Category Archives: predestination

Truth and Consequences

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, in paragraph 2051, that the infallible teaching authority of the Church extends to “all the elements of doctrine:”

The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.

The reason for this should be obvious to Catholics. Without this great gift of an infallible teaching authority, we would be, as St. Paul says in Eph. 4:14, “… children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” Yet, too many Catholics take for granted the great gift of the Magisterium of the Bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome that has safeguarded the truth of the Faith for 2,000 years. In fact, there is no human way to explain the reality of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) that we have experienced in the Catholic Church for two millennia apart from this supernatural gift. But perhaps even fewer of us consider some of the consequences that have come as a result of the absence of this great gift.

In my DVD, Truth and Consequences, I gather multiple examples of what happens when you don’t have the infallible gift of what the Catechism calls “the [infallible] Magisterium of the Pastors.” by way of the real-life teachings of the sons and daughters of the “reformation.” I will toss out three here for us to consider:

Denying Mary, Mother of God

I can remember when the thought of believing Mary to be Mother of God was absolutely crazy to me when I was Protestant. And on the surface, one can perhaps understand the problem: If we say Mary is “the Mother of God” wouldn’t she have to be God? If a dog begets a dog, a cat begets a cat, would not Mary have to be God in order to give birth to God?

In truth? Not at all.

The error here is rooted in a failure to understand that Mary was not the source of Jesus’ divinity, nor was she the source of his human soul. She was merely the source of his Jesus’ body. But that does not mean she was and is not his mother because she did not give birth to a body, a soul, a nature, or even two natures; she gave birth to person, and that person is God. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.

But more fundamentally here, we have to ask this question to those who deny Mary is the Mother of God: “If you deny Mary is the Mother of God, who is Jesus?” As I point out in my book, Behold Your Mother – A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines, Dr. Walter Martin gives us an example of what happens when you get this wrong on page 103 of his classic, Kingdom of the Cults (1977 edition):

… there cannot be any such thing as eternal Sonship, for there is a logical contradiction of terminology due to the fact that the word “Son” predicates time and the involvement of creativity. Christ, the Scripture tells us, as the Logos, is timeless, “… the Word was in the beginning” not the Son!

Think about this: In the process of denying Mary to be Mother of God, Dr. Martin lost Jesus. Jesus is no longer the eternal Son. But it gets worse, if that is possible. He also says on that same page:

The term Father incidentally never carries the descriptive adjective “eternal” in Scripture… the words Father and Son are purely functional…

Now he lost the Father. The immediate question arises: Who, then, is God in eternity before there was a creation? I suppose we would have to call God, “The Blah, the Word and the Holy Spirit!”

Double Predestination

In their 1997 book, What Unites Presbyterians, Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick and William Hopper (Kirkpatrick was, at the time, the highest ranking staff member, “the stated Clerk” as they call it, of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., the largest Presbyterian body in the United States), on page 17, state:

Presbyterians have endorsed this conviction (Double Predestination), but with Calvin we have always had trouble with it for two reasons: First, if God predestines every person, and not all are called, elected, or predestined for salvation, then God has predestined some persons to Hell or eternal damnation. Second, if God has determined the ultimate fate of all persons, then the individual has no power to make any important decisions.

Presbyterians have learned to believe, also, in free will, realizing that these two doctrines are logically impossible to hold at the same time, but that each is free as taught in the Westminster Confession.

Those persons who can with a clear conscience accept what they are taught, regardless of apparent inconsistencies, are in some ways better off than those who think. It is almost unfortunate that Presbyterians are a thinking people…

There is always a creative tension between these two because we DO believe both even when we know that they are logically inconsistent.

The Catholic Response can be found in Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 22 (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church), para. 5:

For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery…

I Tim. 2:4 tells us God positively wills “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” while II Peter 3:9 tells us God does not will “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

To put it simply: In order to go to Hell, the Catholic Church teaches, a person must reject God’s salvific will for him.

I am truly grateful to God that the Catholic Church never asks me to park my brains on the doorstep before I enter the Church.

Abortion

“Thou shalt not kill” is not a Catholic only club. Pope St. John Paul II tells us, when it comes to abortion, in Para. 60 of Evangelium Vitae:

But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and… modern genetic science offers clear confirmation…”

Indeed, it is so clear. And when we consider that the moral law is something that is knowable, at least in theory, by the light of natural reason alone, apart from revelation (though God gives us revelation so that the moral law can be known with facility, certainty, and without the admixture of error), it was all the more disturbing to me that when I was doing the research for Truth and Consequences, I found 18 denominations that teach abortion to be licit in at least some circumstances. And my research was in no way exhaustive. Due to the limits of a blog post, I will cite just half of them here:

1. The Salvation Army

From their international website:

… termination can occur only when: Carrying the pregnancy further seriously threatens the life of the mother; or Reliable diagnostic procedures have identified a foetal abnormality considered incompatible with survival for more than a very brief postnatal period.

In addition, rape and incest are brutal acts of dominance violating women physically and emotionally. This situation represents a special case for the consideration of termination as the violation may be compounded by the continuation of the pregnancy.

2. The Mormons (LDS)

In the February 1973 edition of: “The Priesthood Bulletin,” the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, Marion G. Romney), p. 1-2:

The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother.”

Got to give the “prophet” credit, he held out for 1 month after Roe vs. Wade!

3. The United Church of Christ

If you are not familiar with this sect, just remember Rev. Jeremiah Wright and “Obama’s Church.” That’s them!

This sect has supported the legalization of abortion at least since 1973. They are an official member of the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights.” They are so radical that they joined with NARAL (the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) in supporting President Clinton’s veto of the ban on partial birth abortion in 1996 and 1997.

4. The American Baptist Churches

The General Board of American Baptist Churches affirmed that this matter is up to the individual in 1988 and reaffirmed it in 1994.

