21 April 2010

Election Results

by Frank Turk

So spring fever has apparently sprung amongst those who find Calvinism offensive -- Phil gave his perspective on the topic on Friday (bringing out the usual suspects and their kin to fuss against such a thing), and over at Evangel Anthony Sacramone (they will obviously let anyone contribute over there) shook a fist at the "weird or noxious ideas" that "a God this horrible just happens to explain why the world looks the way it does" (meaning: Calvinism is bad).

And it all comes down to one thing, really: election results.

Now, by that I don't mean, "the tally of all the votes so we can finally end the discussion by democratic consensus." By that I mean thinking about what it means to say that God saves men.

Listen: the argument over election is not over anything else. It is only over how intentional God was and is and shall be to save anybody. The Calvinist and the non-calvinists of all stripe all believe that man needs to be saved. The Calvinist and the non-calvinists of all stripe believe that Jesus is the Savior of men. These are not the questions. It is also not the question of whether or not God intends to save men: both the Calvinist and the non-calvinists believe that God wants to save men.

The question is only this: are those who are saved saved specifically and intentionally by God because it was His plan all along to save them personally by drawing them into the assembly of all believers, or does the phrase "whosoever will" guide our understanding theological so as to understand that the divine will is not in fact determinative for who specifically will be saved, but is rather an open invitation through which God will have a very pleasant surprise at the end of all things to find that many men have in fact taken him up on the offer?

"That's not very fair, cent," comes the sincere and irenic non-calvinist. "We believe that God has foreknowledge of whosoever will, so it's not a 'surprise' to him at all. God knows who will and will not come to faith, and that's how the elect are numbered, for example, in the Lamb's book of life."

Let me be honest: I admit that my formula there is not very fair and I agree that the non-calvinist formulas for defining God's foreknowledge leaves God unsurprised by what seems to us to be "the future". But it troubles me deeply to see the non-calvinist argue as if they themselves don't believe their own explanations -- and therefore I make my unfair arguments to cause them to retreat to their foundations in the hope of showing them their biblically-fatal flaws.

I'm not mean or stupid: I just want people to be honest with themselves.

Here's what I think -- I think that what we want as Christians is to show people that God can be understood and somehow inserted into the world we think we live in. We think that bringing people to God is like bringing people to meet a friend of ours whom they ought to know and like because we have so much in common -- or maybe they are just interesting folk. The problem is that God is not like anyone, and when we compare us to him, we are the pale imitation. We are the ones who come up lacking.

So when we say things like, "well, God sort of 'remembers the future' -- he doesn't cause it, but he 'knows' it because he can 'see' it, sort of like Sonny & Cher ..." we are making God like us. But here's what God says about His relationship to the future:
Remember the former things of old:
for I am God, and there is none else;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning,
and from ancient times the things
that are not yet done,
saying, My counsel shall stand,
and I will do all my pleasure:
Calling a ravenous bird from the east,
the man that executeth my counsel
from a far country:
yea, I have spoken it,
I will also bring it to pass;
I have purposed it, I will also do it.

Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted,
that are far from righteousness:

I bring near my righteousness;
it shall not be far off,
and my salvation shall not tarry:
and I will place salvation in Zion
for Israel my glory.
[Is 46:9-13, KJV]
There are a lot of things that you can say about that passage, I guess, but there are a few couple of things you have to admit about it:

[1] This is a passage where God speaks explicitly about two things at least: the inevitability of salvation, and the basis of the inevitability of salvation. Zion is going to receive salvation and righteousness -- and it's not because God can see how it comes together. It is because He is God, and there is none like him, and he declares the end of things from the beginning. This has to put to rest any talk of God passively knowing the future -- somehow taking it in. God doesn't get awareness of the future: He declares it -- that is, what he says, goes.

[2] God is not merely declaring the ends, but also the means. That part about the ravenous bird and the foreign agent -- that's saying that not only will God say, "here's what I'm going to do," but also, "this is how I am going to do it." This may be poetic language, but if it is, then as a metaphor is it using the lesser example to point to the greater reality -- and that if the metaphor is, "I will use either a bird or a man as I please," the reality is that God will use all things as he pleases, and He does please.

So when we start talking about election results -- that is, the consequences of God's choice to save -- we should be certain that we are somehow connecting to what God actually says about the consequences of His choice to save. He will certainly save "whosoever will" repent and believe -- from our human perspective, which is not prescriptive of the future but is in fact consequential to the passage of time. But God's relationship to the future is not like ours, and we shouldn't try to make it like ours -- because let's face it: we would screw up the future if it was up to us, and we have hope that the future is in fact not screwed up but eschatologically perfect.

And with that big theology word to satisfy the watchbloggers, I leave the discussion open. Play nice.


Matt said...

Agreed, our finite imagination of who God is will forever be limited by our created nature. God thank you that by your infinite Grace and Mercy you willingly revealed your glory, through your Word, to me, an eternally undeserving vessel of you Mercy!!

A book that I would encourage all to read is "The Knowledge of The Holy" by A.W. Tozer

DJP said...

Frank, two things:

1. Haaaaahahahahahaha!

2. You know exactly what I mean!

{ happy dance }

Paul D said...

both the Calvinist and the non-calvinists believe that God wants to save men."

Would you say both Calvinists and non-calvinists believe God wants to save ALL men? I think that's the issue most non-calvinists have trouble with. I wonder if you have found it helpful to steer this conversation to discussing the "wills" of God - in once sense God wills, or desires, that all would come to repentance (1 Timothy 2:4), but in another sense God does not will it, or decree it - not all men are actually saved.

David Kyle said...

Frank, at least for me, the convincing and convicting need for election was Scripture clearly painting me as unable to choose God on my own.

Maybe the argument can be won by asking the non-calvinist to prove from Scripture man can choose God without His divine and electing intervention?

I like the point Paul makes in Romans 10:16-21

FX Turk said...

Paul D --


Because there are no non-calvinists Christians who are universalists, I would say that neither calvinists nor non-calvinists really believe that God "wants to" save all men.

I would say that both believe that God has offered, in good faith, the plea to repent and believe in Christ to all men; Christ is the only savior offered to all men. There is no other name by which we must be saved.

If I have to answer what you asked the way you asked it, I would say, "yes." But I think the way you asked it is not inclusive enough of the rest of Scripture and not theologically-specific enough regarding what God "wants".

Anonymous said...

I like the reference in the Hank Hanegraaff article to God having to "watch the cosmic DVD of life before He sovereignly predestinates".

What kills me is that this so-called power that man has to savingly believe was not potent enough to keep him from needing to be saved from actual sin in the first place.

Really... I'd like to hear the Arminian/semi-Pelagian answer to this question:

"If you believe that man has his own innate, inherent ability to choose to savingly accept Christ, do you also believe man has the innate, inherent ability to resist all actual sin in life?"

I've actually read that "original sin" would not condemn a person alone; the point was that Paul said that the presence of a sinful nature is deadly because we all have ACTUALLY sinned. It would be like having a gun in the house represents the nature inclined to sin, but actually using it to kill someone would be the thing that sent us to prison for life.

