Why Calvin was wrong about Romans 9

September 24, 2013

by Dr. Bob Rogers, pastor
FBC, Rincon, Ga.

Copyright 2013
Under consideration for publication.
Reproduction is expressly forbidden.

John Calvin was wrong about Romans 9.

Calvin, the famous Protestant Reformer of Geneva, Switzerland, was a great theologian. He became famous for his emphasis on the sovereignty of God and God’s predestination of our salvation. But in his commentary the ninth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, John Calvin took predestination beyond anything the apostle Paul intended to say.

Qualifications of what I’m saying:

Don’t misunderstand me. Let me state up front some things that I believe the Bible teaches. I believe that salvation is completely by the grace of God and cannot be earned by our good deeds. Second, I believe that God is merciful and at the same time God is just. Third, I believe in the sovereignty of God; God can do what he wants to do. Fourth, I believe that we have a free will to choose to follow or not follow Christ; however, when we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, the Bible says that we are chosen, or predestined.

Let me also say that in disagreeing with John Calvin, I am not disagreeing with all people who consider themselves Calvinists. My disagreement is with a specific brand of Calvinism and with a specific statement made by John Calvin in his own commentary on Romans. Many will argue that Calvin himself took a different position in some of his other writings, and that may be true, but it does not change the fact that Calvin was wrong in his commentary on Romans 9.

The key verses and Calvin’s comments

The debate centers around the key verses, Romans 9:18, 22 (HCSB): “So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden… And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction?”

Calvin says in his commentary on Romans 9, “Paul teaches us, that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will… that not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end—that they may perish.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Romans.)

John Calvin’s interpretation of Romans 9:18 and 22 is called double-edged predestination. It is the belief not only that the saved are predestined to be saved, but also that the lost are predestined to be damned. At first glance, one can see how Calvin would interpret this passage the way he did. But a study of these verses in light of the entire chapter reveals a completely different picture of what Paul was saying.

God is not unjust

Calvin’s interpretation makes God arbitrary and implies that God is unjust. Yet Paul reminds us in Romans 9:14, “Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not!” Let’s go through the chapter and see how God is both merciful and just.

Hardened clay and melted butter

When Romans 9:18 says that God shows mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires, this does not mean that God is arbitrary or unfair. Let’s look at the context of this statement. In the previous verse, verse 17, Paul spoke about Pharaoh, who hardened his heart and would not let the people of Israel go from slavery. But if one reads the story in Exodus, one finds that half of the time it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and half of the time it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. What Exodus described was the process by which God brought out the hardness that was already in Pharaoh’s heart. As Dale Moody says, “The sun that hardens the clay melts the butter.” (The Broadman Bible Commmentary, vol. 10: Acts- I Corinthians, “Romans,” by Dale Moody, p. 230.) Thus God was not making Pharaoh do something that Pharaoh didn’t already want to do. Likewise, God does not take away our free will to obey or disobey.

The clay pot and the potter

Next, we note that Paul uses the example of a clay pot to illustrate predestination. He says in verses 20-21, that we have no right as mere humans to talk back to God about His will. It is interesting that Jeremiah 18:5-10 also uses the clay pot illustration to show how God reacts differently when we respond differently. Jeremiah says that if a people whom God warns will repent of their evil, then God will relent of his disaster and not inflict on them the disaster God had planned. This shows how predestination works in the mind and heart of God. Of course, God in His foreknowledge already knows what we will do, so when we choose Christ, God speaks of having chosen us.

A choice by faith

Romans 9:30-33 shows how salvation comes by a free choice to believe the gospel, not by arbitrary predestination. It does this by drawing a contrast between Gentiles who obtained righteousness and the Jews who did not obtain righteousness. What was the difference? It was their faith! Verse 30 says the Gentiles obtained a “righteousness that comes from faith.” Verse 31 says Israel did not achieve this righteousness. “Why is that?” Paul asks in verse 32. His answer: “Because they did not pursue it by faith.”

Objects of wrath and objects of mercy—treated differently

With all of this in mind, let us return to the key verses that are central to this debate, Romans 9:22-23. These verses have been interpreted as teaching double-edged predestination, because they speak of the “objects of wrath ready for destruction” and “objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory.” However, what many people miss here, is that Paul describes the objects of wrath (the damned) and the objects of mercy (the saved) in different ways in this passage. The Greek grammar in verse 22 describes the “objects of wrath ready for destruction” with a perfect participle in the middle or passive voice.  Thus it describes the objects of wrath, which refer to the lost, as “having been made ready for destruction,” which may mean they prepared themselves for destruction by their own unbelief. Notice also that God “endured with much patience the objects of wrath.” In other words, God patiently waited for their free choices, because, as 2 Peter 2:9 says, God is not willing that any be lost.

However, the Greek grammar is different when referring to the “objects of mercy” in verse 23. Paul describes the “objects of mercy” as those “that He prepared beforehand for glory.” This time, Paul uses the active voice to describe God’s action of salvation. In other words, Paul speaks of the saved as actively being predestined by God beforehand, but Paul speaks of the damned as passively being predestined, implying it is the result of their own choices, which God in His omniscience already knew they would make.

Why John Calvin was wrong

John Calvin said that the apostle Paul taught in Romans 9 that God created the wicked for the purpose of damning them to Hell. But when we read Paul’s words carefully and in context, we see that Calvin was wrong. Instead, Paul says that God is not unjust. He says that God hardens the heart, but those are hearts that have also freely chosen to harden themselves. He says that we are like clay pots that cannot question God who forms them, but those same clay pots do have a choice to respond to the potter’s hands. If anybody is an object of God’s wrath, it is because that person has failed to obtain salvation by faith. The choice is always ours, but God always knows what choice we will make.

(Read Dr. Rogers’ most popular blog post: “Why I am changing Bible translations” HERE.)

Copyright 2013
Under consideration for publication.
Reproduction is expressly forbidden.

SBCToday neither requires nor expects any busy pastor who may post here to be attentive to this blog either by responding immediately, later, or at all.

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Norm Miller

It seems Dr. Bob has got some little birdies “TWITTERpated” as these tweets reveal:

@Jcadvamlier says “an accusation like this means use (sic) must state ‘when’ God predestined and by implication ‘why’.”
SBCToday: Accusation? How about exegesis? Also, Calvinists see election as square-one while ignoring that it is second to God’s foreknowlege as Paul and Peter wrote. So, the “when” and “why” questions are apropos, but are asked perhaps to point to a preferred answer rather than a scriptural one.

@ewlockhart states “if man is wicked, God damning them w/out chance of grace, is not unjust; it’s the definition of just. Grace is mercy.”
SBCToday: Grace is getting something undeserved. Mercy is not getting something deserved. They are not the same.

@PuritanJoel cites Dr. Bob Rogers, who said, “’My disagreement is with a specific brand of Calvinism'” Which brand would that be? All Calvinists I know read Roman 9 the same way.”
SBCToday: Perhaps Dr. Rogers meant style and not brand. Of course, as the opinions and positions of Calvinists stated at this blog reveal, not all Cals agree on soteriology.

@ewlockhart observes: “Wow. Talk about missing it…”
SBCToday: Missing what? Hermeneutics class? Lockhart should come to the blog and make his case instead of throwing bombs from the sidelines.

@Spurgeonist asks: “If you hold to God’s omniscience then did He not create ppl knowingly to send them to Hell? Isn’t Calvin’s interpretation BETTER?”
SBCToday Better than what, sound exegesis?

pam knight

Thanks Brother Rogers for this needed explaination of Romans 9. I am so thankful for men like you who will speak out on these issues, especially for all of us who do not have the public microphone that others have so again thanks
In Christ
pam knight

volfan007

Bob,

Thanks for sharing this. It was very informative and interesting.

David

Ron F. Hale

You are correct Dr. Bob — he did get it wrong and your article was great. The last 13 words of Romans 9 wraps it all up … “and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

    Lydia

    “You are correct Dr. Bob — he did get it wrong and your article was great. The last 13 words of Romans 9 wraps it all up … “and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

    Exactly! Romans is one of those books one should never proof text but keep on reading……take out the chapter breaks and verse numbers if it helps. :o)

Hunter Bradley

Im just curious, what in your supposed correct interpretation would lead me to ask this question? “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”

Paul says I will ask this if I understand what he is saying.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    “…what in your supposed correct interpretation…”

    What a nice way to ask a question. Why is this only “supposed”?

    Are you an unbelieving Jew? If not, you wouldn’t be lead to ask that question at all from what Paul is saying.

    Context.

    Note in verse 20 something completely absent: Paul doesn’t accept the premise following the question that no one can resist God’s will, which he knows can happen (Luke 7:30, Acts 7:51). Do you think Paul and Luke (and by extension, Stephen whom Luke recorded), who certainly knew each other and were both inspired authors, were in disagreement on this point?

    In fact, this is obvious by the next question that follows the rebuke, “Why did you make me like this?”

    We must also ask the question, “make me like what?” The “same” lump is Israel, but remember Rom. 9:6b. How is it that the potter can make from the same lump two different kinds of vessels? Answer, verses 9:22-23. Note in Jeremiah 18:4 that the clay BECAME FLAWED in the potter’s hand. The potter didn’t flaw the clay, the clay flawed itself (via sin), so the potter did something else with it. Jeremiah 18:7-8 is also echoed here in Romans 9:22. This is why the interpretation offered above by Dr. Rogers on this point is SPOT ON here between the two types of vessels. The vessels fitted themselves for destruction, but note this, they were endured with much patience. In Romans, what is patience? See Romans 2:4, which is also said to Jews, just as this passage is said to Jews…”Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

    There is a pattern here that is consistent within Romans itself, brought out even more in Chapter 11, consistent with the Jeremiah 18, echo, and Paul certainly doesn’t negate or contradict himself on the “vessels” metaphor from 2 Tim 2:20-21

    The Bible has a clear, consistent teaching on vessels, the kind of clay, the kind of potter, etc. None of it is consistent with Calvinism.

    Curious that all of this is either overlooked, or intentionally left out, by the other “supposed” correct interpretation offered by Calvinists.

    Paul has just positioned the unbelievers of Israel in the place of Pharaoh. The hypothetical question Paul has placed on the lips of his opponent in this diatribe is sarcastic, in the same vein as Romans 6:1 and 6:15 that Paul is used to hearing from his interlocutors. The sarcastic objection from the standpoint of the unbelieving Jew is that if God is using the Jews, a people with whom God has a covenant arrangement, for a purpose of displaying God’s power, which in the context of both the Exodus (with Pharaoh) and Romans is His saving power (Rom. 1:16-17), the Jew says, why could God fault them for being used for such a supposedly good purpose if Paul is right (completely ignoring that they are wicked sinners like Pharaoh was) since they have a covenant arrangement?