5. The Southern Baptist Convention

The largest Baptism denomination in the U.S. declared in 1971 that Southern Baptists should “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

Thank God, they back-pedaled on that in 1980 and declared abortion to be permissible only “to save the life of the mother.” But when you okay murder in any cases, you’re not just on a “slippery slope;” you’ve slid to the bottom of it.

6. Presbyterian Church (USA)

This is the largest Presbyterian body in the United States. They condemned abortion outright in 1965. In 1970, a study report concluded that abortion could well be a “help” in cases of unwanted pregnancies.

Really? A “help?”

By 1983, the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly adopted an official policy in favor of abortion calling it a “stewardship responsibility.” Today, they are official members of the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights.” In 1992, the General Assembly stated “there is a basis in our tradition not only for a woman’s difficult choice for abortion, but also for the preservation of the lives of the unborn…”

In that same year, the Assembly also declared: “Possible justifying circumstances [for abortion] would include medical indications of severe physical or mental deformity, conception as a result of rape or incest, or conditions under which the physical or mental health of either woman or child would be gravely threatened.”

7. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

The ELCA, the largest Lutheran body in the United States, in 1990, adopted a statement that declared abortion to be acceptable in cases of danger to mother’s life, extreme fetal deformity incompatible with life, and in cases of rape and incest. They also declared that they neither support nor oppose abortion-restricting legislation. In 1997, they voted down a proposal to restrict abortion funding to cases of rape, incest, life of the mother. As a result, ELCA now funds elective abortions in their health care coverage and offers elective abortion in some Lutheran-affiliated hospitals. Today, on their website, the ELCA declares, in a 1991 statement of faith declared by a Church-wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

A developing life in the womb does not have an absolute right to be born, nor does a pregnant woman have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy.

I suppose the truth is found somewhere in-between?

8. The United Methodist Church

The largest Methodist body in the United States, they helped organize and are members of “The Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights,” founded in 1973 and re-named “The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights” in 1993.

How euphemistic of them!

Along with the United Church of Christ, this denomination officially joined NARAL in supporting President Clinton’s veto of the Partial Abortion Ban in 1996 and 1997. Their “Book of Discipline” remains pro-abortion to this day.

9. The Episcopal Church

In 1958 they issued a strongly pro-life statement. However, at their 1967 General Convention they officially supported pro-abortion legislation for the first time. They stated abortion to be morally acceptable in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, or danger to the physical or mental health of the mother. In 1994, the 71st General Convention expressed:

… unequivocal opposition to any… action… that [would] abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of her pregnancy, or that would limit the access of a woman to a safe means of acting upon her decision.

In 1997, at their 72nd Convention, they expressed their support of partial birth abortion, but only in what they called “extreme situations.”

Their words speak for themselves.

In a future blog post, I will cite some examples among the 25 denominations I found that now support homosexual unions mimicking marriage. Stay tuned!

These are just some of the consequences that follow when you don’t have “the infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors” in union with the Bishop of Rome.

The Truth About Islam and Jihad (Pt. IV in Series)

Islamic attitudes toward non-Muslims are determined by many factors of which two are most necessary to consider. The first is Jihad or Holy War. The second is the concept of Dar Al Harb (Arabic for “House of War”) and Dar Al Islam (“House of Submission”) in Islamic tradition. “House of War” refers to any territory or people who are not living in submission to Islam. “House of Submission,” or Dar Al Islam, refers to any territory or people living in submission to the message of Muhammad.

The concept of Jihad (Arabic for Struggle) has been given two interpretations, which I argue, are actually not mutually exclusive. Some Muslims interpret “Jihad” as referring to “Holy War,” while others will say it refers to the spiritual “struggle” to live the Faith of Islam. Ayatollah Khomeini, one of the great Muslim leaders of our times said:

The Jihad means the conquest of non-Muslim territory. The domination of Koranic Law from one end of the earth to the other is… the final goal… of this war of conquest” (Jihad, Paul Fregosi, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 1998, p.20).

It is important for we in the West to understand that for 100′s of millions of Muslims, the Jihad is considered to be a religious obligation. In fact, for some it is considered a sixth obligation for all able-bodied Muslims. Many of us have heard of the famous “five pillars” of belief for Muslims, but there are actually “five pillars” of both belief and action that are required for all able-bodied Muslims. And, again, for some, there are six “pillars:”

ACTION:                                                  BELIEF:

  1. Confession                                         1. God
  2. Prayer                                                  2. The Prophets
  3. Fasting                                                 3. The Scriptures
  4. Almsgiving                                         4. Angels
  5. Pilgrimage                                         5. The Last Day (Judgment)
  6. Jihad                                                    6. Qadar (predestination)

“Qadar” is especially important for Sunni Muslims who believe in a strict predestination akin to the beliefs of Calvinists among Christians. Shi’ites tend more toward free will in their theology. But Sunni make up about 85% of Muslims world-wide. ”Jihad,” on the other hand, is a concept that spans the spectrum of Muslims, both Shi’ite and Sunni. Muslims also, more universally, view the expansion of Islam as the predestined will of God that cannot be thwarted; therefore, it is a natural historical development and a duty for individual Muslims to participate in. The destiny for Islam is seen as the conquest of the whole world. All must submit to Koranic Law, whether they are believers or not!

Jihad has had over 1300 years of history and has engulfed and affected many nations in Asia, Africa, and Europe. In Europe, Muslim armies of conquest have been to Tours in France, sacked the City of Rome in Italy, conquered South Eastern Europe up to the Danube, laid siege to Vienna twice, controlled the Ukraine of Russia and invaded more than once the Iberian peninsula. In Africa, all of North Africa has been conquered and converted by centuries of Islamic domination, except for the Egyptian Coptics who have suffered tremendous persecution over the centuries, and are experiencing a brutality today that we have a hard times even attempting to comprehend in the West. You will also find a smattering of Christians, also persecuted to greater or lesser degrees around North Africa. I personally encountered a few of these when I went on an undercover missions trip to Morocco many years ago.

