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January 23, 2011 / vivator

Dr. R.C. Sproul on double predestination

Dr. R.C. Sproul is Reformed scholar and theologian, founder (and president) of Ligonier Ministries and president of Ligonier Academy.  The following is what he wrote (in italic, underlined emphasis is mine) on double predestination, which is taken from:

http://www.the-highway.com/DoublePredestination_Sproul.html

In the article Dr. Sproul describes what he calls as distortion of double predestination:

The distortion of double predestination looks like this: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God WORKS in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God. Stated another way, we can establish a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this a positive-positive view of predestination. This is, God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation. In the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.

This distortion of positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do. Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God. This is not the Reformed view of predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine. Such a view may be identified with what is often loosely described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism. Such a view of predestination has been virtually universally and monolithically rejected by Reformed thinkers.

Dr. Sproul stated that Reformed position of double predestination should be understood to be positive-negative predestination:

In sharp contrast to the caricature of double predestination seen in the positive-positive schema is the classic position of Reformed theology on predestination. In this view predestination is double in that it involves both election and reprobation but is not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather we view predestination in terms of a positive-negative relationship.
In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect
[the Reprobate] God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives.

He explains further why God does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in Reprobate’ lives

If God, when He is decreeing reprobation, does so in consideration of the reprobate’s being already fallen, then He does not coerce him to sin. To be reprobate is to be left in sin, not pushed or forced to sin.

What Dr. Sproul explains on positive-negative double predestination could be expressed in the following analogy:

All men are like damaged cars on conveyor belt that will bring them to crushing machine.  There is nothing those cars can do to save themselves – they are not even aware that they will be crushed. They don’t have a will to be saved let alone make request to be saved.  God is a good mechanic – what He did is He chose some cars unconditionally, i.e. His choice does not depend on their colour, year, type, size, value, mileage, manufacturer, country of origin, degree of damage etc.  He repaired those chosen cars, filled their tanks with gas and drove them home (heaven). During this process those cars gave neither resistance, i.e. no kicking and screaming whatsoever, nor cooperation. Their salvation is monergistic work of the Mechanic.  The damaged cars He did not choose obviously ended up being crushed – there is nothing they can do.  Yet the Mechanic (God) is not responsible for their crushing, they were already damaged and were deemed to be crushed in the first place.  When did the Mechanic make the choice, i.e. which cars He wanted to save and which ones He bypassed?  The supralapsarian Calvinists say it happened before they ended-up damaged on conveyor belts (i.e. before the Fall) while the infralapsarian ones will say He made the choice after they ended-up on conveyor belt.  I am not caricaturing Calvinism here – that is their understanding of being spiritually dead.  In the words of Dr. Sproul:

When we considered in an earlier study our condition of original sin, we used the biblical metaphors of death and slavery. By nature we are born into this world DOA, dead on arrival, spiritually although alive biologically.  We have no inclination whatsoever in our souls towards the things of God – no interest, no passion, no love. We are dead. Because we are spiritually dead, we are slaves to the sinful impulses and lusts that drive our behavior. We are not just participation in sin; such a description is far too weak. The Bible teaches us again and again that we are slaves to sin. Sin is not only in our nature, but it is our master.

Sproul, R.C.: Romans, St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 188-189

The problem with double predestination view, even in positive-negative form, is it does not go in-line with a number of verses from Scripture (Romans 5:18, 1 Corinthians 15:22, Titus 2:11, 2 Peter 3:9).  Reformed systematic theologian, Louis Berkhof (1873 to 1957) argued that “all” or “all men” in those verses should be understood to mean “all in Christ” or (for Titus 2:11) “all classes of men” – otherwise they will support universalism (source: Berkhof: Systematic Theology, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, page 396).  Certainly isolating those verses will promote universalism (God will save all men), which no Christians believe. Yet re-paraphrasing them (i.e. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says “in Christ shall all be made alive”, not “all in Christ shall be made alive”) or forcing them to mean something that one first predefined is not correct either.  Under synergism, which is the view of Catholics and of some Protestants, we can avoid universalism without re-paraphrasing or interpreting those verses to mean something else.  God through Christ takes the initiative to offer salvation to all men, yet they have freedom to either accept or reject this free offer.  Such freedom is denied in monergism – we are like damaged cars that have no such ability.

