Presented to the Free Grace Alliance, National Conference, October 15, 2014

 

Introduction

 While we often desire to align with particular historical theological views, it is usually the case that historical perspectives are not fully adequate in explaining the Biblical position. In the case of the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, the labels aren’t even adequate in explaining the positions of the men they supposedly represent. Calvin himself actually had nothing to do with the formal five points of Calvinism, as they were actually developed through the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) in response to the teachings of followers of Jacobus Arminius. These followers were called Remonstrants, after the document published in 1610 called the Remonstrance, which challenged the Belgic Confession (1562-1566) and some of John Calvin’s and Theodore Beza’s teaching. Still it is helpful to understand the theological positions, but it is far more important to understand the Biblical data on those issues. What follows is a brief synopsis, evaluating basic components of Calvinism and Arminianism in light of Biblical data.

 

Assessing Calvinism

 Calvinism is typically identified by the classic TULIP system of Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of saints.

 

Total Depravity

 

The Calvinist Position

“Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto” (Westminster Confession, 9:III).

 

The Biblical Data  

This statement is consistent with Romans 3:9-20, 5:1-12, and Ephesians 2:1-3 in describing our former estate. The insufficiency here is in the explanation of how man is presently in such a helpless state. Calvin advocated the idea of federal headship – that Adam was representative of all humanity in his sin. But the Biblical conception of human depravity is not simply that we are all in sin because Adam represented us. Adam’s son was born in his image and likeness (Gen 5:3). So the sin Adam bore is passed down to all of us as an inherited trait. We have the sin nature just as Adam. Insofar as all are sinners by nature (Rom 5:12; Eph 2:3), we all bear the consequences of spiritual death (Gen 2:17) and physical death (Gen 3:19). This is likely why David referred to himself as having been brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (Ps 51:5).

In short, the Biblical concept of human depravity seems to include representation in Adam, but extends beyond that to an ontological depravity due to our own individual natures: we are born from a sinner – in the image and likeness of that sinner – therefore, we are by nature, sinners.

 

Unconditional Election

 

The Calvinist Position

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.   IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished.   V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.   VI. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.   VII. The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice” (Westminster Confession, 3:III-VII).

 

The Biblical Data

In these assertions there are some overstatements. Angels are predestined to eternal life? Where does the Bible assert that? Their number can be neither increased or diminished? Upon what Biblical basis? These statements are possibly true, but they go beyond what is written. There is a subtle problem here, and it is not necessarily in the conclusion of double election (that God elected believers to salvation and unbelievers to damnation). The problem is in the means of arriving at that conclusion – theological (hermeneutic) method.

To illustrate, The Canon of Dort, Rejection of Errors, First Head, Paragraph 8 quotes three passages: Romans 9:18 (“he hardens whom he wants to harden”), Matthew 13:11 (“not revealed to them”), and Matthew 11:25-26 (“you have hidden these things from the wise”). But in each of these three cases the Canon of Dort goes too far. The content of the what was hidden in Matthew 13:11 was the mysteries of the kingdom – the things Jesus was sharing with the disciples in private – the things of the kingdom, not of individual salvation. And are we to understand Matthew 11:25 as restricting saving knowledge from the wise and intelligent? If so then Paul is wrong, because he admits there are some wise who are saved (1 Cor 1:26). The hardening of Romans 9 has nothing to do with election. In fact, the first Biblical instance of hardening is done with Pharaoh after the fact (Ex 4:21). We cannot say whether Pharaoh was ever a believer or not, because the Bible doesn’t reveal it. While double election seems logically necessary, it is not exegetically provable. It may even be probable, but it cannot be justified as Biblical fact.

 

Limited Atonement

 

The Calvinist Position

“The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world” (Canon of Dort, Second Head, Article 3).

 

arminius-calvin“For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever” (Canon of Dort, Second Head, Article 8).

 

“That God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by His death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person” (Rejection of Errors 2:1).

 

The Biblical Data

Contemporary explanations of limited atonement rest upon a basic syllogism:

 

P1: None of Jesus’ blood was wasted

P2: His blood provided a complete satisfaction for sin wherever it is efficacious

C:  Jesus could only have died for the elect, who would ultimately receive redemption

 

Interestingly, this syllogism is not found explicitly in Calvin’s writings, in the Canons of Dort, or in the Westminster Confession. However the Dort statement (Rejection of Errors, 2:1) provides the logical basis for it: only the elect can be saved, and Christ’s death would have been wasted if never applied to any person. This Dort statement assumes the necessity of unconditional election, and undergirds the efficacy of the atonement upon that principle.