Either way, I think the Arminian/man-powered god of modern churchianity is pathetic and certainly not worth considering, let alone worshiping.

FX Turk said...

Witness --

You are probably right. The problem as I see it is that the non-calvinists don't want to think about what it means to have a will that is actually willing, but only willing to do what it loves rather than what it ought to do.

It's a debate that we might win in terms of biblicality, but that because it is such a radical change in personal paradigm about what we do every day, we don't often make a dent in the shell of the non-calvinist.

David Regier said...

The brand name "Calvinism" put me off for a long time, even though if you put scripture in front of me, it was pretty clear that God has a will, and he's going to accomplish it.

But before I ever met any living, breathing Calvinists who'd own up to it, my exposure to it consisted of having to read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and "The Scarlet Letter" in (public) high school. In that context, you have a straw man set up for rejection.

But now that I accepted Calvin into my heart, it all makes sense :)

FX Turk said...

SA Steve --

We are sinners by nature, but also sinners by choice. It is not either/or. It is both.

FX Turk said...

DJP --

Hi. My name is Frank. And I'm a blogoholic ...

DJP said...

Embrace it, Frank. Give in to your feelings. Join Phil and me, and together, we will....

Oh, ahem, sorry. Got carried away by the subtexting.

Jugulum said...

Sing-Along Steve,

"Really... I'd like to hear the Arminian/semi-Pelagian answer to this question:

"If you believe that man has his own innate, inherent ability to choose to savingly accept Christ, do you also believe man has the innate, inherent ability to resist all actual sin in life?"

If you're asking an actual "Arminian", then they'll say, "I don't believe we have an innate, inherent ability to choose to savingly accept Christ."

They believe in Total Depravity; the difference lies in the nature of God's drawing grace--i.e., He draws everyone with "prevenient grace", giving everyone the ability to come and leaving it up to them whether they do. (That's what's going on when they respond to our appeal to John 6 with John 12:32.)

Miscellaneous non-Calvinists may believe that we have the inherent ability, but not actual Arminians. Also, "the innate, inherent ability to resist all actual sin in life" would actually be Pelagian, not semi-Pelagian.

Write@titude said...

1. Ironic isn't it? We want to have freedom of choice but we don't want God to have the same freedom of choice.

2. Ichabod Smith Spencer in his A Pastor’s Sketches: Conversations with Anxious Souls Concerning the Way of Salvation vols. 1 & 2 (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Books) has a great chapter on this subject that I've found most helpful. Buy the book so you can underline in it & write in the margins but if you can't wait until it arrives read it here.

Christopher said...

For me the question has not been "Do I have the ability to choose GOD", but "Why would I choose GOD?". If I was defined in my flesh as a person who was Ephesians 2:1-3 by nature, why would I want to come to GOD?

In short, even if I had the ability to choose GOD (will), why would I want to choose GOD (heart)?

Nash Equilibrium said...

I think a lot of the acrimony between Arminians and Calvinists could be cured, if we both just admitted that our understanding of exactly who God saves, and how, is very limited, and focused ourselves instead on doing the evangelism and prayer that both sides agree we are commanded to do.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

The issue for most, I believe, is that God and Calvinists are seen as unloving: God for electing some and passively bypassing others, and Calvinists for being the bearer of such confusing news. All of God’s attributes are 100 %, so says John Piper. One is not more actively prominent than the other. God even reminds us in Rom 11:22, “ Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

These are God’s words… if thou continue in his goodness: OTHERWISE THOU ALSO SHALT BE CUT OFF. Is this HARSH and UNLOVING? To the non-Calvinist, it does seem harsh, to the Calvinist, no. The Calvinist has NOT made an idol of God, as has the Arminian. The Calvinist does not JUST see God’s goodness, and love and mercy, but also sees God as He truly reveals Himself in the Scriptures of truth. The perspicuity of Scripture, as Luther defines it, is CLEARLY seen and understood in Romans 9:13-23. God has divine prerogative, which is what it means to be God, God’s freedom of choice defines who He is. No outside force restrains God from acting one way or the other; otherwise God would be under someone else’s control. Exodus 33:19 shows that God is defined by His freedom to do all His pleasure, “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”

Matt: The Knowledge of the Holy is great; I see similarities in this book with The Attributes of God, by Pink.

Paul: Piper has a great article on The Two Wills of God at DG’s website. Awesome read.

Good article, Frank, all of you three writers have the best articles out of all the Christian blogs on the Internet.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Frank, it is true. They will let ANYONE post over at Evangel... if you have been chosen!

(yes, I know, I am lame)

mikeb said...

Stratagem: How you do "evangelism and prayer" is completely guided by who you think God is and how He acts?

Arminian prayer: "God help them to make the right choice and choose Your Son."

Calvinist prayer: "God draw them to Your Son, let the Holy Spirit regenerate their hearts!"

You cannot simply set the doctrines of grace aside and move on. The doctrines of grace are part of the Bible.

On another note, can someone point me to the verse of Scripture that says we can resist God's will on our life?

And if God looked into the future and chose the elect based on what he saw they would do, how does that work with the fact we can do nothing to earn grace? According to this line of thinking, did we not just determine what God would do (choose us) based on our decision. Why would God leave the future of mankind in mankind's own hands?

David Kyle said...

~mikeb how about this one...

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. ~Proverbs 21:1(ESV)

wait... never mind.

David Kyle said...

Unless of course you exegete that to mean the king turns the hand of the LORD. HAHAHAHAHA!

That's as bad as thinking Paul's concern in Romans 9 is service and that he is willing to go to hell over it.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Good comments, Mike. What I find frustrating is the fact that many people say God looks down the corridors of time and chooses those who choose Him. This view totally destroys God's omniscience. God chose us in Him BEFORE the foundations of the world, period.

None of us would choose righteousness of our own volition, man's heart is continually wicked; we do not desire holiness or seek the good until we are regenerated.

The purpose of God giving us a NEW HEART is so that we can love, obey and desire Him, without this new heart, we can only choose according to our OLD nature.

mKhulu said...

I was just listening to R.C. Sproul(for the umpteenth time) say "we are not saved by believing the doctrine of justification by faith... it is not the doctrine that saves anybody." In like manner, I surely am happy that my complete understanding of election is not what proves my election. Rather it is that regeneration and faith are gifts I as a poor sinner have been given by God.
Praise God. To Him be ALL the glory.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Stratagem: How you do "evangelism and prayer" is completely guided by who you think God is and how He acts?

How did people pray for the lost before Calvin and Arminius? To some extent our prayers are all "unguided," if by guided you mean we must know everything about how God works, in order to pray. I'm sorry but I can't see why someone can't pray if they don't know the finer points of this much-disputed issue.

You cannot simply set the doctrines of grace aside and move on. The doctrines of grace are part of the Bible.

That's true, but the doctrines of grace (i.e., the One through whom God saves, Jesus Christ) is not being disputed or discussed. I, as well as many others, don't see election or free will as one of the essential doctrines on the same level as the core message of the Gospel. If it were, I would have to believe that Arminians aren't saved. I certainly don't believe that... do you?

