11/21/2011

The Canons of Dort

I believe that the Canons of Dort are true. This is a statement that came out the Synod of Dort, held from 1618-1619. The Canons of Dort outline the system of theology known today as the “five points of Calvinism.” The problem I have with most “five-point Calvinists” is that the Canons of Dort contain much more than five points. Many explanations of the TULIP (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints) are gross simplifications of the Canons of Dort.


[This is especially true of explanations given by those who oppose Calvinism. It is easier to knock down a straw man than it is to knock down a real man, and so it is easier to criticize an oversimplified Calvinism that the more robust form.]

Some of those who teach the “five points” leave out some of the quotes below:

This death of God's Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world… This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is--as was necessary to be our Savior--not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God's anger and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved… Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life… all who are called through the gospel are called seriously.

There is nothing lacking in the payment Christ made for sin. Therefore, when a person tells you that you can be assured of heaven if you repent of your sins and have faith in Christ, he is making a real offer on God’s behalf. There is nothing outside you that keeps you from repenting. If you turn from your sins and trust Christ’s sacrifice to pay for them, you can be saved (John 3:16). It is, in this sense, your choice, and it is a real choice.

This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.
We do not look for evidence of seeking or evidence of a changed heart before we share the gospel. Everywhere we go we should share the good news of the kingdom (Mathew 28:18-20), and we should make special trips to as many places as possible (Acts 1:8).

…many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault…But all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ's death from their sins and from destruction receive this favor solely from God's grace--which he owes to no one--given to them in Christ from eternity… Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform…There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in man after the fall, by virtue of which he retains some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrates a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior. But this light of nature is far from enabling man to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to him--so far, in fact, that man does not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways he completely distorts this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in unrighteousness. In doing so he renders himself without excuse before God.
God elects, but men are responsible. All of us would reject God’s command to repent and believe if God did not do a special work in our hearts. We need new hearts to repent, but when we do not repent, we are doing exactly what we want to do. We do what we want to do, and we are responsible for our choice.

What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation. This is the gospel about the Messiah, through which it has pleased God to save believers, in both the Old and the New Testament.
God’s saves the elect through the preaching of the word (Romans 10:14-15). The Holy Spirit does not act to give men new hearts without this preaching.

In this life believers cannot fully understand the way [God’s giving of a new heart] occurs… this divine grace of [God’s giving of a new heart] does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and--in a manner at once pleasing and powerful--bends it back.
The Canons of Dort allow for a doctrine of persuasive action. God does in some sense persuade men to embrace the truth. God does not coerce the will from outside a person. How this is done cannot be fully understood in this life.

...a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright.
God gives some people a new heart. Those people repent of their sins and believe the gospel. Those people also do good works as naturally as sparks fly upward. They are not perfect, but there is a change of heart that results in a new, better life (James 2:14-26).

This is not an exhaustive list of the finer points of the Synod of Dort, but it is a start. I encourage you to study and approve this great statement of faith.

The five points of Calvinism communicate truth, but that truth is incomplete without a careful explanation. All who discuss Calvinism, friend and foe alike, should remember this.

38 comments:

LPC said...

JK,

Lutherans and Calvinists have differences, this is historically shown to be true.

I have claimed that when U is accepted in the TULIP one must, to be consistent, with one's self and the U, accept also as a consequence the L, I and the P.

Any thoughts on this claim?

LPC

JesusSaves said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert F said...

If the atonement is limited, it is untruthful when Christians witness to unbelievers that Jesus died for their sins and they can be saved if they place their faith in him. The most a Christian can say to the unbeliever is that Jesus MAY have died for your sins, but if he did not then you can neither believe in him nor be saved. Good news?

LPC said...

Well if you are already predestined then whether I preach to you or not, it will happen that you will eventually believe. If I preach to you and you are not-predestined, nothing will happen whatsoever effort, try as we may, it is just not God's will.

I am claiming that if God predestines people unconditionally, that is the situation above.

LPC

JesusSaves said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J. K. Jones said...

JesusSaves,

Your comments have been deleted. If I have to explain to you why, then you are beyond hope of ever commenting here.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

LPC,

Thanks for commenting. It is so good to have you back in the ‘blogosphere.’

I would contend that once the T is declared to be true, then the rest of the TULIP, properly understood within the context of the Cannons of Dort, must be true. If man will not choose God, then God must choose man. The Bible clearly declares that not all men will be saved, so God must not choose all men.

Therefore, the atonement is limited to those who place their true faith in Christ / those who God chooses to give a new heart that is inclined to believe. As clearly taught in the Canons of Dort and the Bible, grace is resisted by all men, so only a new creation of a new heart can lead one to place their faith in Christ. This new creation is a mystery (and Lutherans of all people can appreciate mystery) that cannot be fully understood in this life.

