Foreordination

Foreordination

Theology

Young, W. C

“Foreordination. Activity of God by which he establishes events and outcomes before they occur. In common usage, “foreordination” and the term “predestination” are synonymous. “Predestination” or “election,” however, specifically refers to the destiny of persons.

Foreordination underlies the whole plan of God: his decision to create the universe, to care for it (providence), and to determine its destiny “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11). The Westminster Shorter Catechism states the teaching in this way: God has decreed “his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Foreordination, then, is at the foundation of all Christian teaching, for it concerns the history and destiny of the whole world, the universe, and all that it contains.

The apostle Paul spoke of God’s plan for the fulfillment of all creation: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:19–21). Scripture gives only a glimpse of the redemption of the whole creation. It speaks of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pt 3:13). Those things that mar human existence and demonstrate human fallenness and sinfulness (i.e., depravity) will all pass away. God will make “all things new” (Rv 21:1–5). So the destiny of everything rests with God himself.

Foreordination creates problems for theology and commonsense thinking, particularly in relation to human freedom and responsibility and that aspect of foreordination concerned with salvation. How can people be held responsible for their actions and decisions if they have been predetermined? To remove that difficulty some have denied God’s foreordination as it relates to human freedom. In creating free beings, they argue, God must have limited his determination of things that “must” come to pass. Otherwise free and responsible human activity has no meaning.

Calvinism rejects such an argument, insisting that free activity is possible even though it is foreordained and foreknown. The problem remains, however, for humanly speaking there seems to be no possibility for a last minute change of mind.

On the other hand, denial of the doctrine of foreordination implies that God does not control his creation. If that were true, the existence and happenings in the universe, including human activity, would be determined either by something above or beyond God, or by occurrences whose ultimate causes are unknown. God’s providence and care revealed in the Bible and human experience make such a view untenable. Christian thought generally states that God foreordains and controls his creation and that humans are able to act freely and responsibly within that larger control. The apparent contradiction or paradox remains unresolved because there is a limit to human understanding.

Foreordination was referred to by many early church fathers and was a major emphasis in the theology of Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Augustine greatly influenced the reformers, particularly John Calvin. Reformed theologians begin the study of the doctrine of foreordination with the eternal decree of God, as indicated by creeds such as the Westminster Confession of Faith. The decree of God is one, but for purposes of discussion and explanation it is usually referred to as “the decrees of God.” Martin Luther believed in foreordination but did not stress it as much as Calvin. Luther’s theology is generally silent on foreordination, primarily discussing predestination or election. Contemporary Lutheran thought stresses conditional, rather than absolute election, that is, election or predestination based on foreseen faith.

Foreordination in Scripture. There are many references to foreordination (including predestination, or election) and the related idea of foreknowledge in the Bible. Foreordination can be thought of as logically prior to foreknowledge, but there is no actual priority since both activities are eternal in God.

Speaking of judgment to come upon Babylon, God said: “This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Is 14:26, 27). God also declared that he has determined the end from the beginning. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (46:10). Paul stated that the purpose of God is carried out “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11; cf. Ps. 119:89–91; Dn 4:35).

With respect to human affairs it is said that one’s life span is determined (Jb 14:5), that God’s concern extends to his creatures (Ps 104:14–30; Mt 10:29), and even the hairs on our heads are numbered (Mt 10:30). Furthermore, God’s plan extends to peoples and nations, for “he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined alloted periods and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

God knows and even uses people’s evil acts for his own ends. For example, although Joseph’s brothers sinned by selling him into slavery, Joseph later said, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gn 50:20). Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, but God used that sinful intent. Jesus said, “For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Lk 22:22). On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter said “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23; cf. 4:27, 28). Paul refers to God’s determining authority over pharaoh’s acts (Rom 9:17). Revelation 17:17 says, “God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose.” God, then, foreordains the events of nature and history, and even evil acts are subject to his control and are made to fulfill his purposes.

Election of sinners to salvation through Christ is also included in God’s foreordination (Rom 8:28–39; cf. Acts 13:48; Phil 2:12, 13; 1 Pt 2:9). God’s choosing or electing is not arbitrary, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). God’s plan of salvation is grounded in his eternal love and good pleasure (Eph 1:3–14; Rom 5:6–11). The Christian is the recipient of God’s grace in that the believer knows God and is known (i.e., loved) by God (Gal 4:9). Both election and believers’ faith are part of the salvation process.

