Sunday, April 01, 2012

WHY I'M NOT A CALVINIST (part one): Romans 9

It will help you if you pull out a Bible and turn to and look at Romans 9 as you read this.

I tell people I'd like to be a Calvinist but Scripture keeps getting in the way. Romans 9 is one place that gets in the way of my being a Calvinist.  If I'm supposed to be a Calvinist, the Bible will just make me one.  I won't have to force it.  But Romans 9 runs away from Calvinism, contradicts it.  If we can't be a Calvinist as a direct consequence of Bible teaching, then we shouldn't be one.

At the end of Romans 8 (vv. 35-39), Paul promises that nothing will separate saved, justified people from the love of God.  He anticipated some argument with that point, in light of Jewish reaction to his preaching, regarding God's faithfulness to Israel.  If God could not be trusted in His faithfulness to Israel, then how could someone count on Him for individual salvation.   The argument also goes that if God elected Israel and Israel was not saved, how could anyone be assured of God's election.  Romans 9-11 defends God's actions with Israel to buttress the truth that nothing can separate believers from the love of God.

God elected Israel (Jacob), "being not yet born" (9:11).   So Israel was unconditionally elect---she couldn't very well merit her choosing before she was born.   So you see, I believe in unconditional election.  Part of being elect meant that Israel had tremendous advantages (9:4-5) that one would think would lend themselves toward Israel's salvation.   God bestowed on Israel unique evidence that her God truly was the very God so that they would believe on Him, including the gift of Jesus Christ Himself, "who is over all, God blessed forever" (9:5).  Jesus added to those benefits by preaching His kingdom all over Israel during His ministry there.  But in Romans 9:1-4a, we see that Paul "could wish that [he] were accursed" for the salvation of Israel.

And right there at the very beginning of Romans 9 is where we begin seeing the contradiction to Calvinism.  Why would Paul be willing to be "accursed from Christ" (9:3) for those God chose before the foundations of the world to damn forever?  Paul surely wasn't more loving and more righteous than God. Would he not be out of bounds in expressing such sympathy for those for whom Christ Himself did not die, if limited atonement were true?  Only if God Himself were unwilling for these Israelites to perish and if Christ Himself had died for them does 9:1-5 make any sense.  And that is just the start here in Romans 9.

If you are a Calvinist and you are reading this, before you start writing your missive, please read this to the end, because 9:1-5 really are hint of things to come.  They fit with the rest of the chapter, but they are not all there is.

Calvinists point to 9:11 as evidence of unconditional election, and it is true.  Israel was chosen unconditionally by God.  And God will save Israel (11:26), so Israel nationally is chosen unconditionally unto salvation.  But who are the Israelites whom God will save?   They are those whom He elects on the condition of personal faith in Him.  Paul distinguishes between personal election and national election in Romans 9, and he makes this crystal clear.

God continued faithful and loving to the nation.  God's Word, especially as found in the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants, did not fail.   Paul begins 9:6 by saying that God's Word was still in effect for Israel, the Israel that God would save, which was not all of Israel (9:6b).   True Israel, spiritual Israel, would receive the promises God made to the nation (9:7-8).

Paul illustrates the point of verses 6 and 7 in verses 8 through 13.    He appeals to Genesis 21:12-13.   Ishmael came from Abraham physically, but Isaac alone would receive the blessings of God's covenant with Abraham.  A Jew is unconditionally a Jew, and as a Jew, based on no merit of his own, he has been given incredible advantages.  Isaac received blessings not given to Ishmael.

Genesis 21 makes national promises, but physical descent alone does not guarantee an individual will receive the blessings of those promises.  The nation will unconditionally, but the persons will not.  God will save those Israelites who do not reject the advantages (9:4-5) God gave.   Jews who thought they would receive the blessings of the covenants just because they were Jews were sorely deceived (cf. Mt 3:9-12; Rev 20:11-15).

Isaac and Ishmael were both sons of Abraham, but they did not both receive the advantages of the covenant.  Only Isaac received them, and he is a picture of the true child of God.  This illustrated to Israel that it wasn't physical descent that made one a child of promise.  God didn't have to save every descendant of Abraham.  Romans 9:9 quotes Genesis 18:10,14 for this illustration.  The point is that like Sarah and Isaac were chosen over Hagar and Ishmael, spiritual Israel is chosen over physical Israel.   Hebrews 11:11 elucidates further on what occurred:  "Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised."  The believer receives the spiritual blessings of God's covenant with Abraham.  God does make His choices and makes them based on His own terms---He's done it in the past and He does it again.

"And not only this" at the beginning of 9:10 tells us that Paul has more explanation about the same point, except he uses a different example, that of two sons, Jacob and Esau, of the same mother and father.  Again, not all the physical descendants inherit the promises, even as Esau, who was a physical descendant, did not.   The election is unconditional and national.  How do we know it is national?  Verse 12 quotes Genesis 25:23.  Consider Genesis 25:22-23:

And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

We can see from the Old Testament passage itself that the election is national. First, it says "two nations," but, second, if it is personal, then every person in the one "nation" and "people" was saved, which was not the case.  The very point Paul is making is that the every person in the nation was not saved and so was not true Israel.  When we take Genesis 25 and Paul's quotation of it literally, we are dealing with "two nations" and "two manner of people."  The election here relates to Israel's rule over Edom, not about the spiritual salvation of Jacob or Esau.  The rest of the Old Testament will show that this election was fulfilled, but not until after the lifetime of Jacob.   In addition, verse 12 doesn't say that Jacob would be saved and not Esau, but the "elder shall serve the younger."

Verse 13 quotes Malachi 1:2-3, which was written a long time after the end of Jacob and Esau's lives.  And that Malachi passage also plainly refers to the nations of Israel and Edom, not individuals.  Everything in that text says Malachi is referring to the nations.  When he says, "I have loved you," "you" is in the plural.  God's indignation is against "the people" (v. 4).   "Loved" and "hated" in v. 13 are aorist, the one time love and hatred of national election.   It isn't an ongoing, continuous love and hatred. The love and hate related to the favor God chose in advance to give to Jacob and the loss of privilege that God determined for Esau.  So the point is that the blessings of God's covenant do not come based upon physical lineage.

Important to the understanding of a New Testament text is looking at the context of the Old Testament quotations.  Those Old Testament passages will shed light on the New Testament usage.  This is a major part of deriving the correct interpretation.

Scripture does teach unconditional election---unconditional national election.  Personal election is conditional.  That is a primary point of Romans 9.  God's national election of Israel did not guarantee personal salvation.  No individual Israelite or Jew should think that his eternity is set just because his nation was elect of God.  He himself needed to believe.

To Be Continued


Gary Webb said...

Good start. I am looking forward to the rest. Calvinism may be intellectually enticing to some, but ultimately it contradicts so many other clear doctrines of the Bible.

William Dudding said...

