Paul's Passing Thoughts

How to Debate A Calvinist: Part 1 – By John Immel

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 13, 2017

The following is part one of a four-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s first session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part two Click here for part three

“Have you read Calvin’s Institutes today?”

I must confess, I really struggled this year with what I wanted to talk about. My brain bounced off about a dozen things. I originally thought I was going to dig deeper into the impact of John Locke on American civil government, American religion, the American Revolution. But at the end of the day it didn’t really catch and sustain my attention too much.

Then I thought I might actually discuss death and life and exegete the first four chapters of the book of Genesis. And that didn’t really stick with me very long. And I toyed with a half a dozen other things that just don’t bear mentioning.

Then about two or three months ago I was reading an interaction on Paul’s Passing Thoughts between Paul Dohse and a guy by the name of “GraceWriterRandy”. Now, trust me, this conference is not about GraceWriterRandy, but he is a fantastic anecdote. And so I decided to go ahead and talk about what he did and how that applies generally.

So here is what I noticed. And what so caught my attention was that Randy presumed to set the tone for the entire conversation, and frankly it didn’t matter what part of the conversation. He decided that he was going to dictate the moral and intellectual terms across the board. He reserved the right to make the discussion as narrow or as broad as he wanted.

And then what really bothered me is that everybody accepted the premise. Everybody tended to follow along. So if Randy reframed the conversation, everybody accepted the shift. If Randy argued scripture, everybody started stacking up scriptures. If Randy shifted to moral criticism, everybody started lobbing moral accusations. If Randy challenged a definition, everybody started parsing meanings.

And this is when I realized that I actually had my topic of conversation: Arguments with Calvinists, and trying to unravel the roots of their arguments.

And this is why no one ever gets anywhere in a debate with a Calvinist, because they let the Calvinist shape the direction of the conversation. People rarely ever challenge the Calvinist root assumptions. They let the Calvinist decide that it is their sole right to define all things moral, spiritual, and intellectual. And the foundation of all their arguments is the myth of their [Calvinists’] own authority and their entitlement to dictated force.

So I came up with a brief algebra of historic “Christian” authority:

The Algebra of Authority

Catholic Algebra:
Absolute Truth = Apostolic Authority + Scripture = Error Free Doctrine + Apostolic Succession = Papal Authority = Orthodoxy = Government Force

I want you to notice that the fulcrum of Catholic doctrine is Apostolic Authority PLUS Scripture. Everything else, how they get their doctrinal interpretations, is a direct product of this. Catholics had decided long ago that the reason that “Scripture Alone” got so much traction is because the Catholic church, specifically Papal Authority, decided that it was their job to interpret what it said. But at the end of the day, Orthodoxy is what determines Government Force. In other words, the Pope has the right to compel you to what you think.

Here’s what happened when Protestantism showed up:

Protestant Algebra:
Absolute Truth = Scriptural Authority = Predestined Elders = Error Free Doctrine + Ecclesiastical Force = Orthodoxy

It is very important that you see the relationship here. Predestined Elder inherit the implications of their own Absolute Truth. The function of Predestined Elders in the Protestant world is to compel you to think whatever it is they think they have the right to compel you to think.

This is crucial for you to understand: Authority = Force

Any time somebody says, “I am an authority,” what they are really saying is, “I have the right to force you to do something.” There is nothing elegant about it.

So then how do you debate a Calvinist?

The answer is: You challenge the roots.

This is why I insist, particularly with regard to GraceWriterRandy, no one ever successfully challenges the roots of the assertion.

I have been talking about my web of tyranny now for the last six years. This is my contribution to the world of philosophy. I have identified what I believe are the five fundamental pillars of tyranny. It doesn’t matter what the ultimate end game is, all tyrannies have these five sub-categories or arguments: Dictated Good, Universal Guilt, Abolition of Ambition, Collective Conformity, and Incompetent Masses. The function of all these sub-categories is designed to create “Utopia,” or an alternate reality.

The reason I have rendered this as a web is because it is not specifically linear. In other words, there is not specifically a logical progression of one to the other. Instead there is a dynamic tension between all five, so all of the arguments act in harmony with all of the others to compel you down the path of this alternate reality; the right to determine some other realm of thinking.

