Predestination: A Misunderstanding of Jew vs. Gentile In the New Covenant?

This is going to be long, but I will keep it simple.

I have long considered myself to be “pretty much” a Calvinist. Now do not let that word scare you off. I am not about to launch into the deep murky waters of arguing the most minute points of theology. I find such conversations to be divisive and they often miss the point of such discussions, namely to become more familiar with God and His word. Those kinds of conversations turn into a striving to be right. Unfortunately Calvinists/Reformed folks are notoriously confrontational in matters of theology. This is not where I am going.

For those who are not sure exactly what I mean by Calvinism, I am referring to the system of theology which focuses mostly on the topic of soteriology (how we are saved) and can be summed up by the very handy acrostic T.U.L.I.P. Following is an explanation of these five points of Calvinism. After each you will see a number that tells how much I agree with that particular point on a scale of 1 to 10.

Total depravity- the doctrine that as a result of the fall man is utterly lost and utterly sinful and can do no good on his own and can not (and would not) come to God/salvation on his own. 10

Unconditional election- election is the idea that God preordains some to salvation and others to destruction and it is according to His own good and perfect will. The “unconditional” part means that it has nothing to do with us, who we are, or what we have or have not done. It is all according to God’s own eternally wise counsel. 6 (I’m on the fence here)

Limited Atonement-Christ’s sacrificial death was sufficient to save everyone, but it was not done for everyone. It was done for the elect, for believers. 3

Irresistible grace-a Calvinist would say if you have gotten saved then that is proof positive you are one of the elect, otherwise you would not even try to come to God (for man is totally depraved). Furthermore if you are elect, when God calls you to salvation you WILL be saved. If you are saved, then there’s no way you could have never not gotten saved. 2 (UPDATE: My original description of IG here is not accurate. Irresistable grace is God’s gracious, foreordained removal of resistance to the gospel; it does not mean God “makes” you get saved against your will for that would be a contradiction in terms. And there is a way you could have not gotten saved–God could have chosen–before the foundation of the world–not to grant repentance to you.)

Perseverance of the Saints-In the simplest of layman’s terms this point means “once saved, always saved” or “eternal security”. No one and nothing can pluck God’s elect out of His hand. 10

I have read much about T.U.L.I.P., but I do not claim to be an expert. If any of my Calvinist/reformed brethren can expound anymore on these please feel free to leave it in your comment. Or better yet, write a post about it on your blog and link to it in your comment.

Now you probably notice a contradiction if you look closely at my rankings and if I have properly explained these points. Notice I gave a 10 to Total Depravity but only a 6 to Unconditional Election. If a person is totally depraved how can he come to God except God do all the work? The answer is–*drum roll*— I don’t know. All I can say is that scripture is true. It is written, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” I know from my own past that this is true. How do I reconcile a complete belief in total depravity and a less than complete belief in election? Isaiah 1:15-18 is interesting:

When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;

wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,

learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

Though the people to whom God spoke were totally depraved (see the first part of this chapter), God called them to put away evil deeds. Another verse that always comes to mind when I talk about election is Ezekial 18:30-31:

“Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

Notice the imperative statement “Get a new heart and a new spirit.”  And of course we have all heard the verse about God’s spirit not striving with man forever. So many passages seem to tell me that there is this process of God in His mercy calling men to repentance. Some will answer and some will not but I do not see any place in scripture that says that God causes some to resist and some to accept. In fact we are told that He does not desire for ANY to perish, yet we know that some do perish. Is God’s will thwarted? If God wills that none perish then why does it still happen? God’s Spirit strives with men. Why do some accept and some do not? I don’t know. Why do all not repent and live? Who can say? Somewhere in the mystery of God He provides some form of free will yet remains sovereign. After all it was the prodigal son who decided to return to his father’s house. The father did not cause him to return.

This is long enough. I will post a second part to this in which I want to talk about vessels made for honor and vessels made for destruction and what I think those terms might really mean in Romans 9.

Josh H.


8 Responses to “Predestination: A Misunderstanding of Jew vs. Gentile In the New Covenant?”

  1. June 12, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Could you clarify your definition of Perseverance of the Saints, specifically when you say, “once saved, always saved” or “eternal security”.

