January 13, 2014

Pick me, pick me: Unconditional Election

by Clint Archer

Everyone who believes the Bible does believe in election. Ooh, them be fight’n words. Let me explain…

mug chose meThe Greek word for elect means chosen or called out from a group. Used eighteen times by six NT authors. Yes, even in the NIV. So it cannot be ignored or denied.  The debate pivots only on the matter of election being conditional or unconditional.

Arminians say ‘I owe my election to my faith.’

Calvinists say ‘I owe my faith to my election.’

One says God elects those who will believe. The other says God elects, so they will believe.

I’m not putting words in their mouths. In the Articles of Faith of the National Association of Freewill Baptists, Article 9 states:

God determined from the beginning to save all who should comply with the conditions of salvation. Hence by faith in Christ men become his elect.”

i.e., your salvation is conditional on your faith.

So, does God elect you and therefore give you faith that saves, or does he recognize those who have faith, and therefore elects to save them? These questions must be answered by God’s word.

Is election conditional upon faith?

Let me ask you this: Did God, according to the Bible, chose you before or after you had faith?

Ephesians 1:4-5 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…

Pop quiz: Did God choose you at the time you believed in Jesus, or before? Let me make it easier: did he chose you before or after you were born? “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world

God chose who he would save before they believed in Jesus, before they repented, before they prayed a prayer, before they were born, or before the world was created. (To be clear, I’m not saying he saved them before they had faith, only that he chose them to eventually be saved before they had faith.)

Election cannot be conditional on faith, because it happens before you believe and before you are born.

Romans 9: 11-13 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.”

Why do Arminians not tap out when they read Romans 9?

Let me start by asserting categorically that Arminians are believers. They believe in grace by faith alone, they trust in Jesus alone to save them. But the explanation of how that happens they base on their experience and emotional reactions, instead of on Scripture. They say, ‘I remember choosing God. I’m not just a robot!’ And they feel that the doctrine of election makes God out to be callous in that he doesn’t elect everybody, and they say that predestination makes us puppets with no free will. They fear that the doctrine will dampen evangelism and curtail missions.

But all of these are straw men arguments. No true Calvinist is fatalistic or indifferent to evangelism and missions. History proves otherwise. Think of Charles “the Soul-winner” Spurgeon, Jonathan “Spark of Revival” Edwards, George “the Evangelist” Whitefield, George “Orphan Savior” Mueller, and our contemporary champions of missions, John “Let the Nations Be Glad” Piper, John “Grace Advance” MacArthur. Time would fail to mention Westminster, every Puritan, and Sproul, Lloyd-Jones, Stott, Machen, Mohler, Dever, Mahaney, and pretty much everyone whose sermons inspire a love for deep doctrine and evangelism. Oh, and I forgot one…Paul.

puppet bad news

Romans 8: 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,…

How do Arminians side-step foreknowledge and predestination?

The way Arminians get around it is to postulate that, ‘God looked down through the corridors of time and elected those whom he saw would believe in Jesus of their own free will; he then elected them based on the condition of their faith. That is predestination.’

 

I.e. God knew who would choose him, and the responded by choosing them first.

Two problematic speed bumps hinder that view: 1) what the word foreknew means. The Greek word progvwsis or foreknow used 5x in the NT, means ‘to intimately know beforehand.’

It is not used to speak of a prediction, but of a pre-ordination. What does that mean? Listen to one of the other clear uses of foreknowledge…

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Jesus’ death was man’s doing, but it was the “definite plan of God.” Foreknowledge = plan. God didn’t predict that Jesus would be crucified; God ordained that Jesus would be crucified for our sins. It wasn’t a response to what he knew we would do to Jesus, it was the master plan all along. So was your salvation! So, that is the first problem with the “corridors of time” theory. It’s not what foreknow means. There is another problem…

2) The logical fallacy. Arminians say God knew who would choose him, so he chose them. But this mocks God’s use of language. It’s verbal gymnastics of RobBellian proportions to say that.

Charles Spurgeon explains:

God gives faith, therefore He could not have elected them on faith that he foresaw. There shall be twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a shilling; but will anyone say I determined to give that one shilling, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense.

When Arminians, say that “God foreknew who would elect him, so he elected them,” they reverse the meaning of election. That’s analogous to saying “Shakespeare knew MacBeth would kill king Duncan, so he wrote the play that way.” If he knows that is how it will turn out, and he writes the play, that is the same as saying he made it turn out that way.

Loraine Boettner agrees:

Foreknowledge implies certainty and certainty implies foreknowledge. If God knows the course of history, then history will follow that course as certainly as a locomotive on its tracks.’

What about free will?loves me not

The Bible doesn’t say there is no free will. It says your will is only free to choose what it is able to choose. (What Luther called the Bondage of the Will; your will is bound to choose sin.) Like a leopard who has free choice to elect eating the vegan salad or the juicy tourist. Its free will is spring-loaded to choose according the nature of a carnivore.

Remember what we learned in Despicable Me: the Doctrine of Total Depravity? …

Jer 13:23  Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

I am can choose between Coke and Diet Coke. But I can’t choose to fly like a bird.

One of the grammar lessons my mom used to drill home to me was the difference between may and can.

‘Mom, can I have a cookie?’

‘I don’t know can you? Is it too big for your mouth? Oh, you mean “May I have a cookie?”’

I thought, why do I need to know that? Turns out it’s important in theology.

It’s not a matter of may a person choose Christ (everyone in the world may come to Christ at any moment to be saved); the question is can they choose Christ (are they able to without help)?

Here’s what the Bible says…

John 6:44 No one can [is able to] come to me unless the Father draws him. (see also 37 …all the Father gives me will come.)

Is 46:9-11 …I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. [Which comes first, coming or drawing?]

