The Potter’s Love

 

The Potter’s Love

 (section taken from The Potter’s Promise by Leighton Flowers)

Commentary on Romans 9:1-5

by Leighton Flowers

 

In the first eight chapters of this letter to Rome, Paul made man’s need and God’s gracious provision through Christ abundantly clear. Paul ends chapter 8 on a high note in reflection of the endless, inseparable love God has for those who are in an abiding love relationship with Him (8:9, 28). If God was so trustworthy and faithful to those of Israel who loved and served Him in ages past, those formerly known, then who could stand against those of us who love Him today?[1]

Notable New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, comments on Romans 8:28-30, saying in part:

“[This passage] is a sharp, close-up, compressed telling of the story of Israel, as the chosen people, whose identity and destiny is then brought into sharp focus on Jesus. Jesus, in a sense, is the one ‘chosen one.’ But, then that identity is shared with all of those who are ‘in Christ.’ And he [Paul] isn’t talking primarily there about salvation. He is talking primarily about the way God is healing the whole creation. There is a danger here. What has happened in so many theological circles over the years is that people have come to the text assuming that it is really saying how we are to get to heaven, and what is the mechanism and how does that work. And if you do that, interestingly, many exegetes will more or less skip over Romans 8:18-27, which is about the renewing of creation…”[2] 

The saints of old were the chosen means by which God would sovereignly bring the Word to the world. It is through the life of men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and many other saints of old that Christ comes “so that He would be the firstborn of many brethren” (8:29b). Paul is reflecting on God’s redemptive purpose being accomplished through those who loved God in former generations. That redemptive purpose included the bringing of the Messiah into this world through Israel (Rom 9:4-5), or more specifically those Israelites set apart for that noble purpose (Rom. 9:21). This was God’s “predestined” plan of redemption, which was brought to pass through those “who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (vs. 28). As Pastor and author Tim Warner describes:

“Paul was not referring to some prior knowledge in the mind of God before creation. Nor was He speaking about predetermining their fate. He was referring to those whom God knew personally and intimately, men like Abraham and David. The term “foreknew” does not mean to have knowledge of someone before they were conceived. The verb “proegnw” is the word for “know” (in an intimate sense) with the preposition “pro” (before) prefixed to it. It refers to having an intimate relationship with someone in the past…Literally, we could render Rom. 8:29 as follows: “For those God formerly knew intimately, He previously determined them to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The individual saints of old, with whom God had a personal relationship, were predestined by Him to be conformed to the image of Christ. That is, God predetermined to bring their salvation to completion by the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf.”[3]

If God worked out the good for the Israelites of old, those “foreknown,” (8:29) then Paul’s readers can rest assured this is a trustworthy God. He will stand with those “who love him and are called according to His purpose” and “work out all things together for their good” (8:28). Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate those who love God from “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).

Suddenly, at the conclusion of this climatic declaration of God’s ceaseless love, the objector in Paul’s mind asks a question:

“Paul, you have made a good case regarding God’s faithfulness to the Israelites in the past, but what about the Israelites today? Have God’s promises for Israel failed? Why are the Israelites today refusing to accept their own Messiah?”

The Apostle sets out to answer these very questions in chapters 9-11.

Exegesis of Romans 9:1-5

1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh

 

Paul, modeling the very nature of his self-sacrificial Savior, begins this chapter with a heartfelt, anguished plea for the souls of his fellow kinsmen. Despite the fact that they have become his enemies, the apostle follows the example of Christ by sincerely loving them with a sacrificial passion that could only come from the Spirit Himself (Mt. 5:43-48). As with Jesus, this went far beyond lip service. Paul expresses, in all sincerity, the very nature of Christ in him by his willingness to take the place of wrath for his fellow countrymen. In time, Paul’s life, like that of his Savior, is given “so that the world may believe” (Jn. 17:21b).[4]

The apostle emphasizes the fact that his feelings are in full agreement with that of the Holy Spirit Himself, as distinguished from his own limited human emotion or opinion, as some may attempt to suggest (ref. 1 Cor. 7:12). This divine pleading, patience, and longsuffering toward the nation of Israel is reflected in this context and throughout all of scripture (Hosea 3:1; Rm. 9:22; 10:1, 21, 11:1, 11-14; Mt. 23:37; Lk. 19:41-42). Paul begins and ends the very next chapter by clearly expressing this same divine intention:

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation… But as for Israel He says, “ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE” (Rm. 10:1,21).

Even in light of Paul’s clearly expressed desires to perish in the place of these hardened Jews, some Calvinists teach that Christ does not share Paul’s expressed intentions.[5] One has to assume that “five point Calvinists” believe Paul was more merciful and self-sacrificial than the Savior who inspired these very words. It is inexplicable, given Paul’s Spirit-led appeal of self-sacrificial love, to promote a doctrine that teaches Jesus did not intend to sacrifice Himself for these hardened Jews (1 Jn. 2:2; 2 Pt. 2:1).

 

4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

 

The apostle picks back up on the objection introduced in the second and third chapters where the question is, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision,” given that salvation is for all nations? To which he answers, “Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rm. 3:1-2). This anticipated inquiry is in response to the same matter Paul is about to tackle in chapters 9 through 11:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Rm. 2:28-29).

Notice the two major points the apostle introduces in chapters 2 and 3:

  1. Salvation is intended for whoever believes, regardless of nationality. (Rm. 2:28-29)
  1. There is still a blessing or benefit for being of ethnic Israel: “the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Rm 3:2, NIV)

In Romans 9, Paul sets out to unpack these two points in light of the fact that so many Israelites do not believe the very words that have been entrusted to them. By showing that not every Israelite from the seed of Abraham is chosen for the noble purpose of carrying the words of God, Paul seeks to prove that God’s promise to Abraham has not failed: “…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3b).

Paul’s reference to “Israel” carries significance. Some linguistic scholars point to the root meaning of this new name given to Jacob as relating to the primitive root verb “sarar” (שָׂרַר), which refers to the given authority of a prince.[6] The ultimate authority is reserved for the king, but the prince often speaks on behalf of his king and is given authority over others. This illustrates the special role assigned to this elect nation of God. Through this blessed people comes the manifestations of God, His promises, His law, His covenants, and most significantly, His only begotten Son.

