And it was this way from eternity past.

We prayed and prayed and prayed. If those prayers and the effort and the tears were not wasted, please explain to us how. The prayers, tears, and effort were for her. God refused to save her because of His decree, so you say. And the effort was not a waste. Why?"


William Watson Birch, you are determined to see all "the prayers, tears, and effort" for the unregenerate woman as waste. As Phil Johnson points out, Arminian theology doesn't make it any less "wasted" than Calvinism does.

I noticed that you wrote that "the prayers, tears, and effort were for her." Yes, they were for her. BUT they were also beneficial for the petitioners as well. It recognizes and acknowledges complete dependence on God's sovereignty.

I'm sure that Arminians pray the Lord's Prayer. Ya know, the part of "THY WILL be done on earth, as it is in Heaven...."

John said...

"On election, I believe that God knows who will accept or refuse Christ, before the foundation of the world. Knows, not forces."-Will

I am not sure you can get logic like this to stand given the totality of God's attributes (presuming ourt theology is built on logic, rather than the clear testimony of Ephesians and Romans). How can God only "know" what hasn't happened yet, without forcing it - since He is the one who will at some point in the future create the cause/effect of creation that will lead to what He knows? If free-will-ism is to have any teeth, it must address this (and since it han't yet in church history, I hold small hope that anyone on this thread will be able to present a compelling proof).

Ultimately, I became a Calvinist because that is the clearest way to understand the writings of Paul, not because it was uberlogical or because I understood it all.

William Watson Birch said...

Truth Unites,

I'm sure that Arminians pray the Lord's Prayer. Ya know, the part of "THY WILL be done on earth, as it is in Heaven...."

Yes, we do, for we understand in it that Jesus admits that God's will is not accomplished on earth "as it is in heaven." Hence, rape, drug-use, homosexuality, violence is not God's "will".

Gov98 said...

I have been doing a study in Numbers and after looking at God's sovereign right to make choices (of Moses in Numbers 12 and Aaron as priest in Numbers 16) we then looked to see two passages that I believe are old testament representations of salvation.

The first, also in Numbers 16, (Spurgeon has a great sermon on this) is Aaron representing Christ running in to the mass of Israel, forming a dividing line between the living and the dead. The people of Israel could do no act to save themselves they could not move from one side of Aaron to the other, for they were dead, it was all where Aaron stood.

Then we looked at Numbers 21 which John 3 affirms is also an example of Salvation. In the Numbers 21 we see that salvation depending on people looking to the Bronze Serpent, he who looked was healed he who didn't wasn't. And it was, an act of will to look at the serpent or not.

So, which passage of Scripture is right? I said both. So did everyone else. Does that make perfect sense to me? No, but is it incredibly beautiful? Yes!

God is completely sovereign, and has the fundamental right to make choices as he will. (Hence Romans 9,) and yet in the "Unconditional Election" perhaps Election is conditional, which just have no clue of the conditions. We know that God will do right. (Will not the Judge of all the Earth do right?)

We should be able to trust that God's sovereignity is not arbitrary and capricious, even if we're not certain on the basis God's choices were exercised.

Just some thoughts...

Johnny Dialectic said...

Christopher: Did Cornelius hate God before his conversion?

Christopher said...

@Johnny Dialectic:

Well, according to Romans 3, Cornelius was being acted upon GOD in the first place to even seek out someone to preach the Gospel to him...since no one seeks for GOD, right? Thus, GOD was already beginning a saving work in him. Before such a work began, yes, I would have to say that Cornelius hated GOD.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

William Watson Birch: "Yes, we do, for we understand in it that Jesus admits that God's will is not accomplished on earth "as it is in heaven." Hence, rape, drug-use, homosexuality, violence is not God's "will"."

"Jesus admits that God's will is not accomplished on earth "as it is in heaven."

I've never seen that one before.

Anyways, the theological term "will" has many nuances to it, and the danger of equivocation or miscommunication is high. It would take this thread down a rabbit trail.

Suffice to say, I strenuously disagree with your declaration that "Jesus admits that God's will is not accomplished on earth "as it is in heaven.""

Chuck said...

TUAD-

The Lord's Prayer does state by negation that not everyone on earth is doing God's will. I think that's what W.W. Birch was getting at.

However, I think your statement that 'will' has much theological nuance to it helps to clear up the confusion. Jesus is teaching us to pray and wait in anticipation for the day when God (through Jesus) will destroy evil and evil-doers and establish a kingdom of subject who will lovingly obey His decreed will: we'll do what He says without a hint of sin and regret!

Of course, since nothing can thwart God's plans or slow their unfolding progress,we can trust that the day will come- because what man intends for evil God intends for good.

Rhology said...

Why would you bring up Phred Felps? He's a pretty clear Hyper-Calvinist. You can tell by the way he denies it's worth praying or evangelising people.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Christopher: Your answer nullifies your original question then. You have no way of knowing if someone "hates" God before that mythical 12:05 conversion. You add a proviso that God "works on" people before they hear the Gospel, which would mean someone doesn't always "hate" God before they are converted. Your second answer is closer to the biblical witness, though not in the way you might suppose.

DJP said...

So Christopher is making unconverted spiritually-dead people too hopeless? They're not really that bad-off?

Gosh, what a swamp.

Zaphon said...

Also, why give God ALL the glory if our "free-will" ultimately decides my destiny? Then we could just say, well God did the saving, but I did the choosing. I decided it was wiser to get saved, so I did my part and God did his.

Calvinism eliminates man's boasting and glorying and gives ALL the glory to God, so that any boasting of ours is ONLY in GOD.


Zaph

Chris H said...

IIRC, CS Lewis once commented on prayer, "I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me."

I like this. Prayer changes who I am, teaches me to rely on God for everything, and through everything. It moves my focus from me and my concerns to God and His desires.

Am I far off, here?

Matt said...

I believe that the "problem" that we all have is that we do NOT have a proper Fear of Almighty God. Psalm 115:3 says, God is in heaven, He does whatever He pleases." I would encourage all to read Job 12. We breathe because God allows us to. God is 100% gracious, merciful, sovereign, just, and loving when He damns a soul to Hell and when He mercifully and sovereignly saves a soul for Glory. He doesn't react to circumstances and people decisions and then activate a plan to receive Glory. Whether we believe on Him or not it is for His good pleasure. I do not pretend to understand all this but I can assure you that I do NOT want my salvation to depend on some sincere "choice" that I made at one time in my life. I am glad and humbled to accept the Biblical teaching that God has by His Sovereign Grace and election chosen me as an object of His mercy, saved me, and by His spirit and word is leading me towards repentance, sanctification, and holiness. I do not know who God's elect are, but I know that because of His grace I am compelled to pray for the lost, preach the Word, and pursue Holiness according to His will. We must have a proper Fear of God. He is not worthy of your praise and honor simply because He saved you or did not save you. He is worthy of your praise because He is GOD. PERIOD.

Chuck said...

Just wanted to defend WW Birch for a second. He said:

"I wonder if Phil's experience is the best example of Classical Arminianism? I suspect it isn't. This is like suggesting that Classical Calvinism is best represented by Fred Phelps. Sad."

Now I think Phil would say the same thing about Arminius- in fact he did later in the thread. And WWB (can I call you WWB? It's easier to type!) was clearly saying that Fred Phelps is NOT representative of Calvinists.

Christopher (or should I call you Mr. Pearson?:)- I'm with you on Cornelius man. Being a Calvinist doesn't mean we don't believe in prevenient grace- it just means that said grace, whether it starts working 25 years before regeneration or 25 seconds, will always bring regeneration about. IOW, it's irresistible.

William Watson Birch said...

Rhology,

Fred Phelps does not rightly represent Calvinism, and those whom Phil wrote about do not rightly represent Arminius. That was my point.

And Phelps explicitly denies being a hyper-Calvinist.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

As timing would have it, we have a post on Evangel today from a former Calvinist. In the interest of being cordial and fair to our Arminian brothers, I provide this link to "Either You're In or You're Out."

Excerpt: "For Protestants of the evangelical and Lutheran stripe, justification by faith alone is a theological nonnegotiable. The dark irony of Calvinism in its starker lineaments—and even Luther in his Bondage of the Will—is that, for all the talk of preaching Christ alone and justification by faith alone, Jesus is virtually irrelevant. When you get down to it, according to this scheme, we are not saved by Christ; we are saved by a roll of the election dice."

Citizen Grim said...

When I younger, I thought Calvinism was synonymous with fatalism. i.e. "God forced Judas to betray Jesus."

This is not so, and comes close to heresy by accusing God of being the author of sin. On the contrary, Judas betrayed Jesus because he was enslaved to sin, and God didn't prevent the betrayal, because it was his will that Jesus would be turned over to be executed.

