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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « John Piper on How We Might Respond to Muslim Anger over the Pope's Comments | Main | The Gospel According to Galatians- Part 2 by C. R. Biggs »

    Wrestling with Predestination and Election

    Question: I'm really wrestling with this whole idea of predestination and election. Isn't the idea of election just another word for fatalism?

    Thank you for your question. First of all, you are not in any way the first person to wrestle with the weighty issues of Sovereign election over against free will. Many have walked this road before you. In fact, I too have not always believed what I now believe. You can be sure that much mental and emotional wrestling took place as I was in the process of learning what I believe to be the Biblical doctrine in this area. We all have traditions, and as a friend of mine, Dr. James White says so well, "the people most enslaved by their traditions are those who don't believe they have any."

    When I first heard the message of Sovereign Grace and election taught, I have to admit that I resisted it. Though the teaching I heard was backed up with Scripture, I thought I had other Scriptures that would negate the ones I heard. Then I went to a question and answer session on the subject (the first of many, I might add). This proved to be invaluable for me, because many of the questions I had were raised, and, I had to admit, were answered from Scripture, in their proper Biblical context.

    I was immediately alarmed by this, as I came to understand that this whole issue required a lot more research than I had previously thought. Knowing that I needed to believe what Scripture taught on the subject, I ordered much material, and began my research. It is never pleasant to examine firmly held traditions, and I felt that this was especially so in my position, when I had taught other things at various times in my ministry. No one wants to admit the possibility that they may in fact have been wrong.

    What I was considering was not some new "way out" doctrine... in fact, it was what I had been believing up until then that was the novel idea as far as Church history is concerned. No, I was looking into the historic orthodox Christian position, held by such men as Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century, as well as perhaps the most gifted theologian of all time, Jonathan Edwards, along with men like George Whitefield and C. H. Spurgeon - in other words, some of the most outstanding men in Christian history. In more recent times men such as B. B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, Abraham Kuyper, James P. Boyce, Arthur W. Pink, Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones and Dr. James Montgomery Boice could be added to the list. In our own day we could mention Dr. J. I. Packer, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. James White, Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, Dr. Mark Dever, Dr. Robert L. Reymond, Dr. John Frame, Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Michael Horton, Dr. R. C. Sproul and Dr. John Piper. Of course, many other names could be listed here.

    Well it took more than a year of researching the issue in depth, before I realized that there was a consistent and clear Biblical doctrine of election and predestination. I also came to see that in order for me to believe what the Bible taught in this area, I had to dispense with my traditional understanding.

    Although now embracing the doctrine, I continued on with my study, and yet waited another year before preaching on the subject at the Church. There's no doubt this issue is controversial. I think many pastors and teachers who believe it, do not preach about it for this very reason. The question then becomes, who are we trying to please - God or men? Jesus preached it and watched many in the crowd walk away when He pressed the claims of Divine Sovereignty in election. In John 6:65, 66 we read, "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." As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore."

    It is extremely humbling to think that God alone gets the credit for our salvation. This doctrine destroys all human pride once and for all, and elevates the graciousness of God in saving a people for Himself, for His own glory alone. Not everyone wants to hear this. Yet I am convinced, as C. H. Spurgeon said, "Christ's sheep will not be offended by Christ's voice."

    Of course, this subject is not all that I teach, but in that it is something spoken about regularly in Scripture, if I am a Bible teacher, I have to teach something about the subject. I have no right to cut it out of the Bible or out of my teaching, if, as a pastor, I am called to teach the contents of the Bible, which of course, I am.

    All Christian denominations have some doctrine about predestination and election. "Predestination" and "election" are biblical words. Therefore the question is not whether we should or should not have a doctrine of election; the question is, "are we embracing the biblical doctrine?"

    As I say, what I was considering was in no way a new doctrine, but one held for centuries by orthodox Christians. Here are a couple of quotes from some of the historic creeds of mainline Churches. Firstly, from the 16th Century, the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England (also known as the Anglican or Episcopal Church):

    "Article 17 - Of Predestination and Election
    Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity."

    Here's a quote from the London Baptist Confession of 1689:

    "Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling
    1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

    2. This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead."

    I have a strong and deep desire to be biblical in what I believe and teach. That means that I must continually hold up my traditions to the light of Scripture to see if they are in agreement. So, I would encourage you to keep wresting with these lofty concepts. It is well worth the effort.

    Some people just say that the Church has been divided over these issues for centuries now, and I've actually heard more than one person say that they believe both in Sovereign Election and free will, saying, "The Bible teaches both Sovereign Election and free will, and its a mystery that will be explained to us in heaven." The reason I don't believe that is because the two sides teach opposite and contradictory things. One says that God is the cause of our "choice" to receive Christ, and the other side says that in the final analysis, we are. It has to be pointed out that both sides can't be right. One is wrong and the other is right. I am convinced that God breathed Scripture, having its origin in God Himself, is therefore always consistent. It does not teach two opposite and contradictory things on any subject.

    Certainly, there are mysteries. For instance, the doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery that our finite minds cannot fully grasp. Yet there is no contradiction in saying that there is one God - one in essence and three in personality, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Contradiction is not the hallmark of truth, but of untruth, and there are no contradictions in sacred Scripture. Some say there are, of course, but I am convinced that solid research shows that apparent contradictions are just that - they seem to be contradictions until examined closely.

    Now, immediately someone will say that they are right in the middle on the issue... that there's a "happy medium" between the two extremes. I used to believe that myself. However, my research has shown me that every attempt I've ever heard to explain an in-between position was simply a presentation for the free will side. The bottom line is that either, to quote Jonah 2:9, "Salvation is of the Lord," period!!, or else it is offered by the Lord, but whether or not it takes place is up to us: we are the deciding factor.

    Your question assumes that Sovereign election implies fatalism. I would strongly disagree with that assumption. Here's what I mean. To suggest that everything that happens in life is in some sense planned by God, immediately makes some feel that we're talking about fatalism. But fatalism is cruel and impersonal. God is certainly not either of those things. But the opposite side to this would say that nothing is planned by God... I don't know of a more unbiblical statement than that one. To say that all the evil things that take place on this planet happen without any purpose to them at all... is that a better position than saying that they happen for a purpose - that God will work out His purposes in spite of the evil taking place? I don't think so. God is personal and His plans are personal.

    Without doubt, the most evil action of sinners in recorded history was the crucifixion of the Son of God. There is no doubt this was unspeakably evil. But we have the record of the Early Church praying, in Acts 4:27-28, "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. "

    The actions of men were evil, and they are entirely responsible for their actions. But God intended this, and planned this, for the unspeakably good purpose of bringing about His entire plan of salvation. This is what theologians call, the biblical doctrine of compatibilism.

    In a similar way, Joseph's story in the Old Testament shows that although what the brothers did to Joseph was evil, God planned the events to bring about His good purposes. Joseph, later said to his brothers, in Genesis 50:20, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

    The third chapter of the historic Westminster Confession of Faith opens with these words: "God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass" (adding the qualification that God is not the author of sin and that people aren't puppets). This statement was based on Eph. 1:11, "having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will."

    Posted by John Samson on September 25, 2006 01:30 PM

    Comments

    John,

    Thank you for taking time to respond to this person's email. The responses I find on this blog have been extremely helpful. I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusions of your article. However, I noticed one small error in your logic. The opposite of all things being planned by God is that at least one thing was not planned by God, not no thing is planned by God. I hope that is helpful to you. Keep up the good work!

    Mr. Samson,

    Interesting post. But pertaining to contradictions, I have the following question that I would appreciate your feedback on. Your quote from section 1 of chapter III from the Westminster Confession accurately reads…..

    “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    Some other quotes that come to mind are as follows…….