What we have never really discussed is how the arguments fit into the web. On occasion over the last few years I have made reference to when an argument sits, but I want to have an overarching view. I want to start subdividing some of the arguments that you will hear. I’ve tried to pick archetypes of the arguments, and we will try to unravel them in later sessions.

If we are going to successfully debate Calvinist, we have to get good at identifying the foundational assumptions, because:

The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3:1-3

  1. All people act logically from their assumptions.
  2. It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until that logic is fulfilled.
  3. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, if you find the assumptions, you will find the cause.

Frankly, I don’t think we can have any better object lesson of this truth played out in our civil discourse than the logical assumption of a group of people tearing down historic monuments over wars that were fought long ago over offenses that are entirely manufactured. They are in actuality fulfilling a body of logic that produces some action.

Ideas are what drive human action. There is body of ideas, and a fundamental integration of those ideas, that produces your actions in any given day. This integration is called Philosophy.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

The roots are your metaphysical assumptions; whatever you accept about the nature of existence. Once you actually establish your foundation of metaphysical assumptions, you move to epistemology. That is what you believe your mind can understand. Once you identify what your mind can and cannot know, you move on to ethics. These are the moral judgments that you have about your actions; what is good and what is evil. This is how we define how we interact with other people through politics. Once man is able to establish these first four disciplines, he is able to refresh his existence with artistic expression. His art is a reflection of his most deeply held values.


The Orthodoxy Happy Dance

You might begin to talk to a Calvinist by presenting to him what Luther or Calvin said regarding a certain doctrine, and all is well and good until the Calvinist encounters something he doesn’t like. At this point he might respond by saying, “Well, Calvin might have believed that, but it was really the Synod of Dort that came up with this thing called T.U.L.I.P.” At this point they have made the Synod of Dort their authority over Calvin and Luther.

So then you proceed to point out a fallacy in T.U.L.I.P or the Synod of Dort, and now they might cite the Westminster Confession as being the final authority on the matter, rejecting the Synod of Dort. Notice what they are able to do. At any point in the argument that they don’t happen to like an given intellectual conclusion, no matter where it starts, they get to dance around between any given authority that suits them at any particular moment.

Take a look at the video below. This is an excerpt from a breakout session at the 2016 Cross for the Nations Conference in Indianapolis, IN. In this clip, you will hear John Piper make a reference to being committed to “the whole Calvinistic scheme.” Watch then, as Paul Dohse challenges Piper on the matter of election, Piper proceeds to engage in this orthodoxy happy dance.

Did you catch it? What you just saw Piper do is exactly what Calvinist do with impunity. They want the right to pick any given authority as their intellectual forbearers and then disown those intellectual forbearers whenever it suits their purpose. And this is why I call it the Orthodoxy Happy Dance, because orthodoxy at the end is this amorphous concept to which they get to appeal. They make an appeal to something that has no functional definition. At the end of the day, the real root of what they are advocating is their right to their own authority.

Notice that when pressed on the Calvin Institutes, Piper immediately became a Biblicist. What you will eventually realize, if you care to pay attention, is that Calvinists don’t read the Calvin Institutes ever. They read a few select excerpt here and there and then pretend that it is their intellectual pedigree, which they then believe gives them the license to tell you what to think. You peg them down on what they think and then they just jump to some other source of intellectual pedigree.

This sort of intellectual two-step is a direct violation of Aristotle’s Law of Identity; that A is A. Something cannot be “A” and “not A” at the same time. But with Calvinists, orthodoxy can be anything they want it to be. They have no intellectual integrity. They are not committed to anything specific. This is why every time you start debating Calvinists your conversations go nowhere.

Any time you have such a conversation, what you must do is make them responsible for their intellectual pedigree. If at any point they want to reject any point of Calvinism, they are rejecting the roots of orthodoxy. You will see this comment consistently:

“Calvinists don’t believe everything that John Calvin said…The Bible says blah, blah, blah…”

This is a glittering gem of colossal ignorance. It kills me every time I see it. I guarantee if you read anybody’s blog and you take somebody to task you will get a similar response. Pay attention to this. This is the formulation. They will identify themselves as Calvinists, and then they will pretend that they don’t believe what Calvin said. Suddenly they are independent thinkers and Biblicists. This is a gambit to what they believe they control – Biblical interpretation.

