Monday, July 20, 2009

Judas as One of the "Elect" and "Elect Angels": Biblical Conundrum for Calvinists?

By Dave Armstrong (7-20-09)

To some extent this is a problem for everyone. Catholics agree with Calvinists that those who are elect are the ones who are eschatologically saved: who will go to heaven in the afterlife (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church: #1045: "The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion."). We, too, believe in the election of the righteous, or those saved in the end (both Thomists and Molinists accept this), or predestination (though we hold it in a paradoxical "both/and" tension with free will). So in that sense, the Catholic, too, has to explain these references that include Judas, as somehow an exception to the rule. It's "weird" any way we look at it.

The relevant difference between the two systems in this regard is that Calvinists (unlike Catholics) believe in double predestination, or the predestination of the damned / reprobate as well as the saved. So the particular Calvinist difficulty is to explain how Judas could be described in a class of those who are "elect" if in fact he was predestined from eternity to be damned. It seems that (granting these presuppositions) he would never have been described that way at all.

But the Catholic can more easily say that there might perhaps be some conditionality to the term "elect" -- at least in some cases, since we (along with Protestant Arminians, Wesleyans, etc.) believe that a person can lose justification and salvation, should they decide to consciously turn away from and reject the God they once served. Perhaps then (I'm not asserting this but simply thinking aloud), "elect" in Judas' case is analogous to a person who is justified and then loses his justification and right standing with God (and ultimately, salvation) due to sin and rebellion. Before we examine this matter further, let's take a look at the relevant biblical passages (RSV):


(Strong's word #1588)

Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

Matthew 24:22,24,31 And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. . . . [24] For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. . . . [31] and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (cf. Mark 13:20,22,27)

Luke 18:7 And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies;

Romans 16:13 Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord, also his mother and mine.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience,

2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness,

1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, . . . [2] chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit . . .

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

2 John 1:1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth,

2 John 1:13 The children of your elect sister greet you.

Revelation 17:14 they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.

(Strong's word #1589)

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

Romans 9:11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call,

Romans 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. . . . [7] What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,

Romans 11:28-29 As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. [29] For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you;

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall;

(Strong's word #4899)

1 Peter 5:13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark.

(Strong's word #1586)

Mark 13:20 And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.

Luke 6:13 And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles;

John 6:70-71 Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?" [71] He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him. (cf. 6:64: ". . . Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.")

John 13:18 I am not speaking of you all; I know whom I have chosen; it is that the scripture may be fulfilled, `He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'

John 15:16,19 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you . . . [19] . . . I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Acts 1:2 . . . the apostles whom he had chosen.

Acts 1:24 And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen

Ephesians 1:4
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
It's fairly obvious that all these words are synonymous. Scripture usually brings out its own intended meanings via cross-referencing of this sort. Eklektos and eklegomai both appear in a single passage:

Mark 13:20 And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect [eklektos], whom he chose [eklegomai], he shortened the days.
The "elect" are, simply, the ones whom Jesus has "chosen." Other Scriptures show that this election is from eternity (1 Peter 1:2; Eph 1:4; cf. Rom 8:29-30: "foreknew"; "predestined"; "called"). The immediate difficulty stems from those passages under eklegomai above that include Judas as one of the twelve elected / chosen disciples (Lk 6:13; Jn 6:70 -- it mentions Judas in particular --; Jn 15:16,19). John 13:18 implies (?) that Judas was not chosen, using the same Greek word, which means that there are either multiple applications of the word (as is usually the case in Scripture) or that Jesus contradicted Himself (which most observant Christians would reject), or that there was a later interpolation not attributable to Jesus Himself (rejected also by most biblical exegetes who accept, as I do, the text of the Bible at face value). John Calvin recognizes that it is at least potentially a problem for his own system of double predestination and provides his own answer for this:
In elsewhere numbering Judas among the elect, though he was a devil (John 6:70), he refers only to the apostolical office, which though a bright manifestation of divine favor (as Paul so often acknowledges it to be in his own person), does not, however, contain within itself the hope of eternal salvation. Judas, therefore, when he discharged the office of Apostle perfidiously, might have been worse than a devil; but not one of those whom Christ has once ingrafted into his body will he ever permit to perish, for in securing their salvation, he will perform what he has promised; that is, exert a divine power greater than all (John 10:28). For when he says, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition,” (John 17:12), the expression, though there is a catachresis in it, is not at all ambiguous. The sum is, that God by gratuitous adoption forms those whom he wishes to have for sons; but that the intrinsic cause is in himself, because he is contented with his secret pleasure.

