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Predestination & Free Will


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#1 Fred Williams

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Posted 08 March 2005 - 10:39 PM

Hello everyone,

Before the board was hacked there was a good discussion going on about Predestination, so I thought I’d kick-start it up again. I had a post that was about finished before the board went down, and I finally had an opportunity to finish it - so here I go into the fray! :)

I would like to begin by saying I believe the Predestination, Free will debate (hereafter referred to as PDFW) is a good in-house debate, one that has raged for centuries, but it is a secondary doctrine not crucial to salvation. Even though it can be contentious among believers, it is always good to be “rightly dividing” God’s Word with fellow believers! I pray that for each and everyone of us that this discussion will produce better understanding of God’s word, regardless of the position we hold in this doctrine.

The PDFW debate is a huge pond to jump in and it is hard to know where to start. I will first state what I believe, then I think I will get my feet wet by looking at the big picture, then provide a few verses that I believe support my POV.

What I Believe

So everyone knows up front where I am coming from, I believe the Bible is clear that works cannot produce salvation, that grace is a gift undeserved and unearned. I also believe man has free will, but the only “choice” he makes in salvation is by accepting God’s free gift (Eph 2:9). He cannot reach that point without the Holy Spirit drawing him (i.e. John 6:44, Romans 3:10-12). I also believe in predestination, but not as defined by Calvinists. For those who are not familiar with the mainstream Calvinist position, here is a website that provides a description of the Calvinist T.U.L.I.P. side-by-side with it's polar opposite, Armenianism (note that there are variants of each, and many doctrines in-between, but this covers the basic tenets of each - I myself lie somewhere inbetween, or perhaps perpendicular! :) I will henceforth argue from the "non-Calvinist" position).

Big Picture

The PDFW debate, like many doctrines in the Bible, is like piecing together a challenging puzzle. I don’t think either side of this debate can deny that this topic has certain verses that when taken on the surface, defend their position and are difficult for the other side to explain. The Bible has a fair number of these kinds of seemingly contradictory verses on various topics, but when taken as a whole across all scripture there is always a logical solution that allows all the verses to fit together nicely in the puzzle.

So in my exegesis of scripture of the big picture, I am going to boldly offer the following: when all the pieces are put together, the preponderance of verses does not support the Calvinist position. I’ll seek to begin supporting this in this post, then subsequent posts, by looking at a few verses at a time.

Scripture verses that contradict Calvinism

1 Samuel 13:13-15:19 And Samuel said to Saul, You have acted foolishly that you have not kept the command of the LORD your God which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. … Because you have rejected the Word of the LORD, so He has rejected you from being king.

The plain rendering of this text, in my opinion, seems obvious. God had a plan for Saul, and Saul had a choice to do it his way or God’s way. He chose his way. The verse above doesn’t make sense if Saul was predestined to make the wrong choice - it means that God didn’t really mean it when He said “For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever” - the verse has to be considered some sort of allegory.

The problem for Calvinists is that there are many, many verses like this in both the Old and New Testament. Here is an example from the New Testament:

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

These verses don’t make sense to me if God predestined some to be saved and many to go to hell. From a Calvinist POV, I am not aware of any way to deal with these types of verses other than to allegorize them. Why this is so troubling for me is because of where I have come from to move from OEC to YEC - the sheer volume of these types of passages that when taken plainly cannot be explained by Calvinism, IMHO. :) Now to a predestination verse:

Scripture verse that is used to support Calvinism

I would like to start with one of the big cannons in the Calvinist arsenal that I think is the easiest to refute, Romans 9. The context of this chapter is Israel messing up and not repenting, where chapter 11 is set up for the Gentiles to be grafted in their place. There are many places to start in this chapter, but one verse I saw mentioned in the prior debate is a good place to start:

Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:20-21)

Paul is initially referring to Isaiah 64:8 and and Isaiah 29:16

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.” “Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, ‘He did not make me’? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?”

But we get the context from Jeremiah 18:

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!”

From this passage we clearly see God did not make Israel that way, Israel did! Israel marred in God’s hand by their own doing. God then made another vessel from the clay. Subsequent verses in both Jeremiah support this:

[continuing in Jeremiah 18:7-10] The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

Why would God proclaim these conditions if this was already predestined?

We get similar context when we return back to Romans 9 through 11:

Rom 11:20-23 Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Further support that the context is free-will disobedience and not a pre-destined salvation issue comes from 2 Timothy 2:20,21,

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”

A condition is placed on the vessel for honor, and I even believe Calvinists would agree this 2 Timothy 2 passage is not referring to salvation. We know that there are different rewards and “crowns” when we meet our Savior (i.e. see 1 Cor 3). I submit that given this, coupled with the context we get from Jeremiah and Romans 11, that it is a very difficult hurdle for the Calvinist to attribute the Romans 9 passage to pre-destined salvation.

Summary

This is just a foot in the pond, a mere splash, :) but I think it brings home some important pieces of the puzzle. There were essentially three passages I built my argument upon, two typically used against Calvinism (1 Samuel, Luke 13), and one used for it (Romans 9). Here is my assessment of these pieces:

If Calvinism is true, 1 Samuel and Luke 13 are tenuous fits, requiring allegory, Romans 9 is an awkward but possible fit.

If Calvinism is not true, 1 Samuel and Luke 13 are good fits, and Romans 9 is a good fit.

Even if I granted that Romans 9 was an awkward fit for the non-Calvinist position, it nevertheless fits with 1 Samuel and all those other similar verses throughout OT and NT – so my point is, taken as a whole, these first pieces we looked at the non-Calvinist position is the best fit.

There are of course many other passages to consider. I’ll try to deal with Ephesians 1 and related verses in my next post, or in my reply to rebuttals of this post. It may be several days before I can find the time to do so. Thanks everyone.

Fred Williams

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17)

All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them. They are all plain to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge (Proverbs 8:8-9)

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Posted 09 March 2005 - 12:03 AM

Why would Christ suffer and die on a cross for predestined people?
Why would we need salvation if we are predestined to be God's chosen people?
How can God be a "just" God, and judge those who had no choice because they were predestined for the eternal fate they recieve?
Does God run some sort of a matrix, where we are all robots with a predetermined life?
Why give Adam and Eve a choice, but we become predestined?
Why give any choice if we are predestined?

If we are predestined, why have sin?
Does not a predestined life make God the creator of sin?
To create sin would be to sin which would make God imperfect.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

And if we are predestined, how does something in heaven get cast out if it were not a choice? And how can an angel do what we do here on earth in heaven? Were not angels created above us, and we a little below them? They have a choice, even in heaven. For if it were not a choice, explain the sin that got them cast out. And explain how God could become the author of sin in a place called Heaven?

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of DARKNESS, to be reserved unto judgment;

Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
(Taken from 2 Peter.)

Would not angels be predestined because they were actually made to serve God? So what happened that they were cast down? Was it by choice, or was it God making a predestined being that would sin in Heaven, making God the creator of sin?

Satan choose what he did, did he not? The angels that followed, were they predestined to do so? Here again this would make God even the creator of sin in heaven. Sin cannot exist in Heaven, correct? And if so, they would not have been cast out. So how could God Himself create it to be done in heaven because He would have to think a sin to create a sin. Being the creator of something also makes you the author of it. Was God the author of sin? And if so, He would have to cast Himself out as well.