I love Spurgeon on the subject of God's sovereignty & human responsibility. I won't quote him in full, but offer this little nugget of chewy goodness:

"...if the gospel were such that we could make it into a complete system, we might be quite sure it was not God's gospel, for any system that comes from God must be too grand for the human brain to grasp at one effort; and any path that he takes must extend too far beyond the line of our vision for us to make a nice little map of it, and mark it out in squares."

(from The Father's Will, quoted on Team Pyro about a year ago)

Christopher said...

@Johnny Dialectic:

Men shall either hate the light or love the light. We are not confused by the light and would like to know more about the light before we make an informed decision about the light (John 3:19-20).

How to answer the question about Cornelius is one I will have to give more thought, but it seems that EPhesians 2, the first few verses, is a good statement of mankind. How does THAT person become someone who is willing to carry their cross and die with Christ daily?

donsands said...

"If you're praying for "Joe," and God has not unconditionally elected "Joe," then your prayer is a wasted effort."

Could be I suppose.

God told Jeremiah to preach repentance to the people of Judah, and yet already had purposed to judge the people.

Jereimiah said, "You have deceived me Lord. But there's a fire in my belly to speak your Word."

And Paul, said his wish would be that he could be cursed for his brethren, and yet he goes on to say, God has mercy on whom he wants, and all Israel is not Israel. He then says,

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved."

Paul prays that all the Jews would be saved, and yet he knows they will not.

I pray with the same desire. Not nearly as fervent as Paul's, but I do pray for my family, and for any sinner really, who deserves God's warth, that God would mercy on him or her.

We come from different ways of seeing God's sovereignty, and yet I believe we both pray with hearts that long to see sinners saved for the glory of Christ.

Been nice discussing the Scriptures with you.

William Watson Birch said...

Don,

We come from different ways of seeing God's sovereignty, and yet I believe we both pray with hearts that long to see sinners saved for the glory of Christ.

Amen, and I appreciate that so much. God bless.

olan strickland said...

The dark irony of Calvinism in its starker lineaments—and even Luther in his Bondage of the Will—is that, for all the talk of preaching Christ alone and justification by faith alone, Jesus is virtually irrelevant. When you get down to it, according to this scheme, we are not saved by Christ; we are saved by a roll of the election dice.

LOL! This is the speaking of one who does not understand how a holy God can justify capital offenders and remain just in the process.

Unconditional election is necessary because there is nothing that a capital offender can do to earn his pardon. God cannot legally pardon apart from penal-substitution. The two go hand in hand so that those whom God has chosen are justified freely (without a cause) by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (see Romans 3:24).

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny Dialectic: " You have no way of knowing if someone "hates" God before that mythical 12:05 conversion."

Romans 8:7-8 doesn't do it for you?

Christopher said...

@Phil

Romans 8:7-8 always kind of slapped me the same way. If I can do nothing to please GOD and have no desire to please GOD, it would seem that CHOOSING Christ (which seems like it would bring utmost pleasure to GOD) is the furthest thing from my ability (or my desire) to do.

And, yes, Chuck...this is Mr. Pearson ;o)

stratagem said...

WWB wrote: It was a waste because God never had any intention on saving her. There was no possibility whatsoever that she could be saved, for, though He claims to love her, He had not unconditionally elected her. And it was this way from eternity past.

Of all the things that have been written here today, I find the word "claims", above, to be the most disturbing.

Bobby Grow said...

What needs to be done by Classic Calvinists (what Phil is describing) is to ground both election and choice --- God's sovereignty and man's free will --- in Christ's vicarious humanity 'for us'. This is to take both the homoousion and hypostatic union seriously. In this way we see Jesus' humanity as 'elect' humanity, and we see the choices He made for the Father (by the Holy Spirit while on earth) as breaking the way for us (by the Spirit) to choose God, in Christ, instead of ourselves.

This way we don't ground election in ourselves; but we end up with a truly christocentric, or 'Christ-centred' view of election (of sovereignty and free-will). This approach is called 'Evangelical Calvinism' and it is part of church history (just read up on Scottish Theology and John Knox).

Everyday Mommy© said...

I second Stratagem's thought..."though He (God) claims to love her.".

Reveals an insufficient and erroneous view of God and His Word, don't you think?

Rita Martinez said...

William Watson Birch:
Question.
- If God knows everything, and He does, He knew that Christ would pray to Him for the cup of His wrath to be removed if possible and He knew the answer would be No. And Christ being God knew that as well and yet He still prayed to God the Father for His cup to be removed if possible, so was Christ's prayer wasted effort?
- Was Moses' prayer to God to be allowed into the promised land a wasted effort?
- Was Paul's prayer for the thorn to be removed, a wasted effort?

It is never a wasted effort to pray for the lost justb c God knows what the outcome will be.

William Watson Birch said...

I second Stratagem's thought..."though He (God) claims to love her.".

Reveals an insufficient and erroneous view of God and His Word, don't you think?


What is disturbing is how those who affirm Unconditional Reprobation can in any sense declare that God loves them. Now that is disturbing. Now that is an erroneous view of God and His Word, don't you think?

Johnny Dialectic said...

With respect Phil, no. The text is about inability relating to God's law (v. 7; cf. v. 4). There is nothing here about response to the gospel.

But back to my objection, Chris's mythical 12:05 scenario (read it carefully) was negated by his very next comment.

Frank Turk said...

Wow. This topic makes people crazy. It must be about the Gospel in some way -- otherwise it's certainly about what we invest in which is not the Gospel.

BwayneM said...

Amazing you mention that sermon. I'm sure Dr. MacArthur has preached on the doctrine of election multiple times during his ministry, but it was a sermon on the doctrine of election by him that also did the same to me.

I think the one I listened to was broken down into 3 messages, and I'm pretty sure it was originally preached in '08...

stratagem said...

WWB

Yeah, except that you were the one who said God had no intention of saving her, and also the one who implied that God's claims of love for her were bogus.

I made no claim that God never intended to save anyone, you did. I have only said that there isn't one of us who fully understands election and will or the mind of God. God answers your prayers with yes and no answers at various times, otherwise you would be god over God. Right?

Christopher said...

@Johnny Dialectic:

I believe you are correct, which is why I made the statement that I would have to go back and look at it again.

However, I would still go back and say that something happened in between the morning hearing the sermon and after the sermon. Period. For me, the question of Calvinism has always been, "When the change took place who gets the credit for that?" Period.

BwayneM said...

and . . . I agree with you Frank.

William Watson Birch said...

Yeah, except that you were the one who said God had no intention of saving her

Uh, that's called Calvinism. That's called Unconditional Election and Reprobation.

and also the one who implied that God's claims of love for her were bogus.

Since He did not unconditionally elect her unto faith and salvation, what else would you call it? James White calls it hatred.

"Gee, mam, I love you," says God,
"but I have not unconditionally elected to save you." Then what does your love really do for me, God?

I made no claim that God never intended to save anyone, you did.

Your exact words: Of all the things that have been written here today, I find the word "claims", above, to be the most disturbing.

Again, God loves the non-elect, He just hasn't unconditionally elected them by decree unto faith and salvation. This is love?

William Watson Birch said...

Stratagem,

Does God love the non-elect?

mike said...

if calvin was wrong, and our free will is what matters, we would all find ourselves on a plane to russia with a note that said "this one is no good, either".

the adoption of God is sure, or none would be saved.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Christopher, fair enough. That helps clarify.

And BTW, no true Arminian would ever speak in terms of "credit" for surrendering to the gospel.

Everyday Mommy© said...

@WWB

What is disturbing is how those who affirm Unconditional Reprobation can in any sense declare that God loves them. Now that is disturbing. Now that is an erroneous view of God and His Word, don't you think?

I'm not familiar with the term "Unconditional Reprobation", but if you mean that some are vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, while some are vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, then my response would be, "No, I do not think that is an erroneous view of God and His Word."

Simply put, there are many truths taught side-by-side in Scripture which the finite, human mind is unable to reconcile. As an example, I would presume that you affirm the doctrine of the virgin birth, though logically and scientifically we know that it is impossible for a virgin to give birth to a child. While this truth is irreconcilable, as Christians we affirm it because it is clearly taught in Scripture.

So, the question is why one would rail against the twin truths of God's love for mankind -AND- His sovereign choice in election as if these are not also clearly taught in Scripture?

jules

Stefan said...

Although I wandered in the wilderness of disbelief for years, I finally came to Christ after hearing our pastor preach through Romans 9 to 11. So what can I say? I was a Calvinist from the day I was saved.

William Watson Birch said...

So, the question is why one would rail against the twin truths of God's love for mankind -AND- His sovereign choice in election as if these are not also clearly taught in Scripture?

Because the notion of God foreordaining a person to be a vessel of wrath by a mere decree is anything but loving.

Everyday Mommy© said...

