Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Clarifying Reformed Theology (Part 1)

Anybody who's known me for any length of time will know by now that I am a staunch Reformed guy, even though I don't usually tackle that topic very often here on my blog. The reason why I don't do so is because there are so many more important topics that need to be addressed (eg. Islam, Roman Catholicism and Atheism). However, every now and then I feel God moving me to clarify the doctrines of grace to those who don't properly understand it. This is what I endeavor to do now with a blogger named Jamie Nunnally, who has recently written a blog post named I am Predestined to not Believe in Calvinism. There's quite a few misunderstandings here of what the Reformed position actually is, and how to properly exegete the scriptures that teach this position.

What I shall now proceed to do here is go through this post point by point to see what exactly the problems with this post are. The blogger's original comments will be in a light shade of teal:

Most Calvinists believe in the doctrine of predestination. Its the idea that God has predetermined everything that happens in life. The Westminster Confession of Faith says “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” In other words, all that has happened or ever will happen is the perfect expression of His will. We know this because He’s sovereign and nothing else except an all-powerful God could ever cause anything to happen. Sounds great doesn’t it? Finally a doctrine that gives God the glory He’s due! The problem is that this idea places the blame for all of the godless acts through history squarely on God. Think of the logical consequences of that statement: if everything that has happened up to this point in history was God’s perfect will, then God not only allowed but wanted the Holocaust to happen. Under this construct, rape is part of God’s perfect design as is incest, murder, Down Syndrome, and stillborn births.

That God would ordain all acts that take place in history is a hard thing to swallow, but it is a clear scriptural truth. In the book of Isaiah, it clearly states:

...declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’...
(Isaiah 46:10, ESV)

Now what, about evil things that take place in history? When somebody asks this question, I can't help but ask a few questions of my own: Does all this evil just exist without any reason or purpose? Do you not trust God when He says that He will right all wrongs cause all things to work for the good of His children in the end (cf. Romans 8:28)? Also, do you not believe that He has a purpose for every event that He ordains to come pass, whether good or evil?

Look at the example of Joseph: His brothers sold him to slavery, and that was undoubtedly a sinful act. Yet God has ordained that it would be so. Why? So that the rest of Jacob's family would be spared from the coming famine, and so that God's plan in redemptive history would go forward. Joseph said it best when he said,

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
(Genesis 50:20)

There is an even more significant example that I could point to, and that is the crucifixion of Christ. Who would doubt that there has been no more heinous and sinful act in history than the murder of the Word of God incarnate? And yet it happened because it was His purpose for it to be so. In Peter's first sermon immediately after Pentecost, he declared to the people of Jerusalem,

"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power."
(Acts 2:22-24)

Two chapters later, the apostles affirm with one accord that it was all predestined by God when they say,

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
(Acts 4:27-28)

Thus, the greatest act of sin in the history of mankind was also the greatest act of redemptive love that God has ever ordained to take place. I defy any proponent of synergism to say that it was not a part of God's perfect will that the soldiers would nail our Lord and Saviour upon Calvary's cross.

And finally, what of those who are born with Down Syndrome or other disabilities? I would again like to ask the reader if God simply allowed evil to come into existence without so much as a reason or a purpose for it all. Besides, God is intimately involved in every aspect of every person’s life, even those who are born with disabilities. As the psalmist has sung,

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16)

This is the case for every person God has ever brought forth into this world. It is not as though those who came into the world disabled are that way because God lost control somehow. Rather, God has planned it all out that the greater good may come out in the end, to His glory. I know this is a very sensitive issue for many people, but it will do no good to comfort anybody by saying, “Well, God tried His best, but He just wasn’t in control of this one.”

Now, the blogger continues,

Now Calvinists, of course, say that God doesn’t ordain sin. The aforementioned Westminster Confession says this as well. But they just say that without providing an explanation as to how. Its kinda like when Obi-Wan uses the force to pull one over on the storm troopers. “God ordains everything, but not sin. *Waves Hand* But He still ordains everything. ” The logical consequence of this system is that God is the author and facilitator of our sin. The problem is James 1:13 says that God is neither sins nor causes anyone to sin. I always wonder why there are so many anti-abortion Calvinists. If God truly predestines everything to happen, then why speak out against abortion? Under this theological system, God obviously desires abortion by the mere fact of its existence. So why get in the way of His perfect will of killing babies?