    See, the Jewish objection, while sarcastic, also states something of an erroneous theology among the unbelieving Jews that Paul has already gone to great lengths to refute all through Romans, even in chapter 9 (9:6-13)…we can call this erroneous theology “Unconditional Election to Salvation”. Oddly enough, Paul, in Romans 9, is refuting this false doctrine of unconditional election, a Jewish “Calvinism” is you will, and he certainly isn’t replacing it with another false doctrine of unconditional election to salvation a la Calvinism qua Calvinism. :)

    Unbelieving Jews are still in the flesh, and thus, still subject to God’s wrath, and He has the sovereign prerogative to use them how He sees fit, even though they are in a covenant arrangement with Yahweh, for purposes to display His power if they are objects of wrath no different than Pharaoh. But, who does God save, both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 9:24, 11:1)

      Norm Miller

      Still sharp at 00:55 o’clock. There is no home run in the history of baseball ….

      volfan007

      Johnathan,

      Dude, you seriously need to get your doctors degree, and teach somewhere….I’m being very serious, right now.

      David

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Thanks Bro. David.

        My hope is to start teaching somewhere while I get my doctorate.

        Norm Miller

        Amen, Bro. David. Johnathan — who now is gainfully employed in a secular job — I know is committed to God’s will for his life. Pray with me that God will continue to reveal to Johnathan His perfect plan and will make a way unto its fruition.

        Lydia

        Agreed!

Johnathan Pritchett

Nice article.

However, and this is a minor quibble, but you write, “This time, Paul uses the active voice to describe God’s action of salvation. In other words, Paul speaks of the saved as actively being predestined by God beforehand…”

Paul doesn’t say this though. “Beforehand” doesn’t mean “predestined”, it means “beforehand”. The saved are not predestined to be saved. The saved are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). They are being conformed to that image towards glorification, i.e. “He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy prepared beforehand for glory (v.23)”. In other words, they are actively being prepared for that glory before the glory.

Again, minor quibble, as the rest is spot on.

rhutchin

Pastor Rogers writes, “Paul speaks of the saved as actively being predestined by God beforehand, but Paul speaks of the damned as passively being predestined, implying it is the result of their own choices, which God in His omniscience already knew they would make.”

I see this as Calvin’s basic assumption in his analysis of the passage. God is actively doing something with respect to the elect and passively (refraining from action) with respect to the non-elect. This active/passive action by God is seen when Paul writes of God having mercy on one (active) and hardening another (passive), making one vessel of honor (active) and another of dishonor (passive), preparing vessels of mercy for glory (active) and vessels of destruction endured (passive).

Calvin’s point is that God treats the elect differently than He does the non-elect. Despite Pastor Rogers’ argument against Calvin’s understanding of Romans 9, his real complaint is that He doesn’t want God to act until man first exercises choice. Otherwise, he agrees that God can treat people differently. The issue is always the ability of people to exercise “free” will.

All agree that God treats the elect differently than He does the non-elect. The issue is how people come to be elect or non-elect. Pastor Rogers does not address that issue here – he doesn’t explain how a person can exercise “faith” in a “free will” fashion. His complaint against Calvin is pretty much superficial because of this. But then, he probably laid the foundation for this sermon in the previous week’s sermon (which should have been presented here first, for context if nothing else).

    Norm Miller

    Relegating the exegesis in Dr. Rogers’ post to superficiality is a comment reflective of its own accusation.

    Granted, the issues is as you stated: “how people come to be elect or non-elect.” And, as I put it to you and others in recent days, election starts with God’s foreknowledge, not election. No one as yet has stepped up to say with certitude what is was that God foreknew that resulted in election.

    Also, you stated in a recent comment that God doesn’t act passively in such regards, but today you posit the opposite.

    Submitted on 2013/09/19 at 7:43 am
    Yes. Consider any sin – for example the violent rape of a child. We know that God is present at that sin having observed the perpetrator all along the way as he plotted and planned that sin. We also know that God has the power to intervene at any time to turn the perpetrator away from his desires. God’s control over this situation is complete and total because God is sovereign. It is God who decides whether to intervene to prevent the sin or to do nothing and let sinful desires play out. God is always an active participant in making His decisions – It is impossible for God to be passive. (emph added).

      rhutchin

      Norm, “you stated in a recent comment that God doesn’t act passively in such regards, but today you posit the opposite.”

      The problem is whether to explain a concept over again every time it comes up. I guess I need to do so for a while (maybe through a footnote).

      God is never “passive” in the sense of not being a participant. God is “passive” in the sense of having made an active decision not to intervene in a person’s life – e.g., to allow a person to choose sin and death by not intervening to gain a different outcome. Because God is sovereign, God always has the final say on everything that happens – God must decide whether to directly intervene in every action of people to prevent an outcome or not to intervene and allow natural events to play out naturally.

      Because Pastor Rogers used the active/passive language, I just followed his convention and used his terms. Nonetheless, even when God is “passive” as used by Pastor Rogers, we know that God is actively involved and makes an “active” decision where “Paul speaks of the damned as passively being predestined.” God cannot disassociate Himself from any of the affairs of people and no one acts absent God’s involvement in the action.

        Norm Miller

        I know *exactly* how you feel, Hutch, in the following comment. I am empathetic, for I suffer the same issue with certain commentors here:
        “The problem is whether to explain a concept over again every time it comes up. I guess I need to do so for a while (maybe through a footnote).”
        To that I give a hearty “AMEN!”

        Only God would limit himself. I never would make this claim as you did:
        “God cannot disassociate Himself from any of the affairs of people and no one acts absent God’s involvement in the action.”
        I have asserted that God could have decided to limit himself from sinful actions by a macro decision, and it still would look like micro-involvement to us. Your saying that God “cannot disassociate Himself” is your opinion, and it puts God in a box. Unless you can cite verses to support that assertion, it remains just that, an assertion and not fact.

Robert

Every time I read one of Jonathan’s posts here I feel like I am reading something that I would write myself. :-) So it is encouraging to see his comments here on Romans 9.

I just want to add a couple of things to strengthen what Jonathan has said.

First of all, Johnathan gets it right: Paul is not talking about *humanity in general* (i.e. the elect and non-elect in all of humanity: that is not the context, and this is a major assumption/error made by Calvinists in their misinterpretation of the passage). Rather, as Johnathan clearly points out the subject is the first century Jews (both believing, and unbelieving/the vessels of wrath).

For example Johnathan writes:

“Paul has just positioned the unbelievers of Israel in the place of Pharaoh. The hypothetical question Paul has placed on the lips of his opponent in this diatribe is sarcastic, in the same vein as Romans 6:1 and 6:15 that Paul is used to hearing from his interlocutors. The sarcastic objection from the standpoint of the unbelieving Jew is that if God is using the Jews, a people with whom God has a covenant arrangement, for a purpose of displaying God’s power, which in the context of both the Exodus (with Pharaoh) and Romans is His saving power (Rom. 1:16-17), the Jew says, why could God fault them for being used for such a supposedly good purpose if Paul is right (completely ignoring that they are wicked sinners like Pharaoh was) since they have a covenant arrangement?”

If you understand that Romans 9 in context is talking about *first century Jews* you will interpret and understand the passage correctly: if you do not, you will misinterpret it and end up with errors such as Calvinism. There are some clear indications that the context is first century Judaism. One indication is that Romans 9-11 functions as a unit and is to be interpreted as a unit (and that unit is talking about now that the Jewish Messiah has come: why are so many Jews not believing Him and the gospel message of Paul?). Another indication is that the book of Romans is cyclical (i.e. Paul will mention the same topic in different places in the letter: he first mentions the objections of Jewish unbelievers in Romans 3: in fact most miss this, you need to compare the objections of in Romans 3 and Romans 9 and you will see they are so similar and are both coming from *Jewish unbelievers*: not non-Calvinists questioning Calvinistic election as modern Calvinists try to frame it). Another indication is that the things that Paul discusses in Romans 9 were happening in *history* not eternity. God could not have been “hardening” the vessels of wrath in eternity as they did not yet exist and as such there was nothing to harden. God could not have been enduring with much patience people that did not exist (and this patience towards disobedient people could not have been taking place in eternity, it had to be real history and real people). Calvinists *assume* the discussion of hardening and having mercy is taking place in *eternity*. But that is impossible as the actions that God were doing involved real people in real time, not in eternity.

Second, Johnathan gets it right in that he sees that the verses in Romans 9 that Paul cites have OT precedents. Paul’s discussion of the pot and the vessels comes right out of Jer. 18. So you have to know what Jer 18 is talking about to see what Paul is talking about in Romans 9. And Jeremiah was not talking about election, reprobation, unconditional election etc. in Jer. 18. He was talking about how God responds to the actions of people. Again, modern Calvinists seem to miss this completely. They talk about Paul’s comments in Romans 9 as if they stand alone, as if they have no historical context in the history of Israel (specifically Jer. 18).

Third Johnathan sees the irony, when interpreted correctly, Paul is actually refuting a Jewish belief in unconditional election (i.e. they thought that simply because they were Jews they were elect and saved: thus they saw no need for placing faith in Christ in order to be saved as they were saved because they were Jews and they were keeping the law):

“See, the Jewish objection, while sarcastic, also states something of an erroneous theology among the unbelieving Jews that Paul has already gone to great lengths to refute all through Romans, even in chapter 9 (9:6-13)…we can call this erroneous theology “Unconditional Election to Salvation”. Oddly enough, Paul, in Romans 9, is refuting this false doctrine of unconditional election, a Jewish “Calvinism” is you will, and he certainly isn’t replacing it with another false doctrine of unconditional election to salvation a la Calvinism qua Calvinism. :)”

Good stuff Johnathan keep it coming!

Robert

    Courtney Hill

    Robert, I will reply to you at the risk of having my words parsed and misrepresented, but here goes. I only have one question…

    If your interpretation is correct, that is, that this text only applies to first century Jews, how do you deal with verses 23-24?

    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,
    24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

    It’s clear Paul is referring to these vessels of mercy as not only first century Jews, but all those whom He has called. (And this word “called” (kaleo) is the same used in the previous chapter, in verse 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.”

    And let me ask this question: even if you apply the primary thought Paul is having in chapter 9 to first century Jews, does is change the meaning of the phrase ““I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Does it change that God has mercy and compassion upon whom He desires? That is, is it not in God’s prerogative primarily and not man’s prerogative?

      Robert

      Courtney in a previous thread offered *a parting shot* to which I did not respond because after taking the time to rationally refute his points and arguments he just ended it with an *emotional tirade* which included the words:

      “But if anyone should appreciate my unwillingness to go beyond what is written in Scripture, I would think it would be someone like yourself who so hates a system like Calvinism. I’m more concerned with Scripture than a system. Do you get that? Can you see it? Or are you only interested n scoring points with the peanut gallery here as you speak about me in third person? I think I’ve figured out your game and I’m through playing it with you.”

      I thought this was both condescending (“Do you get that?” “Can you see it?”) and a put down (“Or are you only interested in scoring points with the peanut gallery here”).

      He also accused me of *playing games* (“I think I’ve figured out your game and I’m through playing it with you”).