@ WWB William, it seems then that you are calling God a liar, for Romans 9:22-23 tells us this very thing...

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory," Romans 9:22-23

William Watson Birch said...

I know the verse well, thank you. I used too argue the same way when I was a Calvinist in a Presbyterian church. And no, God is not lying. You are misinterpreting the entirety of Romans 9. But that's another comment thread for another time. God bless.

For the record, you didn't address my statement: Because the notion of God foreordaining a person to be a vessel of wrath by a mere decree is anything but loving.

Everyday Mommy, Is it loving of God to unconditionally foreordain that person be a vessel of wrath, not by foreknowledge or foresight, but by mere decree? Is it loving?

Andrew D said...

WWB,
On your favorite books list, you have "What Love is This" by Dave Hunt listed there.

Does this book approximate where you are coming from?

Everyday Mommy© said...

@ WWB I'll wait till you address my comment, before responding to your question.

And, please call me Jules.

William Watson Birch said...

Andrew,

I think Hunt makes some relevant arguments. I initially enjoyed reading it. Hunt, however, is not a scholar. So, no, I'm not coming exactly coming from his perspective. Arminius asked his colleagues much the same as I am here today.

Gov98 said...

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory," Romans 9:22-23

You know...the interesting thing to me about Romans 9 is that it does not say that God did make vessels of wrath solely for the purpose of destruction, Paul only asks what if he did? And what if he did?

The answer is that as a created thing my part is to get in line behind him and accept it. But Paul does that alot arguing from the greater for a lesser point, it's not necessary to assume from Romans 9 that God is arbitraty for the sake of his right to be arbitrary, just that God has that right and IF he exercises it I have to accept it.

I trust, that the judge of all the Earth will do right just as Abraham believed, I don't for a second believe that I'm smart enough to figure it all out.

Just because Unconditional Election could be right...doesn't mean that it is. Election could be conditional on something you and I have no part in...

William Watson Birch said...

Jules,

I already did respond to your comment . . .

stratagem said...

WWB: So if you are saying God doesn't love the non-elect, so be it. But when you say that God "claims" to love someone, but doesn't, you are implying that what He says and what He does are two different things, that is, you are calling Him a liar. Or so it would seem. In what way am I misunderstanding you on this point?

DJP said...

Good luck with that, Jules. He still hasn't answered Phil's 8:09 AM, April 19, 2010 question in any substantive way.

Everyday Mommy© said...

WWB No, William, you tossed out a red herring or two.

stratagem said...

WWB: Sorry, I didn't see your question to me about whether God loves the non-elect, until now. The actual answer is, I don't know - that depends on what definition of love you are using, I suppose, and I don't want to speak for God.

All I know is that if God says He loves someone, then He actually does love them, he doesn't just "claim" to.

Do you think He loves the non-elect?

donsands said...

".. God loves the non-elect, He just hasn't unconditionally elected them by decree unto faith and salvation. This is love?" -Will B.

God loves the unthankful and unjust with his common grace for all humankind. He feeds them, and so on.

His eternal love is for those He calls to Himself.

God loves, and He hates as well. Some teach that God has to love all people the same.
Although they allow for us to have different manners and degrees of love.

I love my wife way different then I love Osama Bin Laden.

William Watson Birch said...

So if you are saying God doesn't love the non-elect, so be it.

Of course, I am not saying that. I was merely asking if you are saying that. Are you saying that?

But when you say that God "claims" to love someone, but doesn't, you are implying that what He says and what He does are two different things, that is, you are calling Him a liar.

If God claims / states in Scripture that He loves everyone but has unconditionally elected some unto faith and salvation and unconditionally reprobated others, which is what Calvinism teaches, then it appears that it is not I but Calvinism who appears to be making God say one thing and do another: "calling Him a liar."

If, on the other hand, as some Calvinists state, God hates the non-elect, well, then, that is a bit more consistent, even if atrocious.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Jules, who are the "vessels of wrath"? See 9:3 for the answer.

Chapter 9 is not dealing with individual salvation. That's the fundamental error Calvinists make when proof-texting from this chapter, as you have done. That's why you will quote 9:13 without reference to Mal. 1:2,3. Tell me, is the latter text talking about individuals or nations?

From one contextual mistake grow many errors.

William Watson Birch said...

Good luck with that, Jules. He still hasn't answered Phil's 8:09 AM, April 19, 2010 question in any substantive way.

There's no such thing as an Arminian answering any of his (or your) questions, Dan, "in any substantive way." But it was a pleasant fiction anyhow.

William Watson Birch said...

Jules,

A red herring? Did you fail logic class? Where's my red herring? I stated that examining Romans 9 would be a bit more than what we could accomplish here. And for that I get a red herring charge?

Are you intimidated by my question, Jules?

Everyday Mommy© said...

Thanks for the tip, DJP :)

olan strickland said...

William Watson Birch: Is it loving of God to unconditionally foreordain that person be a vessel of wrath, not by foreknowledge or foresight, but by mere decree?

Unconditionally foreordain as a vessel of wrath? Are you sure you're not semi-pelagian?

Bobby Grow said...

WWB,

Why did you go Arminian? Have you ever considered the claims of folks like Jonathan Fraser of Brea, or read any on Scottish Theology? What do you think of the Barthian/Torrancean way of reframing the 'Reformed' view of election? And why would you choose to stay within the Thomist Doctrine of God instead of switching to a Scotist (Trinitarian and thus Evangelical) approach to theology proper? Your fighting from the same metaphysical ground as those you are opposing here.

William Watson Birch said...

Olan,

Please, we've already been over the semi-Pelagian silliness.

Citizen Grim said...

WWB: Does God love the non-elect?
WWB: Is it loving of God to unconditionally foreordain that person be a vessel of wrath, not by foreknowledge or foresight, but by mere decree?

Is it God's will of desire that all come to salvation? Yes. Ezek 18:23, 1 Tim 2:4

But God's will of decree says he will save some, but not all. You dispute this, thinking it makes God somehow unloving if he doesn't save everyone. I reject that notion.

Ultimately, you're drawing a bad inference. You're assuming - with no evidence to back you up - that God couldn't possibly have a sovereign, overarching reason to save some and leave others to the inevitable consequences of their sin. You're assuming God is a certain way because it's how you would rule if you were God. You're crafting God in your own image and wondering why we all won't bow down to him.

He sacrificed His own Son on the cross for his sheep, and you have the audacity to whine about how his love is fraudulent because he doesn't save the sheep and the wolves. As if you're in any position to speak. How many people have you died for?

God desires all to come to salvation, but says they won't all come. Arminians and Calvinists agree on this. Calvinists say it's because sovereign God has a greater purpose. Arminians say it's because God is unable to save all people.

In other words, for Calvinists, it's all about God. For Arminians, it's all about man.

Here's a question for you, WWB: Why did God create hell in the first place? Does he have a greater attribute that trumps his love?

William Watson Birch said...

Bobby,

Why did you go Arminian? Have you ever considered the claims of folks like Jonathan Fraser of Brea, or read any on Scottish Theology? What do you think of the Barthian/Torrancean way of reframing the 'Reformed' view of election?

What little I know of Barth I did not particularly like. I think his modified Calvinism is too muddied.

And why would you choose to stay within the Thomist Doctrine of God instead of switching to a Scotist (Trinitarian and thus Evangelical) approach to theology proper?

Arminius was a Thomist. I suppose that is how my theology has developed over the last four to five years especially. And Arminius is both Trinitarian and Evangelical.

Your fighting from the same metaphysical ground as those you are opposing here.

We're "fighting" over the particulars, not the essentials. My Calvinist brothers and sisters believe like me, that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ to God's glory. The particulars as to how this is brought about is the fuss.

Johnny Dialectic said...

CG:

Arminians say it's because God is unable to save all people.

Please cite me one theological text or scholar that says this -- and give the exact quote -- or retract the statement.

Ye said...

Wow, really, wow.
What I do not understand at all is the conception of Calvinism being without compassion. It is sad if your experience with Calvinism has made you think of a people who have no heart for the lost. Shame on any believer who lives a life that would make anyone think any believer has no compassion for the suffering of others.

Prayer- many of the comments concerning prayer neglect the true nature of prayer. Was it a futile prayer for Christ to ask the cup to be removed from him? Prayer is very simply, you talking to God.

Much of the reason there is so much vehemence between the two parties is more allegiance to a party than the Gospel.
Make disciples. Teach them the whole counsel of God's word. Hold them accountable to obey it. But, make sure you are doing the same. Gospel. Gospel. Gospel. Gospel. It is the only hope we have.

olan strickland said...

William,

We may have already been over all the semi-Pelagian silliness but your comment is totally semi-Pelagian.

Maybe you don't understand or believe that "all" conditionally deserve destruction because "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23) or else you wouldn't speak your nonsense of unconditional reprobation.