In other words, there is a blessing to being an Israelite but not all of the Israelites are the ones chosen to carry that blessing. Not all Israelites are given to be prophets or apostles to bring the Word to the world. Not every Jew will be in the lineage of the Messiah or be entrusted to carry his inspired message. So, there is a benefit to being a Jew, but not every Jew has been chosen for that benefit.

In fact, some of these Israelites were left in their calloused condition for the ignoble purpose of crying out “crucify him,” on the day the Lord’s promise for redemption was fulfilled (Acts 2:23). Some Jews were even given a “spirit of stupor” meant to blind them from the clearly revealed truth of their own Messiah’s identity (Rm. 11:8, Mk. 4:11, Mt. 11:25, Lk. 19:42).

“When He [Jesus] approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Lk. 19:42)

Is it fair that God has chosen to entrust some unfaithful Israelites to bring His Word, while blinding other equally unfaithful Israelites from seeing it in order to fulfill His redemptive promise? Paul spends the next three chapters telling his audience why this is not only just, but abundantly merciful (Rom. 11:32).

The rest of this chapter cannot be separated from Paul’s opening remarks. The “amen” that concludes verse 5 does not mean “the end” as many modern day believers have to come to understand it. For the early church the term “amen” is not proclaimed to bring an end to a thought but to declare a hope that the thought never ends. So, Paul is continuing in the same line of reason despite the paragraph break and new title heading added by many modern translations. The conjunction (δέ), meaning “but” or “moreover,” beginning verse 6 clearly confirms Paul’s thought has not been broken from the previous verses.

What is that thought? The purpose for God’s electing and blessing Israel has not failed. As explained, this is the same objection introduced by Paul to begin the third chapter, “What then? If some [Israelites] did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it” (Rm. 3:3)? In other words, will the unbelief of most Israelites thwart the promise of God to bless all nations with His Word (Gen. 12:3)?

It might appear to the casual, first-century observer that God’s choice of Israel to bring His Word to the rest of the world has completely failed. Most Jews, especially the notable leaders, stood in direct opposition to the Word of God, yet it was a known fact in that day that God had chosen Israel to be “entrusted with the very words of God” (Rm. 3:2). This is what earned the Jews their nickname, “the elect.”

As verses 4 and 5 indicate, from them was the law, the prophets, the scriptures, the patriarchs, but has that now come to a complete halt? Is God no longer revealing his word through Israel? Has God’s word failed? Has the Potter broken his promise to Abraham? This point is key in understanding the rest of Paul’s argument in this chapter. One cannot overemphasize how vital it is to rightly understand the question Paul is attempting to answer at this point in his letter. Many great minds, well intended in their efforts, have failed to follow Paul’s line of thought in this hotly contested passage, leading to many erroneous conclusions.[7]

Despite what some suggest, Paul does not appear to be answering the question: “Since most Jews remain in unbelief, has the word of God failed in effectually saving the Jews?” Instead, he is asking, “Has God’s word failed since those chosen to carry it are standing in opposition to it?”

 

OBJECTIONS ANTICIPATED:

1) So, are you suggesting this chapter has nothing to do with salvation?

No. It has everything to do with salvation. God’s redemptive plan, promised to Abraham, is brought to pass through Israel. No one is saved apart from the fulfillment of God’s promise. If God’s word fails to come through Israel then no individual in the world has any hope of salvation.

2) Are you suggesting this chapter has nothing to do with election?

No. It has everything to do with election. God unconditionally chose a nation and many individuals from that nation to bring about his redemptive plan. Apart from that plan being fulfilled, God cannot justly choose to save anyone who repents and believes. God is only free to bestow his saving grace to whosoever He chooses solely because of the redemptive work of Christ brought to pass by His purpose in election.

When some hear the word “election” they immediately think “individuals chosen for effectual salvation before creation,” but even Calvinistic scholars must admit that not all biblical references to election are rightly understood in this manner.[8] God elects nations and individuals to carry out both noble and ignoble purposes in His redemptive plan without regard to the morality of those involved. Likewise, He chooses where His message will be sent without regard to the morality of the people hearing it (Jonah 1:2; Matt. 22:10). God indeed does make choices unconditioned upon the character or even desires of those involved (Rom. 9:16). Therefore, when approaching the scripture one must seek to discern what kind of divine election is being referenced, without merely assuming every choice of God is about individuals being chosen for salvation.

3) Are you suggesting individuals are not in view?

No. Individuals are very much in view throughout the entirety of this text. Acknowledging the national components clearly evident in this passage does not negate the reference to the individuals involved. Too often Calvinists presume a corporate approach ignores the individuals when in reality it actually involves more individuals than the perspective they seek to defend.

When approaching chapter 9, Calvinists are forced to change their hermeneutical approach from an individual application of salvation to a corporate application somewhere before they get to the end of the chapter and into the following two chapters. Otherwise they have the dilemma of explaining why the same individual hardened Israelites who are stumbling have not stumbled beyond recovery or the hope of being grafted back in for salvation (Rom. 11:11-23).[9]

We all can agree that Romans 9 involves individuals and covers the topics of election and salvation, but we have to look at the entire context in order understand the apostle’s intention. We also must ask the right question in order to find the right answer. We must understand the apostle’s proposed dilemma in order to rightly interpret his given solution. So, what is the context of Paul’s stated dilemma?

Jews had come to believe that eternal life was guaranteed to any law-abiding citizen of Israel simply on the basis of their being of Israel. They wrongly assumed that being the elect people of God had to do with their own individual salvation. Ironically, the root of this same erroneous conclusion still leads many to misinterpret Paul’s intentions. Israel was elected to carry the word of God so that anyone may believe and be blessed; they were not guaranteed salvation on the basis of their being a descendent of Abraham.

The question Paul is asking is this:

“If God has entrusted his Word to Israelites (vs. 4-5) and the Israelites are standing in opposition to His Word (vs. 2-3), then has God’s promise to deliver His Word through Israel failed (vs. 6)?”  

Paul’s answer is two-fold. Not every descendant of Israel is entrusted with the words of God, nor is everyone who is a child of God made a child on the basis that he or she is a natural decedent of Abraham (9:6-7).