Mike Riccardi said...

Totally off topic.

Christopher, is there a reason you write the word "God" in all caps? Just wondering.

Christopher said...


HA! I dunno...just felt like it when day and then it stuck.

James Scott Bell said...

On another note, can someone point me to the verse of Scripture that says we can resist God's will on our life?

Matt. 23:37
Jer. 2:13-30
Hosea 11:2-7
Amos 2:4,5
Zech. 1:4

Happy to oblige.

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny Dialectic:

I'm surprised you missed the most obvious one, Luke 7:30.

Mike Riccardi said...

Johnny, do those contradict Romans 9:19? If not, how do you reconcile them?

philness said...

If we believe God has declared the beginning to the end then choosing the answer to this question is a no brainer:

Who's WILL comes first?

A. Man's
B. God's

If we believe regeneration (new birth) comes first- Ezekiel 36:26-27 then we will have no problem choosing (B) 100% of the time.

The very first starting point to man's will at choosing God must originate with God. God decreed His elect and we don't get to ask why by trying to solve for (x) by inserting (man's free will).

Two free wills cancel one another out.

God first breaths His Spirit onto man's dead, dried bones (Ezekiel 37:5) and it is this Spirit that gives man the will to make a favorable decision for Christ 100% without failure.

Christopher said...

I think it is important to note that GOD never says anything about our Wills not acting correctly, but rather our hearts being the seat of the overall issue.

For example, if I am on some funky medication and my skin feels like its burning as a side effect, there is nothing wrong with my skin necessarily. The issue is with my brain. My brain is telling my skin that it is incredibly uncomfortable. So it is with the Will and the Heart. Our Will is not broken, in fact, as unbelievers, our Will was perfectly fine. It did exactly as it was supposed to do: Enact what the Heart desired.

Thus the problem is here: I do what I desire, but if I do not desire GOD, then why would I choose HIM? If I am right (which, of course, I believe myself to be), then my Heart (the seat of what I desire) would have to first be changed to desire GOD, then and only then could I willfully choose HIM.

Rick Potter said...

And still, whether Luke 7:29 or Luke 17:10, it is the electing power of the One who will justify (Luke 22:37 and Isa. 53:11) through faith alone (John 5:24).

Rick Potter said...


Excellent points. When we look at the objectivity of the ordo salutis, it paints a very different picture than the subjective caricature of the very same doctrinal stance.

Janice said...

I have never heard of the book “The Knowledge of the Holy”. If it’s anything like “The Attributes of God” I have got to read it! Thanks for the tip!

This topic is way beyond my learning at this point, but I am fascinated by God’s sovereignty, His everlasting decrees, and how everything He sets out to do, He does. But I am still learning so I really appreciate the articles and the passionate discussion!

So far, I can only draw on my own personal experience in being converted. I KNOW that I was not searching for God nor did I have any desire to obey Him. God called me (seemingly out of the blue), the Spirit convicted me of my sin, I realized the horrible state I was in (for the first time ever), and was desperate for Christ. I remember thinking, “I’ve always heard that Christ died for me, but I never knew what that meant until now!”

Sounds like election to me.

Bobby Grow said...

The fact that both Classic Calvinists and Arminians ground election in man necessarily makes salvation man-centered instead of Christ centered.

That's why on Phil's post I made the suggestion that we must ground election in Christ as the God/MAN (a 'Christ-condition' supralapsarianism flowing from the 'one will of God').

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...


I have been meaning to tell you how much I have really enjoyed your comments on this board. REALLY! You are very interesting. I like Linda O’s comments, as well. I don’t know too many other women here yet. I know Linda O from the gty blog.

The Apostle Paul was not looking for Christ either, on the road to Damascus, but God touched his heart and removed the scales from his eyes.

How can people whose hearts are continually wicked, choose anything good? Impossible! Gen 6:5, "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil CONTINUALLY"

One of my favorite doctrines is God's sovereignty. A good book to read here is, The Sovereignty of God, by A.W. Pink or Lorraine Boettner's The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, you can read Boettner’s book on line, and I think Pink’s, also. Just ignore Pink's views about God NOT loving all humans. He was a bit hyper on this point. Also, someone told me that the newer additions of this book have been altered a bit to soften Pink's views on this matter.

James Scott Bell said...

Phil, I like Matt 23:37 best, but thanks. Honestly, if you ever leave your present position, you'll be ripe for a revamp. We can use your brain on our side...

Craig said...

Both Arminians and Calvinists would agree that not all people will be saved. So, imagine we are talking to two people, call them person A and person B, who have had the same upbringing and have had the gospel presented to them in the same way. Person A becomes a Christian but person B does not. What, then, made the difference between these two people? Was A smarter or wiser in some way so he could see the wisdom of this choice. Was A more emotionally stable or spiritually in-tune with God? Or, did God sovereignly choose A and not B before the foundation of the world? The difference in outcome for A and B had to be caused by either man or God. If the difference was caused by man then salvation is of men not ultimately of God. If salvation is of man then it is useless - we're just pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

James Scott Bell said...

Mike, that's a cogent and fair question, as it is any time one compares verses and sees an apparent contradiction. I presume you and I are both operating under the belief that Scripture never contradicts itself, right?

My answer is that Romans 9:6 ff. is not talking about individual election to salvation, but national election for serving the plan of God (cf. 3:1,2, etc.). I know this is not the Calvinist view, but there you go.

So let me ask you the same: How do you reconcile Matt. 23:37 with Ro. 9:19?

mikeb said...

Stratagem: People prayed for the lost in a Biblical manner, a manner which you would call Calvinistic today if you were honest with yourself.

And you are confusing the doctrines of grace with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The terms "Doctrines of Grace" do not equal the gospel. Go and google the term to learn more.

Johnny: You must have thought I said find a verse that proves man can sin against God. No doubt the Bible is full of those. Let me add a word to help you determine the will I'm speaking of.

Can someone point me to the verse of Scripture that says we can resist God's secret will on our life?

Johnny are you siding against Paul, like the antagonist Paul is mentioning? Are you saying we can resist God's will?

"Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" . On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?

Are you not "answering back to God" when you try to say man can resist God's will?

And he's not talking about nations here either. "Man" does not equal nation and "the thing molded" does not equal a nation. If the imaginary antagonist here was speaking of nations, the question would be more like "what nation can resist His will?"

olan strickland said...

Romans 9 is viewed by Calvinists as teaching unconditional election. It is viewed by Arminians as teaching conditional election. This also means that Romans 3 is viewed by Calvinists as teaching against conditional election and by Arminians as teaching against unconditional election.

So for the Arminian, the Jews falsely relied upon unconditional election in Romans 3 and Paul set out to set them straight. For the Calvinist, the Jews falsely relied upon conditional election in Romans 3 and Paul set out to set them straight.

Which was it? That’s not that hard to answer. The Jews relied upon conditional election (being circumcised, relying upon the Law, and boasting in God – Romans 2:17) and therefore they pursued righteousness as though it were by works (Romans 9:32). This is at the heart of the Galatian heresy where the Judaizers claimed that one had to become a practicing Jew in order to be saved.

