And Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson – Your References Don’t Support Divine Sovereignty and Unconditional Election

I looked through scriptures referenced in your blog post (noted below) defending God’s sovereignty and unconditional election. I don’t know … some of the verses may tangentially appear support God Sovereignty and unconditional election. Unfortunately, like many ardent Calvinists, you don’t differentiate between God’s sovereignty vs God’s determinism. Calvinists often appear to use these terms in an almost overlapping manner as if they’re equivalent. I certainly don’t think so. Further, I think it’s necessary to have a Biblically cohesive framework. That is, all scriptures must tie together to derive a logical set of beliefs. Hence, I think you run into difficulties when on the one hand you claim that God only chooses certain individuals (i.e. the ‘elect’) for salvation but verses such as John 3:16 and 2 Pet 3:9 clearly state that God wants all to be saved and for none to perish – meaning no one is intentionally excluded.

And just so you know, because of my competitive nature, I’m going to be keeping score. And no “appreciation trophy” will be awarded. You’ll either win or lose.

Gen 3:9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

In my NIV Study Bible, Genesis chapter 3 is entitled “The Fall of Man”. Not sure I’m seeing how this particular verse ties into unconditional election. But within the chapter, it’s interesting to note when Adam was confronted with his sin, he blames Eve. And then Eve blames the Serpent. If divine sovereignty is indeed true, then God also controls the devil and ordained and decreed each and every thought and action i.e. eating the fruit from the forbidden tree. I don’t see how this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election.

Bob 1, Lauran 0

Gen 20:6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.

Wouldn’t this verse actually be an argument against divine sovereignty as Abimelech had a choice as to committing sin? To which, God intervened. Certainly, God can intervene. But the question that immediately pops into my mind – is this a special instance or is this normative for everyone? And it gets further complicated if you wish to infer from this verse that God will intentionally “push” someone into, in this case, adultery. You have much to explain there so, for now, I don’t see how this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election.

Bob 2, Lauran 0

Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.

It goes without saying that no plan of God can be thwarted. As if not obvious, the 2nd coming won’t be thwarted. Job’s statement that God “can do all things” is perhaps a statement of humility much in the same way that people today use the phrase, ‘God willing.’ As I read it, Job seems aware that he’s necessarily having to make free-will decisions all the time but is differentiating those plans and actions of man vs God’s overall plan in the second part of the verse. That is, what God wants to do; he does – no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. Sorry, but I’m again not seeing how this verse validates divine sovereignty of unconditional election.

Bob 3, Lauran 0

Is 45:7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.

I know some Calvinists use this verse as a proof text to demonstrate God’s omnipotence. What’s not said, but then must be inferred by Calvinists, is that God creates not only all these things (as he has created everything) but in addition, God has also created sin and evil. So, when man sins and participates in evil, it’s bad. But when God creates sin and evil – this is good? It’s this kind of logic employed by Calvinists that makes me think that is Calvinism is illogical in its construct and likely reprehensible as to the nature and character of a holy and loving God. I have no way of knowing, but perhaps this verse is more a testament of God’s protection of Israel against enemies in OT times. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll concede a half point … but only on a technicality as I don’t have as good a rebuttal as I would like! 😉 See how fair I am?

Bob 3.5, Lauran 0.5

Amos 3:6 When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?

Does this imply all disasters? I recall in, I think, 2009 when the ELCA had their convention here in Minneapolis. A vote was taken to allow the ordination of gay pastors. As it so happened, a storm blew in and broke off the steeple of Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis. John Piper wrote on his Desiring God website, “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us – turn from the approval of sin.”

I honestly don’t know if the storm came about because of God or whether Central Lutheran’s steeple was in such a state of disrepair that it could have toppled over on any of the dozens of storms that roar through the central plains of Minnesota on a regular basis. Storms happen. Some are bigger than others and no one thinks anything of it. Sometimes houses and buildings get damaged. That said, I find it difficult to read this verse at face value. Perhaps that’s an error on my part. Dave Hunt, in Debating Calvinism pg 312-313, comments on this verse, “God is warning Israel of His coming judgment upon their sin, and that is the context and subject. This Scripture has nothing to do with God causing moral evil. To do so would violate His holiness.”

I’ll concede that if one is to take this verse at face value, then there might be ‘glimmer of hope’ that a Calvinists could impart divine sovereignty and unconditional election. But I think Hunt is onto something – does God violate his holiness? I need more information and time to think through this. In the meantime, subject to later change, we each get a half point.

Bob 4, Lauran 1

Acts 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Words actually matter. And Calvinists I know essentially use the words foreknowledge and predetermined interchangeably. However, I see them as quite distinct. If God has predetermined something, then certainly he has foreknowledge of that action or event. But, if God allows his creation to experience free will, then it would seem logical that God, being outside the bounds of space and time, could foreknow something which he has not predetermined. Consider, the father of the prodigal son predetermined that his two sons would receive an inheritance. This was the father’s predestination. However, one of the sons demanded his inheritance immediately and vacated the premises. And, likely against his own better judgement, the father permitted it. As related to word definitions which you aren’t delineating, you lose the point. I don’t see how this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election.

