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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Elect Individuals, Not Nations.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I often hear this verse quoted as though (in the context) God were encouraging individuals that He has a plan for each one of them, and that this plan is to give them a sort of unbroken peace - one that lacks any calamity. Okay, maybe "often" isn't the right word, how about, "often enough". I think we see this in some of the more tacky gospel presentations, "God has a plan for your life..." etc.

The original context is a letter that God instructs Jeremiah to write to those Israelites who were presently (after having refused to repent for generations) living in the very exile that God had promised Moses would come to those Israelites who reject Him. The purpose of that exile is more corrective than punitive - extreme measures for extreme apostasy.

The verse is best read with the surrounding verses to give it immediate context:
" "For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." - [ESV (verses 10-14)]

The comfort that is offered here is first and foremost a comfort in the midst of correction - that is, even as Israel is receiving the fruit of its apostasy, God encourages the whole nation to consider the nature of their exile; That they pray that God would return them to their own lands till the cows came home but God was telling them he will not hear those prayers until after seventy years have passed. You see, Israel was instructed by God to give even their land a sabbath rest - that is, to allow the land to be fallow one year in seven, but this had been corporately ignored by Israel, and so for each year that Israel ignored the Sabbath year, one year was added to their exile.

Of note is the encouragement however that God, in correcting their behavior, was by no means abandoning them. God's encouragement was that in spite of this correction, He had real plans for Israel (speaking of, I believe, the Messianic age), plans of peace between himself and Israel, plans to be reconciled to them so that there would be no more correctional calamity as they were presently experiencing.

I could go deeper into it of course, but this is rather mentioned here as an instructional counter point to the point I was going to make. You see, some people take this one verse out of this context and they apply it to themselves as if God was promising that he was going to bless them personally in accord with some plan for their personal lives - and this without qualification. That is, they take a promise given to an entire nation, a promise that in essence is given to say I am still here with you throughout this correction - and they presume that it can be rightly applied to themselves out of that context and without qualification - for no other reason than because it is compelling and encouraging to think that God has unqualified plans for our peace and happiness, and more likely, because this is how the verse is often used - to placate doubt, to pacify during calamity, and perhaps especially to encourage individuals to personalize God's love for them.

Now, God -does- love the individual, we see that expression most clearly in Christ's dying for each elect individual -- but this verse isn't speaking about individuals, it is speaking about a whole nation - and God's plan for that nation. When we interpret this verse in such a way as to suggest it is speaking about individuals, we do a "hack job" in our exegesis.

That is, to say, while it is true that God loves each elect believer, and that scripture teaches that God has a purpose for each of us, and has set apart very specific good works for each elect individual to walk in - and that God's sovereignty in our lives is so profound that even the number of hairs on each one of our heads is determined beforehand by God, such that no hair falls out unless God has decreed to allow it - that is, we do not make this objection because we want to suggest that God's involvement in the lives of His children is distant or a matter of corporate (only) involvement - rather we simply want to use the right verses to make our points, and this verse, while putting on display God's sovereignty in that He really did have a plan for Israel, and that it is an encouragement to us in the here and how that God brought that plan about exactly as He said He would, yet we must not take a verse out of context to make it say something just because we are making it say something that is pretty much true anyway.

Yet all of this is not my point. I only, as I said, mention it because I want to have something to balance out the point I am pressing to make. Here we see that it is wrong to apply something to an individual that is (in context) directed towards a nation.

The same is true of verses that speak of individuals - it is wrong to apply them to nations.

I am referring now to Paul's exegesis of Malachi 1:2 (" 'I have loved you,' says the LORD. But you say, 'How have you loved us?' 'Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?' declares the LORD. 'Yet I have loved Jacob' " - [ESV]). Paul refers to this in the night chapter of his letter to the Romans, ("As it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.' " - Romans 9:13 [ESV]).