NOTE: In the third chapter of Peter’s second epistle, he warned that some of Paul’s teachings were difficult to understand and could be misinterpreted (2 Peter 3:16). If an inspired apostle, known to be associated with the church in Rome, came to this conclusion about Paul’s teaching, it would be wise for all Christians to tread lightly before adopting interpretations first introduced to the church in the fifth century by Augustine.[10] This warning is especially applicable given that the Augustinian interpretations have lead to unique conflicts throughout the history of the Western church.[11]

God would have little reason to endure anything or anyone with “much patience” if there is nothing outside Himself on which to wait or endure. This clearly implies God’s willingness to hold off from destroying vessels that well deserve to be destroyed immediately. Paul, under inspiration, expresses his assurance that these same vessels, though stumbling have not stumbled beyond hope of recovery (Rm. 11:11-14). The apostle Peter picks up on this same theme in Paul’s teachings when he writes:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up… Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.” (2 Peter 3:9-10, 14-16, emphasis added)

Peter warned Paul’s readers not to be deceived by misapplied distortions of Paul’s letters. He did so in the context of teaching that patience is to be regarded as salvation, which may very well serve as an inspired commentary on Romans 9 itself.

Preaching From Romans 9:1-5

(1) God self-sacrificially loves everyone, even those who rebel to the point of being cut off.

In Hosea 3:1 we learn, “…the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods.” And in Romans 10:21, God Himself says, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” Peter taught, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus passionately declared, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). “When He [Jesus] approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes’” (Lk. 19:42).

This clearly indicates that God does not give up loving people due to their stubborn rebellion. He is “slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness” (Ex. 34:6). He does not hate most of humanity unconditionally from before the foundation of the earth, as some high Calvinists wrongly interpret Romans chapter 9 to mean.[12]

Those judicially hardened or cut off are not born in this condition, as the Calvinistic concept of Total Inability would suggest.[13] Instead, the Israelites referenced here have “grown hardened” over years of rebellion (Acts 28:27), they are cut off for unbelief (11:20) and the hope of the apostle is that they may be grafted back in and saved (11:11-32). Remember the question Paul is answering: Given that Israel is unfaithful, has God’s promise to deliver His Word through them failed?

Answer: No, in order to fulfill His promise and bring His word to light, God will show mercy to the unfaithful when necessary and He will harden the unfaithful when necessary (9:18). The fulfillment of God’s promise is not dependent on their faithfulness (Rom. 3:3). Whatever the Potter has to do to fulfill His promise, He will do, even if that means blinding Israelites in their stubborn rebellion or compelling other sinful Israelites to carry His redemptive message to the world (Acts 9:1-19; Jonah).

In short, Israel’s unfaithfulness does not thwart God’s word! Paul, like Jonah before him, was chosen to take God’s word to those on the outside. Both messengers needed convincing, but God did what was necessary to ensure His Word was delivered. He used externally persuasive means (a big fish and a blinding light) to accomplish this redemptive purpose, not inwardly irresistible means. God’s promise to deliver His word through Israel did not depend on the messengers being faithful, which is exactly why God’s word has not failed (vs. 6).

What is God’s motive in all this? Is it to glorify Himself at the expense of His creation, or is it genuine love, the most self-glorifying characteristic of God? Dr. Jerry Walls argues:

“In a nutshell, our case against Calvinism is that it doesn’t do justice to the character of God revealed in Scripture. It does not accurately portray the holy One who is ‘compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love’ (Ps. 103:8), the God for whom love is not merely an option or sovereign choice, but who is such that his eternal nature is love (1 Jn 4:8).” [14]

Walls goes on to make a case that God’s very nature is love therefore it is not even an option for Him to “not love His creation.” For example, someone who breeds puppies for the purpose of torturing any of them would repulse us. Likewise, we would consider it evil for a father or mother to hate any of their own children who they chose to conceive. And, in the same way, it would appear to be evil for God to hate those who He chose to create. Walls argues:

“God cannot fail to be perfectly loving any more so than He can lie. You don’t have to have children, but if you do you take on an obligation to love them. God’s freedom was in the freedom to create, or not. He didn’t have to create. But once having created, as a necessarily good and loving Being, He cannot but love what He has created. Love is not an option with God…It’s not a question of whether or not God chooses to love, it is WHO HE IS…HE IS LOVE.”[15]

This is not a weakness of God, Walls insists, but His greatest and most self-glorifying strength. Would you consider it a strength or a weakness that my character will not allow me to be cruel to my pets?

Is it a weakness that I am unable to willingly strangle one of my own children to death, as Walls argues? No! That is a strength!

God’s inability to be unloving is not a short coming of God’s strength and power, but the greatest most glorifying characteristic of His eternal nature! To declare God’s universal self-sacrificial love to the entire world reveals God for what makes Him so abundantly glorious!

Love.

Therefore, the question Calvinists are asking is backwards. Instead of asking, as John Piper does, “How does a sovereign God express His love?” We should be asking, “How does a loving God express His sovereignty?”[16]

(2) Pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire you, like He did Paul, to have this kind of self-sacrificial love for those who are still in rebellion against God.

Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, expresses his willingness to take the place of his rebellious kinsmen. He sounds just like Jesus, who was willing to lay down his own life in the place of rebellious sinners. This kind of self-sacrificial love only comes from the Holy Spirit.

We see this same kind of compassion from Moses in Exodus 33, which is also referenced by Paul in this very same chapter (9:15). Paul quotes from a conversation between God and Moses after Israel had just built a golden calf. God was set on destroying them for their rebellion so as to start fresh with Moses. But instead of accepting this honor, Moses pleads with God, saying:

“Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written” (Ex. 32:31-32).

Though God does relent He is still angry at Israel and goes on to instruct Moses to travel into the Promised Land without Him lest He destroy the Israelites before they arrive due to their stubbornness (Ex. 33:1-3). Once again, Moses pleads with God saying:

“’If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’” The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion’” (Ex. 33:15-19).

Remember the original question raised in verses 4-6? If Israelites, the ones entrusted with the very words of God, are unfaithful, then has God’s word failed? Or, similarly stated earlier in chapter 3, “[Israelites] were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?” (Rom. 3:2-3)

Is there a better biblical example of God’s merciful faithfulness to carry out His promise through unfaithful Israelites, led by a divinely appointed mediator, than the story of Exodus 32 and 33? If so, I cannot think of one. God’s words to Moses were a reaffirmation to fulfill His promise through Israel despite the fact that they deserved to be destroyed immediately. Moses, a chosen type for the coming Messiah, stood in to intercede for unfaithful, calloused Israelites so that God’s redemptive promise would be fulfilled through them (Deut. 18:18). Do Moses’ self-sacrificial pleas for unfaithful Jews sound familiar? If not, go back and re-read the first three verses of Romans 9.

