God Chooses Things

I know this may come as a shock to some of our readers but…God chooses some stuff. Or, at least, this is what one Presbyterian minister thinks should be a surprise to us.

Of course, this is not a surprise. Provisionism happily accepts that God chooses all kinds of things, of course He does, He’s a free moral agent, the Sovereign One with Divine Rule over the Universe, and can do what He pleases. The question is: Which choices has He made?

“Destined” Means God Chose Some Stuff

Re: the definitions of predestination and foreknowledge Ron Hetzel, a PCA Elder and MA in Biblical Studies says this:

According to Ron, Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world and “foreknown” means “foreordained” and “chosen”. And this is consistent with how the Hebrews understood being “known” by God. Any disagreement yet? Not on my end.

After being asked about how John Piper interprets “foreknown”, Ron continues:

Sharp distinctions between “decree”, “predestination”, and “election” are not warranted, according to Ron. I obviously have problems with the Reformed baggage behind these words, but for our purposes I can see how on Reformed theology Ron is correct here. I also, without reservation, agree that “God’s choice…refers to the eschatological/soteriological goal for those He’s chosen” and “He chose a multitude to be saved from sin & conformed to the image of Christ”.

My agreement may shock you because you may be reading Reformed theology onto what he said. But read it again: “God chose a multitude to be saved”. Of course He did, through faith in Christ.

Now, of course, Ron means to say “God chose a multitude to be saved through God’s eternal divine decree” but he hasn’t proven that case yet. He will now attempt to:

Notice how he provides biblical references for God’s benevolent love for all mankind but not for God’s saving love for His elect. I don’t mean that as a dunk, he’s doing a Twitter thread after all, but its evidence that there is no direct biblical quotation available for it…you have to build a case using multiple texts. Ron attempts to do just that:

The two new notable claims here are that Eph 1:4-5 is evidence of this divine decree unto individual election to salvation and that Amos 2:9-11 is evidence that God chose the nation of Israel.

The nation of Israel as His own nation, one that He would love and call into His service, is one of things God chose.

But does Eph 1: 4-5 really say that God chose individuals to be in Christ? Does it say God chose individuals to have faith in Christ?

…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Eph 1:4-5

Remember what Ron claimed; “God chose a multitude to be saved”. God as the subject of the sentence, the one doing the verbal action. Multitude as the indirect object, the one receiving the verbal action. Chose as the verb and to be as the helping verb. And finally, saved as the adverbial modifier. It modifies the verbs in the sentence to show what the multitude was just chosen for. God chose a multitude to be saved.

But is that what Eph 1:4 says? On the contrary, it says that the multitude “us” is chosen “that we should be holy and blameless.” Be is the same helping verb found in Ron’s claim; to be. Ron says Eph 1:4 claims the multitude is chosen to be saved. But Paul, the author of Eph 1, wrote the phrase “holy and blameless” after the to be helping verb…Paul didn’t put “saved” there. He could have, if that was the idea that he wished to convey, but he didn’t. He says that we are chosen to be holy and blameless.

What’s amazing about Ron’s Twitter thread here is that he already gave away the game. God chose Israel as a nation. Christ is the Elect One, chosen by God. And the faithful in Christ are chosen to be holy and blameless one day. Welcome to Provisionism.

And yet, Ron asserts that God also chose which individuals would have faith in Christ. Again I ask, does Eph 1: 4-5 really say that? I guess Ron is claiming that “holy and blameless” = “saved” or = “to have faith in Christ” but what is his biblical evidence for that?

So, from the biblical evidence Ron has presented, the only case we can make is that God chose Israel to be His nation, God chose the Elect One, and that He chose a group of people to be holy and blameless before him. This group of people Paul identifies as “the faithful in Christ Jesus”, but there is no indication in the passage that Paul intends to say that those faithful in Christ Jesus, chosen to one day be holy and blameless, were also chosen to become the faithful in Christ Jesus in the first place.

I agree with many of the choices that Ron believes God has made. Provisionism happily accepts that God chooses stuff. But if we are going to be Semper Reformada, always reforming, then we must allow the Scriptures to test and alter what our traditions have taught us.

41 thoughts on “God Chooses Things

  1. Thanks Eric,

    It always humors (or riles!) me when Calvinists say that God has a “benevolent love for all mankind” while also maintaining that the vast majority of humans were “created for destruction” and will be tortured forever for God’s good pleasure (to illustrate His wrath).

    Yum. That’s love alright!

    1. So true, fromoverhere! It’s the Calvinist’s “skillful” word games (their duplicity, their “two different layers” and “two different types of…” and “two different definitions”,etc.) that makes it so hard to pin them down, to debate them, or to even know what they REALLY believe (unless you’ve studied their lingo and tactics). Because they can switch their meanings any time they want and hide the one they don’t want revealed.

      So “love” in one sense (for the elect) is that God wants us to be saved and sent Jesus to die for us. But “love” for the non-elect is just being so “kind” as to generously give them breath, food, and water … before putting them in hell for all of eternity for committing the sins Calvi-god predestined/caused them to commit. But they’ll still say, in all seriousness, “God loves all people.” It’s psychotic! Probably not much different from a diagnosable personality disorder.

      1. Yes Heather,
        I have heard MacArthur use the, “He gives the sun and the rain to the unjust,” as the “proof” that God loves everyone (despite ordaining most to eternal torture). Really? What about the girl who dies at 25 after being a slaves since she was 3 —- “sun and rain”? What about the boy dying of 18 who really never left the mine in Africa as a slave-miner —- “sun and rain”?

        If anyone is gonna make an argument that there is a just God in an unjust world, or there is a God of love in a world of hate…. he better start first with the idea that God (lovingly) makes His Son available to ALL. That would be the only way to start that conversation.