That puts unconditional election to salvation in a whole new light doesn't it? :)

N said...

I embraced the reformed faith the latter part of last year, and since then, the Word of God has made more sense to me now than before. Which leads me to this question."

Why are there people who seems to have trouble believing in the full sovereignty of God? I am serious! It seems that even in some theological stand point, the concept of man's pride is still in the way. I mean, shouldn't we feel much safer to know that we have a sovereign God, who rejoices to do God over us? Why do we have to insist that people should have a say in everything? What are we trying to prove?

I don't think God will ever send ANYBODY to hell for believing that He is all sovereign, and we are totally depraved in our sins. Because if anything, it only spells out GLORY due to Him alone.

Rita Martinez said...

"God desires all to come to salvation, but says they won't all come. Arminians and Calvinists agree on this. Calvinists say it's because sovereign God has a greater purpose. Arminians say it's because God is unable to save all people."

No, Arminians say that God didn't save them because they rejected Him, you know cause of their free will.

donsands said...

"Chapter 9 is not dealing with individual salvation." Johnny D.

I think the immediate context disagrees with you bro. It's very much about Jacob. And even more so about Pharoah.

Not to HIM who runs, or HIM who wills, but it's the Lord who shows mercy. The Lor saves the individual soul. whom He has mercy on.

William Watson Birch said...

Olan,

Maybe you don't understand or believe that "all" conditionally deserve destruction because "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23)

Yes, I most certainly do. But thank you for the slam, Christian.

or else you wouldn't speak your nonsense of unconditional reprobation.

This "unconditional reprobation" happened before the creation of the world, right? BEFORE anyone had done anything, right? And they were not "unconditionally reprobated" because God foresaw their wickedness -- it was by divine fiat, right? He even decreed the fall, right? He did so unconditionally, right?

That puts unconditional election to salvation in a whole new light doesn't it?

Yes, in a whole new unbiblical light. Thanks for pointing that out.

Everyday Mommy© said...

@ WWB William...I received an A in logic class. I even learned how to identify ad hominem.

Andrew D said...

JD,
I have heard many synergists say as much when denying the "I" in Tulip. Have you never heard the synergist line that misuses Acts 7:51 and claiming that individuals can "resist the Holy Spirit"?

They don't say "God is unable" because that sounds ridiculous. And it is. But that is precisely what they mean when they describe human free will.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Say Jules, I have a couple of questions pending for you, if you don't mind.

Bobby Grow said...

WWB said:

What little I know of Barth I did not particularly like. I think his modified Calvinism is too muddied.

It's his view of election that reframed things. How Federal Calvinists/Arminians, as Thomists, avoid predicating God's life on creation (by way of decrees and static unmoved mover ways of thinking) is beyond me.

Maybe you would like TF Torrance's view and appropriation of Barth better; I do.

And you didn't answer my question on Scottish Theology. This is part of Calvinism's development and history (and largely ignored, much like Arminius), paralleling the so called "Spiritual Brethren" in England (non-Federal Calvinists, see Janice Knight's book). The Scots framing of 'Calvin' and thus development of Calvinist doctrine preceded Barth and Torrance's view of election in striking ways. Yet neither the Calvinists on this site, nor Arminians, in general seem to be totally unaware of such things (there is this either/or dichotomy, which is faulty, and thus fallacious that takes place in discussions like this -- Thomists screaming at Thomists) . . . that's just too bad, and not careful.

WWB said:

. . . And Arminius is both Trinitarian and Evangelical.

I disagree (at least I don't think his methodological approach can consistently support his professed Trinitarianism/Evangelicalism). How Thomists argue for Trinitarianism from the "unmoved mover" is beyond me. Unless God's BEING (ousia) is defined by the perichoretic intra-relationship of the PERSONS (hypostasis), then how do you honestly say that Arminius' metaphysic actually supports Trinitarianism and thus 'Evangelicalism'?

WWB said:

. . . grace through faith in Christ to God's glory. . . .

Indeed. And that's the problem. I wonder how you define 'grace', or even more importantly how do you define sin (which will say alot given the symmetrical nature between sin/grace)?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Andrew D, waiting for a direct quote from an Arminian scholar on God's "inability." No, that's not what "they" mean.

olan strickland said...

William,

Are you an open-theist too?

mike said...

what an awesome experience this is. like a root canal.

Frank,
the onlreason i think this is important to attempt to undeerstand is that with out a clear concept of who does the saving, we can easily begin to sell, manipulate, and coerce in order to get the poor sinner's free will to make the right call.

mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Watson Birch said...

Olan,

Are you an open-theist too?

No. Are you a hyper-Calvinist too?

Andrew D said...

JD,
I am not sure where you responded to what I wrote.

Nor why I would obligated to provide you citations upon demand!

William Watson Birch said...

Bobby,

If you don't think Arminius was Trinitarian and / or evangelical, then you have never read Arminius. Is this the case?

And I haven't read the Scots.

Citizen Grim said...

Johnny Dialectic: Please cite me one theological text or scholar that says this -- and give the exact quote -- or retract the statement.

From your position, if God is able to save all people (and I say he is), then why doesn't he?

The standard Arminian answer (and please, let me know if you have a different one) is that that God doesn't override their will.

This only leads to two options:

1.) He could override their will, but chooses not to, for reasons known only to him.

2.) He cannot override their will.

Eric said...

WWB,

By your standards (used several times in this thread), I will announce unequivocally that you have never read Calvin and I further announce (using the same standard) that you have never read anything by any Calvinist theologian explaining reformed theology.

olan strickland said...

William,

I'm only hyper when I eat chocolate. So today I'm not a hyper-Calvinist because I haven't eaten any chocolate - yet :)

Since you don't believe in unconditional election, then on what basis is election conditioned?

In other words, you believe in conditional destruction because you believe all have sinned, so what is the basis for conditional election unto salvation for sinners?

Committed Christian said...

I once heard that Christian's, Arminian and Calvinist alike, are Calvinistic in their prayers. For instance, I prayed prayers like, "Lord, please open the heart of those unbelievers upon hearing the gospel. And give them the faith that only You could give", even when I was not Calvinist at the time.

William Watson Birch said...

Olan,

Since you don't believe in unconditional election, then on what basis is election conditioned?

God has elected to save "those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21).

William Watson Birch said...

Eric,

By your standards (used several times in this thread), I will announce unequivocally that you have never read Calvin and I further announce (using the same standard) that you have never read anything by any Calvinist theologian explaining reformed theology.

Your presumption and arrogance are astounding! Yes, I've read Reformed theology AND Calvin -- more than many of the Young, Restless and Reformed I would imagine. It was Sproul's Chosen by God and MacArthur's study Bible which influenced me to embrace Calvinism back in 1998.

Have you read Arminius?

Citizen Grim said...

WWB: God has elected to save "those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21).

Indeed, but who believes? See verses 23 and 24. Those who are called.

See also verses 30 and 31 for who initiates the belief.

"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." Indeed.

William Watson Birch said...

Well of course they were called. And they responded to the call and were saved. And?

Citizen Grim said...

Well of course they were called. And they responded to the call and were saved. And?

So you're conceding that everyone who is called responds unto salvation?

William Watson Birch said...

Nope. But they must be called and graced.

Nothing would please me more than to sit in front of my computer until I go to bed tonight and answer ten more people, but I am calling it quits for one evening. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time in the near future to engage one another.

Night.

Bobby Grow said...

WWB,

I've read bits of Arminius, not much; like I've read bits of Pelagius, but not much. ;-)

Although I've read quite a bit of Thomas Aquinas and on the classically Reformed appropriation of Thomas; and therefore I'm well aware of the informing metaphysic that Arminius worked out of. And like I said, I don't doubt that Arminius was a well-intentioned Trinitarian/Evangelical --- just like everyone here is --- it's just that I don't think his metaphysic supports a Trinitarian view (so there is a disconnect between the two).

For a good intro to 'Scottish Theology' you should read: Thomas Torrance's "Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell." And then I'm part of a book project, with an array of scholars, that will be introducing what we are calling 'Evangelical Calvinism' (Torrance did first) to the world (not coming out until 2011 sometime); which will also be good for you and others to read :-).

Who should I read on Arminius (you seem to like Muller for historical theology, as reference)?

Citizen Grim said...

Sorry, but the very passage you referenced doesn't make room for that. It makes a clear distinction between the world, to whom Christ is "folly" and the called, to whom "Christ is the power and wisdom of God."

olan strickland said...

William: God has elected to save "those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21).

Do those who believe do so on their own free will or do they require the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God?

Eric said...

WWB,

I wasn't being serious, I was merely pointing out your tendency (displayed several times, including immediately preceding my comment) to claim that those who you don't agree with have never read Arminius. I don't doubt that you have read Calvin, you just didn't understand him very well!

