Reformed Theology And Gay Believers – Third Post

The doctrine of unconditional election (absolute foreordination) is an important aspect of my theological forecast that heterocentrism will be deposed as an intruder in Christianity, the way racism and slavery were.  Heterosexism is the systemic privileging of straight relationships, perspectives and people to the marginalization of non-straight relationships, perspectives and people.  But this series is not primarily about refuting anti-gay theology or proving the moral innocence of same-sex love under some or other circumstances.  Rather, its purpose is to establish the backbone of a more fundamental biblical reality, a biblical reality on which stands and falls every other: the righteousness of God.  Relative to that indescribably high mark, defending the innocence of some same-sex activities and those that participate in them is like Job’s insistence on defending his innocence before his accusers.  Job’s focus on God’s goodness was so eclipsed by his his fixation on establishing and defending his own righteousness, he didn’t realize that he’d been prepared to sacrifice God’s righteousness on the altar of his defended innocence.  The righteousness of God is fundamental and primary.  So the relevance of this series to the struggles, experiences and perspectives of same-sex attracted Christians will be sprinkled throughout the series very much in passing.

This is the last post in this series on Calvinism.  You can read the first post here and the second post here

The typical Christian’s understanding of judgment is at odds with the biblical revelation on God’s judgment.  Most people think that at some point in the future, each individual will stand before God, and that God will assess the actions of those individuals against the standard of the Law and from this assessment determine how the person will spend eternity.  There are verses that indicate that this is how judgment works.  Hebrews 9:27, for example, says, “It is appointed unto man to die once and after this, the judgment.”

But based on many other verses, I think Hebrews 9:27 isn’t talking so much about a judgment as it is discussing a verdict.  The judgment is long settled by then.  I’ve blogged at length about why I think the bible is fundamentally Calvinistic so I won’t roll out the individual scriptures behind the view I’m about to flesh out.  This view would be true even if unconditional election weren’t true, simply because salvation by grace is.  If salvation is by grace, then God will not be using anyone’s works to determine whether he’s saved or not.  “Judgement” would have happened already at the cross.

Not based on anything that was in those people themselves, God in eternity appointed some to eternal life and excluded others.  As a result of that, those who have thusly been appointed will, at some point in their lives, receive the free gift of eternal life from God and produce fruit that reflects that new life as a testimony of God’s judgement – which happened in God’s choice to appoint them to eternal life.

The resultant fruit may or may not be in accordance with the prevailing culture’s idea of what righteousness is, even if the culture calls itself Christian.  The fruit may or may not be in line with righteousness as per the Law.  There are other posts where I show that it just isn’t.  The obsession with measuring fruit is the essence of legalism.  When Jesus healed on the Sabbath he argued for mercy over legalism.  At any rate, the foreseen fruit of salvation or their greater disposition towards producing more fruit is not what made God pick those people over others; rather, the fact of being elected produces the fruit in the elect.  If a person has to strain to act like the elect he may already be an eternity too late to change anything, and if he’s elect he has all eternity to catch up to what God has already done for him.

Being God, God will not wait for creatures to impress him with their gold-star behavior or sincere desire to be “good” before he makes a decision about their fate; his decision precedes their actions.  God has already issued the judgment.  We show up for the verdict and sentencing.  Here, the Law is footnote, and anyone who bothers to appeal to it will only prove his sinfulness.  Yet the greater part of Christendom trifles with this approach every day, and Christianity is culturally understood to be in the business of creating “good” people.  Where is the Reformed Church?

Michelangelo, The Last Judgement, Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo, The Last Judgement, Sistine Chapel

John 3:18 seems to present Christ as the sole touchstone for assessing what God’s judgement on each person is:

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

There stands the judgement in its entirety.  There was a judgement, but it never was against anyone who believes in him.  He who does not believe has already been judged.