Foreordination and Providence. The doctrine of foreordination is implied in the doctrine of providence or God’s care. Providence is the working out of God’s plan for the world. God’s care and control of the whole creation point to his plan of redemption for man and woman made in his image. God sovereignly controls the events that take place in the world, but God is not responsible for sin. He created human beings who may say no to God as well as yes. That does not mean that God’s plan can be thwarted; it goes on in spite of opposition. God’s ultimate plan is being realized through all the events of human history, evil and good. Yet, his sovereignty is not imposed arbitrarily. God is not a tyrant, but holy, loving, and righteous. His plan is effected according to his nature, which is expressed in care and concern for the whole creation and in steadfast love for undeserving sinners.

Natural law refers to the rules God has laid down (foreordained) to control the universe. What about destructive forces of nature, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes? Why are such apparent evils necessary in a world made and controlled by a loving God? It is no answer to suggest that God is unable to act or control nature fully. If life’s total meaning resided in the temporal, physical world, there might be reason for complaint. But considering the whole plan of God and his ultimate redemptive purpose, the answer takes on a different dimension. God’s ultimate purpose transcends the present life and centers in the fulness of the redemptive kingdom yet to be revealed (Rv 11:15; 21:1–4). The doctrine of foreordination is a great mystery, but it should be a source of joy and comfort to believers whose loving Lord has brought them to a knowledge of his great plan.”

WARREN C. YOUNG

Young, W. C. (1988). Foreordination. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 808–810). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Forgiveness and Consequences

Forgiveness and Consequences

Forgiveness and the consequences of sin. Does being forgiven mean that we do not suffer the consequences?

“This means, fourth, that the real sinner is anyone who insists that sin is serious before God and must require atonement and restitution. The “spiritual” man is then the one who treats all sin as an opportunity to assure the sinner, “I forgive you,” without any of the requirements of God’s law being met.
As I write this, I am thinking of two long distance telephone calls today about an adulterous man. A young woman, a new Christian, has a husband who has been for years flagrantly adulterous. The “spiritual” counsel she has received has presupposed only one binding sentence in Scripture to govern all her problems: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). But no commandment of obedience to man is unconditional. The counsel given to this young woman consistently assumed that forgiveness of unrepented and continuing sin is required by God, which is radically false. Our forgiveness is to be like God’s (Matt. 6:12), and His is always in harmony with His law. Repentance, which involves a change of direction and action, is required (Matt. 18:15–17). No one requirement of Scripture can nullify another (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22); the penalty for adultery cannot be eliminated by our insistence on love and forgiveness. A repentant murderer can know the forgiveness of God and man, but he cannot escape God’s required penalty for murder. His forgiveness of sins alters his theological status; his civil status calls for the death penalty according to God’s word.
Forgiveness thus has two aspects, theological and social or civil. Christ’s atonement effects theological forgiveness for the redeemed; it does not alter the civil consequences of sin as required by God.
When Paul faced the problem of incest in the Corinthian Church, he knew that no death penalty existed for the act he cited (1 Cor. 5:1). Hence his counsel is to consign the guilty over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, hoping that they could be saved by God’s grace for heaven (1 Cor. 5:5). In brief, he invoked the necessary death penalty supernaturally, while hoping for the redemption of the sinner thereby. We find that the early church used this precedent to hold those guilty of capital offenses to be legally dead and hence outside of the communion table while having fellowship after repentance.
The humanistic view of forgiveness as a human, emotional act goes hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law

hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law being a human product can be set aside by man. Where the law is from God, there forgiveness is only on God’s terms, and in harmony with His law.”
Rushdoony, R. J. (1994). Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vol. 1, pp. 602–603). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.