William Watson Birch said...

Olan,

And I promised I was calling it quits for the evening, but I'll respond here and then I'm done for the night.

Not only must the Holy Spirit convict the sinner (John 16:8-11) with the preached gospel (Rom. 1:17), but unless He opens the heart and makes one willing (though this is not irresistible, mind you), then no one could be saved.

I'm assuming by your question that you, too, have read very little to nothing of Arminius. I encourage you all to read Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. The point of the book is to clear up misconceptions which have been promoted by Calvinists for over four centuries. God bless.

Rita Martinez said...

"Not only must the Holy Spirit convict the sinner (John 16:8-11) with the preached gospel (Rom. 1:17), but unless He opens the heart and makes one willing (though this is not irresistible, mind you), then no one could be saved."

And makes one willing...no one is going to comment on that??
What happened to free will? Opening our hearts and making us willing doesn't sound like free will to me.

Phil Johnson said...

William Watson Birch:

The lack of understanding and care with which you yourself casually misrepresent Calvinism is appalling, especially given the way you started this thread with a complaint about Calvinists who misrepresent the views of Arminius. Where do you find this doctrine of "unconditional reprobation" in any mainstream Calvinist source? Can you quote a single leading Calvinist (hyper-calvinists excluded) who teach such a thing?

BTW, 99% of hyper-calvinists disclaim that label. It's no surprise that Phred Felps would deny it. I'm tempted to say he's too extreme even to be classified as a hyper-Calvinist. And grouping him with them is unfairly insulting to most hyper-Calvinists (for whom I normally have little sympathy.) Hyper-Calvinists are generally serious. Felps is a common street performer who makes a grotesque caricature out of every truth he touches. He seems bent on bringing the greatest possible reproach on the name of Christ. Whatever your intention, invoking his name makes it LOOK like you're deliberately trying to be insulting, rather than make a valid point. Your explanation of the "point" didn't really help.

It seems like you came into this thread with a chip on your shoulder. I'll say what I said before: you should read the blog and get to know us a little better before taking the rhetoric to the nuclear level.

Johnny Dialectic said...

So, CG, no citation. I thought not.

Stefan said...

"Ye" saidst:

Make disciples. Teach them the whole counsel of God's word. Hold them accountable to obey it. But, make sure you are doing the same. Gospel. Gospel. Gospel. Gospel. It is the only hope we have.

Amen!

Mike wrote:

...with out a clear concept of who does the saving, we can easily begin to sell, manipulate, and coerce in order to get the poor sinner's free will to make the right call.

Yeah, what you said. I would defer to our Arminian brothers and sisters by not calling it Arminianism, however, but rather "decisionism." Hard sell decisionism, which doesn't even deserve the dignity of a theological label.

Citizen Grim said...

JD: So, CG, no citation. I thought not.

Just because you haven't said those words verbatim doesn't mean it's not your position.

I can't help but notice that you're unable to answer my question from 2:01 pm.

brunnels said...

The problem with the question is it begins with the assumption that God must control either 100% or 0% of the actions we make. That's a faulty dilemma.
The Armenian position never says that God NEVER intervenes in the decisions people make! (The Bible clearly states that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart.") Rather, it states that he only does it in certain situations.
It is surprising to me that that question would move you toward the Calvinistic position, when in fact it helps the Arminian position more: If God has already predestined those who are saved, then praying for someone will do no good at all! Their fate is already sealed!

mike said...

except the whole rest of the bible stuff.....

in summary...

1. If i can't clearly understand it, and/ or don't like it, it clearly must not be so.
2. If you don't agree with me then you clearly have not read or at least understand anyone or anything of consiquence.
3. If you have a pesky verse, or book in the Bible that seems to srtengthen you belief then clearly it does not mean what you think it means.
4. as long as i write "God bless" at the end of my post, i can write any level of accusation or insult, and you can't take it personally.
5. I have read some guys that think what you think, and i still think you are wrong, SO, you are obviously wrong. you should pray that God will grant you the free will to see the truth.

mike said...

and since i was post 150, i am clearly 1 1/2 time more something that Frank, who was previously at least 4 times greater than I.

William Watson Birch said...

Phil,

The lack of understanding and care with which you yourself casually misrepresent Calvinism is appalling, especially given the way you started this thread with a complaint about Calvinists who misrepresent the views of Arminius. Where do you find this doctrine of "unconditional reprobation" in any mainstream Calvinist source? Can you quote a single leading Calvinist (hyper-calvinists excluded) who teach such a thing?

John Piper writes:

So just as God doesn't choose to save certain people because they are better than others (unconditional election), neither does he choose not to save certain people because they are worse than others (unconditional reprobation, or double predestination). Rather, everybody is lost in sin and no one has anything to recommend them to God above anyone else. And so from this mass of fallen humanity, God chooses to redeem some and leave others. (link, third paragraph)

It seems like you came into this thread with a chip on your shoulder. I'll say what I said before: you should read the blog and get to know us a little better before taking the rhetoric to the nuclear level.

I don't know where this emotional comment came from, but look at my comments from 6:55, 7:13, 7:15 and 7:26, and tell me how I came onto this site at a "nuclear level" and a "chip on my shoulder".

donsands said...

"then praying for someone will do no good at all!" -brunnel

Sure it does. The Lord receives the prayer of His saints.

"And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel."

"O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!" Psalm 141:2

"The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."

Our prayers are still tainted with selfishness, and formalism, and "human prayers are incomplete and faulty". Yet the Holy Spirit Himself helps us pray, for we know not how we ought to pray. That's a powerful truth.
And all our prayers work in accordance with the perfect eternal purpose of the almighty God.

Amazing encouragement here, don't you think, to pray?

Bobby Grow said...

Phi Johnson

I don't know what Double predestination implies, but an unconditional election. Unless of course your infralapsarian, are you?

Bobby Grow said...

Woops, my question was directed at PhiL Johnson, not Phi.

Bobby Grow said...

Then again, could follow a Christ-conditioned double predestination view of election/reprobation wherein Christ is seen as the electing God who elects our humanity/reprobation (our poverty) for Himself, and at the same time provides us with His riches as God (thus election/reconciliation) cf. II Cor 8:9 --- so the implication of the homoousion and Incarnation.

Citizen Grim said...

brunnels said: "The Armenian position never says that God NEVER intervenes in the decisions people make! (The Bible clearly states that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart.") Rather, it states that he only does it in certain situations."

This leaves the Arminian in the same position that WWB laments in Calvinism: namely, that God could intervene to save someone from condemnation, but doesn't.

We've heard all afternoon that if God declines to override someone's sinful will and save them from eternal misery when it's in his power to do so, then his love must somehow be deficient, and now you're suggesting that that's precisely what he does. (Actually, judging from your citation of the Pharoah verse, you seem to be arguing the even more peculiar position that God hardens hearts, but doesn't soften them.)

brunnels said:If God has already predestined those who are saved, then praying for someone will do no good at all! Their fate is already sealed!

No, that would be fatalism. Calvinism does not equal fatalism. On the contrary, as has been said earlier, our prayers are the means that God has sovereignly ordained to effect his will. As Christ emphatically says, "You have not because you ask not."

Additionally, as donsands pointed out, when we pray, we pray with the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26) It's quite mistaken to say that our prayers do no good when we simply don't understand what good they do or what effect they have.

stratagem said...

Did I hear someone mention double-secret predestination? lol

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Great article, Phil!!!

Luther put the nail in the coffin for free will with this statement:
"Again, if the Jews, who followed after righteousness with all their powers, fell into "unrighteousness" instead, while the Gentiles, who followed after unrighteousness, attained to an un-hoped for righteousness, by God's free gift, it is equally apparent from their very works and experience that man without grace can will nothing but evil."

I love Luther! :)

Chuck said...

WWB-

I know you're gone for the night, but I'd like to point out that Piper (who, in case anyone doesn't know, leans toward the Calvinist position ;) explicitly denies 'unconditional reprobation.' FWIW, I've never heard it called that either- usually it's just called double predestination. For high-falutin' types, it's known as equal ultimacy.

And while some Calvinists hold to this position, I'd venture to guess that the majority do not.

By the way, I have a great visual involving hand motions and such which a Prof showed us in class last year in order to differentiate how Calvinists/Arminians/Wesleyans cash out prevenient grace. If only I could figure out how to put it on here: I'd like to know if a genuine article Arminian would find the representation accurate.

Phil Johnson said...

William Watson Birch:

That "Piper" quote is unfortunate. In the first place, I don't believe those are Piper's words. The website you pointed to attributes the article to the "DG staff." I can't imagine Piper himself saying something so off-beat. It's a pretty poor representation of the Calvinistic position.