It must be said at the outset difference between ordaining something and causing something to take place. To illustrate this, just think of gravity. In order for a rock to move upward, I have to lift it up with my hand. In order for it to fall, however, I don't have to hurl the rock down towards the ground. I need only to let go of the rock and let gravity do its thing. The same can be said about sin. He does not cause anybody to sin or disbelieve in Him. Rather, He ordains these things in the sense that He makes use of our natural inclination to sin in order to bring about His own ends and purposes. In fact, it can be said that God by His grace actually restrains us from doing as much evil as we would otherwise do (the upshot of this is that whenever God hardens somebody's heart, He is actually loosening His grip of common grace upon that person so that their sin nature takes greater control). Look back at Joseph and his brothers. They were actually planning to kill their younger brother, yet God by His gracious providence worked in the heart of Reuben and made it so that they would just sell him into slavery instead (cf. Genesis 37:12ff).

Finally, regardless of God's sovereignty over all events, He still holds men accountable for what they will to do. This is why Judas can still be condemned as a “son of perdition” even though he did what he had to do in order for scripture to be fulfilled (cf. John 17:12). This is also why Jesus could say that the soldiers who crucified Him had sinned and needed to be forgiven even though their actions were a part of God’s foreordained plan (cf. Luke 23:34).

All of these truths are perfectly demonstrated when Assyria invades Israel. Having sunk into idolatry, God decides to punish Israel by bringing down the most villainous, godless nation on earth at that time upon them. And yet, He did not zap the king of Assyria with a sudden desire to pillage and destroy. That inclination was already there, and He just decided to use that to bring about His plans. Also, even though it was His plan for Assyria to massacre the Israelites and scatter them abroad, He still brings down His wrath and judgment upon Assyria for the acts they have committed. This is demonstrated all throughout Isaiah. The most significant demonstration of this is to be found in chapter ten:

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
I send it against a godless nation
And commission it against the people of My fury
To capture booty and to seize plunder,
And to trample them down like mud in the streets.
Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations.
For it says, "Are not my princes all kings?
"Is not Calno like Carchemish,
Or Hamath like Arpad,
Or Samaria like Damascus?
"As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose graven images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images
Just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?"

So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, "I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness."

For he has said,
"By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this,
For I have understanding;
And I removed the boundaries of the peoples
And plundered their treasures,
And like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants,
And my hand reached to the riches of the peoples like a nest,
And as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth;
And there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped."
Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?
Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?
That would be like a club wielding those who lift it,
Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.
Therefore the Lord, the GOD of hosts, will send a wasting disease among his stout warriors;
And under his glory a fire will be kindled like a burning flame.
(Isaiah 10:5-16)

Now, you may say all you want that this is "illogical." However, I would like to remind the reader that God is not bound by what men think it is logical or rational for Him to do (otherwise, we would end up capitulating to secular humanism like what liberal theologians have done decades ago). Besides, it is in this same book that God declares,

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:8-11)

Moving on, we come to the blogger’s second point, where he states,

Now I know I’ll probably hear some howls from this because Calvinists often harp on this very subject themselves. Yet they refuse to apply simple context to their own proof texts. Anytime anyone uses a verse to prove a theological point, you can’t read it by itself and apply it to a predetermined theology. You must ask yourself 1) who wrote it 2) who is it is written to and 3) why was it written.

I would just like to point out here that most of us who consider ourselves to be Reformed did not start off with this position. On the contrary, I myself and many others started off as Arminians who were repulsed by these doctrinal points. However, clear and honest biblical exegesis has forced us to come to the conclusion that the Bible does in fact teach these points. If you disagree, then let us reason from the scriptures in question and see what we can derive out of them. Since Ephesians 1 is the first passage mentioned, so we shall tackle that first:

Ephesians 1 is a commonly used passage to defend the doctrine of predestination and election. Calvinists love it. And its obvious why – its very easy to assume from these verses that God picks and chooses who gets saved and who doesn’t. But the thing about scripture is that when you read a passage with a theological end already in mind, you will always see what you want to see.

