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Posts Tagged ‘Unconditional Election’

Quantitative Analysis of Unconditional Election

May 24, 2012 1 comment

An interesting blog post asks whether conditional election or unconditional election has more Biblical basis. The author goes on to state,

One of the most persistent and often divisive issues within Christianity is the debate between the doctrine of unconditional election (often called the doctrine of predestination) and the doctrine of unconditional election (often represented as the doctrine of free will).

Provided within the post is a list of verses that each camp uses to justify their respective positions. I don’t know the origin of this list nor do I believe this list is in any way complete. Still, the author wonders whether a greater number of verses (that, at least for this list) in support of unconditional election lend credence that unconditional election is indeed what the Bible teaches? I’m a numbers guy and do some quantitative analysis on the day job so this thought got my attention. 

However, as I scrolled down the list, I noticed that some verses were listed as supporting both predestination and free will. I certainly don’t think it accurate to derive “truth” from just a verse and I don’t think that is necessarily intended here. Context is everything and as such, any given verse must be read within the context of the passage. That said, if something is “truth” in one passage, then doesn’t there have to be commonality of that “truth” throughout all of the Bible?

Jesus says the truth will set me free (John 8:32). Perhaps my struggle regarding unconditional election can only mean that I don’t know the truth. Of course, preceding vs 32 is vs 31 where Jesus says if I hold to his teachings then I am really his disciple. Perhaps therein lies the issue – I’m not his disciple. Therefore, I can’t know the truth. Hence, I struggle in my faith – and not just with unconditional election. Perhaps I’m beginning to overanalyze – time to chill-out.

Anyway, I’ve come across this before – Calvinists and Arminians using the same verses and passages to to defend (or argue against) unconditional election. Romans chapter nine is perhaps the best example I know of. That the likes of John Piper and Greg Boyd have diametrically opposed perspectives of this chapter is troubling to me. But I understand that not all Christians are bothered by, what I can only call, the “variance” of Christian thought at least with respect to unconditional election.

In any event – to the question: does a greater number of verses supporting one perspective help to sway or otherwise bring about resolution within the Calvinist-Arminian argument? Probably not. But, what do I know?

 

The Hope of Arminianism?

April 18, 2012 5 comments

ArminianApparently, and for the 2nd time, a comment I’ve made in response to a blog post hasn’t been accepted. Sorry, I don’t mean to offend. And, I guess I can take a hint. Again, given that my response wasn’t accepted, I thought it permissible to share my $0.02 and ask my questions here. It is, after all, my blog. ☺

Overall theme from what was initially blogged:

Arminianism allows that Christ died for all men. Given that some are in hell for whom Christ died, there must be a deficiency within Arminian doctrine as to the certainty and assurance of the Arminian’s salvation because of a mutable God being outwitted by Satan.

My response:

Wow! Could it be possible that there are honest Scriptural differences, interpretations or even misunderstandings that Arminians have related to the nature and character of God and the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election?

Simply put, whether Calvinist, Arminian, Open Theist, Catholic, a retired Presbyterian minister or whatever – if one by faith accepts Christ’s sacrifice for their sins and proclaims Him as Savior, is that person saved?

Bluntly put, can one reject the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election and still be saved?

I’ve got a good sense what this particular Calvinist would say. But I’m curious as to other Calvinist’s opinions: is my salvation predicated on an acceptance of the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election?

Eph 1:4 – Does It Really Support Unconditional Election?

April 13, 2012 8 comments

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

Anyone delving into the doctrine of unconditional election has certainly come across Eph 1:4. I’ve had this verse tossed my way a number of times to “prove” that God really is the one choosing the elect. My Calvinist friends will chide me that I’m not be able to see the forest through the trees because, after all, there it is in plain “NIV” English – He chose us. What is there to not understand?

Fair enough. However, what if we were to read the verse without the prepositional phrases? After all, what is a preposition but a word that links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. 

Some simple examples of prepositions: The book is ON the table. The book is BESIDE the table. He read the book BEFORE class.