“The work of Christ, regarded as an objective satisfaction to God, secures for man the forgiveness of sins. By this we mean that the consequences of sin as an offence against the law of God are remitted. The consequences of sin as transgression are guilt and punishment, and the forgiveness of sins implies remission of both. The consciousness of guilt is the feeling that offence against the moral law as the expression of the will of God has placed us in a position of hostility to God, so that our fellowship with God is broken. Wherever the distinction between God and the world is maintained, the forsaking of God for the world, on the part of man, is seen to involve guilt, which, again, is the basis for the infliction of punishment. Forgiveness of sins is not the remission of the penal consequences of sin only, but also and primarily the remission of that guilt which makes us liable to punishment. Where sin is regarded as having a physical basis, and is referred to material or sensual nature as its source, sin is conceived of not so much as guilt but rather as suffering, and consequently emphasis is laid upon the need of redemption rather than upon the need of forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament doctrine, which gives prominence to the idea of the guilt of the sinner and the need of awakening the consciousness of that guilt, similar prominence is given to the forgiveness of sins as the presupposition of all other blessings of redemption. It was in order to acquire power to forgive sins that the Son of God became the Son of Man, and during His earthly life He exercised this power, and declared that this forgiveness was a necessary condition of peace of soul and far beyond any bodily healing in difficulty and in blessedness. It was to secure the power of dispensing this blessing that the Son of Man died and rose again, and in the institution of the Supper He declares that the purpose for which He shed His blood was the remission of sins.1 Everywhere throughout the New Testament the preaching of the forgiveness of sins is the way in which the preaching of the gospel is usually described, and the obtaining of forgiveness for sinners is regarded as the immediate result and the most precious benefit of Christ’s death. In the New Testament the forgiveness of sins is not the abolition of suffering, the removal of the penal consequences of sin, but essentially the removal of sin itself. Hence it is of the very essence of the gospel of redemption. Christ promises forgiveness of sins to all who believe on Him. Faith is the only condition for the forgiveness of those who have offended against us demanded in the Lord’s Prayer, and the much love of her to whom much had been forgiven is evidently the proof of the reality, not the condition of the obtaining, of the divine forgiveness. But, as Kaftan says, even faith in the strictest sense is not a condition, though without faith forgiveness cannot be enjoyed. What is needed is acceptance of the call to enter the kingdom, which acceptance can be given only in repentance and faith, but being given, then to all entering the kingdom there is forgiveness unconditionally. Paul makes the forgiveness of sins the basis for that new relationship which we have to God in Christ, in which, when thus possessed of the righteousness of God, we have peace with God.”

1 Matt. 9:6, 9:2; Luke 7:48, 24:45; Matt. 26:28.
Macpherson, J. (1898). Christian Dogmatics (pp. 350–351). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

“With these observations and qualifications we may assent to much that is said by Whiton, Divine Satisfaction, 64, who distinguishes between forgiveness and remission: “Forgiveness is the righting of disturbed personal relations. Remission is removal of the consequences which in the natural order of things have resulted from our fault. God forgives all that is strictly personal, but remits nothing that is strictly natural in sin. He imparts to the sinner the power to bear his burden and work off his debt of consequences. Forgiveness is not remission. It is introductory to remission, just as conversion is not salvation, but introductory to salvation. The prodigal was received by his father, but he could not recover his lost patrimony. He could, however, have been led by penitence to work so hard that he earned more than he had lost.”

Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (p. 850). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

“Divine forgiveness does not momentarily and immediately remove all the consequences of sin in this present life. Forgiveness does remove sin as the major barrier between sinful humans and the holy God and offer deliverance from eternal punishment for sins. But wasted strength, maimed or abused bodies, lost time, and other results of sin may not be overcome even when forgiveness has been granted.40”
40 Conner, The Gospel of Redemption, p. 161.
Garrett, J. L., Jr. (2014). Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical (Second Edition, Vol. 2, p. 326). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

Baptism Didache

Baptism Didache

“1 And concerning baptism,15 thus baptize ye:16 Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,17 in living water.18 2 But if thou have not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, in warm. 3. But if thou have not either, pour out water thrice19 upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. 4. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but thou shalt order the baptized to fast one or two days before.20”

15 Verse vii. 1 is found, well-nigh entire, in Apostolic Constitutions, 22, but besides this only a few words of verses 2 and 4. The chapter has naturally called out much discussion as to the mode of baptism.
16 [Elucidation I.] 17 Matt. 28:19.
18 Probably running water.
19 The previous verses point to immersion; this permits pouring in certain cases, which indicates that this mode was not unknown. The trine application of the water, and its being poured on the head, are both significant.
20 The fasting of the baptized is enjoined in Apostolic Constitutions, but that of the baptizer (and others) is peculiar to this document.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. In Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 379). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“x. Neither do we permit the laity to perform any of the offices belonging to the priesthood; as, for instance, neither the sacrifice, nor baptism, nor the laying on of hands, nor the blessing, whether the smaller or the greater: for “no one taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God.”7 For such sacred offices are conferred by the laying on of the hands of the bishop. But a person to whom such an office is not committed, but he seizes upon it for himself, he shall undergo the punishment of Uzziah.8”

