Monday, March 19, 2018

6.1.2 Predestination: Passages in Tension

Chapter 6: Salvation
6.1 Predestination and Election
6.1.1 The Rule of Faith

6.1.2 Passages in Tension
  • Election in the OT is a matter of Israel being chosen from among the nations. However, there were strangers in the land whose "salvation" was integrated into the salvation of Israel. Similarly, books like Ruth, Jonah, and probably Job suggest that the election of Israel was not exclusive--others with faith could be in good standing with God as well.
  • James 2 speaks of Rahab being justified by works, and Hebrews 11:31 numbers her among the faithful. Noah, who is before Israel, is a testimony to "the righteousness that is by faith" (11:7).
  • Abraham in Romans 4 is of course the paradigm for justification by faith and Paul uses him as such before he is circumcised--that is, before Israel exists.
  • In short, the election of Israel is a corporate election rather than an election of specific individual Israelites. It is, as it were, an election of the people and the plan, not of individuals.
The Language
  • This fact brings up an important element in these discussions. Augustine has been called the "first modern man" in part because of the paradigm shift toward individualism that he facilitated. And of course Calvin and Wesley, along with the rest of the "white" Western world, has followed suit. 
  • But biblical people were collectivist personalities. Individuals were defined by their groups. For us, groups are defined by their individuals.
  • It is thus my claim that the predestination and election language of the New Testament should be read, first, in terms of the predestination of the people and the plan. The individuals in the people and the plan were not the focus.
  • Further, the ancient worldview was fatalistic in his language and perspective. To varying degrees, it was normal to speak fatalistically without necessarily filling in the philosophical details.
The Philosophies
  • Augustine and others connected the philosophical dots, some in one way, some in another.
  • Here is a syllogism: 1) If God determines who will be saved and 2) if God wants everyone to be saved, 3) then everyone will be saved.
  • There are universalists, who accept the conclusion. But the third conclusion would not seem to be biblical (e.g., Rev. 20:15). This fact means that, in this universe, one of the premises must be mistaken.
  • We might of course note that God is outside this universe as well as within it. Perhaps outside this universe God can resolve these two premises in a way we cannot fathom.
  • Of course Calvinists reject the second premise. Arminians reject the first.
  • Perhaps we could sum up the spectrum of positions as 1) thoroughgoing determinism, including Satan and Adam (John Piper, Wayne Grudem), 2) post-Adamic determinism (John Calvin), 3) predestination on the basis of foreknowledge (John Wesley), 4) logically irreconciliable, but perhaps divinely reconcilable, 5) predestination of the plan and people, not the individuals (Ken Schenck), 6) a matter of language (Ken Schenck).
New Testament Passages
1. Romans 9 and 11
  • These chapters are not written as a philosophy essay with numbered propositions.
  • About Israel and the Gentiles--not about individual predestination per se. The response--"But individuals are implied"--often is unaware of Western individualistic glasses.
  • Since the grafted out can be grafted back in, election must not mean exactly what Calvin thought it did.
  • Romans 8:29-30 is about the plan, not the individuals.
  • It is a mystery, and the bottom line is that God can do whatever he wants (which is true). He has not failed.
2. Ephesians 1:4-14
  • The way God's people are to live is what the elect are predestined for. They are predestined to be holy and blameless (1:4). It's not about the who's in, it's about the what they are to be.
  • The plan is predestined--the elect are planned to be adopted (1:5).
  • Election language often serves an honor purpose. It looks at who is here and says, "You are the chosen." It is thus more "after the fact" than predictive.
  • In group language, it is the group that is chosen. Individual members may come and go.
3. 1 Timothy 2:4
  • God wants everyone to be saved. This verse provides premise 2 above. Cf. also Romans 10:13, John 3:16, etc.
4. 2 Peter 1:20
  • If you have a part in making your election sure, election must not mean what Calvin thought it meant.
5. 1 John 2:19
  • We may have to reckon with the possibility that some biblical authors may have talked more deterministically than others. That is to say, 1 Timothy may say things in ways that sound more like free will while the Gospel of John does not. 
  • Of course, theologically, Christian tradition thinks more in terms of free grace than free will. That is to say, there are widespread assumptions in popular Christianity that reach into how someone comes to Christ, apologetics, etc that may be more American culture than Christian.
  • These verses seem to say that there was a group that appeared to be believers ("phenomenological" Christians) who were not and that the fact that they left showed that they were not truly Christians in the first place.
6. John 17:12
  • We could find a lot of deterministic language in the New Testament. The question is how literal to take it. Is it a way of speaking of the plan? 
  • God foreknew Judas would betray Jesus from eternity past.
  • From an Arminian perspective, God sometimes uses those who have already rejected his grace (Judas, Pharaoh, Cyrus, etc...)
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for these posts.