Okay, there it is again. Now I’m gonna deal with it.

I participate in a weekly Bible study here in our small Texas Hill Country town.  The group is an eclectic one to say the least, spanning a wide range of Christian denominations, traditions, and theology.  That said, I am relatively certain from our discussions that I am the only one who fully embraces Reformed theology.  As such, I am invariably the one who everyone glances at whenever discussions of such matters as election, predestination, eternal security and the doctrines of Grace come up.

This week was no exception as we were studying Matt. ch. 10 where Jesus instructs his disciples to leave any town that does not welcome them or listen to their words.  The fate of that town will be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah according to Jesus.  As it prone to do, this caused the conversation to veer off into what I regard as a stock Arminian contention that goes something like this…”I just can’t believe that God would create people just to send them to hell!”  I’ve lost track of how many times I have heard this tired argument.  What I would like to tell them is “I don’t believe it either, so what’s the problem?”  But that is not the answer they want and more importantly, the answer they need. 

At any rate, with their statement made, the hook has been baited, thrown into the water and with beaming faces, everyone’s attention turns to me.  When this “baiting” seems purely tangential, I usually respond with something along the lines of “Who are we to argue with a sovereign God?”, which is exactly what I did this week, with the hope that we would get back on track.

However, their contention really does deserve a response.  And the reason why, is because it contains two presupposition, both of which are erroneous, either of which invalidates the whole.

First error:  God creates people.  My contention is that God no longer creates people; people create people.  Wait!  What did he say????  Now, before you declare me a heretic, please be patient and hear me out.  Did God create man?  YES.  I am a six-day creationist, so I am fully on board on that one.  Genesis chs. 1 and 2 make it clear that God created the heavens and the earth.  He literally spoke them into existence.  He separated light from darkness.  He separated earth from sky, dry ground from sea.  He gave us lights in the sky to define seasons and to govern night and day.  He filled the seas and skies and land with living creatures.  Then God took dust from the ground and formed it into a man, made in His own image, and breathed life into the man and he became a living being.  Finding that nothing else in His creation was suitable to be a helper for the man, God created a woman out of the man.  Then God blessed them and instructed them to be fruitful and multiply.  In so doing, God ordained that mankind should make more of itself and he gave the man and woman specific instructions to do just that.  So, I contend that here in Genesis ch. 2, God ended His creation of people, and here began the process of people creating people.

Hopefully I have not lost you and you are still reading.  If so, let me make myself clear. 

Do I believe God is  “engaged” in the human reproductive processes that He, Himself, ordained?  I believe He is.  He is “engaged” at the very least by means of knowledge, even foreknowledge (remember, I am a Calvinist).  

Do people, even though created by other people, still have supreme value to God?  Of course they do. Why send His son to redeem them if this were not the case?  Furthermore, a part of our nature is designed with an eternal quality.  Our soul is a gift from God and makes us distinct from all other creation and is a remnant of our original design in His image and His likeness.  

Does God sometimes intervene miraculously in the physical and gestational reproductive processes between people?  I believe he does, according to His will.  And scripture proves this with examples of old or barren wombs miraculously becoming fertile. 

Do people intervene in God’s ordained plans for the multiplication of human kind?  Yes, and sometimes those acts are outright sin. 

But what is clear to me is that God, while infinitely able, no longer acts in the role of creator of people.  For one thing, if He were still doing so, why is the outcome not more consistent with His perfect nature?  Every human being I am familiar with (yes, apart from Jesus) was and/or is seriously flawed.  Is it even possible for God to make something less than perfect?  I think not.  Instead, God uses His originally perfect, now corrupted creation to accomplish the task He gave it…to be fruitful and multiply.  People create people, and we do so imperfectly. 

While this first error may be an argument over semantics I think it nevertheless, points to an important distinction and error in the first part of this Arminian contention.  While we could quibble endlessly over this, the second error is not one of semantics.  Rather, it points to the very nature of God and nature of man. 

Second error:  God selects (elects) some people to go to hell.  This is the argument that Arminians use against predestination.  And it goes something like this:  “If God chooses some to go to heaven, then by default, He is choosing some to go to hell.”  On the surface, that seems like a reasonable contention.  However, it is a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible teaches us about the nature of man and the righteousness of God.  This Arminian contention is really the definition of “double predestination,” which I do not believe exists but is nonetheless an all too common mis-characterization of Reformed theology.

