Friday, July 4, 2008

Election in Romans 9

"As long as we believe that God exercises ANY control over history or the lives of His people, then we must come to terms with Election one way or another. It is inescapable.

When Jesus called His first disciples, He called twelve and not more. Others might very well have profited from having spent the following three years in close association with Jesus, but Jesus only chose twelve for this privilege. Moreover, when He sent His disciples into the world to tell others about Him, by necessity these early preachers went in one direction rather than another. Philip went to Samaria; Barnabas went to Antioch. Later, Paul and Barnabas went north to Asia Minor. Still later, Paul and other companions went to Greece, then Italy, and eventually further west. In each case, a choice was involved---north rather than south; west rather than east. If God was directing the movement of these servants of His at all, He was choosing that some should hear the gospel rather than others. This is a form of election.

The same is true in our experience: if you believe that God is leading you to speak to someone about the gospel, it is an inescapable fact that you are speaking to that person rather than another. Even if a Christian friend should join you and speak to that other person when you cannot, there are still millions of others who are inevitably passed by. Election is an inescapable fact of human history.

Paul shows that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the three fathers of the nation of Israel, became what they were by election and that others were not granted this privilege. Election is obvious in the case of Abraham, which is one reason why Paul does not discuss his case in detail. Abraham had a pagan ancestry, having been born in the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia. He had no knowledge of the true God, because no one in Ur had knowledge of the true God. Abraham did not know God, nor did he seek God. No one seeks Him (Romans 3:11). Rather, God sought Abraham. Since the call of Abraham is recorded in Genesis 12, every Jew would have to confess that Jewish history began with that election. This is what led to the Jews becoming God's "Chosen People."

But the real issue, then, would be whether all the descendants of Abraham (i.e., all Jews), were thereby saved, or whether the principle of choice and rejection also applies after the initial choice of Abraham. In other words, does God continue to choose some, but not all---i.e, some Jews and some Gentiles, but not all? Paul begins to address this issue in Romans 9:7-9: "Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."

The point is that Abraham had another son. He had begotten Ishmael of Hagar thirteen years before Isaac was born, yet Ishmael was not chosen. He was Abraham's descendant, but he was not a child of promise as Isaac was (contrary to what Muslims believe).

Notice the contrast in the phrases "natural children" and "children of the promise" in verse 8: "In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." The contrast shows that the difference between Isaac and Ishmael was not merely that God elected Isaac and passed over the other son, but also that the choice of God involved a supernatural intervention in the case of Isaac's conception. Ishmael was born of Abraham's natural powers, but Isaac was born when Abraham was past the age of getting a woman pregnant, and when Sarah was past the age of conceiving and giving birth.

In the same way, our spiritual conception and birth, which result from God's electing choice, are supernatural. We cannot birth spiritual life in ourselves since, according to Ephesians 2:1, we are spiritually dead. In order for us to become spiritually alive, God must do a miracle.

"Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." (Romans 9:10-12)

The choice of Jacob rather than Esau went against the normal standard of culture, where the elder should have received the greater blessing. True, the boys were twins, but Esau actually emerged from Rebekah's womb first, though Jacob was chosen. There is nothing to explain this except God's sovereign right to dispose of the destinies of human beings as He pleases, entirely apart from any rights thought to belong to use due to our age or other factors.

Notice that the choice of Jacob instead of Esau was made before either child had opportunity to do either good or evil. It was made while the children were still in the womb. This means---and this is important---that election is not on the basis of anything done by the chosen individual.

Moreover, the choice was made to teach the doctrine of election, for that is what Romans 9, verses 11 and 12 say: "Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad---in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls..."
This means that God made His choice before the birth of Rebekah's sons to show that His choices are unrelated to anything a human being might or might not do. It is a case, as Paul will say just a few verses further on, that "God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy" (verse 18).

How could it be otherwise, if the condition of fallen humanity is as bad as the Bible declares it to be? Romans 3 says, "there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God (verses 10-11). This means that sin pervades all our actions and darkens all our natural understanding, with the result that, rather than fleeing TO God, Who is our only reasonable object of worship, and our only hope of blessing, we flee FROM Him.
How could a creature as depraved as that, possibly come to God unless God should first set His saving choice upon him and then call him to faith? How could a sinner like that believe the gospel unless God should first enable her to him to believe? But of course, that is exactly what God does.

In Romans 9, Paul is teaching Election. The chapter heading in my NIV Bible says, "God's Sovereign Choice." So, even the NIV Bible is saying that Paul is teaching Election in Romans 9.

First, let's talk about Romans 9:14-18. Paul had argued that while his own Jewish countrymen were unsaved, they had themselves to blame for being against God's provision of the Messiah. Nevertheless, this fact had not changed the status of the nation before God, for to them belonged the adoption, the glory, the covenants, and the promises of God (Romans 9:1-4). But that is precisely where the whole problem became intense. Had Paul been willing to have said that because of Israel's disobedience, she had forfeited her favored position, and therefore all the promises had been transferred to the Church, no long discussion would have been needed on this topic.

Paul refused to cut the knot in this manner. He was too careful a student of the Old Testament to come to that conclusion. On the contrary, he is certain that "God's gifts and his call are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). God would not rescind His ancient promise just because various individuals, generations, or leaders of the nation had failed to participate in the blessing of the promises of God through unbelief. God's sovereign election of the nation would remain in force despite the persistent disobedience of that nation.

Since Paul's Jewish objectors were reduced to the fact of sovereign election, there were only two choices left: either charge God with unrighteousness for showing partiality or plead that persons are not responsible for their evil deeds. Paul answers the first choice in verses 14-18 and the second in verses 19-29.