    A.W. Pink
    "God fore-ordains everything which comes to pass....God initiates all things, regulates all things...." -The Sovereignty of God

    Edwin H. Palmer
    "God is in back of everything. He decides and causes all things to happen that do happen....He has foreordained everything 'after the counsel of his will': the moving of a finger...the mistake of a typist, even sin." -The 5 Points of Calvinism

    God causes someone to raise that middle finger in an obscene gesture??

    R. C. Sproul Jr
    "God desired for man to fall into sin. I am not accusing God of sinning: I am suggesting that God created sin" - Almighty All Over

    Even from the Institutes (book 1, chapter 18, section 1) Calvin is quoted as saying….

    “That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction”.

    When I looked up “author” in the Webster’s dictionary I read the following….

    “a person who makes or originates something; creator; instigator.”

    If the above quotes from Palmer, Sproul, Pink, and Calvin are true, then wouldn’t the statement from the Westminster Confession be a contradiction? It clearly appears from these quotes alone that God is the author of sin.

    If the quotes from Calvin and the others are true, would not God be the instigator and cause of every murder, rape, abortion and same sex marriage that has ever taken place? When a homosexual tells me “God made me this way”, are they speaking the truth?

    Jesus tells us in Matthew 15:9 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies”.

    Can you please provide some clarity? It does appear from the earlier quotes that God is indeed the author of sin.

    Saved by Grace.

    wingedfooted1

    Very good question but I would answer ...Of course God ordained all things that come to pass (Eph 1:11). Anything else would be suggesting that something (ANYTHING) can take God by surprise (an impossible supposition). It would be suggesting that the fall was something unforseen by God prior to His creating of man. That is happened by mistake .. that there was some cosmic disturbance or rip in the cosmic fabric to which God had no control over? and it would mean that something out there is greater than God because it was able to hide itself from His scrutiny. If God could not forsee nor prevent the fall from happening because it took Him by surprise, then what makes you think that He won't be taken by surprise in the end either? In this view, perhaps God will lose in the end because He did not forsee that there was some force stronger than He as in the fall. Of course no Christain believes this but any theology which thinks God is not entirely in soverign control over all evil, is a theology which believes God to be impotent over it and is inconsistent. If God already knew what would happen before creating everything then it was sure to happen and within God's providence.

    Furthermore... the Bible itself teaches that God even ordained the crucifixion of his own Son through evil men. Evil men carried it out YET the Bible says God ordained them to do so. In other words, God ordained the most evil event in human history, according to the text of Scripture. If God can ordain one evil event then why not all?

    Acts 2:23 states: "this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death."

    And then again in Chapter 4 the Bible teaches God ordains evil again in case you missed it the first time:

    Acts 4:27 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur."


    God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).

    This is not some obscure theology but come from the plain words of Scripture.

    Job 2:7 says, "Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head." Satan took everything he owned and then struck him. But Job did not get comfort from looking at secondary causes. He said the LORD GIVETH AND THE LORD TAKETH AWAY... He got comfort from looking at the ultimate cause. "Shall we not accept adversity from God?" And the author of the book agrees with Job when he says that Job's brothers and sisters "consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him" (Job 42:11).

    You asked>>>>When a homosexual tells me “God made me this way”, are they speaking the truth?

    If God did not make them this way, who did? Is there some other creator-being out there? God also created you and I given over to our various sins, no? We could not change ourselves either save for God's mercy. And is homosexuality different than any other sin? We are all born into sin and cannot change ourselves apart from the grace of God. The only thing that makes you differ from that sin is the grace of God. Our is JUST AS repulsive to God .... we are the way we are because God gave us over to sin in Adam after the fall. Just as the homosexual has been given over to his sin. Note this is exactly what it teaches in Romans 2 that God GAVE THEM OVER to their sin of homosexuality. Yours' are just as greivous and you were given over and could not save yourself simply by good behavior. God's anger burned against you but had mercy on you if you are in Christ. So yes, God did in fact give us all over to our sin natures and departed from us so that NONE have the Holy Spirit unless God is merciful to us in Christ. And if God chooses to have mercy on us we will live. We justly deserve to die save in the mercy we have in Christ. Apart from the Holy Spirit all men are in an equally horrific condition and have not the strength to save themselves out of sin.

    To claim that God could not help from letting evil entering the universe and that He was powerless to do so is not Scriptural and to make Him less than God.

    In Rom 9:15-17 it says that God will have mercy on whom He will and he will harden whom He will harden. It does not depend on the will of man or he who runs but on God who has mercy.


    One thing I would like to add is the following: there are no uncaused causes outside of God. I'm not sure if anyone can get you to the libertarian version of free will. Everyone makes decisions on the basis of their nature and limitations.

    If that's the case, who can escape fatalism? Not that I think God's foreordination is fatalism. But I'm speaking from a libertarian (not political) perspective.

    Geoff

    Unlike the personal determinism of YHWH, Fatalism is impersonal ... and ironically it is what libertarians (Arminians) believe if their theology is consistent. Consider, if God MERELY chooses us based on our future choices (foreknowing our choices exhaustively), then He already knows how we will choose and thus future history is fixed and cannot be otherwise (Yet God did not fix it in this view). If God already knows who will believe and who will reject Him even before He creates them, then such fixed future events would mean that since God did not ordain them to happen (and yet they are fixed and cannot be otherwise), it would be some kind of impersonal fate that determined it since who chooses cannot change if God foreknows the future exhaustively. And consider, if God already knows who will reject him then how can anyone claim that He is trying to save every man? It would be absurd to think that God would try to do something He knew was impossible.

    But since God is sovereign and determines the future, unlike the description of libertarian free will (which leads to fatalism) the Bible teaches a personal determinism, and not fate that determines all outcomes. God is personal, fate is impersonal.

    Nothing happens by chance as if God could be surprised by something.


    John S.,

    Thanks so much for your article and your helpful and insightful responses. I just want to add one observation: When the apostle Paul speaks in the greatest detail of these very truths, he sums everything up by saying that he hardens whom he will and shows mercy to whom he will, ultimately, so that "he might make known the riches of his glory in the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared before-hand for glory" (Romans 9:23). A little later, when he finishes his entire train of thought, he concludes thus: "Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and how untraceable are his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his counselor? Or who has first given unto him, and it shall be returned to him again? Because of him and through him and to him are all things: to him be the glory forever" (Romans 11:33-36).

    This topic is a good and edifying subject to discuss -- but if it leaves us doing anything other than falling down before God in worship and amazement, we are utterly missing it. If anyone should be tempted to accuse God or call into account his purity and holiness, on the basis of his absolute sovereignty, he would do well to think long and hard on the greatness and the sovereign prerogative of our good and merciful God.

    Thanks again for the post. I have been edified by it.

    In our Savior,
    Nathan

    I am curious what the pastoral response should be to this hypothetical: a child of a parishioner is killed in some type of senseless accident. How does one responsd to the parents of the child questioning God's goodness in light of God's sovereignty?

    In Him,

    Hans

    Hans

    Pastorally, many parents do not necessarily want precise theological solutions to their pain and sorrow at the time of occurence. Rather they may just want support and a friend alongside them.

    But ultimately they will take much greater comfort in knowing that God is completely sovereign than if the act was outside of God's hands and simply happened senselessly. No one takes comfort in purposelessness and error. When people are ready to talk about these issues there is much greater comfort in suffering when the theology is on target, that is, when we express that it is in the hands of God, that He is completely sovereign in it and all is according to His perfect purpose. I mean, would you take comfort if someone told you that it was out of God's control? That He had no power or sovereignty over the situation and that evil triumphed apart from His will in allowing it? I don't think so, this would make you think there may be something out there greater than God, since He could do nothing. But when we realize that this is all in God's providence, then we take great comfort that it did not take place in vain.

    Job took comfort in this way and the Scriptures say that when he at first ascribed his suffering to God without complaint, he did not sin in what he said..