But what if the action on the heart is merely persuasive? How could God possibly fail to convince someone of something if He set his will to do so? God’s knowledge of what motivates a man is unlimited. God’s wisdom in the application of that knowledge is also limitless. God has the power to bring about any circumstance necessary. I could go on with the other attributes of God, but I trust I have made my point.

If God gives a person a new heart, that new heart will cling to Christ in all of His accomplishment in the atonement. Thus the new heart will not fail to persevere.

As to the preaching of the gospel, the Cannons of Dort read, "...God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation..." There is no salvation outside the ministry of the Word of God.

Nothing is accomplished without the preaching of the word, and we are to preach the gospel. The sentence is “In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).”

We are responsible to preach that gospel on the treat of God’s Fatherly discipline or loss of reward. The Cannons read “Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.”

JK

J. K. Jones said...

Robert F,

Thank you for your comment. I want to say first of all that many strong Christians disagree with me on this matter, and many of them have achieved a holiness in this life that I have not yet attained. If you have trusted Christ alone and what He did for the forgiveness of your sins and (imperfectly) repented of your sin, then you will be in heaven with me, and God can resolve the issue for us.

You said, “If the atonement is limited, it is untruthful when Christians witness to unbelievers that Jesus died for their sins and they can be saved if they place their faith in him.”

If a person will not repent of their sin and trust Christ alone, then it is not proper to tell them that Jesus died for their sins.

“The most a Christian can say to the unbeliever is that Jesus MAY have died for your sins, but if he did not then you can neither believe in him nor be saved.”

I hate to sound like a broken record, but, then again, I don’t hate to repeat the gospel as often as possible. It helps me to preach it to myself. Christ’s sacrifice could pay the penalty for the sins of all. There is even a sense in which Jesus died for the common grace enjoyed by all. The free offer of the gospel, to be made to anyone within earshot and within a trip’s distance, is a real offer. The thing holding someone back is their own unwillingness to repent and believe. Thank God that He overcame my unwillingness!

“ Good news?”

Yes. The best good news to ever be told. If you repent of your sins and have faith in Christ, then you will be saved. Eternal life, beginning in the ‘here and now’ and continuing for all time, is a free gift that is joyously received by any who desire it.

To go back to my first paragraph, we should not debate this issue endlessly when we could be sharing the gospel for the salvation of the world. That is the task at hand.

JK

LPC said...

JK,

During my Calvinistic days, I could remember that the TULIP was coined not as a sequential letters as it is supposed, rather the letters where arranged for quick short hand recall.

From what I remember, the whole thing that wraps up TULIP is U. In other words if one is to consider the logical flow of the doctrine, it is U that should come first.

This complies with the decreetal nature of Calvinistic mindset, if one thinks about it. From this standpoint faith is just a consequence of being predestined.

Now the LC-MS founder of that Synod, C F W Walther agreed with this, so it was no wonder his contemporaries in Lutheranism charged him with Calvinism.

What I am getting at is, that if one believes in U, he must believe or ought to believe in I, L, P.

Lutherans believe in the T but does not conclude the rest of the letters. It is not the T that will lead you to the other letter, that is what I am saying, it is the U.

But to illustrate with an extreme example, for God could regard the whole world as totally depraved but decides to save all of them. I had the suspicion that K Barth held to this view, though he was Reformed.

A Reformed convert to Lutheranism, Samuel Huber, a Swiss Reformed minister turned Lutheran held to this view too, and therefore was rejected by the Lutherans.

My thesis is that, it is the U that drives the other letters, I, P, L.

LPC

Robert F said...

J.K. Jones,
I have a problem with Calvinism because I have a hard time not seeing it as a form of pantheism. Calvinists often say that human beings do have free will, but the sovereignty of God's will in Calvinist doctrine is such that it seems that whatever relative freedom human beings might have is devoid of any real liberty. True creation, which only God can effect, is impossible without providing a space wherein the creatures decisions are, in an analogous sense to the divine liberty, sovereign to itself. Furthermore, when Calvin says, as he does, that God predestined and willed that Adam and Eve should fall, he is attributing evil to God, which is what you would expect from a form of pantheism. God cannot be the author of evil, and he does not will that evil would occur so that he might be glorified. I think this is heresy. The main problem with Calvinist doctrine is that by ultimately not allowing any will to exist, that is to exert influence on other wills in a lasting way, other than God's, it diminishes the transcendent mystery of God creating first the cosmos, then humankind in his own image. Will is taken to be the primary attribute of God, and when will is seen as primary in a philosophical or religious system, only one will can ultimately be real, the will that prevails. The rest is just a play of smoke and mirrors, a la pantheism.

J. K. Jones said...

LPC,

Please state what you mean when you say you affirm the doctrine of total depravity.

