Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Westminister Confession and double predestination

I am sometimes surprised by how many Calvinists will affirm the Westminister Confession while denying double predestination. Double predestination seems to follow inescapably from the Westminister's Confession that "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass."

1. God ordains whatever comes to pass.
2. The damnation of some people comes to pass.
3. Therefore, God ordains the damnation of some people.

How can you escape that? The only thing I can think of is for a Calvinist to argue that there's a difference between God ordaining things to come to pass and God predestining things to come to pass. I get the impression that there's no difference, but maybe I'm wrong.


Richard W 4Christ said...

Hey Sam,interesting post. However,the confusion lies in your use of the words ORDAIN and PREDESTINATION. "Ordain" and "predestination" don't mean the same thing exactly or even at all. To ordain means "to make somebody a minister or a priest-more generally,it means to authorize or confer holy orders upon.." Whereas,to predestinate means "to determine an outcome or course of events in advance by divine will or fate". For example, Jesus Christ was ORDAINED to be Messiah and that was PREDESTINED by God. In other words, God's ordaining of Christ was predestined by Him. So,to correct you, God does not ORDAIN the damnation of some people. That's where you'd replace "ordain" with "predestines" or "predetermines". I hope there's no confusion here. God does both of these,but it's just to put the right word with the statements being made to reduce the confusion.

Sam Harper said...

Richard, I'm not convinced that "ordain" means to make somebody a minister or priest when used in the context of the Westminister Confession. I'm not even sure how to make sense of that. It says God ordains whatever comes to pass. That obviously doesn't turn everything that comes to pass into a priest or minister.

I get the impression that "ordain," "decree," "act of providence," etc., all mean roughly the same thing in the Westminister confession. Take a look at these parts and how the words are used in their context:

1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

And the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. 12. What are the decrees of God?
A. God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.

Q. 18. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Richard W 4Christ said...

Hi Sam,you seemed to miss the second part of the definition that I gave of "ordain" in where I stated that it means to "confer holy orders upon" in which the Westminister's confession does indeed elaborate on for example in what you stated in Question 12 concerning the decrees of God. In that context, I do agree,but certainly there seems to be an apparent difference in the two concepts of ordaining and predestination. "Ordaining" according to the Westminister Confession takes on a present tense aspect of God's divine actions and orders. Wouldn't "predestination" imply that whatever actions or holy orders that God performs upon all creation, in the counsel of His will, is already predetermined? Again, let me use the example of Jesus Christ. The bible states that the Lord Jesus was foreordained by God to be Saviour. "Ordaining" in this context would certainly imply that God confered holy orders upon Christ to perform according to His will. Christ confirms this by saying that His food is to do the will of His Father. He was obedient and God the Father exalted Him. As with "predestination",it was predetermined that Jesus would be ordained(confered holy orders upon) by God to be Saviour of the world. I agree with the points but there seems to be a difference on a whole with the two terms of ordaining and predestination. Or maybe I just need help in understanding the two terms. Please correct me if I'm wrong on the two concepts.

Unknown said...

My basic view of how some affirm the WCF to some extent, but deny D-P, is that when people use the tools we have for understanding Gods wisdom and ways, they hit dead ends so to speak with the tools limitations. Deductive reasoning is fantastic for geometry, and some basics of theology, but as far as having a black and white understanding of Gods infinite wisdom in the context of "All things ordained", well, deductive reasoning just doesn't cut it. Therefore someone like myself who "basically" accepts the content of the WCF, I certainly use the term "ordained" very loosely, not in a absolute all or nothing blanket iron fist term that leaves peoples freedom of choice lost in baggage claim. If God so chooses to take our good and bad choices into account as He "Ordains or ordained" history, then that is His choice. Arminians who preach Gods plans history by forsight of human choices is obviously way over the line, however the Calvanists that deny our choices have any effect what so ever on human history are just as far off the mark. Both sides argue back and forth using deductive reasoning, but sorry, deductive reasoning is just not sufficient to unpack the mind of God. I tend to focus more on the grace God has had on myself, and try to remind myself the He saved me, and by His grace He knew I would be one of those who made it. I don't accept the WCF as biblical authority, I accept it as an incredibly well thought out attempt by humans to describe theology. Hope this is on-topic...????