I don't have any problem with unconditional national election of Israel as you describe it in Romans 9. I agree that is what he's talking about.

But individual election is certainly taught..maybe not here, but elsewhere.

We as NT believers are called the elect according to the foreknowledge of God in 1 Peter 1:2. Our individual election is according to a condition...yes, God's foreknowledge of us.

If you want to say that foreknowledge is simply God's knowing beforehand what would happen, you destroy God's independence because he would have to be reacting to actions that are being done in the future that he did not pre-determine and therefore, you have also destroyed God's sovereignty and power over those future events that He would only be able to manipulate and plan around as a reactive god and not a sovereign one. In response to Gary Webb, that kind of god is intellectually enticing to rebels who want to have something to boast in, but it contradicts the God of Scripture who has pre-ordained everything to the smallest detail:

Isaiah 46:10-11 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

He has declared the beginning from the end already, that includes your belief and choice to be saved. That's the condition on which he elects anyone for anything national election or individual election.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi William.

Thanks. I believe in individual election. I don't believe it is unconditional, mainly because I don't see it taught that way in Scripture. I don't have anything holding me back from being a Calvinist except passages I will be including in this series.

Since God is sovereign, He defines His sovereignty. Not us. We've got to take what we believe from what He says, what He wrote. "Foreknowledge" is "knowing before." That's the understanding of the Word. I've got more to say about this. So the discussion will continue.

I don't believe that the view of foreknowledge that is guided by what Scripture says about foreknowledge destroys what is a biblical view of God. We can only get a biblical view of God from the Bible, not from what we see as logical inferences. Calvinism makes the jump into those inferences, when it says that what God says about Himself takes away His independence. God acted independently in choosing His own through belief in the truth (2 Thess 2:13).

William Dudding said...

"God acted independently in choosing His own through belief in the truth (2 Thess 2:13)."

I can "AMEN" to that!

Gary Webb said...

Unconditional election, if it is not based upon a person's foreseen choice, is "unconditional damnation". It means that individual souls are damned without ever having sinned or made a choice to go contrary to the will of God. This doctrine is contrary to everything the Bible says about God being merciful, longsuffering, & righteous. It contradicts what the Bible teaches about Satan having any influence in the choices & actions of men. I admit that I may not understand everything there is know about election (Romans 11:33-36), but I do know that God's sovereignty does not contradict His righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Here is a reply I wrote to a Calvinist over a year ago who insisted, as William does, that if God doesn't ordain all things then all things are in jeopardy, including the nature of God.

However, as we show from Scripture, God isn't as nervous about losing either His aseity or independence as Dudding thinks.

I know this is a little longish, but I think it makes the point that Calvinists are mere calamity howlers and that they refuse to allow Scripture to speak.

Since this is a little long, I'll post it in several parts.

Dear Bro...

Calvinists say God has been pleased to ordain whatsoever comes to pass. But such a claim is irreverent because it incriminates the divine character, leaving it to twist in the wind of human speculation. Moreover, it leads to the conclusion not only that God is the author of sin but that somehow He values sin and holiness similarly in the divine plan. Since nothing in Scripture suggests this, it's rather perplexing why Calvinists would imply it. And they do imply it when they say God has ordained sin to His greatest glory and man's greatest good. Unfortunately, this indicates there's a level of divine glory only realizable through the presence of sin.

While we reject Calvinism's view of divine sovereignty and decreed sin, we certainly don't reject the sovereignty of God over all things. God is sovereign. He is supreme. He controls all, owns all, and is Lord of all. Yet we disavow the gratuitous notion that His absolute sovereignty requires total causation or that, as the Sovereign One, He must cause (or dispose of) all things or, as the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, "ordain whatsoever comes to pass." Such teaching is extreme and is morally and Biblically objectionable and can only sustain itself with generous assumptions and qualifications.

Interestingly, while most Calvinists confess (illogically) that God has authored all things in such a way that He hasn't authored all things, not all Calvinists follow suit. Some earlier Calvinists, like the Hopkinses and the Emmonses, accepted the logical consequences of the WCF and happily concluded that "God was the author, origin and positive cause of Adam's sin" (Hopkins) and that "By immediately acting on the heart with energy, to produce the volition, God produces every sinful act; and in this manner, from the beginning to the end of life does God reprobate every sinner who is lost" (Emmons).

While most modern Calvinists would find such statements distasteful, they can't find them illogical, for they follow ineluctably from the claim 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" (WCF, Chap. III, Sect. I). Besides, if we join the WCF statement with the other Calvinian claims, such as the human will can only move when it's moved, that all things move by a divine necessity, and that God is the only self-determining Being in the universe, how can we conclude God is not the author of sin?

But the Calvinist claims, whether presented by WCF or Hopkins or Emmons, overstep Scripture and injure its teaching. In clear and unmistakable terms, Scripture confirms the Holy One of Israel is not the source, cause, or spring of all that comes to pass. In decisive fashion Scripture rejects the divine ordination of all things and thus discredits a key Calvinist tenet. Moreover, it exposes as both misguided and incredible the notion that absolute sovereignty equals total causation, a theory that abandons both Scripture and good sense.

T. Pennock

Anonymous said...


Here is the second installment. There will be several others coming.


Here are some passages that prove God has not ordained all that comes to pass. Ignoring these texts doesn't dismiss their significance. Their teaching is clear, and they speak with one voice, a voice that we share: God neither authors, ordains, crafts, causes, nor decrees all that comes to pass. Only a serious mishandling of these texts can ring from them the Calvinist theory.

"And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart" (Jer. 7:31).

"Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. (15) Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed" (Jer. 14:14,15).

"They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind" (Jer. 19:5).

"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied" (Jer. 23:21).

"Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD" (Jer. 23:32).

"Therefore harken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king o Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you. (15) For I have not sent them, saith the LORD, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you" (Jer. 27:14,15)

"For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. (9) For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD" (Jer. 29:8,9).

"Because they have committed villainy in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD" (Jer. 29:23).

"Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, (31) Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he cause you to trust in a lie" (Jer. 29:30,31).

"And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin" (Jer. 32:25).

"So the servants of the householder came and said unto him: Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in they field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. . . . The enemy the sowed them is the devil. . . ." (Mt. 13:27,28,39).

"But he answered and said, Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Mt. 15:13).

Anonymous said...


Here is the third installment.

T. Pennock

"And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of man, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38,39).

"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Cor. 14:33)."

"This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you" (Gal. 5:9).

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man" (Ja. 1:13).

"But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work" (Ja. 3:14-16).

"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 Jo. 2:16).

It's rather puzzling in light of these Scriptures how Calvinists can assert God has ordained all things without exception when He clearly hasn't and when Scripture fully asserts the contrary. To their credit Calvinists have historically affirmed their commitment to Scripture; and so, on that basis, we urge them to reevaluate their unfounded claim that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Clearly, there are some things the Lord has neither ordained nor involved Himself in. And the passages that assert this undermine the twin Calvinist notions that absolutely sovereignty requires total causation and that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass. In direct contradiction to Calvinist contentions, Scripture exposes important Calvinist assumptions as unfounded and unscriptural and, at the same time, sets forth the correct view of divine sovereignty.