  2. June 12, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    From wikipedia: Perseverance of the saints maintains that none who are truly saved can be condemned for their sins or finally fall away from the faith.
    A truly regenerate person can not do anything to lose his salvation.

  3. 3 Lance
    June 13, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Cards on the table: I am almost persuaded by the Calvinist argument; there are questions I have still. I certainly think the position is misrepresented more often than not. I do not affirm Arminianism.
    By employing the adverb ‘truly’, do you believe that those who fall away from the faith are not truly saved? Or do you maintain that those who "backslide" are in fact justified?
    Also, in discussing total depravity, I would emphasize the "cannot" more than the "would not" (though both are accurate). I think the fact that we cannot appease the wrath of God really communicates the necessity of the the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

  4. June 13, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I also do not affirm Arminianism.  But Calvinism has it’s problems as well which I have addressed some here and will address more directly in my next post on the subject (which is coming very soon).
    I would say that if a person "falls away from the faith" then no, that person is not truly saved and never were.  In 9th grade I walked the aisle at Bethlehem and made a public profession of faith. My walk with the Lord was never that strong.  Eventually my relationship with God eroded.  In my second year of college (around the time we met Matt E.) I had an experience in which I repented and put my faith completely in the Lord and gave my life over to Him and have lived that way since.  It is my belief that that was my conversion experience. I do not believe I was saved before then.
    Backsliders: This term is only used once, that I can find, in the Bible.  Proverbs 14:14 and it simply says that a backslider will reap the fruit of his ways.  There is talk in the NT of "falling away" but I do not think it necessarily means losing one’s salvation. Case in point: Mark 14:7 Jesus says that when the time of his trial and death comes that all of his followers will fall away.  Indeed they did abandon him (even Peter), but can we say that this means they became unsaved?
    Speaking of Arminianism, many never bother to read the tenets of that view.  Thanks to Wikipedia, here they are:

    Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
    Salvation is possible by grace alone
    Works of human effort cannot cause or contribute to salvation
    God’s election is conditional on faith in Jesus
    Jesus’ atonement was for all people
    God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
    Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

    "Election is conditional on faith in Jesus", "atonement was for all people", and "Salvation can be lost" are the main points where it differs from Calvanism.
    You would do well to look Arminianism up on Wikipedia and read it. It’s not the devil-ridden, anti-God heresy that Calvinist try to make it out to be.

  5. June 17, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Josh, thanks for such an honest and well thought out post! Honestly, when I read your title, I rolled my eyes…simply because I am dreadfully tired of this argument…as we have beat it to death in my nearly 4 years of seminary! However, as I read your post, I honestly felt your sincerity and the grace of Jesus through what you said. Thanks for your inclusion of such appropriate scripture. In short….not to be too spiritual or whatever….your post was edifying to at least one fellow brother. I want to comment on one other thing. That is the fact that many times Calvanism is usually set as the opposite of Arminianism, as if to say that if one is not a Calvanist/Reformed, then one must certainly be Arminian. Well I will not call myself a Calvanist….but I will not call myself an Arminian either. In fact, the more I study and read God’s word, the more I am somewhat offended that we as Christians have decided to label ourselves by men who, though men of great faith and who contributed greatly to our Christian heritage, were men like ourselves. It’s as if to say I would call myself a Joshian or a Lancian. I think Paul addressed this in 1 Corinthians we he says “I plead with you, brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, ubut you be prefectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.” Paul goes on to reprimand the followers in Chloe’s household who said “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos” and then says “Is Christ divided?” From my experience in seminary we are exercising in this same type of division and I think that it is all-together not worth it. In closing I suppose I prefer the phrase “blessed are the balance”. When it comes to the dichotomy of the scripture concerning the aforementioned supposedly contradictory views, I think we must take each one for what they say. Thus leading to a balanced view of who we are as completely depraved and utterly hopeless human beings, who by God’s grace has been resuced through Jesus, and who have been entrusted with some type of response.
    Ok…better quit before I confuse myself!

  6. June 18, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I agree, Matt.  And your last few sentences sum up nicely my point of view. We have been entrusted with some type of response. Well said.

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