When you see the rebellious actions of the lost do you have compassion on them like Jesus did when he looked upon the crowd of sinners (Matt. 9:36)? Or do you get angry and eagerly look forward to God’s wrath falling upon them?

Would you express a sincere willingness to sacrifice yourself for the sake of your rebellious neighbors like Moses and Paul did? If not, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you His compassion for the lost so that you too could say as Paul did, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Rom. 10:1).

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[1] Some well-respected classical Arminian scholars take Romans 8:29-30 to mean that God foresees those who will believe and predestines them to salvation. This is known as the “foresight faith view” and while it certainly is a viable interpretation, it is not the view supported by those, like myself and many other Traditionalists, who hold to the “corporate view.” For more information on the corporate view of election please visit http://www.soteriology101.com.

[2] N.T Wright in a question and answer session at Oklahoma Christian University on April 1, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKwIijhZW-M

 

[3] http://www.pfrs.org/commentary/Rom_8_28.pdf

 

[4] Foxe’s Books of Martyrs, pg. 5: For the cause of Christ, the Apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero in Rome in A.D. 67.”

 

[5] Note: Some Calvinists are “four pointers” (Amyraldism) and deny the teaching of “Limited Atonement,” the view that Christ’s intention on the cross was only to give himself up for those unconditionally elected before the foundation of the world and not for everyone. Reference to: http://vintage.aomin.org/Was%20Anyone%20Saved.html [date accessed: 3/24/15]

[6] Reference to: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Israel.html#.VQ3aO2TF_EI [date accessed: 3/12/15]

[7] James White states, “Only one issue needs to be raised regarding the previous sections: the key to the passage that I hardly ever see addressed by non-Reformed exegetes is the relationship between 9:6 and the rest of the chapter. Paul is addressing one particular issue in this passage, that being, how is it that so many of Abraham’s physical descendants reject the Messiah?   Why do the great body of Jews reject their Messiah? This is a personal question. Paul, as a Jew, embraced the Messiah personally. Most of his brethren rejected Christ personally. Why? This issue is paramount.” – quoted from: http://vintage.aomin.org/Lenskirep.html [date accessed: 3/22/15]

 

[8] John Piper stated, “And since the church is not an ethnic group like Israel was, God doesn’t elect a whole nation for earthly purposes like he did Israel at the Red Sea.” – quoted from: http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-pleasure-of-god-in-election [date accessed: 4/2/15]

 

[9] James White argued in his Diving Line broadcast (11/13/2014) in response to Austin Fischer’s debate rebuttal referencing Romans 11:11: “See he leaves the section that is about individual salvation and he wants to go to groups, because in Romans 11 what you have is the general statement, ‘Look, the Gentiles, and the church ignored this, the Gentiles cannot boast against the Jews who have been cut off for their unbelief, obviously not all Jews, right? Paul is a Jew. So, he [Fischer] has left the specific individual focus of election in Romans 9 and now he is talking groups, that have individual exceptions to the rule, that is all the Jews that are being gathered and saved…the Paul’s, the Lydia’s, so on and so forth…and now he is just going to the groups to try and create a theology that will somehow get rid of the specific teaching that is found in Romans chapter 9. So he [Paul] is saying to the Gentiles, don’t boast against the Jews because if you’re filled with unbelief you will be cut off as well, just as they were. Which really only makes sense if you recognize that faith is the gift of God and a work of the Holy Spirit of God, and there wouldn’t be boasting anyways…” Dr. White shifts from an individual interpretation to a corporate interpretation of the passage. In doing so, he ignores verse 7 where Paul clearly contrasts the “remnant” from “the rest” who “were hardened” and who have “stumbled,” but not “stumbled beyond recovery.” What is true of the nation must be true of individuals within that nation, thus of those who “stumbled” and were “hardened” or “cut off,” some of those individuals clearly recovered from their stumbling (vs. 11) and were provoked out of hardening by envy (vs. 14) or “grafted back in” after leaving their unbelief (vs. 23). Therefore, being hardened or cut off cannot be intended as in reference to the individual non-elect reprobate of the Calvinistic interpretation.

[10] Loraine Boettner, Calvinism in History: Before the Reformation (a Reformed Historian and Theologian): “It may occasion some surprise to discover that the doctrine of Predestination was not made a matter of special study until near the end of the fourth century. The earlier church fathers placed chief emphasis on good works such as faith, repentance, almsgiving, prayers, submission to baptism, etc., as the basis of salvation. They of course taught that salvation was through Christ; yet they assumed that man had full power to accept or reject the gospel. Some of their writings contain passages in which the sovereignty of God is recognized; yet along side of those are others which teach the absolute freedom of the human will. Since they could not reconcile the two they would have denied the doctrine of Predestination and perhaps also that of God’s absolute Foreknowledge. They taught a kind of synergism in which there was a co-operation between grace and free will. It was hard for man to give up the idea that he could work out his own salvation. But at last, as a result of a long, slow process, he came to the great truth that salvation is a sovereign gift which has been bestowed irrespective of merit; that it was fixed in eternity; and that God is the author in all of its stages. This cardinal truth of Christianity was first clearly seen by Augustine, the great Spirit-filled theologian of the West. In his doctrines of sin and grace, he went far beyond the earlier theologians, taught an unconditional election of grace, and restricted the purposes of redemption to the definite circle of the elect.”– quoted from: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/boettner/boettner_calvinism.html [date accessed: 3/12/15]

 

[11] James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical Historical, and Evangelical Vol. 2. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1995), 500: “From Augustine of Hippo to the twentieth century, Western Christianity has tended to interpret the doctrine of election from the perspective of and with regard to individual human beings. During those same centuries the doctrine has been far less emphasized and seldom ever controversial in Eastern Orthodoxy. Is it possible that Augustine and later Calvin, with the help of many others, contributed to a hyper individualization of this doctrine that was hardly warranted by Romans 9-11, Eph. 1, and I Peter 2? Is it not true that the major emphasis in both testaments falls upon an elect people — Israel (OT) and disciples or church (NT)?”