7 Heb. 5:4.
8 2 Chron. 26.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 429). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“sec. ii.—on deacons and deaconesses, the rest of the clergy, and on baptism.
Let not therefore either a bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon, or any one else of the sacerdotal catalogue, defile his tongue with calumny, lest he inherit a curse instead of a blessing; and let it also be the bishop’s business and care that no lay person utter any curse: for he ought to take care of all,—of the clergy, of the virgins, of the widows, of the laity. For which reason, O bishop, do thou ordain thy fellow-workers, the labourers for life and for righteousness, such deacons as are pleasing to God, such whom thou provest to be worthy among all the people, and such as shall be ready for the necessities of their ministration. Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. Thou shalt therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon shall anoint only their forehead with the holy oil, and after him the deaconess shall anoint them:5 for there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men; but only in the laying on of hands the bishop shall anoint her head, as the priests and kings were formerly anointed, not because those which are now baptized are ordained priests, but as being Christians, or anointed, from Christ the Anointed, “a royal priesthood, and an holy nation, the Church of God, the pillar and ground of the marriage-chamber,”6 who formerly were not a people, but now are beloved and chosen, upon whom is called His new name7 as Isaiah the prophet witnesses, saying: “And they shall Call the people by His new name, which the Lord shall name for them.”8

concerning the sacred initiation of holy baptism.
xvi. Thou therefore, O bishop, according to that type, shalt anoint the head of those that are to be baptized, whether they be men or women, with the holy oil, for a type of the spiritual baptism. After that, either thou, O bishop, or a presbyter that is under thee, shall in the solemn form name over them the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, and shall dip them in the water; and let a deacon receive the man, and a deaconess the woman, that so the conferring of this inviolable seal may take place with a becoming decency. And after that, let the bishop anoint those that are baptized with ointment.
what is the meaning of baptism into christ, and on what account everything is there said or done.

xvii. This baptism, therefore, is given into the death of Jesus:9 the water is instead of the burial, and the oil instead of the Holy Ghost; the seal instead of the cross; the ointment is the confirmation of the confession; the mention of the Father as of the Author and Sender; the joint mention of the Holy Ghost as of the witness; the descent into the water the dying together with Christ; the ascent out of the water the rising again with Him. The Father is the God over all; Christ is the only-begotten God, the beloved Son, the Lord of glory; the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, who is sent by Christ, land taught by Him, and proclaims Him.”

5 [Compare Jas. 5:14.] 6 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:15.
7 The words from “upon whom” to the end of the chapter are omitted in one V. ms.
8 Isa. 62:2.
9 Vid. Rom. 6:3.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 431). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“xxxix. For I Matthew, one of those twelve which speak to you in this doctrine, am an apostle, having myself been formerly a publican, but now have obtained mercy through believing, and have repented of my former practices, and have been vouchsafed the honour to be an apostle and preacher of the word. And Zacchæus, whom the Lord received upon his repentance and prayers to Him, was also himself in the same manner a publican at first. And, besides, even the soldiers and multitude of publicans, who came to hear the word of the Lord about repentance, heard this from the prophet John, after he had baptized them: “Do nothing more than that which is appointed you.”7 In like manner, life is not refused to the heathen, if they repent and cast away their unbelief. Esteem, therefore, every one that is convicted of any wicked action, and has not repented, as a publican or an heathen. But if he afterward repents, and turns from his error, then, as we receive the heathen, when they wish to repent, into the Church indeed to hear the word, but do not receive them to communion until they have received the seal of baptism, and are made complete Christians; so do we also permit such as these to enter only to hear, until they show the fruit of repentance, that by hearing the word they may not utterly and irrecoverably perish. But let them not be admitted to communion in prayer; and let them depart after the reading of the law, and the prophets, and the Gospel, that by such departure they may be made better in their course of life, by endeavouring to meet every day about the public assemblies, and to be frequent in prayer, that they also may be at length admitted, and that those who behold them may be affected, and be more secured by fearing to fall into the same condition.”

7 Luke 3:13.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 414). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

 

“The idea of baptism

This might seem a silly question: was not Jesus baptized by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9, followed by Matt. 3:13 and Luke 3:21), did he not engage with his disciples in baptizing (John 4:1–2), and did he not command his followers to make disciples from all the nations and baptize them using the very words we have in the Didache (> Matt. 28:19)? However, these Gospel passages, with the possible exception of Mark whose Gospel was being preached before AD 70, are later than the instruction in the Didache. Therefore, we have to explain both the choice of the action of baptizing and how that action was linked with the memory of Jesus in the first churches.