In short, if Jesus paid the price for the sin of those who wouldn’t believe, then His blood was wasted. The Belgic Confession (Article XXII) illustrates the significance of this: “Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.”

The logic is not too difficult to follow, and if the premises are correct, then the conclusion is also correct. However, that Jesus did die to pay the penalty for all (elect or not) is clearly stated in 1 John 2:2 – “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” This simply stated passage underscores the fact that the limited atonement view is not accurate. It is better to understand Christ’s sacrifice through the lens of the Passover illustration. The blood shed by the lambs was perfectly efficacious blood, but it had to be applied in a specific manner, otherwise it did not provide benefit for the individual (Ex 12:7,13). The only way to justify the limited atonement view is to change the meaning of the words in 1 John 2:2, and that is simply not allowed by the literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic.

 

 

Irresistible Grace

 

The Calvinist Position

“That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it, proceeds from God’s eternal decree.  “For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).  “who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:11).  According to which decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe; while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is especially displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which, though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest it to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation” (First Head, Article 6).

 

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity” (Second Head, Article 9).

 

The Biblical Data

 In my estimation, this is probably the best (most Biblically) stated of the five points. This point reflects accurately the process described in Romans 8:28-30, that the foreknowledge of God with respect to the ones He predestines and calls and justifies concludes with their glorification. The Dort statements logically presuppose double election, and I have already addressed the exegetical challenge there: while logically possible, it is not exegetically certain. These Dort statements of irresistible grace come close to what is Biblically certain, with only the subtle extension beyond what is written.

 

Perseverance of Saints

 

The Calvinist Position

 “And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by Him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled, or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished” (Canons of Dort, First Head, Article 11).

“May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from a state of grace? True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and His decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, His continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 79).

 

The Biblical Data

 The Dort statement appeals to election, while the Westminster statement appeals to God’s giving of perseverance. The conclusion that believers are eternally secure is Biblically accurate, but the means of arriving at that conclusion is better connected to (1) the present tense possession of eternal life by the believer in Jesus Christ (Jn 6:47), and (2) the protection of God (1 Pet 1:5). In 1 Peter 1:3-5, for example, there are eleven statements affirming the security of the believer, and none of them depend on or are focused on the believer, but all are focused on God’s activity. The issue here is that the phrase perseverance of saints implies some activity on the part of the believer, whereas the Biblical data is explicitly theocentric regarding God as exclusive Protector.

 

Assessing Arminianism

 

The Remonstrance of 1610, by followers of Jacobus Arminius, counters five points of doctrine that were understood to be Calvinistic teachings. The Remonstrance first denies the five Calvinistic tenets, and then positively asserts five articles of doctrine that present a completely different idea of God’s character than does Calvinism.

 

Conditional Predestination

 

The Arminian Position

“God has immutably decreed, from eternity, to save those men who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ, and by the same grace persevere in the obedience of faith to the end; and, on the other hand, to condemn the unbelievers and unconverted (John iii. 36). Election and condemnation are thus conditioned by foreknowledge, and made dependent on the foreseen faith or unbelief of men” (Remonstrance, Article I).

 

The Biblical Data

The first phrase of Article I illustrates the primary challenge of the entire Calvinism/Arminianism debate: “God has immutably decreed, from eternity…” This isn’t necessarily a false statement, but it isn’t grounded exegetically. Upon what basis can we say when God made such determinations, other than before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4)? The lack of precision here lends opportunity for the further development of such constructs as the covenant of redemption and the lapsarian/superlapsarian/supralapsarian perspectives – none of which have any actual exegetical grounding. This particular statement goes just a little further than what is written. The basis of authority for the entire discussion has historically been theological constructs, rather than exegetically precise statements.

Further, the statement describes how saints “persevere in the obedience of faith” as a necessary prerequisite to salvation, making salvation a strictly future thing conditioned upon perseverance. But the obedience of faith in John 3:36 is not referring to obedience that comes after faith, but rather having faith as obedience. The only imperative for unbelievers is to believe in him (John 3:16), thus the obedience discussed in 3:36 is synonymous with belief, and not an additional condition. By the subtle misinterpretation of faith and obedience as two separate things, the Remonstrance makes salvation a conditional reward that can be lost at any point. The article also fails to acknowledge that eternal life is a present tense possession of the believer (Jn 6:47), and thus cannot be conditioned on future actions.

The final statement on election and condemnation as conditioned by foreknowledge also goes beyond what is written. Ephesians 1:5 implies that the predestining is based solely on His will, whereas Arminian thought would understand the predestination of Romans 8:29 as an effect of the cause that is foreknowledge. Consequently, in Arminianism, God does not predestine from His strength, but only from His knowledge. Thus from an Arminian perspective, His sovereign control is limited.