I don’t know about you, but when I first saw this and other such passages when I was still an Arminian, I didn’t really quite know what to do with them. It always seemed to me that this other side had a better explanation for what these passages mean, and now that I am Reformed, I am glad that I can just take what these words mean at face value without having to make any excuses for them. But I disgress...

That’s why context and author’s intent are so important. So what is the context of Ephesians 1? The Jews had been claiming the role of being God’s chosen ones (the elect) for thousands of years. It was now Paul’s self-proclaimed job to ensure that the Gentiles knew they now had been chosen too (elected) through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The funny thing about what has just been said here is that it is actually true. Nobody denies that God is in the business of gathering a people from every nation, tribe and tongue (cf. Revelation 5:9), and not just from the Jewish people. However, this is only a part of the truth. Limiting God’s predestination merely to groups of people short-sells the true depth of this passage. Remember folks: God is a personal God and relates intimately to each one of His children. He doesn’t just see us as a group but as individuals.

Could it be that the election these verses speak of is regarding the corporate election of the Gentiles in addition to the Jews? That God now chooses everyone through the blood of Christ to be his children? That the Gentiles have now been grafted into the tree as Romans 11 says? Sorry, but to me that just makes a whole lot more sense than individual election. In writing his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wasn’t writing a theology book explaining the mechanism by which Christians get saved (election). He was encouraging new, non-Jewish believers that they are now accepted and have been chosen by the Hebrew God.

The idea of a merely corporate election with no individual component strikes me as odd. How on earth does God elect people corporately without also individually taking each person and saying, “You are Mine” to them? Also, if you think this is just about Gentiles, take note of the fact that Paul (who is Jewish) includes himself in the group that he is addressing (hence the use of the pronoun “us” instead of “you” throughout the passage).

Also, look at chapter 2 as well, as it expands upon this theme. In particular, look at verses 8-9, where it is written,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9)

That we are elected by grace and come into faith is not our own doing, but a gift from the sovereign God. Also, we see that God is the one who grants faith (cf. Philippians 1:29) and even repentance (cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-26). So how can anyone say that it is dependent upon what we do rather than what God does?

The passage in Romans 9 about Esau is also commonly used by Calvinists as evidence that God in his Sovereignty chooses some over others. And you know what? They’re right. God, by His sovereign choice, chose to preserve the lineage of the Jews through Jacob instead of Esau. I have no problem with that. However, I do have a problem with using this verse which is specific in context to the lineage of the Jews and trying to somehow apply it to the New Testament salvation of individuals. Our salvation is not through lineage. Does this verse say God elects those who are to be saved under the New Covenant? No. It says God elected Jacob over Esau, period.

Once again, this is short-selling the whole truth. Keep in mind that the over-arching theme of the entire book of Romans is salvation, and what the biblical ordo salutis is. The case of Esau and Jacob is clearly a case of election; it even states so explicitly in Romans 9:11. And last time I checked, “election” is always used in conjunction with salvation. If this was merely about whom God chose to preserve the family line through, then you effectively sever Romans 9 from the rest of the epistle. Also, you can’t really say that this passage doesn’t have to do with individuals’ salvation, since this is clear from the chapter itself. For example, in verses 16-18, it is written,

For he [God] says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
(Romans 9:15-18, ESV)

Looks like salvation to me. And notice that it doesn’t even refer to the Jews or the Gentiles. And last time I checked, Pharaoh was an individual person, not a group of people. Even the Old Testament passage that is quoted here (Exodus 33:19) presents God’s graciousness as something that He presents to individuals, not just to groups of people.

Think of the context – why is this part of Romans being written? Paul is using that OT example of God’s sovereignty to justify why He “changed the rules” on the Jews and allowed the Gentiles in. Again, its about corporate election. Why do the Calvinists insist on making this passage about themselves as individuals?

I don’t know why we insist saying this passage pertains to individuals. Maybe it’s because all throughout Romans 9, individual persons are mentioned? Look at the chapter again: God mentions several different individuals by name (Esau, Jacob, Moses, and Pharaoh). It’s pretty hard not to conclude that there is an individual as well as a corporate aspect to what Paul is trying to communicate here.