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 22, Chapter 7)
This is interesting, since Calvin states that even an apostle may eventually be lost. That means that (in his system) he was predestined to be lost (it can't be otherwise for Calvin and Calvinists), in which case he was never elected at all (yet Scripture says he was), and therefore could not possibly do any good thing of his own volition (according to total depravity). I respond to this: "if an apostle -- chosen by God Himself -- is not necessarily elect, then how can we know that anyone who is (ostensibly) justified or regenerated will persevere to the end?" And that has implications for the entire Calvinist theological edifice of TULIP, imputed justification, etc. (though in fairness, I note that Calvin taught that we cannot know for sure who is and is not of the elect).

The fact remains that one whom God "elected" fell away. Scripture doesn't say that Judas was predestined for reprobation from eternity. It simply says that Jesus "chose" (eklegomai) him. He was chosen in the same sense as the other disciples, so this couldn't have been in the sense of predestined reprobation (since the others appear to have been of the elect in the standard sense of "saved"). As I said above, these difficulties are not just Calvinist ones. Catholics also have to consistently incorporate this data. But I think Calvinists have relatively more difficulty because of how they construe double predestination and reject the notion that anyone could be truly chosen and in the fold, and then fall away (perseverance of the saints). Calvin raises another interesting question as well, by mentioning John 17:12:

John 17:11-12 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. [12] While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.
So now we have God the Father in on the election process (which would follow anyway, as His will and the Son's are unified at all times). If one of the very disciples can be "elected" and "given" by God the Father and called, yet fall away and be lost, then is this not troublesome for the Calvinist system, which holds that God predestines from eternity wholly apart from men's free will decisions, and that no man can overcome that; he cannot fall away, once having been so called and predestined? We don't have that difficulty because we accept both free will and the possibility of apostasy (while we reject Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism: the notions that men can save themselves, as opposed to salvation being totally from God's grace: sola gratia).

Perhaps Calvin or Calvinists (following Jesus Himself in Jn 13:18 and 17:12) would point out that this was so that Scripture and prophecy would be fulfilled (Jesus was to be betrayed), but that (while true) doesn't alleviate the difficulty because we can then retort that if this is the case here, why could it not be in any number of situations, in God's providence, where He incorporates men's free will decisions of good or ill into His plan? What is to stop anyone from concluding that if this includes Judas' defection, "that the scripture might be fulfilled", why could not many other conceivable situations of apostasy, "that the scripture might be fulfilled"? It's true that exceptions don't usually disprove the rules they contradict, but too many exceptions can cast doubt at least upon the universality or sole application of a supposed rule in one fashion. Again, I am mostly speculating; not taking any ironclad position. Mostly I find this interesting to ponder.

Another fascinating line of inquiry has to do with the angels. St. Paul states:

1 Timothy 5:21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect [eklektos] angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality.
If God elected angels, then He must have not elected the fallen angels. But if even the fall of Satan and his demons was predestined by God, so that it couldn't have been otherwise (just as Calvinists say God does with the reprobate), then they had no free will either. And this has momentous implications. The Westminster Confession, adhered to by many Calvinists (especially Presbyterians) seems to assert this (to Catholic ears, rather extreme, bizarre, and troubling) state of affairs:
I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; . . .

