Daily Archives: April 14, 2008
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My church attendance has been absolutely lousy. Normally, I work an opening shift on Sunday–which means that I go in at 6:00 am and I’m off at 4:00 pm. This is not a good Sunday work schedule for a church goer, since it means that I’m working right through the service.
This Sunday, however, I worked the opposite shift. My family and I arrived a little early, and Sunday School was still in session. Pastor Steve has been talking on predestination, one of my favorite topics, and I can’t attend because of my crazy work schedule. I have done two previous posts on the topic–one with a general definition and one speculating on God’s criteria for it.
The snippet of Sunday School I heard as I passed by the doors to the sanctuary this morning was the pastor arguing against this point based on Bible verses such as 2 Peter 3:9. The logic chain is this:
- God wills that all will come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9)
- Predestination requires that God choose some for heaven and others for hell
- Therefore, predestination isn’t Biblical
Pastor Steve, however, has misunderstood Reformed theology. He assumes correctly that predestination is double. However, he assumes further that both sides are positive actions on the part of God. This is not so. God does not work to create unbelief in these people so they go to hell; rather these people condemn themselves through their sinful actions.
No one on planet earth deserves to go to heaven by God’s holy standards. We all deserve punishment in hell. The foundation of unconditional election is the total depravity of mankind. Recall that man is utterly unable to will and do good–and that without God’s effectual calling, we are in such bondage to sin that we are dead in that sin (Eph 2:1-3). Recall also that no one seeks after God, there are none who do good, not even one (Rom 3:9-26). Our condition is not fixable by our own power; only the grace of God can fix this dilemma.
Absent God, we are dead in sin and will only be able to will and do evil. Eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge has corrupted the human will irrecoverably–this is the price that we all pay for Adam’s transgression.
With this, I know that my pastor would agree. He has said as much in many worship services. But he seems obsessed with the idea that human free will is somehow pleasing to God. This is not the case, by the clear teaching of the Bible. Human free will can only will and do evil, unless God steps in and changes it for us. We will never invite Him to do that, according to the Bible. That’s total depravity. So He has predestined some of us, and effectually calls those people to His service.
This much I’ve explained in my previous posts. What Pastor Steve misunderstands in the idea of a double predestination is that God somehow positively elects people to both heaven and hell. According to the Bible, that we all deserve hell. We have condemned ourselves to that fate with no help from God. The active will of God is selecting some humans to save from the inferno. Passively, he allows others to suffer that fate.
To assume that God elects some to heaven and effectually calls those people while electing others to hell and actively working to ensure that fate is hyper-Calvinism. R.C. Sproul called it equal ultimacy, and rightly labeled it “scary.” The truth is that God merely “passes over” some of humanity, leaving them to their own devices without His grace. And that can only lead them to one place.
The point, however, is that God doesn’t actively choose some to heaven and actively send others to hell. We all deserve hell, but God, in His mercy, is choosing to rescue some of us in Christ. It is the reprobate who are getting what they deserve, and the elect who are getting what they don’t deserve.
Christians In Context has been doing a series of “theologian trading cards,” where they take popular theologians and put their faces on baseball card-like graphics. Then they explain a little bit about who the theologian is and what he has done.
The most recent entry into the series is a theologian that I respect very much, R.C. Sproul. Sproul has a gift for explaining the most complex philosophical concepts in a way that is accessible to laymen and theologians. As a writer, I appreciate Sproul’s accessibility. I only pray that as I write more complex works of apologetics that I can be as accessible as Sproul.
My first exposure to this man was waiting in line for the seventh Harry Potter book at midnight on its release date (I’m a geek). I picked up a thin book entitled Chosen by God. Before I knew it, I had read the first 30 pages and had crossed the line from reluctant Calvinist to passionate defender of the Reformed doctrine of predestination. That book showed me predestination not as a tyranny but as the ultimate expression of God’s love for mankind.
I join Christians in Context in saluting Sproul. May God continue to bless this man’s amazing ministry!