    For consider, we are all going to die someday for the same reason: sin. We take the greatest comfort that Jesus has borne our griefs and suffered alongside us and we trust in his promise that He will resurrect us in the last day.

    All the temporary sufferings we undergo here will seem like a passing mist when that veil is lifted and we are resurrected and brought into His presence.

    I just noticed that it was actually John H. who posted the helpful responses I was referring to in my first comment. So let me correct myself: thanks to John S. and John H., for the article and responses, respectively.

    Not a big deal, but I just now realized I had gotten my "Johns" confused.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Nathan

    Wingedfooted1:
    Read this link with all the links in it:

    http://www.vincentcheung.com/2006/09/15/gods-holiness-and-evil-thoughts/

    May God bless you.

    John,

    I have an issue with your rationale concerning the homosexual being “made that way” (or any person being created with sin).

    How could God create sin without sinning himself? How can someone create something if they do not posses it themselves? In other words, the harp-maker must be able to play the harp in order to know how to accurately create the instrument. But, God can not sin and does not possess any flaw/short coming.

    Also, if he has created us to sin, then it is not our fault that we sin. If I sin, and I get punished for it, yet God caused me to sin. How is God just in sending me to the lake of fire when it is his fault that I sinned? This does not sound like God is Love. It sounds as if God is spiteful and malicious. How is he the lamp unto my feet when he leads me into sin?

    Please explain, as I am struggling with the idea of God creating an imperfect being in which he has to redeem.

    Saved by Grace through Faith

    Patriot03

    Thanks for the important question.

    We are in sin because we are in Adam. We are likewise similarly declared righteous because we are in Christ. (see Romans 5) In other words, when Adam was committing sin, we were all over on the sidelines giving him the thumbs up. He represents us federally just as Jesus Christ does on the flip side. So anyone who thinks this is not fair that we are made guilty for something someone else does must also consider that, with the same logic, we are unfairly made righteous because of another: Christ It goes both ways. And we cannot have it one way and not another. If you reject that Adam represents you but accept Christ's representation, then it would be a form of hypocricy.

    So, we also ask, how can we be made guilty for something we are unable to fix ourselves?. How can God command us to do something we are unable to do? How can this be fair? Wouldn't this be like God asking us to lift up a rock that we cannot lift up?

    The answer: A physical inability is quite different from a moral inability. If, for example, someone let you borrow $500 million to start a new company but instead you went a squandered it in a week of wild living in Las Vegas, your inability to repay the debt does not alleviate you of the responsibility. The law remains the same, in spite of your inability, and you are responsible for the money yet you now have the inability to repay it. The problem then is not with the law but with you. Our life in Adam is the same. We cannot repay our debt nor even lift a finger toward repaying it. So, Christ in mercy does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

    In this same light, look again at the homosexual issue ... being made a certain way is no excuse for bad behavior. God's law remains the same no matter what we can and cannot do. Our moral inability and sin is our own fault. To claim we are able to obey God's commands is to claim that some of us can be morally perfect. But according to Romans 3:19, 20 the purpose of the divine law is not to reveal our ability but our inability. The law reveals sin and our need of Christ.. it does not show us what we are morally able to do. So you and the homosexual are born into the same condition of sin in which you cannot save yourself out of. Your only hope is in Jesus Christ. All who believe in Christ can be assured on the basis of the promise of God in the Scripoture that their sins are forgiven. And he grants repentance to those he has done a work of grace in. But Christianity is not behavior modification, it is about Christ and our utter continual need for him. True Christians recognize that they are spiritually bankrupt, have no hope save in Jesus Christ alone and we glory in him.

    To sum up, inability does not alleviate us of responsibility. That you are a sinner by nature means that you have no ability to obey God's commandments perfectly. God's commands, rather, make you conscious of sin. If you are able to obey God's commands to love him with all your heart then you don't need a Savior for there is no sin to forgive. But none are without sin and this means that God commands us to do things we are morally incapable of doing.

    Ask yourself, do you obey the 10 commandments perfectly? God commands you to and yet you are unable? You are impotent to obey. Does this make God mean? No it should drive you to Christ.

    Saved by grace ALONE through faith alone in Christ alone. Your faith is the result of God opening your eyes and unplugging your ears to the gospel. It is Him turning your heart of stone to a heart of flesh. No one can believe the gospel apart form the work of the Holy Spirit for we are hostile to God by nature. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human anture

    John 6:65 says that no one can believe in Jesus Unless God grants it, and 6:37 teaches that all whom God grants WILL BELIEVE. IN other words, salvation is all of grace. Our faith and repentance is also granted by God. The natural man does not come up with it himself.

    Lastly, Paul brought up the exact same question about fairness in Romans 9:18 following:

    18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
    19You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?"
    20On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
    21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
    22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
    23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,


    Thank you John S. for this wonderful post. It was truly a blessing to read it. I would also like to suggest Gordon H. Clark's book God and Evil: The problem Solved.

    John H.,

    Thank you for the careful consideration that you took in answering me. But, I am still held up by a few things.

    I do not reject the sin that I have inherited from Adam, our adamic nature (sin is passed through the seed), but I struggle with the idea that God has forced Adam (and everyone else) to sin. After all, if we are predestined and have no ability to act outside of God’s Sovereignty, then he is the one ultimately to blame for all sin and corruption in this world. And, God is perfect, not fallible. But, if this is true, how can he cause (predestine) anyone to sin? How can a perfect God cause rape, torture, hatred, suicide, etc? It doesn’t make sense to me. After all, Isaiah 1:18 reads “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” But, it doesn’t sound “reasonable/rational” for God to predestine all of this evil, and punish us when we obey him by committing the very evil that he has predestined before the foundation of the world.

    So, I guess my question is this: Why would God predestine man to fall, punish us when we fall (banishment from paradise), come down to die for the sin that he originally caused, and only allow a select few to be regenerated while the others don’t even have a chance? And, after all, they aren’t even able to willfully turn from the sin that they personally commit, but are forced by the Sovereignty of God to disobey him. 1 John 4:8 declares, “God is love.” How is this love?

    Saved by Grace through Faith

    Patriot03

    Thanks for your email.

    I must admit Patriot03 my journey toward this doctrine of predestination was not along philosophical or confessional routes. It has been the route of biblical exegesis. And this is how I think you should try to answer the question you are wrestling with. We cannot escape its presence in God's Word

    I believe that I cited Scripture texts that explicitly dealt with your questions. But it sounds like your objections are based more on moral rather than exegetical arguments. Our understanding of God is not derived from unaided feelings or logic or what we think is right or wrong, but because He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture in a very distinct way.

    I do appreciate your question but what I find most striking about your response, Patriot03, is that you did not interact at all with any of the Scriptures I posted which explicitly teach the concepts we are speaking of. Instead you went into extra-biblical moral and philosophical arguments, not basing your ultimate presuppositon on Scripture but rather unaided logic. Logic is good but must come under the authority of Scripture if it is to have any value. again, what of Romans 9:18 where Paul deals directly with the VERY question you ask? How do you deal with such a text? Your answer of unfairness and How does a sovereign God love is exactly the kind of reponse Paul deals with. God conspires with His own wisdom and will always do right. He knows better than us and can save whom He will. Would you rob HIm of His right as God to do so.

    We cannot simply take a few verses of the Bible that we like and not pay attention to the rest. We all know God is love. But that is not His only attribute. We also know other things about Him, some of which I am pointing out. We must hold them all in tension and interpret Scripture with Scripture.

    It sounds like you are working through some imporatant issues. If I may suggest, it may be best to draw presuppositions from the Bible as our ultimate authority and not rely so much on unaided human philosophy, which cannot give you true answers.

    Further, God does not "force" anyone. When Acts 2:23 & 4:27 says that God predestined Herod and others to crucify His Son (a clearly evil act), does it sound like any
    "force" or "coersion" was involved? I think it may be good to begin with these two texts because it would appear that you may first want to wrestle with the idea whether God does in fact ordain evil acts to begin with.