So Romans 3 is a polemic against conditional election and an apologetic for unconditional election. So is Romans 9.

This squares with the gospel; that unconditional election is necessary because there is neither anything that a capital offender can do to choose himself for pardon nor is there anything he can do to earn his pardon (see Romans 3:24).

FX Turk said...

To Johnny D's scripture verses, I wonder: what do these verses mean by the "will of God"? What exactly does Johnny mean by saying the "will of God" is resisted?

Because it seems to me that he has missed some of the nuance here. I might be wrong, but for example in the passage in Jeremiah, is the prophet and God actually saying, "you have ruined my plan for all things," or is he/he saying, "I offered you freedom and you chose slavery and disobedience?"

... just askin' ...

Mike Riccardi said...

So let me ask you the same: How do you reconcile Matt. 23:37 with Ro. 9:19?

Well, first I'd note that Matthew 23:37 doesn't say, "How often would I have gathered you, but you would not," and so isn't referring to people rejecting salvation. Rather, as Christ weeps over Jerusalem, He says, "How often would I have gathered your children, but you would not." Christ is speaking to the leaders of Jerusalem, the Pharisees, and lamenting that they "shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in" (23:13).

But that doesn't make the question go away. How can Scripture say that God's will, in one sense, is rejected all the time (any time one sins one has rejected God's will), and, in another sense, say that God's will is never rejected or frustrated, but that all He wills comes to pass (Rom 9:19; Is 46:10; Ps 33:10-11)?

The answer is that we must recognize that there are two different senses, or uses, of the term "God's will," in Scripture.

1. God's will of precept or command is that which is broken all the time. God seriously wills that His commandments be followed, but they're broken all the time. In this sense, the Pharisees and OT Israel in the passages you mentioned rejected God's will for them.

2. But God's will of decree is never broken. It is His ordaining of whatsoever comes to pass, even as it contradicts His preceptive will. This is what Paul means in Romans 9:19. The objection doesn't make sense unless this preceptive vs. decretive distinction is made. "Who can resist God's will?" Answer: "Nobody!" Retort: "Then why does He still find fault???" That retort doesn't make sense unless you understand that God's decretive will in inviolable.

So, God wills that all men be saved, 1Tim 2:4; Ezek 18; etc. This is His will of precept (or you might further distinguish it as the will of inclination.). But that all men are not saved demonstrates that his will of decree is that not all men be saved.

God is not frustrated because people reject the salvation offered in Christ. He will accomplish all His good pleasure.

Janice said...

Thank you, Mary Elizabeth!

I will read those books you suggested (I hope they are offered online…the Pink book probably is). Maybe then I will be able to contribute something substantial to the election discussion.

I so enjoy this site! It is exhilarating reading the articles and even the comments can teach you a ton. I love your comments, too!

Stefan Ewing said...


Oh no, not Romans 9 again! I might as well just copy and paste my last unanswered question to you from the previous thread:

"Then what is Romans 9:6 about? Paul is explicitly making a distinction there between individuals and the nation, a distinction that he picks up again in 9:27 and 11:1, 4-5, 7, and 14."

Nash Equilibrium said...


Stratagem: People prayed for the lost in a Biblical manner, a manner which you would call Calvinistic today if you were honest with yourself.

That would be a good argument, if the dispute had begun with Calvin. But as Phil points out in his audio sermon on the history of Calvinism, the dispute has been around for close to 2000 years now.

You can call the doctrines of grace any set of doctrines you want, but it is a man-made list, not one listed in Scripture. You are trying to make Calvinism a central tenet of salvation, and it isn't. I have a feeling you should know better.

Jugulum said...


There's something else that's very weird about the non-Calvinist's appeal to Matt 23:37. At least, it's weird once we establish that "Jerusalem" is the leadership and "your children" is the people of Israel.

Think through their reading with that in mind. It ends up as, "For shame, you religious leaders! I wanted to save the people of Israel, but you weren't willing. You put up stumbling blocks between the people and me--and I let that stop me. Even though the people themselves might have been willing to repent, I let your unwillingness stand in their way."

That doesn't make any sense. I can understand saying "God leaves your decision to repent up to you." But "God left the decision about whether the people of Israel would be saved up to the leaders of Israel"? Really?

For them to get around this, they have to deny that "Jerusalem" is the leadership and "your children" is the people. But I don't understand how anyone can read through Matt 23, and ignore the focus on the scribes and pharisees. The parallel between v.13 and v.37 is particularly relevant.

Jugulum said...


Don't we have to allow for a distinction between "election conditioned on works" and "election conditioned on faith"?

Especially since Romans 3 stresses the difference between justification by faith and justification by works?

We can argue that 9:11 and 9:16 include "it's not conditioned on faith, either". But when Romans 3 explicitly stresses the difference between faith and works, we can't just forget that distinction. We have to explicitly address it.

FX Turk said...

Just to see exactly what we're going to say here net/net, let's think about this:

What is the plain, face-value difference between disobeying God's commands and repentence? Is there any difference between these two things?

If there is no difference, then the whole calvinist system is an imaginary play-land. If there is a difference, then we have to determine what the difference is and how the difference comes about.

And let me suggest to you that the first place to find the answer to this question is in the Old Testament. For example: Ps 51, Hosea 6:6.

There is a difference between disobedience and repentence. I wonder if the non-calvinist can tell us what it is.

Sven Pook said...

I had a debate over "whosoever" with an Arminian recently, here's what I wrote to him (did I get it right?):
I was once a 3 point Calvinist but was challenged to do a study on the terms chosen and elect. It changed my views on the subject.
Maybe I should start with something anecdotal before getting into Scripture. Before I became a Christian, I held nothing but hatred for God and the Church. But, about a week after cussing out someone who witnessed to me, I was in a church service with tears running down my face.
The question is in the mechanism that the “whosoever” become believers. There is not a question over the fact that we must speak the words, as you say, but in John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus something about that mechanism. If we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph 2) something had to quicken us as Paul goes on to say. Back to Nicodemus, Jesus tells him, “The wind (Gk; pneuma) it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (Gk; pneuma). Pneuma is also the word used in the Septuagint for the breath of God that brings Adam to life in Genesis 2:7. You could say Adam was dead, he certainly was not alive yet.
In Ephesians 2 above, I mentioned the passage that we are dead in our trespasses, Paul mentions that twice then goes on to “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Question, what is the word “that” referring to? Scripture mentions that FAITH is a gift, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom 12:3)
You quoted Romans 10 and make a point that we must speak the words. But, speaking the words is not enough, “‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23). These people made a statement about Christ being Lord, what was missing?
As you pointed out with the Romans quote, heart belief. There are two passages in Ezekiel that I believe speak to this very issue. If we read Ezekiel 11:18-20 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 in context what are we to make of it? That God does the work on the heart. Add the valley of dried bones where God tells Ezekiel to “Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9) See any similarities to what Jesus told Nicodemus? The word pneuma is used again in the Septuagint here.
I know that you believe that Calvinists have "a nonchalant attitude towards evangelism," but if you were to read the books of John Piper or listen to his sermons, or the sermons of Matt Chandler or John MacArthur you would see men who have a heart and desire for the lost. Men whose soaring descriptions of God make (me at least) desire to know Him more and to share Him with any who would listen.
Perhaps we carry misconceptions about the other side of the debate. I am sure that I have many, some coming from this actual sermon I once heard on John 11. After quoting Jesus saying, “Lazarus, come forth!” The preacher said, “At this time, Lazarus had a decision to make.” Pretty silly.
Though, in closing I would leave you with a question that I cannot answer as an Arminian: If you pray for the unsaved, and God intervenes in their life so they become saved, didn’t God violate their free will?