      The guy writes this kind of thing and now writes:

      “Robert, I will reply to you at the risk of having my words parsed and misrepresented, but here goes. I only have one question…”

      So Courtney why should I take the time to answer your question when you have made it perfectly clear in your last *emotional tirade* what you think???

      And you have the gall to now ask me a question???

      Robert

        Courtney Hill

        That made me chuckle, I must say. Yes, I agree with you Robert. You should just ignore all my posts and not reply to any of them.

Courtney Hill

I definitely do not agree with double predestination- that is, I do not believe that God actively reprobates people in the same active way that He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. However, I’m not convinced that Calvin believed in God’s active reprobation of people, either. The witness of Scripture is that God acts graciously and mercifully in bringing sons to glory but that in the case of the non-elect, He merely allows them to go their own way. They need no help to be reprobate. I suppose one might make the argument that by not extending grace and mercy to all equally that it is unfair or unjust, but if we properly understand Romans, it’s clear Paul has made the case that all men deserve death. But it is our human (fallen) sense of fairness that demands equal grace for all. And the thing that angers us most is that God decides who receives grace and mercy based on the counsel of His own good pleasure. God, then, is the only One who truly possesses libertarian free will (in its truest sense) because men are bound by sin due to the fall.

I must say, though, I like the outrageous headline here- Calvin was wrong! Oooh! Aaah! I guess I’ll have to remove the shrine I have of him in my living room. /sarcasm. This seems just a bit of sensationalism to me. But hey, who am I?

    Norm Miller

    Love your last paragraph. Shrine to Calvin. Classic.

    Calvin writes:
    “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)

    It would seem that Calvin sees the “eternal decree” as having equal force among all.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Does the connotation of “senasationalism” render the entire post to be inaccurate or untruthful?

      rhutchin

      Norm, quoting Calvin, “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man.”

      In Calvinist Theology, God’s predestination of some to salvation reflects God’s decision to intervene in an unsaved person’s life to bring them to salvation contrary to their natural desires. God’s predestination of some to eternal damnation reflects God’s decision not to intervene in a person’s life to bring them to salvation but to allow people to sin and reject the gospel in accord with the natural desires of their heart.

        Norm Miller

        Per Paul and Peter, election is tied up in foreknowledge, as I previously noted, and you have yet to answer. What was it that God foreknew that was the cause of election? More specifically, what was it that God foreknew about those he elected? That is where it starts.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    “But it is our human (fallen) sense of fairness that demands equal grace for all.”

    A faulty premise that sounds pious is no less faulty just because it sounds pious. No Christian around here demands “equal grace” for all. Folks around here understand what grace in regards to salvation actually is (which, in the New Testament, it is the language of a benefaction in a socio-economic arrangement between patron and clients, with Jesus acting as broker/mediator), and in that sense, “demanding grace” seems to be an goofy kind of thing. Only those who desire some other path to salvation demand God give another arrangement on their terms rather than His. No one who repents and believes in Jesus has a problem with God’s way of doing things through faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

    So, I guess I don’t understand the point you make here.

    “And the thing that angers us most is that God decides who receives grace and mercy based on the counsel of His own good pleasure.”

    The only people I know of that is angry about it is the non-believers I know of who argue against Christian exclusivism. They don’t like it that the benefaction of salvation is given by God only to those who repent and believe the Gospel (John 3:16, Rom. 3:21-26, Rom. 5:2, etc.). These unbelievers, like the unbelieving Jews in Paul’s day being addressed in Romans 9 who demand mercy on their own terms, don’t like it that God in His counsel and good pleasure decided that those who receive benefaction and mercy are those who believe in Jesus. Rather, these unbelievers want Him to make any road they choose for themselves (like the Jews, per Rom. 10:3) to lead to Him instead of this repenting and believing in Jesus business.

    In any case, I don’t know the “us” to whom you refer, but it certainly shouldn’t include believers…and certainly doesn’t include believers around here at SBC Today who are not Calvinists.

    “The witness of Scripture is that God acts graciously and mercifully in bringing sons to glory but that in the case of the non-elect…”

    Again, pious sounding, but still faulty. Everyone is non-elect and reprobate until they become united with Christ via repentance and faith, and thus, elect. (Eph. 2:1-10) Given that, it is obvious that the Calvinist interpretation of Ephesians 1:4 is false. One can’t be an elect person in Christ before the foundation of the world and a child of wrath before coming to Christ through faith. If one is in Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), and one can’t both be a child of wrath and a son of glory in Christ with no condemnation. If an individual was “elect TO BE in Christ (the emphasized words NOWHERE in the text of Ephesians 1:4) prior to creation, how it is that such a person could ever be a child of wrath, condemned already in time if they are already in Christ with no condemnation prior to that from before the foundation of the world?

    Right. It is nonsense. Unless you believe you were never a child of wrath prior to conversion (good luck proving that one), you must agree that no one is elect prior to conversion (Eph. 1:13, note that Paul confirms this interpretation and goes out of his way to not allow a faulty interpretation, such as the ones Calvinists offer, in this verse when he says “-in Him when you believe-“), and therefore, everyone is non-elect, until one becomes elect IN HIM when they believe, or not and remains non-elect.

    So, your juxtaposition above is built from a faulty premise.

    Rather, the correct way to look at all this is the way the Bible looks at is. Namely, the corporate Jew + Gentile “us” people-group was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and an individual becomes part of that corporate people-group by repentance and faith in Jesus on the one hand (Eph. 1:13), and identification with that corporate group (the church) on the other (Eph. 1:4, Eph. 1:11-12).

    To say God acts differently to bring sons and daughters of glory than He does the non-elect is a bit odd since everyone is a non-elect child of wrath under condemnation until they are united in Christ, in the course of history. So, you are creating false identifications of the elect and non-elect, because everyone begins life as non-elect. The difference between the non-elect and the elect sons and daughters brought to glory is repentance and faith in Jesus.

    God shows mercy on whom He wills, and He wills to show mercy on all who repent and believe in Jesus (John 3:16, etc.)

    Those who reject the grace and mercy of God on the terms that God as our Patron has dictated, i.e. In Him, can be, like Pharaoh, hardened if God wills it, in order that His saving power can be demonstrated and thus they are used for other purposes in bringing about the salvation of many other people. We see this over and over in Scripture. For example, Joseph’s brothers in Genesis, Pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus, the Jews in Acts 7, Acts 13, etc. where we find Romans 9 being the outcome of these things, and so on and so forth.

    So whatever you are talking about here, it has nothing to do with what the Bible is talking about. What the Bible actually talks about is what many of us here at SBC Today who are not Calvinists are talking about.

    It is always best form to first prove what you believe is the witness of Scripture before assuming it and making assertions, given that there is a chance that your assertions are false, and your understanding of the witness of Scripture is faulty.

    I am not Robert, but I will try to address some of the things he raised.

    “If your interpretation is correct, that is, that this text only applies to first century Jews, how do you deal with verses 23-24?”

    Well, I don’t think it only applies to first century Jews, but it is stated to first century Jews and must be understood from that vantage point before retrieving theological principles from the text.

    In any case, my response above and even in this response here on what God does with vessels addresses your question and the principles we can gain from the passage once its proper contextualized interpretation has been established.

    “It’s clear Paul is referring to these vessels of mercy as not only first century Jews, but all those whom He has called. (And this word “called” (kaleo) is the same used in the previous chapter, in verse 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.”

    Yes, indeed. I am so glad you notice that! It is identical language. It is also the same language used in chapter nine throughout, especially in 9:25 on with the Hosea references, which proves the point. Paul is consistent in his usage. Kaleo (kalein) is a technical term. It means to NAME. To designate. God designates the people He wants to designate as His own. The ones He has named/designated as His own, are the ones he justifies (declared righteous). Which is also how you know N.T. Wright is right about justification as primarily an ecclesiological thing. God determines who His people are and names them as such. In the New Testament, we discover, it is from both Jews and Gentiles, and Paul is stressing Gentile inclusion throughout the entire body of his epistles.

    “And let me ask this question: even if you apply the primary thought Paul is having in chapter 9 to first century Jews, does is change the meaning of the phrase ““I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Does it change that God has mercy and compassion upon whom He desires? That is, is it not in God’s prerogative primarily and not man’s prerogative?”

    No, it doesn’t change. It is God’s perojative. However, it is no mystery whom God desires to show mercy. It is the people of faith. There is a consistent pattern in Scripture for these things. It is clear whom God has mercy and compassion on. It is those who repent and believe in Jesus. That is Paul’s point to the unbelieving Jew who demands mercy on his own terms rather than God’s, simply on the basis of his ancestry or works, which is NOT what God’s criteria is, which is why Paul shuts it down over and over again in his argument, throughout Romans and Galatians especially. When we toss Romans 1-8 and the rest of Scripture when reading Romans 9, all sorts of weird stuff (like Calvinism) comes up.

    I agree with my Calvinist friends that the passage in Romans 9 is quite clear and not difficult to understand. I disagree with how my Calvinist friends understand the passage since their understanding makes zero sense of the passage, the greater context in Romans, all the OT echos and citations in the passage and the book of Romans, and with the whole Bible itself.

    God bless.

      rhutchin

      Johnathan Pritchett writes “No Christian around here demands “equal grace” for all.”

      That’s fine, but that seems to mean that you allow God to extend grace unequally to people and that inequality differentiates between the elect and non-elect which is, basically, what the Calvinist says. How do you hold that there is not “equal grace” for all and then reject the Calvinist conclusion – that God, through grace, differentiates between the elect and the non-elect bringing the one to salvation and not the other?

        Johnathan Pritchett

        “That’s fine, but that seems to mean that you allow God to extend grace unequally to people and that inequality differentiates between the elect and non-elect which is, basically, what the Calvinist says.”

        It means to say that I affirm what the Bible says, which is that the grace of God is salvation in Jesus Christ, and it is applicable to all humanity, and God wasn’t under obligation to extend that, but He did, and that the Bible is clear that God does not extend the grace of salvation through other means than through Jesus. Note that all my statements on this were in relation to the grace of God in salvation through Christ, and other means people or other religions or non-religions may demand or complain.

        Hence, your inferences and questions are faulty and inapplicable to what I am saying. Everyone is non-elect individually until they believe (or not), so there is no difference in the means of salvation among peoples since all are sinners and thus in the same boat.

        Now, if you are using grace in some other sense that the Biblical authors and audience wouldn’t understand, than I am not interested in talking about those kinds of things.

        “How do you hold that there is not “equal grace” for all and then reject the Calvinist conclusion – that God, through grace, differentiates between the elect and the non-elect bringing the one to salvation and not the other?”

        Because I reject your inferences, categories, and definitions since they have little to do with the Bible in its ANE context, and has more to do with what inferences, categories, and definitions that post-Medeival individualist Westerners were operating in. I have zero interest in those sorts of things.