III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

(Chapter III: Of God's Eternal Decree)
If God predestined the very existence of evil, entailing that Satan didn't freely rebel, but did so because God predestined it, and it couldn't have been otherwise, then it seems that God would be the author of evil. Using the Calvinist understanding of election, all of this, I think, would follow. But under the different Catholic / Arminian / Wesleyan / post-Luther Lutheran systems of (non-Pelagian) free will, this might be construed as another "exceptional" usage of "elect" and not the norm. If it is an exception to the rule, as with the Judas example, then we now have two, leading one to suspect that additional such applications might be possible, and that the rule is much weakened, by virtue of two obvious and major exceptions.

A possible solution, I submit, is the position that I myself hold. In the Molinist understanding of predestination, God takes into account future free will actions of creatures, in His Middle Knowledge (scientia media) and this is a factor in His election or predestination. This doesn't account for the Judas anomaly, but it could account for the phrase "elect angels" in a way that doesn't require God predestining the fall of Satan and his demons from eternity, rather than their free choice being the cause.

I welcome discussion on this, as always. As in all issues related to the deep mystery of predestination, I don't claim to have all the answers (not even close), but I think this is a fascinating biblical motif to ponder.


Pilgrimsarbour said...

I have always understood that Judas was chosen to serve God's purposes in the same way that the gentile nations of the OT were chosen to carry out God's discipline of His people Israel. Remember Pharoah, for instance.

The Romans and the Jewish leaders of the NT were chosen by God to ensure that His Son would be crucified. It was in their nature to do it, God having removed His hand of restraint on their natural inclinations at the cross.

Previously we saw how Jesus slipped through the crowds when they wanted to stone Him. This could not have happened unless the Father wanted it to be so.

God, as sovereign, chooses various persons and peoples to advance His plans. It may not be that they have been chosen to eternal life as those that belong to Him have been.

I think you were right when you said that words have multiple meanings in the Scriptures, depending on the context. That is the key right there.

Dave Armstrong said...

There's no question that God uses people for His purposes. That's a given, but the fact that the notion of "elect" is applied to Judas is the difficulty.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pilgrimsarbour said...

Ben said...

"Given what Calvin writes in his commentary on Ezekiel 18:24, perhaps the 'elect' Judas ought not to have too many worries!"

In the quotes Ben has given Calvin does not address the specific case of Judas, which is unique, so it would be a stretch to say that Judas is to be included in Calvin's assertions about the restoration of those who have fallen into sin and afterward have repented.

The Scriptures, however, are quite clear on the fate of Judas as expressed in the high priestly prayer of Jesus:

12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12).

This passage indicates that while Judas was "chosen" to be among the twelve, he was not chosen unto eternal life. It's clear that the Father gave Judas intending that he would be lost through his betrayal. Judas was chosen for this purpose in that he was naturally inclined to it and the Father did not intervene in his choice to restrain him from his treachery. Remember, Judas was a thief and would steal the money from the collection for his own gain. He knew that Jesus was the Christ, but he followed his own sinful course anyway. He was a bad guy, someone for whom we should not feel sympathy. Again the word "chosen" or "election," although it has common usage in the Bible and mostly means a certain thing, it means something else in other contexts.

Ben said...

"So the 'elect' in Calvin's system can sin all they please, and even "plunge into the very lowest abyss!" Guess this is Calvin's version of Luther's 'sin boldly.'" LOL! (emphasis mine)

That is not what Calvin believed or taught. Nor is it what Calvinists believe or teach. The quotes clearly indicate that Calvin is speaking of the restorative power to be found in repentance which, unless I'm mistaken, both Catholicism and Reformed theology hold dear.

I was hoping we could move past this kind of mischaracterisation, but I can see that I have more work to do.

Ken Temple said...

There is a difference between being "chosen" to be one of the 12 disciples to walk around with Jesus and follow Him when He was on earth, and "chosen" for salvation. There is a lot of truth to his being chosen to carry out the betrayal and purposes leading to the cross; similar to God using the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Babylonians for His purposes, but not for their salvation.

