Study 7 – Predestination Revisited

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Predestination – Literally before (pre) we arrive at our destination (heaven or hell). Our ultimate destination is determined before we are even born by God choosing us. Both Calvinism (not the Calvin above) and Arminianism agree on this.

What else did we learn?

A. God’s ElectionHe chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:4-5, NIV 1984).

Arminianism – Man cannot be saved apart from the grace of God, but rather he must cooperate with or assent to the grace (salvation not wholly dependent upon God’s grace).

Calvinism – Salvation wholly dependent upon the grace of God. Man is not even capable of cooperating or assenting to God’s grace without the intervention of God.

The issue is: what is the basis of this election – His pleasure and will or His knowledge of man’s ultimate decision?

B. God’s SovereigntyHis dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35, NIV 1984)

The issue is: why do some people perish (go to hell)? Does this mean that God is not sovereign (cannot prevent people from perishing), or does it mean He is not good (chooses to allow people to perish)?  Since these are inconsistent with what we know about God, these cannot be the only choices.

God could decide to not give anyone who has fallen an opportunity for salvation. The only objection to this would be that God is being just, not that He is being unmerciful. God is not obligated to be merciful, because mercy is not an obligation. Justice can be owed but mercy is not obligatory. But God did not choose to not save anyone.

God could provide an opportunity for some or everyone to be saved. But there would be no guarantee that anyone would be saved.

God could exercise His sovereignty and ensure the salvation of some or everybody. God did not choose to ensure the salvation of everyone (universalism). This is not Biblical, because we know many will indeed perish. Some will be lost (particularism).

The issue is: Is it an injustice if God ensures the salvation of some but not all the fallen? Or, is God being more merciful by ensuring the salvation of some rather than just an opportunity that may not be taken?  The saved get mercy, the lost get justice. No one gets injustice. Mercy is not justice and it is not injustice. It is non-justice. No one has been or ever will be the object of injustice at the hands of God.

C. Man’s Free WillSo I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:21, 25, NIV 1984)

Jonathan Edwards – Free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination (desires) that they have at the moment of choice.

Calvin – If free will means that fallen man has the ability to choose what he wants, he has free will. If free will means that fallen man has the moral power and ability to choose righteousness, he lacks free will, because he cannot always do so.

Sproule – Every choice that man makes is free (self) and every choice that man makes is determined. Seems like a paradox because free and determined (caused by something outside man’s will) are generally considered to be mutually exclusive.

The issues are:  If my desires determine my choice, how can I be free?  Does fallen man retain in His heart any desire for God?

D. God’s Drawing – “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:65, NIV 1984)

No One – Universal negative. No exceptions.

Can Come – Can has to do with ability. No one has the natural ability to come.

Unless – A necessary condition happens.

Enabled – The word is ambiguous.

This is why I told you” is a repetition of John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (NIV 1984)

The issue is: What does it mean to draw?

Arminian – To draw means to entice, woo, attract. Drawing is still resistible.

Calvinism – To draw means to drag or coerce (James 2:6 and Acts 16:19). It means to compel by irresistible superiority.

Which makes more sense?

E. God’s Justice & MercyBefore the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election [choice] might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated [rejected].” What then shall we say? Is God unjust [unrighteous]? Not at all [may it never be]! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:10-18, NIV 1984)

Jacob and Esau were twins. Everything that could possibly be the same, was the same. Yet God chose one (the younger) and rejected the other (the elder), before they were even born.

The issue is: On what is God’s election based?

Foreknowledge View (Arminian) – God’s election before anyone is born (from the foundation of the world) is based upon His foreknowledge of what man will ultimately do after they are born. Based on this prior knowledge God makes His choice (election), knowing what man will choose. Final decision is based upon a human choice, not upon a divine action.

Awkward Silence View (Calvinism) – While the text says God chooses before man is born, and thus before man can do anything good or evil, it does not explicitly state that His choice is based on His foreknowledge. The text does say, however, that it does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. Calvinist view is that this statement contradicts Arminian view (depends on man’s choice, which God has foreknowledge of).

Once gain, the issue is:  Is God being unfair?

Divine Prerogative – “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Some receive a measure of mercy that others do not. No one receives injustice. If God only gave justice no one would be saved. God is not being unfair. He is being unequal. We must be careful to not claim that God is not being merciful or gracious enough because He does not choose to show it to all equally. This implies God is not doing what He should (obligated to) do (sinful). God is not obligated to be merciful. Mercy is not an obligation.

F. Man’s Evangelistic EffortsAs for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings (lusts, passions) of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive (quickened us) with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5, NIV 1984)

Divine initiative – But God (not but man) made us alive even though we were dead (not sick, not dying) because of our sins. The 1st step is accomplished (initiated) by God (divine) not man.

