Friday, December 21, 2007

Calvin's Institutes: Election - Contrary texts?

[Continued on from here]

After showing how Calvin dealts with the issue of Election and Reprobation, let us look into how he deals with some so-called 'Arminian proof-texts', which the synergists read as a proof-text against Calvinism.

The first 'proof-text' to analyze is that of Ez. 18:23. Here is the verse:

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

On the surface, this seems to show that God does not in any way declared the death of any single person. However, that is to read into the text. Calvin maintains that "God is undoubtably ready to pardon whenever the sinner turns. Therefore, he does not will his death, in some far as he wills repentance" (Calvin, Institutes, Vol. 2, p. 254). Calvin further states:

Let us therefore hold the doctrine of the prophet, that God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner: that the godly may feel comfortable that whnever they repent God is ready to pardon them; and that the wicked may feel their guilt doubled, when they respond not to the great mercy and condescension of God. The mercy of God, therefore, will ever be ready to meet the petinent; but all the prophets, and apostles, and Ezekiel himself, clearly tell us who they are to whom repentance is given. (Institutes, p. 254)

Of course, such may seem confusing to some. Clearly Calvin is of the opinion that this command and plea is effective only for those who do repent. However, how this is seen from the text is not clearly seen. Perhaps it would help us to see that God is here showing his pleasure in repentance of people, and thus repentance as a virtue is here stated. Therefore, sinners are here told to avail of the promise of God that since God regards repentance as a virtue which leads to eternal life, they should therefore repent and thus live. Such an exhortation would thus be seen to consistently fit in with the context and the nature of that plea in Ez. 18:23; that sinners are exhorted to repent and turn back to God.

The next passage to look at is 1 Tim. 2:4, where is is written:

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

This is an evern easier 'proof-text' to dispose of, because as Calvin mentions,

[Paul] had commnded Timothy that prayers should be regularly offered up in the church for kings and princes; but as it seemed somewhat absurd that prayer should be offered up for a class of men who were almost hopeless (all of them being not only aliens from the body of Christ, but doing their utmost to overthrow His Kingdom), he adds, that it was acceptable to God who will have all men to be saved. By this he assuredly means nothing more than that the way of salvation was not shut against any order of men; ... (Institutes, p. 255. Bold added, Red lettering indicate added clarification texts)

And lastly, with regards to 2 Peter 3:9,

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Calvin here treat this text similarly to how he treats Ez. 18:23. This may be a possibility. However, as for me, I think a better interpretation of this passage would be follow John Owen in his Death of Death in the Death of Christ who interprets this passage within the context of the letter as talking about the elect, as in God not willing that he wished all the elect to come to repentance in Christ Jesus before the Last Day of Judgment.

In conclusion, we have disposed of these so-called 'Arminian proof-texts', as showing that they actually mean something differen and more consistent with their contexts, and in actuallity not promoting the Arminian error of Universal Atonement.

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