Johnathan Gadfly is xtnyoda's newest guest blogger. He is a tenacious student... searching for the truth in scripture... and... challenging to the lazy mind.
Enjoy.Yawn...Calvinism verses Arminian: A Love Letter to the 'Google Scholars' Who Blog About This Issue
Both Calvinism and Arminianism are skubalon
, but Arminianism less so. For full disclosure, the position I hold is a Molinist/Middle-Knowledge
variant. This means that I believe God is more all-powerful and all-knowing, more majestic, more sovereign, more merciful and just, more wrathful, more loving, more full of grace, and more glorious than either of the two other wimpy systems can imagine.
Like the other two systems, my view is more philosophy than theology. The difference is that people who hold my view have the honesty and integrity to admit this is all philosophical, while most people in the other camps do not. Since this is a theological exercise, by examining several favorite Calvinist passages in Scripture, it will be demonstrated that the Calvinist interpretation is completely amiss.
First, it should be examined what God actually revealed He did 'before the foundation of the world'. It is important to note that simply seeing words like foreknown, foreknowledge, predestined and so forth do not necessarily refer to 'before the foundation of the world', and importing that paradigm at every mention of those words is unwarranted eisegesis. Unless stated, that lens should be omitted.
John 17:24 says Jesus was loved before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 says an “us” was chosen in Him, meaning Christ, to be holy and blameless. This will be examined more later. 1 Peter 1:20 says “He”, meaning Christ, was foreknown before the foundation of the world but 'manifest in these last times'. Revelation 13:8 states either the Lamb was slain, the book of life (in which names may or may not be blotted out of) or both were before the foundation of the world. 2 Timothy 1:9 states that an “us” were saved by grace that was given in Jesus before the ages for a purpose. Just to be nice, Acts 2:23-24 about the crucifixion by lawless men and His resurrection will be added as well for good measure.
Well, that is it. It is a lot of Jesus Christ, and not a lot of anything else. Thus, whatever else is said by any theological camp about God's eternal decree is more philosophical musing and speculation, and less Scriptural exegesis. As interesting as the philosophical musing may be, it is simply just that.
Here is an examination of what was foreknown and predestined.
I do believe God foreknew all things that do happen, or even could happen but does not, in creation before creation, but that is not an issue here. 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect is according to God's foreknowledge. This does not imply the elect is conditioned by such foreknowledge, but only that Peter is writing to the elect in Diaspora according to foreknowledge of God and set apart by the Spirit for the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29 refers to 'those' that were foreknown. Romans 11:2 refers to 'His people”, meaning Israel, that God foreknew.
As for predestined, Romans 8:29 refers to a conformation to the image of Christ. Romans 8:30 repeats the implication of verse 29. Acts 4:28 refers to the predestined plan by God's hand concerning the crucifixion. Ephesians 1:5 refers to an 'us' being predestined to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to God's purpose. Finally, Ephesians 1:11 refers to a predestined inheritance and purpose for God who works (is working, energountov, present participle) all things (not pre-decreed all things) according to the council of His will.
That is a lot more of Christ, and things stored up in Him, to be received by an 'us' or 'those' according to specific things determined by God before the foundation of the world. Despite the length of 16-17th Century creeds on the subject, the Biblical data is slim enough to say that much of the 'before the foundation of the world' stuff is not revealed, other than God deciding to create of course, and almost everything else is speculative.
Now, the exegesis of the favorite passages. As noted above in Ephesians 1:4, Paul knows how to write the phrase 'before the foundation of the world'. Where is this found in Romans 8 or 9? Nowhere! Where is the warrant to break up God's inspired words to Paul to reassure believers in Romans 8 with a philosophical lens of 'before the foundation of the world' at verse 29? Nowhere! The who, not the when, is what Paul has in mind at verse 29. Who did god foreknow (or 'forelove')? Calvinists say those He predestined to be saved before the foundation of the world. Arminians say those God foreknew or foresaw would freely accept His offer of salvation through prevenient grace. But what does Paul say?
Paul says it is those in verse 15 who “...have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'” (ESV) Those in verse 17 who are children and heirs. Those in verse 18 who will be glorified. Those in verse 23 who groan with creation for the redemption of their bodies. Those in verse 25 who hope and wait with patience. Those in verse 26 who the Spirit helps in weakness and intercedes in prayer. Those in verse 27 whose hearts are searched by the Spirit. Those in verse 36 who are being put to death all day long like sheep to be slaughtered. Those who repented and believed the Gospel! Whatever Arminians and Calvinists are debating about here, Paul is not talking about it.
Calvinists say “those” are the ones God picked before the foundation of the world. When asked what God foreknew or foreloved about them, the Calvinist replies “nothing”. Which is as well to say God does not forelove them or foreloves them for no reason whatsoever. Paul says otherwise all throughout the text! Speaking of glorification and conformed to the image of Christ, that is a future event as the context states. The only “when” in context that the foreknowing occurs as discussed in the passage is any time before that redemption and glorification of their bodies that occurs in the still to come future, as the 'glorified' in Romans 8:30 is at the end of the chain of theological terms.
Parsing Greek verb tenses to use the “completed past action” response offers the Calvinist no safe refuge.
Paul's point is not to say these things have already occurred in reality in eternity's past. Context comes before grammar. Paul's point in using the tense is to offer a guarantee for the hope in the context of reassurance. Importing anything else from outside the context is pure speculation. The predestination refers to the being conformed to the image of Christ. It does not refer to individuals selected before the foundation of the world. That idea is nowhere in the context. Importing it into the text is pure eisegesis.