      Courtney Hill

      Johnathan, I think you’re equating election with regeneration. According to the Baptist Faith and Message:

      “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.”

      Election speaks of God’s purpose related to what He has planned to do in a person’s life. So, while I couldn’t have stated that I was elect prior to my conversion, God could.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        I am glad you brought up the BF&M, because it demonstrates that one of us is confused, but it isn’t me confusing election and regeneration, but you confusing persons with purposes as it relates to salvation. Election as it relates to salvation is in regards to God’s purposes, not individual persons. The BF&M seems clearly oriented to the concept of corporate election, and not individual election as it relates to salvation.

        Here is your confusion, “Election speaks of God’s purpose related to what He has planned to do in a person’s life.”

        “So, while I couldn’t have stated that I was elect prior to my conversion, God could.”

        And here, you step out of purposes in election and into the area of God’s foreknowledge as it relates to persons, see the discussion with Norm and rhutchin, where rhutchin, though refuted on this over and over again, continues to bring it up… God foreknew you would be in Christ, but this does not mean that before the foundation of the world you were “elected TO BE in Christ,” That is to say more than Scripture, which clearly states in Ephesians 1:4 that the corporate people Paul is speaking about states that “…He chose us (Jew plus Gentile people of God in Christ) in Him (not “chose me and you to be…”) before…”

          Courtney Hill

          I don’t believe your understanding is accurate according to Scripture Johnathan. Consider Acts 13:48…

          48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

          Who believed? That is, which individuals believed? Luke’s answer: “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” This is not speaking of foreknowledge. This is speaking of God ordaining that individuals to come to believe. Now, Luke likely said here what was common practice and what was commonly said. Who believed? All those whom God appointed to believe did so.

            Norm Miller

            So they were not ‘foreknown’ by God and not fore-ordained by God to believe? When were they appointed and why? It must’ve been according to foreknowledge, or Paul and Peter got it wrong.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Your last paragraph is irrelevant as it has nothing to do with the verse.

            In fact, I don’t believe your understanding of Acts 13:48 is accurate in context.

            It is your accuracy in understanding Scripture that you should worry about.

            Indeed, I can’t see how a verse about Gentile Chriatians rejoicing and believing what Paul said in verse 47 about Gentile inclusion and extent of the Gospel mission has to do with the issues we are discussing today..

            I am sure you thought you had a point, but once again, prooftext versus context and the point you wanted to make from a verse has nothing to do with what the verse (and the Bible) is actually making.

Bob Hadley

It sounds good to say “I do not believe in double predestination” and say that God simply leaves the reprobate to his own devices. However, when God effectually calls some that means He does not call others that is problematic… because He is the One who makes the decision to save or to damn. So it is not a matter of leaving people in their own state, it is actually making the choice as to who goes where as far as eternity is concerned. It is impossible to believe in predestination and unconditional election and not accept the fact of double predestination.

Now to 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Personally I believe Paul is addressing the promises of God being opened up to the Gentiles. That is the whole purpose of his reference to Jacob and Esau; the older serving the younger; Judaism giving way to Christianity. I also agree with Robert and Jonathan where they talk about this text being a counter to unconditional election as far as the Jews are concerned… and in a sense, I see calvinism as a spiritual Judaism of sorts… if God wanted to establish a soteriological system akin to calvinism, He already had it in Judaism; just let the elect be born to Jewish parents and walla… it is all simplified. No need to have this calvinist system of God hand picking who is and is not saved; just birth them as Jews.

The reference in verse 15 is as I see it, Paul saying “God is just in giving the gospel to the gentiles; He has not forgotten His promises to the Jews but His plan all along was to bring good news to all people; His plan was never solely focused on the Jews as they grew to believe it was. That is what I believe Paul is addressing ans saying in this text and is as has already been noted, not even coming close to speaking of individual election and His right to hand pick who does and does not get into the club.

    Courtney Hill

    Hey Bob, grace to you my brother. Your definition of double predestination is not the same as mine, it seems. When I am defining it, I am speaking (on the negative side) of reprobation. Now, I *do* believe that God gives mercy, grace, and effectually calls some, but not others. But that is Scriptural. I think your argument there is with Scripture, not me or Calvin or Spurgeon, or Augustine, et al. Those who do not hear the voice of God are not His sheep. As Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them- and they follow Me. The reason you do not believe is because you are not of My sheep.” What is it that determines who hears the voice of God and follows Jesus? This is the critical question. The witness of Scripture is that it is God who does this by a choice of His own good pleasure. Consider what Jesus said here:

    63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
    64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.
    65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

    I believe I could say this to every group of people with whom I speak because it’s a fact. Some will believe and some will not. I don’t know who they are (unlike Jesus). I couldn’t tell someone “Well, the reason you don’t believe is because you are not of His sheep,” because I don’t know. Jesus knew. All I know is that we are to preach the Gospel to all, trusting in God to open their hearts to receive the message, even as He did with Lydia (Acts 16:14). We preach the Gospel and those who are appointed unto life believe (Acts 13:38). Paul told the Corinthians that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Who are those who are perishing? Well, Jesus told Nicodemus that those who do not believe are “condemned already.” Paul told the Ephesians that they were once children of wrath, *even as the rest*. All stand condemned apart from God’s intervention. And truthfully, none of us deserve God’s intervention. It’s all grace and mercy that He intervenes. In that same text from Ephesians Paul spoke of the lost as being *dead* in sin.

    Here is my bottom line Bob. For years we (as Baptists) have been preaching the Gospel to sinful men as though the entire thing is their choice. We have told them to raise a hand or walk an aisle and pray a prayer. We’ve basically told them that salvation is a matter of their choice. And many, not all, but many have been unchanged. AT the very least, we need to focus more on the work of God in salvation. I don’t think there is any question that we could agree on that- that salvation is a miraculous work of God whereby He changes a God-hating rebel into a God-loving saint, and that genuine conversion requires a regenerating move of God. That is why I think this return to reformed doctrine has happened. We were getting too far away from the Gospel and had begun turning it into more like a Burger King slogan- your way, right away. And so, I think this is all good. Some will go too far but most will land right. That is just my opinion of course, and this and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee at McD’s.

      Robert

      Courtney laments:

      “Here is my bottom line Bob. For years we (as Baptists) have been preaching the Gospel to sinful men as though the entire thing is their choice. We have told them to raise a hand or walk an aisle and pray a prayer. We’ve basically told them that salvation is a matter of their choice. And many, not all, but many have been unchanged. AT the very least, we need to focus more on the work of God in salvation. I don’t think there is any question that we could agree on that- that salvation is a miraculous work of God whereby He changes a God-hating rebel into a God-loving saint, and that genuine conversion requires a regenerating move of God. That is why I think this return to reformed doctrine has happened. We were getting too far away from the Gospel and had begun turning it into more like a Burger King slogan- your way, right away. And so, I think this is all good. Some will go too far but most will land right. That is just my opinion of course, and this and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee at McD’s.”

      Courtney laments here what I and others have often called “decisionism”.

      It is the idea that people ought to do whatever they can to merely *get decisions*. Some are after *numbers* of *decisions*, the more the better. Calvinists like Courtney often attempt to *muddy the water* against the *sinners prayer, altar calls, etc. etc.* by bringing up their concerns with decisionism.

      But proper evangelism is *not* decisionism; it is making disciples of Jesus. And they need to be carefully distinguished. And yet part of making disciples of Jesus is that people must make a decision themselves to believe, repent and follow Jesus (that is why we Baptists emphasize believer baptism, it is a testimony of what the person has done, it is individual, it is personal, it is their decision to trust Christ and follow Him).

      Calvinists like Courtney are so zealous to protect their *monergistic* theology (i.e. regeneration precedes faith, God alone saves which they take to mean they must attack freely chosen faith as a delusion, everything man does in the process of salvation must be minimized, questioned, attacked or ignored): they end up *throwing out the baby with the bathwater.*

      Most of us are familiar with “decisionism” and the problems with it. But the sinners prayer in itself, the call for decisions to accept and follow Christ, altar calls, etc. are not themselves “decisionism” nor are they the bathwater we should be getting rid of.

      Robert

Norm Miller

Courtney:
This comment: “We have told them to raise a hand or walk an aisle and pray a prayer. We’ve basically told them that salvation is a matter of their choice.”
many here have asserted this, and I have never heard this unless it was accompanied with a clear call to repent, trust and believe. Many Calvinists rail against the “raise your hand and walk the aisle” approach. And I would too, vehemently, if that were *all* I heard.
One other point to this is that, if Calvinists believe the elect will be saved and the non-elect will not, then why whine over such an invitation? I think it reflects poorly on Calvinists’ adoration of sovereignty to complain about something that their view of sovereignty will solve.

    rhutchin

    Norm writes, “if Calvinists believe the elect will be saved and the non-elect will not, then why whine over such an invitation?”

    The concern of the Calvinist is that a person not be given the impression that they are “saved” because they walked the aisle or prayed some prayer. Calvinists do not like to have people running around thinking they are saved when they are not – and there seem to be plenty of such people around if we correlate what people believe with their behavior.

      Norm Miller

      But it makes no eternal difference. Sorry if you don’t ‘like’ it. Again, I have never heard such an invitation as some Cals say they have heard. If I did, I would rail as the Cals do.

        Robert

        Hey Norm,

        You and Rhutchin are inadvertently providing some good stand-up comedy for me, if you think deeply about what you guys are saying it is completely laughable. Norm it is not what you are saying is in itself laughable, but what this conversation means if the Calvinists are right and everything is ordained including their frequent whining.

        So assuming that Calvinism is correct and He has ordained everything including your conversation.

        Norm you were predestined to say:

        “if Calvinists believe the elect will be saved and the non-elect will not, then why whine over such an invitation?”

        Rhutchin responded with the response that God predestined him to say:

        “The concern of the Calvinist is that a person not be given the impression that they are “saved” because they walked the aisle or prayed some prayer. Calvinists do not like to have people running around thinking they are saved when they are not – and there seem to be plenty of such people around if we correlate what people believe with their behavior.”

        To which you then responded with the response that God predestined for you to respond with:

        “But it makes no eternal difference. Sorry if you don’t ‘like’ it. Again, I have never heard such an invitation as some Cals say they have heard. If I did, I would rail as the Cals do.”

        Now here is why this is funny for me. Norm you note correctly that Calvinists often whine about things.

        But whining makes no sense if Calvinism is true.

        Are we *really* to believe that God is glorified by the whining of Calvinists, or anyone else for that matter?

        Are we *really* to believe that God has predestined the whining and complaining of Calvinists?

        If God ordained everything, then everything is exactly as it should be, exactly as God wants it to be, preplanned it to be and ensures that it be.

        So why complain and whine when God’s will is always being done????

        But it gets more ridiculous: if God ordains everything as the consistent Calvinist like rhutchin believes, then whatever we do is God’s will, so if someone is whining, they *have to whine*, they were *ordained to do so*, it is *impossible that they do otherwise* than whine as they were predestined to do the very thing they are doing! And this applies to everything!

