Archive for the ‘Predestination’ Category

God is not bound to give an account of his actions to his creatures – Thomas Watson

February 28, 2012 Comments off

“God is not bound to give an account of his actions to his creatures. If none may say to a king, ‘What doest thou?’ Eccles 8:4, much less to God. It is sufficient, God is Lord paramount; he has a sovereign power over his creatures, therefore can do no injustice. ‘Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour?’ Rom 9:21. God has liberty in his own breast, to save one, and not another; and his justice is not at all impeached or blemished. If two men owe you money, you may, without any injustice, remit the debt to one, and exact it of the other. If two malefactors ¹ be condemned to die, the king may pardon the one and not the other: he is not unjust if he lets one suffer, because he offended the law; nor if he save the other, because he will make use of his prerogative as he is king.

Though some are saved and others perish, yet there is no unrighteousness in God; because, whoever perishes, his destruction is of himself. ‘O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.’ Hos 13:9. God offers grace, and the sinner refuses it. Is God bound to give grace? If a surgeon comes to heal a man’s wound, and he will not be healed, is the surgeon bound to heal him? ‘I have called, and ye refused.’ Prov 1:24. ‘Israel would none of me.’ Psa 81:11: God is not bound to force his mercies upon men. If they wilfully oppose the offer of grace, their sin is to be regarded as the cause of their perishing, and not God’s justice.”

Source: A body of divinity, by Thomas Watson

Humanist, free-will, Arminian, “Foreseen faith” vs sovereign predestination (divine free-will) – CH Spurgeon

April 3, 2011 Comments off

“But,” say others, “God elected them on the foresight of their faith.” Now, God gives faith, therefore he could not have elected them on account of faith, which he foresaw. There shall be twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a shilling; but will any one say that I determined to give that one a shilling, that I elected him to have the shilling, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense. In like manner to say that God elected men because he foresaw they would have faith, which is salvation in the germ, would be too absurd for us to listen to for a moment.

There was nothing more in Abraham than in any one of us why God should have selected him, for whatever good was in Abraham God put it there. Now, if God put it there, the motive for his putting it there could not be the fact of his putting it there.

If I were to plead that the rose bud were the author of the root, well! I might indeed, be laughed at. But were I to urge that any goodness in man is the ground of God’s choice, I should be foolish indeed.

The love of God therefore existed before there was any good thing in man, and if you tell me that God loved men because of the foresight of some good thing in them, I again reply to that, that the same thing cannot be both cause and effect. Now it is quite certain that any virtue which there may be in any man is the result of God’s grace. Now if it be the result of grace it cannot be the cause of grace. It is utterly impossible that an effect should have existed before a cause; but God’s love existed before man’s goodness, therefore that goodness cannot be a cause.

Some, who know no better, harp upon the foreknowledge of our repentance and faith, and say that, “Election is according to the foreknowledge of God;” a very scriptural statement, but they make a very unscriptural interpretation of it. Advancing by slow degrees, they next assert that God foreknew the faith and the good works of his people. Undoubtedly true, since he foreknew everything; but then comes their groundless inference, namely, that therefore the Lord chose his people because he foreknew them to be believers. It is undoubtedly true that foreknown excellencies are not the causes of election, since I have shown you that the Lord foreknew all our sin: and surely if there were enough virtue in our faith and goodness to constrain him to choose us, there would have been enough demerit in our bad works to have constrained him to reject us; so that if you make foreknowledge to operate in one way, you must also take it in the other, and you will soon perceive that it could not have been from anything good or bad in us that we were chosen, but according to the purpose of his own will, as it is written, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Recollect also that God himself did not foresee that there would be any love to him in us arising out of ourselves, for there never has been any, and there never will be; he only foresaw that we should believe because he gave us faith, he foresaw that we should repent because his Spirit would work repentance in us, he foresaw that we should love, because he wrought that love within us; and is there anything in the foresight that he means to give us such things that can account for his giving us such things? The case is self-evident—his foresight of what he means to do cannot be his reason for doing it.

You are obliged to confess that it is of grace then, and cast away the thoughts, that it was of your foreseen faith, or of your foreseen good works, that the Lord chose you.


Predestination of the Elect of God by Dr. Francis Turretin

June 22, 2010 Comments off

Predestination of the Elect of God by Dr. Francis Turretin

Ought predestination to be publicly taught and preached? We affirm. Some of the brethren of France in the time of Augustine started this question. Since, in his books against the Pelagians, he had inserted and inculcated many things concerning predestination, so as in this way to defend the truth against their impious doctrines, many were disturbed by it (as appears from the two letters of Prosper, a disciple of Augustine, and of Hilary, the presbyter*; cf.”Letters 225 and 226 to Augustine” [FC 32:119-29 and 129-391). The reason was not that they judged it to be at all false, but because they thought the preaching of it was dangerous and invidious, better to be suppressed than brought into prominence. There are some of the same opinion at the present day. Wearied with the contentions arising from this doctrine in almost every age, they think that it is best for the peace of the church and the tranquility of conscience to let these questions alone (since by them scruples are suggested and doubts generated which are calculated to weaken the faith of the weak and to drive men to desperation or into carnal security). But this opinion is more honest than true and cannot be readily received by those who have known the richest fruits of consolation and sanctification to redound to believers from this doctrine properly understood. Hence we think that this doctrine should be neither wholly suppressed from a preposterous modesty nor curiously pried into by a rash presumption. Rather it should be taught soberly and prudently from the word of God so that two dangerous rocks may be avoided: on the one hand, that of “affected ignorance” which wishes to see nothing and blinds itself purposely in things revealed; on the other hand, that of “unwarrantable curiosity” which busies itself to see and understand everything even in mysteries. They strike upon the first who (sinning in defect) think that we should abstain from the proposition of this doctrine; and upon the latter who (sinning in excess) wish to make everything in this mystery scrupulously accurate (exonychizein) and hold that nothing should be left undiscovered (anexereunifton) in it. Against both, we maintain (with the orthodox) that predestination can be taught with profit, provided this is done soberly from the word of God. The reasons are

(1) Christ and the apostles frequently taught it (as appears from the Gospel, Matthew 11:20, 25; 13:11; 25:34; Luke 10:20; 12:32; John 8:47; 15:16 and in other places; and from the epistles of Paul (the whole of Rom. 9 and Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:4, 5; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1Thess. 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13). Nor otherwise do Peter, James and John express themselves who speak repeatedly of this mystery whenever occasion offered. Now if it was proper for them to teach it, why is it not proper for us to learn it? Why should God teach what would have been better (arrifton) unspoken (ameinon)? Why did he wish to proclaim those things which it would bebetter not to know? Do we wish to be more prudent than God or to prescribe rules to him?

(2)It is one of the primary gospel doctrines a foundations of our faith. It cannot be ignored without great injury to the church and to believers. For it is the fountain of our gratitude to God, the root of humility, the foundation and most firm anchor of confidence in all temptations, the fulcrum of the sweetest consolation and the most powerful spur (incitamentum) to piety and holiness.

(3) The importunity of the adversaries (who have corrupted this primary head of faith by deadly errors and infamous calumnies which they are accustomed to heap upon our doctrine) imposes upon us the necessity of handling it so that the truth may be fairly exhibited and freed from the most false and iniquitous criminations of evilly disposed men. As if we introduced a fatal and Stoical necessity; as if we would extinguish all religion in the minds of men by it, to soothe them on the bed of security and profanity or hurl them into the abyss of despair; as if we made God cruel, hypocritical and the author of sin-I shudder to relate it. Now as all these things are perfectly false, they ought unquestionably to be refuted by a sober and healthy exhibition doctrine from theword of God. Although wicked men often abuse this doctrine (improperly understood), its lawful use towards the pious ought not therefore to be denied (unless we wish to have more regard for wicked men than believers).

(2) If, on account of the abuse of some persons, we should abstain from the proposition of this mystery, we must equally abstain from most of the mysteries of the Christian religion which the wicked abuse or laugh at and satirize (such as the mystery of the Trinity, the incarnation, the resurrection and the like).

(3) The calumnies launched against the doctrine of Paul by the false apostles could not cause him to suppress it; yea, he thoroughly discussed it in his inspired way so that he might shut the mouths of adversaries. Why then should we refrain from its presentation? Let us only follow in the footsteps of Paul and, with him, speak and be silent.

If some abuse this doctrine either to licentiousness or to desperation, this happens not per se from the doctrine itself, but accidentally, from the vice of men who most wickedly wrest it to their own destruction. Indeed there is no doctrine from which more powerful incitements to piety can be drawn and richer streams of confidence and consolation flow (as will be seen in the proper place).

