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Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election

Much theological debate centers around the doctrine of election. No one debates whether election is biblical, but they do debate the meaning of election. I believe in what is called unconditional individual election (the Calvinistic understanding). Those who oppose my understanding normally believe in some sort of conditional election or corporate election (or a combination of the two; the Arminian understanding). Corporate election is the belief that God elects nations to take part in his plan, not individuals to salvation. So, when Romans 9 speaks of God’s election of Jacob over Esau, Paul is speaking of God’s choosing the nation of Israel to have a special place in salvation history. They will go on to interpret all of Romans 9-11 in light of this assumption.

However, I don’t believe that Romans 9-11 is talking about corporate election, but individual election. Here are eleven reason why:

1. The whole section (9-11) is about the security of individuals. Election of nations would not make any contextual sense. Paul has just told the Roman Christians that nothing could separate them from God’s love (Rom. 8:31-39). The objection that gives rise to chapters 9-11 is: “How do we know that these promises from God are secure considering the current (unbelieving) state of Israel. They had promises too and they don’t look too secure.” Referring to corporate election would not fit the context. But if Paul were to respond by saying that it is only the elect individuals within Israel that are secure (true Israel), then this would make sense. We are secure because all elect individuals have always been secure.

2. In the election of Jacob over Esau (Rom. 9:10-13), while having national implications, starts with individuals. We cannot miss this fact.

3. Jacob was elected and Esau rejected before the twins had done anything good or bad. There is no mention of the nations having done anything good or bad. If one were to say this is nations that Paul is talking about, it would seem that they are reading their theology into the text.

4. Rom. 9:15 emphasizes God’s sovereignty about choosing individuals. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” The pronoun hon (whom) is a masculine singular. If we were talking about nations, a plural pronoun would have been used.

5. Rom. 9:16 is dealing with individuals, not nations. “So, it does not depend on the one who desires or makes effort, but on the mercy of God” (my translation). theolontos (desire) and trechontos (effort) are both masculine singulars that is why it is translated “the one” rather than “those.” (BTW: I don’t like ESV’s translation of this (man’s) as it is misleading and, ironically(!) supporting of corporate election). It is hard to see national implications at all here. It is about individual desire and effort. The acquisition of God’s mercy transcends the ability of man.

6. Once again, Rom. 9:18, speaking in the context of the hardening of Pharaoh, Paul summaries what he is trying to say using masculine singular pronouns: “Therefore, the one God wishes to have mercy on, he has mercy on. The one he wishes to harden, he hardens” (my translation). It would seem that if Paul was merely speaking about national or corporate election, the summary statement would change from Pharaoh to nations (plural), but the summary here emphasizes the sovereignty of God’s will (theleo) over individuals (singular).

7. The objection in Rom. 9:14 makes little sense if Paul were speaking about corporate or national election.  The charge of injustice (adikia), which much of the book of Romans is seeking to vindicate God of, is not only out of place, but could easily be answered if Paul was saying that the election of God is only with respect to nations and has no salvific intent.

8. The objection in Rom. 9:18 is even more out of place if Paul is not speaking about individual election. “Why does he still blame people since no one can resist his will.”  The verb anthesteken, “to oppose or resist,” is third person singular. The problem the objector has is that it seems unfair to individuals, not corporations of people.

9. The rhetoric of a diatribe or apostrophe being used by Paul is very telling.  An apostrophe is a literary devise that is used where an imaginary objector is brought in to challenge the thesis on behalf of an audience. It is introduced with “What shall we say…” (Rom. 9:14) and “You will say to me…” (Rom. 9:19). It is an effective teaching tool. However, if the imaginary objector is misunderstanding Paul, the apostrophe fails to accomplish its rhetorical purpose unless Paul corrects the misunderstanding. Paul does not correct the misunderstanding, only the conclusion. If corporate election were what Paul was speaking of, the rhetoric demands that Paul steer his readers in the right direction by way of the diatribe. Paul sticks to his guns even though the teaching of individual election does most certainly give rise to such objections.

10. Rom. 9:24 speaks about God calling the elect “out of” (ek) the Jews and the Gentiles. Therefore, it is hard to see national election since God calls people “out of” all nations, ek Ioudaion (from Jews) ek ethnon (from Gentiles).

11. In Paul’s specific return the the election theme in the first part of Romans 11, he illustrates those who were called (elect) out of the Jewish nation by referencing Elijah who believed he was the only one still following the Lord. The response from God to Elijah’s lament is referenced by Paul in Rom. 11:4 where God says, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” This tells us two things: 1) these are seven thousand individuals that God has kept, not a new nation. 2) These individuals are kept by God in belief as the characteristic of their “keeping” is their not bowing to Baal (i.e. they remained loyal to God).