Let's examine several of these passages and note their divergence from Calvinism's all-encompassing, all-devouring, "whatsoever comes to pass" ordination theory.

1. God says He never ordained, decreed, or commanded that Israel should burn their children in Moloch or Baal worship (Jer. 7:31; 19:5). In fact, He says the matter never entered His heart, that He neither commanded it nor spoke it. Such remarks reflect poorly on Calvinism's universal ordination scheme. After all, how could the Holy One have ordained child sacrifice if it never entered His heart to do so? Did He ordain it blindly or unconsciously? How daring is Calvinism to suggest He secretly ordains what He publicly denies! On the strength of this text alone, Calvinism loses credibility. Passages like these erase any claim that absolute sovereignty and total causation are coextensive and necessarily joined. Indeed, the problem here for Calvinism is fatal.

Of course, when Jeremiah says Israel burned their children in the fires of heathen worship and that such barbarities never entered into the heart of God, he's not saying God was ignorant of them or surprised by them or even lacked foresight concerning them. Absolutely not. In no way was Jeremiah expressing his belief in Neotheism (or Open Theism). Rather, he was simply saying God never, secretly or otherwise, ordained, decreed, purposed, or determined such sins, even though He knew them from eternity. Thus, when the WCF says He "ordained whatsoever comes to pass," it expresses an untruth and sullies the divine character.

Anonymous said...


Here is the fourth installment.

T. Pennock

Not surprisingly, then, Scripture contradicts the Calvinist notion that absolute sovereignty requires total causation. The only way such a claim could work is if God were the sole actor in the universe, the only self-determining cause, the only active agent. But He's not. If He were, it would reduce men to mere puppets, to the machinery of nature, leaving them to act as acted upon, secretly or otherwise. It would make God the shout and men the echo. It would have Jehovah pulling the wires and men doing the dancing, which is nothing more than pagan determinism with a Christian face.

2. God says He never sent, either secretly or otherwise, the false prophets mentioned by Jeremiah (Jer. 14:14,15). In fact, He flatly states, "I sent them not." Now, how can such a clear denial, taken at face value, support the Calvinist assertion 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"? Either God is confused or the Westminster divines are. For it is clear, is it not, that, according to Jeremiah, something came to pass that God didn't ordain, that He didn't decree, that He didn't order up? Calvinism finds no comfort here. In fact, "I sent them not" may very well apply to the Westminster divines and their universal ordination teaching.

That false prophets could act on their own apart from a divine determination is devastating for Calvinists. But not for us. We reject the whole necessitarian scheme of Calvinism, whether expressed in its older, more brutal form or in its newer, more platable expression (the older form implied a divine efficacy in the excitement to sin; the newer is less direct and teaches the divine orchestration of sin through the disposition of motives). The fact is the sovereignty-causation approach to divine governance is neither sensible nor Biblical. If God created man as a self-determining cause and if, as a freewill creature, he originates his own choices, then the Calvinist scheme is unnecessary. As we see it, God established the principle of freedom, and men are responsible for the acts of freedom. And of course they are responsible precisely because they originate their own choices, apart from divine manipulation, either directly or indirectly.

3. Again, when we read in Jer. 23:21 that "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied," we see the undoing of Calvinism and its peculiar theory of the divine ordination of all things, including sin. Apparently, the hyper-sovereignty advocates and the Lord of Scripture are at odds. We can't have the former asserting the divine ordination of all things and the latter saying just the opposite. And "I have not sent these prophets" is just the opposite. Clearly there's a doctrine of divine sovereignty, but it looks nothing like the Calvinist version of it. Scripturally speaking, things may happen, as our text reveals, apart from God's involvement in them, either directly or indirectly. Now, this is not to say God is not in control. He is. But it is to say He needn't ordain or decree all things to be in control. He's bigger than that.

To claim, as the Westminster divines do, that God has ordained all things, when He clearly hasn't (Jer. 23:32, for instance), is a serious matter. It not only misrepresents the inspired record but impugns the divine character. Yet such daring and presumption are the hallmarks of Calvinism, which often places its metaphysical scheme above the revelational. Again, to say God has done something when He says otherwise is dangerous. Yet this is what Calvinism does. In its sweeping affirmation of universal ordination, it effectively makes Him the Aider and Abettor of the very abominations He decries (Jer. 7:31;19:5, for instance).

Anonymous said...


Here is the fifth installment.

T. Pennock


4. Again and again, Calvinists dash themselves against the rock of Scripture. With the WCF in one hand and the Institutes of the Christian Religion in the other, they sail headlong into the rock of revelation, not knowing their polestars are unsafe guides. It's clear from Matthew thirteen that Satan, and not God, sowed the tares (Mt. 13:27,28,39). To maintain God ordained all things--even the sowing of tares--Calvinists must turn Satan into the glove through which the divine hand works. But that's simply covering the divine will with a Satanic mask and thus blurring the distinction between God and the devil--which is indeed troubling! Yet the parable teaches, by any reasonable evaluation, that God has absolutely nothing to do with the sowing of tares, much less the ordaining of them. Once again, Scripture refutes the Calvinist dogma that God has ordained all that comes to pass.

5. If God has indeed ordained all that comes to pass, as our Calvinist friends assert, then why does Jesus say there're some plants our Heavenly Father hasn't planted (Mt. 15:13)? Given the Calvinist claims (that God has ordained all things and that absolute sovereignty equals total causation), this statement is impossible. Obviously, if God didn't plant all plants, then Calvinism's claim that He ordained all things--even the planting of all plants--is false. Yet the implications of all this--that is, that something has transpired that God hasn't decreed-- escape our Calvinist brethren.

6. Once more, we affirm with Scripture that the persuasion of the Galatians to legalism, and hence false doctrine, was not of God (Gal. 5:8). "This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you" is pretty clear and leaves little room for the divine ordination of all things. Besides, how much plainer can the apostolic disclaimer be? To make God the secret seducer of the Galatians is not only wrong but impious. Greater still, it bears false witness of God. "This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you" completely frustrates the claim that God has ordained all things, even the persuasion to legalism. Thus, when it comes to a face to face accounting with Scripture, Calvinism loses.

Anonymous said...


Here is the sixth and final installment.

T. Pennock

7. The Bible tells us there're two kinds of wisdom, one demonic and the other divine (Ja. 3:14-16). While Calvinists know this, they fail to see how it racks their system. If God has ordained all things, then He's ordained two kinds of wisdom, one demonic and the other divine. But it's clear one wisdom is earthly, sensual, and devilish and finds its source not in the divine decree but in the devil. To say God decreed, secretly or otherwise, a wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and devilish is to turn Him and His decree into a brackish fountain of bitter and sweet, a clear violation of Ja. 3:11: "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?"