        Otherwise it is a wicked concept to say that they are not loved enough to be offered Christ, and the “love” that they were shown was 20 years of torture on earth.

      2. Nice Post FOH!
        The very fact that the Calvinist is trying to make Calvin’s god *APPEAR* like the NON-Calvinist god – should be a tell-tale sign.

        The Calvinist god is boasted to be the SOVEREIGN god – and thereby the SUPERIOR god

        And then after all that huffing and puffing and boasting – the Calvinist flips in the opposite direction and works to make his god APPEAR like the NON-Calvinist god.- which according to the Calvinist – is supposedly the INFERIOR god.

        Somehow I don’t think its the Holy Spirit – who teaches people how to speak out of two sides of the mouth :-]

      3. Heather, as bad as that seems, it is actually far worse.

        For if God is the sole determiner of ‘whatsoever comes to pass’, as Auguistinianism (Calvinisim) asserts, then the living hell that many endure in this temporal world – as described by FOH for a few – was all his idea, all His doing, however many layers of means He uses to accomplish it. It may comfort some Reformed folk that at least their oppression and abuse are not meaningless, but it would not endear to me the being who made all of the misery and suffering in this world not only possible, but unavoidable.

        The Calvinist must always employ what Br.d calls ‘thought blocking’ in order to not allow the implications of their theology to cross over into their conscious mind and risk causing cognitive dissonance. I would contend that the vast majority of Calvinists have never allowed this to take place. The carefully packaged system they have adopted comes with the necessary scripts, warnings and thought blockers to lead men and women into voluntarily turning off their God-given ability to think critically and follow the warnings signals that authoritarian thought systems program the individual to ignore.

        It is ONLY the theory that God created man – in His own image – with the ability to think, reason and choose, that presents a logical, moral and acceptable answer for the problem of evil. In other words, under the theory of Free Will, evil exists because God knew that in spite of the possibility, even inevitability of misuse, the benefits of being a thinking, reasoning, creative creature were worth the cost of the sorrow and suffering that poor and/or wicked choices might, even would, bring upon mankind. God also knew that not all creatures would love wickedness so much that they would reject His fail-safe plan to redeem and restore those whose hearts long for something better, a way of living that they know, deep down inside, is the way things really ought to be. He knew that some would trust Him, believe in promises of something so amazing, so humanly impossible that it is almost beyond belief, the sort of faith demonstrated by Abraham.

        But this confusion and misunderstanding concerning the nature and intentions of God did not descend upon Christianity overnight. Ever since Augustine infused Gnostic, pagan beliefs into genuine apostolic (biblical) teaching, Christianity has been under a veil of darkness, one that was sealed for Protestantism with the triumph of Augustinianism via the Reformation. We have been sold the bill of goods that the Reformation ‘saved’ The Church from ‘papist heresy’ and returned it to its long lost orthodoxy. In reality, the magisterial Reformers simply co-opted the long simmering discontent of those who loved the true God and the revelations of Jesus Christ and led The Church straight back into Satan’s lies. (I will not pretend to know if these men were well-meaning but deceived, or willing servants of the Evil One.)

        Until The Church discovers that so-called Pelagianism is actually much closer to historical Christianity than Augustinianism (Calvinism), easily discovered by actually studying the preserved teachings of the earliest church fathers, she will remain in bondage to Satan’s lies. There is little hope of understanding the goodness, mercy and love of God if one believes in the Gnostic concept of the necessity of sin – that God cursed men with an inability to not sin, an inability to know and love Him and deliberately doomed countless men and women for eternal suffering.

        It is only when we understand the beautiful Truth, that God made men out of a heart of love, that He is, and has always been, well-meaning toward his beloved creation, desiring goodness, blessing and life for them, that we will fully grasp the message of the gospel, and have in our hands the marvelous good news that all men desperately need to hear:

        “God loves you, has always loved you. He created you for eternal blessing and life, and desires to rescue you from the spiral of selfish, fleshly addictions that the lies and deceptions of Satan keep you under, which will only lead to suffering and eventual destruction, if not abandoned. God has not abandoned you; He has provided the Way, the Truth and the Life that you most desire.”

        The corruption of the gospel began centuries ago, while Jesus’ apostles still walked upon the earth. The great lie of Satan, which has always led to sin, enslavement and destruction, is that God is not wholly good and not totally trustworthy. This was the lie that Adam believed, and it is the lie underlying the faulty teachings of Calvinism.

        We will always fail if we allow Augustinian heresy – and I do not use that word lightly – to stand. But the true heresy that Satan has floated again and again is that ‘God is not good’, ‘God does not love you’ and ‘God is more concerned about His own honor and glory than He is about your well-being’. These are the lies that need to be exposed, confronted and rejected, once and for all!

        I proclaim this Christmas season, the good news of great joy, proclaimed by angels, that was meant for all people:

        God loves you, has provided the only remedy for sin and death, and freely offers it to all who will look, believingly, upon the Savior of the world. All you have to do is believe in Him, and His genuine, unfailing goodness and love, and you will find the strength, courage and power – all provided by God’s indwelling Spirit – to turn from the lies of Satan and learn, like Jesus, to fully, effortlessly trust your Heavenly Father, whose will is and has always been loving and good.

        Merry Christmas, and may you know this great joy!

      4. “ The carefully packaged system they have adopted comes with the necessary scripts, warnings and thought blockers to lead men and women into voluntarily turning off their God-given ability to think critically and follow the warnings signals that authoritarian thought systems program the individual to ignore.”

        Calvin and his devotees are not the only ones to employ such tactics. So do the Mormons, JWs, Moonies, New Agers, and other “more enlightened” fools.

