God’s Sovereignty in Single Predestination

The calvinists hold on to the doctrine of eternal reprobation citing that this upholds the pillar of truth of God’s sovereignty. But how exactly does it do that? They reply, God’s sovereignty is upheld when He has the first and last word, ie when He isn’t dependent on any other for the initiation and fulfillment of His own desires – so when God commands man to repent and believe and be saved, God does not depend on man to choose to do so but instead man is to depend on God to choose him unto salvation. Yes, that would explain the nature of sovereignty in unconditional election – but the question remains, how does it explain eternal reprobation?

Why is there equal symmetry applied to the nature of choice when election and reprobation themselves are not at all equally symmetric? In other words, while it is acceptable to uphold God’s choosing man to be saved and not man first choosing God – why is it equally necessary for God to be first rejecting man to perish and not man rejecting God? In fact, as seen in the earlier post on the nature of reprobation, R.C. Sproul has been quoted where he quite clearly maintains that there is a positive-negative symmetry between election and reprobation. While God is active in election unto good and salvation, He merely passively passes over the active evil in man, leaving him in such reprobation unto condemnation.

Therefore, given that God does not cause evil / unbelief in man, it is imperative that the evil of unbelief in man is the preceding condition to his reprobation by God. And given that election is unconditional, its inverse should be unconditional too – requiring reprobation to not have any preceding conditions, which however is in direct contradiction to the earlier statement. Therefore reprobation is neither unconditional, nor an eternal decree until man commits evil.

Does this then nullify God’s sovereignty – not at all. The problem lies here – since God as first cause/determiner of everything makes Him sovereign, it creates a dilemma in those trying to uphold the pillar of God’s sovereignty. How do they make God the first determiner of man’s rejecting God in unbelief – they are forced to uphold the logically and scripturally inconsistent doctrine of reprobation for want of options. This is not to say that the Arminian doctrine is correct either – God is not waiting with bated breath to see which way the human soul would incline. This is no sovereignty of God in Him simply delegating sovereignty to man, for man is given the ultimate choice here. Rather, God has perfect knowledge that apart from Him, no man shall turn towards Him. The single predestiner simply believes that God does not consider such knowledge being factored in His electing, in order that every mouth be stopped and that He may be justified in not being a respecter of persons based on the good or evil done by them.

How then does one uphold God’s sovereignty by making Him the first determiner of man’s disobedience/unbelief apart from eternal reprobation and apart from God’s delegating sovereignty to man in an open theistic sense? How can God desire that the non-elect be saved and yet have it not amount to a disappointing helpless unfulfilled desire? Quite simply by allowing for totally depraved flesh to be ‘free’ to choose for itself, knowing full well its inevitable failure, and yet manifesting your perfect inclination/desire by doing everything (repeated commanding,exhorting) from your end to aid such flesh to obey – all with the intent to prove to such flesh the justification of God’s judgement and to demonstrate the glory of God in perfectly saving the elect being birthed from above by God in the spirit contrasted against the utter perishing of the non-elect in the flesh by their own doing.

Essentially, God purposes to demonstrate what He is capable of against what the creature is capable of. Given creational entropy, the fall of the creature is a certainty. This raises two scenarios – one where God works in the creature to preserve from the fall and one where the creature works self-deterministically. These two scenarios are played out in the elect and non-elect angels. Again,  given the fall, there are two scenarios regarding the redemption of the creature – one where God works in the creature to redeem from the fall and one where the creature works self-deterministically. And these two scenarios are played out in the elect and non-elect humans. The final results are there for all to see – without God, it is impossible for the creature to be saved. But note, this is an after-the-fact conclusion based on the total depravity of the creature and not one fore-decreed or caused by God.

Therefore, while salvation is on account of unconditional election, it’s incorrect to hold on to eternal reprobation as occurring at the same time – and Single Predestination is consistent in upholding both the above horns of truth simultaneously.

