General EU questions


#1

Hi,

This is my first post besides my introduction.

I’ve been a committed Calvinist the last ten years, although I attend a Christian & Missionary Alliance church which is Arminian for the most part-- I’ve kind of been a burr in everyone’s saddle - haha!. Well, when this whole Rob Bell thing picked up a few weeks ago I was quick to send out emails keeping everyone informed of the tragic spread of Universalism. :ugeek: During these engagements I wrote my pastor how convinced I was in Calvinistic theology as the only true interpretation of Scripture to refute this teaching. I still believe that it is the only other possible reading of Scripture that makes any sense.

Well, after sending off an email to my pastor waxing on about Calvinism, I really began to think about whether Scripture truly teaches that God’s ultimate purpose is to have the majority of mankind suffer in eternal, conscious torment, while “the few”, “the elect” bask in God’s mercy. It just didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t make sense. As much I appreciate the Calvinistic goal of defending God’s glory and justice, in the end I don’t think this framework glorifies God or commends him as just.

So then I began to do some research and found out about Talbot, you guys, and a bunch of other guys, and now here I am. But right now I feel like I don’t know anything at all about the Bible. I mean, everything I know is set in this Calvinistic framework. For instance, last night I started reading the bible and turned to Romans chapter 8, of course, a watershed passage as far as election and predestination is concerned. I just didn’t know what to make of it at all. I feel like I’m reading something that makes no sense at all. And then Romans 9 gets even more confusing! I mean, I can handle it from the Calvinist viewpoint, but I have no idea what election means from the EU standpoint. Does EU just clarify a few troubling philisophical concerns, but leaves the rest of the Bible making so sense? Help!

Well, the title of my post is “general questions”, so I guess I should get to the point…

  1. What does election mean in EU? What does it mean that God predestined us? Does he predestine the entire human race?

#2

Good question! I have questions along that line, too, so I’ll give a summary of my recent thoughts on it…

Andrew Jukes has some good things to say about the concept of “first-fruits” here:
tentmaker.org/books/Restitut … ofall2.htm
Now, I haven’t read the whole book, but he makes some good points. What I’m thinking is pretty much agreeable with what he says (I think).

In answering this question, let’s look at our big picture: God creates mankind to worship Him, but mankind decides (can’t necessarily say “freely chooses” as a Calvinist, right? :slight_smile: ) to go their own way, sinning and dying. God wants to rescue/save/deliver mankind, so Jesus comes and does his stuff. Now, as URs, we believe that this task of saving mankind (restoring, reconciling, redeeming us to God’s original purpose for us–which really hasn’t ever changed) will ACTUALLY happen at some point in the (distant?) future, for ALL PEOPLE.

So, does it make sense to draw a distinction between “elect” and “non-elect”?
–From an eternal perspective, no–because all people are elect in Christ. Of course, we all have different paths by which we end up coming to repentance and different messes from which Christ save us, but if all are redeemed by Christ, then all are essentially elect in him.
–From a temporal perspective, yes. We who believe (and are experiencing the benefits of being in Christ already) are the first-fruits, the beginning of the harvest, the sign of the full manifestation of God’s purpose, guaranteed by Christ’s blood. There is no reason to boast or glory in ourselves, of course. If we look at 2 Cor 5:14-6:10 we see that we who know Christ now get the awesome privilege and blessing of sharing in God’s service of reconciliation, but we also get to experience the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ, which come along with the privilege (as Paul details in 6:4-10).

I think we see this in Romans 11 (just to take one passage off the top of my head). The Jews were chosen by God to bless the nations, and that will still happen, even though they’re temporarily hardened. After the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, then all Israel will be saved. Believing Jews get to be in on this from the beginning–as long as they’re not like the older son in the parable of the prodigal (who of course didn’t appreciate the blessing of getting to do the Father’s work along with him!). We who have been grafted in already, the “elect” if you will, get to participate in and see the drama unfold, and (hopefully!) don’t get much of the eschatological wrath coming to the temporarily non-elect.