        For example is someone is unfortunate enough to have been predestined to be an “Arminian” believer (from the words of some Calvinists this may be even worse than being predestined to be a reprobate!), then God predestined/ordained them to be a believer that holds to Arminian beliefs and they cannot help themselves. So why are Calvinists attacking these poor Arminians as lesser Christians, as less informed, as more mistaken when in fact the Arminian is just acting according to his cue, according to the script that God has for him/her? Why is God ordaining that Calvinists attack other believers/Arminians, etc. etc. as lesser Christians, ignorant Christians, etc. etc.?

        Wouldn’t that be a house divided against itself?

        Is God that foolish to attack his own people with his own people?

        How would that glorify him and help them?

        I find it comical that Calvinists whine about so much stuff in light of their supposed belief that “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass”.

        If I really believed what they believed, that God was totally in control and predestined everything, I wouldn’t whine about anything because everything is in fact going according to plan! But whine and complain they do and about all kinds of things, both critical and miniscule.

        If we step back from this comical Alice in Wonderland of Calvinism for a moment, and take into account the reality that Calvinism is in fact false and so people are freely choosing when they whine and what they whine about: then we can understand why they complain so much. It is their choice; certain things bother them personally so they choose to whine about those things. It has nothing to do with God; it is all their own choices. And you can tell a lot about people by the choices they make and also what bothers them and they whine about.

        Robert

    Courtney Hill

    Hey Norm, in youth ministry this kind of thing has happened many times. A youth speaker will spend 30 minutes on some type of topic- being a good witness at your school, being a more devout Christian- reading the Word and praying more, or warning them about not being worldly, warning against premarital sex, drugs, or alcohol, etc, and then they’ll “throw in” an invitation at the end about coming to Christ. There are some who end every sermon like this… “I know I’ve been preaching on (fill in the blank) today but I want to give you a chance to be saved, so here it is. With every head bowed and every eye closed, how many of you would say that if you died right now you’re 100% sure you’d spend eternity in heaven? Thank you. Now, how many of you couldn’t raise your hands? If you’d like to become a Christian, it’s very simple. Just pray a prayer like this. Dear Jesus, I know I’m a sinner. Please come into my heart, etc.” I grew up with this Norm. Maybe it was a West Tennessee thing, I don’t know, but I heard a similar kind of thing done *often*. The Gospel preaching was very weak and was often thrown in at the end. As a matter of fact, the Gospel itself was rarely preached in total. Most sermons dealt with some kind of moral issue, social issue, or church issue. I still don’t hear the Gospel as central in most preaching. Perhaps that is something else God is up to wanting the Gospel to be central.

dr. james willingham

I like the way John Gill put it, something to this effect, “God decreed to damn no man but for sin, nor did He decree to damn any but for sin.” Every one that perishes will perish, because he sinned. However, any one who is saved finds deliverance cue to the mercy and grace of God who chose that person in eternity for reasons of His own and not conditioned on any foreseen acceptance of Christ but the Divine choice being carried into effect by the Holy Spirit working in the dead sinner, regenerating, and then enlightening and enabling him or her to respond in an active conversion of acceptance and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Robert

    Many Calvinists try to valiantly but unsuccessfully to minimize the implications of their view of election. One of their favorite ways to try to do so is to argue that it is the sin of sinners alone that sends them to hell: as if God had nothing to do with their fate, as if they freely chose to be hell bound (though of course these same folks deny the reality of free will, but then they talk as if free will exists in regards to the reprobate!).

    But this is magic trick and a smokescreen an evasive maneuver that must be seen clearly for what it is.

    If God “ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass” then that includes *everything*.

    And that includes the thoughts of individual persons, their beliefs, their desires, their choices. If that is so, then everyone who sins, sins because God controlled them and predestined them to sin.

    James attempts this standard Calvinist maneuver when he writes:

    “I like the way John Gill put it, something to this effect, “God decreed to damn no man but for sin, nor did He decree to damn any but for sin.” Every one that perishes will perish, because he sinned.”

    That is a text book example of trying, like a magician; to get our attention away from where the trick is really happening (in God’s choosing who will be saved and damned in eternity according to Calvinism) to the sins committed by sinners who end up in hell. This is supposed to excuse God from being responsible for their eternal destiny.

    But whoever is in control is responsible and if God directly controls all persons (including controlling their minds, thoughts, desires, choices) as Calvinists keep telling us, then he is responsible for everything they do.

    The puppet master cannot shirk responsibility and blame the puppet for what the puppet does when the puppet master was pulling their strings and controlling them.

    Or as a friend once aptly put it: if we went to a puppet show where a puppet master was completely controlling the puppets and one of the puppets murdered someone in the crowd: would be blame the puppet for the murder or the puppet master???

    The Calvinist would focus solely on the actions of the murderous puppet and seek to put the blame on the puppet not the puppet master. Non-Calvinists seeing through this magic trick and evasion of responsibility would blame not the puppet but the puppet master for what had taken place. James quoting Gill and pointing at the puppet does not absolve the puppet master as according to Calvinistic theology, no puppet does anything unless they are controlled by the puppet master and the puppet master preplanned and ensures that they do everything they end up doing.

    Robert

Robert

Hello Norm,

You wrote:

“So they were not ‘foreknown’ by God and not fore-ordained by God to believe? When were they appointed and why? It must’ve been according to foreknowledge, or Paul and Peter got it wrong.”

Good point, Calvinists like Courtney ignore the fact that the scripture explicitly says that election is according to foreknowledge as you remind us.

Courtney being the Calvinist that he is, attempted to *proof text* from the English from Acts 13:48. This is a common ploy by Calvinists. But there are some things he *just happened* to *fail to mention* in his proof texting attempt.

Let’s start with the key word translated as “appoint” in English. Note Courtney gives *no evidence* that the word means to ordain: he simply *assumes* that it has that meaning in the Greek. But it does not mean “ordain” in Greek. The Greek word “tasso” means to “set up” it was a military term as in “set up or line up the troops”. It does not mean “predestine” (there are other Greek words for predestine), nor does it mean ordain. Nor is it referring to events before time existed in eternity. But Calvinists like Courtney have been proof texting from this text *in English* for a long time so all of this is ignored or minimized.

If you interpreted the Greek literally it would read: “and as many as had been set up for eternal life, believed.” That brings up the question: in what way were they “set up” to believe? That being “set up” speaks of the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work in them (which as we have discussed before: enables but does not necessitate a faith response). In other words the Spirit had worked in these folks/set these Gentiles up to believe, and all of these Gentiles in that setting believed. In my experience I have seen many people being “set up” to believe and some chose to believe some did not. In Acts 13 the Jews were also set up to believe but chose to reject. This is contrasted with the Gentiles who did choose to believe. Choice is not eliminated by this passage as if you examine it carefully in context; the Gentiles are praised for their having chosen to believe when the Jews are chided for choosing not to believe. The contrast in that chapter is between Gentile openness and resultant belief and Jewish obstinacy and unbelief.
Acts 13:48 is not talking about God *ordaining* anyone to belief as the “tassoing” referred to in Acts 13 was taking place in history, at that time and the word “tasso” does not mean “ordain”. Calvinists such as Courtney ignore all of the Greek and the context and isolate one word in *English* because they want to claim that it means ordain. But it does not mean *ordain* it means to *set up*.

Robert

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Robert,

    I understand there are issues with the word tasso, but consider the following:

    1. Ordain still doesn’t mean foreordain, nor does tasso mean predestination as you pointed out anyway..

    2. Regardless of how one translates tasso, as many as were *whatever* to eternal life believed something. But what is that something?

    “When they heard THIS…”, my contention is that these Gentiles were already Christians (urged to continue in grace a la verse 42. They were a subset of the “whole town” that came to hear the next week per their request in the synagog the week prior. The Gospel was already preached to them in verses 16-40, so I think there is some compression happening here. The point of what they heard and rejoiced over and believed was what Paul said in verses 46-47 about Gentile inclusion and the scope and extent of the Gospel mission. So those Christian Gentiles, the ones appointed/ordained/arranged/whatever to eternal life, believed that which is the THIS they heard Paul say in verses 46-47.

    Acts 14:1-7 sees a similar pattern. They preach, some believe and so the apostles continue on there. Jealous Jews stir up trouble, they move on to the next place.

    I kind of see the argument that they were being set up to become Christians, and there are good arguments that talk about “arrangement” of meetings, the contrast between the Jews who reject, and the Gentiles who don’t, and all that.

    But, I am not convinced by that, because I can’t make sense of verse 42 regarding their following Paul and Barnabas and being told to be continuing in grace if that is the case. I think Luke, after recording the sermon extensively in the previous verses, is stressing a different point, that of Paul’s words of Jewish rejection, Gentile inclusion and the “ends of the earth” scope of the Gospel in verses 46-47, to which the already-saved-and-believing-in-Jesus Gentiles believed that and rejoiced over it, which is how verse 48 begins. “When they heard this…”, and the “this” is not a repeat of the sermon Luke recorded from the week prior in verses 16-40, but more about the issue of Gentile inclusion. This makes more sense of all the often overlooked details in the passage, including the contrast of rejoicing over Gentile inclusion versus the envy of the Jewish nonbelievers, etc.

    In my opinion, I think both sides of this debate miss what is really happening in Acts 13:48 in context whenever this verse comes up in the debates because they are trying to atomize the reading of one verse, haggle over Greek words (and even the sentence structure in the translation is suspect as well if one wanted to make even more hay…), and not see the bigger picture and other issues that were very important in the first century to hearers of Scripture that we modern folk no longer care about.

      Robert

      Hello Jonathan,

      Interesting thoughts thanks for sharing them.

      “When they heard THIS…”, my contention is that these Gentiles were already Christians (urged to continue in grace a la verse 42. They were a subset of the “whole town” that came to hear the next week per their request in the synagogue the week prior. The Gospel was already preached to them in verses 16-40, so I think there is some compression happening here. The point of what they heard and rejoiced over and believed was what Paul said in verses 46-47 about Gentile inclusion and the scope and extent of the Gospel mission. So those Christian Gentiles, the ones appointed/ordained/arranged/whatever to eternal life, believed that which is the THIS they heard Paul say in verses 46-47.”

      You are correct that the “this” of v. 48 is the statement about Gentiles in v. 47.

      “Acts 14:1-7 sees a similar pattern. They preach, some believe and so the apostles continue on there. Jealous Jews stir up trouble, they move on to the next place.”

      True this could be another similar thing happening as in Acts 14.

      “I kind of see the argument that they were being set up to become Christians, and there are good arguments that talk about “arrangement” of meetings, the contrast between the Jews who reject, and the Gentiles who don’t, and all that.”

      Well that is my present view, but I am open to change!

      “But, I am not convinced by that, because I can’t make sense of verse 42 regarding their following Paul and Barnabas and being told to be continuing in grace if that is the case.”

