Monday, November 21, 2005

Epistemological and ontological assurance of salvation

I just finished Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain H. Murray. Edwards got booted out of his church in Northampton over the issue of the Lord ’s Supper. He thought there ought to be good evidence of a person’s conversion and regeneration before they should be allowed to participate. His congregation apparently disagreed, and he was voted out.

The whole thing got me to thinking about a related issue. How can we be sure that another person is truly converted? Or even more interesting, how can we be sure that we are converted?

I think the fifth point of Calvinism (preservation of the saints) is sometimes misunderstood. The misunderstanding usually comes in confusing ontology and epistemology. Ontology has to do with being and what is. Epistemology has to do with our state of knowledge or beliefs. The fifth point of Calvinism does not address the epistemological issue of salvation; rather, it addresses the ontological issue of salvation. In Calvinism, God ultimate decides who will be saved. Since the decision is up to him, our salvation is assured. God cannot fail. He saves whoever he intends to save. If somebody is elected to salvation by God, then that person will be saved.

But how do we know whether we or somebody else is one of the elect? That’s the epistemological question, and the fifth point doesn’t address that. According to Jesus, nobody can come to him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). So you might say that anybody who comes to Jesus was drawn by the Father, and if they were drawn by the Father, then they must be one of the elect. Anybody, then, who really professes to be a Christian, really believes it and all, is one of the elect.

But there are a couple of problems with that. First, there’s the parable of the farmer who sews seeds on different kinds of ground. Some people embraced the gospel with enthusiasm at first, but they later fall away. Obviously, those people were never elect or they wouldn’t have fallen away. We see this in our own experience, too. Some people can profess to be Christians for many years before later rejecting it. What are we to make of that? If they eventually reject Christianity, then they could never have been elect in the first place.

Second, Jesus said that not everybody who calls him Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. These people will be surprised on the judgment day when Jesus says, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). So there are a lot of people who think they are elect, but they really aren’t. How do you know you’re not one of them?

Is it even possible to know? I think it is. 1 John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” It must be possible, then, to have epistemological assurance of our salvation. How is it possible, though?

If John wrote to them so that they might know, then we can look at what he wrote. Let’s just look at a few things he says:
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

1 John 2:3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

1 John 4:20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
And the rest of the book just elaborates on these same points. Basically, we can know we are God’s children by whether we truly love God or not, and John says, “This is love for God, that we keep his commands” (1 John 5:3). Keeping his commandments, then, is how we know we are his children.

The rest of the New Testament seems to agree with this point. In the Matthew passage I mentioned earlier, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21).

And this is another point of confusion between epistemology and ontology. These passages about the necessity of holy living for salvation are not ontological; they are epistemological. That is, doing good isn’t what causes us to be saved. Rather, it’s how we know we are saved.

Take, for example, Peter says, “Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10). The “things” he’s talking about are mentioned in the previous verses. He’s talking about having goodness, kindness, brotherly love, godliness, etc. Practicing those things is how we become sure of our election.

Likewise, Paul said, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). God works in his elect to cause them to want to do his will. The fact that we have this desire to please him shows that we are his elect. That’s why we should work out or live out our salvation, not just sit back and assume we’re good to go.


At 11/21/2005 9:25 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Good teaching on a difficult subject!

Here's a question: Since salvation makes us want to do good works. Can doing good works prove our salvation? What about do-gooders that attempt to earn salvation? We know that they aren't saved, yet many of them can sustain more righteous behavior throughout their lives than I can (it would seem).

For instance, I have very good reason to doubt Mother Theresa's salvation on theological grounds, yet she lived a life of greater outward holiness than I will.

At 11/21/2005 9:41 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Well, Jeff, I think our desire to do good does give us assurance of salvation, but I don't think we can arrive at 100% certainty.

First, we can't be anymore sure of our salvation than we are of the truth of Christianity. That's because we can't have salvation if Christianity isn't true.

Second, sanctification is a process. People don't convert from total heathens to perfect saints over night. It's a process. Some people are farther along than others.

Third, none of us attain moral perfection in this lifetime, which raises the question, "How good to you have to be to be sure of your salvation?" However far you fall short, your doubt will inevitably correspond to it. The more righteous you manage to be, the more grounds you have for assurance, but you can never be 100% sure, because you can never be 100% righteous.

So basically, I think our desire to good gives us assurance of our salvation in proportion to our desire and the manner in which we live, but it isn't fool proof.

Of course I should add that I haven't given this subject a WHOLE lot of thought, so I could be all wrong.

At 11/21/2005 1:35 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

That passage you mention from 1 John is used by some theologians (who emphasize the 'know') as promising us epistomological certainty. Not necessarily about others, but at least ourselves. They emphasize this point so strongly that they go even beyond what we usually consider certainty (such as I'm certain this chair will hold me).
This is the main 'proof-text' for presuppositional apologetics.
These people (not me) would take issue with you saying that you can never attain 100% certainty.
I believe these people would argue for a subjective certainty that is 100%, but isn't based on personal righteousness.

At 11/21/2005 4:26 PM , Blogger Steve said...

it sounds like your saying its impossible to not get into heaven if you live according to this list of verses.

It would seem to me that even if we think we are good people and do the work of God, we're not in a position to judge our own hearts as God is, so we are not in a position to know if we are among the elect.

At 11/21/2005 5:58 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, don't know exactly what it means, in your mind, to 'live according to this list of verses'.

Remember the parable of those to show up at the gates and are told 'depart from me'? There will be many people who believe they are OK and are not. So, in a way you're right that we aren't in the best place to judge.
However, the Bible also tells us in many places that we can know. In fact, if we know the facts the Bible teaches about this matter, then it should be possible to know.

One of Christianity's unique points in contrast to Islam is that we can know we are at peace with God, while in Islam you can't know until the end.

At 11/21/2005 6:13 PM , Blogger Steve said...

but how would you know whether or not you can get into heaven? You cannot be certain of that.

And what difference would it make, as Sam pointed out "Some people embraced the gospel with enthusiasm at first, but they later fall away." Your certainty that you are among the elect assumes you shall never fall away, and unless you can see into the future, that seems like a dangerous statement.

What then, can it serve to know you are going into heaven other than to tempt us into the deadly sin of pride?

At 11/21/2005 10:38 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Jeff, although I'm sympathetic to that view, I just don't think absolute certainty is what people usually mean by "knowing." I wrote about that in one of my "Conversations with Angie."