You see, some (very few actually), object to what Paul is teaching here - that is, they object to the notion that God elects individuals, and because Paul uses individuals in his example, they interpret these individuals as representative of nations - thereby allowing them to avoid the implications of what Paul is teaching - and this is -usually- done because unknown to them, they have come to the text with a presupposition about God's character - that is, they presume that it would be quite unfair for God to elect only certain individuals, and so they are often fortified in their opinions because they are not just defending their take on the text, but they are defending their presumptuous speculations about God's character.

The trouble with such presumptions, apart from being vacuous, is that they are entirely uncalled for, since there is nothing offensive or unjust about the alternative, but contrary understanding of God's character; that is, they impose a secular ethic upon God, and because the secular ethic seems right to them, they presume that God must be the origin of that ethic, when in fact God is not.

I am speaking of course to the notion of fairness.

If three men come to my house and build a deck for me in my back yard, it would be "just" for me to pay them their wage, in fact we call it a wage because it is something they earn - that is, they are so entitled to it that to keep it from them would be unjust.

If I were to go out into the street and choose three people according to my own purpose - whatever that was doesn't matter - and chose to give these three "wages" they hadn't earned - it would be an act of grace towards those three people.

The problems come when someone doesn't get this grace and imagines that because they (like the three) haven't earned this grace - that they should therefore be entitled to it.

Do you see the works mentality here? They have it in their head, though they don't realize this is how they are reasoning, but they have it in their head that those who receive this grace by doing nothing have, never the less, "earned it" by doing nothing - such that everyone else who does nothing likewise "earns" this grace, ending in the opinion that if grace is given to one who is undeserving, it places the giver of grace under an obligation to provide the same grace to everyone since they have all equally "earned" it by doing nothing.

That is, if I have four children (who have equally done nothing to deserve any special favor) I cannot give any one, two, or three of them a gift of grace, because in failing to give that gift to all, I am somehow putting the ones who don't receive it out.

Do you see the heart of that? It reasons from the one who doesn't receive grace, and it reasons in this way - I deserve the free gift because someone else got it who didn't deserve it. It should have been me!

The reality is that we do not deserve a blessing just because someone else receives one - no matter how undeserving they are. It is only a twisted, broken, sinful heart that can look upon grace and demand it as though it were something owed to them.

Thus, if I were to award one of my children with some grace, it is by no means "unjust" or "unfair" to the others - the only reason we would imagine this is an unjust or unfair act is because we are selfish by predisposition, and know how rotten we would have felt if one of our siblings received something they didn't deserve and we didn't - we would feel unloved, unwanted, or perhaps just less valuable. None of these would be true of course, for the only reason we feel that way in the first place is because we start off with the belief that [1] failure to give us whatever we want is an act of hatred, and [2] there is nothing wrong with our wanting something that others have.

I am laboring the point of course, to show that it is avarice (coveting) and not justice that is at work in us - and we are so entirely corrupt in our thinking that we even feel empathy for others whose avarice goes unsatisfied. So it seems quite just for us to give the same to all - just because we know what it is like to rouse our own covetousness, and do not wish to give rise to the same in our own children, or to anyone else for that matter.

But the root of it all is not justice, but sin. Not fairness, but coveting, and we impose this rule upon God's character. God would certainly never, ever do anything "unfair" - and we reason therefore that God would -never- elect an individual to salvation, since that would mean that there would be individuals whom God does not elect to salvation - and that would make God "unfair" - at least according to our own tainted-by-avarice sense of justice.

When we impose our own fallen sense of justice upon God's character, it may well force us to conclude that God cannot (regardless of what the scriptures say) elect individuals - we are driven to say that God makes it a level playing field for all, and that election is not God choosing one individual over another, so that when we read God doing exactly that - we inject into the text the idea that God was choosing one nation (Israel) over another (Esau), and we do that, not because the text warrants it, for the text is clearly speaking about individuals - surely there are Edomites who are saved, and there are Israelites who are not saved, so the whole idea of nations, even if that is what the text -did- mean, would be pointless - but they make this assumption in spite of the fact that individuals are being discussed because they come to the text having rejected beforehand the notion that God elects one individual over another.

I mention this to illustrate the dangers of a blind spot.