 

Universal Atonement

 

The Arminian Position

“Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, and his grace is extended to all. His atoning sacrifice is in and of itself sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, and is intended for all by God the Father. But its inherent sufficiency does not necessarily imply its actual efficiency. The grace of God may be resisted, and only those who accept it by faith are actually saved. He who is lost, is lost by his own guilt (John iii. 16; 1 John ii. 2). The Arminians agree with the orthodox in holding the doctrine of a vicarious or expiatory atonement, in opposition to the Socinians; but they soften it down, and represent its direct effect to be to enable God, consistently with his justice and veracity, to enter into a new covenant with men, under which pardon is conveyed to all men on condition of repentance and faith. The immediate effect of Christ’s death was not the salvation, but only the salvability of sinners by the removal of the legal obstacles, and opening the door for pardon and reconciliation. They reject the doctrine of a limited atonement, which is connected with the supralapsarian view of predestination, but is disowned by moderate Calvinists, who differ from the Arminians in all other points. Calvin himself says that Christ died sufficienter pro omnibus, efficaciter pro electis” (Remonstrance, Article II).

 

The Biblical Data

The first statement here regarding the extent, sufficiency, and efficiency of the atonement is actually a very good one, exegetically defensible from the two passages cited (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 2:2). Jesus died for all a sufficient death, but just as the blood of the Passover lamb had to be applied in order to be efficient (or in order to actually save, Ex 12:7), so the blood of Jesus must be applied through belief in Him. The statement goes too far, however, in asserting that God enters into a new covenant with all men. There is no exegetical data supporting, for example, the church being brought into a covenant relationship.

 

Saving Faith

 

The Arminian Position

“Man in his fallen state is unable to accomplish any thing really and truly good, and therefore also unable to attain to saving faith, unless he be regenerated and renewed by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit (John xv. 5)” (Remonstrance, Article III).

 

The Biblical Data

Supporting the statement that regeneration precedes faith, the Remonstrance cites John 15:5, which has nothing whatsoever to do with saving faith – in fact, Jesus’ statement in that passage is addressed to eleven men who Jesus says already have saving faith (Jn 15:3). This is exegetically bizarre, and is no less logically odd. To illustrate, imagine a man walking on the side of a highway. He is pondering his sin and what God has done for him. In the Arminian model, in a moment in time he is regenerated, and a split second later – as a result of that regeneration– is about to have saving faith. But in that nano second (or whatever period of time elapses) between the regeneration and the act of faith, the man is struck by a car and dies immediately. By definition, he would have been regenerated apart from faith. Regeneration preceding faith is not exegetically or logically plausible. Some degree of divine enablement allowing saving faith is clearly in view (e.g., Jn 6:44), but regeneration goes much too far.

 

Irresistible Grace

 

The Arminian Position

“Grace is the beginning, continuation, and end of our spiritual life, so that man can neither think nor do any good or resist sin without prevening, co-operating, and assisting grace. But as for the manner of co-operation, this grace is not irresistible, for many resist the Holy Ghost (Acts vii.)” (Remonstrance, Article IV).

 

The Biblical Data

This statement attempts to accommodate the false dichotomy that either God is sovereign and no one can resist Him at all, or He is not sovereignly in control, and because of that He can be resisted. The cited martyr of Stephen illustrates a resistance to God’s word, but gives no commentary supporting any lack of control on God’s part. Notice how this statement is logically grounded on the final statement of the first article – that God’s sovereignty is expressed as a result of foreknowledge, and not the other way around. Arminianism says He decrees it because He knows it. Calvinism says He knows it because He decrees it. But what does the Bible say? Ephesians 1:5 is clear regarding cause and effect, whereas Romans 8:29 is not considering cause and effect at all.

 

Uncertainty of Perseverance

 

The Arminian Position

“Although grace is sufficient and abundant to preserve the faithful through all trials and temptations for life everlasting, it has not yet been proved from the Scriptures that grace, once given, can never be lost. On this point the disciples of Arminius went further, and taught the possibility of a total and final fall of believers from grace. They appealed to such passages where believers are warned against this very danger, and to such examples as Solomon and Judas. They moreover denied, with the Roman Catholics, that any body can have a certainty of salvation except by special revelation. These five points the Remonstrants declare to be in harmony with the Word of God, edifying and, as far as they go, sufficient for salvation. They protest against the charge of changing the Christian Reformed religion, and claim toleration and legal protection for their doctrine (Remonstrance, Article V).

