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September 21, 2009

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A better question might be, "How does God mount a 'rescue operation' like election, and then not have the power to rescue everyone?"

The question 'What if God didnt pick me' still seems serious even if Greg is right that none really seek after God. God is still picking and choosing who to save and not to save. I do agree that this is Gods perogative, but it always raises the additional question of why He doesnt just save everyone if He can? I think He doesnt, because He really does take into consideration what individuals choose.This would demonstrate greater love on Gods part than the other view in my opinion. I could be wrong here, but this just seems more loving than election by picking and choosing.

>> I do agree that this is Gods perogative, but it always raises the additional question of why He doesnt just save everyone if He can?

This is a really good question. In fact, I think this is one of the biggest questions when we consider God's election of people to salvation.

Paul addresses this in Romans 9:10-15

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

The reason why Jacob prospered over Esau was not because of anything they did or anything that God foresaw them doing but because of God's purpose of election. We have to ask our selves, what is God's purpose? God's purpose is his glory (Eph 1). Perhaps that seems to diminish his love, and maybe that makes God unjust. But Paul responds to that by saying:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

Initially, that only seems to be a restatement of the problem, but a closer look at Exodus 33 reveals Paul's purpose in quoting that passage:

Moses said, "Please show me your glory." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

In response to Moses' request, God declares his goodness to Moses. Paul, who is writing to Jews who would know this passage, quotes this passage to remind them that God's mercy and compassion correspond directly to his glory. If God's glory was compromised, his love and his mercy would also be compromised. The most righteous and the most loving thing God can do is to always act in a way that he will receive the most glory.

It certainly boggles the mind that God would chose some to display his mercy and others to display his wrath - all for his glory. But for us, in whom God has displayed his mercy, we have absolute assurance of his love and absolute assurance that he will keep us forever. This doesn't absolve human responsibility (Romans 10 comes after Romans 9), but it does show us that we chose God because he chose us.

I should state right up front that I'm a "zero-point Calvinist who's not an Arminian." I think both systems are deeply flawed. But with regard to Brandon's comment, I don't believe that Calvinists would agree that God lacks the power to rescue everyone. Rather, I think they would say that He lacks the will to rescue everyone. He simply chooses to save some, and chooses not to save others. Why He does this no one knows, say the Calvinists… even Koukl.

Koukl has said that God is not obliged to save everyone, and that He can save whom He wishes to save. I disagree with this strenuously. For one thing, God is constrained… He's constrained by the various attributes of His Divine nature. I believe God's perfect justice is just that: Perfect. Thus, He would not make salvation available to one group without making it available to all groups. To do otherwise would be unjust.

I used to have difficulty with what appeared to be a quandary regarding the doctrine of election. Does God choose us, or do we choose God? But there is, I think, a rather simple way to understand it:

1. I suspect we would all agree that Christ is "the chosen one." That's what "messiah" means… anointed, chosen… you might even say elected. Christ was elected, chosen by God. Anyone disagree with that?

2. When we place our faith in Christ, we become identified or associated with Christ. The Bible expresses this in many different ways… we are "IN" Christ, we become part of the "body of Christ", we become clothed in Christ's righteousness, etc.

Well, if Christ is the chosen one, the anointed, the elect, and we become identified with Him by virtue of our decision to place our faith in Him, then guess what? We become "the elect" as well.

Pete,
I think you are probably right. It seems unjust to call all men to repentence and then not make repentence available to all men.
I appreciate the thoughtful response of Nathaniel, but it still seems to fall short. Maybe its just me.

Why is this so confusing??? The one and ONLY reason this is so difficult to understand for most of us is because of our failure to give God credit for being holy. No.... Not just really really loving, kind,intelligent, just,merciful, omnipotent, soveriegn..(did I miss a few attributes?),....but HOLY! He has already told us straight up WHY He chooses some and not others. It has NOTHING to do with our performance, period. It has everything to do with HIS PURPOSES...and HIS GLORY.

Want to define those purposes beyond making His ultimate glory resound throughout creation??...be my guest.

Also....we simply do not think we deserve condemnation. However....God's holiness has never depended upon our agreeing with Him about anything He ordains to come to pass. For instance...even if YOU truly are saved...God is not obligated to save ANY of those whom you may cheerish or think highly of.

NOW I agree THATS scary...to have so little influence on what God will do or not do. The sooner we grab ahold of THAT my friends...the sooner we will begin to see some bonefide fear and trembling back in our worship.

But we don't want to believe that do we?

Vic,
This is a hard issue,so help me understand something. I agree that this is ultimately about Gods glory. But how does God get MORE glory from picking and choosing certain individuals for salvation? Wouldnt He be MORE glorified in saving them all? Is it unreasonable to suggest that He may be MOST glorified by saving those who freely choose Him? This seems possible, doesnt it?

I appreciated this video. But I submit that the problem is too narrowly defined, or may be begging the question.

