07
Jan
13

Arminian Presupposition #1 Refuted

Arminian Presupposition #1–

“God loves all sinners equally and in the same way. God doesn’t show favoritism in any way.”

This presupposition is related to presupposition #2 that concerns the meanings of “world” and “all” in Scripture. I will consider that presupposition in greater detail later, but, for now, suffice it to say that these terms are not all inclusive terms. The inconsistency of the Arminians’ insistence that “all always means all and that’s all all means” becomes evident when we Calvinists begin to talk about verses like Ephesians 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Suddenly, “all things” doesn’t really mean “ALL things” any longer. It only refers to the really big things or perhaps these wretched Calvinists have taken the verse out of context.

I have even heard people say, God loves everyone so much he even allows some of us to choose to go to hell. What kind of love is that? Can you imagine a bumper sticker on the back of Noah’s ark that read, “Smile, God loves you?” I suspect those who were perishing in the flood would have said, “This is a really poor way to show it!”

I believe it is without controversy that God loves his entire creation as his creation and because it is his creation, but it is not this general benevolence I am referring to when I speak of God’s redeeming love. Because he is the creator, he opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (see Psalms 145:16). He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good; he sends rain on the just and the unjust. (see–Matt. 5:45).
“In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” If this is all one means by saying that God loves everyone, we can agree as far as that meaning goes.

The difficulty comes when we begin to discuss God’s purpose of grace. When Paul wrote, for example, “But God demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), we feel compelled to ask, for whom did he demonstrate this love? Often people assume that when the biblical writers use the words “we” and “us,” they mean the entire human race. Such is not the case.

If I were walking down the street and found a letter addressed to John, I would not believe anything in that letter pertained to me. If Paul’s letters and the letters of the other New Testament writers were addressed to believers, why should we believe anything in those letters pertains to unbelievers?

Only God’s Elect Are Foreknown

God’s redeeming love is a free, sovereign, gracious, discriminating and unchanging love. It helps our understanding of the biblical teaching about God’s love when we begin to comprehend that the words translated “know” and “foreknow” refer not merely to God’s knowledge of his creatures actions, but to his knowledge of his chosen ones themselves. We see an example of this “knowledge” in Genesis 4:1–“Adam knew his wife, Eve, and she conceived. . . . ” It should be clear he did not merely know facts about her; he knew her. The text refers to an intimate act by which he expressed his love for her. We could easily translate it, “Adam loved his wife. . . .”

Jehovah said to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth. . . .” (Amos 3:2). Obviously, he did not mean “You only have I known about of all the families of the earth.” Since he knows all things, there is nothing about the other nations that is hidden from him. He knows altogether about them. What he means is you only have I loved of all the families of the earth.

The same obtains in the New Testament Scriptures. When Jesus said, “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matt. 7:23), he does not mean he never knew anything about them. He means he never viewed them with loving approval. Please note also, he does not say “I knew you and forgot you;” he says, “I never knew you.”

This is the meaning of the words “foreknow” and “foreknowledge” in the New Testament Scriptures. When Paul wrote in Romans 8:29, “for whom he foreknew, he also predestinated . . . ,” it should be clear he is writing about God’s prior intimate and loving knowledge of people, not prior knowledge of their actions or choices. “Whom” refers to people, not to actions or choices. It is not what he foreknew, but “whom” he foreknew.

Additionally, even if this verse were speaking of God foreseeing choices, it does not specify what those choices are. The faulty assumption is that the verse means God foresees the positive choices of those who will receive Christ and “chooses” these people on the basis of their right choice. [The reality is, this would not be God’s choice at all but his “rubber stamp” of the sinner’s choice.] Here is the problem–God’s omniscience extends to all his creatures and all their actions. In that sense, he “foreknows” everyone. Those who believe in “free will” insist that this verse says something like “those in whom God foresaw faith, he also predestined . . . .” The looming problem is that the verse simply doesn’t read that way. What I am saying is if God foresaw merely choices, we must believe he foresaw all choices, good and bad. Since he predestines to conformity to Christ’s image all whom he “foreknows,” and his foreknowledge [prior omniscience] extends to all the choices and actions of all his creatures, he must have predestined everyone to be conformed to Christ’s image.

Now, if God “knows” everyone in this way, and everyone has been predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. “Those he foreknew, he also predestined. . . .” this would leave us with one of two untenable positions: 1. God’s predestination doesn’t determine anything. It means nothing. God has purposed events and actions that will never occur, or 2. Every human being will be conformed to the image of Christ. The Scriptures make it clear that neither of these conclusions can be true. Look what Jehovah says about what he has purposed,

. . .remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it (Isa. 46:9-11).

