A Calvinist Response to Eph 1:4?

On a non-Calvinist FB forum, a Calvinist asked the question: If God allowed or permitted evil acts, the denial of the Gospel, & [election] based on divine foreknowledge, did God also decide the course of redemptive history before he created [the world]?

Another Calvinist quickly responded to the effect that many within this forum deny the Bible’s teachings (aka Doctrines of Grace). I asked for a specific example and received a litany of Bible verses in return. I inquired whether he’d like to take his first reference (Eph 1) and defend unconditional election. After a while and no response, I put forth my defense that Eph 1:4 does not support unconditional election and wrote the following:

Well, okay … I’ll start with the doctrine of unconditional election not being supported by Eph 1:4:

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Alright, I’ll concede that the phrase “God chose us” is written in this verse. But we can consider what the verse is aiming towards by highlighting the prepositions. To which, the verse looks like:

[For] he chose us [in him] [before the creation] [of the world] to be holy and blameless [in his sight].

Something I’d learned in a college composition class is that by and large (although not entirely), we should be able to remove prepositional phrases and still maintain the overall intended meaning of a given sentence. Indeed, details might be lost. However, the essence of the sentence should remain. So, without the prepositions, Eph 1:4 reads as:

He chose us to be holy and blameless.”

At first glance, this verse seems to be about holiness. At least, “{God” is the subject, “chose” is the verb and “holy and blameless” appear to be the “objective” within this sentence. Of interest if I look up the word “chose” in my trusty Webster’s dictionary, I see different meanings including:

“To select freely and after consideration” and “To decide.”

It would be a fair point to ask why the NIV translators used the word “chose” when translating from Greek to English? Perhaps given the constraints of translating from one language to another, “chose” may be the best translatable English word. Nevertheless, using Webster’s common English understandings for the word “chose,” I believe a fair interpretation of this verse is:

Before he created the world, God “chose” that we were to be holy and blameless.

However, when I insert the word “decide” for “chose,” the verse, I believe, can be more readily understood:

Before he created the world, God “decided” that we were to be holy and blameless.

I think it fair to say that this was accomplished by way of the law in the Old Testament and subsequently through faith in Christ in the New Testament. And nowhere in Eph 1:4 do I see a defense of God predetermining (aka unconditionally electing) some folks for salvation and other folks for reprobation.

I look forward to your response.

Sadly, the only response was …

Author: Bob

I’m an upper Midwestern guy who recently entered the "Buick stage" of life given my present eligibility for senior discounts. This blog is an attempt to rectify discordant aspects within my Christian faith ... or what often feels like my lack of Christian faith. Things which make life more enjoyable include strong black coffee, charcoal grilling anytime of the year, putz'ing at a table saw, playing chess, a good orthopedic surgeon and an occasional IPA. Please feel free to poke around and comment as you wish. I welcome discussion and the insights of others.

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