 

Is calvinistic reprobation truly eternal and unconditional?

When it comes to the belief systems of the calvinists and the arminians, it is commonly perceived that arminian theology is more pleasant to accept while calvinism is logically undeniable. Even arminians have been found to grudgingly accept that the calvinists’ system of beliefs does seem logically airtight, though intolerable. And yes, while calvinism has captured the truth in many important doctrines, it does have its limitations in the doctrine of eternal unconditional reprobation or double predestination. From where then does it get its logical credence?

To answer that, we must first acknowledge that Logic too is a reflection of the glory of God – and hence we must embrace and support the calvinists using such logic to draw out the right observations, and correct them where they misstep into the wrong conclusions. Secondly, we must be clear ourselves on what exactly we are refuting – it is specifically unconditional reprobation that we hold as untrue. This has been termed double predestination, though a case can be made for why even this term is still a misnomer.

For the ‘double’ of predestination arises only from perhaps faulty logic in the first place. It is true that God did choose the elect unconditionally before the foundation of the world and as valid corollary, it is true that there are the non-elect from before the foundation of the world who are the rest apart from the elect. And it is true that God did predestine the elect unto salvation – and as corollary, it is true that the remaining non-elect were not predestined unto salvation. But here’s where it probably went wrong. An invalid corollary is wrongly assumed – that the non-elect not being predestined to salvation is the same as them being predestined to reprobation.

Note, it is not the doctrine of reprobation as such that is being refuted – for even the single predestiner believes that many are reprobate because of their evil disobedience toward God. It is more specifically the doctrine of unconditional reprobation of non-elect man before the foundation of the world that is being questioned – for how can man be decreed reprobate before the evil of unbelief has been committed, and if the evil has been factored into the decree of reprobation, then how is it unconditional?

So it is only the predestination part that is untrue of reprobation – God shut no doors on the non-elect being offered mercy before the foundation of the world, neither did He hate them from eternity before they had done any good or evil. He simply made no comment on their destiny at that point in time. (Romans 9 will be reconciled in a later post). The calvinist may then ask if the single predestiner believes that the non-elect can somehow escape through the opened door and be saved – and the answer is a vehement No. None of the non-elect will finally be saved, and that is because of their own evil in totally depraved flesh and not on account of an eternal decree to reprobate them. To say God reprobated them on the basis of their total depravity is to refute Rom 9:11 which states that God does not consider any good or evil done by any creature during His electing.

To see the internal contradiction within calvinism concerning this one doctrine of eternal reprobation, one need look only at the sub-denominations of supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. The former believe that God’s election and reprobation occurred in His mind before He considered the fall of man – while the latter believe it occurred logically after the consideration of the fall. The supras question the contradiction in the infras’ position given Rom 9:11 which refutes that God could factor in any good or evil of the creature in its election. And the infras question the contradiction in the supras’ position where Rom 9:15 mercy is rendered irrelevant when no evil has been committed yet – and in fact makes God quite sadistic to decree a fall with no initiation by the creature just so that He can have mercy upon them.

As seen in the article “Double” Predestination by R.C. Sproul,

If the decree of reprobation were made without a view to the fall, then the objection to double predestination would be valid and God would be properly charged with being the author of sin. But Reformed theologians have been careful to avoid such a blasphemous notion.

Though RC Sproul is careful to maintain a “positive-negative” symmetry between election and reprobation – where God is active in unconditional election but passively permits the evil by man to be the basis of His decreeing reprobation – is there logical validity to it in the case of mankind? The symmetric complement of unconditional election is unconditional reprobation, but even Sproul concedes that reprobation without a view to the fall (the condition) is blasphemous.