You see, we (who love God) all do our best to give God the benefit of the doubt in any area that we are unsure about. God is good, perfectly just, all powerful, omnipresent, and omniscient. We can assume a lot given just those attributes, and frankly we do. But even one wrong assumption about God's character or power - one well intentioned, but slightly wrong assumption about God's moral character, instructed not out of scripture, but rather presumed based upon our own corrupt sense of what is right - even the smallest error here, can have profound theological repercussions.

What do you get when you have a sincere Christian who believes the entire bible is true, and is attempting to live out that truth, defend it, and especially to understand it in a way that is free from contradiction and error - yet has presumed some small thing about God's character that doesn't come from scripture, but from the well of their own depravity?

You get heresy, theological error, pride, and blindness.

The point is that we who are His children, are supposed to be ministering to one another for the building up of the body - in truth. That is, we are to be contending for, and seeking out the truth, ready to set aside any falsehood that God illumines in us, and to embrace the truth wherever it is found.

I for one do not find the election of nations in Romans 9:13, and I believe that those who see the election of nations in this text see nations because their presuppositions demand that they do. One could turn that argument around and say, "Daniel, I believe you fail to see nations here because you bring the idea of individual election to the text with you, and because you are expecting to find it there, you do." To these I would agree that there is always that danger, but I have in my favor, the fact that the individual who wrote this account was accosted by God on the road to Damascus, and that those who were with him did not hear the conversation that took place between himself and the Lord - that Christ did not come to them (zealous Jews though they were), but to Paul personally. They were all from the same nation (Israel), but only Paul was singled out; it is this man who writes not of nations, but of two individuals - brothers, twins even - and teaches that election is not based upon individual merit, for both Jacob and Esau were without merit - they were equal by all worldly accounts, same parents, same family, twins in fact - neither had done good or bad, that is, there was no merit in either individual - and yet Jacob was chosen and Esau was not, and that choice took place before either had opportunity to influence it.

The choice of an individual is not random or arbitrary, but as Paul teaches, it is in accord with God's purpose. Individual Jews certainly benefited from the promises given to Israel regarding their coming Messiah - but those promises which God kept to the nation He by no means kept on an individual level - since not everyone who is a child of Israel is a child of the promise.

God didn't look down the corridors of time, to see who was going to choose him, and based upon their choice, made his election of them. Nor did God look down the corridors of time and do the same for nations.

The doctrine of individual election is perhaps the most Christian doctrine there is, and for that reason it is also the most attacked, and most hated. We who are fallen in our nature cannot accept that God chose us for His own purpose - our nature demands that the choice be based upon some virtue within us - either we made the right choice, or we did something, however infinitesimally minuscule on our part - yet the reason we will go to heaven is not because God chose us, but because we chose Him - that way God can send people to hell with our blessing, because they didn't choose God.

The trouble with that thinking is that we are sending people to heaven because they choose God, and sending people to hell because they don't choose God; said on a more generic level - people don't go to hell because they sin, they go to hell because they didn't make the right choice, they are condemned not for their sin, so much as their failure to make the right decision.

The bible teaches that everyone, from the first act of rebellion, deserves hell, and that in spite of their deserving hell, God chose some to redeem. These didn't deserve it, they didn't earn it, and God's choice was not based upon something good in them that was lacking in others - including just the good sense to "pick God". They choose God ---because--- they become born again, and not ---in order to--- become born again. God is by no means required to elect anyone, and His electing some by no means obligates Him to elect all.

If our theology turns election into bloatware - that is, if our theology turns election into a great big effort that ultimately does absolutely nothing - so that we say, God elected "Israel" and therefore anyone who joins himself to Israel will be counted as teh elect - what we are doing is creating a theology that makes election a self-applied label. We may has well call the elect "the green team" or something equally as pointless, because we turn election into God declaring that He will eventually have a team called the elect - but that other than giving a name to it, and declaring that He will have such a team, He otherwise steps back and has nothing to do with making it happen. It paints God as an all powerful, but intentionally impotent fortune teller.