The next time you hear this line of logic, what you must say is, “So, you reject John Calvin’s ideas? Excellent! We agree on something. In your copy of Calvin’s Institutes, show me specifically to what you object.” This must be the only answer you will accept, but here is the thing; they will never do it. They will want to play their gambit of Biblical interpretation because they believe they own it.

Your rebuttal when they go back to the Bible, you say, “So, you are really saying that Calvin’s ideas are not in the Bible, right?” If they have to constantly run back to the Bible, then that means they cannot find those ideas in the Calvin’s Institutes. The moment they concede that point, then the next question you ask is, “So that means that Calvin’s teachings are unbiblical, right? That would make him a heretic, right?”   Follow this progression of questioning, and don’t let them leave this point! They must commit to what they are advocating.

You want to make sure they can never escape either an acceptance of Calvin or a rejection of Calvin. They must either accept that there is a synonymous relationship between Calvin and the Bible or there is not one. The moment you drive that wedge they are stuck. They use Calvin to establish their historic pedigree – “I have authority because I believe what all these other historic thinkers think.” Yet at the same time they want to turn around and claim intellectual autonomy whenever they choose. So which is it; historical authority or your own intellectual authority? That is the fulcrum of the debate.

If the truth is defined as “authority,” then there is no such thing as “I think…” The assumption is Authority = No Doctrinal Error; that the only way you can hedge against doctrinal error is to have authority. So the reason they argue “authority” is because they insist that they are the ones who get it all right. But the moment you confront them with something that isn’t right, they want to renounce the very thing that gives them authority. This is what you can never let them get away with.

The real argument here is that they have abandoned the right to the Aristotelian Law of Identity. They are constantly trying to say that “A” can be “B” and “B” can be “A”. They want to have a “both/and” reality.

  • Both final authority and error-filled humans.
  • Both defender of orthodoxy and an individual thinker denouncing Calvin’s doctrine.
  • Both herald of God’s mystic revelation and defender of “objective” truth.
  • Both lowly unoriginal mind slave and epitome of rational judgment.
  • Both champion of God’s hard truth and pitiful victim of undeserved criticism.

The way to defeat Calvinists is to deny them their authority and hammer away at reality. Reality is their enemy. The reason they engage in the Orthodoxy Happy Dance is because the moment they are confronted with the specifics of history they are toast.

But be forewarned:

  • Try to rebuff a Calvinist’s right to define all things and they pretend that no is their equal.
  • Try to reject a Calvinist’s monopoly on moral virtue, and they snarl that no man is righteous.
  • Try to refuse to let a Calvinist define reality, and they resort to force.

…To be continued


Click here for part two  Click here for part three
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The Problem With Protestant Election

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 22, 2015

Blog Radio LogoListen to the program or download audio file. 

Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul Dohse. Tonight, another Paul Dohse parenthesis in our Heidelberg Disputation series, “The Problem With Protestant Election.”

Greetings from the Potters House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalog can be found at tancpublishing.com.

If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback over your cellphone. If you choose to use Skype to listen to the show, my advice is to just dial direct from your Skype account without using any of the Blogtalk links. It’s the same number, 347-855-8317.

Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

Remember, you may remain anonymous. When I say, “This is your host; you are on the air, what’s your comment or question”—just start talking.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Paul @ Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat .com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in. You can post a question as well.

Before we get started tonight, I must implement our new policy here at False Reformation. I think as recovering Protestants, we must embrace our fears and failures. One example is the sin minefield. Whenever disciples endeavor to embark on some new project, deep introspection ensues. Could the project cause us to sin? Pray tell, what are our true motives? And overall, we deem it our duty to recognize the major weaknesses of the other disciples, and for me, that is, “going off on rabbit trails all the time.”