In the case of the angels, where there is simply a fall unto condemnation with no offer of redemption, this “view to the fall” can be derived consistently from the doctrine of creational entropy (any creature that is not God will eventually inevitably fall short of the Glory of God). And this is why the Single Predestiner is not against the doctrine of double predestination as such, for it too does show forth the glory of God as manifested in His election of angels unto perfect preservation from the fall. The issue is with extending this same doctrine to mankind too when Scripture does not say so. This is not so much as feeling good about ourselves or about favoring mankind but about being faithful to the truth about God as revealed in Scriptures.

In the case of mankind, there is a fall from having been created good AND there is an offer of redemption from the fall. Man, both elect and non-elect, have been commanded to receive justification by faith – and both again disobey and continue in the condemnation of the fall (the elect alone then being redeemed by grace, having been predestined to salvation). So in effect, it is this disobedience of man that God uses to decree him reprobate and not rather the eternal decree of God preceding the disobedience.

So, the double predestination of the angels is not the same as with man, since the view to the fall of the angels can be derived from just the attributes of God without considering the specific good or evil by the creature (creational entropy) – whereas to decree reprobation of man without being the author of sin or unbelief, God, in addition to the fall, also needs to factor in the self-determined unbelief of mankind into election – which essentially amounts to considering the specific evil by man, refuting Rom 9:11. (Unlike deriving the view to the fall from a doctrine of creational entropy without consideration of specific evil, there is no equivalent doctrine to derive the inevitable unbelief of man. Only the doctrine of total depravity explains it, which however necessitates consideration of one’s specific evil). Alternately, the only way eternal reprobation can be maintained is by proving that God never intended to offer redemption to the non-elect, which is what I suppose the calvinists maintain through the doctrine of limited atonement.

While I do believe in limited atonement, I hold it to atonement alone and not the offer of redemption itself – the universal offer of redemption goes out to both elect and non-elect, both reject it, God of His mercy regenerates and births the elect of the Holy Spirit to now be justified through faith by grace while the non-elect reject themselves worthy of salvation and are reprobate in unbelief. And only those in the faith are atoned for, thereby limiting the atonement to only the elect. But God did offer redemption to all, even the non-elect, in the very Gospel that is preached to them, showing forth His intent that the non-elect too be saved.

And the only way to reconcile God’s desiring the non-elect to repent and live while having decreed them to perish in their fall is to hold a variant of the two wills of God theory – which has been disproved in the previous post, for lack of logical validity. This leaves only the single predestination belief system to be logically consistent and scripturally faithful.

Refuting the two wills of God theory in unconditional reprobation

It is apparent in Scriptures that God desires all the world to repent and be saved. And yet the calvinist doctrine of reprobation contradicts God’s desire for all mankind to be saved – for if before the foundation of the world, God has decreed eternally that some would definitively perish, how can God then desire these very perishing people to be saved?

The calvinist response is typified in this excerpt by John Piper titled “Are there two wills in God?”. Again to be noted, I am immensely enriched by many of Piper’s works and this post is meant to be more a shared study of truth than to discredit his important and necessary work in his article. For his intent is clearly laid out –

…I will try to make a credible case that while the Arminian pillar texts may indeed be pillars for universal love, nevertheless they are not weapons against unconditional election…In fact I think Arminians have erred in trying to take pillars of universal love and make them into weapons against electing grace.

This is the crux of the problem between Calvinism and Arminianism – the pillar of God’s Sovereignty seemingly at odds with the pillar of God’s universal Love. And if our theologians are striving to reconcile both, that is indeed a worthy effort. Just as Piper has rightly noted that the arminians have erred in setting one pillar of truth against the other, arminianism likewise views the calvinists as guilty of committing the same error. Of course, if Piper is successful in ably defending the doctrine of reprobation by reconciling it simultaneously with God’s universal love, then all is well. However, if it is found to fall short of the logical consistencies that we know God perfectly holds, then it is necessary we re-examine our belief system.