West and Eastern Africa have been terrorized by Islamic Slave raids and armies of conquest for centuries even down to our time where Boko Haram, and various other Muslim groups continue to brutalize, kill, and enslave Christians and all who do not accept their radical views. In Asia, wherever there is a majority of Muslims, non-Muslim minorities suffer discrimination and grave injustice to their basic human rights in our time. While Western, Central and Southern Asia have had centuries of wars of Muslim conquest.

We are being asked to believe today that all of this represents just a relatively few “extremists” who have hijacked true Islam.

Really?

In reality, there are approximately 120, conservatively speaking, verses in the Koran which deal with killing and fighting for Islam and these verses are favorable to this aggression if done to advance the cause of Islam.

In the nine-volume translation of “the Hadiths” of Dr.Muhammad Muhsin Khan, titled “The Translation of the Meaning of Sahih Al-Bukhari” (Kazi Publications, Lahore, Pakistan, 1979), there is clear witness of the importance and priority of Jihad in Islamic thought that represents more than just a struggle to overcome evil in one’s own heart. In Volume 1, no. 25, it declares:

Allah’s apostle was asked, “What is the best deed?” He replied, “To believe in Allah and his Apostle.” The questioner then asked, “What is the next [in goodness]?” He replied, “To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah’s cause.”  

 In a previous post, we have already seen from Muhammad’s own life what he thought of Jihad. But let’s look at his Koran.

I should note here that while the Koran does say “there shall be no compulsion in religion,” it also, shall we say, “nuances” itself as to what “compulsion” means in ordering religious military conquests in which the newly conquered are offered Death, conversion to Islam, or extreme taxation which reduces them to semi-servile status or even slavery as their options. One cannot deny that these options are certainly strong extrinsic compulsions to convert to Islam. But again, let’s examine the Koran itself:

There shall be no compulsion in religion. True guidance is now distinct from error. He that renounces idol-worship and puts his faith in God shall grasp a firm handle that will never break. God hears all and knows all (Sura 2:256).

Believers: do not make friends with those who are enemies of Mine and yours. Would you show them kindness, when they have denied the truth that has been revealed to you and driven out the Apostle and yourselves, because you believe in God, your Lord (Sura 60:1).

Believers: do not befriend your fathers or your brothers if they choose unbelief in preference to faith. Wrongdoers are those that befriend them (Sura 9:23).

Prophet: rouse the faithful to arms. If there are twenty steadfast men among you, they shall vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding (Sura 8:65).

Whether unarmed or ill-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of God, with your wealth and with your persons. This will be best for you if you but knew it (Sura 9:41).

Believers make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. Know that God is with the righteous (Sura 9:123).

Proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers, except to these idolaters who have honored their treaties with you in every detail and added none against you. With these keep faith, until their treaties have run their term. God loves the righteous. When the sacred months (Referrring to Shawwal, Dhul-Qu’adah, Dhul-Hajjah, and Muharram) are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful….12 But if, after coming to terms with you, they break their oaths and revile your faith, make war on the leaders of unbelief – for no oaths are binding with them -  so that they may desist (Sura 9:4-5, 12).

Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love the aggressors. Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is more grievous than bloodshed. But do not fight them within precinct of the Holy Mosque unless they attack you there; if they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded; but if they desist, God is forgiving. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers (Sura 2:190-193).

Believers! Shall I point out to you a profitable course that will save you from a woeful scourge? Have faith in God and His Apostle, and fight for God’s cause with your wealth and your persons. That would be best for you, if you but knew it. He will forgive you your sins and admit you to gardens watered by running streams; He will lodge in pleasant mansions in the gardens of Eden. That is the supreme triumph (Sura 61:19-12).

Those that make war against God and his apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be put to death or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or banished from the country (Sura 5:33).

And people really wonder why we see Muslims “crucifying” Christians today?

If anyone thinks that God will not give victory to His apostle in this world and in the world to come, let him tie a rope to the ceiling of his house and hang himself. Then let him ponder if his cunning has done away with that which has enraged him (Sura 22:15-16).

Who Are the “Enemies of God” or, Those Who “Attack” Islam?

Many who defend Islam will be quick to point out that all of these verses in the Koran that talk about killing, crucifying, etc. only refer to aggressors who first “attack” Islam. But the truth is: Even though we do see the prophet speak against the idea of “attacking first,” and only kill those who “attack you,” the problem is the definition of “attack.”  According to the Koran, anyone who does not submit to Islam, or anyone who would dare to teach contrary to the Koran (like Christians and Jews!), is attacking Islam and needs to be vanquished in battle. Let me give you an example of what I mean from the Koran:

Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in God nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and his Apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the True Faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued (Sura 9:29).

Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., pointed out to me in a conversation I had with him on this issue that the English translations of the Koran are often watered down to obscure the truth about what the Koran teaches. He is fluent in Arabic and showed me where the word translated as “Fight against” in Sura 9:29, actually means “kill.” “Kill them!” Kill who? All who do not embrace Islam until they are “utterly subdued,” and obey Koranic, or “Shariah” law.

Need I say more?

While I appreciate any “moderate” Muslim who attempts to “spiritualize” all of the troubling texts of the Koran, the truth is, the problem is not just with “radical Muslims,” though I must say that the killing, beheading, crucifying, of innocent children is nowhere to be found in the Koran. What these radical ISIS members, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other radicals are doing in killing innocent children, is definitely not sanctioned in the Koran. However, the problem is: the killing of those who do not embrace Islam is taught in the Koran.