Nicodemus was no idiot. When Christ (in John Chapter three) said that a man had to be born from above, Nicodemus wasn't all confused and shaken - as if he had no idea that Christ was using a metaphor; rather Nicodemus asks his question again, this time in the flavor of Christ's metaphor: Can a man crawl into his mother's womb and be born again?? That is, Nicodemus was extending the metaphor to ask the same question again - what must I do to be saved? Be born again? okay, what must I do to be born again? How do I crawl into the womb again - what do I do to make it happen? The answer is stunningly perfect - just as you could not make yourself be born the first time, neither can you generate it in your own will the second time. It is God who wills it to happen, just as He did for your first birth. The Spirit does what he does, and although you can witness what God has done, you have no more control over it than you have control over the wind.

The question we ought to ask is not why God does not elect everyone, rather we marvel instead that God elects anyone.

A quick parting note: If I believe that ultimately a person's salvation is dependent upon their own decision - then my job in presenting the gospel is to persuade people into heaven. Those who reject the gospel I present may well have received it had someone with more knowledge and persuasive ability presented it - likewise, if I "botch" the presentation such that this person sours towards Christianity and therefore never again is willing to hear the gospel, then more than simply saying nothing - my presentation has driven that person to hell. I think the idea that people's eternal destiny rests upon my ability to make the gospel attractive is the exact same gospel the rest of the world religions teach.

If on the other hand, God's sovereignty is genuine, and not in "label form" only - if God really has elected some individuals, and the point of my sharing the gospel is not to try to "save hell bound sinners ", but rather to walk in the good work that God has prepared for me beforehand, both for His glory, and for my joy, then there is no pressure on me to inflate the gospel with worldly wisdom or persuasive argumentation - nor is the onus on me to succeed, but rather the onus is on God to give life where there is none - to His glory alone.

Anyway, I don't want to ramble. Bottom line, it is just as wrong to read into the text an individual application when the text calls for a corporate one, as it is to impose a corporate meaning where the examples are all individuals.


posted by Daniel @ 9:20 AM  
  • At 2:19 PM, July 02, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Sorry 'bout the length btw.

  • At 10:24 AM, July 04, 2008, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, can you explain how your understanding of God's sovereignty can be defended against charges of determinism?

    Or do you hold to that idea?

  • At 12:42 PM, July 04, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - I don't think God forces us to do anything.

    Why do you drink?

    I will tell you why, you drink because you have no control whatsoever over what you are. You were designed to thirst in response to dehydration, and you respond to that design by drinking when you become thirsty.

    I will note that perhaps, if you were so inclined, you could pursue some bizarre, fringe environment such that you take all your liquids intravenously, and you take drugs and whatnot to keep you from experiencing thirst and thus this through monumental, self-inflicted, medical interference you manage to create an artificial environment whereby you are able to overcome God's design that you be thirsty - I say, I note that perhaps such a thing is possible, but the question I asked is not whether or not you could create a situation whereby you never thirst again - it is simply why do you thirst at all?

    The answer is, you thirst because God designed you in such a way that you need liquids to live, and you experience thirst when it is time for you to take them in.

    I don't think God has made you a puppet in this - that is, while God is certainly in control providentially, I see no reason for God to impose himself upon your will such that he "forces" you to drink water. He merely made you so that you would thirst, and you respond to His design. You can use your free will to ignore that design for a time, but eventually you -will- choose to drink if liquids are available.

    Thus God has sovereignly determined that you will drink, but has done so in a way that does not offend or deny your free will.

    Does God, from the beginning know when you will thirst? Does God have providential influence over seasons, weather, situations, etc? Certainly. Is it possible that God, through providence not only knows when you will have each drink - but has even determined beforehand to make a world and care for it providentially so that you will slake your thirst in perfect accord with His predetermined design? Is God wise enough for that? Can God really create a world where you experience thirst according to His design, and you slake that thirst according to your own free will, without derailing God's own plans however granular they may be?

    If God is sovereign, is it necessary for our free will to do injury to that sovereignty - must we demand that God is so limited that He cannot ordain minutia "because" of our free will - or can we allow that God is sufficiently wise and discerning enough to run the world providentially in such a way that our free will is never once compromised, but never the less plays out exactly in accord with God's will?

