Friday, January 19, 2007

Different Strokes for Different Folks

I think it is interesting how different groups of people who affirm unconditional election can approach it in different ways. All people who believe in unconditional election would probably agree with the general definition of it given by Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Seminary:

“Unconditional election to salvation may be defined as God’s gracious choice, made in eternity past, of those whom he would save by faith through the atoning death of his Son, a choice based not upon anything that those so chosen would do, or any choice that they would make, or on how good or bad they might be, or on anything else specifically true about them (i.e., their qualities, characters, decisions, or actions) in contrast to others, but rather based only upon God’s own good pleasure and will.”

Bruce Ware, Divine Election to Salvation: Unconditional, Individual, and Infralapsarian in Perspectives on Election: Five Views, ed. Chad Owen Brand (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 4.

Selected Scripture Passages Relevant to Unconditional Election:

Ephesians 1:4-5 – “4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (NASB, emphasis mine)

Romans 9:11-13, 22-23 – “11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’ 13 Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.’ . . . 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”

1 Peter 1:1-2 – “1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

2 Timothy 1:9 – “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

The Key Exegetical Issues in Regard to the Above Verses: “According to” (κατά) takes accusative objects in these verses. Daniel Wallace described the basic uses of this preposition: “1. With Genitive a. Spatial: down from, throughout b. Opposition: against c. Source: from 2. With Accusative a. Standard: in accordance with, corresponding to b. Spatial: along, through (extension); toward, up to (direction) c. Temporal: at, during d. Distributive: ‘indicating the division of a greater whole into individual parts’ e. Purpose: for the purpose of f. Reference/Respect: with respect to, with reference to” (emphasis mine).

Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 376-377.

Thus, a chronological or logical order is not necessarily expressed in regard to predestination and His will in Ephesians 1:5, in regard to purpose and choice in Romans 9:11, in regard to choice and foreknowledge in 1 Peter 1:1-2, and in regard to calling and purpose in 2 Timothy 1:9.

In regard to Romans 9:11-13, 22-23, another exegetical issue is whether Paul is discussing national election or individual election. In the same chapter, Paul said that not every member of the nation of Israel is a member of spiritual Israel (9:6-7), and he discussed Pharaoh as an individual (9:17), so the context indicates that 11-13 and 22-23 should be understood as references to individual election.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Is faith the cause of election, the effect of election, or the instrument by which God gives salvation? The preposition “by” (εν) is listed by Bauer (BAGD) under the heading “causal or instrumental” (p. 260). Dana and Mantey consider the meaning “because of” to be a remote meaning (p. 105). Carl Conrad, an emeritus professor in the department of classics at Washington University, regards the preposition as instrumental in this verse: “(1) Yes, I think that the EN must govern both dative + genitive phrases--both hAGIASMWi PNEUMATOS and PISTEI ALHQEIAS. (2) It is certainly most probable that the same function of EN + dative is involved in both phrases and that the function is instrumental (‘by means
of ...’) in both instances.”
Thus, faith is the instrument by which God saves us.

Romans 8:29-30 – “29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Does this verse mean that only the elect are called (καλεω), or is the verse simply saying that those who would receive the gospel if they had the chance (those whom He foreknew) always have the chance (are called)? In the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:3, those called (καλεω) did not come to the wedding feast. In Matthew 22:14, many are called (κλητός), but few are chosen (εκλεκτός). Do the elect receive an internal call while the non-elect receive only an external call?

John 1:13 – “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Is this verse simply drawing a distinction between physical birth and spiritual birth, or is it giving a detailed description of the cause and non-causes of the spiritual birth? In any case, God does not save us based on a decision of our will.

John 15:16 – “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Was Jesus referring to their selection as a group of twelve disciples or their selection as elect, individual disciples? Judas was no longer present, so they were “clean” as individuals (John 15:3) whereas they were not all clean when Judas was present (John 13:10). Our election to salvation is unconditional; i.e., it is based on God’s choice, not our choice.

Various Specific Views of Unconditional Election:

1. Five-Point Calvinist (TULIP) Perspective that Denies Libertarian Free Will

Some have argued that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but Roger Nicole stated: “Calvin’s statement in response to Heshusius, dealing with the participation of unbelievers in the Lord’s Supper and quoted above, deserves special attention: ‘I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins.’ This appears to be a categorical denial of universal atonement.”