1 Cor 1:28-29 God chose what is low and despised in the world, … so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Election gives all credit to God.

Matt 13:10-11 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Apparently God decided who should respond and who not.

Acts 13:48 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.

A crowd heard Paul’s preaching and who believed? Those “appointed to eternal life.”

Clincher: John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.

Jesus elected his apostles, so apparently their free will was not consulted.

Your objection might be this: I don’t believe that God would chose some and not all.  That’s fine, but don’t say “I don’t believe in election.” Say, “I don’t believe the Bible.”

Clint Archer

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Clint is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church. He and his expanding troop of Archers live near Durban, South Africa (and pity anyone who doesn't). When he is off duty from CGate, his alter ego blogs at Café Seminoid, clintarcher.com
  • Brian Morgan

    Clint, my brother, well done. Direct, clear and succinct. Difficult accomplishment in the emotion stirred craze of this topic.
    Thank God for his redemptive plan!

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Thanks for the rave review brother. And yes, God deserves praise for His wisdom and lavish redemption.

  • Judy Parker

    Your objection might be this: I don’t believe that God would chose some and not all. That’s fine, but don’t say “I don’t believe in election.” Say, “I don’t believe the Bible.”

    Love it! Thanks Clint

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      And you know how I mean that. Thanks Judy.

  • http://suzlt.blogspot.com/ Suzanne T

    YES. Well and succinctly done.
    The playwrite analogy and Boettner quote are so spot on! Romans 9:21-22 is another passage that helped me see this reality .

    By God’s grace (and choosing) I understood the DoE soon after conversion because of my “experience” (as such). Having been fully convinced of my “we’re cool” standing with God and my own salvation for so long, falsely so, when I actually was born again I knew right then and there those were not thoughts and realities I was capable of having on my own. When God turns your world right side up you KNOW you had nothing to do with it. Notta.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Very well put. And thanks for sharing Suzanne.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Thanks Suzanne.

  • Drew Sparks

    Clear, pointed, precise. Thanks.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      I’m thankful for all the supportive comments. I was expecting a snowstorm of criticism. We’re just continuing in the tradition of the original Cripplegate lectures and Spurgeon’s tracks.

  • http://www.parkingspace23.com/ Karl Heitman

    I love this: “…don’t say ‘I don’t believe in election.’ Say, ‘I don’t believe the Bible.’” Thanks for addressing this, Clint. Very helpful!

  • Scott C

    Arminianism holds to contradictory ideas. On the one hand, they hold that God foreknows the future choices of humans. On the other hand, they hold to the libertarian view of the will which states that one is able to act contrary to all possible influences upon the will. In this case, it is impossible for anyone to know what choice one might make before the choice is made. Thus, if God knows beforehand what a person chooses could he choose any other way? According to libertarianism he would have to have this ability, therefore God cannot know beforehand what one will choose. This is why the logic of libertarianism leads to Open Theism for many Arminians..

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      You’re right about Open Theism. It is the logical outcome of consistent Arminianism.

  • Josh

    Good blog.

  • Doug

    Clint, thank you for your biblical work here. Can you dive into limited/unlimited atonement next please?

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Mm. Well, L does come after T and U. So the forecast is promising.

  • coolhand773

    I think you’ve missed quite a lot of this issue. You can start and end this discussion with the most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16. Does it read “for God so loved the elect”? Because that is the meaning you’ve assigned to it. Or are we to assume that even though we’re told God loved the world that He somehow decided not to elect some of them? Is that love?

    I think you’re making the mistake that so many do in wrongly assigning a temporal viewpoint to God. You assume because the Bible speaks of God’s knowledge of the elect before the creation of the world, then it must mean the election happened before the creation of the world; in other words, you assign a linear viewpoint to God, when in actuality, He stands outside of time. We’re speaking of a Being who acknowledges about Himself that He tells the end from the beginning. If that is so, then a temporal reference (election happened before the creation) is meaningless.

    What’s funny to me is that I’ve never met a Calvinist who believed that he’s not among the Elect. That’s a pretty convenient (and unfalsifiable) philosophy to have!

    • Scott C

      I strongly urge you to read D. A. Carson’s book, “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.” He treats the various ways the Bible speaks of God’s love and John 3:16 most certainly speaks of God’s salvific love for the whole world. But other passages speak of another kind of love he has for the elect. Not all Calvinists agree with that interpretation, but Carson’s arguments are very compelling.

      Furthermore, you misunderstand Calvinist theology. No serious Calvinist takes for granted his salvific status. The doctrine of the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ (the “p” in TULIP) clearly indicates that an evidence that one is truly elect is that his life demonstrates the transformative fruits of regeneration. IOW, genuine faith begets genuine works. Blessings!

      • bumbutcha

        Yes no serious Calvinist takes his salvation for granted but somehow they are able to unerringly ascertain that that another believer who does not persevere was never a believer in the first place. Quite a large assumption necessitated by their theological constructs.

        • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

          Well, you have to admit that they do try to be biblical. It isn’t Calvin who said that, it was John. 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

          • bumbutcha

            Theological yes; but the biblical part up for debate since we need to somehow harmonize all of Scripture. It is indeed true that some were not believers in the first place but does that then preclude all other possibilities? Scripture contains numerous warnings about apostatizing or falling away from the faith i.e, Matt 24:9-13; 1 Tim 4:1. One cannot fall away from something that one was never truly a part of to begin with.

      • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

        Yeah, that is a good book and Carson is a very articulate articulator of deep thought.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Thanks for your comment. Another verse that shows God’s will is 1 Tim 4:10 “God who is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.” So God’s revealed will is for all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), But His decreed will is that not everyone is saved. John 3:16 goes on to say “…that He gave his only Son so that whoever believes should not perish…” So, God loves the world, not just the elect. But there are people who end up in Hell b/c they don’t believe, right? So, God is not powerful enough to save people He loves? That doesn’t gel with John 6 all who the Father give me will come and I will raise them up on the last day and none can snatch them from my hand, etc. These are very important points you raise, so watch this space. Next week Monday I’ll do a fuller job. Just one more thing, God is the one who reveals himself and his work as being in linear time. It is the only form of reference we have, which is why we use it to describe election. If time is really not linear at all, then you would concede that the way we describe election is consistent with the way God reveals the timeline: “he chose us before the foundation of the world.”

      • coolhand773

        Thank you for your response. I appreciate this thought-provoking post. I cannot jive with your treatment of John 3:16 because it turns God into a schizophrenic. God loves the world, but He loves some more than others. Calvinism teaches us this because he quickens the elect and leaves the rest to perish. What is the basis for this favoritism? Because the elect believe in Him? But they only believe in Him because He made them able to believe in Him. This is circular logic. If your answer is that we cannot understand the ways of God, that’s fine. But that’s not enough of a foundation on which to dismiss the concept of Free Will.

        To address your point about God choosing to manifest Himself in time, linearly, you are correct. However He is not existent solely “in time”. God stood outside of time at the same time He was walking the roads of Jerusalem. Consequently, He was viewing the rapture of His elect from the Earth simultaneously while contemplating the Earth He was going to create. Our language is too linear to be able to write it and our minds certainly can’t comprehend it, but saying that God knew His elect before the creation of the world doesn’t necessarily imply predestination. It can also refer to the fact that God stands outside of time and knows who would believe in the death of His Son and who would not. I think your conceptualization of this moment is a bit too narrow, given the Subject being discussed.

        • Jill Stevenson

          To this question, Paul answered in Romans 9:

          Romans 9:20-22

          English Standard Version (ESV)

          20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

        • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

          Gotta love Stephen Hawking. Before him everyone though you could tell time with your watch. Now you need a black hole to really get a grip on how curvy the continuum can be. Thanks for your thoughts. I’m encouraged that you are thinking deeply about his. I will exercise my free will to believe in predestination.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      In response to your closing paragraph… 1) if Calvinism is correct, it makes sense that only once a person becomes a believer and develops a love for God’s will and God’s sovereignty, that he would embrace teachings that he is himself a sinner who can take no credit for his salvation. That is why when you meet Calvinists they believe they are saved (i.e. part of the elect).

      2) Also, Calvinists don’t consider unsaved people to be non-elect. Everyone is unsaved before they get saved! Spurgeon said since the elect don’t have a yellow stripe on their backs, we don’t know who they are, so we preach to all!

      And 3) I have met people who understand and accept Calvinism, but still reject the gospel and are therefor unsaved. A dear friend of mine rejects Jesus but would agree that the Bible teaches that only the elect will be saved; he also understands that the offer of salvation is freely offered to him personally and that he may repent at any time.

  • Heather

    George Muller labeling himself as a Calvinist?

    Where did you get that???

    Just curious :)

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Mueller’s own writing on his reasons for caring for orphans. Art Azurdia quotes him at length in a sermon on Election. I must admit I added Mueller to the list based on that quote I heard in the sermon, not having read it myself. Art is unwaveringly thorough in his research, though, and very trustworthy as a secondary source. But I will try track down that quote myself.

  • Mandi

    First, I think the tone of this article is a bit disgusting. This is an issue with which many theologians struggle. Perhaps a bit of humility and recognition that there are views lying between hyper-calvinism and hyper-arminianism is warranted.

    Cannot God call all and only some respond? The gift of grace and mercy (and faith?), being offered to each, and being only accepted by some? I realize some feel this calls into question the sovereignty of God, but it doesn’t. We don’t undermine the sovereignty of God every day and every moment that we choose to sin, His perfect will being perfect living, Christ-likeness.

    • Scott C

      Mandi,

      You are responding with your emotions. I believe Clint’s ‘tone’ is respectful if forthright. Furthermore, you need to study the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. Here is an excellent intro to the topic: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm. There are very few hyper-Calvinists today, at least those who are published. There are probably some on the internet, but they can safely be ignored. Also, I am not sdure there is any such thing as hyper-Arminianism unless you place Open Theism in that category.

      If you were more familiar with the issues you would realize Clint has clearly represented the classic Calvinist position, but of course I do not believe he slavishly follows a system but believes its basic tenets because that is the consistent teaching of Scripture when carefully interpreted. I encourage you to study the topic more thoroughly, you might find yourself truly blessed by studying what Calvinism really teaches instead of the false caricatures many promote.

      • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

        Yeah. What ScotC said.

    • Jeremy

      Amen. I am sick of the Calvinist vs. Arminean debate. The devil has a hey day with theologians creating straw men on their blogs and taking down the other side. Let’s just accept and celebrate the mystery of salvation. God clearly loved us before we loved him (Romans 5:8) AND throughout Scripture God clearly gives man a choice. Both can be held in tension and both can be true. I can believe in election, predestination and free-will all at the same time.

      • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

        One always has the right to refrain from reading said blogs. Call that my gift of free choice to you, my readers.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      You should read my earlier stuff! I do my best to keep my tone loving (mainly because I really do love people, especially blog commenters).

  • 4Commencefiring4

    No answer will ever satisfy the resulting objections. Unconditional election implies a limited atonement; free will implies some are not really dead in trespasses and sins. Heads, He wins; tails, we lose.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Sounds pretty fatalistic. You must be a Calvinist!

  • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

    Good post, Clint. I was just telling someone this morning that believing the Doctrines of Grace was the best decision I ever made.

    God bless you.

    Michael ;-)

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Lol. That is funny.