      5. Well said – and thank you Norm.
        However – just to let you know – we are a little careful here about using the word “fool”

        Blessings and warm holiday thoughts to you and yours!
        br.d :-]

      6. I take your comment in the spirit it was offered, and I am grateful. I considered not using the word fool, but then I recalled, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool…,” Pr 28.26. And the same word, essentially by definition, is used in Mt 5.22 within the context of being angry at my brother. My understanding of that passage instructs me not to sling derogatory words in anger. but rather to go to my brother (in love) to settle the matter. I do not believe that 5.22 precludes me from using the word. (And I was not angry.) If there is a rule here that one will not use that word, then I will not use it. But if the content of any of my subsequent remarks contains the “fool” word, then I promise that I will not use it in anger. Not trying to be cute, here, but sincere. Thanks again.

      7. TS00: “The Calvinist must always employ what Br.d calls ‘thought blocking’ in order to not allow the implications of their theology to cross over into their conscious mind and risk causing cognitive dissonance…. The carefully packaged system they have adopted comes with the necessary scripts, warnings and thought blockers to lead men and women into voluntarily turning off their God-given ability to think critically and follow the warnings signals that authoritarian thought systems program the individual to ignore.”

        Heather: Example: At my church (before we left), the pastor gave a sermon once where he basically said “What about all those people God predestined to hell? How can a good God do that?”

        And I leaned forward, truly wanting to hear a real answer to that question (I still had hope at that time that he wasn’t teaching what I thought he was).

        And he goes, “That’s not the question we should be asking. What we should be asking is ‘Why would God save anyone at all when we are so depraved?'”

        He also posed the question “How could a sovereign God ‘ordain’ everything that happens, even sin, but hold us accountable for it?”

        Once again, I listened carefully, hoping for a real answer.

        And he basically answered with “I don’t know. But I accept both of these as true because the Bible teaches them both, with no tension. It’s only we who have tension with it. It’s only we proud humans who have trouble with it because we can’t understand it and don’t think it’s fair and because we want to have control over our own lives. Proud, self-sufficient people resist the idea of being under God’s sovereign control.”

        They don’t actually answer the hard questions with real answers. They deflect and give meaningless pat answers and shame you for asking the hard questions in the first place. We were told by our pastor several times, in several different ways, that “humble” Christians don’t question God/the Bible (meaning the pastor’s view of it). His 30-something-year-old son even got up there one day, pointed a finger accusingly across all the people, and forcefully said “No one should EVER question God’s sovereignty” (meaning “my daddy’s view of God’s sovereignty”). Lots and lots of manipulation.

        TS00: “the marvelous good news that all men desperately need to hear: “God loves you, has always loved you. He created you for eternal blessing and life …”

        Heather: It was only when we were finally leaving that church after 6 years of his Calvinist teaching that I realized I never once heard a sermon on God’s love for mankind. And I was starving for it. For the truly “good news” of the Gospel. He would occasionally say things like “God loves people,” but he would always qualify it with “God loves peoples. All KINDS of people. The people groups of the world.” So he never meant that God loves all individuals. just all kinds of people. And we heard plenty of sermons about how depraved we are and how God is so gracious to love/save anyone at all and how we are so dead that we can’t even want/seek God.

        And it wasn’t until we were leaving that I realized how starved I was for the simple, basic truth the Gospel, which you state so well: “God loves you, has provided the only remedy for sin and death, and freely offers it to all who will look, believingly, upon the Savior of the world. All you have to do is believe in Him, and His genuine, unfailing goodness and love, and you will find the strength, courage and power – all provided by God’s indwelling Spirit – to turn from the lies of Satan and learn, like Jesus, to fully, effortlessly trust your Heavenly Father, whose will is and has always been loving and good.”

        When we left, I had to take a lot of time to detox from the toxic Calvinism. And I did this by simply reading the Bible as it is written and by reading/listening to people who taught the Gospel message simply and plainly, without any “deep theological” layers. Even though I had been a believer for over 30+ years, I needed to go back to the simple, pure basics for a little while, to clean my soul from Calvinism’s damage. I feel sad for those who are still trapped in it. Their souls are suffocating a little every week, and they won’t realize it until it’s too late.

        (Happy New Year, everyone!)

      8. DW:
        Then Jesus turned and asked:

        What shall the Lord do with these vineyardmen who acted so wickedly?
        He shall cast them out into outer darkness
        And give the vineyard to others who can produce the fruit he is expecting”

        And when the vineyardmen heard this they said, “God forbid!”.

        MORAL OF THE STORY ACCORDING TO CALVINISM:
        ——————————————————————————
        if its ok for Calvin’s god to AUTHOR and DECREE – every sinful evil impulse that will come to pass within every human brain – so that he can punish his creatures for the sinful evil impulses he AUTHORS and DECREES come to pass within their brains……

        Then it is ok for him to do that to every Calvinist ever created.

        And if a Calvinist says “God forbid”

        Then the Calvinist answer is “who are you oh man to judge Calvin’s god”

        He designed/created all Calvinists specifically for eternal torment in the lake of fire for his good pleasure – and who are you oh man to judge.

      9. Remember in the old days, of black and white TV, when the TV shows were really conveying a morality story, where the good guy always wins in the end, and in subtle terms, there would be a MORAL to the story?

        First of all, those were the good ole days. I don’t think that today we’d have a movie called THE TEN COMMANDMENTS out of Hollywood.

        In any case, let’s look at a Calvinist remake of Leave It to Beaver, using Calvin logic.

        Keep in mind tho, the Cleavers were NOT CALVINISTS.

        I never knew a Calvinist in my life until YOUTUBE research about 10 years ago. Most people don’t even know what Calvinism is, let alone what an Armenian is, or that other one, Palagi…whatever that P word is, or semi-Palagi…whatever that P word is.