To the first objection, Paul strongly declares that it is impossible that any injustice or unrighteousness should be attributed to God. The whole idea is abhorrent (Romans 9:14). To prove that point, Paul quotes God's word to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion: (Romans 9:15; from Exodus 33:19). At first, these words seem to support the contention of the objector, but the circumstances under which they were uttered show that first impression to be incorrect. While Moses had been on the mount, Israel had gone headlong into the worship of the golden calf. All were guilty, even the High Priest. Had strict justice been served, all would have perished on the spot. But God showed mercy to those who did not deserve it.

The point is clear. If the mercy of God that is sovereignly given is now going to be declared as unfairness in God, then the objector is going to have to say that God was unfair in sparing the nation in the incident of the golden calf! But if God was righteous in choosing to have mercy on a portion of Israel then, even though three thousand died in one day, He certainly could be viewed as being righteous in showing mercy to a portion of Israel in the days of Paul and the Church.

The two cases were not dissimilar. In any case, it was not that people were saved, then or now, because they willed to be saved. On the contrary, in Moses' day they had set their wills against God (Exodus 32:9-10), but God still had mercy (Romans 9:16). The election of God does not fall on those who "run" and "will," or else there would be no elect, for "no one...seeks God" (Romans 3:11).

What has been said of the mercy of God must also be said of the judgment of God. To prove this point, Paul will use Pharaoh as his example. Over and over again during the first five plagues, the Scriptures note that "Pharaoh hardened his heart" (ten times in Exodus 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15). Finally, during the last five plagues, after enduring with much patience the hardness of this man's heart, God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" (Exodus 9:12; 10:1,2,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17).
[And, by the way, many unbelievers have used this to claim that the Bible contradicts itself. They say that the Bible says that Pharaoh hardened his heart, but then turns around and says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, which is a contradiction...or so they claim.]
The so-called "theological problem" against which many moderns have thundered is no more difficult to understand than the ordinary psychological phenomenon so common to everyday life. Fail to respond to the ringing of the alarm clock several mornings in a row and this hardening will soon make you impervious to any subsequent ringing of the alarm in days to come!

In verse 19, the apostle takes up the second objection that could be brought against divine sovereignty. The unbelieving Jew might still debate the issue by contending that if the sovereignty of God is absolute, why, then, does God still find fault with me and hold me individually responsible? Can anyone, continues the plea, withstand God? If He does not approve of my conduct and actions, then way did He make me this way? On those grounds, I am no longer responsible.

Paul will not debate the subtle moral lie that is contained in this complaint against God. Instead, he will give the objector the rebuke he deserves: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" (Romans 9:20). Disrespect is disrespect. That calls for the more immediate attention than any other consideration at this point.

Almost every well-informed Jew would know where this figure of the "potter" came from---the prophet Isaiah:

"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on Your Name or strives to lay hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64:6-8)

God is not pictured by Paul as a Creator creating man, but as a "potter" working with "clay." The "clay" here depicts persons as sinners. God does not make persons sinners; He takes the "clay" as He finds it. He found it in the state of sinful "clay," even as Isaiah had taught in the passage that Paul undoubtedly had reference to in this text.

The mercy of the potter is now shown by the fact that God endured with much patience individuals that were responsible for their own problems. The apostle is careful to make sure that God is not charged with any responsibility for the sin of individuals.

The critical verse is verse 22. "What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath---prepared for destruction?" Since the Greek word "prepared" may be either passive or middle voice, the deciding factor must be doctrinal. According to the Bible, people fit themselves for destruction. God is not responsible.

Over against these who fitted themselves for destruction, Romans 9:23 declares that God Himself prepared "the objects of His mercy" long ago in advance for His glory! What a contrast! Accordingly, the whole responsibility for the present state of affairs with regard to objects prepared for wrath rests where it should---on the shoulders of unbelievers! If credit is given for anyone who is saved, it belongs to God. Therefore, if some are saved, to God belongs the glory! If others are lost, they alone are responsible.

But here is the most mind-stretching question of all: Why doesn't God show mercy to everyone? This question might be raised by a person who understands the difference between justice and mercy but who still wonders why God is selective. This is a proper question to ask because it is asking for understanding rather than demanding that God conform to our standards of right and wrong. It is faith in search of enlightenment.

Verse 15 (of Romans 9) seems to say merely that this is the way God operates: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." This is a perfectly legitimate answer to our question, namely, that the "why" of it is God's business, not ours. God does not owe us an answer. What is more, there are undoubtedly parts of the answer that are not revealed. God has reasons that may forever be unknown.

Still there is one answer in this chapter. It is that God's ultimate objective in electing some to salvation and passing by others is not to do good. Neither is it to do good to those persons primarily. Rather His ultimate objective is to make His glory known. In other words, God's ultimate concern in everything He does is not so much for us as for Himself. In saving some He makes known His mercy and compassion. In passing by others He makes known His power and wrath.

Paul's quotation of Exodus 9:16 in verse 17 makes this point: "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'" This identifies at least one purpose of God in passing by some, namely, to display His power. Then a few verses further on Paul explains that God's "wrath," "power," "patience," "glory," and "mercy" are displayed in election, on the one hand, and in passing by some people, on the other. "What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath---prepared for destruction? what if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory---even us, whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?" (verses 22-24).

What this means is that God considers the display of His attributes to be worth the whole historical drama---worth Creation, worth the Fall, worth redemption, worth election, worth passing over, and everything else. From God's point of view the revelation of His glory is the great and unshakable priority.

This explanation will not satisfy all people. It may not satisfy you, and if it does not, you are probably asking at this point, "But why should it be necessary for God to be glorified?" There is only one possible answer, and it is this: Because it is right that God be glorified. God is glorious, glorious in all His many attributes. He should be glorified; and because this is a universe planned by God, created by God, and run by God, and not by us, that which is right will in the end be done. God will be honored, and all will bow before Him.

