Monday, June 06, 2005

Calvinism Revisited, Part 1

I am really rushed for time today, so this is not nearly as complete as I’d like, but it’s a starting point. Hopefully, I can revisit this over the next few days…Thanks for you patience!

The primary issue for me is the Free Will vs. Predestination/Election contention. Calvinism would argue that God bestows faith on those whom He elected before the foundation of the world (see Romans 8 below), regardless of any forseen reaction to obedience (like winning the lottery). Arminianism agrues that election is based on God's sovreign knowledge of what man would do in response to his grace.

The Scripture does indeed teach predestination. (I’m definitely not debating that). For instance,

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;
and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

and here:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

To me, this is different than what Calvinism proposes (at least the way I read it. Again, I could be wrong…) Limited Atonement (Calvinism) as I am familiar with it states that Christ's death secured salvation only for the elect. For example,
"Christ's redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them ... In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ's redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which united them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation." (David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas; The Five Points of Calvinism, Defined, Defended, Documented: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1975, p. 1 7)
Nevertheless, Scripture says that Jesus died for all men, not just the elect.
"My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:1)
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

“But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)
His blood can wash away anyone's sin.
“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “ (John 1:29)

My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
The gospel is for all men.
And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Arminism agrues that Christ’s death secured salvation for anyone, but that it will be the elect who respond, for God is not a respecter of persons.
‘And opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.’ (Acts 10:34-35)

‘For there is no partiality with God.’ (Rom 2:11-12)

‘God does not will that any perish but all be saved: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men’ (Tit 2:11)
‘This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time. (1 Ti 2:3-4)

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Pe 3:9)

If I am predestined, why worry about Satan? 1 Peter 5:8-9 says: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. Although I realize that, in the very same breath (v.10) Peter writes, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

As i said above, perhaps I can spend more time here in a couple of days.....Meanwhile, your comments, questions, and complaints are always welcome!

Peace of Christ to you all.


At 8:13 PM, Blogger Brian Pestotnik said...

I appreciate your honesty about your journey in Calvinism. My theology changed because of scripture when I was a youth pastor 8 years ago and I am affirmed in that perspective as I continue to study and teach the scriptures. Concerning the passages you mentioned you need to place them back in the context of the book. Some of those passages were in books written to Jewish people- therefore when the author says "not only our sins but for the whole world" he is referring to people all over the world. If he meant everyone it would affirm universalism which would clearly contradict Jesus' own words that the road to life is narrow- few will find it. Keep seeking- I appreciate your emphasis on scripture rather than concluding- "election makes me feel negative to God so I don't believe it."

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous mad.hatter said...

Interesting pair of posts ("Recovering Calvinist", "Calvinist Revisited"). I could write awhile on the idea of free will versus predestiny or determinism and still not come to a conclusion for myself so I would spare you my musings. I would, though at the risk of going off topic, like to pitch my two cents in on the topic of foreknowledge and the timelessness of God.

To say that God had foreknowledge of our path would attempt to place Him within some context of time. I believe, as Augustine did, that God exists outside of what we can comprehend as time. Paraphrasing, Augustine said that time exists of past, present, and future. But only the present exists; the past no longer exists, and the future isn't yet. He concluded that time existing of only the present is not time but eternity. Therefore the idea of foreknowledge or a predetermined outcome has no real meaning in relation to God.

However, I don't want to confuse the concept of foreknowledge with that of predestiny. One to be true does not require the other to be as well. Augustine himself would later argue the point for predestiny. He based much of his later work on Paul's writings some of which were touched on in your post. Augustine was also a great influence on Calvin's writings.

I have personally struggled with the idea of free will versus predestiny, as well. On the surface, it would seem to me that to consider predestiny to be true, you would need to believe that God would be justified in condemning those who had no choice but to elect the way they did. Of course God's actions do not require justification, but at the very least it would be difficult to consider such a just God.

Moreover, if this were also then always true in nature, then this idea of "determinism" would make it difficult to condemn anyone for their actions any more than you could condemn the rain for falling down.

But is freedom and determinism necessarily incompatible? Philosophers have labored to reconcile the two for centuries with varying degrees of success, but since it seems I have strayed too far from the original discussion already, I'll leave this question for perhaps another time. MH


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