    I think God is able to do that. I think God created this universe with a determined purpose, and that purpose is not affected by our free will; but rather our free will is knit into that purpose like a hand in a glove.

    When I say that God is sovereign, therefore, I do not mean by that that God imposes upon our free will, but rather that God gives us perfect and untarnished freedom to choose to respond to His creation according to the nature He allows us to have, and that our responses - free as they are - never the less are perfectly governed by God's will.

    Does this mean that God forces us to sin? Of course not. We sin because we want to. What it means is that God has allowed men to sin because it served the purpose of creation to do so.

    If we want to say that God didn't "allow" sin - that Adam's fall was a horrible tragedy that God didn't see coming - we are certainly ignoring the fact that God chose us in Christ before Adam was ever created. Likewise we must ask ourselves why, if God stopped Abimelech from sinning with Sarai (Abraham's wife) -- why I say, didn't He stop Adam from sinning in the first place?

    Can God still be righteous if He creates a person He knows will eventually sin against Him?

    The answer --must-- be yes, if we are to believe the bible, for clearly God didn't have to "allow" Adam to sin, but created Him anyway - knowing full well that He would sin, and orchestrating creation to accommodate that sin. God could have just created Adam in a "glorified" body right? I mean, If God planned our salvation before Adam was created, he certainly planned to eventually give us glorified bodies... right? So why not give Adam his glorified body right now and skip all the sin stuff? Surely God could have done that - and I offer this - I think God would have done just that, if allowing sin to corrupt His creation were in fact, not part of God's plan.

    Which is all to say that I do hold to determinism, but probably not the way you think of determinism. I think that God's sovereignty is perfect - right down to determining the moment by moment orbit of every single electron orbiting every single atom in the entire created universe. When scripture says that God knows the number of hairs on our head, the word there means that he determines the number of hairs on our head, and not that he simply knows how many are there. I believe that God is THAT sovereign, and I believe that because that is what I find in scripture.

    I don't think our free will is compromised by God's sovereignty - for I regard God's sovereignty as big enough to swallow that up without any trouble - that is, I believe that I can do whatever I want, but whatever I want is always going to be exactly in accord with what God has determined from before creation was created.

    Whether I go to heaven or hell was been determined before Adam was created, and should I go to hell it would not be God's fault by my own - for I have certainly both earned and deserved it - even if God planned it to be so. Likewise, if I should receive grace and be saved, I shall pass through the judgment - not because I earned it, but because Christ earned it and God determined to apply it to me before the foundation of the world. If I have desired to be saved, that desire does not originate from within me, but from within God who has shown mercy.

    Thus heaven and hell shall be populated by those who deserve only hell; but because God determined beforehand to manifest His glory by saving undeserving people from His wrath - that is, according to the good counsel of God's will, and in accord with His sovereign purpose He extends mercy to individuals whom he elects to show mercy to - I say, these shall pass through the judgment unscathed.

    I think when one understands God's sovereignty, the "charge" of determinism isn't necessarily a something one cares about.

    I don't want to rattle on too much here. Let me know if that makes sense.

  • At 3:52 PM, July 04, 2008, Blogger Jim said…

    Well Daniel, you obviously have a far greater mind than my own to understand God's sovereignty in this way and not suffer great consternation.

    Please explain to me how this understanding of determinism does not lead to a fatalistic worldview including the dreaded hyper-Calvinistic tendancies?

    Also, is not your usage of the term free-will somewhat faceteous? We both know that man is not free to do anything but serve sin.

  • At 5:56 PM, July 04, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, I want to be sure we mean the same thing when we talk about fatalism and hyper-Calvinism.

    Fatalism, as I understand it, and as the name implies, suggests that irregardless of what one may or may not do, they are "fated" to some certain, inescapable end. The idea is that if you are fated to go to heaven, you will go, and if you are fated to go to hell you will go - and nothing you can (or will) do can change that.

