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Archive for October, 2010

Common Objections to the Doctrine of Election

 

 “God is a gentleman, and does not force Himself on anyone.”

This statement expresses a warped view of God’s sovereignty and of man’s depravity. If God did not intervene and overcome our lethal malady of sin and rebellion, no one would ever be saved. The gospel is impossible apart from divine intervention and enablement. When God saves us, He makes the dead alive, He removes our spiritual blindness with sight, He opens our heart to respond, and He gives us a new nature which desires God. If it is not technically correct to say God overrides our will, He most certainly does change our nature and our will.

Instead, Jesus’ earlier words in John 6:44 tell us how ANYONE ever gets saved. “No one CAN come to me unless the Father who sent Me DRAWS him.” The key word here is DRAW (Greek: elkō). What does it mean for God to DRAW someone to Himself?

Many wrongly understand the word to mean “wooing, courting, enticing.” Furthermore, it is also believed that we have the ability to resist this wooing, just as we can ward off the amorous intentions of a courting lover. We cannot come to Christ without being wooed, but the wooing does not guarantee that we will come to Christ. Is this the correct understanding?

Gerhard Kittel’s “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament” defines “draw” (Greek = elkō) to mean “to compel by irresistible superiority.” “Compel” is a much more forceful word than “woo.” Let’s look at other places in the NT where this word is used. To see the force of this word, we should consider other passages where the exact same word is used. In each case, the object is drawn dragged, compelled. Irresistibly.

  • James 2:6 – “But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?”
  •  If we substitute the word “woo” or “entice” here, all meaning is lost.
  •  Acts 16:19 – “When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.”
  •  Again, it would be ludicrous to suggest that Paul and Silas were “wooed” into the presence of the authorities. They could not do this once forcibly seized.
  •  Acts 21:30 – “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.”
  •  John 21:11 – “Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.”
  • John 18:10 – “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.”
  •  John 12:32 – “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
  •  Does Jesus really mean He will draw every man who ever lived to Himself? If so, how can you reconcile this with John 6:37-40 above, where Jesus says that: You can’t come unless you are drawn AND all who are drawn are raised up in the last day. It is impossible to maintain a “universal” drawing here, for all who are drawn are also raised up – the Father draws, and the Son raises up those who are drawn.
  •  Extrabiblical sources – Some refer to these sources to try to prove ELKO means “woo.” One is a Greek play which refers to the action of drawing water from a well. But even so, the water is “dragged” to the top. It does not come to the top on its own when we call it to do so: “Here, water, water. Come here, boy!” In another source (Eubalos), it refers to a MAGNET.

A debater with RC Sproul once referred to an ancient Greek drama where the word elkō was used to refer to the action of drawing water from a well. The debater asked Sproul if you could drag water from a well. Sproul replied, “No sir, I have to admit that we do not drag water from a well. But how do we get water from a well? Do we woo it? Do we stand at the top of the well and cry, ‘Here, water, water, water’?” The water will not (can not) come on its own.

An interesting point to make is that even the most strident Arminians pray to God that the lost, in general, will be saved, and, in particular, specific loved ones in their lives. Is this not a tacit admission that God has the ability to work in the hearts of human will to bring salvation? If God should not “tamper” with human’s freedom, why do we dare pray that He would? The Arminian would argue that man would still have to choose, making salvation man’s choice.

 By Jeff Spry (www.monergism.com)

***This is part of a blog series on the Sovereignty of God. This topic has been highly mis-understood throughout much of evangelicalism. Some will say they believe that God is sovereign, yet deny its many implications. Others will completely deny God’s Sovereignty because of it’s implications. We hope that you will stick with this extensive study on the Sovereignty of God. We will be including resources from a variety of Theologians and Authors, that will hopefully be able to answer many of the misnomers and questions that you may have***

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Common Objections to the Doctrine of Election

Calvinism denies that belief saves, calling “faith” a work.

Reformed theology does not exclude one’s individual faith in the salvation process. It is not God who believes for us, but it is we who individually exercise faith or trust in Christ. The difference is that saving faith, according to the Calvinistic perspective, is not a work that man can either muster or merit on his own, but must be granted to him from God. In this sense, it concurs with what Paul argues in Romans 3:27-28 that faith and human works are to be distinguished.

