"My heart I give Thee, Lord, eagerly and earnestly." - John Calvin
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Isaiah 64:6 and the Absurdity of Conditional Election
"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."
Some argue that the predestination spoken of by Paul, especially in Ephesians 1, is in response to foreseen faith and righteousness in the particular believer. This position is referred to as "conditional election." This is the opposite of the Reformed view of unconditional election.
However, as the Prophet Isaiah says above, no one (since the Fall of Adam, and excluding Jesus) has native righteousness. Our best deeds are as a polluted garment, a euphemism for a menstrual rag ("filthy rags", KJV). And Romans 3 gives a litany of Old Testament quotes, such as "no one seeks for God" (verse 11) and "no one does good, not even one" (verse 12), and "there is no fear of God before their eyes" (verse 18). So the case of the Arminian is that God's election of His people is dependent on the very qualities that Scripture says we don't have! The Arminian doctrine of election logically would mean that no one is elected, and therefore no one can be saved!
I would go even further: Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 that faith is the gift of God, and in Philippians 2:13 that He works in us to do His pleasure. And he states the same truth negatively in Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy." Now, if the faith and good works in a believer are the result of God's work within him, is it then not a tautology to say that they are the basis on which God elects His people? Given that sense, I would even find that doctrine acceptable. Clumsy, but tolerable. But it certainly isn't what the Arminian intended.
The problem here is that Arminians fail to understand Ephesians 2:1-2, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked." Just as a dead body cannot act to restore its own life, the dead soul cannot regenerate itself. Arminians unconsciously insert "sick" for "dead", because a sick man can certainly act on his own behalf in restoring health. However, the Scriptures do not give them the wiggle-room that their human pride seeks. Before regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the soul is dead, and the faith and works that arise from it are dead and disgusting in God's eyes. It is only by His electing intervention in the heart of the believer that such a one can respond in faith and good works.
Thus we can see that the Arminian doctrine of conditional election depends on false premises, and is contrary to Biblical truth. There is security only in resisting our natural pride and resting in God's merciful election.
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43