Stefan Ewing said...


Seems right to me (not that my opinion counts for anything).

No Calvinist that I know has a problem with "whosoever will." It's just that we know that "whosoever will" will be whosoever is moved by the Holy Spirit to do so, as you wrote.

Great mention of Ezekiel 37 (that verse is part of my testimony!), and you could have added Jeremiah 31.

mikeb said...

Good one Sven and Stefan. The key to "whosoever will" is what follows it. You know, basic grammar: the verb tells us the action. Whosoever will what? Believe. That's the key part of this verse, not whosoever.

Now the question is who are those that believe? And why do they believe? Is belief due to a choice or by regeneration of the Holy Spirit, which confirms you're the elect of God?

James Scott Bell said...

Mike, thanks for your answer. That's pretty much along the lines of what I expected, and I appreciate the time.

Now I have to take a nap. I freely choose to do so...or maybe I'm compelled.

Robert Warren said...

Johnny Dialectic:

If Romans 9:6ff is about nationality , why do you suppose Paul makes such a big defense against the argument he anticipates? Do you suppose there was a large contingent of Edomites in the Roman Church he was fearing to offend?

Nash Equilibrium said...


I imagine the non-Calvinist would say that it is the difference between choosing to obey, and choosing not to obey. Correct?

FX Turk said...


Sometimes you're such a smart guy.

Sven Pook said...

I hadn't thought of Jeremiah 31, I was saving Isaiah 55:11 for his response. I'm also waiting for his inevitable use of 2 Peter 3:9. I'm still waiting for that response, though, it's been days now.

olan strickland said...


Very good question! This gets to the heart of justification. God cannot pardon a sinner apart from the work of Christ in upholding the precepts of the Law through His sinless life; in upholding the penalty of the Law through His sacrificial death; and in upholding the probity of the Law through His supernatural resurrection.

Not one single person deserves or merits the work of Christ on his behalf. This makes salvation a gift whereby God justifies by His grace without one iota of a cause for it residing in the sinner.

The gift of salvation given by God’s grace includes in it the gift of faith. So just as the ability to uphold God’s Law isn’t innate in any of us neither is saving faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word about Christ (Romans 1:17). We receive faith and do not manufacture it - “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). This is precisely why it doesn’t depend upon human will (Romans 9:16; John 1:13) but on God’s grace.

mikeb said...

"large contingent of Edomites in the Roman Church"

Now that is a funny one I haven't thought to bring up!

Bobby Grow said...

In re. to election.

What do you all think Paul means when he says:

4. . . . "even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5. He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, . . . ~Eph. 1:4-5

It seems like the choice framed by the typical TULIP articulation is that we (elect humanity) are the objects of election; that's the way everyone here is talking about it. Yet Ephesians says that Christ (grammatically and theologically) is the 'direct object' of God's choice whereby we are chosen. In other words, Christ is the objective ground of election (not us).

And it is 'through Christ' that we are adopted; again Christ is the 'object' whereby our adoption is made possible --- He is the ground, or better, "first fruits" of election.

If this is the case why is everyone here ignoring this fact, and asserting that election is grounded upon us, or even God's arbitrary choice of us. Our election is mediated to us through our adoption by Christ. We take on His status, which He has by nature (we by grace and adoption); it's because we are 'in Christ' that election has any meaning. God chose 'Him' (Christ) first, and then 'us' in Him.

This seems to be the "order of salvation," given by Paul; and yet this order seems to be being ignored here. Any suggestions?

Jugulum said...


"Yet Ephesians says that Christ (grammatically and theologically) is the 'direct object' of God's choice whereby we are chosen."

That's an extremely significant claim--that "chose us in him" means that Christ is the grammatical direct object of God's choice, and that we aren't direct objects of God's choosing. Can you give some kind of citation for that grammatical claim?

It's not even immediately apparent to me that "chose us in him" can mean that Christ is the direct object and we aren't, let alone that it's the obvious or required meaning.

Your next sentence struck me, too. You translated the above sentence into:
"In other words, Christ is the objective ground of election (not us)."

And that looks like you're playing fast and loose with your terms. In what way is "the direct object of 'choose'" equivalent to the "the ground of choosing"?

I can choose a pie for dessert because my boss tells me to get it; are you claiming that the pie was the ground of my choosing?

Mike Riccardi said...

Yet Ephesians says that Christ (grammatically and theologically) is the 'direct object' of God's choice whereby we are chosen.

Unless there's some really interesting Greek nuance that every English translation fails to represent, this statement is patently false.

He chose us.

He = subject.
Chose = verb.
Us = direct object.

"In Him" is an adverbial modifier, not a direct object.

And it is 'through Christ' that we are adopted; again Christ is the 'object' whereby our adoption is made possible.

That's right. We are predestined for adoption. Here again, "us," not "Christ," is the direct object.

That this is accomplished "through Christ" is not hard to understand. He is the means. It is through His atoning and salvific work that we receive the benefits of election and adoption. Without "in Christ" and "through Christ" God would be unrighteous to elect or adopt us.

But yeah, again, unless I'm missing something huge, Christ is not the direct object in either of those clauses; we are.

Jugulum said...

Maybe Bobby means something like this:

Suppose I'm cleaning up my house. My roommate has a bookbag in the living room, so I pick it up and move it to his room. The bookbag contained the ESV Study Bible.

I did pick up the study Bible, since it was in the bag. But it's not direct in the same way that I picked up the bag itself--I didn't even know the book was there. (Or even if I did, I wasn't thinking, "I want to pick up this book", I was thinking "I want to pick up this bag, which happens to have a book.")

There was no direct intention toward the book. I lifted it, but I lifted it in the bag.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Election has to be the most encouraging and peace-giving doctrine I've learned. To know that God saved me for His purposes gives me great assurance that I'll gain Jesus Christ as the goal of my life. It kills the pride in me and ignites a love and steadfastness for Him like nothing I've known before. I think it was Spurgeon who said that the Christian who knows he's chosen by God for God's glory will reject sin more because of that fact - that wasn't a direct quote, but I hope you get what I'm getting at.

Mike Riccardi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Riccardi said...

Messed it up, sorry for the repost:


That may be what he means -- in fact, I think you've illustrated it quite nicely -- but it's just not what the text says.