On the other hand, saving faith, according to the Arminian scheme of things, can be properly viewed as a “work,” since it does not come from the hand of God, but springs from the human will. Its origin or source is found in man and can be mustered any time he so chooses. Properly speaking, then, men have the right to boast in themselves, for it was they (not God) who made the decision to believe; it was they (not God) who possessed the wisdom or intellectual acumen to make the proper choice for Christ.

They might claim that it was God’s grace that provided the initial gift of redemption, but in the end, it was up to them to effectively receive that gift and sustain it throughout their lives.

The Arminian position, therefore, logically and scripturally leads to seeing faith as a work, despite their denials to the contrary. Only the Reformed view does justice to the teaching of Scripture and destroys any ground for boasting.

 By Jeff Spry (www.monergism.com)

***This is part of a blog series on the Sovereignty of God. This topic has been highly mis-understood throughout much of evangelicalism. Some will say they believe that God is sovereign, yet deny its many implications. Others will completely deny God’s Sovereignty because of it’s implications. We hope that you will stick with this extensive study on the Sovereignty of God. We will be including resources from a variety of Theologians and Authors, that will hopefully be able to answer many of the misnomers and questions that you may have***

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Common Objections to the Doctrine of Election


“Calvinism makes the author of sin and does not
bring glory to Him.”

This is another recurring accusation but those who use this as an argument have the same if not a greater problem. If God merely created man and chose them based on their foreseen acts of faith, as their position holds, and God knew some of these would choose hell, then why did God go ahead and create them to begin with? In other words, their eternal destiny is fixed by some kind of impersonal fate since the future cannot be changed if God already knows it. If whether or not someone chooses God is already known by God then the future is certain, correct? But the biblical view is that the future is certain because of the eternal plan of a merciful and loving personal God. The foreseen faith view is based on an impersonal determinism. Something is determining their future choice, in that scheme, but not God. So what is it? If God already knows the outcome, meaning the future cannot be changed, then the future is fixed and there is no real freedom. Their choice is determined. So why did God, then, go ahead and create them? The biblical and philosophical problems with the foreseen faith position, then, are much, much greater than with the biblical one. They appear to be trying to get God off the hook rather than taking a hard look at the Scriptures.

Furthermore, I would answer your question by saying that God is not the author of sin. Ordaining something like sin to take place is not the same as being the author of it. For example, God ordained the crucifixion to take place yet God cannot be blamed for the secondary causes which made it happen – the evil acts of men which carried it out. God ordained the evil of the most unjust act in history to take place…See the following verse:

“…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Acts 2:23

So God, although ordaining it, cannot be blamed for it. As humans, we always choose what we desire most. God does not compel us to make any decision, and does not compel us to disobey. We do so willingly. All God needs to do to harden us is remove His grace and leave us to our free will.

It takes time and grace to empty hearts of church tradition and to fill it with the Scripture. People can be looking right at a verse which is plain but because of their preconceived notions and presuppositions, they think it can’t really mean what it says.

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, also has some excellent points to add regarding this question which I believe will help us get a better understanding of this issue. The points he makes are basically as follows:

1. In the Arminian view, how can we know if God will ultimately triumph over evil? The Arminian assertion that evil is not according to the will of God creates a bit of a problem.

2. If the evil now in the world got here even though God did not want it, how can we be sure He will ultimately triumph over it in the end? The Scripture says He will but if He was not powerful enough to keep it out of the universe in the first place, since it came against his will (according to the Arminian scheme), and if He cannot predict the outcome of future events that involve free human choices and angelic/demonic beings then what makes us so sure that his declaration that He will triumph is actually true?  The Calvinist position is preferable, not only because it is biblical but also because there is great freedom from anxiety about the future, since God “works all things for good to those who love Him.” The Arminian position appears to leave us in a state of anxiety. While all positions are hard to understand, the Reformed view of evil as ordained by God and under His sovereign control, while God not being the author of it, is a plain reading of the Scriptures in its portrayal of our God. The Arminian view of evil as not ordained or willed by God also means it is not under His control. Nowhere in the Scriptures is God portrayed in such a way.