But, is not God perfect, or is He? Or could it be by choice these things happen? Which means it was not predetermined, which makes God not the author of all that is bad. Choice makes just judgement. Choice makes God perfect. Predestination makes God the creator of all that is evil. And Holy perfection cannot have and evil darkside to it. For only light shines from what is good. and only darkness come from what evil.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(Taken from 1 John 1:)

Can God choose evil for us, or is it we who choose evil?

God creating predestined evil?

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Posted 09 March 2005 - 06:04 AM

I would like to begin by saying I believe the Predestination, Free will debate (hereafter referred to as PDFW) is a good in-house debate, one that has raged for centuries, but it is a secondary doctrine not crucial to salvation.

Yes. It is one of those details that can really raise feathers, especially among those who rely on their feelings about how things should be instead of the actual words of the text. But it not an issue on which salvation depends.

Big Picture

The PDFW debate, like many doctrines in the Bible, is like piecing together a challenging puzzle. I don’t think either side of this debate can deny that this topic has certain verses that when taken on the surface, defend their position and are difficult for the other side to explain. The Bible has a fair number of these kinds of seemingly contradictory verses on various topics, but when taken as a whole across all scripture there is always a logical solution that allows all the verses to fit together nicely in the puzzle.

So in my exegesis of scripture of the big picture, I am going to boldly offer the following: when all the pieces are put together, the preponderance of verses does not support the Calvinist position. I’ll seek to begin supporting this in this post, then subsequent posts, by looking at a few verses at a time.

The problem here is that one can indeed wring a differing conclusion out of the verses mentioned (and many others). But I think, just my opinion, that it is very dangerous to to coax a meaning from selected texts that is not plainly stated, and use that meaning to deny texts that are clear as the noonday sun, such as Ephesians 1:4 and others.

Why would God proclaim these conditions if this was already predestined?

Having foreknowledge of what a man, people, or nation is going to do is not the same thing as making them do it. All the things that were mentioned for Saul and Israel were set up by God from eternity past, and were predicated upon obedience, of which there was precious little.

We get similar context when we return back to Romans 9 through 11:

Rom 11:20-23 Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

The 'cutting off' spoken of here is to be understood in two contexts: of ex-communication (for those who are indeed of faith), and of being cast out entirely (as the unbelieving Jews).

Further support that the context is free-will disobedience and not a pre-destined salvation issue comes from 2 Timothy 2:20,21,

[color=blue]“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.  Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”

A condition is placed on the vessel for honor, and I even believe Calvinists would agree this 2 Timothy 2 passage is not referring to salvation. We know that there are different rewards and “crowns” when we meet our Savior (i.e. see 1 Cor 3). I submit that given this, coupled with the context we get from Jeremiah and Romans 11, that it is a very difficult hurdle for the Calvinist to attribute the Romans 9 passage to pre-destined salvation.

I think Fred and I are in almost complete agreement. The passage just above (in blue) speaks of acts of obedience that a believer will do. Free choice to obey or to disobey is what was restored to him at the moment of salvation. Because a man can then choose either way, he is constantly admonished by Scripture (from all sorts of directions) about the importance of making godly choices. It is, as Fred says, free will obedience. And the obedience follows salvation, but is not a condition of it.

Summary

This is just a foot in the pond, a mere splash, :)  but I think it brings home some important pieces of the puzzle. There were essentially three passages I built my argument upon, two typically used against Calvinism (1 Samuel, Luke 13), and one used for it (Romans 9). Here is my assessment of these pieces:

If Calvinism is true, 1 Samuel and Luke 13 are tenuous fits, requiring allegory, Romans 9 is an awkward but possible fit.

If Calvinism is not true, 1 Samuel and Luke 13 are good fits, and Romans 9 is a good fit.

Even if I granted that Romans 9 was an awkward fit for the non-Calvinist position, it nevertheless fits with 1 Samuel and all those other similar verses throughout OT and NT – so my point is, taken as a whole, these first pieces we looked at the non-Calvinist position is the best fit.

As I pointed out above, a surface appearance can be gained from the selected passages, but it requires ignoring other passages that are plain and right to the point.

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Posted 09 March 2005 - 07:08 AM

The heart of the issue.

Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."

Take a long look at that passage. God is not a man that He should be driven by waves of emotion, nor swayed by some circumstance that He has not foreseen. He is either the absolute King of the Universe, or He is not.

Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, who is God Almighty, does not change. What He has determined, is what He has determined, and of necessity His determinations have been since "before the foundation of the world". Among those determinations is this: Ephesians 1:4, "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:".

That being not only said, but unarguable, I hold it to be self evident that those who are His have been His even before they had existence (Psalm 139:16).

As Fred has so accurately pointed out, the only "choice" that man can make with regard to the matter of salvation is to accept the free gift. But because of Ephesians 1:4 it is not possible that a man will refuse because if a man can refuse, then the soverign decision of God Almighty is not soverign and effectual, but is mere wishful thinking.

#5 Fred Williams

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Posted 09 March 2005 - 10:47 PM

But I think, just my opinion, that it is very dangerous to to coax a meaning from selected texts that is not plainly stated, and use that meaning to deny texts that are clear as the noonday sun, such as Ephesians 1:4 and others.


I actually agree it is dangerous to coax meanings from selected texts, something Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike think the other is doing. :blink: But one thing (among many things) that we probably agree on is that there are far more worrisome examples of coaxing one’s own meaning out of text (eisegesis), than occurs in the PDFW debate. Examples that come to mind include Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the scores of liberal “Christian” churches that support or condone H*m*s*xuality, abortion, P*rn*gr*phy, etc. The way I look at it is this. I believe you and I, Terry, Admin3, and many others, are quibbling over a certain doctrine that regardless who is right or wrong, we are not placing ourselves on the kind of slippery slope that can lead to the afore mentioned cults or blatant heresies.

So getting back to the debate, which verses qualify as “clear as the noonday sun” itself becomes the debate. Taking Ephesians 1:4 on the surface does support the Calvinist view, I freely admit that. But then you take one of the classic rebuttal verses, 2 Peter 3 on the surface, and it seems to clearly contradict Calvinism.

The Lord is…longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance).

The problem I see, and this is just my ever so humble opinion :), is that there are just too many “clear as the noonday sun” verses against Calvinism for it to withstand. So that’s why I seek an explanation for the text in the minority, i.e. Ephesians 1:4, to see if there is a fit with the text against it. If there isn’t a fit, then there is a dilemma. So how do we reconcile these? Looking at Ephesians 1:4 I truly see no dilemma:

Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

“He chose us in Him” could easily be viewed that God predestined Christ’s blood to save the body of Christ, not predestined individuals. In fact I believe the Greek supports this very well, as this context is established in the subsequent verses:

Ephesians 1:9-11 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things[taV pavnta] in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things [taV pavnta] according to the counsel of His will,

And verse 23

23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all [taV pavnta] in all.

To me it truly fits that “all things in Christ” is the body of Christ, and it therefore solves Ephesians 1:4, or in the very least provides a plausible explanation.

