Monday, March 24, 2008

Whosoever and Predestination


A common objection to the doctrine of unconditional election (aka, predestination) is John 3:16. I typically get bent out of shape whenever I read or hear people using this verse as an objection to predestination, and not because it blows a hole in my theology, but because it is a mishandling of the Word of God to use it in such a fashion. I am currently reading R.C. Sproul's Chosen By God, and he has an excellent treatment of this common usage of John 3:16:

What does this famous verse teach about fallen man's ability to choose Christ? The answer, simply, is nothing. The argument used by non-Reformed people is that the text teaches that everybody in the world has it in their power to accept or reject Christ. A careful look at the text reveals, however, that it teaches nothing of the kind. What the text teaches is that everyone who believes in Christ will be saved. Whoever does A (believes) will receive B (everlasting life). The text says nothing, aboslutely nothing, about man's natural moral ability. Reformed people and non-Reformed people both heartily agree that all who believe will be saved. They heartily disagree about who as the ability to believe.
The doctrine of election has nothing to do with belief in Christ as the basis for eternal life. It concerns itself with who exactly will believe in Christ, and thus inherit eternal life. There will be no soul in Hell who professed faith in Christ, but was denied everlasting life because he was not one of the elect. True faith in Christ always saves and is itself a sign of God's adoption of you as his son or daughter. The true debate, as Sproul points out, is about who has the ability, the desire, to believe.

21 comments:

Paul said...

I think the verse is more commonly used to address unlimited vs. limited atonement, rather than election as such.

Jacob said...

I have heard it used in both instances and I don't think it is proper to use it in either.

Laura said...

Yay, election! :)

Kelly said...

awesomeness Jacob... :) You rock!

Jacob said...

Thanks Kelly. Sproul rocks more than I do, though. The more I read of his books, the more and more I like him!

Kelly said...

Well I've got to say ya he probably rocks a little more then you..but you still rock :) How goes it?!

Jacob said...

It goes well. I am in the middle of two weeks off work, so I'm down here in Chandler staying with my aunt and uncle until Sunday. Thus far I've just been bumming around, but this week I might try to run up to Sedona.
How've you been? Enjoying your new living space?

Kelly said...

OH Sedona...i need to make a trip up there :) I bet its beautiful right now! I'm sort of enjoying my new place...its small, and slightly lonely...I miss my roomie :) altho she just got engaged...I've been ok! Just...I take one day at a time ...

Jacob said...

In all things, God is good. I miss my college room mate (the fellow decided he'd rather share a room with his girlfriend instead of me, so they got married) but at least now when I see him, I know I'll get an incredible dinner!
Last time I was in Sedona (which was probably close to ten years ago), it was really pretty, so I'm looking forward to going back and taking some sweet pictures.

Kelly said...

hehe its always nice to get some good food ;) Hey you into photography?! You'll hit some nice weather this week..and for sure some nice shots! :) I heartily agree God's goodness, sometimes I easily lose my focus..but He is always faithful!

Jacob said...

I like pictures and have a minor interest in layout and design and have a nice digital camera, but that's about it. I wouldn't say I'm into photography as much as I would say I like pictures.

Reicheru said...

Hi, just curious, do you recommend any specific books or authors (evidently RC Sproul) for understanding various perspectives on predestination and free will? I'm also curious if you know of authors/resources on viewing and explaining salvation within the context of reformed theology. I suppose monergism.com would be a good place to start, but just thought I'd ask in case you know of specific resources. Thanks!

Jacob said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I have not really read too many books on the subject. Reading this book is an attempt to change that!

Some books that I have read that might be useful are:

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace by J.M. Boice. It's a general introduction to Reformed theology.
Chosen By God is a good book so far, and I'm sure you wouldn't go wrong to pick it up.
Augustine's "On Grace and Free Will" comes to mind. It is more focused on the nature of the will, but it is good to read if only because it shows that people were talking about the doctrines of grace long before Luther and Calvin.

While I have not read these books, I have heard that James White's "The Potter's Freedom" is a good book. White is a Reformed apologist and debater, so he usual interacts directly with the objections of his opponents.

You're right: Monergism.com is a good place to start. Their bookstore, Monergismbooks.com should have most of these titles (you might even be able to find the Augustine book online. if you can't let me know and I can email a copy to you). In all honesty, it might not hurt to crack open Calvin's "Institutes of Christian Religion." Sproul recommends "On the Freedom of the Will" by Jonathan Edwards.

I hope this helps! Maybe some of my fellow readers can recommend some other titles?

Reicheru said...

Thanks! One time I saw a big book with opposing viewpoints at a bookstore, but I don't remember what it was called. This is one of the issues I want to study more, though I know that the more I learn it's quite possible that I'll realize how little I do know. Still, I want to try to understand these issues better...so thanks for the suggestions!

Anna said...

I have been a Calvinist pretty much ever since I knew what the word meant. Strangely enough, I found myself struggling as I read Arminius for a Theology assignment yesterday. Sometimes I think we try to explain it all so systematically and don't leave anything to mystery. Yet I was very troubled because I truly cherish the doctrines of Calvinism, and I don't want to believe the wrong thing. Then this morning, I was flipping through to read Romans 12, and I noticed Romans 9 again, and thought, Yes, how can anything else be true.

This post was really good too, and timely.

Jacob said...

I think a discomfort with systematic knowledge of any kind is something of a spirit of the age. The post-moderns reject it and I can't help but thing that we might be tainted by the cultural context in which we've grown up. Maybe it's because I grew up with only basic "essential" theology that I'm not at all bothered by systematic knowledge and theology. There are indeed mysteries that we cannot comprehend, but, as you said, there are passages such as Romans 9 which are very clear.

Anna said...

I agree... and my tendency is to reject anything that smacks of "emergent." But maybe modernism swung too far in the other direction? I think I should have used the word "exhaustive" instead of "systematic."

Jacob said...

I think the Scientism and Logical Positivism of the early 20th Century was the peak of Modernist thought. It is probably not too far from the truth to see it as being the opposite extreme of mysticism or idealism/pantheism. I think one of the strengths of pre-modern, Reformation thought is that while it does systematize, it still acknowledges mysteries like the Trinity and Incarnation, rather than trying to explain them away like modernism theologians did.

Anna said...

Yes! Thanks for that explanation. It makes a lot of sense.

Abel Ramirez said...

Read a new article on the doctrine of election at:

http://www.youmustbesaved.com/preview_052.htm

See what you think.

God Bless!

Jacob said...

Abel,
I think you need to find specific scriptural support for your libertarian free will. When those of us who believe in the doctrines of grace talk about election and predestination, we can appeal directly to Scripture. You do not find any kind of libertarian language in Scripture. At best, men have come up with extra-scriptural arguments that they use to justify their hermeneutic. I don't have to do that because, to be frank, the Bible actually uses the vocabulary of Election.

Look, we're all wretched sinners and not one of us deserves any kind of mercy from God. In fact, we are all deserving of wrath, and God would still be the same God if he had instead chosen to wipe us all out. Praise be to God that to demonstrate his mercy, he chose to save even some.