Robert F.,

Interesting. No one has ever accused me of being a pantheist before. I’ll have to chew that one over a bit.

That aside, how have you resolved the problem of the origin of evil in your own ideas / doctrines?

JK

Robert F said...

J.K. Jones,
Reformed theology teaches that after coming to faith, the elect make both good and evil choices as they are gradually sanctified, and these choices are made on the with a real, though relative, freedom. I believe that, on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice, even before faith all people who reach maturity and have sufficient reasoning ability have this same real, though relative, freedom to choose between good and evil. All people are empowered by the Holy Spirit, on the basis of grace, to make truly free choices between good and evil, and most importantly, to believe in Christ or not. I simply see that empowering of the Holy Spirit as occurring before faith. The freedom is given by God and completely on the merits of Jesus Christ.

LPC said...

JK.

From the Lutheran's Augsburg Confession...

Article II.

1] Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with 2] concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

3] They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.

Article XVIII


1] Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work 2] things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man 3] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2:14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received 4] through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good 5] or evil. "Good" I call those works which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn diverse useful arts, or whatsoever good 6]pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their being. "Evil" 7] I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc. 8] They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as touching "the substance of the act." For, although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work, 9] (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc.

The "they" is to be read "we", they that subscribe to the Confession...

LPC

PS. Maybe what Robert means is fatalism not pantheism.

Robert F said...

No, Robert means pantheism, not fatalism.

LPC said...

Robert,

Pantheism in Calvinism? That is a new connection to me too.

However, in ancient Greek religion, fatalism is connected with pantheism too so come to think of it, that is where I see the connection.

More needs to be said.

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

Robert F:

Thanks again for taking time to comment.

[Your comments are in quotes.]

“…the elect make both good and evil choices as they are gradually sanctified…”

Right.

“…even before faith all people who reach maturity and have sufficient reasoning ability have this same real, though relative, freedom to choose between good and evil…”

Believe it or not, a Calvinist could affirm that statement within a given understanding. All people are free in that nothing outside them determines their choices. They always choose to do what they want to do. They always do what they want.

The thing is, they do not want to choose to have faith (see Romans 3:9-19, Ephesians 2:1-3). Since they do not want to choose to place their faith in Christ, something from outside them must plant this desire in their hearts. Thanks be to god that He does exactly that.

“… All people are empowered by the Holy Spirit, on the basis of grace, to make truly free choices between good and evil, and most importantly, to believe in Christ or not…”

Is this a classical teaching on prevenient grace? If so, I have intellectual respect for this position and the people who have held it (e. g. John Wesley).

The problem is that the doctrine has God invading the heart of the person and placing new desires within that heart. This is a form of overcoming free will in the traditional, libertarian sense of free will. It does the very same thing that those who hold the doctrine of prevenient grace criticize Calvinists for: invades the will of the creature.

“ I simply see that empowering of the Holy Spirit as occurring before faith.”

So do I, the difference is that I see this empowering as actually accomplishing something. This squares better with Ephesians 2:4-10. God “made us alive together with Christ.” The entire salvation experience “is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” A right choice in the traditional, libertarian sense on my part would be a good work that should merit me something. A right choice in your understanding would seem to be a good work that would merit something also.

This also makes better philosophical sense. What possible reason could one who has an enlightened mind give to chose something other than faith in Christ? How could anyone decide against Christ in view of some truly renewed desires and inclinations? How could God fail to convince someone whom He desires to convince? This is the sense in which we mean ‘irresistible grace.’

“The freedom is given by God and completely on the merits of Jesus Christ.”

Amen!


I am still mulling over the pantheism reference. I need to do some further research, and I am very (!) busy at work right now. I also graduate with an MBA on 12/10 unless I have made a big mistake in the last few days. As we say in West Tennessee, I am ‘busier than a one-legged cat in a litter box.’

I am still interested in an explicit statement of your solution to the problem of evil / origin of evil. I have atheist readers who would probably be interested as well.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

LPC,

It is so good to have you back!

[The Augsburg Confession in quotes]

“…man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work 2] things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man 3] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2:14…”

Right on!

“…yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc.”

You got it!

How then do you not arrive at ‘Unconditional Election?” If I am to believe, God must actively choose to change my heart. I do not naturally choose the good. If something outside me gives me new desires in any way, how does this not result in ‘Irresistible Grace?’ (See comments to Robert F. above.)

‘Total Depravity’ leads logically to both ‘Irresistible Grace’ in that no one chooses against his new, god-given desires. It also leads to ‘Unconditional Election’ in that God must actively choose to give some the will to choose the good. This means He passed over others and left them to their own desires for personal autonomy, pleasure, etc.