12. Using the Elijah illustration in Rom. 11:5, Paul argues that “in the same way,” God has preserved a remnant of believing Israel of which he (as an individual) is a part (Rom. 11:1). This “keeping” in belief of individuals is according to “God’s gracious choice” (11:5).

437 Responses to “Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election”

  1. Hodge,

    50 years ago had you stated “John Doe is gay” this would obviously have a drastically different meaning then if today you stated “John Doe is gay”. My point is simply that the “good” you describe does not comport to the present definition of “good” even when people think beyond the lovey dovey stuff (e.g. is someone good for killing a home intruder with a gun threatening his family). I would further assert that your understanding of “good” would not comport to the definition of “good” 100 years ago either. Thus good is an improper term. I’ll let you respond (I don’t really have a choice right), but you are right lets not go there again – obviously you haven’t convinced me before lol.

  2. WM,

    “This is as shallow of an ad-hominem argument I’ve seen in a long time.”

    I would only be a ad hominem attack if it’s was unsupported by examples or was meant to prove that Calvinism was wrong. Since it was neither of these I think the accusation fails. It was merely an observation about the difficulty of debating a Calvinist. One never knows what they mean by the words they use.

  3. I would only be a ad hominem attack if it’s was unsupported by examples or was meant to prove that Calvinism was wrong.

    I’m sorry, but your argument was a universal, and you brought forth only one example, which you failed to support as an example in any way (you merely asserted that because you know “God is good” therefore Calvinism can’t be true).

    If you’d merely said our arguments were deceptive or twisting words, you could have supported it with arguments; but you didn’t, and didn’t try. If you can’t address our arguments, at least refrain from calling ALL Calvinists lovers of word-twisting and deceivers; limit it to the ones you’re discussing with.

    (By the way, one good reason you couldn’t address my argument would be that they don’t make any sense. If that’s the case let me know, and I’ll admit fault and try to explain. But don’t accuse me of deception or love of word-twisting without evidence — and don’t accuse ALL Calvinists of it ever, because you can never have that kind of evidence.)

    -Wm

  4. WM,

    Oh come on give me a break. If what you say were the nature of an ad hominem attack one could never make any generalization. Furthermore, I believe it was Hodge who stated earlier that “the problem is that most Arminians bring up texts that are notoriously taken out of context and ignore the grammar”. I don’t see how this is any different then what I stated with the exception of the qualifier “most”. However, since the context for my statement was my personal experience in debating Calvinists I don’t see how that qualifier is neccessary. Furthermore, since it would appear most Calvinists hold to the understandings of God’s goodness, free will, authorship of evil, etc. that those I have debated do I don’t see how it can’t be expanded to apply to the generalized whole.

    However, fine I will qualify to satisfy you. “Most” Calvinists I have debated use words and twist them in such a manner that I never know what they mean by the words they use.

  5. Me included? Does that mean, for example, that the last argument I posted was confusing? (Wouldn’t shock me.) If so, I’ll be glad to take this entire digression to mean “your last argument didn’t make sense to me.”

    I concede that Hodge’s generalization was offtopic and rude, because if he can’t refer to your arguments specifically he shouldn’t make argumentative claims — but it wasn’t comparable, because he at least was talking about what he claimed were typical arguments; your assertion was pointed at the people.

    -Wm

  6. WM,
    I think Cheryl would agree with me that when we are talking about the meaning of Calvin’s statements above you were twisting them to mean something other than what a normal average person ascribing the normal meaning of the words to the words would say those words mean. Now I guess you could simply argue that the translator did a bad job at translating, however I doubt anyone here has the actual requisite training to make that statement.

  7. Michael,

    Last time on this: The word “gay” does not need to be redeemed. God is not spoken of as “gay” in the Scripture. Man is not talked about as needing to be “gay,” so I see no need to redeem the word. The word “good,” however is a part of all Christian theology and ethics. It is imperative that we redeem the word and throw out the nonsense that our religious culture believes about it.

    My comments in regard to Arminians is purely my experience with them. This is what they do in my debates with them. Then, when corrected by context or grammar, etc., they simply make the statement that it’s just my interpretation. I’ve never been in a debate with an Arminian who does not do this, so it is a generalization, but one that is often repeated in my experience. I’m sure it is not the case with all Arminians. I will have to retract it now though, since no one seems to want to discuss the Scriptures, and Michael has not as of yet answered my question to him about John 12:39-40. I do apologize if it came off as rude. That was not my intention, as I always try to be as courteous as Papa Smurf. :) I had to throw that one in. :)

  8. “I think Cheryl would agree with me that when we are talking about the meaning of Calvin’s statements above you were twisting them to mean something other than what a normal average person ascribing the normal meaning of the words to the words would say those words mean.”