 

[12] Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1930), 29-30: Pink wrote, “God loves whom He chooses. He does not love everybody.”

 

[13] The Village Church, pastored by Calvinistic author and teach, Matt Chandler, has a statement of faith which reads in part, “We are born into a realm of enslavement to self, sin and Satan, wholly unable or unwilling to respond positively to our Maker.” http://www.thevillagechurch.net/mediafiles/uploaded/a/0e1140777_article-membership-class-sovereignty.pdf accessed 10/16/2015

[14] Dr. Jerry Walls, taken from video located at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Daomzm3nyIg last accessed 10/16/2015.

[15] Walls.

[16] Walls.

29 thoughts on “The Potter’s Love

  1. Great stuff.

    As you know, I believe in adequate determinism and don’t believe in libertarian free will — however, I am not a Calvinist, and here you correctly express the Calvinist’s dilemma: “… They have the dilemma of explaining why the same individual hardened Israelites who are stumbling [unelect, per v. 7] have not stumbled beyond recovery or the hope of being grafted back in for salvation.”

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  2. Thanks Leighton for hitting this passage again and for some of the new emphasis, like pointing out the importance of God’s patience…

    Why would God need to tell us He is patient, or longsuffering (I like that word better in this case), if everything is predetermined? It would all be on time according to His plan, and saying He is patient would be a little disingenuous.

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    1. I guess I am going to be disingenuous. Strong words for someone who has rebuked me several times and rightfully so. Disingenuous as not being sincere, just pretending or deceiving, but the good thing is we are doing it only a “little.” 🙂

      Let’s take a look at this and I will try to be sincere;

      2 Peter 3:8 – 10 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed

      Peter tells the (BELOVED) not to overlook this one fact. Remember audience relevance is to be established first amongst other things and then application can be made to the modern day orthodox church. So let’s not forget who the (AUDIENCE) is here. The (BELOVED)

      Then it is mentioned that “one day is as a thousand years, and thousand years one day.” I will let scripture bring understanding and illuminate this verse here.

      Psalms 90:4 – For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

      Then something very important we must notice. Peter says,

      “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise” God had promised something to the audience he was talking to, the (BELOVED)

      So let it be known sincerely that the God of heaven had a purpose that could not be thwarted or defeated and was working all things according to the council of His will and His divine timing. He does according to His council and His will and purpose, not ours.

      You are not on God’s level, you are the creature creature, made in the image of God, bow down and worship at His holy feet and His His Word that will not return to him void.

      For our God is in the heaven and he does whatever he pleases and that is exactly what he is doing right here in this verse in “(NOT BEING SLOW TO FULFILL HIS PROMISE)

      God’s will encomposes “the promise” he made to the “beloved” His council, will and purpose than cannot be thwarted or defeated also encomposes the Lord being (PATIENT TO YOU) who is the you. Who is the audience we established, (THE BELOVED) patient, to the point that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

      Once again when he was speaking these words, who was he talking to, (THE BELOVED)

      Let’s further who Peter was talking to,

      2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

      1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

      2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,

      Peter was talking to the “beloved” “to them that have obtained like precious faith” through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Faith is a gift.

      He was talking to the (ELECT) ACCORDING TO THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD

      He calls them “brothers and sisters” which I think that equals the “beloved” “who have obtained like precious faith” and exhorts them to confirm their (CALLING AND ELECTION) There is that internal calling of the Holy Spirit. The called of Lord. The Holy Spirit takes the external call of the gospel and makes it the effectual calling internally. If not. If not, why do the saved only have the privilege of being the “called of the Lord Jesus Christ” when saved and unsaved were both called externally through preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      Anyway above, no one is being insincere, or disingenuous, the longsuffering and being patient are all part (the means) of the council according to His will. Let God be true and every man a liar. God’s promise to the beloved, elect, brothers and sisters in Christ will be right on time. Fret not my brothers and sisters in Christ, God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is much higher than us, He is God Almighty who will fulfill “His promise to the “beloved”

      Blesings

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  3. For the record I still think Rom. 8:29-30 couldn’t possibly be referring to past saints only and “foreknow” does not mean intimacy. On a more important note, this articles icon looks odd to me like it’s a head or something.

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    1. Hi David, I don’t know if I have shared with you already my expanded translation of Rom 8:29-30. We have had so many conversations! 🙂

      It is interesting that Paul uses “foreknowledge” in a relational way in Acts 26:5, and that Jesus uses “never knew” to speak of those without salvation (Matt 7:23). Though I do not see an OT saints reference in Rom 8, I do think Paul is talking about those who have already come to be known by Christ at the moment of their salvation at some time before Paul writes this letter to the Romans.

      Here is my expanded translation. I’d love to get your thoughts on it. It is something I just came to understand better, I think, this year, focusing on all the Aorist Indicatives as pointing to past events that all happened at the same moment. –

      Romans 8:29-30 NKJV
      For whom [as individuals] He foreknew [started a relationship in a new and everlasting way at the moment of their salvation, that is, their regeneration, when they received everlasting life and were born into God’s family, not before creation] , He also predestined [them, individually at that moment, but also joined them corporately in Christ to His divine plan] to be conformed [partially now, but ultimately after the resurrection of their bodies] to the image of His Son, that He [Christ] might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called [also at the moment of their salvation, not the pre-salvation call, but their divine identification in Christ]; whom He called, these He also justified [also at the moment of their salvation, declaring them in a state of everlasting divine righteousness that is positional, but will be displayed in this life, though imperfectly, but then will be perfected after the resurrection]; and whom He justified, these He also glorified [also at the moment of salvation, and also positional with some temporal display, but with ultimate completion, glorification, after the resurrection].

      Paul is expanding on God’s promise from 8:28, stating that for His children God is working it all out for their good! There is no need to think that Paul is trying to introduce pre-creation determinism, and even if he is, he certainly is not explaining it dogmatically. In my view it seems obvious that Paul is encouraging assurance of personal salvation, and that one can be dogmatic about this from this context, and not about Calvinistic pre-determinism.

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      1. oh but I can’t really see Acts 26:5 as relational it says they knew his way of life, that is a fact—not that they had any particular relationship with him (they may have never even said hi)

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      2. Thanks David for the opinion, my guess that the Jews there that day were Paul’s Pharisee roommates could be equally possible. 😉 That is why the Greek grammar should help us decide which opinion has more weight.

