Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More on Romans, Chapter 9

Matthew Gallatin's latest 3 podcasts are up on Ancient Faith Radio, on why the Ninth Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is not about predestination, single or double.

One of my favorites of his observations is that a loving relationship is definitely not one in which one party manipulates or controls the other.

(In Lutheranism, as I (mis?)understand it, Single Predestination does not involve God maniupulating or controlling anyone. Is that correct?)


Dixie said...

Single predestination is that God predestines one to salvation but that the person can reject God's offer. I think in one sense it can be argued that there is a manipulation in that one could not choose to come to faith on his own...God must call the person (I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him...). But the Scriptures are clear on this as well; John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. So as long as one doesn't see that as manipulation then there is no manipulation in the Lutheran understanding (or the Orthodox understanding).

Implicit, however, in any Lutheran discussion about predestination is that God has a hand in somehow not saving everyone but only saving the predestined. I never got the sense in my Lutheran studies that God predestined EVERYONE to salvation and some reject this offer and those who do not reject are the predestined ones but rather some were never predestined to begin with...and there is the rub, I think. I clearly recall my instructor quoting Exodus 33:19 as well as Romans 9:18 when I approached him about this. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

I was taught that the bottom line for Lutherans is not to be concerned about those who are not predestined...that is part of the hidden God wherein we dare not explore...but rather to see one's faith as assurance that he is predestined...predestination is to be seen as a comfort.

However, if I write in error I hope Pastor Weedon or another Lutheran pastor will correct me.

I look forward to hearing these podcasts...I just love listening to Matthew Galatin. To hear of God's unconditional love for that is a comfort!

orrologion said...

It's my understanding that the Lutheran position is that God is the cause of the salvation of those that are saved, but that those that are damned are damned due to themselves and not God. The one would logically presuppose the other, but Lutherans would say that God has not revealed in his Scriptures anything other than that salvation is from him, damnation is from ourselves.

Anne Rice has a nice little concept that she realized on her conversion back to Catholicism. It's something like 'God won't let someone be damned by accident; he knows everything'.

orrologion said...

Here is something from the LCMS website on predestination:


"Q. Would you explain the LCMS position on "predestined" in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1? If one is predestined to be adopted as a redeemed child of God, then does it follow that another is predestined to not be adopted and therefore damned?

"A. The LCMS believes that Scripture clearly teaches (in passages such as those mentioned in your question) a predestination to salvation by God's grace in Jesus Christ alone. The LCMS does not believe that Scripture teaches a predestination to damnation: God desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Like so many teachings of Scripture (e.g., the Trinity, eternity, the two natures of Christ, the love of a holy God for rebellious sinners), this teaching seems contradictory and is incomprehensible to human reason. We believe it not because it "makes sense" to human reason, but because this is what we find taught in the pages of God's holy Word.

"For a helpful summary of the LCMS position on predestination, see the section on 'Of the Election of Grace' in the Synod's 'Brief Statement' (adopted in 1932)."

The Christian Cyclopedia, edited by Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson has this entry on Predestination:

Mimi said...

I'm interested in listening to his Podcasts, thanks for the link.

William Weedon said...

Lutherans fought a huge battle over this topic in the 19th century and it shattered the hopes of a united Lutheran Church here in the US.

One side, following the more recent dogmaticians, taught that God elects us *in view of* faith - i.e., forseeing who would believe, he has predestined those people.

The other side argued that this in effect makes our belief a cause of our predestination when then depends not on God's grace but upon our action.

A third view was expressed by some in the 20th century that the solution is "in Christ." God has predestined ALL in Christ - there is room for every last member of the human race and a divine desire that all share in this, but that OUTSIDE of Christ there is no predestination. Piepkorn argues this way, I believe, based on some writings of the earlier dogmaticians. This last way explains why there is no predestination to damnation; God elects to save all, but in and only in Christ, and if a person chooses to cut himself off from the Spirit's calling him into Christ, then they have consigned themselves to damnation - which is nothing but the rejection of the life that is in Christ.

On coercion, Lutherans confess: "God does not force a person to become godly." SD II:60

William Weedon said...

A key passage on this topic really is not so much Romans 9ff, but Acts 13:46-48.

Those who judge themselves unworthy of eternal life on the one hand (their own fault); those who are appointed to eternal life believing on the other (gift of God). How do the Orthodox teach on Acts 13:48?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

William, if I make take the liberty of numbering the options you've described, I'll then ask a question referencing the numbers. You wrote:

1.) One side ... taught that God elects us *in view of* faith - i.e., forseeing who would believe, he has predestined those people.

2.) The other side argued that this in effect makes our belief a cause of our predestination when then depends not on God's grace but upon our action.

3.) A third view was expressed by some in the 20th century that the solution is "in Christ."

My question is: although different words are used, don't (1) and (3) come down to the same thing in the end? If not, what is the pracitcal or moral difference?

William Weedon said...

I don't think 1 and 3 are exactly the same. The point of truth that 3 sought to preserve from 2 was that election is entirely grace - undeserved, unlooked for mercy. It's strength was focusing on the locus of that grace: in Christ, rather than trying to contemplate the mystery of election directly. The way Lutheran theologians have expressed this time and again: "All that God did for you in Christ in time He planned to do FOR YOU from eternity."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But in (3), salvation still hinges upon whether a person accepts or rejects the grace given. So it doesn't seem to extricate us from that problem, so-called.

When you write, "All that God did for you in Christ in time He planned to do FOR YOU from eternity" -- why are you capitalizing "FOR YOU"?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

On Orthodoxy, Grace prompts us to live Christ's own Life, and then the person obeys or not. Put another way, Grace gives us the freedom, understanding, and ability to act, and in freedom we live out, actualize, that Grace -- or not.

That's why Lossky says, "...grace and human freedom are manifested simultaneously and cannot be conceived apart from each other."

From an Orthodox POV, then, it's a false dichotomy Lutheran theology is up against.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

We interpret Acts 13:46-48 pretty much as we do Romans 8:29,
For whom he foreknew, He predestined..." and John 1:12: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:"

Acts 13:26 also says, "Men [and] brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent."

whoever God knows in advance will believe, these He appoints to salvation. Whoever does not judge himself unworthy of it by rejecting God.

William Weedon said...

Just emphasizing how I'd say it. Sorry, it's a bad habit I have posting online. I emphasize by caps the say I'd accent something said. The great good news in Election is that you were on God's mind or in God's mind before you ever came to be and he desired you to be with Him for all eternity.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

And this good newes applies to everybody, yes? Or, perhaps, no?

If no, how is it good news - since I really can't know for sure (because perhaps I'm deluding myself) that I'm one of the elect?

William Weedon said...

To everyone, yes, without qualification.

Can a person delude himself about his/her election? Of course they can. "Many will say to me, Lord, Lord..." And there is no guarantee that you will persist in saving faith - you may turn away from Him who bought you with His blood. Such is in anyone's power and it remains a persistent danger due to the fact that we carry inside an ally of the devil - our wretched flesh - to deal with.

The comfort of election works out from the cross: you look upon Him who loved you so much as to endure that and you discover that in Him you have been so loved from eternity.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But it still hinges on a person's acceptance of Grace, so it doesn't appear to deliver us from the "problem" of our contributing at least that much to our own salvation.

In fact, I stillcan't see any substantive difference between (3) and (1)...

orrologion said...

It isn't supposed to make 'sense'. Lutherans believe it is simply an accurate reflection of the teaching found in Scripture alone without adding in any implications from if x is true then y too is true - if God clearly predestines some time salvation (x) then this must logically mean he predestines other to damnation (y), whether actively or by allowance.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But that’s the very question under discussion: which of these three (or perhaps only two) options is the most accurate reflection of Scripture?


If it doesn’t make sense and isn't supposed to, then there’s no point in Lutherans having “fought a huge battle over this topic”, is there? Yet they did.

If it’s non-sense, then it isn’t even revelation at all. (I Corinthians 14:33) It’s ideology.

And, of course, if logic is not necessary, Lutherans may as well accept the orthodox teaching that God predestines those He knows will believe/accept Him. No need to draw the seemingly logical conclusion that, in Pr. Weedon’s words, “this in effect makes our belief a cause of our predestination when then depends not on God's grace but upon our action.” They do not accept this teaching – why? On the basis of logic. So it seems logic is selectively invoked or rejected.

But of course, all the above if/then statements are also exercises in logic, so where logic isn’t deemed necessary, we can dismiss them, too – as we can virtually anything and everything else if it doesn't suit our ideology.

William Weedon said...


In all three schemata for Lutherans there is one ingredient that doesn't make sense:

Why some and not others?

The answer to that is what doesn't make sense: Scripture reveals that for those in heaven, all the glory and credit goes to God; for those in hell, all the blame goes to themselves. But this much is absolutely true for us Lutherans: no one is in hell BECAUSE God didn't wish for them to be in heaven.

We bow before the Sacred Scriptures which teach us that God wills all to be saved; that faith is always a gift of God; that God does not work irresistibly; that God permits his creatures to resist His mercy and love to the grave and beyond.

Cur alii, alii non? There is no one answer that Scripture reveals; rather, God invites us all to look to the state of our own souls and to repent.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

When no option makes sense, it's a sure sign something is wrong in the overall scheme.

William Weedon said...

Or a sure sign that our limited reason has bumped up against the unfathomable wisdom of the Blessed Trinity...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

No, there's a huge, huge difference between Mystery and nonsense. In fact, they are opposites.

William Weedon said...

1 Cor. 1:20ff. There is a wisdom of this world that is just folly; there is folly of God that is pure wisdom.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Quite so, but there is nothing nonsensical or illogical about God's "folly;" it appears to the world as folly for an entirely different reason: because it is the higher logic of love.

Thus, to an unloving heart, dying upon the Cross is the height of folly. But from love's POV, there's nothing nonsensical about it at all.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

And even from a secular POV, the Cross isn't nonsensical. Just foolish.

Benjamin Harju said...

Wow, so this is where the stuff about Mystery and nonsense came from.

I'm surprised that no one brought in the issue of will - free vs. bound. Much of the discussion b/w Pastor Weedon and Anastasia is built on this.

Lutheran belief that God specifically chooses some to be saved, while others choose their own damnation is tied in with the Lutheran belief that man's will lacks freedom in divine matters. While it is rejected that God forces salvation on the unwilling, it is simultaneously asserted that God changes the unwilling into those that are willing. Thus, from the Lutheran point of view, unless God operates on man's will, he will be bound to reject believing in God. This is usually what's behind such statements as "faith is a gift" when spoken by a Lutheran.

The Orthodox, as far as I can tell, look to statements from Romans 7 that indicate that fallen man's will can choose the good, but lacks the ability to carry it out in works apart from the Holy Spirit in Christ (Rom. 8). Faith, at least in the issue of conversion, involves this will choosing to respond to Christ by earnestly saying "yes" rather than "no." As far as I can tell, it is this perspective which leads them to read the Scriptures Anastasia has quoted in the way they do.

The issue of predestination is tethered to the issue of man's will after the fall and in conversion.