Steve, although I don't think there's many things at all we can know with absolute certainty without even the possibility of being wrong, I do think there's plenty we can be reasonably assured of. I think being elect is one of them. Assurance comes in degrees, and those who live more godly lives have more grounds for assurance than those who don't. Assurance, in my opinion, serves no other purpose than psychological comfort, which is no small thing. In the Calvinist view, this assurance does not lead to pride. Calvinists believe in what they call "unconditional election," which means that God's election is not based on any merit whatsoever on our part. In fact, Calvinists say that apart from God's regenerating power, we would never be able to embrace Christ at all, so even our choice to accept the gospel is no credit to us. God would've been just to send us to hell, but it is only by his grace that we are saved. This tends to foster an attitude of humility rather than pride.

At 11/21/2005 11:05 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Sam I agree to a certain extent that pious people are humble people.

If you want my basic disagreement with this worldview, is that I think people choose God, and not the other way around. Therefore the whole concept of being "elect" seems troublesome.

I've had one too many conversations with certain religious people who speak to me as if God has a special preference to them.

If its true that God loves everybody, then he's got no reason to prefer the elect to the unelect. I never understood that about his designation of the Jews as "the chosen people" - why did he create the rest of us? Practice?

Mary Magdalin was a prostitute, would anyone have thought she was among the chosen? the slave upon the cross who sat next to Jesus and was converted... did any one have reason to believe he was "elect"? He didn't seem too biblically literate.

Now I realize that you're not saying God hates the unelect, but from my perspective,sometimes religious people look down on others from their ivory towers of piety, believing they are special and everyone else is periphery humanity. I thought the whole point of Jesus' message was to make us equal before God... thats what was so socially disruptive to the Roman empire about that.

I just would like to know how being "elect" makes the "elect" feel about the "unelect" ... better? superior? righteous?

At 11/21/2005 11:54 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...


If you want my basic disagreement with this worldview, is that I think people choose God, and not the other way around.

Personally I think this is a false dichotomy. I agree that people choose God, but there's a reason they choose God. They choose God because God draws them. Basically they choose God because God first chose them. At some point in their lives, God regenerates them, giving them the desire and inclination to choose God, and they act on that desire.

In John Cotton's A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace he makes a distinction between the non-elect, the elect who are not yet regenerated, and the elect who are regenerated. If somebody is elect, but not yet regenerated, then it's impossible to distinguish them from the non-elect. That's why we'd never go around saying that people are non-elect. There's always the possibility that they will convert. Of course we can speculate about that possibility, but we really can't know for sure that somebody is not elect. So in the case of Mary Magdeline and the thief on the cross prior to their regeneration, we'd just have to suspend judgment. That's why we witness to everybody and not just who we think are the elect. We don't know who will believe and who won't.

from my perspective,sometimes religious people look down on others from their ivory towers of piety, believing they are special and everyone else is periphery humanity.

That's a character flaw in those individuals, not a problem with Calvinist doctrine. At worst, that character flaw is based on a misunderstanding of Calvinist doctrine. Or I guess it could be that the religious people you're referring to aren't Calvinists.

I thought the whole point of Jesus' message was to make us equal before God... thats what was so socially disruptive to the Roman empire about that.

In a sense, he did. The elect are chosen from every strata of society, from every tribe, tongue, nation, gender, or whatever. This was contrary to a lot of beliefs in those times--the inferiority of women, the uncleanliness of gentiles, etc. But the Bible is clear that the elect are every bit as deserving of hell as everybody else. We have ALL rebelled against God.

According to Romans 9 and Ephesians 1, the reason God chose some and not others is to the praise of his glory. Everybody has a purpose, and that purpose is to bring glory to God, wether elect or not. The elect bring glory to God by demonstrating his grace. The non-elect bring glory to God by demonstrating his wrath.

At 11/22/2005 12:13 AM , Blogger Steve said...

I really dont understand how God can cast judgement on people he failed to "draw in."

If, for example, I go to hell, then in the Calvinist worldview I was destined to go to hell, and I never had much of a chance anyway because God didn't draw me in. Didn't I do anything wrong? Not if God wanted me to burn in the firey pits of hell.

And frankly, if thats the message Im supposed to take away from Calvinism, then I see no reason to believe. Fear-induced belief is no different than information obtained through torture - its unreliable because you'll say and do anything to avoid pain and destruction. Its not genuine.

If people go to heaven because God wants them to go to heaven, its also implying that people go to hell because God wants them to go to hell. What kind of merciful god does that?

At 11/22/2005 12:34 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...


The Christian scheme is very common sensical. People who commit crimes deserve punishment. God is the ultimate judge of the universe. If he isn't just, then there ultimately is no justice.

People who go to hell go there because they deserve it. God punishes wrongdoers. He doesn't owe salvation to anybody. We all deserve to suffer his wrath. So God isn't unjust just because he fails to draw everybody. And those he fails to draw aren't excused just because they weren't drawn.

The purpose here isn't to scare people into believing. The purpose is to give a real warning. Wouldn't you think it was silly of me to object to the civil law by saying, "The government's just trying to scare us into obedience by having punishments for crimes"? Fear never caused anybody to believe anyway. Fear is a result of believing, not a cause of believing. I've never met anybody who didn't believe in hell who was also afraid of hell.

At 11/22/2005 1:00 AM , Blogger Steve said...

Sam. I think your using sophistry here. If a man ran up to a child and said "You can come with me into the car and have tons of candy and love forever, or you can stay where you are an your mommy will die." According to your logic, the child only fears the latter if he BELIEVES the man is telling the truth. What does he have to fear if the man's lying? And yet, the prospect of your mommy dying seems so terrible in comparison to the obvious choice, what thinking is there to do? I would surmise that telling people "you can go to hell forever, burning for your sin or you can live in paradise" is not so different.

"People who go to hell go there because they deserve it"

In the Calvinist worldview, thats extremely disturbing. People go to hell because they were BORN to go to hell. ??? People go to heaven because they were BORN to go to heaven ???

At 11/22/2005 1:31 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, I don't think I'm guilty of sophistry. You're just mischaracterizing my position. There's nothing counter-intuitive about my position. My position is that everybody is guilty of rebellion against God. We all break his law. That means we all deserve punishment. This is true of everybody whether they are elect or not. To say that people go to hell simply because they were born to go to hell ignores this point. It makes it look like there's no guilt involved, and that God arbitrarily punishes people who don't deserve it. That isn't the case at all.