Ibn Warraq in his book, Why I am not a Muslim, p. 11-12, footnote #33, quotes the famous Ayatollah Khomeini responding to Western apologists for Islam, and Muslim “moderates” concerning this matter:

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world…Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless.

Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]?

Islam says: Kill them [the non-muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non- Muslims] overcome us?

Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender to the enemy?

Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword. People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet I spoke of above] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.

As Christians, we are always peacemakers first, but there is a time for war as Ecclesiastes 3:3,8 tells us. We pray for the conversion of all of these radical Muslims, and for Muslims in general. But, in the end, the only thing radical Islam seems to respond to universally is the point of a sword. Unfortunately, it is time for you and I to let our Congressmen and President know that we cannot allow our brothers and sisters in Christ, our Jewish brothers and sisters, and “moderate” Muslims as well, to be slaughtered as they are being slaughtered even as I write this. It must stop. And military intervention is the only way it will be stopped in our time, in my opinion.

But for now, we must educate ourselves and our families as to the threat we face, and be prepared to give a defense of our Faith and to evangelize our Muslim friends. There is much beauty and truth in Islam, as I said in an earlier post, but ultimately, these are a people who are in desperate need of their savior, Jesus Christ, as we all are! In my next and final post on Islam in this series, I will share some ideas on how we can, indeed, share the good news about Jesus Christ with our Muslim friends.

If you like this post and want to learn more, click here.

The Trouble With Calvin – Pt. 4

We now proceed to the “I” in TULIP: Irresistible Grace

Calvinists teach that man is powerless to resist God’s grace; hence, the idea of a truly free will is repudiated. The Catholic and biblical position holds that we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”—meaning we must do something—“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do according to his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13)—meaning God’s grace must precede and accompany every meritorious action that will bring about our salvation. The Catholic teaching emphasizes both God’s grace and man’s cooperation. The Calvinist position holds that man is not a “co-laborer” with God as St. Paul says in I Cor. 3:9 and II Cor. 6:1. In Calvin’s words:

 If [by free will] is meant that after we are once subdued by the power of the Lord to the obedience of righteousness, we proceed voluntarily, and are inclined to follow the movement of grace, I have nothing to object…If, again, it is meant that man is able of himself to be a fellow-laborer with the grace of God, I hold it to be a most pestilent delusion (Institutes, Bk. 2, Ch. 3, Para. 11).

Of course, Catholics agree that man cannot “of himself” merit anything from God, if by that, Calvin means apart from God’s empowering grace, but Calvin’s meaning is very different than the Catholic and biblical position. “Subdued by the power of the Lord” means man cannot resist the movement of God’s grace.

For Calvin, there is no cooperation with God’s grace as Scripture teaches. The grace of God “subdues” a man and moves him to salvation, rather than God awakening man and empowering him to, “‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.’ Look carefully then how you walk…” (Eph. 5:14-15), and cooperate with the grace of God as Romans 11:22, II Cor. 6:1, Acts 13:43, etc. indicate. Man cannot do anything except be moved to act in accord with God’s immutable will and irresistible grace. If God wills us to go to hell, then we will not be given grace and we will be moved to sin by God’s eternal decree. If God wills us to go to heaven, then we will be given grace that we cannot resist to that end.

Two Notes of Importance Before We Proceed

1.  Many Calvinists will claim they believe in “free will,” as does the Westminster Confession. But they apply a most odd meaning to the term. This is akin to the homosexual “couple” who says they believe in “family values.” “Free will” for the Calvinist means that God has given to him irresistible grace that he cannot do anything but accept. They will then say, as John Calvin did, “… after we are once subdued by the power of the Lord to the obedience of righteousness, we proceed voluntarily, and are inclined to follow the movement of grace,” as cited above. The term “voluntary” becomes meaningless. According to Calvin, when God extends his “special grace” of salvation and mercy he “does not suffer a refusal” (Institutes, Bk. 3, Ch. 22, Para. 6). Yet, man is free? This would be like Marlon Brando (Vito Corleone), in The Godfather, “making an offer you cannot refuse,” and then claiming the offer was “freely” accepted.

2. Honest Calvinists acknowledge the contradiction here. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the then Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) who at the time of the penning of the below quote held the highest elected staff position in the Presbyterian Church (USA) provides:

If, then, a sovereign God decides to elect persons to eternal life, that is a decision for all time and eternity…Presbyterians have endorsed this conviction, but with Calvin, we have always had trouble with it for two reasons. First, if God predestines every person, and not all are called, elected, or predestined for salvation, then God has predestined (the Westminster Confession says, “fore-ordained”) some persons to hell or eternal damnation. Second, if God has determined the ultimate fate of all persons, then the individual has no power to make any important decisions. Presbyterians have learned to believe, also, in free will, realizing that these two doctrines are logically impossible to hold at the same time, but that each is true, as taught in the Westminster Confession… Those persons who can with a clear conscience accept what they are taught, regardless of apparent inconsistencies, are in some ways better off than those who think (Clifton Kirkpatrick and William H. Hopper, Jr., What Unites Presbyterians (Geneva Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1997), p. 17. The emphasis in the quote is mine.)

Notice the almost cult-like acceptance of this logical contradiction. The Catholic and biblical faith never asks anyone to check their intellect at the door. Though we are certainly not rationalists—that is, there are certain truths of our faith that are supra-rational—there is nothing in our faith that is contrary to reason. I have to agree with Mr. Kirkpatrick that a thinking man will have trouble with this Calvinist notion of double predestination. In fact, I would say that a thinking man is not going to remain Calvinist, unless he can learn to believe what he knows to be irrational. And that is not faith; that is closer to superstition.

THE BIBLE IS PLAIN

The grace of God is resistible. St. Paul disagrees with Calvin when he says:

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

The context of Galatians is clear. St. Paul is warning Christians not to be seduced by “Judaizers” who were telling them belief in Christ is great, but that they must also return to the Old Covenant temple, sacrifices, law, circumcision, etc. in order to be saved. According to St. Paul, if they do this, they forfeit Christ; they “fall from grace.” To “fall from grace” means they resist God’s grace.