3. Another point Grudem makes is this: Although we will always have unanswered questions about these matters, the questions Calvinists and Arminians leave unanswered are very different.

a. The Calvinist must say (1) that he really does not ultimately know how God can ordain that we do evil willingly and how God cannot be blamed for that evil. We can speculate but the Bible does not explicitly explain how this is. (2) Calvinists must also say that ultimately they do not know how God can cause us to choose something willingly. Again we can speculate but the Bible does not explain this. However, the Calvinist ultimately answers these hard questions by saying that God is infinitely great and can do far more than we can fathom. So the unanswered questions really serve to increase our appreciation of God’s greatness.

b. The Arminians, on the other hand, must leave unanswered, questions regarding God’s knowledge of the future, why He could allow evil even when it is against His will and whether He will actually triumph over evil. The failure of Arminians to resolve these questions tends to diminish God’s greatness, omnipotence, omniscience and reliability. So these unanswered questions tend to exalt the greatness of man – his freedom to do what God does not want, and the power of evil since it exists in the universe even though God does not want it.

 

By Jeff Spry (www.monergism.com)

***This is part of a blog series on the Sovereignty of God.  This topic has been highly mis-understood throughout much of evangelicalism.  Some will say they believe that God is sovereign, yet deny its many implications.  Others will completely deny God’s Sovereignty because of it’s implications.  We hope that you will stick with this extensive study on the Sovereignty of God.  We will be including resources from a variety of Theologians and Authors, that will hopefully be able to answer many of the misnomers and questions that you may have***

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Common Objections to the Doctrine of Election

“I don’t see how my God of love would just send some people to Hell”

Those who disagree with Calvinism often cry out that “My loving God would never create someone knowing they would spend eternity in hell.” However, this shows they have not fully thought through their position. No synergist can consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God’s will to allow these sinners to be lost unless they want to deny God His attribute of omniscience.

 Consider this: If God knows infallibly who will and who will not be saved, that number is fixed in God’s mind and cannot change or be in error. This means that God knows all who will end up in hell before those people are born. Therefore, the same accusation stands for the Arminian: “Why did God create them?” Let the Synergist consider that God could have just as easily refrained from creating those that He knew would go to Hell. He knew where they were going before He created them, but since He went ahead and created them with full knowledge that they would be lost, it is evidently within God’s providence that some sinners be lost. He evidently has some purpose in it which we human beings cannot fully discern. The Christian Arminian can complain against the truth that God chooses to allow some men a final destiny of Hell all they want, but it is as much a problem for them as for anyone. This is a problem which synergists must face. If he faces it, he will have to admit either the error of his theology or deny foreknowledge all together. But he might say that God had to create those that perish, even against His will. This would make God subject to Fate or some other force other than His own omnipotent will.

That God is a God of love is beyond doubt. However, too many make love to be God’s singular immutable aspect. In doing so, they deny that He is equally pure and complete in His justice, wrath, mercy and grace, among others. If we say that God must love all equally and without distinction because He is love, can we then say that God must deal justly with all equally and without distinction because He is just? To do so would rule out mercy? Will He deal equally with all in wrath because He is a God of wrath? Of course not.

 Once again, this is a conclusion that doesn’t follow. Consider this illustration: A man is imprisoned for a crime he actually committed, yet he calls a press conference claiming to the world he’s been unjustly jailed. His incarceration is not fair. Why? “It’s all the governor’s fault,” he says. Why is it the governor’s fault? “Because the governor didn’t give me a pardon. If he would give me a pardon, I’d be out on the street right now, but since he didn’t give me a pardon, I’m in prison. Therefore, it’s the governor’s fault I’m in prison, not mine.”

 Would you be swayed by that logic? I doubt it. Instead, you’d reply that the criminal is behind bars for crimes he committed–because he killed somebody, he robbed somebody, he stole something or he extorted something, etc. He broke the law, that’s why he’s in prison. Now, the criminal might be out if the governor chose to exercise mercy, but that isn’t why he’s in. He’s in because he’s a criminal.

 The same thing is true with us. We’re in deep trouble with God because we are criminals against Him. If we go to hell, it’s for only one reason: because we’ve broken His law. Those who are punished are not punished unjustly. They are punished justly because they’re guilty. It would only be unjust if they weren’t guilty. If God chooses to exercise mercy on some people, on the other hand, well, that seems to me to be His prerogative. It’s His ball game; it’s His mercy. That’s what grace means: undeserved, unmerited, and not required. He doesn’t have to do it. There’s no obligation. God can forgive whomever He wills. So, God is the cause of people going to heaven. However, the cause of people going to hell is their own sin.

