Mark 10:23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
If election is unconditional and men are chosen not based on anything they do or become within this life, and all the elect are irresistibly drawn to faith and salvation, then why does Jesus draw the distinction regarding the difficulty of those with wealth to be saved?
Could it be that wealth causes one to depend upon his own resources? Could it be that wealth can lead to materialistic distractions? Could it be that wealthy feel they must give up ‘too much’ in order to be a disciple? Could it be that wealth affects man’s will?
Why would any of these factors even matter if God chose the elect or passed over the reprobate without anything about them being a condition, including their wealth? And would any of these be a real hindrance to an irresistible working of the Holy Spirit? How can it be any more difficult for one person over any than another to enter the kingdom if the Calvinistic system is correct?
Here are the answers I’ve received over the years from Calvinistic believers:
- “Just as God ordains the means of grace, there are means that keep people in bondage.”
Let’s discuss the purpose of both the “means of grace” and the “means that keep people in bondage:”
- What purpose does the means of wealth serve that is not already accomplished by their natural born condition of “total inability?” And for what purpose would it be mentioned if this particular condition makes no real difference?
- Does this suggest that because a person is NOT elect that God may make them wealthy so as to hinder them from coming? If so, why? Isn’t their natural condition enough of a hindrance? We know from Calvinistic teaching that they were not chosen or passed over because of their wealth, but this suggests that their wealth is a condition of their being non-elect.
- What does the means of “provoking to envy” or “signs and wonders” accomplish that the irresistible calling doesn’t accomplish? I understand that the gospel is meant to inform the elect in the monergistic system, but what purpose is there in “provoking the will?”
It appears the means God uses in the Calvinistic worldview do not actually make a difference. They appear to be included for effect or for show given that the means will not accomplish anything more or less that what is accomplished by either the inborn nature (for the reprobate) or the irresistible work of regeneration (for the elect).
- “All you need to do is read on a couple of verses further: ‘With men it is impossible, but not for God; for with God all things are possible’ (Mark 10:27). If it were up to man, no rich person would ever be saved.”
Neither would a poor man. We all agree that without God salvation would be impossible, but this does not address why this distinction was drawn.
Let us reason this out. Suppose there is a poor elect man and a rich elect man. Both hear the gospel and reject for a period of time until they are effectually called at God’s appointed time. So, what is the distinction between the rich man and the poor man? Both are just as totally depraved from birth, right? Both MUST be regenerated in order to come to faith, right? So, why the distinction regarding how much money one individual has over the other?
- You just do not understand. It is multi-dimensional not flat. It is more like a diamond and you’re trying to flatten it out.
This is the fail proof rebuttal for any argument where there is no answer except an appeal to mystery. Accuse your opponent of not being intelligent enough to understand the complexities of your system.
36 thoughts on “Does God Elect the Wealthy?”
In Christian determinism in general (not just Calvinistic), anyone bound to disobedience is so done in order to be an implement of dishonorable (Gr. atimien) use in service of something greater. Under purgatorial universalism, this is an ultimate and complete reconciliation through an optimization of God’s interests (which clearly do NOT include “calling everyone right away”). We point to Romans chs. 9-11 (and don’t stop at chapter 9!) as a specific example of this pattern.
The ways in which atimien implements are bound over to disobedience are manifold, but it can be reducible to mundane proclivities, propensities, addictions, etc. “It is difficult for a rich man to be saved from punishment” may not be causal, i.e., it’s not that being rich makes you less willing to be faithful, and it’s not that being unsaved makes you more rich, but rather correlative, that is, there is a high statistical coincidence between atimien implementation and being rich.
Stanrock, I don’t think it is helpful to project unbiblical philosophical ideas like purgatorial universalism to help bolster the unbiblical philosophical idea of universal divine determinism. The meaning of God’s use of vessels of dishonor “in service of something greater” is true. But this passage in Rom 9:21-23 does not teach, nor does the rest of Scripture, that these vessels were designed from before creation for everlasting destruction (cf. Jer. 18:1-10), neither does it even hint that everlasting destruction might not be the outcome of these vessels, once fitted for destruction, as it will certainly be for some (cf. Matthew 25:46).
