Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unconditional Election...and "Conditional" Reprobation?

“The question of the reprobate poses a problem. Reprobation is God’s decision to reject or pass over certain ones. If God rejects the reprobate because of his sin and unbelief, then reprobation is based on God’s justice, and His decision poses no moral dilemma. But it would also mean that SOME ASPECTS OF GOD’S DECREE WERE CONDITIONAL rather than unconditional and that in certain ways THE FREE CHOICES OF MORALLY RESPONSIBLE CREATURES AFFECTED THE ETERNAL DECISIONS OF GOD” (Kenneth Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, page 140).

Calvinists have always asserted that “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ORDAIN WHATSOEVER COMES TO PASS; YET SO AS THEREBY NEITHER IS GOD THE AUTHOR OF SIN, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established...although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet hath He not decreed any thing BECAUSE HE FORESAW IT AS FUTURE, OR AS THAT WHICH WOULD COME TO PASS UPON SUCH CONDITIONS” (Westminster Confession, quoted by Lorraine Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.” Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1932, page 13).

But what Calvinists do not realize is that the Westminster Confession does contain inconsistencies. One of the problems involves foreordination and libertarian freedom. Let me show the dilemma via a syllogism:

I. God has “ordained whatsoever comes to pass” (Westminster Confession)

II. Evil comes to pass.

III. Therefore, God ordains evil.

Notice though, that the Westminster Confession contains a blatant contradiction:
“YET SO AS THEREBY NEITHER IS GOD THE AUTHOR OF SIN, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

If God ordains everything (including evil) that happens (and “everything” means “every thing”), then God ordains evil. How then, does this NOT make God “The author of sin”? How then, does this NOT violate “the will of the creatures”? And how is liberty NOT “taken away”? If God decreed sin (in events) from before the foundations of the world, then God is the author of sin (for an “author” is someone who is a source or origin of something). God, then, according to the Westminster Confession, is the One who decrees evil---therefore, God is the “author of sin.”

How then, is it that, if God foreordains evil, that the will of the creatures is not violated? Think about it: a person cannot choose to commit fornication (for example) and NOT commit fornication at the same time. The person will either commit fornication or refrain from so doing. So if the person commits fornication, then God decreed that the person would sin (according to the Confession). God doesn’t foreordain two opposing actions as the “choice” the person makes; He foreordains one. So if the person commits fornication, he does so because God foreordained it” (He decreed WHATSOEVER comes to pass).

Here then, in just the Westminster Confession alone, we find massive inconsistencies. An act cannot be foreordained and yet self-determined. There is no libertarian freedom in a world where everything has been predetermined.

And yet, we find that infralapsarians and Molinists actually affirm the idea of conditional reprobation. As Keathley notes, to make the point that reprobation is conditioned upon the person’s unbelief would be the same as conceding that “some aspects of God’s decree were CONDITIONAL RATHER THAN UNCONDITIONAL and that in certain ways the free choices of morally responsible creatures affected the eternal decisions of God” (140).

But for infralapsarians and Molinists to affirm the concept of conditional reprobation introduces an inconsistency in their system. We have to ask ourselves, how then can a person REJECT Christ but not ACCEPT (receive) Christ? Why is it that the only option the person has is to reject Christ? And how can the Bible compel man to accept a Christ he is unable to accept?

Infralapsarians and Molinists are content with an inconsistent “if-then” proposition regarding the unconditional election of the saved and the conditional reprobation of the unsaved: If some are UNCONDITIONALLY elected to salvation, then others are CONDITIONALLY reprobated to damnation.
In other words, “If some are chosen for salvation because GOD PICKS THEM, then others are chosen for damnation because THEY DO NOT PICK CHRIST.”

Read those last words I wrote: God picks some; but what happens to the others? They go to Hell because “they do not pick Christ.” Does this make any sense at all?

A friend of mine talked to her dad once about the above words (her Dad has Molinist/infralapsarian Calvinist tendencies). She asked her dad,

“So you believe that God picks some to go to Heaven?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And you believe that the others go to Hell because they reject Christ.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, dad, how does that work? If God picks some to go to Heaven, then doesn’t that
mean God picks the others to go to Hell?”

“No. You don’t understand.”

“No, dad, I don’t understand. Those who don’t get picked---where will they go? There are only two places to go, Heaven and Hell. So where will the non-elect go if they are not selected for Heaven?”

And with these words I leave that conversation behind in days gone by. But I ask you, if God picks some for Heaven, where will the others go?

The others will go to Hell, right? Yes. But the next question becomes crucial: “Why will the others go to Hell: because God picks them, or because they so CHOOSE to?” If they choose to go to Hell, then doesn’t this mean that (seeing that “choice” involves two options here), the person could “choose” to go to Heaven? How can that person have exercised their libertarian freedom if they didn’t get but one option to begin with? How does choice constitute just “one” option?

But this is the asymmetry of Infralapsarian Calvinism and Molinism. In each discussion of salvation, they will always insist that “we get picked by God” but “we can choose against God.”