Men left on their own freely choose hell. It is their own fault.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

All,

I would recommend a very short book on the subject by John H. Gerstner: “A Primer on Free Will.” Read closely as many have misunderstood his bold statements.

JK

Robert F said...

J. K. Jones,
Why pantheism? Because unless God risks the frustration of his will, and unless what he produces has some measure of independence from his will, he cannot be said to be creating anything at all, only playing out his own will in a kind of cosmic drama, one where every character is only a puppet without any interior reality. In such a drama, it hardly matters if God has one character do good and another evil because it is merely a show, and really no good or evil is being done on the stage. To say that we are free to do what we want but not want what we want is really to say that we have no freedom from ourselves, to transcend ourselves in a real sense and change. To be made in the image of God means exactly that we do have this ability, otherwise it means nothing. We can perceive the reality of our own deaths, unlike other creatures, from a long distance away from those deaths precisely because we bear this image along with the gift of transcendence it extends to us. Calvinists are unwilling to acknowledge that God is willing to endure the partial frustration of his own will in order that something apart from himself may exist, because creation is paradoxically his true will. He is willing to endure that frustration not only after faith has been given to the elect and they continue at times to make the morally wrong choices, but also before coming to faith as they make truly free decisions, some for Christ and some against. What men call weakness, the frustration of will, God calls power. His ways are not ours. The problem of good and evil? That would require a book or two. You didn't respond to my point that in the Calvinist system God wills evil by willing the Fall. Is this not so?

LPC said...

JK,

Thank you for your response and I am glad you did as in that response, I confirm my understanding of how U gets to be connected to the T. However, I must notice too that the U is imported to T. This is the reason why I say, in actuality it is the U, theat governs all the others, not the T. The U is nothing more but the idea of predestination.

What I am saying is that with U, you can not really blame man for his damnation, rather you must attribute it to God. That is the bottom line. I remember when I was examining I concluded, the only logical lapsarian and consistent view with U is the Supra Lapsarian.

On the other hand, I reason this way...

Romans 11:32
For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Hence, indeed we are all incapable of gaining righteousness on our own. So God so to speak throws all the pieces in the chessboard and starts all over - the starting point - all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

As to election, we have

1 Pe 1:1-2
2Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

Clearly the basis of election/predestination is foreknowledge. God knew something about those whom he elected. The force fo this verse is neglected as well as that of Romans 8:28-30; people jump to verse 30, neglecting 29.

Therefore, since election is not necessarily unconditional, man is culpable and God is not blameable for his damnation.

In unconditional election, the U works like a zero-sum situation. Meaning, it is an all or nothing situation. Some want to make the implication of this teaching soft, but God cannot, not be blamed if he unconditionally saved some, that means he unconditionally damned others too.

When you say "Men left on their own freely choose hell. It is their own fault."

It can not be their own fault; for God could have chosen them but God decided against them unconditionally. As I said if he unconditionally elected others, he unconditionally damn the others too. So I can sympathise with Robert, in pantheism, god of this and that is capricious and arbitrary.


Lastly, in Lutheran view, the means of grace is part of God's ordination, that is, the means by which he will save man, by the creation of faith is elected by God too - no one ever gets faith with out the Word, either visibly with the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the supper or invisibly i.e. audibly by the hearing of the Word - Romans 1: 16.

Because God has ordained the means by which man might be saved, rejection of the means of Grace, i.e., in what it delivers - the forgiveness of sins, literally and in actuality; then this is tantamount to unbelief, and therefore, the person will be damned.

This is the way one can avoid blaming God for the damnation of those who reject the Gospel. It is not due to Him, for he does not fail in giving them the means of grace.

Therefore, in this view, there is nothing arbitrary about God.

Thank you for discussing this with me.

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

Robert F.,

Does God know what human beings' choices are before they make them?

JK

J. K. Jones said...

LPC,

We must agree to disagree about which of the letters in the TULIP logically necessitate the others. The main take away may be that all of them are interconnected.

“Foreknowledge” in the Bible has a relational sense to it. It’s not that God foresees certain actions, but that He foreknows certain people. Paul could just as easily have said God foreknew their choices, but he did not.

“…So God so to speak throws all the pieces in the chessboard and starts all over - the starting point - all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Not sure what you mean here.

“…you can not really blame man for his damnation, rather you must attribute it to God… God cannot, not be blamed if he unconditionally saved some, that means he unconditionally damned others too…This is the way one can avoid blaming God for the damnation of those who reject the Gospel. It is not due to Him, for he does not fail in giving them the means of grace.”

If God knows in advance that some will chose to reject Him, and He creates them anyway, is He then at fault for their damnation? After all, He set in motion the chain of events that led to their damnation. It would seem then that your logic makes him damn some just as readily as mine.

Man’s choice is in agreement with God’s choice, so what is the problem? The damned get what they want as surely as God gets what He wants. God is sovereign and man is responsible.

