Election vs. Foresight

As it is impossible to deny the reality of divine election upon even a cursory reading of the scriptures, it appears that the method common in many Baptist and other Protestant circles, in an effort to unite election with the human perspective of fairness and free will, is to redefine election, to strip it of any real power. You may hear reasoning such as “God looked down the corridors of time to see who would believe” and so elected them. I expect that many through the ages, and perhaps even some on this site (as the archives may attest), have aptly used scripture to show the problems with such a notion (logical inconsistencies aside), but as I have recently been reading Calvin on this, several relevant excerpts of his are given below. It is copied from the John Allen translation, as I’ve become somewhat accustomed to that one. The emboldened fonts are added here.

It is a notion commonly entertained, that God, foreseeing what would be the respective merits of every individual, makes a correspondent distinction between different persons; that he adopts as children such as will be deserving of his grace, and devotes to the damnation of death others, whose dispositions he sees will be inclined to wickedness and impiety. Thus they not only obscure election by covering it with the veil of foreknowledge, but pretend that it originates in another cause [other than God's good pleasure]. Nor is this commonly received notion the opinion of the vulgar only, for it has had great advocates in all ages….

God’s sovereign election of some, and preterition [passing by] of others, they make the subject of formal accusation against him….

Now, it is of importance to attend to what the Scripture declares respecting every individual. Paul’s assertion, that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), certainly precludes any consideration of merit in us; for it is as though he had said, our heavenly Father, finding nothing worthy of his choice in all the posterity of Adam, turned his views towards his Christ, to choose members from his body whom he would admit to the fellowship of life. Let believers, then, be satisfied with this reason, that we were adopted in Christ to the heavenly inheritance, because in ourselves we were incapable of such high dignity. He has a similar remark in another place, where he exhorts the Colossians to give thanks unto the Father, who had made them meet [fit] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints.” (Col. 1:12)  If election precedes this grace of God, which makes us meet to obtain the glory of the life to come, what will God find in us to induce him to elect us? Another passage from this apostle will still more clearly express my meaning. He hath chosen us,” he says, before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, that we should be holy, and without blame before him” (Eph. 1:4-5); where he opposes the good pleasure of God to all our merits whatsoever.

Calvin summarizes his main theme in this, showing that the scripture,

stating them to have been chosen that they might be holy,” fully refutes the error which derives election from foreknowledge; since Paul, on the contrary, declares that all the virtue in men is the effect of election… This overturns any means of election which men imagine in themselves… For say, ‘Because he foresaw they would be holy, therefore he chose them,’ and you will invert the order of Paul. We may safely infer, then, If he chose us that we should be holy, his foresight of our future holiness was not the cause of his choice

And what consistency would there be in asserting, that things derived from election were the causes of election? A subsequent clause seems further to confirm what he had said – “according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself.” (Eph. 1:9) For the assertion, that God purposed in himself , is equivalent to saying, that he considered nothing out of himself, with any view to influence his determination.

- excerpts from “Institutes of the Christian Religion”, Book III, Chapter XXII

 While here Calvin may appear to be dealing with outward works, he shows in other places that this divine catalyst of election certainly applies to our will also. Perhaps in a future post more on this would be warranted. For now suffice it to say that immediately following Paul’s exhortation to believers to “work out” their salvation, he plainly states, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) Now, if even we as those regenerated have need for God to grant us wills to please Him, how much more those still in need of conversion?

Sola gratia,

Darrin

 

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18 Comments on “Election vs. Foresight”

  1. Chiefest of Sinners Says:

    What is meant by “Whosoever will?” and 2 Peter 3:9:
    The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

  2. johnMark Says:

    “Whosoever will” means that whoever does the action in question will achieve it. Whosoever crosses the road will get to the other side. This doesn’t tell us who will or why they will or when they will or even if they will. It only tells us that if someone crosses the road they will get to the other side.

    Who is Peter writing to in 2 Peter? There is your answer.

    Mark

  3. Churchy Says:

    Indeed; “follow the pronouns in the text” as Dr. White likes to say. Really though – follow the pronouns. They become even more important when reading passages like Isaiah 53.

  4. Chiefest of Sinners Says:

    So following this logic, “whosoever will” means only those that God has elected. Curious that He would use “whosoever” and “all” to refer only to the elect, when He could have easily written “elect” (as He did in other places) if that is truly what he meant in those passages.

