Thursday, April 12, 2007
The Quick and the Dead: Further Up and In on Mercy and Reprobation
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. – Romans 1: 28-32 ESV
“Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.” -St. Augustine of Hippo
As hard of a topic as this is to discuss, it is something that needs to be taken seriously. Some may see such writings as an unnecessary attempt to divide the Body of Christ over issues that don’t really matter; it’s indirect on the life of the Christian, so what’s the point, right?
The point is that if it is important enough to be mentioned in Scripture—plainly laid out in Scripture—then it is definitely worth finding out. This is, in fact, one of the biggest crimes of the modern day Church; we at times don’t take the Word of God seriously enough on certain issues because it offends our sensibilities. When it comes to certain doctrines that get in the way of our own notions and fancies, we immediately dismiss them as gross misinterpretation by the one who presents the argument. Particularly in Western Culture, where the “Manifest Destiny”, “Captain Can-Do”, “Free-to-do-what-I-want” attitude is so prevalent, it is no wonder why so many have a problem with the idea of a Sovereign God who Predestines. This doctrine cuts the legs right out from underneath all preconceived notions of liberty. The idea that God chooses us without us having any say so in the matter seems to the conscience of the American Christian mind to be, well, tyrannical. But as we will see as we take a deeper look at this issue, it is an improper view of ourselves and God that bring about the faulty understanding of what the true implications of this doctrine really are.
Logical Inference within the Text
As I stated in my earlier article, the doctrines of election and reprobation are clearly taught in Scripture (Old and New Testaments). However, there still seems to be room for controversy. In my argument against Dr. Caner’s theological construct of “Whosoever Will”, I mainly used scripture passages dealing with a more general election, as spoken by Christ himself. Unfortunately, for some, this did not seem to suffice. Many who read those passages still insist on the claims that these statements made by Jesus do not necessarily correlate with Romans 9. But, this is simply faulty logic on their part. For example, the question that Christ poses to his disciples (“Have I not chosen you twelve, yet one of you is a devil?”) clearly infers that whatever the other eleven had, Judas did not. When Christ called, did he come? Yes. But did he come for the right reason? No. Judas was clearly guided by a different motive than his colleagues (this becomes apparent further along into the Gospels).
What’s New is Old
To really get a handle on this issue, it is important to look back and see that the idea of election and reprobation is not a New Testament (NT) invention. I won’t spend much time on the verses that are used in the Romans 9 passage, but I would like to go back to the beginning to see where we can first see it presented—the Old Testament.
The LORD God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." –Genesis 3:14-15 ESV
[In this text, a logical inference has to be made. One would be hard pressed to believe that what is being discussed here is a mutual hatred for each other held by snakes and humans. The serpent here is the acting embodiment of Satan. Therefore, it would be prudent for one to conclude that the enmity between the offspring is between the people who will be saved by God (the elect) and those who will not be (the reprobate). Without a proper understanding of this verse, any other discussion on the idea of election and reprobation breaks down. It should be noted that throughout the early chapters of Genesis, the themes of election and reprobation are represented equally.]
The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. –Genesis 6:5-8 ESV
[It is evident from the passage that God has granted to Noah something that is not privy to the others. He finds favor with Noah and his family, not based on merit, but by sovereign election.]
Hard Sayings for Soft Hearts
There were some Bible passages that were intentionally left out of the original blog (in order to invoke discussion). I also have a tendency to hold some things back for the sake of time and brevity. However, due to recent comments and correspondence that I’ve had with individuals, I realize that this is a seriously hard nut to crack. Here are some of the absolute, unabashed sayings on the “darker side” of election that tend to be overlooked or left out of our vocabularies. I ask that as you search the Scriptures, pray for God to give you a soft and receptive heart; that you may be pierced by His Word.
Here are NT scripture references that point more clearly to the fact that election is indeed a two-sided coin. Both mercy and hardening are taught from the outset:
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
"they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven." -Mark 4:12 ESV
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
"The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,"
"A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense."
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. -1 Peter 2:7-10 ESV
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. -1 John 2:18-20 ESV
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. –Jude 4 ESV
He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. –Revelation 13:7-8 ESV
“In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?” - St. Augustine of Hippo
Soli Deo Gloria,