Ephesians 1:4 is major artillery for the Calvinist position, yet this piece of the puzzle also fits fine with a non-Calvinist “the body of Christ is what was predestined” interpretation. Given that this non-Calvinist view works well with verses like 2 Peter 3, 1 Tim 2:4, while on the other hand it is imminently more difficult for the Calvinist interpretation to jive with these verses, it should be enough to propel Calvinism into the junk heap of history and declare utter and complete victory in this debate! :wacko: (OK, I confess I'm getting tired and becoming dilerious, so I am now off to bed!)
Fred

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 06:13 AM

I actually agree it is dangerous to coax meanings from selected texts, something Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike think the other is doing. :blink: But one thing (among many things) that we probably agree on is that there are far more worrisome examples of coaxing one’s own meaning out of text (eisegesis), than occurs in the PDFW debate. Examples that come to mind include Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the scores of liberal “Christian” churches that support or condone H*m*s*xuality, abortion, P*rn*gr*phy, etc. The way I look at it is this. I believe you and I, Terry, Admin3, and many others, are quibbling over a certain doctrine that regardless who is right or wrong, we are not placing ourselves on the kind of slippery slope that can lead to the afore mentioned cults or blatant heresies.


Absolutely. If some people think I am a little stubborn about the finer points, they just need to stir me up on the major ones :wacko:

So getting back to the debate, which verses qualify as “clear as the noonday sun” itself becomes the debate.  Taking Ephesians 1:4 on the surface does support the Calvinist view, I freely admit that. But then you take one of the classic rebuttal verses, 2 Peter 3 on the surface, and it seems to clearly contradict Calvinism.

The Lord is…longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance).


Forgive me, but the "us" spoken of there are the one's whom God has loved with an everlasting love. I think that reading is compelled by much other scripture that speaks of those who are bound for hell because of unbelief. And, major point, if God is "not willing" that something should happen, it will not happen. Consider also who it is that Peter is addressing. The Church. When he speaks of "us" he is speaking to believers (and those in the church who don't believe yet, but will). This verse is one of my favorites in support of the Calvinist position.

The problem I see, and this is just my ever so humble opinion :), is that there are just too many “clear as the noonday sun” verses against Calvinism for it to withstand.


If one heeds plain objective statements, and avoids subjective readings as much as possible, the problem disappears.


So that’s why I seek an explanation for the text in the minority, i.e. Ephesians 1:4, to see if there is a fit with the text against it. If there isn’t a fit, then there is a dilemma. So how do we reconcile these? Looking at Ephesians 1:4 I truly see no dilemma:

Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

“He chose us in Him” could easily be viewed that God predestined Christ’s blood to save the body of Christ, not predestined individuals.


I don't see a way to get that out of the text. It is the same as with 2 Peter 3, the 'we' is us not the world at large. I can understand wanting to have the text imply that the subject is Christ's blood, not His people, but that isn't what a plain reading produces.

In fact I believe the Greek supports this very well, as this context is established in the subsequent verses:


καθως εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη It may be possible that I have missed something in the Greek text. Please show me a reference to the Blood.


Ephesians 1:9-11 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things[taV pavnta] in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things [taV pavnta] according to the counsel of His will,


"...known to us the mystery of His will,". Us. Not the world. No one will argue that the mysteries of His will are known to the world."


To me it truly fits that “all things in Christ” is the body of Christ, and it therefore solves Ephesians 1:4, or in the very least provides a plausible explanation.


I have no problem with that except for the "plausible" part. I am reminded of the popular political expression plausible deniability. In political usage it means that something need not be true if it is merely possible that it might be.

Ephesians 1:4 is major artillery for the Calvinist position, yet this piece of the puzzle also fits fine with a non-Calvinist “the body of Christ is what was predestined” interpretation.


I too say that the Body of Christ is what was predestined, but in the form of individual people. Is it possible that we have here a distinction without a difference?

#7 Fred Williams

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 08:58 PM

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Forgive me, but the "us" spoken of there are the one's whom God has loved with an everlasting love.


Perhaps, but it becomes even more difficult in light of 1 Tim 2:

1 Tim 2:3-6 For 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 between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.

I realize you are aware of these verses, my point is that on the surface, they do not support the Calvinist position. I just don’t think the attempt to reconcile them with the seemingly pro-Calvinist verses fit very well.

I think that reading is compelled by much other scripture that speaks of those who are bound for hell because of unbelief. And, major point, if God is "not willing" that something should happen, it will not happen.


I would agree, except in the case of the free will He has given man. BTW, I say this with the utmost respect but I hope you can see that the above formulation assumes beforehand that the Calvinist tenet of ‘Irresistible grace” is true, so by itself it would not be a compelling argument for Calvinism. Anyway, this tenet doesn’t seem to fit well with verses such as these:

Isaiah 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Who knows? I waited for it to yield grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

To me it seems clear God wanted them to love Him and follow Him, but their free will got in the way and they rejected God, against His desire (will).

Me: “He chose us in Him” could easily be viewed that God predestined Christ’s blood to save the body of Christ, not predestined individuals. In fact I believe the Greek supports this very well, as this context is established in the subsequent verses

It may be possible that I have missed something in the Greek text. Please show me a reference to the Blood.


I’m sorry, I didn’t write that very well. The “this” I was referring to in "supports this very well", was on “all things”, or the body of Christ, not the blood. He predestined us in Him, the ‘us’ being the body of Christ. Hmm, it just occurred to me that you are OK with the ‘us’ in 2nd Peter being the body, but not here! :) (sorry, couldn’t resist that little dig :P ).

I too say that the Body of Christ is what was predestined, but in the form of individual people. Is it possible that we have here a distinction without a difference?


Unfortunately no, but that’s Ok. This is a good opportunity to again say that we are disagreeing on a secondary doctrine, but IMO it’s a small percentage of the overall picture where we differ. I look at God’s Word as a virtually infinite Onion, with enumerable layers of truth. We happen to disagree on a layer not far from the surface, but nevertheless not the surface where primary doctrine lies. There are other secondary doctrines I think are more important where we share complete agreement, such as a historical Genesis. We probably share the same view on the clear doctrine of leadership roles in the church (this is a major slippery slope if you ignore what the Bible clearly teaches). OK, back to our layer of disagreement! :)

I think there is a noteworthy difference, because I believe the body as a whole was predestined, but the individual parts of that whole was not. God knew that some men would choose His free gift, but He granted them free will to do so – not of works, just the individual freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the gift of grace. Plus, if you accept that individuals were chosen, then you have to believe in limited atonement and that all others were condemned to hell without any freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to God's grace.

I agree with you completely that the heart of this whole issue comes down to Hebrews 13:8 (and Malachi 3:6). It was inevitable we would go here. :) I’m working on a post on this, I hope to have it ready in a day or so.

Yours in Christ,
Fred

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 12:23 AM

If we are predestined, what about the story of Job? Job is a story of choices, and the trial and tribulations we go through to learn the right ones to make. Why would Job go through this if he were predestined?
Why have a spiritual hedge around Job and his house hold if he is predestined?
Why would a predestined life need spiritual protection? Because regardless of what happens, it would be predestined.

And if you really sit down and think about it. If we are predestined, why do we even need the word of God? You can't change what is predestined, so reading God's word would make no difference. Neither would preaching it. For the word, or the preacher, cannot change what would be predestined.

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 06:39 AM

Perhaps, but it becomes even more difficult in light of 1 Tim 2:

1 Tim 2:3-6 For 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 between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.


Again, the audience being spoken to must be considered. The audience is the church, not the world.

And, major point, if God is "not willing" that something should happen, it will not happen.

I would agree, except in the case of the free will He has given man.


But Fred, if that is true, then God is not omnipotent because the supposed free will of man can overrule His decisions. That which is created does not make policy for that which creates. Do you see the problem here? The free will of man is free only up to the point where it clashes with the will of God.