The mystery of predestination is too sublime to be comprehended by us as to the why (to diod) (as he is rash who would attempt to find out or to assign the reasons and the causes of it). But this does not hinder it from being taught in Scripture as to the fact (to hoti) and from being firmly held by us. To things therefore must be distinguished here: the one, what God has revealed in his word; the other, what he has concealed. The former we cannot despise (unless rashly). “The secret things,’ says Scripture, ‘belong unto God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children’ (Dr. 29:29). To neglect things revealed argues ingratitude, but to search into I things concealed argues pride. “We must not therefore deny what is plain because we cannot comprehend what is hidden,” as Augustine expresses it (On the Gift of Perseverance 37 [NPNF1, 5:540; PL 45.10161).

The fathers before Augustine spoke more sparingly concerning this mystery not because they judged it best to ignore it, but because there was no occasion presented for discussing it more largely (the Pelagian heresy not having as yet sprung up). Indeed it is true that they sometimes expressed themselves without sufficient caution. Nevertheless Augustine (On the Gift of Perseverance) proves that they did not pass over this truth in utter silence (for who could be ignorant of that which is so clearly set forth in sacred Scriptures?) –the testimony of Abrose,Cyprian and Gregory Nazianzus being adduced for this purpose.

While we think that predestination should be taught, we do not further suppose that human curiosity should be enlarged, but believe there is need here of be taught, but believe there is a need here for great sobriety and prudence; both that we may remain within the bounds prescribed by Scripture, not endeavoring to be wise beyond what is written (par’ho geg-raptai), and that we may prudently have a regard for the persons, places and times to regulate the proposition of it.

For it ought not to be delivered immediately and in the first instance, but gradually and slowly. Nor ought it to be delivered equally as to all its parts, for some ought to be more frequently inculcated as more useful and better suited to the consolation of the pious (as the doctrine of election), but others ought to be handled more sparingly (as reprobation). Nor ought it to be set forth so much to the people in the church as to the initiated (tois mystais) in the school. Again, predestination must be considered not so much a priori as a posteriori. Not that we may descend from causes to effects, but ascend from effects to causes. Not that we should curiously unroll “the book of life” in order to see if our names are written therein (which is forbidden to us), but that we should diligently consult “the book of conscience” which we are not only permitted, but also commanded to do, that we may know whether the seal of God is stamped upon our hearts and whether the fruits of election (viz., faith and repentance) may be found in us (which is the safest way of proceeding to the saving knowledge of that doctrine). In one word, all curious and fruitless questions must be avoided here, and what Paul calls ‘foolish and unlearned questions’ (apaideutous zetesis kai aperantous, 2 Tim. 2:23)-which usually engender strifes and contentions. Our only object should be to increase our faith, not to feed curiosity; to labor for edification, not to strive for our glory.

Question: In what sense are the words ‘predestination,’ prognseos, ekloges and protheseos used in this mystery?

Since the Scriptures (whose genuine signification throws great light upon the knowledge of the thing itself) use various words in explaining this mystery, we must premise certain things concerning them.

First the word “predestination’ occurs here, and it must not be passed over lightly. For although the word proorismou does not exist in the Scriptures, yet the verb from which it comes is often read (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30 Ephesians 1:5) Moreover to predestinate (or proorizein from the force of the verb) signifies to determine something concerning things before they take place and to direct them to a certain end.

However, it is understood by authors in three ways.

(1) More widely for every decree of God about creatures and most especially about intelligent creatures in order to their ultimate end. Thus it is frequently employed by the fathers for providence itself.

(2) More specially for the counsel of God concerning men as fallen either to be saved by grace or to be damned by justice (which is commonly called “election’ and “reprobation’).

(3) Most specially for the decree of election, which is called “the predestination of the saints.’ Again according to the latter, it can be taken in two senses (schesin): not only for the destination to the end, but particularly for the “destination to the means” (in which sense it is used by Paul when he says that God predestinated those whom he foreknew to be “conformed to the image of his Son,’ Rom. 8:29,30). Here it is plain that predestination is distinguished from foreknowledge and refers most especially to the end. Thus after saying that God hath chosen us in Christ, the having predestinated us unto the adoption of children’ (proorisas ian, Eph. 1:5) to mark the destination of means ordained for obtaining the salvation destined by election.

About this word, moreover, it is asked whether it is to be referred only to election or whether it embraces reprobation also. This controversy was formerly vehemently urged in the matter of Gottschalk in the ninth century, John Erigena Scotus maintaining that it suited election alone (De Divina Praedestinatione liber* [PL 122.355,4401). On the other hand, Gottschalk, the Lyonians and Remigius, the bishop (in their name), extended it to reprobation. The same question now lies between us and the papists. For the papists (to whom the term reprobation is hateful) contend that it must be used in the first sense. Hence they are accustomed to call reprobates not predestinated, but “foreknown”; and do not subordinate but oppose reprobation to predestination (as Bellarmine, Gregory de Valentia and Pighius, De libero hominis arbitrio 8.2 [1642], p. 137).

With them even some of the orthodox appear to agree, though not with the same object in view.

But we (although willing to confess that the term predestination is according to Scripture usage often restricted to election; yet not only from the proper signification of the word but also from Scripture usage and received custom) that think it is rightly extended to reprobation so as to embrace both parts of the divine counsel (election and reprobation), in which sense it is taken by us here.

The reasons are:

(1) the Scripture extends the word proorizein to the wicked acts of those reprobates who procured the crucifixion of Christ-“the son of man goeth kata to horismenon” (Luke 22:22; Acts 4:28) Herod and Pontius Pilate did nothing but what the hand of God prooriseto be done.” Nor ought the objection to be made that it does not treat of their reprobation, but of the ordination of the crucifixion to a good end. These things are not to be opposed, but composed. The crucifixion of Christ (which is to us the means of salvation) was to the crucifiers the means of damnation (which depended on the most just decree of God).

Second, the Scripture uses equivalent phrases when it says that certain persons are appointed to wrath (1 Thess. 5:9; 1 Peter 2:8), fitted to destruction (Rom. 9:22), ordained to condemnation (Jude 4), made unto dishonor (Romans 9:21) and for the day of evil (Proverbs 16:4). If reprobation is described in these phrases, why can it not be expressed by the word “predestination”?

Third, because the definition of predestination (viz., the ordination of a thing to its end by means before it comes to pass) is no less suitable to reprobation than to election.

Fourth, the fathers frequently thus speak: “We confess the elect to life and the predestination of the wicked to death” (Council of Valence, Mansi, 15:4). “He fulfills what he wills, properly using even evil things as if the very best to the damnation of those whom he has justly predestinated to punishment’ (Augustine, Enchiridion 26 [100] [FC 3:454; PL 40.2791; cf. also his “Treatise on theMerits and the Forgiveness of Sins,’ 2.26 [171 [NPNFI, 5:551; CG 21.24 [FC 24:387-941;Fulgentius, Ad Monimum I [PL 65.153-781). “Predestination is twofold: either of the elect to rest or of the reprobate to death’ (Isidore of Seville, Sententiarum Libri tres 2.6 [PL 83.6061).

Although in truth predestination is sometimes taken strictly in the Scriptures for the predestination of saints or the election to life, it does not follow that it cannot be used more broadly. Nor if the objects of reprobation and election are opposite are the acts themselves, therefore (on the part of God), mutually opposed to one another. Indeed, they can proceed from the same course acting most freely.

The second word which occurs more frequently is prognosis. Paul speaks of it more than once: “whom he did foreknow” (hous proegno), Rom. 8:29); “he hath not cast away his people which proegna” (Rom. 11:2); and they are called elect “according to foreknowledge” (kata prognosin, 1Peter 1:2). Because the ancient and more modern Pelagians falsely abuse this word to establish the foresight of faith and works, we must observe that prognosin can be taken in two ways: either theoretically or practically. In the former way, it is taken for God’s simple knowledge of future things, which is called prescience and belongs to the intellect. In the latter, it is taken for the practical love and decree which God formed concerning the salvation of particular persons and pertains to the will. In this sense, knowledge is often put for delight and approbation (Psalm 1:6); John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19). Thus ginoskein signifies not only to know but also to know and to judge concerning a thing (as the Plebiscitum is not the knowledge of the people, but the sentence-from the verb scisco, which means “to decree and determine”). Therefore when the Scripture uses the word prognoseos in the doctrine of predestination, it is not in the former sense for the bare foreknowledge of God by which he foresaw the faith or works of men.

(1) Because by that, He foreknew those also whom he reprobated, while here it treats of the foreknowledge proper to the effect.

(2) Bare foreknowledge is not the cause of things, nor does it impose method or order upon them, but finds it out (as happens here in the chain of salvation).