It literally happened before we were born.  Listen to Romans 9 again, bearing in mind that any distinction between any Pauline discourse on nations’ election to service and individuals’ election to salvation is entirely man-made; an imaginary boundary, wonderful, pretty, forced into the text and foreign to it like the cherished – and fictional – distinction between the ceremonial law that Christ abolished and the moral law that he supposedly didn’t:

“Yet, before the twins were born (bold mine) or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election 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.’  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 human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.  For 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.  One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’  But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?  ‘Shall what is formed say to the one 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 special purposes and some for common use?  What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As he says in Hosea: ‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people; and I will call her “my loved one” who is not my loved one’, and, ‘In the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” there they will be called “children of the living God”.’

Notice Paul’s total emphasis not on anything promised or produced by any human being, but on God’s unilateral decision to love and shape the vessel into what he wants.

I’ve seen it argued that Romans 9 makes an allusion to a Jeremiah imagery of the Potter and the Pot.  The Potter is flexible in that passage, responding to changes in the pot’s attitude.  Therefore, the argument goes, when reading Romans we must import the idea of divine flexibility into this passage.  This argument belongs in the same category as objections addressed in the previous post.

Judgment Has Already Come

Spiritual self-sufficiency breeds godlessness – that is, the absence of any felt need for God, the absence of any appeal to God for mercy, and, therefore, the absence of God himself.  Many of us don’t think we’re as bad as the Pharisee in Luke 18 who says,

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector”

but in stories, attitudes are sharpened, made more vivid, more graphic, for emphasis.  In “real life” those attitudes, and their opposite despairs (“God could never love me – I’m too bad!”) are entirely human, humanistic and presuppose that God’s love is a response to something in or about the elect.  So even trying to correct this attitude is entirely for people’s benefit and not God’s.  Correcting it may just be further proof that we think we will grow worthier of God’s love if we rid ourselves of pride.  The strange and wonderful truth of God’s love, along with his whole-hearted approval of his people, is that they can never be “good enough” or “too bad” to receive it entirely as a gift.  If they were given an expectation instead of grace, his people would cease to grow in his love and remain in a state of failure.

Grace is the divine power whereby God freely delights in his children and as an indirect consequence of so delighting in them, makes them delightful.  Harboring expectations wouldn’t only strip the cross of its power but also God of his.  It’s one and the same power, of course.  Also, it doesn’t make sense for God to expect when he has already ordained.  In other words, we’ve spent so long creating God in our image that we wouldn’t know him if he revealed himself in scripture, in Christ or in the resilient faith of those we think he has written off as not-his-children, not-his-people and not-his-beloved.  Christ didn’t get crucified by people who were spectacularly more evil than we are; he was killed by us in a different age.  The being Christians worship who loves some believers less infinitely than others until they live up to some whitewashed expectation, is not the biblical God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob.

Yet in churches, I meet an atmosphere thick with expectations.  Oh well, I guess…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” Jesus taught.  Most of us don’t have enough awareness of our existential poverty to realize that before we were born or had done anything good or bad, God elected.  At the judgment, many of those people will discover that in spite of life-long professions of Christianity and external signs of Christianity (as our culture understands it), God never knew them.  He knew about them, certainly.  But he never elected them.  And this showed itself in their failure to love, though they got everything else “right”.

There is nothing more off-putting than this self-righteous religiosity.  “Your righteous works are as filthy rags before me!” God said, because framed in this self-sufficient worldview, even goodness looks hideous because it always gets dispensed as a wage and not as a gift.  The person giving it has never known himself as being entirely graced by love and so cannot give to others what he ha never known.  Even his tender mercies, then, are just plain cruelty.  “I just love you so much that I feel the need to bash you with this bible and tell you that you’re an abomination in God’s eyes” may be an exaggeration given for emphasis, but it’s still true.  We forget this.  If Christ is the end of the Law for them that believe, then in the very place where it was said of them, “Abomination”, it can be said, “Beloved Children”.

Conditional goodness is hideous because it is void of one essential ingredient – agape – without which even the tongues of angels are nails on a chalkboard.  This sort of Christianity is water that doesn’t wet the tongue; it’s a blanket that doesn’t keep in any warmth.  It is why most atheists of good conscience can’t stand churches and often accuse us Christians of hypocrisy.  Unless we know ourselves to have been loved for nothing that resides in us, we cannot help holding out on humbly loving others the same way.

