Joh 13:18 "I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'
Who are the chosen? Very simply they are the "us"
Paul refers to in the verse surrounding this one. Rom 8:31,32"If
is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own
Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along
him, graciously give us all things?" Rom 8:33,34
is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was
to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
The elect is a category of people - the believers in Christ. Everyone in this category is the "elect" of whom Paul speaks. That is what the context indicates. It is not a mysterious or unknown group. Peter also speaks who they are, saying: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God." 1Pe 2:9 The chosen are the "you" he is addressing. And the apostle John even speaks to individuals, knowing their "elect" status - 2Jo 1:1 "To the chosen lady and her children" As does Paul, Ro 16:13 "Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord."
So on a categorical basis, we can view "election" as an elevator named "believers in Christ" predestined to go up. But on an individual basis we can view it as God foreknowing who would chose to get on the elevator and therefore being chosen according to God's foreknowledge.
The difference between categorical and individual election is that for individual election one can speak of being "elect" but not yet saved.
Since once-elect, always elect, and since the elect are the believers - the redeemed - the saved - the one's born of God, therefore, once a person enters into such a category, they will remain and go on to glory. And this is in accordance with God's foreknowledge. Predestination implies Eternal Security. Ro 8:29 "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
Eph 1:11-13 "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."
Predestination for salvation is only spoken of in the context of faith in Christ. What I mean is that Biblical predestination cannot be used as a basis to support the idea that some are predestined to be saved apart from faith in Christ - like some who presume infants born to Christian parents are automatically saved. Notice also the order of salvation presented here.
This verse refers to the unbeliever's condemnation and murder of Christ. How was God involved in this process. Was he simply a puppet master who murdered Christ through his puppet like control of the unbelievers?
Indeed that popular Calvinist reformer, Zwingli views God as the cause of all human sin. Even those of a Reformed Theology note this: "Zwingli's understanding of predestination as indistinguishable from providence, logically inclines him to the conclusion that God is the cause of human sin." Though Calvin himself objected to this line of reasoning saying, "Our adversaries load us with illiberal and disgraceful calumny, when they cast it in our teeth that we make God the author of sin, by maintaining that his will is the cause of all things that are done." And also saying, "removing as I do from God all the proximate cause of the act in the Fall of man, I thereby remove from him also all the blame of the act leaving man alone under the sin and the guilt" But much of his theology simply doesn't hold to this idea, such as the idea of people being reckoned guilty even before they commit any act of sin.If you take into account God's foreknowledge of how people would respond to circumstances, then much of the way which God brought about this sacrifice of atonement makes sense. God wanted an event to occur. Yet he didn't force it outright in puppet like fashion, but from his foreknowledge fashioned a plan using his counsel (which is the word "will" here). This is not unlike people who have knowledge of how people react to things and manipulate the circumstances so as to bring out a desired result. But of course God having perfect knowledge eliminates all possibility of failure, while at the same time not forcing people to kill Christ.
Look at Jesus' behavior in the gospels. He behaved in such a way, stepping on the pride of the religious leaders, that it was inevitable that he would be crucified. He need not control the outcome as if a puppet master. Thus God is innocent of the blood of Christ. He simply placed him, as a willing sacrifice, in circumstances that would lead to his death, being brought about by sinners who were not directly being controlled by God.
Calvinist Objection: (Unconditional Election) Since faith is a work therefore if God doesn't give a person faith in Christ in a puppet-like fashion, but rather faith is developed synergistically in cooperation with God, such a person has something to boast about and furthermore that would be salvation by works. Grace is not grace unless it is completely devoid of any choice on the recipient's part.
BCBSR Response: First of all there's a difference between something being free and something being unconditional. Eternal life is free but it is not unconditional. And that is not contrary to Biblical grace. Jesus offers eternal life to those who believe. Thus "belief" is a condition to receive the gift and it also precedes the receiving of the gift. But in Calvinism a person is born of God before they believe, contrary to what the Bible teaches. They essentially receive the gift of eternal life before they even put their faith in Christ (which is also reflected in Calvin's view on infant baptism)
Furthermore the Bible does not categorize "faith" as a work. Paul writes, "if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Romans 4:2-5 So here we see that Paul answers this very objection that Calvinists bring against what the Bible teaches. For since "faith" is not reckoned as a "work" therefore making faith as a prerequisite for salvation is not the same as making a work as a prerequisite for salvation. Salvation by faith does indeed require faith before salvation is imparted, contrary to Calvinistic theology which assumes faith is a part of the whole salvation package.
Faith is not a gift given in a monergistic fashion, but is developed
synergistically in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Calvinists may
with Ephesians 2:8,9 "for by
grace you have been saved through
faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works,
that no one would boast." Now there are those who interpret the
from yourselves, it is the gift of God," to be
to faith being a gift. But such an idea cannot be support by this
passage. According to Greek grammar the gender of "this" must match
what it's referring to. "this"
feminine, and therefore "it is" is
not referring to faith. Furthermore "this" is in the nominative case
and therefore the subject of the sentence and "gift" is a predicate
nominative. Much like in English if I said "This is a gift", "This" is
the subject and "gift" is the predicate nominative. The meaning is
clearer if we write it this way, "This
gift of God, being saved by grace through faith".