(3) Because nothing could be foreseen by God but what he himself had granted and which would so follow predestination as the effect, not indeed precede it as a cause, as will be proved hereafter. But it is taken in the latter sense for “practical foreknowledge” (i.e., the love and election of God) that we may not suppose it to be without reason (alogon), although the reasons of his wisdom may escape us (in which manner Christ is said to have been foreknown [proegnsmenos], i.e.,foreordained by God “before the foundation of the world,’ 1 Pet. 1:20).

Again, in that benevolence and practical foreknowledge of God we distinguish:

(1) the love and benevolence with which he pursues us;

(2) the decree itself by which he determined to unfold his love to us by the communication of salvation. Hence it happens that prognosis is at one timetaken broader for both (viz., love and election, as in Rom. 8:29 and Rom. 11:2); at another, more strictly for love and favor which is the fountain and foundation of election. Thus Peter speaks of it when he says that believers are “elect according to the foreknowledge” (kata prognosin), i.e. the love of God (1 Peter 1:2).

Third, we must explain the word ekloges (“election”) which now and then occurs, but not always with the same signification. Sometimes it denotes a call to some political or sacred office (as Saul is “elected” [1 Samuel 10:24]; Judas “elected”, viz., to the Apostleship, John 6:70). Sometimes it designates an external election and separation of a certain people to the covenant of God (in which sense the people of Israel are said to be elected of God, Deut. 4:37). But here it is taken objectively for the elect themselves (as ekloge epetychen- “the election” [i.e., the elect] “hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded,” Romans 11:7); or formally for the act of God electing (which is called ekloge charitos, Romans 9:11). Again the latter may be considered either in the antecedent decree (as it were from eternity) or in the subsequent execution (as it takes place onlyin time by calling). Christ refers to this in John 15:16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”; and “Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world’ (v. 19). Augustine joins both forms (schesin): “We are elected before the foundation of the world by that predestination in which God foresaw his future things would take place; we are chosen out of the world however by that calling by which God fulfills what he has predestinated” (On the Predestination of the Saints).

Election then by the force of the word is stricter than predestination. For all can be predestined, but all cannot be elected because he who elects does not take all, but chooses some out of many.

The election of some necessarily implies the passing and rejecting of others: “Many are called,” said Christ, “but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16); and Paul, “The election hath obtained, and therest were blinded” (Romans 11:7). Hence Paul uses the verb heilto to designate election, which implies the separation of some from others: “God from the beginning heilto, i.e., hath taken out and separated you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth: (2 Thess.2:13).

Fourth, prothesis is often used by Paul in the matter of election to denote that this counsel of God is not an empty and inefficacious act of willing, but the constant, determined and immutable purpose of God (Romans 8:28; 9:11; Ephesians 1:11). For the word is of the highest efficacy (as the old grammarians tell us) and is called distinctly by Paul prothesis tou ta energountos—”the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).

Sometimes it is applied to election as prothesis kat’ eklogen—”the purpose of God according toelection” (Romans 9:11); and we are said “to be predestinated” (kata prothesin, Ephesians 1:11).

Sometimes it is joined with calling—”who are the called according to his purpose” (tois kata prosthesin kletois, Romans 8:28). For both election and calling depend and are built upon this purpose of God.

Now although these words are often employed promiscuously, yet they are frequently distinguished; not without reason are they used by the Holy Spirit to denote the various conditions (scheseis) of that decree which could not so fitly be explained by a single word. For the decree can be conceived in relation to the principle from which it arises, or to the object about which it is concerned, or to the means by which it is fulfilled. With regard to the former, protheseos oreudokias (which denotes the counsel and good pleasure of God) is mentioned as the first cause of that work. With regard to the next, it is called prognosis or ekloge (which is occupied with the separation of certain persons from others unto salvation). With regard to the last, the word proorismou is used according to which God prepared the means necessary to the obtainment of salvation. Prothesis refers to the end; prognesis refers to the objects; proorismos to the means; prodiesis to the certainty of the event; prognosis and ekloge to the singleness and distinction of persons; proorismos to the order of means. Thus election is certain and immutable by prothesin; determinate and definite by prognosin; and ordinate by proorismon.

These three degrees (if we may so speak to answer to three acts in the temporal execution: for as we will be glorified with the Father, redeemed by the Son and called through the Holy Spirit, so the Father determined from eternity to glorify us with himself. This is prothesis. He elected us in his Son. This is prognosis. He predestinated us to grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (who seals the image of the Son in us through his holiness and the suffering on the cross). This is proorismos. For as the Father sends the Son, the Son with the Father sends the Holy Spirit. And vice versa, the Holy Spirit leads us to the Son, and the Son at length conducts us to the Father.

The words by which the predestination of the members is described are employed also to express the predestination of the head. For concerning him equally prothesis is predicated when Paul says hon proetheto hilastion (Rom. 3:25); prognosis where we have proegnesmenos (1 Pet.1:20); and proorismos, not only when he is said to be horistheis to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), but also when his death is said to have happened by the determinate counsel of God and by his predestination, who proorise to be done whatever was done by Herod and Pontius Pilate (Acts 2:23).

“Every plant” – Matt 15:13 Calvin commentary

December 12, 2009 Comments off

Mat 15:13  But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

13.Every plant. As the indifferent success of the doctrine had wounded their weak minds, Christ intended to remedy this evil. Now the remedy which he proposes is, that good men ought not to be distressed, or entertain less reverence for the doctrine, though to many it be an occasion of death. It is a mistaken view of this passage which some have adopted, that all the inventions of men, and every thing that has not proceeded from the mouth of God, must be rooted up and perish; for it was rather to men that Christ referred, and the meaning is, that there is no reason to wonder if the doctrine of salvation shall prove deadly to the reprobate, because they are always carried headlong to the destruction to which they are doomed.
By the persons that have been planted by the hand of God we are to understand those who, by his free adoption, have been ingrafted into the tree of life, as Isaiah also, when speaking of the Church renewed by the grace of God, calls it a branch planted by the Lord, (Isa_60:21.) Now as salvation depends solely on the election of God, the reprobate must perish, in whatever way this may be effected; not that they are innocent, and free from all blame, when God destroys them, but because, by their own malice, they turn to their destruction all that is offered to them, however salutary it may be. To those who willingly perish the Gospel thus becomes, as Paul assures us, the savor of death unto death, (2Co_2:16;) for, though it is offered to all for salvation, it does not yield this fruit in any but the elect. It belongs to a faithful and honest teacher to regulate every thing which he brings forward by a regard to the advantage of all; but whenever the result is different, let us take comfort from Christ’s reply. It is beautifully expressed by the parable, that the cause of perdition does not lie in the doctrine, but that the reprobate who have no root in God, when the doctrine is presented to them, throw out their hidden venom, and thus accelerate that death to which they were already doomed.
Which my heavenly Father hath not planted. Hypocrites, who appear for a time to have been planted like good trees, are particularly described by Christ; for Epicureans, who are noted for open and shameful contempt of God, cannot properly be said to resemble trees, but the description must be intended to apply to those who have acquired celebrity by some vain appearance of godliness. Such were the scribes, who towered in the Church of God like the cedars in Lebanon, and whose revolt might on that account appear the more strange. Christ might have said that it is right that those should perish who disdainfully reject salvation; but he rises higher, and asserts that no man will remain steadfast, unless his salvation be secured by the election of God. By these words he expressly declares, that the first origin of our salvation flows from that grace by which God elected us to be his children before we were created.

Supra- and Infralapsarianism

December 5, 2009 Comments off

Louis Berkhof

The doctrine of predestination has not always been presented in exactly the same form. Especially since the days of the Reformation two different conceptions of it gradually emerged, which were designated during the Arminian controversy as Infra- and Supralapsarianism. Already existing differences were more sharply defined and more strongly accentuated as the results of the theological disputes of that day. According to Dr. Dijk the two views under consideration were in their original form simply a difference of opinion respecting the question, whether the fall of man was also included in the divine decree. Was the first sin of man, constituting his fall, predestinated, or was this merely the object of divine foreknowledge? In their original form Supralapsarianism held the former, and Infralapsarianism, the latter. In this sense of the word Calvin was clearly a Supralapsarian. The later development of the difference between the two began with Beza, the successor of Calvin at Geneva. In it the original point in dispute gradually retires into the background, and other differences are brought forward, some of which turn out to be mere differences of emphasis. Later Infralapsarians, such as Rivet, Walaeus, Mastricht, Turretin, a Mark, and de Moor, all admit that the fall of man was included in the decree; and of the later Supralapsarians, such as Beza, Gomarus, Peter Martyr, Zanchius, Ursinus, Perkins, Twisse, Trigland, Voetius, Burmannus, Witsius and Comrie, at least some are quite willing to admit that in the decree of Reprobation God in some way took sin into consideration. We are concerned at present with Supra- and Infralapsarianism in their more developed form.

