Monday, May 20, 2013

Discussion of Texts used to support Unconditional Election

Last night I discussed unconditional election with a few friendly Calvinists.  For the most part, they picked the texts we discussed in their making a case for unconditional election (i.e. we didn’t discuss 1 Timothy 2:4-6 or the like).

While rehashing the whole discussion isn’t possible I wanted to at least summarize the major points of disagreement on each text we discussed at length.

Matthew 11:20-30
20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
  • On verses 21-23, I argued that given Christ’s work, the people of Tyre and Sidon really could have repented, so the grace given was sufficient to enable repentance. They disagreed arguing that Christ was exaggerating in verses 21 to 23. 
  • On verse 25, the Calvinists argued the Father’s hiding the Gospel explained why the Jews had been rejecting Christ (and John the Baptist) in the past. I disagreed, arguing that the hiding of the Gospel was a punishment for their past rejections and God was removing the light He previously gave them. More generally, Christ was repurposing His ministry away from the Jewish leadership that was rejecting Him and towards those struggling under the law (verse 28). 
  • On verse 26, we disagreed that “or so it seemed good in Your sight” refers to a condition for God’s choice (i.e. God choosing to do something because He saw something good about what He was choosing). 
  • On verse 28, I argued laboring and being heavy laden (i.e. struggling under the law) is a preparatory step to receiving the Gospel and those who do will not have the Gospel hidden from them. The Calvinists disagreed.

Acts 13:48
46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’
48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
  • On verse 48, I argued that the appointing was God arranging the hearts of the people right there on the spot. They disagreed arguing that the appointing is related to predestination from eternity past. 
  • I argued that if appoint refers to predestination, then all elect persons were saved right then and there and anyone who didn’t believe on the spot never would because they are not among the predestined. They disagreed arguing there is an implied “as many as had been appointed to eternal life [for that time] believed. 
  • I argued that verse 46 parallels verse 48, and that’s evidence that the appointing happened on the spot rather than in eternity past. They disagreed.

Romans 8:28-30
28 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. 29 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. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

  • On verse 28, I argued that loving God is a condition for God’s promise that all things will work for your good. They disagreed, arguing that loving God is a condition of the people for who all things work out for good.
  • On verse 29, they argued that foreknew means chose. I disagreed arguing it means foreknowledge and that foreknowledge is within the semantic range of the term. 
  • I argued that if foreknow means chose, then this passage and 1 Peter 1:2 have the redundancy of “whom He predestined, He predestined” or “chosen according to the choice of God”. They disagreed arguing that since in 1 Peter 1:2, proginōskō is in a noun form rather than a verb form, we shouldn’t draw a parallel between the two and Romans 8:29 is saying those whom God chose He predestined.

Romans 9 10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”
  • The Calvinists argued God’s election of Jacob was unconditional. I disagreed, arguing God chose Jacob because he was younger and didn’t have the natural birthright and to use Jacob/Esau as an object lesson that salvation is based on God’s grace rather than works or nationality.
  • The Calvinist argued that grace must be unconditional. I argued that grace may be conditional, only it must be unmerited.
  • I argued that faith does not merit salvation and even believers would end up in hell, were it not for God’s choice to have mercy on the believer. The Calvinists disagreed, saying faith merits salvation but it’s OK that it does, since God gives us faith. 


THEOparadox said...

Sounds like you met up with some pretty lame and ill-informed Calvinists, there.

Godismyjudge said...


Steve said...

I've been thinking about Matthew 11:21-23 as a non-Calvinist. If God knew the people in Tyre and Sidon (or other places) would repent under certain circumstances, why did not God bring about those circumstances? E.g. do the mighty works there.

I do not accept Unconditional Election as an explanation, as I strongly believe it to be unscriptural.

Your thoughts?

Godismyjudge said...

thanks Steve. That's a good question and D.V. I will address it in a separate blog post.

God be with you,

Steve said...

Thanks...looking forward to it.

Godismyjudge said...

Thanks Steve, here are my thoughts on that aspect of the passage:

God be with you,