In the analogy of the kid, first of all, it ignores any faultiness in the kid. Your analogy doesn't even address the question of the child's guilt. It's irrelevent in your analogy, but it's very relevent in the Calivinst position.

But on the other hand, I totally agree with you that in the face of definite destruction, the prudent thing is for the child to submit. If we have reason to believe that God really does punish wrongdoers, then we have every reason to repent. What's wrong with that? Why would you object to that? If hell is a real threat, shouldn't we avoid it? If God punishes wrongdoers, should he keep that a secret from us? Wouldn't we shout on the day of judgment, "That's not fair! You didn't warn us about this!"?

And why wouldn't you object to the civil government on the same grounds? The civil law spells out punishments for crimes. Why don't we criticize the government for this and say, "Oh, you're just trying to force people to bow to the government's will by threatening people with punishment"? What's the difference?

At 11/22/2005 2:14 AM , Blogger Steve said...

Sam - there is no guilt involved. Because a person is doing what God always knew they would do. How could they not sin? And how could they not go to hell? The Calvanist position shows that a person cannot choose to be among the elect or not, therefore they committed no choice that led to a sin, rather they lived the life of sin that was destined for them. And the "elect" arent really good, because their position in the heavens was predetermined. No choice they made could have killed their place in the history books. If they could make that choice, then it undermines Gods ability to form an "elect."

On the second point: you switched between a child who already believes, and a child who does not. First, you said that "Fear is a result of believing, not a cause of believing" The idea is that if you dont believe in Christianity, the concept of hell isn't something to fear. Thus your talking about a person who doesn't believe.

Then when I said that fear might cause someone to pick the "obvious choice" (paradise), you said that "Your analogy doesn't even address the question of the child's guilt." But the childs guilt is a byproduct of BELIEVING Christianity to begin with.

If the child KNEW he was guilty, and then was asked to pick between heaven and hell, of course the matter is simple. But if the child doesn't KNOW he's guilty of anything (a nonbeliever) then the choice between heaven and hell is essentially a fear based argument.

You cant switch between a child who believes he's guilty of something (and fears god), and a child who is a nonbeliever.

At 11/22/2005 3:38 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, the definition of faultiness is having your heart wrong and doing wrong from your heart. Or, in other words, having bad motives, and acting on them. Whether God knows what people will do or not is irrelevent to whether they are guilty or not. Being elect doesn't mean being good. We're all guilty. The elect are those among the guilty that God chose to save in spite of their guilt.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I get the impression that you think that not being elect is the thing God is punishing people for. I agree that whether we are elect or not is not our choice, and since it's not our choice, it isn't something we're morally accountable for. So the non-elect are not being punished just because they are not elected. Rather, they are being punished for their sins--those wrongful things they did choose to do.

But the childs guilt is a byproduct of BELIEVING Christianity to begin with.

I probably just misunderstood your analogy. How does believing Christianity cause a child to be guilty?

But if the child doesn't KNOW he's guilty of anything (a nonbeliever) then the choice between heaven and hell is essentially a fear based argument.

This, I don't understand. Why would a person fear hell unless they knew they were guilty?

A person does not have to be a believer before they can know right from wrong. We are all morally accountable, because we all do know right from wrong whether we're Christians or not.

I have the feeling that there's a lot you're saying that I'm not understanding, so I apologize if I'm missing your points.

At 11/22/2005 5:40 AM , Blogger Steve said...

Ok this is how i see the issue shaping up. I feel like we keep switching topics rather than focusing on what what issues I originally raised.

I said "Fear-induced belief is no different than information obtained through torture - its unreliable because you'll say and do anything to avoid pain and destruction. Its not genuine."

To which you said "Fear never caused anybody to believe anyway. Fear is a result of believing, not a cause of believing."

To which I gave the example of the child being offered candy or his mother dying, noting that whether or not the child believed the man he would likely not want to face the prospect of his mommy dying. I compared it to "you can go to hell forever, burning for your sin or you can live in paradise" What kind of choice is that?

You then replied "In the analogy of the kid, first of all, it ignores any faultiness in the kid. Your analogy doesn't even address the question of the child's guilt."

To which I replied, the issue of whether or not the child has "guilt" for anything assumes a Christian worldview, and since the example is meant to show an individual who is an unbeliever faced with a choice you cant throw in the guilt issue... because they dont believe yet! Fear of the consequences of not believing the man, or not believing the Christian, motivate the person to believe.

And honestly, I dont think people would be as pious if the threat of eternal damnation weren't looming over their head. And that, to me, is a fear-based religion. You can tie it up in the nicities of how wonderful it is for those who accept Christ, but that doesn't negate the wrathful punishment the Christian worldview offers nonbelievers.

At 11/22/2005 5:44 AM , Blogger Steve said...

And on the issue of Calvanism, you say that we are all guilty, and God simply doesn't save certain people.

But that sucks for them. And it seems to make the "elect" pretty elite doesn't it? I mean, to be part of the smallest number of people on earth who are going to enjoy paradise... yup... the other 6.4 billion people all burn in hell. I dont accept that as being the work of a loving God.

If God loves people, he's not going to say "sorry, before you were born, I chose not to save you."

At 11/22/2005 5:50 AM , Blogger Steve said...

think about what religion teaches us.

You can be part of this club of people who go to heaven, play team sports for a few millenia on a cloud with the Angel Gabriel, or you can burn in the pits of hell next to Balthazar, Lucifer, and Caan, with a fire that burns the flesh but doesn't extinguish.

Moreover, in the Calvanist worldview MOST people end up going to hell, and only a few people get selected for cloud-9. That seems even more unfair... but more importantly UNJUST.

In Calvanist terms, God really wrote the bible, not to share with earths 6.4 billion people, but really so about 200,000 people could manage to get a hold of this document?

At 11/22/2005 6:51 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, I don’t see why you think it is unjust for God not to save everybody. If everybody has done wrong, then everybody deserves to be punished. If everybody deserves to be punished, then God would be perfectly just in punishing everybody. If God would be perfectly just in punishing everybody, then how can he be unjust for punishing anybody? And why is it unfair for God to punish people when he doesn’t owe salvation to anybody?

If anything, God is unfair for saving anybody, not for condemning anybody. Everybody who goes to hell deserves it. Nobody who goes to heaven deserves it.