BTW, I say this with the utmost respect but I hope you can see that the above formulation assumes beforehand that the Calvinist tenet of ‘Irresistible grace” is true, so by itself it would not be a compelling argument for Calvinism. Anyway, this tenet doesn’t seem to fit well with verses such as these

:

And with respect I reply that it has little to do with irrisistible grace. It has to do with who it is that makes the decisions in the Universe. Either God is absolutely soverign in all things or He is not God.

Isaiah 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Who knows? I waited for it to yield grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.


A nice demonstration of the corruption of Israel (and by extension the whole world).

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!


Of course they were not willing. They, and all other men, are corrupt fallen creatures.

To me it seems clear God wanted them to love Him and follow Him, but their free will got in the way and they rejected God, against His desire (will).


Yes, I know it can be seen that way because it is true. The impediment is the question "how far did man fall?" The Scriptures say that the fall was complete, but the free will party says it was only partial and that some spark of divine good remained so that man could, simply because he wanted to, and without outside intervention, return to God.

I’m sorry, I didn’t write that very well. The “this” I was referring to in "supports this very well", was on “all things”, or the body of Christ, not the blood. He predestined us in Him, the ‘us’ being the body of Christ. Hmm, it just occurred to me that you are OK with the ‘us’ in 2nd Peter being the body, but not here! :) (sorry, couldn’t resist that little dig :P ).


Little digs are part of the fun :)


Unfortunately no, but that’s Ok. This is a good opportunity to again say that we are disagreeing on a secondary doctrine, but IMO it’s a small percentage of the overall picture where we differ.


But is it really secondary? If God wants a man to be saved, he will be saved without regard to what he may or may not have known about the nature of it. But are we not commanded also to examine ourselves daily to see if we be in the faith? Yes we are. Part of that self-examination requires that a man determine who is actually in charge. Did the dead man revive himself, or did God? If a man has not come to the conclusion that God did it, but that he was wise enought to 'make a decision for Christ' all on his own (by supposed free will), then he has fooled himself and will eventually hear, "I never knew you".

I look at God’s Word as a virtually infinite Onion, with enumerable layers of truth. We happen to disagree on a layer not far from the surface, but nevertheless not the surface where primary doctrine lies. There are other secondary doctrines I think are more important where we share complete agreement, such as a historical Genesis. We probably share the same view on the clear doctrine of leadership roles in the church (this is a major slippery slope if you ignore what the Bible clearly teaches). OK, back to our layer of disagreement! :)


I don't know any two theologians who agree on all points. What is it that Rush Limbaugh jokingly says? "I am not going to retire until everyone agrees with me".

I think there is a noteworthy difference, because I believe the body as a whole was predestined, but the individual parts of that whole was not.


That seems like a logical contradiction. How can the "whole" of something be chosen, while at the same time the "individual parts" were not? That is rather like saying, 'I bought a new car, but I didn't buy the parts it is made from.

God knew that some men would choose His free gift, but He granted them free will to do so – not of works, just the individual freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the gift of grace.


That position is based on God's foreknowledge being the instrument of salvation, and again assumes that man did not actually fall from grace, just banged himself up a little.

Plus, if you accept that individuals were chosen, then you have to believe in limited atonement and that all others were condemned to hell without any freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to God's grace.


Yes it does. But that is not surprising since it is what the Scripture says. "Many are called, few are chosen", "In that day many will say....but I will declare....depart... I never knew you" and other such passages.

Knowing one of these days you will come around :)

The Deacon

#10 Daniel

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 10:23 AM

I have no intention of becoming immersed in this debate again, but I must interject on a single point.

Again, the audience being spoken to must be considered. The audience is the church, not the world.


The audience the letter was written to is irrelevant, it still plainly says in those verses that God wishes for all men to be saved. Your statement that the audience of the letter was limited to believers is an irrelevant point in the context of the actual wording used to express the thought.

The part of Calvinism that irks and is indeed unscriptural, is that it makes God a respecter of persons. It allows an opening in the doctrine of salvation for those who recieve it to become very prideful for no reason because "God chose me, and damned those others". Not to mention making God ultimately responsible for whether an individual goes to Hell or not, as opposed to the Individual being the one that damns themselves.

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 11:04 AM

I have no intention of becoming immersed in this debate again, but I must interject on a single point.
The audience the letter was written to is irrelevant, it still plainly says in those verses that God wishes for all men to be saved. Your statement that the audience of the letter was limited to believers is an irrelevant point in the context of the actual wording used to express the thought.


On the contrary, the persons being spoke to are of critical importance. There are many times when the Bible speaks to all men, and there are times when it speaks to a limited group. For example, were the ceremonial laws given to Israel, or to the world at large? What we run into with this particular discussion is a failure to recognize that concept. The wording of the passage is plain, but it is not universal.

The part of Calvinism that irks and is indeed unscriptural, is that it makes God a respecter of persons.


I am sorry Daniel, but if you think that, then you do not understand what Calvinism is. God is most definitely not a respecter of persons, and no Calvinist will say otherwise. It is precisely because God is not a respecter of persons that His perfect foreknowledge of what men will do is not a factor in salvation. In other words, he did not look through time to see who would believe Him and choose them. Why not? Because all men are dead in sin. They enter the world, as David said, "sinful from the womb". So to speak of a dead man having the ability to come to God on his own is a direct contradiction of the scripture. It is God alone who quickens the dead, not the dead themselves.

It allows an opening in the doctrine of salvation for those who recieve it to become very prideful for no reason because "God chose me, and damned those others".


No, Daniel, it doesn't. We are dumbfounded by the unmerited grace given to us, and we know full well that we do not deserve it, could not earn it, and would have been damned without it. That does not lead to pride, but to joyful gratitude. If you should see the kind of pride you are talking about in someone you can be fairly sure that they have only the outward form of saving faith, not the reality of it.

Not to mention making God ultimately responsible for whether an individual goes to Hell or not, as opposed to the Individual being the one that damns themselves.


It does not make God responsible. Individuals do damn themselves. There is no injustice with God: Romans 9:14-16, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." Men wind up in hell for one reason only: unbelief. Which stems from a blind refusal to see the evidence of Himself that God has put before their faces. Salvation has always been by grace alone, and without it no man would ever come to God. Now, is it somehow unjust for God to call some, but not all? No. Even in our fallen world we see that principle working. Example: Two men each commit murder under identical circumstances. They are both convicted and sentenced to death. The Governor decides to commute one sentence but not the other so that one man lives and one man dies, yet both were guilty of the same crime. Is there injustice here? No. One man received unmerited mercy, the other received fully merited justice. Neither received injustice. And so it is with God. That is what the Romans passage above is talking about.

#12 Fred Williams

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 11:17 PM

Me: I would agree, except in the case of the free will He has given man.

But Fred, if that is true, then God is not omnipotent because the supposed free will of man can overrule His decisions.


