The Augustinian view of election of believers outlined in the comments on Eph 1:4 in particular has come under challenge recently from scholars who defend a view they term “corporate election.” Brian J. Abasciano explains:
Most simply, corporate election refers to the choice of a group, which entails the choice of its individual members by virtue of their membership in the group. Thus, individuals are not elected as individuals directly, but secondarily as members of the elect group.… Individuals are elect as a consequence of their membership in the group.… On both the individual and the corporate level, election is contingent on faith in Christ.
This view is proposed over against the historic Augustinian/Calvinist view, which, we are told, “refers to the direct choice of individuals as autonomous entities” and leads to a “maverick Christianity” of isolated individuals rather than to a healthy, unified church.
Furthermore, we are told, the insights of the “new perspective on Paul” (NPP) have bolstered this corporate view of election as consistent with E. P. Sanders’s homogenized view of Second Temple Judaism, in which corporate Israel was elected gratuitously and individuals enjoyed this election and predestination only insofar as they maintained their status within the group through personal covenant fidelity, i.e., obedience to the law. It should be noted that not everyone agrees that the radically diverse groups in Second Temple Judaism can be homogenized quite so easily.
The argument for corporate election as it relates to Ephesians concentrates on Eph 1:4a (καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ, kathōs exelexato hēmas en autō, “insofar as he chose us in him”), where ἡμᾶς (hēmas) (“us”) is said to refer not to individuals but to “the church as a whole, especially as it was uttered in a collectivist cultural milieu in which the group was seen as primary and the individual as secondary, embedded in the group to which he belonged and referred to as a result of his membership in the group.” Continue reading “Paul Teaches that Election to Salvation is Individual, not Corporate. Ephesians 1:3-14”
Salvation is Solely the Work of God
One of the hallmarks of Calvinism is monergism, that is, the biblical conviction that we are born again by God working alone (mono = one). God is the only active agent in our rebirth because the depravity of sin has rendered fallen man totally unable to believe in Christ. God’s sovereign grace actualizes salvation, beginning with effectual calling and regeneration, the process whereby the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit recreates fallen human nature and enables sinners to believe in Christ. In this regard, regeneration precedes faith. In contrast, synergism (Arminianism) teaches that we are born again by divine-human cooperation, each contributing its part to accomplish regeneration (syn = together). Synergism is possible because sinners retain sufficient ability to believe in Christ. Effectively, this mean that God offers potential salvation which is actualized only when a sinner believes.
The Canons of Dort (1618-1619), which is one of the foundational doctrinal documents of the Calvinist Reformation, resolutely rejects synergism in one of its affirmations. Continue reading “Sovereign Grace, Regeneration and Humble Calvinism”
B.B. Warfield has been accused of being influenced by the rationalism of the Enlightenment, mediated by the Scottish Common Sense of Philosophy. It is further claimed that Warfield’s apologetics is premised on a person-neutral view of reason and criteria of truth. This accusation is incorrect. Warfield stresses that evidence by itself is not sufficient to bring a person to faith in Christ. Nevertheless, the presentation of objective evidence and argument is necessary precisely because the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing saving understanding and saving faith includes opening the eyes of the blind to information which is conducive towards faith.
The passages given below confirm that Warfield’s apologetics is cognizant of the noetic effects of sin and as such, saving faith is the gift of God through the Holy Spirit. Warfield’s dialectical balance between evidence and the necessity of the Holy Spirit in bringing faith should give pause to critics who claim that his apologetics is rationalistic.