Phil Drysdale is probably correct about this

Phil Drysdale is probably correct about this

#badasstheology

@badasstheology

badasstheology@gmail.com

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Reformed Theology And Gay Believers – First Post

The doctrine of unconditional election (absolute foreordination) is an important aspect of my theological forecast that heterocentrism will be deposed as an intruder in Christianity, the way racism and slavery were.  Heterosexism is the systemic privileging of straight relationships, perspectives and people to the marginalization of non-straight relationships, perspectives and people.  But this series is not primarily about refuting anti-gay theology or proving the moral innocence of same-sex love under some or other circumstances.  Rather, its purpose is to establish the backbone of a more fundamental biblical reality,a biblical reality on which stands and falls every other: the righteousness of God.  Relative to that indescribably high mark, defending the innocence of some same-sex activities and those that participate in them is like Job’s insistence on defending his innocence before his accusers.  Job’s focus on God’s goodness was so eclipsed by his his fixation on establishing and defending his own righteousness, he didn’t realize that he’d been prepared to sacrifice God’s righteousness on the altar of his defended innocence.  The righteousness of God is fundamental and primary.  So the relevance of this series to the struggles, experiences and perspectives of same-sex attracted Christians will be sprinkled throughout the series very much in passing.

This series is not on whether I agree with or like Calvinism; rather, it is my attempt to explain why Reformed hermeneutics will prove to be heterosexism’s greatest weakness.  For that to happen, we have to prove that the bible discusses unconditional election.

So What Is Calvinism?

We come very close to grasping the idea behind predestination when we listen to a story or watch a movie.  At those times we immediately, instinctively and inexplicably grasp three counter-rational truths:

1.) Each character is entirely himself and will act as s/he freely chooses
2.) Each character is entirely a creation of the author that wrote the story and will do exactly as ordained by the author

3.) Each character is morally responsible for his choices even if they are exactly what has been ordained by the author, because they were the character’s choices

When we hear a story or watch a movie, we suspend disbelief and do not question that these three truths, though seeming to work against one another, all occupy the same “space”.

Whenever we read the bible, I believe its narrators (inspired or not) are telling us three very similar things:

1.) Each biblical figure is entirely himself and will act as s/he freely chooses
2.) Each biblical figure is entirely a creation of God and will act exactly as ordained by God
3.) Each biblical figure is morally responsible for his or her choices even if they are exactly what has been ordained by God, because they were that biblical figure’s choices

Romans 9: 17 – 24 lays this idea out very simply:

“For Scripture says to Pharaoh: I raised you up for this very purpose (bold mine), 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.  One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’  But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?  ‘Shall what is formed say to the one 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 special purposes and some for common use?  What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?”

Apostle Paul’s argument is no argument at all, of course.  He simply presents God’s sovereignty as an incontestable given; it is as inexplicable as the creation of everything from nothing.  It isn’t a point to be argued in or out of rationality.  Like any other settled fact, it already is and though they live in its immediate implications, it is far beyond the grasp of human beings.  To debate or resist the bible at this point requires the intellectual honesty to ignore the scriptures in toto.  Paul doesn’t even present the idea as a rhetorical question; if that’s what he’s doing, I haven’t discovered the point he was making with that rhetorical question.  I have had no choice, based on Romans 9 and many other scriptures, to conclude that the bible sees God as having foreordained all that comes to pass in the world.

Phil Drysdale is probably correct about this

Phil Drysdale is probably correct about this

Doesn’t Calvinism make God the source of evil?

Both the bible and Calvinism go to great lengths to protect the doctrine of God’s holiness.

The holiness of God is that property of God whereby he remains above, separate from, transcendent to and untainted by all corruption.  The holiness of God is God’s hostility to evil.

brillianceHow does a holy God control evil without being its sponsor?