We don’t have to get ratholed on a discussion of the issues with Gr. aion/aionios/aionion (e.g., in Matthew 25:46) or the virtues of purgatorial universalism (or lack thereof). The point was to give a plausible explanation for most of the rich being atimien implements under deterministic Sovereignty, an avenue which seemed missed by the OP.
Whether it is beside the point of this discussion that the idea that everlasting life must be paralleled against everlasting destruction , the fact is, you brought the subject of purgatorial universalism up!
But, to the main point, the normal reading of the rich man story is that “he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mk 10:22). There is nothing in the evangelist’s editorial comment to suggest that the rich man went away because God had predetermined to harden him, or to keep him hardened, so that the disciples could learn a Calvinistic lessen that man’s natural active repentance plays no part in being able to receive God’s supernatural salvation (which it most certainly and biblically does). The greater, more reasonable, inference is that he went away because he did not want to obey Christ, because it would mean losing his possessions. He loved them more. The passage points to personal response-ability, not divine determinism.
We’re off the rails now, Brian. Via the Bible’s heterophroneo, all passages about human choice and responsibility are consonant and coincident with sovereign, superordinate responsibility (see Genesis 45:4-7).
The thesis of the OP was: “Why would any of these factors even matter if God chose the elect or passed over the reprobate without anything about them being a condition… [They wouldn’t.]” This served an argumentum ad absurdum where predestination can’t be true since we all agree conditional particulars do matter (for at least something).
My response was that, under Christian determinism, the particulars matter for all sorts of things, as ancillary cogs — “timen and atimien” — in the Master’s domain (see 2 Timothy 2:20-21). In other words, they matter under predestination and total depravity.
This rebuts the OP’s argument (put forth as a dilemma that Calvinists have yet failed to address). The rebuttal does NOT beg the question of predestination, total depravity, free will, purgatorial universalism (which I brought up as an aside), or anything else. The rebuttal works in the hypothetical and the OP’s argumentum ad absurdum is shown non-cogent (though well-articulated and, I’m sure, accurately representative of his experience with those Christian determinists who are Calvinists).
First, thank you for posting. I looked at your site and I’m pretty sure it is safe for me to conclude that you’re more intelligent and logically astute than I am. In fact, I had to google the word “astute” just now to make sure it meant what I intended. I don’t say that in self-deprecating attempt at false-humility, I simply say it as in recognition of what appears obvious to me in light of your manner of dialogue. Now, don’t take that as my “throwing in the towel” or admitting my perspective is incorrect. Quite the opposite. I think some people are too smart for their own good (with all respect). Smart people like to be able to explain things. They want to answer the paradoxes and mysteries of our world. I respect that, I really do. I wish I had that kind of mind, but alas I’m drooling on my keyboard as we speak (ok that was my lame attempt a self-deprecating humor).
You wrote, “under Christian determinism, the particulars matter for all sorts of things,” which may be the case, but that wasn’t the entirety of my argument. My intention was to say that the particular means did not make a difference in the manner in which scripture presents them as making a difference. For example, the “provoking of envy to salvation” (Rm 11:14) doesn’t serve to accomplish anything more or less toward the salvation of the elect than the work of regeneration. In other words, the elect would be provoked to salvation with or without the means of envy and thus the means of envy really provoked nothing toward anything.
Another example is the hardening means, such as Christ’s speaking in parables “lest they understand and repent.” Hardening a non-elect reprobate prevents nothing that is not already totally prevented by his very inborn nature. The means are a mere show or external sign that pretends to do something other than what scripture itself says it does. That is not acceptable to my peon mind. Why? Because I can only go on what scripture actually states. Jonathan Edwards wasn’t chosen and inspired to write the 67th book of the Canon in order for us to speak with dogmatic certainty regarding the theories of determinism…so I don’t.