 

The Biblical Data

The first paragraph of this statement is incompatible with the assertion of John 6:47 that at the moment of belief we possess eternal life, which by definition, cannot be lost. 1 Peter 1:3-5 contains no less than eleven statements affirming the eternal security of the believer. Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those in Christ. How can those in Christ ever undergo the condemnation of being cast out if there is no condemnation for them? Romans 8:29-30 says that God’s foreknowledge and predestination is just as true of the believer as is being called, justified, and glorified – the outcome is certain. Romans 8:39 says that no created thing can separate us from the love of God.

Further, the appeals to Solomon and Judas don’t support the Remonstrance’s argument here. We have no timeline of Solomon’s sin with respect to when he authored Ecclesiastes. However, it appears that Ecclesiastes was written as a final explanation of the journey he had taken, and that his conclusion affirms the fear of the Lord (Ecc 11:9, 12:1,12:13-14). Judas was a scoundrel (Jn 12:6) whose betrayal of Christ was consistent with his inner character, and yet who was remorseful after the betrayal (Mt 27:3). He didn’t fall from grace. If anything, we can hope he came to know the depths of God’s grace after his great sin. Further, Judas’ betrayal was apparently facilitated by some degree of possession of Judas by Satan (Lk 22:3, Jn 13:2). Should we understand that all who are under grace are in potential danger of Satanic possession, and that we all must be on guard against such a danger? There is no exegetical data supporting that.

Finally, the concluding statement that the five points constructed by the Remonstrants are in harmony with the word of God is evidently not true when the five points are considered against the light of Scripture. Certainly there is some Biblical truth interspersed throughout the five points (especially in the second point). But insofar as they rely on theological suppositions and constructs rather than exegetical ones, there is some dissonance with the Biblical data.

 

 

A Third Option

 

The Calvinism/Arminianism debate considers three essential issues: (1) The degree of God’s activity in human salvation, (2) the degree of human culpability, and (3) the degree of human activity in salvation. Historically Calvin placed strongest emphasis on God’s activity in salvation, whereas Arminius tended towards emphasizing human volition over God’s volition. Ultimately the two theological traditions are trying to resolve an apparent conflict between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, and they both attempt resolution by means of extra-Biblical rationalistic constructs.

I suggest it is due to the artificial nature of these arguments that there has been no historical resolution to the debate. Because the base of authority for both sides is subjective (rationalistic theology) rather than objective (exegesis), neither side can, in my estimation, claim the full authority of Scripture. Hence, the longstanding and unresolved debate.

In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul expresses his desire that the Corinthians “learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” In order to maintain the proper humility (and to ensure the highest degree of accuracy), it is best when dealing with the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1) not to expand their definitions beyond what God has revealed. This is an important principle broadly applicable throughout the Christian life, and certainly in resolving any theological difficulty.

Preferring an exegetical approach to a rationalistic one, we should be willing to endure some uncertainly in theological conclusions where the Bible does not address certain details, rather than to demand a theology that answers every detailed inquiry but which is not grounded on the certainty of revelation. In other words, where the Bible is silent, we simply cannot extrapolate authoritative conclusions. Still we are left with the question: if neither Calvinism nor Arminianism is sufficient in representing the Biblical data, then what is a more sufficient explanation?

The following series of seven Biblical assertions may be helpful in clarifying the issue. These assertions address key components of both the Calvinist and Arminian perspectives, and offer an alternative explanation of God’s character and working:

 

Assertion #1: The Biblical God exists and He is holy.

Assertion #2: He has revealed Himself authoritatively.

Assertion #3: He has described the human condition as universally fallen.

Assertion #4: He engages the human condition based on His own will.

Assertion #5: His salvation is legitimately provided for and offered to all.

Assertion #6: He is sovereign over human response and still holds humanity responsible.

Assertion #7: There is no conflict between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

 

Assertions #1 and #2 provide foundational data to address the questions.

 

Assertion #3 answers the Calvinistic concept of total depravity.

 

Assertion #4 answers the Calvinistic concept of unconditional election and the Arminian concept of conditional predestination.

 

Assertion #5 answers the Calvinistic concept of limited atonement and the Arminian concepts of universal atonement and saving faith.

 

Assertion #6 answers the Calvinistic concepts of irresistible grace and perseverance of saints, and the Arminian concepts of resistible grace and uncertainty of perseverance.

 

Assertion #7 answers the rationalistic premise underlying the entire Calvinism/Arminianism debate.