We both agree God is Supreme and Sovereign, He has absolute authority over His creation, but I think we are disagreeing on exactly what this means. I believe that before creation God decided He wanted man to have free will. God also foreknew that man would need a Savior if they dared eat off the tree of knowledge of good & evil (the law), and He gave them the power to choose to either accept his offer through Christ, or reject the offer. This certainly is God’s right to do as he pleases with his creation - creating all men with free will does not make God any less God, he is still Sovereign and Supreme and has absolute authority over His creation. So in this sense Calvinism is placing a restriction on God that is removing his Sovereignty, that is if they deny God the right to do this. Can't you see that He could have, if he desired, created man with a free will to reject Him? You may disagree that's how He did it, but He certainly could have decided to do it that way becuase His is God after all. :)

Let me reiterate that the Bible has declared that due to man’s fallen nature he will not seek after God, so no man will be able to boast to this affect (Eph 2:9). God has to draw man (John 6:44), and some will accept the free gift but most won’t (Matt 7:13, Matt 22). Where we differ is that I believe the scripture is clear that God sends the invitation to ALL men, and that most reject it (Matt 22), not just pre-chosen ones as Calvinism says.

Isaiah 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Who knows? I waited for it to yield grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.


A nice demonstration of the corruption of Israel (and by extension the whole world).

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!


Of course they were not willing. They, and all other men, are corrupt fallen creatures.


I agree they were not willing, but that’s really not what I was asking. You said God’s will is never thwarted, so I’m asking what the verses above mean when it says “I [God] waited for it [Israel] to yield grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes", and “How often I [God] wanted to gather your children together”. My point here is that the scripture seems very clear that God wanted Israel to behave a certain way, and they chose not to. They were not predestined to misbehave, they chose to misbehave. This doesn't remove God's sovreignty because that is how God wanted it - for men to have the free will to accept or reject Him. So it was God's will to allow men the power to reject His love. It turns out all men rejected him, and in His infinite wisdom knew He would send His son in the biggest act of love in all of history, that "whoever believes in Him will not perish but have have eternal life".

The passages above, and IMHO there are many more like it, makes it very difficult for Calvinism to explain why the Holy Spirit inspired these verses - men clearly were dissapointing God, that is the plain text, yet Calvinism says they weren't dissapointing God becuase God can't be dissapointed! From my current exegesis, and I realize I could be missing something, these verses just don’t fit within the Calvinist framework (I again am trying to approach this with an open mind, so if there is something I am missing I’m, as Ross Perot would say, all ears! :) ).

Yes, I know it can be seen that way because it is true. The impediment is the question "how far did man fall?" The Scriptures say that the fall was complete, but the free will party says it was only partial and that some spark of divine good remained so that man could, simply because he wanted to, and without outside intervention, return to God.


We for the most part agree on this, that man does not seek after God, God has to revive the man who is dead in his sin. But that doesn't mean that man doesn't ultimately have the choice to love or reject God by accepting God's free gift. If we gave a gift to a disobedient child because we still loved him, the mere acceptance of the gift would not make us think the child deserved it. Accepting a free gift doesn't give us any right to boast over another who also accepted the gift.

But is it really secondary? If God wants a man to be saved, he will be saved without regard to what he may or may not have known about the nature of it. But are we not commanded also to examine ourselves daily to see if we be in the faith? Yes we are. Part of that self-examination requires that a man determine who is actually in charge. Did the dead man revive himself, or did God? If a man has not come to the conclusion that God did it, but that he was wise enought to 'make a decision for Christ' all on his own (by supposed free will), then he has fooled himself and will eventually hear, "I never knew you".


Just so the reader doesn’t get confused, we’ve actually already agreed that if man thinks he revived himself, he is in serious hot water! :) We disagree on predestination and free will, but on a different plane than say Pelagianism (the heresy where man plays a key role via his good deeds). Our differences are in finer details on a different plane that are not salvation related. For example, I disagree with you that “If God wants a man to be saved, he will be saved” is part of God’s plan, but if I’m wrong I’m not going to lose my salvation over it, and neither are Calvinists if they are wrong! I realize you already have agreed with this at the start of this thread, I just didn’t want the reader to misunderstand what either of us are saying here.

I also think we should be careful with how we interpret the “I never knew you” verse. I believe it applies to those who worship a made-up Christ, like the one the Jehovah’s and Mormons follow, and I’m sure many self-professing Christians with their made-up Christ (like the one that supposedly was communist, supports abortion, H*m*s*xuality, etc). But we can’t carry this too far. Just the other night I was speaking with a friend here in Denver who like you, is very knowledgeable in the Word. He is rabidly anti-Calvinist and thinks they preach the false gospel mentioned in 2 Cor 11. I of course disagree with this, I think this is going too far, just as I would disagree with a Calvinist who takes it too far their way. I am very much convinced this PDFW debate is not a salvation issue, I see the Spirit moving in both this friend of mine, and you. Even with the Holy Spirit, we are all so fallen and finite in knowledge compared to God, I’m sure there are plenty of things we will find out we were wrong about! :)

That seems like a logical contradiction. How can the "whole" of something be chosen, while at the same time the "individual parts" were not? That is rather like saying, 'I bought a new car, but I didn't buy the parts it is made from.


Now you’re making me have to think of an analogy! :) Hmm. OK. How about a King who decides he wants a football team. He knows there are many who will want to play, but he doesn’t know which ones will actually choose to play. So he predestined that he would have a team, but did not know who the players would be because he also decreed that he would allow them to accept the offer to play or reject the offer. He also predestined that his son would be the coach of that team. B)

Finally, regarding the “Many are called, few are chosen" passages in Matthew, why would God bother to “call” people he had already predestined to hell? That doesn’t make any sense to me. But even if there was an explanation of this, these verses still couldn’t be used to support Calvinism since the non-Calvinist position also fits with these verses.

Fred
PS. FYI, I tried to fix the quote boxes on your post to no avail. Don't know what happened there.

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Posted 15 March 2005 - 08:00 PM

We both agree God is Supreme and Sovereign, He has absolute authority over His creation, but I think we are disagreeing on exactly what this means. I believe that before creation God decided He wanted man to have free will. God also foreknew that man would need a Savior if they dared eat off the tree of knowledge of good & evil (the law), and He gave them the power to choose to either accept his offer through Christ, or reject the offer. This certainly is God’s right to do as he pleases with his creation - creating all men with free will does not make God any less God, he is still Sovereign and Supreme and has absolute authority over His creation. So in this sense Calvinism is placing a restriction on God that is removing his Sovereignty, that is if they deny God the right to do this. Can't you see that He could have, if he desired, created man with a free will to reject Him? You may disagree that's how He did it, but He certainly could have decided to do it that way becuase His is God after all. :)


I will stipulate that indeed God could have done it that way. Buy I am convinced He didn't. And I don't see that there is any restriction on God's soverignty. In fact quite the opposite is true: it is man's will (personal soverignty) that is restricted.

Let me reiterate that the Bible has declared that due to man’s fallen nature he will not seek after God, so no man will be able to boast to this affect (Eph 2:9). God has to draw man (John 6:44), and some will accept the free gift but most won’t (Matt 7:13, Matt 22). Where we differ is that I believe the scripture is clear that God sends the invitation to ALL men, and that most reject it (Matt 22), not just pre-chosen ones as Calvinism says.


Yes, that is a point of disagreement. But then I read "Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world", and I can't for the life of me read that any other way than that God did indeed make His decisions before any of us existed. Besides, it isn't Calvinism that says it, it is the scripture; Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:".


I agree they were not willing, but that’s really not what I was asking. You said God’s will is never thwarted, so I’m asking what the verses above mean when it says “I [God] waited for it [Israel] to yield grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes", and “How often I [God] wanted to gather your children together”.


Well I know what it can not mean, and that is that it is possible for the created to overrule the Creator, because if that were true then God is neither omnicient, nor ominpotent. In short, God would not be God.