In the second place, the expression "double predestination" is ambiguous and fraught with misunderstanding. It's an especially unhelpful expression to stick in a throwaway parenthesis like that with the expression "unconditional reprobation" as an apparent definition.

Mainstream Calvinists have always emphasized that the reprobate are predestined by God's preterition and by their own fault (i.e., because of their sin). They merit hell. In other words, their damnation is not "unconditional."

The elect, by contrast, are the objects of God's active choice, and He predestines them to heaven for His own sake, not because of anything in them. They don't merit heaven, and they don't unleash God's grace by some act they perform or some choice they make. They have nothing of which to boast; God's gracious intervention is the only reason they will be in heaven--not some divinely-foreseen goodness in them. That's what Calvinists mean when we say election is "unconditional."

So the decree of election and the decree of reprobation are not exact parallels or mirror images of one another. One is active, the other passive. Election is "unconditional" in precisely the sense reprobation is not. The elect don't get what they deserve; the reprobate do. So the reprobate cannot claim their punishment is "unconditional," or purely God's doing; yet the elect must acknowledge that the favor God shows them is not because they met any "conditions" or earned any merit.

Now, if someone uses the expression "double predestination" to mean that the eternal disposition of the reprobate is as fixed and unchanging as the eternal disposition of the elect, I'll affirm that kind of "double predestination." More often, however, critics of Calvinism think "double predestination" means that the decree of election and the decree of reprobation are equally ultimate--that God's activity in making the reprobate evil exactly mirrors the sanctifying work he does to equip the elect for heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Calvin himself was emphatic about that.

(continued in next comment)

Phil Johnson said...

(continued from previous comment)

Sproul says it this way:

"Given that the bible teaches both election and particularism, we cannot avoid the subject of double predestination. The question then is not if predestination is double, but how it is double. There are different views of double predestination. One of them is so frightening that many shun altogether the use of the term 'double predestination.' This scary view is called equal ultimacy, and is based on a symmetrical view of predestination. It sees a symmetry between the work of God in election and his work in reprobation. It seeks an exact balance between the two. Just as God intervenes in the lives of the elect to create faith in their hearts, so he similarly intervenes in the hearts of the reprobate to work unbelief. The later is inferred from biblical passages that speak of God's hardening people's hearts.

"Classical Reformed theology rejects the doctrine of equal ultimacy. Though some have labeled this doctrine 'hyper-Calvinism,' I prefer to call it 'sub-Calvinism,' or even more precisely, 'anti-Calvinism.' Though Calvinism certainly holds to a
kind of double predestination, it does not embrace equal ultimacy. The Reformed view makes a crucial distinction between God's positive and negative decrees. God positively decrees the election of some and he negatively decrees the reprobation of others. The difference between positive and negative does not refer to the outcome (though the outcome indeed is either positive or negative), but to the manner by which God brings his decrees to pass in history.

"The positive side refers to God's active intervention in the lives of the elect to work faith in their hearts. The negative refers, not to God's working unbelief in the hearts of the reprobate, but simply to his passing them by and withholding his regenerating grace from them [i.e., preterition]."


That's what mainstream Calvinists have always taught. The notion that God's decree of reprobation is some kind of "unconditional" divine injunction, condemning morally neutral souls to hell regardless of any moral culpability in them, is an idea that has always been disclaimed by all but the very worst kind of hyper-Calvinists.

William Watson Birch: "I don't know where this emotional comment came from, but look at my comments from 6:55, 7:13, 7:15 and 7:26, and tell me how I came onto this site at a 'nuclear level' and a 'chip on my shoulder'."

Seriously?

That's a reference to your repeated invocation of Phred Felps's name, and your subsequent defense of that comparison. You'd probably take a similar perspective if one of my commenters tried to draw a connection between your theology and Robert Tilton or Ted Haggard.

donsands said...

"Classical Reformed theology rejects the doctrine of equal ultimacy. Though some have labeled this doctrine 'hyper-Calvinism,' I prefer to call it 'sub-Calvinism,' or even more precisely, 'anti-Calvinism.'"

RC is the best.

Thanks for sharing his words, and teaching.

Dr. Sproul may be the foremost example of a Christian/theologian in our day. IMHO.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Since Frank gave me the go ahead to quote certain authors, I would like to quote from Willing to Believe, by R.C. Sproul, page 101, concerning the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

He quotes Luther as saying: “Thus God hardens Pharaoh: He presents to the ungodly, evil will of Pharaoh His own Word and work, which Ph’s will hates, by reason of its own inbred fault and natural corruption. God does not alter that will within by His Spirit, but goes on presenting and bringing pressure to bear; and Ph, having in mind his own strength, wealth and power, trusts to them by this same fault of his nature….As soon as God presents to it from without something that irritates and offends it, Ph cannot escape being hardened…”

Ph heart is hardened by necessity, but not because God created fresh evil within it or because God coerced Ph to sin. Rather the hardening was the natural result of Ph’s internal corruption as it met up with God’s persistent will and command.

Does the necessity of the result (Pharaoh’s heart being hardened) mean that compulsion was involved? If God willed that Ph’s heart be hardened, then that hardening would of necessity come to pass. If it comes to pass by necessity, how can it do so without compulsion? The Diatribe allows for both necessity and free will. “Not all necessity excludes ‘free-will,’” Erasmus said. “Thus, God the Father begets a Son of necessity; yet He begets Him willingly and freely, for He is not forced to do so.”

“Are we now discussing compulsion and force?” Luther responds. “Have I not put on record in many books that I am talking about necessity of immutability? I know that the Father begets willingly, and that Judas betrayed Christ willingly… I distinguish two necessities: one I call necessity of force (necessitatem violentam), referring to action; the other I call necessity of infallibility (necessitatem infallibilem), referring to time.”

I will be gone tomorrow (a sick friend in hospital) so I am unable to respond.

William Watson Birch said...

Phil,

Let's look at Calvin's words then:

"By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death." (Institutes, 3:21:5).

Hence the reprobate were decreed to condemnation unconditionally; they were "created for" their end.

Also:

When God prefers some to others, choosing some and passing others by [as you mentioned above], the difference does not depend on human dignity or indignity. . . . If what I teach is true, that those who perish are destined to death by the eternal good pleasure of God, though the reason does not appear, then they are not found but made worthy of destruction. . . ." (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 8:5)

Again, the reprobate were not "found" to be unworthy (and hence decreed unto reprobation) but were unconditionally "made" to be unworthy, at the mere pleasure and will of God (and decreed unto reprobation).

I appreciate you stating that many Calvinists reject Calvin's and Piper's doctrine of unconditional reprobation (double predestination, equal ultimacy, etc.). But you explicitly stated that I have a "lack of understanding and care with which [I] casually misrepresent Calvinism, [which] is appalling -- asking: "Where do you find this doctrine of 'unconditional reprobation' in any mainstream Calvinist source? Can you quote a single leading Calvinist (hyper-calvinists excluded) who teach such a thing?"

BTW, I mentioned once before, but I'll repeat myself. In the Fred Phelps bit, I stated above that he DOES NOT represent Calvinism (any more than that Sunday school leader you experienced represented Arminius). That was my only point. I agreed with Don Sands that Phelps is not a Christian, much less a Calvinist -- though he claims to be a Calvinist.

Bobby Grow said...

Whether there is symmetry or some asymmetry between the elect/reprobate relative to God's decree misses the point. The point is that God decreed that some would believe/be justified and therefore some wouldn't. The cause, then, is still God's decree (whether that's active or passive) --- it's dealing with a level of intensity.

So for the reprobate, the cause of their reprobation is 'primarily' God and 'secondarily' their sin. In one sense, then, and relative to an ultimate cause; the classical Reformed view, as described by Sproul can be construed with the language of 'unconditional reprobation' --- and relative to the 'proximate cause' (to use Calvin's lang.) it cannot. I don't see how this implication can be argued against.

Rick Potter said...

I may be wrong but this quote (if it is from Piper), "...neither does he choose not to save certain people because they are worse than others (unconditional reprobation, or double predestination)." doesn't seem to be an affirmation of "unconditional reprobation" of "double predestination", but rather seem to be a direct denial. Maybe I'm just reading it wrong?

Eddie Eddings said...

I had to take a day of vacation to read all of the comments.

Andrew D said...

WWB, are you reading/responding to others, or just carrying on a monologue in this meta?

Phil:

"In the first place, I don't believe those are Piper's words. The website you pointed to attributes the article to the "DG staff." I can't imagine Piper himself saying something so off-beat."


WWB response?
"...and Piper's doctrine of unconditional reprobation..."


*sigh*

Trying to reason with this defensive posturing and rhetoric is hopeless.

Chuck said...

Again, as I pointed out- and Rick Potter as well- Piper is actually DENYING equal ultimacy. It's the point of the quote! I hate to belabor that, but several times on both sides of this thread people have been misreading each other's comments. For the record:

1.WWB thinks Fred Phelps is nuts and said so from word one.