    Would you agree that Acts 2:23 and 4:27 teach that men, of their own volition, crucified Jesus and yet somehow inscruitibly God ordained it to come to pass. Can you see how these text can be teaching something else?

    If the Bible teaches here that God ordained the crucifixion through evil men, then we have established that God does in fact ordain evil events. And if He does then the ENTIRE edifice of libertarian free will crumbles to the ground. Men do what they do by their own volition (not forced or coerced) yet God ordains it to come to pass. God is that great and we should yeild in awe.

    Man's lack of free will has nothing to do with coercion but rather it is necessity. We act the way we do because of our bondage to a corruption of nature, not because God forces us against what we want to do. We want it but what we want is, of necessity, evil because of our corrupt nature. Only grace can save us out of it.

    Anyway, great interacting with you. I have much work to do.

    Shalom
    john H

    Dear Hans,
    I’m sitting here reading the latest blogs as I often do before I retire for the evening, and I see your hypothetical question and it struck me- You see, I have a little girl with a fatal disease, and for a very long time I struggled with the questions of “why her” and the many other questions that any normal human being would ask. Then one day, driving in my car, having my daily cry with God- after leaving the hospital- He spoke to me and said “Am I not God?”
    That may have no meaning for you Mr. Hans, but for me at that point and time things changed. I began to mediate on those words- “Am I not God” – those words comfort me- knowing the most Sovereign Lord, the most High God, the Precious Almighty- that my little girl is in the palm of His hands, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Bad things happen everyday- people die- and of course it’s hard and painful, Mr. Hans - you have no idea- but what makes the difference- and gets me through -is knowing that GOD is Sovereign and it’s in His hands and not mine- John H said it well when he posted “But ultimately they will take much greater comfort in knowing that God is completely sovereign than if the act was outside of God's hands and simply happened senselessly. No one takes comfort in purposelessness and error.” Mr. Hans, I don’t know if you can understand that, but it is true.
    Thanks to you both Mr. Hans and John H for your post.
    Terri

    Patriot03

    You are biblically sound in knowing “God is love”. And John is also correct that God has other attributes. God is sovereign. God is just. “For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful”. “A just God and a Saviour”. “The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort”.

    I see nothing within the scriptures that suggests God is the cause of all the evil in the world. When the Lord destroyed the earth the first time God said to Noah “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” This verse reveals that the world was filled with violence because of them (man or us), not God. God even says “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh.” Our flesh has always been the problem. “And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” Before Eve ate of the fruit she saw “that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise”. It was the desires and lusts of her heart that caused her to eat, not God.

    We read from Jeremiah 17:9 which says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” God knows it. Again, Jesus says in Matthew 15:9 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies”.

    Jesus said in Matthew 18:6 “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” And adds in 18:7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”

    If God is the author of sin, then why does he show up on a white horse in the book of Revelation? To put an end to all he foreordained? And what purpose would it serve to bound Satan for a thousand years, or much less cast into the lake of fire forever and ever, if it is God who is the cause of all the evil in the world?

    Brothers and Sisters in Christ, these are important questions that need biblical answers. No one is questioning God’s sovereignty. This is his universe. He created us and he makes the rules. But our Lord and Saviour is love. He is also perfectly just, and perfectly holy. He cannot be unjust or unholy. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

    Seek Him Always…..

    Regarding God being the author of sin. We have to distinguish here a few things.

    First, when we say God "authors" evil, what do we mean? Do we mean that He put fresh evil in the heart or something else?

    Also, we have to remember that Arminianism also includes God decreeing the fall. It strikes me that when nonCalvinists hear "God decrees evil" they immediate jump to the ends without thinking about what we affirm about the means. HOW God decrees evil/sin is as important as the fact that He does.

    First, Arminians historically affirm God decreed the Fall. Here's the Infralapsarian order of decrees for Calvinism: Creation, Fall, Election/Reprobation, Atonement, Application.

    Here's the order for Arminianism: Creation, Fall, Atonement, General Call, Election of those who believe.

    In BOTH God decrees the Fall. In BOTH this is by permission. The difference is that the Calvinist says God withheld constraining grace and the desires of man caused the fall. An Arminian, if he's consistent cannot appeal to the desires of man. For him, choices are uncaused, and freedom is not "real" unless he has a real possibility to act otherwise. If he speaks of men's desires, that's not a libertarian argument.

    Further, Calvinism distinguishes between responsibility and blame. Moral blame requires a moral motive. Men do evil while hating God. So they comply with God's sovereign decree but hate God in the process. Thus God can hold Pharaoh to blame for his not letting Israel go. He complied with God's sovereign plan, but not out of love for God and His people.

    Responsibility is a necessary but insufficient condition for blame. For blame you need a motive. Being the first cause of all things, God is responsible for everything. God also had a plan. Let's take the Fall. Jesus is called the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Now, let's suppose that God planned this "having looked down the corridors of time and foreseen the fall." That's a typical Arminian argument. Well, okay, fine, but that only moves the question back one step, because, knowing this, the Arminian must also stipulate that God still choose to create the world knowing that would happen, so He is still, on that view "responsible" for evil. So, we conclude that God decrees everything, and God "authors" evil though secondary causes. The motives of those causes are their own; God does not put fresh evil into their hearts; and He may act to place a person in a particular circumstance (Jesus knew Judas was a devil and specifically chose Him; He was predestined to betray Christ), yet at the same time, with respect to the grace that God uses to restrain evil, if He uses His power to do so in an internal manner, He simply relaxes His restraint and that person acts according to their strongest desire, according to their "free will." Why then does the Arminian find this objectionable? After all, isn't their whole system designed around God honoring man's choices?

    I had a good deal of Predestination in my college years as I went to a Presbyterian college. I got to appreciate Calvinism and its deterministic way of viewing the world and God; and the reason that such a view was a good thing.

    I think that YHWH has that kind of power and could have that kind of control. But YHWH defined himself to Moses as "I am who I will (or shall) be!' This is an English, and probably bad English, translation. It is still threatening, personal, tangential, and mysterious. I understand that in the original Hebrew it is much more so.

    It seems the meaning of this name is that YHWH is:

    1. of the future (will or shall be)
    2. not dependant on anyone or anything

    Thus we cannot make YHWH to be anything (YHWH will not be nailed down). YHWH decides (period). This is a threatening, personal, tangential, and mysterious extension of predestination.

    Isaiah 55 (the whole chapter - and particularly the theme of the chapter) reinforces this. The chapter says that YHWH is who YHWH will be. Besides this, and especially, in working out our salvation, we will be pleasantly surprised at how YHWH fulfills his promises. Predestination becomes epiphany.

    Jerry Heath

    How does a non-sovereign God love?

    A non-sovereign God is like a parent who sees his child run out in the middle of the street when a car is coming. The parent calls out to the child from the sidewalk hoping he will use his free will to get out of the way of the car.

    How does a sovereign God love?

    A sovereign God's love is like a parent who sees his child run out into the street into oncoming traffic. The parent's love for the child drives him to cast away all caution, he runs out into the street at the risk of his own life, scoops up the child and makes certain that his child is safe. The parent knows better than the child so in saving him is not concerned about how he will use his "free-will" but is more concerned about his safety.

    One kind of love is weak willed and the other gets the job done. Which parent acts in love?

    Not all human beings are God's children by default. He adopts those he sets His affection on as his children. We are required to believe the gospel yes, but by nature none of us do. The Holy Spirit must come to scoop us up and change our hostile disposition. We are all naturally like a thief running from a policeman. We don't want God lest he expose our darkness.