JK

Robert F said...

J. K. Jones,
You are really asking if time is real or just an illusion. My answer is that God does not know something in the same way before it happens as he does while it is happening or after it happens. In creating, God produced the reality of time/space that is inseparable from material existence, and entered into a relationship to his creation wherein things can be known as having happened only after they actually do happen. He limited himself to certain kinds of knowledge in a way not totally unlike the way he condescended to limit himself in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. God knows things will happen before they do because he knows all the efficient causes that are going into the future from any given present, but he does not know them as having happened until they actually do. He does not have knowledge of that which is not real in the same way as he does of that which is real. This is part of what it means to create.

Robert F said...

J. K. Jones,
To clarify: God knows all possible futures, and his foreknowledge of many things that will occur is perfect, but he does not know which of all the possible futures that could happen will happen when it comes to certain things, such as he does not know which of all possible choices a human being will make regarding faith in Jesus Christ. It is not an imperfection to be ignorant of something that is not subject to knowledge.
Also, it is characteristic of pantheism to see time/space as illusory.

J. K. Jones said...

Robert F.,

Are you what is called an 'Open Theist?'

JK

Robert F said...

J.K.
Not at all. But I think that Christian terminology was captured by Greek ideas of the divine and that we need to rethink what we mean when we speak theologically. The biblical God is not the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle's philosophy, which incidentally has influenced Reformed theology so much. And Reformed theology does not explain the origin of evil, but merely hides it the infinite regress of God's will, in a way not altogether unlike the Buddhist's attributing suffering to a karma that is eternally receding and really not a cause at all. Pantheism again.

LPC said...

Hi JK,

Thank you for this dialog.

When I spoke of throwing the chess board, what I meant was that God has consigned all under disobedience to him, - there is no one righteous, so that his mercy is may be upon ALL. This act of mercy is found when he delivers the means of grace to each and every sinner in this world, i.e., the Gospel.

Your comment
If God knows in advance that some will chose to reject Him, and He creates them anyway, is He then at fault for their damnation? After all, He set in motion the chain of events that led to their damnation. It would seem then that your logic makes him damn some just as readily as mine.

Man’s choice is in agreement with God’s choice, so what is the problem? The damned get what they want as surely as God gets what He wants. God is sovereign and man is responsible.


I concede the first paragraph is a good point you raise, however, the point is reductionistic and this is opposed by this idea: Did not God foreknew that there would be angels who would rebel against him before he created Adam? But why did he create these angels anyway knowing that they would rebel against him in the first place. Scripture says that God designed hell for these angels turned demons and not for man.

The point you raise is philosophically reasonable but invalid to reason that way.

Secondly, the Biblical authors do not speak of God in a reductionistic sense.

For example passages like
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If God is as you raise philosophically, then God not willing that any should perish is really just faking it, God is not genuine, he is plastic and insincere when he offers the Gospel.

The point you raise though philosophically reasonable makes us both speak of God in two different ways.

For example, God may be resisted in Lutheran thought, but in Calvinistic thought, he can not be resisted. In the former, Jesus atoned for all, in the latter, Jesus atoned only for some.

The philosophical issue you raise is countered by the way the Biblical authors speak about God. Consider once again, the idea of God being rejected by man,
John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Now why would Jesus still come to his own, when in fact he knew well they would reject him?

Even though I concede that the point you raise is a good point, still we wind up speaking about God in two different ways, we end up seeing God differently nonetheless. Yet, the point does not reduce to the Calvinistic side.

We can both say, well, that is a mystery, yet we understand God differently - for example the Lutheran asserts Jesus died for all, even those whom he knew would not believe in him, yet the Calvinist deduces that Jesus died only for some and for only those who would believe in him.

Incidentally hell is not confined to the Judeo-Christian faith; Shintoism for example speaks about hell as a place of torment and gloom. What I am saying is that some pagan religions consider man reductionistically, as a play thing of the gods.

What I am saying is that when you reduce God's attribute to a single attribute barring and ignoring the rest, in this case for Calvinism, the Sovereignty of God, then the God of the Bible is reduced to the same behaviour and characteristic as the god of pagans. For in both cases, God or the gods, reduces man as a play actors in His/their game.

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

Romans 9:14-24 (Context Romans 9:1-29):

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will of exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he will, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?



J. K.’s comments:

LPC, how do you interpret this?

I have never heard anyone say of any non-Calvinistic scheme that it is unfair (that there is “…injustice on God’s part…”). I have never heard anyone question a non-Calvinistic scheme on whether God is right to “find fault.” I have never hear someone criticize any non-Calvinistic scheme because “… who can resist his will?”