        Paul says they foreknew me, not they foreknew something about me. It was because of their choice to know Paul, whether they ever hugged him or not, 😁 that Paul says they could give a firm testimony of his Pharisee past, in my view.

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      3. Possibly, but the text just says they knew he lived as a strict Pharisee. It’s not implying any special relationship of Biblical “knowing.”

        My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

        Did “all the Jews” have a relationship with Paul? No, but they all may have heard of him.The “they knew me” is qualified by the phrase “that according.” I’d still like one example in all of extent Greek literature where foreknew means an actual relationship and not a fact.

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      4. Hi David, I agree that Paul is pointing to information about his actions as Pharisee, but that that information resulted from their foreknowledge of him relationally. It was not heresay or read by them in a book, but learned by experience by them from Paul’s life in their midst.

        All references in the NT with the word “foreknow” have people, not facts, as the direct object for that verb in each instance. This is experiential knowledge. And as I pointed out from Jesus’ use, “never knew”, it can be even for a salvation relationship.

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  4. quote: By showing that not every Israelite from the seed of Abraham is chosen for the noble purpose of carrying the words of God … not all of the Israelites are the ones chosen to carry that blessing.

    How does this relate to Esau and Pharaoh (both not Israelites), and also, where in Scripture OT or NT does it say some Jews are not called to carry the words of God? I can’t follow this point.

    quote: God would have little reason to endure anything or anyone with “much patience” if there is nothing outside Himself on which to wait or endure…. He did so in the context of teaching that patience is to be regarded as salvation, which may very well serve as an inspired commentary on Romans 9 itself.

    Good point, it’s like God “permitting” what he himself directly decrees.

    quote: God’s promise to deliver His word through Israel did not depend on the messengers being faithful which is exactly why God’s word has not failed (vs. 6). Whatever the Potter has to do to fulfill His promise, He will do, even if that means blinding Israelites in their stubborn rebellion or compelling other sinful Israelites to carry His redemptive message to the world.

    This made me think and I kind of agree, that God will keep calling people to carry the Word, but I have to think that sometimes a specific person is the only one who can reach some people.

    quote: Those judicially hardened or cut off are not born in this condition, as the Calvinistic concept of Total Inability would suggest.[13] Instead, the Israelites referenced here have “grown hardened” over years of rebellion (Acts 28:27)

    I think this is a misunderstanding of Total Inability. Inability means without God’s grace man accomplishes zero, zilch, zip, nada, nothing. Consider Isaiah 5, “Sons I have reared,” could those sons birth or rear themselves? No, they were totally unable to do that. Then later God says he set a wall and tended and guarded his vineyard, can the vineyard do that for itself? No, it’s totally unable. It’s like the seed the sower sows that springs up; the ground is “unable” to make something grow, but once that seed is sown still negative things can happen to it (hard ground, birds, weeds).

    This makes it more understandable when, after SO much prevenient grace, God is angry that Israel has “grown hardened” and become judicially hardened. It’s not that we can argue that goes against total depravity, because the point is not that Israel was soft but God made them hard. If Israel ever was soft why would God harden them? The point is God put in “softening” power and it was resisted. Otherwise what is God hardening but a soft heart, and God has promised not to do such a thing. Judicial hardening is not God making people sinful, that would be Calvinism; it’s God confirming people’s own sin against prevenient grace.

    When you read a statement like “We are born into a realm of enslavement to self, sin and Satan, wholly unable or unwilling to respond positively to our Maker” there is NO ONE ANYWHERE that would say that means EVEN WITH GRACE. The point is this kind of grace in beginning to undo the fall of Adam and lift us back up to a state of fellowship, has to work from the ground up, has to work from the point at which humans have fallen. Nobody teaches inability means inability even with grace. Nobody teaches depravity means depravity even with grace. The point is what God has to do to recover our sinful nature, and that we are helpless without him, and is that grace resistible?

    quote: Do Moses’ self-sacrificial pleas for unfaithful Jews sound familiar? If not, go back and re-read the first three verses of Romans 9.

    This is a terrific point. To become a vessel of wrath we have to resist and fight God’s mercy and grace, not be deprived of it.

    bless

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  5. What I don’t understand is how one who affirms libertarian freewill can coherently talk about God having a purpose. Those who affirm libertarian freewill would say that God out of his love for mankind has given him freewill and never interfere in his choices. In such a scenario, God can only view how the events unfold as a silent spectator and it does not make any sense to say that God is directing it towards some purpose. As far as I can see, only a compatibilist can coherently talk about God directing the events in the world to a purpose.

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      1. I have not seen any libertarian free will scholar say God sometimes interfere in human free will choices. If you can show me some libertarian free will scholars say so, please share what they say in that regard. Also, how do they make that determination i.e. points of time in which God interferes and not interferes.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. John,

    Not sure what you have read or not read, but your claim, which you make repeatedly that proponents of LFW do not believe that God ever “interferes” with human free will is greatly mistaken. You wrote:

    “What I don’t understand is how one who affirms libertarian freewill can coherently talk about God having a purpose. Those who affirm libertarian freewill would say that God out of his love for mankind has given him freewill and never interfere in his choices.”

    And:

    “I have not seen any libertarian free will scholar say God sometimes interfere in human free will choices.”

    Alvin Plantinga holds to LFW and he believes that God sometimes interferes with the human will. J. P. Moreland and Roger Olson two other prominent libertarians also believe that God sometimes interferes with the human will. I could multiply these examples, but the fact you have not seen libertarians who take this position indicates your reading up to this point is limited and not representative at all of what libertarians hold to.

    A common example used by libertarians that God has and does interfere with the human will at times is Nebuchadnezzar (i.e. at one time he is King of a powerful kingdom, as a King able to exercise his will and make all sorts of choices with kingly authority, the next moment, God humbles him by causing him to become like and animal and eat grass! I’d say that was a clear case of God “interfering” with the human will.

    Does God do this all the time? No. Does he do this sometimes? Definitely. I would add that if you look in scripture for examples of this you will very few clear examples of this occurring. This indicates that God’s standard operating procedure is to allow people to exercise their libertarian freedom in most situations without interference. God designed the world to have the order and laws of nature that he wanted it to have. From observation it is very apparent that people often have and make their own choices (i.e. exercise LFW). So it appears God designed the world to be that way. Does it mean he can never interfere with human will? No.

