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Double Double, Toil & Trouble?

© Rob Wilkerson

Chapter Two Defining the Terms
The inability or unwillingness to properly define terms is one of the biggest reasons why theology causes so many divisions in the body of Christ. It is probably this one factor alone that caused so much conflict in our church. In one church where I pastored several years ago Jim Atkinson, a dear friend and one of our deacons, was wisest in this respect. When the conflict arose regarding Calvinism in our church, he never defined himself as a Calvinist. But neither did he allow another person to name someone else as a Calvinist without first defining the term. He would ask them, “YOU define the term first, and then I’ll know how to answer you.” This is always the wisest move when it comes to matters like this. I tried to follow his pattern. Before a church business meeting one day, someone came up to me and asked me if I really did believe in “that Calvinism stuff.” Learning from Jim I asked the person to first define the word for me before I said “yes” or “no.” They grew frustrated with me and accused me of evading the question, claiming that is the mark of all false teachers. What a nice compliment to give your pastor! I simply responded that I would look foolish to say I did or did not believe in something unless we first identified what he thought it meant. I walked right into that one. I’m sure you can guess this person’s response. “Well you already look foolish either way, don’t you?” I can sure set myself up sometimes. This person didn’t seem to understand the basic logic behind my response. If I didn’t know what they thought Calvinism was, then I might be furthering their misunderstanding of it or else blindly agreeing with something which may bring disastrous consequences. Interestingly, as it turned out, they never could tell me what Calvinism was! So I didn’t tell them whether or not I believed in it! When others label you, ask them to define the label they’ve just used. Chances are, they have no idea what that label means, or if they do, they have some totally “wacked out” understanding of it. So at the outset, let me define the words I’ll be using with my own words. That way, you’ll know what I mean by those words as you are reading, and if you find you are on the other side of the fence from me on this issue, at least you’ll be able to label me correctly! Predestination and Election I’d like to simply define four words. The first two are interrelated: election and predestination. Now, before I begin, I want to you to understand that the aim of this book is to examine in-depth the texts and theological arguments surrounding double-

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predestination, This, however, is only just a facet of the doctrine of predestination as a whole. What this means is that I am only going to be able to touch lightly upon the larger subject of predestination and election. I trust you understand.1 Election and predestination are the two evil words that many pastors are told they must never utter from the pulpit. I’ve even heard them referred to as the “E” word and the “P” word! But I side with John Calvin who said in a sermon on Ephesians, “All who would do away with God’s predestination or are loth [reluctant] to hear it spoken of, thereby show themselves to be mortal enemies of God’s praise.”2 The reason they are mortal enemies of God’s praise is because God is clear in Ephesians 1. “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will – to the praise of the glory of His grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son” (1:4-6). First, consider the word “chose” in verse 4. It is a synonym for God’s election. And God’s election had an intended purpose, namely that we would be holy and blameless in his sight. All blood-earnest preachers know the value of preaching real holiness. According to Paul, holiness begins with election. Next, according to verse 5, God did this, “by predestinating us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ.” This choosing of us for holiness was done by an act called predestination. As far as I can tell, there’s just not much room for debate on what the word itself means. It comes from the Greek word proorizo (pronounced, pro-or-reedsoh) and in the words of one Greek and Latin scholar, “signifies to resolve beforehand within one’s self what to do; and, before the thing resolved on is actually effected, to appoint it to some certain use, and direct it to some determinate end.”3
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For a more in-depth study of the reformed doctrines of predestination and election a good place to start is The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Lorraine Boettner (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1932). If you are a Baptist, or more specifically a Southern Baptist, begin with seventeen year Southern Baptist President Patrick Hues Mell’s work, A Southern Baptist Looks at Predestination (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1995).. If you are looking for a more general and broad overview on the subject, see The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented by Steele, Thomas, and Quinn (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2004).. Finally, if you desire to read comparatively on the various views of predestination, see Predestination & Free Will: Four View of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom by Feinberg, Geisler, Reichenbach and Pinnock, edited by Basinger and Basinger (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986).
2

John Calvin. Sermons on Ephesians , “The Third Sermon on the First Chapter.” Internet: The Highway (http://www.the-highway.com/Calvin_Eph3.html)..

