Sunday, August 29, 2010

Several More Objections to Predestination

Today's reading picks up with the second objection to predestination that we read on Friday. The second objection was that predestination would take away the guilt of man and place it on God. Those who oppose the doctrine argue that God may will salvation, but only "permits" reprobation. This cannot be right. God does will salvation of some, but he also wills justice for others. Those who receive justice also receive reprobation. Augustine wrote, "the will of God is the necessity of things." If God wills it, it happens. Calvin says about God's justice for the reprobate, "it is equally certain that the destruction they undergo by predestination is also most just." Later he writes something that someone quoted last week in our discussions (although I could not find it), "Where you hear God's glory mentioned, thing of his justice." God is just, and He is just for his own glory.

Calvin sums up his refutation to this objection in this next section. He explains that the reprobate attempt to excuse themselves from God's justice by claiming that they could not help but to sin, since God ordained it. Calvin writes, "But we deny that they are duly excused, because the ordinance of God, by which they complain that they are destined to destruction, has its own equity - unknown, indeed, to us by very sure."

The third objection to the doctrine of predestination is that God shows partiality toward certain persons. If we think of "persons" as individual people, than God does show partiality to those who receive His mercy. If we think of "persons" as groups of people with certain traits, then Scripture denies this. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus," (Galatians 3:28, New King James Version). Calvin writes, "The fact that God therefore chooses one man but rejects another arises not out of regard to the man but solely from his mercy, which ought to be free to manifest and express itself where and when he pleases."

Some want God to be "fair". They want God to either grant mercy to all or justice to all. Personally, I am not that bold. I would be afraid that God would elect to be just to all and none of us would ever be saved. Calvin says about this, "Because God metes out merited penalty to those whom he condemns but distributes unmerited grace to those whom he calls, he is freed of all accusation - like a lender, who has the power of remitting payment to one, of exacting it from another."

The forth objection listed against predestination is those who argue that it leads to a lack of zeal for an upright life. It is true that we cannot live such an upright life as to deserve God's grace. But throughout Scripture we are told to live in a certain way. "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure," (Philippians 2:12-13, New King James Version). This does not mean we can earn salvation, but that we should live in accordance to God's plan for us. Calvin reminds us, "If election has as its goal holiness of life, it ought rather to arouse and goad us eagerly to set our mind upon it than to serve as a pretext for doing nothing. What a great difference there is between these tow things: to cease well-doing because election is sufficient for salvation, and to devote ourselves to the pursuit of good as the appointed goal of election!"

The fifth objection is that it makes all admonitions meaningless. Calvin relies on a book by Augustine, Rebuke and Grace. I've never read it, but I might have to check it out. In it Augustine shows how Paul harmonizes both election and moral exhortation. We are commanded to spread the Good News to all, even though not all are among the elect. As Augustine wrote, "We are to proclaim God's truth without holding back anything - for God's will shall prevail over all."

Augustine gave us the correct pattern for proclaiming predestination. We should try to avoid offending those who have not yet come to realize how God's love and mercy is truly shown through predestination. Augustine then writes, "For as we know not who belongs to the number of the predestined or who does not belong, we ought to be so minded as to wish that all men be saved." In William Barclay's autobiography, he admits that he is a universalist. In discussing this with a preacher-friend of mine, he told me that we can hope for this. Personally, I would love to see all men to receive salvation, but I know through the Word that not all will. That should not prevent me from sharing the Gospel with anyone. I should be proclaiming the Good News to everyone in the hope that they will be among the elect.

Tomorrow's reading: 3.24.1-3.24.5

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