Responding to Orthodox Bridge, part two (unconditional election)

His next section analyses the Reformed understanding of Unconditional Election. Much of it is simply a string of unobjectionable statements from Calvin.   He then notes where many Eastern fathers disagree with this position.  And that seems to be pretty much it.  This immediately gives rise to two other issues about the patrum consensus:

1) Simply saying a father asserted x does not equal a logical argument that said position is true.
2) At some point the question will come back to Scripture.   When I give logical exegesis from Romans 9, I’m told I am not reading Scripture correctly and that I need to read it in light of the fathers.  But then these guys will quote a verse to me and assume that I have the cognitive ability to understand what they are saying, patrum consensus or no patrum consensus.

He does gives us an interesting statement from Karl Barth.

Although the doctrine of total depravity is listed first, it is not the logical starting point of TULIP. The real starting point is in the second article, unconditional election.  God’s transcendent sovereignty is the true starting point of Calvin’s soteriology. Karl Barth argued that it is Calvin’s insistence on God’s absolute sovereignty which characterizes Calvin’s theology;  double predestination is but a logical outworking of this fundamental premise (Barth 1922:117-118)
We first note that Arakaki is operating off of the thoroughly discredited Calvin vs. Calvinist paradigm (cf. Muller, Christ and the Decree and Helm, Calvin and the Calvinists).  More interestingly, however, is Barth’s claim that predestination is a logical outworking of this decretal theology.  In an interview with R. Scott Clark, Richard Muller notes that the outworking of God’s decree may be causal in character, but it is not rigidly deductive.  Here is what he means.  We may speak of God as the First Cause (in a sense), but it was not necessary for God to create the world.  God’s decrees can be distinguished between those of the necessity of the consequent and the necessity of the consequence.   The former are strictly necessary, referring to the opera ad intra.  The latter are contingently necessary.  And the Reformers knew this, which is why many were hesitant to say x,y, and z will happen because of predestination.  That, of course, brings us back to my original contention:  Reformed theology is not simply nor primarily a doctrine of predestination (also, while I might be wrong, as I read Arakaki’s piece I didn’t see covenant theology dealt with at all).

Arakaki notes

The Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election is at odds with the Church Fathers who taught that predestination is based upon God’s foreknowledge.

Arakaki gives the standard Arminian and semi-Pelagian response to unconditional election:  God saw those who would believe and elected them based on their belief.  In other words, he makes faith to be the cause of election.  Our response will be brief and simple, taking our cue from Turretin (I: 355-362).

  1. Faith and obedience are the fruit of election, not its cause.   We reason such:  Romans 8:30 has God’s calling logically following his predestinating act.  Eph. 1:4 has our holiness following God’s choosing us.
  2. If election is from foreseen faith, then we must ask if it is an act of nature proceeding from us.  If this, then we elected ourselves (contrary to Paul, 1 Cor 4:7) and Pelagius gets the victory.
  3. If this Arminian gloss is true, then predestination actually becomes postdestination.
  4. If election is from foreseen faith, then the typical objections to election in Scripture do not make any sense (Rom 9).

On Romans 9

On p. 6 Arakaki notes,

To read the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination of individuals into Romans 9 constitutes a colossal misreading of what Paul was attempting to do.
Let’s work through this claim.  First of all, he gives us merely an assertion.  Does he offer any reason why the Calvinist gloss is wrong? No.  Does he offer his own exegesis of the passage?  No.  Does he engage with the strongest of Calvinist arguments on Romans 9?  No.  I’ll give my own arguments
The key text:
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory
Observations:
  1. If the semi-Pelagian gloss were true, then why does Paul’s imaginary interlocutor impugn God’s actions as “unfair?” (This also lends credence to the Protestant teaching of justification by grace through faith; if we are justified by cooperating with God’s grace, then why does Paul field objections that such teaching will lead to immoral lifestyles?).
  2. If Paul’s inference in v.18 (e.g., “So then…”) is that God first has mercy on whom he wills, then the second half of the verse must reason the same way: he hardens whom he wills.
  3. My gloss is the most natural reading of the text.
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