Concerning the word "gift", there are two words most commonly used for "gift" in the New Testament. "dorea" emphasizes the freeness of a gift, while "doron" is used for sacrificial offerings. It is this second that Paul is using, alluding to the sacrificial offering God made through Christ's atoning work on the cross. Salvation is the sacrificial offering of God, as opposed to being obtained by one's own works. He speaks extensively of this in Romans and Galatians, contrasting the righteousness obtained through faith in Christ as opposed to the righteousness of the law which is obtained through one's works, being a performance-based salvation concept.
Romans 3:20-24 "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."Thus we have "for graciously you have been saved through faith, and that sacrificial offering is not from yourselves, but from God, not of works, that no one would boast."
Thus if "faith" is the gift, then it is faith and not the atoning work of Christ on the cross which is the sacrificial offering made to God. Furthermore is the issue of boasting. Is it true that if God does not give us faith as a gift that there would be reason to boast? Not according to the Bible. "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'" Rom 4:2,3 Here the contrast is between works and faith. It is not between faith being a gift versus faith not being a gift. And the same contrast is drawn in the Ephesian's passage as well. Yet Paul mentions nothing here in Romans about the necessity of "faith" being a gift. He simply states that since it is by faith and not by works therefore there's nothing to boast about.
And they may bring up Hebrews 12:2 "looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith", and demand that "author" means that we have no part in developing our faith. But again the Greek reveals otherwise. For the word for "author" simply refers to Jesus being our chief leader or Prince, as the word is translated in a number of places. But a leader is not a leader unless he has followers. He leads, we follow. This is the synergistic relationship of which I speak. But Calvinists view Jesus more as a puppet master and we his puppets in coming to faith in Christ, a view which is not supported by the Bible. Indeed you will never hear a Calvinist preach as Peter did saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Acts 2:40
Calvinist Objection: (Total Depravity) Another Calvinist objection is that faith cannot be developed in a synergistic fashion but must be given monergistically in view of the total depravity of man.
BCBSR Response: Yes, people are not totally depraved. They are capable of cooperating with God to the point of developing saving faith. The Bible doesn't speak of people being "Totally Depraved". It's a Calvnist fabrication. They misinterpret Romans 3:11,12 "There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks after God. They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable. There is no one who does good, No, not, so much as one." Here Paul is actually quoting Psalm 14 and other places speaking in hyperbole. He does not support the Calvinistic concept of Total Depravity, but rather is describing general characteristics of people. At times people do good and seek God (as Paul says in Romans 2:7), but generally speaking they don't. Ps 14 starts, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt ... There is none who does good" And thus the Psalmist's reference is to fools. And yet there were in fact people like the Psalmist who were seeking God. But Calvinists don't take into account the sense in which these are written. Paul's point is simply that all have sinned and are therefore guilty, and as such are not qualified to receive a performance based righteousness. But his point is not that we are totally depraved, else why would he even bother trying to convince "totally depraved" people. If they are totally depraved then they cannot understand at all. Depravity is a process which develops as we turn away from God, as Paul describes in Romans 1. But since Paul teaches that depravity is a result of a person's actions, therefore logically a person cannot have been born totally depraved to start with. For if a person is born totally depraved, then how can he become even more depraved?
Their misconception concerning Total Depravity is also reflected in their misconception of Original Sin in which they propose that God holds people responsible for things which they have no control over, like being held responsible for the actions of some guy who lived thousands of years before they were born. But to the Calvinist, people are just puppets, devoid of free will. And to the Calvinist guilt is not a function the person's actions, but simply God "unjustly" reckons all guilty in a manner similar to some who have reckoned others guilty simply because of their race. And it is on a number of points like this in which God is misrepresented by Calvinists as unjust which upset me. Oh they'll deny representing God as unjust. But their argument is simply that though God does unjust things, yet we reckon him as righteous just because he's God. And when one points out the illogic of that, they throw up their hands and declare it all a mystery that cannot be understood. I say yes it can be understood. And in fact it's not that difficult to understand. Much of the answers lie in the fact that Calvinism is simply incorrect on a number of points. They may point to the end of Romans 11 which says, "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!" Paul was saying that we would not find out his ways if he hadn't revealed them. But in fact he has revealed his ways in a number of areas which Calvinists deny. In fact didn't Paul write earlier in the chapter, "I don’t desire, brothers, to have you ignorant of this mystery, so that you won’t be wise in your own conceits." Rom 11:25 But the ignorance of many a Calvinist has indeed led to their own conceit.
I'm reminded of the early days of Astronomy in which the ancients tried to come up with models describing the movement of the planets. At first they took the earth to be the center. The models they ended up with were extremely complex. So also making Calvinism the center of Christian Theology results in all kinds of unncessary paradoxes and complications of which even Calvinists cannot deal with. But putting the Son in the center resolves all such paradoxes. The model becomes much simpler when it is not based upon human dogmatism, but upon a proper handling of the scriptures. But then Galileo was threatened with death for making the sun the center, and such was also the fate of many anabaptist types at the hands of Calvinists.