2.Arminius' views are not always synonymous with 'Arminianism.' It's unfortunate but true.

3. Ditto Calvin/Calvinists.

4. Neither Piper nor Sproul nor many others are digging on Equal Ultimacy (although whether they believe it or not really has nothing to do with the price of rice in China).

In the end, there are few (if any) leading Reformed guys teaching double; I think Robert Reymond might (but I'm too lazy to walk the ten feet to grab his book and recheck).

Rick Potter said...

@Chuck -Right on Reymond- Here is a Reymond quote:
In chapter ten, while showing the inherent weaknesses and unbiblical character of Arminianism, I affirm—over against some Reformed thinkers who prefer to represent such things as simply mysteries for which the Bible provides no answers—that God is the decretal Cause of evil in the sense that he is the sole ultimate decretal Cause of all things. I also argue there for the equal ultimacy of, though not an exact identity of divine causality behind, election and reprobation in the divine decree.
Source: Reymond, R. L. (1998). A new systematic theology of the Christian faith.

Phil Johnson said...

William Watson Birch:

If the question is whether the reprobate perish against the plan and purpose of God or in perfect accord with it, every mainstream Calvinist would give exactly the same reply Calvin did in the section you quoted. God's decretive will is fulfilled, not thwarted, by the damnation of the wicked.

If the question, however, is how the wicked are "made" worthy of destruction, let's allow Calvin's own words to answer that one as well. He discusses that very question in Book 2, Chapter 4 of the Institutes, titled "How God Works in the Hearts of Men." In section 3 of that chapter, Calvin is arguing that God is no helpless observer or reluctant victim of human wickedness, but even the works of the reprobate fulfill His plan. Proof that this is God's plan is seen in the fact that He "blinds and hardens the reprobate."

Yes, of course. The Bible clearly says that. But how does God accomplish this?

Calvin replies:

"[He does it] in two ways: 1. By deserting them; 2. By delivering them over to Satan."

That's verbatim from the section heading. Now, look at the actual text of that section, and pay close attention to what Calvin is saying (and what he's not saying): God's agency with regard to the reprobate is not bare permission--i.e., God is not a merely passive observer, watching what happens to the reprobate. Rather (as we see in Pharaoh's case), God hardens them and blinds them, and He does this in two ways, which Calvin expressly names: 1) by abandoning them; and 2) by turning them over to Satan.

Note carefully: Calvin does NOT attribute to God any active agency in tempting them, forcing them to sin, violating their wills, or authoring their sin. Someone earlier in this comment-thread quoted R. C. Sproul to this same effect. Again, that is mainstream Calvinism.

Read this section of Calvin's Institutes carelessly or superficially, and you might imagine that Calvin is arguing against the notion that there's any "passive" element in God's decree of reprobation--as if God always wills and acts only directly, actively, as an efficient cause--and never by "permission." However, it isn't the concept of divine permission per se that Calvin objects to; it's the notion that God's "permission" is an unwilling permission. He cites "Augustine himself, in his book against Julian, [who] contends at length that sins are manifestations not merely of divine permission or patience, but also of divine power."

Then Calvin goes on to say, "What is said [about 'permission' by deniers of divine sovereignty] is too weak to stand." Again, note that he doesn't deny the concept of divine permission altogether; he merely states that this is not sufficient in and of itself to explain God's work in the reprobate's heart, because:

"God is very often said to blind and harden the reprobate, to turn their hearts, to incline and impel them, as I have elsewhere fully explained, (Book 1 c. 18) The extent of this agency can never be explained by having recourse to prescience or permission."

[continued next comment]

Phil Johnson said...

[continued from previous comment]

So what, other than permission, is involved? How does God "turn their hearts, to incline and impel" the reprobate? Does Calvin suggest that God actively produces sin in reprobates' hearts in a way that amounts to "equal ultimacy"--a mirror image of how He produces righteousness in the elect? Not at all. Calvin is unmistakably clear about what he means when he says God's agency in the reprobate is something more than bare, unwilling permission:

"We, therefore, hold that there are two methods in which God may so act. [1] When his light is taken away, nothing remains but blindness and darkness: when his Spirit is taken away, our hearts become hard as stones: when his guidance is withdrawn, we immediately turn from the right path: and hence he is properly said to incline, harden, and blind those whom he deprives of the faculty of seeing, obeying, and rightly executing."

So the first of Calvin's two ways of "inclining" the reprobates' hearts involves the removal of God's influence, not the direct infusion of evil into their hearts.

"[2] The second method, which comes much nearer to the exact meaning of the words, is when executing his judgements by Satan as the minister of his anger, God both directs men's counsels, and excites their wills, and regulates their efforts as he pleases."

Notice that Calvin says this involves employing Satan, not God himself, as the active agent. Calvin carefully avoids the error of making God the efficient cause or an active agent in the production of sin.

I agree, BTW, that God does employ Satan and other "second causes" to provoke the reprobate unto evil. So I do agree with Calvin on all these points. But it is clear, after all, that when Calvin addresses this very question, he does not suggest that God actively makes the reprobate evil (all other selective or out-of-context quotations notwithstanding).

Phil Johnson said...

Rick Potter: "I may be wrong but this quote (if it is from Piper), "...neither does he choose not to save certain people because they are worse than others (unconditional reprobation, or double predestination)." doesn't seem to be an affirmation of "unconditional reprobation" of "double predestination", but rather seem to be a direct denial. Maybe I'm just reading it wrong?"

Could be you're right. As I said, it's ambiguous. Is the parenthetical part a description of the view the writer rejects, or the view he holds. If God passed over the reprobate "because they are worse than others," that would be "conditional reprobation." That's what makes the statement as written so confusing.

Chuck said...

Thanks Mr. Potter- that's the exact book I was too lazy to reach for! BTW, it's overall an excellent book, despite my disagreement there (and other places).

Rick Potter said...

Phil: If the author holds the view of "unconditional reprobation", he would be mistaken in affirming "...neither does he chose not to save because they are worse than others." as you pointed out also. Now that I've considered it further, this statement doesn't represent the perspicuity that I've come to expect from Piper. The nuances of the double negative coupled with the ""because" and the parenthetical do indeed lend themselves to the ambiguity of which you spoke.

Rick Potter said...

Chuck,
I think you'll be pleased with Reymond's further explanation in the 10th chapter under the heading of "Why God Is Not The Author or Chargeable Cause of Sin", that is, if you haven't already read it. I agree, it's an excellent work and while I find it hard sometimes, I'm always seeking further enlightenment.

Chuck said...

Rick-

Absolutely! The best part of Reymond is that he manages to forcefully disagree while being charitable and thorough. His ST is one of my favorites for that reason. In fact, though I often lean toward Grudem's positions (other than the gifts) I am more partial to Reymond generally.

On a side note, his book on Paul is great as well.

Bobby Grow said...

Appealing to "secondary causes" is a cop-out; and is really only a way to maintain the static view of God provided by Classic Calvinism.

Does anyone else understand how this is "Thomistic" (which is to say Thomas Aquinas' appropriation of Aristotle's philosophy)? Or is it just me and the Arminian who realize this. At least William admits that the informing metaphysic to what he holds to is Thomistic (mediated through Arminius).

donsands said...

"..that Calvin says this involves employing Satan, not God himself, as the active agent. Calvin carefully avoids the error of making God the efficient cause or an active agent in the production of sin."

That made me think of when the spirits were gathered before the Lord, and one said, "I will go and be a lying spirit." And the Lord sent the spirit.

And I thought of Romans one, here God turns them over, or allows us to go our way:

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions."

Also 2 Thes. 2:

"because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

These are strong words from the Apostle; and scary words.

Citizen Grim said...

Andrew D: Trying to reason with this defensive posturing and rhetoric is hopeless.

Not hopeless, Andrew! True, WWB is not here in good faith, but there are many others who peruse the meta without commenting, so I think it's worthwhile to counter sloppy theology for the benefit of other onlookers.

Not that any trolls should be fed, naturally. But arguing with a brick wall is not as hopeless as one might think.

Nor, for that matter, is it hopeless to pray to a sovereign God. Rather, what seems hopeless to me is praying to a God who isn't sovereign, who doesn't have the power to enact what we ask.

Isaac said...

... but there are many others who peruse the meta without commenting, so I think it's worthwhile to counter sloppy theology for the benefit of other onlookers.

That would be me. :D

Joey Phillips said...

Phil,

Thank you for taking the time to thoroughly respond to WWB. It has been very helpful and instructive to me and I am sure many others. I hadn't thought about double predestination much before, and this helped me avoid error I am sure. Thank you for using your gift of communication and your love of the truth for the glory of God. Obviously you could be spending your time doing any number of things but please know that folks benefit from these interactions. Well, at least I do.