For Jews, the ritual that marked their boundary as a community, and as the assembly who had accepted the covenant, was circumcision. Circumcision, along with the sabbath and the regulations regarding food, was the mark of accepting God’s promises (Gen. 17:9–14). By the time of Jesus, indeed for more than a century before his time, circumcision was closely linked to Israel’s self-perception as the covenant people of God (1 Macc. 1:14–15, 60–61; 2 Macc. 6:10). It was the most important boundary marker separating Jew from gentile, those within the covenant from those outside it. So there was no need for any other fundamental boundary ritual—a boundary ritual is an action that distinguishes a group from those who are not-belonging-to-the-group, ‘the people’ as distinct from everyone else.
But there were many other traditions that marked transitions from one state of relationship with God to another for those who were within the covenant community. One such important ritual was that of a bath to cleanse away certain impurities before acts of worship. A leper, for instance, once clear of disease—after seeing a priest—could only be readmitted to the community after washing his clothes, shaving his hair and having had a bath (Lev. 14:2–8). And contacts with ‘impure’ bodily discharges which could make one unfit to perform the service of God were to be washed away by washing clothes and having a bath (e.g. Lev. 15:2–5). We know from archaeological discoveries that in Jewish towns there were pools for taking these special religious baths, while in Qumran there were numerous pools so that this community could see itself as always pure, and so always ready to offer praise to God. It was this ritual practice that was adopted by John the Baptist to mark out those who had accepted his preaching that the judgement of God was imminent. These were the people who had fled sin and repented, were washed by John in the living, that is, flowing, water of the Jordan, and now purified of sin could withstand coming judgement. John’s message was that the crunch was about to come upon a wicked generation: those who listened to him saw the need to separate themselves and be purified of their sins by a bathing. This washing which made his followers into the purified people may have been taken over from existing rites of purification, but it had the effect of making them a group within a group, a people within a people—and, as such, the purification bath became a boundary ritual. The followers of John were a distinct community because each of them had been baptized by him.
In the Gospels, the relationship between John and Jesus is presented, especially in Luke, as one of intimacy, harmony and seamless continuity: they were cousins, John announces Jesus, baptizes him, and then Jesus brings to perfection that which was inaugurated by John the Baptist:

‘ “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
(John 1:30–34 [NRSV])

However, this is the picture looking backwards from several generations later, and, more importantly, with hindsight the evangelists saw all that happened as part of God’s providential plan. But the relationship was far more fraught. John preached that the judgement of God was coming on a sinful generation—the crunch was coming and only those who set themselves apart would be saved. Jesus seems to have had links with this movement, but broke away from it. His message about the imminent coming of the kingdom was radically different: the Day of the Lord was not a grim day of judgement, but rather the day of the Lord’s forgiveness.

In some places in our Gospels (e.g. the image of the sheep and the goats in Matt. 25) there is a sense of dread future judgement, but these instances—which exhibit the more widespread views of the early communities—have to be seen against the broad sweep of Jesus’ statements about the coming kingdom where he addresses God as ‘Father’ and such stories as that about the welcoming father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), or his own practice in the case of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:2–11)—a story about Jesus whose ‘laxity’ with regard to judgement shocked many early communities.

His new community was to rejoice that God had shown mercy and that that mercy would extend to all (> Meier, 1994, pp. 116–30). Whether Jesus would have seen any need for a washing to remove the ‘impurities’ of people before they could see themselves as part of the kingdom is very doubtful. There are so many stories of Jesus and the disciples eating without observing the purity laws (e.g. Mark 7:3), having contact with that which would make them impure, and not worrying about it (Matt. 8:3 and 9:20), and eating with sinners (e.g. Luke 7:34) that it appears that he considered the whole notion of impurity as having been swept away by God’s forgiving love. Purity was not a matter of cups and plates, but rather rooting out greed and self-indulgence (> Matt. 23:25). So, even though Jesus had at one stage in his life been baptized, why was there any later use for a notion of the need for a bath for impurity, and why was Jesus remembered as intimately linked with John’s bath?

The answer lies in the movement of many of John’s followers to become followers of Jesus—and it would seem that with John’s death many more of his disciples became followers of Jesus. One might imagine that if someone has left John and followed Jesus, then he or she would simply have jettisoned what was linked with John and adopt what belonged to Jesus! But this is not how human beings act, especially in religious matters: people carry their histories and their precious customs with them into the new situation. Some who changed over to Jesus may have only seen what John and Jesus had in common such as that the Lord was coming among his people or that there was another special route distinct from ‘ordinary Judaism’; others may have grafted Jesus’ teaching into what they had already heard from John; many others would not have realized the extent to which John’s teaching was still influencing them even when they thought they had moved from one prophet to another. The result was that the early communities that looked to Jesus as the Anointed One actually combined many elements from John’s teaching with elements from that of Jesus. We see this legacy in Christianity to this day: there are some people who look to the Gospels and come away with a message of God’s impending judgement, and their outlook is apocalyptic; others look at the same Gospels and think that this approach is wrong-headed. The legacy of John’s notion of the Day of the Lord as crunch, while it may not sit well with that of Jesus’ kingdom of welcome, is still with us, and is a theme that Christians return to from time to time.