      Those told to “continue in grace” in v. 43 were “many of the Jews and of the God fearing proselytes”. These proselytes are Gentiles who had converted to Judaism and so attended Synagogue meetings. An interesting question is what exactly does Luke mean when he says that “Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them *to continue in the grace of God”? What exactly does that phrase mean? Does it mean they were to continue to listen to Paul’s teaching and they were not yet believers? Or were they new converts being told to continue in the faith?

      “ I think Luke, after recording the sermon extensively in the previous verses, is stressing a different point, that of Paul’s words of Jewish rejection, Gentile inclusion and the “ends of the earth” scope of the Gospel in verses 46-47, to which the already-saved-and-believing-in-Jesus Gentiles believed that and rejoiced over it, which is how verse 48 begins. “When they heard this…”, and the “this” is not a repeat of the sermon Luke recorded from the week prior in verses 16-40, but more about the issue of Gentile inclusion. This makes more sense of all the often overlooked details in the passage, including the contrast of rejoicing over Gentile inclusion versus the envy of the Jewish nonbelievers, etc. “

      The interesting thing about your interpretation is that you see the Gentiles of v. 48 as being *already* believers, rather than as most see them as Gentiles converting to the faith.

      “In my opinion, I think both sides of this debate miss what is really happening in Acts 13:48 in context whenever this verse comes up in the debates because they are trying to atomize the reading of one verse, haggle over Greek words (and even the sentence structure in the translation is suspect as well if one wanted to make even more hay…), and not see the bigger picture and other issues that were very important in the first century to hearers of Scripture that we modern folk no longer care about.”

      I think you are right about this, the emphasis of Luke in Acts 13 is not a discussion of unconditional election (that is read in by Calvinists): rather, Luke as he does throughout Acts is emphasizing how the gospel is going out to Gentiles because the Jews of that time kept rejecting it. *That* is a much bigger issue for him and his early readers than the truth or falsity of Calvinism. Luke is much more concerned with evangelism and who is coming to be God’s people than soteriological issues involved in Calvinism (for example check out v. 49 “And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region” *That* is much more critical to Luke and the early readers than the definition of ‘tasso”). Sadly what Luke was really emphasizing has been displaced by soteriological discussions of calvinism, not at all what he was concerned about. It also means that most have completely misunderstood and misrepresented that text because of their modern preoccupations rather than focusing upon what Luke and his early readers were concerned about.

      Robert

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Well, Christians are certainly “appointed to eternal life”, and have received grace, and are urged to continue in it (2 Peter 3:18).

        What I find interesting is how favorably the Gentile “God-fearers/proselytes” responded to what is a thoroughly Jewish sermon (verses 16-40, as opposed to a thoroughly non-Jewish sermon like Paul gives at Mars Hill).

        I think the key issue in this passage is a bit of a turning point in the Gospel mission, where in Acts Jews were converting by the thousands, but by this point the unbelievers have become increasingly hostile just about everywhere. We are witnessing their “hardening” due to their rejection. What Paul was saying in Romans 9:16-24, and 11:14 (properly understood) in action.

        I used to hold the same type of interpretation as you did, but more and more I started to draw different conclusions and see a shift in emphasis in these chapters of Acts.

        I like the post of Courtney with the citation of Calvin’s commentary, as it is a reminder for everyone why Calvin’s commentaries are practically worthless to use. There is a lot of presupposed systematic theological blather, but zero exegesis.

      Courtney Hill

      Calvin on Acts 13:48: And they believed. This is an exposition of the member next going before, at least in my judgment.: For Luke showeth what manner [of] glory they gave to the word of God. And here we must note the restraint, [reservation,] when he saith that they believed, (but) not all in general, but those who were ordained unto life. And we need not doubt but that Luke calleth those ???????????, who were chosen by the free adoption of God. For it is a ridiculous cavil to refer this unto the affection of those which believed, as if those received the gospel whose minds were well-disposed. For this ordaining must be understood of the eternal counsel of God alone. Neither doth Luke say that they were ordained unto faith, but unto life; because the Lord doth predestinate his unto the inheritance of eternal life. And this place teacheth that faith dependeth upon God’s election. And assuredly, seeing that the whole race of mankind is blind and stubborn, those diseases stick fast in our nature until they be redressed by the grace of the Spirit, and that redressing floweth from the fountain of election alone. For in that of two which hear the same doctrine together, 836 the one showeth himself apt to be taught, the other continueth in his obstinacy. It is not, therefore, because they differ by nature, but because God doth lighten [illumine] the former, and doth not vouchsafe the other the like grace. We are, indeed, made the children of God by faith; as faith, as touching us, is the gate and the first beginning of salvation; but there is a higher respect of God. For he doth not begin to choose us after that we believe; but he sealeth his adoption, which was hidden in our hearts, by the gift of faith, that it may be manifest and sure. For if this be proper to the children of God alone to be his disciples, it followeth that it doth not appertain unto all the children of Adam in general. No marvel, therefore, if all do not receive the gospel; 837 because, though our heavenly Father inviteth all men unto the faith by the external voice of man, yet doth he not call effectually by his Spirit any save those whom he hath determined to save. Now, if God’s election, whereby he ordaineth us unto life, be the cause of faith and salvation, there remaineth nothing for worthiness or merits.

Norm Miller

Please, let’s keep to the topic as much as possible.

    Robert

    Hello Norm,

    You asked that:

    “Please, let’s keep to the topic as much as possible.”

    I agree with you and have the same concern.

    The problem is that Calvinists like Courtney, rhutchin, etc. etc. refuse to accept non-Calvinist interpretations of Romans 9 (or other disputed passages) as rational and valid interpretations of the text.

    So when presented with the non-Calvinist interpretations, rather than taking them on and showing where they are mistaken or fall short. They instead often resort to *changing the topic* or simply presenting their interpretation instead. By this I mean they will not talk about the specific text under discussion and the non-Calvinist’s explanation and exegesis, but just run to some other Calvinist proof text (e.g. John 6, Acts 13:48, etc. etc.) avoiding the non-Calvinist exegesis and changing the topic.

    Here Bob Rodgers made some very good points about Romans 9 and they were ignored.

    Johnathan also made some good exegetical points and they were ignored.

    Instead as is typical of them the Calvinists changed the topic and ran to their preferred proof texts (e.g. Courtney ran to Acts 13:48 a passage that was not under discussion at all). Or ask questions that presume their interpretation and want only to talk about their interpretation.

    The reality is that Calvinists simply refuse to accept that non-Calvinists have come up with perfectly legitimate, rational, biblical, coherent, logical interpretations of the texts.

    As long as Calvinists like Courtney play their proof texting game, they will continue to change the topic or run to some other verse than the one that should be discussed. I used to run into this a lot when I worked with Walter Martin with non-Christian cults: they do the same thing, rather than sticking to the text under discussion, they run to and cite and want to debate their cherished proof texts. Unfortunately I will sometimes respond to their changing of the topic rather than ignoring them. That is a mistake that I am sometimes susceptible to because I don’t like seeing error being promoted without challenge.

    Robert

Norm Miller

I have experienced the dynamic you note repeatedly at this blog. We all are guilty of some form of debate/diversionary tactic now and again. I try to be true to my own sermon of “discussion, not debate.” But, I am in good company in that my flesh and spirit are at war.
Do me a favor, Robert — and the rest of you as well — let’s not speak of others in the third person. Such discussions appeal to our flesh, but let’s not go there to the extent we are the least bit disrespectful. Admittedly, I struggle with this, as do we all. If we were to imagine that we were talking to Jesus in all of these threads, I daresay we’d be using the same tones and words as we sometimes do. In fact, if we were talking to Jesus, we would not be discussing the finer points of soteriology; we’d be stammering for excuses as to why we were not in the fields white unto harvest seeing soteriology at work.
(Not picking on you, Robert.)

    Courtney Hill

    Hey Bob, I know there is a frustration at times over this topic. But I think it’s a good conversation. We all desire to see God glorified, which is good. We all desire for people to hear the Gospel and be converted. This is good. We’re all brothers in Christ, and we can’t forget that. I like to come here to hear the other point of view. It’s good for me. It provides balance. I wish I could do a better job at presenting my own point of view, that way it might be more helpful to those who read it. But I acknowledge my limitations. I’m a self-taught “Calvinist.” I’ve never had one formal teacher who taught me the doctrines of grace. I’m actually more a “Spurgeonist” than a Calvinist if you had to nail me down. I love the way he boldly proclaimed the sovereignty of God but also called men to repentance. This may seem like a contradiction but I do not believe it is by any stretch.

    And by the way Robert, I should apologize for some of my replies to you at times here. I admit it, you have frustrated me at times. But, as Norm points out, I should not allow this to cause me to become disrespectful toward you or belittle you. So, I’m sorry for that. I’m not your enemy and you are not mine, either. So, grace to you my friend and to all others here as well. I just told my students last night (and I was NOT teaching them to be calvinist btw- ha!), how can we who have known such an amazing grace and mercy not be gracious and merciful to all men? Amen to that. They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our perfect ability to articulate doctrinal treatises. :-)

    P.S. these math questions are tough- haha!

      Courtney Hill

      Norm, I just realized I addressed you as Bob- sorry for that. But hey, I think Bob Hadley is a good guy, too. I’ve never met either of you, but you both seem like good brothers. Anyway, sorry for calling you the wrong name. I think that was a brain cramp.

Dan Nelson

Very good explanation of Romans 9 about election. I think everyone should be concerned if they believe in a God who would dam people to Hell before they had an opportunity to respond in faith to the gospel or either his general revelation in the world before they take one breath in the world. To say there are certain people who cannot be saved just does not wash with Jesus command to go into all the world and preach the gospel that whosoever believes will be saved. The author is helpful in pointing out the historical context of Pharaoh. He rejected and kept on rejecting God’s judgment on his gods then God gave Him up. This is very similar to Paul’s language in Romans 1: 21-28. I am glad my theology is not tied to a man or a system but to God’s desire that all men come to a knowledge of the truth through our Lord Jesus Christ I Tim. 2:4-6. If there were no way some could be saved then He would have no such desire.

    Norm Miller

    Dan: When I first heard of Calvin, I had already been walking with the Lord for years, and I had read the Bible through more than once. That explains why my stomach turned when I realized that Calvin actually believed what he wrote, and others followed it. I really was queasy, and then I was angry, and then I had pity on those who would believe that God would condemn people to hell even before they had a chance to hear His Gospel. My comment to myself, lo those many years ago, is the same as it is today: the god Calvin writes about in some instances is not the God I know; and I have met Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and friend and confidant. I just talked with Him a few minutes ago.

    My former pastor, a Calvinist, began to work on me to see soteriology his way. I told him that it made me feel spiritually uncomfortable to begin to consider God’s actions in such ways. He said, “Yeah, my dad felt the same way too, but he got over it.”

    I believe there are many young people today who are following the pied Piper in these matters, and have faced the same reaction; but peer pressure and the desire to be theologically chic and edgy overtakes what I believe is the Holy Spirit’s prompting to reject the unbiblical aspects of Calvin’s soteriology.