Greg claims that people will not seek after God. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do propose a hypothetical person:

1. A person who is interested in knowing the ultimate truth about our world, including our place in it, any purposes, any requirements, etc.
2. A person who is willing and able to adapt their lives, plans, minds, and hearts to those truths, to the best of their abilities.
3. A person with enough self-interest to perhaps suffer short-term consequences for long-term rewards.

I propose that such people exist. Personally, I believe a good number of religious skeptics could be described by all three points above, including former Christians. Also, a good number of non-Christian yet still religious people could be described by all three points above (e.g. some Muslims, Mormons, etc.).

I also propose that those are reasonable and admirable qualities in a person.

I guess I just consider it to be practical to 1) know true things, 2) live according to reality, and 3) have enough self interest to suffer short-term consequences for long-term rewards.

So, what of these people? Some of those people reject the major claims of the Christian religion (hopefully for informed reasons). If the Christian worldview is the one and only correct worldview, then regardless of their admirable search for truth, they will not perceive the truths of the Christian worldview unless God enables them to see those truths, right? They can't muster enough intelligence or wisdom or insight or whatever to perceive those truths, right? Is there nothing that they can do to improve their lot in life?

The question in the original post is: How can God not save someone who wants to be saved but isn't one of the elect?

I'm going to rephrase that, by replacing "someone who wants to be saved".

Here's my version: How can God not save someone who wants to know the truth about our world and who is willing to adapt and submit to those truths to the best of their abilities, but isn't one of the elect?

The diverse answers include: 1a) We don't know, 1b) God can do whatever he wants, 2) this whole view is nonsense so of course it doesn't make sense, and 3) this whole religion is nonsense so of course it doesn't make sense.

I sure wish I knew which one was correct!

Steve,

I can definitely appreciate the sentiment. This is a difficult issue. Let me present two points to you, first a question then a solution.

I don't think that we can get around the problem of God predestining people for hell. We all believe that God knows all things (past, present, future) perfectly (Psalm 139). He knows these things before Genesis 1:1. He knows that some people that he creates will not choose him, yet he creates them anyway. That means he creates people who were destined for hell. We know that God calls all people to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). This means that God hopes for the repentance of those he knows will not chose him. How can this be?

Let me offer this solution, and I think this is what scripture says. There's a difference between God decreeing things to be and prescribing things to be. God's decreetive will is that whatever He wills will come to pass. God's prescriptive will is what God wills is behavior that God requires but may or may not come to pass. God says "Let there be light." This is an example of God's decreetive will because it must come to pass. God says, "Do not steal." This is an example of God's prescriptive will because people still steal.

God's purpose of election is decreetive (Eph 1, Rom 9, John 6:37-45, John 10:25-26, etc.) while God's call for repentance is prescriptive (Luke 7:30, Acts 7:51, etc.). Those who reject the Gospel are still responsible for what they hear, because God calls all people everywhere to repent and believe. Yet the only way we would repent and believe is if God grants us repentance (2 Tim 2:25).

So we come back full circle, why does God create people who are destined for hell? Paul answers in Romans 9:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

God desires to make a full show of his glory not through hypothetical punishment of sin, but through actual punishment. By doing so, God displays the fullness of his mercy to the elect, and the fullness of his wrath to the reprobate. We, who are under mercy, deserve the fullness of his wrath. We have nothing to boast in except God. God is glorified for his holiness, justice, goodness, mercy, love, truth, etc. This is the most supreme act of righteousness.

Again, This defies are thoughts about God, but I believe this Biblical. I know this answer seems unsatisfying, but I will say that for me, it is most satisfying. God's love and holiness are more real in the light of God's pursuit of his own glory. God rescues us to fulfill the purpose for which we were made, and that is to delight in him for all eternity.

Steve asks how God gets more glory from "picking and choosing" rather than just saving eveyrbody?

First....who DESERVES to be saved, Steve? No one...right? If that is so then why will any of us object to God's saving even 4 oe 5 out of the whole lot of us???? Further..... If God did not save anyone...would that make Him unjust??

You are correct Steve...It IS a hard concept......but only because....no matter how many times scripture affirms we are "rotten to the core" we just do not believe it. We cannot grasp that we are completely undeserving of ANY mercy from God....let alone being saved for eternity.

God gets ALL the glory...and that glory does not depend upon Him including ANYONE in heaven or explaining exactly how "All things work together for good"....and no one WOULD be in heaven if not for God sacraficing His Son.

I have a nagging suspicion that all of us in heaven will be forehead slappers...and perhaps the first words out of OUR mouths will be something akin to...."well DUH!"

Vic,

First....who DESERVES to be saved, Steve? No one...right?

Saved from what? Eternal torment? On what bizarre standard of justice does anyone deserve that?

My answer to Jim T's question is #3: Christianity makes no sense historically or morally.