A perfect understanding of this concept is beyond human reach.  I’d like to give explaining it a shot, though.  Theoretically, God could control the amount of darkness in the universe merely by controlling the amount, concentration, movement and permeation of light throughout the universe.  By this I mean moral as well as every other kind of light.

The darkness would simply be the opposite and absence of God’s light, then.  Evil would be present in people as the opposite of and absence (or limitedness) of God’s influence.  By withholding light or by withdrawing his influence and presence, God opens space up for sin.  In the absence of light, the darkness turns on and devours itself and those around it.

None of this nullifies God’s right to then return – as conscience, or as an angel or a theophany – to ask, “What is this that you have done?”  “Who told you that you were naked?  “Have you eaten from the tree of which I said not to eat?”  The action commissioned in the space where God has withdrawn his influence originates in the creature, and not from God, though the “shape” of the withdrawal is of God and is measured to leave a moral vacuum equal to the sin that will then come forth from the creature.

Note that: From the creature.  Not from God.

Light

Light And Dark

Someone may argue that Habakkuk 1:13 says that God’s eyes are “too pure to behold evil”.  Very well, then: God doesn’t behold evil:  he beholds the absence of the good, which he himself has withdrawn.  That’s how it’s possible for the God who is light (1 John 1:5) and in whom there is no darkness nor the shadow of turning (James 1:17) to “form” light and “create” darkness (Isaiah 45:7).  Think I’m messing with you?  In Genesis 1, God creates light and separates it from darkness, but nowhere in Genesis 1 are we told of God creating the darkness from which he withdraws that light he has created.  The darkness simply was where the light was withheld.  An artist doesn’t draw the negative spaces between the pencil marks except by negation.  God ordains evil by ordaining the absence of the good that would have prevented that evil.  Being God, he owes it to no one to ensure that this preventative good is present at that time and place, but he may demand an account from the creature that has failed to resist his will.  Read Romans 9 for yourself.

summer

A Skyline

Calvinism does not stand in conflict with free will or with the idea that God genuinely relates to each creature as a free agent. When we speak of God foreordaining something from all eternity, we tend to forget that “from all eternity” is a dimension of time now and not in “the past”.  At any rate, this helps us understand why the Westminster Confession condenses scripture thusly:

“The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.”

We’re also told that,

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

“Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

“These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

“Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

“As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation.  Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

“The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

“The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.  So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.”

You don’t have to even be a Christian to understand that reformed Calvinist theology will prove to be heterocentrism’s downfall.  But this series is mostly on defending Calvinism as a completely biblical concept.

The next post looks at some common objections to the doctrine of predestination and answers them from the bible.

Reformed Theology And Gay Believers – Second Post

The doctrine of unconditional election (absolute foreordination) is an important aspect of my theological forecast that heterocentrism will be deposed as an intruder in Christianity, the way racism and slavery were.  Heterosexism is the systemic privileging of straight relationships, perspectives and people to the marginalization of non-straight relationships, perspectives and people.  But this series is not primarily about refuting anti-gay theology or proving the moral innocence of same-sex love under some or other circumstances.  Rather, its purpose is to establish the backbone of a more fundamental biblical reality, a biblical reality on which stands and falls every other: the righteousness of God.  Relative to that indescribably high mark, defending the innocence of some same-sex activities and those that participate in them is like Job’s insistence on defending his innocence before his accusers.  Job’s focus on God’s goodness was so eclipsed by his his fixation on establishing and defending his own righteousness, he didn’t realize that he’d been prepared to sacrifice God’s righteousness on the altar of his defended innocence.  The righteousness of God is fundamental and primary.  So the relevance of this series to the struggles, experiences and perspectives of same-sex attracted Christians will be sprinkled throughout the series very much in passing.

This is the second post on Calvinism.  Click here for the first one.

Whenever the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty is discussed, people resort to very familiar arguments to squelch the point.  I’m going to address some of those arguments here and any others that appear in the comments’ section.

I don’t take it personally if people disagree: it’s not my doctrine.  It’s the bible’s doctrine.  And the bible’s truthfulness or lack thereof has nothing to do with me.