If we pick up where we left off in scripture, Genesis ch. 3 makes it clear that “the fall” of Adam and Eve had dire consequences.  Sin entered the world and caused what would eventually be physical death for those who committed it.  And apart from grace, this sin also caused a separation from God.  The very nature of our parents, Adam and Eve, changed because of their disobedience. 

In Genesis ch.5, we see the reproductive processes we discussed above, being played out, as Adam and Eve had other children after Cain and Abel.  Seth was the first, “made in his (Adam’s) own likeness, after his (Adam’s) image.”  Distinct from the perfect likeness and image of God that Adam bore before the fall, this new human likeness and human image were fallen, disobedient, sinful and separated from God.  These character flaws have not departed from mankind, and we pass them on from one generation to another.  And as egg and sperm come together and human life begins, sin is present in that new life by imputation from our first parents Adam and Eve, and every succeeding generation.  And this imputed sin alone is sufficient to separate us eternally from God.  But this inherited inclination for sin also leads us to engage in our own personal sin, which is also sufficient, alone, but especially when combined with our imputed/inherited sin, to separate us eternally from a righteous God.

So, mankind is destined for hell, based on its imputed/inherited sinful nature and its own personal sins.  Mankind from birth stands already condemned.  God does not have to select (or elect) anyone to go to hell.  That is our deserved destiny.

No, God does not create people to send them to hell.  People create people who are deserving of hell, and it is only by God’s mercy through grace, that some are spared this fate.

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3 Responses to Okay, there it is again. Now I’m gonna deal with it.

  1. Brandon says:

    Hey Chuck,

    I was thinking of a few passages as I mulled over your thoughts, because I think we would have some differences on this. I’d like to know what you make of the following:

    1. Romans 9:22-24 – “Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” vs. “Vessels of mercy prepared for glory.” In context, God is the one doing the preparing. This would seem to go against what you are articulating.

    2. Psalm 139:13 – “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Do you take this figuratively?

    3. Hebrews 1:3 – “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” There are definitely various other texts to list here, but the idea is that God is meticulously sovereign. All things are held together by him. How can God not make people, and yet be meticulously sovereign?

    4. This one is more philosophical (at least it is for me), but…your view seems to have a “hands-off” approach to explaining this issue. Almost like a deist would have. You know, the great Creator designs the watch but after that it ticks by itself (though I’m sure you don’t espouse such a view). Do you see this as a potential road-block to having a meticulously involved, personal God?

    Thanks ahead of time for considering my comment. Your thoughtfulness in answering is always appreciated.

    Talk to you soon,
    Brandon

  2. Chuck says:

    Brandon:

    Excellent questions! Sorry it has taken so long to reply. Had some other commitments that took priority.

    Truthfully, each of your questions could be the subject of an entire post! And, at the end of the day, I still may not be able to provide a complete enough answer for you. But you’ll be the judge of that. And no matter what, my objective in answering your questions is not to try to argue you off of your position, but rather to simply provide clarification of my own, spurred on by your inquiry.

    I would like to start with number 4 as it has an overarching quality about it and my comments directed to it may serve to offer perspective on the responses to the other 3, which I will answer in reverse order.

    The essence of question 4 as I am understanding it, deals with God’s sovereignty as it relates to the ongoing relationship between Himself and His creation and also God’s sovereignty as it relates to what I’ll call man’s personal freedom and responsibility. Your expressions “meticulously sovereign” (in question 3) and “meticulously involved” (in question 4) are new to me. I am making the assumption that their meanings are implicit, but if that is not correct, my responses may miss the mark. Based on the way you have framed your questions, I am suspecting that I probably hold a more moderate view of “meticulous sovereignty” than you. That said I definitely reject the description deist, as I do NOT deny the Trinity, the incarnation, authority of the Bible, the atonement, or the elect as would be characteristic of a deist. And as I am understanding your terms, I would wholeheartedly subscribe to a concept of absolutely meticulous sovereignty as it relates to matters of soteriology. Particular people are elect; they will be regenerated; and they will persevere by virtue of God’s sovereignty.