    Meaning is in the author’s intent, not the audience’s comprehension. That’s why original languages are more important than translations. Come on, Michael. You know this. If Calvin had specific ideas that were spoken in words that had meanings that are now passe, we should clarify them. You don’t really think we should teach that Jesus wanted the little children to suffer, as the KJV says, do you?

  9. Hodge,

    Of course authorial intent is key – hence the option that the translators did a bad job (i.e. they didn’t do a good job of communicating the authors intent). However, all we have in the conversation is the bare assertion that the author didn’t mean what the words say. Not much to go on.

  10. Michael,

    Sure, I’ll concede that point. I’m not an expert on the Institutes and its translators’ use of language. I would, however, point out that most translations on the internet are from the eighteenth century, and the Latin and French in which Calvin wrote may clarify what to Cheryl seems to be a contradiction. My point was to only point out that authorial intent and not the comprehension of the audience is what holds interpretive authority (to the chagrin of the reader-response crowd).

  11. Hodge,

    I don’t have time or energy either one to stay in this conversation. But I just want to ask a couple of questions here.

    You say that the translations on the internet are mostly from the eighteenth century. Do you know where one can find one online that is a more modern translation? And if so, do you know if they are substantially different in any of the quotes I have posted–different enough to change the meaning of them signifcantly? (Remember both Michael T and I are referring to the differences in understanding of multiple quotes here. Not just the one about God being the author of sin which seems to be brought up repeatedly by either you or Wm. I can see how the meaning of the word “author” may have changed significantly over the years. However, the other quotes seem to me to be more straightforward with a lot less room for changes in meaing of language.)

    And secondly, you both keep asserting that Michael’s and my understandings of those quotes are completely wrong even if we take them as what they say in a very straight forward manner. But as Michael said, you seem to have given us very little evidence to show us why that is the case other then stating, “That is not what we believe and that is not what he meant.” How do you KNOW that is not what he meant?

    I’m sorry, but at this time it seems to me that the reasons given to assure us that we in fact understand his words incorrectly is something like, “Because that is not the way we understand them.”

    Remember, many people besides the two of us understand them in the same way. And do not some of your fellow Calvinist’s even understand him in that way? Are we missing something here?

    Thanks for any help you can give in this area!

  12. PS,

    I meant to add that it would seem to me that a man that was a lawyer like Calvin was would be especially careful in his choice of words and how he expressed himself. Which makes me question even more how it can be that what seems to be the plain meaning of his words as Michael has stated were actually intended to mean something else altogether.

  13. Cheryl,

    I think you’re wrong about Calvin because of other things I read from him, specifically in the Institutes. You even quoted him as saying otherwise. The difference is that you think he contradicts himself, and I think he can be read in terms of what we are saying. I’m not dogmatic on the point though. My theology is not based primarily on what Calvin says. I just don’t think that its helpful to throw around quotes and then say that he contradicted himself when you haven’t studied the original languages he using or considered the translations and etymology of the words they use. You wouldn’t use the Bible this way without considering what it said in the original, or whether the translation may be off, would you?

    PS There may be an online source of modern translations, but I’m unaware of it. My modern translations of Calvin are all in print form.

  14. Hodge,

    So, do your modern translations in print form say something different then what those quotes say?

    And the only place I said he contradicted him self was the author of sin quote. One time he said God was the author of sin. And another time he said he was not but later (I believe in the same book) seemed to come back to saying that He was.

    So is that the only quote you are referring to? Because it is certainly not the only one Michael and I have been referring to.

    Have to go.

  15. Yes, that’s the only one I was addressing. I don’t know if Wm had other things in mind. I was trying to show that by “author,” or “ordain,” etc. Calvin is not necessarily talking about MAKING someone do this or that, or being the direct author of a sinful act, etc.

  16. Michael, challenging the meaning of words is not even close to what I was trying to do, and I’ve said so again and again. I was trying to ask you why you were quoting Calvin. You seemed to think that what he was saying was wrong, and I was trying to get you to explain why.

    In detail, I was actually trying to do was to challenge your assumption that saying “God is the author of evil” is wrong — I’ve asked why it’s wrong but “creator of evil (people)” or “sustainer of evil (people and events)” is okay (I assume so because the Bible clearly supports both).

    Again, I’m not questioning the translation at all; I’m asking why you guys are quoting it as though it proved something bad about Calvinism as a system. What exactly does it prove?

    -Wm

  17. WM,

    The quotes in question seem to prove that in the Calvinist system (as understood by Calvin) God is the author of sin itself. He creates the will within the individual which then carries out the sinful action. He actively works both the mens rea and actus rea portions of the sin.

  18. And the only place I said he contradicted him self was the author of sin quote.

    Oh, I didn’t even notice that! Thanks for pointing it out.