If God has decreed all things, including both good and evil wisdom, then the Lord Himself has become a mixed fountain, something we should think impossible. Unless Calvinists are willing to surrender their universal ordination scheme, they'll never fully distinguish between light darkness, bitter and sweet, since both, according to them, flow from the same divine decree (or fountain). Moreover, as long as Calvinists maintain God as the sole actor in the universe, and that divine sovereignty requires total causation, they must affirm a polluted decree that guarantees as much evil as it does good.

8. We stand on solid ground when we affirm God has not decreed all things, especially demonic wisdom, human lust, and human pride. On this the Bible speaks in our favor: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 Jo. 2:16). Simply put, God is not the author of sin--neither the first sin nor any other sins. Yet Calvinists say He's ordained all things, including sin, and that by a secret providence He brings to pass all the prefixed sins of men. But what saith the Scripture? It says the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are not of the Father (1 Jo. 2:16). Indeed, human sin exists; but its origin is not in God and His decree, as Calvinists wrongly claim, but in man, the self-determining cause of his own sin.

Obviously, we haven't addressed every Scripture we cited in the beginning, but we've addressed enough of them to show that God is not the author of all things. Divine sovereignty is a blessed truth, but it's less so in the hands of Calvinists.

Yours truly,

T. Pennock

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not sure if this has already been mentioned (I don't have the energy to read through hundreds of comments): If we define foreknowledge as merely "knowing beforehand", you're still left with a problem if you are not a Calvinist. If God "knew beforehand" who would believe and who would not....but then created both parties anyway....God effectively elected some for eternal life (by creating them knowing they would 'choose' Him) and some to eternal damnation (by creating them knowing they would not 'choose' Him). So even if you are an Arminian 'defending God's honour' by saying He would never endorse reprobation....You are still left with the fact that God CHOSE to create hell-bound sinners. In Summary - "Knowing before, God Chose, People went to Heaven, And people went to Hell". It's not the way a Calvinist would put it....but if you take foreknowlege in that sense, it still amounts to individual election.

William Dudding said...

Sorry, I don't have time to read Anonymous' full series of articles on this thread, but I'll just comment on his last conclusion:

Anonymous said: " If God "knew beforehand" who would believe and who would not....but then created both parties anyway....God effectively elected some for eternal life (by creating them knowing they would 'choose' Him) and some to eternal damnation (by creating them knowing they would not 'choose' Him). So even if you are an Arminian 'defending God's honour' by saying He would never endorse reprobation....You are still left with the fact that God CHOSE to create hell-bound sinners"

There isn't a problem here because the Bible already addresses this problem with this ethical rhetorical question that Paul raises: Romans 9:22-23 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

So what? "IF" endured vessels that he fitted for wrath for their destruction so that he could show his mercy on those before prepared for glory...what's the problem? Does not God have power over the clay? Can He not make men whom He lets freely choose hell to be made so He can show forth His holy wrath?

On another point about foreknowledge for Kent,

Romans 8:29 For [whom] he did foreknow...
God foreknows people this would include their decisions and everything that comes with it. He just doesn't have head knowledge of them, He knows them in an predetermined intimate relationship and this is how the word "foreknowledge or foreknow" is most widely used in the New Testament. We don't just use the dictionary definition of foreknow as only meaning "prescience" when it is used in other ways that mean more than that.

It still goes to question - If God foreknows decisions of faith, and that is the condition on which He elects, then the ultimate decision is with man not God. If man is the ultimate determiner, then God is subject to man's determination and His plan. The Calvinist believes that God determined man's decision first and there's plenty of proof for that. Jesus said: "you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." 2 Thess 2:13 has God chosing from the beginning not only the indicidual, but the means all in one verse.

muddleglum said...

Soon after I became a Christian I ran head-on into Romans 9 and became a Calvinist. Later, after I started learning to read the context, I noticed that the beginning and end of the chapter both spoke of national election. I worked carefully from both ends to the middle trying to find where it went personal. Never found it.

1 Cor 13 tells me that love "does not seek her own." God may be sovereign, but He is Love.

God may be sovereign but how He exercises His sovereignty depends on His character.

Thomas Ross said...

Dear Mr. Dudding,

I have an article entitled "A Brief Statement on what the Bible teaches on the Five Points of Calvinism" at In part of that article, I look at "foreknow." It never means anything other than precognition. We can make all sorts of logical deductions from other passages, if we wish, but if our conclusions are driven by exegesis, 1 Peter 1:2 means election is based on precognition. Note:

there is no evidence in the New Testament or in extrabiblical Koiné that the noun foreknow (prognosis) or the verb to foreknow (proginosko) mean anything other than precognition. The Calvinist contention that the words really signify predetermine or something of the sort are arbitrary, and no such meaning for the word appears in the Liddell-Scott Greek lexicon, since in that work theology is not driving the meaning assigned to these words. In all the clear instances, the words simply signify precognition, and no text requires a different meaning, either in the NT (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:2, pro/gnwsiß, Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20 (the perfect tense probably explains the translation in the KJV); 2 Peter 3:17, proginw¿skw), the LXX (Judith 9:6; 11:19, pro/gnwsiß, Wisdom 6:13; 8:8; 18:6, proginw¿skw), or elsewhere (cf. (1 Clement 44:2; 2 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 32:4; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 1:39, 92, 134; Josephus, Antiquities 8:234, 418; 13:300; 15:373; 17:43; 18:201; Apion 1:232, pro/gnwsiß, Shepherd of Hermas 31:4; 66:5, Apology of Justin 1:28, 43, 45, 49, 53; Trypho 1:42, 70, 77, 140–141; Athenagoras, Resurrection 1:2; Josephus, Antiquities 1:311; 2:86; 4:121; 5:358; 6:54, 348; 7:57; 8:419; 13:175; 16:214; 18:218; War 1:55, 608; 2:159; 3:484; 4:236; 6:8; Life 1:106; Apion 1:204, 256; Pseudo-Hecateus 6:23; proginw¿skw). Nor is it valid for the Calvinist to assume that senses of other words, such as know, uniformly transfer to the noun and verb foreknow (by such reasoning, baptidzo could be made to signify “to dye” because the verb derives from bapto, which has this meaning); rather than making such an assumption, the actual words for foreknow, which are common enough, must themselves be analyzed.

William Dudding said...

Hi Bro. Ross,

You said: "the words simply signify precognition, and no text requires a different meaning, either in the NT"

I don't understand how you can say these verses means "precognition"...
1 Peter 1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

So, God only foreknew the information about Jesus being offered up as a sacrifice as if it was something He did apart from a predetermined plan of the Father?

Also, in Romans 11:2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.
So, these people are only people whom God had a precognition about?