My point here is that the scripture seems very clear that God wanted Israel to behave a certain way, and they chose not to.


Yes. God says that He gave them basically everything, but they were still rebellious and hard of heart. That is a recurring theme with Israel through out it's existence. God, being all-knowing, was not taken by surprise here. The passage is a statement of fact, not of bewilderment. Matthew 23:37 expresses the same thought as Luke 13:34. Jesus is speaking here not as God (which He of course is), but in His office as Prophet. The imagry of the hen was a fairly common Jewish expression of affection. He is, as man, speaking here externally in the sense that He would have gatheredthem in by ministry of the Word, but they would not. This is entirely consistant with many other places which speak of outright refusal to hear on the part of most people.

They were not predestined to misbehave, they chose to misbehave.


Since the Fall all men, as you have pointed out, will, without Divine intervention, reject God. They are, by virtue of being the decendants of the first Adam (by whom all men fell) condemned. Apart from the call and election of the Holy Spiri they must needs remain that way. But you are quite right when you say they "chose to misbehave". THat choice is a natural consequence of the fallen nature.

This doesn't remove God's sovreignty because that is how God wanted it - for men to have the free will to accept or reject Him. So it was God's will to allow men the power to reject His love. It turns out all men rejected him, and in His infinite wisdom knew He would send His son in the biggest act of love in all of history, that "whoever believes in Him will not perish but have have eternal life".


"Whosoever believes" does not exclude God from chosing who will and leaving the rest as they are.

The passages above, and IMHO there are many more like it, makes it very difficult for Calvinism to explain why the Holy Spirit inspired these verses - men clearly were dissapointing God, that is the plain text, yet Calvinism says they weren't dissapointing God becuase God can't be dissapointed!


Of course He can not be disappointed, at least not in the sense that we humans can be. 'Disappointment' implies the acqusition of new knowledge, and since God already has, and always has had, all knowledge it follows that nothing can possibly happen that would elicit dissapointment. Humans can be disappointed, but not God.


We for the most part agree on this, that man does not seek after God, God has to revive the man who is dead in his sin. But that doesn't mean that man doesn't ultimately have the choice to love or reject God by accepting God's free gift. If we gave a gift to a disobedient child because we still loved him, the mere acceptance of the gift would not make us think the child deserved it. Accepting a free gift doesn't give us any right to boast over another who also accepted the gift.


Of course we have no right to boast, but I respectfully suggest to you that if the final act in salvation is left up to the so-called free will of the individual it is nothing more than salvation by a working of the will. Now I will readily admit that that is the way it appears because the saved man did indeed decide to, as we say here in the South, come a running. BUT, and it is a huge but, before he could decide to do that he had to be regenerated by the work of the Spirit. How could it possibly be that the Spirit would regenerate a man to "newness of life" and then let him wander back off into the outer darkness?


I also think we should be careful with how we interpret the “I never knew you” verse. I believe it applies to those who worship a made-up Christ, like the one the Jehovah’s and Mormons follow, and I’m sure many self-professing Christians with their made-up Christ (like the one that supposedly was communist, supports abortion, H*m*s*xuality, etc).


I agree, but there are in every church false confessions.

But we can’t carry this too far. Just the other night I was speaking with a friend here in Denver who like you, is very knowledgeable in the Word. He is rabidly anti-Calvinist and thinks they preach the false gospel mentioned in 2 Cor 11.


John 15:18, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you."


I of course disagree with this, I think this is going too far, just as I would disagree with a Calvinist who takes it too far their way. I am very much convinced this PDFW debate is not a salvation issue, I see the Spirit moving in both this friend of mine, and you. Even with the Holy Spirit, we are all so fallen and finite in knowledge compared to God, I’m sure there are plenty of things we will find out we were wrong about! :)


Yes, it is easy to go too far. Hyper Calvinists (and many others) do it all the time. And yes, we will be found mistaken about many things.


Now you’re making me have to think of an analogy! :) Hmm. OK. How about a King who decides he wants a football team. He knows there are many who will want to play, but he doesn’t know which ones will actually choose to play. So he predestined that he would have a team, but did not know who the players would be because he also decreed that he would allow them to accept the offer to play or reject the offer. He also predestined that his son would be the coach of that team. :)


Nope. That doesn't work because it denies omniscience.

Finally, regarding the “Many are called, few are chosen" passages in Matthew, why would God bother to “call” people he had already predestined to hell? That doesn’t make any sense to me. But even if there was an explanation of this, these verses still couldn’t be used to support Calvinism since the non-Calvinist position also fits with these verses.


There are two calls. The inward call of the Spirit which is answered by every one called, and the outward call of the evidences as described in Romans 1:19-22. All people get the latter call, but only some get the former.


PS. FYI, I tried to fix the quote boxes on your post to no avail. Don't know what happened there.


I don't know either. I nearly went blind looking for a bad tag. But thanks for trying.

#14 Fred Williams

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 03:17 PM

: The Deacon wrote

The heart of the issue.

Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."


I agree, this really does get to the heart of the issue! The bottom line is this: Does God repent? If God reacts conditionally based on man’s free will actions, it essentially plucks all the petals of the TULIP! :)

Does God Repent?

I realize it is a controversial position to claim God “repents” or in a sense changes His mind. It can lead to very controversial doctrines, such as the Open view. Because “God repents” is controversial and so against our notions of God, I think many anti-Calvinists shy from this position, even though it is essentially what Calvinism lives and dies on. IMO, it is the very source of the origin of the Calvinist doctrine, that is, the immutability of God (more below).

First, I agree God does not change, that is, in any of His attributes. Our Lord is indeed the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will always be Holy, Righteous, Merciful, Loving, etc. But He did change in the sense that he became man (that is, made in the likeness of man while still “being in the form of God”, Phil 2). Calvinists of course agree with this. I submit it is therefore just as reasonable to believe God can repent of an action based on man’s actions, while still upholding Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6. In other words, I believe it is inconsistent for Calvinists to use Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6 and proclaim “God does not change” in the sense of God repenting, yet allow that he did change in the sense that the 2nd person of the Trinity became man, and not feel that is a violation of Hebrews 13:8 & Malachi 3:6.

So, let’s get back to a verse I used in my OP:

Jer 18:7-10
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if they do that which is evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.


So here is the problem I have. The plain rendering above is that God repented! There are many more examples of this in both the Old & New Testaments, similar to the passage above. If it was just a handful, perhaps a plausible allegorization could be offered, but there are just too many of these that have to be attributed to allegory when the plain text indicates otherwise. The words in the passage above appear clear to me that God will react conditionally depending on how these nations act. Consider the Jonah account:

Jonah 3:10 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

God was going to wipe out Ninevah, but they repented - so God “repented of the evil” (decided to react differently than His original plan) and withheld his judgment! If you take the Calvinist viewpoint, you have to believe that God really didn’t mean it when he said he was going to wipe them out, because as a Calvinist you have to believe he already planned out what the Ninevites would do - that is, their actions were already predestined from the foundation of the world. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the Holy Spirit would inspire these words in Jonah 3, plus in many other similar passages throughout the Bible, and that we would be required to somehow allegorize them to fit with the apparent pro-Calvinist passages in the Bible.