    But in mercy, God knows what is best for his children better than we and he saves us. He is merciful in spite of ourselves. The rest, whom God passes over, get what they justly deserve and they themselves want. Remember they reject God and hate him (John 3:19, 20) God is under no obligation to cancel all debts, as the Scripture attests.

    Is God sovereign & in control over humans' wills including yours, no or yes?

    "you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." (Gen. 50:20)

    "But I will harden his (Pharaoh's) heart, so that he will not let the people go." (Ex. 4:21)

    "And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians." (Ex. 12:36)

    "And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen." (Ex. 14:17)

    "But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand" (Deut. 2:30)

    "For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them" (Josh. 11:20)

    "God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech" (Jud. 9:23)

    "the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, 'Go, number Israel and Judah.'" (2 Sam. 24:1)

    "The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets" (1 Kings 22:23)

    "that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom" (Ezra 1:1-3)

    "the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God" (Ezra 6:22)

    "He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants." (Ps. 105:25)

    "A man's heart (will) plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Pr. 16:9)

    "The king's heart (will) is in the hand of the LORD...He turns it wherever He wishes. (Pr. 21:1)

    "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger...I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge...Yet he does not mean so, nor does his heart think so" (Is. 10:5-7)

    "For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?" (Is. 14:27)

    "Who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure'" (Is. 44:28)

    "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever" (Jer. 32:39)

    "I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me." (Jer. 32:40)

    "I will give you a new heart (will) and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart (will) of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." (Ezek. 36:26-27)

    "For His dominion is and everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, "What have you done?" (Dan. 4:34-35)

    "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done." (Acts 4:27-28)

    "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28)

    "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" (Rom. 9:19)

    "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." (1 Cor. 12:11)

    "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13)

    "Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'" (Jas. 4:15)

    "For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled." (Rev. 17:17)

    God Is in Control of ALL Things, and Sovereign Over ALL Things
    Wow! Could God possibly make it any clearer that He controls our wills? What we're saying is: God is in control (of ALL things, even salvation.) He is sovereign (over ALL things, even salvation.) Most Christians acknowledge He's in control only in a general, vague sense. But, He tells us He's in control of every minute detail of His universe, even your decisions, and the number of hairs on your head.

    courtesy of jesussaidfollowme.org

    May I suggest a wonderful book....'The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination' by Loraine Boettner. The whole book is on this very subject of predestination and election.

    John,

    You state a strong position that "we can not have it both ways", yet scripture does precisely that. The conclusion is that it has to be a mystery that we do not understand. Anything more, gives us way too much credit for being able to understand God. God is much larger than our feable minds will ever be able to comprehend. If your position is correct, then why the Great Commission "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" Matthew 28:19 and "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" Romans 10:9. These are just a few of the numerous verses that point to our responsibility. Does God call us to evangelism and discipleship as a practical joke? If already predestined, then what's the point? Free will exists because God allows it. God is in control and knows our every move, but the responsibility for belief and sin falls squarely on our shoulders. Without choice, it is impossible for love to exist.

    Jeff

    Dear Jeff

    you said >>>>Does God call us to evangelism and discipleship as a practical joke? If already predestined, then what's the point?

    The answer is as follows: Predestination does not save anyone, the gospel does. Predestination is merely a blueprint of what God intends to do in time through Christ and the proclamation of the gospel. Are you saying a person can come to faith independent of the work of the Holy Spirit changing their heart of stone to a heart of flesh? So the point is that God saves his elect through proclaiming the gospel.

    Your position would have us believe that God already knows who will believe before He creates them AND YET you say He is trying to save every person. If He already knows who will be saved before He creates them then how can you say he is trying to save everyone? It is condradictory. If he created the world knowing who will and will not be saved, and it cannot be otherwise, then you have to conclude it was His will that it actually happend that way weven before He created it.

    We are saved because of what Christ has done for us, not because we made their right choice - otherwise God's love for us would be conditional - based on some condition we meet. Rather, Christ comes and does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He meets the conditions for us by giving us a heart that believes. He saves His people, making certain the job gets done.

    Can you give scripture references showing that we have a free will? Free from what? Free from the bondage to sin?

    Yes indeed we have a responsibility to believe. No one denies that. The problem is that everyone has failed to meet that responsibility. Jesus Christ is our Savior, not simply our helper. IN spite of the fact that men love darkness and will not come into the light (John 3:19) Jesus still has mercy on his people. Even when were were dead in transgressions He made us alive in Christ.

    Hi there. I have read your blog and comments with interest. I have come to a stage in my Christian walk where I am really wrestling with predestination as a biblical doctrine. Thought I would point out a few things to get us all thinking: 1.) Would a drowning man get any "credit" for grabbing and holding onto a rope? Surely, then we need not fear "salvation by works" in believing that we have a part to play in receiving God's gift of eternal life? 2.) The only time the Bible mentions salvation by faith "ALONE", as is the Calvinist mantra, is actually in James 2:24 where it says a man is "justified by works and NOT by faith alone" (my emphasis). Surely some food for thought there? Luther was reacting to the catholic church in overstating the case on "salvation by grace alone". He quite wrongly despised the book of James. His views were, thus, locked in his historical context and therefore unbalanced (he overstated the case) 3.) The Bible does not contradict itself, but that does not mean that we won't wrestle with APPARENT contradictions due to our finite minds. Big difference. 4.) There are streams of verses pointing to God's sovereignty and there are streams of verses indicating that salvation is (really) open to any one who will believe. Calvinists and Arminians tend to avoid or be dishonest with the handling of scriptures not in their "stream" 5.)We must live with apparent contradiction, rather than twisting / avoiding scriptures that don't fit our model.

    Hi Timothy thanks for your questions....

    you asked, 1.) Would a drowning man get any "credit" for grabbing and holding onto a rope? Surely, then we need not fear "salvation by works" in believing that we have a part to play in receiving God's gift of eternal life?

    Your questions assumes that a person has the desire to believe the gospel apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The natural man, however, does not understand or desire Christ (1 Cor 2:14 Rom 8:7). Are you here claiming that faith is something that comes from our unregenerated human nature? That unspiritual man can think spiritual thoughts and love Christ? even though they are by nature hostile to God? So in answer to your question I have a question: If two persons hear the gospel, why does one person believe it and not another? What makes them to differ? Jesus Christ or something else like more wisdom?

    next you asked 2.) The only time the Bible mentions salvation by faith "ALONE", as is the Calvinist mantra, is actually in James 2:24 where it says a man is "justified by works and NOT by faith alone" (my emphasis).

    Well, I think you mean to say by grace alone THROUGH faith alone. Again, the quetion is, is Jesus Christ himself the Savior or not? Does he save completely or do we cooperate in his work of redemption? Faith and works are the result of the Spirit changing our hearts in regeneration, not the cause of it. (John 6:63-65; 1 John 5:1).

    you then said>>>> There are streams of verses pointing to God's sovereignty and there are streams of verses indicating that salvation is (really) open to any one who will believe.

    Again, we all agree that anyone who wills can come. They problem is that the Scriptures teach that there are no persons natually willing to believe the gospel apart from the Holy Spirit. After John 3;16 says whosover believe, Jesus adds but men loved darkness and will not come into the light. Yes, the call is to everyone, but none will respond unless God does a work of grace in their heart.

    Either salvaiton is of the Lord or it is Jesus plus something else. It is because of grace itself that we are obedient and humble. No one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:65) and ALL to whom God grants it will believe (John 6:37).