RonH

Ron asks..."Saved from what?"
Answer...God.

The same God that has provided a way for you to be perfect (as you HAVE to be to live in heaven)....has also promised eternal damnation for those who do not, indeed...cannot, come to Christ on their own.

Please note that God is not unjust here. He has simply chosen some to recieve mercy (which no one deserves)....and some (the damned)to recieve perfect justice.

God has determined our entrance...our exit...AND our final destination....ALL for His glory....and there ain't a thing any of us can do to change that. Complain if you like.....but few things could be more futile...especially in the light of the mercy He has already given you.

The very best you can do, Ron...is get on your knees right this very minute and pray to God that he will in fact give you mercy instead of what you deserve.

>>God's perfect justice is just that: Perfect. Thus, He would not make salvation available to one group without making it available to all groups.

Pete, I think you're looking at this wrong. God's justice is perfect, and if He did nothing beyond having Christ die in case someone might choose to follow Him, we would all justly go to hell because nobody would choose Him. The Gospel is proclaimed to all, and it's available to all, but the problem is nobody chooses Christ on his or her own. But it's available to all, even if people don't choose it. Imagine if I were to put a plate of peanut butter cookies on a table in a crowd of people, and there's enough for all, but every person in there hates peanut butter so nobody eats a single one of the cookies.

Because of this, salvation isn't about justice (hell is justice), it's about mercy. God plucks people who don't deserve to be plucked out of their situation.

>>How can God not save someone who wants to know the truth about our world and who is willing to adapt and submit to those truths to the best of their abilities, but isn't one of the elect?

This exact question was asked and answered on a previous post, wasn't it? God will save everyone who truly wants to know the truth and submit to God because such a person is one of the elect. "Submitting to truths" is not the same as "submitting to God." The God part is the difficulty, and it's the part I don't see even in some people who think Christianity might be or even probably is true but still don't submit to Him. It's a will problem at its root, not a knowledge problem.

Vic,

The point that RonH (I think) is making is why should nonelection mean eternal torment, rather than finite punishment, or absence from God, or merely annihilation?

Consider the potter in Jeremiah. If he makes a marred piece, he starts over and uses the clay to make something else. The marred piece is annihilated, not "punished" or tormented. Perhaps, Vic, you should not be speaking for God in this situation. Inquiry, or belief that some things about God might be bizarre (if not altogether incomprehensible) is not futile. Don't be the watchful dragon that prevents people who have hunger from entering.

So is the belief that God has chosen who to destroy and who to save? Just so people know - the Greco-Roman gods functioned in this manner - quite amoral in manner and pick n chose people to play fight with to prove their 'power'. Are we saying God is also this way?

I think it's a warped viewpoint in all honesty - and makes God kind of creepy. How can one say this God is all loving when we see this one aspect of God "Choosing to destroy some' to prove a point? That seems a little mean to me.

The first story - the Adam and Eve one - God seems to create humans with something called 'choice'. I find it ironic choice isn't the key thing God uses to determine 'justice' by...and not some pre-concieved notion about choosing whom and what he will do to people quite arbitrarily. If this is the case then I don't think anyone can be deemed as 'unsaved' since they did not actually 'choose' this path - God ordained it for His glory...meaning all must be 'saved' at the end to make God loving again.

Then again why are we speculating something about God we know nothing about - nor can we. I think in the end we have to admit with these questions of 'election' we have no real inside knowledge on it...everything said on here is complete speculation about how God functions.

I liked Pete's view the best "Well, if Christ is the chosen one, the anointed, the elect, and we become identified with Him by virtue of our decision to place our faith in Him, then guess what? We become "the elect" as well." There's a ring of human reality to it called choice I admire.

Pete,

"Koukl has said that God is not obliged to save everyone, and that He can save whom He wishes to save. I disagree with this strenuously. For one thing, God is constrained… He's constrained by the various attributes of His Divine nature. I believe God's perfect justice is just that: Perfect. Thus, He would not make salvation available to one group without making it available to all groups. To do otherwise would be unjust."

I can understand an argument that God's mercy constrains me to offer the same mercy to all. (Though if you want to prove it, you have to go to what the Bible does specifically teach about God's mercy.)

But for you to say that his justice constrains his offer of mercy seems very backwards. It twists mercy into something else.

When 100 condemned men stand before a judge, it is merciful for him to pardon any of them. Justice doesn't require him to offer a pardon to all of them; justice would mean that he doesn't offer it to any of them.

You're saying that if God offers any kind of grace to anyone, ever, then he's unjust if he doesn't give the same grace to everyone. If I look at God giving a grace to someone else, I get the right to complain if he doesn't give it to me.

That's a strange notion of grace & justice. It's not at all obvious. And I don't even see how you can start to defend that from Scripture.

Societyvs,

Would you say that you're wondering how God could find fault with anyone, in the Calvinistic view? Since everything's happening according to God's will, which they can't resist?