The inspired author of Hebrews teaches we can “fall from grace” as well.

Strive for peace with all men, and for that holiness without which no man will see God. Take heed lest anyone be wanting in the grace of God (Gr.—usteron apo tes karitos tou theou—“failing from,” or “falling from the grace of God” ); lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble and by it the many be defiled; let there not be any immoral or profane person, such as Esau, who for one meal sold his birthright (Hebrews 12:14-16, Confraternity Bible).

The Greek verb ustereo, ranslated above as “wanting,” means “to fall
short of, lack or want.” Because the preposition apo, or “from,” is used
immediately after the verb, a literal translation would be: “falling short of
from the grace of God.” I translate it as “falling from the grace of God.”
Alfred Marshall, a Protestant, translates the text “failing from the grace of
God” in The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, (Regency Reference
Library, Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), p. 889. The sense is the same.

Similar to St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the writer to the Hebrews is warning Christians not to “sell their birthright” as sons of God and forfeit the glory of heaven which is our inheritance as Christians. We are truly sons of God “and if we are sons, we are heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided however that we suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17, Confraternity Bible). The context of Hebrews emphasizes that Christians can, in fact, “fall from grace” and lose their heavenly inheritance.

St. Stephen chimes in very specifically when it comes to resisting the grace of God. He almost seems to have Calvin in mind 1500 years before Calvin when he speaks to his “brethren and fathers” (Acts 7:2) among the sons and daughters of Abraham:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you (Acts 7:51).

The Holy Spirit calls us by grace; thus, to “resist the Holy Spirit” is to resist God’s grace.

And finally, the words of our Lord himself are most clear:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, you house is forsaken and desolate!

Jesus here speaks as God and informs us that he is ever-calling to his people by his grace to come to him as a hen calls to her chicks. But he is equally clear that he respects the freedom with which he gifted them as well. It is their choice whether they will to resist his call–resist his grace–or cooperate with it unto salvation (cf. Gal. 6:7-9; Romans 5:1-2).

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The Trouble With Calvin – Pt. 3

In my last two blog posts, we examined the first two of the “five points” of Calvinism popularly known by the acronym, TULIP, which represents 1. Total Depravity 2. Unconditional Election 3. Limited Atonement 4. Irresistible Grace 5. Perseverance of the Saints (“once saved, always saved”). In this post, we will tackle the third point:

Limited Atonement

No Christian that I know of would deny that some doctrines are more or less clear than others in Scripture. When it comes to the atonement of Christ, the Scriptures are most clear: Jesus Christ died on the cross for the entire world. The redemption that Christ merited through his passion and death was for every single human person that has ever and will ever live. The Calvinist teaching of limited atonement espouses the exact opposite. We find this teaching in many places in the Calvinist confessions by way of their emphasis on the sacrifice of Christ being only for the sins of the elect and not for the sins of the whole world. The Westminster Confession of 1643, for example, declared:

In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or the dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect (emphasis added).

Notice, Christ’s sacrifice, was not offered for the sins of all, but only for the elect, according to John Calvin and the Westminster Confession. I am always astonished at this teaching in light of the clear teaching of St. John in I John 2:1-2:

My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (emphasis added).

As Catholics, we have to go with St. John over John Calvin. Yet, Calvin was quite insistent that Christ did not die for all. He taught, as we’ve seen before:

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 these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 3, Ch. 21, Para. 5).

We keep coming back to Calvin’s notion of “double predestination,” and we will again, because It is important for us to understand that for Calvin and true Calvinists, predestination means that it is God’s immutable will that some go to heaven and some go to hell. Before they ever commit one sin, God has already decreed and ordained their eternal torment. Calvin said:

Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children (Ibid., Ch. 23, Para. 1, emphasis added).

If the Calvinist notion of predestination were true, then this doctrine of limited atonement would follow. If God’s eternal decree representing his will from all eternity is that only some be saved, and if his immutable will is for some to go to hell, then clearly, he did not die on the cross for the salvation of all. This follows necessarily.

This is a case of a presupposition based on the misunderstanding of a relatively few biblical texts that ends up contradicting the plain teaching of Sacred Scripture. The atonement of Christ on the cross is the greatest expression of our God’s salvific will for all of mankind. And sacred Scripture could not make it any plainer:

John 3:16: 

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Notice, the text does not say, “God so loved the elect…”

I Tim. 2:3-6:

This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (emphasis added).

Here we see—contrary to the Calvinist teaching of a limited atonement—that Christ died for all revealing God’s positive salvific will for all to be saved.

II Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (emphasis added).

Here we see not only that God’s positive will is for all to be saved, but he clearly does not will any to perish in the fires of hell either. Again, this is expressly contrary to Calvinism. The biblical text reveals God’s salvific will to include each and every human being that has ever or will ever live. Those who end up in hell will be there because they chose to reject the truth, not because of any positive willing on God’s part.

Calvin Responds:

I actually like to read John Calvin’s magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion. I love the way Calvin’s mind works. Give me Calvin to read any day over Luther. Luther is all over the place with his theology. Calvin is disciplined, thorough, consistent, and easy to understand. Don’t get me wrong, he is profoundly wrong on many crucial matters, but at least you know where he stands.

When it comes to Calvin’s responses to the above-mentioned texts, well, let’s just say they are disciplined, consistent, easy to understand, and dead wrong. For brevity’s sake we will just take I Tim. 2:4 in this post. Let’s cite verses 1-6 for context:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every ways. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…

This text is quite plain, making clear that:

1. God wills all men to be saved.

2. Christ Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all.”

But listen to Calvin’s response:

By this he assuredly means nothing more than that the way of salvation was not shut against any order of men… (Institutes, Bk. III, Ch. 24, Para. 16)

 Really? It is hard to believe Calvin was really satisfied in saying that “all men” did not refer to “all men,” but to all “categories of men.” In this case, St. Paul was limiting prayer for the “categories” of “kings and men in high positions.”

