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Lord’s Day Reflections: WCF 3.2

Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

Westminster Confession of Faith 3.2

A common explanation for God’s election of certain persons and not others is to say that God chose the elect based on foreseen faith. This position not only lacks biblical evidence, it also runs directly contrary to biblical teaching regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s depravity.

Man is so utterly depraved that he is wholly incapable of responding to the gospel call. I’ve written about and defended that elsewhere. Beyond that, however, the Bible goes out of its way to point out that God’s dispensation of grace depends not on man’s willing or working. Grace depends entirely on whether God chooses to harden a person or give that person mercy (Romans 9:11–16).

God’s sovereignty, then, is not a contingent sovereignty. There are no conditions placed on God’s dominion. His eternal decrees are not if-then-else statements. This is a great comfort to us because it means that our salvation is not contingent on anything in us. It is all of grace from beginning to end.

If anything of my salvation depended on me, I should never have received it at all. Praise God for His relentlessly gracious sovereignty.

Comments

  • Matt Handley says:

    I’m curious if there has ever been anyone who was not elected who believed this approach to be true? Would you still praise God’s sovereignty if He had not presumably elected you? Has there ever been a Calvinist who said “Boy I wish God elected me, but He didn’t. Oh well, at least He’s sovereign.”

    I don’t actually know how one knows they’ve been elected, other than that you went through the motions of making what most people would call a choice (e.g. praying the prayer of salvation, etc).

    • David Mikucki says:

      Hey Matt,

      Faith is the way to know whether you’re elect or not. If you believe that God has sent Christ into the world to save sinners such as yourself and you trust that you will be declared righteous on the last day because of His life, death, and resurrection, then you are elect.

      Making a decision isn’t a terrible term for this, but it fails to describe exactly what happens in salvation. Many children grow up in Christian homes and cannot remember to a time when they didn’t have faith. For example, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love Jesus and trust Him—and there are many like me. The Bible doesn’t talk about a decision that happens at a specific point. It talks about faith, which isn’t a one time deal. Rather, it’s continual.

      That said, there are no people who wish that God had elected them to trust Jesus. That is, there is no such thing as wanting to have faith and not getting it. God Himself plants the desire for faith and if He does that, He is always faithful to grant it. Jesus says that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws Him (John 6:44). The coming here is contextually a coming for salvation. No one is able to go to Jesus for salvation, unless the Father draws that person. And all that the Father draws, Jesus says He’ll raise up on the last day (John 6:44b).

      Put it one more way. You seem to think that within the Calvinistic scheme, everyone can want salvation from Jesus and yet God refuses to give it to some people but only grants it to the elect. This isn’t how Calvinism works. Men do not seek God (Romans 3:11) and they all turn away from Him (Romans 3:12). There isn’t a group of God-seekers out there who don’t get Him. There are two types of people: people who, by God’s grace alone, are given the desire and ability to put their trust in Jesus; and men who, by their own inherent wickedness, do not love or seek God and therefore never trust Jesus.

      Does that make sense even if you still disagree? A lot of your rhetoric has been against a straw man, since many of the objections you give are critiques of a system that is not actually Calvinism.

      • Matt Handley says:

        That absolutely makes sense, but the fact that it makes sense is, in a sense, my problem with it. It is almost impossible to discuss Calvinism with a Calvinist, because no matter what you say, inevitably the answer is always “No, no you don’t understand. We don’t actually believe (insert criticism), we actually believe…” Then they go on to provide a very concise, very thoughtful and well-supported answer for why they actually hold a higher view of sovereignty/faith/covenant/etc than you do, and every sentence contains powerful Christian words and imagery. Theologians have been working on Calvinism for hundreds of years, and so there is a perfectly worded and thought-out answer for everything.

        My problem with the whole idea is that if you didn’t have the benefit of 500 years of these explanations being worked out, and you tried to sit down and present that God, in simple terms, to a person who had never heard of Christianity, they would think He was the most sadistic God ever. Worse even than a God who condemns all souls to damnation. He actually set up a system by which to escape eternal damnation, and He selects people based on inscrutable and unknown criteria, and causes them to choose His saving system. But the others, based on equally inscrutable criteria, He hardens their hearts and forces them to not choose Him. And I know you’re going to say that’s not what you believe but please just understand that to every non-Calvinist (and every non-Christian for that matter) that is what you believe. The point I was trying to get across with the admittedly bad example I used in my first comment was this: only a convinced Calvinist, safe in the knowledge that they are already elected, would choose to, in retrospect, believe their fate was the result of such an arbitrary system.

        • David Mikucki says:

          Thanks for your reply, Matt.

          It’s worth noting first of all that the Calvinist doctrine really became most clearly and famously stated (besides what Paul had said) with Augustine, who lived more like 1,600 years ago. I mention that because a lot of people get the impression that Calvinism is a relatively new system that started at the reformation; it certainly isn’t.

          That aside: you’re right. The picture of God that Calvinism gives is one that defies every single standard of morality that we as human beings have. The Calvinist understanding of God is offensive to everyone and it’s not going to win any awards for making friends and influencing people.

          But if Calvinism is actually true, then it doesn’t matter for two reasons. The first is that within a Calvinistic system, man’s morality is fundamentally wrong at its base. Man thinks that hurting men is the greatest sin possible; the Calvinist believes that assaulting God’s glory is the greatest sin possible. Similarly, it is the wellbeing of men that is utmost in most people’s priorities, but the Calvinist says God’s glory is the most important thing. If the Calvinist is right, then when a man is offended by Calvinism, it’s because he’s wrong about what “good” is.

          The second reason why Calvinism’s ugly appearance to non-Calvinists doesn’t matter if Calvinist’s are right is that that God is in charge of who believes what. The law is offensive because it calls what people think is good (like living with a girlfriend before marriage or homosexuality) bad. The gospel is offensive because it makes people admit that they’re deserving of hell. Calvinism is offensive because it grinds against what people think is most important. But God still draws people in through that offense and makes them Christians and even Calvinists.

          If the Calvinist is right, the Christian is not burdened with concern over how people receive his message. His job isn’t to decide which doctrines to teach and which to sweep under the rug. It’s to proclaim the truth in love and trust that the Holy Spirit will work in people’s hearts.

          We are called to teach offensive messages and to do our best to make sure that the message isn’t any more offensive then it needs to be. After that, we can rest and know that God will handle everything else. People coming to faith doesn’t hinge on us, it hinges on a miracle. I know and know of several people who have come to faith in Christ precisely because of the Calvinist doctrine. It gave them great relief to know that they were saved solely by grace because they didn’t feel they could even have faith.

          Lastly, one quick correction (even though you don’t like them): God’s choosing who is saved and who isn’t is inscrutable, but it is not arbitrary. Your parents’ decisions about when and how to discipline you when you were 5 years old was inscrutable to you at the time, but it was by no means arbitrary. Just because we don’t understand and aren’t told God’s reasons for doing something doesn’t mean He doesn’t have them.

  • Matt Handley says:

    Reading Calvinism into the teachings of Augustine is an attempt to lend more historical credence to Calvinism than it deserves. Augustine said plenty of things that are contradictory to reformed and Calvinist doctrine.

    I am happy for you that you have the confidence and satisfaction of having your “elected” ticket punched by God and can sit back and confidently proclaim that your worldview is offensive and distasteful to the masses. You enjoy the privilege of declaring your beliefs to be so right, and so true, that it doesn’t matter how patently offensive and disgusting they are to the poor, pitiful un-elect.

    • David Mikucki says:

      I’d be interested to see the quotes of which you speak from Augustine. I’ve read several of his works and haven’t found the things you speak of.

      Your final sarcastic remarks (starting with “I’m happy for you…”) don’t make a lot of sense to me since they come entirely from your worldview. In the Calvinist worldview, everyone is so wicked that it is a miracle anyone is saved. You have an upside-down understanding of the world if you are taking up the cause of those who, by their own choice, resist God’s law and gospel all the way to the end of their lives. I believe what I believe because I see it as the Bible’s clear teaching. I’m not permitted to believe anything else than what I see clearly in Scripture.

      An honest question, Matt: what do you think you would you do if you found inescapable biblical evidence that Calvinism is true?

      • Matt Handley says:

        Sorry, I was away on a trip and didn’t check for replies for a few days. (BTW, I checked my junk mail folder and I haven’t found any notifications from threads I’ve commented on.)

        It is difficult to answer your question of what I would do without going on a very long and complicated explanation of where my own belief system stands right now. And I’ve tried to stay on topic when I’ve commented on your posts and not go on rabbit trails of my own beliefs. Calvinism has always fascinated me because I’ve never been able to wrap my head around how people believe it.

        Now, please don’t think I am just arguing for the sake of arguing with you. I truly find all of Scripture fascinating and doctrine so engaging to discuss. However, I can’t really answer your question of what I would do because, suffice it to say that first I would have to first find inescapable evidence that the New Testament is true. So… yeah. That’s a whole other rabbit hole I’m happy to go down, but I didn’t want to clog up your blog with it. I just wanted to engage someone who believed in Calvinism and try to understand that side of Christian doctrine.

        • David Mikucki says:

          Matt,

          Glad we could engage in dialog on this. I can argue the Calvinist case from the Old Testament as well, but perhaps a more fruitful discussion would be on the veracity/authority of the New Testament. Thanks, though, for keeping things on track. Maybe, though, you could provide a super-brief explanation here of why you don’t believe the NT is true and we can talk about it in future discussions. Heck, I might even end up writing a blog post in response that you can argue with there. Thanks for taking the time to discuss.

  • Matt Handley says:

    Whoops, just found all the notifications in my Spam folder and added the address to my contacts.

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