People Add Middlemen To Help Soften The Biblical Teaching On Divine Providence 

Satan is a popular one.  God doesn’t foreordain evil, they say, because it’s by Satan’s doing that evil occurs.

The problem with this argument is that there is no comparison between the creature and the creator.  No amount of middlemen between God and us is sufficient to wash away the fact that God is not only sovereign over all things and outcomes but discloses the fact of this sovereignty throughout scripture.  Even Satan’s evil, then, is ultimately a result of God’s decree.

The middlemen argument assumes that the biblical God needs help with his PR or should feel guilty for some of the things that have transpired in history under his sovereignty.  It forces God’s hands into a bowl to be washed of things God never asked anyone to wash his hands for.  The boldness with which divine sovereignty is revealed in the bible in the face of its implications should show us that the biblical God has far bigger issues to ponder than the popularity of the divine decree amongst the human beings that live its effects.  We simply do not have God’s perspective on things.  We worship God not because he is a vending machine that responds as we wish but because he is God no matter what happens.

In theory, God could have created a cosmos of open possibilities.  There is no disputing Greg Boyd’s open theism is very coherent and logical.  In fact, I’d say it makes for compulsory reading.  But while it stretches our minds, it requires that we explain away far too many verses – so many, in fact, that I end up wondering why read the bible at all.

Satan Made Job Sick

Satan is the source of suffering, people argue; God is not.  And while they have a point about the biblical God being nothing but light as discussed in the previous post, they overlook how in the book of Job, it is God that offers Job to Satan as though Job were a racehorse that could be tested.  Consider Job 1 verses 6-11:

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.  The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”  Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”  Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?  You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Notice what happened here.  Satan didn’t taunt God, or do anything at all to make God offer Job.  Rather, it was God who offered Job, and Satan who took the bait.  To argue otherwise, we have to read things into the conversation that aren’t in it.

And God thereafter doesn’t trouble himself with telling Job about Satan’s role in his suffering.  Rather, like the whirlwind out of which God speaks, God is presented as power itself.  None can deliver from his hand.  Whoever questions the justice of his actions is simply “darkening counsel” by “multiplying words without wisdom”.  So Job is the worst possible biblical book anyone could argue from if arguing against Calvinism.  It’s best to leave the book in the genre of epic poetry and not read it literally.

The Sincerity Of God’s Call To Repentance Is Called Into Question If Unconditional Predestination Is A Reality

Many will then say that the many verses that presuppose free choice and divine flexibility are proof that unconditional predestination isn’t real.  God’s free call to salvation isn’t sincere if only some are elected to salvation, they say.

This argument looks very sound but it isn’t.  Calvinism doesn’t require that God be inflexible or insincere in his call.  If one person who isn’t predestined to come to Christ does actually come to him, God will save that person.  The non-elect have this choice their whole lives and God would respond to it with salvation even if they accepted Christ partially to call God’s bluff.  Turn ye, turn ye, God says, because he is willing and able to save those that put their faith in him.

But the dead would raise themselves on the same day.

Faith isn’t something we give to God: like life, faith is something God gives to us.

Nothing in Calvinism makes God’s call to repentance insincere.  God sincerely sent his Son, who sincerely disclosed his identity, and sincerely performed miracles, and sincerely offered salvation to whoever would receive it with sincere freedom.

Christ’s whole earthly ministry was a sincere call to salvation but he also knew, and taught, that nobody except those chosen by the Father would accept this free offer.  He made no bones of this open secret.  It’s printed in millions of bibles around the world.  Romans 10 is very clear that salvation is not up in heaven to be retrieved by supernatural power, nor in the abyss to be dug up.  The word is in each person’s mouth.  So why aren’t more mouths and hearts confessing and believing?