    Hyper-Calvinism, as I understand it, perverts the doctrines of grace such that God's election is portrayed as Him dragging unwilling sinners into heaven while at the same time locking out repentant sinners who desperately want to enter in.

    As I answer your question, I will do so presuming we share the same understanding of these terms.

    If my understanding leads to fatalism, then what you are saying is that my understanding means that people who genuinely turn to God in faith will only get to hell if they are elect, and people who sin all their life and never to to Christ will only go to hell if they are not elect.

    I don't believe there is anything in what I have written that makes that suggestion.

    Rather I remain consistent, I believe, in showing that we are only free to act within the scope of the spiritual death we are born into. That is, there is no spiritual life within us that is going to turn to God, and left to our own devices, though the gospel were preached to us each and every day - not a single person would have enough spiritual life in them to turn to Christ in faith. That is what death looks like. We can go to the graveyard and preach the gospel all we want - no one is going to rise out of the grave and hear it, because they are all dead.

    The charge of fatalism cannot stick because that would suggest that some of these dead people are not really dead. You see, in order to desire heaven, one must be alive - so you can't have a scenario where God is locking the door on people trying to get in because no one is trying to get in. Likewise, you can't have God dragging dead people into heaven, because scripture has no such category.

    While there is predestination, it is certainly not of the fatalistic variety - that is, it isn't as if we end up where we going regardless of what we do. What we choose to do will decide where we go - the only thing about that is what we choose to do has already been determined by God before He ever created us.

    If we come to this discussion with the wrongful notion that everyone is (by default) able to come to God - we are not thinking biblically.

    The entire race, being spiritually dead, means that no one wants to come to Christ, or ever will want to come to Christ; because they cannot come to Christ - because that would be an act of virtue, a righteous thing - and there is no righteousness in us. Dead does not mean, a tiny, teensy weeny little bit alive. It means dead. Lazarus did not rise from the grave because he was only mostly dead - Christ's command gave life to Him.

    Hyper-Calvinism says that God elects some to heaven and elects others to hell.

    The problem with that is that in order to have an election, you need to elect someone from out of a group. When we elect a mayor, he or she is elected from the general population. If there is no population, there cannot be an election. You have to first have a group then you can elect people from that group, otherwise you are not having an "election".

    So the idea of God "electing" people for heaven, and the rest for hell doesn't make any sense - because that would mean that there was some group that was neither elect nor non-elect prior to the election. I wonder if that is clear enough?

    You see, election, understood properly, would mean either there was a group of innocent people from whom God elected to make some guilty, or that there was a guilty group from whom God elected to count some as righteous. You need a homogeneous group to elect from if you are going to have an election. If you have a group that is neither one nor the other, and you "elect" some to go one way, and some to go the other such that there is no remainder when you are through - then you have not elected a group from within another - you have merely divided a group into two categories.

    Not that we make our argument from a clear understanding of what an election is - for one can remain ignorant of such a distinction and still understand the concept.

    We tend to want to put things into chronological order when we discuss these sorts of things, even if time has no meaning in eternity - yet for our temporal perspectives, it seems good to do so, if for no other reason than to understand how it would look to us.

    When God made his "election" was he choosing from a group that was innocent, or guilty? If we say innocent - then we must conclude that there was no purpose for this election, for none were guilty. If we say guilty, then we must conclude that God's election was not a matter of sending some to heaven and others to hell - but rather a matter of regarding all as going to hell, and determining to save some from that fate.

    Do you see this Jim? Do you not see that to elect innocent men to heaven is ridiculous? If everyone is innocent when God makes his choice, then the only choice God is making is which innocent people is he going to allow to corrupt themselves and thereby earn hell. That is certainly a horrible image of God, and worthy of all scorn and disgust.

    I hope you will see that either we are all innocent or all guilty - and if all innocent then election means that God determines to send innocent men to hell, and if we are all guilty when God makes his election, then election means that God is allowing guilty sinners to receive the wages of their sin, yet showing mercy on some of these guilty sinners - those whom he elects to do so for - and allowing them, in spite of their sin - to enter into heaven by a supreme act of mercy in sending His own Son into creation, as the incarnate God who demonstrate His own character (love) by not only saving some, but doing so at the expense of His own Son's life, so that His own righteousness and glory are not compromised in saving the guilty (since they receive God's wrath in full in Christ).