Note again that God did not change in his eternal attributes, He is still Righteous and Holy, and Merciful, in this case showing his mercy to Ninevah. My question is, if God didn’t really repent, what does the text mean when it says He repented? I used to have Calvinistic tendencies until passage after passage like this made me reconsider the seemingly pro-Calvinist verses. I have found that it is easier for me to come up with plausible explanations of the seemingly pro-Calvinist verses, than for the Calvinist to explain the counter-Calvinist verses.

This is where things can get real tricky, because the Open view starts to creep in. It is an extremely controversial theological viewpoint that sends many evangelicals into complete burn-them-at-the-stake mentality. :D I personally have problems with the Open view, but am “open” to it because of the verses similar to those above. But I see more problems if I go down the other path toward Calvinism, because then this verse and so many others like it do not really mean what the plain language says, and they have to be allegorized.

(FYI, while I am not a Calvinist, I am also not Armenian, nor am I in-between :) . If I were to try to identify a doctrine I am associated with, it would probably be a pseudo-Open view theology. Sorry for this potential rabbit trail!).

Origins of Immutability

I don’t want to over-emphasize the following because I realize it isn’t from scripture, but it is important to note the pagan Greek influences on Augustine, and ultimately Calvin. I don’t think we should ignore the fact that Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato’s teachings, which included the absolute immutability of God. This is not in dispute and well documented. I quickly looked in Britannica just for a quick example:

Intellectually, Augustine represents the most influential adaptation of the ancient Platonic tradition with Christian ideas that ever occurred in the Latin Christian world. - "Augustine, Saint." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
<<http://www.britannic...tocId=9109388>>


Augustine was a big fan of Plato, and was in full agreement with Plato’s teaching of an immutable God. Augustine was so dead set against the mutability for God, that he called it “wild profanity”.

This pagan influence is just a point to ponder, and worth considering in light of 1 Cor 1:20, where God makes foolish the wisdom of the world. I’ve been amazed how consistently anything that comes from the “world” on matters of God and origins is invariably always wrong, and why I raise this as a yellow warning flag as something we should at least consider and be aware of. It doesn’t by itself disprove immutability (and consequently Calvinism), but it’s just another piece of the puzzle that fits better with the non-Calvinist position, though it is extra-Biblical.

Conclusion

As someone who does not accept the Calvinist position, I want to again emphasize that I respect this position. Most Calvinists I know make a sincere and honest approach at interpreting the scripture, and plenty of verses on the surface do support their viewpoint. I find many Calvinists to be outstanding Christians and scholars, such as Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, RC Sproul, John MacAurthor, and of course The Deacon! :) In my book this remains a secondary issue that has been a reasonable (though often volatile) in-house debate for centuries. We both base our rejection of the other’s doctrine on an honest attempt at exegesis, not with ulterior or suspect motives. In the end we all agree on one thing – we are all fallible, and we need the blood of our Savior to rescue us from ourselves!

Fred

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Posted 12 April 2005 - 04:59 AM

I agree, this really does get to the heart of the issue! The bottom line is this: Does God repent? If God reacts conditionally based on man’s free will actions, it essentially plucks all the petals of the TULIP!  :D

Does God Repent?

I realize it is a controversial position to claim God “repents” or in a sense changes His mind. It can lead to very controversial doctrines, such as the Open view. Because “God repents” is controversial and so against our notions of God, I think many anti-Calvinists shy from this position, even though it is essentially what Calvinism lives and dies on. IMO, it is the very source of the origin of the Calvinist doctrine, that is, the immutability of God (more below).

First, I agree God does not change, that is, in any of His attributes. Our Lord is indeed the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will always be Holy, Righteous, Merciful, Loving, etc. But He did change in the sense that he became man (that is, made in the likeness of man while still “being in the form of God”, Phil 2). Calvinists of course agree with this. I submit it is therefore just as reasonable to believe God can repent of an action based on man’s actions, while still upholding Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6. In other words, I believe it is inconsistent for Calvinists to use Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6 and proclaim “God does not change” in the sense of God repenting, yet allow that he did change in the sense that the 2nd person of the Trinity became man, and not feel that is a violation of Hebrews 13:8 & Malachi 3:6.


The Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us in no way constitutes a change. It is only the physical accomplishment of the decision that was made before the foundation of the world. God (all three Persons), knowing all things from eternity past, knew what He was going to do about man's sin problem. When the time came, He did it. There is no violation of either Hebrews or Malachi.


So, let’s get back to a verse I used in my OP:

Jer 18:7-10
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if they do that which is evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.


So here is the problem I have. The plain rendering above is that God repented! There are many more examples of this in both the Old & New Testaments, similar to the passage above. If it was just a handful, perhaps a plausible allegorization could be offered, but there are just too many of these that have to be attributed to allegory when the plain text indicates otherwise.  The words in the passage above appear clear to me that God will react conditionally depending on how these nations act. Consider the Jonah account:


As they change their course of life, God will change the dispensations of His providence towards them, and not bring upon them the evil of punishment He threatened them with; in which sense repentance can only be understood of God What He does is similar to what men do when they repent of anything; they stop what they are doing, and change their outward conduct; so God does not do what He threatened to do, and changes His outward behaviour to men; He wills a change, and makes one in His methods of acting, but never changes his will. One must always keep in mind that God knew beforehand what He was going to do, and when He was going to do it. Men, on the other hand, frequently require threats of dire consequences to effect a change in behavior.


God was going to wipe out Ninevah, but they repented - so God “repented of the evil” (decided to react differently than His original plan) and withheld his judgment! If you take the Calvinist viewpoint, you have to believe that God really didn’t mean it when he said he was going to wipe them out, because as a Calvinist you have to believe he already planned out what the Ninevites would do - that is, their actions were already predestined from the foundation of the world. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the Holy Spirit would inspire these words in Jonah 3, plus in many other similar passages throughout the Bible, and that we would be required to somehow allegorize them to fit with the apparent pro-Calvinist passages in the Bible.


It was His will that they should be told of their sin and the danger they were in, and by this means be brought to repentance, and the wrath of God be avoided. So that there was a change, not of His mind and will concerning them, but of His outward dispensations towards them. This is exactly the same thing that the ministry of the word does to this very day.

I think men desire that God be persuadable so that they can be participants in salvation. Of course that denies the fall, or that the fall was complete.

Note again that God did not change in his eternal attributes, He is still Righteous and Holy, and Merciful, in this case showing his mercy to Ninevah. My question is, if God didn’t really repent, what does the text mean when it says He repented? I used to have Calvinistic tendencies until passage after passage like this made me reconsider the seemingly pro-Calvinist verses. I have found that it is easier for me to come up with plausible explanations of the seemingly pro-Calvinist verses, than for the Calvinist to explain the counter-Calvinist verses.


What kind of Calvinists have you been talking to? :) I have just provided very simple, very straightforward exegesis that not only comports with the text, but is in fact the very heart of the ministry of the word

I will try to get to the rest of the post later. Right now another verse springs to mind: "If a man will not work, neither let him eat".

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Posted 12 April 2005 - 11:56 AM

Origins of Immutability

I don’t want to over-emphasize the following because I realize it isn’t from scripture, but it is important to note the pagan Greek influences on Augustine, and ultimately Calvin. I don’t think we should ignore the fact that Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato’s teachings, which included the absolute immutability of God. This is not in dispute and well documented. I quickly looked in Britannica just for a quick example:

Intellectually, Augustine represents the most influential adaptation of the ancient Platonic tradition with Christian ideas that ever occurred in the Latin Christian world. - "Augustine, Saint." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
<<http://www.britannic...tocId=9109388>>


Augustine was a big fan of Plato, and was in full agreement with Plato’s teaching of an immutable God. Augustine was so dead set against the mutability for God, that he called it “wild profanity”.