In your example,

- Elect individuals : ESVSB,
- Christ : bookbag, and
- Father: "I"

In your example, I picked up the bookbag. But in Ephesians 1:4-5, it says that I picked up the ESVSB.

There's no way to force that kind of interpretation on Ephesians 1. "Us" is the object of the Father's choosing.

Rick Potter said...

Frank:"What is the plain, face-value difference between disobeying God's commands and repentence?

Everlasting Torment in a place called Hell;
Trinitarian Redemption


Jugulum said...

That's why my example ended with the sentence "I lifted it in the bag."

The point was to figure out whether "I picked it up in the bag" can mean the situation I described. And it seems like it can work. At least, I can't rule it out--though whether it works in Greek is another question.

"I picked up the book" would be correct, even though it's a derived picking-up. And "I picked it up in the bag" could express that it was derived.

If it can, isn't Bobby's interpretation of Eph 1:4 allowable?

Coram Deo said...

Frank said: But God's relationship to the future is not like ours, and we shouldn't try to make it like ours -- because let's face it: we would screw up the future if it was up to us, and we have hope that the future is in fact not screwed up but eschatologically perfect.

And with that big theology word to satisfy the watchbloggers, I leave the discussion open. Play nice.

Up to the very end I was uncertain, but upon careful review and consultation I'm duly authorized to certify this blogpost with the Good Watchblogging Seal of Approval.

This post is hereby certified 100% heresy free, hence there is no reason to break links with and/or issue an APB to the discernment watchblogosphere to boycott Pyro at this time.

In Christ,

P.S. - centuri0n.blogspot.com remains on day by day tentative status.

Jugulum said...

P.S. Maybe it's allowable with a physical action like "pick up", but not with "choosing". "Choose" does mean something about conscious intention, while "pick up" is just a physical action.

My mind goes back to "Let's Make A Deal"--the game show with doors number 1, 2, and 3. If I choose door #1, and it has a car behind it, did I choose the car?

For that matter, when I chose to pick up the bag, did I choose to pick up the book? Can I say I chose the book in the bag?

I'll have to think about that some more, but right now, I'd say the answer is "no". It works with "pick up", but not with "choose".

Mike Riccardi said...

Here's why I think it can't work.

I suppose I could be wrong, but I've understood "in Christ" to be an adverbial modifier; that is, it describes the means. of the action of God's choosing. God chose us how? In Christ. That is, on the basis of the fact that these individuals would receive the benefits of the atoning work of Christ.

"In the bag" is an adjectival modifier; that is, it doesn't describe the means of the action of picking up, but the location of the object. I picked up the ESVSB. Where was it? In the bag.

I don't think Bobby wants to argue that, as the ESVSB was in the bookbag, the elect were already in Christ before God chose Christ-and-the-elect. Rather, I suppose he'd want to argue that God chose Christ, and then everyone who eventually became "in Him" benefits from Christ's election.

But in your bookbag example, that would mean that "I" picked up the bookbag while it was empty, and the ESVSB jumped in there afterwards.

The problem is: we have the same ability to get ourselves "in Christ" as the ESVSB has of getting itself into the bookbag.

My word verification is: thsal, clearly a phonetic rendering of "That's all." ;o)

Sven Pook said...

Mike Riccardi:
You touched on the crux of the matter, our complete and utter inability to save ourselves. During those years that I was a 3 point Calvinist it never dawned on me that all 5 points stand or fall as a unit. If we are incapable of choosing God, He must do the choosing.

Stefan Ewing said...

Insofar as some are saved and others are not (which is manifestly the case, unless we are universalists), there has to be intentionality somewhere along the line.

Either the intentionality is God's (the Calvinistic position) or the intentionality is man's (the Arminian position), but either way, somewhere along the line, a decision is made that results in some being saved and others not.

If it is Christ who is elected and not we, then what is the means by which it is determined that some are saved and others are not?

Nash Equilibrium said...


Chuckle. Well you didn't say you were looking for one particular meaning to your ambiguous question!


Mike Riccardi said...

If it is Christ who is elected and not we, then what is the means by which it is determined that some are saved and others are not?

That's a good question. It seems to me that the only answer is: The free will that they don't have.

Tom said...

To those that ask the non-Calvinists why some believe and some do not, I ask, given 1 Cor. 10:13:

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

Why do I sometimes resist temptation and sometimes do not, considering that God has promised me that I will always be able to resist temptation?

Aric said...

Thought provoking post. When I was growing up (and looking back now, before I was converted), I always struggled with the use of elect/elected/election in the bible. It seemed so unfair that some got elected, as if everyone was trying to get picked and only some did. Very unsettling at the time. Now I see that no one is trying to get picked; yet, some are adopted as sons. Amazing!

@Tom’s 7:11 comment: Let me throw out my thoughts: I don’t see where that verse says we won’t “always be able to resist temptation”, as in never sin; rather, it says that we will “be able to endure it.” I think we need to tie that verse to the rest of the context about not giving into idolatry and Israel’s example of not enduring temptation.

Plus, wouldn’t a desire and ability to actually resist temptation be a sign of a new heart; one that desires and loves God’s law?

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...


I agree that the passage only applies to Christians. I don't believe (and the Bible teaches against the idea) that non-Christians have the ability to not sin.

Is your argument that the endurance that God provides the endurance that prevents us from ultimately apostatizing and dying in our sins? I still see "bearing" temptation as not falling into it, i.e. resisting (and this would include any and all temptations). In that case, it is my choice that causes me to yield to temptation and thus sin, even though God's grace was sufficient for me to not yield.

FX Turk said...

Poor Bobby. He seems to think that us slobbish calvinists invented the idea that people are elect.

Consider Jesus in Mt 24:
And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. ["elect" there is plural in the Greek, for those interested]

Or perhaps Jesus in Mark 13:
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. [again, plural in the Greek]

Or perhaps Paul in Rom 8:
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. [again: plural in the Greek]

Or perhaps Peter in 1 Peter 1:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia ... [again: plural]

But far worse for Bobby is what the Greek actually says in Eph 1:4 --

καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου

That is, "even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world". In Bobby's view, The Father is choosing us "in the son", but in fact the antecedent of "he" and "him" are both the Father. God has chosen us in himself as adopted children (as v. 5 goes on to say) by Christ. The fact is that "us" is the direct object and "him" is the indirect object. As Wallace says in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, "The indirect object is the receiver of the direct object of an active verb". (141)

May it be a blessing to Bobby to stand corrected.

Aric said...

I’m no expert and am typing this with my mouth agape waiting to insert my foot if necessary, but I’ll try to respond as best I can.

I would say that this verse is speaking more towards not succumbing to temptation in an ultimate sense (from the preceding examples of Israel and the idolatry warning after the ‘therefore’ – which makes me question what is the therefore there for? – sorry, it’s late:). However, I don’t think this verse is speaking to the choice you are wanting it to speak of. There is a difference in my unregenerate, stony heart choosing to love God’s law and my yet-to-be-fully-sanctified heart giving into temptation. I just don’t see where there is an equality in the ‘choice’. I still say there is a reason for the word ‘endure’ being used rather than yield. Perhaps I am missing where you are driving?

