The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 3 – The Case for Individual Election in Ephesians 1 & Romans 9

 

Historically, the church has upheld the doctrine that God from eternity past, before the creation of the world, has predestined individuals to receive salvation. These individuals are elected “in Christ”. However, Arminians, beginning from the 17th century, have argued that election is corporate rather than individual. Arminians object to individual election since it appears to them that God is arbitrary and unjust when he chooses and saves some individuals, but bypasses other individuals. But, by the same token, the same objection also applies to corporate election if God chooses to save a group of people and bypasses other groups. More importantly, the hermeneutics of the Arminian view of corporate election becomes evidently inadequate when it is tested with a close reading of two crucial biblical passages found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9.

Ephesians 1
Arminianism reduces God’s election to a generic, group election, in contrast to Paul’s teaching of election of specific individuals in Christ:
(1) Arminians assert that God’s election described in Eph.1:4 is based on a generic criterion, that is, foreseen faith. However, the focus of the text is on God’s act of choosing some individuals rather than on some individuals’ act of choosing Christ. It says nothing about foreseen faith. Elsewhere, Paul argues in Rom. 9:11 that faith is the result for been chosen. It is not the reason for being chosen. Evidently, Arminians have smuggled the idea of foreseen faith into the text. As a result they have reversed Paul’s understanding of the relationship between election and faith Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 3 – The Case for Individual Election in Ephesians 1 & Romans 9”

The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 2 – What Election in Christ Means. Ephesians 1: 3-6

Definition of Terms Predestination refers to how God foreordains (determines in advance) all events and circumstances to accomplish his eternal plan to manifest his glory and bless his people. Election refers to “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a … Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 2 – What Election in Christ Means. Ephesians 1: 3-6”

Definition of Terms
Predestination refers to how God foreordains (determines in advance) all events and circumstances to accomplish his eternal plan to manifest his glory and bless his people.
Election refers to “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation. /1/

Election in Ephesians 1
First, election is an act of supreme love. Election is not some impersonal plans executed by a cold and remote Creator. In election, the heavenly Father chooses his people “in love” (v. 4) for “the adoption of children” into his family. The heavenly Father is not a grudging God, for he has generously blessed the elect “in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” (v. 3, 5). In short, election as “glorious grace” is the magnificent fountain of “all spiritual blessings” (v. 6) listed throughout this epistle. Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 2 – What Election in Christ Means. Ephesians 1: 3-6”

The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation. Part 1: The Meaning of “Foreknowledge” in Rom. 8:29

Questions about God’s foreknowledge and his election of certain people to salvation are frequently raised during my talks in churches and colleges. These questions are raised not out of mere curiosity, but out of a desire to be assured of one’s salvation. Such an assurance may be enjoyed only if we believe that God is … Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation. Part 1: The Meaning of “Foreknowledge” in Rom. 8:29”

Questions about God’s foreknowledge and his election of certain people to salvation are frequently raised during my talks in churches and colleges. These questions are raised not out of mere curiosity, but out of a desire to be assured of one’s salvation. Such an assurance may be enjoyed only if we believe that God is the author of our salvation from beginning to the end, that salvation is by God’s grace alone and that the history of the church with its ups and downs is not the result of arbitrary human choices, but represents the working out of God’s eternal plan of salvation. Hence, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in predestination and election (monergism) is a most comforting doctrine.

I. The Salvation Chain
 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom. 8: 29-30).

When Paul states that to those who love God and are called according to his purpose all things work together for good, he is not thinking only of those things that can be seen round about us now, or those events that are taking place now; no, he includes even time and eternity. The chain of salvation he is discussing reaches back to that which, considered from a human standpoint, could be called the dim past, “the quiet recess of eternity,” and forward into the boundless future.One very important fact must be mentioned: every link in this chain of salvation represents a divine action. To be sure, human responsibility and action is not thereby ruled out, but here (Rom. 8:29, 30) it is never specifically mentioned. [William Hendriksen Romans (Baker Books, 1981), p. 281] Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation. Part 1: The Meaning of “Foreknowledge” in Rom. 8:29”

Definite Atonement (Part 1/3): Engaging Arminian Proof Texts for Universal Atonement