1. THE EXACT POINT AT ISSUE. It is quite essential to have a correct view of the exact point or points at issue between the two.

a. Negatively, the difference is not found: (1) In divergent views respecting the temporal order of the divine decrees. It is admitted on all hands that the decree of God is one and in all its parts equally eternal, so that it is impossible to ascribe any temporal succession to the various elements which it includes. (2) In any essential difference as to whether the fall of man was decreed or was merely the object of divine foreknowledge. This may have been, as Dr. Dijk says, the original point of difference; but, surely, anyone who asserts that the fall was not decreed but only foreseen by God, would now be said to be moving along Arminian rather than Reformed lines’. Both Supraand Infralapsarians admit that the fall is included in the divine decree, and that preterition is an act of God’s sovereign will. (3) In any essential difference as to the question, whether the decree relative to sin is permissive. There is some difference of emphasis on the qualifying adjective. Supralapsarians (with few exceptions) are willing to admit that the decree relative to sin is permissive, but hasten to add that it nevertheless makes the entrance of sin into the world a certainty. And Infralapsarians (with few exceptions) will admit that sin is included in God’s decree, but hasten to add that the decree, in so far as ft pertains to sin, is permissive rather than positive. The former occasionally over-emphasize the positive element in the decree respecting sin, and thus expose themselves to the charge that they make God the author of sin. And the latter sometimes over-emphasize the permissive character of the decree, reducing it to a bare permission, and thus expose themselves to the charge of Arminianism. As a whole, however, Supralapsarians emphatically repudiate every interpretation of the decree that would make God the author of sin; and Infralapsarians are careful to point out explicitly that the permissive decree of God relative to sin makes sin certainly future. (4) In any essential difference as to the question, whether the decree of reprobation takes account of sin. It is sometimes represented as if God destined some men for eternal destruction, simply by an act of His sovereign will, without taking account of their sin; as if, like a tyrant, He simply decided to destroy a large number of His rational creatures, purely for the manifestation of His glorious virtues. But Supralapsarians abhor the idea of a tyrannical God, and at least some of them explicitly state that, while preterition is an act of God’s sovereign will, the second element of reprobation, namely, condemnation, is an act of justice and certainly takes account of sin. This proceeds on the supposition that logically preterition precedes the decree to create and to permit the fall, while condemnation follows this. The logic of this position may be questioned, but it at least shows that the Supralapsarians who assume it, teach that God takes account of sin in the decree of reprobation.

b. Positively, the difference does concern: (1) The extent of predestination. Supralapsarians include the decree to create and to permit the fall in the decree of predestination, while Infralapsarians refer it to the decree of God in general, and exclude it from the special decree of predestination. According to the former, man appears in the decree of predestination, not as created and fallen, but as certain to be created and to fall; while according to the latter, he appears in it as already created and fallen. (2) The logical order of the decrees. The question is, whether the decrees to create and to permit the fall were means to the decree of redemption. Supralapsarians proceed on the assumption that in planning the rational mind passes from the end to the means in a retrograde movement, so that what is first in design is last in accomplishment. Thus they determine upon the following order: (a) The decree of God to glorify Himself, and particularly to magnify His grace and justice in the salvation of some and the perdition of other rational creatures, which exist in the divine mind as yet only as possibilities, (b) The decree to create those who were thus elected and reprobated, (c) The decree to permit them to fall. (d) The decree to justify the elect and to condemn the non-elect. On the other hand the Infralapsarians suggest a more historical order: (a) The decree to create man in holiness and blessedness, (b) The decree to permit man to fall by the self-determination of his own will, (c) The decree to save a certain number out of this guilty aggregate, (d) The decree to leave the remainder in their self-determination in sin, and to subject them to the righteous punishment which their sin deserves. (3) The extension of the per&onal element of predesti-nation to the decrees to create and to permit the fall. According to Supralapsarians God, even in the decree to create and permit the fall, had His eye fixed on His elect individually, so that there was not a single moment in the divine decree, when they did not stand in a special relation to God as His beloved ones. Infralapsarians, on the other hand, hold that this personal element did not appear in the decree till after the decree to create and to permit the fall. In these decrees themselves the elect are simply included in the whole mass of humanity, and do not appear as the special objects of God’s love.


a. Arguments in favor of it: (1) It appeals to all those passages of Scripture which emphasize the absolute Sovereignty of God, and more particularly His sovereignty in relation to sin, such as Ps. 115:3 ; Prov. 16:4; Isa. 10:15; 45:9 ; Jer. 18:6; Matt. 11:25,26; 20:15 ; Rom. 9:17,19-21. Special emphasis is laid on the figure of the potter, which is found in more than one of these passages. It is said that this figure not merely stresses the sovereignty of God in general, but more especially His sovereignty in determining the quality of the vessels at creation. This means that Paul in Rom. 9 speaks from a pre-creation standpoint, an idea that is favored (a) by the fact that the potter’s’ work is frequently used in Scripture as a figure of creation; and (b) by the fact that the potter determines each vessel for a certain use and gives it a corresponding quality, which might cause the vessel to ask, though withour any right, Why didst Thou make me thus? (2) Attention is called to the fact that Some passages of Scripture suggest that the work of nature or of creation in general was so ordered as’ to contain already illustrations of the work of redemption. Jesus frequently derives His illustrations for the elucidation of spiritual things from nature, and we are told in Matt. 13:35 that this was in fulfilment of the words of the prophet, “I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.” Comp. Ps. 78:2. This is taken to mean that they were hidden in nature, but were brought to light in the parabolic teachings of Jesus. Ephesians 3:9 is also considered as an expression of the idea that the design of God in the creation of the world was directed to the manifestation of His wisdom, which would issue in the New Testament work of redemption. But the appeal to this passage seems, to say the least, very doubtful. (3) The order of the decrees, as accepted by the Supralapsarians, is legarded as the more ideal, the more logical and unified of the two. It clearly exhibits the rational order which exists between the ultimate end and the intermediate means. Therefore the Supralapsarians can, while the Infralapsarians cannot, give a specific answer to the question why God decreed to create the world and to permit the fall. They do full justice to the sovereignty of God and refrain from all futile attempts to justify God in the sight of men, while the Infra-Iapsanans’ hesitate, attempt to prove the justice of God’s procedure, and yet in the end must come to the same conclusion as the Supralapsarians, namely, that, in the last analysis, the decree to permit the fall finds its explanation only in the sovereign good pleasure of God.1 (4) The analogy of the predestination of the angels would seem to favor the Supralapsarian position, for it can only be conceived as supralapsarian. God decreed, for reasons sufficient to Himself, to grant some angels the grace of perseverance and to withhold this from others; and to connect with this righteously the confirmation of the former in a state of glory, and the eternal perdition of the latter. This means, therefore, that the decree respecting the fall of the angels forms a part of their predestination. And it would seem impossible to conceive of it in any other way.

b. Objections to it: Notwithstanding its seeming pretensions, it does not give a solution of the problem of sin. It would do this, if it dared to say that God decreed to bring sin into the world by His own direct efficiency. Some Supralapsarians, it is true, do represent the decree as the efficient cause of sin, but yet do not want this to be interpreted in such a way that God becomes the author of sin. The majority of them do not care to go beyond the statement that God willed to permit sin. Now this is no objection to the Supralapsarian in distinction from the Infralapsarian, for neither one of them solves the problem. The only difference is that the former makes greater pretensions in this respect than the latter. (2) According to its representations man appears in the divine decree first as creabilis et labilis (certain to be created and to fall). The objects of the decree are first of all men considered as mere possibilities, as non-existent entities. But such a decree necessarily has only a. provisional character, and must be followed by another decree. After the election and reprobation of these possible men follows the decree to create them and to permit them to fall, and this must be followed by another decree respecting these men whose creation and fall have now been definitely determined, namely, the decree to elect some and to reprobate the rest of those who now appear in the divine purpose as real men. Supralapsarians claim that this’ is no insuperable objection because, while it is true that on their position the actual existence of men has not yet been determined when they are elected and reprobated, they do exist in the divine idea. (3) It is said that Supralapsarianism makes the eternal punishment of the reprobate an object of the divine will in the same sense and in the same manner as’ the eternal salvation of the elect; and that it makes sin, which leads to eternal destruction, a means unto this end in the same manner and in the same sense as the redemption in Christ is a means unto salvation. If consistently carried through, this would make God the author of sin. It should be noted, however, that the Supralapsarian does not, as a rule, so represent the decree, and explicitly states that the decree may not be so interpreted as to make God the author of sin. He will speak of a predestination unto the grace of God in Jesus Christ, but not of a predestination unto sin. (4) Again, it is objected that Supralapsarianism makes the decree of reprobation just as absolute as the decree of election. In other words, that it regards reprobation as purely an act of God’s sovereign good pleasure, and not as an act of punitive justice. According to its representation sin does not come into consideration in the decree of reprobation. But this is hardly correct, though it may be true of some Supralapsarians. In general, however, it may be said that, while they regard pretention as an act of God’s sovereign good pleasure, they usually regard precondemnation as an act of divine justice which does take sin into consideration. And the Infralapsarian himself cannot maintain the idea that reprobation is an act of justice pure and simple, contingent on the sin of man. In the last analysis, he, too, must declare that it is an act of God’s sovereign good pleasure, if he wants to avoid the Arminian camp. (5) Finally, it is said that it is not possible to construe a serviceable doctrine of the covenant of grace and of the Mediator on the basis of the Supralapsarian scheme. Both the covenant and the Mediator of the covenant can only be conceived as infralapsarian. This is frankly admitted by some Supralapsarians. Logically, the Mediator appears in the divine decree only after the entrance of sin; and this is the only point of view from which the covenant of grace can be construed. This will naturally have an important bearing on the ministry of the Word.