One of those elements of John’s teaching that was carried over was the belief that accepting that the kingdom was at hand formed them into a distinct people apart; they were in a special relationship to the covenant; and while every Jewish boy was circumcised, this group was ritually distinct in that everyone in it, man and woman, had been baptized. For John’s followers this ritual bath was an item of major importance; it was how they thought of themselves as a group and how others thought of them—hence the sobriquet given to their prophet: ‘the baptizer’—and as such it was a custom they would have held as precious. There is a funny phenomenon we see happening time and again in religion: group practices (the ritual) remain stubbornly the same, yet how they are explained (the theology) changes with circumstances. This is counter-intuitive: we might expect that people would hold onto their theories, and that practices would vary; but it is almost never like that. A group that has made the action of ‘plunging’ a key group moment is going to keep that custom when they see one leader replaced by another, and despite the fact that the way they explain the action has changed many times. No doubt when John opted for a bathing he was thinking in terms of the law in Leviticus and of purifying the people before the terrible day of judgement—we see this in references to his preaching ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 3:3)—but the practice soon took on the significance of being, for those not in the group, the brand of his followers, while for those in the group it became their badge of identity: we are the community within the larger Israel that is ready for what is coming. Later, when that group came under the influence of Jesus—and now saw themselves as his followers—they continued with this badge of identity. You knew that you were part of this new People of Israel—amidst all the other Jews who were children of the covenant—because you had been through the plunging in the living water (i.e. flowing water). Baptism formed the boundary for John’s community, and it migrated to become the boundary for Jesus’ community.

However, while the action of baptism seems to have been accepted by all the followers without much difficulty—all groups seem to generate boundary rituals in one way or another—the assimilation of John’s teaching with that of Jesus would be no easy matter. In the Gospels we see stories which present the two strands living harmoniously, but the fissures that open up again and again in Christianity—as we shall see later with the practice of fasting—can often be traced to the fact of two very different visions of how God relates to us: one can be traced to John and the other to Jesus. These views were never integrated—that would have been impossible—but were shoved together as if the differences could be passed over. Every so often the glue fails and groups reject either the Jesus or the John vision of God’s love. Meanwhile most Christians, for the most part, shuffle on with the ‘lumpy mixture’ of both that we find in the early churches and their great evangelists. Baptism is a case in point: by the time of John’s death it had ceased being simply a requirement of the covenant’s law so that people could offer pure service to God and had become a mark of belonging to John’s people, then the practice continued and it came to be the mark of belonging to Jesus’ people. And as such, it became the key moment of initiation into the Way of Jesus in the Didache and has remained a key feature in Christian practice ever since—but even then, the legacy of the ‘lumpy mixture’ continued in the many divisions that have occurred in the Church over baptism. Some would argue that it was about removing sin that could lead to death (a very John-like view) and so it was very important to baptize infants—and they saw initiation as something happening afterwards; others would see baptism as fundamentally the moment of commitment to Jesus and so would argue that only adults could be baptized. Significantly, in the Didache we have the emphasis on the practice, without any attempt at ‘explaining’ its significance.”

O’Loughlin, T. (2010). The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians (pp. 47–53). London; Grand Rapids, MI: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Baker Academic.

Decree vs Knowledge

Decree vs Knowledge

Decree

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Most Calvinists place God’s decree above his foreknowledge. What that boils down to in essence is that they believe God must decree something for him to know it. Many Arminians make the same mistake but the other way around. They believe God’s decree is based on God’s knowledge. Moderate Calvinism teaches that God’s decree is in accordance with his foreknowledge. One is not based on the other. They are in accord with each other.

 

The Ordo Salutis

The Ordo Salutis

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“The Ordo Salutis
1. What is understood under the ordo salutis, the “order of salvation”?