    Thanks for your examples of soul winners we published a few months back, and thanks for the sermons on repentance.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      As someone who came from a Reformed evangelical tradition, I can say that my problem with Calvinism wasn’t any sort of “moral” or “philosophical” type of objection to it. It was what I knew, and one thing Reformed churches are way better at than most other churches is education. So, from early on, like from second grade even, I had a good deal of understanding of the Reformed hermeneutic, interpretations, theological terminology, etc.

      For me, it was studying scholars (admittedly both conservative AND liberal) whose field was sociological and rhetorical perspectives on Scripture. Calvinism just became less and less compelling for me, with very little of the concepts, categories, definitions, concerns, etc. matching up with the Ancient Near East social context, as well as the Second Temple Judaism milieu from which the NT came. From there, understanding the really ancient Hebrew culture, and all that, the errors just mounted up and Calvinism became an untenable position in my opinion.

      I don’t think Calvinism should be labeled heresy though. I don’t think Calvin should even be labeled a heretic simply for having said stupid things. He was a deplorable man (like most of the popular Reformers, as well as their Puritan heirs) whom no one with good sense should admire with regards to his character, or even as a “scholar” really (though his work ethic was one good thing about him), but I don’t want to say he was a heretic. Like all theology, Western Reformed theology is a contextualized theology, and some grains of salt are warranted.

      Anyway, Calvinism denies none of the essential doctrines from the earliest orthodoxy. One thing I am, before I am a Traditionalist/non-Calvinist/Savabilist/whatever, is a fundamentalist in the truest sense of the word (the basic fundamentals of the Christian faith). So long as those are affirmed, I can’t call anything that I find “incorrect” or “false” to be heresy, and can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who affirms the essentials so long as cooperation is possible. After all, I go to a Reformed SBC church where my best friend is pastor.

        Jim G.

        Hi Jonathan,

        You make an excellent point about Western evangelical theology being contextual. Calvin came along some 1500 years after Jesus, and a lot of philosophical water went under the bridge over that millennium-and-a-half that influenced Calvin but did not touch the 1st century Jewish mind. Things like dualistic Hellenism, Neoplatonism, Aristotelianism via Thomism, nominalism, voluntarism, and a whole host of other issues play a big role in Calvin’s thinking. I’ll illustrate.

        The fundamental tenet of Hellenism was a dualistic disjunction between the immaterial and material worlds. This crept into Christianity very early on which posited a distinctly Greek split between God and his creation. Even though Greek Christians believed in the incarnation, many were hesitant to see a great deal of continuity between God and the world he created. The titan clash between Hellenism and Christianity produced collateral damage with blended-spinoff religions like Manichaeism. It is actually the Manichee interpretation of Romans 9 that Augustine brought into Christianity (and Calvin copied practically verbatim) when he wrote his letter to Simplician in 395/6. It introduces the idea of a double-minded God who works for both good and evil (eternal election and reprobation, whether the latter is either active or passive), because Augustine’s theology makes the horrible first step (one that I’ve seen repeatedly on this blog) of beginning one’s theological enquiry with the omniscience of God. Augustine also blunders as he takes something temporal (sin) and places its fundamental reality in eternity past. Then came Neoplatonism which likewise was mainstreamed into Christianity by Augustine, especially in the way he relates to the Trinity and “God” as eerily similar to “the One” of Plotinus. Calvin, though he assumes a trinitarian structure in his Institutes, formulates his doctrine of God not fundamentally based on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, but by the Thomistic split between the one God and the triune God. In the 14th century, the via moderna arises in philosophy, creating a “god” who is fundamentally will and power without any specific character that would check either will or power. We see this in God being “pleased” to damn people unconditionally in Calvin (who was most certainly a believer in “equal ultimacy”).

        All of these pagan philosophical intrusions are present in Johnny Boy’s theology – and I mean Johnny Boy, since he produced his first Institutes 3 years after his conversion to Catholicism (in 1536) at the age of 27 – talk about young, restless, and Reformed!

        Jim G.

          Robert

          Hello Jim,

          Good to see you posting again. Thanks for sharing your points.

          You are absolutely correct that John Calvin was under the influence of a pagan drink that Augustine had centuries earlier injected into the church bloodstream.

          You wrote:

          “You make an excellent point about Western evangelical theology being contextual. Calvin came along some 1500 years after Jesus, and a lot of philosophical water went under the bridge over that millennium-and-a-half that influenced Calvin but did not touch the 1st century Jewish mind. Things like dualistic Hellenism, Neoplatonism, Aristotelianism via Thomism, nominalism, voluntarism, and a whole host of other issues play a big role in Calvin’s thinking. I’ll illustrate.”

          You got that right. Many of these contemporary Calvinists who want to be Calvinists and evangelize others with their Calvinists ideas naively assume that Calvin simply exegeted the scriptures and came to his conclusions (their conclusions). That is not true at all; instead Calvin was greatly influenced by centuries of church tradition and especially Augustine before him. Augustine brought in the false ideas like a Trojan horse into the church’s thinking. And John Boy swallowed them hook, line and sinker. So today we have to combat this false system of theology being proposed by folks completely unaware of the history behind these ideas.

          “The titan clash between Hellenism and Christianity produced collateral damage with blended-spinoff religions like Manichaeism. It is actually the Manichee interpretation of Romans 9 that Augustine brought into Christianity (and Calvin copied practically verbatim) when he wrote his letter to Simplician in 395/6. It introduces the idea of a double-minded God who works for both good and evil (eternal election and reprobation, whether the latter is either active or passive), because Augustine’s theology makes the horrible first step (one that I’ve seen repeatedly on this blog) of beginning one’s theological enquiry with the omniscience of God. Augustine also blunders as he takes something temporal (sin) and places its fundamental reality in eternity past.”

          Whoops there it is!

          Augustine brings in Manichean ideas (Jim you forgot to mention the relevant point that the Manicheans were *determinists*) which John Boy swallowed and Calvinists today swallow just as unthinkingly.

          You also point out that it was Augustine who makes mistakes because of his thinking on God’s omniscience (again this sounds so familiar when you hear the young and restless and reformed folks parroting the exact same errors and ideas).
          “In the 14th century, the via moderna arises in philosophy, creating a “god” who is fundamentally will and power without any specific character that would check either will or power. We see this in God being “pleased” to damn people unconditionally in Calvin (who was most certainly a believer in “equal ultimacy”).”

          I think a lot of the theological voluntarism that you find in contemporary Calvinists comes from this 14th century thinking.
          What gets comical is that they espouse this voluntarism, and you see someone who really pushes it like Luther and yet other theological determinists seem to be completely unaware that they are espousing voluntarism and its corresponding errors.

          “All of these pagan philosophical intrusions are present in Johnny Boy’s theology – and I mean Johnny Boy, since he produced his first Institutes 3 years after his conversion to Catholicism (in 1536) at the age of 27 – talk about young, restless, and Reformed!”

          I like your reference to Calvin as “Johnny Boy” because it means he was really the first young, restless and reformed guy in history. The fact he was so young when he wrote the Institutes shows that he had mastered the ideas of Augustine quite well and quite early.

          It’s just too bad we have to deal with the nonsense and error that comes from Augustine and Calvin, today.

          Robert

        Norm Miller

        Thx, J-man.Heresy is a strong word. And, I agree cooperation is possible with those of differing views. But that cooperation of late does not seem to apply to both sides. So many in our SBC who have rise to prominence have ties to the Calvinistic Southern Seminary, or even to non-SBC seminaries as in the case of recent hires at the ERLC.

Ron F. Hale

One of John’s more famous quotes:

“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)

    Norm Miller

    Ron: I have read and cited that statement of Calvin’s many times, and I cannot think of anything more antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ unless it is “another gospel,” the Book of Mormon – or maybe the New World translation. And to think the Magisterial Reformers murdered our forbears for rejecting infant baptism and preaching believers only baptism. I’m thinking now of a particular passage that is the response of my heart and spirit to the heresy from Calvin: “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema). 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed (anathema)” Gal. 1.8-9

Courtney Hill

If I were to believe some of you guys here, Calvinism should not only be avoided, but anyone who holds to a reformed view of Scriptures should be avoided, removed from pulpits and positions, and, indeed, fellowship with them is not even possible. To think that God’s complete sovereignty is such an offense is amazing to me, although I was once right there in agreement. I hated it, in fact, debated people, argued til I was blue in the face. What’s funny is that it was one such debate that eventually was the spark that spurred me toward it. And even when I could no longer deny it, I still hated it. I thought all Calvinists were arrogant, know-it-alls. I suppose I’m the arrogant know-it-all now.

But one thing needs to be remembered here, my friends. We are all brothers in Christ. I find it humorous that one dear brother above who is arguing strongly against reformed doctrine actually attends a reformed SBC church. I find myself in the opposite position. I am strongly reformed but I attend a strongly “traditional” SBC church. Actually, I see this as a very good thing, though at times I would like to hear more from the reformed perspective and other times I cringe at things which are said. But the bottom line is this: before we would condemn one another as heretics, we should remember that we all desire the glory of God and we have all come to know God by grace through faith. We have much more in common than we have against each other.

    Robert

    Part A –

    Courtney your post deserves a response which I will break into two parts so that you see all of it. Courtney apparently you must be hiding in some bunker somewhere disconnected from the real world the rest of us inhabit! :-) You make these comments as if you have no idea as to why people oppose Calvinism:

    “If I were to believe some of you guys here, Calvinism should not only be avoided, but anyone who holds to a reformed view of Scriptures should be avoided, removed from pulpits and positions, and, indeed, fellowship with them is not even possible.”

    Let’s see Courtney are you unaware that there are Calvinist pastors who are, let’s say less than forthright about their Calvinist convictions, infiltrating non-Calvinist churches and then trying to convert them to Calvinist churches causing all sorts of confusion and division? Or perhaps you have not posted much on the internet where Calvinists regularly attack anything that is not Calvinism as heretical, claim that non-Calvinists are semi-Pelagians, Pelagians, man-centered, humanistic, blah, blah, blah. Or perhaps you are unaware that people like myself (who are conservative Christians with lots of experience in local churches, who are well educated, experienced, completely orthodox in our beliefs) have been sent to hell by your Calvinist buddies? I have had upset Calvinists tell me that I was hell bound, that I was a false teacher, etc. etc. Why, because I denied the trinity, deity of Christ, incarnation, salvation through faith alone, etc. etc.)? No, but simply because I dared challenge Calvin-ism and claim that it is wrong, that it is unbiblical. And are you unaware of how arrogant and dogmatic and divisive many Calvinists on the internet are? Perhaps you are unaware of how many of these Calvinists develop a cult-like mentality (where the teachings of certain people are seen as almost infallible, e.g. Piperites) and an “us versus them” mentality. As well as practice cult like methods (e.g. proof texting, semantic game playing, evasions and intentional misrepresentations of those outside their group, etc.). I could go on, but it appears you are completely unaware of all of this negative stuff connected with Calvinism.