a. Arguments in favor of it. (11 Infralapsarians appeal more particularly to those passages of Scripture in which the objects of election appear as in a condition of sin, as being in close union with Christ, and as objects of God’s mercy and grace, such as Matt. 11:25,26; John 15:19; Rom. 8:28,30; 9:15.16; Eph. 1:4-12; II Tim. 1:9. These passages would seem to imply that in the thought of God the fall of man preceded the election of some unto salvation. (2) It also calls attention to the fact that in its representation the order of the divine decrees is less philosophical and more natural than that proposed by Supralapsarians. It is in harmony with the historical order in the execution of the decrees, which would seem to reflect the order in the eternal counsel of God. Just as in the execution, so there is in the decree a causal order. It is more modest to abide by this order, just because it reflects the historical order revealed in Scripture and does not pretend to solve the problem of God’s relation to sin. It is considered to be less offensive in its presentation of the matter and to be far more in harmony with the requirements of practical life.1

(3) While Supralapsarians claim that their construction of the doctrine of the

decrees is the more logical of the two, Infralapsarians make the same claim for

their position. Says Dabney: “The Supralapsarian (scheme) under the pretense of greater symmetry, is in reality the more illogical of the two.”1 It is pointed out that the supralapsarian scheme is illogical in that it makes the decree of election and pretention refer to non-entities, that is, to men who do not exist, except as bare possibilities, even in the mind of God; who do not yet exist in the divine decree and are therefore not contemplated as created, but only as creatable. Again, it is said that the supralapsarian construction is illogical in that it necessarily separates the two elements in reprobation, placing preterition before, and condemnation after, the fall. (4) Finally, attention is also called to the fact that the Reformed Churches in their official standards have always adopted the infralapsarian position, even though they have never condemned, but always tolerated, the other view. Among the members of the Synod of Dort and of the Westminster Assembly there were several Supralapsarians who were held in high honour (the presiding officer in both cases belonging to the number), but in both the Canons of Dort and the Westminster Confession the infralapsarian view finds expression.

b. Objections to it. The following are some of the most important objections raised against Infralapsarianism: (1) It does not give, nor does it claim to give a solution of the problem of sin. But this is equally true of the other view, so that, in a comparison of the two, this cannot very well be regarded as a real objection, though it is sometimes raised. The problem of the relation of God to sin has proved to be insoluble for the one as well as for the other. (2) While Infralapsarianism may be actuated by the laudable desire to guard against the possibility of charging God with being the author of sin, it is, in doing this, always; in danger of overshooting the mark, and some of its representatives have made this mistake. They are averse to the statement that God willed sin, and substitute for it the assertion that He permitted it. But then the question arises as to the exact meaning of this statement. Does it mean that God merely took cognizance of the entrance of sin, without in any way hindering it, so that the fall was in reality a frustration of His plan? The moment the Infralapsarian answers this question in the affirmative, he enters the ranks of the Arminians. While there have been some who took this stand, the majority of them feel that they cannot consistently take this position, but must incorporate the fall in the divine decree. They speak of the decree respecting sin as a permissive decree, but with the distinct understanding that this decree rendered the entrance of sin into the world certain. And if the question be raised, why God decreed to permit sin and thus rendered it certain, they can only point to the divine good pleasure, and are thus in perfect agreement with the Supralapsarian. (3) The same tendency to shield God reveals itself in another way and exposes one to a similar danger. Infralapsarianism really wants to explain reprobation as an act of God’s justice. It is inclined to deny either explicitly or implicitly that it is an act of the mere good pleasure of God. This really makes the decree of reprobation a conditional decree and leads into the Arminian fold. But infra

lapsarians on the whole do not want to teach a conditional decree, and express themselves guardedly on this matter. Some of them admit that it is a mistake to consider reprobation purely as an act of divine justice. And this is perfectly correct. Sin is not the ultimate cause of reprobation any more than faith and good works are the cause of election, for all men are by nature dead in sin and trespasses’. When confronted with the problem of reprobation, Infralapsarians, too, can find the answer only in the good pleasure of God. The k language may sound more tender than that of the Supralapsarians, but is also more apt to be misunderstood, and after all proves to convey the same idea. (4) The Infra-lapsarian position does not do justice to the unity of the divine decree, but represents the different members’ of it too much as disconnected parts. First God decrees to create the world for the glory of His name, which means among other things also that He determined that His rational creatures should live according to the divine law implanted in their hearts and should praise their Maker. Then He decreed to permit the fall, whereby sin enters the world. This seems to be a frustration of the original plan, or at least an important modification of it, since God no more decrees to glorify Himself by the voluntary obedience of all His rational creatures. Finally, there follow the decrees of election.and reprobation, which mean only a partial execution of the original plan.

4. From what was said it would seem to follow that we cannot regard Supra- and Infralapsarianism as absolutely antithetical. They consider the same mystery from different points of view, the one fixing its attention on the ideal or teieological; the other, on the historical, order of the decrees’. To a certain extent they can and must go hand in hand. Both find support in Scripture. Supralapsarianism in those passages which stress the sovereignty of God, and Infralapsarianism in those which emphasize the mercy and justice of God, in connection with election and reprobation. Each has something in its’ favor: the former that it does not undertake to justify God, but simply rests in the sovereign and holy good pleasure of God; and the latter, that it is more modest and tender, and reckons with the demands and requirements of practical life. Both are necessarily inconsistent; the former because it cannot regard sin as a progression, but must consider it as a disturbance of creation, and speaks of a permissive decree; and the latter, since in the last analysis it must also resort to a permissive decree, which makes sin certain. But each one of them also emphasizes an element of truth. The true element in Supralapsarianism is found in its emphasis on the following: that the decree of God is a unit; that God had one final aim in view; that He willed sin in a certain sense; and that the work of creation was immediately adapted to the recreative activity of God. And the true element in Infralapsarianism is, that there is a certain diversity in the decrees of God; that creation and fall cannot be regarded merely as means to an end, but also had great independent significance; and that sin cannot be regarded as an element of progress, but should rather be considered as an element of disturbance in the world. In connection with the study of this’ profound subject we feel that our understanding is limited, and realize that we

grasp only fragments of the truth. Our confessional standards embody the infralapsarian position, but do not condemn Supralapsarianism. It was felt that this view was not necessarily inconsistent with Reformed theology. And the conclusions of Utrecht, adopted in 1908 by our Church, state that, while it is not permissible to represent the supralapsarian view as the doctrine of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands, it is just as little permissible to molest any one who cherishes that view for himself.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY. IS a foreknowledge of future events which is not based on the decree possible in God? What is the inevitable result of basing God’s decree on His foreknowledge rather than vice versa, his foreknowledge on His decree? How does the doctrine of the decrees differ from fatalism and from determinism? Does the decree of predestination necessarily exclude the possibility of a universal offer of salvation? Are the decrees of election and reprobation equally absolute and unconditional or not? Are they alike in being causes from which human actions proceed as effects? How is the doctrine of predestination related to the doctrine of the divine sovereignty;— to the doctrine of total depravity;—to the doctrine of the atonement;—to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints? Do the Reformed teach a predestination unto sin?