This is the only verse that uses foreknowledge as precognition in its context:
2 Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye {know these things before}(foreknew), beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

What kind of foreknowledge is this?
Acts 26:5 Which {knew me from the beginning}(foreknew), if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

Paul is saying that these Jews knew him from the beginning of his life as a Pharisee. They had more than precognition, they had a personal acquaintance with him.

But let's say for the sake of argument, that you're right and foreknowledge is nothing more than prescience. God foresaw and foreknew that certain people would believe in Christ.
Then you still have the problem of man's depravity. There is even more evidence for man's total inability to be willing to believe than there is for foreknowledge and unconditional election as Calvinists would define it. Only a work of God in their heart will draw a sinner to belief (I am not talking about regeneration before faith either).

Thomas Ross said...

Dear Mr. Dudding,

I believe that in 1 Peter 1:20 the word is translated "foreordained" because of the perfect tense. God did not only foreknow Christ, also, because Acts 2:23 specifically says that He also was delivered up by God's "determinate counsel." For that matter, God works all things after the counsel of His own will, but not because of the word "foreknow," but because of Ephesians 1:11. We know, therefore, that this was predetermined because verses say so, not because we read into the word proginosko, which is never clearly anything other than foreknowledge.

Certainly God must do a work before someone can come to Christ; God renews unto repentance, Hebrews 6, and we can't come unless drawn--but Christ draws all men, John 12.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reforming Baptist said...

Hi Mr. Ross,
You said: "For that matter, God works all things after the counsel of His own will, but not because of the word "foreknow," but because of Ephesians 1:11"

I agree. His foreknowledge is based in the predetermined counsel of his own will. So, if that is true of Jesus' crucifixion, wouldn't that also be true of whom God elects? A people whom He knows beforehand based on His predetermined will which would include both the person and the means by which they come. Maybe we're getting to the same thing, just expressing it differently?



Amen, Amen and Amen. The ability to believe is based on God's "calling" which is through the Word and the Spirit. Agreed. If that is regeneration preceding faith, I don't know, and I don't necessarily hold that, but whatever it's a work of God. Only those who come to the light do so to show that their good deeds are wrought in God! John 3:21

Thomas Ross said...

Dear Reforming Baptist,

Since God says Ephesians 1:11, I believe that, and since He says He elects based on foreknowledge, which is precognition, not predetermination, I believe that also. I don't think I am necessarily responsible to figure out how God did everything in eternity past--the secret things belong to Him, what is revealed to us, so that we can do what His Word says. In fact, I don't even understand what "eternity past" is like. I consequently believe in conditional election, election conditioned upon foreknowledge, and in God working all things after the counsel of His own will, since that also is affirmed in the Bible. I think one way that these things could possibly be reconciled is through middle knowledge, rather than absolute determininism, as Scripture nowhere says that foreknowledge is based on predetermination--but whether I can reconcile it all philosophically, based on the exegesis of the passages--what is actually revealed, rather than the secret things--I don't see the TULIP in the Bible. Thanks for the question.

Jonathan Speer said...

Dear Mr. Ross & Reforming Baptist,

To return to the simple clarity of scripture regarding Ephesians 1:11, one should read both sentences of this prophetic text paying close attention to the wording of verse 12.

Verses 7-14:

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Amen, amen, amen!! :-)

He predestinated that that we, who first trusted in Christ, should be to the praise of his glory.

Nothing more, nothing less according to this passage.

If anyone sees anything regarding a predestination to salvation or faith or regeneration or sanctification or anything else besides being "to the praise of his glory" in this text, please demonstrate such a presence.

David said...

I deleted my original post and am reposting it in order to make my first sentence of sarcasm more clearly:

Dear Dudding,

Which does the Bible say, "Then faith cometh by regeneration and regeneration by the election of God" Or... "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). While you say you are not talking about regeneration before faith, the Calvinist theology is "predestined" to conclude to that end. Man in and of himself does not seek or initiate salvation with God (Rom. 3:11). God always initiates salvation. God came to the garden but Adam hid, for example. Correct, we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Man receives the ability to believe through the Spirit (the One who convicts of sin - John 16:8) and through the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). We see that "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit (the Spirit) and the belief of the truth (the Word of God). Dead person + Spirit of God + Word of God = able to repent and trust Christ. The inability to believe is not based on unconditional election but upon the lack of the Word of God and/or a refusal to heed the Holy Spirit. While man is dependent upon the Spirit and Word of God in order to believe for salvation, a person's salvation is dependent upon whether or not he chooses to believe in response to those two works in the heart. Thus the "if ye believe" statements that fill the pages of Scripture. God takes the initiative in every person. Non-Calvinists do not deny the need of God's initial work in the heart of man, but we also believe that the response to that working of God is dependent upon the individual's decision.

In regard to God's sovereignty, cannot God be sovereign enough to give man the ability to choose (freewill) and still be in control and able to accomplish His plans? I see a greater sovereignty in a God Who can (and did!) declare His control and yet give man a free choice for salvation.

May He find us faithful,
David Gross

timothy gill said...

The cult of calvin has deceived the minds of many.They twist the scripture in romans 9 to suit and to fit their doctrine.Taking it out of context.

timothy gill said...

Let all reformed calvinists stay away from the mission field.They are completely wrong.

West Virginia Midland Man said...

If God did not create the concept of evil, then where did it come from? That doesn't make God the author of sin anymore than it makes Satan good. Satan was created to be 'The Adversary', 'The Tempter'. The purpose for which Satan was created was good: To show the holiness of God. So then, God could say in Genesis that everything was good. Man's sin was not something man created himself, it is something he was exposed to and deceived into. Man had no sin nature until he was exposed to sin. And who exposed him to it? SATAN. A more powerful being than Adam was. Now Adam IS responsible for his individual act of sin, and for tainting the rest of his offspring with his disobedience. But if Satan had not been there to expose Adam, would the matter have transpired? Obviously not. And since God knows the Beginning from the End, God allowed the matter to happen. The question is not did God allow this, but rather 'Why did God allow this?' and the only answer is: To eventually show forth His Love through Jesus Christ.

George Calvas said...

West Virginia Midland Man- Do you just make things up?? Everything you wrote above is reading INTO the bible the cultic mind of Calvinism! Your whole premise about God, Satan an Adam is completely unbiblical and just wrong. To try to correct your erroneous philosophy would be fruitless toward one who is full of this nonsense.

West Virginia Midland Man said...

I see George...then evil came out of nowhere and God is not sovereign? Who's the cultist here?

God has a plan. I don't know the whole plan. I do know that He has revealed some of it to us though. Just because He allows something to happen doesn't He is the author of evil. Would you say that Satan is the author of evil? Where did he come by it? Nothing just happens. IF that were so, then God is not only NOT sovereign, but a puppet of mere chance. The idea that salvation is man dependent makes man more powerful than God.