God has never – in all eternity – been as blatant about anything as he was about Christ’s messiahship.  Under interrogation and on pain of death, Christ spilled every bean in the bag.  As did Paul and the other witnesses to Christ.  Nothing was more sincere than Christ’s ministry of calling people to salvation.  “All day I have held my hands out to a stubborn and stiff-necked people”, he says.  Because he did.  There was no want of sincerity in the execution of that aspect of the divine scheme.

But there was no secret on the fact of predestination either.  There are many mysteries concerning how it’s possible for free choice to coexist with foreordination, but there is no mystery on this truth’s factuality.

Why else was Agrippa only “almost persuaded” (Acts 26:28) to become a Christian?  What was this great hoop that God demanded humanity jump through in order to go through the open door (John 10:9)?  What’s the problem?  Isn’t this what we’ve always wanted – heaven, for free?  Salvation as a grace (free gift) is a biblical axiom.  In Titus we’re told that the grace of God has appeared to save all men.  Again, note how the grace of God appeared to save all.  Nothing stood between salvation and sinners.   There was no lack of willingness to give salvation on God’s part.

So why was there overwhelming reluctance – reluctance, in fact, to the point of crucifixion (which also was foreordained by God) – on people’s part?

This mystery is also accounted for in the bible: “Many are called,” Jesus said, “But few are chosen.”

And the sincerity of the call cannot be measured by the choseness of the choosing whereby God elects some.  The sincerity of the call is dependent on its clarity, accessibility and truthfulness.  If one non-elected person chose Christ, salvation would happen because the offer was sincere.  Christ was accessible and remains accessible until the last breath.  Christ’s power to save is entirely available to any who’ll have it.  But even Jesus admitted that it would only be given to some to receive it.  Even before Pilate, Jesus made no secret of the divine behind-the-scenes operations whereby Pilate had been delegated temporal power over Christ’s life.  Jesus made no secret of the fact that there was an off-stage Director with whom he collaborated, and in whose hands the choices, actions and words of men rested.  Remarkable, this biblical proposition concerning free will and divine sovereignty, that two seemingly irreconcilable truths should coexist so closely together.

The sincerity of the call and the chosenness of the elect are two different categories though they may overlap.  The universality of the call is not dependent on the universality of God’s election.  In other words, God was sincere when he called even those who didn’t respond to the call.  And isn’t it the strangest thing, how we insist that we’re truthful, intellectually and philosophically honest, but deny the truth when it’s right before us?  John 8:47 says, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.  The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God”.  The reason people don’t hear isn’t that God is less than honest or sincere in his disclosure; the reason is that many are called but few are chosen as God’s.  In John 18, Pilate is shown to be among those to whom the truth was clearly disclosed but wasn’t given to loving it.  “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”  In spite of many illusions he may have entertained in his lifetime about being a sincere and virtuous seeker of the truth, he simply wasn’t.  When the truth showed up, Pilate didn’t like it.  “Pilate was merciful until it became risky”, observed C. S Lewis.  And isn’t that just a fact of being human?  We’re dust.  We each have a breaking point, even if that point is death.  We’re mortal.

We are what we were created to be.

Created.

Predestined.

Fashioned as clay vessels.

Nothing good dwells in us.  Even the humility we are sometimes humbled to is from God.  Righteousness is from God.

Consider Romans 3’s argument against the idea that being Abraham’s circumcised offspring is sufficient for salvation:

“What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?  Much in every way!  First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.  What if some were unfaithful?  Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?  Not at all!  Let God be true, and every human being a liar.  As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge’.  But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say?  That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)  Certainly not!  If that were so, how could God judge the world?”

The Jews, to whom Paul wrote, were the first people that were supposed to recognize the Messiah.  The Messiah went to them before he went to everybody else.  So why didn’t they accept him?  God chose to graft Gentiles in, that’s why.  Doesn’t this call God’s sincerity (faithfulness) into question?  No!  God is true – God told the whole truth, authenticating it with more miraculous works than could be recorded, works that if done in other cities would have roused repentance – and every man, having lied to himself, having pretended that if presented with truth he’d accept it, did not do so unless he was first drawn to do so by God.  And when God judges or is judged by the human argument that resists the divine right to inflict wrath or judge the world, he will be proven right and prevail.  So far from undermining God’s sincerity, righteousness or faithfulness, the doctrine of predestination highlights it by setting it against the backdrop of human insincerity, unrighteousness and faithlessness.  Let God be true and every man a liar.