As the argument goes – in many parts of Scripture, God wills one thing by commanding it, and simultaneously He wills a contradictory thing by decreeing this opposite other thing – thereby proving that God can have two wills of which He decrees the will that would lead to greater manifestation of His glory to play out in reality. For instance, God commands Pharaoh to let His people go, therein reflecting His will in that – and yet He also decrees that Pharaoh’s heart be hardened not to let His people go, which reflects a simultaneous contradictory will of God. And hence, the argument can be made that God could command the non-elect to repent and believe, willing them to be saved – and yet simultaneously decree that they be hardened against obedience to the Gospel and be reprobate unto the greater manifestation of His glory.

Firstly, though conceptually correct, we could do better on the ‘two will’ language – it is technically inconceivable that God can have multiple contradictory wills, as if He can have any variance in Him. The English translations of Scriptures does not convey with consistency the original words – the greek words thelēma (desire) and boulē (counsel) are both translated as “will”, leading to the confusion. Let us hold both words distinct always.

In a perfect world, God would counsel to work out His desire without any internal conflict – and therefore what He has desired and what He has counselled would be one and the same. But factoring in fallen self-deterministic man, there are now two desires – God’s desire and man’s desire – at play. God, who is sovereign, must counsel which of the two desires He will decree to be worked out. Again, this would be determined by a preceding higher desire of God, which would be the basis on which God counsels now. And the preceding higher desire of God could go back tracing all the way to His first desire ie purpose which would be the greatest manifestation of His glory.

So if we were to replace the “two will” language with the “desire and counsel” language, we’d be saying that God desires Pharaoh to let go of His people, and Pharaoh desires not to let go of them, and God’s preceding higher desire to make His power known to all nations was the basis of God counselling to decree Pharaoh’s disobedience to come to pass. Similarly, God desires the Jews to be saved, but the Jews desire to remain in unbelief, and God’s preceding higher desire to bring the fullness of the gentiles in through the jews’ disobedience and to set these gentiles as the means to later bring mercy upon the jews, is the basis on which God counsels to decree the unbelief of the jews for this time.

Extending this, God desires all mankind to repent and believe and be saved, but no man desires to obey the Gospel. God’s preceding greater desire to show forth His glory to the elect vessels of mercy aforeprepared unto glory, is the basis on which God counsels to decree the reprobation of the non-elect vessels of wrath which are completed for destruction because of their unbelief. Note, every counsel of God that runs contrary to His desire must necessarily involve the fallen creature’s desire of disobedience, which would eventually amount to the fulfillment of God’s preceding greater desire. There is no scenario where God’s counsel runs contrary to His own desires in the absence of factoring in the fallen creature’s desires – ie God’s desires are not self-contradictory. God’s one desire is never to the exclusion of any of His earlier desires, as if there is any need for God to have a rethink.

Therefore, comparing God’s eternal decree of reprobation, as the calvinists put it, with God’s two wills concerning Pharaoh is flawed. God’s desire for Pharaoh to let His people go does not run contrary to any other of God’s desires. But if God has already desired to eternally decree the reprobation of the non-elect before the foundation of the world, it is impossible for God to then desire their salvation in any sense contrary to His earlier desire.

Consequently, if one wishes to faithfully hold on to the pillar of God’s universal love as seen in Scriptures, they must denounce the doctrine of unconditional reprobation or God’s eternal decree of reprobation before the foundation of the world. While reprobation is true, God decrees it conditionally upon the disobedience of the non-elect and not prior to that. If God desires the non-elect to be saved through the Gospel of Christ, He does not reprobate them prior to their unbelief.

Hence, Single Predestination is the only consistent belief system that holds the above conditional reprobation of the non-elect as well as upholding God’s sovereign election and predestination of the elect unto salvation that is completely unconditional.

 

The Logic of Single Predestination

Single Predestination, of course, runs counter to Double Predestination – and the prevailing notion over these doctrines is that it’s ‘either Double or Nothing’. Any believer faithful to Scriptures would necessarily have to believe in the doctrines of Election and Predestination, and when presented with only a Double or Nothing dilemma, one would always be inclined to pick Double, despite the inhibitions there.