It sounds from here like you've been exposed to what is called hyper-Calvinism, and if so you're right to reject it. (Hyper Calvinism says that since God already know who is and is not elect, nothing needs to be done but let life play out until Christ comes again, no need for witnessing or anything.)

George Calvas said...

West Virginia man:

1> Whatever plan the Lord God has is CLEARLY revealed in the Holy King James Bible.

2> I am not sure you understand the difference between evil and sin. Sin is evil, BUT not all evil is sin! The Lord God DID NOT create sin, but rather the Devil REBELLED against God by his own FREE WILL, further causing angels and even man on earth to do like wise (by there own FREE WILL). The Lord God, the TERRIBLE one created evil like Hell and the Lake of fire for all those who CHOSE to disobey the Lord God and his truth. The Lord God CHOSE to do evil and kill all mankind, except for eight (Genesis 6), because men CHOSE to live in sin, rebellion and the "imaginations of their own hearts were evil continually", therefore the Lord God was JUST to such as thing.

3> Calvinism of ANY kind leads to perverted understandings of the Lord God, leading astray men to believe that God PURPOSELY chose certain men, apart from any choice of their own, to eventually go to hell, while others were PURPOSELY chosen of God "before the foundations of the world" to go to heaven.

If you believe anything of that kind, you have perverted the gospel of Jesus Christ and I would say to you to "examine yourself to see if ye be in the faith".

Jesus Christ, and all the prophets, apostles and true saints of God NEVER believed that "doctrine of men" who read into the bible the Calvinistic private interpretation of a twisted theology of God.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jonathan Speer,

My answer to your question would be that we can't be eschatologically to the praise of God's glory without being regenerate.

I'm sorry for not replying sooner--I didn't realize your question was there.

jerichosfumato said...

Well, I followed your advise and pulled out my Bible to follow along. Ironically, I would say I would like to believe in libertarian free-will, but Romans 9 and other texts led me away from that presupposition without my having read any evil Calvinists.

I notice in the third paragraph, Jacob (Israel) changes from a he to a she, so I assume this means you are seeing Jacob only as a metaphor for the nation of Israel and that Paul is not speaking of Jacob as an individual here?

You say the first contradiction to Calvinism is "Why would Paul be willing to be "accursed from Christ?"
Maybe because he's Jewish, he's been trained by Jews, and he loves his country men? I think you are making a moral argument rather than an argument from the text when you say this would make Paul more loving than God. The unstated argument is "If God predestined individuals before the foundation of the earth to either be saved or not-saved, then he is not loving." In response to that, I would ask, "If God, foreknowing that many people would choose to reject Christ and therefore face damnation, and still chose to create the world knowing this result would inevitably come to pass, how can He be said to be a loving God by this same standard?"

The next paragraph continues in the assumption that Jacob is referenced here as the nation of Israel and not as Jacob himself. Since you mention that the Israelites whom God will save are the elect based on the condition of personal faith, why do some have this personal faith which becomes the condition of their election and some do not, if this faith is not predetermined to occur? I have read some of Arminius' own words essentially saying that man's will can only be inclined towards God by God in the first place, never through man's own power. However, when we reach this point, the point that God is said to foreknow and elect in light of, how would you explain how this faith that is the basis for this election exists without saying that man makes a libertarian choice at this point? If he makes a libertarian choice, then is there a limit to the assertion that original sin prevents man from making a choice which pleases God, since the choice to believe pleases God and man makes this choice without his decision being predetermined beyond his control? If you want to say that God and man are synergistic in this choice, would it be correct to characterize this view as being more like a three-legged race and less like a shepherd carrying a lamb? If I, through exercising my libertarian will, refuse to participate in the 3-legged race, then God cannot make me participate, and will therefore not elect me because of His foreknowledge? So even if you say that Arminians do not deny that man needs God to make the choice to become elect, in this illustration, God still needs an action of compliance from man in order to elect them? Is this a correct characterization of Arminianism?

jerichosfumato said...

Part 2

Paragraph 8 restates the assertion that Paul has nations in view and not individuals. The question I keep asking is why? How do you know this?

Paragraph 9, you mention Isaac and Ishmael. I find this ironic, because Isaac and Ishmael are not mentioned, but Jacob and Esau are. Also, Paul saying that God's purpose in election was that the older would serve the younger without any reference to anything good or bad the twins did, before they were born. Yet for Isaac and Ishmael, you say that Isaac received these blessings because he was a "picture of the true child of God." In other words, for things he did after birth?

When you say God didn't have to save every child of Israel, why not? Did we not earlier establish that if God makes a choice which predetermines whether Paul's brother go to heaven or hell, then He is not loving? If it's unfair to make that choice, how is it fair for him to not have to save every child of Israel? If the answer is that fallen people are undeserving of grace and mercy, then the answer would appear to apply to your own challenge as well as the one I've raised.

When you do reference Jacob and Esau, you use a familiar argument that Genesis 25 describes the infants Jacob and Esau as the fathers of future nations. The unstated logic is that if Genesis mentions that these two babies will also father nations, then Paul must be talking about the nations and cannot be talking about the babies themselves. I cannot see why this necessarily follows, and I concluded that Paul was talking about Jacob and Esau as individuals long before I read or listened to a single Calvinist apologist's comments on this text.

Now you're really starting to confuse me here: "We can see from the Old Testament passage itself that the election is national. First, it says "two nations," but, second, if it is personal, then every person in the one "nation" and "people" was saved, which was not the case." Bear with me as I articulate a Calvinist reading for just a moment: if every single person in the one nation was not saved, could it not be possible that they as individuals were not elect, and that Jacob's election was for himself as an individual and therefore not inherited through his loins? Now, you may reject that interpretation, but as it stands, you seem to be arguing that because individuals who descended from the nation of Jacob were not saved, that is proof that the promise and the blessing was for the nation of Israel, and not for them as individuals, correct? In other words, the exception proves the rule? The evidence against interpreting that God's election is for individuals and not nations is to point out that some individuals within the nation of Israel were not saved? Wouldn't the fact that not everyone in the nation of Israel was saved be an indicator that the election was not at all for Israelites as a nation but for them as individuals? I'm just really not following your train of thought in this paragraph. The argument against Calvinism here sounds like an argument against Arminianism.

I suppose it could be defended by saying "true Israel" are individuals who showed faith and therefore were elected, but that's a presupposition that we have to bring to the text at this point.

Your statement that verse 12 does not say that Jacob was saved and Esau was not is stating the obvious because it's verse 13 that is of concern.

jerichosfumato said...

Part 3

I checked the reference to Malachi, and it does not clearly demonstrate that Paul does not have Jacob and Esau in mind as individuals. It suggests that God's punishment for the nation of Esau is His judgment, but mentioning nations does not demonstrate that God has also hated Esau the individual and not merely the nation from Esau. To illustrate, if someone says "America deserves to be punished because the father of the country was a slave owner," you understand that "the father of the country" is George Washington and that he as an individual was a slaveowner, not that George Washington is merely a metaphor for America. I anticipate the objection would be "how do you know this is about individuals?" and a demand to demonstrate so from the text, but I wanted to fully get to the end of your argument before jumping in with a ready response.