Therefore, as a recovering Protestant, I have decided to embrace this failure as one no longer under condemnation. Yes, whenever I go down a rabbit trail, I want to make it a memorial of remembrance that I am not condemned for going down that rabbit trail. Hence, from now on, just prior to going down a rabbit trail in this show, the rabbit trail will be introduced with the following song:

So basically, when you hear an excerpt of that song on the program, you know that it is a rabbit trail coming. The upbeat introduction is also a remembrance that I need not seek forgiveness for the rabbit trail least I be condemned. Ahmen.

What is the major problem with the Protestant view of election? It is tenfold. First, as thoroughly documented by TANC ministries, the Protestant Reformation is dead wrong on salvation. The second point exacerbates the problem: all positions on election come from Protestantism, and all positions are framed by Protestant scholars. In other words, Protestant academia controls the context in which the issue is debated. Think about the insanity of this: all arguments about election start with a Protestant context; the so-called 5 points of Calvinism. In the same way that a “Band-Aid” viz, a brand defines what something is, Protestants of the authentic Reformed tradition have completely co-opted the context and framework of the argument which virtually guarantees the outcome that they want; either capitulation, or confusion which only bolsters their worldview that mankind cannot comprehend reality.

Thirdly, while there are many verses in the Bible that seem to indicate an individual preselection for salvation and damnation, there are also many that indicate that mankind is able to choose or reject salvation. There is obviously a contradiction which is written off as paradox, BUT, with one side of the paradox being the engine of existence. What am I saying here? They claim paradox, but only one side of the paradox is applicable—the sovereign side.

Fourthly, Protestantism deliberately uses a process of assimilation based on allowing the saints to assume things about orthodoxy at its progressive points. As the saints are gradually assimilated into full blown Platonism dressed in biblical garb, they are allowed to assume that “faith alone” does not include sanctification, and that “total depravity” does not include the saints, and that God does not preselect people for eternal damnation. This is a 500 year-old system of assimilation that is evil genius. And they know exactly what they are doing. How do they condone it? Well, we must not teach things that the great unwashed masses are not yet “ready for.” Nevertheless, in the same way that pot leads to harder drugs, hardcore Protestant Platonists invariably move from a grudging soft determinism to soft determinism, ie., so-called 3 or 4 point Calvinism, but eventually become advocates of hard determinism.

Fifthly, we are allowing a religion that continually produces bad fruit to dictate the confines of the debate and define the interpretive terms and words. Protestant orthodoxy has effectively defined all of the biblical terms in which our reality is interpreted, and be sure of it, those who effectively define the definition of words control reality. We have allowed a religion that continually produces rotten fruit to co-opt the grammar. That’s a really, really bad idea.

Sixth, a casual reading of Scripture is tortured because of the overall biblical dialogue found by independent reading. If God preselects some for salvation and others for damnation for his glory and self-love, why do we have Christ weeping over Jerusalem, why do we have God saying, “come let us reason together saith the Lord,” why do we have the apostle Paul expending all kinds of energy to “persuade” people in regard to the gospel? If individual determinism is true, the Bible makes NO sense whatsoever. Let’s look at a specific example of this:

Luke 16:19 –  “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No,father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Ok, so, the guy asks Abraham to send Lazarus over to give him relief from his suffering, and Abraham’s answer includes nothing about preselection; why not? If the guy is over there suffering for God’s glory, what’s all of this other discussion about? And why do they discuss the best means of persuasion? If the point is preselection, how people might be best persuaded is certainly a mute point, no? What is problematic is the Bible’s constant passing on making the preselection angle the main point when such opportunities appear over and over again throughout the Bible. Let’s look at another example. Matthew 26:24.

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Well, doesn’t God always want what’s best? Consider this verse in context of what love is via 1Corinthians chapter 13. Love ALWAYS seeks what’s best for others. Bottom line: if preselection is true, the Bible is nothing more than a convoluted quagmire of confusion. But God is NOT a God of confusion.

Here is another thought. The Reformed love to talk about the potter and the clay deal in Romans 9. The potter has a right to make some vessels for wrath and others for salvation and He is glorified by both. But then there is this also…

2Timothy 2:20 – Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

Here, what kind of vessel you are is determined by “cleansing” yourself. We will not be discussing Romans 9 tonight, but it will be covered in a series of articles I am presently writing.