But do you see how this is going? We began with the theodicy question: Is God right to act as he does? We were asking it because it did not seem right to us for God to select some for salvation and to pass by and judge others for their sin. But when we examine the question, as we have, we find that the matter is exactly the opposite of what we first imagined it to be. We have found that God acts as He does precisely because He is just. He glorifies His name in displaying wrath towards sinners and the riches of His glory toward those who are being saved because this is the only right thing for God to do. It is His very justice, not His injustice, that cause His to operate in the fashion.

The real wonder, of course, is that God displays His mercy, for by its very nature mercy is undeserved and unrequired. Yet God has done so. He has done so in saving sinners like ourselves.

The last verse of the chapter show that not all who are of Israel are the true Israel, and second, they demonstrate the truth of election and passing over by four Old Testament citations. It is the way Paul customarily writes---first the argument and then the proof of it from the Old Testament. Here he shows that God's purposes toward the Jews have not failed (verse 6) because God had previously revealed that not all Jews would be saved and that Gentiles would be. Two of these citations are from the minor prophet Hosea (Hosea 2:23 and 1:10), and two are from the major prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 10:22-23 and 1:9). The verses from Hosea show that God has always intended to include Gentiles in His plan of salvation. The verses from Isaiah show that His electing call has never included every single Jew.

Whenever we think of election we tend to focus on the negative, wondering why some are passed over. But the Bible focuses on the positive, calling this the day of God's grace. The demonstration of God's justice in judging sinners is an important part of what God is doing in human history, but it is not the whole thing. God is also making known the riches of His glory in saving some."

(from BSF Notes, 1998)

15 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

To the first objection, Paul strongly declares that it is impossible that any injustice or unrighteousness should be attributed to God.

Agreed.

Edwards

Jeff said...

Is the Doctrine of Election Biblical?

by John MacArthur

Adapted from The Body Dynamic, © 1996 by John MacArthur. All rights reserved.

Among the most hotly contested and persistent debates in the history of the confessing church, the doctrine of election is perhaps the greatest of all. The question goes like this: Does God choose sinners to be saved and then provide for their salvation? Or, Does God provide the way of salvation that sinners must choose for themselves?

Where’s the evidence?
This question of choice is called “election” because of the Greek word for those who are chosen—the Bible calls them eklektos. There are many such uses in the Bible (cf. Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 5:21; Tit. 1:1; 2 John 1), but one of my favorites is in Romans 8:33: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” The answer is, “no one,” but why? Is it because I chose God, or is it because God chose me?

One passage that is critical to the discussion is in the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Immediately after his customary greeting, Paul launches in Ephesians 1:3-14 with a great song of praise. It’s only one sentence—but, with 200 words in the Greek, it may be the longest single sentence in religious literature.

Paul touches on all the great biblical themes in that hyper-complex sentence—sanctification, adoption, redemption, and glorification—and all of them rest on one foundational doctrine, the doctrine of election. The most superlative spiritual blessings stand on Ephesians 1:4—“He chose us [elected us] in Him before the foundation of the world.”

So the doctrine of election is biblical, but what does that passage really teach? I want to help you get a better grasp of that by pointing out what Paul teaches about election. If you are a believer, you can equip yourself for your next conversation on this topic. But more important, as one of His elect you can rejoice in the astonishing kindness God showed you before the world began.

What does it mean?
Paul’s song is essentially his reflection on the amazing truth that God “blessed us with every spiritual blessing … in Christ” (v. 3). And how did He bless us? “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

God didn’t draw straws; He didn’t look down the corridor of time to see who would choose Him before He decided. Rather, by His sovereign will He chose who would be in the Body of Christ. The construction of the Greek verb for “chose” indicates God chose us for Himself. That means God acted totally independent of any outside influence. He made His choice totally apart from human will and purely on the basis of His sovereignty.

Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And in the same Gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12-13, italics mine). And Paul said, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).

Those statements defining God’s sovereign choice of believers are not in the Bible to cause controversy, as if God’s election means sinners don’t make decisions. Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

Admittedly the two concepts don’t seem to go together. However, both are true separately, and we must accept them both by faith. You may not understand it, but rest assured—it’s fully reconciled in the mind of God.

You must understand that your faith and salvation rest entirely on God’s election (cf. Acts 13:48). And yet the day you came to Jesus Christ, you did so because of an internal desire—you did nothing against your will. But even that desire is God-given—He supplies the necessary faith so we can believe (Eph. 2:8).

Think about it—if your salvation depends on you, then praise to God is ridiculous. But, in truth, your praise to God is completely appropriate, because in forming the Body before the world began, He chose you by His sovereign decree apart from any of your works. The doctrine of election demonstrates God being God, exercising divine prerogatives. For that we must praise Him.

“But that’s not fair!”
Some are shocked to find that God didn’t choose everyone to salvation. Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39, italics mine). God the Father chose certain individuals to form a Body as a gift to Jesus Christ. Every believer is part of that love gift to Christ—a gift of the Father’s love to His Son.

To those who say that is unjust, Paul answers: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (Rom. 9:14-15).

So why does God still find fault in unrepentant sinners when He didn’t choose them? Doesn’t this deny human responsibility? Is it fair for God to still hold them accountable?

Paul answers all such questions with a rebuke—“who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” (v. 20). Does the clay jump up and ask the potter why it looks the way it does? Not at all.

Some believe that is terribly cold and calculating. But that is only one side of God’s sovereign election. Paul continues in the next chapter by saying, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved … for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (10:9, 13).

How these two sides of God’s truth—His sovereignty in choosing us (Rom. 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Rom. 10)—reconcile is impossible for us to understand fully. But Scripture declares both perspectives of salvation to be true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and joyfully accept them by faith.

from:
http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/GTYW02.htm

Vicki said...