Now, we get to your closing summary. I agree that Old Testament citations should be checked. I disagree that the mere mention of nations in an Old Testament text would demonstrate that Paul is speaking about national promises and not individual promises. To illustrate, Abraham is also spoken of repeatedly as the father of nations, and of giving birth to nations through Sarah, and yet, we do not argue that when Paul talks about Abraham justified through faith and not through circumcision, that he is talking about a national salvation for the seed of Abraham and not Abraham himself.

You assert that unconditional election is only for nations, and that individual election must therefore be conditional upon faith, which I presume you mean is a libertarian faith free from the yoke of original sin making such faith impossible. You restate that Paul is arguing that God's election of Israel was national and did not guarantee the election of individuals just because they were born in that nation.

Now, if you ask me why I'm a Calvinist, the answer cannot be A) because I was raised that way, because I was raised Arminian, B) because I first brought a Calvinist assumption to the text because I had never heard nor read Calvinist scholars before reading this text and becoming convinced of individual election, or C) because I really wanted an "evil Calvinist God" because my heart really wanted to say that if God predetermined my choice, He wouldn't be fair, but this text convicted me that my arguments were coming from my sinful heart and not from the Bible.

You might persuasively argue that I am misreading this text and that I am seeing individual election here where none exist. That would be the most fair and effective approach of argument if you wanted to convince me I'm wrong. However, as a general criticism, I will point out that you jump forward and backward a lot in this post, whereas I became convinced of this by first reading Romans 9 and stumbling across it by accident, and then re-reading all of Romans chronologically.

Here are the questions I believe you have to answer if you want to convince me that I am in error Biblically. Some of these may lend themselves to going down routes where we talk about "what Calvinists say" and "what Arminians say" and while all of that may be worthwhile in its own right, I want to stick to individual election and narrow to focus to Paul and the Bible, long before these two enter into the picture.

jerichosfumato said...

Part 4

Is God's wrath in Romans 1 against nations or is it against individuals? (had 3 paragraphs here asking about Calvinism and Arminianism, but decided to delete it to narrow the focus to Romans.)

In Romans 4, Abraham's justification is for Abraham as an individual, correct, even though God gave Abraham promises about the nations he would sire.

Romans 8 brings up this question, if the one who chooses to believe is free to make a libertarian choice, does that also mean this person is free from God predetermining that choice? Because Paul goes from minds controlled by the sinful nature to minds controlled by the Spirit. If those who choose to believe did so because they were controlled by the spirit, is it not true that they can no longer be said to have made a libertarian choice? Would it not also be true to say that the choice to believe was determined by the spirit apart from their conscious processes? Or would you say that the choice is a libertarian decision and that our minds are controlled either by sin or by the spirit before and after that point, but not during it? The quotes I read by Arminius seemed to suggest that he thought that man's will was enslaved to one of these two, but when he talked about faith, it was very hard to determine whether he thought the mind was controlled when making a choice about faith. The quotes I read made it sound like "you can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," that the sinner needs to be dragged to water and enabled to choose by the spirit but cannot be forced to choose by the spirit. Am I correctly understanding your position? My problem here is that Paul sets up a binary relationship, in which the constant is our mind is controlled by something, without reference to our minds being freed from this control for a brief moment at a point of critical decision.

What is clear, and what you don't seem to disagree with, is that Paul has personal salvation in view in Romans 8 before we turn the page to chapter 9. I already articulated my questions when I read your analysis of Romans 9, so I'll just let you hear what I'm reading.

Paul wishes that he could go to hell if it would save his brothers. He does mention specifically the covenants, the receiving of the law, and blessings which were given to the nation of Israel which were given to other nations. Verse 6, Paul says God's word has not failed. Would it be correct to say that if God shows all humanity all the grace they need to be saves, and pokes and prods them to the point where they are free from the bondage of sin and able to make a free choice to believe, and that many or even the vast majority choose to reject this word, that God's efforts have failed? He tired to save them. They were not saved. God failed in his endeavor?

"Not everyone from Israel are Israel." Okay. This is where you appeared to make the distinction of "true Israel." All of Israel collectively is a nation, but among them we find that not all are saved and that the ones are are saved are "true Israel." You ascribed this to the choice to salvation. I don't see how this rules out that the choice to salvation was individually predetermined yet. I think it's noteworthy that a lot of unbelievers in Exodus enjoyed the fruits of God's promises, even while doubting God. So it seems that a lot of people who were not "circumcised in the heart" were able to enjoy God's national blessings for faithful Israel, even while not being saved and enjoying God's individual promises for salvation. Would I be correct in saying that what Paul said earlier about Abraham's justification applies to these people from Israel who are saved as individuals, apart from the nation of Israel as a whole?

jerichosfumato said...

Part 5

Verse 8, the children of the Promise are Abraham's offspring. You would say this promise is God's foreknowledge of a libertarian faith choice and not a promise based on a predetermined decision, correct? Paul restates that God promised Abraham a son through Sarah. This appears to be important to his larger point that many in Israel are not saved and that the Word of God has not failed, because they are not the children of promise. So far, my understanding of your view is that this distinction of the children of promise from those who are not the children of promise has to do with the foreknowledge of a choice.

In 10, Paul goes for Abraham to Isaac to specifically Rebekah's children and specifically Jacob.

Now we get to 11 and 12. I have heard a sermon by an Australian Arminian that he refuses to believe in a God who would appoint one twin to heaven and one twin to hell in the womb before they did anything right or wrong, because such a God would be unjust? Correct?

First problem in 11-12, Paul mentions the twins by name and he mentions their birth. Even if they go on to father nations and God can make promises for those nations, when you talk about babies being born, you are talking about individuals so far. Second problem, your interpretation seems to focus on Paul arguing that people within Israel are not "True Israel" because of the conditional choice of faith. Here, though, Jacob would have to be true Israel and not Esau without any regard to the choices they made. In other words, while you seem to grant that the promise of salvation is made to individuals of "True Israel" and not all the nation of Israel, Paul must no longer be talking about "True Israel" if he is not saying that Jacob is saved and Esau isn't, because to say that Jacob is saved, by your own words, is to say that Jacob is of True Israel. The whole problem animated Paul so far according to what I read of your words is how the people of Israel are not saved, with your own interpretation defining individual faith as the mark of "true Israel."

I've already said that Malachi can be speaking of the descendants of these two without changing the fact that Paul has spoken of these two as babies in the womb.

"Is God unjust?" Why does Paul ask this rhetorical question from an imaginary objector? What would his audience find unjust? Sadly, I've heard people reading this verse say, "Well, this means that we can't believe in the Calvinist God, because he WOULD be unjust!" thus demonstrating the presupposition they can't allow themselves to question.