The mysteries that arise cannot deter me from what I find to be the clear teaching of the Bible. I will, of course, change my opinion if it can be demonstrated that the Bible teaches otherwise. I will carefully ponder your arguments given above.

The emphasis in Romans 9 is on God’s mercy. God has mercy on some in that he actively intervenes in their lives and hearts. God passes over others in that he is not active in their lives and hearts. There is a difference in involvement. God leaves some of those “from the same lump” in their sinful state. That notion makes me infralapsarian.

My only conclusion to reconcile this with the verses you have cited above and with others that declare some form of desire on God’s part to save all is that God has more than one will: a will of desire and a will of purpose. John Piper has done some good work on this. Google “John Piper” and “Are there two wills in God?” See also D. A. Carson’s “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.”

This is not out of the question because in some sense God wills that everyone do his perfect moral will, and he obviously allows men and women to do otherwise. If he allows it, then he must will it in some sense.

J. K. Jones said...

Isaiah 46:8-13 (Context Isaiah 46):

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. "Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.



J. K.’s comments:

Robert F., how does the notion that God does not know the final outcome of all human decisions in the same way he knows the preceding circumstances that tend to cause them square with this passage? God declares “the end from the beginning.” God has said, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass.” I highly recommend the book “No Other God” by John M. Frame as it addresses this issue.

As to the origin of evil, I have no complete philosophical answer. I know man (and Satan before him) was created with the ability to choose either good or evil. I know that God at least allowed the possibility of man choosing evil.

I know that this tends to make God look unfair whichever approach is taken. If God allows it, then he must have purposed to allow it. Theoretically, he could have created a universe in which no one did wrong, in which there was no temptation to do wrong. But he did not, so he has in some sense allowed evil. The standard free-will theodicy breaks down at this point, and even Alvin Plantinga’s careful formulation does not overcome the issue.

The answer I give to the atheist is that one needs an absolute standard of right and wrong in order to judge God as being in the wrong, and atheism has no justification for that absolute standard. You cannot ‘have your cake and eat it too.’ You must borrow from the Christian view of the world in order to criticize the Christian view of the world.


Two more truisms to ponder:

Proverbs 16:4:
The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Proverbs 19:21:
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

J. K. Jones said...

LPC and Robert F.,

I am in the process of reviewing your extensive comments above for issues not addressed or discussed. I seem to be the lone Calvinist in this discussion, and I am having a hard time keeping up.

JK

LPC said...

JK,

Do not rush I know you are busy. I am just after a dialogue with a Calvinist, since I have been away from Calvinism for some time now.

My answer to the Romans 9 passage.

The argument that St. Paul is making address the question of Israel's future. He was confronting the question of the Roman Christians as to what of Israel? The question they were making was - but God promised them good yet now they are in unbelief and in God's wrath so what about the promises of God, they seemed to have no effect?
Romans 9 starts the argument about the election of Israel as a nation.

St. Paul shows that Israel was indeed chosen to bear the honor of bring forth the Messiah.

But Romans 9 is obviously a part of a larger argument going to Romans 11, and the quote I gave you was indeed from that chapter! Further notice Romans 11:2, foreknowledge is again mentioned and first, before he mentions election in v.5.

So starting from Romans 9 which is the beginning and making all doctrine of election stand on it is to me unbalanced.

I do not know if God has two wills, I am prone to reject that. Luther advises that one looks only to the will of God shown by the Scripture and leave the rest alone.

However, WCF if I recall makes election a prime tool for interpreting the world. Thus I reasoned, if God governs us by his solemn decree, then the only logical Calvinism I know is to be a Supralapsarian, all the rest of lapsarian beliefs are inconsistent with Decreetal Theology.

That was my conclusion. Of course, I did not go that way since I am no longer a Calvinist today.


As I said, the whole discussion redounds on how we finally look at God - we walk away having an accurate or false impression of him.

LPC

Anonymous said...

LPC,

Someone (I have heard it attributed to several people.) once said that if all we had was Romans 8, we would all be Calvinist. If all we had was Romans 9, we would all be Hyper-Calvinist. If all we had were Romans 10, we would all be Arminian. If all we had were Romans 11, we would all be Universalist. But we have all three, so we must muddle through the best that we can.

I am aware that Romans 9 is part of the extended argument of the entire book. Please be careful with this. N. T. Wright bases his entire rejection Luther’s model of justification on the fact that the main theme of the book of Romans is whether the Gentiles should be included with national Israel in the covenant. I know good and well you do not go that far, just be careful.

A simple question for now: is the nation of Israel made up of individuals?

JK

Anonymous said...

LPC,

“He was confronting the question of the Roman Christians as to what of Israel?... Romans 9 starts the argument about the election of Israel as a nation.”

But, since the nation of Israel is made up of individuals, he is commenting on individuals as well.