Now let me go back over some of the things you listed. First, you said: “Fear-induced belief is no different than information obtained through torture - its unreliable because you'll say and do anything to avoid pain and destruction. Its not genuine." If it’s not genuine, then it’s not really a belief, is it? Information obtained through torture is unreliable precisely because the person will say anything, whether they believe it or not, to avoid pain. Fear may get somebody to claim to believe, but it can’t cause a person to believe. Fear can only cause a person to convert if they already believe in the object of their fear. Only if they truly believe that there is a God who punishes wrong-doers will a person have fear. And that is essentially how I answered you in the first place.

But then you brought up the child analogy. Now unless the child actually believed his mother was in danger, what fear would he have?

I don’t see how your question about the choice between heaven and hell is relevant, but I’ll respond to that anyway. A choice is nothing more than acting on an inclination. We always choose according to our strongest motivation. In fact, any act that is not based on some reason, motive, or inclination isn’t a choice at all, because it’s not an intentional act. It’s just a muscle spasm or knee jerk reaction. If a motive is necessary for choice, then motives cannot be inconsistent with choice. Giving somebody a strong motive to pick one option over the other, then, cannot be inconsistent with them choosing one option over the other.

Next, you said you can’t bring guilt into the child analogy, because the child doesn’t believe yet. If the child story is at all analogous to an unbeliever faced with Christianity, then their guilt is relevant. Whether they believe in Christianity or not, they are still accountable for their sins. Anybody who knows the difference between right and wrong is morally accountable.

You went on to say, “Fear of the consequences of not believing the man, or not believing the Christian, motivate the person to believe.” I confess that this makes no sense to me. If fear is what motivates a person to believe, then fear must comes before the belief, right? But if fear comes before the belief, then what is the fear based on? Aren’t all fears based on some belief? Unless the person has some belief already then there’s nothing to fear.

If I understand you right, your whole point is that a person believes in Christianity because they fear hell. But if they fear hell, aren’t they buying into the Christian worldview already? Unless they already believe there’s a God who punishes sinners by sending them to hell, what are they afraid of?

At 11/22/2005 9:48 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, you say that it's Calvinism that is exclusive, yet the truth is that it's Christianity of any form that's exclusive. Even the Arminians will tell you that few people will go to Heaven in the end.

You also think that it's Calvinism that leads to a sort of spiritual snobbery when it seems to me it's the opposite. The Arminians tend to feel that they were 'smarter' or of more noble character because when they heard the message they were smart or good enough to accept that message thereby making them better than those low-life jerks that hear the obvious truth yet suppress it due to stubborn evilness.
A Calvinist says "there but for the grace of God go I". The most humble christians you'll ever meet are Calvinists. (Humble doesn't necessarily mean meek or wishy-washy though).

Your child analogy doesn't work to capture this situation. How about this? You have cancer that will kill you if untreated. The Dr. tells you this, perhaps you even get a 2nd, and 3rd opinion to be sure. Then, as a result of this knowledge you elect to undergo treatment. In a sense it was 'fear' that motivated you to undergo the treatment yet would you call that elicit? Would you equate this to a confession obtained under torture?

Even in your child analogy, the whole picture is changed if the information being given the child is true or not. Whether belief that imparts fear is good or bad depends entirely on whether that belief is true.

and I'll just re-emphasize what Sam said. Calvinism does NOT result in an unjust God. Imagine that we have 2 murderers both on death row. When the Governor grants a pardon to one of them, but not the other has that Governor done something unjust? Only in the sense that justice isn't done to the one pardoned! Certainly not because he left one murderer to be punished.

At 11/22/2005 10:45 AM , Blogger daleliop said...


On the issue of fear as a cause/effect of belief, I think this clarification can be made that could solve some misunderstanding.

First, Steve said,

Fear of the consequences of not believing the man, or not believing the Christian, motivate the person to believe.

Sam said,

Fear can only cause a person to convert if they already believe in the object of their fear. Only if they truly believe that there is a God who punishes wrong-doers will a person have fear.

Steve is talking about fear as a means to motivate someone to believe with more force (i.e. to act on their beliefs). Sam is talking about how one can never have fear before he has some belief already. Both of these views are correct.

People don't necessarily buy life insurance because they think they will die unexpectedly. However, they believe in the possibility that they might die unexpectedly. The fear of that possibility drives them to buy life insurance, but it doesn't mean that they truly believe that they will need it anytime soon.

So, when a Christian tells a nonbeliever, "if you don't repent for your sins, you will go to hell!", then Sam's right, if the nonbeliever has no beliefs then it should carry no effect. However, if the nonbeliever has any inkling of belief towards Christianity as having a possibility of being true, then it will have an effect, namely increasing the possible consequences of choosing to not believe.

At 11/22/2005 11:57 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

How exactly does God choose who to save? I think that's the crux here.

If it is arbitrary, then I can see where Steve is coming from. The elect are just plain lucky for being chosen. Some may even laugh at the non-elect for being so unlucky, but that's just a side-effect, not an inherent flaw. But this arbitrariness does seem unfair, doesn't it? Surely if someone is excused, they should be excused for something, not on a whim. Otherwise you could have the most immoral creatures go to heaven while any non-Christian saint perish in hell, just because the dice didn't roll in their favour and they never had a chance to repent.

If it is not arbitrary, then those criteria which God chooses to save people is very important to know, if possible. I suppose in this case it would be just for God to save some and not others.

This reminds me of a test I took one time. We all took our seats and then the teacher handed out all the papers. As we started writing, the teacher realized that half the class did not have papers. It turned out his secretary hadn't photocopied enough tests that morning. So he decided that he would think of some way to make the situation fair for everyone, for the people who wrote the test that day and the people who by chance did not receive the test, and could write the test at a later date. Note the teacher did not say, "Well, it looks like the students who didn't get a test today are lucky, so oh well, no adjustments necessary for those who had to write today." He felt it was necessary to make the situation fair to everyone, even though it was by chance that some students got out of writing a test that day.

I concede that this scenario is not perfectly representative of the scenarios that have been discussed, because all students involved were not at fault (we were all innocent).

However, consider this. Suppose I and ten other students arrive late for the test. We're standing at the back of the class, and the teacher walks up to us and says, "sorry, I only have five tests left." Then he randomly picks out 5 students and lets them write the test, while me and the other 6 people are left in an unfortunate position. I would admit that this would be a just scenario. We were all late, and so we all deserved to not write the test since it was not guaranteed that there were any tests remaining. Luckily, though, there were 5 papers left and 5 lucky, but late, students got to write it. While I and the others would be disappointed, we'd admit it was fair because none of us really deserved to write it but those students were just plain lucky.