I am fine wearing the badge of a “simple or weak mind.” After all, he chose the weak to shame the wise (another apparently conditional choice?) But I cannot go beyond where the CLEAR revelation of scriptures allows me to go. Blessings my brother.
Hey Leighton! This is another great response to a comment of mine on your blog. Don’t sell yourself short; you’re making great points.
Let me try to explain myself better as to my original rebuttal. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that a man’s redemption is totally prevented by his inborn nature. No extra “work” — confusing parables, the temptations and security of wealth, etc. — is needed to guarantee the tickin’-onward of total depravity.
On this premise of your argument I totally agree.
The trick is that there are things God wants to accomplish other than merely, “redeem the elect and punish the reprobate.” He could snap his fingers and have that right now. Rather, it would instead seem that he has a set of various interests that are in some sort of optimal concert, playing and jogging alongside history, toward the perfection of his goals.
If we assume such a thing, then ANYTHING could potentially be ancillary (I’d say “contingent” but that prompts contingency/necessity drama) to that optimal unfolding — including confusing parables, and the temptations and security of wealth keeping folks hesitant.
Now, I say all of these things while simultaneously cringing, because while I’m a Christian determinist, I’m not a Calvinist. If a person is lost in sin, and a missionary finds him, and reasons with him, and works with him, and brings him to a living faith in Christ, then under sovereignty this can be called a work of the Holy Spirit even if it did not involve a nature-excepting miracle, that is, even if it was completely explainable in terms of vocal chords and eardrums and synapses and neurotransmitters.
So while I don’t think Calvinists are presented with an insurmountable dilemma here, they DO have to relegate “meaningful particulars” ONLY to things that are meaningless to an individual’s “pass or fail” fate, which can include things ancillary to God’s plan more broadly. Put another way, you may have on your hands a valid critique of what many Calvinists believe, even though they have “outs” within their system.
Well we do have the cringing in common. Blessings. Thx for the insight.
Stanrock, I have no problem with your statement that “all passages about human choice and responsibility are consonant and coincident with sovereign, superordinate responsibility.” The problem arises on where you find proof for a divine determinism that encompasses all divine and human decisions before creation begins. True, it is not unreasonable, from a human standpoint, to define God’s sovereignty as total determinism before creation, even throwing in middle knowledge to make man feel a little better about his “free will”.
But such reasoning has no clear biblical support. A sovereignty that projects an open determinism (Jer. 18:1-10, all commands and subjunctives) is what Scripture says to the layperson, for whom the Scriptures were written. A human history that is viewed as a complete set of eventualities ordained by God before it was begun is only a theological construct of determinism, borrowed from philosophy that ignores the tenor of Scripture and tries to nail itself to the meanings of a few passages that do not necessarily support those theological extrapolations. 2Timothy 2:20-21 certainly does not have to fit a pre-creation determinism, nor does Genesis 45:4-7.
The OP’s reasoning is not an argumentum ad absurdum, but an appeal to the perspicuity of Scripture’s contextual meaning. To say Scripture is mostly analogical is the only way the Calvinist can try to avoid this problem. But there is not any clear Scripture that teaches such nonsense about God’s communication in the inspiration of Scripture. His Word must be univocal with His nature in specific ways or the word “truth” is a farce!
What he said.
The assertion of “Total determinism before Creation” indeed lacks explicit Scriptural support. None of the views (with any decent subscriber base) have in-the-bag explicit support; indeed, over time, views that are incompatible with explicit Scripture are “unfit” and tend to die out, leaving only a set of views that can make decent Biblical cases. The popularity of any one of these views is a function of (1) the popularity of the heuristics that would prompt a person to take some verses more at-face-value than others, and (2) the degree to which a view is consonant with popular/default/folk philosophies and worldviews.
This leaves us at an “impasse” or “pickle.”
The question is whether this impasse is only apparent, or whether it is legitimately impassable. If it is only apparent, then there are common-consensus ways to convince one camp to change their minds, and the only reason they wouldn’t change their minds would be things like stubbornness.