  • Pingback: A simple quiz on unconditional election | Strengthened by Grace

  • Philip

    Could you explain to me how election works in the case of death before birth? What happens to souls of embryos?

    • Eric Davis

      Philip-great question. Not everyone agrees but the biblical evidence seems to indicate that they are elect (David says of his newborn, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” in 2 Sam 12:23 & the scene in heaven of people redeemed from every “tribe and tongue and people and nation,” in Rev 5:9). Check out MacArtur’s book, “Safe in the Arms.”

      • Philip

        Eric,

        Thanks for the response, but I’m not sure that the verses you provided answer the question. The verse from 2 Sam seems to be about a particular infant death, and not about the status of all newborns. As far as Rev 5 goes, I don’t see how this is addressing the specific question of embryos or how it’s suggesting that they are all elect. It’s a little surprising that the answer is unclear enough that “not everyone agrees.” This seems like a pretty important matter.

        Maybe the question that should be asked first is whether or not all embryos are totally depraved or is total deprivation something that happens after birth. If embryos are not depraved, the it might make sense that they are all elect.

        I hope I’m misunderstanding you. I think that you are saying that all embryos are elect, but maybe I have this wrong.

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          I think he’s saying that all embryos who die as embryos are elect, but are elect not by virtue of their early death. God, who ordains whatsoever comes to pass, has chosen those who are His from before the foundation of the world, and all those who have been ordained to die in infancy are among that number.

          I tried to answer this question, in the context of a related issue, more fully here: http://thecripplegate.com/election-by-murder/

          • Eric Davis

            Exactly. Thanks for clarifying, guys. And Philip, apologies for the confusion there.

          • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

            Good link to post, Mike. And I recommend people read the links as well in the post.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Short answer (my view): God elects to take some of the elect home to glory before they are born. I.e. all babies who die must be elect. I know this is contravertial, but you should really read MacArthur’s excellent book on it and listen to his sermons. He shows from Scripture, theology, history, that this is a very logical and theological view. Also Mike Riccardi and Jesse Johnson have treated this topic thoroughly on this blog.

      • Philip

        Thanks for all of the replies.

        I want to see if I understand this. A fertilized egg is granted a soul. If death occurs between that point in time and early infancy, then that soul goes to Heaven every single time. It’s a 100 % guarantee. All babies are elect.

        The death of these eggs, embryos, fetuses and infants has been determined before the beginning of time, and the the fate of all of these souls has also been determined from before the beginning of time? Or is it just the fate of the souls that’s been pre-determined?

        In contrast, in the case of the population of souls in adult bodies, some go to heaven and some are condemned to suffer for all eternity. So, something must change with the development and aging of the body. What is it that changes? At what point in time or development do we go from a population in which 100% of souls will go to Heaven and a population in which 100 – X % souls go to Heaven?

        Does this have something to do with total depravity? When does total depravity kick in? Is the soul of a fertilized egg totally depraved?

        Something confuses me. Doesn’t salvation from the consequences depend on knowledge and love and worship of Jesus? How does this work with fetuses?

        Finally, I have have to say that if this is “controversial” (as more than one person has said here), then that suggests that the Bible has failed to make the answer clear.

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          I want to see if I understand this. A fertilized egg is granted a soul. If death occurs between that point in time and early infancy, then that soul goes to Heaven every single time. It’s a 100 % guarantee. All babies are elect.

          Yes. But again, it’s not their early death that makes them elect. It’s God’s choice. God also chooses to take them to Himself before they experience life outside the womb.

          The death of these eggs, embryos, fetuses and infants has been determined before the beginning of time, and the the fate of all of these souls has also been determined from before the beginning of time? Or is it just the fate of the souls that’s been pre-determined?

          Both. In the language of the confessions, “According to the counsel of His will [and] for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” In the language of Scripture, He will accomplish all of His good pleasure (Isa 46:10); He works out all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11).

          In contrast, in the case of the population of souls in adult bodies, some go to heaven and some are condemned to suffer for all eternity. So, something must change with the development and aging of the body.

          No. This is the point that I tried to address in the post I linked to above. One does not become part of the elect or not part of the elect at any point in time. One cannot be elect at one point of his life and then not elect at another point in his life. That reality is fixed in eternity past (Eph 1:4; 2 Tim 1:9).

          When does total depravity kick in? Is the soul of a fertilized egg totally depraved?

          Yes. Depravity is what all humanity is by nature. Since we believe that even the fertilized egg is a human being, made in the image of God and yet fallen in Adam, they are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:1-3).

          Doesn’t salvation from the consequences of total depravity depend on knowledge and love and worship of Jesus? How does this work with fetuses?

          I understand how this seems like an apparent contradiction. But it’s a conclusion that’s reached after considering what Scripture teaches about certain things: namely, (a) that God is entirely sovereign in salvation, (b) that all human beings “go astray even from the womb” (Ps 58:3), and (c) that all persons with a natural inability to distinguish good from evil are graciously rescued by God and are saved (see here, here, and here).

          To answer your question directly, though, I believe there can be two answers: (1) God applies the work of Christ to embryos/infants as a special dispensation of His grace; or (2) God supernaturally grants faith in these little humans; such would be no greater of a miracle than working faith in the dead, stony heart of an adult who is totally depraved.

          Finally, I have have to say that if this is “controversial” (as more than one person has said here), then that suggests that the Bible has failed to make the answer clear.

          It depends on what you mean. Scripture hasn’t promised to answer every question we might ever have about anything. And so its silence on a particular matter doesn’t necessitate that it is unclear. Further, if one thinks of these things as controversial merely because there is disagreement among Christians, it should be noted that that disagreement is not necessarily owing to the lack of clarity in Scripture, but rather to the lack of clarity in Christians. Our misunderstandings of what Scripture teaches tells us that there’s something wrong with us, not God’s Word.