For more information on Romans 9, I would like to invite the reader to check out the detailed exegesis provided by Dr. James White. This should help clarify misunderstandings about what this passage actually means.

Calvinists tend to be excellent proof-texters. They’ll make a point and then pull the ol’ rapid fire scripture references ploy to back that statement up. If you ever see that done, I encourage you to look up every single one and ask yourself if their interpretation is being honest with the author’s original intent. Sometimes a verse by itself will sound like it means one thing but when read with the whole passage, it means something totally different. You can’t just pick out verses. I had a friend tell me once that they get their theology from Romans 9. The problem is there is no such thing as Romans 9 – there is only Romans.

Okay, I have to confess: I have been guilty of doing this a few times. I sometimes go through so many scripture passages so fast that I forget exposit all of them thoroughly. However, since I do try to give full references as much as possible, it should be no biggie for people to go through the passages that I bring up.

And actually, I also tend to criticize a lot of Arminians for doing this very thing. I often hear Matthew 23:37, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4,6, Hebrews 2:9 or any of the various passages that contain “whosoever” in it being quoted by Arminians, without taking into account what the context of the passages actually are or what the grammatical points entail (I’m not saying that the person I’m replying to is guilty of this, but I do see it as a consistent trend among many Arminians that I come across).

And by the way, I totally agree that Romans 9 needs to be interpreted in light of the whole epistle of Romans. However, this would be problematic for the Arminian assertion that Romans 9-11 only refers to Gentiles being grafted into the vine. This is because of you take the entire epistle into account, you see that the corporate aspect of salvation is meant to point to the individual aspect. God is not just

Jamie, if you are reading this, I would be more than happy to walk with you through all of the various scripture passages that pertain to the topic of divine providence and election (not just the ones you already brought up, but others such as Proverbs 16:1,4,9,33, Isaiah 63:17, Ezekiel 36:25-27, Matthew 11:25-27,13:10-17, John 1:11-13,6:37-44,65, Acts 13:48, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 John 5:1, etc.). You seem much more reasonable than some of the more irate Arminians that I've had to give an answer to in the past. I trust that you are open-minded enough to hear what those of the Reformed persuasion have to say. We want to have a dialogue, not a monologue. So come, let us reason.

Grace and Peace.


PS - Add Reftagger to your blog. It will make quoting bible verses so much easier, as you no longer have to link to Bible Gateway ever single time you make a scripture reference.
(Continue to Part 2)


  1. Fisher,
    Thanks for reading. I’d love to start a dialogue with you, and I pray that as we both humble ourselves before God He’ll help us as we learn to interpret His word.

    I hope I don’t disappoint you – I don’t embrace theology for theology’s sake. God seems to have gifted me with a heart to shepard people so I am a very practical theologian. If theology is not useful in conveying the person of Jesus to the creation He loves, I get bored pretty quickly. With that said, I do love discussing His ways and usually can talk about this stuff without getting angry like so many do.

    And for the record, I realize I am characterizing Calvinism from its most extreme perspective and take it to its unintended end. But many years of being on the front lines of ministry have taught me that most everyday people who employ reformed theology adhere to its unintended extreme.

    I also want to try and avoid the tit for tat quoting one-upmanship that is so prevalent on blogs like ours. The points get so easily lost when the writers devolve into that, and the debate almost always becomes about the writers and not the subject. I may not address every single counter-point you’ve made because of this, however, if there is a point I missed that you’d like me to specifically address, please point it out and I’ll do my best.

    Also, let me compliment you on your writing skills – you are an excellent writer and obviously a very intelligent guy. I’m thankful that God has guys like you out there who can speak to a segment of the population that so often disregard faith as an unintelligent crutch.

    Let me start reading and I’ll reply soon!

    (Oh and thanks for the Reftagger hint)

  2. I do not believe either that theology is an end to itself. Ultimately, the goal of theology is to have a better understanding of the God whom we worship and glorify, in order that we may better serve Him and edify our fellow believers.