Once made alive, man can choose, believe and repent because we are alive to God. Before we are made alive one cannot do any of this. Dead men don’t choose. Dead men cannot choose.

The issue is:  If some are chosen (pre-destined) from the creation of the world, and some are not, with or without anyone bearing witness why do evangelism?

Because Jesus commands it (Great Commission)!  Why command something that is not necessary?

God has not only sovereignly decreed the end (elected), but He has also sovereignly decreed the means (evangelism) of bringing man to salvation. He did not need us to accomplish His unconditional election, but He chose to include us as the means.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 6 – All Christians Believe In Evangelism?

Screenshot (187)Ephesians 2:1-5 – As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings (lusts, passions) of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive (quickened us) with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (NIV 1984)

Divine Initiative – 1st step of salvation brought to pass unilaterally and exclusively by the power of God.

Total Depravity – 1st of the five “Tulip” points of Calvinism (T – Total Depravity of Man; U – Unconditional Election; L – Limited Atonement; I – Irresistible Grace; P – Perseverance of the Saints). Does not mean utter depravity (man is as bad as he can be). Better term is radical (root, core of existence) corruption (sin affects the whole man – mind, body, will, soul, spirit). All of us walk or follow the ways of this world gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature.

But GodBut God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT).

The point is: But God, not but man, made us alive even though we were dead (not sick, not dying) because of our sins. Divine initiative – 1st step is accomplished by God not man.

Once made alive, man can choose, believe and repent because we are alive to God. Before we are made alive one cannot do any of this. Dead men don’t choose. Dead men cannot choose.

The question is: why do evangelism?

Pre-Destined – If some are chosen (pre-destined) from the creation of the world, and some are not, with or without anyone bearing witness, why do evangelism. Because Jesus commands it!

The question is: why command something that is not necessary?

God has not only sovereignly decreed the end (elected), but He has also sovereignly decreed the means (evangelism) of bringing man to salvation. He did not need us to accomplish His unconditional election, but He chose to include us as the means.

Evangelism – Both a duty and a privilege.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 5 – All Christians Believe God Is Just & Merciful?

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Romans 9:10-18Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election [choice] might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated [rejected].” What then shall we say? Is God unjust [unrighteous]? Not at all [may it never be]! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (NIV 1984)

Romans 9:11-12 – This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works. (NLT)

Jacob & Esau (Twins) – Everything that could possibly be the same, was the same. Yet God chose one (the younger) and rejected the other (the elder), before they were even born.

The question is: on what is God’s election based?

Foreknowledge View (Arminian) – God’s election before anyone is born (form the foundation of the world) is based upon His foreknowledge of what man will ultimately do after they are born. Based on this prior knowledge God makes His choice (election), knowing what man will choose. Final decision is based upon a human choice, not upon a divine action.

Awkward Silence (Calvinism) – While the text says God chooses before man is born, and thus before man can do anything good or evil, it does not explicitly state that His choice is based on His foreknowledge. In fact, there is no text in the Bible that states that election is based on God’s foreknowledge. Calvinist view places significance on the fact that Paul not only states “before the twins were born,” but adds “or had done anything good or bad.” This emphasizes that it is “God’s purpose in election might stand,” and “not by works.” Foreknowledge is not relevant to “God’s purpose in election.”

The question is: does this mean God is unfair?

What Shall We Say, is God unjust? – God forbid (“may it never be!“! Injustice by God is unthinkable. Paul asks a rhetorical question and provides the answer to the anticipated objection that God is not being fair. The question of fairness is perhaps the greatest objection to Calvinist view. But Paul would not even need to confront this expected objection if God’s choice was made in view of His foreknowledge of what man would ultimately choose (Arminian). God could not be accused of being unfair if He was merely ratifying man’s ultimate choice based on His foreknowledge.  Nevertheless, God is not being unjust in exercising His “divine prerogative.”

Divine Prerogative“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Some receive a measure of mercy that others do not, but no one receives injustice. All are fallen and deserve judgment. Election is done in light of the fall (all are fallen) and not in light of good or evil choices down the road. God only chooses fallen sinners for salvation, but He does not choose them all. Man’s need for salvation is presupposed. There would be no need for election if man were not fallen. But all are fallen, and if God only gave justice no one would be saved.

God is not being unfair, but He is being unequal. We must be careful to not claim that God is not being merciful or gracious enough because He does not choose to show it to all equally. This implies God is not doing what He should (obligated to) do (that would be sinful). God is not obligated to be merciful. Merciful is not an obligation. It is unwarranted.  It is purely God’s voluntary choice. Considering what God’s mercy cost Him, who could possibly object to how, or to whom, He extends it?

