Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Predestination and Eternal Security

Calvinsts charge Arminians with making predestination irrelevant - something that doesn't impact life. If God already foreknew Bobby will believe in the future, predestination becomes a rubber stamp of what Bobby will do. It's already the future without predestination. Is this charge valid? Arminian views on predestination vary, but for some views (in my opinion those that most clearly and successfully avoid the charge) predestination seems to favor eternal security.

The first view that clearly shows how predestination impacts the world is the foreknowledge is or includes middle knowledge. In this view God chooses what circumstances to put someone in, knowing how they would freely respond. This clearly impacts the world, and equally clearly explains how God could prevent apostasy.

The second view the clearly shows how predestination impacts life is that predestination impacts the time after the foreknown event. Let's say predestination impacts Bobby's life from the moment of conversion on. God foresees Bobby will convert on June 2nd, and predestination effects the rest of his life. In this way, predestination is far from a rubber stamp. Now Bobby has a real world benefit he didn't have before - predestination. But predestination to what and what is this benefit? We are predestined to adoption as sons and to conformity to Christ's image and the benefit is that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them. Starting to sound like eternal security?

Let's look at some of the scriptural texts:

Romans 8: 28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

There doesn't seem to be any way around this. That all things work together for good to those who love God is often quoted to comfort those in pain. But either God is able to succeed in getting all things to work together for good, or He is not. If not, all comfort is lost. Those experiencing through troubles do not know God will work things out for their good - He might not succeed in His attempt to do so. If on the other hand, God will work things out for their good, the comfort is back but it brings eternal security along with it. It's not true that God is working all things for our good if we end up lost.

Further, those that are foreknown are predestined to conformity to Christ's image. Predestination has to do with the destination. If our destination is final glory, that's where we will end up. Apostates (if there are any) are outside this process - not addressed by Romans 8:28-30. With an exception that big, we have good reason to question if they were ever really saved.

Finally, those who are foreknown and predestined end up glorified. Some argue that since 'glorified' is in the past tense, it references regeneration which happens in this life. Without opposing this view, I would add to it that it must be regeneration in view of it's being the start to bringing completion of the process - final glory in heaven, because conformity to Christ's image starts in this life and completes in the next.

The passage continues:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Isn't God, who willingly gave us His Son, willing to keep us? The temptation Paul enumerates (tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword) are those most likely to lead us to apostatize from Christ. Yet Paul has no fear and speaks boldly that no created thing (that includes us) shall separate us from God's love. What's left? God Himself? Sin? OK, but the normal process (and our primary threat) is for temptations to lead us to sin and away from God. Why boast of victory, if the only threat isn't being addressed?

Let's look at what predestination does:

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Predestination is from foreknowledge and unto good works. God changes us and prepares the way before us. That's why we will preserver.

1 comment:

Gary said...

You don't have to be a five-pointer to be a Calvinist. If you believe in "Once Saved, Always Saved" you are still a "Calvinistic Baptist". I believe that this false teaching is sending thousands if not millions of Baptists and evangelicals to hell due to a false sense of assurance.

The Back-Slidden Baptist's Salvation Check List:

Just as there are many orthodox Christians, including Lutherans, who, to their eternal damnation, rely on their infant Baptism as their "Get-into-heaven Free Card" as admission into heaven, I believe that there are many Baptists and evangelicals who rely on their one time "Decision for Christ" as their automatic ticket into heaven.

Just to be clear, I am sure that there are many, many Baptists and evangelicals who are much better Christians than I am. As Paul, I am the first among sinners. But I believe that the teaching of Decision Theology accompanied with the horrific teaching of "Once Saved, Always Saved", has damned just as many Baptists and evangelicals to hell as "Once Baptized, Always Saved" has damned many poorly catechized orthodox Christians.

I was taught growing up fundamentalist Baptist that a born-again Christian who stops going to church, reading the Bible, praying, etc. is a "back-slider". He has back-slidden into sin.

So let's review the "Back-Slidden" Baptist's and (Baptistic) Evangelical's Salvation Check-list:

1. Have I attended church in the last twenty years: No.
2. Have I partaken of the Lord's Supper in the last twenty years: No.
3. Have I read my Bible in the last twenty years: No.
4. Have I prayed (other than, "Lord please help me win the Powerball!") in the last twenty years? No.
5. Have I shared the Gospel with a non-believer in the last twenty years. No.
6. Did I pray the Sinner's Prayer twenty-one years ago in a Baptist altar call. Yes.

Conclusion: SAVED!

Now, if you present this to a Baptist or evangelical of the Baptist persuasion, he or she will say that the person above was never saved. That is why we do not see any "fruit of the Spirit".

They have a much harder time, however, using that explanation when the "back-slider" is a prominent conservative Baptist or evangelical pastor or evangelist who has "won many souls to Christ" and has preached great moving sermons for years. "How could the person who led me to Christ have been a non-believer??" Situations such as these really rattle these "Once Saved, Always Saved" Christians.

Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
an orthodox Lutheran blog