    So your point was that Calvin contradicted himself once? And you were trying to use that to take down the entire Calvinist system?

    -Wm

  19. Thank you, Michael.

    The quotes in question seem to prove that in the Calvinist system (as understood by Calvin) God is the author of sin itself.

    I think the modern word ‘author’ — the one you’re probably meaning — is a very good description of God’s action. Like the author of a great book, God creates a world with a grand arc of story, containing incredibly detailed characters.

    Let me ask you… Is the author of a book guilty (or should he feel shame) for the crimes the characters in his books commit? What about the shameful deeds of the heroes? It seems to me that the answer is “no”. The characters in the book are responsible (within the book) for their own actions. The more powerful the characterization, the more we feel that the characters deserve justice based on their characters — and the more we admire the author.

    If this were the sense in which God is said to be the author of evil (and good), would you find it repulsive?

    He creates the will within the individual which then carries out the sinful action.

    Yes, God creates everything, including man’s will. And man chooses sin (his will goes along for the ride, of course; but don’t pretend man isn’t corrupt in other areas as well). I don’t pretend to know why; but I know this is all precisely described in the Bible.

    He actively works both the mens rea and actus rea portions of the sin.

    You use the term “actively works”, but that’s just not the case. The actual agent (man) actively works; God might be said to indirectly work, but even that isn’t accurate. If I may use the metaphor of authorship again, God authors evil into His story in order to complete the story, not in order to commit evil. Man performs the evil for the sake of the evil act, and intending precisely to execute it in disregard of God.

    -Wm

  20. 1. “Let me ask you… Is the author of a book guilty (or should he feel shame) for the crimes the characters in his books commit?”

    I believe the author is guilty since the author controls every variable which leads to the personalities, desires, and wills of the characters. The characters only are the way they are because the author willed them to be that way and they only do what they do because they were willed by the author to do such a thing. I think this essentially confirms my assertion that the Calvinistic universe is essentially a giant Rupe Goldberg machine where all that is going on is an endless chain of cause and effect. One can be no more morally responsible in such a universe then a deadly bacteria is morally responsible for killing people. I committed the sin not because I chose to commit the sin, but because past action inevidibly effected me in certain ways which gave me certain desires and those desires caused me to will to sin. There was really no choice ever made – just the appearence of choice. In reality it was nothing more then physical and chemical reactions.

  21. 2. “You use the term “actively works”, but that’s just not the case. The actual agent (man) actively works”

    Man i no more a active agent then a bacteria. God is the one who authored the desires and will (read programming) which causes man to act the way he does. We only appear to have the capacity of independent thought.

    3. “God authors evil into His story in order to complete the story, not in order to commit evil. Man performs the evil for the sake of the evil act, and intending precisely to execute it in disregard of God.”

    Only because God authored the man in such a way as to desire to commit the evil act. Not because man chose to. I really don’t see how my computer program analagy is wrong here. Perhaps you think of a computer program and simplistic terms, but I am thinking of a branching programming. Man is programmed such that if A occurs he will inevidibly do B or if C occurs he will do D or if neither occurs he will do E. Then God determines what occurs and man simply follows his programming (err desires)

  22. WM and Hodge,

    On a sidebar,

    1. Was the universe determined in such a manner that at this point in time you would believe Calvinism to be truthful?

    2. Was the universe determined in such a manner taht at this point in time I would believe Calvinism to be untruthful?

  23. Wm,

    Re # 168, no, I was repeatedly using multiple quotes from Calvin that I saw as problematic, not just the one quote that both you and Hodge seemed to be so focused on.

  24. I believe the author is guilty since the author controls every variable which leads to the personalities, desires, and wills of the characters.

    Let me get this right: you believe that Shakespeare is a murderer. Not hypothetically, but actually. You believe that Stephen King is a witch and necromancer. You believe that in all those things all these authors (and all other authors) are “actively working” (your words). When I told my son a story about a dragonslaying knight, you believe that I became guilty of actively burning down all the huts in the villiage (and, I suppose, you credit me with actively rebuilding them as well).

    The characters only are the way they are because the author willed them to be that way and they only do what they do because they were willed by the author to do such a thing.

    You might well say that we can sin “only” because God created us; but that’s not quite true. It’s correct that God’s creation is necessary to our sin, but it’s not sufficient. It’s not “only” because of God’s will that we sin; our will is sinfully involved, without which we would not be sinning.

    I think this essentially confirms my assertion that the Calvinistic universe is essentially a giant Rupe Goldberg machine where all that is going on is an endless chain of cause and effect.

    No purpose, no glory, no God? You’re missing more than a few things which are present in the Calvinistic universe. Aside from those: what’s wrong with cause and effect? Moral actions have effects; why shouldn’t they have causes?