    I strongly encourage you to read these quotes by Martin Luther so you understand the real heart of the reformation:

    http://www.reformationtheology.com/2005/12/martin_luther_on_the_bondage_o_1.php


    John. Thank you for your reply, which has got me thinking (esp. the part about why some respond to the gospel and others don't). There is one issue I would love to hear your thoughts on. Calvinists always talk of the bondage of the will, etc and how one cannot come to Christ apart from a supernatural work (regeneration). How then does one explain the fact that some men found favour with God in the Old Testament, when they were unregenerate. Eg Joshua and Caleb whom the Lord said had a "different spirit" about them. Where did this believing spirit come from? Or what about Abraham, the father of our faith. The Bible holds him up as the ultimate example of faith, and yet he was unregenerate. Or why did Jesus marvel at the centurion's faith (if this faith was, according to calvinists, from God in the first place). In all these cases, it would seem the person themself found favour with God without being regenerated first (or at all). In fact, the whole Old Testament needs to be explained (with some believing and some not)as no one was regenerated then. I look forward to your thoughts. Timothy

    Thanks again for your important question which deserves an answer....

    you said >>>>>How then does one explain the fact that some men found favour with God in the Old Testament, when they were unregenerate.

    May I ask, are you speculating that people in the OT were unregenerate? Not sure what Biblical evidence you can produce that would provide evidence for such an assertion. Fact is, with all due respect to you brother, this assertion is quite wrong. In the Old Testament like the new, persons were saved by Jesus Christ plus or minus nothing. (Read Galatians 3) Further, the OT used teminology such as God "circumcising" their heart:

    "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." (Deut 30:6)

    And This is a promise of God's working in their heart was directly to the Israelites. This circumcision of the heart is really the same experience as regeneration (Rom 2:29; Col 2:11-13). Regeneration is God granting the ability to hear, understand, believe, obey and enter the kingdom (See John 3 & the entire book of 1 John). Apart from the new birth men remain slaves of sin and the Devil (John 8:34, 44). Human nature has not changed form the beginning of time from OT to NT. People still need the Holy Spirit to believe. But the fullness of times has come when Jesus fulfilled the law.

    But the Old Testament is a seed and a branch while the NT is like the full flowering and fruit of that same branch. The root is the same plant that brings forth the fruit. There may be degrees of difference as Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit was "with them" but would be (future tense) "in them" (john 14:17), but this simply shows that the Holy Spirit was fully active in the OT in creation, and the prophets, priests and kings as well as the regeneration of individual children of promise. There should also therefore be no confusing the filling of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit's work of regeneration. They may be organically connected but they are not the same. One is the Spirit's work to renew the heart ... the other is the Spirit's indwelling. Indwelling is referring to the Holy Spirit's positive, pervasive, abiding, covenant presence in believers through the Spirit. The OT saints had the former with only limited amount of the later.

    More examples
    Sometimes in the Old Testament God even reveals behind the scenes how He enabled particular Jews to obey his Word when they were called to repent: In 2 Chronicles chapter 30, for example, when couriers with a message of repentance passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, they laughed them to scorn and mocked them when they were called to repent, "Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD." (Chronicles 30:11-12) the text says some tribes resisted the call to repentance, but only those tribes which the HAND OF GOD GAVE A HEART TO OBEY THE WORD, repented. So here is a clear instance of the Spirit of God working faith and repentance in the hearts of certain persons among Israel while leaving others to their own rebellious self-will...


    Hope this helps

    For more on this topic, I recommend God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments by James H. Hamilton, Jr.
    http://www.monergismbooks.com/Gods-Indwelling-Presence-The-Holy-Spirit-in-the-Old-New-Testaments-p-17714.html

    Dear Timothy,

    Thanks for your comments and question. You are right when you say "Calvinists always talk of the bondage of the will, etc and how one cannot come to Christ apart from a supernatural work (regeneration)." That's because John 6:44, 65 affirms this clearly.

    In reading through the rest of your comments though you are making the assumption that no one was regenerated under the Old Testament dispensation. May I ask why it is you assume this?

    I believe Joshua, Caleb, Abraham and all Old Testament saints were regenerated in just the same way as believers are in the New Testament. The same Holy Spirit worked then as now.. David entreated the Lord "take not Your Holy Spirit from me." This prayer carries with it the asssumption that he already had the Holy Spirit working in His life.

    Was there something about these men and women that were different? Well no there was nothing inherent within them that would mark them out as special.. but like Noah they "found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Gen 6:8 He found grace because God gave grace and grace by definition is something undeserved.

    In Christian theology, we differentiate between the Deity and Humanity of Christ (we differentiate, not separate) for He is One Person.. 100% God and 100% man)...

    in His Divinity, nothing could ever surprise Christ, for He knew all things, yet I am sure Jesus marvelled at the centurion's faith because as a man, He was amazed at the activity of His Father, giving faith to a hostile Roman guard, while all others saw Him through only earthly eyes. God opened the centurion's eyes to see, and gave him faith - which is a gift (Eph 2:8, 9; Phil 1:29; 2 Peter 1:1).

    Hope that's a help Timothy. Thanks again for your comments.

    John

    I've been told that God tells us to NOT love ourselves, yet we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Can you please help me out with this one?
    E

    John,

    After reading through this blog I notice that you side stepped the question asked by Joshua Parker:

    "Thank you for the careful consideration that you took in answering me. But, I am still held up by a few things.

    I do not reject the sin that I have inherited from Adam, our adamic nature (sin is passed through the seed), but I struggle with the idea that God has forced Adam (and everyone else) to sin. After all, if we are predestined and have no ability to act outside of God’s Sovereignty, then he is the one ultimately to blame for all sin and corruption in this world. And, God is perfect, not fallible. But, if this is true, how can he cause (predestine) anyone to sin? How can a perfect God cause rape, torture, hatred, suicide, etc? It doesn’t make sense to me. After all, Isaiah 1:18 reads “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” But, it doesn’t sound “reasonable/rational” for God to predestine all of this evil, and punish us when we obey him by committing the very evil that he has predestined before the foundation of the world.

    So, I guess my question is this: Why would God predestine man to fall, punish us when we fall (banishment from paradise), come down to die for the sin that he originally caused, and only allow a select few to be regenerated while the others don’t even have a chance? And, after all, they aren’t even able to willfully turn from the sin that they personally commit, but are forced by the Sovereignty of God to disobey him. 1 John 4:8 declares, “God is love.” How is this love?"

    Now the answer to the question is very simple yet you just don't want to say it. You see there can only be one answer and that answer is horrifying if you believe Calvanism. Hang the Calvinistic doctrine for a sec and look at it for what it is. If you believe this then the only possible conclusion is yes God creates humans predestined for Hell and an eternity of suffering and yes he is the author of sin, yes he predetermines your destiny by keeping the gospel from reaching you, yes he doesn't give you a chance to be saved. Think about it John..this is what you are stating that God does. You are accusing God of doing what no earthly father with any degree of morals would do. Does not nature itself teach you? Would you bring a child into this world if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the child was for an eternity going to suffer? You see it's all peaches and cream when you can take comfort in the fact that all is in God's hands as you say but the flip side of that coin is your mother, brother, etc. may be destined for Hell and according to this theology there is not one thing on this planet they can do to stop it. For that matter how do you know you aren't predestined for Hell? You say because I have faith in Christ. But do you? Is your faith an illusion? That's the kicker. You can never really know. This is the theology the Puritans wrestled with daily. Did you get that? You will never know until you stand before God. I know what you are coming back with.."My sheep know me and I am known of mine." and this is infallibly true, but John how do you know you are one of his? God says I will turn them over to a dillusion...scary stuff isn't it? And that's my point. This doctrine leaves you with no way to trust God unless you tell yourself you are one of the elect and there is no way to know that. You say the Bible says "His spirit will bear witness with our spirit" How do you know the true Spirit of God is the one bearing witness? Answer according to Calvin..you don't. See this is the ugly side of Calvinism you don't talk about over Sunday dinner. Now I must recieve predestination, election AND freewill because they are all in God's pure good Word and they coexist regardless of what you choose to believe. How? I don't know but I dare not stand and accuse The Lord of all Glory of not being able to accomplish this. Will you?