    Plus, when He said in John 3:17 that He gave the “world” the opportunity to be saved through Jesus Christ, He, I suppose, was referring only to the “elect”, as described in the article. The “world” really never had the opportunity to hear and choose, therefore Christ must have died only for the “elect”.

    And lets not forget about Titus 2:11, where the “grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,”; according to this article, that would have been unnecessary if God had already made his selections.

    AND THEN I GUESS THE SUM OF IT ALL IS THIS REFERENCE FROM THE “OBSCURE” BOOK OF ROMANS, CH 8 VS 29:
    “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. ”

    Does that verse not mean what is says either?

    I’ve read nothing here yet to successfully refute “election by foreknowledge”, in my humble opinion.

  5. GeneMBridges Says:

    Chief of Sinners (hereafter CoS), You’re committing a common fallacy, the fallacy of extension. Words like “all” and “every” are universal class quantifiers. They only make sense in context of a referent. “All” of whom or what? “Every” who are what?

    2 Peter 3:9 is about the return of the Lord. Throughout the text, Peter differentiates between “us” and “them.” So, when he’s referring to “all,” in 3:9, he’s referring to the covenant community. That is hardly a Calvinist interpretation. You’ll also find it in the standard commentary on that text by Richard Bauckham. Bauckham is not a Calvinist.

    As to John 3:17, the text says nothing about anybody’s “opportunity” to be saved. You’re inserting a concept like free will into a passage that does not address it. As a matter of fact, John 3:16 is about cosmic redemption. God saves the cosmos (the world) via sending Christ to die for all the believing ones (“whosoever believes is a participle translating as “all the ones believing.”). The following text is a restatement of that. Indeed, it makes perfect sense of the example Jesus cites – the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness. God saves the nation of Israel by saving the believing ones within in it.

    Indeed, my friend Turretinfan has done an excellent job refuting your view of that text by inserting the meaning of “world” that you prefer.

    Quote:

    General Rebuttal as to the Meaning of “World”