The series of acts and steps in which the salvation obtained by Christ is subjectively appropriated by the elect. In Scripture σωτηρία, salus, has a double meaning, one more subjective and one more objective, according to whether it includes the act of saving or of being saved. In the first sense it naturally extends much farther than in the subjective appropriation of salvation. Christ is called σωτηρία not merely because He applies His merits but because He has likewise obtained them. His satisfaction was the principal act of salvation. In the second sense it is narrower in scope and in fact covers what one understands under the designation “soteriology.”

2. What is further contained in the term ordo salutis, “order of salvation”?

That the subjective application of the salvation obtained by Christ does not occur at once or arbitrarily. In the abstract, it would be possible for God to take hold of and relocate each one of the elect into the heaven of glory at a single point in time. He has His good reasons that He did not do this. There are a multiplicity of relationships and conditions to which all the operations of grace have a certain connection. If the change came about all at once, then not a single one of these would enter into the consciousness of the believer, but everything would be thrown together in a chaotic revolution. None of the acts or steps would throw light on the others; the base could not be distinguished from the top or the top from the base. The fullness of God’s works of grace and the rich variety of His acts of salvation would not be prized and appreciated.

The opposite of all this is true. There is order and regularity in the application of salvation as well as in every other area of creation. The acts and operations each have their own fixed place, from which they cannot be uprooted. They are connected to each other from what follows and from what precedes; they have their basis and their result. Consequently, the Scripture gives us an ordered sequence (e.g., Rom 8:28–30). At the same time, this order shows us that even in what is most subjective the purpose of God may not be limited to the satisfaction of the creature’s longing for blessedness. If this were so, then the order that is slow and in many respects tests the patience of the children of God would be lost. But here, too, God works first of all to glorify Himself according to the principles of an eternal order and an immanent propriety.

3. Does unanimity rule among the theologians in the identification of the different steps that belong to the order of salvation?

No, a great variety rules in sequence as well as in completeness. All do not enumerate the same steps. When they all have the same things, they are given in a different sequence. Different terms are used for one and the same thing.

4. Enumerate some points of difference that are important for proper differentiation.

a) An important point is the varying and unclear definition of the concept of regeneration. For many theologians the locus on regeneration is completely lacking, although many federalists are an exception here. At the same time these theologians do of course know of regeneration, and its specific character has not escaped them entirely.

1. Some identify “regeneration” (regeneratio) with “conversion” (conversio). This is quite customary with the dogmaticians of the 17th century. The Canons of Dort teach in chapters 3 and 4, article 11: “Furthermore, when God accomplishes His good pleasure in the elect or works true conversion in them … He not only powerfully illumines their mind by the Holy Spirit … but by the effective power of the same regenerating Spirit, He penetrates to the inmost parts of the man, opens the closed heart … infuses new qualities into the will, and makes the dead living … (article 12) and this is that—so often proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures—regeneration, new creation, resurrection from the dead and making alive, which God, without us, works in us.”1 Owen also expresses himself in a similar way.
Some, however, sought to avoid the lack of clarity that may originate from this usage by a more precise distinction between two kinds of conversion. So Turretin makes mention of a double conversio. The first is habitual and passive. It consists in producing a habit or disposition of the soul: “Habitual or passive conversion occurs through the infusion of supernatural habits by the Holy Spirit.” The second conversion is called active and effective conversion. It is the exercising in faith and repentance of the already implanted habitus: “Active or effective conversion occurs through the exercise of those good habits by which the acts of faith and of repentance are both given by God and elicited in man.” He then adds, however, that it is better to call the first kind of conversion “regeneration,” because it refers to the new birth by which man is renewed according to the image of his Maker, and to limit the term “conversion” to the second kind, since in it the activity of man is not excluded.

2. The majority by far summarize regeneration and conversion under the concept of internal calling. Wollebius says, “Particular calling is termed: (a) new creation, (b) regeneration, etc.” In the schools it is called (a) effectual election, (b) effectual calling, (c) internal calling. Accordingly, some speak first about calling, then about faith, then about conversion, so that calling apparently takes the place of regeneration (e.g., the Leiden Synopsis). Calling is often enough described as an implanting into Christ, a union with Christ, an indissoluble joining of the person of the elect with the person of the Mediator, all of them concepts that bring regeneration to mind clearly enough.