However, this situation is not completely analagous to the calvinist position either! The difference is that presumably there are not a limited amount of tests (or seats, let's say). It is only just if only a certain number of people can get into heaven. If this is the case, then I concede that all is just. But if there is enough room in heaven for everyone, then God does seem unfair to let only some in. Suppose in the last scenario the teacher didn't have 5 papers but he had 20 papers remaining. If he let 5 of the late students write it but then said, "sorry, folks, that's all I'm letting in," then I would try to get this guy fired because that was totally unfair. Either don't let any of us write it, or let all of us write it, but don't just pick a few people and leave some others out!

At 11/22/2005 12:46 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Dale/Steve, I think one of the problems you have is applying your sense of fair play to God as if He's under the same exact moral imperatives that you and I are. He's not. There ARE things He can do justly, while we cannot. As our creator, He can justly do what He pleases with us.
This thought will anger you, but doesn't change the facts. The good news is that He has likely chosen you both for Heaven!

Dale, you made a mistake (I think) when you talked about heaven having the worst sinners while hell has the best saints. The fact is that there is no one, who in an absolute sense, is a saint. No one in hell will be blameless or receiving more punishment than they deserve.
Your point about heaven though is correct: it will contain some terrible sinners (only in a sense...note the doctrine of imputed righteousness).

Dale, I think you might be right or wrong with your statement about God's criteria for choosing.
I can support the idea that He has a non-arbitrary criteria, as long as it is asserted that His criteria have absolutely nothing to do with any merit, or characteristic in the believer themselves. This is a mandatory Scriptural doctrine.

It could be said that His choice is totally arbitrary only in the sense that no human, this side of eternity, will ever know what His criteria are. We could correctly infer that it's something that maximizes His eternal glorification but that's as far as we can know.

At 11/22/2005 1:51 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


There ARE things He can do justly, while we cannot.

First, could you give some examples of things that God can do which are just for him but not for us?

And what things can neither God nor us do justly?

Second, even if I grant that there are some things which seem unjust to us but just to God, that still does not establish that Calvinistic election is one of those things. It could very well be that Calvinistic election is one of those other things which would still be unjust to both God and us.

At 11/22/2005 2:03 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

God can justly take my life, while neither I, nor anyone else could justly do this.

It's down to ownership. If I made a painting and hung it on my wall it would be wrong for you to take the painting off the wall and destroy it, while the same action would be fine for me.

In my mind, it's perhaps harder to find something that would be unjust for God to do. Obviously, it would be unjust for God to lie, so there is one that neither of us can justly do.

Just establishing that there are things He can justly do that we can't doesn't by itself prove that election is one. However, most arguments (actually ALL that I've heard) against the doctrine of election are simply arguing that it is philosophically impossible because it would be unjust for God.

It is true that God cannot do anything unjust. In my humble estimation (and Paul's in Romans 9), condemning people to Hell is NOT unjust for God.

At 11/22/2005 3:31 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Back to the assurance question for a moment. Sam, you are saying that we can have a functional certainty of our salvation by taking note of the new life within us. I'll probably grant that. But I wonder if this doesn't introduce a problem.

You see, if we begin looking in to ourselves for our assurance then we might end up in a situation where we try to affect our salvation with an act of our will. What I mean by this is that I think a lot of christians miss the bus and think they are saved by faith.
I've actually heard the passage misquoted repeatedly: "For by grace you are saved through faith" (eph 2:8,9).
Ask a bunch of people if you are saved by faith and they will say yes, when it's actually the grace that does it.
So we end up having faith in faith. Meaning that if we can only convince ourselves to believe, or to do good, then we will either be saved, or prove to ourselves we are saved.
I would propose that we look to God for our assurance. He's the object of our faith. So, instead I would stand on promises in Scripture for my functional certainty that I'm saved.
1) I understand the notitia.
2) I have assensus.
3) I have fiducia.
Therefore, I have it on God's own authority that I'm saved by His work alone. I find much more assurance in this, than in analyzing my heart, my motives, my actions.

At 11/22/2005 5:47 PM , Blogger Steve said...

"It's down to ownership"

exactly Jeff. God owns the sinners and he owns the "elect." he created the sinners, he created the sin, he created the free-will, he created Lucifer, he created it all.

And supposidly, its our fault that we're not among the elect.

Im sorry, it sounds like Gods fault that un-elect people go to Hell.

Listen, Im sympathetic to the arguments of God, and frankly, to Christianity as a whole. But Calvinism is a very self-righteous philosophy thats only trying to reassure the faithful that they, as opposed to most people, are on the good side of God.

Anyone who claims to know the mind of God, who God plans to save and not save, is playing a dangerous game and might one day fall victim to extreme pridefulness. People say its a humbling experience to be chosen by God, or my the emmy nominations, but whether its the emmy's or salvation, it can go to your head.

At 11/22/2005 7:07 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


How do we know that God is all-good?

Namely, where does our definition of God as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good come from?

At 11/22/2005 7:11 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, did you miss my point (and Sam's for that matter) about the blame? The murderer analogy puts it in to focus. Blame belongs to us all equally. Any Christian would be gravely wrong (and I believe you'd be hard pressed to find one) to say they are better than you, or deserve heaven more than you.

And you are right in what you just said, if any Calvinist were out there claiming to know who is and isn't elect. No one will ever know, except for the after-the-fact knowledge the saved have.

Can you substantiate the claim that God 'created the sin'?

How is it that you keep asserting that God is the author of evil, and the one causing you (or anyone else) to sin?

At 11/22/2005 7:12 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Dale, those doctrines come from Scripture, but I think they can also be arrived at via philosophy too.

At 11/22/2005 8:28 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


If it's true that we arrive at the fact that God is all-good by scripture, then to conclude that the Doctrine of Election is therefore just is circular, precisely because the doctrine is itself included in scripture.

That is, if Calvinistic election does not seem just, and Calvinistic election is in the Bible, then there is no way to conclude from the Bible that God is all-good. In fact, the opponents of Calvinism are trying to employ a reductio ad absurdum argument against Calvinism using this very fact.

So, I don't think the argument that God must be all-good therefore so is the Doctrine of Election can refutate any of the arguments against Calvinism which use the concept of justice.

At 11/22/2005 8:40 PM , Blogger Steve said...


"Any Christian would be gravely wrong ... to say they are better than you, or deserve heaven more than you."

So if the "elect" dont deserve heaven more than me, why do they get to go? And if the "elect" deserve to go to hell as much as the rest of us, then why dont they go there?