Make no mistake, according to Reformed theology man has not lost his ability to choose. Quite the contrary, it is precisely because man chooses that makes God perfectly just in his distribution of justice. The issue, rather, is what will man choose in his depraved status? God or himself?

As has been stated many times in this blog and misunderstood or ignored an equal amount of times, man has lost his desire for God but he has not lost his ability to choose. He will not seek after God because he lives in darkness and in spiritual death. Someone who knows not the light nor spiritual life cannot desire it. That is why man in the flesh cannot please God.

Man is free to choose what he desires. He does not desire God and therefore man will not choose God. That is why God, in the person of the Father, draws us to Him.

Ack! I just noticed a typo. I said, "I can understand an argument that God's mercy constrains me to offer the same mercy to all."

Obviously, that should have been "him".

get on your knees right this very minute and pray to God

Har har har. That'll be the day.

Vic, what moral system does your god hold to?

RonH, 'natural man' and lovin' it.

Amy wrote:
"The Gospel is proclaimed to all, and it's available to all, but the problem is nobody chooses Christ on his or her own."

With all due respect, Amy, if God is going to determine that some people will not be saved while others will be, then the gospel isn't really available to all. Just saying that it's available to all doesn't make it available to all. Being "available to all" means that everyone has the capacity to choose to trust in Christ. Their rejection of Christ has to be their own doing… if it's the result of a gift (faith) that God never gave them, then that's God's fault, not theirs.

David wrote:
"Make no mistake, according to Reformed theology man has not lost his ability to choose."

and

"Man is free to choose what he desires. He does not desire God and therefore man will not choose God. That is why God, in the person of the Father, draws us to Him."

This just seems like doublespeak to me, David. We haven't lost the ability to choose, but man will not choose God, so God chooses us. Using the phrase "draws us to Him" sounds a bit softer than "chooses us", but ultimately that's what Reform theology teaches.

Jugulum wrote:
"But for you to say that his justice constrains his offer of mercy seems very backwards. It twists mercy into something else."

I would say that some of you may be operating on an understanding of "justice" that I'm not familiar with. It's as though you're only reading it as "punishment." Although I could be wrong, (I've been wrong once before!) I understand "justice" to mean essentially "fair" or "equitable." Now, let me defend that understanding briefly:

Why is stealing something wrong? Because it is unjust. That is, it's not fair, not fair because someone else earned that thing, you didn't. Conversely, it is just that you get paid by your employer because you've worked for it. "Just" has to do with what's fair and equitable, not only with punishment. Granted, sometimes punishment is fair and equitable. But rewards can be equally as "just."

God is constrained by all of His attributes equally. He cannot violate any of them.

Pete,

I can understand why it seems like I'm reading "justice" as "punishment". I'm actually reading it as "fairness", and "that which is rightly deserved". And in this context, the fair, just thing for each of us to receive is punishment.

The work of Chris is mercy precisely because it means we don't get what we deserve. We don't get what's fair. We get what is merciful & gracious.

Fairness doesn't lead to the gospel. Grace and mercy do.

It's not double speak. Man chooses exactly what he wants. Where is the double speak when I say man does not want God?

>>Just saying that it's available to all doesn't make it available to all.

So let me ask you a question: Are the cookies on the table available to everyone or not?

>>Their rejection of Christ has to be their own doing… if it's the result of a gift (faith) that God never gave them, then that's God's fault, not theirs.

Here's where you're mistaken. Our sin and rejection of Christ is of our own doing because it's based on our own character and will. God does only good, never evil, because that is His character, right? He doesn't act outside His character. Are you willing to say that "it's not God's fault" that He does good? Isn't it just the opposite? Don't His actions reflect what He is in the core of His being, and we worship Him for that and ascribe greatness to Him? In the very same way, our rejection of God is likewise a reflection of who we are in the core of our being, and we are rightfully condemned for being rebellious. Our just condemnation is 100% our fault.

>>I understand "justice" to mean essentially "fair" or "equitable."

I don't think this is an accurate way to say it. I think that using the "fair" language leads to assumptions about "equality of outcome" and "sameness" that usually aren't related to justice. Justice means getting what you deserve. You do something wrong (not merely unfair in the sense that it caused an inequity to result, but wrong), and you receive punishment. I thought Vic stated it well when he said, "Please note that God is not unjust here. He has simply chosen some to receive mercy (which no one deserves)....and some (the damned) to receive perfect justice." God is just because He gives out the punishments that people deserve, not because He treats everyone exactly the same. Mercy is unrelated to justice. It is not required by justice because it is not earned or deserved.

>>Fairness doesn't lead to the gospel. Grace and mercy do.

Well said. If anyone thinks he has a right to God granting him mercy, he doesn't understand justice or mercy.

The various responses here have done a good job of characterizing the Reform view of God's Justice. But I don't believe they've done a good job of characterizing a Biblical view of God's Justice.