    Now that I’ve dealt with the comments themselves, let me turn to another issue, namely a rebuttal to the proposed definition of “world” namely, according to David (allegedly citing all modern authorities) “Kosmos denotes apostate mankind, all men in unbelief and rebellion.”
    Let’s see what this definition does to the text.
    For God so loved [all men in unbelief] that he gave Christ so that all men in belief should be saved; For God sent Christ into [all men in unbelief] not to condemn [all men in unbelief] but to save [all men in unbelief] through him.
    I think we can see that this interpretation is obviously absurd.
    Why is it absurd?
    1) Because “Kosmos denotes apostate mankind, all men in unbelief and rebellion” is clearly not a literal sense of the word “kosmos” but a figurative sense, and yet it is clear that the first use in verse 17 is literal, not figurative. Thus, Christ in verse 17 is sent literally into the created order. That is to say, Christ is literally incarnate.
    2) Because the proposed figurative use of “kosmos” creates a clash between verses 16 and 17, as well as with in verse 16 itself.
    a) Between verses 16 and 17, the proposed figurative use of “kosmos” creates a clash because verse 16 says that the to-be-saved group is “all in belief” whereas the to-be-saved group in verse 17 is “all men in unbelief.” The two groups are, by definition, mutually exclusive. It’s clear how someone imposing “Kosmos denotes apostate mankind, all men in unbelief and rebellion” on the text could arrive at multiple intentions in the text, because “all in belief” and “all in unbelief” are clearly contrary, opposing concepts. The problem, of course, is that this clash is caused simply by the imposition of that figurative meaning on the text, which results in the schizoid view of the text in order to try to reconcile the plain meaning of the second half of verse 16, with the contrived meaning of the second half of verse 17.
    b) Additionally, within verse 16 there is a clash, because the flow of thought is gone. God loves group A, and therefore gives his son to save group B, where group A is “all men in unbelief” and group B is “all men in belief,” two mutually exclusive groups. It breaks up the flow of the sentence and the logical progression of thought therein. Like the clash created between verses 16 and 17, there is a similar clash created within verse 16 itself by the imposition of “Kosmos denotes apostate mankind, all men in unbelief and rebellion” onto the text.
    3) Next, it is absurd because of its origin. We have to ask ourselves, where did this definition come from? The answer, of course, is that the definition came from outside the text, and was brought into and imposed on the text. Why was that done? It was done to avoid the result of reading the text as a smooth, simple statement of God’s plan:
    Here’s God’s love of the created order: He gave his son to save the elect, for God did not send his Son into the created order to condemn the created order, but to save the created order.
    And this is the condemnation, namely that light is come into the created order, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil … but he that doeth truth comes to the light, because his deeds are wrought of God.
    4) Which leads to the penultimate absurdity, namely that where the sense of “all men in unbelief” would be perfect in this passage (namely where the passage states “men loved darkness rather than light”) the passage does not use the word “world” to denote such men, but uses anthropoi (“men”), AND the passage distinguishes anthropoi evil-doers from truth-doers, the latter group being the group that comes to the light.
    5) Finally, the use of “Kosmos denotes apostate mankind, all men in unbelief and rebellion” creates a further contextual problem, namely that verse 15, immediately preceding makes the same point as the latter half of verse 16, namely that it is “all in belief” that will be saved. So the flow of the passage would be:
    Group A will be saved; Because God loves the opposite of Group A, therefore He gave his Son to save Group A; For His son was not sent into the opposite of Group A to condemn the opposite of Group A but to save the opposite of Group A.
    This is even more absurd than the original proposal that only included verses 16-17. Thus, because of the plain absurdity of the matter, we can reject “Kosmos denotes apostate mankind, all men in unbelief and rebellion” as the appropriate sense in verses 16-17 as absurd both directly because the first usage of verse 17 must be literal (i.e. “the created order”) not figurative. Of course, one supposes that after being hit over the head with that fact, David will agree that the first usage in verse 17 must be literal, not figurative. Then, of course, we will still have the remaining absurdities of the second half of verse 16 conflicting with its first half and the whole of verse 17, and verse 15 agreeing with second half of verse 16, resulting in the schizoid reading of the text caused by the imposition of a meaning on the word from outside the text.
    There is, of course, another alternative, and one that is more popular among the exhaustive atonement crowd. That alternative is that “world” designates “each and every person.” The problem, of course, is that a similar clash arises.
    Still that clash is less intense than the clash that arises under David’s proposed sense of “Kosmos denotes apostate mankind, all men in unbelief and rebellion.” Thus, the alternative (we’ll call it the Arminian view, though perhaps not all Arminians would agree with it) is more reasonable than David’s proposed sense, though it is still demonstrably wrong. Also, like David’s definition, the sense of “each and every person” is not exegetically derived from the text, but is imposed on the text from outside.
    Let’s quickly see how it is wrong, by applying the same flow as before. If “world” figuratively means “each and every person” then “all in belief” (in verse 15 and the second half of verse 16) is a sub-set of “each and every person” (since we know from other Scripture that some will never believe). Thus we have group A (“each and every person”) and some of group A (“all in belief”).
    The flow, therefore, becomes:
    Some of Group A will be saved; Because God loves Group A, therefore He gave his Son to save some of Group A; For His son was not sent into [the created order, presumably they do not woodenly insist on “each and every person” here] to condemn Group A but to save Group A.
    Now, this is still somewhat stilted: there is this odd alternation between the whole group and part of the group, but it is far less stilted than the alternation between a group and its opposite.
    However, of course, the harmonious view that unifies the text, is one in which the flow is more like this:
    Group A will be saved; Because God loves [figure of speech for Group A], therefore he gave his Son to save Group A; For his Son was not sent into [literal sense of the word previously used figuratively] to condemn [figure of speech for Group A], but to save [figure of speech for Group A], [in which the figure of speech conveys the fact that Group A is a widespread group].
    A paraphrase would be:
    Believing men (aka the elect) will be saved; For God so loved mankind that God gave his son to save believing men, for God did not send his Son among mankind to condemn mankind, but save mankind.
    Or to put it another way, Christ came to save mankind, specifically the elect (those who believe).

    Unquote

    As to 2:11, tell us, if God’s grace has appeared to all men” and every man is in view, what about people living in China in AD 59? Did Jesus appear to them too? Did God’s grace appear to them in a saving manner? If what you say is true, (a) we can’t distinguish between universal atonement or the incarnation itself and universal redemption and /or there is no need for missions, since God saves people apart from the Gospel. Now, I know you don’t believe that.