As for Romans 9, Romans 9:1-5 refers to Israel and Paul's passion for them to be saved. Romans 10:1 states “Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” (ESV)
If the words 'salvation' or 'saved' and 'before the foundation of the world” appeared anywhere in Romans 9, or if Romans 10:1 stated something like “Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God is to explain to them how salvation works by the eternal decree” or whatever, then Calvinists may have made their case.
Unfortunately, none of that is anywhere in the text. It follows that Calvinists have
imported a false paradigm of salvation by eternal decree and imposed it on a passage that says nothing about either. Rather, Romans 9 is the clear writing of Paul that God has the sovereign right to use Israel to bring about the Messiah so that both Jews and Gentiles can be God's covenant people through faith in Jesus Christ. This is despite the fact Jews want to be accepted by their will and running after the law.
Paul pleads that God's purpose was to bring about Christ, and Israel has no right to complain to God the means by which He accepts people into the covenant.
Finally, because Christ has come into the world, the Word of God indeed did not fail, which was Paul's thesis in Romans 9:6. Moreover, the thesis was not salvation of selected individuals to election via eternal decree. Unfortunately, space prohibits further explanation, but the context is obvious, as is the Calvinists' bungling of it.
Ephesians 1 brings everything into focus. The whole context is about Christ, and those mentioned as 'we' are clearly Jewish Christians, those mentioned as 'you' are clearly Gentile Christians, and those mentioned as 'us' are clearly both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Far from the Calvinist reading of Ephesians 1:4 saying something like “He chose us to be in Him before the foundation of the world...”, it states “even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (ESV)
It means God chose both to be in Him before the foundation of the world for a purpose (see Rom. 8:28b). It means as Ephesians 2:1-15 states “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.” (ESV)
No predestination for individual salvation here. It is Paul illustrating that God's sovereign plan was to bring both under Christ. Making this say something else betrays Paul's point, which is that God, before the foundation of the world, decreed that Christ would be not only the bridge between God and man, but also for Jew and Gentile. This “new man”, the church, as the rest of Ephesians goes on to discuss in terms of how they should live, is the 'us' in Ephesians 1:4. It is all about Christ and those in Him. How does one get in Him and receive all the predestined things?
Easy. Paul writes in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Jesus says in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is that simple.
Philosophical systems and paradigms that go “beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6) make a simple Gospel about God's love and Christ's work divisive and complicated. Salvation is 100% the work and act of God in regards to drawing, calling, convicting to lead to repentance, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying (Romans 2:4, 8:29-30).
Salvation is also 100% the action and responsibility of man in regards to repenting and believing the Gospel (Mark 1:15) and not resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). Man can not do God's part, and God does not do man's part. Only God can do God's part, and man is actually the one that repents and believes, or not. Deal with it.
More importantly, rejoice in it!
Christians should leave the philosophical speculation out of the commentaries and preaching and exegete the passages the best one faithfully can to the context as written.
Philosophy is wonderful and helpful, but nothing to be dogmatic about, especially when it comes to trying to proclaim God's mind in regards to the council of His will and His eternal decree. In a book of the Bible many think they can know or even glimpse these things, Paul responds with Romans 11:34, which says “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (ESV) In other words, Paul says, “knock it off and get real.” Christians should stick to what we know, and be very humble discussing what we do not.
The Bible alone is all that is needed here to clear things up. No need to debate “God's sovereignty verses man's free will”, as if there is some contradiction...well, except for Calvinists. No need to respond to absurd straw-man arguments such as, “if God's wanted all to be saved, and not all are saved, then God is a complete failure.” What dog vomit!
There is no need debate how dead is dead in sin and what that actually means. If God's decree is something other than Calvinism by the sheer good pleasure of God's will according to His own council, then Calvinists ought to pipe down and stop mocking God and how He wanted things as described from the plain reading of the Bible without philosophical paradigms foreign to the text imposed on it.
Anyway, nor is there really a need to respond to even more ridiculous arguments from Calvinists such as, “if God is not sovereign in predestining from eternity's past all things whatsoever come to pass, and did not decree from eternity's past absolutely everything even to the point of being a petty and meticulous micro-manager, which includes the foreordaining of when every baby ever in history skubalons the diaper, or worse, whenever eight year old boys are raped, then God has absolutely no control over anything in creation at all...blah, blah, blah.” (Irrational Internet Calvinists)
This nonsense rhetoric demeans God.
Re-read Jeremiah 19:5 and so forth and rewrite the confessions. Scripture comes first. If Calvinists paid attention to their own Islamic philosophical reasoning behind their theology, perhaps they would realize why so many people think they are unreasonable, un-Biblical, and arrogant; whether they are the “Dr.” James “The Keith Olbermann of Calvinism” White kind of hothead or not. Okay, the rant is over, but was deserved. Even Martin Luther would perhaps smile, were his own “coarse a**” alive today and calm enough to read it. Fight pompous with sarcasm on occasion. Unlike the Popes, Scripture is plenty found here. (Driscoll)
Nevertheless, despite this Biblical presentation, Calvinists and Arminians are still not happy. The question both the Calvinist and Arminian really want to know and care about is “Could the person saved have chosen otherwise?” 'No' pleases one, and 'yes' pleases the other. Sadly, but thankfully, this is a question that the writers of Scripture not only do not answer, but could completely care less about.
However, if that is really, really important to someone, or to some the most important thing, given the current obsession with this issue, have at it. Compared to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Calvinism, Arminianism, and my own Molinism/Middle Knowledge variant is skubalon. Johnathan will respond to honest queries.
Consider and ponder.
Labels: Johnathan Gadfly