Seventh, Biblicism rejects plenary paradox as an interpretive method because of interpretive presuppositions demanded by Scripture itself: God is NOT a God of confusion. Though paradox is a biblical reality, it is rare, and always suspect. It is guilty until proven innocent.

Eighth, individual HOPE is an acid test for truth. If something lacks individual assurance or hope, it is extremely suspect. And regardless of Protestant squealing of denial in epic volume, the engine of its progressive salvation is predicated on the so-called Christian being under a greater awareness of condemnation and fear—not a soteriology that escapes the terrible-two.

Ninth, because of the way the Bible is written, Protestant paradox demands an inconsistent method of interpretation. In some verses paradox is employed while in others grammar is employed without any determinate principle whatsoever except orthodox presuppositions. In other words, interpretive methodology demanded by the context is ignored and exchanged for orthodoxy. I suppose the classic example of this is Romans 8:2 where the same word for “law” used twice in that verse is interpreted both as a written standard and a realm. Once you break an interpretive rule of that sort, anything goes; you can interpret the Bible any way you want to.

Lastly, the injection of chapters and verses into the Bible by the Protestant Reformers has made it possible to proof-text orthodoxy without considering the corpus of Scripture. Furthermore, it suits preaching and not the necessity of reading the corpus without elements being emphasized through a numbering system. It is incredible to consider that chapters and verses were deemed unnecessary until the 16th century. It should not only seem suspect, it should be deemed such. Chapters and verses make it possible to sell a doctrine with a collection of biblical one-liners.

Therefore, an alternative to the traditional view of election must be sought, and the traditional definition of the words used to discuss this issue must be traded for their biblical assessment.

Indeed, there are many verses in the Bible that seem to indicate that people are preselected for salvation; after all, the word “elect” is in the Bible, but there are just as many or more verses that seem to indicate people are able to believe or reject the gospel. You can understand why we are still at a stalemate 500 years later. But again, is this because we are constrained by Protestant rules of engagement? Unfortunately, for the most part, logic enters in based on subjective criteria rather than conclusions drawn from the objective definition of words. And again, if one buys into the paradox argument, they are merely on their way to being full-blown predeterminists.

Before we get into the meat of our study, let’s serve up a few appetizers. First, the word “elect” or often translated “chosen” does not always apply to people who need salvation or people at all for that matter. The word “election” sometimes applies to deity, ie., Christ, or the holy angels, or a thing such as the nation of Israel. The nation Israel spoken of as being elect is a major Old Testament theme.* Not only that, in Romans 11:2, Israel is spoken of in the exact same way that elected individuals are spoken of in Romans 8:29. This should alert us that something is up with all of this.

Secondly, the definition of “called” creates critical problems for the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP) with the other points attempting to cover for the one fundamental flaw. Again, this has to do with the definition of “called.” God calls all people because Christ died for everybody. In the minds of the Reformers, if God preselected some for salvation and others for damnation, He could not have possibly died for the sins of the damned. If He died for their sins, they are forgiven, and only need to accept the pardon. If Christ died for all sin, this suggests a choosing by men rather than God. Hence, the Reformed called for a limited atonement (the “L” in TULIP) effected by an “effectual calling” (Irresistible grace [the “I” in TULIP]).

Herein is the problem: Christ died to end the law, and how many people are under the law? Right, everyone. So, Romans 10:4 alone completely blows up the leading authority on predeterminism; the 5 points of Calvinism. Or…

Colossians 2:11 – In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God,who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Instead of Christ dying for everyone, which throws a large monkey wrench into the 5 points of Calvinism, the Reformed merely keep the so-called “saints” under the law and its “legal demands.” This takes care of the problem of the law being ended because everyone remains under it while those who are preselected receive a perpetual forgiveness from Christ for their ongoing sin. This makes limited atonement possible. According to the Synod of Dort  and the Canons of Dort in 1618 and 1619 which codified the 5 points of Calvinism:

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle. (Christ’s Death and Human Redemption Through It, Article 8)

Here is the point: the leading authority on Protestant election is the 5 points of Calvinism which is plainly wrong and defines the saints as unbelievers according to the biblical definition of under law versus under grace.