    As to Romans 8:29, the verb “foreknow” is synonymous with the term “choose or know intimately beforehand.” It might help you to look to the standard commentary on Romans by Schriener.

  6. Chiefest of Sinners Says:

    What a mess. Does your knowledge come from other’s commentaries or by personal knowledge of Christ? Did the “Spirit of Truth” lead you into all that “doctrine”?

    I’m not going to argue over the meaning of simple words like “all, whosoever, world” etc. I’ll leave that to the wise of this world. I know what they mean, and I know God is not the Author of confusion. It means what is says as revealed by the Spirit.

  7. GeneMBridges Says:

    What a mess.

    Yes, I agree, your thought process is quite the mess. Saying “what a mess” and demonstrating that to be the case aren’t convertible.

    Are you arguing that you have the Spirit and I do not? Is that something the Spirit revealed to you? If so, how can we verify that to be the case? Are you asserting that I am not a Christian because I don’t believe as you do?

    To answer your last question, by the way, yes, I believe He did. Why? Because I am capable of reading the text exegetically. Unlike you, I’ve provided an exegetical argument for my position. You, by way of contrast, have provided not an exegetical argument. Rather, you chose to write ad homineum invective in lieu of a reasoned argument. I bow the knee to what Scripture says here, not Chiefest of Sinners and not some vague allusion to “the Spirit of Truth,” as if there is some sort of inner light that you possess that I do not. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe God is in the business of provided extrabiblical revelation. The Scriptures are God-breathed. I believe the Spirit of Truth has guided me into this view, because I believe the Scriptures that He inspired and I have exegeted them carefully.

    And we both know what you’re trying to do. You’re just trying to exact emotional extortion upon your opponent. If he dares disagree with you, he doesn’t have the Spirit of God, at least according to you, and what Christian would dare say he doesn’t have the Spirit of God, right? Well, I, for one, don’t subscribe to that view of the Spirit of God’s work in us. I affirm that the Spirit of God’s work in us with respect to Scripture is akin more to regeneration. He doesn’t mysteriously reveal the meaning of words to us by intuition. Rather, He keeps us teachable. So, I’m sorry, your sort of extortion won’t work on me.

    I cite commentaries in order to point you to accepted sources, writers who are better with the languages than either you or I, as you say “the wise of this world.” Indeed, with respect to 2 Peter 3:9, which you cited, I named a non-Calvinist scholar. If you have an exegetical argument to offer, by all means do so.

    As I said, “all” is a word (like any other) and it’s meaning is context dependent. Is it your position that Christ will return only when everybody has repented (2 Peter 3:9)? If so, then he will never come. Or is it your position that He will only return when everybody without exception will be given the opportunity to repent? Since it is a fact that everybody without exception will never have such an opportunity, you must believe He will never come. You realize, of course, that is precisely the view (that He will never come) of the false teachers that Peter calls “them” in that very letter. So,are we to take it that you agree with the false teachers? I know you don’t believe that, but, if we take your “argument” at face value, that’s precisely where it leads.

    “Whosoever” is an ENGLISH word. As I pointed out, in John 3:16 “Whosoever believes” is a participle. It means, literally, all the ones believing. The Bible was not written in English, rather it was written in Greek. This text is a marvelous text for particular redemption. God redeems the world by sending Jesus to die for all the believing ones (in it). If you’d like to offer another exegetical conclusion, by all means do so.

    “World” has several means in the works of John alone. You’ll have to do more than say you know what it means in a particular text, you’ll need to actually demonstrate it.

    I agree with you that God is not the author of confusion, but that text, if you’d bother to consult 1 Corinthians isn’t about Him not allowing His people to differ exegetically over the meaning of Scripture. “Confusion” is a reference to disorder, specifically disorder within the local church with regard to the use of the spiritual gifts in the worship life of the local church. Given the fact you ripped that out of context, shall we conclude that you seem to have a habit of interpreting the Bible out of context? Is that something the Spirit revealed to you? I think not.

    With respect to the truth being known, the Scriptures actually teach that God has a purpose for divisions: In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. (I Cor. 11).

    Of course, the way to to arbitrate a difference over the interpretation of a particular text is by the careful exegesis of it. I have offered an exegetical response, you, by way of contrast, have not done so. I, therefore, invite you do so. Simply saying that you know what these words means “as revealed by the Spirit” simply begs the question. That’s not an argument, it’s an assertion.