Citizen Grim said...

If I might parse that Desiring God quote:

So just as God doesn't choose to save certain people because they are better than others (unconditional election)...

No dispute there. We are not chosen because of any virtue in us, but for some sovereign reason God chooses not to reveal to us.

...neither does he choose not to save certain people because they are worse than others (unconditional reprobation, or double predestination).

Obviously a convoluted sentence. I think that the Desiring God staffer who wrote it is trying to convey the passive sense in which God leaves the reprobate to their own devices by writing that God "chooses not to save."

In fact, I think whoever wrote this is on the right track, in that God doesn't pass over the reprobate because they are worse than others. If so, it would imply that the elect are chosen because they are better than others, which we have already established is not so.

On the contrary, judgment is the destination all of us were headed towards in our natural state, and God actively and positively elects many to salvation, by his grace, for his glory, and not because of anything in them. Which the rest of the quote emphasizes:

Rather, everybody is lost in sin and no one has anything to recommend them to God above anyone else.

Judgment for the reprobate is conditioned on the fact that they are sinners, but not because they are worse sinners than the elect. All of us were bound for judgment at one time.

Clearly, if there were any persons without sin, they would not receive judgment. No one believes that God would send innocent people to hell. But that's just the thing - there are no innocent people. All have sinned and fallen short.

It should be repeated for emphasis, though, that they are not passed over because they are more sinful, and the elect are not saved because they are less sinful. Evil was simply the natural state of us all. I think this is what the Desiring God staffer was getting at when they called it "unconditional reprobation". Perhaps a better term would have been "unexceptional reprobation," but that's not really much clearer.

Now, to be sure, after the point of salvation, the elect will gradually become less sinful, as the indwelling Spirit works in them. And it would be expected for the reprobate to become more sinful as God leaves them to their own trajectories. But their measure of sin is not the rationale for their being elected or passed over, rather, they are elected or passed over according to God's sovereign will, which he does not (and need not) reveal to us.

I think this is why R.C. Sproul prefers the positive term "Sovereign Election," which stresses what election is, rather than the negative term "Unconditional Election," which stresses what election is not.


**I hope I haven't muddied the waters just as much by using the phrase "passed over", which is usually used in Scripture to refer to those whom God spares from judgment..

Everyday Mommy© said...

"...but there are many others who peruse the meta without commenting, so I think it's worthwhile to counter sloppy theology for the benefit of other onlookers."

I could not agree more.

Lynda O said...

Thanks for sharing this, Phil -- and how sometimes a certain point is brought up in such a way as to get our attention and really think about it -- like why pray for the salvation of the lost? As I came to understand more fully the doctrines of Grace, I noticed the limitations of Arminian thought, as in an interesting scene in C..S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia (in The Last Battle) -- the dwarves have free-will and stubbornly refuse to believe in Aslan (Christ). When a believer (Lucy) implores and begs Aslan to do something to save the dwarves, Aslan tells her of what he can and can't do and shows Lucy that He really is unable to save the dwarves because of their own choice.

What kind of a God is that, if He really does not have the power to overrule a lost person's will? Lewis' idea as expressed elsewhere was that God could woo the sinner, but the sinner could resist that wooing of the Holy Spirit -- and that scene with Lucy and Aslan and the dwarves just really shows how weak that kind of god is. (But now C.S. Lewis knows better... )

Burrito34 said...

My calvinistic theology is still something of a work in progress. I affirm God's sovereignty as described in Romans 9 yet I also believe that the choice to believe or not is a real choice, as Jesus told those who rejected Him not that they could not, but that they "would not" believe in Him. So for now, I have come to the position that there is this humanly unexplainable tension that remains between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

olan strickland said...

Jules,

Earlier in the meta you were accused by Johnny Dialectic of proof-texting Romans chapter 9: Chapter 9 is not dealing with individual salvation. That's the fundamental error Calvinists make when proof-texting from this chapter, as you have done. That's why you will quote 9:13 without reference to Mal. 1:2,3. Tell me, is the latter text talking about individuals or nations?

Romans 9 is dealing with individual salvation and that is Paul's point in the whole chapter. Paul proves individual selection from among Abraham's descendents starting with Isaac instead of Ishmael and then to Jacob instead of Esau.

In each case God is illustrating the Biblical truth that a man must be born again because He chose the second born over the first born.

If the chapter is dealing with the election of nations then of necessity there would be no unbelieving Israelites - only unbelieving Edomites. However, we read, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants" (Romans 9:6-7).

JD is right about this though: From one contextual mistake grow many errors.

Everyday Mommy© said...

Thank you, Olan.

I do tend to "overlook" Johnny's comments. Wink.

donsands said...

"..as Jesus told those who rejected Him not that they could not, but that they "would not" believe in Him."

This is true, and Jesus told the Jews in John 10: "The reason you don't believe is because you are not My sheep. My sheep hear me call them, and they come to Me." All who the Lord calls will come, and all who come to Christ will be justified, and also glorified. It's a 100% grace blessing from the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our Great Shepherd, whom no wolf, nor devil, can snatch us away from.

Eric said...

Phil,

I echo the sentiments of Joey Phillips. Your willingness to reply in a logical and complete manner is very appreciated. Truly God has blessed you with a gift and you are using it to His glory and to the edification of others. I praise God because of how he uses you and the other Team Pyro members as well. I pray that God will continue to bless and equip you for His service.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Atta way to engage, Jules. *wink* Especially when you accuse others of not answering your questions. I'll take that under advisement in the future.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Olan, answer the question I asked Jules: What is the point of Malachi 1:2-3? Individual salvation or the fate of nations?

Or you can ignore this and *wink*

witness said...

For JD...

God is clearly speaking to the nation here.

The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. ~Malachi 1:1(ESV)

Notice God declares His love for the nation and the nation metaphorically asks how God has shown that love. IOW: “In what way can you describe your love for us that we can understand?”

"I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob ~Malachi 1:2(ESV)

God offers an example of his love for the nation by the individual election and love He has graced (an undeserving) Jacob with. The contrast is what God has shown Esau individually. Notice what God laid waste to… “his hill country”.

but Esau I have hated.I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert." I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert." ~Malachi 1:3(ESV)

Paul in Romans 9 uses that same individual election and love as an example to validate his point.

But then I am no scholar and the Pyros could probably have said it better.

witness said...

Olan, answer the question I asked Jules: What is the point of Malachi 1:2-3? Individual salvation or the fate of nations?

So to answer your question... the fate of a nations is the point and illustrated by how God dealt with their individual ancestors.

Paul said...

Phil, I have two questios:
First, does a person's difficulty accepting Eph.1:4,11 imply that he does not have full trust that God has made the right choices?
Second, are those on each side of this debate understanding what the will is, or are we actually viewing the will differently? Seems to me a biblical discussion on the will of man is in order.

Thanks.

Johnny Dialectic said...

witness: You got the nation aspect right. But your conclusion drifts:

Paul in Romans 9 uses that same individual election and love as an example to validate his point.

That's pulling out the wrong conclusion. What follows from your original (and correct) observation should be the direct contextual analogue: Paul in Romans 9 uses that same national election to validate his point.

This is where good hermeneutics is so essential.

And BTW, let's not forget that just as individual verses in Romans 9 are in a larger context; so is Romans 9 itself. You can begin to get a better handle on it by going back to 3:1 and reading from there, esp: "What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God."

Do you begin to see the purpose of national election here?

Johnny Dialectic said...

I'll be away from the computer for most of the rest of the day and will have to check back later. Thanks for the spirited discussion.

Citizen Grim said...

JD - God addresses ethnic Israel in Malachi 1, but it's a fallacy of composition to assume that Romans 9 is also addressing ethnic groups instead of individuals, simply because Paul quotes Malachi.

As Olan pointed out, Paul makes it clear that he's not talking about ethnic groups when he says in vv. 6-7 that individual ethnic Israelites are not part of the true covenant community.

In verse 8, Paul explicitly says that he's not talking about ethnic groups - that is, "children of the flesh" - but rather those born of the spirit, "the children of the promise."

See also v. 27 where Paul says only a remnant of ethnic Israel will be saved, and again in v. 30 where he says that individual Gentiles have attained righteousness. If Romans 9 is referring to entire ethnic groups, what does Paul mean when he says that the Gentiles have attained righteousness by faith? Does he mean that certain Gentiles have, or that all Gentiles have?

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny: "What is the point of Malachi 1:2-3? Individual salvation or the fate of nations?"

Witness is exactly right. Malachi is speaking of the nations that descended from those two individuals. In Romans 9, Paul takes it back to the individuals--twins in their fetal state--and speaks of their individual election before the foundation of the world. Romans 9:10-12 makes this fact inescapably clear.

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