Verses that assume choice more or less speak for themselves—let’s examine verses that seem to indicate preselection, and we will start with the book of Ephesians:

1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Let’s begin by defining who the “we” and the “us” are. In context, it is the Jews. When Paul wrote that “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” he is talking about the predestination of the Jews as a group, not individuals. Hence…

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The first to hope in Christ and obtain an inheritance are the Jews. The “you also” are the Gentiles to whom Paul is writing. Keeping in mind that Christ is elect, note the following:

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

It’s Christ and the plan of salvation that is in Christ, or the “mystery of the gospel”** that is preordained—not individuals. But, how do individuals obtain this “inheritance”?

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

“You also” is the Gentiles in general, “when you heard the word of truth, and believed in him” is how the inheritance is obtained: by individual faith. At the time one believes they receive a “guarantee.” This is why Christ is elect, and why Israel is also elect: national Israel is also part of the salvation plan and the mystery of the gospel.

Ephesians 2:11 – Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Other than the fact that this passage makes being part of the commonwealth of Israel synonymous with salvation, we see that “we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” This speaks of two groups, not individuals who have access to the father through the Spirit. God’s clear purpose in election was to unite both Jew and Gentile into one body, not the preselection of some individuals over others.

There are many, many other verses we could discuss, but we will close with a couple of tough ones in this whole discussion. First, the dreaded Acts 13:48.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

First of all, as Andy Young aptly pointed out in his Acts series, the context of Acts 13 is a historical account of Romans 11 in full action. Second, many who contend against preselection of individuals quibble about the actual meaning of the word “appointed” or “ordained” in said verse. For example, here is what the late Dave Hunt said about it:

Some claim that the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as comments from early church writers, indicate
that the first 15 chapters of Acts were probably written first in Hebrew. The Greek would be a
translation… going back to a “redacted Hebrew” version, based upon word-for-word Greek-Hebrew equivalents, would render Acts 13:48 more like “as many as submitted to, needed, or wanted salvation, were saved (Dave Hunt, What Love is This? 3rd Edition, 2006, page 264).

Perhaps, but I think there is a better explanation. Go with me to Romans 13:1ff.

 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good.

See the word, “appointed” in this verse? It is the same word for “appointed” in Acts 13:48. In fact, I believe, if I am not mistaken, these are the only two places in the NT where the word is used in the exact same form (tense, voice, etc., etc.). It is the governmental authorities that are ordained for a specific purpose plainly stated in the context. Now, let me ask you a question: does that mean everyone who works in government didn’t have a choice to do so? Does this mean that everyone who works in government was preselected to do so and had no choice? Or, did their own decision to work in government make them the appointed authority? You see that God appoints the means to an end and not necessarily those who choose to be part of the means. Likewise, as many Gentiles who believed became God’s appointed heirs to the commonwealth of Israel in Christ. That doesn’t mean they had no choice in the matter.

Let’s look at this from yet another angle. If an appointed means necessarily means that all of the individuals that are a part of the means were also preselected, does that mean all government officials were chosen to be such by God? Did God choose Adolf Hitler for your good? That’s the stated purpose for governmental authorities, no?

But thirdly, why are the Reformed so keen on using this verse anyway? By their very doctrine, those who presently believe do not necessarily possess ETERNAL life. If you presently have eternal life, it’s eternal, right? Because of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (the “P” in TULIP), the jury is out on whether you get eternal life or not at “the tribunal” as Calvin called it.

In closing, what am I saying here? Am I saying that this proposition is the definitive answer to Protestant determinism? No, so what am I saying? I am saying that the purveyors of a false gospel have dictated the definitions and confines of the debate for 500 years, and the time for an honest discussion is now, and that discussion must be divorced from Protestant orthodoxy found egregiously wanting. I do believe that this proposition, ie., God preselects the means and not individuals, is a good starting point.

With that, let’s go to the phones.

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* Deuteronomy 7:6

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Exodus 19:4-6

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

Psalms 135:4

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.

Isaiah 41:8-9

“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend, You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.

Isaiah 43:10

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.

Isaiah 44:1-2

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, And Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

Isaiah 45:4

“For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me.

Amos 3:2

“You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

** Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

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