Jeff,
I apologize for not reading the entire post. And for this, I can not be sure of what your bottom line is on "Election".
However, I am ready to answer to at least three items in the first one quarter of your post.

In discussing how any of the apostles or missionaries went to whatever place they did, we do know that some were sent. Also, we do not know a lot about how any of the apostles found themselves heading and being in a particular place. Circumstances, family and where the Jews had been fleeing were factors I am certain.

On the other hand, if one wants to insist on Predestination, examine what I call the chess board theorie.

In chess,especially when two opponents are familiar with one another, the game board can get locked up to where it is not safe for either opponent to make a move. I have played chess with peopel to where I almost know that they will not chose the best moves because they are impulsive. The impulse usually is precipitated by what looks like a trade that will (in the immediate) appear as they will receive the best out come. However, being that I know that this person will take what looks like he is gaining a huge advantage I set him up for devistation by offering the gambet.

Let's apply this to God being in control. We still have the choice to take the gambit. I can see in the Bible where God did have to change His mind because the gambit was not taken.

Moses and Abraham were key figures in the 'repentance' of God.

Also, In II Kings, I believe, I can't remember exactly. However I am going to commit that it is in one of the two books of Kings. God needs to manipulate a situation. So, he literally holds a meeting with the Angels. And He ask for suggestions. One says one thing and another says something and then, Satan (we can tell that it is Satan for two reasons. Satan was allowed in these meetings in the book of Job and then watch how God addresses this angel) proposes something. And God says, that will work. Go. You will be a "lying Spirit" in ...

I apologise for not looking it up. It is late. Your post has a lot to discuss.

The second thing I want to discuss with you is, Did Abraham not have a relationship with God when he was a child? He did. One clue is his name. Abram. Tribute to God, as 'exalted father' or something like that. (You will probably get a lot of generalities out of me).
Then, we can understand that Nimrod, being a descendant of Ham competed to worship God. Abraham was of the lineage of Shem, whom God said would be a blessing to God. This is prior to Abram's calling. So, I think we can understand that there were people on earth prior and to the time of Abram who were worshipping God (I posted this in my manuscript that you said you would read and get back to me on. http://deityquest.blogspot.com/2008/05/chapter-2-atonement.html

So, I will not completly state my explaination here. Except that my answer is in ch. 2 of my manuscript).

Also, In chapter three of my manuscript, I gave an arcaeological reference to a story of childhood taunting endured by Abram because Abram worshipped God.

Now let's discuss the differences in Isaac and Ishmael.
Ishmael was Abram's first born. So, why is he not the heir and child of promise? This goes back to Shem and Ham.

Hagar was of Egyptian blood. The Bible tells us the Hamites settled in Egypt as well as other areas. She was disqualified because the promissing that Shem would be a blessing to God, carries with it the reason that Shem would be a blessing which is simply that from Shem's decendants, the Messiah would come.
This, of course is why Abram instructed Eliezer to go back to where Abraham's people were to get a wife for Isaac. This is also what Jacob had to do to allow for the blood of Shem to continue to the point at which God would bring a Messiah from the blood of Shem (Semitic people)

Early in the post, you asked why would God want to be glorified.
Jeff, you must not have read any of my manuscript as you said you would. Because, very quickly in chapter one, I esstablish, along with C.S. Lewis' help that God wants to experience. The only thing He was unable to experience with things as He made it up to the creation of man was edification in the freely coming of His creation. Everything was created to be obediant up to the point of creating man.

I'll read the remainder of your post tomorrow.

Jim

So, let's examine my life being manipulated by God.

Vicki said...

Jeff,
This is Jim. The picture is a picture of my wife. I am posting from her blog, somehow. Which is very odd. Since I just saw your post through my email before I came to your site to comment.
Jim

Jeff said...

Jim,

Thanks for dropping by and leaving comments! It does seem a bit odd, as you say, to be talking to you, when I see a picture of your wife there.

First, let me say that the doctrine of Election may be the most difficult doctrine to accept (even by Christians) in the entire Bible. But, once you accept it, you gain a whole new respect for the sovereignty of God.

OK, so one point at a time.

I can see in the Bible where God did have to change His mind because the gambit was not taken.

First, God does not change His mind, in the way that we think of it. The Bible says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17, NKJV)

I think this article explains it nicely:

"Exodus 32:14
The Lord changed His mind

"So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people," (Exodus 32:14, NASB).

Different Bible's translate this verse differently. The NASB says, "the Lord changed His mind." The NIV and NKJV say "The Lord relented." The KJV, RSV, and the 1901 ASV say, "The Lord repented." The Hebrew word at issue here is for relent/repent is nacham. There are 108 occurrences in the Old Testament. The KJV translates it as 'comfort' 57 times, 'repent' 41 times, 'comforter' nine times, and 'ease' once.

The issue, of course, is whether or not God actually goes through a process of changing His mind due to learning something as the open theists would maintain. But, is God actually reacting to knew information or is He working on our level, in our reference, for our benefit? The context is important. Moses was upon on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. The people had become impatient as they waited for him to return. So, they then made a golden calf to worship. God then says to Moses in Exodus 32:10, "Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation." Moses then intercedes for the Jews and asks God to not destroy them.

"Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever." So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people." (Exodus 32:12-14, NASB)

First of all, it is apparent that Moses disobeyed God's instruction to leave God alone (v. 10). Instead of Moses listening to God, he pleads with God to spare Israel and God relents. Why? What is the significance of God allowing Himself to be swayed by the interceding work of Moses on behalf of Israel? Why did God not ignore Moses' request and go ahead and destroy the nation? The answer is simple: because of Jesus. Jesus said in John 5:39, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me." Jesus says that the Bible is about Him. Certainly, such an important figure of Moses must reflect Jesus in some way, and he does. As Moses interceded for his people, Jesus also intercedes for His. God listened to Moses, because God would listen to Jesus.