Sven Pook said...

It seems to me that 1 Cor 10:13 is about the grace that God gives believers to stand through our trials. Similar to the admonition Paul gives us in Philippians 2 to "work out our salvation in fear and trembling." Or in Joshua 24 in which Joshua tells Israel that they need to choose who they will follow. (Remember that these are God's chosen people - - very important in that they were chosen by Him first). This is completely separate from Divine election. The reference is that we will always have trouble following God's Law but He will give us grace enough (and a way of escape) to make it through our trials.

Tom said...

Actually I wasn't arguing against election, but rather the way it's supposedly realized in history; i.e. through irresistible grace. If God gives Christians sufficient grace to resist temptation, and some do not (and yet those who do have no reason to boast in themselves), then what prevents us from assuming that God gives grace that sufficiently enables belief to people who will in the end never believe?

Mike Riccardi said...

...but in fact the antecedent of "he" and "him" are both the Father.

I dunno, Frank. I don't see any compelling reason why "in Him" shouldn't find its antecedent in "in Christ" in verse 3.

I left the library for the day, but the resources I have at home seem to understand "in Him" to refer to Christ. This includes Harold Hoehner's commentary on Ephesians as well as the ESV Study Bible.

I think Bobby's assertions are untenable, but I don't think "in Him" needs to mean "in Himself" for that to be so.

FX Turk said...

Mike --

I'd say a good reason to take "in autw" to mean "in the Father" or "in God" rather than "in Christ" is that there's no compelling reason to think that the "him" in which we are chosen is different than the "him" before whom we are blameless in the second half of the verse, and the only subject/noun that precedes "him" in both cases is "the God and Father of Christ".

There are plenty of places in the NT where there is much made of being "ἐν Χριστῷ". This just doesn't happen to be one of them.

I think that fact, paired with the fact that the 'elect' are most frequenty refered to in the plural and as the human people God called out, makes Bobby's point somewhat unworkable.

Bobby Grow said...

Mike, Jugulum,

I was a bit sloppy and quick in my discussion of Eph 1 relative to syntax; I'm afraid I let my theology get ahead of my careful reading on that one.

Nevertheless, when I used 'grammar' I was also thinking in terms of the theological grammar that the NT presupposes relative to its articulation on the Incarnation of Christ --- and all that implies.

My point is simple, I think. That the eternal 'word' is the electing God, and the elected man; which means that He elected to take our humanity, and thus we (the 'elect') are said to be chosen in Him.

Even given my syntactical error on Eph. 1 my point stands --- and is reinforced by your guys' discussion. When Christ assumed our humanity, He truly assumed humanity (in other words all of humanity). So in God's choice of 'us' or electing to be humanity it can truly be said that we are 'in Him' (in union or one spirit I Cor 6:17).

Here's the order I'm thinking from: 1. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit inhabiting eachother and thus eternity 2. Then the Son as the eternal word 'electing' our humanity for Himself 3. Then the Incarnation actualising election in time/space 4. Then elect humanity responds 'out of Christ's humanity for us' to the Father by the Spirit.

Galatians 2:20 speaks to the vicarious nature of faith I'm getting at (following the KJV translation) I have an article on this issue here: http://evangelicalcalvinist.com/2010/01/06/some-greek-the-faith-of-christ-in-galatians-220/

Something else to consider, guys. I shouldn't take up the meta trying to explain all of this, so just copy and paste that link; and maybe it'll be a little more clear.

As far as 'why' the elect respond, it's because they are elect in Christ and they respond by the Holy Spirit. Why there are reprobate, this has to be relegated to the 'mystery of sin' (as Calvin might say).

PS. I'm a little rusty on all of this, due to some serious health concerns I've been dealing with lately. But everything I just said should pretty much be up to snuff :-).

Bobby Grow said...

As far as Frank's point on the plural; I would just say that there is the one and the many, or the one and the three. So we can speak of humanity collectively represented in the first Adam (or seminally); thus it shouldn't pose a problem to speak of 'the elect' through a corporate or better Trinitarian lense.

Mike Riccardi said...


I still think you're reaching.

I can't think of anybody I've ever read or talked to who believes that election is the work of the Son and not the Father. To speak about the eternal Word electing is to ignore that Ephesians 1 says that the Father chose us.

I appreciate your last comment very much. It seems to be much more humble than pretty much everything I've read from you. And that endears you to me as a brother in Christ. And so as a brother, I want to exhort you to simply receive what the text says. Your position isn't Biblical. I'm not sure why it's attractive to you, but I entreat you to leave it be.

Frank, I also appreciated your response. I suppose there's a case one can make on either side of this little exegetical insight, but as I've plugged around the internet, every one I've checked has taken in Him to mean in Christ. I don't know how this isn't name dropping -- I really don't mean it that way, but rather to benefit you... but adding to Hoehner and the ESV Study Bible are P.T. O'Brien, MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, and Ligon Duncan going with "in Christ." I guess I'd just encourage you not to feel like you need to take the "in Himself" position just because you're arguing against Bobby's position.

Bobby Grow said...


I never said that I believe that I don't think the Father didn't elect; instead that the Son willingly elected (as part of three) to assume humanity in submission to the Father's choosing (the part I didn't mention).

You'll need to do more than assert that my view is unbiblical, Mike; which is a pretty serious charge. I could make the same assertion about your view, right?

What the text says assumes certain theological presuppositions (in logic: enthymeme). For example the way we speak of the Trinity (De Deo Uno/Trino), or better the 'grammar' we use to articulate the biblical doctrine of the Trinity is only to identify what Paul and the rest of the scriptures presuppose about God --- that He is one and three; and that He is three and one. This reality is left unstated in the NT and OT, but enthymemically it is the presupposition of the scripture writers. So there are presuppositions that need to be indentified and articulated in order to more clearly understand the skeletal framework from which the 'text' hangs. Even your earlier point on an adverbial modifier is not a strictly grammatical decision; there is a prior theological framework that led you to make that 'interpretive decision' relative to the syntax.

Again, I never said the Father didn't elect; but instead that the 'electing' work was not outside the work of the Son in accordance with the 'one will of God'. These are theological presuppositions that need to be worked out.

I thoroughly disagree with the informing apparatus that serves as your informing theological and interpretive grid; and so I want to challenge it, Mike. We all have theological grids; mine, theologically and historically is from the Scotist tradition. What is the background to your interpretive grid? What informs, theologically, your interpretive decisions relative to your exegetical work?

And in regards election I would ask you 'what kind of humanity' Christ assumed in the Incarnation?

I understand that I've come acrossed quite arrogantly in some of my comments here (but this site is not usually a friendly place for the uninitiated --- thus a rather defensive posture is usually the approach I take); but let me just say, Mike, it is quite arrogant for you to say that my view is unbiblical before you ask me if what I'm saying is that the Father did not elect (in other words make sure that that's what I believe before saying that what I believe is unbiblical --- in the history of the church there is a long hertiage of theologians and exegetes who believe what I believe and they are also Calvinists within the 'Scottish tradition').

