Saturday, August 8, 2009

Helm's Defense, Part I-C: Augustine's Inconsistency on Predestination

“There are a number of references to reprobation in this work and others. For example, ‘He saved them [the elect] for nothing. But to the rest who were blinded, as is there plainly declared it, was done in recompense. ‘All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.’ But His ways are unsearchable. Therefore the mercy by which He freely delivers, and the truth by which He righteously judges, are equally unsearchable. Such references are understandably muted, but for Augustine reprobation is not simply inferred from predestination but grounded in the biblical data, and THE GROUNDS FOR CONDEMNING THE REPROBATE DIFFER FROM THE GROUNDS FOR BLESSING THE ELECT. All events are under God’s providential control, but the term ‘predestination’ IS RESERVED BY AUGUSTINE FOR THE DESTINING OF MEN AND WOMEN TO SALVATION. God foreknows what he himself does not (and cannot do)—that is, acts of evil. HE DOES NOT PREDESTINE SUCH ACTS, BUT THEY ARE PART OF HIS PROVIDENCE” [Paul Helm, “Perspectives on the Doctrine of God,” edited by Bruce Ware. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2008, page 12.]

I find Paul Helm’s words regarding Augustine’s view of predestination and providence to be fascinating. Augustine believes that the word “predestination” refers to God ordaining men and women to go to Heaven, but yet, God doesn’t ordain men and women to go to Hell? So, is Augustine saying that people go to Hell because they CHOOSE to do so?

But if people are allowed to CHOOSE Hell, but are PREDESTINED for Heaven, then we now have a problem: now, there are TWO WAYS to pick TWO WAYS to go to eternity!

I’ve heard this argument before. A good of friend of mine told me that his professor espouses Augustine’s belief. But this is how the professor reconciled these two interesting assessments of eternity: those who go to Hell already chose to—IN ADAM. But those who go to Heaven are elected by Christ.

Wait a minute! How is it that one group gets chosen AFTER the Crucifixion, but the other group GETS DESERTED? What does Romans 5 tell us?

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, (S) and death through sin, (T) in this way death spread to all men, (U) because all sinned. (Romans 5:12, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Romans 5 tells us that ALL SINNED in Adam, and so, ALL received the penalty of death. So in the beginning, EVERYONE CHOSE HELL!

But then, the Lord came; and He reconciled us back to God:

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man's trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, (Y) Jesus Christ. 16 And the gift is not like the one man's sin, because from one sin came the judgment, (Z) resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification. [d] 17 Since by the one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life (AA) through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:15-17, HCSB)

Verse 17 is our important verse here: since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much will THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE OVERFLOW OF GRACE AND THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

Paul is showing us a parallel here between the first Adam (first human), and the “second Adam” (Christ). But what he states here is that “those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness” will experience eternal life.
I wonder whether or not Augustine, Calvin, or even modern-day Calvinists have read this verse. It tells us here that only those who accept Christ will receive “the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness.” This doesn’t sound like God “picking” one and abandoning another, does it?

Notice that Paul says those who receive “THE OVERFLOW OF GRACE.” If you read Calvinist interpretations of Romans 9, it seems as if God doesn’t have an overflow of grace, but an UNDERFLOW! God doesn’t have enough grace for everyone—only for a few people. But Paul tells us here that God’s grace is so ABUNDANT (that there is room for so many) that His grace overflows to all those who accept Him.

I now go back to Augustine. He tells us that those who go to Hell do so by choice (to prevent God’s name from being stained with evil). But, by so doing, Augustine, while getting rid of the problem of evil, faces another problem: how to reconcile some getting PICKED while others CHOOSE.

There can’t be two ways: either everyone chooses or everyone gets handpicked by God. No one can have it both ways. But the fact that Augustine holds this view (according to Paul Helm) just confirms what Arminians have always believed about Calvinists: when everything is exposed, Calvinists have many inconsistencies in their system. And the fact that God, in His providence, ALLOWS some to choose Hell makes a strong case for free will theism, especially when it comes from the words of someone who favors unconditional election.

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