    Thus I don't think anything I am saying leads one to conclude, as the hyper-Calvinist concludes, that God chooses some for heaven and some for hell - nor do I think there is anything in what I have said that suggests that our destinies are fixed regardless of what we do - rather the only conclusion I believe I present is that all our actions reflect God's sovereign will - resulting in the salvation of the elect, and only the elect.

    Put simply Jim, I think that experientially speaking, only those who come to Christ desiring to be saved from their sins and who place their trust in Christ to do so will be saved, and that those who by their sin earn their condemnation, and who never come to Christ in faith - I believe that these will go to hell. If a person comes to Christ, it is because God has drawn Him to Christ as the scriptures say - it is not because that person has circumvented God - and if God calls a person, that person will come no matter what.

    I don't believe that everyone who wants to get into heaven is called however. I expect that Judas wanted to get into heaven, and Caiaphas, and any number of Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and lawyers. It isn't those who want to go to heaven that get there, it is those who genuinely want to be reconciled to God that get there - and only those whom God calls will ever desire this - because it is not a carnal desire Jim, it is a spiritual one - and the natural man has no spiritual desires, God has to put it there - we call that the "grace" that is irresistible, not because it turns a man into a robot, but because there is nothing to resist - just as a man becomes thirsty because he is designed to be thirsty, the moment God determines to make a man thirsty for Him, that man is marked, he -will- come to the fount and drink, not because he is forced, but because he has been granted that thirst.

    I wonder if this makes sense to you or not? Let me know.

  • At 9:51 PM, July 04, 2008, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, I think I understand you much better now. I appreciate your patience. So from what I can gather you see the doctrine of election as the pivotal point of all truth in understanding and interpreting scripture.

    From what I understand now, I see election (or as you say sovereignty) as the foundation of Calvinistic doctrine on which all other points either stand or fall. This somewhat makes sense as the TULIP is a sort of progression.

    I would like your thoughts on this comment I recently read on a blog.

    "While scripture indicates that none of us seek God or come to Him of our own accord, it never indicates that people are unable to respond to the gospel when they hear it. In fact, everything regarding preaching the gospel assumes the reverse. It appears clear that the gospel itself carries within it the power to enable hearers to believe it. If you want to call that power of the gospel "prevenient grace," then I believe in prevenient grace."

  • At 2:21 AM, July 05, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, I would say the comment from the other blog is not accurate when it says that scripture never indicates that people are unable to respond to the gospel when they hear it. In John 10 Jesus describes Himself metaphorically as the good shepherd - whose sheep "hear" his voice. This was not to suggest that the other sheep were deaf, but rather that, the sheep who were not Christ's would by no means heed His call. In verses 25-27 Jesus explains why these people could not come to Him: "Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

    Not that we need to rely on metaphors, to make the point - Jesus said plainly in John 6 that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws ("drags") that person to Jesus.

    Or Paul gives us some fodder too in his first epistle to the Corinthians, wherein, in the fourteenth verse of the second chapter we read: But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. What is Paul referring to when he says, "the things of the Spirit of God"? Looking back in the context Paul is referring to that teaching which he first brought to the Corinthians - the teachings about Christ; what we might simply refer to as "the gospel". Paul was saying the same thing he says everywhere - but just in a different way; the reason some don't receive the gospel is not because Paul isn't persuasive enough - but because the natural man (i.e. the man God hasn't quickened) cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God - they are foolishness to him, nor can he understand them because they are spiritually discerned (and he is carnal).

    I wonder if I really need to reiterate the many texts that speak to this truth? You have likely heard them all quoted many times by now.

    When I preach the "good news" my presumption is not that all men can comprehend it, but that no men can comprehend it unless God opens their understanding.