John Calvin’s perspective on election and foreknowledge (comments on Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2):

“The foreknowledge of God, therefore, which Paul mentions here, is not a mere knowing beforehand, as some ignorant people imagine in their stupid way. It is rather the act of adoption, by which God has always distinguished his children from those who are reprobate. In this same sense, Peter says that believers have been elected for the sanctification of the Spirit according to the foreknowledge of God. Whence, those mentioned above reason foolishly when they infer that God has elected those whom he foresaw as worthy of his grace. Peter does not flatter the believers, as though each one of them owed his election to his own merit. On the contrary, by recalling them to the eternal counsel of God, he denies that they are worthy of God’s grace. So, Paul here repeats with other words what he had said about God’s purpose elsewhere. It follows that God’s knowing the elect rests upon his own good pleasure, because he foreknew nothing outside of himself which led him to will the adoption of sons. He marked some for election according to his own good pleasure.”

John Calvin, Calvin: Commentaries, ed. and trans. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 308.

John Calvin’s perspective on free will:

“Since in fact they take it to imply ability and power, one cannot prevent from entering the minds of most people, as soon as the will is called free, the illusion that it therefore has both good and evil within its power, so that it can by its own strength choose either one of them. . . . We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil.”

John Calvin, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will: A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice against Pighius, ed. A. N. S. Lane, trans. G. I. Davies (Grand Rapids: Baker books, 1996), 68-69.

2. Four-Point Amyraldian/Sublapsarian (TUIP) Perspective that Denies Libertarian Free Will

Brian Armstrong’s description of Amyraut’s (1596-1664) theology:

“This does not mean, of course, that Amyraut does not affirm absolute predestination. Like Luther, he does this in the most unequivocal language. In exercising his absolute mercy God is ‘purely, and simply, and absolutely free.’ By this arbitrary operation of his will God takes no account of man’s condition or response but creates faith in him and imputes to him Christ’s righteousness.”

Brian G. Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy: Protestant Scholasticism and Humanism in Seventeenth-Century France (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 201.

“This is perhaps the most adequate definition of ‘hypothetical universalism’ which can be given. Fulfilling God’s will for universal salvation, Christ procured it for all. Here is Amyraut’s universalism. It is hypothetical, for salvation is only effectual when and if such and such a condition is fulfilled.”

Ibid., 212.

“Amyraut demonstrates at length his teaching on free will, namely, that the will is never to be thought of as in equilibrio but rather as inclined. In this inclined disposition it chooses freely what it desires. Because it is corrupt, however, the will can never choose the good; indeed, it is totally impotent in salvation unless renewed by God’s Spirit.”

Ibid., 107.

3. Three-Point (TUP) Perspective that Affirms Libertarian Free Will

Perspective of E. Y. Mullins, President of The Southern Baptist Seminary (1899-1928):

“Any doctrine of divine sovereignty must safeguard man’s freedom. The sovereignty of holy and loving character, indeed, expresses itself in constituting man as a free moral being. Sin came in and human nature became so biased that, without God’s prevenient grace the will inevitably chooses evil. But neither prevenient nor regenerating grace, nor grace in any of its forms acts upon the will by way of compulsion, but always in accordance with its freedom. The will responds and man chooses for himself God’s freely offered gift of salvation.”

E. Y. Mullins, The Axioms of Religion (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1908), 83-84.

“The divine forces which operate through the gospel are adjusted and adapted to evoke a free moral response on man’s part.”

E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1917), 51.

“Freedom of the will, broadly defined, is self-determination. The power of contrary choice is one form of the manifestation of this self-determining power.”

Ibid., 62.

“Does God choose men to salvation because of their good works or because he foresees they will believe when the gospel is preached to them? Beyond doubt God foresees their faith. Beyond doubt faith is a condition of salvation. The question is whether it is also the ground of salvation. The Scriptures answer this question in the negative.”

Ibid., 343.

“In his free act of accepting Christ and his salvation man is self-determined. He would not have made the choice if left to himself without the aid of God’s grace. But when he chooses, it is his own free act. God’s grace is not ‘irresistible’ as a physical force is irresistible.”

Ibid., 344.