I THINK (correct me if I’m wrong), that you’re asserting that there is such an appeal we can make, as well as asserting that appeal. And this appeal looks something like this (again, correct me if I’m misintepreting — if I am it is not deliberate!): “We ought to hold as very-weighty the degree to which a view is consonant with popular/default/folk philosophies and worldviews.”
I am inferring this assertion from your statement, “A sovereignty that projects an open determinism is what Scripture says to the layperson, for whom the Scriptures were written.” In other words, the Bible was written to talk to FOLKS, and thus the same thing that confers a memetic advantage (folk consonance, #2 above) should also be considered a valued interpretive heuristic.
Now, this assertion would be antagonistic to the following assertion:
“A heuristic of folk consonance should be LOW on the totem pole, lower than things like philosophical coherence and scientific observation. Folk consonance is a memetic advantage which means we must start by DISTRUSTING it; we should add weight to counterbalance such advantages, zeroing-out our ‘scale-of-truth’ before testing things upon it.”
This second assertion points to things like the folk conception of planetary motion, which caused theological issues for people, that cannot be dismissed as trivial (not that you would), only a few centuries ago.
Ecclesiastes says that the sun sets, then rushes back to rise. It was talking to folks with folk conceptions. But we let scientific trump that folk understanding and subsequently take this Scripture figuratively. (I know this wasn’t the verse at issue in the 15th/16th; folks had already bought-in to orbits and were quibbling about the relative mover.)
So, I am making that second quoted assertion. Philosophical coherence (something that can be demonstrated, especially helped by developments in the philosophy of language over the last century) and scientific observation should trump folk consonance EVEN THOUGH Scripture was written to resonate with folks.
This assertion entails a further assertion: The impasse is real. Heuristic impasses usually are. Stubbornness is not the explanation for why we who assert closed determinism (compatibilism is my preferred semantic route) haven’t yet changed our minds. Nor would we say that stubbornness explains the persistence of camps like Arminianism or Open Theism.
Rather, I think the explanation is that these issues are very complicated and there are heuristic impasses. I also think that logical wildcards are extraordinarily dangerous and powerful, not only in their rhetorical utility, but in their resilience, like a weed that breaks-off above the root. My position is that libertarian free will is a logical wildcard and thus I find it extremely unsurprising that it is so popular and extremely unsurprising that so many brilliant people go to bat for it. So, that’s an additional (huge) catalyst for LFW camp-persistence. And there are many more explanations we can imagine.
Stanrock, I appreciate that you are keeping the conversation going and also your tone of discussion. As for my view concerning the perspicuity of Scripture and its effect on Scripture’s authority, I need to tweak a little your understanding of what I was trying to say.
I would not ascribe to “We ought to hold as very-weighty the degree to which a view is consonant with popular/default/folk philosophies and worldviews.” I would say that the weight of authority for truth is not in the majority view as it may be espoused publicly, for the majority view may have been hoodwinked or cow-towed to profess that view by a dominate human authority. I see that weight of authority being instead in the honest contextual, grammatical meaning of Scripture that normal education of laypeople can decipher without being undermined by either mystical hermeneutics or liberal deconstructionism.
When you said – “Ecclesiastes says that the sun sets, then rushes back to rise. It was talking to folks with folk conceptions”, you would agree, I would think, that even scientists speak in phenomenal terms sometimes when trying to explain what is happening in life. Meteorologists still tell us when the “sunrise” will be each day. Solomon was of course not trying to be scientific, but in fact pointing to commonly made observations which would be foundation to his arguments of how to reason about the divine by just looking at what happens “under the sun”. What Solomon may have known about our universe in more scientific terms may actually surprise us.