    -Wm

  25. Cheryl, I asked that with a stated purpose, and you answered the minimal question but ignored the purpose. Do you believe that finding a self-contradiction in a document disproves the entire document? Do you believe that it disproves the entire “system” which the document describes?

    I don’t think that’s the case, unless the document professes to be prophetic.

    -Wm

  26. Wm,

    I’m afraid I don’t at all get the point of your question.

    To me a self contradiction might prove the author to be confused himself on a point, so that maybe whatever he said on that particular issue couldn’t be used in either refuting or upholding his stance. It wouldn’t bring down the entire system, it would only show that maybe he didn’t know what this point was himself in regard to the system!

    Now if you are trying to show that someone certainly believed something based on one quote alone, and they contradict themselves in that point, then you are going to have a hard time. However that is not the case here. There were enough other quotes given which effectively said the same thing in my mind that I was not resting my case on that one quote at all.

  27. Cheryl, my point is that even if you managed to prove a contradiction with Calvin’s text (which is a harder thing to do than you’re pretending, since all you’ve done is present the text without comment or discussion!), your stated goal was: “just for the record, I am trying to point out the problems I see with Calvinism as a whole, not just with one man’s particular “take” on it.

    Yet all you’re doing AT MOST is proving that Calvin didn’t understand “Calvinism” well enough to avoid a simple textually obvious contradiction. That doesn’t “point out the problems with” the entire system; it merely points out problems with Calvin’s take on the system.

    And I also have to stress that it’s harder to prove textual contradictions than you think it is. For example, did Moses contradict himself when he said “thou shalt not kill” and then later ordered that people guilty of certain crimes be killed? He used the same Hebrew word both times…

    Note that I’m not bothering to defend Calvin here; I don’t in the least care. Once you bring an actual charge I might be interested, so long as you’re making reasonable conclusions from the charge. “Calvin contradicted himself” is interesting, since he’s a great and influential writer, but if true it would prove only that Calvin contradicted himself.

    -Wm

  28. 1. Was the universe determined in such a manner that at this point in time you would believe Calvinism to be truthful?
    2. Was the universe determined in such a manner taht at this point in time I would believe Calvinism to be untruthful?

    Your question assumes that the cause of our disagreement is exclusively the past history of the universe (which is purely physical). I do not belive that reality is purely physical. However, let me interpret your question to include all of reality. I don’t think we’ll disagree at this point, I just wanted to prevent you from accusing me of physicalism.

    Then, consider the following premises:

    1. God knows all facts from beginning to the end of time, and He knew them at the beginning. (Claim: God’s Omniscience)
    2. God does not know both a fact and its contradiction at the same time and in the same way. (Law: Non-Contradiction)
    3. An event is fully determined if, given the same facts, it could not have happened otherwise. (Definition: Determinism)
    4. An event that in fact happens would contradict the fact of the event happening otherwise. (Definition: Event Contradiction)
    5. We are actually having this disagreement now. (Claim: Obvious)

    Therefore:

    6. God knew from the beginning of time that we would have this argument right now. (Derivation from “Obvious” and “Omniscience”)
    7. God knew from the beginning of time that we would not NOT have this argument right now. (Derivation from #6 and “Non-Contradiction”)

    Finally:

    8. Given #6 and #7, it follows that the answer to your question must be “yes”.

    -Wm

  29. Wm,
    “Calvin contradicted himself” and the whole discussion of that quote was to me, only a little piece of my argument. My point was NOT at all that Calvin contradicted himself by the way. My point was that, although Calvin at one point said God was not the author of sin, in another place he made that point in those exact words and seemed to come back to it after the contradiction. Bringing up the contradiction was to simply state that possibly he was being misunderstood here. BUT, the other quotes listed very strongly supported that was what he beleived as far as I could tell and that God is indeed the cause of sin in people since he works in their affections and will anything he wants to happen so as to bring it to pass and no one can resist that will. And THAT was and is the major point of my whole argument. Please quite tryng to make one small point of my argument the whole argument. And quit trying to make me say that Calvin contradicting himself brought down the whole system. For the last time, (I hope! :) ) that is not what I was saying!

    By the way, did you really read my last comment? From what you have just said, I seriously wonder!

    This whole discussion has become circular, frustrating, and totally ridiculous.

  30. Wm,

    Just to clarify something from my last comment as I didn’t get it edited.

    Calvin’s quotes said that God works in people’s wills and affections so that they do exactly what He wants them to do. I added that part about not being able to resist His will. That is the part where I, like Michael T, see people as becoming robots because when He makes us both to desire to do something and to will to do something in a way that will guarantee that His will gets done, how do we have any choice in the matter?? Sure you can say we do it because WE want to and because WE will to–but the reason we want to and will to is that He has made us to do so. That becomes even more pronounced when you consider that we do it because it is our nature and we can do nothing but sin because of that nature as you keep saying. Remember, we did not choose our nature either. We were born with it. And for the non elect in this system, they have no choice and no possible way to become anything else other then the way they were born.

    1. A person is born with a sin nature through no choice of their own.

    2. A person can do nothing but sin because of that nature.

    3. The person has no way to get away from that nature as salvation and release from that nature is delilberately with held from him

    4. God works in that person’s affections and will in a way that it guarantees his purpose will be done. In other words He makes him desire to do it, and will to do it.

    5. No one can resist God’s working. He is completely sovereign and what He has determined will come to pass.

    (Besides all of that, some Calvinists believe God determined before creation that this person would be a sinner and stuck with this nature that he can’t get away from.)

    Where and how in all of that does this person really make any choice of his own??

  31. WM,

    Perhaps I should clarify my question. Given the past events of the universe and the interventions of God in it is there anyway you could have believed anything other than the truth of Calvinism at this point in time? In other words was there an independent, transcendent choice on your part to believe the truth of Calvinist outside pure cause and effect or the intervention of God? Or put another way still was it the will and command of God that at this moment in time you believe Calvinism to be true?

  32. WM

    1. “Let me get this right: you believe that Shakespeare is a murderer.”

    If Shakespeare had the ability and in fact did actualize all of the characters and events in his book then yes, he is a muderer. Unless you are saying we are all nothing but thoughts in the mind of God and reality doesn’t truly exist then God did in fact actualize the characters and events in his story.

    2. “It’s not “only” because of God’s will that we sin; our will is sinfully involved, without which we would not be sinning.”

    Yet, if one is to believe the quotes of Calvin above and another sermon I heard by John Piper, God wills that we will to sin. So the will itself is determined by God.

    3. “No purpose, no glory, no God? You’re missing more than a few things which are present in the Calvinistic universe.”

    Almost sounds like an argument Arminians make against Calvinism.

    4. “Aside from those: what’s wrong with cause and effect? Moral actions have effects; why shouldn’t they have causes?”

    Of course moral actions have a cause. The issue is whether or not that cause has a transcendent nature to it (e.g. LFW) or is simply the effect of past causes.

  33. I found an even awesomer self-contradiction from Calvin, by the way:

    (from the blog ‘exotesparemboles‘)

    By nature I love brevity…
    I found this on PAGE 685 (!) of volume 1 in The Institutes of the Christian Religion.

    -Wm

  34. William,

    I completely and totally give up! If all you can focus on here is contradictions in Calvin’s quotes which I have told you repeatedly was not my point at all, what on earth is the point of trying to have a discussion with you at all.

  35. Man i no more a active agent then a bacteria.

    A bacteria is an active agent in what it does. Did you mean to say “moral agent”? Yes, bacteria are not moral agents; but men are moral agents.

    God is the one who authored the desires and will (read programming) which causes man to act the way he does. We only appear to have the capacity of independent thought.

    No, humans in general actually have the capacity of independant thought. This is objectively testable. Bacteria do not. Part of the reason that bacteria are not moral agents is that they objectively lack the ability to reason, therefore lack the ability to reason morally.

    3. “God authors evil into His story in order to complete the story, not in order to commit evil. Man performs the evil for the sake of the evil act, and intending precisely to execute it in disregard of God.”
    Only because God authored the man in such a way as to desire to commit the evil act. Not because man chose to.

    It is completely false to say that man sins “only because” God programmed him to. You might as well say that man sins “only because” God created him. Actually, man sins because he _desires_ to sin, and his desires lead him to _choose_ to sin. I think the Bible makes it clear that man sins because he desires the fruit of the sin more than he wants God.

    The ultimate cause of human sin is indeed God’s act of creation, and prior to that, God’s decree of salvation (because the Bible says God chose us from eternity — I’m not trying to prove individual election, by the way). But this is not the proximate cause of human sin, nor is it the moral cause. We sin because we want to. We reason morally — and reach immoral conclusions — because we hate the truth.

    Criminals don’t get to blame their parents, even if their parents were lousy. Even if their parents were _criminal_, it’s not an excuse.

  36. Moderator’s,

    Can anyone tell me how a comment that I requested deletion of because I decided it was inappropirate to post (my last comment) ended up here anyway??

  37. WM,

    I feel like we are talking in circles here.

    1. I say God is the proximate cause of man sinning.
    2. You say God is not the proximate cause only a remote cause and man makes the choice to sin.
    3. I respond that God worked the will and desires of man as well as the circumstances to ensure man sinned. So for instance if man loves the fruits of sin more then God it is only because God ordained that it be so and worked the events of the universe in such a way that it would be so. From the perspective of man, man chooses to sin, but from a transcendent perspective he sins because God worked in him a will and desires which did not permit him to do otherwise.
    4. You simply reassert number 2.

    BTW the criminals parent doesn’t have the power to inescapably destine the works of the child. They can influence and make them a probability, but no irrevocably ordain them as God can.

  38. It seems to me that maybe why this discussion seems to keep going in circles here is that we are using fundamentally different definitions of the word “choice” here whether we are talking about LFW choice or not.

    To those of us like Michael and myself, choice necessitates more then one option and the ability to choose more then one option. If there is no ability to choose differently because of limitations of nature (over which we have no say) or God working the choice in our heart in a way to be sure we do His will, that is not choice as we understand the word.

    To you folks of the Calvinist persuasion, it seems you believe we really choose to do something on our own even if no other option or possiblitiy is available to us. At least that is the way this whole thing appears to me. Yes? No?

  39. Wait. Everyone stop for a minute. This is the crux of this debate:

    “Sure you can say we do it because WE want to and because WE will to–but the reason we want to and will to is that He has made us to do so.”

    Cheryl,

    I have said it before, you are confusing God indirectly causing a person to do action X with God making/forcing a person AGAINST THEIR WILL to do action X. Our point is that the person wants to do it precisely because he or she has been separated from a salvific relationship with God and wants only to worship him or herself. God then takes that desire and uses it for his purposes, so that the desire to sin is used to produce the action he desires to occur in history (not that he morally desires). You can say with Michael that God set things up that the Fall would occur, but that is still the humans wanting to choose that action. God is not making them do it against their wills, nor is He giving them no other choice. He is giving them choices, but knows perfectly well what they will choose in this or that situation. He then causes that situation to occur and the influences thereof to bring about the desired result. NONE of it is something the man would not have chosen for himself on his own if those circumstances and influences had been divorced from God’s involvement. I think that’s an important point.

    OK, I think I’ve run the course in trying to explain, so I’m going to bow out now. Thanks again to everyone for the good discussion.

  40. Hodge,

    Yes, that is the way you see it obviously. The quotes from Calvin however that I brought up (#137) and the sermon from Piper that Michael spoke of tell a different story. And remember, we are not trying to debate just you and Wm as much as you want us to do so!

    In those quotes from Calvin he said that, the ungodly are reined in by God, so that they cannot conceive, plan or carry out any crime, unless God allows it, indeed commands it. They are not only in bondage to him, but are forced to serve him. Notice He commands it.

    And this: Whence that which I have just stated is perfectly plain: that the internal affections of men are not less ruled by the hand of God than their external actions are preceded by His eternal decree; and, moreover, that God performs not by the hands of men the things which He has decreed, without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform.

    (Read the above comments for the quotes in a larger context.)

    He commands it and works in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform.

    He also says that God is the supreme and primary cause of all things

    So yes they do it with their will, but it is a will that God gave them so they would do it and moreover He commanded it to be done in Calvin’s theology! The very will that makes them do what they do is put there by God–it is His will put into them and He commands that the action be done. So again, WHAT CHOICE DO THEY REALLY HAVE??

  41. Caps used for emphasis only in my last comment.

  42. Hodge,

    I think part of the problem is that you and WM don’t completely believe the same thing and you and Calvin don’t completely believe the same thing. Thus me and Cheryl are trying to debate a dozen different positions which believe me is as frustrating for us as it is frustrating to you. At the end of the day though, absent a transcendent choice by a human being to sin at some point in the chain there is only cause and effect with God being the first cause knowing and willing that those effects come about. Now if you claim there is such a choice then you are ultimately claiming LFW of a sort (humans though bound to follow their desires given an event occuring still made a free and independent transcendant choice as to how past actions effected those desires and thus are responsible for the content of their desires since the nature of their desires was not predestined, though was certainly foreknown by God). However, if one claims that the content of our desires was predestined by God then we are back to the earlier analysis (and this is what Calvin at least seems to indicate).

  43. I haven’t quite figured out why neither Hodge nor Wm seem very eager at all to discuss what Calvin said or believed. Unless it is because you guys simply do not agree with him?

    It seems to me that it is only reasonable in discussing any theological system of belief to discuss what the founder of the system taught and believed and what is believed to one degree or another by Calvinists today.

  44. I haven’t quite figured out why neither Hodge nor Wm seem very eager at all to discuss what Calvin said or believed. Unless it is because you guys simply do not agree with him?

    No; because there’s no point in “discussing” an isolated passage in the way you’re demanding. There’s simply not enough to discuss. You’re free to invest your energy into parsing and diagramming those paragraphs if you really want; but there are actual people out here who have read the entire book, believe it, and are willing to discuss it with you, as a whole.