  8. Chiefest of Sinners Says:

    Well, I’ve evidently offended you and I offer my most humble apology.

    Perhaps I should have tempered my remarks more carefully, but it was quite late when I read your post, and frankly it is quite difficult to follow; no excuse though for the percieved lack of grace in my speech.

    I’m not a theologian, and don’t want to be; I’m just one of the “common people” that has heard Jesus gladly. Can I defend my position? Not in your world of participles and translated Greek. Therefore as you’ve so aptly demonstrated, I don’t belong here. I’ll leave it to others to parse words.

  9. Darrin Says:

    Chief,
    I appreciate the concerns you have expressed in the comments, and also the excellent responses from others. I haven’t had much free time since I posted this, but I did have a few thoughts I’d been wanting to add:
    – In regard to “whosoever will”. I want to make sure you’re aware that the “reformed” position typically represented here does not deny that he who wills, may come and does so. However, the scriptures show in Romans 3 and many other places that nobody “wills” unless God replaces our old heart with a new one (Ezekiel, Jeremiah). Until then, we are only “fleshly”, carnal, not spiritual, and so according to scripture we cannot please God (and a decision to believe would certainly be pleasing to Him). In fact we cannot even understand spiritual things, having our minds darkened, being dead in our sins, unless God gives us “ears to hear”. Fallen man’s will is limited to his nature. God sees us all in this corrupted state due to our “free” fall in Adam (Romans 5). So whom does He graciously pull out of this condition? Whomever He chooses to, biblically according to nothing but His free will and pleasure. The main concern I have about the doctrine I believe you embrace (and everyone has a doctrine, even if they don’t like the term), is that the difference between us and those who are not saved must come down to something inherently better in us, in that we made a good exercise of our free will. This is very problematic in many ways scripturally, whether you look at the whole theme and context of God’s word, or at specific terminologies in the original languages, which indeed is often needed for understanding the themes. Don’t set those who “parse words” as your opponents – they may be useful to you, as we all have our gifts and calling. For example, it is helpful to see what Gene says about “foreknow” – he is quite right. In J.I. Packer’s excellent “Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christianity”, he states that the answer is sometimes put forth that “foreknowledge means passive foresight on God’s part of what individuals are going to do, without his predetermining their action. But: Foreknow in Romans 8:29 and 11:2 means “fore-love” and “fore-appoint”: it does not express the idea of a spectator’s anticipation of what will spontaneously happen. Since all are naturally dead in sin (i.e. cut off from the life of God and unresponsive to him), no one who hears the gospel will ever come to repentance and faith without an inner quickening that only God can impart (Eph. 2:4-10).”
    I believe a lot of the question has to do with where faith comes from. I believe it is defined as a gift of God (as in Eph. 2), where His life is imparted to us, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by His substitutionary atonement. If it is any sort of excercise of free will (which as I have said, the Bible indicates we don’t have in the sense typically assumed), then it is not all of grace. We then have a part in securing our salvation, which again is problematic in light of the message of the gospel, the glory and God, and the inability of man.

  10. Darrin Says:

    PS – In case I’ve caused anyone uncertainty about the terminology used here, “foresight” in my title (and in the Calvin work) refers to a merely passive knowledge ahead of time, which I am trying to show is not scriptural. However, “foreknow”, as discussed above, is tied to election, is biblical, and refers to an active appointment and decision of God to set His love on His elect ones from before the foundation of the world.


  11. Chief-

    Don’t run off. The conversation here gets a little tense and we all have to give a defense. There is no problem with that. Rather, when we make assertions of fact it stands to be examined. Ours is a demonstrable faith, and not just an is so said so. Why else would Scripture itself commend the study to show oneself approved a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Jesus himself said, “I have not come to send peace, but a sword to cause division.” And we need that so that it can be demonstrated what is approved.

    As I tell my friends and family, the Word of God is so complicated even a child can understand it.

    Mull that over. For if we are to grow and no longer be children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, then we must need to become children and learn. That is why the church was given gifts of gifted teachers. As Paul said, “By now you ought to all be teachers.” Indicating that what is expected is that we grow to a common understanding, into the fullness of the knowledge of the Son of God, of the FAITH once for all delivered to the saints. So, when we find ourselves in that position of lacking understanding, our response should be to desire the pure milk of the word. But, as Paul said there are not many fathers in the faith. There are many hungry mouths of children to be fed, though.