    I would compare it to miracles. Can do miracles? Yes. Does he do miracles all the time? No, they are the exceptions to the way the world ordinarily works.

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    1. Robert, how does one conclude that if God interfered with human choices sometimes, He does not inferfere in our choices now? Is there a way to know it?

      Second, if libertarian free choices are what directs the events in the world, how can we coherently talk about God directing the events towards His purpose? I still don’t understand.

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      1. you say: Second, if libertarian free choices are what directs the events in the world, how can we coherently talk about God directing the events towards His purpose? I still don’t understand.

        I think your point is that God cannot then seemingly coerce people to go towards what his plan is. We need to understand when God “works all things together according to his purpose” from our point of view, that is a conditional purpose. If I, as a parent say to my kid, “clean your room and you can go to your friend’s, otherwise you are grounded,” that is me working out all things according to the counsel of my will—not unilaterally but in relation to another will. That is, if vessel A does action A1 and they have purpose A2, if vessel A does action B1 then they have purpose B2, this is clearly illustrated in the prophet Jeremiah:

        3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. 4 But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

        5 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 6 “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; 8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. 9 Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; 10 if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. 11 So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.”’

        Now is God “directing the events according to His purpose” in this passage or not? Does it necessitate a lack of LFW for us to coherently say, according to Israel’s sin or lack thereof, God directs events?

        But what’s the flip side when we come to combatibilism or determinisim God has nothing to direct at all, but his own meticulous decree. To direct something implies something that needs direction, but if all already always is exactly the decree, what is there to direct. It’s like going on to a movie set and you have a “director” and he says “action!” You tell him, the movie is already started, we are all in it, and the script is always what we do. What room is there in that for a director? I can’t really see any.

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      2. Dzinerner, Whatever you said is perfectly in agreement with my compatiblist view i.e. our free will choices are in line with God’s overall decree and purpose or our free will choices are under God’s will. We think that we are freely willing it but God is achieving His plan through our free will choices. There is no way we can frustrate God’s plan and purpose by choosing against His will. For example, Joseph’s brothers decided to harm him, but they were working to God’s eventual plan of making Joseph a second in to Pharaoh. Nebuchadnezzer was attacking Judah for his territorial ambitions, but God was using him to punish His people for their wrong deeds. That is what Bible reveals about God’s sovereignty in the affairs of the world. But I don’t see how one can say that while affirming libertarian free will.

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      3. John,

        “Robert, how does one conclude that if God interfered with human choices sometimes, He does not inferfere in our choices now? Is there a way to know it?”

        Well I would say a couple of big hints that God is not interfering with some human choices are sins and when people intentionally act against God’s purposes.

        Some examples. If an inmate is convicted of having raped women or abused/molested children, most of us do not believe that God interfered with their will to cause them to commit those crimes (John do you believe that God interferes in people’s will to cause them to commit sinful or evil actions??). Instead, we believe that they acted on their own and God was not involved in their choices. God says He is Holy and hates sin so it is difficult to square these kinds of scriptural statements with people’s sinful choices. This is not to say that God never **uses sinful choices to achieve a good purpose** (e.g. the crucifixion being the best example). But using sinful choices is very different from claiming that God interferes with a person’s will so that they end up committing some sin or evil.

        God states some of his purposes and if people intentionally go against these purposes, God is not interfering in their wills to cause them to go against God’s own purposes. One example is Christian maturity. God desires for all believers to become mature fruit producing believers. If a person makes the wrong choices so that they do not become mature, it is not God interfering in their wills to keep them immature it is the people themselves making the wrong choices on their own. God says that when it comes to temptations that he always promises the believer a way of escape. So if a believer gives into temptation, they cannot claim (nor should we) that God interfered in their will to cause them to give into the temptation.

        “Second, if libertarian free choices are what directs the events in the world, how can we coherently talk about God directing the events towards His purpose? I still don’t understand.”

        When it comes to events occurring in the world and God’s providence. It is too simple to claim that “libertarian free choices ALONE are what directs the events in the world”. Instead the reality is that there is an interplay or mixture of freely made choices, coerced choices, God’s working in hearts and minds (convicting nonbelievers of sin, revealing Christ to them, convicting believers of their sins, strengthening believers to be obedient, providing believers a way out of their temptations, guiding believers), God’s interventions in situations (including answering prayers), God’s miracles, angelic activity in the world (both good and bad angels), etc. etc. I don’t think any of us fully understand how all things work together. And yet we are told that with believers, God works in all these things to bring about good. Our priority is not to try to understand it all, but to trust the Lord in all circumstances.

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  7. (1) Since the Compatibilist view [of exhaustive Determinism] requires that God does “whatsoever comes to pass,” this view loses viability whenever God says that He does *not* do something (i.e. Jeremiah 32:25; Zechariah 1:15), thus evidencing that “God’s plan” does not include everything that happens.

    Calvinists then ask whether God “knew” that people would have acted outside of His will, and of course Arminians believe in omniscience, and so they ask why (if it wasn’t in God’s will) that He chose to permit it, thus attempting to demonstrate that even what God allows, He is willing and wanting to have happen as part of His will, but if we ask the same question of the father of the prodigal son, in terms of why the father chose to allow his son to leave with his share of the inheritance, and whether his permission ensures that the father is getting exactly what he wanted to happen, it is readily apparent that the father was not getting what he wanted, but was simply reluctantly acquiescing, which is exactly what Arminians believe happens whenever someone goes to Hell, in that a broken-hearted Savior says, “Not My will but yours.” (adapted from 2nd Peter 3:9)

    (2) The other problem with Compatibilism is that if people merely “think” that they are freely willing to do something, but are actually receiving all of their thoughts, intentions and desires of their heart from God (cradle to grave and into eternity beyond) so that they erroneously think that they are acting upon their own self-will, then a problem arises when we consider whether the devil merely “thinks” that he was acting alone and doing something of his own, and whether the demons merely “think” that they are acting alone and doing something of their own, when yet according to Calvinism/Determinism/Compatibilism, it is God who is pulling their strings, so to speak, and who is willing and working within them, and thus making God, through Determinism/Compatibilism, not only the author of sin, but it’s sole architect. Calvinists deny this charge, which R.C. Sproul says that Calvinists must do, but they deny it only through Special Pleading.