The failure to see Justice as being applicable to reward as well as punishment seems like part of the problem. Another part of the problem, it seems, is the failure to recognize that Christ paid for the sins of the entire world… Unlimited Atonement is the only portion of Arminianism I'll agree to. Christ bought even those who denied Him. No one goes to Hell for their sins because payment for sins has already been extracted once. John 3:18 and John 3:36 make the case pretty clearly.

And even Greg Koukl will defend the law of double-jeopardy… that God cannot extract payment for the same crime twice… Why? Because it is unjust. It's "not fair"… a violation of God's perfect Justice. So this brings to full circle the discussion about "Justice" applying not only to "getting what you deserve" but also to fairness… you see, getting what you deserve is fairness. Fairness is the larger, over-arching principle. Grace is getting what you don't deserve, such as being given eternal life through faith in Christ.

In order for God to be glorified in the angelic conflict, He must demonstrate to Satan that we will choose Him. But rigging the game by selecting those who will be saved and those who will be damned is, of course, unjust and proves nothing to Satan.

This is related to the question of why God gave Adam and Eve the capacity to rebel as they did. If He had not, Adam and Eve would be mere robots.

God "treats everyone the same" only in the sense that he gives us each equal opportunity to choose. Many of us choose in the negative, and we will spend eternity separated from God as a result of that choice, not because of our sin. Christ paid for that already. But some will choose in the affirmative--freely--and THIS glorifies God in the angelic conflict.

"Well, if Christ is the chosen one, the anointed, the elect, and we become identified with Him by virtue of our decision to place our faith in Him, then guess what? We become "the elect" as well."

So... the elect elect themselves, kinda turns the meaning of "election" on it's head, not to mention completely unscriptural.

Hi there Pete Chadwell and Societyvs.

Great discussion, eh!

I'm wondering whether you can help me, please?

I found myself resonating with your first post, Societyvs, but it's Pete's comment about the 'chosen one' that bothers me.

What I'm struggling with is whether the idea of 'chosen one' or 'elect' is only from our perspective, not God's? Surely He doesn't need a 'chosen one', only we do?

Any help with this gratefully received!

In John 10, Jesus tells certain unbelievers that he was not atoning for their sins, and that this is the reason they don't believe, and that his sacrifice is intended only for his sheep (the elect)

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

So in essence, having been atoned for, God will regenerate the elect, and they will now naturally believe in the true Christ and want to be saved. God will not regenerate the reprobate, and they will not believe in the true Christ nor want to be saved.

M Burke wrote:

"So... the elect elect themselves, kinda turns the meaning of "election" on it's head, not to mention completely unscriptural."

This is a complete distortion and reflects a failure to honestly consider what I presented. Did I say that the elect elect themselves? No, I did not. God chose Christ, Christ is the elect, we are the elect by virtue of our identification or association with Christ through faith.

Understood this way, the tension between God choosing us vs. us choosing God is relieved and no principle of scripture (notice I didn't say 'no principle of reform theology') is violated.

To James: God chose Christ in eternity past on our behalf. God doesn't need a savior, but He knew we would.

Thanks so much for replying, Pete.

But did He have to choose? That's what I'm trying to get at. Doesn't having to choose undermine God's nature?

I'm not trying to be contentious, it's just that something doesn't feel right about it.

Although created things are contingent, it seems to introduce contingency into the very nature of God, as if there was another option He might have chosen. I think this is where my resonance with Societyvs, and his comment about the Greek Gods, who were fickle, becomes relevant.

James: I don't know how "choosing" undermines God's nature. God has a will, God has volition. He determined the terms of His plan… He chose to save us and He chose how that would happen, that it would involve Jesus. He didn't have to make that choice, seems to me.

To say that God didn't "choose" would seem to suggest that God has no ability to choose, that He is just a robot that moves mechanically and without any kind of consideration.

God chose Christ. He chose the method, He chose the terms. We can then choose either to place our faith in God's solution, which is Christ, or we can choose to place our faith in our own works or whatever. The result of the former choice will be very, very good and the result of the latter choice will be very, very bad.

Pete,

>>Understood this way, the tension between God choosing us vs. us choosing God is relieved and no principle of scripture (notice I didn't say 'no principle of reform theology') is violated.

I hope you're not implying that Reformed Christians are unscriptural...it looks to me that those who espouse that view have quoted more scripture in defense of their view than you have. I don't mean that spitefully, I just want to point out that Reformed Christians would say that their position is consistent with what the Bible teaches (just so you know, I am Reformed).

I was wondering if you may be able to clear something up though. You say:

>>God "treats everyone the same" only in the sense that he gives us each equal opportunity to choose. Many of us choose in the negative, and we will spend eternity separated from God as a result of that choice, not because of our sin. Christ paid for that already. But some will choose in the affirmative--freely--and THIS glorifies God in the angelic conflict.