Arminians charge Calvinists as guilty of diminishing the universal significance of Christ’s atonement by teaching definite (limited) atonement. However, Calvinists reject the charge as unwarranted since they affirm the atonement of Christ as “sufficient for all.” In truth, it is the Arminians who limit the effectiveness of Christ’s atonement by teaching that Christ’s atonement only … Continue reading “Definite Atonement (Part 1/3): Engaging Arminian Proof Texts for Universal Atonement”

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Arminians charge Calvinists as guilty of diminishing the universal significance of Christ’s atonement by teaching definite (limited) atonement. However, Calvinists reject the charge as unwarranted since they affirm the atonement of Christ as “sufficient for all.” In truth, it is the Arminians who limit the effectiveness of Christ’s atonement by teaching that Christ’s atonement only offers potential salvation for all, since there remains a possibility that Christ’s atonement may not achieve its intended purpose. [Re: Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists] This uncertainty precludes believers from enjoying any assurance of salvation. In contrast, Calvinists teach that Christ’s atonement does not merely make salvation possible; it accomplishes a definite purpose. It makes salvation certain as Christ really saves to the uttermost every one of those for whom he died. Christ’s atonement is “effective for the elect.” Hence believers may enjoy the assurance of salvation.

Arminians also reject the Calvinists’ understanding of the phrase, “for all” to mean “all without distinction” as hermeneutical gymnastics that go against the plain reading of Scripture which for Arminians, would require understanding the phrase, Christ died “for all” to mean “all without exception.”

The purpose of this post is to defend the Calvinists’ reading by engaging with several favorite Arminian proof texts for universal atonement. For convenience, I shall quote generously from several established commentators. Continue reading “Definite Atonement (Part 1/3): Engaging Arminian Proof Texts for Universal Atonement”

Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists

The term “Limited Atonement” has become a favorite fodder for Arminians in their criticism of Calvinism (or preferably, Reformed theology). However, their criticism is misplaced for the following reasons: (1) Historically, the term, “TULIP” was not used when the five points of Calvinism were originally affirmed in the Synod of Dort (1618). It gained popularity … Continue reading “Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists”

The term “Limited Atonement” has become a favorite fodder for Arminians in their criticism of Calvinism (or preferably, Reformed theology). However, their criticism is misplaced for the following reasons:

(1) Historically, the term, “TULIP” was not used when the five points of Calvinism were originally affirmed in the Synod of Dort (1618). It gained popularity only in the 20th century as a convenient mnemonic device to summarize five central teachings of Reformed theology.
(2) The criticism is misguided.  It would be more fruitful to shift the debate from a fixation with the negative term, “Limited Atonement” (which suggests a spirit of defensiveness), to an engagement with the positive affirmation of the Reformed doctrine of “Definite Atonement,” “Effective Atonement” or “Particular Redemption.”
(3) Arminians should think twice before throwing stones at the Calvinists when they themselves could well be living in a glass house. In truth, Arminians also teach a “Limited Atonement”, perhaps more so than Reformed theology! [Tu quoque?] Continue reading “Why Arminians Limit the Atonement More than Calvinists”

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7

Concluding Argument for Divine Omniscience and Exhaustive Foreknowledge of God The Open Theist argues that if God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, then all human action will be necessarily actualized since God’s ‘beliefs’ about future events cannot be falsified. But this would make it impossible to hold humans responsible for their acts if they cannot but act … Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7”

Concluding Argument for Divine Omniscience and Exhaustive Foreknowledge of God

The Open Theist argues that if God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, then all human action will be necessarily actualized since God’s ‘beliefs’ about future events cannot be falsified. But this would make it impossible to hold humans responsible for their acts if they cannot but act necessarily. We must choose between God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian human freedom. However, the undeniable fact of life is contingent human action. The logical recourse is to reduce significantly, if not decisively, the scope of divine foreknowledge to preserve human freedom.

The Open Theist’s argument is premised on a false dilemma that one must choose between the ‘necessities’ of divine foreknowledge and contingent libertarian freedom. Continue reading “Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Conclusion. Part 7(b)/7”

Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts

Before proceeding further in our series of posts on divine sovereignty and human freedom, it would be good to clarify some of the contested concepts in the debate. Let’s begin with two fundamental concepts: 1) Free will. The ability of an agent to make genuine choices that stem from the self. Libertarians argue that free … Continue reading “Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts”

Before proceeding further in our series of posts on divine sovereignty and human freedom, it would be good to clarify some of the contested concepts in the debate.