Analysis of Mullins by Tom Nettles:

“Although the doctrine of unconditional election was accepted by E. Y. Mullins, both his theological method and his specific exposition of divine election served to compromise the earlier views of Dagg, Boyce, Broadus, Manly, Mell and others.”

Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory (Lake Charles, LA: Cor Meum Tibi, 2002), 246-247.

Perspective of Norman Geisler, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary (Geisler considers himself an Amyraldian/moderate Calvinist by affirming irresistible grace to the willing and denying five-point Calvinism’s irresistible grace to the unwilling, but as will be seen below, his concept of grace seems resistible as he defines free will as the power of contrary choice):

“God’s will to save those who believe (i.e., the elect) is unconditional. So this is not a repudiation of unconditional election. Election is unconditional from the standpoint of the Giver (God), but it is conditional from the standpoint of the receiver. And since God foreknows for sure who will receive it, the result is certain. Thus, in this sense God’s grace on the elect is irresistible.”

Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 94.

“Although no one can believe unto salvation without the aid of God’s saving grace, the gracious action by which we are saved is not monergistic (an act of God alone) but synergistic (an act of God and our free choice). Salvation comes from God, but it is completed by our cooperation.”

Norman Geisler, Sin, Salvation, vol. 3 of Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), 136.

“Salvation is unconditioned from the perspective of the Giver, but it is conditioned from the view of the receiver (who must believe in order to receive it). In short, salvation comes from God, but we receive it through faith.”

Ibid., 182.

“Since love is always persuasive but never coercive, God cannot force anyone to love Him—and this is what ‘irresistible grace on the unwilling’ would do. God’s persuasive but resistible love goes hand in glove with God-given human free choice. Again, human free will is self-determination, involving the ability to choose otherwise. We can either accept or reject God’s grace. In brief, God’s saving grace works synergistically with free will; that is, it must be received to be effective.”

Ibid., 193-194.

“Humans can be free in the libertarian sense (of having the ability to do otherwise—contrary choice), and God can eternally know all of this without violating our freedom.”

Ibid., 200.

The three-point scheme is different from the concept first made popular by Luis Molina (1535-1600). The term comes from the view that, if one put things in logical order, God first considered an infinite number of imagined worlds and circumstances that determined what an infinite number of imagined persons could do. Second, He knew exactly what free choices would certainly be made by an infinite number of persons in those imagined worlds and circumstances (a second type of knowledge), and thus He knew exactly what any imagined person would certainly do. Next, He decided to actually create the imagined world with the imagined beings and circumstances that glorified Him the most. After that decision, God had a third type of knowledge—a complete knowledge of the world He actually created.

The second type of knowledge was called middle knowledge by its adherents because it logically occurred between the other two types of knowledge. Middle knowledge makes God’s election dependent on the imagined freewill actions of imagined beings, so it is incompatible with unconditional election. In contrast, three-point (TUP) theologians believe that God’s election is in accordance with His knowledge of future events, but they do not believe that God’s election is determined by His knowledge of future events. Geisler commented:

“In opposition to this Molinistic view of middle knowledge, which suggests that God’s foreknowledge is dependent on our free choices, the classical view of God (held by both Calvinists and traditional Arminians) affirms that God is an eternal and entirely independent Being. . . . God’s knowledge cannot be dependent on our free choices. Finally, the whole idea of there being a chronological or even logical sequence in God’s thoughts is highly problematic for evangelical theology. It runs contrary to the traditional doctrine of God’s simplicity (absolute indivisibility) held by Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, and bequeathed to modern evangelicals through the Reformers. God’s attention does not pass from thought to thought, for His knowledge embraces everything in a single spiritual co-intuition. For if God is simple, then His thoughts are not sequential but simultaneous. He does not know things inferentially but intuitively. . . . There is a third alternative. It postulates that God’s election is neither based on His foreknowledge of man’s free choices nor exercised in spite of it. As the Scriptures declare, we are ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God’ (1 Peter 1:2 NKJV). That is to say, there is no chronological or logical priority of election and foreknowledge.”

Geisler, Chosen But Free, 51-52.

“There is no contradiction in God knowingly predetermining and predeterminately knowing from all eternity precisely what we would do with our free acts. For God determined that moral creatures would do things freely. He did not determine that they would be forced to perform free acts.”

Ibid., 54.