    Greg

    Hi, this is John H answering some of the things you have said..... Again, It appears you have based your entire argument, not on scripture, but on your emotions and UNAIDED logic. You know God is love and so, with your understanding of love, you develop a whole theology around it without taking into account the many other things it says in Scripture. Vast amounts of Scripture proof has been provided for you, but you have answered none of it. You appear to simply want to have a God of your own choosing, but not the God of revelation.

    To do this is to fashion a personal god in ones' imagaination. it believes that erroneously that God can somehow be taken by surprise. That there are some things that happen "by chance" that took God unawares, as if he did not know this would happen before he even created them. That somehow evil came into the universe without God's knowledge or will. Consider, if this be the case, that there is some maverick molecule of evil out there that is outside of God's soverereign control, then know one could then know whether God will actually defeat evil in the end. You appear to be unwilling to swallow what the biblical revelation has given us and instead created a god to fit your needs and likes. In the Old Testament they called this the sin of idolatry.

    Since God does indeed ordain ALL THINGS THAT come to pass, and, at the same time, declares God good and holy and yet you call such a God "evil", then you are in fact calling the True God of the Bible evil because the Bible teaches that there is nothing he does not ordain. Instead of embracing the tension that that God ordains all, including evil, and yet does so sinlessly, you have called it "evil". And in doing so you greatly sin against a holy God. It is high time that you receive whole counsel of Scripture and repent of your imaginatry man-made idol.

    Per you other statement about the Bible teaching free will ... there is nowhere in God's word anywhere that teaches that the natural man has free will, and yet you have stated that the Biblie teaches this. Where? It does not teach this or even infer it. The Bible teaches, rather, that men without the Holy Spirit sin of necessity. They are in bondage to sin until Christ sets them free. Last time I looked, if someones will is in bondage they are not free. Can a person come to Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? If you say "he can" then you are a embracing pelagainism, declared by the early church as a heresy.

    Greag, I encourage you put aside unaided human logic, emoptions and traditions. Biblical revelation is our only source of authority for faith and life. Believe it.

    the Bible itself testifies that God ordained evil men to crucify Jesus. Acts 2 says the same. So you need to be able to develop a theology which fits that into your view. While you may not understand it, you must yield to what the Scripture teaches regarding God's meticulous hand of providence in all things:

    God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).

    From the smallest thing to the greatest thing, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure - God governs them all for his wise and just and good purposes (Isaiah 46:10). Lest we miss the point, the Bible speaks most clearly to this in the most painful situations. Amos asks, in time of disaster, "If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?" (Amos 3:6). After losing all ten of his children in the collapse of his son's house, Job says, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). After being covered with boils he says, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10).

    John Piper once wisely said, "Oh, yes, Satan is real and active and involved in this world of woe! In fact Job 2:7 says, "Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head." Satan struck him. But Job did not get comfort from looking at secondary causes. He got comfort from looking at the ultimate cause. "Shall we not accept adversity from God?" And the author of the book agrees with Job when he says that Job's brothers and sisters "consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him" (Job 42:11). Then James underlines God's purposeful goodness in Job's misery: "You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (James 5:11). Job himself concludes in prayer: "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). Yes, Satan is real, and he is terrible - and he is on a leash."

    If I undersand all this correctly...
    god is good and god is evil, or at least does evil (I don't want to put words in anybodies mouth)
    whatever I think, do, or say is exactly what I was suppose to today... god ordained, so no apologies needed.
    Q. Does god lie? could I please have a yes or know answer. (you can follow it with reason and scripture.. but please know I am very simple and confuse easily.)

    I need to know if I can trust you John... but if you do evil... and God does evil, then I guess I will be deceived and right where God wants me?

    p.s please don't assume I know anything more than what I have written... because I probably don't... god ordained of couse (small joke)

    MathieU:

    God is infallible; therefore he does not lie.

    I am having trouble repenting because of what I've read in this article...
    How can I know that I am not already "not chosen" and condemned to Hell?
    If I am already condemned to Hell, there is no hope for me no matter what I do, say or pray... well that's just shitty!
    How can I repent for something God wanted me to do?
    Question: How come people in scriptures asked "what must I do to be saved"? or maybe my question is - why didn't people reply to that question with "Silly reasoning people, there is nothing you can or can't do, it's all been decided...
    Wouldn't that have killed this argument years ago?

    God is totally, totally in charge of everything. Why did Jesus come so late in time? Why was he not in a rush(building table, chairs, etc.) Because there was no rush, God had already written a Book of Life before time began and Jesus could die for the sheep at anytime. Those placed in the Lambs Book of Life had zero to do with anything!! Sure we seek God, call out to him, but that is the smoke, the fire started before that with divine intervention, the Holy Spirit coming for you, the elect sheep! Jesus stated, No one can come to him unless it granted by the Father. NO ONE would come to God on their own, NO ONE. All are depraved and heading for the great white throne judgment/lake of fire. But in Gods mercy, he chose a remnant thru out time, deemed them blameless,holy, and adopted! Just because he wanted to, not on our future works(mental, verbal,or physical). Through man it is impossible, but thru God all things are possible!!!! That says it all, also read Romans chapter nine a few times for starters and John.

    I have wrestled with t as pastor Evangelist 14 years as a missionary where I have seen the depravity of sin at its worse. I am now temporarily teaching Sunday school in my home church while I itinerate.

    There must be a logical and biblical revelation on this issue. However, the bible as we have revived it has been copied recopied and messed with so much I cannot say the one we are looking to now is Inspired at all, but was in the beginning before man decided to change things it suit his predisposition on issues such as this. I personally cannot see a loving God condemning those through no fault of their own to everlasting torment for sin they had no control over nor did invent. It seems more relevant to me that God in his omniscience saw that man would sin and then made plan based of freewill not election. They became elected because of free will not because of it. I choose to receive him, thus I was elected and I also can walk away from his thus condemning myself to eternal darkness. He merely allows us to sin then based on our own free will allow election to happen base on our own depravity. True by grace we are saved and not of our selves, but the choice and remains my own sin, not His. If such be the case then why not just make us as angels who sever him because they have to, not based on love or forethought or, freewill. Thus election is true but only based on plans god has seen though foreknowledge, not of his own sin he choose for man. What a cruel God it would be to hate sin and man if by election he caused the whole predicament. I suggest it is a reaction to sin not a cause and not a surprise at all but an acceptance by God of our free moral choice.

    If by his free will He caused my sin , then it gives me a license to sin since in no way am I responsible for it and the blame rests entire on his own broad shoulders. I shall not accuse the God of love of sin, either His or, mine

    Hi, I am an average Christian desperately trying to cling onto faith or maybe God is clinging hold of me - that depends on whether I am free to make my choices I suppose! This page is very interesting and thought provoking. I am relatively new to these concepts but feel I'm keeping up reasonably well. Please could somebody explain the following with biblical references:

    a) Can we understand how God is good and seeks to defeat evil if it is Him who ordains evil and indeed foreknowingly created the vessels of evil i.e. mankind?

    b) It is my understanding that e.g. God favoured Abraham, does this imply that God creates good uns and bad uns and selects the good ones?!

    c) How can I be certain that I am chosen by the Father? What comfort can I take in knowing that my non-christian family are going to hell by God's will. I would exchange my place with them just as my mother would die to save me - I consider this love. Whereas it seems God has willingly allowed the world to endure suffering and depravity, for his Glory - I fear that this understanding reflects a selfish and injust God.

    d)I used to think that God reveals the gospel to us however our RESPONSE determines whether we recieve the holy spirit to work in our lives - and God knows how we will respond. Am I correct in thinking that if we reject Christ - we do not recieve salvation and that this is our responsibility? Christians talk about accepting Christ as our Lord and Saviour as something WE must DO. I am unclear on this - Does this contradict with scripture?