Let’s begin with two fundamental concepts:
1) Free will. The ability of an agent to make genuine choices that stem from the self. Libertarians argue that free will includes the power to determine the will itself, so that a person with free will can will more than one thing. Compatibilists typically view free will as the power to act in accordance with one’s own will rather than being constrained by some external cause, allowing that the will itself may ultimately be causally determined by something beyond the self. Hard determinists deny the existence of free will altogether. Most Christian theologians agree that humans possess free will in some sense but disagree about what kind of freedom is necessary. The possession of free will does not entail an ability not to sin, since human freedom is shaped and limited by human character. Thus a human person may be free to choose among possibilities in some situations but still be unable to avoid all sin. /1/ Continue reading “Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts”

Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7

Divine Providence and Determination Do not Negate Human Freedom [Berkouwer warns against associating divine election with phrases like ‘incontestable freedom” and “absolute possibility” as these descriptions “open the door to a fatalism and determinism in which the events of our time and history were robbed of all genuine meaning.” (HCT 89) Human action is rendered … Continue reading “Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7”

Divine Providence and Determination Do not Negate Human Freedom

[Berkouwer warns against associating divine election with phrases like ‘incontestable freedom” and “absolute possibility” as these descriptions “open the door to a fatalism and determinism in which the events of our time and history were robbed of all genuine meaning.” (HCT 89) Human action is rendered insignificant and fate becomes inescapable as the future inexorably unfolds with relentless logic following an impersonal decree set by God at the beginning.

The fundamental error of identifying Providence with determinism is the de-personalization of the God-concept. Scripture rejects rigid determinism because the almighty power of the personal living God embraces freedom and responsibility of the creature] Continue reading “Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7”

Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.

  Robert Kane clears away several confusions that have led critics like libertarians and Arminians wrongly to reject compatibilism and Calvinistic on grounds that determinism negates freedom. 1. “Don’t confuse determinism with constraint, coercion, or compulsion.” Freedom is the opposite of constraint, coercion, and compulsion compatibilists insist; but it is not the opposite of determinism. … Continue reading “Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.”

 

Robert Kane clears away several confusions that have led critics like libertarians and Arminians wrongly to reject compatibilism and Calvinistic on grounds that determinism negates freedom.

1. “Don’t confuse determinism with constraint, coercion, or compulsion.” Freedom is the opposite of constraint, coercion, and compulsion compatibilists insist; but it is not the opposite of determinism. Constraint, coercion, and compulsion act against our wills, preventing us from doing or choosing what we want. By contrast, determinism does not necessarily act against our wills; nor does it always prevent us from doing what we want. Causal determinism, to be sure, does mean that all events follow from earlier events in accordance with invariable laws of nature. But, say compatibilists, it is a mistake to think that laws of nature constrain us…But, in fact, the existence of laws of nature indicates only that certain events follow others according to regular patterns. To be governed by laws of nature is not to be in chains.

2. “Don’t confuse causation with constraint.” Compatibilists also insist that it is constraints, not mere causes of any kind, that undermine freedom. Continue reading “Determinism Should not be Confused with Compulsion or Fatalism.”

Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. It is widely held that humans are free to the extent that they are able … Continue reading “Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7”

Providence is God’s work of sustaining creation and his sovereign, benevolent control of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.

It is widely held that humans are free to the extent that they are able to choose between alternative possibilities with equal ease. Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism) rejects this so-called “power of contrary choice” or the “liberty of indifference”, and contends that choice is not a matter of indifference; we always chose what we personally want. We also act in accordance to our nature, motives and desires. Our choices change under different circumstances, but ultimately they follow what appears to be the most compelling motive for the moment.

Since God by virtue of his omniscience knows exhaustively our motives, he is able to foreknow and foreordain (elicit) specific human choices under appropriate circumstances ordered through his meticulous providence. We act according to what God has foreknown; nevertheless our choices and actions which follow our strongest motives are voluntary since they are not coerced. That is to say, divine foreknowledge is compatible with voluntary human choice. Continue reading “Compatibilism: Divine Permission and Human Action– Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 3/7”