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9 Comments

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  1. free music / Jan 28 2011 1:56 am

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  3. JephRBNY / Mar 29 2011 9:30 pm

    Hi there!

    You wrote: “God through Christ takes the initiative to offer salvation to all men, yet they have freedom to either accept or reject this free offer. Such freedom is denied in monergism – we are like damaged cars that have no such ability.”

    Well, for your information, it was the historical position of the Church (see Council of Orange of 529) that all of mankind, due to Adam’s fall, have lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying Salvation. This is to say that sinners, in their degenerate state, will never be willing to savingly respond to the Gospel by faith, repentance, and submission to the sacraments unless they by a preceding enablement and empowerment of God’s Grace. Their will is FREE from righteousness but ENSLAVED to Sin. St. Augustine puts it this way,

    “For either they lie under the sin which they have inherited by original generation, and depart hence with that inherited debt which is not put away by regeneration, or by their free will have added other sins besides; their will, I say, FREE, but not freed—FREE FROM RIGHTEOUSNESS, but ENSLAVED TO SIN, by which they are tossed about by various mischievous lusts, some more evil, some less, BUT ALL EVIL; and they must be adjudged to diverse punishments, according to that very diversity.” (On Rebuke and Grace, Ch. 42)

    And again,

    “…But this will, which is free in evil things because it takes pleasure in evil, is NOT FREE in good things, for the reason that it has not been made free. Nor can a man will any good thing unless he is aided by Him who cannot will evil—that is, by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (St. Augustine, Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. I, Ch. 7)

    To St. Augustine, it is God’s Grace that “monergistically” infuses the sinner with the willingness to respond. It is not that God merely awaits sinners to cooperate with His Grace. God Himself gives them the willingness and ability do so (Php. 2:13). This is clearly reflected in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ when He said,

    “All that the Father gives me WILL COME to me,..” and “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:37, 44).

    • rob / May 26 2015 4:24 pm

      quoting a catholic as a basis for their Calvinist views, then the next day slamming catholicism

      • az4christ / May 26 2015 10:47 pm

        Being born spiritually dead in our original sin, we lack the ability to choose salvation. God’s grace for the elect is that He chooses to save his elect by regenerating our dead spirit

      • FourFingersBackAtYou / May 27 2015 6:58 am

        rob,
        Since you’re implying a lack of intellectual virtue on the part of JephRBNY, perhaps you could enlighten us by actually engaging with his argument – then your comment might rise above that of a spineless drive-by shooting.

        Also, you are a bit hasty to assume Augustine was ‘Roman Catholic’:
        http://triablogue.blogspot.ca/2010/10/was-augustine-roman-catholic-part-2.html

  4. vivator / Apr 2 2011 2:29 pm

    Thank you for the comment. Most Calvinist confuses synergism and semi-pelagianism. To put it in a nutshell the difference is simple. In semi-pelagianism human freedom precedes God’s grace while in synergism God’s grace precedes human freedom. The order makes significant difference – in semi-pelagianism since the initiative belongs to us, there is no predestination, i.e. God only foreknew from eternity who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. On the other hand there is predestination in synergism, but it is not double predestination as taught in monergism. All decrees of Council of Orange support synergism and condemn both pelagian and semi-pelagianism. Was Augustine a monergist? First the terms monergist and synergist were introduced much later – they were unknown in Augustine time. You can read what I wrote in:
    https://vivacatholic.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/was-augustine-monergist/
    and
    https://vivacatholic.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/augustine-on-faith-works-grace-and-eternal-life/

  5. Mike / Aug 4 2011 2:13 pm

    I appreciate the fairness in which you have handled Dr. Sproul’s position regarding the Doctrines of Predestination, Election, and Reprobation.