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    1. Richard, I don’t think that Jeremiah 32:35 is a verse that a compatiblist would worry about. It can be interpreted as way of communicating to Israelites that those practices are not something God approves of. I don’t know what the issue with Zechariah 1:15 is.

      But one thing I will agree with you is that one could find support for various positions from certain verses of the Bible. For example, open theists will use initial events in the chapter of Genesis like Adam and Eve story, God regretting that He created the world because of the wickedness, Tower of Babel story etc where God is shown to know the events after it has occurred. But question is whether they can use that view consistently across the Bible. Either God has foreknowledge or He has not. I believe that God being foreknowledge is what has maximum support in the Bible. Same goes for compatibilist view. We could show verses here and there that could put compatiblist view to question, but I believe that compatiblist view has the maximum support in the Bible.

      Secondly I don’t mind those who are holding libertarian free will view as I know that they could find support for that position in the Bible. I will argue that the compatibilist view has more Biblical support than libertarian free will view. But what I don’t understand is how one can talk about the events in the world having a purpose under that view. Two coherent positions one could take if one holds on to libertarian free will is Molinism and Open theism. In Molinism, God knows all the events that would occur from eternity, because God chose to actualize one of the many possible worlds that was available to Him i.e. He knows the entire chain of free will choices from the beginning to end of the world in that particular possible world He is going to actualize through His middle knowledge. Second coherent view is open theism, which is as straightforward as it can be i.e. God comes to know of our free will choices as and when we make it. Then, there is a third view, mysterion view held by Roger Olson (and possibly by Leighton Flowers) where they want to affirm both foreknowledge and libertarian free will but does not explain how. So there is nothing to engage there. But my point is, both with Molinism and Open theism, libertarian free will choices of individuals are what drive the events in the world; God is just looking at it as silent spectator as He has decided to give that power to human beings (that is the whole point of “libertarian” free will). In such a scenario, I can’t see how one can talk about God having a plan or purpose towards which events in the world are going towards. He is just accepting wherever the free will choices of individuals are taking the world to. Only in a compatibilist view (in my view) one could talk about God having a purpose or plan towards events in the world are moving towards in a meaningful sense.

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      1. How is giving people a choice not a purpose? You can’t complain about no purpose but then make purpose only be what you want.

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  8. John,

    I hadn’t seen your response to Richard, but you say a couple of things there that merit a response.
    First you wrote:

    “Then, there is a third view, mysterion view held by Roger Olson (and possibly by Leighton Flowers) where they want to affirm both foreknowledge and libertarian free will but does not explain how. So there is nothing to engage there.”

    I believe it is very rational to make a distinction between THAT and HOW when it comes to God. By this I mean take the idea of God acting in the world. I have no doubt THAT God acts in the world, but I do not know or understand HOW God acts in the world. God is an immaterial spirit in His essence, he has no body parts, no sense organs, no brain, no central nervous system, etc. So HOW does He act in the world? Don’t know HOW nor do I need to. What I need to do is to trust Him and His actions in the world. The same applies to the issue of HOW does God know things? We know THAT He knows things, but HOW does He know what is happening right now (as He has no eyes, no ears, no sense organs, is immaterial, etc.). This is why I find it a bit presumptuous of some people when they speak about HOW God knows the future: we don’t know HOW he knows the future we don’t even know HOW he knows what is happening right now. If we examine scripture it reveals that He does know the past the present and the future that He knows everything: but scripture never reveals HOW He knows what He knows. So we know THAT He knows all things but not HOW.

    “But my point is, both with Molinism and Open theism, libertarian free will choices of individuals are what drive the events in the world; God is just looking at it as silent spectator as He has decided to give that power to human beings (that is the whole point of “libertarian” free will). In such a scenario, I can’t see how one can talk about God having a plan or purpose towards which events in the world are going towards.”

    In my other response to you John I pointed out that history is a complex interplay of various factors and various wills (God, men, angels). John when you speak of LFW here “driving the events of the world” you speak as a DEIST (i.e. God created the world, set it in motion and now is “hands off”, not involved, just observing what is happening). Now I know you are not a deist, but neither are non-Calvinists who hold to LFW. The Bible presents a God who is actively involved, not a deist God who is a mere “silent spectator”. One of the things I loved about a friend of mine who has since gone to be with the Lord is that Francis Schaeffer used to speak in his books of a “God who is not silent”. And He is not silent, He speaks to us through His Word, through creation, through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, through God’s people. So this concept of God being a “silent spectator” is just totally unbiblical and out of touch with reality.

    John which Christians do you know who actually believe this, that God is just watching and not involved or acting in the world today?

    Can you give any example of any believer who thinks this way?

    If you cannot, then you are giving us a misrepresentation of what believers believe about God’s involvement in the world.

    Seems to me that the believers that I know believe God is not silent, that He has spoken and continues to speak to His people. The believers that I know all believe in prayer and God answering prayer (which is the complete opposite of a God who just looking on as a silent spectator.

    “He is just accepting wherever the free will choices of individuals are taking the world to.”

    This is another misrepresentation and an easy one to refute. According to scripture if believers choose to reject God’s discipline, refuse to repent of their sins, sometimes God will take them out of this world. That is not only a direct intervention in the world, it also shows that God is NOT “just accepting wherever the free will choices of individuals are taking the world to”. Other examples could be given, but again, what you state here is a misrepresentation of what people who hold to LFW believe.

    “Only in a compatibilist view (in my view) one could talk about God having a purpose or plan towards events in the world are moving towards in a meaningful sense.”

    This is not true as most believers are not compatibilists, believe in LFW and have no doubt from both their experience and scripture that God has purposes that He is carrying out in the world. There are also clear prophecies that God is working according to purposes and will intervene in the world to ensure those purposes are fulfilled.

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    1. Robert, even though you say you believe in LFW, you speak like someone who are compatibiist to me. If God has a purpose that He is carrying out in the world He created, is it not our free will choices subject to His plan and creative decree? All I am saying as a compatibilist, is that God’s ultimate plan about the world is being worked out through our free will choices.

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  9. We should all be disabused of the notion that Paul is teaching how to be saved in his epistles which are teaching sanctification. In none of his epistles does he connect repentance with salvation, but in Acts 17:30-31 where he did preach the gospel, he writes “but now God has called all men every where to repent.” That is what is required of men in order to be saved.

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