          • Philip

            “Yes. But again, it’s not their early death that makes them elect. It’s God’s choice. God also chooses to take them
            to Himself before they experience life outside the womb. In the language of the confessions, “According to the counsel of His will [and] for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

            Is every death of every embryo and fetus by the choice of God? This is what is suggested by your phrasing here.

            “No. This is the point that I tried to address in the post I linked to above. One does not become part of the elect or not part of the elect at any point in time.”

            But there must be something different about the population of infants and the population of adults, because the outcome with respect to the destination of the souls is different. Clint’s comment below appears to indicate that the difference is that adults have sinned while infants have not. That seems to suggest that the adults have taken some action which affects the ultimate destination of their souls. However, that doesn’t make sense either, because one is either elect or not, so it shouldn’t really matter if the adults have sinned while the infants have not.

            “Yes. Depravity is what all humanity is by nature. Since we believe that even the fertilized egg is a human being, made in the image of God and yet fallen in Adam, they are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:1-3). “

            So, a fertilized egg is given a soul by God. That soul is created by God, and that soul is depraved. God has created a depraved soul. This seems to be what you are saying.

            “I understand how this seems like an apparent contradiction… To answer your question directly, though, I
            believe there can be two answers: (1) God applies the work of Christ to embryos/infants as a special dispensation of His grace; or (2) God supernaturally grants faith in these little humans; such would be no greater of a miracle than working faith in the dead, stony heart of an adult who is totally depraved..”

            So you are saying that salvation does not always depend on the knowledge, love and worship of Jesus. One can come unto the Father without knowledge, love and worship of the Son.

            Further, having read the link to “The OT answers”, I would have to conclude that salvation, election, etc., does not even require the crucifixion of Jesus as infants in pre-NT pagan cultures also go to Heaven. If election can occur before the crucifixion, if souls can go to Heaven before the crucifixion, then the crucifixion would appear to be unnecessary.

            Also, how does a fertilized egg “go astray” or “have faith?” I’m sorry, but this doesn’t make any sense.

            “Scripture hasn’t promised to answer every question we might ever have about anything. And so its silence on a
            particular matter doesn’t necessitate that it is unclear.”

            I understand what you are saying, but this seems like a very important issue, and all you need is one sentence in the Bible that says “all embryos, fetuses and infants go to Heaven.” That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but maybe I expect too much.

            “Our misunderstandings of what Scripture teaches tells us that there’s something wrong with us, not God’s Word.”

            Maybe. Or maybe the Scripture really isn’t clear. It’s a possibility, I think.

            I don’t mean to be difficult here, but there’s a lot of this that just doesn’t
            make sense to me.

          • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

            Is every death of every embryo and fetus by the choice of God? This is what is suggested by your phrasing here.

            Scripture teaches that everything that happens is a result of God’s eternal decree. As I cited above, “He works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11). Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His ordaince, and if humans are of much greater value than sparrows, we shouldn’t think that He would be any less involved.

            So yes, every death of every human being — fetus, embryo, five year-old, and fifty year-old — has been ordained by God. And the life of every human being, a life that includes the joys and pains of living in a fallen world, is also ordained by God. The joys are designed to lead us to Him, the fountain of all joy. And the pains are designed to remind us that life lived without Him and against His revealed will only brings sorrow and punishment. You might benefit from this post, Phil.

            “No. This is the point that I tried to address in the post I Iinked to above. One does not become part of the elect or not part of the elect at any point in time.”

            But there must be something different about the population of infants and the population of adults, because the outcome with respect to the destination of the souls is different.

            This may not be what you’re asking, but theologians distinguish between natural inability and moral inability, and reason from the relevant texts in Scripture that God holds us responsible for our moral inability, not our natural inability. Pigs have the natural inability to fly. An infant has a natural inability to reason morally, to understand who God is, or even what sin is. An adult has the natural ability to reason morally, but has a moral inability to hate sin and love righteousness. Something at the deepest level of his being is so corrupt that he loves what is unlovely and unrighteous. And the corruption of his affections leave him morally unable to come to God without God’s own intervening grace. So, a difference between infants and adults would be that adults have sinned consciously and willfully in their own persons.

            But again, when you write these two sentences:

            That seems to suggest that the adults have taken some action which affects the ultimate destination of their souls. However, that doesn’t make sense either, because one is either elect or not, so it shouldn’t really matter if the adults have sinned while the infants have not.

            … demonstrate a misunderstanding of what election is. God’s sovereignty extends not only to the ends (election unto salvation), but also to the means (repentance and faith). It’s right to say that repentance and faith affect the ultimate destination of one’s soul. But those realities work in concert with the doctrine of election. Specifically, one’s election will result in the Spirit’s quickening their hearts in regeneration, that person turning from their sin, and believing in Christ’s atoning work for their acceptance with God.

            Again, to say election makes sinning or not sinning inconsequential is to treat the doctrine of election as if it were bare philosophical determinism or fatalism, and not the gracious decree of a loving and personal God who ordains not only the ends, but also the means.

            So, a fertilized egg is given a soul by God. That soul is created by God, and that soul is depraved. God has created a depraved soul. This seems to be what you are saying.

            Theologians debate whether each soul of every human being is directly created by God or whether He indirectly ordains that the soul comes into being as part of the biological union of the man and woman. They call that “creationism” vs. “traducianism,” respectively. Traducianists would say that the depraved soul of a fertilized egg happens as a result of its humanity, because, as a result of Adam’s sin, what humanity is is fallen. Since Genesis 3, to be human is to be depraved. And traducianists would say that that doesn’t impugn God for creating a depraved soul, since the depraved soul comes into being as a result of natural generation.