    The Lord caused me to be born-again in December of 1999, but it wasn’t until about 6 years ago the Lord, through the faithful exposition of the Scriptures from men like R.C. Sproul that the Doctrines of Grace to come alive to me. Solid teaching on the sovereignty of God over the salvation of men opened the eyes of my heart, giving me a deeper affection for God and a deeper desire to know Him.

    While I appreciate your fairness to Dr. Sproul’s position, your car analogy falls short on many various levels.

    1. Cars are not made in the image of their creators
    2. Cars are not moral agents that can willfully “sin” against their creators
    3. Cars do not have consciences
    4. A Car’s “will” cannot be changed
    5. God’s purposes in Predestination/Election are not capricious

    We are created in the image of God and were created to reflect His glory! We are capable of making moral decisions, and we are held accountable for the decisions that we make.

    While human beings are uniquely created in the image of God and thus are higher than any of His creations, we choose to sin against the God that created us. We were created to glorify God, but we all fall short of that responsibility (Romans 3:23). Not only do we fall short, but is it is even worse than that, we are actually enemies of God (Romans 5:10). Ephesians 2:3 says that we are all, in our natural state, “children of wrath”; we deserve God’s wrath and indignation.

    Everyone has a conscience, they know right and wrong to varying degrees because they have God’s law written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15). The problem with most people is that after years and years of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and violating their consciences, their consciences have become “seared” and calloused. The things that once brought guilt and shame no longer bring the guilt or shame that they once did and it becomes easier and easier to violate the conscience again. Because we are born with a sinful nature, everything that we do prior to the saving work of Christ being applied to us is sin (Romans 14:23); none of our “good” works proceed from faith in Christ prior to being born-again from above. We are depraved to the very core of our being (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10-18) and it is only by God’s common grace that we are not as wicked as we could be; God’s restraining hand keeps everyone from acting out all the wickedness that we have in our hearts.

    The reason that the redeemed give “neither resistance, i.e. no kicking and screaming whatsoever…” is that God overcomes their will and changes it. We don’t kick and scream because, the “God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). When we have the eyes of our hearts illuminated to see the glory of Christ, and understand (in part) His superiority above all things, our rebellious will melts away and we desire Him more than our sin; we are given new hearts that love Christ (Ezekiel 11:19, 36: 26)! It is at this point that one is born-again of the Spirit and justified (made acceptable) with God; this right standing with God is not based on anything that we have done since all we have done up until this point is sin! The justification of the elect is totally based on the finished work of Christ upon the cross where he took our debt and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). At this point the work of sanctification is started in the new child of God. God causes us to continually grow in holiness and in Christ-likeness. Scripture teaches that we are made right with God through faith in Christ (Romans and 5:1-2), and also that we are made right with God not only because Jesus paid our debt on the cross, but that Christ’s total and complete obedience and righteousness is imputed (credited) to us. We get this from 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans Chapter 4. I know that this demarcation of justification and sanctification is a matter of some disagreement between Catholic and Protestant theology.

    Finally, God’s purposes in predestination and election are not capricious. No one ever born deserves grace. Grace itself is unmerited favor; it is not owed to any of God’s fallen creation and the miracle of miracles is that God chooses to bestow his grace on any of us! Faith, repentance, justification and sanctification are all gifts of God. God does everything he does for His glory and for the good of His children. Romans Chapter 9, I think, is the clearest display of the purposes of God in election. Some of God’s Purposes in predestination and election as outlined in Chapter 9 are:

    • That God’s effectual “call” would hold sway in salvation rather than salvation being based on man’s works (v. 11)
    • To display God’s sovereignty over grace (vv. 14-15)
    • So that all will know that it is by God’s will and not man’s will (v. 16)
    • To display His power and spread His fame (v. 17)
    • So that His justice and righteousness in both wrath and mercy will be made evident (vv. 11-33)
    • To show His sovereignty
    • To call a people to Himself from the Jews and Gentiles and unite them in Christ (vv. 24-33)

    • Jeph / Apr 5 2012 6:06 pm

      Amen, Mike. I couldn’t have said it better. 🙂

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