In the above sentences, the highlighted prepositions locate the book in space or time and provide a logical relationship of the book to the rest of the sentence. Certainly, if prepositional phrases are removed, then the intent and meaning of a sentence can be lost – as can easily be understood in the above examples. Regarding Eph 1:4, however, it appears to me that the intent of the verse remains the same with the prepositional phrases removed:

(For) He chose us (in Him) (before the creation) (of the world) to be holy and blameless (in His sight).

Without the prepositions, then, Eph 1:4 says; He chose us to be holy and blameless. The long and short of it, then, is that Eph 1:4 appears to have nothing to do with divine selection of individuals unto salvation. This is even more readily understood when I look up the word “chose” in my Webster’s dictionary and see different meanings including: “to select freely and after consideration” and “to decide”.  For reasons beyond my language skills, the authors of the NIV Bible selected the English word “chose” when translating Eph 1:4 from Greek to English for a reason –  “chose” is the best translatable English word. I readily accept that. 

Therefore, using Webster’s common English understandings for the word “chose”, I believe a fair interpretation of this verse is that God decided that we were to be holy and blameless before He created the world

Hence, it seems to me that Eph 1:4 is not a verse that Calvinists can reasonably use to defend the doctrine of unconditional election.

 

If God Can Be Surprised by His Creation, Can Calvinists Really Claim Unconditional Election?

January 7, 2011 15 comments

A friend recently indicated his doubt as to whether God is suprised by anything. I’d previously come across Gen 6:6 which says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  My only consideration of this verse and passage was that God knew what was going to happen and when sin fully engulfed man that created a separation between a holy God and a sin-filled man, God was grieved about this. 

Thinking back to my elementary school years, I knew my report cards were going to be full of failing grades and for what it’s worth, I ended up having to repeat 6th grade. Still, I hated the anticipation of those report cards. I would dread being handed the report card by my teacher. I was fearful of having to show that report card to my parents. Yet, when I was actually handed the report card and looked inside, the reality of those bad grades hit hard and I felt much worse than I had beforehand. 

The thought then occurred, how would I have felt if I wasn’t expecting those bad grades? Would I have been “surprised” even if I may have had some inklings that all was not well?

It seems to make sense that God would know everything because He’s omniscient and not constrained by time. How could God possibly be surprised at anything?  Well, seek and ye shall find – as I stumbled upon these verses while digging through a concordance for words such as “grieve” and “regret”:

1 Sam 15:10-11 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel; “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” 

Num 14:11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous sings I have performed among them?” 

Jer 19:5 (I’m pretty sure God is speaking here) They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal – something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 

Given that these verses don’t appear to be spoken/written in hyperbole, they do appear (at least to me) to indicate that God can sometimes be surprised as to the exact outcome of something.  Could this be true?  Can God be “surprised” – at least in regard to things He hasn’t predetermined? These verses alone certainly don’t constitute a full defense of Open Theism.  Nevertheless, the question that comes to my mind is: if God can be surprised, can Calvinists claim unconditional election with absolute certainty?

Trying to Understand Calvinist Thought & Logic Related to the Will of God

February 4, 2010 9 comments

This post came about from comments written by myself and two others elsewhere on this blog.  For the sake of clarity and to keep a post on a given topic, I’ve decided to bring those references and comments under a new post.

My previous post on “Calvinitus” was an attempt to show my struggle with Calvinist doctrines infusing themselves and otherwise coloring (maybe blinding?) my perception of God.  However, after recently watching an old movie about Lou Gehrig, Pride of the Yankees (1942), it occurred to me that perhaps Calvinists also struggle with the reality of their own doctrines – particularly unconditional election.

Most people probably associate Lou Gehrig with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.  ALS is an insidious progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord for which there’s currently no cure.  I have no idea as to what Lou Gehrig’s religious beliefs were.  If I may, however, let’s assume Lou Gehrig was an ardent Calvinist.  There’s a scene from the movie, where Lou Gehrig learns that he has ALS, which goes something like this:

Lou: Give it to me straight, doc.  Is it three strikes?

Doc: Yes, Lou, I’m afraid so.

Lou: Well, I’ve learned something over my life.  You can’t change the call of the umpire.