John 15:16 and 19 do not apply to Judas - Judas has left the group ( John 13:30) - Jesus says that Judas is not clean - John 13:10-11, but the true disciples are clean ( John 15:3)

This gives us insight into who the branches that bear no fruit are, and the the ones that don't abide, who are they? they are professors of faith, but not possessors of true faith. ( John 15:2, 6) - they are people like Judas, who hang around the disciples, claim to be disciples, go to church, think and profess they are believers and disciples but inwardly are not truly converted (not born again or regenerated or cleansed).

they are the ones who are ("in Me" in verse 2, contextually, means, "among Me" (hanging around the true branches), but have no life and no fruit; and are who are going to be burned in the fire, if they don't repent and truly convert.

Those that don't abide prove that they were not true believers in the first place.

So, before mixing the other passages from Ephesians and Romans, (which describe election for the truly elect), we should stay in the context of the gospels, especially John 13 and 15, and they give us insight into what Jesus meant.

Judas was chosen to be with Jesus, but to fulfill the Scripture of betrayal and the cross, but he was not chosen for salvation from eternity in the sense that Romans 8:28-33 or Ephesians 1:4-5 or 2 Timothy 1:9 or 2 Thess. 2:13 speak of election.

John 13 and 15 interpret the Luke 6 and John 6:70 for us.

It is the same today, people who just externally claim they are believers and have experiences and go to church are not necessarily true believers. the warning passages are meant to awaken them out of their sleep.

The issue is similar to the wheat and the tares.

Dave Armstrong said...

What about the issue of the "elect angels"? Any thoughts on that, pilgrim? I think that is even more interesting than the Judas case.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Matters of election/reprobation and "double-predestination" all are informed by the doctrines of grace and the doctrine of God's sovereignty and His decrees. The question is, is God free to do with His creatures as He pleases?

Our information about pre-fall conditions is sketchy at best. But in the case of the elect angels, I have not done any research at all. However, I suspect that the Reformed position would be that those angels who fell having followed Lucifer did so of a will that was truly free in a way that humans have not experienced since before Adam's fall. I should think that they would be judged even more harshly than humans who struggle with a fallen, sinful nature. Likewise, Adam's sin was more heinous because he was not naturally inclined toward evil from the beginning. Yet, his is the decision that affected his entire posterity.

Being the federal head of the human race, "He chose...poorly. [1]

The angels that remained loyal to the Godhead are referred to as "elect," and these, like man, must have been elect from eternity, before anything in creation existed.

But for God's own reasons He has set his love uniquely on His human creatures in a way He did not on His other creatures. In fact, all of God's plans to glorify Himself are centred around His plans for humanity from eternity, having been chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world:

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1:4).

[1] Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Ken Temple said...

If God elected angels, then He must have not elected the fallen angels. But if even the fall of Satan and his demons was predestined by God (just as Calvinists say God does with the reprobate), then they had no free will either.

Adam and Eve had real moral free will; but as Augustine wrote, "by the wrong use of his free will, that man destroyed both it and himself." (Enchiridion 30)

They freely chose their sin.

Everyone after them is born in "the bondage of the will" - that all our choices are according to our desires, which are always tainted with sin, pride, selfishness, jealousy, until God frees the will by grace, leading to repentance and faith.

The evil angels, lead by Lucifer, becoming Satan, freely chose sin and rebellion, but the non-elect angels cannot ever be saved.

Jesus became flesh / human, which is why He can save humans from all nations (Rev. 5:9; 7:9) - Hebrews 2:14-16, but "He does not give help (salvation) to angels."

The decree of God that something will happen is not the same as actually doing the sin; so God is not the author of sin; nor blameworthy; and it is not the same as election. Also, election and predestination are mostly about for salvation, not about rebrobation. Reprobation is God justly passing over those sinners who are non-elect. So any kind of "double predestination" is not equal. Beyond that, we should leave it to mystery.

Romans 9:23-24 - God prepared the vessels of Glory beforehand (Greek word, pro (before) is here)

But in the vessels of wrath, they are simply "prepared" - that is they are culpable for their own sin and God justly leaves them in their sin. (the word "pro" is not here for the "vessels of wrath") - so it shows predestination is not an equal both sides "double" one as you seem to make it out to be.

No one goes to hell unjustly. God's mercy and grace saves us. If God poured out His justice fully without any mercy, we would all go to hell.

