An Open Letter to Trey Groves

Trey,

I decided 140 characters at a time were far too few to properly discuss this matter. Let me say from the outset that I am not one of those Calvinists that believes that anyone that thinks differently from them is wrong and obviously going to hell for their improper views. I love you as a friend and a brother in Christ and this difference of views doesn’t change that. I also do not seek to change your mind on the matter, you are free to believe what you’d like to believe. I do however want to clear up what seems to be a misunderstanding of the doctrine of election,  it seems to me that there is far too much narrow-mindedness from both the Calvinist and Armenian camps…and everyone in between for that matter…which is, I would say, where the majority of Christianity falls, on these matters. And the misunderstanding of this doctrine seems to be at its core.

From our earlier conversations I gather that you have a fair understanding of some of the basics of Calvinism so I will not re-hash that argument here, for now anyway, I would like to focus on the one issue you say you reject which is predestination and election and then discuss the role evangelism plays in that because the two go hand-in-hand in reformed theology.

The doctrine of election is the means through which God in his sovereignty has chosen some to be saved before the foundations of the world. I know your first objection here is that the Bible clearly states that God desires all people be saved…and it does, but there is a difference between God’s desires and what he has arranged. While verses like 1 Tim. 23-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Luke 14:23 and Heb 3:7 plainly say it is God’s desire that all men be saved those verses must be examined in light of other verses and when we do that we see that there is clearly a difference between what God desires and what God arranges. In verses like…Romans 11:8, Mark 4:11-12 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Romans 9:18, Exodus 4:21, Exodus 14:17, Deut 2:30, 2 Cron. 25:20 and Isaiah 6:10 we see that it is God that hardens and softens men’s hearts either away from Him or toward Him.

The issue in all this of course is God’s will… since it is He that does the hardening or softening of men’s hearts. Since it is Gods desire that all men be saved we must ask the question then are God’s desires always accomplished? The answer is no they are not. God does not desire that man sin, this is called His moral will, men still sin this is called His permissive will. Did God desire that Adam and Eve sin? No, He desired fellowship with them, but they sinned despite God’s desire that they not sin. God allowed it to happen. In a sense He has two wills regarding sin, He desires that sin not exist because it is contrary to His nature, yet He wills that it does by making provision for it in His sovereign plan. When people sin God uses it for His glory and purpose. Think of the account of Joseph in the Bible, his brothers sinned by selling him into slavery and lying to their father about it.  After many years they were reunited and Joseph said “What you meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” How can it be that God is only passively allowing things to occur if He meant it for good? When people sin God uses it for His own glory and good. Consider how evil people conspired against Jesus to bring him to death. Was it His plan that they do this? Yes. Did God make them sin? No, for God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13). Yet God, in His sovereignty, carried out His predestined will using their sin to accomplish His will. Therefore, God can desire all be saved, but not ordain that all are by making provision in His plan for their damnation:

“The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. 16:4).

Now back to predestination and election, as I said election is the means that God has chosen some to be saved. Scripture gives many examples of predestination and in fact uses the word many times. Even in the Greek (Proorizo) the definition means to determine beforehand. In the NT it is used only with God as the subject. Some of the verses that point us toward predestination are: Acts 4:27-28, Romans 8:29-30, 1 Corinthians 2:6-7, Eph. 1:4-5, and Eph. 1:11. Election is also mentioned in verses like Matt. 22:14, Matt 22:24, Matt 22:31, Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, Romans 16:13, Col. 3:12, 1 Tim. 5:21, 2 John 1 and 3 John 13. The Bible is clear that there is a difference also in election and calling. Just as Matt 22:14 points out Many are called (kletos; called, invited) but few are chosen (eklektos; elect, chosen) In the called God summons people to himself through the human proclamation of the gospel, the elect respond in saving faith. This calling means that an essential element in God’s plan in salvation are humans proclaiming and reading from the Word of God, which of course means that evangelism is necessary.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” Rom. 10:14-15

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Rom. 10:17

Scripture is further clear that Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith. (Heb. 12:2) So then it stands to reason that faith, saving faith, is not something we muster up from within us, but something that God has chosen and decided for us (the elect) by and He did this by predestination.

The other side of the coin is this, if we as man are free to choose God or not choose God at any time than salvation is solely dependent on man, not God. And just as we can choose God at any time we can opt out at any time. This leaves a very low-view of God and his power and it is fully contrary to scripture. To deny the doctrine of predestination means you ultimately have to ignore much of the Bible or say that it doesn’t mean something that it clearly does mean.

All are given a choice when called (evangelism) the elect are given the ability to respond in saving faith. Because in our sinful state we (all men) are blind, enslaved, deaf, dumb, and dead, in our sinful state we are incapable of making the right choice. We are incapable until God softens our hearts, and opens our eyes by the work of the Holy Spirit through the conviction of sin, to which we respond in repentance and faith, two inseparable experiences of divine grace. God then justifies us and sets us on the course of progressive sanctification, until we reach the state of our physical death and then comes glorification, for we are forever separated and divorced from our sinful flesh.

As I said earlier I don’t wish to change your mind per se, I just want to clear up any misunderstandings you may have regarding the Doctrines of Grace. If you have any questions let me know. Talk to you later.

Your Brother in Christ,

John

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