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The verb predestinate is actually of a Latin origin, and it means in that language, “to deliberate beforehand with one’s self how one shall act; and in consequence of such deliberation to constitute, foreordain and predetermine where, when, how and by whom anything shall be done, and to what end it shall be done.”4 The last phrase of this quote contains two thoughts that are essential to the subject of predestination: scope and purpose. The scope is found in verse 5 and the purpose in verse 6. First, the scope of predestination includes and engages every single created thing on earth, throughout all of history past, present and future. “No creature, whether rational, or irrational, animate or inanimate, is exempted from its influence. All beings, whatever, from the highest angel to the meanest reptile, and from the meanest reptile to the minutest atom, are the objects of God’s eternal decrees and particular providence.”5 “…in common theological writings, predestination is spoken of as extending to whatever God does, both in a way of permission and efficiency, as, in the utmost sense of the term, it does. It is worthy of the reader’s notice that the original word, proqesi which we render purpose, signifies not only an appointment, but a fore-appointment, and such a fore-appointment as is efficacious and cannot be obstructed, but shall most assuredly issue in a full accomplishment..”6 To be sure, this theology is not found in verse 5, but represents the much broader and wider field of biblical theology on this subject, not the least of which is verse 11, which teaches,

3

Jerome Zanchius. Absolute Predestination. (Chingford, London: Silver Trumpet Publications Limited, 1989 Reprint), p. 48. I make no apologies for quoting profusely from Zanchius on this subject. In my opinion, his work on the subject is the most brief and succinct and well-worded. I highly recommend it to anyone studying the subject whether as a scholar looking for more time-tested insight, or from a layman who is looking to get an overview of the subject. One will not find a more gospel-oriented, Calvinistic man with an evangelistic zeal and fervor that makes me drool.
4

Ibid. Ibid, pp. 48-49. The word “mean” is a sixteenth century term for “lowly.” Ibid, p. 47, fn.

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“In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will…”7 The theology of that verse cannot be debated. God doesn’t just work at what He does. He accomplishes and finishes everything He starts, no matter what it is. And He does it according to the standard of His own counsel, and not anybody else’s. Now while this much is true, the theology that is actually found in verse 5 is that the scope of God’s predestining work is “us.” He predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. That basically means we were appointed before the foundation of the world, according to verse 4, to be adopted as His sons and daughters, to be a part of His family. That scope is taught again in Romans 8 where, according to verse 28, “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” The reason that “all things” can work together for God is because God’s predestinating activity is being worked out for the good of those who were chosen. That this is the bare truth is presented in the oft skipped verses that follow. “…who are called according to his purpose because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified” (vv. 29-30). Second, consider the purpose of God’s predestinating activity. This is found in verse 6 of Ephesians 1. There Paul writes that the choosing, predestinating and adopting were all done “to the praise of the glory of his grace…” That’s why God predestinated. He didn’t do it arbitrarily just to elect a few and send the rest to hell. Those He did choose to save from the foundation of the world, and those He did desire “according to the pleasure of his will,” to adopt were predestined because it glorified Him. This theme is repeated in verses 11 and 12, to which I’ve already referred: “…we were predestined…so that we…would be to the praise of his glory.” Two verses later, Paul repeats it again. Referring to the Holy Spirit whom God has given us as a down payment of everything else He’s promised us, Paul says we’ve been sealed in Him, “until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.” Now, for those who have perhaps used Paul’s prayer in verses 16 and following as a wonderful pastoral prayer for the flock, the reality is that this prayer was intended by Paul to gain one answer to his prayer. He wanted the eyes of the Ephesians’ hearts to
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See also Isaiah 40, 46:10, Romans 11:36, and Colossians 1:16-20.

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be enlightened, “so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (v. 18). In other words, friends, after explaining God’s electing, adopting and predestinating work, Paul wanted his people to understand the spiritual implications and applications of their predestination. He was basically praying, “Since you guys have been predestined by God before the foundation of the world, I want you all to know just what this really means for you all because it is central to everything else I’m about to tell you in this letter!” Reprobation and Double-Predestination Now there is a side to predestination that is horrible, awful, terrible…in fact, there are just not enough words in the English language like these to describe how bad this other side really is. John Calvin himself has written, “It is an awful (horrible) decree, I confess, but no one can deny that God foreknew the future, final fate of man before he created him, and that he did foreknow it, because it was appointed by his own decree.”8 This famous statement by Calvin has many times been erroneously understood to refer to the entire doctrine of predestination. But Calvin wasn’t saying that at all. He was rather using this terminology to describe the horrible nature and fate of the one whom God had reprobated. The fact of the matter is that in choosing, predestining, and adopting people before the foundation of the world, those who die without Christ are in fact not among those chosen, predestined and adopted. And if they die without Christ, it is because they were in fact not predestined by God before the foundation of the world. Again, listen to Calvin’s own words on the matter. “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he has determined in himself, what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others.