    That being said, perhaps you're not familiar with the practical applications of Calvinistic theology. It is highly applicable, as you would learn from studying many of the great Reformed preachers, evangelists in missionaries of history. To give you a few names, there are George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, William Carey, Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

    I don't know what you mean by "unintended extreme," but I doubt it's the same as Classical five-point Calvinism, which is very evangelistic, by the way. Studying the historical figures I just mentioned to you will make that point clear enough.

    When you are able to do so, look up "The Soul Winner" by Charles Spurgeon, as well as "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God" by J.I. Packer. Both books explore the issue of evangelism from a Reformed perspective, and you will find it highly informative (especially since both books are highly-practical).

  3. Fisher,
    Ok, read your counter-points – let’s get to it. Boy, this is gonna be long!

    Your first response to my problems with God’s supposed causation of the heinous acts throughout history is to reference Isaiah 46:10. You mean this verse to say “God has predetermined all events – past, present and future.” However this verse doesn’t say that – it’s an excerpt from a jealous rampage by a spurned Lover. Let’s look at the context of this passage: Starting in verse 1, God is distinguishing between Himself (the Living God) and the dead idols of Babylon. The rest of the chapter is spent defending His superiority to these idols that His people are cheating on Him with. He makes the points that these idols can’t protect them (v2), didn’t create their nation (v3), they’re not faithful like Him (v4) and they can’t even move or talk (v7). In verse 9, He tells them to remember all the good works He’s done for them in the past and in verse 10 He makes the point that these idols can’t make a promise about the future and faithfully bring that promise to pass like He does. This whole passage is a plea to leave the pagan idols and trust their God - the true, living God.

    Sorry, but verse 10 does not say that God has ordained all that has happened or will happen in the history of humanity. It’s not the intent of the passage to say that. According to the context, it is simply reminding the Israelites that there is no other God like Him. He does say in verse 10 that He will bring out His past, present and future “purpose (counsel) and intention.” However, this verse doesn’t address the scope of God’s foreknowledge – to what extent He has ordered history. In context, it’s a reminder to His cheating people that He can affect the future and these idols can’t. Verse 9 says “everything I plan will come to pass” in the NLT. Certainly God can and does order the future at least to some extent. But you just can’t use these verses out of context to somehow prove He has pre-ordered all events. Besides, if God causes all things wouldn’t this passage mean that He’s causing His children to cheat on Him with pagan idols? Why would He cause them to spiritually cheat and then get mad at their adulterous hearts?

    Next you ask, “Do you not trust God when He says that He will right all wrongs cause all things to work for the good of His children in the end.” Of course I do. But I don’t need God to be the author of the bad events to believe that He can redeem those bad events. He is stronger than that. God is our redeemer and savior, not the one we need redeeming and saving from. He doesn’t cause problems so He can fix them. Unethical car shops do that. We and our enemy are the ones that cause our captivity and the ensuing bad events – God is our rescue!

    More to come...

  4. Contiued...

    The crucifixion of Christ is a poor example of God’s treatment of His people. I see the point you’re making - that God employed what we would consider to be bad in order to bring about good. But Jesus’ death, while clearly administered by the Father (Isaiah 53:10), was specific in purpose for the redemption of makind and does not set the precedent for how God treats those of us who aren’t currently dying for the sins of the world.

    And regarding those who are born with Down syndrome or other disabilities – you said “I would again like to ask the reader if God simply allowed evil to come into existence without so much as a reason or a purpose for it all.” There is a purpose for these things but I don’t believe the reason is for the individual’s sake but to point to a general truth. For instance, saying “Marsha, God gave you a child with a cleft palate so you’d draw nearer to Him” seems to be pretty self-serving theology and honestly, pretty cruel. I mean, why Marsha instead of anyone else? I believe God allows evil because it’s a consequence of a) Adam’s free will choice to live independent from God, thus creating a fallen world b) it is the logical effect of free will decisions we make independent of God’s will and c) it’s the work of the enemy (1 John 5:19). So Marsha’s child with a cleft palate wasn’t a personal thing aimed at Marsha or the child by God, but part of an overall general allowance of sin, sickness, and death due to the reasons mentions above. In the end, God allows these things as proof to humanity that our fallen world needs a savior. I don’t believe He causes them for specific purposes, but He is a redeemer and can certainly “work them for good.”