Interesting. But there are far better writers on Augustine than Britannica. It is quite true that Augustine agreed with Plato on the matter of immutability, but he certainly did not settle on it because of him. The good Bishop was doubtless sufficiently familiar with the aforementioned Hebrews 13:8 to derive the obvious doctrine from it without reference to Platonic philosophy other than to point out a point of agreement. Not to mention that there are numerous other passages which say essentially the same thing. For further details see Seder Tephillot, fol. 2. 1. & 4. 1. Ed. Basil. fol. 6. 2. & 7. 1. Ed. Amstelod. Zehar in Exod. fol. 35. 4. Maimonides in Misn. Succa, c. 4. sect. 5. (y) Smith de Moribus Turc. p. 40.

This pagan influence is just a point to ponder, and worth considering in light of 1 Cor 1:20, where God makes foolish the wisdom of the world. I’ve been amazed how consistently anything that comes from the “world” on matters of God and origins is invariably always wrong, and why I raise this as a yellow warning flag as something we should at least consider and be aware of. It doesn’t by itself disprove immutability (and consequently Calvinism), but it’s just another piece of the puzzle that fits better with the non-Calvinist position, though it is extra-Biblical.


The world is not the source for knowledge of God beyond the fact that He is. What is the source? Jesus said, "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4). Someone will say that that does not preclude the wisdom of the world, but it does because the world is fallen and completely corrupt. It His Word that will prosper, not the words of the world (Isaiah 55:11).

Conclusion

As someone who does not accept the Calvinist position, I want to again emphasize that I respect this position. Most Calvinists I know make a sincere and honest approach at interpreting the scripture, and plenty of verses on the surface do support their viewpoint. I find many Calvinists to be outstanding Christians and scholars, such as Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, RC Sproul, John MacAurthor, and of course The Deacon!  :D  In my book this remains a secondary issue that has been a reasonable (though often volatile) in-house debate for centuries. We both base our rejection of the other’s doctrine on an honest attempt at exegesis, not with ulterior or suspect motives. In the end we all agree on one thing – we are all fallible, and we need the blood of our Savior to rescue us from ourselves!

Fred


Im am duly flattered to be listed with the like of Sproul, MacArthur, Lewis, and Spurgeon. But (no false modesty here) I am not in their league. But in this Fred is quite right: "In the end we all agree on one thing – we are all fallible, and we need the blood of our Savior to rescue us from ourselves!"

I know that one of these days Fred will see the light. :)

#17 chance

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Posted 12 April 2005 - 01:54 PM

The Deacon & Fred Williams
Just a couple of clarifications, re predestination and free will, as an example

One must always keep in mind that God knew beforehand what He was going to do, and when He was going to do it. Men, on the other hand, frequently require threats of dire consequences to effect a change in behavior.

.

In other forums, the PDFW has been argued to death, but ultimately it is agreed that the two concepts are mutually exclusive when tested against each other, is that your position?

In it simplest form: One could predict this weeks lotto numbers, but predicting a sentient beings use of his free will upon this prediction as in the form of a test, boils down to an exercise in ever decreasing guessing at the predictors plan and use of counter psychology.

E.g.

Prediction - “this weeks lotto numbers are, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12”, “I also predict if you will use those numbers”, “my answer is sealed in this envelope”.

Free Will – (thinking) “just to confound him, I will deliberately not pick those numbers, but wait….that’s just what he thinks I will do, so I will use those numbers, unless …. he reasons that I know that he knows that I will try to confound him, in which case ……………..”

So a compromise is often reached (with respect to Gods abilities of predestination) – Yes there is free will, but only ‘limited predestination’ stoping short of micro managing peoples thoughts. The plan is predestined but the exact path is not. Thoughts.

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Posted 12 April 2005 - 03:07 PM

The Deacon & Fred Williams
Just a couple of clarifications, re predestination and free will, as an example . 

In other forums, the PDFW has been argued to death, but ultimately it is agreed that the two concepts are mutually exclusive when tested against each other, is that your position?


Not entirely. Man does have free will. Right up to the point it conflicts with God's will. For example, when the Spirit calls a man he will, by his free will, respond. Why only then? Because previously his will was free, but at odds with the will of God so that he could never genuinely respond on his own. What did God do? Truly freed the man's will so that it would want to be in line with His will. If it was, as some say, that God makes salvation available for everyone to make up his own mind, then no man, because all are dead in sin, would ever come. Apart from a soverign action of God, the fallen man's free will will keep him fallen.

In it simplest form:  One could predict this weeks lotto numbers, but predicting a sentient beings use of his free will upon this prediction as in the form of a test, boils down to an exercise in ever decreasing guessing at the predictors plan and use of counter psychology.


The simile is no good because it is an apples and oranges thing. Neither God nor man does any guessing. God, being omniscient, knows all things, and so does not guess. Man, because of his condition doesn't know enough to even guess. He may speculate. Even take out a little 'church insurance', but he has no chance of guessing the truth of what he is blind to.

E.g.

Prediction - “this weeks lotto numbers are, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12”, “I also predict if you will use those numbers”, “my answer is sealed in this envelope”.

Free Will – (thinking) “just to  confound him, I will deliberately not pick those numbers, but wait….that’s just what he thinks I will do, so I will use those numbers, unless …. he reasons that I know that he knows that I will try to confound him, in which case ……………..”

So a compromise is often reached (with respect to Gods abilities of predestination) – Yes there is free will, but only ‘limited predestination’ stoping short of micro managing peoples thoughts.  The plan is predestined but the exact path is not. Thoughts.


I do not believe that God micro manages our thoughts. If He did I would not be continually embroiled in spiritual warfare. The thing about genuine free will, the kind you have after regeneration, is that the will is then free to choose good or evil whereas before regeneration it could only choose evil. (What we as men call good is not what God calls good unless the motivation of the heart is correct, i.e. to please Him. Otherwise it is only civic righteousness and has no eternal value.)

So I think I will agree with you that the exact path can vary a little. That is entirely reasonable since the end is what is in view. But when we need a nudge (or a clout upside the head) to get us back on the right path God does not hesitate to deliver it.

#19 Ray Martinez

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 07:34 PM

Question for Calvinists:

What is your explanation for this verse:

Deuteronomy 8:2

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, TO KNOW what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.


The verse implies that God did not know something, that He led the Israelites in such a way as to find out.

Ray M.

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 04:47 AM

Question for Calvinists:

What is your explanation for this verse:

Deuteronomy 8:2

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, TO KNOW what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.


The verse implies that God did not know something, that He led the Israelites in such a way as to find out.

Ray M.

View Post


I am getting more than a little worn out with this question. This is now the umpteenth time I have been asked the same thing. The implication of the question is that God is somehow not fully God, that he lacks information and must wait on the pleasure of men, His own creation, to inform Him. Further, the question assumes that God is not omnicient even though the Bible repeatedly says He is:

2 Chronicles 6:30, "Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men)"

John 16:30, "Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. "

Acts 1:24, "And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,"

1 John 3:20, "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things."


The idiom "To know" in this sort of usage has reference not to God, who already has all possible knowledge, but to men who often need to be proven (to themselves).


{edited to add another scripture}

Edited by The Deacon, 19 April 2005 - 05:34 AM.





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