I think you may have formed a false dichotomy between folk consonance and philosophical coherence. Theories based on observation (philosophy), as you know, is not just something of the so-called modern age. But the modern age has developed a hierarchy of authority in the scientific community that dismisses any previous observations that they “feel” (presuppositionally) cannot be authenticated in their laboratories or will fit their naturalistic worldview. The truth of Scripture as divine revelation is in such a category, since it is based on the previously given observed testimony of Jesus of Nazareth (John 17:17) and authenticated in His own confirmed divinity by His resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
But it is also interesting to me that in the end you yourself point to both “popular” adherence and “brilliant people” as authority for LFW. So maybe you don’t think there is a trump card in one or the other. The trump card, in my view, is in the inspired – θεοπνευστος Scriptures which not only are able to make one wise for salvation, but are profitable to equip a person for every good work (2Tim 3:15-17). But these must be read as any other normal book, with normal use of grammar and context, but its authority is supreme!
Another excellent post, Brother, showing how Calvinism tries to take away the normal meaning of most of Scripture because of their loyalty to their philosophical and theological extrapolations from their pet Scriptures. The false teachings of irresistible grace and unconditional individual election before creation can not be allowed undermine that common commands to the lost in Scripture are really for all of them, and that God’s enabling grace for all is truly for all!
And as you pointed out, wealth does indeed make it harder for people to use the enabling grace God gives them. Rich people are still without excuse because they were indeed given that enabling grace (John 1:9, 12:32, 14:8-9) It would be interesting to see how soon Calvinists say their understanding of 1Cor. 1:26-29 is a “mystery”, for in that passage God seems to be choosing mostly the poor. How’s that unconditional?
So both you Rhutchin, and you Carlos, and I, and I bet Leighton also, believe that salvation is impossible for man. No man can cause himself to be regenerated, to remove his own guilt for sins, to give himself everlasting life and righteousness. Only God can do those things!
But Praise be His Name for keeping His promise to do those works that are impossible for man to all those, even children, who place their active faith in Him and His promises. And praise His name that even the hardened rich man can be broken from his trust in riches to feel the enlightenment and conviction of God’s Spirit to have a bona fide opportunity to trust in that same God and in those same promises, though not irresistibly. And today, if a rich man should hear God’s voice, like that rich young ruler did, the warning is that he should not harden his heart. If he does he is thus without excuse.
It would be interesting to see how the Calvinist dances around the fact that Jesus “loved” this rich man (Mark 10:21). Was this man one of the elect because of that love? Was Jesus loving, with αγαπη love, a man who was not elect? Was Jesus’ call to follow Him an ineffectual call because of Adamic hardness or only because of personal hardness because of that man’s trust in riches as Jesus clearly indicates? Why did the man, if elect, go away?
The lesson to the disciples perhaps correcting their false theology is only derivative from the story. And the warning against the deadening effect riches have on the ability to trust God is throughout Scripture and here. God taught Israel that lesson clearly in the Mosaic law (Deut. 6:10-12, 31:20).
brianwagner writes, “It would be interesting to see how the Calvinist dances around the fact that Jesus “loved” this rich man (Mark 10:21).”
That Christ loved the man suggests that he was one of the elect. The young man “was sad at that saying, and went away grieved:” He rejected Christ; the cost of following Christ was too great. He becomes the lost coin, and it is Christ who now acts to bring him to salvation.
Christ’s response to the young man is the same call that goes out to each and every person. That call is universally rejected by all as it was rejected by the young man.
Ok Rhutchin, so you choose to have this rich man as one of the elect! But then you admit that he rejected Christ’s personal call to him. Are you saying that God sometimes gives an ineffectual personal call to even the elect because He really does not want them to get saved right then? Is God just role playing at that point, pretending to want elect to follow Him even when He really knows that they won’t since He hasn’t “juiced” them with irresistible grace yet? What would be the purpose of such deceptive role playing to someone He loves? I don’t believe it is honoring to God to think Him as being so disingenuous with His Holy Words!
brianwagner writes “Are you saying that God sometimes gives an ineffectual personal call to even the elect because He really does not want them to get saved right then?”
The elect are known to God when He creates the universe. On that we both agree. Yet, those elect are not saved at birth; not even necessarily the first time they hear the gospel preached. In the course of time, God brings His elect to salvation. So, God determines when He will give that “personal call” to His elect to bring them to salvation and it will be effectual at that time. Paul was certainly one of God’s elect, but God allowed him to persecute Christians for some time before confronting him on the road to Damascus. I have no idea why God does it this way.