To summarize what I am saying:

1..The text does not teach that God foresees anything anyone will do. It teaches that God has set his love on his people before the world began. It does not matter how much Arminians believe the verse teaches election based on foreseen faith or how diligent they are in trying to convince other people it teaches foreseen faith as the basis of election, the text simply does not teach such a doctrine.
2. Even if the text taught that God foresees people’s actions or choices, which he clearly does, it does not indicate whether the actions and choice he foresees are good or bad, or stated differently, whether he foresees faith or unbelief. That would mean he foresees all his creatures and all their actions. If “whom he foreknew” really means “those he foresaw” then the verse would be talking about every member of the human race and their actions, since God foresees everything and everyone.
3. If everyone who is foreseen is predestined to be conformed to Christ’s image, then everyone without exception is predestined to be conformed to Christ’s image. Let’s work that backward using Paul’s teaching in verse 30. Being conformed to Christ’s image and being glorified go together. Who is it that will be glorified/conformed to Christ’s image? Paul answers, “whom he justified, them he also glorified.” If we assume all those God foresees are predestined to be conformed to Christ’s image, we must also assume that all those whom God foresees will also be justified. That would mean everyone will be justified whether they believe the gospel or not, since God foresees everyone. Who are those whom God justifies? Paul answers “whom he called, them he also justified.” If you examine the New Testament Epistles carefully, it will become clear to you that “calling” is God’s work by which he unites his chosen people with Christ. The conclusion must be that everyone must be united to Christ since all those God “foresaw” will be called and thus united to Christ. Perhaps you get the point by now. This is the way it works out logically:

Major Premise: God foresees all the actions of all his creatures.
Minor Premise: God predestines all those he foresees acting or making choices [notice the absence of the words “foresaw would believe since those words are nowhere found in the text] to be conformed to Christ’s image.”
Conclusion: Everyone will be conformed to Christ’s image.
or Alternate Conclusion: Since we know everyone will not be conformed to Christ’s image, predestination must not actually determine anything.

Neither of these conclusions is valid because the minor premise is faulty. The text does not teach anything about God foreseeing anything. It teaches that God loves all his chosen people before they are ever called and justified. All God the ones God loves beforehand are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Not everyone is predestined to be conformed to Christ’s image because not everyone is foreknown or loved beforehand.
It would be great for the Arminian position if those words, “All those he foresaw would believe” were actually in the text. The problem is, they aren’t. Because of their absence, the only correct conclusion at which we can arrive is that God has known or loved some people in a way he has not loved others.

There Are People God Hates

The Bible informs us that there are some people God loves and some people he hates. Perhaps you would like to tell me “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” OK, go ahead and tell me, and I will tell you that simply isn’t true. For example, in Psalm 5:5 the psalmist writes, “The wicked shall not stand in your sight; you hate all who work iniquity.” Please notice, he does not say, “you hate all works of iniquity,” but “all who work iniquity.” In other words, he is talking about the people themselves, not merely their actions. Now, you will tell me that hate is only used comparatively not absolutely. That is to say, it isn’t that God actually hates these people, he just loves them less than he does others. Even if that were true, it would seem to agree with my contention that God doesn’t love all sinners equally and in the same way, would it not? Then, there are those texts in which we read Jehovah’s words, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Now you will wish to inform me that these texts do not refer to love and hatred for individuals but to nations. Let’s assume you are right. Would that not mean that God has loved and hated entire nations of people?

God Chastens The Ones He Loves

Hebrews 12:6 teaches us that Jehovah chastens those he loves. Then, the text tells us there are some who are “without chastisement.” The author writes, “if you are without chastisement whereof all [sons] are partakers, then you are bastards and not sons” (Heb. 12:8).
Majpr premise: God chastens everyone he loves.
Minor premise: There are some who are without chastening.
Conclusion: God doesn’t love everyone.

God Does Not Show Favoritism

Since God does not show favoritism, he could not have chosen some and passed over others, right? There are those who quote this line as if it should lay this matter to rest once and for all. The problem is they have not carefully considered the contexts in which we encounter this phrase. It occurs four times in the New Testament Scriptures, Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9 and Col. 3:25. In all these contexts, the issue is judgment and being acceptable to God. In both the Acts and Romans passages, the issue is whether the Jews have any advantage with God over the Gentiles. The entire point of the Romans passage is the impartiality of God’s judgment. It teaches that race, religion, ritual, and respectability give no advantage before God in judgment. In the A.V., the phrase is translated “God is no respecter of persons.” The NKJV translates it, “There is no partiality with God.” Others translate it, “God does not show favoritism.” It could literally be translated, “God is no respecter of face.” It has nothing to do with whether God chooses some sinners and passes over others. It concerns whether God’s judgment is based on righteousness or partiality due to race, station in life or some other privilege. The Ephesian and Colossians passages both concern Christ’s equal treatment of both slaves and masters. Since Jesus is an impartial judge, masters don’t get a better deal.

Go Tell Pharaoh

Go tell Pharaoh God loves everyone equally. That might have surprised him as he watched Moses and the children of Israel reach the distant shore of the Red Sea while the rising waters submerged his horses and chariots, drowned his troops and threatened his life. I suspect at that point it may have begun to dawn on him that he was not among the favored people of God. He might have begun to regret his high handed rebellion against Jehovah, but now it was too late.
The reality is, Moses and the people of Israel did not deserve God’s mercy and favor any more than Pharaoh and his armies. If they received God’s blessing and favor, it was merely due to his mercy and grace, freely granted to undeserving and ill-deserving sinners. Look what he said to them as he explained why he had chosen them from among the other nations,

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:6-8).

One almost gets the impression that God loved Israel more than he loved the other nations of the earth, and his love for them was an uncaused love. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “It [the granting of God’s mercy] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

Conclusion

What should we conclude from all this? Since Israel was an Old Covenant foreshadowing of the Church, the New Covenant people of God, we can apply the same principles to the Church. If God has no special love for his elect New Covenant people, why would Paul address his Epistle to believers in Rome “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:” (1:7). I know, you will tell me this is true of them now that they have, by their “free will decision,” incorporated themselves into the Church. Now they are among those loved and chosen by God. I have some news for you. God doesn’t start loving people. There was a country singer years ago who called himself “Tennessee” Ernie Ford. As he closed his program each time he did so with these words, “and may the good Lord take a likin’ to ya.” His intentions may have been good, but that was very bad theology. Since God is unchangeable, his love is unchangeable. If he could begin to love me, he could also stop loving me. Among the many biblical truths I can take to the bank, I find this one extremely comforting. If God has, by his Spirit, flooded my heart with the truth that he has loved me in Christ and has demonstrated that truth in the sacrifice of his Son for me, that love can and will know no change or diminution. He cannot love me more, and he will not love me less. That love had no beginning and will have no end. I have been told that C.H. Spurgeon once said, “When the universe lay in the mind of God as an unborn forest in an acorn’s cup, even then his chosen people were on his great heart and he loved them with an everlasting love.”

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5 Responses to “Arminian Presupposition #1 Refuted”


  1. January 7, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Good work, my brother. Most folks love proof texts because they have not examined nor tested their presuppositions. We must dig, as you did here, to show the fallacy of the self-worship known as Arminianism.

  2. January 8, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Manfred,

    I believe you are right about the self-worshiping nature of Arminianism. I would not suggest that these people intend to rob God of his rightful place. I think they are sincere in their errors, but erroneous nonetheless. It has been rightly said that every person is an Arminian by nature. It is even the tendency of those who have professed faith in Christ to become performance oriented. But, nothing is so humbling to sinners and exalting to our great God as an understanding of free and sovereign grace.

    • January 8, 2013 at 1:23 am

      I’m right with ya. A dear friend who is a life-long Episcopalian came to understand the Doctrines of Grace and has been consuming those truths and the 5 Solas. I had told him that all men are born spiritually as Arminians, because all we know at that point of re-birth is what our eyes of flesh and experience tell us. And they tell us we chose Christ. Hence the need to take the Christian to the Scriptures to see the work done by God before that spiritual birth. This truth liberates the saint as he then begins to see more clearly the sovereignty and trustworthiness of God.

  3. November 16, 2013 at 1:38 am

    John 10:14-15 is a great text for refuting election according to “forseen faith”; it says the Son knows the sheep even as the Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father.

    That cannot mean anything other than eternal, trinitarian, personal, covenant love. As Jesus knows God, he also knows his sheep. The more one dwells on that, the more telling it is.

    • November 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks for the comment. The truth is, the more one reads the Bible the less one can believe that sinner’s can, of themselves and from sinful nature, produce a genuine faith for God to “foresee.” You are quite right that foreknowledge cannot mean “foreseen faith” any more than the Father’s knowledge of the Son and the Son’s knowledge of the Father can merely refer to prescience of the other’s actions. It must refer to a loving approval beforehand.


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