Dave Armstrong said...

If the non-elect angels were predestined for eternity to fall, then God is the author of evil, and we have a "super-suplapasarian" position, as I called it.

If we say these angels were truly free to make their choice and not predestined to evil from eternity, then it is another qualification of what "election" means, and the point in my paper was that if there are two examples, who is to say that the notion itself as understood by Calvinists may have to be greatly modified or discarded?

Shouldn't a Calvinist say that the devil and his demons were not predestined to evil and that the fall was not predestined from eternity? Wouldn't that be the "mainstream" position of infralapsarianism?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Dave said...
"Shouldn't a Calvinist say that the devil and his demons were not predestined to evil and that the fall was not predestined from eternity? Wouldn't that be the "mainstream" position of infralapsarianism?"

The universal Christian, that is, non-sectarian, question of the origin of evil will, I think, never be answered completely in this lifetime. I am loath to say that God is the creator or author of evil, but I cannot understand how evil can exist (either personally or as an impersonal force) in His universe. It's not merely a question of Him permitting it; the question is, where did it come from? I can't think of a satisfactory answer to these issues other than to say that nothing surprised God; it was all a part of His plan for the redemption of man from eternity. I would even go so far as to say that man was created to be redeemed.

On the other hand, I think we have ample Scriptural evidence to understand what God wants us to know about our own condition before Him and His remedy for that. We'll have to be content for those things which He has seen fit to reveal to us. This is about as far as my thinking can take me right now.

Dave Armstrong said...

I've argued in various papers that evil began when creatures rebelled against the reality of God being higher than they are in the nature of things. The creature can never rise above his or her creator.

So when the devil and his demons chose autonomy and rebellion, with Satan desiring to take the place of God, evil began. Likewise, when Adam and Eve (and the entire human race "in" them), enticed by Satan, chose their own understanding and path over God's, man fell and has suffered the consequences ever since.

But that is how I understand it. God gave men (and angels) free will, and this included rebellion against His authority; indeed He Himself. Denying free will is not the answer because then we couldn't truly love God and each other.

I reject the notion that God willed and predestined either the angelic or human falls. Those were choices made against His will, with catastrophic results. And I reject predestination to damnation. But Catholics believe in predestination to salvation.

The Molinist understanding of such predestination makes the most sense to me, but Catholics have freedom to differ on that question.

Turretinfan said...


Just so you know, both infralapsarian and supralapsarian Calvinists agree that the election of angels and men took place from all eternity, before either fall.


Pilgrimsarbour said...

That would be my view as well, that man was created for the purpose from all eternity of being redeemed.

Even on the issue of free will, God knew what would happen. If He did not intervene to prevent creatures from falling, then He must have willed that it should be that way, no? The alternatives are the following:

God did not know what would happen and is scrambling to keep up after having been surprised by the choices his creatures made (ignorance--or the appropriate terminology for anti-omniscience);

or that God did know but was unable to do anything about it (impotence);

or God did know, it seemed good to Him to direct it that way, and it all fits into His plans from eternity.

Obviously, the last one is the most reasonable and is more consistent with what has been revealed to us in the Scriptures.

Still, we have not answered the question of how evil as a concept can exist at all if God is not the author of it. If it exists as a concept alongside of God, then we have to be looking at some kind of cosmic dualism, something similar to deism.

When we say that we have (or at least had) free will, that means that we can choose between two or more things. How is it, I wonder, that evil was an option for Lucifer or us to choose at all? If we say that Satan created evil, how is it possible unless God permitted his angelic creatures to create something that was anti-God. How can anti-God exist?

My point is that we cannot answer these particular questions on the existence of evil satisfactorily. Wouldn't you agree?

Dave Armstrong said...

My point is that we cannot answer these particular questions on the existence of evil satisfactorily. Wouldn't you agree?

I think it is a difficult issue under any approach, but I believe the free will defense in answer to the problem of evil is at least satisfactory. See my paper:

Christian Replies to the Argument From Evil (Free Will Defense): Is God Malevolent, Weak, or Non-Existent Because of the Existence of Evil and Suffering?