Second, we must ask if God was or was not aware of the condition of the hearts of the people of Israel. Open theism states that God knows all of the present exhaustively, including the attitudes and thoughts of all people. Now, didn't God know the hearts of the people? Didn't He know that they were ready for idolatry? Are we to believe that God didn't know that there were going to be a host of Jews who would most certainly fall into idolatry if Moses was up on the mount too long? It seems so. Yet, God allowed them the time necessary to fall into idolatry. Moses then ordered that the Levies kill those who opposed God and about 3,000 fell that day (Exodus 32:28). It is interesting to note that in Acts, when Peter preached and the Spirit of God moved on people and they were saved, 3,000 were added that day to the church (Acts 2:41). When the Law was given, 3,000 died. When the gospel was given, 3,000 were saved.

Third, God often waits until something happens before He "makes His move." In the Garden of Adam and Eve, God waits to come on the scene until after Adam and Eve sinned. God promises Abraham he would be the father of a great nation, but waits until after Ishmael is born before he allows Abraham to have Isaac. Jesus waited until Lazarus died before going to resurrect him. In fact, Jesus' incarnation did not occur until the time of Roman oppression and Pharisaical legalistic apostasy. Can we not also expect that God had Moses wait on the Mount until the people of Israel fell into idolatry so that He might desire to exterminate them, and so that Moses might intercede (as a type of Christ), so that God might show His mercy? Notice how the intercession of Moses is an appeal to the grace of God in face of the Law of God which had already been given. The Law of God said to not commit idolatry (Exodus 20), yet the Israelites did just that. It was not until after the Law was given to Moses that their sin was to be judged and the intercession of Moses occurred. As Amos 3:7 says, "Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets." God reveals His will and plans in types and symbols in the Old Testament. These types and symbols point ahead to Jesus of which Moses was a type.

Conclusion

1. We see that the Hebrew word for "repent, relent, change," etc. is "nashash" that has a scope of meaning, which we see in other translations, that can infer God's change of direction and purpose towards a people.

2. We see that Moses was a type of Christ demonstrating the intercessory work of Christ, to which God would listen.

3. God must have known the present condition of the Jews and would have known they were going to commit idolatry, yet kept Moses on Mt. Sinai until after their sin. This had to be done for a purpose, both to demonstrate the Law of God for those who were destroyed and the mercy of God upon those who repented.

4. If God changed His mind, in that He adapted to new information, then God does not know all things (1 John 3:20), did not even know the then present condition of the Israelites, waited too long with Moses on Mt. Sinai, and was influenced by Moses who disobeyed God's command to leave God alone. It would make more sense to say that God waited for a reason, threatened to destroy Israel, and allowed Moses to intercede on their behalf so they would be saved."

from:
http://www.carm.org/open/Exodus32_14.htm

Jeff said...

This explains it even better:

"Scripture teaches the concept of God’s immutability, i.e., the notion that his essence, character, and will are stable and perfect. Thus, while ordinary things undergo transformation, the changeless Creator does not. He is the same forever (see Psa. 102:26-27). With the Lord there can be “no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” (Jas. 1:17 ASV; cf. Heb. 13:8).

To suggest that God is whimsical—constantly changing his mind, as such fluctuations are characteristic of humanity—is to reflect upon the very nature of divine being.

The fact that God is omniscient also enters into this subject. The concept of omniscience suggests that the Lord knows everything there is to know—past, present, and future. He has never “learned” anything, nor has he “discovered” a new fact. He is never “surprised” by what men may do. He knows our thoughts (cf. Heb 4:12-13), and the very intricacies of our bodies (Psa. 139:1ff; Mt. 10:30). Not even a bird falls to the earth without his awareness of the event (Mt. 10:29).

As noted above, divine omniscience extends also into the future. One of the dramatic differences between the true God, and those that are false, i.e., mere inventions of illusory minds, is Jehovah’s ability to see the future. The prophets of the Old Testament challenged their heathen rivals: “Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods?” (Isa. 41:23). The hundreds of prophecies that adorn the pages of the Bible are astounding evidence of the Lord’s foreknowledge.

In view of this amazing attribute, it is impossible to conclude that the Creator of the Universe vacillates back and forth, doing one thing now, then later changing his mind—in any literal sense of that expression.

It is a fact, however, that the Scriptures frequently employ figures of speech that seem to suggest that God alters his actions in response to man’s behavior. The passage in Exodus 32 is an excellent example of this sort of phraseology.

While Moses was upon the heights of Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments, the children of Israel, in the region below, made an idol, a molten calf, and proclaimed it as their deliverer from Egypt. The corrupt act was wholly antagonistic to the will of God, and the Lord proclaimed his intention to “consume” them. Moses, as a mediator, interceded and pled with Jehovah to not destroy them. Accordingly, the biblical text represents God’s response in this fashion:


“Jehovah repented of the evil [destruction] which he said he would do unto his people” (Ex. 32:14).

The term “repented” reflects a figure of speech, common to many languages, known as anthropopathism (literally, man feelings). This is an idiom by which divine activity is described symbolically in terms of human emotion. It is rather similar to the kindred figure, anthropomorphism (man form) by which God is described as having physical parts (e.g., eyes, hands, etc.) even though he is not a physical being (Jn. 4:24; Lk. 24:39).

Anthropopathism, therefore, is a figure of speech by which human feelings or emotions are ascribed to God, in order to accommodate man’s ignorance of the unfathomable intentions and operations of deity (cf. Rom. 11:33-36). Professor Alan Cole has an excellent discussion of this figure as employed in the Exodus text under consideration.