If a person has no choice, no control, therefore they cannot justly be held responsible. It is not that God is just simply because he says he is, even though he does unjust things. But rather God is just because he actually behaves in an just manner. God is just and yet holds people responsible for their actions. Therefore people must logically have a degree of free will else they could not have incurred guilt. Being guilty has led to a degree of depravity such that seeking God goes against the grain of human nature. But as God calls people to faith in Christ, to the degree to which they cooperate with God, they develop saving faith, after which they are given the right to become children of God, and having then been born of God (which of itself is monergistic, even though preceded by a synergistic process of developing saving faith), they are then eternally secure.
Faith is like a drowning man reaching his hand up to be pulled up by someone else. But doesn't that make faith a work? Not according to the Bible. For it is written, "Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Rom 4:4,5 Thus the Bible does not categorize faith as a work, but neither does it categorize it as a gift in the sense of being given in a monergistic fashion. The Bible would not view the drowning man holding up his hand as trying to work for his salvation. And God is under no obligation to save the man. It is purely out of grace that he does so. But God does help to develop our faith in a synergistic fashion. And it is quite easy to understand. Supposed the raised hand represents faith. The man would have no reason to raise his hand if there were no hope. But through the Word God gives hope, for faith comes from hearing the messsage. The message is like a boat which pulls up along side the drowning man. It encourages him to reach out in faith. If he believes and reaches out, he is saved. Yes there are other religions that others try to reach out to and put their faith in. But such religions are themselves like sinking ships. But as for the issue of faith being a gift, the Bible does not portray faith in a manner in which people are just drowning puppets and God as a puppet master arbitrarily forces some to raise their arms, completely apart from any choice on their own part.
And another illustration is that if I hand a free gift to someone with only the requirement that they reach out and take it, their reaching out and taking it is not viewed as work that they do to earn the gift, as if by reaching out they are paying for it. They cannot say, "You are not really gracious and the gift is not really free, for I had to do all that work in reaching out and taking it!" That would be foolish. Our faith is our reaching out to God. True that God helps us to develop saving faith and that He takes the initiative in this, but such is accomplished in cooperation with Him.
Calvinist Objection: What about Romans chapters 9-11?
BCBSR Response: You can view my individual commentaries on those sections, but to summarize, much of what Paul was speaking of concerning election he was speaking of on a categorical basis. Calvinists tend to view election only on an individual basis. On a categorical basis God choses the categories of "those who believe" and "those who disbelieve". These categories are his sovereign choice. But which of these categories an individual ends up in is partly a matter of ones own choice. Doesn't it say in Romans 11:23 "They also, if they don’t continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in."? And is it not also written that "Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Eph 2:3 But through faith in Christ one changes from being an object of wrath to an object of mercy.
When it says in Romans 9:16 "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy." It is not saying that people are not involved in which category they end up in. Rather it is saying that we are not the ones who establish the categories ourselves. Though some wish salvation were based upon genetics or some others try to be saved by their works, yet God has determined his own category of salvation, not based upon genetics - as the Jews would have it, nor upon doing certain rituals, but based upon a person out of his free will putting faith in Christ. Similarly in John 1:12,13 "But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Their receiving and believing were a synergistic process, but their being born of God, which occurs at a point in time after they believed, that was a monergistic process. Having come to faith in Christ it takes no effort at all to be born of God. God does that part automatically.
Rom 9:32 says of the Jews "that they didn't seek it by faith, but as it were by works of the law" But Calvinists discredit the idea of "seeking" altogether. Paul does not discredit the idea of "seeking", but rather it is "seeking" by faith and not by works which he advocates and which results in righteousness. And doesn't Paul further teach "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher? And how will they preach unless they are sent?" Rom 10:14,15 But in the dark ages of Calvnism missions were discouraged. Even William Carey was discouraged from going on a mission to India by his Presbyterian minister who told him, "If God wants those people saved he can do it without your help." That's an example of the application of Calvinism.
Therefore do not be led astray by those of a Calvinistic theology. Their strength lies in their adherence to human dogma rather than in an objective study of the Bible. Safety is found in sound Bible study. Furthermore in developing and analyzing one's theology it is imperative to analyze the applications. What are the applications of Calvinism? I would say that the average Calvinist has no application of his theology, of which he will even admit. But that just indicates that he really doesn't believe in Calvinism. For faith without application is a dead faith. HyperCalvinists are those who actually apply Calvinism. Among those it has led to Free Grace Antinomian Theology which advocates easy believism and overlooks licentiousness within the Christian community. It has led to an anti-mission mentality and a do-nothing state of mind in the name of Total Depravity and an undue contempt for or apathy towards non-Christians. And it has practiced a bloodthirsty hatred towards non-Calvinists whom are reckon as heretics simply because they don't believe in things like infant baptism or unconditional election. But the pre-salvation Arminian model promotes the gospel. It encourages people to seek for God and to take action developing faith in Christ in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Choice imparts a sense of the fear of God, a sense of responsibility and preserves God as being just while holding out the hope of redemption. And a do-nothing faith is replaced with an application oriented faith.