 

 By Jeff Spry (www.monergism.com)

 ***This is part of a blog series on the Sovereignty of God. This topic has been highly mis-understood throughout much of evangelicalism. Some will say they believe that God is sovereign, yet deny its many implications. Others will completely deny God’s Sovereignty because of it’s implications. We hope that you will stick with this extensive study on the Sovereignty of God. We will be including resources from a variety of Theologians and Authors, that will hopefully be able to answer many of the misnomers and questions that you may have***

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Common Objections to the Doctrine of Election

“Preaching to the non-elect is a mockery since they CAN’T be saved!”

Synergists teach that ELECTION is as follows: God foreknew who would yield to the Spirit, and therefore elected to salvation all those whom He foresaw would do so. In this scheme the absolute free will of the natural man is necessary to preserve human responsibility. But this concept of foreknowledge actually grinds itself into nothing. No Synergist can consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then preach that God is trying to save every man. Surely if God knows whom He can save or who will be saved, then who would say that He is trying to save more? Certainly, it is foolish to assert that God is trying to do something which He knows never can be accomplished. I have heard some synergists charge those who believe monergism that the Gospel preached to the non-elect is mockery since God has not elected them. If there is any validity in that objection, then it equally applies to them as well who preach to those who God knows won’t be saved. God commands that the Gospel be preached to all, whether we clearly understand or accept His reasoning in the matter.

 Arminians object that God could not offer the Gospel to those who in His secret counsel were not designed to accept it; yet we find the Scriptures declaring that He does this very thing. Isaiah was commissioned to preach to the Jews, and in 1:18-19, we find that he extended a gracious offer of pardon and cleansing. But in 6:9-13, immediately following his glorious vision and official appointment, he is informed that this preaching is destined to harden his countrymen to their almost universal destruction. Ezekiel was sent to speak to the house of Israel, but was told beforehand that they would not hear (Ezek.3:4-11).

 Matthew 23:33-37 presents the same teaching. In these passages God declares that He does the very thing which Arminians say He must not do. Hence the objection now under consideration [i.e., that the teaching of predestination precludes a sincere offer of the Gospel to the non-elect] has arisen not because of any Calvinistic misstatement of the Divine plan, but through erroneous assumptions made by Arminians themselves.

 

By Jeff Spry (www.monergism.com)

***This is part of a blog series on the Sovereignty of God. This topic has been highly mis-understood throughout much of evangelicalism. Some will say they believe that God is sovereign, yet deny its many implications. Others will completely deny God’s Sovereignty because of it’s implications. We hope that you will stick with this extensive study on the Sovereignty of God. We will be including resources from a variety of Theologians and Authors, that will hopefully be able to answer many of the misnomers and questions that you may have***

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Election can’t be right. It’s not fair!

The response: “You’re right . . . and aren’t you glad that God is not fair?” The Scriptures give many examples of God’s freedom in selective grace. Near a pool in Jerusalem gathered “a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed” (John 5:3). In this passage, we read, “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Christ pushes through the crowd and moves toward one man—just one person—and heals him from his paralysis. Now, you have to understand that this was a regular spot for a lot of people who hoped each new day was their day for the miracle. One would think that there would be some sort of  healing line, but Jesus only intended to heal one man that day. Why didn’t He heal everybody? He could have; He had the power. But He did not choose to do so. Nevertheless, has anyone ever heard a sermon on how unfair it was for Jesus to heal the man at the pool that day? No, instead we always hear of the wonders of Christ’s grace and mercy in healing that one man! Why should election be any different in the realm of our salvation?

The Bible is filled with God’s “unfairness” if by unfairness we mean “unequal.” Consider:

• God dealt with Israel differently than He did with Canaan or Babylon or Egypt.

• God dealt with Moses differently than He did with Hammurabi.

• God dealt with Mary differently than any other Jewish maiden.

• Jesus dealt with the twelve apostles differently than any other Jewish man and He dealt with Peter, James and John differently than the other nine.

• God dealt with Paul differently than He dealt with any other Pharisee, even the High Priest

• God dealt with Jacob differently than He did with Esau (see Rom 9)

10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls–she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!

God never promised He’d play “fair” and we should be glad. Instead, God is JUST! Paul knew this objection would be raised and had this exact objection in mind in Romans 9, where the theme of election comes alive. In vv. 14-16, he writes, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 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, but on God’s mercy.”

Later in vv. 19-21, Paul declares,

 “One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” We cannot afford to miss Paul’s response to this question. “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” 

To anyone who voices this objection, he must bear in mind that he is the objector Paul imagined in his letter to Rome. Therefore, the objector is not arguing with me or John Calvin or Augustine. He is arguing with Paul and he is arguing with God, who divinely inspired Paul to pen these words.

 Finally, it must be asked WHY DID PAUL ASSUME SOMEONE WOULD RESPOND IN THIS FASHION? Paul would not ask this hypothetical question unless He believed the ultimate determination of salvation to be in the hands of God alone. Paul is saying that God has the sovereign right to do with us whatever He wants. Will you deny Him this right? Just because we don’t know why He chooses some to faith and not others is not reason enough to reject it. In the absence of relevant data, we, therefore, have no reason whatsoever to assume the worse, so there are no legitimate grounds for doubting the goodness of God here. Therefore, to doubt that God can choose us based solely on his good pleasure, is to doubt the goodness of God. The “foreseen faith” people are, in effect, saying that they cannot trust God in making this choice and prefer it to be left up to the fallen individual, as if he would make a better choice than God.

 

By Jeff Spry (www.monergism.com)

***This is part of a blog series on the Sovereignty of God. This topic has been highly mis-understood throughout much of evangelicalism. Some will say they believe that God is sovereign, yet deny its many implications. Others will completely deny God’s Sovereignty because of it’s implications. We hope that you will stick with this extensive study on the Sovereignty of God. We will be including resources from a variety of Theologians and Authors, that will hopefully be able to answer many of the misnomers and questions that you may have***

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Common Objections to the Doctrine of Election

“Predestination undermines evangelism”

 Despite the popularity and incredible “staying power” of this accusation, it is nonetheless false. In fact, I would say that it is more likely that the non-Reformed position has done as much or more damage to evangelism. Let’s be honest – most Christians do not need much of a reason to be lax in this area. Simple surveys of most Baptist churches bear this out. Ask yourself, “How many times have I been used of God to share the Gospel in the last year? How many individuals have been saved through God’s use of my personal witnessing?” Many who believe that man has the first and final choice in salvation think that the salvation of others “depends” on them yet the number of “decisions” are in a steady state of decline in Baptist churches. Why is that?

Those who evangelize with a man-centered understanding of free will slowly become disillusioned as men reject their message and methods. The belief in man’s free will is what causes Christians to search for newer and better and “more effective” methods and cause us to work endlessly at “pretty-ing up” our image and presentation. However, when you believe that there is no power in heaven or earth that can stop the Holy Spirit of God from drawing one of His elect to Himself, you can preach the truth with boldness and trust God to save His people.

The decline in American evangelicalism that has manifested itself in programs, drama, coffee houses and an over-emphasis on performance-based worship and anemic topical preaching can be laid at the feet of Arminianism. When you begin to worry about offending the creature, you have to start using non-biblical methods. We too soon forget that the gospel is indeed a stumbling block and for us to remove the part that causes people to stumble is to remove the Gospel itself. The Gospel is SUPPOSED TO OFFEND! In fact, if people are not offended by our gospel, we preach another gospel entirely.  Instead, it is the gospel that speaks to man’s true needs and it is the gospel that results in changed (NOT SLIGHTLY MODIFIED) lives.

 Finally, exactly where are these mission-denying and evangelism-fearing Calvinists everyone keeps talking about? Have you ever really talked to one? If you have or do, then you are talking to a Hyper- Calvinist. Hyper-Calvinism is not Calvinism. Refer to the appendix for more information on this horrible belief system.

By Jeff Spry (www.monergism.com)

 

 

 ***This is part of a blog series on the Sovereignty of God. This topic has been highly mis-understood throughout much of evangelicalism. Some will say they believe that God is sovereign, yet deny its many implications. Others will completely deny God’s Sovereignty because of it’s implications. We hope that you will stick with this extensive study on the Sovereignty of God. We will be including resources from a variety of Theologians and Authors, that will hopefully be able to answer many of the misnomers and questions that you may have***

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