The Doctrine of Salvation
Course: Systematic Theology II
Lecture: The Doctrine of Salvation
I'm sure you all are enjoying very much having Dr Ware as a theology professor. I took him when I came through my ??? sequence and left frequently feeling, not only like I'd been in a theology class, but in worship. So, I'd like to commend Dr Ware and this class and you're certainly getting your money's worth.
OK, well the doctrine of salvation. We'll jump right in with some introductory comments and a couple of things that we ought to consider just by way of introduction. Where is it and why is it that the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of soteriology, comes up in this part of the course? Why does it fit in this place, in this particular context, in our study of theology? That is, why doctrine of soteriology after pneumatology and before ecclesiology – these sorts of things – the place of the doctrine in the system of theology?
Well, a couple of things. I'm sure Dr Ware's mentioned this to you as you've gone through your courses of study with him now over two semesters. There is no such thing as a disconnected doctrine. In other words, we go through the course Intro to Systematic Theology and we take, you know, the doctrine of the Scriptures and inspiration. And then we take the doctrine of God and the doctrine of the Trinity and anthropology and sin. And we move through it this way because ... but we've got to do something to talk about it. You can't talk about it all at the same time.
On the other hand, it's right to keep in the back of your mind as you move through a particular doctrine that every doctrine and every formulation you have on a particular piece of theological material assumes a lot of other issues. So, for instance, when we're talking about the doctrine of soteriology, what has to be in the back of your mind is the doctrine of God. What kind of God is it that would need to have His wrath appeased, for instance? Or, maybe you don't think that, but the doctrine of sin is in the back of your mind because what happens in salvation is in answer to the problem of sin. And so, what is your view of sin? Is it a high view of sin in terms of having deep and significant effects? Or is it the view of sin where, you know, all we need is an example theory of the atonement – something like this? Clearly what you come up with on the doctrine of salvation is closely linked to your view of Christ. Right? I mean, first, the person of Christ because it mattes for your doctrine of salvation that Jesus was both God and man. I mean, ??? the hypostatic union – the formula of Christ that Chalcedonian Christology – that's not insignificant to our doctrine of salvation because it matters that Christ was man in His representation on our behalf and that He was God in securing His sinlessness and these sorts of things. And, of course, it also calls into question or into the foreground your view of the work of Christ. What exactly happened in the atonement? Are we talking penal substitution? Are we talking a governmental theory? Are we talking moral example? So theology hangs together and you can't pull one thread of the sweater without the rest of it unravelling, so to speak. So, all that to say it's a package deal. It's a big picture.
When we talk about the doctrine of salvation, if you've heard of, was it John Murray's book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied? We're working on the redemption applied side of that book. When you talked about redemption accomplished, you were working in the doctrine of Christ's atonement. You were working on the doctrine of Christ's work. Now we're talking about the application of that work to sinners. How is it that sinners come into the benefits? How is it that they come to be beneficiaries of the work that Christ accomplished? In particular, we're thinking on the cross, of course. The work of Christ.
The scope pertains more broadly than just the individual sinner. I mean, there are cosmic dimensions and the like and we'll talk about that a little bit. But it's a package deal. And you can't pull one piece of the thread without the rest of it coming unravelled with it. So that's where we are when we talk about the doctrine of salvation.
A couple of significant features that I want to mention before we get into this discussion of the order of salvation. First, it's not … salvation is already not yet. When we talk about this, we're talking about inaugurated eschatology. Now, we'll talk about that some – or Dr Ware will talk about that at greater length with you – when we move into the doctrine of eschatology, the doctrine of the last things. Let me just ask this: When I speak of inaugurated eschatology, what is it that we're talking about? What is inaugurated eschatology?
Response: We have the benefits of salvation, but not yet ???
That's right. Exactly. That's stated very well. The salvation that is ours in Christ is present with us now. So you think of the doctrine of justification. We are legally declared righteous now. It is something that is presently true of us. And yet, there is a not yet aspect of this. We're not in the new heavens and the new earth. We're not through in our personal struggles with sin. I mean, this is the doctrine of progressive sanctification. So we are justified now, but progressively sanctified – this sort of thing. So salvation is already not yet. We're already the beneficiaries of it. The gifts of the end times, of the last days, we're in – in the New Testament – we're in this time that is frequently termed the last days. But the gifts of the eschaton, as it were, have invaded the present day. And we are the beneficiaries of them now.
Let me, just to give you one text to think through on this. Turn to Romans chapter 5, chapter 5, and we'll look at verses 8 to 10. Romans chapter 5, verse 8 through 10. But God shows His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since therefore we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. So you see, there are both elements in this text of a salvation that's indicated has having already been accomplished and there are also elements that indicate future dimensions of our salvation. So, you look at verse 9: having now been justified – that's a transaction that's already taken place – balanced in the second part of that verse by we shall be saved by Him from the wrath of God. You see something similar in verse 10.
When you think of the classic chain of redemption text in Romans 8:28, 29 to 30 – you have those whom He predestined He also called, those whom He called He also justified, those whom He justified He also glorified. Well, glorification we know is something that is true of us in the eschaton. We're not fully like Christ yet, because we're in these last days. We're in the process of progressively becoming more like Christ. But the promise of glorification is one that will pertain in the eschaton. And yet, in this text in Romans 8, it speaks of the glorification has having already happened. It is certain that if you're in the process of predestined, called, justified, glorified, that God is moving you along in this direction without fail. So significant features of salvation – already not yet.
Another significant feature of salvation that we need to mention just by way of introduction is salvation as physical and spiritual. I won't bother to write that down, but salvation is physical and spiritual. Well, what do I mean by that? I mean that ultimately our salvation is going to be an embodied salvation. It's not existing for an eternity as disembodied spirits. Revelation 21 and 22 speak of a new heavens and a new earth. They give this in the latter chapters of Isaiah and Ezekiel's vision as well – that there will be an embodied salvation. And kind of a helpful way to think of this – Dr Ware's probably mentioned this – but one way to think of it is that the eschaton will be Eden, but better. So, say you start out with Adam and Eve in the Garden, and they fail and the human race follows in their wake, sinners. But Eden was a paradise – was a place of perfect dwelling with them and God. And yet, we learn from Revelation chapter 21 and 22, that the eschaton is going to be something like this, but even better than the original creation was. So there's continuity and improvement, you might say.
OK, another dimension or feature of salvation that we should mention is a personal and a cosmic dimension. We've already talked about that a little bit and it kind of goes hand in hand with the physical and spiritual aspects. But there's a personal and cosmic dimension to salvation. Romans 8. If you were in chapel a couple of weeks ago when Dr Moore preached on this text, you heard him exposit it – and that was very well done. But, as you know, the creation is subjected to futility because of the sin of the human. Because of Adam and Eve's sin, the creation is subject to futility. The creation now groans. The creation longs for its redemption and so – and the redemption of the human, of the human species, the image-bearer of God, you see that, in the train, will come the redemption of the creation as well.
So just picking up in Romans chapter 8, verse 18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly. We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. So, just as we await the redemption of our bodies, the creation waits to follow in that train and be redeemed as well.
The last thing by way of introduction, and this is probably the most important thing that we can mention in terms of an introductory issue, is the issue of the goal of salvation. What is the goal of salvation in an ultimate sense? Well, I want to argue that the goal of salvation in an ultimate sense is the glory of God. And I want to look at that from a couple of texts. Certainly, the goal of salvation, a subservient goal of salvation, is the salvation of the sinner – is the fullness of joy of the saved sinner. I mean, salvation is designed to save sinners, right? But in a more ultimate sense, the purpose of salvation, the ultimate goal of salvation, is the glorification of God. That is, the salvation of sinners is an instrument whereby God is glorified in His creation.
So let's look at a couple of texts. Ephesians chapter 1. Ephesians chapter 1. And we'll just look at verse 10, but then I want to point out a couple of other passages as well. Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 10. You know what, let's back up to verse 7 for a context sake. In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. So Christ was set forth as the plan of the fullness of the time to unite all things in Him.
Now look at the rest – a couple of other verses in the rest of Ephesians chapter 1, where you have, I think, five or six times that what Paul's talking about in Ephesians chapter 1 is to redound in some sense to the glory of God or to the praise of God's glorious grace. Now, what makes this significant as we talk about it in relation to the doctrine of salvation is that in Ephesians chapter 1, verse 3, Paul is giving us, he's setting up the fact that in the rest of the chapter, he's going to lay out the reasons soteriologically that we should praise God. He's going to give five or six categories on the basis of which are our grounds for praising God for our salvation. And he talks about, he's going to talk about, predestination – that's going to be the very first one, right off the bat. But these are soteriological reasons to praise God and we have in verse 6, for instance, to the praise of His glorious grace with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. So salvation is to the praise of the glorious grace of the Father. Verse 12: so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. Verse 14: who is the guarantee, talking about the Holy Spirit, of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory. Verse 17: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. Verse 18: having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. So the whole chapter is structured around this framing thought of the glory of God. Predestination, election – these various elements of salvation – are the basis for which we, as redeemed sinners, are to praise God. And so, I'd argue that His glory is the goal in an ultimate sense of salvation.
Let me just mention a couple of other texts. Philippians chapter 2, verses 9 through 11. Now, you've looked at this when you talked about the doctrine of the kenosis. But you saw at the end of that passage that Christ came in incarnate form – let's just take a look – it's just over a couple of pages – to verses 9 through 11, on the heels of the discussion of the kenosis. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess – confess what? – confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
And then if you'd take a look at – this is worth our time as well – 1 Corinthians 15. 1 Corinthians 15 and we'll look at verses 20 to 28. This is interesting in the way that it gives us the relation even between the Father and the Son in the purchase of our salvation, and in how this will unfold in the eschaton. Verse 20: But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For, as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For, as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under His feet. All things in subjection under Christ's feet. But when it says all things are put in subjection, it is plain that He, that is the Father, is excepted who put all things in subjection under Him, that is, the Son. When all things are subjected to Him, the Son Himself will also be subjected to Him, the Father, who put all things in subjection under Him, the Son, that God may be all in all. So, in the cumulative scope of redemption that exists for the glorification of the Father, the Son is bringing in His train many brothers and that in the end time He's going to give those to the Father, that the Father Himself may be all in all.
So we have the goal of salvation, then, is the glory of God. And I think that's helpful and formative for us as we think about the particular elements in the doctrine of salvation that we're now going to discuss in the ordo salutis – the order of salvation. Pertinent to remember that in all of this the main thing in every aspect or facet of salvation is that God be glorified. So that will certainly shape our discussion.
It's kind of like when you talk about the ordo salutis – by the way, we're talking about a logical ordering in terms of the order of salvation. This is a – can you see that? Can you guys over here see that? Yeah. We're talking about a logical ordering. OK, we're not trying to be overly speculative and get into the mind of God, but the point is this is not necessarily a temporal ordering – that the argument is that one comes before the other in a temporal sense – but this would be the logical order of God's decree. And we'll talk about that later. We're going to get to the issue of lapsarian theology – infralapsarianism, supralapsarianism and the like. We're going to discuss that later on. But this is making an argument on the basis of the texts and the data that we have. What was the logical order, the decree, of salvation? And so that's what we're talking about.
Something skipped my mind that I was going to mention. Let me say this: again the scope of salvation is as broad as we've already mentioned there – cosmic as well as individual elements. For the sake of time and the fact that it's a two-semester course and you've got to get other things done, we're going to zero in our attention on the salvation of individuals, that is, the salvation of sinners. You'll just have to understand and compensate from your reading that the scope of salvation includes the creation itself and the redemption of creation and you'll just kind of have to pick that up from your reading. But we do want to say that. OK.
Election. Let me give you a definition – a definition that everybody can agree with. And then we're going to spend some time debating the issue. But here's a non-partisan definition of the doctrine of election: the determination of God before His creation of the world. The determination of God before His creation of the world of those who would experience salvation. The determination of God before His creation of the world of those who would experience salvation from their sins through faith in Jesus. I'll give that to you again. The determination of God before His creation of the world of those who would experience salvation from their sins through faith in Jesus. Anybody need that again? OK.
Now, I said this is a non-partisan definition. Arminians, Calvinists can agree on this definition. So what's the question? Where does it become a point of disagreement? Well, the point of disagreement or where it becomes a controversial issue is when you ask the question: What founds the determination? Everybody agrees – Calvinists, Arminians alike – that definition is the determination of God before His creation of the world of who's going to experience salvation based on their faith in Jesus Christ. The dividing question is: What founds the determination? Now, on the Arminian option, what is it that founds the election of God?
What did you say?
Foreknown faith. That's right. So they're going to talk about conditional election. We're going to get to that here in a minute. And they're going to argue that God's prior determination or determination of God of who's going to experience salvation is based on foreseen faith, that is, prior to creation, God looks down the corridors of time, as it were, sees who's going to respond in faith, and then ratifies that decision – decides He's going to accept everyone whom He foresees as having faith. On the Calvinist model, God's determination of who will experience salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is not based on foreseen faith. In fact, it's not based on any kind of merit-based choice. It is based completely on God's free and sovereign decision – on the Calvinist reading of election. Now, that's not to say necessarily that God doesn't have reasons for why He elects and chooses whom He chooses. That is to say that it's not based on anything meritorious about an individual and it's not something that is the subject of our awareness. In other words, we don't know what God's reasons might be for electing some and passing over others on the Calvinist model. So, on the one hand, you've got it based on foreseen faith; on the other hand, it's God's free and sovereign decision.
Now, we're going to look at some texts and before we get into the debate. We're going to line out the Arminian position. We're going to line out the Calvinist position in a second. Before we get into that, I basically want to read or comment a little bit on some of these texts, so that we allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves. And then we can have our debate and talk about the various positions. But just to let the Scriptures speak, we're going to start with a couple of passages. We'll look at a number of them actually and let the texts have their way with us. When we get into this, I suspect that in a room this size, there are going to be some differing opinions. And that's OK. I don't expect everybody in here is going to agree with me on this or any other issue necessarily. As a kind of prologue to what we're going to say, all I want to suggest is that, when you have this discussion, you ought to disallow the characterisation of another position. If you're an Arminian, it doesn't do you any good, it doesn't serve your purpose, to caricature the Calvinist position and then defeat it. And the flip side of that coin is if you're a Calvinist, it doesn't serve your purposes to caricature the Arminian position and then defeat that. Because you haven't won the argument if it comes down to the defeating of a straw man. You have to consider each position's very best arguments and see which one most faithfully reflects Scripture.
So, we're going to let the Scriptures speak to us first and we're going to start in Deuteronomy chapter 7. Deuteronomy chapter 7. We'll read verses 6 through 11. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you the fewest of all peoples. But it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is good, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations and repays to their face those who hate Him by destroying them. He will not be slack with the one who hates Him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.
So, in this text, just briefly, we have the mention that the election of the nation of Israel is not based on anything meritorious about the nation. In other words, in a counter-intuitive fashion, God didn't choose the nation because they were the most prosperous or the largest and most likely to defeat their enemies, but because God loved them, it says. So you have the free, sovereign determination of God.
Acts chapter 2, verse 37 to 39. Acts chapter 2, verse 37 to 39. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart. They said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them: "Repent, and be baptised, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself." So here we have an instance of what's known as the effectual call – the doctrine of the effectual call. And we'll coalesce the doctrine of calling and election as we move through the discussion. But that's what's in view here.
Acts chapter 13. Just turn over a couple of pages. Acts chapter 13, verses 46 to 48. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly saying: "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles." So he's speaking to the Jews. They've rejected the gospel. And he's turning to the Gentiles now. "For so the Lord has commanded us saying: 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth'." And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord. And as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Romans chapter 8. We'll read the text we talked about earlier, beginning in Romans chapter 8, verse 29: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called. And those whom He called, He also justified. And those whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. So we have the chain from foreknowledge to predestination, call, justified, glorified. Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? That's going to be an important text in our debate and we'll talk about this a little bit later.
Romans chapter 9, just, you know, look over probably one page, verses 10 to 13. And not only so but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing, either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works, but because of His call, she was told the older will serve the younger. As it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." We'll talk about this again as we move through the lecture, but just to point out, in verse 11, the election is founded not on something that Jacob or Esau had done, but precisely on the basis of God's sovereign decision. Interestingly, overturning in verse 12 the custom, the human custom, of the time, that is, the law of primogeniture which said that the oldest male, the oldest son, received the inheritance. And here, that's flip-flopped. Right, the oldest son doesn't receive the inheritance.
So, Romans chapters 11 – flip over another page – verses 5 through 7. So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works. Otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.
Turn over to Ephesians chapter 1. We've already looked at this, but I just point out a couple more specifics. In Ephesians chapter 1. If you're marking texts, just to have in your notes, Ephesians chapter 1, verses 3 to 5, and then in particular verse 11. Verse 3 to 5, and here again we have Paul. He's giving us a litany of why it is that God is to be praised. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. OK. So He's going to give us these reasons to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 4: even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will. Now, in verse 11: In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. It's interesting, verse 3 as I mentioned, Paul, he's laying the groundwork for the reasons to praise God. Verses 4 and 5, the very first reason that he gives out of this list of five or six is what? It's predestination.
So, all that to say, that whatever you decide on this issue – wherever you decide to come down in your attempt to be as faithful to the Scriptures as you can possibly be – the one option that nobody has is to decide that the doctrine is unimportant. We may come to the conclusion that we disagree, but for Paul this is an important doctrine. It's the number one reason that he gives in Ephesians chapter 1 as to why God is to be praised – the doctrine of predestination. So, it's not an option to say that it's insignificant. And unfortunately this is what happens in a lot of our churches. For the sake of peace an attempt – well-intentioned attempt not to bring division – it's just kind of passed over and talk about this. Well, it's one thing to beat somebody over the head with it like a club – right – and to be this you think oftentimes of Calvin as having this reputation. Unfortunately there are some Calvinists who give Calvinism a bad name. Per Dr Moore uses the term cage-stage. There are these Calvinists that are in the cage-stage, which is, you wish because of the detriment that they do that you could lock them in a cage until they outgrow some of their, you know, over-zealousness in the sense that they're more evangelists for Calvinism than for Jesus. But anyway, it's one thing to beat somebody over the head with this like it's a club and shove it down their throats. It's another thing to say it's unimportant. So, there's, I mean, there's got to be a happy medium in there somewhere in your churches between saying it's unimportant and between saying, you know, OK you're going to be a Calvinist or whatever.
But the point here it's not optional for it to be unimportant. Why? Because it's a big deal to Paul. And if it's a big deal to Paul, it's a big deal to us. If it's a big deal to Paul, and we disregard it, that says something less than glamorous about us and our churches.
1 Thessalonians – let me just mention these texts to you – I won't read these – 1 Thessalonians chapter 1, verse 1 to 4. 1 Peter chapter 1, verses 1 to 2. Have those in your notes and take a look at them when you get a chance.
As we mentioned, election – it's not superficial, it's not a trivial doctrine. It is in fact something that was praise-motivating for the apostle Paul. So, if you're in a position where you can't praise God for the doctrine of election, then that's something that you'll need to work through. That's something that you'll need to pray about. Lord, bring my affections in line with Your intentions.
I don't know if you guys have ever heard this, but I've it on a number of occasions, Dr R.C.Sproul on tape talk about his kind of transformation on this issue. And I guess I'm giving away where I stand on the issue, but I'll go ahead and do that. He talks about his transformation on this issue become ... leaving Arminianism and becoming a Calvinist, he talks about the fact that originally he came to the point where he was convinced on the basis of the Scripture that this was the appropriate view. But, he didn't like the fact that it was the appropriate view. So, what did he do? He talks about the fact that he'd stick a post-it note on his mirror where he would shave in the morning. And on the post-it note it would say something to the effect of: You're not allowed to believe whatever you want to believe. You have to believe what the Bible says is true. So even if you don't like it, you have to believe it.
Well, that's good in that it shows his submission to Scriptural authority, right? But in the end it's not enough. Because if you can't praise God on the basis of it, like Paul praises God for it, then even though you are consenting to it intellectually, you are not assenting to it affectionally. And it's a two-part stave. And oftentimes, that's sometimes how we progress through it – where we ought not to be satisfied until – and so here I'll back off until we have our little debate. I'll back off and let's just say: whichever version of the doctrine of election is true, there is a problem in our hearts if we can't joyfully assent to that and we can't deem that as grounds to praise God. So we'll just kind of put a pause on that and we'll come back to the issue later.
But this is not unimportant. I already mentioned that you shouldn't allow caricatures. Before we get into the views on the doctrine of election. These are the two that we're going to take up – that Dr Ware has for us – I'm going to mention another one just in passing. And then we'll – because these are the two main positions on the doctrine of election. But before we do that, let me just ask if to this point there are any questions.
OK, well the first one that I'm going to mention that's not on your notes here. I won't bother writing it down. It's what's known as corporate election. Corporate election. Maybe you've heard of this. It is a – it's a position invoked by Arminians, frequently. What does corporate election teach? Let me just give you a brief definition, a quick response and then we're on.
Corporate election is the understanding that when you're talking about election, it's not individuals that are in view. OK, it's not the election of individuals, but the election of a category, the election of a sphere of people. Now, what might that category be? Well, they would argue that Israel, the nation, as an entity, was elected. And there is some truth to that. We just read Deuteronomy chapter 7. Or, in the New Testament, we might say that it is the church that is elected. As a corporate entity, it is the church. Or sometimes it's argued that the sphere of election is this group of people who are known as "in Christ". Now it's this sphere, it's "in Christ", that's elected and then whoever joins themself to that sphere receives the benefits of election. This is the view and it's one way that Arminians sometimes treat the matter.
Let me just mention a couple of things by way of brief response. Everybody have the definition first of all? It's an election of an entity as opposed to individuals; an election of a sphere – this kind of thing. Is that what you were asking, or were you going to have a question?
We'll go ahead and we may come to it.
Question: The things about this, it would seem to backfire in that if an election of God's sovereign choice over an individual is no longer on the basis of one, why would it be in your favour to argue that it's not with the bunch?
So the argument here – and here again it's coming from an Arminian perspective which resists unconditional election which is election that's not on the basis of foreseen faith but on the pure basis God's sovereign and good pleasure – so the argument then is that if it's the category that's elected, it's not individuals who are elected. It's still up to individuals whether or not they're going to join this group or not. And so that's the argument. You see, you don't have predetermination of individual salvation. You have, God says: "Whoever is in this category is going to be saved." And then it's up to all these individuals over here whether or not they're going to trust Christ and join this category. So that's the issue – that's the argument.
Couple of responses – and you've already made a helpful one. But first of all, this notion of election, corporate election, it really evacuates the whole concept of election to begin with. Let me give you one reason why. It's conceivable on the notion of corporate election, that nobody would enter this sphere. In other words, God can decide beforehand that He's going to elect this category of people that will, you know, associate themselves with the designation "in Christ". Whoever's going to be "in Christ", they will be saved. Well if that's the case, could very well have no one that is "in Christ". Salvation history works out and individuals are confronted with the claims of the gospel. So first of all it evacuates the concept. Election in the Scriptures seems to indicate a certainty of a sort, that is, those who are elect will be saved. You know, that kind of passage from Romans chapter 8. It's not unclear what the outcome will be for those that are the elect from the Biblical point of view.
Another quick response. It's a false antithesis to pit necessarily groups against individuals and our friend here just mentioned that. The fact, there is some evidence for corporate election because we did see in Deuteronomy chapter 7 the nation of Israel was elect as a nation as opposed to other nations. But the fact that there is evidence of corporate election doesn't negate that there is also election of individuals. Here's a couple of reasons. One, individuals in the Biblical frame, it's individuals that constitute the categories. That is, categories are made up of people. They're not just arbitrary out-there categories that may be joined or not joined.
And then if you think about it in terms of salvation history, you have the election of the nation of Israel, but what do you have before that. You have the election of an individual named Abraham. So, and Abraham is the father of the nation. So, it's arbitrary to say that the one necessarily counteracts the other.
A couple of other things I think we mentioned here. God's the initiator of election in the Biblical model and so His purpose is accomplished. We've already mentioned it. It's not up in the air. For God to say that someone is elect means daa-daa-daa-daa-daa all the way down the chain of glorified – not elect but maybe not. And so another one of the things on the heels of that that you lose in this model is you lose assurance and you lose eternal security. Because if it's just the sphere, if it's just the sphere that's elected – this "in Christ" sphere of the church or whatever – you could very well have an individual who joins the sphere and later opts out of the sphere. So, it's very hard to hold – but the issue is that a lot of these Arminians are trying to hang onto eternal security and trying to hang onto assurance. But it's an inconsistent position for them to hold. So there are problems with the doctrine of corporate election.
Now, as time races by, conditional election. Going to look at this model and some of the arguments that they offer. We're going to look at this in a little bit more detail. Let me give you a definition of this. God's election is conditioned on foreseen faith. Pretty simple. We already mentioned that at the beginning of class. God's election, His prior determination, is founded on foreseen faith. So, as we mentioned, it's God looks down the corridors of time, as it were, sees who will respond in faith, and elects them on the basis of those who will place their faith in Him.
All right, well let's give you a list of arguments. And here, as I mentioned earlier, we don't want any caricatures, so we're going to do the very best job that we can representing the Arminian position of conditional election. We are going to finish class today before we get to the Calvinist model. We may not even get through all these arguments. But I hope that we give a fair enough presentation that, even though I'm not an Arminian, you leave class thinking that I am one. Giving the very best arguments that they can possibly offer.
The first, free will. The first argument for conditional election in the Arminian system is free will. Now, they're talking about a particular kind of freedom and you need to know this. They're talking about libertarian freedom. It's also known sometimes as contra-causal freedom, that is, against the cause. Sometimes you read it and people won't make themselves crystal clear on this and they'll say something like significant freedom or morally significant freedom. Well, that doesn't necessarily mean that, every time somebody says that, this is what they're talking about but often it is. Which, it's kind of a jibe, you know. This is what morally significant freedom is as opposed to the Calvinist version. We'll talk about the Calvinist version later, but just so you know, probably already discussed this. The Calvinist understanding of freedom is a compatabilist model, that is, our freedom and God's sovereignty are compatible. But this is a libertarian conception of freedom. And so the Arminian argues that there's not freedom in the Calvinist scheme because they're not affirming contra-causal or libertarian freedom.
Now why is that? Well, in this system the only kind of freedom that is conducive with election is this libertarian freedom. And it only fits with conditional election because it's only conditional election that goes hand in hand with having significantly free agents. In other words, anyone who has trusted Christ for their salvation could have done otherwise than they did. That's their point. Anyone who's trusted Christ could have done otherwise than they did and if you argue against that, you don't have significant freedom in your system. So that's their first argument – free will.
The second argument – the universal love of God. So here we're talking about texts like John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9 – God desires that everyone be saved – these kind of things. The universal love of God. So the Arminians says: This is the kind of love that's operative in the Scriptures. God loves everyone equally, impartially – has the same desire that everybody be saved and so, you know, kind of provides this equal opportunity to which people can receive or reject. But it would be arbitrary to say that God loves some in a sense in which He doesn't love others. It certainly wouldn't be fair to say that God loves some in a sense that He doesn't love others, because then there's not equal opportunity for salvation. So universal love of God. I mean, this is the kind of love that's writ large across the Scriptures. John 3:16. Pick your text. This is what we're talking about. God loves everybody equally, impartially. And you had a question.
Question: Yeah. What do they say when it comes to Jacob and Esau?
We'll pick that up because ... yeah, that's a ... that's where the response comes in. But their argument is that it's got to be the case that God loves everybody in an equal and impartial manner. And you obviously introduce partiality into the equation if you have unconditional election. So, those are arguments one and two.
Argument number three. Call this a universal, sometimes called general, call. The universal or general call. Excuse me. This is the call that's extended to persons when the gospel is proclaimed. It's extended indiscriminately. I mean, you've got the Great Commission: Matthew chapter 28 verses 19 to 20. You go to the whole world and share the gospel and you make disciples of all men. And the gospel is shared indiscriminately. This is the general call that goes out to all people. But the fact that there's a call extended, or there's a call that ought to be extended to all people, must mean what? Must mean that everybody who hears can come if they choose. Otherwise, this general call is just a charade. It's just a mockery of human freedom – this morally significant freedom – if when you issue the general call everybody can't respond to it. It's a mockery of this freedom. So, it means that everybody who hears can come if they so choose. And if they don't, it's on their heads.
Couple of texts. Romans chapter 10 verse 13. You're familiar with this from your EE training. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. So this is a ... anyone who comes, anyone who comes, will be received. Anyone who responds to this universal, this general, call. Couple of other texts. Revelation chapter 22, verse 17. Matthew 11, verse 28. Revelation 22:17. Matthew 11:28. You can take a look at those when you have a chance, but these are other texts that indicate a general call.
As a footnote, the Calvinist doesn't disagree with that. There is a general call, but they would have a response. We're not doing that yet, so.
Argument number four. God desires all to be saved. Now this overlaps a little bit with the universal love argument, but there's some distinctions here as well. Let me give you a couple of texts. God desires all to be saved. Arminianism says the most straightforward reading of these texts it's, I mean, it's a slam-dunk. 1 Timothy 2:4 and we'll pick up in verse 3. This is good and acceptable in the sight of our God and Saviour who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. So 1 Timothy 2:3 and 4. And then, as I already mentioned, 2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Straightforward reading of the text, guys – God wants everybody to be saved. He has an equal, impartial desire for everyone to experience salvation.
So what does that mean? That means if God has this impartial desire for everyone to be saved, that's in utter conflict with unconditional election. God can't genuinely desire the salvation of every person and unconditionally elect some and not others. So that's an important argument for them. On their view then, the reason that somebody does not come – it's on their heads, right? It's because of their free choice not to come. So this election then, this conditional election, is God's choosing of those who've already chosen Him. It's kind of a ratification of their choice.
And if you'll just give me a couple of minutes, we can list the other arguments and come to a good stopping point. Five. Justice. God's justice in judgment. God will be just in His judgment. How can it be just, says the Arminian, for God to hold people accountable for rejecting a gospel that they could not believe? You Calvinists, who believe in unconditional election, have a God holding people accountable and judging them eternally for something to which they could not respond. How can that possibly be just for God to hold people accountable for rejecting a gospel that they could not believe?
Argument number six. Election in the Scriptures is based on foreknowledge. Calvinists have oversimplified or selectively exegeted and you've missed key passages where it's clear from the Scriptures that election is based on foreknowledge. We give you a couple of those passages. We read one of them. Romans chapter 8, verse 29. In fact, it would be worth just paying attention to it right quickly here. Romans chapter 8, verse 29: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. The other text is 1 Peter chapter 1, verses 1 through 2. Again, you have this election, this predestination, based on foreknowledge. So election's based on foreknowledge and that means foreseen faith on the Arminian understanding. In other words, God will choose anybody who comes to Him. He's looked down the corridors of time. Anyone in whom He has foreseen faith, He elects them in response.
Last argument – prayer and evangelism. Prayer and evangelism. To have prayer that is significant and evangelism that matters you must have unconditional election. Otherwise they're of absolutely no consequence. What good is prayer on the Calvinist model? What good is prayer if God has eternally determined all things? He's not going to change His mind. You can't effect something through your prayers. You can't bring about a change in God's mind. And in that sense, what you're doing on the Calvinist model, if you're praying for something that is contrary to God's will, that is, you're praying for person X to be saved when they're not elect in God's eternal determination, you're asking God to change His eternal decree. How wise is that? So prayer is insignificant on the Calvinist model.
Evangelism, similarly. If you've got unconditional election, why bother with missions? If they're elect, they're going to be saved, right? We saw that in Romans 8:28 through 30. So who in the world needs the gospel? They're going to be saved. If you don't go, God will drop it in on them or, you know, whatever. So missions are insignificant. On the other hand, if you care about missions, you should be an Arminian. You should be an Arminian if you care about missions, because all can come in some sense and the general call must go out for them to hear and receive. So, anyway, on this model, you end up having a lot at stake in your presentation of the gospel. And there's a lot on the line with how you present it and how persuasive you are Because it may be, if you were just a little bit more persuasive, a couple of more people would have trusted Christ.
But this is the issue in prayer and evangelism. For it to be significant, you've got to have conditional election. You've got to be an Arminian. Otherwise, you prayers don't matter and missions are irrelevant.
So these are pretty strong critiques from the Arminian position. Hate to leave you in doubt over the next couple of days, but we'll revisit this issue. We'll make arguments for the other side and have some critiques and it should be interesting. Let me ask if there are any questions before we dismiss.
OK, well this will be fun. Dr Ware will be with us on Thursday, but I'll be teaching. So pray for me. I'm being evaluated. I'm just glad he gave me such an easy topic to kick around. Anyway, we'll see you on Thursday.