I've never believed that anyone here was not my brother or sister in Christ (who names the name of Christ); I'm sorry you felt that way in the past, Mike. I'm glad that's changed!

Bobby Grow said...


I didn't even see your first comment to me . . . woops :-).

Like I said, I "rushed" Eph. 1, dangit (I'm blaming that on my "treatments" ;-).

How do you insert the Greek text into the comment meta here, seriously; do you write your comment out on 'Word' first? Serious, I'm really curious; there are certain situations that I would like to be able to do that too.

Bobby Grow said...

Btw Frank,

I never said Calvinists invented election; I'm Calvinist myself (I'm "contracted" as one). I believe in election, just framed differently than you.

CR said...

Reading some of the comments like from Johnny Dialetic has been interesting. One of the interesting questions brought up by Arminians like him is how can we reconcile this or that. And that's where he goes wrong.

We have an antinomy which is when we are in a position where we have two truths that we cannot reconcile but as Christians we must accept.

Truth 1- We have God's election and reprobation which are not dependent on human actions at all. They are unconditional and sovereign. What does that mean - His choices are not determined on anything that people do or don't do. They don't depend on anything except God's will. God chose Jacob and hated Esau and it had nothing to with their works at all.

Truth 2 - that doesn't mean there are no conditional actions, there is cause and effect and "free" actions (or free agency) and all of that is part of God's decree. He's not only determined the ends, but He as determined the means.

How do I reconcile those two? I cannot. It is beyond me. I know what the Scriptures teaches those two things. If I (or anyone) asks why this or why that Paul gives the answer to these why questions and it is this: who are you to answer back to God?

You know, life is hard enough with the conscience (and Satan) trying to constantly accuse us. I think it was Spurgeon that said the Arminian can never be truly safe, secure and sure about their salvation. But the biblical teaching is this:we are children of God because God has determined it. No one can ever take us out of God's hands.

This is what is troubling from the Arminian gospel and I can symphathize with those that want to label it as...well, I won't say it.

The Arminian cannot confidently answer the accusations of his conscience. Thoughts will arise in all of us and say, "How can you honestly say you are at peace with God. Look at yourself, you're pathetic, look at your heart, how can it be that God has forgiven you? Did you pray like you should have today? Did you read and meditate over Scriptures like you should have today? How could you in good conscience go to the Table today after the thought you had last night?"

What a miserable and depressed condition to be in.

Bobby Grow said...


I have a question for you. How do you know your one of the 'elect'?

And, no, I'm not Arminian --- I'm what they call, an Evangelical Calvinist (vs. Classical or Federal Calvinist). I similiarly feel bad for the Arminian, in re. to 'security'. But then this takes me back to my question to you (above) . . .

Bobby Grow said...


Here is a good quote from a Calvinist scholar on the reality of presuppositions for the original 'Reformers' and thus all of us. This holds true for our discussion on 'election'.

If there is one thing that can be called a genuine breakthrough in the last half-century of Reformation studies, it would be the ‘discovery’ that the Reformation had a background. The reformers, all of whom were theologians, and a good number of whom had formal academic training in the discipline, emerged out of a theological landscape that profoundly shaped their horizons. Some elements from this late medieval theological bequest they rejected; some they appropriated; and still others they sublated by taking something old and fashioning from it something new. In other words, their ideas did not spring to life ex nihilo, or descend from above, or emerge full-blown from an ‘objective’ study of the Bible alone. They worked in the intellectual context of late medieval theology, and consequently, without some grasp of this context , there can be no adequate understanding of their theology. By today, this realization has had an impact on every area of Reformation studies. (Denis J. Janz, David Bagchi and David Steinmetz, eds., “The Cambridge Companion To Reformation Theology,” 5)

CR said...

Good and $64,000 question and here's a real small sweet answer: I love the biblical Jesus. Not just any Jesus, but the biblical Jesus.

How do I get assurance of election from that. We have to look at Rom 8:29-30. There, part of the order of salvation is listed. Predestination, effectual calling, justification and glorification.

Now someone could ask, CR, now wait a minute, you weren't there in eternity past, how can you know you're one of God's elect. We can know this by following the order of salvation.

Everyone that God elects, He predestines. Everyone He predestines he effectual calls (regenerates). Everyone he regenerates or calls He justifies. So, if I can answer whether I have been regenerated then I can answer that I am one of God's elect. How do I do that? Here's how: every single person without exception (a)cannot understand the things of God, the natural man cannot understand the things of God like the biblical Jesus UNLESS they are born-again. (b)the natural man is at enmity with God and hates the biblical Jesus.

With humility, I can confidently say I'm one of God's elect because I understand and embrace the biblical Jesus and the natural man hates and/or cannot understand the biblical Jesus

Bobby Grow said...


Thanks, I really like that answer; you look to Jesus alone. He is the objective ground of the salvation that you experience by the Spirit.

All I can say, is, Amen!

FX Turk said...

Bobby --

your comments about one and many are gobbledegook.

However, your question about the Greek text is a great one. Go to this site:
Greek Bible

When you go to select the font that the text will render in, select "palatino linotype". Copy the text, and paste into the comment box. It will present the unicode greek characters and you will be all set.

Not just Bobby, btw: anybody. That site will work for whosoever will.

James Scott Bell said...

CR, thanks for your comment. I have absolutely no problem with Calvinists who affirm an "antinomy". People like Packer, etc. The problem is that the conditionality aspect is so often downplayed, if not outrightly ignored, by Calvinists. Then, too, the rest of Calvinist theology pulls inextricably away from the implications of true conditionality. That's why so many of us outside the system look at it as confused if not outright deceptive.

I do think you're terribly confused about the Arminian's spiritual condition. How is it any different for us -- With humility, I can confidently say I'm one of God's elect because I understand and embrace the biblical Jesus and the natural man hates and/or cannot understand the biblical Jesus.

It seems to me it's the Calvinist who can never be certain this "embrace" is real or false. How do you know you're not going to turn out to be a fake sheep at the end? That your delusion of election was visited upon you by God for purposes of his greater glory? That you are being used as an object lesson by God that will be fully understood only in eternity?

The Arminian, OTOH, can choose to look each day at Jesus, and continue to trust and obey (which, according to the old hymn, is the only way to be "happy in Jesus." So this odd caricature of Arminians as "depressed" has no basis in reality or tradition.)

olan strickland said...

Someone needs to race around the globe and tell all that they must become thinkers of the Scottish tradition in order to rightly interpret God's Word - so as to be saved.

KJV only too!

olan strickland said...

Johnny Dialectic: It seems to me it's the Calvinist who can never be certain this "embrace" is real or false.

So the Calvinist can't have biblical assurance of salvation from 1 John?

Johnny, I don't know where you get the notion but Calvinists do not teach that God lies to people. He is truth and there is no lie in Him and therefore He cannot lie. So when God sends a deluding influence He plainly says that He is doing it and why He is doing it.

Biblical assurance of salvation can only be had from the BIBLE and not some unbiblical "I choose to embrace Jesus each day."

FX Turk said...

100. Comments closed.