I was formerly introduced to the Facebook group entitled Predestinarian Network and decided to join it, as being a High Calvinist (Teleological Supralapsarian) I am definitely interested in the doctrine of predestination. Once there, I felt a growing uneasiness with the posts done especially by the administrator, Brandan Kraft. In a recent update, I was directed to this particular post done (again) by Brandan Kraft, and I was appalled to see what exactly is taught by people who call themselves supralapsarian "High Calvinists".
Let is be said that I am not one to soft-pedal the doctrines of grace. Although I am charitable to weaker and uninformed Christians (especially Arminian-leaning Evangelicals who know not their theological right hand from their left), I hold unapologetically to the five points of Calvinism as the Scripture teaches them. Furthermore, I am not one to mince words against the "Ponterite" Neo-Amyraldian error which imputes irrationality and nonsense to God. Although I have yet to post anything regarding the logical order of God's decrees here on this blog, my personal conviction is teleological supralapsarianism as expounded by theologian and pastor Robert Reymond in his excellent magnum opus — A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd Ed. (Nashville, TN, USA: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pp. 488-502. It is therefore manifestly not the case that I think all is well even in contemporary Reformed circles, especially with the Federal Vision and New Perspective errors floating around in the churches.
This does not therefore however mean that the opposite error of Hyper-Calvinism will be tolerated. Previously, I do not see many "hypers" around, but it seems with this that times are a-changing. In their reaction to the (neo-)Amyraldism that is floating around, the pendulum at least for some have swung to the other extreme, as we shall see.
In this post by Brandan Kraft, the ancient error of Eternal Justification comes to the forefront. As I was telling my good friend Joel, it was as if you have seen a corpse rise from the grave (and I am not referring to the Resurrection!). Eternal Justification was one of those quaint doctrines which I have read in passing in articles on historical theology, never expecting to see such things see the light of day once more, except probably in small traditional "primitive" Baptist churches which are presumed dying in light of the onslaught of modernity (and post-modernity).
With this, let us examine this article by Brandan Kraft according to Scripture .
There are three main point of this article by Kraft which he teaches: 1) the idea that there is no difference between God's decrees and the execution of these decrees; the idea of time has no relevance at all to God, 2) the elect are justified from eternity and were always viewed with love, and thus 3) the elect were never under the wrath of God,
All three of these ideas are unbiblical and unjustified inferences that do not flow from the text of Scripture but are rather inferences inferred from viewing the world using a hermeneutical framework of "absolute predestination" as the be all and end all of Christian theology, instead of the proper biblical and historically Reformed framework of Tota Scriptura or all of Scripture. Predestination is and always must be a deduction from Scripture, never something that is used to norm the interpretations of Scripture. Systematic Theology of any kind proceeds by the systematizing of doctrine from disparate truths obtained from the texts of Scripture, never from utilizing any one particular set of Christian truth (i.e. predestination) and using that set of truths to norm all other interpretations in the rest of Scripture.
The first error committed by Kraft can be seen in the confusion, conflation and collapse of God's decrees made in eternity past with the execution of God's decrees in time. This is of course a primarily philosophical theological issue which is not overtly discussed in Scripture. Rather, the truths regarding such issues are inferred from other truths taught in Scripture itself. Scripture indeed teaches that God has a plan from eternity which includes election and reprobation (cf Eph. 1:4-11, Rom. 9). God IS in fact immutable (cf Num. 23:19). However, and this is where the problem lies, the Scripture teaches other things of which these crypto-hyper-Calvinists deny.
As it has been said, we must look at the totality of Scripture before we attempt to systematize them. While logical consistency is a virtue and indeed is a must in theology, such must take place only when all the data is in on the subject, otherwise errors would very likely occur.
Looking further at Scripture, we see that unregenerate people, EVEN believers at one time before their conversion, were at one time children of wrath just like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3). It is the plain teaching of Eph. 2:1-3 that believers before conversion were under the wrath of God (which incidentally touches on our third point of contention), and we do well to believe in that truth instead of eisegeting the passage in service to the "absolute predestination" hermeneutical framework. But we would go back to the gist of our first issue for now — the conflation and collapse of God's decrees made in eternity past with the execution of these decrees in time.
According to Rom. 8:29-30, believers are mentioned to be 'foreknown (foreknew)', 'predestined', 'called', 'justified', and 'glorified'. All of these verbs are in the aorist tense, which is normally shorthand for simple past tense for beginners in Greek (an oversimplification of the facts). Regardless, because of this, the verbs when translated into English are translated into the past tense.
Now, if God's decrees made in eternity past are the same as the execution of these decrees, then aren't all the decrees of God already executed so to speak? If so, aren't all believers already glorified now on earth, and therefore believers are not only considered righteous, they being glorified are actually righteous now? If such were the case, aren't all believers sinless? But of course, for Bible-believing Christians, 1 Jn. 1:8-10 exists, which functions as the proposition that accomplishes the refutation through reductio ad absurdum of the nonsense coming out from this conflation of God's decrees and the execution of them.
Philosophically, such an error would also logically create the specter of a denial of sequences in time, ironically having more to do with Zeno's ideas denying motion than Scripture. For if "whatever He [God] declares, it's accomplished the movement He says it", then since God decrees many things, they must all be accomplished the movement He decrees them. So since God decrees that for example a person named John will believe in the Gospel, I guess John must have believed in the Gospel from eternity past since God's decrees are made in eternity past? But this is the kind of theological hubris that a denial of the basic idea that God's decrees are executed in time creates! I guess in this ridiculous system, all of Christian growth is just a realization that we were _____ (fill in the blanks - ie regenerated, have faith, justified, sanctified, even glorified etc) in eternity past, and we are just coming to realize those truths. Of course, we would then ask the next question: Are these realizations similarly decreed by God (who after all is sovereign)? I guess this should hammer the final nail in such philosophical and theological skubalon.