It all comes down to God magically selecting certain people over others. And there's no reason for the unelect to believe in God. No reason for the unelect to follow Gods will, and no reason for the unelect to participate in this spiritual exersize, its a "no girls allowed" tree-house.

At 11/22/2005 10:01 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...


And supposidly, its our fault that we're not among the elect.

You seem to be having the same misunderstanding you started out with. The non-elect aren't blamed or punished for being non-elect. You're right that they didn't choose to be non-elect. What they are blamed and punished for is their sins. They did choose to commit sins.

So if the "elect" dont deserve heaven more than me, why do they get to go? And if the "elect" deserve to go to hell as much as the rest of us, then why dont they go there?

Because of God's grace. That's what it means to be saved by grace. It means our salvation is due to nothing in ourselves. It is totally undeserved.

At 11/23/2005 2:35 AM , Blogger Steve said...

well lets say Sam that you're fairly certain you're saved, and that Im fairly certain Im unsaved.

Why should I follow god's plan?

At 11/23/2005 3:15 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, the only way you can be certain that you're not saved is if you know already that you're never going to follow God's plan. The reason anybody should follow God's plan is to ensure that they are saved.

At 11/23/2005 3:53 AM , Blogger Steve said...

but in your worldview, if Im unsaved, then whether or not I devote my life to Christ I cannot enter heaven because only the chosen can enter.

At 11/23/2005 4:50 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, you can only devote your life to Christ if you are chosen. That's why devoting your life to Christ ensures that you're saved.

At 11/23/2005 5:01 AM , Blogger Steve said...

Sam - I dont understand. If I can only devote my life to Christ if Im chosen, why is it important for me to devote my life to christ to ensure im saved? I can do nothing to ensure Im saved if only god can choose who is elected and not, correct?

At 11/23/2005 5:21 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Devoting your life to Christ isn't what causes you to be saved. Jesus dying for your sins and regenerating you is what causes you to be saved. Devoting your life to Christ is what lets you know that Jesus died for your sins and regenerated you.

At 11/23/2005 8:58 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, your status as elect or not can never be known by a human beforehand.
It's important for you to be saved. If you are elect, then at some point in your life you will choose to be follow Christ. If you are not elect, you never will (by your own choice).

Being elect is what guarantees you will eventually want to follow Christ.

It occurred to me that you might misunderstand election to simply be that some people are poofed to heaven (with or without faith in this life) while others are not. The truth is that the election leads to faith and sustains that faith in this life.

But really, since we can never know if you are elect or not, we really don't need to discuss it. We can act as if the decision is solely yours because it feels and appears as though it is.

At 11/23/2005 9:06 AM , Blogger Jeff said...


About your last comment. Here's the logical construction:

P1: The Bible is inerrant
P2: The Bible teaches God is omnibenevolent
P3: The Bible teaches Calvinism
C1: Calvinism is consistent with omnibenevolence.

This isn't circular reasoning. You probably missed the implied first premise.
The only valid place for Christians to have this debate is over the 3rd premise.

There are often positive arguments advanced for Arminianism, but many times they are simply negative arguments against Calvinism. And their form is:
P1: God is omnibenevolent
P2: Calvinism is unfair
C1: Calvinism is inconsistent with God's nature

This argument is a bad one because, since Calvinism is taught in Scriptures, then the Bible must be in error in regard to P1.

At 11/23/2005 2:22 PM , Blogger Steve said...

"your status as elect or not can never be known by a human beforehand."

I COMPLETELY AGREE. That was my original point. The post argued it was possible to have a pretty good idea whether or not you're elect.

And my argument doesn't go like yours does

P1 God created all life
P2 God loves all life equally
P3 God Choses an Elect to Go to Heaven
P4 Leaves the Rest to go to Hell

Thats what it looks like to me. But if P2 is correct, I dont see why god does P3 and P4.

At 11/23/2005 4:07 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, you can have a pretty good idea that you are elect after the fact.

P1. Only elect are saved
P2. there is evidence of salvation
C. evidence of salvation is a good indicator you are elect.

As for your formulation, I'm not entirely sure P2 is correct. For instance, we have the example of Jacob and Esau in Gen 25-27. Later, Paul writes some commentary on this when discussing election. He quotes Malachi: "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated".
Paul then goes on to answer your accusation that God is unjust. I encourage you to read Romans 9.

God does love all people equally in one sense. In another sense of the word he does not. This isn't a contradiction, just the standard philosopher's tact of identifying distinctions.
I'm not inclined at the moment to try to exegete that 'hate' passage, nor God's love in general. But the fact is, that God does love all, and He does grieve greatly over those that He will judge guilty of condemnation. Having love for people does not mean blanket mercy.

So I would rephrase what you put down like this:

P1 God created all people (unneeded)
P2 God loves all people
P3 God Choses an Elect to Go to Heaven
P4 Leaves the Rest to go to Hell by their own choice
C: God's love for all people does not require a pardon for all people.

The good news here Steve is that you can be one of these pardoned people if you choose to be! And you do NOT have to accept our Calvinism to qualify.

At 11/23/2005 5:35 PM , Blogger Steve said...

You've said it yourself. I cannot choose Christ. Christ chooses me.

Therefore, I should just sit back and let Gods plan unveil itself. My actions will not affect the outcome of this cosmic game.

At 11/23/2005 6:17 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


We actually have two issues here:

Issue 1:

The Bible can only be inerrant if Calvinism is inerrant. So P1 is inside C1. I'll only concede the point if you can show that inerrancy can be determined without touching the same scriptures that purportedly contain Calvinism. Otherwise, the argument that God can do things which are unjust to us but just to him (i.e. since God is all-good) doesn't work.

Issue 2:

Let's suppose you meet the challenge above and show that the Bible is indeed inerrant without using scriptures which are also used for proving Calvinism.

Then opponents of Calvinism can now use a reductio ad absurdum argument like below:

Suppose the Bible contains Calvinism. And suppose the Bible is 100% true. Then Calvinism is 100% true. But then Calvinism contradicts another part of the Bible which is also supposed to be 100% true - God's all-good nature! Then, either the Bible is not 100% true, God is not all-good, or the Bible does not contain Calvinism. But of course the Bible is true, and indeed God is all-good. Therefore, the Bible does not contain Calvinism.

In this case, I admit that the opponent has to do more work to prove the contradiction (i.e. show that it is impossible for God to do just things which seem unjust to us) -- the opponent has to show that Calvinistic election is NOT one of those things which are just for God but not for us.