Hope that makes sense. That’s kind of my first thoughts on this question. :slight_smile:


#3

I’d say something along the lines of what Neal wrote. Talbott looks at this in his book & Parry does too in TEU (sorry was up at 3am this morning so my brain is too foggy to give you a better reference).


#4

From my studies, Predestination and Predetermination are two separate things. All things are predestined, it is their destiny, but not all Predetermined on which path they choose. Simply put, some enter the gate of the City through Life, other enter the gate of the City through Destruction. To those who walk the narrow path versus those who walk the wide path; yet both enter the city, some with reward and other escaping like one through fire [Matthew 7:13-14; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15]. As for the ministry and that which comes, I believe God has given each their gifts according to His wisdom but whether one walks in those gifts is another story.


#5

Rick, I think a lot of us here have found ourselves in the position you describe! It doesn’t “make sense” because the lights suddenly got a lot brighter and what you’re looking at suddenly is found to be other than what you thought it was. :wink: I find scripture to make much more sense now that ever it did–all around, not just on this issue.

I suggest you read through Romans – from the beginning on into chapter 12 – in one sitting. It’s a mistake to break it up into little bits, losing the train of Paul’s thought as he develops it through his letter. If you’re like me, you’ll keep hitting all these pre-programmed I-already-know-what-this-means “triggers” – don’t let those ruts grab your tires and pull you off the road. Paul is going somewhere with it all–climaxing in ch 11 and 12 and moving into the “because of all this, how shall we then live” result.

I’d say: Israel was elect–chosen for a purpose–to produce the Messiah. The Christian elect are the Body of Christ in this age-- “called, chosen, and faithful” – His physical presence now. These are the ones who are used by God to bring in the Kingdom–who are collectively a holy priesthood, the Bride of Christ, the Temple of the Living God. The human race is predestined to salvation, though not all are elect and saved in this age. He is the savior of all men–especially of those believing.

Jesus sends us out to proclaim the kingdom. This is the gathering of the elect. The elect will respond in joy and produce much fruit – as for those who aren’t receiving we move on. Their time is not yet. And we are NOT to call down fire on them! :laughing: (Lk 9:54,55)

Sonia


#6

You will have to understand that Romans 9-11 deals primarily with Israel’s election as a nation that God used to fulfill his purposes. The lament Paul has is that Israel lost its love and its favor with God and that is why they are blinded until the time of the Gentiles is complete, but even then there is an “election”, those Paul says is in Christ. But the good news at the end of chapter 11 is that “all Israel will be saved”.

As far as predestination is concerned, I’d had, being a non-calvinist, problems with certain verses in John 6:

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” vs 37

“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” vs 39

“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” vs 44

“And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” vs 65

These definitely seem like verses favoring Calvinism.

On the one hand, no one can come to the Father except He draw them. So the implication here is that God doesn’t apparently draw everyone, since everyone doesn’t get ‘saved’, at least here in this life. But that seems to contradict other passages that tell us that God is no respector of persons.

But then I noticed vs 45,

“It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”

This is a quote from Isaiah 54:13, “And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”

If you look at the entire chapter in Isaiah, you’ll find some remarkable statements:\

“For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left (I thought the left were doomed); and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” vs3

“For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” vs 5

“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.” vs 7

“In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.”

Wow! I suddenly realize that this has universal implications. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me”. What could that mean but that the Father will draw everybody…eventually! How glorious is the gospel now, my friend?


#7

Thanks everyone for your responses. I

I am working my way through Andrew Juke’s “Restituiton” and WOW, I am really impressed. I love older writers, especially 19th century writers who I find to be the perfect balance of old school articulation and readability. Thanks for posting that link, things are really becoming clearer.

Honestly, I had been a little concerned that my new universalistic leanings may be nothing more than wishful thinking, or at worse I would be necessarily involving myself in some form of teaching that really doesn’t take the Bible as authoritive or some kind of “truth is all relevant” Emergent theology. Well I’m beginning to sense that at the very least Evangelical Universalism is not like this, that it does still take serious sin, holiness and yes, judgment.