Kraft in defending the conflation and collapse of God's decrees with its execution utilizes a certain variant reading of Rev. 13:8, which states as follows:
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8 - KJV)
and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 13:8 - ESV)
Now, it can be seen that there is a variant reading here. Are we to read the phrase "from the foundation of the world" as descriptive of "the Lamb who was slain" (KJV), or "the writing of names in the book of life" (ESV)? Knowing my limitations, I am not going to pursue this issue further as to which is the correct interpretation. However, seeing this divergence, it is simply astonishing that Kraft utilizes this one disputed text to buttress the entire concept of decree = execution. Furthermore, the whole reasoning at this point is an exercise in circular reasoning — this verse teaches that Christ was slain from the foundation of the world in the sense that God's decrees are treated as executed. Thus Christ is truly represented not as assured to be slain (decreed), but as actually slain (execution of decree). Based upon this, we know that "But God, being the Eternal Almighty has no need to wait for things to be accomplished in time. He created time and sees it all at once", therefore there is no difference between the decrees and its execution. The problem of course is that their conclusion that there is no such difference is assumed already in their interpretation of Rev. 13:8!
Basing his philosophical construct on a disputed verse is bad enough, much worse the inherent contradictions within itself and with the teachings of other parts of Scripture which we have previously seen. The whole philosophical assumption that God's decrees are no different from their executions is thereby philosophically bankrupt and self-defeating, contradicts the plain teachings of other parts of Scripture, and its sole proof text too fragile to support such a huge failed theological system.
The second error made by Kraft follows from the first and in fact may be the rationale for embracing the first error. The doctrine of eternal justification is a most pernicious error in making justification prior to faith, contradicting the vital doctrine so explicitly taught especially in the book of Romans - that justification is by faith. In fact, just reading the book of Romans without any prior presupposition and allowing the text to interpret itself would sound the death knell for any such teaching. Rom. 8:29-30 have already mentioned that Justification comes after calling. If one believe in eternal justification, then are the elect called from eternity past? Are we believers in the pre-existence of souls in some form of "heavenly nursery" in eternity past so that when God decreed (or in their system executed His decrees) the calling, that calling can in fact take place in eternity past, otherwise there would be no souls for God to through His decrees call? The very thought is blasphemous — that human souls are in the same way uncreated just as God is!
This brings us to the third point — that of denying that the elect of God were never at any stage under the wrath of God. We have previously looked at Eph. 2:1-3 so we do not have to repeat the same exegesis of the text. Instead, let us look at one of the narrative accounts in Scripture: the story of the wicked king of Judah, King Manasseh the son of King Hezekiah (2 Ki. 21:1-18; 2 Chron. 33:1-20). We know from Scripture that King Manasseh was under the wrath of God for his gross wickedness (2 Ki. 21:6). Yet at the end of his wicked life, Manasseh repented of his sins (2 Chron. 33:13,19).
The question for those like Kraft therefore is this: Is the Bible lying when they state that Manasseh repented of his sins? If he did in fact repent, he must be saved and one of the elect, or isn't he? If he indeed is one of the elect, then the Scripture do in fact teach that he was at one time under the wrath of God, thus falsifying their ridiculous teaching that the elect of God were never under the wrath of God even before conversion.
With the demolition of their system done, we would look at the hyper-Calvinist implication of the false teaching of eternal justification. All their protestations that hyper-Calvinism denies the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel to all aside, the fact of the matter is that such teachings logically results precisely in the denial of what they claim to affirm — the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel to all.
In light of eternal justification, the elect of God were never under the wrath of God. Therefore, they cannot be any time under the federal headship of Adam. This implies no spiritual commonality of any kind with the reprobates. Now, Christianity teaches that all humans are all united in the fact that we are all sinners, and it is only because of particular grace that I as a sinner am saved out of my sin and out of the hellfire I justly deserve. Advocates of eternal justification however logically should deny this. With no spiritual commonality between the elect and reprobates (constituting a denial of the Imago Dei to some extent), the two are as light and darkness. No longer are Christians to be considered as undeserving sinners saved by God's amazing grace, but as saints who happen not to realize that they are already justified. (This of course will logically lead to various forms of Antinomianism but we will not go there).
In such a scenario, the Hyper-Calvinist system will start to rear its ugly head. Since there is such a clear demarcation between the elect and the reprobates, why bother wasting time preaching to all men? Rather, shouldn't we seek out "sensible sinners" and as such be more efficient in evangelism?
The form of crypto-Hyperism paraded by advocates of Eternal Justification is a terrible abomination which is outrightly heretical when carried to its logical conclusions. We have not even mentioned the fact that since the article of Justification by Faith Alone is the article by which the Church stands or falls, the doctrine of Eternal Justification through its rearrangement of the Ordo Salutis undermines if not destroy this vital evangelical doctrine. Truly, this doctrine of Eternal Justification is a serious error at best, and heretical at worst. May we avoid such philosophical sophistry and rather follow the teachings of Scripture without the imposition of such a rationalistic framework. Amen.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8)