    Still more...

  5. Where you and I disagree is really on causation of events. I certainly believe God allows and even uses heartache and pain. I just don’t believe He authors it. When confronted with the illogical nature of a God that is both the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, most Calvinists usually head to Isaiah 55 and quote “My ways are higher than your ways” with which they mean to say “I know this doesn’t make sense but you’ll have to make peace with it because God says it.” The ironic thing is that this chapter taken in context is an excellent case for free will.
    V 1 -" is anyone thirsty? come and drink" (come to the Father of your own will)
    V 3 - "listen and you will find life" (we have a role to play – listen)
    V 6 - "seek the Lord" (an instruction denoting its our choice, not pre-ordained, whether to seek or not)
    V 7 - "let the wicked change their ways...let him turn to the Lord that he may have mercy..." (Looks like the wicked can change and God's mercy and forgiveness has to be turned towards.)
    Verse 8 is not God's way of saying "don’t try to figure me out - I'll do whatever I want." It is actually marveling at the beauty of Gods mercy and compassion. Our ways are to punish the unrighteous. But His ways are better - if we are willing to turn from our evil and follow Him, He will save us even though He has every right not to. What a beautiful scripture! Praise God for His mercy! And thank God we don't have to worry about whether our salvation has been predestined or if some magical election provided for our salvation. If we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us!

    And more...

  6. Next, you say “God is a personal God and relates intimately to each one of His children. He doesn’t just see us as a group but as individuals.” I couldn’t agree more! Yet he did choose a group (Israel) as His special people to begin with. So now, in light of the cross of Christ and to add to those whom He is saving, He logically must “elect” the other group - the non-Jews - to be chosen as well. See, these passages are written to non-Jews. They were never meant to be applied as the mechanism by which God saves individuals. God chose each one of us through the cross of Christ – in one fell swoop – when He sent Jesus to pay for our sin. Then you say “How on earth does God elect people corporately without also individually taking each person and saying, ‘You are Mine’ to them?“ I’ll resist the urge to quote Isaiah 55:10 here.  God chooses us as a whole but issues invitations to us individually (behold I stand at the door and knock; draw near to me and I’ll draw near to you). Romans 10:14-17 describes it this way: How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
    This passage very clearly says that the Gospel must be preached, heard and mixed with the faith of the individual to take effect. God uses His people to share with the unsaved so they might repent. He issues invitations so they might respond to his mercy.

    You actually make my point with your next verse, Ephesians 2:8-9 - that we “have been saved by grace through faith, not of works.” We are not saved by grace. We are saved by grace through faith. God opened the door of salvation through grace and we walk through it with faith. Of course you’ll say that our faith comes from God. Yes it does. He is the giver of our faith but He doesn't exercise it on our behalf. Those are two different things and we must use our God-given faith ourselves. Otherwise why does He chide the disciples saying “Oh ye of little faith?” And why does Hebrews 11:6 say “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him?”

    Last one coming...

  7. Last one!!!

    Bottom line – believe it or not, there is very little we disagree on. There are just slight differences at our theological starting points which create a snow ball effect leaving us seeming to be worlds apart. Don’t let me put words in your mouth but as I see it, we disagree on two things:
    1) You say God causes and predetermines all events – I say God allows all events to unfold from their own natural causes while exercising His ability to predetermine some events, according to His purpose.
    2) You believe the grace and faith required for our salvation are provided by and employed by God and God alone, making salvation a one-man job. I believe God provides the grace, we respond in faith and it’s a joint effort. From these two foundations, it seems, come our differences.

    I’m trying to say this in a way that doesn’t sound smug, so please forgive me if I fail: During my course of study, I have already read and examined all the verses you mentioned and as crazy as it sounds, I still do not adhere to the Calvinist system. I certainly understand why people do. However, I’ve found that, when put in proper context (like Isaiah 46:10), when translation barriers are removed, and when freed from bad teaching over the years, these verses really don’t say what some think they say.

    Sorry this is so long, but you stated it! :) Please feel free to reply and we can continue our dialogue.


  8. I have written my response to you here: