God’s election of a predestined group

The debate about Calvinism vs Arminianism sometimes center around the issue of predestination.  Everyone believes that God does predestine, but to what extent are we predestined to?  God has predestined that Christ should live within the believer in order to be saved, but the question is: Does God predestine a certain chosen or elected smaller remnant of people to be saved?  Scripture seems to point to this.

Certainly Israel was chosen, as the Apostle Paul points out here in Romans 8:28-30,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-30, NIV)

Calvinists would say that predestination is explicit in this passage of scripture, however, Arminians would interpret this verse to imply that God’s prevenient grace is universally offered to all people, regardless of whether or not they’ve heard the gospel. In a way, this grace also renders the person “neutral” so that they can decide themselves whether to accept or reject Christ (see Monergism).

In the Old Testament, Paul quoted Moses and makes it clear that only a remnant will be saved to continue on as the surviving and true Israel,

“For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children…” (Rom. 9:6-8)

Furthermore, the argument of whether God is truly merciful or not is clear in the Old Testament. Paul quotes Moses from Exodus 33:19,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Rom 9:14)

This begs us to wonder: “What if my son or daughter, brother or sister, is neither predestined or called by God?”  Ouch.  A loving father, mother, sibling or spouse, would feel a deep heart-ache if they knew that their loved one was not predestined to be with the Lord on the Last Day.

Another question might be: What about all the other millions of people around the world who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus?  Are they not predestined to be saved?

I still have unanswered questions, but for me, come what may, I still believe that God is a sovereign God and will place my bets on God’s mercy, grace and love.

 

 

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Was the world’s first Baptist church Arminian or Calvinist?

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of Calvinism within Baptist churches (e.g., John Piper, Albert Mohler, including hipper and younger Baptists like Mark Driscoll).  When I read and hear Baptists describing “true evangelical” doctrine as  Calvinist in doctrine, this makes me scratch my head and wonder.

When I was reading up on Baptist history, I found something very interesting.  Thomas Helwys (along with John Smyth), two fathers of the Baptist movement, fled to Holland together with other Puritan/Separatist followers to escape the persecution of King James.  Helwys later returned to England and started the first Baptist church at Spitalsfield in 1612.  This was the first Baptist church recorded in history.

What theology did this Baptist church hold to?  Historians describe this as a General Baptist type of church which held to an Arminian belief of free-will (as opposed to a Calvinist doctrine of predestination).  So should Calvinistic Baptists continue claiming what is “truly evangelical”?

Does God have to know everything?

Does God necessarily have to have an exhaustive foreknowledge or have complete knowledge of the future in order to still be considered omniscient?

The late evangelical-Baptist theologian, Clark H. Pinnock (1937-2010) of McMaster Divinity College put forth a middle-way theology between classical Arminian/Freewill Theology and Calvinist/Process Theology.  He called it “Open Theism” theology (also called free-will theism, the open view of God, relational theism).

In Pinnock’s openness theology, the future is an open question; it is not completely known, as far as, the knowledge of God is concerned.  Certain things are not yet settled because human agents have not yet made their choice. For him, even though God is omniscient, it did not have to mean that the future had to be completely foreknown.  He believes that the future is decided by both God and also by human agents. There is room for human agents to determine the future’s difference.

If I changed my mind about something that had an eternal consequence, would that impact God’s decision in the future?  If your answer is “Yes”, then you’re an Arminian.  If it’s “No” because God already knows what you will do in the future, then you’re a “determinist”.  What are you?

Debate between Calvinism vs Arminianism

Nick Norelli posted links to Michael L. Brown’s radio program Line of Fire on Calvinism vs. Arminianism. I have  previously heard him in person years ago and enjoy his passion for Christ. I love listening to theological concepts like these being thrashed around. It can shake up our comfortable theology.

Is rising trend of Calvinism in SBC seminary graduates long-term or just a passing fad?

Why is Calvinism making a comeback?   According to data presented at the opening session of a conference on Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist Convention, a survey found that nearly 30 percent of recent Southern Baptist seminary graduates identify themselves as five-point Calvinists.  This trend is rising.  Most recently, this figure was 34 percent! Full article.  As a Lutheran with Calvinistic tendencies, I find this trend exciting.

That’s an incredible change from Southern Baptists, which are historically known for being dispensationalist and Arminian.  I wonder how this is going to affect the future of the Southern Baptist Convention?  And is this comeback in Calvinism a long-term thing or is it just a passing fad like the Emerging church that is fading away in less than ten years? I think this is still hard to tell because this trend is still on the upswing and in its early stages.

Regardless of where this new Calvinism is going, for me personally, I would say that Calvin and Luther have been my two biggest influences in my Christian life in the last five years. Previous to my seminary education, I felt like I was floating somewhere in evangelical space but after I got a taste of Luther and Calvin, there was no turning back. So what is it that attracts people like others and me to Calvin specifically? I’m not sure and can’t put a finger on it. Maybe it’s all this hype that has been building as we crept up to Calvin’s 500 anniversary? Maybe. But it’s unlikely. It’s probably due to our increased understanding of the depth of Calvinist theology.

Amongst the Calvinists most of us know of are preachers and teachers, R.C. Sproul and John Piper, and academics, J.I. Packer and Alvin Platinga. These people are probably today’s movers and shakers in the world of Calvinism.  They are well-respected  and are making an impact on many evangelical Christians today.