LITERATURE: Bavinck, Gere]. Dogm. II, pp. 347J125; Kuyper, Diet. Dogm., De Deo III, pp. 80 258; Vos, Gere). Dogm. I, pp. 81-170; Hodge, Syst. Theol. I, pp. 535-549; II, pp. 315-321; Shedd, Dogm. Theol. I, pp. 393-462; Mastricht, Codgeleerdheit, I, pp. 670-757; Comrie en Holtius, Examen van het Ontwerp van Tolerantie, Samenspraken VI and VII; Turretin, Opera, I, pp. 279-382; Dabney.Syst. and Polem Theol.. pp. 211-216; Miley., Syst. Theol. II, pp. 245-266; Cunningham, Hist. Theol., II, pp. 416-489; Wiggers, Augustinism and Pelagianism, pp. 237- 254; Girardeau, Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism, pp. 14-412; ibid., The Will in its Theological Relations; Warfield, Biblical Doctrines, pp. 3-67; ibid., Studies in Theology, pp. 117-231; Cole, Calvin’s Calvinism, pp. 25-206; Calvin, Institutes III. Chap. XXI-XXIV; Dijk, De Strijd over Infra-en Supralapsarisme in de Gereformeerde Kerhen van Nederland; ibid., Om ‘t Eeuwig Welbehagen; Fern’nout, De Leer der Uitverkiezing; Polman, De Praedestinatieleer van Augustinus, Thomas van Aquino en Calvijn.


The Parts of Predestination

December 5, 2009 Comments off

Louis Berkhof

Predestination includes two parts, namely, election and reprobation, the predetermination of both the good and the wicked to their final end, and to certain proximate ends which are instrumental in the realization of their final destiny.


a. The Biblical Idea of Election. The Bible speaks of election in more than one sense. There is (1) the election of Israel as a people for special privileges and for special service, Deut. 4:37 ; 7:6-8; 10:15; Hos. 13:5. (2) The election of individuals to some office, or to the performance of some special service, as Moses, Ex. 3, the priests, Deut. 18:5; the kings, I Sam. 10:24; Ps. 78:70, the prophets, Jer. 1:5, and the apostles, John 6:70; Acts 9:15. (3) The election of individuals to be children of God and heirs of eternal glory, Matt. 22:14; Rom. 11:5; I Cor. 1:27,28; Eph. 1:4; I Thess. 1:4; I Pet. 1:2; II Pet. 1:10. The last is the election that comes into consideration here as a part of predestination. It may be defined as that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation. More briefly it may be said to be God’s eternal purpose to save some of the human race in and by Jesus Christ.

b. The characteristics of election. The characteristics of election are identical with the characteristics of the decrees in general. The decree of election: (1) Is an expression of the sovereign will of God, His divine good pleasure. This means among other things that Christ as Mediator is not the impelling, moving, or meritorious cause of election, as some have asserted. He may be called the mediate cause of the realization of election, and the meritorious cause of the salvation unto which believers are elected, but He is not the moving or meritorious cause of election itself. This is impossible, since He is Himself an object of predestination and election, and because, when He took His mediatorial work upon Him in the Counsel of Redemption, there was already a fixed number that was given unto Him. Election logically precedes the Counsel of Peace. The elective love of God precedes the sending of the Son, John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; II Tim. 1:9; I John 4:9. By saying that the decree of election originates in the divine good pleasure the idea is also excluded that it is determined by anything in man, such as foreseen faith or good works, Rom. 9:11 ; II Tim. 1:9. (2) It is immutable, and therefore renders the salvation of the elect certain. God realizes the decree of election by His own efficiency, by the saving work which He accomplishes in Jesus Christ. It is His purpose that certain individuals should believe and persevere unto the end, and He secures this result by the objective work of Christ and the subjective operations of the Holy Spirit, Rom. 8:29,30; 11:29; II Tim. 2:19. It is the firm foundation of God which standeth, “having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.” And as such it is the source of rich comfort for all believers. Their final salvation does not depend on their uncertain obedience, but has its guarantee in the unchangeable purpose of God. (3) It is eternal, that is, from eternity. This divine election should never be identified with any temporal selection, whether it be for the enjoyment of the special grace of God in this life, for special privileges and responsible Services, or for the inheritance of glory hereafter, but must be regarded as eternal,

om. 8:29,30; Eph. 1:4,5. (4) It is unconditional. Election does not in any way depend on the foreseen faith or good works of man, as the Arminians teach, but exclusively on the sovereign good pleasure of God, who is also the originator of faith and good works, Rom. 9:11 ; Acts 13:48; II Tim. 1:9; I Pet. 1:2. Since all men are sinners and have forfeited the blessings of God, there is no basis for such a distinction in them; and since even the faith and good works of the believers are the fruit of the grace of God, Eph. 2:8,10; II Tim. 2:21, even these, as foreseen by God, could not furnish such a basis. (5) It is irresistible. This does not mean that man cannot oppose its execution to a certain degree, but it does mean that his opposition will not prevail. Neither does it mean that God in the execution of His decree overpowers the human will in a manner which is inconsistent with man’s free agency. It does mean, however, that God can and does exert such an influence on the human spirit as to make it willing, Ps. 110:3; Phil. 2:13. (6) It is not chargeable with injustice. The fact that God favors some and passes by others, does not warrant the charge that He is guilty of injustice. We can speak of injustice only when one party has a claim on another. If God owed the forgiveness of sin and eternal life to all men, it would be an injustice if He saved only a limited number of them. But the sinner has absolutely no right or claim on the blessings which flow from divine election. As a matter of fact he has forfeited these blessings. Not only have we no right to call God to account for electing some and passing others by, but we must admit that He would have been perfectly just, if He had not saved any, Matt. 20:14,15; Rom. 9:14,15.

c. The purpose of election. The purpose of this eternal election is twofold: (1) The proximate purpose is the salvation of the elect. That man is chosen or elected unto salvation is clearly taught in the Word of God, Rom. 11:7-11; II Thess. 2:13. (2) The final aim is the glory of God. Even the salvation of men is subordinate to this. That the glory of God is the highest purpose of the electing grace is made very emphatic in Eph. 1:6,12,14. The social gospel of our day likes to stress the fact that man is elected unto service. In so far as this is intended as a denial of man’s election unto salvation and unto the glory of God, it plainly goes contrary to Scripture. Taken by itself, however, the idea that the elect are predestined unto service or good works is entirely Scriptural, Eph. 2:10; II Tim. 2:21 ; but this end is subservient to the ends already indicated.


Our confessional standards speak not only of election, but also of reprobation.1 Augustine taught the doctrine of reprobation as well as that of election, but this “hard doctrine” met with .a great deal of opposition. Roman Catholics, the great majority of Lutherans, Arminians, and Methodists, generally reject this doctrine in its absolute form. If they still speak of reprobation, it is only of a reprobation based on foreknowledge. That Calvin was deeply conscious of the seriousness of this doctrine, is perfectly evident from

the fact that he speaks of it as a “decretum horribile” (dreadful decree) -1 Nevertheless, he did not feel free to deny what he regarded as an important Scriptural truth. In our day some scholars who claim to be Reformed balk at this doctrine. Barth teaches a reprobation which is dependent on man’s rejection of God’s revelation in Christ. Brunner seems to have a more Scriptural conception of election than Barth, but rejects the doctrine of reprobation entirely. He admits that it logically follows from the doctrine of election, but cautions against the guidance of human logic in this instance, since the doctrine of reprobation is not taught in Scripture.2

a. Statement of the doctrine. Reprobation may be defined as that eternal

decree of God whereby He has determined to pass some men by with the operations of His special grace, and to punish them for their sins, to the manifestation of His justice. The following points deserve special emphasis: (1) It contains two elements. According to the most usual representation in Reformed theology the decree of reprobation comprises two elements, namely, pretention or the determination to pass by some men; and condemnation (sometimes called precondemnation) or the determination to punish those who are passed by for their sins. As such it embodies a twofold purpose: (a) to pass by some in the bestowal of regenerating and saving grace; and (b) to assign them to dishonor and to the wrath of God for their sins. The Belgic Confession mentions only the former, but the Canons of Dort name the latter as well. Some Reformed theologians would omit the second element from the decree of reprobation. Dabney prefers to regard the condemnation of the wicked as the foreseen and intended result of their preterition, thus depriving reprobation of its’ positive character; and Dick is of the opinion that the decree to condemn ought to be regarded as a separate decree, and not as a part of the decree of reprobation. It seems to us, however, that we are not warranted in excluding the second element from the decree of reprobation, nor to regard it as a different decree. The positive side of reprobation is so clearly taught in Scripture as the opposite of election that we cannot regard it as something purely negative, Rom. 9:21,22; Jude 4. However, we should notice several points of distinction between the two elements of the decree of reprobation: (a) Preterition is a sovereign act of God, an act of His mere good pleasure, in which the demerits of man do not come into consideration, while precondemnation is a judicial act, visiting sin with punish, ment. Even Supralaps’arians are willing to admit that in condemnation sin is taken into consideration, (b) The reason for preterition is not known by man. It cannot be sin, for all men are sinners. We can only say that God passed “some by for good and wise reasons sufficient unto Himself. On the other hand the reason for condemnation is known; it is sin. (c) Preterition is purely passive, a simple passing by without any action on man, but condemnation is efficient and positive. Those who are passed by are condemned on account

of their sin. (2) We should guard against the idea, however, that as election and reprobation both determine with absolute certainty the end unto which man is predestined and the means by which that end is realized, they also imply that in the case of reprobation as well as in that of election God will bring to pass by His own direct efficiency whatsoever He has decreed. This means that, while it can be said that God is the author of the regeneration, calling, faith, justification, and sanctification, of the elect, and thus by direct action on them brings their election to realization, it cannot be said that He i3 also the responsible author of the fall, the unrighteous condition, and the sinful acts’ of the reprobate by direct action on them, and thus effects the realization of their reprobation. God’s decree undoubtedly rendered the entrance of sin into the world certain, but He did not predestinate some unto sin, as He did others unto holiness. And as the holy God He cannot be the author of sin. The position which Calvin takes on this point in his Institutes is clearly indicated in the following deliverances’ found in Calvin’s Articles on Predestination:

“Although the will of God is the supreme and first cause of all things and God holds the devil and all the impious subject to His will, God nevertheless cannot be called the cause of sin, nor the author of evil, neither is He open to any blame.