    Brother Gene has taught me, though at one time we were at odds. But not because of Gene but because of my ignorance. My pride was manifest in my railing against him. I thank God now, that Gene is hard as nails at times. For without that, I might have not questioned my error.

    Mull it over. God has given to each a measure of faith, and not all are equal in understanding nor skill. And to tell you the truth, I like a good meal prepared by the hands of a skilled cook.

  12. Churchy Says:

    Chief , I urge you to not ‘run off’ either; I’m pretty sure most of us that have not spoken the truth in love at some point.

    These truths are too important – I say this as someone who just 18 months ago would have argued against ‘anything Calvinism’ using some of the same arguments and understandings as you have. Dig deeper; I beg you to be patient and ask the Lord for the grace to see the inconsistencies you have (and ones I had for most of my life).

    Sometimes its better to go through these issues in person with someon who is on the other side of the issue than yourself. I pray, that the Lord does send someone your way to help you go through these issues.

    If you are correct than your investigation into these things will only strengthen your faith.

    Don’t run; let Him draw you closer to the Truth.

    I used to think it impossible.

    Now I believe it to be beautiful.

  13. Chiefest of Sinners Says:

    Our blessed Lord does indisputably command and invite “all men everywhere to repent” [Acts 17:30]. He calleth all. He sends his ambassadors, in his name, “to preach the gospel to every creature” [Mk. 16:15]. He himself “preached deliverance to the captives” [Lk. 4:18], without any hint of restriction or limitation. But now, in what manner do you represent him while he is employed in this work? You suppose him to be standing at the prison doors, having the keys thereof in his hands, and to be continually inviting the prisoners to come forth, commanding them to accept of that invitation, urging every motive which can possible induce them to comply with that command; adding the most precious promises, if they obey; the most dreadful threatenings, if they obey not. And all this time you suppose him to be unalterably determined in himself never to open the doors for them, even while he is crying, “Come ye, come ye, from that evil place. For why will ye die, O house of Israel” [cf. Ezek. 18:31]? “Why” (might one of them reply), “Because we cannot help it. We cannot help ourselves, and thou wilt not help us. It is not in our power to break the gates of brass [cf. Ps. 107:16], and it is not thy pleasure to open them. Why will we die? We must die, because it is not thy will to save us.” Alas, my brethren, what kind of sincerity is this which you ascribe to God our Saviour?

    -John Wesley -(using the clear logic of the scripture, not parsing words, or diagraming Greek sentences!)

    While Wesley makes total sense to me, I must admit some of Calvin’s arguments (at least in as far as I understand them) are compelling also.

    If He gave Adam free will in Eden (or did He? what does the Hebrew say about that?), why can’t He foresee the heart of man, choose the believers, and predestinate the believers to be conformed to the image of His Son? Many are called, but few are chosen?


  14. “While Wesley makes total sense to me, I must admit some of Calvin’s arguments (at least in as far as I understand them) are compelling also.”

    Maybe you could answer this: Isaiah 63; Ezekiel 36; Ezekiel 37; Proverbs 16:1; Hebrews 13:15; Isaiah 57.

    Though Wesley had it in part correct, there is another side to this story. What makes a man able? It is true that if one believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth Jesus is Lord he will be saved. But how can it be that man must first confess and believe, if it first takes God creating in them a new heart, directing their steps, creating the righteous confession of their lips? John tells us that no one, not one, says Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit. If that is the case, how does one ever believe and say Jesus is Lord to be saved except that they first have the Spirit? And, no one, not one who is not born again has the Spirit.

    Wesley couldn’t reconcile this but Jesus did: Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. No matter how you parse these words, seeing what it is that one believes into comes after one is born again. Jesus is quite clear that it is a childlike understanding of where babies come from and it is not the baby that conceives itself. Jesus was abundantly clear that you cannot see what the Spirit does which effectively cuts off any appeal that you were born again because you believed. As everyone knows, you were born, not by your will, but the will of another. So too, you are born again, not because you give your assent, but because another caused you to be. This precludes what Wesley said. It is not that God saw who would accept him and predestined that they be born again. Rather, he predestined who would be born again that they would believe.