I. No one is in danger of believing that “the evidences” can produce “faith”: but neither can the presentation of Christ in the gospel produce “faith.” “Faith” is the gift of God. But it does not follow that the “faith” that God gives is not grounded in “the evidences.” Of course it is only the prepared heart that can fitly respond to the force of the “evidences,” or “ receive ” the proclamation : just as it is only the eye that can see, as Dr. Bavinck explains, to which the sun can reveal itself. But this faith that the prepared heart yields,—is it yielded blindly and without reason, or is it yielded rationally and on the ground of sufficient reason? Does God the Holy Spirit work a blind and ungrounded faith in the heart? What is supplied by the Holy Spirit in working faith in the heart surely is not a ready-made faith, rooted in nothing and clinging without reason to its object; nor yet new grounds of belief in the object presented; but just a new power to the heart to respond to the grounds of faith, sufficient in themselves, already present to the mind. Our Reformed fathers did not overlook this: they always posited the presence, in the production of faith, of the “argumentum, propter quod credo” [the argument for what I believe], as well as the “principium seu causa efficiens a quo ad credendum adducor” [the principle or efficient cause by which I am led to believe]. From this point of view, the presence to the mind of the “grounds” of faith is just as essential as the creative operation of the Giver of faith itself. Continue reading “B.B. Warfield: Use of Evidence in Apologetics Not Necessarily Rationalistic”
Theology Uses Philosophy on its own Terms
 Though Christian dogma cannot be explained in terms of Greek philosophy, it also did not come into being apart from it. There is as yet no dogma and theology, strictly speaking, in Scripture. As long as revelation itself was still in progress, it could not become the object of scientific reflection. Inspiration had to be complete before reflection could begin…
Gradually a need arose to think through the ideas of revelation, to link it with other knowledge and to defend it against various forms of attack. For this purpose people needed philosophy. Scientific theology was born with its help. This did not, however, happen accidentally. The church was not the victim of deception. In the formation and development of the dogmas, the church fathers made generous use of philosophy. They did that, however, in the full awareness of and with clear insight into the dangers connected with that enterprise; they were conscious of the grounds on which they did it, and they did it with express recognition of the word of the apostles as the only rule of faith and conduct. For that reason also they did not utilize the whole of Greek philosophy but made a choice; they only utilized the philosophy that was most suited to help them think through and defend the truth of God. They went to work eclectically and did not take over any single philosophical system, be it either from Plato or from Aristotle, but with the aid of Greek philosophy produced a Christian philosophy of their own. Furthermore, they only used that philosophy as a means… Continue reading “Philosophy and Theology Reading 3/3”
The doctrine of the providence of God assures believers that the Lord is sovereign over the circumstances of their lives. Indeed, “The Church is His special care and charge. He rules the world for its good, as a head consulting the welfare of the body.” (John Flavel)
Meditation on God’s providence will foster both gratitude and fortitude in believers. Flavel in his classic book, The Mystery of Providence demonstrates how the Reformed doctrine of providence provides practical advice on how believers may grow in sanctification and enjoy the peace of God through times of affliction (excerpts given below).
APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE
How may a Christian discover the will of God and his own duty under dark and doubtful providences?
In order to answer this question we must consider what is meant by the will of God and what by those doubtful providences that make the discovery of His will difficult and what rules are to be observed for ascertaining God’s will for us under such difficult and puzzling providences.
How may a Christian be supported in waiting upon God, while Providence delays the performance of the mercies to him for which he has long prayed and waited?
It is supposed in this case that Providence may linger and delay the performance of those mercies to us that we have long waited and prayed for, and that during that delay and suspense our hearts and hopes may be very low and ready to fail. Continue reading “Finding God’s Peace in Times of Afflictive Providence (Covid-19 Crisis)”
Open theism is the belief that God is not timelessly eternal. “God changes in some ways so as to respond appropriately to a changing creation…God’s foreknowledge is limited, because of the limitations he has placed upon himself in giving humans freewill.” /1/ The idea that God has limited foreknowledge was first formulated by the Polish Socinian movement in the late 16th century. It was recently revived by several Open Theists (Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice & John Sanders et al) when they jointly published the seminal work, The Openness of God (IVP, 1994). However, anyone who feels swayed by their sophisticated arguments should recall the old-time rebuttal, “Your argument is logical but your conclusion is unfounded because your premises are wrong.” Applying logic to wrong premises only leads to conclusions that do not correspond to reality. For the same reason, the logic of Open Theism results in a god who is in conflict with the God of Biblical-Classical theism because its premises or fundamental philosophical intuitions are questionable. Continue reading “The Limited god of Open Theism is Not the Almighty God of the Bible”
THIRTEENTH QUESTION: MIDDLE KNOWLEDGE
Discussion by Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. one (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), pp. 212-218.
