A Working Confession of Unconditional Election

Below I have provided my working confession of the soteriological doctrine Unconditional Election. This is a working confession because it still needs serious critical review. Therefore, your input would prove most valuable to me in crafting my understanding of what Scripture teaches. Please feel free to comment below or message me on social media with affirmations and critiques.

A Confession of Unconditional Election

1. Before the world was made, God chose specific sinners to love in a special way:

1.1. according to His sovereign and free will, the right He has as Creator and King of the universe, with no consideration to the conditions of those specific sinners except their great need and therefore in sole respect to the greatness of His mercy in the covenant of redemption;
1.2. to the end that these specific sinners would be conformed into the likeness of His Son, washed of all sinful stain and purged of every vice, saved to sin no more in holiness and blamelessness, brought into an eternal fellowship of joyfully glorifying God;
1.3. by the means of saving them from the consequences of their rebellion through the justification secured in the substitutionary death of His Son upon the cross and the resurrection sealed by the effectual working of His Spirit in time, such that the penalty and power of sin would be laid waste, such that the promise of future glory with Him made sure and evident in the genuine faith wrought in their spiritual resurrection under the covenant of grace;
1.4. with in mind Christ’s merit to be imputed to these specific sinners, won by His active and passive obedience on the earth and secured in His substitutionary death on the cross;
1.5. with implication that those sinners whom He did not choose would continue in their hostility and rebellion, eventually to fall into eternity with no grounds for justification and no delight in His glory, when He then in righteousness should pronounce upon them and subject them to an everlasting damnation for their sin;
1.6. for the purpose of delighting in Himself through the full demonstration of His attributes;

and to Him be the glory forever and ever, amen.


2. Such ends as God chose these specific sinners unto shall in no way be hindered:

2.1. for every means necessary therein He ordained and ensures in the efficacy of His will, that sovereign and omnipotent purpose which alone governs the universe in time to consummate all things for the ultimate benefit of those specific sinners, to the effect that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, is able to separate these specific sinners from His love;
2.2. to the effect that the sum numeric value of God’s elect persons is never subtracted from or increased, nor are the particular individuals comprising the whole ever so much as shaken from their place among the elect;
2.3. meaning that all creatures and time itself are forbidden witness to a beginning or end to God’s love for these elect persons, His will to redeem them whelming pre creatio ex nihilo and flowing immutably through eternity;
2.4. to such implication that the sufferings of our brethren in Africa and Asia at the hands of ISIS have no effect on their security in Christ, therein such incredible faith they exhibit in the face of bullets, fires, swords, and torture manifests God’s eternal decision to love them, whereas we weep with them in longing for the redemption of our bodies;

and to Him be the glory forever and ever, amen.


3. God follows that eternal selection of specific sinners with the tangible, specific fulfillment of that purpose in the redemption of each person selected.

3.1. Regeneration occurs when God’s eternal purpose for the redemption of a specific sinner intersects with that person in time – a Divine, monergistic work in which God gives that individual genuine and lasting affections for Christ via the creation of a new heart, therein this sinner’s resurrection has now begun spiritually.
3.2. Repentance and Faith are the simple fruits of regeneration – faith alone is the instrument of justification, repentance alone is the vindication of faith.
3.3. Glorification will be the monergistic completion of every saint’s resurrection (having begun spiritually in regeneration) to a state of sinless perfection in the likeness of Christ, the end unto which they were foreknown – therein the ontological divide between Creator and creature is not bridged.

and to Him be the glory forever and ever, amen.


4. Such deplorable implications deduced from this doctrine include:

4.1. the notion that He has no genuine love for those sinners whom He did not choose to save, whereby in no way He takes displeasure in their rejection of or death apart from Him;
4.2. the notion that He requires no labor from mankind, whereby His ordination did not include human labor as a means unto such ends He desires;
4.3. the notion that His church has no reason to evangelize, whereby His sovereign calling advances apart from the preaching of the gospel;
4.4. the notion that such a doctrine has no practical implications for His church, whereby only in academia and philosophic contexts may it be helpfully considered;
4.5. the notion that His decision to love those sinners was arbitrary, whereby no reason whatsoever compelled Him to act as He did;

and these deplorable implications are to be firmly rejected and refuted, having no ground in Sacred Scripture, whereas that congregation which swiftly refuses them is blessed.


Notes

  • I need to provide Scripture references for each section.
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Catch that Footnote?

I had the privilege of attending the Together for the Gospel 2016 conference in Louisville, KY. I joined 10,000 fellow believers and several very dear friends in times of preaching and song. One of the exhibits at the T4G bookstore was “The Museum of the Bible.” This displayed several aged books from church history, including one owned by Martin Luther and an original printing of Calvin’s Institutes. The youngest display peaked my interest most: a 1611 copy of the King James Bible.