Calvinists I know believe that God ordains all things.  That being true, then Lou Gehrig’s “Calvinist” example is one of humbling accepting God’s will when he’s diagnosed with ALS because of his realization that “you can’t change the call of [God]”.  Lou further exemplifies his submission to God’s will when he says during his retirement speech, “I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

It was interesting, then to find a story (here) where a Calvinist man goes to visit his grandfather in a hospital.  Also present at the hospital are his grandmother and a Eucharist minister.  The Calvinist man is upset that the Eucharist minister is offering his grandparents feel-good prayers, pseudo-repentance and communion.  The Calvinist man was struck by the wretchedness, hostility, false assurance and blasphemy of the Eucharist minister’s actions and his grandparents attitudes toward God.  The story continues that later, and without success, the Calvinist man tries to convey the gospel message to his grandfather.

It surprises me that Calvinists appear blinded by the logic inherent within their own doctrines.  According to the doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election, God determines who will be saved and conversely who will be eternally lost.  Therefore, why is this Calvinist man dismayed at his grandparents or the Eucharist minister?  God hasn’t elected them.  They’re toast.  The Calvinist man understands that no witnessing, no praying, nothing the Calvinist man could do is going to change what God has sovereignty decreed.  As such, I submit that the Calvinist man’s frustrations towards his grandparents and the Eucharist minister are misdirected.  Consider:

  • The Calvinist man believes God has predetermined the decisions his grandparents have made.
  • God, however, has not chosen to save the Calvinist man’s grandparents.
  • The Calvinist man is dismayed that his grandparents are not elect.
  • And, the Calvinist man realizes that because God is in control, there’s nothing he can do.
  • As such aren’t those feelings of loss and separation related to his grandparent’s eternal destiny directly attributable to God’s sovereignty in the matter?
  • The grief the Calvinist man displays would seem (to me at least) to indicate a desire for God to change the inevitable outcome.
  • Therefore, the Calvinist man is in reality opposed to God’s will in this matter.  And if we’re not in favor of some act or condition, then by definition we’re opposed to that very same thing.

What I don’t see from the Calvinist man in this story is the humility exhibited by Lou Gehrig.  Wouldn’t the Calvinist man, if he truly believes in his doctrines, say something to the effect of, “I thank God for his sovereignty and for having blessed me with the greatest grandparents on the face of the earth.  I hope and pray that God may change my grandparent’s attitudes toward himself.  But I willingly accept God’s sovereign will and know that even my grandparent’s eternal separation will bring glory to God if only through his perfect wrath.”

That’s just a story some might argue.  Fair enough – but I think it ties in well to an MSNBC news story (here) of a young Calvinist pastor, Matt Chandler, currently undergoing treatments for brain cancer.  After reading the story, here are the comments I made to my good friend and ardent Calvinist, Mike:

Is there not something incongruous between Matt’s statements versus his actions as related to Calvinist thought and logic regarding the will of God?

“Lord, you gave [me cancer] for a reason.”

[Matt] is praying that God will heal him.

Whatever happens, [Matt] says, is God’s will, and God has his reasons.

As I understand Matt’s statements, he’s as much saying that God ordained him to contract brain cancer.  However, according to Matt, that doesn’t mean waiting for fate to occur.  Rather, it means fighting for his life, and to that end, Matt is undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.  I hope this question doesn’t come across as belittling.  However, if Matt truly believes God gave him cancer, then why doesn’t Matt have the faith to accept the cancer along with the significant potential of him dying and leaving behind his wife and two young daughters?

From reading the article, I sense Matt believes that God could cure him without all the standard fare of cancer treatments?  Yet, Matt appears to have decided that it’s best to undergo all of the treatments.  Isn’t Matt in essence saying, “Dear Lord, I know that if it’s your will to cure me, I’ll be healed.  No if’s, ands, or or’s about it.  Now, please don’t be angry at my lack of faith – but just in case, I’ll start all these different treatment options because maybe, just maybe, it’s your will that I’ll be healed through one of them.  Okay?”

Honestly, this seems to be more of the thought process Gideon used.  In this case, Matt seems to be hedging his “faith-bet” by putting down sheepskins of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in order to ensure that all the bases are covered – and all the options for God to use are available .  Is Matt showing his faith?  Or, is Matt showing his desire to live irrespective of what God may have ordained?