God’s sincerity in the call to repentance and in his disclosure of Christ as the embodied truth underscores the uniqueness of his power to save set over and against people’s professed power or will to save themselves.  Romans 9:16 says, “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy”.  God’s sincerity in Christ’s ministry exposes the moral vacuity of human beings.  Those who are offered this salvation and refuse it will be proof-positive that the insincerity lies not with God but with man; as for God, he has not only sincerely disclosed the whole truth but will also sincerely succeed in saving every last one of the Elect whom he unilaterally and unconditionally chose to save – he alone will succeed where everyone else fails.  This is not because of anything in the elect, but because God alone, contrary to this particular argument against the doctrine of unconditional predestination, is the only wholly and holy sincere being in existence and therefore the only one with the moral resolve to bring to pass the salvation of those on whom he has set his mercy.  Salvation is entirely of God.  “Let God be true and every man a liar.  As it is written: ‘So you may be proved right when you speak and overcome when you are judged”.

The Doctrine Of Predestination Makes God Out To Be An Actor

In the bible, we see God in many conversations and encounters that indicate that the future consists of possibilities and probabilities along with certainties.  If God has indeed foreordained whatsoever will come to pass, then why was he in those conversations with humans and angels?

In Genesis 3, we see God play dumb about whether Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit.  Far later on in the bible, we learn that God sees everything.  So God accommodates himself to the limitations of the creature he is dealing with and then gradually expands that creature’s understanding of who he really is.  We absorb the truth of predestination when we’re ready for it, and this readiness is not always just our intellectual readiness but whatever level of readiness fits God’s plan for us.  Notice that in that plan, we were born without agreeing to be born, became human without signing up for it, and experienced many other realities simply as givens.

The alternative to God accommodating himself to our limitations by acting along and speaking to us first within our paradigm, is him just overwhelming us with mind-boggling realities that we could never understand anyway.  To learn of predestination is to come of age spiritually.  To insist on going back to a former worldview that was borne of an older conversation – a conversation in which God accommodated himself to the limitations of that developmental stage – is an attempt to grow younger.  The bible’s hints about predestination become clear revelations by Paul’s time because more people had matured to the point of accepting this mode of understanding and speaking about God.

There is much to learn in pondering a universe of open possibilities.  There is much to learn from exploring varying interpretations of reality.

But those lessons have no bearing on the universe the bible actually describes.

And if unconditional election is true, then the church speaks from a position of utter confusion and theological darkness whenever it tries to work out the salvation status of a believer by looking at his sexual orientation.  It’s very human to suppose that something in the way a person conforms to cultural morality impresses God.  But God is not society and society is not God.  God is not the Christian community and the Christian community is not God.  God is not in creation nor is his decision about people influenced by anything that happens in creation.  If God is sovereign then the believer in question is gay, or straight, or whatever, in accordance with God’s wise schedule.  The church may be more familiar with straight people than it is with gay people but God is only familiar with those whom he foreknew (literally, “fore-loved”) and foreordained to salvation without one look at their lifestyles or what people would think of their lifestyles.  The sexual orientation controversy is a decoy, a distraction, that sends the human community scurrying about while God, with infinite, inscrutable serenity, perfectly works out the counsel of his will.  Reformed church, get back to TULIP and the 5 solas: it’s very, very solid ground.  Everything else is a distraction.

Creatures are weirded out by difference and panic about it.  Enjoying a wholly different emotional life undergirded by his sovereign control of all things, the creator isn’t weirded out and doesn’t doesn’t panic.  And if anyone brings a charge about God’s elect, God simply doesn’t listen.

Phil Drysdale is correct about this

Phil Drysdale is correct about this

God is not like us.

The next post is on how the judgement of God is one of the most misunderstood of biblical concepts.