“[Anthropopathism is a figure here used] by which God’s activity is explained, by analogy, in strictly human terms. The meaning is not that God changed His mind; still less that He regretted something that He had intended to do. It means, in biblical language, that He now embarked on a different course of action from that already suggested as a possibility, owing to some new factor which is usually mentioned in the context. In the Bible, it is clear that God’s promises and warnings are always conditional on man’s response: this is most clearly set out in Ezekiel 33:13-16. We are not to think of Moses as altering God’s purpose towards Israel by his prayer, but as carrying it out: Moses was never more like God than in such moments, for he shared God’s mind and loving purpose” (Exodus—Tyndale O.T. Commentaries, Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973, p. 217; emphasis added).

It must be understood, therefore, that though certain biblical passages speak of the Lord being “changeless,” while others represent him as “changing” (in response to human conduct), that different senses are in view. In light of this fact, the “discrepancy” problem dissolves. But when one does not understand some of the common figures of speech utilized by the Bible writers, under the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit, he most certainly will draw many faulty conclusions—sometimes very dangerous ones.

Human languages are punctuated with dramatic figures of speech. This phenomenon is no less true in the case of the Scriptures than it is with other literary productions. A failure to recognize this principle leads to numerous flawed ideas."

from:
http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/559-does-god-change-his-mind

Jeff said...

Also, In II Kings, I believe, I can't remember exactly. However I am going to commit that it is in one of the two books of Kings. God needs to manipulate a situation. So, he literally holds a meeting with the Angels. And He ask for suggestions. One says one thing and another says something and then, Satan (we can tell that it is Satan for two reasons. Satan was allowed in these meetings in the book of Job and then watch how God addresses this angel) proposes something. And God says, that will work. Go. You will be a "lying Spirit" in ...

Actually, it was I Kings 22, which is also reported in II Chronicles 18.

According to Matthew Henry's Commentary In One Volume, "...God permitted Satan by them to deceive him into his ruin, and he by vision knew of it. God is a great King above all kings, and has a throne above all the thrones of earthly princes. The rise and fall of princes, the issues of war, and all the great affairs of state, which are the subject of the consultations of wise and great men, are no more above God's direction than the meanest concerns of the poorest cottages are below His notice. It is not without the divine permission that the devil deceives men, and even thereby God serves His own purposes."
(p. 396)

Jeff said...

Wesley's Notes

I Kings 22:22 He said - I will inspire a lie into the minds and mouths of his prophets. Thou shalt - I will give them up into thy hands, and leave them to their own ignorance and wickedness. Go - This is not a command, but only a permission.


Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

I Kings 22:15-28 The greatest kindness we can do to one that is going in a dangerous way, is, to tell him of his danger. To leave the hardened criminal without excuse, and to give a useful lesson to others, Micaiah related his vision. This matter is represented after the manner of men: we are not to imagine that God is ever put upon new counsels; or that he needs to consult with angels, or any creature, about the methods he should take; or that he is the author of sin, or the cause of any man's telling or believing a lie. Micaiah returned not the blow of Zedekiah, yet, since he boasted of the Spirit, as those commonly do that know least of the Holy Spirit's operations, the true prophet left him to be convinced of his error by the event. Those that will not have their mistakes set right in time, by the word of God, will be undeceived, when it is too late, by the judgments of God. We should be ashamed of what we call trials, were we to consider what the servants of God have endured. Yet it will be well, if freedom from trouble prove not more hurtful to us; we are more easily allured and bribed into unfaithfulness and conformity to the world, than driven to them.

Jeff said...

Although God does not change His mind (if He did, he would not be omniscient), God is a God of relationships, and, instead of sitting on His throne and just acting like some distant, recluse dictator apart from any interaction with the people and the angels He created, He allows people and angels (both holy and fallen angels) to interact, converse and correspond with Him. Nevertheless, He does not allow His ultimate plan, which He has known from eternity past, to be changed. He already knows everything that will happen, and everything that He will do. No one can counsel Him, and no one can influence Him (although people and angels are responsible for their own actions, and there are consequences for the actions they take).

Jeff said...

This seems to be a related issue:

David's Tragic Census-who 'Moved' him to do it?

The question: In 2 Samuel 24 it says that God moved David to take a tragic census of Israel's military power, but in I Chronicles 21 it says that Satan moved him to do so. What gives?!

"1. God bestows evil consequences upon evil actions ("you reap what you sow"). In any given case, He has many different possibilities of evil consequences to choose from. He chooses what kind of evil to bestow, and when to bestow it, according to His wisdom and plan. He orchestrates His actions to keep all of His commitments. For example, when He visits judgement upon Jerusalem, He manages it such that the righteous are preserved.

Example: I Kings 22 (pp. 2 Chronicles 18): God decides to kill the evil king Ahab, and asks the heavenly hosts as to how to entice Ahab to enter into a battle in which he will die. A spirit volunteers to be a 'lying spirit' in the mouth of Ahab's false prophets. God says 'do it'. God is not guilty of lying, but merely gives Ahab the fruit of his own evil ways (Jer 24.7).

Example: I Sam 16: After repeated failures to submit to God's leadership, Saul is rejected as king. He remains on the throne however, and continues his non-committed lifestyle and reign (even indulging in sorcery and seances). God punishes him by sending an 'unclean spirit' to trouble him. (If he had simply turned back to the Lord, he could have at least had peace of mind.)