And this is where Single Predestination captures the truth perfectly – while still upholding the Scriptural doctrines of unconditional election and predestination, it rejects the human-inferred doctrine of eternal reprobation of man. I would imagine everyone to unite on this truth gladly since this reconciles both sides – the one who wants to uphold the eternal decree of election of those being saved, and the one who wants to reject the eternal decree of reprobation of those perishing. In its true scope, this doctrine has the potential to end the last 500 years’ divide between calvinism and arminianism.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It has now been widely accepted (though erroneously) that though Single Predestination might serve pacifist uses, it lacks the logic of Double Predestination and hence ought to be rejected. I’ll use just one resource as reference to typify this argument – R.C. Sproul has shared a very focused article titled “Double” Predestination on the Ligonier Ministries site.

Note, in critiquing this particular argument of RC Sproul, I am in no way diminishing the intent and value of all his works, including this. I have immense respect for all such teachers and this very article is meant to be more a call to unite in truth than to divide in error. Secondly, I hold no issues against the very concept of Double Predestination itself – since it too upholds God’s Sovereignty and is clearly seen in God’s dealing with the elect and non-elect angels. The issue here is specific to being faithful to Scriptures. If Scriptures had revealed that God had dealt likewise with man, I would rejoice in that truth – but if Scriptures reveal an array of God’s Glory in both the Double predestination of the angels and the Single predestination of mankind, why not rejoice in this truth?

Concerning that very article of RC Sproul, he builds a seemingly airtight argument of “resistless logic” against Single predestination. In that, this is the one premise that would need to be further debated.

If… all salvation is based upon the eternal election of God and not all men are elect from eternity, does that not mean that from eternity there are non-elect who most certainly will not be saved?

The system of logic employed here contains 2 premises and 1 conclusion following them – But the logic system is not complete. It doesn’t factor in various other dependent premises. And more importantly, the first part is not in itself a premise, but rather a conclusion. The Single Predestiner would adhere to the following system –

  1. Some are the elect from eternity, predestined to be redeemed and conformed to the Image of Christ. The rest are non-elect and without any specific destiny decreed.
  2. It follows, Not all men are elect from eternity.
  3. Salvation is offered to both elect and non-elect in the Gospel of Christ through Faith.
  4. Both elect and non-elect reject the Offer of Salvation and are deserving of condemnation.
  5. God has mercy upon the elect and regenerates them and births them of the Holy Spirit unto salvation through faith, in accordance with their predestination – while the rest have self-determined to die in their own sins.
  6. It follows, that from eternity the elect are saved while none of the non-elect self-determine to be saved across the timescale.
  7. Therefore, All salvation is based upon the eternal election of God.
  8. It also follows that instead of from eternity, it is from their rejection of the Gospel that the non-elect most certainly are not saved.

Thus, “single” predestination can be consistently maintained only within the framework of universalism or some sort of qualified Arminianism. If particular election is to be maintained and if the notion that all salvation is ultimately based upon that particular election is to be maintained, then we must speak of double predestination.

As seen from the above system, Single Predestination rejects universalism and does not believe any man is in reality qualified to contribute in any part to attaining salvation. The single predestiner also believes in particular election and that only the elect are saved. If at all any of the arminian beliefs are accommodated here, it’s that of the non-elect perishing because of their unbelief (John 3:19-20, Heb 3:19) – which the single predestiner believes is inevitable for all the non-elect on account of the total depravity/inability of the flesh.

Therefore, it is still logical to reject the doctrine of eternal reprobation without compromising on any of the other reformed truths. Further possible objections will be handled in future posts.

 

 

One Body, One Spirit, One Lord, One Faith…

This is a poignant moment in time when we find ourselves at a landmark 500 years after the Reformation. And while we have much cause to celebrate the reclaiming of several precious truths, are we to also rue the various denominational divisions that have lasted these many years among us Protestants. Having been united by the same love for the truth (eg: the five solas),  how have we been unable to be of one Mind for this long?