But then you have the problem of verse six saying, “Christ… gave himself as a ransom for all” to have to them mean ”all categories of men.” That is simply not what the text says.

A Final Thought

John Calvin was stuck. He had a presupposition that simply did not fit the text, so he had to twist the text to fit his presupposition. He did not believe Jesus “ransomed all” on the cross (as I Tim. 2:6 says) because he believed Christ only made atonement for the elect. He did not believe God wills the salvation of all (as I Tim. 2:4 says) for the same reason, so he had to come up with the above that is really so far beneath a man with the intellectual capacity of a John Calvin. The man was brilliant.

He had to defend the indefensible belief in “limited atonement” in order to preserve the acronym, right?

But this leads to my final point for this post. There is another text that absolutely obliterates the notion of “limited atonement” that Calvin did not deal with in his magnum opus. That text would be II Peter 2:1-3:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.

In this text, St. Peter makes clear that Jesus “bought” (the Greek word here is a form of agorazo, which is used in I Cor. 6:20, 7:23, Acts 20:28, Rev. 5:9, 14:3, and 4 to mean “ransomed” or “redeemed”) not just the elect, but even those who will eventually end in the torments of hell. There can be no doubt concerning either the words or the context of II Peter 2.

Calvin did not include this text in the nearly 700 pages of Institutes of the Christian Religion? I have a hard time believing this one got away. He just didn’t know about it. He was too smart for that. Perhaps he left this one alone because his answer would have been even worse than what we saw above in his dancing around I Tim. 2:4. I don’t know.

But what I do know is this text makes clear this fact: Jesus did not only die for the elect. His atonement was not “limited.”

He died for all. And “all” means “all.”

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The Trouble With Calvin – Pt. 2

In my last post, I began a series of critiques of John Calvin’s famous “five points,” most often referred to using the acronym, TULIP, which represents Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistibility of Grace, and The Perseverance of the Saints (“once saved, always saved”). In this installment, we’ll deal with Unconditional Election.

Calvin’s idea of Unconditional Election simply means that God “elected” certain men for salvation and others for damnation from all eternity, rooted in texts of Scripture, as we will see below, like Romans 9:10-12:

And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, “The Younger will serve the younger.”

Calvin’s ideas of election and double predestination are virtually indistinguishable.  Double Predestination, as we saw before, is the teaching that claims God to have determined from all eternity who will go to heaven and who will go to hell giving to man no real choice in the matter. The Catholic Church condemns this understanding, for example, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1037:

God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (Citing II Peter 3:9).

Just as with predestination, for Calvin, God both wills and brings about the damnation of souls by his positive decree of election. He must, or else, in Calvin’s mind, he ceases to be truly almighty:

They deny that it is ever said in distinct terms, God decreed Adam should perish by his revolt… They say that, in accordance with free will, he was to be the architect of his own fortune, that God had decreed nothing but to treat him according to his desert. If this frigid fiction is received, where will be the omnipotence of God, by which, according to his secret counsel on which everything depends, he rules over all? But whether they will allow it or not, predestination is manifest in Adam’s posterity. It was not owing to nature that they all lost salvation by the fault of one parent… As this cannot be ascribed to nature, it is plain that it is owing to the wonderful counsel of God… I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy [Calvin here refers to the false notion of unbaptized babies being predestined for hell], unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The decree, I admit is dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree…Nor ought it to seem absurd when I say, that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk III, Ch. XXIII, Para. 7).

Yes, this “decree…is dreadful,” but it is not God’s. It’s Calvin’s!

Twisting the Truth

There is some truth to Calvin’s notion of election. Scripture as well as the Catholic Church, will often refer to “the elect” as those who will finally persevere until the end and so be saved.

“The Church . . . will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,” at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, “the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations.” Here below she knows that she is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when she will “be united in glory with her king.” The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’ . . . be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence” (CCC 842).

Jesus himself speaks of the “elect” who will persevere and so be saved in texts like Matt. 24:22:

And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

St. Paul speaks of the ”elect” as well:

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory (II Tim. 2:10).

The Catholic Church has no problem with referring to “the elect” as those who will finally persevere until the end and attain final salvation. The problem with Calvin is his claim that each Christian can know with “infallible certainty” (as the Westminster Confession says it) that he is one of the elect. And, his claim that man has no real say in whether or not he will be one of God’s elect.

St. Paul did not even claim for himself this “infallible certainty” of his final salvation.

… but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (I Cor. 9:27).

This word translated “disqualified” in the RSVCE is adokimos. This is the same word St. Paul uses for those who reject God and whom God then “gave up” to a “reprobate mind” in Romans 1:28. Or, in II Cor. 13:5, he uses it thus:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ is in you?–unless you fail to meet the test (or, as some translations have it, “unless you are reprobate”; II Cor. 13:5)!

One can know via a private revelation that he is one of the elect, but Scripture indicates that God alone knows, ordinarily speaking, who the elect are. St. Peter tells us we must continue to be zealous to do good works until the end of our lives in order to ensure that we are truly one of “the elect:”

Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In that same letter, St. Peter also warns that even those who have experienced the transforming power of God in their lives as he describes it in II Peter 1:2-4 can then fall away and be lost in 2:20-22. There is no presumption here with St. Peter as to who is one of the “elect,” as we see with John Calvin.

Thus, for Catholics, however one understands the theology of “election,” as long as one does not deny certain essential truths, there is freedom. For example, a Catholic can believe that the number of the “elect” is “predetermined” inasmuch as God knows how many will cooperate with this grace and persevere until the end. That means there is a limited number of “elect,” and, of course, not everyone is “elect.”