3. Others take the concept of regeneration in a very wide sense, as almost completely synonymous with sanctificatio, “sanctification,” and under that notion understand the entire process by which the old nature of man is transformed into a new nature resembling the image of God. Calvin says (Institutes, 3.3.9), “Therefore, in a word, I describe poenitentia [repentance] as regeneration, of which the goal is none other than that the image of God, defiled and nearly wiped out in us by the transgression of Adam, is restored in us.… And this restoration is not completed in one moment or in one day or one year; but with continual, yes, even slow steps God removes corruption from his elect.” Later we will see why this wider use of the term has a certain right.

b) Another important point that lacks clarity lies in the concept of calling. While for this concept some still have all the emphasis fall on the immediacy of the action and thus identify internal calling with regeneration, others hold to the obvious thought that calling already presupposes a life and the capacity to hear, and so must be distinguished from the initial begetting of life.

c) Also, the concept of poenitentia, “repentance,” is not always clearly distinguished. Sometimes this word is taken to mean long processes that accompany the whole of life here on earth, sometimes for instantaneous actions at a critical moment.”

As seen above, Calvin identifies poenitentia, regeneratio, sanctificatio.”
Vos, G. (2012–2016). Reformed Dogmatics. (R. B. Gaffin, Ed., A. Godbehere, R. van Ijken, D. van der Kraan, H. Boonstra, J. Pater, A. Janssen, … K. Batteau, Trans.) (Vol. 4, pp. 1–4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

John Calvin

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

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I found this interesting when reading through my Dead Sea Scrolls documents. This is a section from the Damascus document. Specifically, it is the exhortation portion. The image at the bottom of the post is the highlight of my quote. The doctrine of election was clearly held by those in the Essene Community.

Exhortation

“God loves knowledge. Wisdom and understanding He has set before Him, and prudence and knowledge serve Him. Patience and much forgiveness are with Him towards those who turn from transgression; but power, might, and great flaming wrath by the hand of all the Angels of Destruction towards those who depart from the way and abhor the Precept. They shall have no remnant or survivor. For from the beginning God chose them not; He knew their deeds before ever they were created and He hated their generations, and He hid His face from the Land until they were consumed. For He knew the years of their coming and the length and exact duration of their times for all ages to come and throughout eternity. He knew the happenings of their times throughout all the everlasting years. And in all of them He raised for Himself men called by name, that a remnant might be left to the Land, and that the face of the earth might be filled with their seed. And He made known His Holy Spirit to them by the hand of His anointed ones, and He proclaimed the truth (to them). But those whom He hated He led astray.”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., p. 98). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

 

“The title ‘Damascus Document’ derives from the references in the Exhortation to the ‘New Covenant’ made ‘in the land of Damascus’. The significance of this phrase is discussed in Chapter II together with the chronological data included in the manuscript. They suggest that the document was written in about 100 BCE and this hypothesis is indirectly supported by the absence of any mention in the historical passages of the Kittim (Romans) whose invasion of the Orient did not take place until after 70 BCE.
The work is divided into an Exhortation and a list of Statutes. In the Exhortation, the preacher—probably a Guardian of the Community—addresses his ‘sons’ on the themes of the sect’s teaching, many of which appear also in the Community Rule. His aim is to encourage the sectaries to remain faithful, and with this end in view he sets out to demonstrate from the history of Israel and the Community that fidelity is always rewarded and apostasy chastised.

During the course of his argument, the author of the Damascus Document frequently interprets biblical passages in a most unexpected way. I have mentioned one of these commentaries on the marriage laws in Chapter III (p. 44), but there is another involved exposition of Amos 5:26–7 on p. 103 which may not be easy to understand.

In the Bible these verses convey a divine threat: the Israelites were to take themselves and their idols into exile. ‘You shall take up Sakkuth your king and Kaiwan your star-god, your images which you made for yourselves, for I will take you into exile beyond Damascus.’ But the Damascus Document transforms this threat into a promise of salvation; by changing certain words in the biblical text and omitting others its version read: ‘I will exile the tabernacle of your king and the bases of your statues from my tent to Damascus.’

In this new text, the three key phrases are interpreted symbolically as follows: ‘tabernacle’ = ‘Books of the Law’; ‘king’ = ‘congregation’; ‘bases of statues’ = ‘Books of the Prophets’. Thus: ‘The Books of the Law are the tabernacle of the king; as God said, I will raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen (Amos 9:11). The king is the congregation; and the bases of the statues are the Books of the Prophets whose sayings Israel despised.’

The omission of any reference to the ‘star-god’ is made good by introducing a very different ‘Star’, the messianic ‘Interpreter of the Law’ with his companion the ‘Prince of the congregation’. ‘The star is the Interpreter of the Law who shall come to Damascus; as it is written, A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17). The sceptre is the Prince of the whole congregation …’”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., pp. 95–96). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.