    Let’s suppose we all agreed perfectly that Calvin was wrong in those passages. So what? The people who believe his philosophy would cross out those passages and keep believing.

    If you could get Calvin to apologize that would be interesting, but he can’t.

    I’m glad, BTW, that proving a contradiction isn’t your sole purpose. I’d actually thought it was.

    -Wm

  45. At the end of the day though, absent a transcendent choice by a human being to sin at some point in the chain there is only cause and effect with God being the first cause knowing and willing that those effects come about.

    Yes, I agree; and I’m fine with that. There may or may not be some kind of “transcendent choice”; I don’t know, and the Bible doesn’t say. But everything else I quoted you as saying is Biblical. Yes, there is cause and effect. Yes, God is the First Cause. Yes, God controls all things. You can deny or assert some transcendent human will (or simply admit that you don’t know), but you still have to admit that God is sovereign over all; not because it’s a philosophical conclusion (although it is), but because it’s explicitly revealed.

    -Wm

  46. I completely agree that God is in complete control. He even said himself in Isaiah that he makes peace and creates evil. God is ultimately responsible for all things. He works all things according to the purpose of his own will. I personally am thankful that he is in complete control. I’d be in trouble if I didn’t.

  47. Perhaps I should clarify my question.

    Was my reply that terrible? I was pretty proud of it :-). I still am, and I don’t understand why you’re repeating your question below. I’ll try to answer, but I ask that you respond to my previous reply — is my logic wrong? Which proposition do you deny?

    Given the past events of the universe and the interventions of God in it is there anyway you could have believed anything other than the truth of Calvinism at this point in time?

    My previous post answered this “no”.

    In other words was there an independent, transcendent choice on your part to believe the truth of Calvinist outside pure cause and effect or the intervention of God?

    Is there a transcendent choice: I don’t know. How could I know?

    Outside pure cause: I can’t possibly reason without cause and effect. Sorry, no answer.

    Without God: If I said in my heart “there is no God”, I’d be a fool. (I do well enough at that without ASKING for it.) Sorry, no answer.

    (Your other rephrasings I could give a clear answer to. This one I’m completely useless on. Not for lack of understanding, although I’d welcome an explanation of why the transcendence of the will matters so much to you.)

    Or put another way still was it the will and command of God that at this moment in time you believe Calvinism to be true?

    I don’t know what God’s plan is for the future, but I know that his plan is taking place right now. So yes.

    Now, unlike some Calvinists I don’t claim to know that God decreed from eternity past that we’d have this discussion right at this time. I simply don’t know that, although I think it’s a reasonable from a purely philosophical point of view.

    -Wm

  48. WM,

    OK fair enough. Here’s is my question. If you believe Calvinism (or anything else for that matter) ultimately because you were determined by external forces (by which I mean an external force engineered the universe in such a manner that it was impossible for you to believe anything other than Calvinism) to believe Calvinism (whether that be by God or some immaterial cause and effect) then why have any confidence whatsoever that what you were determined by external forces to believe is true. One could say that you reasoned your way to it from Scripture, but you were simply determined by a external force to believe that your reasoning from Scripture was accurate. In addition the system of logic you used to reason from Scripture you were also determined to believe by an external force. So why have any confidence whatsoever that that external force determined you to believe the truth?? Now you can say that God doesn’t lie, but you again only believe God doesn’t lie because you were determined to believe that He doesn’t lie.

    Just to be clear this is not an objection directly to Calvinism or determinism for that matter. It simply is to raise the issue that if determinism (of any kind – soft or hard) is true as you have asserted it is an epistemic impossibility to claim to “know” anything since what you think you know you were simply determined by external forces to know and there is no reason to think that those external forces determined you to believe the truth (btw this is also an objection to naturalism in a different form – see the Evolutionary ARgument Against Naturalism).

  49. Wm,

    So, you couldn’t of believed anything at this very moment but that Calvinism is true because this is God’s will and command for you right now. Am I understanding what you said above correctly?

    It doesn’t sound to me like there is any choice given you there. Do you believe you had a choice?

    If you believe men make a choice when they decide to sin, can you please explain to me how that works any differently then God’s determing you will believe Calvinism at this point?

    Or is His sovereignty only exercised in such meticulous form in the case of the elect and not in the case of the reprobate?

  50. Wm,

    I need to restate part of my last comment. As I reread what you said above, it sounds like you don’t know if you had any choice. Given what you said you do believe though, it doesn’t sound to me like you could have choice.

    Hodge keeps stating that the non elect make their own choices to sin–they do so because it is their will to do so.

    I guess what I am trying to find out is if that is what you believe too, and if it is, how does that fit with the way you believe things are determined for you?

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