Also, the references in the passage are to individuals, Jacob, Esau, and Pharaoh.

“…Romans 11:2, foreknowledge is again mentioned and first, before he mentions election in v.5.”

But it is foreknowledge of individuals, not the actions of individuals (“…those whom he foreknew…” and “…his people whom he foreknew…”). Paul was perfectly capable of distinguishing between the two types of foreknowledge, foreknowledge of individuals and foreknowledge of actions. [I must refer to those with more skill in the Greek language here. I will look it up in my ‘little Kittle’ when I get home, but the last time I did I came away with this impression.]

“But Romans 9 is obviously a part of a larger argument going to Romans 11…starting from Romans 9 which is the beginning and making all doctrine of election stand on it is to me unbalanced.”

I agree completely. But we must include Romans 9 in the discussion. It is a part of the overall argument.

Where do you think the argument that Romans 9 is a part of begins? Is it the book as a whole or at a certain verse? It would help me to go all the way back to the beginning of the argument train as you see it in order to see what you are talking about.

“…Luther advises that one looks only to the will of God shown by the Scripture and leave the rest alone.”

I have heard it said many times that Luther was a basically Calvinistic, supralapsarian. Is this true?

[It’s an honest question, many people try to claim Luther as one of their own, and the fact that he wrote so voluminously makes him easier to claim on all sides of many issues. John Gerstner even told a story of a lecture series he was a part of. He gave a lecture on “Martin Luther: The Great Calvinist” followed by a lecture from a conservative Lutheran on “John Calvin: The Great Lutheran.”]

“…WCF if I recall makes election a prime tool for interpreting the world…”

The primary assumptions WCF makes about Biblical interpretation are in Chapter 1, not Chapter 3.

The statements of major relevance to our discussion are WCF 1.7:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

And WCF 1.9:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.


As to the lapsarian issue, it is problematic to discuss the logical order of decisions in a being who possesses all knowledge immediately and completely. How do we even apply logical order to those decisions? God does not reason at all in the sense of finding out new information by deduction and induction. The discussion may not apply. God may have spent eternity past “making hell for the curious” as one theologian of note said.

But if you press me all the way against the wall, I will be infra. I base this on the notion that God chooses “from the same lump.” The “lump” of impenitent sinners exists before God makes the choice to redeem some.

“…the whole discussion redounds on how we finally look at God - we walk away having an accurate or false impression of him.”

And the last thing either of us wants to do is misrepresent the character of Almighty God. I am extremely thankful that, in matters as complicated as this, Christ died for our misunderstandings as well as our other sins.

JK

LPC said...

Hi JK,

As to the start of the argument about the fate of Israelites, I consider the start of the argument at Romans 9:3. I do not consider the arguments before this about Israel as a nation so I completely reject NT Wright. In the next few paragraphs I will explain, that the Lutheran (not the Waltherians of LC-MS, WELS) believe in JBFA. I know you affirm this but we have more to say about this, later.

Indeed in Romans 9, it speaks about people, individuals. Yet those individuals stand for something much larger than their individualism. For example, clearly the apostles have been specially picked by Jesus - they will be judging the 12 tribes of Israel. Clearly Adam was not just an individual, he was standing on all of his progeny - human beings. For if Adam was just treated as an individual, then his sin should not have been passed on to us, this shows that such individuals were standing for some thing beyond them.

Same thing with the comparison between Jacob and Esau. We know that Esau was blessed differently in the end, but he did not bear the honor of producing the Messiah, he rejected the blessing, he sold it away.

I agree with you that God foreknew his people as people, I concluded the same thing in my study as well. However, it stands to reason, that God foreknew their actions for you can not separate the two. If God knows you as a person, he also knows your standing up and sitting down, he even knows what you will pray before you even pray it.



I have heard it said many times that Luther was a basically Calvinistic, supralapsarian. Is this true?

In the Bondage of the Will (BOTW) he was supralapsarian. However, this is not the only thing that Luther wrote, he wrote Catechisms too. Also, Luther could not be a Calvinist because he did not believe that a saved person can never be lost. He believed they can be lost. Gertsner was a propagandist IMHO. The best Reformed Luther scholar I know is James Swan of http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/

Swan addressed this issue of Calvinist claiming Luther for their own and he fairly rejects this suggestion. I agree with him.

Lastly, Luther could not have been a Calvinist because he believed in the literal physical body and blood of Jesus at the Supper. He believed in the physical or REAL presence.

When I was studying to become a Calvinist, I came on the side of Supralapsarianism from the premise of U. I felt that this was simply the logical conclusion of U. You may disagree but I walked away because of L.