But even if he stopped right here, I think he might have a good probabilistic argument on his hands, which could weigh in when he tries to disprove P3.

At 11/24/2005 9:52 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Dale, I'm not inclined to try to prove Scripture's innerancy to you if you don't believe it.

How do you view Scripture? Inerrant or not?

At 11/24/2005 11:43 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Thats a funny way of putting it.

Just because something is inerrant doesn't mean our interpretation of it is inerrant.

At 11/25/2005 12:58 AM , Blogger daleliop said...


I'm going to withdraw the first issue because I realize now that it was based on a misunderstanding on proving inerrancy. Basically, I thought that inerrancy was proven by evaluating every portion of the Bible separately (where Calvinist scripture would be included). But now I see that it can be proven by using just a few verses, e.g. 2 Timothy 16-17, which has a scope which can encompass large portions of the Bible in one sweep.

So I guess the focus should be back on issue 2, which was actually the original issue.

Namely, I made an argument against Unconditional Election using the idea of justice, then you countered by saying it is possible that what is unjust to us is just to God, then I said yes, but it was also possible that Unconditional Election was not one of those things, and that's where we left off.

So I guess the question is, which is it?

Actually, this morning I thought of an argument that could aid the Calvinist side:

First, you have to admit that God has the sovereign right to take away life while we do not -- even if it does not seem just for God to do it. Taking life is one of those things which are just for God but not for us.

But let's think about this. What does it mean to 'take away life?' When someone "dies", does it mean they cease to exist? If we kill someone, do we cause them to cease to exist? No. We can only kill the body, not the soul. Therefore, what God actually has the right to do in this case and what we are forbidden to do is take physical life. Therefore, taking physical life is one of those things which are just for God but not for us.

If this is so, then consider the Doctrine of Election. What exactly does the Doctrine of Election say? Through His choice of who becomes Elect, the Doctrine states that God has the authority to give peoples everlasting life or everlasting death: that is, God has the right to give spiritual life and to take away spiritual life -- where spiritual life refers to eternal salvation and taking it away refers to eternal damnation. And just like taking physical life, it may sometimes seem unjust for God to do it.

Therefore, taking 'spiritual' life is quite analagous to taking 'physical' life. As God can give and take away physical life without being unjust, God should be able to give and take away spiritual life without being unjust either. Therefore, the Doctrine of Election is not contradictory to God's omnibenevolence.

At 11/25/2005 1:50 AM , Blogger Steve said...


what you're saying makes sense, but I cant help but think that if there's no rationality behind his "justness" and humanity plays no role in the selection process (its not up to us), then whats the point of believing in Calvinism? If its true, either im set or screwed, but i need to just sit back and deal with it.

Its a bit like being born with a royal family name. You didn't earn it. You dont deserve it, but you have it. It makes you no better than anybody else on the planet, but for some cosmic joke you get a life of luxury while the serfs till the soil. And one day, when the serfs realize how pointless elite royalty is, they rise up against the system because its not fair.

At 11/25/2005 4:08 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11/25/2005 4:12 AM , Blogger daleliop said...


Whether God first chooses you or you choose God first, everything should appear the same in your perspective.

Even if God chooses you, you have no knowledge of his decision. It's only after you become a Christian that you realize that He chose you.

So if you decide to sit back and don't do anything (say, for your whole life), then it will mean you were not chosen, so there's nothing to "play out." But if you do decide to be a Christian, the moment you do you would be able to conclude with reasonable certainty that God had actually chosen you beforehand, so you were an Elect all along.

At 11/25/2005 5:10 AM , Blogger Steve said...

but i wouldn't be deciding to be christian... GOD would be deciding Im christian.

At 11/25/2005 12:19 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

At the beginning we all have the right to go to heaven, because we haven't committed any sins. But the instant we commit our first sin, we consequently lose our right to go to heaven. That is, going to heaven is actually a privilege, not a right. And we lost it. So by our choice to sin, we no longer possess a right to heaven, and we are on our way to hell. We no longer have a right to choose to be saved or not, as we already made it by sinning.

God, however, does have the right to choose, since He is the gatekeeper of heaven and the ultimate arbitrator of justice. So if He chooses to save a person from their fate, He is the only one who possesses the right to do so.

So, you're right, God does choose whether or not we are saved, and we do not, but that's because we made that decision already long ago. God is actually giving certain people a second chance to heaven, and it's up to Him who He wants to give it to.

At 11/25/2005 1:51 PM , Blogger Steve said...

"But the instant we commit our first sin"...

that would be the original sin, that occured before I was born.

At 11/25/2005 2:17 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

Let's assume for the sake of argument that you have no original sin. Even if that's so, surely everybody has sinned or will sin at least once in their lifetime. So the argument still works regardless.

At 11/25/2005 5:45 PM , Blogger Steve said...

right but Dale if we "lose the right" to go to heaven once we commit our first sin (or worse, the original sin that occured thousands of years ago) then Gods not really in control (since there's free will), he's just in charge because theres a reasonable certainty that humanity will fail.

Thus, I dont think you can say that God in fact is deciding who should go to heaven or hell, because it was by virtue of our free will that he has any power to decide who goes to heaven at all.

That would be true unless, of course, you say that its got nothing to do with our sin, the original sin, God is just picking who he wants on his holy basketball team in heaven, leaving the rest of us to wallow in hell.

At 11/25/2005 7:21 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


My argument was just a response to your implicit charge that there's something unjust about us not being able to decide whether we are Christians (you wrote: "but i wouldn't be deciding to be christian... GOD would be deciding Im christian.")

So your remarks about God's power are irrelevant. That has nothing to do with my case, namely that there is nothing particularly unjust going on with God being the one choosing our salvation.

Plus, your objection seems to be a bit odd. I thought that the problem you had originally was that it was our lack of control (and God's control) in deciding whether we go to heaven or hell that was most disturbing. So if it is true that God is the one who is lacking some control, shouldn't that be a good thing?

Nevertheless, I don't think the case is that God is lacking control. God doesn't have to save anyone in the first place. He could justly let us go where we deserve (hell). So God actually has complete control, as he has no obligation to anyone to do anything.

At 11/25/2005 8:19 PM , Blogger Steve said...

see my point is that God is not the one deciding whether or not we go to hell if it requires that we (of free will) commit a sin.