Bob 5, Lauran 1

2 Thess 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

Well, I’ll admit that this is another one of those difficult verses for me. But a couple of things come to mind. 1) The verse states that God chose you as “first fruits” – not that they were necessarily chosen to believe. When I see the word ‘chose’, as in Eph 1:4, I often infer that God ‘decided’ something. 2) Then the question is, what’s a “first fruit”? I’m wondering if this might be the beginning of the “harvest” of both Jew and Gentile coming to faith through Christ. Perhaps this is a stretch. But until you can convince me otherwise that to choose doesn’t mean to have decided, then I can only offer up a half point.

Bob 5.5, Lauran 1.5

Eph 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-

This is a letter written to believers and is all about the blessing of being made holy. This verse has anything to do with unconditional election. In no way does this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election. If anything, this verse is a validation of God’s foreknowledge wherein God decided and knew ahead of time that when one accepts Christ’s sacrifice for the remission of their sin, they become holy. No point for you!

Bob 6.5, Lauran 1.5

1 Pet 1:2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Again, there is the word ‘chosen’. And this is perhaps one of those instances, where the word in the verse, foreknowledge, doesn’t mean what I sense Calvinists intend it to mean. Certainly, Calvinists needing to be consistent with their doctrines therefore must believe that God, having knowledge about something must have brought about that event. I respectfully disagree with those sentiments. I recall watching my two-year old walk towards a coffee table with a lamp on it. Without a doubt, I absolutely knew – I guess you could say that I foreknew that this punk toddler with an attitude was going to pull the lamp cord and cause the lamp to get knocked over. And sure enough, the little twit did just that! I had nothing to do with her action. She acted completely of her own accord. But I foreknew what was going to happen. I don’t see how this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election. Again, no point!

Bob 7.5, Lauran 1.5

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Notice that the text of Acts 13:48 does not say that these Gentiles are believing in God for the very first time. Only that they are believing the truth about Jesus and their inclusion into the covenant by faith alone. Many God-fearing Gentiles genuinely worshipped God and, unlike the Jews, had not grown calloused in the religiosity of the Pharisaical teachings. No one could rightly describe these God-fearing Gentiles as totally disabled, hardened, God haters in need of some sort of supernatural grace to effectuate faith. They already had faith in God, they simply did not know about the Messiah yet. The Gentiles are willing to listen – unlike the Jews. And they are ready to receive the mystery of the gospel – as evidenced by Cornelius.

Perhaps Acts 13:48 could be better understood as, “As many had positioned themselves.” Or “As many as were open to everlasting life.” This understanding certainly does not conflict with John 3:16 – whoever believes. The Calvinistic presuppositions within Acts 13:48 by way of being unconditionally appointed by God before the foundation of the world are not consistent with the whole of God’s word. Nothing in this text suggests that the appointing of these Gentiles was done arbitrarily by God before the creation of the world. And there’s nothing in this text to suggest that the appointing of these Gentiles was done arbitrarily by God before the creation of the world. I don’t see how this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election. Girl, you’re getting routed!

Bob 8.5, Lauran 1.5

Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Well, much like the prodigal son’s father predestined an inheritance for his wayward son, it only seems rational to conclude that God predestined those that he knew would be saved would then be conformed to the image of his Son. But in no way do I see this verse as justification for unconditional election. I don’t see how this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election. You must be getting embarrassed by now. ;-)

Bob 9.5, Lauran 1.5

Rom 9:16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

Frankly, a Calvinist ought to be embarrassed to use this verse as a justification for unconditional election. To understand this chapter, one should start with Paul’s conclusion (vs 30-33). So, everything in chapter nine is predicated on Israel’s unbelief and the inability of obtaining righteousness through the law. Bob George in his book, Classic Christianity, speaks how the same sun which melts wax also hardens clay. He goes on and talks about God showing his mercy on the humble – those who recognize their sin and ask forgiveness. Those whose hearts are hardened are the prideful. This is such a misuse of scripture I’m tempted to call a foul and penalize you a point here. But you – being a girl and all – I won’t. (:-P) Nevertheless, I don’t see how this verse validates divine sovereignty or unconditional election.

Bob 10.5, Lauran 1.5

In conclusion, the “game” was definitely not a shutout. And I wouldn’t call it a blowout either. But from the verses you provided, I’m not persuaded as to the validity of divine sovereignty in general or unconditional election in particular. You obviously see things different than I do and our differences, at least in my opinion, highlight inherent tensions within scripture. It bothers me that people with advanced degrees from seminaries and having knowledge of the languages, cultures and history can arrive at significantly different conclusions. This makes me wonder if perhaps part of the disagreement that you I have is predicated on different definitions for various words such as predestined, foreknowledge, chosen and election.

Still, I appreciate your participation. Feel free to comment back and attempt to gain some points back if you wish. Lastly, below is the link to your post from where I got your reference verses.

The most taboo topic in most churches- “The sovereignty of God and the doctrine of election.” – Women need theology too! (wordpress.com)

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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