Alvin Plantinga's Decisive Refutation of the Atheist Use of the Problem of Evil as a Disproof of God's Existence, Goodness, or Omnipotence

Still, we have not answered the question of how evil as a concept can exist at all if God is not the author of it. If it exists as a concept alongside of God, then we have to be looking at some kind of cosmic dualism, something similar to deism.

Not at all. God made free will. That free will entails a choice against God, that God allows, because He thought it was worth it. The choice of the creature against God and against His will (God being love) is what constitutes evil. I don't see how this requires God to create it. He makes it possible, though, by allowing free will.

When we say that we have (or at least had) free will, that means that we can choose between two or more things. How is it, I wonder, that evil was an option for Lucifer or us to choose at all? If we say that Satan created evil, how is it possible unless God permitted his angelic creatures to create something that was anti-God. How can anti-God exist?

God made it possible for creatures to choose against His will, yes.It is required by the nature of freedom for a choice to be able to be made. Otherwise love is meaningless.

Dave Armstrong said...

I found a site regarding "Election vs. Predestination":

"election is the doctrine that before the foundation of the world God chose certain people to be saved, and predestination is the doctrine that God foreordained certain individuals to be saved. There is no substantive difference between these two doctrines, only a difference in the vocabulary used to describe them."

Dave Armstrong said...

Philip Johnson writes on another helpful related site:

"The distinction between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism has to do with the logical order of God's eternal decrees, not the timing of election. Neither side suggests that the elect were chosen after Adam sinned. God made His choice before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4)—long before Adam sinned. Both infras and supras (and even many Arminians) agree on this."

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Believe me, I don't want to beat this thing to death, but I just wanted to add one last thing.

I understand when you say that free will involves a choice. Absolutely correct. My question still remains:

A choice assumes the existence of two things: God (good) and anti-God (not good). How can anti-God exist alongside God if He did not create it? How is it possible that such a choice can exist at all? In all eternity there was only God. How is it possible that not-God, or anti-God, or evil exists at all that God's creatures would have something to choose between?

O.K., I'm done now. ;-)

Dave Armstrong said...

And another informative page:

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I'm baaack!

I just wanted to say thanks for the links. I'll check out the articles and maybe get back to you on it at a later time.

Ken Temple said...

Good link Dave. (Third Millennium Ministries)

God is sovereign and good and we are not.

This paragraph is especially good:
"4. Lastly, and related to "3" above, God is not ruled by reason. [I think he means, what we think is reason or logical.]He may do that which appears illogical. He may act according to his preference and/or emotion just as easily as he may act according to his reason. This does not make his actions irrational or unreasonable, but it may make them appear irrational or unreasonable to us. Consider for example Paul's answer to the "reasonable" objection, "Why does he still find fault?" (Rom. 9:19). Paul makes no attempt to reason out God's actions. Rather, he says that God's actions are justified by the fact that God is God and we are not. God does not promise that everything he does will make sense to us -- the book of Job ought to be enough to convince us of that!"

Both Turretinfan and Pilgrim make good contributions to this discussion.

God is not the author of evil; even though he ordained (decided, decree) that it would happen; allowing it. God is not a sinner, but holy and pure.

This one is good too; on Reprobation.

Nick said...

A few thoughts of my own:

1) It's interesting that Judas was elect to office of Apostle, because that's actually impossible if he was never saved. AND NOW that I think about it, that's a pretty damning realization, because if Calvinists cannot know who is saved, then that means the Christian never can submit to a Church authority (eg bishop) because if that Bishop is not saved, then they hold no true office in Calvinism. And since you cannot guess on someone's salvation, then logically no teaching office can exist.

2) If free will is not granted to Adam/angels, then God is the author of evil, because Adam was like an egg being dropped and could do no otherwise than fall by gravity. If free will is granted to Adam, then it's admitted Free will and predestination CAN co-exist.