    When Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because the gospel of Christ is the "power" of God unto salvation -- I don't understand the word power to mean "spiritual energy" - as though it worked independant of God. I think it simply means, as the Greek allows, that the gospel is "the means by which the work is done".

    Not that I am trying to drain any spiritual life out of the text - but rather that I am not convinced that the text suggests that the gospel itself has 'energy' to save. The gospel is, practically speaking a truthful accounting of who Jesus is, and what He has done for mankind. That truth sets as many free as place their genuine trust in it. In that sense the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done most certainly -is- the means by which the work of salvation is done - but only in those who can receive spiritual things; in other words - if it is the gospel that gives life (rather than (as scripture teaches) the Spirit who gives life) then this "power" is to the power to wake the dead. But scripture describes not the gospel as waking the spiritually dead out of their condemned slumber - but the Holy Spirit.

    Which isn't to say that the quote is all that far off, for I believe the full picture is somewhat close: The Holy Spirit, works through the preaching of the gospel to initiate faith in men. Not the gospel in a vacuum, but the Holy Spirit giving life so that the truth is not only assented to as true, but trusted and understood.

    Does that make sense?

  • At 10:19 PM, July 05, 2008, Blogger Jim said…

    "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."br/>Rom 1:16

    Daniel, this verse seems to declare that the gospel does indeed have some form of power to save; but only in conjunction with belief (faith). Now you may argue that God only grants faith to the elect hence only they are granted salvation. Nevertheless faith does not come apart from hearing the Word of God.

    So in this sense, the gospel is indeed the vehicle by which God moves to grant faith to men. Whatever method folks may believe this conviction takes place, we must all agree that there is no room for boasting as Eph 2:8-9 perfectly states.

    Perhaps this is why we see so little power of God today; the gospel is not being proclaimed with boldness and authority as it ought. There is a beautiful mystery whereby God anoints the preaching of the Word to impart faith in the hearers. He has given us the privelege and awesome responsiblity of bringing the good news to every creature.

  • At 8:55 AM, July 06, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, the good news is just that - news. It isn't magical in and of itself, yet it desribes the work of salvation that God has accomplished. Unless the Holy Spirit, in an act of grace (for no one deserves this), grants the hearer (ours out into their heart ...if you will...) a love for God, they will by no means turn away from their sins and towards God for reconciliation - even if their minds superficially assent to the truth of the gospel claim.

    The news itself is, as you describe, a vehicle for God's power - and while good and true, it isn't intrinsically powerful as if God had given it some kind of utterly autonomous power. If that were the case, we wouldn't have to preach the gospel at all, since it would have the power to save regardless of whether we preached it or not - we could just put up a billboard to zap those who passed by and happened to read it. Also this would mean that the power that the gospel has is flawed, since it has gone forth from God, but only sometimes succeeds in what God has sent it forth to do.

    I think the reason we see so little of God's power today is because we live in a society where we have no need of God, except to get us into heaven. How many of us pray in the morning that God will feed us and our family that day? If you have a fridge full of food, and a good job - chances are, you are not going to be looking to the cupboard and not God for provision. Likewise, who has time to think of God when children are in school all day being taught to love the world instead of Him? Who has time for God when our evenings are spent in front opiating ourselves into a stupor through television, or (now) the internet - or gaming, or soccer, or leisure in general? When God is becomes all about the "after life" we don't see him in our present life.

    I think that is the real problem - the gospel that people are preaching is that God is going to save you from hell... later.. instead of God is going to save you from sin and rebellion right now.

  • At 9:14 AM, July 06, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    (ours out into their hearts...

    is supposed to be

    (pours out into their hearts...

  • At 9:17 AM, July 06, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Sigh - I am in a hurry this morning apparently...

    chances are, you are not going to be looking to the cupboard and not God for provision

    is supposed to read:

    chances are, you are going to be looking to the cupboard and not to God for provision...

  • At 10:09 AM, July 07, 2008, Blogger Jim said…

    "I think that is the real problem - the gospel that people are preaching is that God is going to save you from hell... later.. instead of God is going to save you from sin and rebellion right now."

    Very true Daniel, very true!

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