A Catholic may not, however, teach “election” to mean that God does not give to every single person the real possibility of salvation. As Gaudium et Spes 22, paragraph 5, says:

For, since Christ died for all  men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we  ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to  every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.

In other words, “election” does not mean God arbitrarily “elects” some for heaven and damns others to hell as Calvin taught. A true biblical understanding of “election” must involve man’s free response as CCC 600 tells us:

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace.

God’s predestination and/or election presuppose God’s initiative. God’s “eternal plan of predestination” goes before us so that if we respond to God’s call, it is only because God’s grace, predestination, election, and calling went before us. Without God as first mover, we could not take one step toward God as one of his elect. However, without our freely willing it, we will not finally “be in that number, when the saints come marching in.”

But What About Jacob and Esau?

Invariably, texts of Scripture like Romans 9, cited above, will be used by Calvinists to defend their position of unconditional election:

Though [Jacob and Esau] were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, [Rebecca] was told, “The elder will serve the younger” (verses 11-12).

In order to understand this text, we really have to understand the greater context of Romans. We have to make the necessary distinctions between God’s gift of grace and the plan of God, which are given to men independent of anything that man does or can do, and man’s call to respond to the gift of grace and the plan of God. When we see this, Romans 9 will come into focus.

St. Paul is writing to a people in Rome being assailed by “judaizers” who were coming up with their own plan of salvation and leading people astray. In essence, they were saying it is great to believe in Christ and the New Covenant, but if you want to be saved, you have to go back to the Temple, the Old Covenant Priesthood, sacrifices, the Old Law, especially circumcision, etc. True Christians who were rejecting the Old Covenant in favor of the New were being persecuted for their faith; and, no doubt, they were being tempted to succumb to returning to the Temple. If they would only do so, they would no longer be in danger of:

… being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction… [being imprisoned]… [experiencing the] plundering of… [their] property… (Heb. 10:32-34)

But, at the same time, as St. Paul says in Galatians 5, if they were to return to the Old Covenant and trust in it for salvation they would also be in danger of losing their souls:

Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you… You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Gal. 5:2-4).

It was in this context that St. Paul was exhorting Christians in his Letter to the Romans to understand God’s plan and gift of grace to have been decreed long before they were ever created. St. Paul encourages the faithful that nothing except their own willful turning away from God’s goodness can separate them from God’s grace which will keep them through all that they may have to endure. “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” (Romans 8:18):

Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?… For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality (Romans 2:4-11).

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (Romans 11:22).

St. Paul is in no way saying that the individual Christians to whom he is writing have their eternities sealed and that they are going to heaven no matter what they do. In fact, St. Paul makes clear all over the New Testament that what you do determines where you will spend eternity as much as what you believe (see Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; Col. 3:5-6, etc.). Far from encouraging a sense of presumption, St. Paul says:

Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (I Cor. 10:12).

St. Paul encourages these believers that nothing outside of themselves can ever separate them from God’s grace. There is nothing that any man, or any angel, or any power in the universe outside of themselves could ever do to take them away from God. God’s plan is secure and has been so from all eternity:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).

God’s plan and God’s power are sure. The question for St. Paul is this: will his readers–or will we–respond to God’s predestined plan for our salvation, or will we choose to reject it to our own eternal loss.

Foreknown, Predestined, Justified, and Glorified

It is this context that leads up to Romans 8 and 9 and the famous texts on “predestination” and “election.” Among the many problems with Calvin’s theology of election, as well as with the Calvinists today who follow his teaching, is a failure to distinguish between the several categories St. Paul lists in Romans 8:28-30, most especially “foreknowledge,” “predestination,” “justification,” and “glorification.”

In presenting his own theology of election in Romans 8, St. Paul says:

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified… Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect (Romans 8-30)

According to St. Paul, the elect were already “fore[known]… predestined… called… justified… and glorified.” Calvin wrongly thought from this that I could then determine that I am already “glorified” by God’s eternal decree so that there is nothing more I need to do. This is incorrect. St. Paul is continuing his thought that God’s predestined plan is secure. God has done it all for us on the objective level. But that does not mean were do not have to cooperate with his plan on the subjective level.

In other words, Christ purchased my salvation, justification, and glorification on the cross. It is a done deal on the objective level. But that does not mean I do not have to do something in order for it to be subjectively accomplished in my life.

Let’s take justification for example. Christ “justified” all men on the cross. He paid the price for all. However, a man still must “believe in his heart unto justification” (Romans 10:10) in order to actually be justified. And he must continue to practice ”obedience unto righteousness” (Gr. justification) in order to finally be justified (Romans 6:16; Cf. I Cor. 4:3-5; Matt. 12:36-37; Romans 2:13; Gal. 2:17; James 2:21-25).

Now let’s consider glorification. Catholics believe that Jesus ”glorified” all on the cross just as he justified them. However, we must “suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him,” on the subjective level (Romans 8:17; Cf. Romans 2:6-10; II Thess. 2:14; I Cor. 15:42-43). Christ’s glorifying us will take no effect in our lives unless we choose to allow what he did on the cross to actually be applied to our lives.

Thus, if we are finally justified, it is only because Christ already “justified us” on the cross. If we are “glorified,” it is only because Christ already “glorified” us on the cross. However, if we choose to walk away from Christ, we will not be finally justified or glorified. We will have rejected God’s predestined plan for our salvation, in favor of our own demise.