Human Desire or EffortIt does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort [exertion], but on God’s mercy. The Calvinist view is that this statement contradicts the Arminian view (depends on man’s choice, which God has foreknowledge of).

A final question: is God capable of hatred and hardening a sinner’s heart?

Hated & Hardened – Hatred (“Jacob I hated“), as it is used, here does not mean malice. It means absence of divine favor. God gives mercy to Jacob, but He withholds it from Esau. Withhold does not mean that God predestines people to sin (predestined to be damned). God intrudes and ensures salvation of the elect, but He does not ensure the damnation of the reprobate. He just does not step in to prevent it. Hardened (Pharaoh) means the same. God is not directly causing Pharaoh to sin. He merely withdraws His restraint and lets Pharaoh to do what Pharaoh wants to do anyway (evil).

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 4 – All Christians Believe In God’s Drawing?

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John 6:65“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled [granted, given] him.” (NIV 1984)

No One – Universal (absolute) negative. All inclusive, without exception.

Can – Often erroneously mistaken to mean the same as may. Can has to do with ability. No one (without exception) has the natural ability.

Come – Man, in and of Himself does not have the ability to come to Jesus. No exception.

Unless – Exceptive clause. Points to a necessary condition (prerequisite). Something that must happen first. It does not guarantee that it will happen. A sufficient condition would guarantee a result (suffices), but this verse is a only a necessary condition (not a sufficient condition).

Given, Granted, Enabled – The word itself is ambiguous. But what is clear is that it is something that God does that is a necessary condition (that must happen first).

The question is: what is the real meaning of this necessary condition?

This is why I told you” is a repetition of John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (NIV 1984)

Draw – One cannot come to Jesus unless drawn by the Father. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that this is a necessary condition. What they disagree on is what “draws” means.

Arminian – To draw means to entice, woo, attract. Through prevenient grace (divine enabling) God must entice before a human can make a decision to come to Jesus. This is a grace that exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. But in the end, the “drawing” is still resistible.

Calvinist – To draw means to drag or coerce. Taken from other verses with same Greek word that is interpreted here as “draw.” It means to compel by irresistible superiority.

James 2:6Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (NIV 1984)
Acts 16:19They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. (NIV 1984)

The question is: Why did translators use draw (resistible attraction) in the John 6:44 instead of drag (irresistibly compel)?

We do not know for sure. Maybe they felt it might be offensive to the reader (isn’t the Gospel offensive?). Greeks elsewhere used the word to man draw water out of a well. Water is still subjected to an irresistible (not enticed) force, not on its own.

Thus, the question becomes: which makes more sense?

Arminian – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me [entices] him.

Calvinist – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me [irresistibly compels] him.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 3 -All Christians Believe In Free Will?

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Romans 7:21, 25So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV 1984)

Humanist View – Man makes choices spontaneously. Nothing prior to the choice determines the choice. This is not a Christian view.

Moral Problem – If purely spontaneous, there is no reason, motivation or intent for the choice. Thus, it has no moral significance. God considers the intent of choices. If there is no intent, there is no moral significance.
Practical Problem – Without motivation or a reason[ing], is it really a choice? What does it matter? Why make a choice if there is no reason to? Choice without a motivation is like an effect without a cause, which is a practical impossibility. You cannot have something out of nothing.

Jonathan Edward’s Law of Free Will – Free will is the mind choosing. Choices cannot be made independent of the mind. Free (no coercion) moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination (desires) that they have at the moment of choice. There is always a reason for every decision.

Coercion – Outside forces (forcing is not free will) affect choices against our will. Strongest inclination in this instance is likely not our strongest inclination absent the coercion.
Desires Change – Our strongest desire absent temptation may be to please God, but when temptation to sin comes our strongest desire may be to give in and we make that choice freely.

Calvin’s View – If free will means that fallen man has the ability to choose what he wants, he has free will. If free will means that fallen man has the moral power and ability to choose righteousness, he lacks free will, because he cannot always do so.

Paradox View (Sproul) – Every choice that man makes is free and every choice that man makes is determined. Paradox because free and determined (caused by something outside man’s will) are generally considered to be mutually exclusive.

It Is Not Determinism – Things happen to man solely due to external forces.
It is Determined – If choices flow from a man’s dispositions and desires, which are internal forces, and if man’s actions are an effect that have causes and reasons behind them, these internal desires determines man’s personal choice.

The question is: if my desires determine my choice, how can I be free?

Because what determines my choice is me (choices are both free and determined). This is called self-determination, which is not the denial of freedom, but rather it is the essence of freedom. Not only may we choose according to our desires, we do (perhaps must) in fact choose according to our desires and inclinations. The essence of freedom is to choose what you want.

This leads to fallen man’s problem: fallen man sins because they want to sin, which means that man sins freely.  Sinners reject Christ because they want to (freely) reject Christ.