        Calvinism seems to flourish in Southern Baptist Churches, and quite honestly, we don’t have many Southern Baptists in the Pacific Northwest.

        Most here in the PNW are reformers alright, but of the Luther kind, not Calvin Klien, I mean kind. But one church I know kinda mixes them both.

        And the common denominator…they all believe the CHURCH FATHERS in many things, meaning, both sides have Catholic BAGGAGE that they refuse to ditch.

        When I discuss Christianity to others, I never mention church fathers, or denominations. I just quote bible verses, and freely talk about Jesus without indicating, “Calvin said”, or any other person.

        We’ve all heard about the Apostles Creed. I’m not interested. My question is, what’s YOUR creed. Besides, who wrote the Apostles Creed anyway? Probably ONE INDIVIDUAL who isn’t an apostle to begin with.

        Remember, the Church Fathers believe that Peter was a Pope in Rome. If it begins with a lie…

        Ed Chapman

  2. I love C.S. Lewis’s observation: “The Chosen were Chosen for the sake of the unchosen.” This began with Abraham and continues toward final fulfillment. Acts 13.47: “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have appointed You as a light to the Gentiles, that You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’” (So much for “Israel replacement theology.”)

    1. And yet Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and Matthew J Hart turn this on its head and state (in true callous narcissistic fashion) that God damns the non-elect for the sake of the elect, to increase their happiness in heaven. Apparently the more the non-elect in proportion to the elect, the greater that happiness will be….

      1. That is totally hilarious!!!
        According to the doctrine of decrees – Calvin’s god is already decreeing every impulse that will come to pass within their brains.

        In such case – all he has to do to – is change the impulses he decrees – and make those impulses “Happy” impulses.

        What in the world is Edwards thinking!!!! 😀

  3. Nice article Eric!

    Yes – the God of scripture has multiple options available to him from which to select.
    And the availability of more than one option – meets the NECESSARY CONDITION for the standard definition of CHOICE.

    And yes – the God of scripture makes a multitude of choices.
    But that does not imply Exhaustive Divine Determinism (aka Calvinism) in which every impulse that comes to pass within the human brain is AUTHORED and made to come to pass infallibly – and thus irresistibly within the human brain.

    The notion of Exhaustive Divine Determinism is a foreign concept – derived from Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism – and mixed into Christianity in the 4th century when the Roman church was busy synchronizing pagan doctrines into Catholicism.

    As Catholic Historian Theodore Maynard notes:
    -quote
    “It has often been charged .. that Catholicism is overlaid with many pagan incrustations. Catholicism is ready to accept that accusation and even to make it her boast .. the great god Pan is not really dead, he is baptized.” (The Story of American Catholicism, p. 37)

  4. Ron Hezel
    -quote
    His decree to choose whom to savingly love in spite of their depravity

    br.d
    Here is an excellent example of a Calvinist’s lie by omission

    A lie of omission is an intentional failure to tell the truth in a situation requiring disclosure.
    A lie of omission is the intentional strategy to either deceive one’s self or to deceive others.

    In this case – the Calvinist fails to tell the truth – by omitting the following critical facts:

    1) Calvin’s god creates/designs the vast majority of his human creatures – specifically for eternal torment in a lake of fire – for his good pleasure.

    2) Calvin’s god is the AUTHOR of 100% of man’s nature in every part and at every instance in time – not permitting man to be/do anything other than what Calvin’s god infallibly decrees man to irresistibly be and do.

    Therefore per our Calvinist Ron Hezel – Calvin’s god saves people from the very things he himself decrees.

  5. I think we all need to take a step back and BRING SATAN back into the story, and get rid of, or SCRAP the idea that God USES Satan for his purpose and pleasure, and get back to the drawing board and get to the REAL story that Satan is after our souls.

    Major premise:
    We are in a TEMPORARY location.

    This is NOT our final destination, therefore, WHY were we put on this earth?

    WHY were we not FORMED exactly where God is, instead of THIS Temporary location? Has anyone pondered that, at all?

    Calvinists always talk about “BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH” stuff, but WHY was the earth created to begin with?

    Hell is located here…it’s not located on Mars or Jupiter, but EARTH. So when was hell created, and for what purpose?

    Hell was created for the devil and his angels, NOT FOR HUMANS…but humans will go there, we know that.

    When did evil begin ON THIS TEMPORARY location? Why is evil even here to begin with?

    So why did God put man where the devil resides, instead of putting us where God resides from the beginning of Adam and Eve?

    And please, do not pre-suppose that God uses Satan for his personal pleasure, concluding that’s why Satan exists. Get rid of that concept.

    I’ve stated this before, that EVIL is necessary for man to make FREE WILL CHOICES, and that’s why we have FREE WILL. Without Satan present, we have NO FREE WILL at all.

    So, God CHOSE to put us on this planet, on the same abode as Satan and his angels. But why?

    My answer would be so that we can have FREE WILL to choose God, or to reject God. Plain and simple. So God choses, and so do we.

    Except for the Jews, however, which is a different story, but related.

    Ed Chapman

    1. Well said Chapman!

      But that doesn’t give one Exhaustive Divine Determinism – which is what the Calvinist tells himself he wants.
      Personally – I think the Calvinist tells himself he wants Exhaustive Divine Determinism – as form of “One-up-man-ship”

      Calvinism is nothing more than a wide-phylactery.

      1. BR.D, I think the Calvinist has been deceived.

        He desires the same thing all believers desire – freedom from sin and death, and he has been sold a false bill of goods. If he is willing to swallow the bitter pill of a cruel, partial, controlling, wrathful and unpredictable Creator he can have access to a surefire, non-refundable, one-way ticket to heaven in their name. All he has to do is give up the ‘naive’ belief in a genuinely good, loving, gracious and merciful Deity who desires only good for his creatures, and he can have ‘eternal security’, with no conditions and no questions asked.

        If one paused for a moment and questioned the rationale for desiring such an ‘eternal security’, one might begin to see the root of the problem. Our genuine security rests in the goodness, trustworthiness and faithfulness of an omnipotent, Holy God. If God is all powerful, and He is; if God is good, and He is; if God promises blessing and life to those who trust and obey Him, and He does, then our security will rest rightly in His goodness, His love, His power and, most of all, in His trustworthiness.

        Calvinism offers the discount model. You get all the glitz, but with a second-rate, faulty engine. As long as you focus on all of the bells and whistles, you can, for a time, ignore the less than sound construction that is sure to make itself known eventually.

        You have to suppress the fact that this ‘good’ god cursed men with an inability to do or be good. You have to suppress the fact that this ‘loving’ god heaps his favor upon a select few, randomly selected out of the whole, while deliberately keeping a subset of mankind for nothing but sin, suffering and destruction. I mean, it’s worse than Santa, who at least only gives coal to those who COULD have done well, but deliberately chose not to. No, this god of Calvinism doesn’t just keep a ‘Naughty List’ – he designs one, assigning preborn souls to it before they are even a twinkle in their human fathers’ eyes.

        So, if you want to claim your personal ticket to safety, you must bow down and worship a god who would deny your own mother, father or beloved child a similar ticket. You must embrace a god who ordains child abuse, rape, war and torture, in order to receive your own escape pass from the frightful possibility of facing such an evil deity’s terrible wrath.This is the trade-off. And this is the false god that scripture declares all men will be compelled to proclaim and worship as the ‘True God’.

        There are benefits, however. Since this ‘salvation’ ticket is irrevocable, once you assume yourself among ‘the chosen’, there is literally nothing that will keep you from receiving its benefits. Just think of it – no sin, no lack of faithfulness, no lack of generosity or selflessness, will be held against you in the long run! Oh, you may have to face a little discipline, but what’s that compared to eternal bliss and immortality?

        Compare this to the poor wretches who think God actually expects something of them, as if they might ever do better, as if their every thought, choice and action was not ‘settled in the heavens’ before they were even born. Poor wretches, struggling with guilt, doubt and the conviction that God desires them to do better today than yesterday, to give a little more, love a little better, think of self a little less. As if god did not predetermine whatsoever would come to pass long ago, and what you think and do really matter! As if you actually have a choice, a purpose, and there is genuine meaning to this life! As if god didn’t choose you irrespective of anything you might ever say or do – after all, he predetermined that you would irresistibly perform his good pleasure – and determined to give you the undeserved crown of life, no matter the extent of ‘faithfulness’ your life might appear to exhibit.

        You see, there are some benefits to this bitter pill. You simply have to give up the naive dream of a truly and wholly benevolent heavenly Father, who loves all men who ever have or ever will be born, desires to redeem them from sin and death and offers hope to all mankind. It’s really a small price to pay – giving up your concern for your fellow man who are not so lucky – in order to receive your own, sure-fire (pardon the pun) one way ticket to heaven that no one or nothing can threaten. It’s every man for himself, right? Just don’t picture Granny or little Joey suffering for eternity – when they could have been irresistibly regenerated as easily as you were. Hey, who are you to question god, right? If he gets his jollies torturing people who could have – just as easily as you – been undeservedly ‘saved’, what’s that to you?

  6. Last year I witnessed the ultimately unsuccessful attempt of a Calvinist takeover of a notable church in northwest Arkansas. The former staffer of a nationally prominent Calvinist (SBC) church in D.C. took about 100 members with him when he chose to accept the church’s buy-out offer and signed a no-compete clause.

    The Nine Marks style pastor faced the convictions of a young layman, who started a website that gave disgruntled members a voice that opposed the search committee’s strong-arm tactics. Rather than suffering from paralyzing shock, the people rose up and found a solution.

    Current reports are that the historic church is well on the mend while the new church plant is dwindling. In fact, one of the ring leaders has left fledgling church and has returned to the former church.

    While some may think this is gossip, I say it is the factual report of a group of believers who were knowledgeable of Calvinism and its potential for devastation and they stood against it.

    There are not many, it seems, who have such will. And so many SBC churches are suffering from their lack of will to stand up to doctrine they know is false. And some, sadly, fall victim to the Calvinists who are as adept as Jehovah’s Witnesses at playing what I call biblical ping-pong, using point-counterpoint verses while never answering honestly.

    I believe the historic church I noted has a model that others ought to follow if Calvinists will be rooted out of their churches. May it be so.

    1. Thank you for this testimony Norm!

      I especially appreciated your observation of what you call “biblical ping-pong”

      And yes!!!
      I heartily agree – and also I would add – Calvinism is the art of playing Shell games with words – in order to hide aspects of the doctrine behind SEMANTIC MASKS

      1. You’re welcome. There is so much more to this account. But not much would be new except for the ending.

  7. Given that the “object” of Eph 1:4 is to be made holy, I’m certainly inclined to agree with the premise of your article. That said, I do find difficulty within my own Christian faith (and maybe even the lack thereof) if only because, well, Calvinists – and living up here in “Piperville” (aka Twin Cities, MN) take a markedly different understanding to, well, just about all of scripture in order to support their contention as to divine determinism and TULIP. It just seems as though Scripture ought to be more easily understood AND agreed upon. That it doesn’t, well, I find it problematic as to such distinctions made i.e. amongst the faithful.

    1. Hi Bob! Here is my response to Eph 1:4,5 plus a brief critique by Leighton and I about Piper’s view of the wording.

      Eph 1, 4&5 Individual Election was not before creation!

      Determinists have always tried to read too much into these verses that Paul wrote in a context about blessings we now have, now that we are in Christ. Some of those blessings were given to Him (the only Elect one) before creation, to be shared with all who would later be joined to Him and become one of the elect in Him. The ones in verses 4 and 5 are such blessings… Verse four is not about being chosen in Christ, but chosen in Christ “to be” holy and blameless.

      The pronoun “us” is being used in both verses, 4&5, in a general reference, anachronistic sense, like me saying – “The Native Americans were chased by us before the Revolution so that they would live west of the Appalachian Mtn range.”

      Another similar example would be the Levites in David’s day who were chosen to carry the ark. David said, as recorded in 1Chr 15:2 – “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord chose them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever.”

      Any Levite that day could have said to another Levite – “God chose us in Aaron, before Israel entered the promised land, to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before him forever.” Of course, he would not have had the ridiculous thought that God had his name written down in a book during Aaron’s time, along with the names of all future Levites. He would not think that he individually or physically would be ministering before the Lord forever in this special task as a priest. He would just be using the “us” as a pronoun of reference with a corporate connection because of the promise made to Aaron, and because of his being added into Aaron’s lineage by physical birth.

      We say, with Paul, we have the same privileges/blessings granted to the Son of God before creation that would go to any in His lineage. They are now ours, since we are now joined to Him by spiritual birth through our personal faith. We now have the blessing to stand holy and blameless before God as one of God’s chosen in the Chosen One – Christ, and predestined for the inheritance that sons receive.

      ********
      Questions to ask a determinist:
      When God supposedly “chose” you before creation, were you unchosen at some point and then chosen, according to the normal meaning of that word? What did God see when He supposedly chose you… just your name, your life up to some point where He decided He wanted to get involved noticeably to you, or your whole life forever and all His involvement in it already? In other words, what does “you” mean when He chose “you” back then before you even existed? Trying to answer these questions will hopefully help a determinist see they are being dogmatic about a premise – determinism – that Paul wasn’t even trying to teach about in this passage, and which is illogical when using the words “chose… before the foundation of the world”, if no actual choice was made.

      Here’s a good 10min video discussion in support of this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FxHfnqLBmg

      1. Thank-you, Brian, for your kind and insightful words. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised at the various interpretations people arrive at. And maybe working in a chemistry environment I like to look at constants. In many ways, the periodic table is a constant and yet I feel as though the Bible should be … but given the variance of opinions derived isn’t always so. Again, thanks for your thoughts on the matter. Best regards.

    2. Thank you for your post Bob – and welcome.

      Yes – well the underlying doctrine of decrees – if we take it without compromise – is even more radical than the Calvinist himself is comfortable with.

      The TULIP for example – is one of the Calvinists strategies for distancing himself from the doctrine of decrees.
      If you review the TULIP – you will discover it starts by putting all of its focus on the condition of the creature.
      It is designed to give one the impression that the eternal destiny of the creature is the consequence of his condition.

      But the doctrine of decrees stipulates that man’s nature – at any instance in time – is 100% meticulously determined by infallible decree – which is established -quote “SOLELY WITHIN HIMSELF” without taking anything at all concerning the condition of the creature into consideration.

      Thus – all impulses which come to pass in the human mind – whether good or evil – are FIXED by infallible decree – before the creature exists.

      As John Calvin puts it
      -quote
      Some are pre-ordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation, and accordingly as each has been CREATED
      for one of these ends, we [Calvinists] say he has been predestined to life or death.

      -quote
      They are not found, but MADE worthy of destruction

      So the underlying doctrine – stipulates a divine potter who specifically creates/designs the vast majority of his creatures for no other purpose than eternal torment in a lake of fire – for his good pleasure.

      All of that is totally obfuscated by the “T” in the TULIP.
      And the other items in the TULIP are similarly designed to obfuscate the underlying doctrine .

      So we can consider the TULIP to serve as a marketing strategy designed to hide aspects of the product the Calvinist doesn’t want the average person to see.

      1. In many of my attempts to resolve the Rom 9 disagreement, I’m reminded of a quote from Bob George (author of Classic Christianity) who said to the effect that the same sun that hardens clay also melts wax – wherein some who hear the gospel respond in humility while others respond with a hardened heart – pride. And, too, I’d like to think that over the course of time the arguments put forth by well-meaning Calvinists would essentially dry up and easily found to be inaccurate. But at least where I am, that doesn’t seem to the the case.

      2. Bob, here’s my Overview of Romans 9
        It would help if the context of Christ-like love for all the lost, demonstrated in Paul from verses 1-3 were recognized before reading the rest. Paul wished he was accursed for the salvation of his countrymen of Israel… not just any so-called elect among them.

        It would also help to note that no verse in the whole chapter mentions election before creation, but that there is a “seed” in Paul’s day that is currently being reckoned (present tense), according to verse 8 and created by faith in the promise (cf. 4:16).

        It also would help if it wouldn’t be skipped over so easily that God’s purpose in hardening Pharaoh is clearly stated – that God’s Name would spread over ALL the earth, according to vs 17.

        And it would be helpful to know the phrases “on whomever I will have mercy” and “on whomever I will have compassion” are literally translated as “on whom I should have mercy and… on whom I should have compassion” in verse 15. And also that God has mercy on whom He “wants to” is the clear translation in verse 18.

        That should lead the reader to wonder on whom then “should” God have mercy or on whom does God “want” to have mercy. It is easy to discover that He wants His mercy to be on a people who were not His “people” or His “beloved” before (9:25).

        This excludes the idea of a loved elect individual person before creation (besides Christ) being read into verses 25-26. But God will have mercy on those whom He grants His righteousness which they pursued and came to possess through faith (vs 32). In fact He will have some kind of mercy on all (11:32), giving all sufficient opportunity to hear His call to them to seek Him (10:18).

        The biggest confusion a Calvinist has is in not seeing that God’s sovereign choice of individuals according to Romans 9 was indeed to help fulfill His promise of salvation in Christ, but those choices of individuals did not guarantee their personal salvation or damnation.

        The prophecies – The older will serve the younger, or Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated – did not guarantee the personal salvation of Jacob or of everyone else in Israel, nor did it guarantee damnation of Esau or of everyone else in Edom. Just like king Amon being in the “chosen seed” of David as a king of Judah didn’t guarantee his personal salvation (2Chr 33:22-23).

        But it is very interesting that there is evidence that Esau later became a believer in the promise through his brother Jacob, and interesting that God said that any Edomite was welcome to become believers also. Consider this evidence.

        Gen 33:4, 10 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept…. “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.”

        Deut 23:7-8 Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.

        Who does Esau remind you of in 33:4? Hint Luke 15:20.

  8. Bob said: “It just seems as though Scripture ought to be more easily understood AND agreed upon.”

    Amen and amen. One of the rules of biblical interpretation is to understand the Scriptures on their face — a prima facie approach. (Professors at the accredited Bible college and seminary I graduated from said that about 95% of the Bible could be understood in this way.)

    As we read the Word, we have the Spirit to enlighten and guide us into God’s truths. But following Calvin’s subterfuge is like a bloodhound tracking a criminal who poured pepper in his tracks.

    While I deeply appreciate the minds and hearts who post here and are apparently sensitized to Piper’s pepper, I find myself discovering the not-so-complicated truths of God staring me in the face.

    It was Calvin who built this house of cards. And it is the understandable biblical doctrines that cause it to inevitably fall.

  9. This article was posted in 2013 at the SBCToday blog. I like the writer’s take on Rom. 9.
    ===========

    By Dr. Bob Rogers

    John Calvin was wrong about Romans 9.

    Calvin, the famous Protestant Reformer of Geneva, Switzerland, was a great theologian. He became famous for his emphasis on the sovereignty of God and God’s predestination of our salvation. But in his commentary the ninth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, John Calvin took predestination beyond anything the apostle Paul intended to say.

    Qualifications of what I’m saying:

    Don’t misunderstand me. Let me state up front some things that I believe the Bible teaches. I believe that salvation is completely by the grace of God and cannot be earned by our good deeds. Second, I believe that God is merciful and at the same time God is just. Third, I believe in the sovereignty of God; God can do what he wants to do. Fourth, I believe that we have a free will to choose to follow or not follow Christ; however, when we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, the Bible says that we are chosen, or predestined.

    Let me also say that in disagreeing with John Calvin, I am not disagreeing with all people who consider themselves Calvinists. My disagreement is with a specific brand of Calvinism and with a specific statement made by John Calvin in his own commentary on Romans. Many will argue that Calvin himself took a different position in some of his other writings, and that may be true, but it does not change the fact that Calvin was wrong in his commentary on Romans 9.

    The key verses and Calvin’s comments

    The debate centers around the key verses, Romans 9:18, 22 (HCSB): “So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden… And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction?”

    Calvin says in his commentary on Romans 9, “Paul teaches us, that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will… that not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end—that they may perish.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Romans.)

    John Calvin’s interpretation of Romans 9:18 and 22 is called double-edged predestination. It is the belief not only that the saved are predestined to be saved, but also that the lost are predestined to be damned. At first glance, one can see how Calvin would interpret this passage the way he did. But a study of these verses in light of the entire chapter reveals a completely different picture of what Paul was saying.

    God is not unjust

    Calvin’s interpretation makes God arbitrary and implies that God is unjust. Yet Paul reminds us in Romans 9:14, “Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not!” Let’s go through the chapter and see how God is both merciful and just.

    Hardened clay and melted butter

    When Romans 9:18 says that God shows mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires, this does not mean that God is arbitrary or unfair. Let’s look at the context of this statement. In the previous verse, verse 17, Paul spoke about Pharaoh, who hardened his heart and would not let the people of Israel go from slavery. But if one reads the story in Exodus, one finds that half of the time it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and half of the time it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. What Exodus described was the process by which God brought out the hardness that was already in Pharaoh’s heart. As Dale Moody says, “The sun that hardens the clay melts the butter.” (The Broadman Bible Commmentary, vol. 10: Acts- I Corinthians, “Romans,” by Dale Moody, p. 230.) Thus God was not making Pharaoh do something that Pharaoh didn’t already want to do. Likewise, God does not take away our free will to obey or disobey.

    The clay pot and the potter

    Next, we note that Paul uses the example of a clay pot to illustrate predestination. He says in verses 20-21, that we have no right as mere humans to talk back to God about His will. It is interesting that Jeremiah 18:5-10 also uses the clay pot illustration to show how God reacts differently when we respond differently. Jeremiah says that if a people whom God warns will repent of their evil, then God will relent of his disaster and not inflict on them the disaster God had planned. This shows how predestination works in the mind and heart of God. Of course, God in His foreknowledge already knows what we will do, so when we choose Christ, God speaks of having chosen us.

    A choice by faith

    Romans 9:30-33 shows how salvation comes by a free choice to believe the gospel, not by arbitrary predestination. It does this by drawing a contrast between Gentiles who obtained righteousness and the Jews who did not obtain righteousness. What was the difference? It was their faith! Verse 30 says the Gentiles obtained a “righteousness that comes from faith.” Verse 31 says Israel did not achieve this righteousness. “Why is that?” Paul asks in verse 32. His answer: “Because they did not pursue it by faith.”

    Objects of wrath and objects of mercy—treated differently

    With all of this in mind, let us return to the key verses that are central to this debate, Romans 9:22-23. These verses have been interpreted as teaching double-edged predestination, because they speak of the “objects of wrath ready for destruction” and “objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory.” However, what many people miss here, is that Paul describes the objects of wrath (the damned) and the objects of mercy (the saved) in different ways in this passage. The Greek grammar in verse 22 describes the “objects of wrath ready for destruction” with a perfect participle in the middle or passive voice. Thus it describes the objects of wrath, which refer to the lost, as “having been made ready for destruction,” which may mean they prepared themselves for destruction by their own unbelief. Notice also that God “endured with much patience the objects of wrath.” In other words, God patiently waited for their free choices, because, as 2 Peter 2:9 says, God is not willing that any be lost.

    However, the Greek grammar is different when referring to the “objects of mercy” in verse 23. Paul describes the “objects of mercy” as those “that He prepared beforehand for glory.” This time, Paul uses the active voice to describe God’s action of salvation. In other words, Paul speaks of the saved as actively being predestined by God beforehand, but Paul speaks of the damned as passively being predestined, implying it is the result of their own choices, which God in His omniscience already knew they would make.

    Why John Calvin was wrong

    John Calvin said that the apostle Paul taught in Romans 9 that God created the wicked for the purpose of damning them to Hell. But when we read Paul’s words carefully and in context, we see that Calvin was wrong. Instead, Paul says that God is not unjust. He says that God hardens the heart, but those are hearts that have also freely chosen to harden themselves. He says that we are like clay pots that cannot question God who forms them, but those same clay pots do have a choice to respond to the potter’s hands. If anybody is an object of God’s wrath, it is because that person has failed to obtain salvation by faith. The choice is always ours, but God always knows what choice we will make.

    1. Not bad Norm, but Bob Rogers needs to face the obvious problem with His view including settled foreknowledge of the elect before creation and before their salvation.

      If God knew before creation who will be clay and who will be butter, His knowledge confirms (not causes) that there is no other alternative than the clay and butter be created that way and hardened and melted that way according to their created natures.

      So who/what is the cause before creation that God also knows about before creation that guarantees the clay and butter will absolutely be created that one way. There were no other causes existing before creation than God. Right?

      Just that you know, I believe in dynamic omniscience and dynamic foreknowledge, just as I read about it in the Scriptures.

  10. Do you guys know of a simple to use study book/workbook that introduces new believers to the Bible, Christianity, God, Jesus, and salvation. I know the watch tower has for Jehovah’s Witnesses ( I don’t recommend It) or “Foundations of Faith” by John MacArthur, but without the Calvin junk. 

    I think this would be a good tool when witnessing to other people.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Thomas Farrell, I recommend a good study Bible. I like the NKJV, but the one with notes by Criswell or the one with notes by Radmacher are not as available now. I have to find a new choice to recommend that is easier to find.

    2. Hello Thomas, This isn’t a short book or a workbook, but I really like it because it’s simple to understand: Tony Evans book “Theology you can count on.” Evans is not a Calvinist, and I believe he understands the Gospel the way God intended it to be understood. He is my go-to pastor (online) after leaving our Calvinist church. He speaks simple enough for new believers, and yet I still learn new things from him even after being a believer for over 30 years.

  11. A cursory web search shows that the Criswell Study Bible, the Believer’s Study Bible, and The Holy Bible – Baptist Study Edition, are available in used condition.

  12. Also, Charles Ryrie wrote “Basic Theology.” At 500+ pages, it is a great resource. Written in an understandable style, I think it is a valuable resource for new and seasoned believers, alike. FYI: For many years, Ryrie taught a Bible class at FBC Dallas.

    1. Personally – I would stay away from Charles Ryrie because of his reformed influences.
      But that is a personal preference based on my personal time and energy.
      I don’t like wasting time and energy picking reformed bones out of a meal in order to get some meat out of it.

      Reformed influences in any book – for me – is simply a frustrating experience.
      I remember years ago – before I became aware of Calvinism – picking up a book by Loraine Boettner

      I remember in the first chapter – I started to get little occasional hints of MAN-WORSHIP – in his references to John Calvin.
      I could put up with a little of that if it doesn’t go overboard.
      But in the second chapter – he went from little occasional hints of MAN-WORSHIP into full blown form.

      I remember how it made me so sick to my stomach – that I threw that book in the trash.
      And actually thought about burning it.
      That’s saying something for me!!!

      That was my first introduction to the spirit behind Calvinism.
      So I’m very careful now to filter out any author that is in any way Calvinistic

      I had a similar experience in my first introduction to an audio sermon by John Piper.
      Way too much DOUBLE-SPEAK!!!!!

      But that again is my personal position on the matter.
      Blessings!
      br.d

  13. The “bone-picking” with Ryrie is minimal. It seemed it didn’t bother W.A. that he and Ryrie did not agree, lockstep. Ruling out Ryrie wholesale would be a mistake. His view on the vast majority of theological matters I find to be biblical, insightful, and Baptist. Of course, we ought always to be like the Bereans (Acts17.11), and for me, that includes blog commentary. 😊

  14. Did anyone catch the bait and switch with Israel and individuals? God chose a nation for His purposes. So based on Ron’s application, the assumption of being a chosen nation would be that ALL members of that chosen nation would be saved. But even Paul disagrees with that. History disagrees with that. And, I’d like to hear one Calvinist say that. It’s clearly a proof text with no grounding.

    1. jb81854
      based on Ron’s application, the assumption of being a chosen nation would be that ALL members of that chosen nation would be saved.

      br.d
      That can easily be a person’s ASSUMPTION

      But if that conclusions is not explicitly stated by Ron – then wisdom would have us relegate it to an ASSUMPTION which would have nothing to do with Ron’s application.

      Do you see an explicit statement in that regard?

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