George Bryson and I Continue Our Dialogue on Calvinism

Rick,

“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin).

As you are aware, not all Reformed or Calvinist websites are “equal”. Some who claim to be Calvinists do not agree with what Calvin said when he said that some people were create for eternal damnation. What about those on this web
site?

“created for” “eternal damnation”

George Bryson

My response is as follows:

Mr. Bryson,

I would need to write a book in response to that question. Let’s just say that GOD is sovereign, that He chose to create the world as we now know it, fully aware of everything that would come to pass (including the knowledge of those who would reject Him and suffer His wrath) and yet He still chose to create as He did. I do not believe there are limitations on God’s involvement with creation. There are times where He chooses to be passive (though it is according to His will, and His agency is less involved) and times when His agency is interventionist in nature. He can frustrate the kings, raises up leaders, pulls down leaders, is able to kill (Ananias and Sapphira) whenever and whoever He pleases.

Since I believe that God was not constrained and bound to create the world as we know it, and that He freely chose to create the world as we know it, then people being damned is well within His providential counsel. I believe that He could have created a world with no hell, He could have destroyed the Serpent before creation of the world, He could have given Adam no prohibitions, He could have done a lot of things. Such speculation isn’t helpful when we think in constant hypotheticals, but it does show us that God either created freely, or in constrained fashion, or He really didn’t know what was to come to pass and is either voluntarily bound from seeing the future (open theism) or necessarily bound from seeing free acts in the future (process theology). Even non-Calvinists who assert God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, if they believe God was free to create otherwise while hypothetically looking at different outcomes, still must deal with the fact that God created with the knowledge that some would suffer damnation and chose not to create otherwise.

You can say all you want about a person’s damnation being wholly their choice, which I agree with, but the mere fact that they even exist is according to God’s will, unless you’re a deist and deny to God the freedom over even who comes into existence. Anyhow, I don’t think that a person who asserts God’s exhaustive foreknowledge can conveniently pass off eternal wrath to Calvinists. This is why an increasing number of “Arminian” theologians have adopted a middle knowledge position, open theism, process theology, and some forms bordering on deism. You can’t avoid the very things you disagree with in Calvinism if you yourself believe that God foreknew the rejection of many people who would suffer wrath…that he could have created otherwise a world in which there was no potential for sin (which will be realized in New Heavens and Earth); but still chose to create as He did; with suffering, evil, and wrath included. It is what it is and I tremble before this Sovereign God, shut my lips against any accusation, “Why did you make me this way? Why did you crate the world as you did? etc etc etc”. Paul warns us from giving counsel to God or questioning His providential wisdom in all things.

Whether you believe that God is more or less active in the reprobation of sinners is somewhat besides the point if you still believe that God freely chose what we now know, fully aware of everything that would come to pass. If you reserve the right to God to have changed the outcome as we know it, then you are “Calvinistic”. We can bicker over supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, or whether God actively condemns the sinner, or merely passes over the sinner and is more active in the redemption of the elect, but I think such discussions are somewhat vain if the intent is to somehow exclude reprobation from God’s eternal purposes. If the concern is more directed towards understanding God’s disposition and heart in the matter, then that would be a discussion perhaps worth having. Let me know what your intent was in asking my understanding of Calvin’s quote. Thanks.

Brother in Christ,

Rick Hogaboam, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Nampa (ID)

P.S.

For blog readers, George Bryson is the director for the Calvary Chapel Church Planting Mission Ministry and I am grateful for his service to the Kingdom and pray for God’s blessing upon their ministry.

© 2010, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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4 comments on “George Bryson and I Continue Our Dialogue on Calvinism
  1. I am not sure how much of the Remonstrance you have read but I think you just used the Argument that James Arminius used. I am not accusing you of being an Arminian (though there are worse things you could be accused of) but unless you can say that you believe God chose to create some people (because He wanted to) unconditionally for eternal damnation, I do not think Calvin would have considered you to be on the same page theologically. I admit that not all questions can be answered with a “yes or no”. This one can. It may, however, say things about what we believe that we do not want everyone to know. Of course, God knew what would happen in time from all eternity. But that is unrelated to what Calvin believed abut why something happens. Calvin believed God knew what would happen but He believed it would happen because God determined it would happen. The cause of everything is an all encompassing decree. The good, the bad, and the ugly according to Calvin. The so-called secondary cause of something was ultimately caused by an original all encompassing decree.

    • My views on providence are shaped by this article from the Belgic Confession:

      Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence

      * We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.

      Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

      We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

      This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground^20 without the will of our Father.

      In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

      For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.

      ^20 Matt. 10:29-30

      The bold font is helpful because it acknowledges that one can only go so deep and then must refrain from going any further. As for God’s disposition and involvement in man’s sin and reprobation, please read a previous post that deals with this from Calvin’s words:

  2. Hey Rick

    Is it safe to assume that on the matter as to why God created some people (i.e, for damnation) you would not agree with what Calvin said in the following quote? I accept that not everyone who calls himself a Calvinist or Reformed agrees with Calvin on this matter.

    “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin).

    In Christ, George

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