If it requires us to sin in order to go to heaven, we choose whether or not we go to hell. That sounds a lot more just than God picking at random (or by some logic unknown to humanity) who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.

Instead, the argument thus far has been that God chooses the "elect." That fits in with the original sin argument, but not the idea that we, of sound mind and body, choose to sin and therefore go to hell. That would be us chosing, and not God.

And if that's the case, I dont have that big of a problem with things.

My problem is with "the elect"

At 11/25/2005 9:32 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


I'm assuming you meant to say, "If it requires us to sin in order to not go to heaven, we choose whether or not we go to hell."

If that's the case, then it looks like from the rest of your comment that you understand Unconditional Election better now.

Right now I think you agree that the following scenario is fair: We freely sin, so we deserve to go to hell (we send ourselves to hell). God can just let things go as they are, and He'd be just to do so, but He doesn't. Instead, by God's grace, God chooses to pardon certain people of His choosing (the Elect) and let them enter Heaven (a second chance).

Right, so that's where we are at the moment.

I believe Calvinistic Election is isomorphic to that situation in every way except one, that we did not say anything about original sin, which is what you say you have reservations about.

I think another doctrine of Calvinism - Total Depravity - is tied into this.

I may be off on this, but I think original sin means that because of Adam and Eve, humans begin life corruped - i.e. prone to sin. I think Total Depravity says that this corruption is so large that it is impossible not to sin. Therefore, every person will inevitably go to hell for this.

But if original sin means that we literally inherit the sins of our ancestors (up to Adam and Eve), then that means we are born guilty, whereas in the previous case we are born innocent but will inevitably become guilty.

How either case affects our scenario (which only considers personal sin) I am not able to say at the moment.

At 11/25/2005 11:58 PM , Blogger Steve said...

yeah, I agree that if people commit sin, then its fair for them to go to hell. But since Calvinists also commit sin, then it breaks down for me.

Im just not comfortable with the idea that a calvinist goes to heaven even if they are no more deserving of heaven than me. The fallback position seems to be "See Gods powerful, he can do what he wants... are you saying God cant do what he wants?" But thats just not the issue for me. I dont see how the world can be constructed in such a seemingly arbitrary way. Saying that Calvinists DESERVE to go to heaven because God said they do, neglects any mention of their choices. And thats on purpose too, because if it was a result of their choices that they were "elect" then God could not control the number of elect that came and went, since it was dependent on free will.

And thereinlies the problem with Calvinism.

At 11/26/2005 12:59 AM , Blogger Steve said...


At 11/26/2005 1:42 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

I think we're on the same page. What you just said is pretty similar to what I said in my first comment about how the issue hinges on whether or not God's choice of Elect is arbitrary. Intuitively it doesn't seem right. Hence the rebuttal that it doesn't have to seem right (God sees things differently). But hearing that doesn't necessarily make you feel that much better, does it?

At 11/27/2005 9:19 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


At 11/28/2005 10:30 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

After I bowed out for the holiday, it seems like Dale and Steve have been making good progress. Perhaps I was causing us to talk in circles.

In regard to original sin, I'm not sure how to see that. It seems to me that there are 2 ways to look at it, and both are probably in use.
1) Original sin refers to Adam's sin that resulted in the corruption of all people born since. This corruption guarantees we will sin as soon as we know how (infants don't have the ability for volitional sin)

2) We inherit a sinful corruption from conception such that we actually are guilty even before being able to act out that corruption. I have a harder time with this one, because it doesn't seem fair to condemn us before we are personally guilty. However, the Bible does seem to teach this, and it's balanced (in fairness) by the fact that we can be declared righteous by the 2nd adam outside of earning our righteousness by any acts of our own.

It's important to note that the Bible does NOT teach that we truly have free will. Adam did, but He freely chose sin. Since him, we are all in bondage to sin and we only freely choose in a certain sense.
Biblically, the Jewish view of freedom is far different from the Greek view of freedom.
The Jewish view (the biblical view) is that we are making decisions that follow our desires, but that our desires are not free in that they are not neutral. Because of our curruption we choose with absolute certainty to do evil and be at enmity with God.
When a Jew said that we could be 'free' He meant that we could be free of this corruption.

So when God chooses to free one of us, what He does is He frees us from this corruption which naturally results in us choosing to be reconciled to Him.

Never, should we understand God's election to act against our will. He doesn't force us, but what He does do is to change the motivation of our soul so that we no longer desire to be His enemy.

The Bible is clear that without Him doing this work in us first, we could never even want to seek Him.
Therefore, you will NEVER see a human who desires reconciliation with God who cannot have it.

We have a lot of trouble with this doctrine because we are inculcated with the Greek view of freedom which is libertarian.

Steve, you aren't comfortable with the idea that a chosen person will go to heaven and be no more deserving of it than you. There is one more piece of the theological jigsaw puzzle that you might be lacking.
God, being perfectly just, cannot simply pardon anyone of their sins. Never. ALL sin must be punished completely and fairly. To simply overlook sin is actually not perfectly just.

His justice does allow someone to step in to our place for that justice though.

So what God does, is that he has placed the sins of the saved, in their entirety, on Christ at the cross. He then punished Christ fully for the sins of all the saved throughout time. He then transfers Christ's perfect righteousness to the saved, and then in God's eyes, in the spiritual sense, they are all perfect again and deserving of heaven (even though they really don't deserve it in the physical sense).

At 11/28/2005 9:15 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

Why does God have to use Jesus? Couldn't he have used a sheep?

And if the punishment for sin is eternal damnation, why is Jesus not in hell?

At 11/29/2005 4:05 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dale, the answer I hear most often is that Jesus was able to save us because he is God. Sheep that were sacrificed could not take away sins forever. Those sacrifices had to be repeated on an annual basis.

Jesus, being God, is infinitely more valuable than a sheep. That's why he was able to die for sins once for all--a sacrifice never to be repeated. Hebrews talks about this some.

And Jesus did not need to go to hell for eternity because of his infinite value. The death of Jesus was enough payment for sin.

Of course the Bible doesn't explicitly spell out this explanation, but it seems to be the most popular one.

At 12/20/2005 1:23 AM , Blogger 2Tal said...

I apologize for not reading all of this thread but concerning the original topic, I do agree that living right before God contributes to assurance. However the bible also says, "The Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God." So apparently the elect tend to have a sixth sense that they had been in fact adopted. However, I do not believe this means 100% confidence. It is simply another means whereby God gives a sense of assurance (maybe in proportion with walking in faith and obedience.)


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