            I don’t see how that gets God off the hook, though, because at bottom God cursed man to be born sinful as a result of Adam’s sin. So whether you’re a creationist or traducianist as it regards the depravity of the human soul, if you’re not thinking with a mind submitted to Scripture, you’ll be tempted to sinfully assign blame to God for this.

            But again, God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Eph 1:11). Even mankind’s fall into sin was ordained by God, so that He could put on display the fullness of His glory as a Savior, as gracious, as One who shows mercy, as One who hates unrighteousness and punishes evil justly (cf. Rom 9:22-23).

            So sure, if God can curse on mankind as a result of sin, He can, in keeping with the outworking of that curse, create a depraved soul.

            So you are saying that salvation does not always depend on the knowledge, love and worship of Jesus. One can come unto the Father without knowledge, love and worship of the Son.

            Salvation always depends on the grace of God. In those who have reached a condition of moral accountability by sinning consciously according to their depraved heart, they are required to repent of that sin and believe on Jesus for righteousness. In those who have not reached that condition, God demonstrates His nature as a merciful, loving Father, and graciously saves those little ones by applying the blood and righteousness of Christ to them, just as He does with all of those whom He has chosen. The difference is: He either supernaturally works faith into those little babies (again, no more difficult a miracle than working faith in me, a depraved sinner), or He sovereignly reckons Christ’s work to their account on the basis of His grace and in light of their natural inability.

            Further, having read the link to “The OT answers”, I would have to conclude that salvation, election, etc., does not even require the crucifixion of Jesus as infants in pre-NT pagan cultures also go to Heaven. If election can occur before the crucifixion, if souls can go to Heaven before the crucifixion, then the crucifixion would appear to be unnecessary.

            No. Romans 3:25-26 indicates that in His kind and patient forbearance, “God passed over the sins previously committed” — i.e., sins of His elect who had died before Christ and yet did not have to pay for their sins because they were saved by grace through faith — with a view to punishing those sins in Jesus at the cross. He could forbear those sins because He knew He would punish them in Christ at the cross. The cross saves believers in God both before Christ and after Christ.

            Also, how does a fertilized egg “go astray” or “have faith?” I’m sorry, but this doesn’t make any sense.

            You’re welcome to offer an alternative understanding of Psalm 58:3: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.” Again, if the Word of God doesn’t make sense, there’s a change that has to happen in our thinking, because the Word of God is perfect, infallible, and inerrant, while we are imperfect, very fallible, and sinful to the core apart from the grace of God in Christ. And even those of us who are redeemed still contend with the presence of remaining sin in our lives, which extends even to our minds (e.g., Eph 4:17-18).

            Augustine said, “I believe in order that I may understand.” And Paul said, “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit [i.e., the Word which the Spirit inspired], for they are foolishness to him, and they cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). And it occurs to me now to ask, Phil, are you a believer in Jesus Christ, and thus a believer in the authority of His Word?

            I understand what you are saying, but this seems like a very important issue, and all you need is one sentence in the Bible that says “all embryos, fetuses and infants go to Heaven.” That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but maybe I expect too much.

            Think of what you’re doing here, Phil. You’re finding fault with your Creator because He hasn’t made something sufficiently clear to your darkened mind, which is darkened by your own sin and preference for your self over God. You’re the clay shaking its fits at the potter. That’s a dangerous place to be, my friend.

            Rather, the heart of faith rejoices in the wealth of truth that God has given us, and trusts that what we have in the Scriptures is sufficient, and then gives its life to understanding that. I suppose you might ask God for further revelation when you’ve exhausted the study of what He’s already given us, and have already put it all into practice.

            And incidentally, simply because the Bible does not provide a direct statement as if to say, “All infants go to Heaven,” doesn’t mean it doesn’t teach this. It simply means we have to apply ourselves to what Scripture does tell us, and aim to see if we can draw any reasonable conclusions as we ask the Spirit of God for grace, illumination, and wisdom as we handle His Word.

            “Our misunderstandings of what Scripture teaches tells us that there’s something wrong with us, not God’s Word.”

            Maybe. Or maybe the Scripture really isn’t clear. It’s a possibility, I think.

            And yet Scripture itself teaches that is clear, able to be sufficiently understood by all who approach it submissively and with the eyes of faith. Again, you seem to be setting yourself up against the authority of the infallible Word of God, which doesn’t sound like a heart submitted to faith in Christ, and sounds like an overestimation of your own ability to reason soundly given your sinfulness. These are not good places to be, Phil.

            And I would just entreat you to submit your thinking to the Lordship of Christ and His Word as He commands you to do, and to trust in the goodness of our trustworthy God. It may be, as Augustine said, that faith precedes understanding in certain aspects of God’s truth. Go to His Word in submissive expectation and ask the Spirit of God to illuminate His Word that you might understand it as God intended it. And, if you haven’t turned from your sin and trusted Christ for your forgiveness of sin and your righteousness before God, please do that today.

          • Philip

            “Scripture teaches that everything that happens is a result of God’s eternal decree. … So yes, every death of every human being — fetus, embryo, five year-old, and fifty year-old — has been ordained by God.”

            In that case, I see no reason why murder should be wrong. Any death by murder is ordained by God and is the result of God’s eternal decree. To say that murder is wrong is to say that there is something wrong with God’s ordination and eternal decree. Aren’t God’s ordinations and eternal decrees always good?

            “Specifically, one’s election will result in the Spirit’s quickening their hearts in regeneration, that person turning from their sin, and believing in Christ’s atoning work for their acceptance with God. … Again, to say election makes sinning or not sinning inconsequential is to treat the doctrine of election as if it were bare philosophical determinism or fatalism, and not the gracious decree of a loving and personal God who ordains not only the ends, but also the means.”

            Does the elected person still sin? Yes. Does the act of sinning change election? No.

            So, ultimately, the sin doesn’t matter. Who cares about a quickening of the heart? Who cares about “means?” We’re a short time here, and a very, very, very long time gone. All that matters is eternity, and the fate of the eternal soul is not altered by the sinning of the adult.

            And yet, the sinning of the adult must matter, because the difference between the infant and the adult is that the adult has the capacity for sin and infant does not. Adults have sinned consciously and willfully in their own persons.
            That’s why 100 – X % of adult go to heaven and X % of adult are tortured for all eternity, right? It’s the willful sinning that condemns one to eternal torture.

            And yet the sinning of the adult doesn’t matter, because the fate of soul and whether or not one’s heart will be regenerated has already been decided. It’s pre-determined and has been since before time began. It cannot be altered by any human act. It’s God who determines if the adult is able to come to God, and the individual can do nothing to gain grace. So, the adult’s sins are irrelevant with respect to the question of the fate of the soul.

            Very confusing.

            “God cursed man to be born sinful as a result of Adam’s sin.”

            Doesn’t the Bible say that the sins of the parents are not to be placed on the heads of the children? What kind of “loving” God curses an entire species for the actions of two individuals of that species? Does this make any sense?

            “So sure, if God can curse on mankind as a result of sin, He can, in keeping with the outworking of that curse, create a depraved soul.”

            So God can create something that isn’t perfect or good? The perfect and all-good God can and does create something that is bad, flawed and depraved? This honestly surprises me.

            You are saying that bad, flawed and depraved souls are created so that God can put on a display? Wow. I would not have guessed this.

            Further, if God created the depraved soul, then isn’t God
            ultimately responsible for the consequences? Why blame, condemn and punish the creation? The flaws are not the creation’s fault; the flaws are responsibility of the creator.

            “Salvation always depends on the grace of God, etc…”

            Ok, so your long answer confirms that one can come unto the Father without knowledge, love and worship of the Son if there is a “natural inability” to know, love and worship. As for those who have reached the age of moral accountability, I don’t understand the requirement to repent of that sin and believe on Jesus. This suggests that the actions of the individual matters, but actions are irrelevant. Election or non-election has already been decided. Actions cannot change election status. Right?

            “God passed over the sins previously committed”

            This is not accurate. God did extract a price for the sins committed before the coming of Christ. These sins were not passed over. The OT sinners were required to engage in
            numerous rituals and sacrifices as a prerequisite for atonement. If they failed to atone, bad things happened. The sins were punished long before Jesus came along. This is a major theme of the OT.

            “If the Word of God doesn’t make sense, there’s a change that has to happen in our thinking.”

            Why does this remind me of the Emperor’s new clothes?

            “You’re finding fault with your Creator because He hasn’t made something sufficiently clear to your darkened mind.”

            So, who fault is this? Mine or God’s? Can I force God to undarken my heart?

            “You’re the clay shaking its fist at the potter. That’s a dangerous place to be, my friend.”

            Ah, yes. The inevitable threats. What difference does it make if I shake my fist or if I don’t? If I’m elect, will
            my shaking change this? If I’m not, will a cessation of shaking change the fate of my soul?. So, who cares?

            “And incidentally, simply because the Bible does not provide a direct statement as if to say, “All infants go to Heaven,” doesn’t mean it doesn’t teach this.”

            If your answer to the question is considered “controversial” by other Christians, then yes, it does mean that the Bible doesn’t clearly teach this.

            “And yet Scripture itself teaches that is clear, able to be sufficiently understood by all who approach it submissively and with the eyes of faith.

            The evidence suggests that this is an inaccurate claim. Countless believers have approach the scriptures submissively and with the eyes of faith. And yet, they have come up with many different answers for almost any question you can name.

            “And I would just entreat you to submit your thinking to the Lordship of Christ and His Word as He commands you to do, and to trust in the goodness of our trustworthy God. And, if you haven’t turned from your sin and trusted Christ for your forgiveness of sin and your righteousness before God, please do that today.”

            Why? Your request is contradicted by everything that you
            have said. My fate was decided before I was born. I can’t do anything to change this. I can’t turn from my sin if God has already pre-determined that I won’t. My regeneration is not up to me. Everything that will happen to me is pre-determined and ordained by God. Que sera, sera.

          • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

            The objections and assertions you present in your latest response have been answered in my comments above, which only demonstrates that you have no true desire to understand, but only in airing your own mind (Prov 18:2). That you insist on caricaturing and misrepresenting the teaching of Scripture even after thorough and patient explanation demonstrates that any further interaction on the matter will be fruitless.

            I suppose it’s important to reiterate, for the sake of clarity for those who might read this thread at a later time, that the truth of God’s sovereignty in no way mitigates the reality of man’s responsibility. God chooses those who are His and all are commanded to repent and believe. Because God ordains the means (repentance and faith) as well as the ends (salvation), these two truths are not at odds with one another. To respond fatalistically, as if the ordination of the ends renders the means entirely inconsequential or moot, stubbornly misunderstands this very reality that is rather plainly revealed in Scripture. See this post for more on that.

            I hope you’ll take time to re-read the comments on this thread, as well as consider the contents of this post that I had linked to above.

        • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

          Mike Riccardi is doing a good job so I’ll just see what he says. But in my understanding, people are not sent to Hell for their sin nature, but for their sins. Now, everyone who has a sin nature has sinned..except if they haven’t even been born yet, for example. So if some unborn people went to Hell, what would that accomplish? What would they be sent there for? Hope that helps.

          • Philip

            “Now, everyone who has a sin nature has sinned.”

            Does that include infants? Most of what I’ve read so far suggests that infants can’t sin or haven’t sinned, and that’s why 100% of infants go to Heaven. It also suggests that millions (of infants) have led sin-free lives, and that confuses me, because I thought that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Or is it the case that infants sin, too, but God just elects 100% of them anyway?

            “So if some unborn people went to Hell, what would that
            accomplish? What would they be sent there for? “

            I agree. What would they be sent there for? Total depravity, maybe?

            However, this leads me to conclude that I should not allow
            any child conceived with my sperm to be born, because why risk eternal suffering? It may be a sin for me to
            kill, but this is clearly what is best for my child, because the thought of any child of mine suffering eternal torture is just too horrifying for words. Sure, I might suffer eternal torture, but what greater love hath a man that he lay done his life for another. If I kill the embryo, then the soul of that embryo
            will experience eternal bliss, and what more could I want for any child of mine? Or maybe I shouldn’t have any
            children at all. Why take the risk? Why create a life that will suffer for all eternity?

            In any event, if any embryo created by my sperm was
            pre-destined to die as an embryo, then what choice do I have? The embryo must die, because that’s that plan. I can’t not kill it, because that would mess up the election of the soul of the embryo, and so mess up God’s plan.

  • Eric Davis

    Good word, Clint. I would add to the list, William “I Showed the World How to Break for the Lost & Translate Scripture into 35 Asian Languages Before Libronix Existed” Cary.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      Awesome. Forgot about hi. Only the most influential missionary ever; and driven by his Calvinism. Thanks.

  • Robin

    I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for my sins; that He rose on the 3rd day – ascended back to Heaven where He had come from and that He will return again soon. I believe that I am saved by grace through faith which is the gift of God not of works … I believe in and read daily the Bible.
    I believe that the Word says that the one who puts his hope in God will not be disappointed or put to shame. I believe that i am saved and have received the gift of eternal life and i believe that i am kept by the power and love of God.

    But i find it very difficult to believe that God would give me people all around me – my family, my neighbors, coworkers, friends, service providers, ect …. tell me to love them and to share the gospel with them …. and for some of them — sorry no way you can be saved — you have been selected to spend eternity being tortured in hell because you didn’t believe and btw you never could or had a chance to believe … i just find that really hard to accept in light of the Word of God … but …. I know that God is Good and Great and Holy and Right and True …. someday we will all have the opportunity to know for sure how we did and did not understand God’s Word and God’s Will. Grace and Mercy to us all who call on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com/ Clint

      What you have shared is good. We must want to share the gospel with all those around us. The offer of salvation a real offer to all people that all people at any time can (and must) repent and believe. There is no such thing as a person who wants to be saved by can’t be. There is no one who Jesus turns away. Those who reject Christ are getting what they want, not what He makes them choose. I hope that helps.

      • Bill

        If one is offered eternal life, but one cannot have it unless he is given the desire and faith to receive it by the one offering it, what kind of offer is that. You did not want eternal life till he gave you the desire and faith for it. If I can only choose life if he chooses me, then I really have no choice of eternal life if I am not one of the chosen.

    • Richard

      Robin,
      I agree with everything you said. Deut. 30:10-20 certainly indicates that God gives man a choice and then holds him accountable for that choice.

      • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

        Except that the choice has already been made in Adam for all people. If you do not believe that “in Adam all died,” then none of that will make sense.

        So instead, you are saying that there are people who God allows to go to hell because he predetermined NOT TO change them to the point where they would repent.

        Whereby he granted you faith (as you said), He has not granted faith to your loved ones. So you have the same problem – God is sending people to hell for their sin and not believing in him.

        The difference is in your case, it is up to man. In the other case, it is up to God – which is the position that scripture teaches, for example, in John 1 where it says “not of the will of man” around verses 12 & 13.

        So God holds people accountable for their choice (in Adam) to reject and hate Him. Then, because of His goodness he allows evil people to live and enjoy blessings and an offer of salvation. Knowing no one would possibly come to him without His help – he graciously elected some to be changed and believe. Sounds like the most loving thing He could do.

      • Scott C

        Robin,
        Let me add a few clarifying thoughts. God does choose those whom He pleases to be saved, but that by no means mitigates man’s responsibility to believe. When the Bible speaks of what many people want to call free will, it does NOT mean that a person is free to make any choice possible even though it does mean people choose what they ‘want.’ But what people ‘want’ is determined by their desires, motivations, etc. and those in turn are conditioned upon a person’s spiritual state. If one is dead in trespasses and sins, they never have the desire to choose and believe upon Christ for salvation. It is never in their heart to do so. They do not ‘want’ to choose Christ, they wish to live their life apart from Christ even when they hear the good news. Furthermore, God never forces people against their will to believe in Christ. IOW, there is no coercion on God’s part for those who believe as well as for those who choose not to believe.
        Here is the point, in order for someone to believe in Christ, their corrupted, unbelieving, spiritually dead heart must be transformed. This is what the Bible refers to in the doctrine of regeneration. The dead heart must be resurrected to new life in order to believe. This is what God does when he chooses some for salvation. He changes their heart by the power of the Holy Spirit so that they suddenly find new desires in their heart and that leads them to ‘want’ to choose to believe in Christ.
        Notice too, that this is a work of God’s grace. The unbelieving person does not want to believe, is happy in their unbelief and sin and fully deserving of judgment because they are voluntarily complicit in their own sinful desires. Only by God’s grace can this slavery to their own sin be broken. God’s grace renews their hearts so that they are transformed and now desire what before they willingly rejected. Thus, God’s election is not counter to man’s desires and choices. God is under no obligation to save anyone, that is why the gospel is a gospel of grace. People die and go to hell because they don’t ‘want’ to be accountable before a holy God for their sinful rebellion against Him.

  • Ean Frank

    So the prayers of the unelect mean nothing to a gracious God? Whoever comes to me I will in no way cast out. We are finite creatures any infinite truth appears

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