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Quoted in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.) The original quotation reads “Decretum quidem horribile fateor.” Per Schaff, this famous expression is often ignorantly applied to the whole doctrine of predestination, while Calvin only uses it of the decree of reprobation. The decree of election is glorious and most comforting. There is no need, therefore, of moderating the term horribile, which means horrible, terrible., dreadful. In French he calls it ‘ce décret qui nous doit espouvanter,’ a decree which should terrify us.” [The material in this software edition has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.] Footnoted after this statement by Calvin are Schaff’s remarks.

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Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death.”9 Now, this is where the emotions start to kick in. This is where many a believer has begun to convulse violently either within their hearts or outwardly in their behavior. Statements like this cause multiple emotional conniptions. And when these emotions kick in, they take over the mind, making it unable to reason any longer. This is undoubtedly what lay behind the sarcastic hymns written by John and Charles Wesley. It is evident, at least to me, that they allowed their emotions to override their intellect on this issue. Here is what John Wesley supposedly wrote. “Sing, O hell, and rejoice ye that are under the earth. For God, even the mighty God, hath spoken and doomed to death thousands of souls, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. Here, O death, is thy sting. They shall not, cannot escape. For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken. Here, O grave, is thy victory. Nations yet unborn, or even they had done good or evil, are doomed to never see the light of life, but thou shalt gnaw upon them for ever and ever. Let all those morning stars sing together who fell with Lucifer, sun of the morning. Let all the sons of hell shout for joy. For the decree is past and who shall disannul it.”10 Charles Wesley wrote his own hymn reflecting his similar sentiments. “O Horrible Decree, Worthy of whence it came! Forgive their hellish blasphemy, Who charge it on the Lamb! God, ever merciful and just, With newborn babes did Tophet fill; Down into endless torments thrust; Merely to show His sovereign will. This is that Horrible Decree! This is that wisdom from beneath! God (O detest the blasphemy!) Hath pleasure in the sinner’s death.”11 If the Wesley brothers were here, I hope I could sit down over a spot of tea and discuss the emphasis of verse 11 in Ephesians 1. The truth in that verse must guide our emotions. Remember, God is accomplishing all things according to the counsel of His
9

Calvin, Institutes, 3.21.5. Laurence M. Vance, The Other Side of Calvinism, Pensacola, Florida, Vance Publications, 1999, p. 293. Vance, pp. 287-88.

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will. God does not predestine someone to come to Him and then not see to it that such a person fails to come. He will accomplish and finish, bringing to fruition, whatever He has predestined. So for those who do not come, who are not believers, who have not been predestined by God, these are not predestined to enjoy “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ” (v. 3). If they are not predestined to enjoy these things, then one of two things is true of them. Either God passes them by, sovereignly deciding not to choose them. Or God takes as active a role in damning them to hell as He does in adopting and redeeming the elect to heaven. Both of these views cause us to end up wading into the theological Slough of Despond called double-predestination, ever sinking, losing our balance, walking deeper and darker wondering if we will ever get to the other side of the issue. That’s what the rest of this book aims for. I want to give you a few stepping stones to make the journey across this issue a little easier and more understandable. So even if you get to the other side and don’t agree with me, at least you’ll know the issues well enough. It is called double predestination because it’s focus is on the other side of predestination, namely, the group not chosen from before the foundation of the world. Who are they? Why were they not predestined? What is God’s purpose for them? These and other such questions are the ones to be debated and answered under this heading of theology. But no matter which path one takes down this road, those who are not saved form a group called the reprobate. In the words of Zanchius, here is a standard definition for reprobation. “Reprobation denotes either (1) God’s eternal preterition of some men, when He chose others to glory, and His predestination of them to fill up the measure of their inquities and then to receive the just punishment of their crimes, even ‘destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.’ This is the primary, most obvious and most frequent sense in which the word is used. It may likewise signify (2) God’s forbearing call by His grace those whom He hath thus ordained to condemnation, but this is only a temporary preterition, and a consequence oft hat which was from eternity. (3) And, lastly, the word may be taken in another sense as denoting God’s refusal to grant to some nations the light of the Gospel revelation. This may be considered as a kind of national reprobation, which yet does not imply that every individual person who lives in such a country must therefore unavoidably perish for ever, any more than that every individual who lives in a land called Christian is therefore in a state of salvation. There are, no doubt, elect persons among the former as well as reprobate ones among the latter. By a very little attention to the context any reader may easily