With regret, I say that this appears to be somewhat of a false-faith. All the Calvinists know I emphatically emphasize God’s sovereignty and his being in control of everything in our lives.  And yet, when confronting an obvious life-or-death situation such as cancer, I’ve NEVER known anyone who was willing to sit back, praise God for the cancer (or any other serious or life-altering disease) they contracted, and look forward to their death.  Granted, I’ve only known of a few people who’ve dealt with cancer and the like.  But irrespective of the situation or circumstance, no one I know (Calvinists or not) simply allows “God’s will” to occur.  Everyone employs some subtle theological argument that “maybe, just maybe I had better play it safe in case God might be leading in ‘this’ direction.”

By definition then (at least as I see it), this Calvinist pastor is fighting God’s will and in essence trying to wrest control of the end results from God (most likely his death from cancer) by undergoing treatments.  So, I’m curious as to what you think: is Matt is trying to take control away from and/or otherwise alter the sovereign will of God?

Is There Such a Thing As Calvinitis?

January 28, 2010 13 comments

I think I have a condition.  I think it’s called Calvinitis.  Hopefully it’s not contagious.   Calvinitis is the inability to read something without becoming cynical of what is actually being said.  Below is a recent letter from our pastor inviting the congregation to participate in small group discussions related to “Extravagant with Love and Abundant in Grace”.  To help my Calvinists friends better understand this condition, I’ve taken the liberty of imparting “Calvinisticals” – a term I just now invented.  Calvinisticals infuse the inherent Calvinist logic and thought that may not be obvious to the majority of Calvinists and non-Calvinists unaffected by Calvinitis.

The word “prodigal” certainly describes the younger son [whom God hated from the beginning of time] who recklessly spent his entire inheritance [because he was unable to choose to follow God] in the blink of an eye [because God willed it to be in order that his perfect wrath might be exalted].  However, in another sense, the word “prodigal” also describes our God [who demonstrates the extent of his love by saving those (the elect) whom he chooses] who is extravagant with love [so long as he has elected you], who is abundant in grace [so long as he has elected you], and who spent everything to make us a part of his family [so long as he has elected you] again [well, provided that you’re part of those contained within the limited atonement of Christ’s blood for the remission of your sins].

We’ve all heard the story of the Prodigal Son before [unless God hasn’t until now ordained that you would even want to be in church].  However, as you join us on this five week sermon [because God’s irresistible grace will overcome all resistance for not wanting to join us on Sunday mornings] and small group series you will find this story come to life in ways that you have never seen before [because God called you into communion with himself and will continue with you in faith until the rapture – or whatever].  To get the most out of this series we [through the blessings of the holy spirit who allows truth to be seen] encourage you to participate in the small group experience [because God controls everything and there’s no free choice in the matter].  If you are not currently in a small group [perhaps as a result of God intentionally keeping you isolated], we have 11 different small groups [that God has specially put into place for us] that are just waiting for you to join them [unless, of course, you’re already doomed].  No matter where you are on your faith journey [it’s because God wants you right where you are to teach you something], this study will challenge and encourage [only so far as God gives you encouragement] you [so that God will be glorified].

Extravagant with Love and Abundant in Grace – [So Long as You’re Elected]

Seminaries in the Business of Election

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Irrespective of my struggle with Calvinistic thought, I couldn’t help but enjoy a bit of levity when I came across a seminary with “elected faculty”. 

http://www.sebts.edu/academics/faculty/default.aspx

Scroll down the list to find the “appointed faculty”. 

Who knows why, but my kids’ Dr. Seuss book on Sneetches comes to mind – something about those with stars on their bellies and those without stars on their bellies and tying all that in to the doctrine of election.  Whatever. 

Feel free to comment on ‘theme’ verses.  Here are a couple that came to my mind:

  • John 15:16  I [president of SEBTS] have elected you to [teach] at SEBTS and produce [lectures] that will last
  • Heb 9:27  For you’ve been appointed once to [teach] and then to die [or maybe receive job offer]