    John 1:12-13 tells us exactly the same thing that Jesus told Nicodemus. It is not by the will of a fleshly father, nor of national affiliation, nor of the will of man, but the will of God that some, not all, are made to be children of God and are given the right to be so and so receive him.

    Did he give Adam freewill? Well let’s see. What do you mean? Did God create man in the image of God such that he could choose evil? Can God choose evil? Then freewill, true freewill, is not the freedom to choose evil, but the freedom to choose the good. What parent puts before a child a adder and a loaf of bread? Does God tempt man? Did God placed good and evil before man as a choice? Or did he give him good commands that he might live and not die? Was Jesus a man? Did he have freedom to deny the will of His Father? If not, and Jesus was telling the truth, that God’s children do the will of his Father and follow him, and that he did only what he saw the Father doing, always, then freewill, true freewill, is doing the Father’s will, not our own. It is in fact, the bondage of the will to have the choice to do evil. Free-will as you think of it is actually the essence of sin, the ability to reject the will of God.

    Yes many are called, but the key is that few are chosen. God commands men everywhere to repent knowing that many will not. Even if it were true that God merely predestined the conforming, it remains true, that not all will be conformed. So even the Arminian must agree, that God has predestined only some to the conforming. Predestination to being conformed is interesting in itself, because to be able to make the righteous confession as Jesus did and call God Our Father, and cry out to him save me (Psalm 22: 19-21 But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion!) he had to first be in that image. And, is not our crying out to the Father, “save me” the image of the Son?

    For the righteous, Isaiah says, that God creates the praise of the lips, the Psalmist, that the answer of the lips is from the Lord, and that the heart of the king is in God’s hands and he directs it wherever He will. So too Paul says, whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved and also said for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. From the bones to the lips Ezekial said the army of the Lord will proclaim the Glory of the Lord.

    From beginning to end, He is the author and perfector of our faith, the Alpha and Omega.

  15. Tom Butler Says:

    The “foreseen faith” doctrine basically means that men and women elect themselves.

    Those who hold this position must also hold that the number of redeemed is fixed from eternity, and that no one else will be saved, or will have a chance to be saved, and even if they have a chance, they won’t be.

    Whether one holds that God, at some point, looks down through the future to see who will have saving faith (which destroys God’s immutabiity and omniscience); or, whether one holds that God has always known who will have saving faith; or, whether one holds that God knows because he has elected them, the result is the same.

  16. Darrin Says:

    Tom, I think I understand your points (especially in light of your other comments) and agree with you, though in this comment I don’t know if someone could misunderstand you to be saying that it doesn’t matter what one believes about election. (I don’t think that’s what you mean.) Indeed “the result is the same” in that the number of the redeemed is known from all eternity in most doctrines, short of open theism, where God is still learning. But I pray that more folks will glorify God by embracing the truths that He has revealed to us, including the power of His unconditional election. Good point you make about His immutability – does He change His attitude toward us when we believe, or when those are cast in hell, or has He in fact loved some in particular from all eternity?

  17. Tom Butler Says:

    Darrin, my comments were aimed at such inconsistencies from non-Calvinists as “Jesus died for all without exception, God wants everybody to be saved, thus he owes everybody a chance to be saved.” Non-Calvinists dig themselves a hole here, since it is obvious that there are some who have never heard the gospel and will have no chance for salvation. Their answer is that God has written the law on their hearts, and someway, somehow, in a way that no one knows, God has sent them the gospel. Either that or they will argue that God would not be just to condemn someone who hasn’t heard the gospel, so they are saved in some other way. If that’s true, then let’s bring all our missionaries home, cease all preaching and teaching, lest someone hear the gospel, reject it, and be condemned.

    For the record, it does matter what one believes about election. The non-Calvinist view has produced mischief and manipulation. A proper view of election produces sane evangelism.

  18. Darrin Says:

    Good points regarding evangelism, Tom: Interesting to see how the Arminian hand-waving on that subject really is a problem. Indeed the sense that we are among God’s instruments used to accomplish His purpose in calling His elect to Himself should inspire greater zeal for evangelism, not hinder it.
    Thomas, thanks again for your comments also. I think the combination of Gene’s exegesis and your exposition is very useful.


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