3) As for how the NT uses the term "elect," I think it is used both loosely and strictly.
Like in Romans 16:
"Greet Rufus, [elect] in the Lord, also his mother and mine."
This seems to be 'loose' (a general reference to Christian) because Paul doesn't used this word to the others on the list (in the context). Same idea for 2 Jn 1:1 and 1:13. A better question would be whether an Apostle can know whether another is "eternally-elect" and whether this gift (if existed) died with the death of the last apostle.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

"It's interesting that Judas was elect to office of Apostle, because that's actually impossible if he was never saved."

Who says it's impossible? Judas was the "son of destruction" (cf. John 17, esp. v.12). This is a clear statement by Jesus about the permanent spiritual condition of Judas. Christ chose him to be an apostle knowing that he was going to be betrayed by him. Again, look at the way Judas behaved the whole time. He was a thief, for one thing. And whether he knew full well that Jesus was the Christ or was a rank unbeliever, He betrayed our Lord as His apostle and later had to be replaced. No, he was never saved, and Jesus knew what He was getting when He ordained him.

"...if Calvinists cannot know who is saved, then that means the Christian never can submit to a Church authority (eg bishop) because if that Bishop is not saved, then they hold no true office in Calvinism."

That's ridiculous. It doesn't follow. We submit to church authorities all the time. You are demanding from us a standard of certainty that no human being can attain in this life. The best we can do is pray, make some discerning judgements, and then make the best decisions possible.

In Catholicism, a bad priest or Pope does not destroy the legitimacy of their office. If someone is found to be sadly wanting in their personal lives, it doesn't make null and void all the baptisms, weddings, confessions, etc. that they had performed. So why should it be so for Protestants? Am I right, Dave?

Dave Armstrong said...

That's how it is in Catholicism, but I believe Calvin would say that a person who exhibits characteristics leading many to believe he isn't justified or regenerate (in the Protestant sense) would thereby lose his office, by definition.

Dave Armstrong said...

I removed my passing comments about infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, as they are not directly applicable to the topic at hand. I don't want to muddy the waters by introducing that motif into it, since they are already deep enough.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Absolutely he could lose his office, but not without due process. If church discipline was deemed necessary, he may have to step down temporarily. However, he would not lose his office unless the conclusion had been reached that he is unrepentant or otherwise worthy of being dismissed. The final end of church discipline is excommunication, which is relatively rare.

Dave Armstrong said...

Then by your criteria, which is Calvin's, wouldn't Nick's reasoning follow?:

"...if Calvinists cannot know who is saved, then that means the Christian never can submit to a Church authority (eg bishop) because if that Bishop is not saved, then they hold no true office in Calvinism."

But you called that "ridiculous."
You say Calvinists submit to authority, and I'm sure that is the case as a generality, but Nick was addressing the essence of the situation: according to the Calvinist system, an unregenerate authority is no authority, and this has dire consequences for ecclesiology, if followed through logically or taken to its logical conclusion (in which case the continuance of authority might be deemed by the outside observer as an incoherence in Calvinist thought).

This is why the office is independent of behavior in Catholicism, and some of the reasoning behind the Church's and Augustine's opposition to the Donatists, and upholding of ex opere operato, whether the priest is righteous or particularly sinful (because the contrary has huge negative implications).

Dave Armstrong said...

That's not to say we don't seek qualified persons to be ordained. The bad popes are a tiny minority. But if a person is a terrible sinner, he doesn't lose his office automatically or power to preside over the sacraments. Otherwise, the inherent power of the sacraments would be subject to the vicissitudes of human foibles and failures and that would be (in our view) far too "man-based."

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Well, as I said, the standard is not 100% certainty. A persons's bad behaviour does not nullify the good he has done in Christ's Name. Nor does it mean that he was not regenerate--just a sinner saved by grace. He is not considered a non-Christian unless, after the discipline process, it is determined that he is (or is to be treated as) a rank unbeliever through excommunication. Again, this is rare for office holders especially.

If we had to have perfect people in place before administering the sacraments, prayer, preaching, etc., nothing could ever get done. I understand that the RCC has the issue of apostolic authority in view, but that is a question for another time.