I was wondering if people choose against God...isn't that a sin? Also, you say that no one goes to Hell for their sins, so I am wondering how you define justification. Lastly, you mention an angelic conflict, could you define that conflict? Could you provide Biblical support for your view too? I appreciate it!

Nathaniel wrote:
"I just want to point out that Reformed Christians would say that their position is consistent with what the Bible teaches"

Of course. Arminians will make the same claim. And of course, I think both are wrong, and so I'm making the same claim about my view. That Reformed Christians believe their position is consistent with the Bible doesn't mean that it actually is.

Justification, in the context of salvation from Hell, amounts to the reconciliation between man and God by means of faith in Christ. At the point of faith in Christ, a man is "justified". This entails several things, but above all it entails God declaring a man as righteous (even though he is not) via Christ's work on the cross and the man's decision to trust in Christ and not himself.

Angelic conflict is a term which refers to the spiritual battle that continues behind-the-scenes between God and His angels and Satan and the fallen angels throughout history. The way I understand it is that man was created as a means by which to resolve the angelic conflict. That doesn't mean that MAN will resolve the angelic conflict, but that God is in the process of resolving the angelic conflict and He uses man in that endeavor.

Thanks for replying again, Pete. Very helpful.

I suppose, it seems to me that choosing in the sense you are using it implies a weakness in foreknowledge. That is, it wasn't just a plan, which implies open endedness, but the whole economy of salvation, before 'ink was put to paper', as it were?

Jesus had the capacity to sin, but didn't. In an analogous way, can't God have the capacity to choose, but not need to choose?

I dunno. I'm probably just more confused than you!

James wrote;
"I suppose, it seems to me that choosing in the sense you are using it implies a weakness in foreknowledge."

Well, I don't intend it in that way. A plan implies choice… it implies that decisions were made. Choices were made about what would happen and when and what would be required of us. I just don't see that conflicting at all with God's nature.

Two points.

First, God's (in traditional Christian theology) glory can neither be increased, diminished, or affected in any way, such that him deciding to save or damn someone (or everyone) means absolutely nothing in relation to his glory, no more than him deciding to create ex nihilo a boson at the edge of the universe that would have no effect on our cosmos. So all this talk about this being "for the glory of God" is nonsense, meaningless.

Second, there is all this talk about man "deserving" eternal damnation for "choosing" to reject God when it has also been stated that man chooses or rejects God solely by God's divine fiat such that God is directly responsible for our either choosing or rejecting him qua redemptive regeneration (or its lack). From this we can easily conclude that man has absolutely no say, no influence, and no power in relation to salvation as even our very desire to be saved or to rebel is created solely at the discresion of the divine Creator. That, I think, is the problem with the notion of election: either we sin and rebel because that is the nature that God gave us or we are saved and turn to God because, again, God decided to give us grace. We are not responsible in any significant way because the very things that make us sin (i.e. "original sin") or, its contrary, to make us turn to God is completely out of our control. So let's give up all this talk about us 'getting what we deserve' when we don't even have the chance to choose otherwise (i.e. we have no freedom).

I think this most recent post by Kevin is a decent demonstration of the absurdity of the Reform position. Reform people can insist that we still do choose in spite of God having chosen for us until they're blue in the face, but the fact is that if Reform theology is correct, then we can't choose anything, God's chosen it all for us, and there's no reason to evangelize anyone.

I'm no Arminian, as I've said a number of times, but Reform theology reflects a capricious, unknowable God who lacks Justice. This is not the God described in the Bible.

Kevin, all this talk about things being "for the glory of God" Jonathan Edwards wrote a dissertation on "the end for which God created the world" where he argued that the ultimate end of creation and all events in creation is the glory of God. He gave many proof texts. Check out Chapter II, Sect. III. All this talk about being "for the glory of God" comes straight from the Bible. It isn't meaningless nonsense.

You and Pete should both check out Jonathan Edward's book on The Freedom of the Will.

>>The way I understand it is that man was created as a means by which to resolve the angelic conflict.

I am interested in hearing Scriptural support for this idea, as well. Where does this idea come from?

>>First, God's (in traditional Christian theology) glory can neither be increased, diminished, or affected in any way, such that him deciding to save or damn someone (or everyone) means absolutely nothing in relation to his glory…So all this talk about this being "for the glory of God" is nonsense, meaningless.

Except that the Bible explicitly says otherwise. God's glory is increased only in that it is displayed, recognized, appreciated, and celebrated. For example, in the passage already quoted: "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…."

Here are some more:

Romans 3:7--"But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?" [When God judges, this "abounds to His glory."]

Romans 15:7--"Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." [Christ's saving us glorified God.]

2 Corinthians 4:15--"For all [our working is] for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God." [The grace given by God for salvation abounds to His glory, and indeed Paul seems to say that the goal of his work is the glory of God.]

Ephesians 1:5-6--"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." [So again, our salvation is "to the praise of His glory."]