2. Satan is always accusing Israel (see Zechariah 3.1-2 in OT) and believers (see Rev 12.10 and I John 2.1 with Jesus as our defense lawyer in NT), and seeks to get God to punish His people. In the 2 Samuel passage, it says that God was angry with Israel (presumably because of the recent revolt under Sheba in I Chrn 20 and other acts by Amnon and Absalom). This would have been a prime opportunity for the Accuser to "incite" (NIV) God to act against Israel through the person of their King. The standard way Satan does this is to appeal to God's justice. He points out man's sin, and then that God's holiness cannot allow it to go unpunished. With His honor at stake, God responds with judgement (but He does not "willingly afflict the children of men" (Lam 3.33). The Cross changed the dynamics of that argument, hence less 'early judgments' on the nations today.

3. One example of this interplay between God and Satan can be seen in Job, although the motivations are radically different. In Job 1.8-12, God brags about Job and Satan accuses Job of honoring God simply for materialistic gain. God allows Satan to attack Job and then in 2.3 God confronts Satan with Job's failure to sin even though "you incited me against him to ruin him." In other words, Satan was the "ruiner" but God was also a "ruiner".

4. This idea of God acting through agents (for reasons of judgment, of mercy, of testing, etc.) occurs frequently in scripture. Job is a good example of reasons of testing. Our passage is a good example of reasons of judgment (on Israel). And Joseph's selling into slavery is a good example of reasons of mercy.

In the story in Gen 37 Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame) is sold into slavery by his jealous, angry brothers. God grants him incredible success in Egypt, even rising to the number 2 position under Pharaoh. Listen to him in later passages recall his version of that history:

"do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you" (Gen 45.5)

"but God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth" (Gen 45.7)

"So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God" (Gen 45.8)

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Gen 50:20)

So in this case, there were evil human intentions, with God's overarching purpose for good. (In spite of the judgment and punishment that God meted out upon his people in our Census case, some good did occur--the site for the temple and the site of Calvary was chosen in an act of grace!)

5. One last example of this 'dual agency' principle concerns sending the spies into Canaan after the exodus:

"The LORD said to Moses, 'Send some men to explore the land of Canaan..."(Num 13.1)

"Then all of you came to me and said 'Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for use...'" (Dt 1.22)

Two possibilities exit here:

1. God moved the men to suggest/request the sending or

2. The men said first, Moses asked permission of God, and God gave his Send-command. The second is the more likely of the two, in light of the passages in Job. Note: this case shows that the agencies do not have to operate at the same time.

6. The most probable sequence in our passages runs like this:

God is angry with Israel's sin (and David's handling of the royal family issues).

Satan sees his opportunity, accuses them of wrongdoing, and wins approval to inflict David's and Israel's wrongdoing back on themselves.

God, knowing that the punishment is well deserved, that the example of correction/contrition on David's part will be recorded in Scripture forever as an example, and that He will be gracious 'ahead of schedule' and reveal the site of his temple/crucifixion, agrees to turn David and Israel over to him, for this specific punishment (cf. I Cor 5.5).

Satan, with this permission from God, moves David to begin the Census.

7. It is important to note 2 Sam 24.16: "When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity..." God's justice is always angry at sin, and His love is always grieved over the misery that sin causes.

(N.B. This is attempted theological resolution of this issue. A philosophical resolution would involve delineating the 'interface' between volitions from three different ontic realms: human, angelic, divine--no small task, if even do-able!)"

from:
http://www.christian-thinktank.com/hcensus.html

Jeff said...

"Does God cause man's choices?

When one biblically and theologically accepts the idea of a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, it often taxes our feeble thoughts to reconcile the idea in the human mind. One question that may come to mind is, "Does God cause man's choices?" This make take the form of wondering about all of, some of, or any of man's choices? Here are a few Bible incidents to think about.

Deuteronomy 2:26-35 And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the high way, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left. Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet; (As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me;) until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the LORD our God giveth us. But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land. Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain: Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took.

Did God cause Sihon to choose to refuse the Israelites passage? Did He do so that He might bring judgement on Sihon and Heshbon? If so, was Sihon still responsible/accountable?

I Kings 22:20-23 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

Did God send a lying spirit to Ahab's prophets that they would prophesy falsely? Did He do so as the means of leading Ahab to his death? If so, are the prophets still responsible/accountable?

Exodus 7:13; 9:12; 10:1,2,20 And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said...And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses...And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD...But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

Did God harden Pharoah's heart so that he would not agree to set Israel free, and also as an that God might bring judgement on Egypt and their gods? If so, was Pharoah still responsible/accountable? [Also, compare Psalm 105:25]

BTW, if you object to God directly causing men's choices, do you feel better about it if He instead uses means to do so? For example, Exodus 23:28 - And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. Human philosophy has created an idol called free will. To many, human free will cannot be touched by God; it has an almost independent existence. To some, more moderately, God has chosen to leave free will inviolate. The problem with either theory is that they are not consistent with the complete record of God's word. Some will admit to allowing God to cause man's actions indirectly -- as in sending hornets to change their will -- but won't allow God the right to directly or without mediation cause man's actions."

from:
http://tinyurl.com/6pcekl

jeleasure said...

Jeff,
Again, you have written a lot of information. Sometimes that is required. However, I understand that God "Relented, repented, turned or changed his direction". What it all boils down to, no matter how much a person wishes to indulge himself in explaining, "spining" a reason on the words used, is that The Jews were not destroyed when Moses said to God that God would defame Himself.

You did not answer to the importance of Abraham having a child from a wife of the lineage of Shem. I am assuming that you read it. However, I have no understanding as to what you get out of it. Quite honestly, Jeff, this is very fundamental in understanding the Covenant made with Abraham to make his descendants numerous for the purpose of causing His name to be great. This is the only way the Islamic people will understand why God did not talk to them but through Israel. In fact, it is the only way anyone can understand the tower of Babel, which I wrote on in my manuscript in chapter two. Have you looked at it yet?