The founder of LC-MS, C F W Walther believed in U and he persecuted those who criticized him, that is why ex-Calvinists going Lutheran love Walther to bits. It is because they subliminally think this makes sense and no transition is necessary in their paradigm and world view. Actually it was propounded by an ex-Reformed pastor gone Lutheran of the 17th c. Dr. Samuel Huber and he was rejected by the orthodox Lutherans for this.

Walther picked this up while at the same time dubbing in Huber's teaching. Like hating Calvin while being a Calvinist himself.

Although Christ has acquired for us the remission of sins, justification and sonship, God just the same does not justify us prior to our faith. Nor do we become God's children in Christ in such a way that justification in the mind of God takes place before we believe.

A. Calov, 1684, Apodixis Ariculorum Fidei


LPC

LPC said...

JK,

In the last comment I quoted Calov to you for a purpose which bears relation to the discussion of Predestination, and that is JBFA.

Going to the Lutheran model of JBFA, this is affirmed by Calvinists. However, I must point out that there is a slight but can be significant difference in how the two think of faith.

To Luther and the Lutherans, faith ITSELF is justification. Consider this statement for a moment, and try not to judge that you already know what JBFA means from the Lutheran perspective. For the Lutheran, it is JBFA that connects all of his doctrine together, even predestination itself!

Unlike in Calvinism, there is a doctrine that connects the TULIP together, and for me, it is U. You disagree, you think it is T, but the point I make is still the same, JBFA does not function there.

The doctrine of Lutheranism that connects everything together is JBFA. In fact the Sacraments are JBFA as well! This is hard to believe when you see the physics of the sacrament but when the Lutheran believes in the bodily presence of Jesus' flesh and blood at the table, it is JBFA in operation.

JBFA also functions in the Lutheran doctrine of predestination!

We already have passages speaking of God's foreknowledge as the basis of predestination, yet additionally, the logic of Lutheran JBFA is simply runs like this...

Justification (Salvation) is by grace through faith alone.

Predestination is unto Salvation/Justification

If Justification is by grace through faith alone, then Predestination is by grace through faith alone as well.

That phrase **through faith** is very vital to our (Lutheran) understanding of Christian doctrine. It is not Justification by Grace period. But Justification by grace **through faith**. That phrase should never be detached from grace.

You can not have Justification which is by grace through faith and Predestination **without regard** to faith.

If Predestination is without regard to faith (Unconditionally) , then Justification is without regard to faith as well(Unconditional), for Predestination as was said, is unto Salvation. The two for the Christian are connected, correlated and one does not function without the other.

If the last/above paragraph is true, then faith is just an after effect, an after thought, so some people out there are already saved, they just have not come to believe in Christ yet. This the Lutheran says IS NOT JBFA. Rather, this the Lutheran says, is justification by predestination, and not JBFA.

I will stop here because I felt I might have badgered you too much already in this dialog so I will stop here. I will stop wearying you.

Thank you for this civilized and friendly dialog.

Merry Christmas ,

LPC

J. K. Jones said...

LPC,

You are not wearying me.

Also, I see from Google Analytics that this post and comment string have been very popular. Do not feel you have to stop.

Please check here in about a week to see my response.

JK

Anonymous said...

LPC,

Just two quick questions, one tangental.

First, how does JBFA relate to the Calvinistic 'Ordo Salutis?'

Second, what Lutheran synod would you be a part of if you lived in the USA?

JK

LPC said...

Dear JK,

First, how does JBFA relate to the Calvinistic 'Ordo Salutis?'

There was an Old Lutheran who conjectured an order, he was Quenstead but in general, and no it does not agree with the Calvinistic one, but there is no official position on the order.

Re: Synod. Every synod has its flaws JK.

If I was in the US, I will first see the position of the local pastor, because no matter how bad or good the synodical statements may be, they do not necessarily trickle down to the local congregation. So I will first look at the local pastor as to what he preaches. I will also not be adverse to go with an independent Lutheran pastor too, but I will definitely not get involved with ELCA because they are unreliable. I know there are a few orthodox congregations there but it is just too much hassle at the moment to sort where they are.

JK the problem with American "conservative" Synods is that they make statements on top of the BoC and that is where the trouble is.

These statements soon take over the BoC and that is when the crisis happens.

Over here, we have the AELC, a spin off from my synod because they thought that my synod would ordain women. As it turned out LCAust rejected ordination of women. However, I would not touch the AELC because like other Waltherian synods they made statements on top of the BoC that touches on JBFA.

My synod has no statements on JBFA but remains with the BoC. It has statements on its policy about say, cohabitation, etc but no 1932 Brief Statement like the LC-MS.

So my advice is to discern the local pastor first and see if he is a fellow you can trust and work with. For example, there are a few (I am sure) LC-MS pastors who do not go gaga on Walther. I know because history has shown it already.

LPC

PS. If I lived near Dr. Jackson (Ichabod), I would probably go to his services.

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