St. Augustine Weighs In

St. Augustine, who is often misunderstood and errantly used by some Calvinists to “prove” their position—a position that he never held—wrote:

… predestination, which cannot exist without foreknowledge, although foreknowledge may exist without predestination; because God foreknew by predestination those things which He was about to do, whence it was said, “He made those things that shall be.” Moreover, He is able to foreknow even those things which He does not Himself do,—as all sins whatever. Because, although there are some which are in such wise sins as that they are also the penalties of sins, whence it is said, “God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient,” it is not in such a case the sin that is God’s, but the judgment. Therefore God’s predestination of good is, as I have said, the preparation of grace; which grace is the effect of that predestination (On the Predestination of the Saints (Book I)—In What Respects Predestination and Grace Differ, Chap. 19 [10]).

Though I should mention that St. Augustine is not always either consistent nor correct on all matters relating to predestination, the “Doctor of Grace” presents well the Catholic and biblical position here when he explains predestination only refers to God’s plan for redemption, not reprobation. For that (reprobation), man must reject God’s call to all for salvation. As St. Paul said it:

[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:4).

And:

… because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe (I Tim. 4:10).

St. John provides:

[Jesus Christ] is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

And St. Peter adds:

The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but if forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (II Peter 3:9).

Very important to our discussion is St. Augustine’s distinction between what he calls “the operating grace” and “the cooperating grace” in the lives of men. The first grace is given by God apart from man’s cooperation and prepares his will so that he may choose God. This grace is integrally related to God’s providential plan that existed from all eternity in the mind of God. This is the grace that the persecuted Christians to whom St. Paul was writing in his letter to the Romans can know is there for them and no power on earth can ever change that. The latter grace is given by God as well, but requires man’s cooperation for it to be effectual in his life.

When I shall have proved this, it will more manifestly appear that to lead a holy life is the gift of God,—not only because God has given a free will to man, without which there is no living ill or well; nor only because He has given him a commandment to teach him how he ought to live; but because through the Holy Ghost He sheds love abroad in the hearts of those whom he foreknew, in order to predestinate them; whom He predestinated, that He might call them; whom He called, that he might justify them; and whom he justified, that He might glorify them [Rom.8:28ff]… even man’s justice must be attributed to the operation of God, although not taking place without man’s will; and we therefore cannot deny that his perfection is possible even in this life, because all things are possible with God,—both those which He accomplishes of His own sole will, and those which He appoints to be done with the cooperation with Himself of His creature’s will (On the Spirit and the Letter, Ch. 7).

As we will see in more detail when we discuss the “P” of TULIP in a few weeks, God alone foreknows those who will finally persevere until the end in grace (except in cases of private revelation, as I said above), according to Scripture and to St. Augustine. But the key for us now is to see that St. Augustine very clearly teaches as Scripture does, that man must cooperate with the plan and grace of God in order to be saved. Thus, his election is not unconditional. God’s gift of grace includes our cooperation. This is all part of God’s immutable and predestined plan.

 … it is God who both works in man the willing to believe, and in all things prevents us with His mercy. To yield our consent, indeed, to God’s summons, or to withhold it, is (as I have said) the function of our own will. And this not only does not invalidate what is said, “For what do you have that you did not receive?” (citing I Cor. 4:7) but it really confirms it. For the soul cannot receive and possess these gifts, which are here referred to, except by yielding its consent. And thus whatever it possesses, and whatever it receives, is from God; and yet the act of receiving and having belongs, of course, to the receiver and possessor (St. Augustine, On the Spirit and Letter, ch. 60).

How far is this from the dreary predestination of Calvin’s invention that claims:

We, indeed, ascribe both prescience and predestination to God; but we say that it is absurd to make the latter subordinate to the former [as St. Augustine and St. Paul do!]… 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 these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk III, Ch.21, Para. 5).

Michael Jordan Knows About Choice

For many Calvinists, John 15:16 is as plain as it gets when it comes to unconditional election. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” “See?” they’ll say. “The idea of God offering salvation to all is bogus. Jesus only elects a few, and it is his choice, not ours, as to who they will be.”

The 1984 NBA Draft is a great way, I find, to explain the biblical concept of God “choosing” us. The draft of 1984 is famous for having four Hall of Famers selected in the first round. You had Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton, all chosen in that same year. That is quite a class!

Hakeem Olajuwon, from the University of Houston, was chosen first overall by the Houston Rockets. That was certainly a good pick because he would become one of the greatest centers to ever play the game. But the second pick was where it became interesting. The Portland Trailblazers had Michael Jordan, from the University of North Carolina, available, but they chose Sam Bowie, from the University of Kentucky, instead. At the time it seemed like a decent pick because Bowie was an extraordinarily good college player, but it would eventually prove to have been the biggest mistake in NBA history. Bowie would unexpectedly flop in the NBA, while Michael Jordan would go on to be… well… Michael Jordan.

How doe this relate to our topic? Here’s how. The third team to pick  would be the Chicago Bulls, and they would choose Michael Jordan. If you would have asked Michael Jordan what team he would have liked to play for back then, there is no way he would have picked the Bulls. They were perennial losers at the time. But the truth is, he did not choose the Bulls, the Bulls organization chose him. And to this day, you will hear the refrain, “The Bulls made the best choice in NBA history. They chose Michael Jordan.”

Would anybody believe that because the Bulls “chose” Michael Jordan that he would not, in turn, have to choose them? Of course not.

So it is with Christ. He chooses us. Of that there can be no doubt. But according to his own words, he then asks us to choose him:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne…

In Summary

The Catholic Church teaches that God elects only some for salvation and that election was known to God from all eternity. All of you reading this post who persevere until the end with our Lord and are saved will only be so because God “elected” you to be so from all eternity.

In saying that, the Scriptures and the Catholic Church do not mean to say that God does not offer to all the real possibility of salvation. He does. Whether or not we will finally be counted among the elect depends first of all upon the call and “election” of God, but secondarily, it relies upon our free response to his call and our persevering in the grace of his call until the end.

If you enjoyed this post, and if you want to dive deeper into the topic of salvation, click here.