    “To think that God’s complete sovereignty is such an offense is amazing to me, although I was once right there in agreement.”

    Now here is a perfect example of the problems with Calvinism: all believers believe in “God’s complete sovereignty” (i.e. that God *is* sovereign which means that he does whatever he wants to in any given situation). We all believe in *that*. But Calvinists who are theological determinists come along and redefine the term sovereignty as *full determinism* and then wonder why Christians who believe that God is sovereign but reject determinism also reject Calvin-ism. Why are you amazed that non-Calvinists would reject *your Calvinist* understanding of sovereignty? I am not amazed that Calvinists hold to their understanding of sovereignty: so why are you amazed that those who reject Calvinism reject its understanding of sovereignty? And yet some Calvinists will act as if their understanding *alone* of sovereignty is correct and biblical: which necessarily implies the rest of us have got it wrong. How is *that* not divisive? Especially when we non-Calvinists take the Bible seriously and are serious, committed and experienced followers of Jesus Christ? It is as if our character and Christian commitment is irrelevant, the only thing that is relevant to you Calvinists is that we believe and teach exactly what you do. You folks seem to strongly want a cookie cutter version of Christianity in which all the acceptable cookies just happen to be Calvinists!

    Robert

      Robert

      Part B-

      “I hated it, in fact, debated people, argued til I was blue in the face.”

      So now you contradict yourself, you wonder why non-Calvinists reject Calvin-ism so strongly and yet you did so yourself! You say that you “debated people, argued til” you were blue in the face and yet you also write: ““If I were to believe some of you guys here, Calvinism should not only be avoided, but anyone who holds to a reformed view of Scriptures should be avoided, removed from pulpits and positions, and, indeed, fellowship with them is not even possible.”

      “What’s funny is that it was one such debate that eventually was the spark that spurred me toward it. And even when I could no longer deny it, I still hated it. I thought all Calvinists were arrogant, know-it-alls. I suppose I’m the arrogant know-it-all now.”

      Not all Calvinists *are* arrogant, but unfortunately many are very arrogant and condescending. We should judge a tree by its fruit, especially when it comes to character. I don’t see Calvinism producing good and godly character: rather I see it producing contentious, argumentative, hostile, arrogant, condescending people. I don’t see it producing humility or godly character at all. Humble people do not claim that I and others are hell bound and false teachers simply for rejecting Calvinism.

      “Actually, I see this as a very good thing, though at times I would like to hear more from the reformed perspective and other times I cringe at things which are said.”

      Cringe at things that are said, huh. From what I have seen here Courtney you cringe at the Calvinism espoused by consistent Calvinists like John Calvin himself. You want a Calvinism-lite, rather than the more robust and consistent version. And again you act surprised at the beginning of your post.

      Another thing that is of a concern about Calvinists is that I don’t see you or other folks speaking out against Calvinists that cross the line and engage in completely uncalled for and wrongful attacks of non-Calvinists.

      For example, rhutchin a Calvinist who posts here often, on the thread where a sermon on election is being discussed wrote:

      “Pastor Hankins tells the seminary students that they can look into the eyes of any person and tell them, “God loves you.” His argument here is not with the Calvinist but with the Universalist who insists that a God who is love would certainly save those He loves.”

      Did you catch that Courtney? He charges non-Calvinists like myself, Norm, all of the so-called Traditionalists who believe that God loves the whole world because that is exactly what he says in His Word: with being *universalists*. Universalism *is* a heresy. To call us Universalists is to call us heretics. And yet why don’t’ we hear other Calvinists such as yourself correcting this kind of thing? Why are you and others challenging other Calvinists who claim we affirm that man saves himself (false we don’t believe that) or that we are universalists (false, some will be eternally damned), who claim that we are semi-Pelagians or Pelagians (we are not) or man-centered (we are not) or deniars of the Bible (we exegete the Bible as well), etc. etc.????

      “But the bottom line is this: before we would condemn one another as heretics, we should remember that we all desire the glory of God and we have all come to know God by grace through faith. We have much more in common than we have against each other.”

      Well if that is true then why aren’t *you* correcting your Calvinist buddies who condemn us as heretics, claim only they, not we see the glory of God, claim we deny that people come to God through grace alone. Until there is evidence of policing each other when the false charges are being made, until there is humility rather than arrogance coming from you folks, why should I or any other non-Calvinist take what you say here seriously?

      Robert

        Courtney Hill

        Yes Robert, I admit that my post has inconsistencies. I was just writing from the heart, not in anticipation of every phrase being parsed. The truth is, in mid-sentence I had a bit of a revelation and I realized that I understand why Calvinism is so upsetting to people. I guess I should have gone back and re-written the first part of it, but I just left it as it was. Truthfully, looking at things from my current perspective, knowing my own heart and love for my brothers in Christ, even those who disagree with me, I am surprised by some of the things said against Calvinism, some even equating it with being the product of an evil mind or being like unto Pharisaical religion. From my current perspective, I know this is not true. I accept and rejoice in grace more now than I ever did before. But then I remembered the way I once felt about Calvinism.

        Here is a quote of myself that I have saved here on my pc (I’ll change the name of the guy I was debating for the sake of anonymity): “This is the other problem Fred. What does it mean to be elect? Does it mean that God arbitrarily chose people from the beginning of time to be His children and then caused them to be born at varying times throughout the centuries and forced them to choose Him? They may think they have repented of their sins, but it was just a formality? They may think they believed, but they are simply genetically and spiritually predisposed to do so?” -Courtney Hill, August, 2005

        That debate went on for a about 6 weeks in an on-line blog. At the end, I became so angry with him that I deleted all my comments from the beginning. I saved it all before I deleted it, though. He is a much younger guy than me, and I accused him of being arrogant and disrespectful on multiple occasions. So, this is what I was remembering in the middle of my comment above. I was reminded that, while I felt so surprised by the reactions of so many here, I need to remember my own reactions from before and be more understanding. I was just as upset about it, if not more so. I was just as vehement, if not more so. So, I offered that as a bit of an olive branch.

        As for rhutchin and other Calvinists, I understand the perspective they are taking. Perhaps I should join them in it. Actually, when I read some of the comments Dr Hankins made regarding God electing people to life, not hell, I want to agree with that. But I understand rhutchin’s argument here, and agree that a saving and electing kind of love is reserved for the elect. Now, I do not have a problem saying that God loves all men, but I also don’t think there is any question that He has a special love for His own children, His own sheep, whom Jesus knows and who follow Him. These are the ones whom He keeps infallibly. I don’t believe I would have stated it quite the way that rhutchin did, but from the perspective of the elect, he’s right, in my opinion. But it’s clear that God can pour out wrath on those whom He would not wish to perish. Isn’t that so? If God is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance, then how is it that any perish? It’s clear that Peter is not saying that “God does not decree that any perish but that all come to repentance.” If that were the case, then *all* would be saved. Even so, it is also clear that while God loves the wicked as far as His compassion is concerned- He does not take pleasure in their death- still, He will pour out His wrath on them. The danger of making this my message “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life- just follow Jesus…” is that it is misleading and even unnecessary. Our message to the lost should be even as rhutchin mentioned in that post- “You are a sinful person by nature, by birth- and you have personally sinned. You will face the wrath of God for this. Therefore, repent and believe.” Dr Hankins seems to want to reassure and not offend the lost man by telling him that God loves him- implying that, as he is, a sinner, He is loved by God unconditionally. But this is not true if we’re speaking of a saving kind of love.

        But the bottom line from above is still the same. I know that I do not agree with many of my non-reformed brothers, but I still view them as brothers and love them just as much. I admit that I share a stronger bond with like-minded brothers. Actually, I meet with like-minded brothers from around our region once a quarter and I have a friend nearby with whom I often meet and pray who is also like-minded. But I have many more right here in my own church who do not share these beliefs, and I love them dearly. I do not feel the need to convert them to my way of thinking. When I preach, I simply preach the text. (I’m preaching in 3 weeks, actually) I do not set out to convert people to calvinism. I figure God will do what He wants with that. So, that is my life Robert. You and I could be very good friends, even while disagreeing, wouldn’t you agree? :-)

    Norm Miller

    Courtney:
    Thx for your comment, but this one doesn’t describe anyone I know.

    If I were to believe some of you guys here, Calvinism should not only be avoided, but anyone who holds to a reformed view of Scriptures should be avoided, removed from pulpits and positions, and, indeed, fellowship with them is not even possible.

    Ben Simpson’s post is an evidence of two guys (Ben and myself) who — while having disagreed sometimes vehemently with each other about soteriology at this blog site — have decided to lay aside our differences on such matters and have both acknowledged our brotherhood in Christ and have decided that harmony in all that unites us is far more important than that segment of theology that divides us. So, we have shared via email various praises of the Lord that we have experienced recently, as well as traded prayer requests and other messages of affirmation and support.

    Will Ben and I ever agree on all soteriological matters? Well, maybe, if he ever would see the light! J/K!! No, we probably will not. But we both want to be bridge builders, so that is why Ben’s post on catechism is on the blog. I asked him to write it for us, and he happily agreed. And I think the post is spot-on.

    Am I bragging on us? I hope it doesn’t sound that way, for I am bragging on the Christ who unites us — you know the Christ I decided to follow, and the one Ben couldn’t resist. (Sorry, Ben; if there is one thing I can’t resist, it is poking a little fun at my new friend.)

    Neither Ben nor myself have given any ground on the matters upon which we disagree, but we have decided to stand on the common ground of fellowship in our Lord. Would to God many of the rest of us would follow suit.

    “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Ps 133.1.

      Courtney Hill

      Hey Norm, I suppose you may be right. I’ve met a few who hated reformed doctrine, though, and even equated it with evil. But perhaps there are none here. I certainly hope not. My desire is to fellowship with all my brothers in Christ, even as you have said here. I think we can disagree agreeably. I don’t think either side should ever compromise their beliefs for the sake of a false unity, but we can definitely celebrate our agreement, which is vast. So, I will take you and Ben as an example. My pastor and I are an example of that, as well. He knows full well where I stand on the doctrines of grace, and I know where he stands also (which is firmly against those doctrines), yet we work together on a daily basis. I have other brothers around the area who are against. I even have a friend who is about as Arminian as one could get- he’s not a Baptist at all but is from a non-denom church- and we get along well. We sat down one day at lunch and realized we were polar opposites in regard to soteriology- it was quite an interesting time. I think we were both in shock at first, but then we accepted it and are now friends. We agree on so much more than we disagree, even coming from opposite perspectives in regard to soteriology. He’s a strong leader in our community and I have great respect for him.

      So, we agree. That statement I made was just in response to some of the comments above. Sometimes folks go too far in their criticisms of the other viewpoint, in my opinion. Perhaps I overreacted. If so, I apologize for that.

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