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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, December 22, 2008

Double Predestination and the 39 Articles of Religion

"Forasmuch then as our turning away from God is our own act, and this is evil will; but our turning to God is not possible, except He rouses and helps us, and this is good will,—what have we that we have not received? But if we received, why do we glory as if we had not received? Therefore, as “he that glorieth must glory in the Lord,” Isa. xlv. 25; Jer. ix. 23, 24; 1 Cor. i. 31. it comes from His mercy, not their merit, that God wills to impart this to some, but from His truth that He wills not to impart it to others. For to sinners punishment is justly due..."

Saint Augustine of Hippo

There are those who would say that the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion do not teach double predestination but only single predestination. However, Article 17 clearly teaches both election and reprobation. Traditional Calvinism understands predestination to include all the works of God (see Ephesians 1:11). The doctrine of God which would properly explicate His being, power, and character must acknowledge that God foresees the future in every single detail and that nothing happens that was not foreseen by God (Acts 4:27-28; Proverbs 16:33). In such a case, nothing is therefore contingent in the mind of God for He knows exactly what will happen.

It therefore follows that if nothing is uncertain in the unfolding of the details of all future events in God's mind, then the future must be predetermined. And if the future is predetermined, then who determined it? The answer can only be God. In fact, this is what we call the doctrine of providence. God is in control of all events that happen in our world, both good and bad (see Isaiah 45:7). Of course, some things God directly controls and others God controls through secondary means, by permitting free moral agents or sinful men to act according to their sinful natures. Thus, God is not the author of moral sin nor can He be charged with injustice or evil (James 1:13-18).

There are those who would say that God would be unfair if He predestined reprobation or if He somehow predetermined reprobation so that it is in fact most certain to happen. However, to arrive at this conclusion is to commit intellectual suicide and to deny the very Bible that we say we believe. First off, God by very nature must be omniscient or else He is something less than God. God by both rational and biblical definitions is all knowing and foreknows the future. Moreover, the Bible clearly says that God created everything good and yet He knew the fall would happen and had already planned redemption prior to creation (see Revelation 13:8). Thus, we can say that God created Adam knowing that Adam would freely rebel. And in that sense we must say that God predetermined or decreed the fall prior to Adam's creation. If God foreknows the future and determines it, then there is no way out of it. Otherwise, the only option left is that God does not foreknow the future and the future is uncertain. Such a view is essentially either process theology or open theism.

But if we accept God's foreknowledge, it biblically follows and logically follows that God works all things according to His purpose (see Ephesians 1:11). Therefore, to say that God only predetermines the election of believers but not the reprobation of unbelievers is schizophrenic. Such a proposition is based more on objections of the wicked than on logic or Scripture. When Christians are more concerned about offending "seekers" than about contending for the truth (see Jude 3) the inevitable result is a compromise of biblical doctrine, which in turn leads to more compromise down the road and eventually ends in theological liberalism. The idea that God can legitimately condemn us all simply on the basis of His holiness and justice is offensive to sinners who do not understand that they are not only guilty of Adam's original sin but guilty also of every single actual sin they have ever committed. The short of it is that it is arrogant at best to question God's justice. (See Romans 9:14-20).

If we acknowledge that God predetermines election before the creation of the world and that election is particular and specific to individuals, which it necessarily must be if God in fact foreknows who is elect, then it logically and biblically follows (based on Romans 3:5-6 and Romans 9:10-24), that reprobation is likewise predetermined. Thus, the Bible teaches both God's absolute sovereignty, in election and reprobation according to His divine decrees before creation, and man's full accountability for original sin and all actual sins committed.

Those who refuse to acknowledge the full impact of the fall of man in light of God's absolute sovereignty and the divine decrees made before the creation of the world are in denial of the obvious if they try to make preterition some sort of cosmic accident for which God is somehow not accountable. But if God is God-and He IS- then we must say that God is fully accountable for preterition or passing over the reprobate in both the divine decrees and in the actual giving of regeneration. And furthermore, God is completely and totally just and morally lawful in doing so. Why? Because God is holy and anyone who is a sinner is deserving of justice, which is eternal damnation. Therefore, the fact that God saves anyone at all is an act of mercy, not something we "deserve" because we just happened by some capricious act of our own will to choose Jesus Christ. No, we choose Jesus because He first chose us! (See John 15:16). Jesus in fact says that we must be born again, which is interestingly in the passive voice indicating that we are acted upon passively and not that we somehow make ourselves born again by an act of the will. No! The text of John 3 says that the Holy Spirit is acting sovereignly in regeneration like the wind that blows. No one knows where the wind will blow and likewise we do not know who will be regenerated by the Holy Spirit until we see the results of it (see John 3:3-8). Just as we do not have the power to make ourselves be born naturally so the second birth is also a sovereign act of God the Holy Spirit!

Thus, it is a logical contradiction to say that if God chooses the elect and passes over the reprobate and leaves them in their sinful rebellion without giving them new birth that this somehow means God only predetermines the one and not the other. If God chooses us and rejects others based on His sovereign choice, then the only logical conclusion is double predestination. But to make matters even more clear let me say that I do not believe in double predestination because it is logical, though it is logical. I believe in double predestination because it is taught over and over in the Bible! Romans 9:21-23 clearly teaches this doctrine. But there are many other passages which teach that reprobation is a divine sentence of God based on God's sovereign will before creation and based on Adam's original sin and the actual sins of every individual born since Adam's rebellion. (See 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4; Matthew 11:25-26).

Furthermore, if Anglicans are to be consistent with their own confession of faith, which is the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, then they must acknowledge that Article Seventeen teaches double predestination. Why do I insist upon this? It is because practically all of the Protestant Reformers were indeed Augustinians in their basic theology. This would include the English Reformers such as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Bishop Latimer, Bishop Ridley, etc. and it would include the continental Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, et. al. Moreover, the plain teaching of Article Seventeen makes it clear that reprobation is a divine sentence of God:

Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God. (See Article Seventeen).



As you can clearly see from the context, for the reprobate "predestination" is a "sentence." In other words, the reprobate are predestined by a divine sentence against them just as the elect are predestined to eternal salvation. Both doctrines imply the other equally. While God does pass over the reprobate, preterition does not preclude double predestination but rather affirms it! Just as predestination to life of certain individuals is a divine decree made before the foundation of the world, so reprobation and a passing over or preterition of certain individuals is likewise a divine decree or "sentence of predestination" made before the foundation of the world. God in making His decrees does so based on the fact that He contemplated all mankind as sinful and wicked. His choice of some over others is based solely on mercy and grace and His sovereign will and not based on anything good or worthy in any of us. He could have justly damned all of us but instead decided to show mercy on some and planned before creation to redeem all of the sinful elect through Christ (See Revelation 13:8; Genesis 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:19-20).

While the doctrine of predestination of both the elect and the reprobate may be offensive and a stumbling block to the wicked, we as Christians are obligated to stand firmly upon Holy Scripture and to teach what it clearly teaches. Just as we cannot compromise the cross simply because it is controversial (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25) and makes the unbeliever offended, so we cannot compromise the doctrine of God's sovereignty in election and reprobation. If the Bible teaches God's sovereignty in providence and the decrees to election and salvation, then we also must teach it. While Scripture teaches both God's sovereignty and man's accountability to accept or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we cannot and must not compromise either doctrine simply because we fear to offend the wicked.



5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? (Romans 3:5-6).

The Fourth Sunday in Advent.

The Collect.

O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

The Collect from the First Sunday in Advent is to be repeated every day, with the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas-Eve.

The First Sunday of Advent.

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

4 comments:

Augustinian Successor said...

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year, dear Brother Charlie!

Charlie J. Ray said...

Likewise, Jason, my brother in Christ. May you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas and may the peace of God be with you always!

Charlie

Dizma said...

Well done, Charlie. Merry Christmas!

Charlie J. Ray said...

I apologize for the broken links to the Scriptures. I went back and repaired all the links. That includes the links to the quotes from Augustine and the 39 Articles of Religion as well.

Peace.

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