I have more to say about what I’m reading in Jukes but have to get back to work now…

Rick


#8

Good morning Rick,

It’s taken me a couple of years to re-think much of scripture. I had always approached it from a classic Arminianist perspective. The scriptures that affirm the sovereignty of God really challenged me several years ago. I came to believe salvation was a mystery, that somehow God was sovereign and yet God had given humantiy autonomy, and thus though God willed the salvation of all humanity and God loved all of humanity, somehow most/some people would certainly be damned. So though salvation was a mystery, damnation was a certainty! So in reality, my faith in Christ for Hell for “others” was more certain and more pervasive than my faith in Christ for salvation for myself and “others”.

Well, anyhow, because I had come to see scripture affirm both the sovereignty of God and the love of God for all humanity, and that scripture also seems to affirm the ultimate salvation of all humanity, when I studied scripture on Hell, the more I studied it, the more I saw that my traditional interpretations of passages concerning judgment, “Hell”, and penalty of sin were all skewed by tradition and did not match what it actually says from a contextual point of view.

For example, the passage on the way being narrow in Mat. 7. Note that in context Jesus is talking about right attitudes, right doctrine, and right actions. I believe that the narrow way that he is reffering to is the “Convergence” of all three! If one is missing any one of these three, then he’s missing the way of life and walking in the way of destruction. One can have right doctrine and actions, but if one’s attitudes are wrong, selfish, then the result is destruction. One can have right attitudes and doctrine, but if one doesn’t put legs on those beliefs, then the result is destruction. One can have right attitudes and right actions, but if one’s doctrine is wrong then the result will be destruction. It’s the convergence of right attitudes, right beliefs, and right actions that leads us to life, a life blessed by God.

I believe that the traditional doctrine has things completely backwards. Salvation is not about getting “us into heaven” “some day”, it’s about getting “heaven into us” “today”! We pray, “Your kingdom come on earth as it IS in heaven”! Ultimately, in heaven, all people are saved, reconciled to God and one another; but today most people are not reconciled to God and one another. Even those who are reconciled to God are tore apart from one another! Our job is to participate in this ministry of reconciliation, working towards the fully realized Victory of Christ over everything where “love wins”, the enemies of Christ are all reconciled to God! And we work with full faith knowing that the power of love cannot fail, the power of righteousness prevails so greatly, that even one day the demons will bow their knee in worship and joyfully proclaim their allegiance to God - fully reconcilled all of creation! What a vision of joy! What a vision to empower us to embrace and suffer the rejection that comes now through aligning ourselves with Christ - knowing that one day Jesus really does Win!


#9

Tillerman,
SLJ said a mouthful when she said that we’ve all found ourselves in that same position. There is so much that shifts in your thinking that literally - for me - the NT begins making sense of the OT rather than this an antithesis. I recall a great point Talbott made in his exchange with John Piper years ago - that the hardened ones in Romans 9 were hardened that they too might receive mercy (Romans 11) - not unto eternal damnation. It’s a point that Calvinists cringe and have to struggle with by making that same reference into a coroporate issue - but I believe Talbott hit a grand slam because those hardened are the ones who need to receive mercy.

I would also say stay focused on Christ and don’t give up your old teachings too fast. Hold on to them and weigh them carefully. There is a lot of good in Calvinism and lots of good in Arminian theology. We’re always here to help out and we’re no different than you, we’re searching the truth of God.

Auggy


#10

Tillerman, sorry I had forgotten your question by the time I had read the responses.

For me Elect is Christ himself. When we are saved (come to belief) via the grace by faith we become a part of his body in the world - or in Bonhoffer’s words “We become Christ in the world”. As we are part of his body, we are now elect. We are chosen in him because he was chosen. While I agree with Sonia (slj) that Isreal was elect (chosen) I believe it’s totally modelistic of the Christ. For me the whole OT is a typology of this man Joshua of Nazareth and now we’re a part of his story. And the elction of him is thus passed to the entire world but it is experienced as we come to belief. In other words, he was chose and appointed to subdue the earth and make it his - ALL THINGS. These things will bow their knee and praise him and they being covered by him are elect because they are one with him as he is one with the Father.

I’m not dogmatic on this, their only my ideas which are formed from basic studies.

Aug