And there are plenty more; if you just look up "glory" at Biblegateway.com you'll see them all.

"Would you say that you're wondering how God could find fault with anyone, in the Calvinistic view? Since everything's happening according to God's will, which they can't resist?" (Jugulum)

Yes. How can a person be faulted for a choice they did not make? Even our lowly court systems know this much...is not God's court much greater than us? So if God chooses who is 'saved' and who is 'damned' pre conception of us (from the foundations of the earth or whatever) - then we are not guilty of a damn thing - except for being created by someone else who planned our ends.

"What I'm struggling with is whether the idea of 'chosen one' or 'elect' is only from our perspective, not God's? Surely He doesn't need a 'chosen one', only we do?" (James)

Good question. I agree with you - the elect issue seems to begin with Paul - who seemed to care about such an absurd idea. What do I care about something (election) I have no say in nor inside knowledge of. I go by choice plain and simple in this life and can really only speculate about what a great God would even think on such an issue?


Pete and Kevin,

I really think you've demonstrated a severe misunderstanding of Reformed theology.

There are two ways that glory is used in the Bible. Kevin, you are absolutely right in saying that God's glory cannot be increased or diminished. For glory in that sense describes God and God cannot change. Also, we see many times in Scripture created things giving glory to their creator. They are not adding to his glory by doing that, they are worshiping him as they were created to do. So when we speak of God receiving the most glory, we are speaking of the second one.

Now, Kevin you said, "So all this talk about this being "for the glory of God" is nonsense, meaningless." Paul did not think so because he said in Ephesians 1:

"In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORIOUS GRACE, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."

And...

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY."

And...

"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY."

You cannot say it's nonsense or meaningless because Paul says that it is all for the glory of God.

Secondly, on the issue of freewill. We see that in Scripture that human beings are responsible for their choices and that God sovereignly works all things according to the council of will. We then say that human responsibility is compatible with God's sovereignty. We may not understand it, but it's what the Bible teaches.

So it brings me to this challenge, and it's not my intention to sound harsh, but I do notice a trend. Someone claims that Reformed theology is inconsistent with Scripture, and then doesn't buttress the claim with Scripture, or demonstrate a misunderstanding of Reformed theology. I'm not defending Reformed theology because it's Reformed theology, I defend because I think it's scriptural.

It's easy to attempt to philosophize different reasons why God does things a certain way, but if it doesn't reflect what scripture teaches, then it's wrong. Scripture is authoritative and we are not.

I realize that by my frequent use of the imperative in the preceding paragraphs that I come across as a bit harsh. I'm sorry about that. I don't want to sound belittling or berating in any manner. My intention is to defend what I believe what Scripture teaches, and if I'm wrong, I'll admit that. But it's more convincing to me to see some solid Biblical exegesis rather than a pure philosophical argument.

Again, I'm sorry for the harshness. I pray that it won't get in the way of what I said. Thanks for reading.

Nathaniel wrote:
"We see that in Scripture that human beings are responsible for their choices… We then say that human responsibility is compatible with God's sovereignty."

Thank you, Nathaniel.

I appreciate your desire to defend the Biblical view. I have the same desire. I won't claim here that we can have the same understanding of things that God has, but I will say this: God is rational. He doesn't contradict. He is logical… Logic, in fact, is His system of thinking, not ours. The trouble we run into is that we apply logic to incomplete knowledge and sometimes wonder why logic lead us astray. Well, it didn't… our lack of knowledge did. And granted, there are some things we can't know. God, of course, is not hampered by incomplete knowledge. My point? We shouldn't be afraid to look for logical explanations for what appear to be contradictions or paradoxes. There might be ways to resolve these kinds of issues and arrive at an understanding which is more logical, more rational. There's nothing wrong with that.

As to your comment quoted above, this not passing the logic test for me. How can God hold us responsible for choices that He makes for us?

I like a lot of things that Koukl teaches via STR and I respect him. I've heard his very careful explanations of this problem, and every time I come away with the conclusion that Koukl's effort to rescue some sense of personal responsibility for the choice of humans ultimately falls flat. Why? because in the final analysis it's God making all the choices and then holding us responsible for His choices. No amount of hand waving can change that.

For all the prooftexts one can offer to supposedly support the Reform view, I can (given time) convey a meaning or a way of understanding those passages which supports a different view. I haven't bothered to get into that fray here… I'm attempting to make a case based on logic, and the understanding that God is rational and His plan is rational.

If God is irrational and illogical, then in fact we have no hope.

If God is fair - and election is from God - then isn't it fair to think all the people who had no choice on what God 'elected' them to will be saved by God at the end? I am thinking we serve a loving God - do we not?

In essence, the logic used about God being solely responsible is weak because it takes away from humans their personal responsibilities in God's plans. If we have none, then who cares who's elect and who isn't - because we have no real say on anything anyways - making us rather useless human beings (which has not been my experience as a human at all).