 

 

#1 The Biblical God Exists, and He is Holy

 

In the beginning God… – Genesis 1:1

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. – John 1:1-3

 

…and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. – Genesis 1:3

 

Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last…And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” – Isaiah 48:11, 16

 

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” – Isaiah 6:3

 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” – Revelation 4:7

 

#2 He Has Revealed Himself Authoritatively

 

Then God said… – Genesis 1:3

 

…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-20

 

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. – Hebrews 1:1-2

 

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten one (monogenes) who is God, in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. – John 1:18

 

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. – 2 Peter 1:20-21

 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17

 

#3 He Has Described the Human Condition as Universally Fallen

 

The descendants of Adam did not choose to be born, and yet we are all held accountable for his sin – we are all condemned. The human condition was not chosen by anyone after Adam, yet we prove we are in Adam’s likeness and image by adding our own sin.

 

…for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die. – Genesis 2:17

 

…she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3:6

 

When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image… – Genesis 5:3

 

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5

 

…through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…by the transgression of the one the many died…through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men… – Romans 5:12, 15, 18

 

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. – Isaiah 64:6

 

…both Jews and Greeks are all under sin… as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” – Romans 3:9-12

 

#4 He Engages the Human Condition, Based on His Own Will

 

For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. – Romans 9:15-18

 

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. – Matthew 11:27

 

The Father Chose, Foreknew, Predestined

 

            There is no order of process identified here, only statements that He is the accomplisher of these processes.

 

…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved – Ephesians 1:4-6

 

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30

 

#5 His Salvation is Legitimately Provided For and Offered to All

 

The Son Died as a Substitute For All

 

His death accomplished everything necessary for the salvation of everyone, except for personal application through belief.

 

…we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. – 1 Timothy 4:10

 

and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2

 

The Father Draws

 

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44

 

The Spirit Convicts the World

 

And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; – John 16:8-9

 

The Son Redeems

 

As we are purchased with His blood, if He has indeed paid for all sin, then there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). In other words, by virtue of His blood, those who believe in Him are eternally secure.

 

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace – Ephesians 1:7

 

Faith and Regeneration are Concurrent, Not Subsequent

 

There is no cause and effect time stamp discussed in Ephesians 2:5-9 that would justify either the belief that saving faith occurs at a time before regeneration takes place, or that regeneration precedes faith in order to make faith possible. Instead, belief and life are generally spoken of as concurrent happenings (e.g., Jn 6:47).

 

…even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; – Ephesians 2:5,8

 

The Spirit Seals

 

The Spirit’s sealing is a pledge, or down payment, and underscores the certainty of our ultimate salvation. This is not perseverance of saints, but rather preservation of saints.

 

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14

 

The Father Conforms Believers to the Image of Christ

 

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30

 

 

#6 He Is Sovereign Over Human Response, and Still Holds Humanity Accountable

 

Though God accomplishes the salvific work on His own, He demands that individuals believe in Him, and holds them accountable if they don’t. And whether or not we believe is within the sphere of His sovereignty (as is everything).

 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that the believing one in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

 

The personal application of salvation is conditioned upon belief. Once the belief is there, eternal life is there, in the present tense. One cannot possess eternal life at the moment of belief, if he could ever lose it at any point in the future (otherwise, it would not be eternal, but rather temporary).

 

Truly, truly, I say to you, the believing one has eternal life. – John 6:47

 

For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. – Romans 9:15-18

 

Or 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? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. – Romans 9:22-24

 

…and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. – John 10:28-29

 

He Does Not Desire That Any Should Perish

 

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

 

Nonetheless, Some Do Perish

 

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. – Revelation 20:15

 

While there is no Biblical explanation for how these two seemingly paradoxical premises can both be true, the Bible asserts them both. Rather than redefine either premise to soften their meaning, it is better (more exegetically derived) to allow the two statements to stand on their own, and for us to recognize that God is the one determining what He wants and what He will get, and as Sovereign, He is the one determining what is possible and what is not. It is therefore possible for one to resist His desire or will in some respects (βουλόμενός, 2 Pet 3:9), though it is not possible to resist His will in others (βουλήματι, Rom 9:19). The Bible never explicitly discusses the difference, so any discussion on this point is merely speculative.

 

#7 There Is No Conflict Between God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

 

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

 

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. – Romans 11:33-36

 

But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. – Isaiah 64:8

 

Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker – An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’ – Isaiah 45:9

 

Conclusion

 

The premise that God cannot hold His creation accountable for something it did not choose is not an exegetically defensible premise (whether His creation chose or not is irrelevant to this point). Just as the potter has authority over the clay, God has authority over His creation to hold it accountable for whatever He wishes to hold it accountable. He is not caught in any contradiction for doing so. If we don’t like that He is sovereign and still holds His creation accountable, then that is a problem with our submission, not with His justice or righteousness.

 

cc

 

 

 

 

 

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