It is this asymmetry that I desire to tackle here. The Bible does not use such asymmetry in its discussion of belief and unbelief. Notice the following:

“HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM is not condemned; but HE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE is condemned already, because HE HAS NOT BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, NKJV).

Where is the “asymmetry” here? There is none. Those who believe are accepted, and those who do not believe are condemned. The “if-then” proposition here tells us that belief is what distinguishes between the saved and the damned. There is no “being made to believe” and “not believing”---but instead, “he who believes” and “he who does not believe.” The condition for salvation or damnation regards “faith,” and the responsibility is on the individual to believe.

Here’s what Paul tells us in Romans:

“But in accordance with your hardness and impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’; ETERNAL LIFE TO THOSE WHO by patient continuance in doing good SEEK FOR GLORY, HONOR, AND IMMORTALITY; but TO THOSE WHO ARE SELF-SEEKING AND DO NOT OBEY THE TRUTH, but obey unrighteousness---indignation and wrath...FOR THERE IS NO PARTIALITY WITH GOD” (Romans 2:5-11, NKJV).

Looking at the text of Romans 2 above, we find that for “those who...seek glory, honor, and immortality,” they will receive eternal life; but for those who “seek” themselves and unrighteousness, they will reap wrath instead. The condition seems to be the same for both groups---for the one who reaps eternal life, he must seek the good. The one who does unrighteousness (seeks evil), he will reap eternal wrath and damnation. The condition seems to be “either do good and receive life or do bad and receive death.” The condition is the same. Those who reap eternal wrath did not do what was required...which is seek the good. No one who reaps eternal life is considered as “the one chosen to do what was good,” but instead, “the one who does good.” The person who does good bears responsibility for doing good in the same way that the person who does evil bears responsibility for doing evil. There is no asymmetry here. To reap life, we must do the positive; to reap death requires refusing to do the positive.

Finally, Romans 2 gives us the words, “For there is no partiality with God.” The same God who requires that we be impartial (1 Tim. 5:21, James 3:17) is the same God described in Acts 10:34 as the One who “shows no partiality, but in every nation WHOEVER FEARS HIM AND WORKS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS ACCEPTED BY HIM.” If God shows no partiality, then He doesn’t “pick” the saved any more than He “damns” the unsaved. And if Calvinists and Molinists are gonna argue that God does not damn the reprobate, then he has no biblical basis whatsoever to claim that God “unconditionally elects” the saved. As Peter says later in his sermon in Acts 10:
“To Him [Christ] all the prophets witness that, through His name, WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL RECEIVE REMISSION OF SINS” (Acts 10:43, NKJV).

God receives all who come to Him by faith; but faith is the required condition for salvation. If faith is required as the condition for the appropriation of the atonement, then no believer can be “unconditionally” elected---for this would then mean He is accepted by God WITHOUT CONDITIONS (which contradicts faith being a condition for salvation).

At the end of the quote I used to begin the post, Keathley states,

“If God rejects the reprobate because of his sin and unbelief, then reprobation is based on God’s justice, and His decision poses no moral dilemma. But it would also mean that SOME ASPECTS OF GOD’S DECREE WERE CONDITIONAL rather than unconditional and that in certain ways THE FREE CHOICES OF MORALLY RESPONSIBLE CREATURES AFFECTED THE ETERNAL DECISIONS OF GOD” (140).

The question is: what IF God has based His eternal decisions on the choices of man? What if God decided that, just as the reprobate would be damned for his unbelief, that the saved would be elected to salvation for his belief? Suddenly, we find that God has not “foreordained” those who will believe and left those who will not believe to themselves; instead, we find that God has foreordained the MEANS to salvation (faith) as well as the TYPE of person who will be saved (the one who believes).

If God bases His decrees on man, does He become weak? Does He “lose” His sovereignty by so doing? To this, I answer a resounding “no.” As Robert Picirilli writes,

“Surely God’s sovereignty means that He acts freely, under no conditions than that He be true to Himself. Neither a priori (from our logic) nor a posteriori (from Scriptural evidence) is there any reason to believe GOD COULD NOT SOVEREIGNLY ESTABLISH ANY CONDITION HE CHOSE (OR NO CONDITION AT ALL, DID HE SO CHOOSE) for salvation. As Arminius put this, ‘The freedom of the goodness of God is declared...when He communicates it ONLY ON THE CONDITION, WHICH HE HAS BEEN PLEASED TO IMPOSE’” (Robert E. Picirilli, “Grace, Faith, and Free Will---Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism & Arminianism.” Nashville: Randall House, 2002, page 57).

The question I leave you with is this: Did God or did God not establish a condition for salvation? If He didn’t, fine. But to affirm no condition for salvation is also to affirm no condition for reprobation (thereby making reprobation unconditional). And yet, the Bible presents us (as shown above) with conditions for salvation and reprobation. What are we to make of this? Suddenly, God’s unconditional decrees don’t look so unconditional after all...

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