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discover in which of these several senses the words elect and reprobation are used whenever they occur in Scripture.”12 Have you ever read John Bunyan Pilgrim’s Progress? I’m sure if you did you thoroughly enjoyed it as have so many millions since it was written some four hundred plus years ago. But did you also know that Bunyan believed in double-predestination. In his book Reprobation Asserted, Bunyan described the decree of reprobation. “First generally, as it concerneth persons temporary and visibly reprobate: thus, to be reprobate is to be disapproved, void of judgment, and rejected, etc. To be disapproved, that is, when the word condemns them, either as touching the faith or the holiness of the Gospel; the which they must needs be that are void of spiritual and heavenly judgment in the mysteries of the kingdom, a manifest token they are rejected. And hence it is that they are said to be reprobate or void of judgment concerning the faith; reprobate or void of judgment touching every good work; having a reprobate mind to do those things that are not convenient either as to faith or manners. And hence it is again that they are also said to be rejected of God, cast away and the like.”13 Connecting Predestination with Reprobation When predestination is linked with reprobation, the theological concept is described in the following terms. “Predestination, as it regards the reprobate, is ‘that eternal, most holy, sovereign and immutable act of God’s will, whereby He hath determined to leave some men to perish in their sins, and to be justly punished for them.”14 This theology is backed not only by Scripture, as the rest of this book will examine, but also by logic. Unless you happen to be one who holds to universalism (the belief that holds that all men will be saved and go to heaven), we all know that every single person who has ever lived or who ever will live will not go to heaven. Listen to Zanchius again on this point. “All men universally are not elected to salvation, and, first, this may be evinced a posteriori; it is undeniable from Scripture that God will not in
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Zanchius, pp. 46-47.

13

John Bunyan. Reprobation Assserted. Available online through The Reformed Reader at www.reformed.org/books/bunyan/reprobation.
14

Ibid, p. 50.

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the last day save every individual of mankind! (Dan. xii. 2; Matt. xxv. 46; John v. 29). Therefore, say we, God never designed to save every individual, since, if He had, every individual would and must be saved, for ‘His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure.’ “Secondly, this may be evinced also from God’s foreknowledge. The Deity from all eternity, and consequently at the very time He gives life and being to a reprobate, certainly foreknew and knows, in consequence of His own decree, that such a one would fall short of salvation. Now, if God foreknew this, He must have predetermined it, because His own will is the foundation of His decrees, and His decrees are the foundation of His prescience; He therefore foreknowing futurities, because by His predestination He hath rendered their futurition certain and inevitable. Neither is it possible, in the very nature of the thing, that they should be elected to salvation, or ever obtain it, whom God foreknew should perish, for then the Divine act of preterition would be changeable, waving and precarious, the Divine foreknowledge would be deceived, and the Divine will impeded… “Lastly, that all men are not chosen to life, nor created to that end is evident in that there are some who were hated of God before they were born (Rom. ix. 11-13), are ‘fitted for destruction’ (ver. 22), and ‘made for the day of evil.’ (Prov. xvi. 1).”15 Accurately exegeting and applying these and other similar texts is the heart of this book. And as to the matter of why the reprobate are held accountable for their sin, even though God purposed never to predestine them in the first place, that is one I will seek to answer toward the end of the book. Suffice it to say at this point, though, that I firmly believe with Zanchius and other standard, run of the mill Calvinists, that any sinner who stands before God has only himself to blame for his eternal condemnation. His own sinful nature and sinful deeds, thoughts, words and feelings are his only cause for entering hell. He will never be able to blame God’s failure to predestine him as the reason for his condemnation. “We, with the Scriptures, assert that there is a predestination of some particular persons to life for the praise of the glory of Divine grace, and a predestination of other particular persons to death, which death of punishment they shall inevitably undergo, and that justly, on account of their sins.”16
15

Ibid, pp. 56-57. Ibid, p. 51.

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Be careful here! Be extremely careful of doing what your human intuition is tempted to do at this point. I’m not even reading this with you, but some of you are sensing a rise of internal temperature on your gauge. Undoubtedly, you’re being tempted, just like Alex and Pastor Meddler were, to automatically write me and my view off with the wind because it sounds like I’m contradicting myself. But let me extremely clear with you up front. My intent is to state what the Bible states and only what the Bible states. And if the conclusion from one text happens to seem contradictory to the conclusion from another text, that doesn’t mean that the conclusions are conflicting or contradicting. That’s the very point where I for one am determined to let the texts say what they say and not give in to that human feeling that I must somehow reconcile or harmonize them. They don’t contradict each other. And if they seem like it to me, that’s because there’s something wrong with me. I’ll say much more on this one issue later on in the book.