Summary of Francis Turretin’s Argument Against Middle Knowledge.
Sect 1-4. Definitions
Natural Knowledge or knowledge of simple intelligence is indefinite. It is God’s knowledge of all things God could possibly do with his omnipotent power, irrespective of how God actually decides to exercise this power. Thus, God knows what he could do, if he so choses to do it.
Free Knowledge is God’s knowledge of future things (what God eventually and freely brings into being). It is definite as it refers to how God actually exercises of his omnipotent power by his decree.
Middle knowledge lies in between natural knowledge and free knowledge (the order is logical and not temporal). It is not based on God’s decree but on the autonomous free will of creatures.
Sect 5-8 What is the issue with middle knowledge? Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 2 by Francis Turretin”
Proposition – a contingent proposition can be true but does not have to be true.
Fact/Event – occurring without this necessarily being the case, i.e. it might not have occurred. A being is contingent if it is not logically necessary.
ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. By Francis Turretin (1623-1687).
QUESTION: Do all things fall under the knowledge of God, both singulars and future contingencies? We affirm against Socinus. [p. 206]
VIII. On the state of the question observe: (1) that a thing may be contingent in two ways—either with respect to the first cause (inasmuch as it can be produced or not produced by God, and so all creatures are contingent with respect to God because he might not have created any if he had so willed); or with respect to second causes (which can produce or not produce their effect and are thus distinguished from necessary causes). We here speak of future contingents in the latter and not in the former sense. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Foreknowledge and Future Contingents”
It has been suggested by some bloggers that exegesis is on the side of the Calvinists while logic is on the side of the Arminians. This suggestion sounds plausible since the majority of Christian philosophers today are either Arminians or Open theists. The bloggers are correct in acknowledging that Calvinists offer robust exegesis to support their arguments which is evident in the works of Thomas Schreiner, John Piper, Sam Storms and James White. However, the suggestion is mystifying since historically Calvinists have been accused of imposing of a rigid logical system onto Scripture. We can only conclude that the bloggers who suggest that Calvinists lack rigor in logical analysis have never bothered to read Calvin and his successors like Francis Turretin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards or Dutch Reformed theologians like Wilhelmus Brakel and Petrus van Mastricht. A quick glance of Richard Muller’s 4-vol (2176 pages) work on Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics should immediately impress the reader of both the acuity and logical brilliance displayed by the Calvinists. It was precisely because the doctrinal disputations of the Reformed Scholastics were dominated by austere logic, where conciseness and clarity trumps readability that Calvinism has been accused on putting logic above Scripture. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 1 by Petrus van Mastricht”
Received this question from a good Christian brother and friend –
So we should be a “Calminian” 😊!
Sorry, not trying to be flippant Bro Kam Weng. If we cannot fully understand it due to our finite minds trying to grapple with a divine mystery, I think it is ok agree to disagree and not let it divide us and certainly it should not be one side saying to the other “the gospel you preach is defective”.
Response: I fully agree with you that we must always bear in mind our limitations in the face of divine mystery. Humility is in order. Spurgeon notes that some Arminians display holiness that ought to put to shame Calvinists who turn out to be spiritually cold & legalistic. More importantly, both Calvinists & Arminians who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be heaven & their rewards will be based on far more wider considerations than just doctrinal precision. Continue reading “Why not be Calminian (Three grains of Calvinism and two of Arminianism)?”