“Although the devil and reprobates are God’s servants and instruments to carry out His secret decisions, nevertheless in an incomprehensible manner God so works in them and through them as to contract no stain from their vice, because their malice is used in a just and righteous way for a good end, although the manner is’ often hidden from us.

“They act ignorantly and calumniously who say that God is made the author of sin, if all things come to pass by His will and ordinance; because they make no distinction between the depravity of men and the hidden appointments of God.”1

(3) It should be noted that that with which God decided to pass some men by,

is not His common but his’ special, His regenerating, grace, the grace that changes sinners into saints. It is a mistake to think that in this life the reprobate are entirely destitute of God’s favor. God does’ not limit the distribution of His natural gifts by the purpose of election. He does not even allow election and reprobation to determine the measure of these gifts. The reprobate often enjoy a greater measure of the natural blessings of life than the elect. What effectively distinguishes the latter from the former is that they are made recipients of the regenerating and saving grace of God.
b. Proof for the doctrine of reprobation. The doctrine of reprobation naturally follows from the logic of the situation. The decree of election inevitably implies the decree of reprobation. If the all-wise God, possessed of infinite knowledge, has eternally purposed to save some, then He ipso facto also purposed not to save others. If He has chosen or elected some, then He has by that very fact also rejected others. Brunner warns against this argument, since the Bible does not in a single word teach a divine predestination unto rejection. But it seems to us that the Bible does not contradict but justifies the logic in question. Since the Bible is primarily a revelation of redemption, it naturally does not have as much to say about reprobation as about election. But what it says is quite sufficient, cf. Matt. 11:25,26; Rom. 9:13,17,18,21,22; 11:7; Jude 4; I Pet. 2:8.


Predestination – John Foxe

November 29, 2009 Comments off

AS touching the doctrine of Election, three things must be considered.

First, what God’s Election is, and what is the cause thereof.

Secondly, how God’s election proceedeth in working of our salvation.

Thirdly, to whom God’s election pertaineth, and how a man may be certain thereof.

Between Predestination and election, this difference there is. Predestination is as well to the reprobate, as to the elect: Election only pertaineth to them that are saved.

Predestination, in that it respecteth the reprobates, is called reprobation, in that it respecteth the saved, is called election, and is thus defined.

Predestination is the eternal decreement [decree] of God, purposed before in himself, what shall befall on all men, either to salvation or damnation.

Election is the free mercy and grace of God in his own will, through faith in Christ his son, choosing and preferring to life, such as pleaseth him. In this definition of election, first goeth before the mercy and grace of God, as the causes thereof, whereby are excluded all works of the law, and merits of deserving, whether they go before faith, or come after. So was Jacob chosen, and Esau refused, before either of them began to work, &c.

Secondly, in that this mercy and grace of God in this definition, is said to be free, thereby is to be noted the proceeding and working of God, not to be bound to any ordinary place or to any succession of chair, not to state, and dignity of person, nor to worthiness of blood, &c. But all goeth by the mere will of his own purpose, As it is written: Spiritus ubi vult spirat, &c. And thus was the outward race, and stock of Abraham after the flesh refused, which seemed to have the preeminence. And their seed after the spirit raised up to Abraham of the stones, that is, of the Gentiles. So was the outward Temple of Jerusalem, & chair of Moses, which seemed to be of price, forsaken, and Gods chair advanced in other nations. So was tall Saul refused, and little David accepted: The rich, the proud, the wise of this world rejected, and the word of salvation daily opened to the poor, and miserable abjects: The high mountains cast under, and the law valleys exalted, &c.

Thirdly, where it is added in his own will, by this falleth down the freewill and purpose of man with all his actions, counsels, and strength of nature: According as it is written: Non est volentis neque currentis sed miserentis dei, &c. [Rom. 9.] It is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but in GOD that sheweth mercy. So we see how Israel ran long, and yet got nothing: the Gentiles unneth [only] began to set out, and yet got the game: So they which came at the first hour, did labour more, and yet they which came last, were rewarded with the first, Math. 20. The will of the Pharisee seemed better, but yet the Lord’s will was rather to justify the Publican, Luke 18. The elder son had a better will to tarry by his Father, and so did indeed: and yet the fat Calf was given to the younger son that ran away, Luke 15.

Whereby we have to understand how the matter goeth not by the will of man, but by the will of God, as it pleaseth him to accept, according as it is written: Non ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri sed ex Deo nati sunt, &c. Which are born not of the will of the flesh, nor yet of the will of man, but of God. [John 1.13] Furthermore, as all then goeth by the will of God only, and not by the will of man, So again here is to be noted, that this will of God, never goeth without faith in Christ Jesus his son.

And therefore, fourthly, is this clause added in the definition through faith in Christ his son: which faith in Christ, to usward maketh altogether: For first it certifieth us of God’s election: for whosoever will be certain of his election in God: let him first begin with this faith in Christ, which if he find in him to stand firm: He may be sure, and nothing doubt, but that he is one of the number of God’s Elect. Secondly, the said faith and nothing else, is the only condition and means whereupon God’s mercy, election, vocation, and all God’s promises to salvation, do stay according to the words of Paul: Si permanseritis in fide, &c. If ye abide in the faith. Col. 1. Thirdly, this faith also is the immediate and next cause of our justification simply without any other condition annexed. For as the mercy of God, his grace, election, vocation, and other precedent causes, do save and justify us upon condition: if we believe in Christ, so this faith in Christ without condition, is the next and immediate cause, which by God’s promise worketh our justification. According as it is written: Crede in dominum Iesum & saluus eris tu & domus tua. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy whole house, Acts. 16. And thus much touching the definition of election, with the causes thereof declared, which you see now to be no merits nor works of man: whether they go before or come after faith, but only the mere mercy of God through faith: for like as all they that be born of Adam, do taste of his malediction, though they tasted not his Apple: So all they that be born of Christ which is by faith, take part of the obedience of Christ: Although they never did that obedience themselves, which was in him. Rom. 5.

Now to the second consideration: Let us see likewise how and in what order this election of GOD proceedeth in choosing and electing them which be ordained to salvation, which order is this: In them that be chosen to life first, God’s mercy and free grace bringeth forth election: Election worketh vocation, or God’s holy calling: Which vocation through hearing bringeth knowledge, and faith of Christ. Faith through promise obtaineth justification: Justification through hope waiteth for glorification. Election is before vocation, and faith cometh in time: Justification and glorification is without end.

Election depending upon God’s free grace and will, excludeth all man’s will, blind fortune, chance, and all peradventures, vocation standing upon God’s election, excludeth all man’s wisdom, cunning, learning, intention, power and presumption: Faith in Christ proceedeth by the gift of the holy Ghost, and freely justifying man by God’s promise: excludeth all other merits of men, all condition of deserving, all works of the law: both God’s law and man’s law, with all other outward means, whatsoever.

Justification coming freely by faith, standeth sure by promise without doubt, fear, or wavering in this life.

Glorification pertaining only to the life to come, by hope is looked for.

Grace and mercy preventeth.

Election ordaineth.

Vocation prepareth and receiveth the word whereby cometh faith.

Faith justifieth.

Justification bringeth glory.

Election is the immediate and next cause of vocation, vocation which is the working of God’s Spirit by the word, is the immediate and next cause of faith.