Now, no one argues that Paul is saying that salvation can only happen for people who hereditarily belong to this line, because gentiles outside of this line have already been saved. If all Paul is saying is that, out of Israel, only those who choose to believe are true Israel (talking about individual salvation), and separately that God may appoint certain nations to certain destinies and not others (national promises which do not have to do with individual salvation) what is Paul saying that is so offensive some in his audience might think God unjust? Is it unjust that Israel's decedents get a blessing and not Esau's? Maybe. But if that blessing does not guarantee individual salvation, what's the big deal if Esau doesn't get that blessing? He still has an opportunity for salvation, right? Yet, Paul says that he does not depend on man's desire or effort but on God's mercy. If this is in reference to individual salvation, then I think the case is closed, because if He's looking forward to my faith choice, then my salvation is depending upon a desire of mine to believe in Jesus.

jerichosfumato said...

Last part:

You stopped here before Pharaoh. I think it important that Paul mentions Pharaoh, the individual, and not Egypt, the nation. I have read Arminians critique Calvinists by saying this passage references Egypt, not Pharaoh, and we must think Paul is a bad exegete. Since this is inspired Scripture, it's entirely possible for Paul to say something new which is also true, but again, just because Exodus may refer to the Egyptians as a people does not exclude it from referring also to Pharaoh in particular, especially when Paul names Pharaoh and must have God's hardening of Pharoh's heart in mind. Are you going to argue that the hardening of Pharoh's heart was in reference to Egypt's destiny as a nation and not his own destiny?

Verse 19 is what convinced me of individual election. "Why does God blame us," what, we Israelites? "For who [individual] resists his will?"

Right before the verse on clay which you referenced and interpreted as only referencing national promises, "But who are you [individual], O Man [individual] to talk back to God?" "Shall what is formed [you, the singular individual man who spoke asking this question] say to him that formed it [singular again], "Why did you make me [singular individual] like this?"

The common argument I've heard is that a Calvinist only believes this because they first bring a Calvinist bias to it. I read it with no Calvinist bias, and concluded that Paul's speaker was asking the same question I would have asked. I did not even have knowledge of Calvinist arguments that I could import to the text. In contrast, I think one would have to be previously familiarized with the "nations" argument in order to read this exchange and not think it was about individual salvation.

The subsequent verses are dependent upon this interpretation. I would say they apply to individuals because of this initial exchange, you would carry on the nations interpretation through the next few verses.

A further problem for the nations not individuals interpretation comes in verse 24: "even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles." This thought is incomplete on its own and connects with all that is said about pottery. The "us" are individuals called out of "nations." No Calvinist told me to think that. Me hating the idea of Calvinism, but knowing that Paul's "us" means we who are justified came to that conclusion.

In summary, I see individual salvation as the key focus throughout Romans, in the chapters which lead up to this, in chapter 9 itself, and in chapter 10 and on, individual justification is what Paul is writing about. The unspecified promises for nations would be a break from my plain reading of the text, which made no reference to systematic theology of either Arminians or Calvinists. It requires that Paul is such a poor writer, he could shift focus from individual salvation to promises for nations without clear distinction and actually expect his audience to understand very important points about justification. I do think it could be possible for Paul to write about justification to the Romans in a more confusing way than if we wrote what he wrote with the intended interpretation you describe.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Mr. jerichosfumato,

While I don't have time to make a detailed response to the pro-Calvinist series of comments you amde above, I would encourage you to examine:

A Brief Statement on what the Bible Teaches on the Five Points of Calvinism (TULIP)

An Exposition Of Romans 9, Including A Demonstration That The Chapter Does Not Teach Calvinism


The exposition of Romans 9 is very detailed and demonstates that Calvinism is not the teaching of the chapter. Thanks.

jerichosfumato said...

I'll be happy to read it.

jerichosfumato said...

About halfway through the article you linked me to on Romans 9 and noticed that the author argues there is little reason to believe that "true Israel" includes gentiles, and that it is specific to national Israel. So, since it seems from your post that you argue "true Israel" includes Gentiles who become descendants of Abraham according to God's promises through faith, I wonder if you drew from another source? This seems to contradict you on the point of who is included in true Israel. I found it on page 13.

I'd say that to argue that Calvinists must not desire all men saved if they believe in individual election is to not argue against their truth claim. John Piper taught a whole sermon on Paul desiring salvation for these Israelites, and that the way we understand God's sovereignty should not lead us to feel no sorrow or have no desire that unbelievers be converted. I said this was an error when you did it, and I'll say your source is making the same error. If you want to argue that the Calvinist is illogical if they desire salvation for unbelievers while believing that individual election is unconditional, then that argument could be had, but shouldn't it be true that what the author is saying is not dependent upon this argument, since it has to to with the behaviors of Calvinists today and not with what Paul is writing?

I think it's true to say that this text teaches that Paul was sympathetic for his unbelieving Jewish brothers, and that Calvinists who wish to be obedient to the Bible must be obedient to this text in how they think about and treat unbelievers. It does not follow that Paul is more loving than God if he desires these men saved while God elected some unconditionally to salvation and not these Israelites.

This author cites 2 Peter 3:9 without any of the exhaustive examination of the texts that mark parts of this pdf. I find it noteworthy that 2 Peter is addressed to "the beloved," and that verse 9 refers to his Christian audience. In other words, the textual backing for this whole argument is dependent upon Peter meaning "all in the world" rather than "all of you, the beloved" in verse 9. 1 Peter says he addresses his letter to those who are elect, and 2 Peter is a follow up to the same group of people. If "all" in 2 Peter means all of humanity, does it not follow that this means that all of humanity will "reach repentance"? Why would it not be acceptable to conclude that Peter means all of his audience, the beloved, elect will not perish because God is patient and forestalls the second coming so that all the elect will reach repentance? Is this interpretation not strengthened by addressing to "those who have obtained a faith of equal standing to ours" in 2 Peter 1 and "you, beloved" in 2 Peter 3:1?

Because this is the textual basis for this author's assertion that Romans 9:1-5 refutes Calvinism, I think his assertion that Roman 6 must be about nations falls since the assertion is based on the presupposition that 2 Peter is referring to all humanity rather than the beloved remnant.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Mr. Jerichofumato,

I don't believe I ever said that Gentiles are true Israel.

I do believe that Romans 9:1-5 provides important background for Romans 9:6ff. and that 9:1-5 undermine the TULIP view of the rest of the chapter.

You are correct that 2 Peter 3:9 is not exegeted extensively there because it is an analysis of Romans 9, not of that text. I don't believe 2 Pet 3:9 refers to the decretive will of God, but to His will/wish of desire.

The view of Romans 9:6ff is not tied into 2 Peter 3:9, however. The exegesis of Romans 9 can stand on its own, and the chapter does not teach the TULIP.

Thanks for the comment. Sorry for not replying sooner.