In order to choose Christ, fallen man must want (have a desire) to do so.

The question is: Does fallen man retain in His heart any desire for God?

Moral Ability versus Natural Ability (Edwards) – Moral ability means the ability to be righteous or sinful. Man was created with the ability to be righteous or sinful. In his fallenness, man lost his ability to be righteous in and of himself because he is born with a sin nature. He has lost the ability to be totally righteous. Natural abilities are abilities we have by our nature (Man has the ability to think, reason and stand upright. Man does not have the ability to fly unaided). In his fallenness, man lost the natural ability to be righteous (what is natural is to sin). Will is inclined to evil and disinclined to righteousness.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 2 – All Christians Believe In The Sovereignty Of God?

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Daniel 4:34-35 – His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing [compared to Him]. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (NIV 1984)

If there is there is anything (as small as one maverick molecule) that happens outside the foreordination of God, it therefore happens outside the sovereignty of God. Nothing can happen apart from the sovereignty of God. This includes the efficacious (having the power to produce a desired effect) and permissive (having the power to prevent an undesirable effect) will of God. Permitting something to happen does not necessarily mean He approves of or sanctions it. If anything were to happen outside that sovereignty of God, then God would not be sovereign and thus would not be God.

The question is: if God is sovereign, and if man is fallen, how can He allow people to perish? Does this mean that God is not sovereign (cannot prevent people from perishing) or He is not good (chooses to allow people to perish)? This “dilemma” ignores that fact that God is also totally righteous and just.

No Opportunity For Anyone – God could decide to not give anyone who has fallen an opportunity for salvation. The only objection would be that God is just. God is not obligated to be merciful, because mercy is not an obligation. Justice can be owed but mercy is not obligatory. But God did not choose this.

Just An Opportunity For Some or All – God could provide an opportunity for some or everyone to be saved. But there would be no guarantee anyone would be saved.

Ensures Some or All – God could exercise His sovereignty and ensure the salvation of some or everybody. God did not choose to ensure the salvation of everyone (universalism). This is not Biblical, because we know many will indeed perish. Some will be lost (particularism).

So, we are left with either God provides the opportunity for some or all the fallen to be saved (Arminianism) or He intervenes to ensure the salvation of some of the fallen (Calvinism).

The question is: Does God provide an opportunity for some or all, or does He ensure the salvation of only some?

The primary objection to Calvinism is that it would not be fair for God to ensure the salvation of some but not all. But this is also a problem for Arminianism, because all God does is provide an opportunity (when it is within His power to ensure). Thus, the argument goes there is more of God’s mercy being demonstrated in Calvinism than there is in Arminianism, because there is no assurance that any will take the opportunity.

Arminianism – The opportunity for salvation is given to all, but not all will take it.

  • Calvinism – The salvation of some (but not all) are ensured.

The questions are: Is it an injustice if God ensures the salvation of some but not all the fallen? Or, is God being more merciful by ensuring the salvation of some rather than just an opportunity?

ll are fallen and in rebellion against God. Some are saved, and some are lost. The saved get mercy, the lost get justice. No one gets injustice. Mercy is not justice and it is not injustice. It is non-justice.

Getting back to the so-called dilemma. If God gave some mercy and some injustice, His goodness could be called into question. But God gives some mercy and He gives others justice. So, His goodness cannot be called into question. No one has been or ever will be the object of injustice at the hands of God.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 1 – All Christians Believe in Predestination?

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Ephesians 1:4-5 – He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will [the purpose of his will] (NIV 1984).

The question is: how (or why) did He make His choice?

Pelagianism – Grace of God assists in salvation but is not necessary for salvation. Man is capable of redemption through his own efforts (works). Father of humanism and liberalism. Considered heretical or anti-Christian.

Semi-Pelagianism (Arminianism) – Man cannot be saved apart from the grace of God, but rather he must cooperate with or assent to the grace (salvation not wholly dependent upon God’s grace). View largely held by modern evangelicals.

Augustinianism (Calvinism, Reformed) – Salvation wholly dependent upon the grace of God. Man is not even capable of cooperating or assenting to God’s grace without the intervention of God. View held by some of history’s preeminent theologians (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards).

The question is: what does wholly dependent mean?

Predestination – Literally before we arrive at our destination (heaven or hell). Our ultimate destination is determined before we are even born (see Ephesians 1 – before foundation of the world) by God choosing us.

The question is: on what does God base His choice?

  • God’s choice is based on God’s prior knowledge of what man will do. God chooses us because He knows beforehand that we will choose Him (Arminianism).
  • What God foresees has nothing to with His choice, it is solely based on His good pleasure. We choose God, because God already chose us (Calvinism).

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul