Monday, September 7, 2009

Predestination: A Doctrine of Radical Comfort.

One of the most comforting doctrines, when rightly understood and taught, in scripture is predestination. On the outset this can sound harsh and unfair of God to predestine to salvation those who believe. It is assumed that if there is predestination to eternal life therefore those who are damned are predestined to be so. That is reaching around scripture and connecting the dots behind it in order to find explanations which God has not given to us.

Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

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. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

We see in the above scripture that those who heard the message from St Paul and St Barnabas rejoiced to hear this and some were appointed to eternal life. This is a wonderful truth that God does all the saving and does not leave anything to chance in a decision we have to make or a full understanding we must grasp. It is a total gifting of salvation and all that is needed to receive this gift and trust in it. No need for personal inward gazing to determine if all the ducks are lined up or whether one was sufficiently sincere.

Then we see the effect an unbelieving heart has. It will not only disregard the preaching of salvation but will in response persecute those bearing the good news. We by nature wish to be our own Savior. That is the result of the fall upwards toward trying to be God. This manifests itself in the church by disbelieving the clear promises of God. It also is seen when one is not satisfied with the answers God has chosen to give and ventures off trying to peer into that which God has hidden from view.

We have his written word which gives us plenty to contemplate. This word gives us plenty with which to keep us occupied and presents to us and brings to us salvation. This word reveals God to us in the person of Jesus who after living perfectly for us bore all the sins of humanity to the cross rising on the third day for us. Radical!

In the Name of Jesus. †


Anonymous said...

The flip flop between Calvin’s religion and Luther’s can be seen very simply in a number of ways. The difference between the two is the difference in two religions and not the same religion when all is said and done, because the devil quotes and uses the Scriptures but his religion is a lie:

Luther would say, “Where there is forgiveness there is salvation and life”.

Calvin (double predestination) would say, “Where there is salvation and life, there is forgiveness”.


Calvin: Justification is the result (effect) of being in Christ.

Luther: Being in Christ is the result of believing the justification that already IS.

Thus Calvinistic and Arminian “evangelism” always appeals to the will of man.

Lutheran evangelism never can appeal to the will of man.

Calvinism merely moves the “can do” Roman infusion grace INTO the moment of and post conversion position, God outside of grace, the Word and the Sacrament operates immediately upon the heart of some and not others. Thus, grace is an “infusion” just like Rome, just without the sacraments. Key is the idea that grace is this “power” this “infused” idea both in Rome and Calvin. So we have this:

Rome infuses the infused grace through the sacraments, ex opera operato.
Arminianism assumes an innate “grace” or operating thing within a man to choose before the word and without sacraments, this is its version of “infused grace” or that choosing power.
Calvin makes the “infused grace” come immediately without the Word or Sacraments by the secret operation of the Spirit.

The key point is that grace is this infused power or ability somewhere somehow given in order that a man may choose and believe and stay in the faith. This goes well with Christianity being the moral improvement religion. Sin is seen, primarily, as the problem needing power over to over come and be more moral – forgiveness is at best tangential to the main work of “getting better”. That’s very different than a religion that is permeated with the forgiveness of sin. This is also the different ways the two men, Luther and Calvin, understood the Kingdom of heaven. For Calvin is was mostly this morally improved kingdom. For Luther it is the Kingdom chalked FULL of forgiveness of sin.

But for Luther grace was not some power whereby any improvement was doable, choosing or otherwise. Rather the utter and absolute objective forgiveness of sin. One is given this object that ALREADY IS so it will be believed (Luther). One does not “need to believe it” in order make it true (Calvin, Arminian, Wesley, Rome, etc…).

The sinner must ask what his/her problem is? Surely most would say sin. All would generally say, “Sin is my problem”. But what do you mean by “sin is my problem?” Is it “that I need power to over come it?” OR is it “that I need it forgiven!” A very BIG difference in sin being a problem.

Thus for Luther the sacraments were nakedly the assurance that God had forgiven him, and us. This is why he could say the sacrament IS the Gospel.


Anonymous said...


That is possibly the clearest and most concise summation of these differences I have seen. And it rings true.

Anonymous said...

Larry, as previously noted I'm an admirer of your post to this blog. But felt it could use a slight rewrite, to make it clearer. So, I'll post my feeble attempt here, and hope you can then provide some input as to it's accuracy as an attempt to summarize your ideas.


Anonymous said...

The Contrapuntal Distinction Between Luther and Calvin (And Calvin’s Symbiotic Twins, Rome and the Arminians)

The primary distinction between Calvin’s religion and Luther’s can be seen very simply.

Luther would say, “Where there is forgiveness, there is salvation and life.”

Calvin would say, “Where there is salvation and life, there is forgiveness.”


Luther would say, “Being in Christ is the result of believing the justification that already exists.”

Calvin would say, “Justification is the result or the effect of being in Christ.”

Calvinism merely moves the infusion of grace of the Roman Catholic sacramental model (ex opere operato) to an immediate non-sacramental moment of conversion (as well as post conversion experience) that works on the hearts of some but not others. It is, nonetheless, an infusion of grace or power into the person, who then chooses or believes.

The Roman church presumes grace to be infused through the sacraments. Arminians assume an innate ‘grace’ or operating mechanism within a person, which allows him to choose, even before hearing the Word and without sacraments. This is just another way to describe infused grace or the ability to choose. Calvin makes the ‘infused grace’ come immediately, without the Word or sacraments by a secret operation of the Spirit.

A key component of all three of these theological systems (Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Arminian) is that an infused power or ability somewhere, somehow is given, or exists within, so that a person may then choose or believe and remain in the faith. The consequence is that Christianity becomes a religion of moral improvement.. The problem of sin becomes primarily the need for humans to overcome it, to become more moral. Forgiveness is, at best, tangential to the main work of ‘getting better.’

(Pardon the title: couldn't help an attempt at humor)


Anonymous said...

Luther’s view is strikingly different. His approach to the Christian religion is permeated with forgiveness. The two men, Calvin and Luther understood the kingdom of heaven in distinct ways. For Calvin it is mostly a kingdom of moral improvement. For Luther it is a kingdom chock full of forgiveness of sin. For Luther, grace is not some power whereby improvement is attainable. Rather, grace is the utter, absolute, objective forgiveness of sin. This forgiveness already IS, so that it will be believed. One does not ‘need to believe it’ in order to make it true.

This distinction becomes apparent in the approach of sinners toward their sin. What is the essential problem of sin? Is it the need to overcome it? Or to have it forgiven? The difference in these two questions is stark and goes to the heart of where the problem lies.

Thus, for Luther the sacraments become the assurance that God had forgiven him, and us. This is why he could say with confidence that the sacrament IS the gospel.

That's it, larry. Let me know if you think it was helpful. It did help me to crystallize what were your original thoughts.


Julie said...

Larry's comment spurred these thoughts from me, which I posted on my blog:

The term "grace" is used often by Christians. When asked to define grace, the hemming and hawing often begins. Let's look at the different definitions that are given to the biblical idea of grace.

A Roman Catholic will say grace is infused through the sacraments ex opere operato, which means "from the work done." The work that was done was Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Roman Catholics believe the efficacy of God's grace is to be found in the sacraments. The sacraments are infused with God's grace, so upon receiving of the sacraments one has received God's Grace. Grace becomes an enabling force to live a more holy life.

A Wesleyan, or Arminian, believes grace is an innate object, a mysterious operating mechanism that provides power to choose salvation. This power is given without the preached Gospel, and without the sacraments. This infused grace is given by God to all people. Grace allows one to overcome sin.

A Calvinist believes grace is received upon the preached Word, without the Sacraments. This definition allows one to choose God. It is the I in the acronym TULIP. This is a secret working of the Holy Spirit. Grace gives power to have victory over sin.

All three of these views make man the one who chooses faith. All three of these see sin as a problem to be overcome by infusion of grace. In other words, to overcome sin, we need God's grace. Then faith becomes predominantly about our own moral improvement; and forgiveness of sin is tangential. Inward gazing becomes the focus of faith, and the rule by which to judge one another.

Grace is God's attitude toward us: God loving us while we were his enemy; dying for us on the cross.

Anonymous said...


your final sentence says it all.