    I often worry that the world does not reflect that God is just. Maybe I can use an analogy of a lab rat, born and bred to endure terrible suffering and then to be thrown in the bin. Yes some greater good may come of the sacrifice however consider the context where these animals are used in experiments aiming to aleviate health problems that man has created for himself. At the end of the day the scientist is glorified by his work and the lab rats are just collateral damage. I know this may sound emotional or irrelevant however I am just trying to express my difficulties honestly and I am open to objection - especially biblical objection. I have to believe God created me with emotions - whether they are a good or bad thing. I feel it's important to consider them but maybe not rely on them.

    Although some may be able to take comfort in knowing that God is soverign, there are people that have to suffer terrible losses that according to calvinism (not meant in a derogatory way at all)may not be elected by God and so they live in sorrow until the day they die, only to find a one way ticket to hell at the end ( assumin that God has no mercy or compassion on them). It seems efforts to evangelise are futile if God has already decided who will spend eternity with him. How can I make sense of this scripturally?

    I know that it's been mentioned that one should not look to his own logic - however isn't that the basis of forming doctrine? I wonder - if we didn't want to make logical sense of the bible we wouldn't attempt to understand apparent contradictions or attempt to unravel the mystery of God's nature. Of course I agree that our logic must be informed by scripture and be coherent with it.

    I do apologise if these questions have been touched upon before. I am just unclear on a few things and have alot of questions bouncing around in my head. I feel I am slipping towards giving up on God. I want to search every avenue of possibility to find an understanding that is true to God's word. I look forward to a response.

    God Bless

    Hi Lucy,

    Thanks for your questions and concerns. it would be very easy to reply with just short "sound bite" answers, but in the end, it would not satisfy your heart concerns on these issues.

    My suggestion to you Lucy is to take a deep breath and allow the word of God to answer your questions as you take a long look at the word of God - you indicate a desire to be pointed to the Scriptures and that is great - yet I would counsel you not to think it realistic that your all of your deep questions be resolved with an answer that takes 30 seconds to read. Allow yourself the TIME necessary to explore the word of God in these areas and be willing to submit to His word when He reveals His truth to you. So many are not prepared to do so, allowing their pre-conceived concepts/philosophies to stand in judgment on the word of God. Don't be guilty of that. Let God be true and every man (including our own self) a liar. If you are willing to go through this process then I would point you to some resources that would help you.

    There's a lot more that could and should be said by way of response, but I believe that to try to answer your questions in this short format would almost do more damage than good.

    I do not wish to overwhelm you with links, articles and resources, but if you can find time to watch this series called "Chosen by God" by Dr. R. C. Sproul, I believe it will at least start to address some of your concerns. You can do so for free here: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/chosen_by_god/

    To quote Dr. Sproul, "the basic point of election (is) that God considers the human race in its fallenness and he sees all of us in a state of rebellion against him. If he were to exercise his justice totally and completely toward the whole world, then all of us would certainly perish. The Scriptures tell us that in our natural, fallen state, we are in a state of moral bondage. We still have the ability to make choices, but those choices follow the desires of our hearts, and what we lack as fallen creatures is a built-in desire for God. So Jesus said, for example, “No man can come to me unless it is given to him by the Father.” I think that what election is all about is that God sovereignly and graciously gives the desire for Christ to those whom he calls out of the world. The difficulty and the great mystery is that apparently he doesn’t do that for everyone. He reserves the right, as he told Moses and as Paul reiterates in the New Testament, to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy—just as he chose Abraham and not Hammurabi, just as Christ appeared on the road to Damascus to Paul in a way that he didn’t appear to Pontius Pilate. That is to say, God doesn’t treat everyone the same. He never treats anyone unjustly. Some receive justice and some receive mercy, and God reserves the right eternally to give his executive clemency, if you will, to those whom he chooses. There’s a great debate on this, as you know, but I believe that the choice God makes is not based on my righteousness or on your righteousness but is based on his grace."

    Perhaps you can watch these six lectures at the link above and then let me know how things are going with regard to finding biblical answers. The entire www.monergism.com site is also filled with answers to the very questions you are asking should you care to search there.

    God bless you Lucy.

    Hi John,

    Thank you for such a speedy response! Of course I appreciate that there are no short answers to my questions and I am definately willing to search into the bible for as long as it takes. I just feel I am growing weary and find that my faith (or maybe lack of it)brings me no joy, peace or hope. I know that God never promises an easy ride. Being a Christian is like swimming against the current.I will have a look at these lectures and make some notes. Thank you once again, Lucy

    Hi, I was just reading some of the posts and your commentary on predestination. I must say that there are some statements I disagree with especially in the light that some commentators suggested that God ordained evil as illustrated through Job, note that the bible says that all things work together for the good of them that fear the Lord this suggests at least in my understanding that even if evil should befall you, as a christian, God will bring good out of it. This does in no wise suggest that God is the author of evil. evil is from Satan the adversary of the saints and mankind. In quoting scriptures, it is important to put scriptures into the correct context, as the apostle Paul states to rightly divide the word. Among your commentators I saw John H suggest that God made homesexuals that way, that is absolutely nonsensical, the fact that men continue sinning is because they choose to not because God made them so. God never intend for man to fall otherwise why would he give man a commandment if the intention was for man to commit sin. Your explanations seem to nullify the free will of man. I don't dispute the foreknowledge of God, but I strongly contend against the absurd notion that evil is from Godas the bible says that God is light and in him there is no darkness, further it says that the Lord is not tempted with evil nor tempts any man with evil.Therefore in no wise is God the author of evil, in the book of Job even though Job states that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, us as the readers should this as God bringing good out of satan's evil actions. Satan was responsible for Job's misery yet God had a purpose in it to bring about a deeper faith in Job by means of this trial but Satan was the one who brought the evil. In light of your explanation would you say that God created Satan to sin, absolutely not satan had a purpose to worship God but he instead usurped God's authority and that is the origin of evil. Please note that evil is a perversion of good just as darkness is the absence of light. Therefore I conclude that in God there is NO EVIL, NEITHER is he the author of evil. Please note that predestination and election is subordinate to God's foreknowledge, God knew all things and as such he was able to see who would accept salvation and who would not. But the individuals themselves are responsible for their decisions and actions.This does not diminish God's omnipotence but instead elevates it, in that God who is all knowing could let things play out and yet it would work to accomplish his purposes out of the actions of wicked men, God radiates his attributes of mercy and justice. In that when the wicked men willed and killed Jesus Christ, God brought about salvation for all men. And yes the bible does state that it was God's will and purpose absolutely, God being a God order worked it that it should accomplish his purpose because he knows all things, yes sin was not a surprise to God, he knew it would happened hence in God's mind he had a lamb (Jesus Christ) ready as the treatment and cure for sin. God did not intend man to fall or plan it however he foresaw it and as such made a remedy for man's fall salvation through Jesus Christ, this is very different from the kind of predetermination doctrine that people adopt as predestination. The key to understanding this doctrine is to first know that God is omniscient (all-knowing) and due to that fact he is also omnipotent (all powerful) as he knows the solution to any and every problem, by his very omniscience God is also omnipresent as he knows what is happening wherever it is happening nothing is hid from him. Thus in seeing the God has this key characteristic of omniscience it is no wonder that he could predestine and elect a people according to his own will not by favoritism or run of the mill choosing but according to his own counsel based on those facts that God knows particularly of each individual that was and has to come. Yes it is true that God seeks man,as God is the creator, man did not ask God to have a being or to come to be. But God choose that man should be created. Therefore the creator is the one who seeks the creature and brings it into being. My conclusion is that in no wise does the free will of man compromise the omniscience of God, man can exercise his will and it will always fall in the providence of God as God is all knowing. God does not have to manipulate man's will as if he does not already know the actions that man will take. But every action that man takes God has already factored into achieving his ultimate purpose hence the bible states categorically that God has declared the end from the beginning.

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