So for me, Reform theology is just basically unrealisitic in it's arguement for a God that did 'everything' (including election). It leaves me asking the one huge question...what's our role in any of this?


Societyvs,

Romans 9 - God's Sovereignty
Romans 10 - Man's Responsibility

Pete,

I definitely agree that we should use reason in our arguments. I have been using it all this time (hopefully). My point is, our reason alone, because we are limited ans affected by sin, could not possibly reach into the infinite and get to God. We need the Bible. Now, I know no one here would disagree with that, but if we try to mix our philosophy (as Clement of Alexandria and many of the early church fathers did) with Scripture (instead of basing it off Scripture) we can get off track really quick.

My point is simply: Start with the Bible and work out from there. There are certain things that are hard to get our minds around, but the Bible teaches them. For example, the Chalcedonian formula or the Trinity. We believe them because the Bible teaches them, but we don't understand how Jesus is 100% man and 100% God, or how God is three in one.

Similarly, we don't know precisely how God's sovereignty fits in with man's freedom. God has given us things for which we are responsible, and he works all things according to the council of his will.

Our reason is something that works out from Scripture, and our reason must be reformed in light of what Scripture teaches because it is effected by sin. We must conform to what is being taught in Scriptures because it's true, and if it doesn't mesh with our reason, then our reason is wrong. Again, I'm not saying be illogical, I'm saying start with Scripture.

Towards the end of the video, Greg says "Election is a rescue operation. It isn't meant to keep people out [of heaven], it is the thing that guarantees that people get in!"

I think this very nicely describes the Reformed position. Election as rescue is a good way to describe the idea.

It brings to my mind a scene, like a vast pool. The water is full of people, but they're all slowly drowning. There is nothing that anyone can do to save themselves, and no one else in the pool can help either. In fact, these people are so ignorant and/or deluded, they don't even know they are drowning! Yikes!

But good news! There is a capable swimmer standing near and observing the scene. He can easily save anyone from drowning. In fact, he's such a good swimmer that he can easily save all the people in the pool.

All he has to do is act. What should he do? What would you do if you were that person observing the scene and able to help?

Now, I often think in terms of scale. I often think that we are to God as a toddler is to their parents. I think that's a helpful view of the scale between us and the typical view of God. Toddlers are powerless and ignorant, and their parents, in contrast, posses great power, knowledge, and wisdom. Take that idea, multiply by some huge number, and you begin to approach the start of the difference between us and God.

So let's continue my scene at the pool. There's a few details I left out. All the people in the pool are toddlers. How did they get there? Oddly enough, the capable swimmer brought them there, right to the side of the pool, and told them to stay put and not get in the water. Then those toddlers, of their own free will and volition, chose to enter the pool.

Good grief! Didn't they hear the instructions to stay put? The capable swimmer is offended by the toddlers' actions, and is now in a foul mood. For reasons he keeps to himself, he does stoop down and pluck a few random toddlers out of the pool, apparently just to show what a good swimmer and life-saver he can be. The rescued toddlers are quite thankful and cling to their rescuer, yet a few look back at the pool and wonder why there's still so many flailing about towards their doom.

This, at the human scale, closely matches the story we're being told at the divine scale. And it's absolute nonsense.

At the human scale, what would we call such behavior? "Deranged", "diabolical", and "criminally insane" all seem rather appropriate. Sounds like something The Joker would do on vacation to let off some steam. But at the divine scale, what do people call such behavior? "Mysterious", "merciful", and "humbling" are common.

Very odd. Very strange.

By the way, the Arminian version of the story isn't much better. Either way, there's a bunch of dead toddlers in that pool. I actually use to think that one made more sense. Just different shades of bizarre.

>>If God is fair - and election is from God - then isn't it fair to think all the people who had no choice on what God 'elected' them to will be saved by God at the end? I am thinking we serve a loving God - do we not?

I think you should look at what you mean by "choice." God is not holding people down, refusing to save them because He chooses for them to be damned and they can't do anything about it. But that's the picture you're painting here with the way you describe this when you say they "had no choice." Instead, I would describe it this way: We do indeed make choices about whether or not to follow God, but we choose within the confines of our nature. This doesn't mean we're not making real choices.

Again, I point you to God as an illustration. God makes many choices--He does one thing and not another, but He always chooses within the confines of His nature. That is, He does only good. Period. He does so, because He can't do other than act within His own nature. Are you willing to say that because of this "God has no choice"? Isn't it rather the case that His choices reflect the truth about who He is? When we choose to rebel against God, it's not because we "have no choice" any more than it's the case that God has no choice. The rebellion happens because that is who we are. We're rebels against God. Whether God chooses to rescue some from that or not, that doesn't change the fact that we rightfully must answer for our own rebellious character just as God is praised for His good character. Fairness does not in any way require God to rescue everyone.

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