Faith is the immediate and next cause of justification, and this order, and connexion of causes is diligently to be observed, because of the Papists which have miserably confounded and converted this doctrine thus, that almighty God so far forth as he foreseeth man’s merits before to come: so doth he dispense his election, Ut Dominus pro cuiusque meritis fore previdet, ita dispensat electionis gratiain. And again: Nullis precendentibus meritis dominum rependere electionis gratiam, futuris tamen concedere: That is, that the Lord recompenseth the grace of election not to any merits going before: But yet granted the same to the merits which follow after, as though we had our election by our holiness that followeth after, and not rather have our holiness by God’s election going before.

But we following the Scripture, say otherwise, that the cause only of God’s election is his own mercy, and the cause only of our justification is our faith in Christ, and nothing else. As for example, first concerning election, if the question be asked: Why was Abraham chosen, and not Nachor: Why was Jacob chosen, and not Esau: Why was Moses elected, & Pharaoh hardened: Why David accepted, and Saul refused: Why few be chosen, and the most forsaken? It cannot be answered otherwise, but thus, because it was so the good will of God.

In like manner touching vocation and also faith if the question be asked: Why this vocation and gift of faith was given to Cornelius the Gentile, & not to Tertullus the Jew: Why to the poor, to the babes and little ones of this world, of whom Christ speaketh: I thank thee Father, which hast hid this from the wise, &c. Matt. 11. Why to the unwise the simple abjects, and outcasts in this world, of whom speaketh Paul, 1 Cor. 1, Ye see your calling my brethren, how not many of you, &c. Why, to the sinners and not to the just: Why the beggars by the highways were called, and the bidden guests excluded: We can go to no other cause but to God’s purpose and election, and say with Christ our Saviour: Quia Pater sic complacitum est ante te. Yea Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. Luke 10.

And so for justification likewise, if the question be asked: why the Publican was justified, and not the Pharisee. Luke 18. Why Mary the sinner, and not Simon the Leper: Luke 11. Why harlots and Publicans, go before the Scribes & Pharisees in the kingdom. Matt. 21. Why the son of the free woman was received, and the bondwoman’s son being his elder rejected. Gen. 21. Why Israel which so long sought for righteousness, found it not: and the Gentiles which sought not for it, found it. Rom 9. We have no other cause hereof to render, but to say with Paul: because they sought for it by works of the law, and not by faith: Which faith as it cometh not by man’s will, as the Papists falsely pretendeth, but only by the election and free gift of God: so it is only the immediate cause, whereunto the promise of our salvation is annexed, according as we read: And therefore of faith is the inheritance given. As after grace, that the promise might stand sure to every seed. Rom. 4. Item in the same Chapter: Faith believing in him which justifieth the wicked, is imputed to righteousness.

And thus concerning the cause of our salvation, ye see how faith in Christ: only and immediately without any condition doth justify us, being so linked with God’s mercy and election: that wheresoever election goeth before, there faith in Christ must needs follow after. And again, whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus through the vocation of God, he must needs be partaker of God’s election.

Whereunto resulteth now the third note or consideration, which is to consider, whether a man in this life may be certain of his election. To answer this question, we have first to understand: that although our election and vocation simply indeed be known to God only himself a Priore: yet notwithstanding it may be known [by] every particular faithful man a Posteriore: that is, by means: which means is faith in Christ Jesus crucified, forsomuch as by his faith in Christ, a man is justified, and thereby made the child of salvation, reason must needs lead the same to be then the child of election chosen of God unto everlasting life: for how can a man be saved but by consequence, it followeth that he must be elected.

And therefore of election is truly said, De electione judicandum est Aposteriore: that is to say, We must judge of election by that which cometh after, that is, by our faith and belief in Christ: which faith although in time it followeth after election: yet is it the proper and immediate cause assigned by the Scripture: which not only justifieth us, but also certifieth us of the election of God.

Whereunto, likewise well agreeth this saying: Election albeit in God, it be the first, yet to us it is the last opened. And therefore beginning first with creation: I come from thence to redemption, and justification by faith, and so to election. Not that faith is the cause efficient of election: being rather the effect thereof, but is to us the cause certificatory, or the cause of our certification: whereby we are brought to the feeling and knowledge of our election in Christ. For albeit that election first be certain in the knowledge of God, yet in our knowledge faith only that we have in Christ, is the thing that giveth to us our certificate and comfort of this election.

Wherefore whosoever desireth to be assured that he is one of the elect number of God: let him not climb up to heaven to know, but let him descend into himself, and there search his faith in Christ the son of God: Which if he find in him not feigned, by the working of God’s Holy Spirit accordingly: thereupon let him stay, and so wrap himself wholly, both body and soul, under God’s general promise, and cumber his head with no farther speculations: knowing this, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, John 3. Shall not be confounded, Rom. 9. Shall not see death, John 8. Shall not enter into judgment, John 5. Shall have everlasting life, John 3.16. Shall be saved, Matt. 28, Acts 16. Shall have remission of all his sins, Acts 10. Shall be justified, Rom. 3, Gal. 2. Shall have floods flowing out of him of water of life, John 7. Shall never die, John 11. Shall be raised in the last day, John 6. Shall find rest to his soul, and shall be refreshed. Matt. 11.

Now then forsomuch as we see faith to be the ground whereupon dependeth the whole condition of our justifying: let us discuss in like manner, what is this faith, whereof the scripture so much speaketh of, for the more plain understanding of the simple. For many kinds there be of faith: As a man may believe every thing that is true: yet not every truth doth save, neither doth the believing of every truth justify a man: He that believeth that God created all things of naught, believeth truth: He that believeth that God is a just God, that he is omnipotent, that he is merciful: that he is true of promise, believeth well, and holdeth the truth. So he that believeth that God hath his election from the beginning, and that he also is one of the same elect and Predestinate, hath a good belief, and thinketh well. But yet this belief alone, except it be seasoned with another thing, will not serve to salvation: As it availed not the old Jews, which so thought of themselves, and yet think to this day: to be only God’s elect people.

Only the faith which availeth to salvation is that, whose object is the body and passion of Christ Jesus crucified: so that in the act of justifying these two: faith and Christ have a mutual relation, and must always concur together, faith, as the action which apprehendeth: Christ as the object which is apprehended.

For neither doth the passion of Christ save without faith: neither doth faith help, except it be in Christ. As we see the body of man sustained by bread and drink: not except the same be received, and conveyed into the stomach, and yet neither doth the receiving of any thing sustain man’s body, except it be meat and drink, which have power to give nourishment. In like sort it is with faith: for neither doth the believing of every thing save. But only faith in the blood of Christ: neither doth again the same blood of Christ profit us, except by faith it be received. And as the sun being the cause of all light, shineth not but to them only which have eyes to see: nor yet to them neither, unless they will open their eyes, to receive the light: So the passion of Christ is the efficient cause of salvation: But faith is the condition whereby the said Passion is to us effectual.

And that is the cause, why we say with the Scripture, that faith only justifieth us, not excluding thereby all other external causes, that go before faith: As grace, mercy, election, vocation, the death of Christ, &c. All which be external causes working our salvation through faith. But when we say that faith only justifieth us: the meaning thereof is this, that of all internal actions, motions, or operations in man, given to him of God, there is no other that contenteth, and pleaseth God, or standeth before his judgment, or can help any thing to the justifying of man before him: but only this one action of faith in Christ Jesus the son of God.

For although the action of praying, fasting, alms, patience, charity, repentance, the fear and love of God be his gifts in man, and not of man, given of God to man: yet be none of all these actions in man, imputed of God to salvation, but only this one action of faith in man, upon Christ Jesus the son of God. Not that the action itself of believing: As it is a quality in man doth so deserve: but because it taketh that dignity of the object. For as I said in the act of justifying: Faith, as it is an action in man, is not to be considered alone: but must ever go with this object, and taketh his virtue thereof. Like as the looking up of the old Israelites, did not of itself procure any health unto them: but the promise made in the object, which was the brazen Serpent, whereupon they looked: gave them health by their looking up. Even so after like sort, are we saved by our faith, and spiritual looking up to the body of Christ crucified, which faith to define is this. To believe Jesus Christ to be the son of the living God, sent into this world: by his death to satisfy for our sins, and so to receive the same.

And thus much touching election and faith,  with  the  order and  explication of the causes necessary to bee considered in our  salvation:   whereby  maye  appeare howe far  the pretended Catholiques doo swarve  from   the  ryght  minde  of  the Scriptures:    For  where  the  Scriptures in declaring the causes of salvation,  doe sende us  onely  to  fayth,  as  the  onely condition,  whereby  these  causes  haue their  working:    these  Catholiques  doe quyte  leaue  out  fayth,   and  in  steede thereof, place in other conditions of me-

rites, willworkes, pardons, mas-
ses, and especiall auricular
confession, with penance,
and satisfaction for
our sinnes,

F I N I S.