Actually Rhutchin, we do not “both agree” on how “the elect are known” to God before creation. I believe He knows all the possible human beings that could ever come into being and He also knows all the possible ways He and they can freely interact so that they could become one of the elect in Christ during human history. He never planned (βουλομαι) for any in human history to perish, but He incorporated in His plan for all to have an opportunity (χωρεω) for repentance (2Pet 3:9), which is an opportunity which can lead each to accept His salvation, but not an irresistible opportunity!
Brianwagner, you wrote: “we do not “both agree” on how “the elect are known” to God before creation. I believe He knows all the possible human beings that could ever come into being and He also knows all the possible ways He and they can freely interact so that they could become one of the elect in Christ during human history.”
1. What do you mean by “I believe He knows all the possible human beings that could ever come into being”? Are you advocating that creation is apart from God; some kind of natural process that He sees from afar, or do you mean that He knows, with absolute certainty, all humans that will, infallibly, be created and brought into existence by Him?
2. Lets assume that this “He also knows all the possible ways He and they can freely interact so that they could become one of the elect.” is true. Let me ask you. Once God has seen “all possible ways He and they can freely interact”, is that foreknowledge certain? In other words, once God has seen it, once God has seen what John 1 will freely do, is that unalterable or can it be changed? Is God’s knowledge of foreseen “free actions” UNCERTAIN to God or once God has seen it, is it CERTAIN? I am being repetitive for the sake of clarity.
Now, assuming that you are not an open theist, remember that your statements above begin with this: “we do not “both agree” on how “the elect are known” to God before creation”. Notice the word: “BEFORE”. Which means that God knows, PRYOR TO bringing anyone into existence, what each will (certainly) do in time. So, regarding those whom He knows will die in rebellion to Christ, a thing that God knows for certain, how is it that God is NOT creating them for destruction, since He “knows the end from the beginning”?
Carlos, I appreciate your thoughtful questions. They ring with a sense that you truly want to understand my view as well as perhaps help me understand your view. And I am assuming when I say “my” and “your” we both are desiring to have the Bible’s view of God’s omniscience and/or foreknowledge.
No to both parts of your second question in #1. My statement – “knows all possible human beings” can possibly be clarified further by saying “and He still knows all possible human beings,” as well as any that He may determine to be certainly born along the way. And that leads to your question in #2. My view is that God was not bound to limit His foreknowledge to mean a fully determined human history before He got the ball rolling (like Calvinism and Molinism dogmatically must have in their views)! He certainly did determine certain ends, means, laws and boundaries, but I believe the Scripture naturally supports that He determined, if you will, to keep many things undetermined and therefore His foreknowledge knows those things completely as possibilities so that it is impossible for them to exist as individual certainties in His foreknowledge. He still has full knowledge of all the free-actions available to Him and mankind. I cannot see how to take the presence of commands, subjunctives, and passages like (Jer. 18:1-10) any other way and remain true to the normal reading of Scripture.
During this interaction with man, God is free to fit someone for destruction, someone whom I believe already rejected with a personal active free will His offer of salvation grace. He then uses them to help bring others to that same offer. He just did not plan in a determining way to fit that specific person for destruction before creation (2Pet 3:9). I hope this helps you understand better my view.
Brian, good insight. I would only add that even those God “fit for destruction” (cut off) in Romans 9 may be provoked to envy and saved or “grafted back in if they leave their unbelief” in chapter 11. So God is even being merciful in judicially hardening them. His hope it to provoke them. God is far more loving and merciful than some want to credit Him.
I agree whole heartedly Leighton! I think especially in answer to our prayers God can break through the hardness He Himself has caused to give another bona-fide opportunity to “hear” the gospel. But the warning remains for those who reject, that God is just to harden them permanently and to use them until their death to show mercy to others. He is not obligated to keep giving them opportunities in my view.
Wouldn’t you agree that those who receive the mark of the beast in the future are guaranteed by God’s Word not to have another chance at salvation? (2Thes 2:11, Rev 14:9)
brianwager writes, ” I believe He knows all the possible human beings that could ever come into being”
You must also believe that God knows all the actual human beings that will live.
We won’t go over that old ground again Rhutchin. Please don’t state that I limit God’s foreknowledge like you do (that there can be nothing known by God as true possibilities after creation, but all must be known as fully determined). God knows all that can be known which includes all His determinations plus all the possibilities that have not yet been determined. He knows them as they actually exist, not as your theology or philosophy wishes for Him to know them.
Mark 10 presents a contrast between a child and a wealthy person. Of the child, Jesus says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” Following this comes His interaction with a wealthy young man and here Jesus says, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” We see a contrast between a child who has nothing and is dependent on others for everything and an adult who provides for himself and is dependent on none.
There is more. The disciples respond to the episode of the rich man, “Who then can be saved?” Christ responds, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
The disciples associated wealth with God’s blessing and God’s blessing was tied to the person’s favor in God’s eyes. Wasn’t this what they were taught by Moses? Surely, then those who were rich had received God’s blessing as Moses wrote because they certainly loved God and were obedient to God. Jesus turns that thinking on its head. The presence of wealth, or the lack of it, says nothing about salvation. A person must become as a child if he is to be saved.
The rich young man had most certainly kept the law. However, his attitude was not one of dependence on God; his obedience had earned him his wealth demonstrating that he was worthy of salvation. Now, Jesus tells him, he need only become as a child – “go your way, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” A child not knowing the allure of material wealth nor having formed a dependence on it, would easily do this.
Calvinists properly note the disciples question – “Who then can be saved?” and Christ’s response, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” Salvation is not of man; it is of God.
We see this again in John 3, where Nicodemus says, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Jesus responds, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” It is impossible that a person birth himself; God must do it. With men salvation is impossible, but not with God.
The problem is that this argument departs from the main teaching of the text. The text is not addressing (mainly) salvation by God’s arm or power. The text has a central teaching for those present, mainly that riches are no evidence of God’s favor in response to obedience. See, when Jesus told His disciples: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”, the following is recorded: “The disciples were AMAZED at his words”. Later, He said: “Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” And what was their reaction? This, “The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Notice the words “MORE AMAZED” and their subsequent conclusive inquiry, “WHO THEN CAN BE SAVED?” This is the misconception that Christ’s words are aiming to destroy. The notion that if one is poor, one is so because of disobedience and that if one is rich is because of said riches are a reward from God for being godly. Why else would they conclude that if a rich man is lost then no one can be saved; by he words “WHO THEN CAN BE SAVED?”.
Now, the power of God in salvation is addressed by the words, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” In the context these words apply to the rich as well as the poor. The words: “with man” encompass every man of every economical status; high class, middle class and the poor class.
This sentence deals with God’s power in salvation. It is not that the salvation of one is more probable than the other. Again, that is simply not the intended teaching.
I can very well bring, by the use of logic, things that would support salvation via God’s Sovereign and invisible hand. For example, we can reason thus. Who is the one that gives the rich man his riches? Isn’t God? And so, if a rich man is prevented from entering the kingdom of God because of his riches and his riches are handed/given to him by God, isn’t God, by the use of said means (riches) marking said man for damnation? But, this is not the main purpose of the text and so it’s wrong to draw this conclusions FROM the text itself and that is exactly what you are doing with the text.
Brianwagner, you are an open theist! This: “He certainly did determine certain ends, means, laws and boundaries, but I believe the Scripture naturally supports that He determined, if you will, to keep many things undetermined and therefore His foreknowledge knows those things completely as possibilities so that it is impossible for them to exist as individual certainties in His foreknowledge. He still has full knowledge of all the free-actions available to Him and mankind.” in fewer words, your position is that God does NOT really know anything (with regards to future humans and their actions) with certainty, because He chose not to know. Then, what real difference is there between God (as it pertain to future events and actions) and mere humans; if there is any? You have managed to make God like one of us.
S. Flowers, are you also an open theist?
Well I am sorry, C. Soler, that you think I have meant that “God does NOT really know anything (with regards to future humans and their actions) with certainty, because He chose not to know.” Yes, it is the Bible’s definition of “to know” as God has revealed it that we are discussing. But you would agree with me, I would think, that God knows the future completely and fully as the future truly exists! Where we disagree is how the future actually exists.
I am saying that the revelation of Scripture indicates that the future exists (theoretically speaking, since it does not actually exist yet) as a combination of possibilities and already determined things. God DOES really know with certainty all things about that future as it actually exists! To say that He knows things that do not actually exist because it makes a philosophical statement that sounds more reasonable with man’s definition of what God’s omniscience should be, manages to make God like what we want Him to be.
If you have specific verses that you would like me to discuss relating to this, please put them forward. I put forward the Scripture’s use of commands, subjunctives, and Jer. 18:1-10 as evidence of the Scripture’s portrayal of a future that exists with true possibilities without all things being predetermined (though some are). You did not respond to that evidence. You are invited to.
what is your definition of omniscience?
when you say the future doesn’t exist. does it not exist to God or to man?
Hi Yudo – Sorry for the delay in replying… been very busy this Spring. I appreciate your questions and willingness to discuss further.
I think the Bible gives the firm idea of God’s omniscience as – God knows with certainty all things about that past, present and future as they actually exist plus all possible counterfactuals that could have existed but never will! An issue of disagreement may relate more to your second question.
The future does not yet exist in reality, but it is known completely as God chooses to know it. So it only exists in God’s mind, if you will. It would be logically and biblically a contradiction to say that God already exists (in experience) in the future, for if He is there, so are we (in experience). So the future can only be presently known in God’s mind as He has chosen to know it based on His chosen predeterminations for it and all His chosen true possibilities for it because of matters that He has left undetermined. If He had predetermined every aspect of it, into the future forever, including all His choices, then He would know it that way. But the Scripture does not support that idea in its divine revelation of the future. This is seen, as I mentioned in the previous post, in all of Scripture’s conditional statements, commands, invitations, etc. It only introduces some things as predeterminations (predictive prophecies), not all things.
what is seen in scripture is a God that does not know things and has to find them out by normal means. this denies God’s omniscient right off hand.
as far as this article is concerned. it’s just bringing up old carards stemming from a lack of understanding of God predetermining the ends and the means and also not understanding that wealth is also a temptation. a man who make an idol of his riches, which is what the rich young ruler did, will find it very hard to enter heaven as you can’t serve God and money(matthew 6:24). the distinction is Jesus pointing out this fact.
also, joseph and job did just fine.
Interesting article. I can see why you often get frustrated that conditionals in Scripture don’t jive with determinism. I suppose the question is how can anything be a temptation to a person already evil. Things can still act as a catalyst to our old nature, activating and bringing out the bad that is already there. So we have lust as a seed somewhere bound up in our heart. Wealth than activates this desire and “conceives” sin which, through acting it out, gives birth to it. Could wealth be a temptation (like any) that simply shows how bad we already are? I believe in total depravity but I don’t believe in divine determinism. So just like the entire plant’s DNA is actually contained already in a seed, for the full display of all that the seed potentially is, we need an outworking of the DNA plan to come to fruition through means and opportunity.
Brian Wagner, May I repost an excerpt from one of your comments here on Leightons YouTube site? I’m attempting to shed and receive some light on the merits of a conservative approach to open theism, although I remain unsure myself. One of your posts (May 5, 2015, 5:26 pm) I found helpful and may help others. I will be sure to mention your name, this video and the exact post time stamp.
Do I have approval?
yes, Jay, … anyone, anytime, anything I’ve written can be copied, edited and made personal. They only need to reference if they are using for publication or school work. Brian
Thanks Brian. Turns out the OP deleted so comment thread is already gone.
Jay, can you tell me the gist of what I wrote? I may have it saved elsewhere. I could then paste it here for you.