Jeff said...

Jim,

I didn't answer to all your points yet, because I figured that my answers were long enough already, as you yourself pointed out when you said "gain, you have written a lot of information."

So, I think we can understand that there were people on earth prior and to the time of Abram who were worshipping God.

Adam and Eve knew God, so obviously there were people before Abraham who worshiped God.

Now let's discuss the differences in Isaac and Ishmael.
Ishmael was Abram's first born. So, why is he not the heir and child of promise? This goes back to Shem and Ham.

Hagar was of Egyptian blood. The Bible tells us the Hamites settled in Egypt as well as other areas. She was disqualified because the promissing that Shem would be a blessing to God, carries with it the reason that Shem would be a blessing which is simply that from Shem's decendants, the Messiah would come.
This, of course is why Abram instructed Eliezer to go back to where Abraham's people were to get a wife for Isaac. This is also what Jacob had to do to allow for the blood of Shem to continue to the point at which God would bring a Messiah from the blood of Shem (Semitic people)


So you're saying that God directed the actions of people in order to accomplish His will regarding the future Messiah? Wow, sounds like you're arguing FOR Election!

Jeff, you must not have read any of my manuscript as you said you would.

I think I read the first section a while back, but I never went back and read the rest, because they were so long. I'll have to go back and read a little more. Sorry that I didn't do that before.

Anonymous said...

Buddy, this is a most excellent website. I mean GotQuestions.org. It has some great answers. Check it:

Question: "What is Arminianism and is it Biblical?"

Answer: Arminianism is a system of belief that attempts to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will, especially in relation to salvation. Arminianism was founded by Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian, and it is essentially the opposite of Calvinism. If Arminianism is broken down into five points, similar to the five points of Calvinism, these would be the five points:

(1) Partial Depravity – humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that we cannot chose to come to God on our own. We are capable of choosing to accept salvation or reject it without any influence from God. (2) Conditional Election – God chose who would be saved based on knowing beforehand who would believe. God chooses those whom He knows will believe. (3) Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died for everyone, even those who are not chosen and will not believe. Jesus’ death was for all of humanity, and anyone can be saved by belief in Him. (4) Resistible Grace – God’s call on a person’s life to be saved can be resisted and/or rejected. We can resist God’s pull towards salvation if we choose to. (5) Conditional Salvation – Christians can lose their salvation if they continue in a life of sin and/or fall away from God. The maintenance of salvation is required for a Christian to retain it.

The only point of Arminianism four-point Calvinists believe to be biblical is point #3 – Unlimited Atonement. They believe the Bible indicates that Jesus died for the sins of everyone in the entire world. 1 John 2:2 tells us, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 2 Peter 2:1 tells us that Jesus even bought the false prophets who are doomed: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves.” Jesus’ death is most definitely available to anyone and everyone who will believe in Him. Jesus did not just die for those who will be saved.

Four-point Calvinism (the official position of Got Questions ministries) finds the other four points of Arminianism to be unbiblical, to varying degrees. Romans 3:10-18 strongly argues for total depravity. Conditional election underemphasizes God’s sovereignty (Romans 8:28-30). Resistible grace underestimates the power and determination of God. Conditional salvation makes salvation a work rather than a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). Although there are problems with both systems, Calvinism is far more biblically based than Arminianism. However, both systems fail to adequately explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will – due to the fact that it is impossible for a finite human mind to discern a concept only God can fully understand.

Anonymous said...

Here's another one from GotQuestions.Org, just a great website it is, with some great answers. Here ya go:

Question: "Calvinism vs. Arminianism - which view is correct?"

Answer: Calvinism and Arminianism are two systems of theology that attempt to explain the relationship between God's sovereignty and humanity's responsibility in relation to salvation. Calvinism is named for John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509 - 1564. Arminianism is named for Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560 - 1609.

Both systems can be summarized with five points. Calvinism holds to total depravity while Arminianism holds to partial depravity. Total depravity states that every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin; therefore, human beings are unable to come to God on their own accord. Partial depravity states that every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that humans are unable to place faith in God of their own accord.

Calvinism holds to unconditional election while Arminianism holds to conditional election. Unconditional election holds that God elects individuals to salvation based entirely on His will alone, not on anything inherent in the individual. Conditional election holds that God elects individuals to salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will believe in Christ unto salvation.

Calvinism holds to limited atonement while Arminianism holds to unlimited atonement. This is the most controversial of the five points. Limited atonement is the belief that Jesus only died for the elect. Unlimited atonement is the belief that Jesus died for all, but that His death is not effectual until a person believes.

Calvinism holds to irresistible grace while Arminianism holds to resistible grace. Irresistible grace argues that when God calls a person to salvation, that person will inevitably come to salvation. Resistible grace states that God calls all to salvation, but that many people resist and reject this call.

Calvinism holds to perseverance of the saints while Arminianism holds to conditional salvation. Perseverance of the saints refers to the concept that a person who is elected by God will persevere in faith and will never deny Christ or turn away from Him. Conditional salvation is the view that a believer in Christ can, of his/her own free will, turn away from Christ and thereby lose salvation.

So, in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, who is correct? It is interesting to note that in the diversity of the Body of Christ, there are all sorts of mixtures of Calvinism and Arminianism. There are five-point Calvinists and five-point Arminians and, at the same time, three-point Calvinists and two-point Arminians. Many believers arrive at some sort of mixture of the two views. Ultimately, it is our view that both systems fail in that they attempt to explain the unexplainable. Human beings are incapable of fully grasping a concept such as this. Yes, God is absolutely sovereign and knows all. Yes, human beings are called to make a genuine decision to place faith in Christ unto salvation. These two facts seem contradictory to us, but in the mind of God they make perfect sense.