Here is a blurry picture:

IMG_5750

The King James Version is a literary marvel. I own a copy myself and am very grateful for its rich history. Yet there are some who claim the KJV is the only viable English translation of Scripture. The English Standard Version, New American Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Version, etc. are “New World” translations – the fruit of ungodly efforts to pervert the truth of God. We generally call this conviction “KJV Onlyism.” Popular proponents of this include Steven Anderson and Kent Hovind. This post does not robustly rebut KJV Onlyism, but I would like to demonstrate a fundamental flaw in it.

Look closer at the picture above – the bottom-left corner.

Catch that footnote?

IMG_5752

It’s a footnote! The picture is blurry – it reads: “Or, one that hath right to redeeme.” This footnote is similar to those found in modern translations of the Bible. It informs the reader of alternate viable translations. This footnote (one among many) is evidence that the KJV translators believed their efforts could be improved upon. “The Greek says this… or, it could be saying this…” If the KJV is the only viable English translation, then why did its translators believe that it was errant?

If the translators were alive today, certainly they would recognize the superiority of some modern translations, which have taken advantage of older Greek Manuscripts and greater understanding of Greek grammar (ex. the Granville Sharpe Construction). The translators would recognize their superiority because their utmost concern was to translate into English what the Greek and Hebrew actually meant.

For more info, check out James White’s comments here.

Appropriate Dogmatism

The Bible makes explicit and implicit statements. Because Scripture is God’s Word, these statements should be confessed as doctrine.

Explicit Biblical doctrine is proposed by the text in such manner as to need no deduction. These doctrines are grammatically clear and distinct statements in the text. It is appropriate to communicate explicit Biblical teaching dogmatically (example: “Jesus is Lord and if you disagree you are wrong”).

Implicit Biblical doctrines is proposed by the text in such manner as to need deduction. These doctrines are grammatically unspoken and covert statements in the text, which are coherent with explicit Biblical teaching. It is inappropriate to communicate implicit Biblical teaching in a dogmatic fashion (example: “Infant baptism is a sin and if you disagree you are wrong” – this is not a proper statement).

The cases against propositions that are contrary to the Bible often culminate into this basic argument:

  • The Bible never explicitly teaches X.
  • The Bible explicitly teaches ~X.
  • Therefore, X is an unbiblical proposition.

For example, say a man arrives at your doorstep this evening. He greets you and says, “I am here on behalf of The Universalist Church of America. It is my honor to inform you that you are going to heaven! In the meantime, would you be interested in becoming a Christian?” This man is a soteriological universalist (i.e. he believes God will eventually redeem all people in Christ). To consider the main proposition of Universalism in light of Scripture, we plug it into the argument above.

  • Does the Bible ever explicitly teach that God will eventually save all people (X)? No.
  • Does the Bible explicitly teach that God will not eventually save all people (~X)? Yes – Matthew 7:21.
  • Therefore, Universalism is an unbiblical proposition.

Many propositions are not so easily analyzed. The Bible may never explicitly side with or against it. In these instances, we are dealing with implicit teachings from the text and it is not appropriate to be dogmatic.

(For the remainder of this essay, consider “X” to be any proposition that the Bible takes an explicit stance on – like in the argument above. It might be helpful to plug-in the above Universalism example.)

One must either be ignorant, in denial, or willingly rebellious of Biblical teaching in order to accept something that the Bible explicitly teaches against.

To accept X on the basis of ignorance requires that there be no knowledge of what the Bible says on the issue. Someone who has never been exposed to the Biblical teaching on X could possibly accept X out of ignorance to the truth.

To accept X on the basis of denial requires that there be knowledge of what the Bible says concerning X and an unconscious, involuntary reaction to deny it. This situation would be similar to a widow denying her husband died. She may have the fact clearly presented, yet honestly believe her spouse is still alive. To be in denial that X is unbiblical when the Bible explicitly says so likely requires a substantial amount of personal estate in X and a legitimate biological capability (depending on the circumstances and one’s emotional condition) to lapse into a rejection of reality. Confessing X on the basis of denial probably is the least common reason of the three.

To accept X on the basis of rebellion requires knowledge of what the Bible says concerning X and a willful decision to reject it. This rebellion would not necessarily be manifested as a rejection of Scripture itself. Most times, rebellion against explicit Biblical truth is manifested by a refusal to admit that the Bible takes a definitive stance on X. For example, the Bible explicitly teaches that Jesus is God: (). Rebellion against this doctrine could be manifested by staunch, public rejection of Christ’s deity: “Jesus was not God and the Bible does not say He was.” Or, this rebellion could be manifested by an indecisive, non-confrontational avoidance of the doctrine: “Well, the Bible really isn’t clear on the issue. It could be one way or the other. Who knows? You believe what you think it says and I’ll make a decision too. We’ll find out who is right one day.” This form of rebellion presents itself as humble and considerate of others, yet such a stance on explicit Biblical teaching crosses the line from humility to arrogance. It is not humble to deny what God distinctly communicates to us.

