Outline of Romans 9:
vv. 1-5 – Paul expressed his grief over the unbelief of the nation of Israel.
vv. 6-9 – Main theme. God’s selection or election of his people from within ethnic Israel originates from God’s sovereign grace.
vv. 14-18 – Answer to objection that predestination makes God unjust.
vv. 19-29 – Answer the objection that predestination makes personal responsibility irrelevant.
Thesis: Not everyone who belongs to ethnic Israel belongs to the spiritual Israel. The spiritual Israel includes a remnant of ethnic Israel, but is not restricted to ethnic Israel. God’s selection or election of his people from within ethnic Israel is not based on works but originates from God’s sovereign grace. Who constitutes the spiritual Israel will become evident at Paul’s argument unfolds.
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.
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”
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”
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”
Christians who uphold the orthodox doctrine of hell have become fair game to liberal theologians who delight in putting them on the defensive by conjuring up terrifying images where denizens of hell are tormented by ferocious hell fire. Critics of hell argue that people should not be faulted when they fail to believe an ancient book, much less should they be condemned to hell to be tortured by devices ingeniously conceived by the sadistic imagination of Christians who stubbornly cling to an archaic belief. The scenes of excessive suffering in hell only confirm the suspicion that for all their talk of love, orthodox Christians are really heartless when they are fired up by self-righteousness. Not surprisingly, hell has become repugnant to liberal theologians and only a foolhardy Christian would dare mention hell in his witness to them. Continue reading “Hell for Open Theists”
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 purpose of this post is to clarify the conceptual categories and the finely balanced relationship between necessity and contingency underlying the Reformed doctrine of meticulous providence and human freedom.
I. Distinction between Natural and Free Causes
Reformed Scholaticism frames the relation between God as the Creator and the world as his creation by using ontological concepts like cause and effect. A further distinction is made between subjects with attributes of freedom (free causes) and subjects without that quality (natural causes).
A cause produces an act, and either the act or the state of affairs brought forward by the act is called the effect.
I. The purpose of this article is to show that the Open Theist’s argument against divine foreknowledge is flawed because it fails to distinguish between “the necessity of the consequent” and“the necessity of the consequence”.
We begin with some clarifications of the terms that are crucial to our discussion:
Things are contingent of which it is possible that they are or are not.
Things are necessary of which it is impossible that they are not.
A necessary proposition is a proposition that could not possibly have been false, whose negation is impossible as this would entail a contradiction in reality. For example, it is necessary that 2 + 2 = 4. Philosophers describe a necessary proposition as one that true in all possible worlds.
A contingent proposition is a proposition that is not necessarily true or necessarily false (i.e. whose negation does not entail a contradiction in reality). An example of a contingent proposition is the proposition that human beings must be born on earth. A contingent proposition is one that is true in some possible worlds and not in others.
Prologue: The next three posts are rather technical (technical rating = 6/10). For readers who may find the reading tough going, just enjoy the jokes on Calvinism vs Arminianism.
Q1: How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb? A: None. God has predestined when the lights will be on. Stay seated and trust him.
Q2: How many Arminians does it take to change a light bulb? A1: Only one. But first the bulb must want to be changed. A2: All. They need everyone to make sure it stays on. One can never really be sure.
Q3: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb? A: Three, one to cast it out and two to catch it when it falls!
Q4: How many Open Theists does it take to change a light bulb? A: No one knows the answer. Not even God!
Calvinists have their TULIP! Arminians prefer the daisy. Why? “He loves me, but he loves me not. He loves me, but he loves me not…
Now to the serious stuff:
God’s omnipotence and omniscience and are inseparable correlates of his sovereignty and providence over creation. As Creator, God knows everything. This includes their essential nature and how they interact with other things as “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13) As the omnipotent Lord, God controls all happenings in the universe and directs them according to his eternal plan. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Eph. 1:11)
The scriptural teaching of God’s predestination contradicts the Arminian view that God’s foreknowledge is “simple”, that is, God knows the future, but not that he predetermines it. Furthermore, the Arminian maintains that God’s foreknowledge is contingent on our prior choices- that God’s knowing isn’t the source of our doing. Rather, our doing is the source of God’s knowing. However, Scripture teaches that God’s knowledge is active rather than passive since he foreordains and directs all things “according to the counsel of his will.” Continue reading “Does Foreknowledge of God Negate Human Freedom? – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 5/7”
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”