As much as a pacifist that I am, this article is more about being faithful to the Scriptures – and I guess that’s where the problem lies. The irreconcilable differences between say Calvinists and Arminians do not arise from gross error but from the slip-ups in each one’s otherwise very sincere attempts to be absolutely faithful to the written Word. So yes, I acknowledge I could just be adding yet another sincere but flawed attempt : to reconcile all of Scripture that could potentially unite all of us under the same doctrine – and therefore it should not matter how sincere the writer seems to be but whether the contents match up to the truth, consistency and glory of God’s revelations of Himself in the Bible.

Intrigued by the wonderful inspiring reformers from both calvinist and arminian camps, I have wondered how both couldn’t find themselves on exactly the same page – case in point, John Wesley and George Whitefield. The simple explanation from each camp is that the other unfortunately has gotten a critical doctrine terribly wrong. But what if each camp has gotten different but equally important truths exactly right but have missed a step in simple human logic to uphold them both simultaneously, which then got exacerbated by building more and more on that error with only the intent to hold on to the precious truth they each saw, until we now have a yawning gap to bridge.

How then do we reconcile Calvinism and Arminianism? How do we reconcile the Supralapsarian and the Infralapsarian? Is it Double Predestination or Single Predestination? I’d propose we trace each doctrinal position back to its root and evaluate that against Scriptures – and if there is any independent truth there, we should simply hold it as true without immediately rejecting it based on our inability to reconcile it with our existing beliefs. Working down from the root, we’d do well to identify the points of conflict and see if it arises from a direct contradiction in Scriptures or if it’s mere human reasoning, which very well could be faulty.

For example, tracing the Calvinist and Arminian conflict to its roots – we find that calvinism contrasted Justification by Faith alone against the Roman Church’s reluctance to the ‘alone’ qualifier. This was a precious truth to be upheld continually. They found additional supporting material in reclaiming from Scriptures the doctrine of Total Depravity or Inability of the Flesh. They now argued – how can man contribute to his own salvation by faith and works if there is no good in his flesh to do any good work. In fact, even faith must be of irresistible grace for sinful flesh cannot even self-generate faith.

The counter question to this position of God working out salvation from beginning to end is concerning those who are lost – does God not perform any work in them. The calvinist rightly is led to the doctrine of election, but desiring to hold on to the earlier truths, rushes into presenting their doctrine of reprobation. And here the Arminian is offended when forced to worship a God who counsels the death of man as an eternal decree from before creation when Scripture has revealed God to love the world and not desire the death of the wicked. The arminian in turn, desiring to hold on to this truth, rushes into presenting their doctrine of freewill synergism which offends the calvinist when forced to worship a God who is not Sovereign but instead dependent on human will. Defenses and attacks and further inferences built on these over years has easily detracted us far away from the basic root problem.

How can this catch 22 be resolved? By simultaneously upholding the truths of God’s sovereignty and His love for the whole world and His predestining the elect and His offering redemption in Christ to each and every man, elect or not – all being independent truths found in Scriptures…and by simultaneously rejecting the errors of Reprobation as an eternal decree and Freewill synergism – all being human inferences in themselves. The ensuing reconciliation may challenge our existing beliefs – but the objective should be to step within the boundaries of what Scriptures alone says and not adding to it our ‘common sense’. (I am well aware that I could be fallen under that very thing I warn against, but setting reconciliation of all parts of Scripture as the ultimate indicator should set us on firm ground.)

Here is the Link to the Single Predestination worldview which primarily is concerned with faithfulness to Scriptures – but may serve to reconcile many denomination differences as additional benefits. (It is presented unedited in its First Draft form – and will undergo further revisions to help present and communicate better.)

In later posts, the intent would be to address general concerns or to elaborate more on certain points which wasn’t possible within the scope of this post alone.