In the name of love and acceptance, some refuse to take stand dogmatically with Biblically crystallized positions. Correcting false doctrine is tough – offering opinions is much more “tolerant.” We are not comfortable telling someone, “I realize you believe X – but you must know that X is false.”

The distinction between explicit and implicit Biblical doctrine gives us a distinction between appropriate and inappropriate dogmatism. Baptism is an example of implicit Biblical doctrine. Scripture does not explicitly side with paedobaptism or credobaptism. For this reason, I would not walk into a PCA church and announce, “You are all wrong.” The Deity of Christ is an example of explicit Biblical doctrine. Scripture explicitly sides with the position “Jesus is God.” For this reason, I would not walk into a Mosque and announce “You might be right.”

“X” in this discussion represents any proposition that is explicitly contrary to Scripture. If the Bible never explicitly teaches X and explicitly teaches ~X, then X is an unbiblical proposition. We say, then, that the Bible takes a distinct, transparent stance on X. Therefore, it is pride over humility, rebelliousness over obedience, selfishness over love, worldliness over holiness that leads someone who sees explicit Biblical teaching to accept an unbiblical proposition.

Again: such rebellion does not usually manifest itself as anti-Scripture. The pastor, in fact, may be among those most susceptible. The pastor is commissioned to defend the church against false doctrine (1 Ti 1:8-14). When X becomes the cultural “hot-topic” and threatens the minds of his congregation, the pastor’s duty is to take up the shepherd’s staff and fend-off wolves. This work may weary the minister. Why must he take another controversial stance? Can’t he simply be at peace with men? The non-discriminatory agenda of United States society accuses him of hate speech – intolerant of those different than he. Is intolerance compatible with love? Under these circumstances, the pastor merely needs to shift his stance on Biblical dogmatism a centimeter to the left and most controversies will be averted. The pastor is in this way easily susceptible to rebellion.

Christ has called us to teach people what He teaches us (Matt 28:18-20). This requires dogmatism concerning explicit Biblical statements. If the Bible explicitly presents something to us, we have an obligation to not only accept but stand by it amidst opposition. Further, the greatest love of all is to bring someone patiently to the truth.

Be graciously bold in your communication of explicit Scriptural doctrines. Dogmatism is appropriate when discussing crystallized Scriptural truths. Be graciously humble in your communication of implicit Scriptural doctrines. Dogmatism is inappropriate when discussing latent Scriptural truths.

May God grant us courage, love, and the opportunities to proclaim His truth to the world.

Reading Leviticus, Seeing Christ (Part 1)

A Christ-Centered Text

We believe that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Similarly: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scripture we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). These texts may be easy to believe when reading Psalms or Isaiah – but what about books like Leviticus? Are these sacrificial prescriptions applicable for the church today? How do we draw instruction and profit from this book?

One response to such questions would be to refute Antinomianism. A second response would be that Leviticus is an infallible, God-breathed book – by sole merit of this, it becomes valuable to us. A third response, perhaps: texts such as 2 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 15:4 charge us to have faith that it is beneficial for us. Yet I would like to focus on a fourth response: all Scripture is Christ-Centered. One reason that Leviticus is valuable and profitable for us is that it exalts Jesus Christ. Consider John 5:39. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”

This series of articles will not be an exegesis of Leviticus. I simply want to show you several passages that scream “Messiah!” to me. I pray this is helpful, faithful and truly Christ-exalting.

The Law of Burnt Offerings (Lev 1:3-9)

God gave the Israelites five main criteria for burnt offerings. A burnt offering must be:

  1. Without defect (v.3)
  2. Before the Lord (v.3)
  3. The man’s substitute, having been affiliated with him (v.4)
  4. Pleasing the Lord (v.9)
  5. Presented by a priest (i.e. mediator; v.5-9)

Jesus Christ is foreshadowed in this, for He was:

  1. Righteous, “without defect” (1 Pt 2:21-22)
  2. A propitiation before the Lord (Rom 3:24-26)
  3. Incarnated in our image and died as one of us, being affiliated with man to be his substitute (2 Cor 5:21)
  4. A propitiation that pleased God (Isa 53:10)
  5. And is the timeless High Priest and intercessor on behalf of His people; a perfect mediator (Heb 4:14-16; 7:23-28)

As the book goes on, we see various reiterations of these criteria. Every time I read “without defect” or “before the Lord,” I immediately recognize a shadow of Christ. We always want to be careful not to allegorize the text or go to extreme typologies. However, to not recognize that these phrases hint at what is to come is to commit a grievous exegetical fallacy.