    Apart from salvation, God’s sovereignty and more specifically what you call meticulous involvement, I think, needs to be discussed in the context of ability versus necessity. Yes, God is a personal God, and He is absolutely capable of being meticulously involved in every aspect of our lives. If God is absolutely sovereign, and I believe he is, there are no limits to his ability. I am quite certain that God possesses full knowledge of every aspect of our lives, including our thoughts and actions. And that would include foreknowledge. But what I think is implied in your question, is the extent to which that ability transcends knowledge and moves to actual engagement/action on the part of God. The degree to which God is causing or effecting has the very real potential to bump up against the personal freedom that I believe God has given to mankind. Meticulous involvement, as I would understand it, if taken to its logical end (and I am not suggesting you are) begins to look like fatalism and that has an invalidating effect on personal responsibility. Personal sin would then ceases to exist. So while God is able, I think he chooses when to engage and when to allow us to exercise the freedom that He has given us. For example, God will be fully aware of what I will choose to eat for breakfast in the morning, and in fact already knows what that choice will be. Equally, He could intervene in some way to affect that outcome. However, I do not perceive that even a meticulously involved God would find it necessary to become engaged in this sort of relatively trivial decision making. You would be hard pressed to convince me that raisin bran versus scrambled eggs has anything whatsoever to do with my sanctification or glorifying God. Instead, that decision falls neatly under the purview of the liberty of our will, that God has given. On a far more serious level, a meticulously involved God still gives us personal freedom to exercise obedience versus disobedience, or submission versus rebellion, and these DO have a bearing on our sanctification and the glory of God.

    This is a good place to move on to question 3. I have no quarrel with the idea that God upholds (or sustains) the universe. If He did not, or if He could not, He would cease to be sovereign and the world in which we live would dissolve into chaos. But my contention is that upholding that which He has ordained, is, in and of itself, evidence of His sovereignty. Whether this qualifies under your definition of “meticulous sovereignty” or not, only you can decide. And I will concede that it does have the potential appearance of my embracing an absentee God. But as it relates to the matter at hand, God created man and woman, intricately designed them for procreation, and then blessed them and ordained that they do just that. I would consider His maintaining this order to be a part of upholding the universe. And this does not require that He be involved in the hands-on creation of any future generations. As long as mankind continues to reproduce, (people creating people) as God ordained on the sixth day of creation the order around this (as opposed to chaos) is being upheld by the word of His power.

    As for question 2…In Psalm 139, David is marveling at God’s intricate knowledge of his life and is appealing to God to bring, and then maintain his life into alignment with God’s purposes. In the middle of that discourse, David declares God’s foreknowledge of his existence. I will concede that verse 13 is a wonderful proof text for your point of view, but how do you then explain verse 15 where David goes on to wax eloquently about having been “intricately woven in the depths of the earth”? That is quite a different view. In verse 13, David correctly understood that gestation occurs in a womb. But I think that his concept of “knitting” was his best effort, with ancient understanding, to describe the process of fetal development that we now understand at a molecular level. We now understand the division of cells, the indescribably amazing code of life found in DNA, and the brilliant intricacy of the functionality of the human body as it becomes a reality through a single sperm and egg coming together. Yet even though we understand these processes at depths unimaginable in David’s time, they should be regarded by us as no less miraculous or marvelous or glorious than they were to David. It should be clear to all, that human life has the benefit of an intelligent, divine architect. David correctly marveled at how life begins and develops. We should too. But with respect to the discussion at hand, I still contend that God was the original designer, architect and creator. A part of His original design included two distinct and complementary genders, who when they came together were and are capable of procreation. This process was create, instituted, and blessed by God. All that said, in my original post, I conceded that God is able, according to His will, to intervene in those ordained processes.

    With respect to question 1…Romans chapter 9 is a discourse on sovereign election. I agree with you completely that God is doing the “preparing.” However, I believe that the preparation that is referred to has nothing to do with the original creation of the vessels, (understood to be a metaphor for people) but rather their sovereign election before time began, thus making them distinct vessels from those vessels fit for destruction. And a part of that preparation beyond election, includes their subsequent regeneration. After all, I think you will agree that every “vessel” (whether hands-on created by God as I believe you would argue, or created by people as ordained by God as I contend), is born an enemy of God. And any preparation or fitting for glory is only accomplished by God well after birth, through regeneration by grace through faith. Even the unregenerate elect could not be regarded as “glorious.” The unregenerate elect are living in rebellion. God’s regenerative work must be completed before they are prepared, or fit for glory.

    Whew, too long. If you are still reading, thanks for bearing with me. And thanks again for your questions.

  3. Brandon says:

    I’ll definitely have to think on these. Thanks for your response.

    And, in jest, I have to answer your question about Psalm 139: I believe that David means he was sort of like a vegetable, being woven together in the dirt. Okay, not really. But I had to say it.

    I’ll hit ya back soon either here or email.

    thanks again, Chuck.

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