Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The FACTS of salvation

Recently, Brian Abasciano laid out his basic case for Armininism:
Abasciano is a well-trained NT scholar. I'm going to do a running commentary on his case, because it represents a systematic, up-to-date defense of Arminianism by a capable scholar. I'll ignore the final section on "Security in Christ," since I did an MAR thesis on that topic (see sidebar). 

God has provided for the forgiveness of sins and salvation of every person by the death of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinful humanity. Indeed, by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone (Heb 2:9). As 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (NIV). After the statement of 1 Tim 2:4 quoted above that “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” the following verses from 1 Timothy continue, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim 2:5-6). Indeed, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 11:10), “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:9), “the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14; cf. John 4:42), God is “the Savior of all people” (1 Tim 4:10), Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), who “died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6), and “died for all” (2 Cor 5:14-15) when “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19). Jesus even died for those who reject him and his word, deny him, and perish (Luke 22:17-21; John 12:46-48; Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8:11; 2 Pet 2:1; Heb 10:29). The provision of atonement has been made for as many as sin, which is all people (Rom 3:22-25; 5:18).But even though Jesus died for all and has provided atonement for all, the intent of the atonement provided was that its actual application (which grants the forgiveness of sins, righteous status with God, and salvation) be conditional on faith in Jesus Christ. This is stated rather clearly in John 3:16-18 quoted above. Out of love, God sacrificed his only Son for the world so that those from the world who trust in Jesus and his atoning sacrifice will benefit from that atoning sacrifice and be saved while those from the world who reject that atoning sacrifice in unbelief will not benefit from it but remain condemned and perish (cf. various other passages that make it clear that faith is the condition upon which and the means by which forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation are received, for example: Luke 8:12; John 1:12; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom 1:16; chs. 3–4; 10:9-10; 1 Cor 1:21; Gal 2:16; ch. 3; Eph 2:8-9; 1 Tim 1:16). Since the atonement was provided for all, making salvation available to all, Scripture sometimes portrays justification as potential for all people (Rom 3:22-25; 5:18) even though not all will ultimately be saved. Although God desires that all believe and be saved through Christ’s blood, many will perish, not for lack of the availability of salvation, but because they reject the saving provision made for them in Christ’s death and have “not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Similarly, Scripture’s references to God or Christ as the Savior of the world/all (John 4:42; 1 Tim 4:10; 1 John 4:14) do not mean that all will actually be saved, but that the Father and the Son have provided salvation for all that is effective only for those who believe. 
Two problems:
i) His prooftexts prove too much. They don't merely speak of universal provision, but universal salvation. They don't say God merely makes salvation "available" to everyone, or that everyone is "potentially" justified. On the face of it, his Arminian prooftexts disprove Arminianism. 
Abasciano must import qualifications into his prooftexts. Cut them down to size. Take, for instance, his appeal to 2 Cor 5:19: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” 
But if, in fact, God is not counting everyone's trespasses against them, then that's a prooftext for universalism rather than Arminianism. 
Now, there's nothing necessarily wrong with thinking a given passage contains an implicit qualification. But Calvinists can help themselves to the same principle. So Arminians have no advantage over Calvinists when it comes to these passages. Contextually, it makes more sense to view 2 Cor 5:14-15,19 as referring to all believers rather than all humans–believers and unbelievers alike.  
ii) Abasciano says universal provision is qualified by the faith-condition. But he fails to explain how salvation is available to those who are in no position to believe the gospel, because they live and die at a time or place that has no access to the gospel. 
Of course, Abascino can postulate another qualification. He might speculate that God will save them had they believed the Gospel, if given the opportunity. Problem is, he's not deriving that from his prooftexts. That's a caveat he must superimpose on his prooftexts, despite what they say. 
So, once again, his Arminian prooftexts disprove Arminianism.  
Jesus also promised, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). Thus, the Father and the Son draw all people to Jesus, enabling them to come to Jesus in faith. 
The text doesn't say God merely "enables" all people to come to Jesus. 
When our wills are freed, we can either accept God’s saving grace in faith or reject it to our own ruin. In other words, God’s saving grace is resistible, which is to say that he dispenses his calling, drawing, and convicting grace (which would bring us to salvation if responded to with faith) in such a way that we may reject it. We become free to believe in Jesus and free to reject him. The resistibility of God’s saving grace is clearly shown in Scripture, as some of the passages already mentioned testify. Indeed, the Bible is sadly filled with examples of people spurning the grace of God offered to them. In Isaiah 5:1-7, God actually indicates that he could not have done anything more to get Israel to produce good fruit. 
i) Of course, this is an anthropomorphic parable in which God is depicted as a disappointed farmer. He expected the ground to produce a good harvest, but his hopes were dashed. 
If we're going to take the depiction at face value, this would be a prooftext, not for classical Arminianism, but open theism. 
ii) In addition, this has to be counterbalanced with what Isaiah says about divine hardening in the next chapter (6:9-13). 
iii) There's a failure on the part of Arminians to appreciate the difference between two kinds of discourse. Some discourse is primarily informative, while other discourse is primarily performative. Much prophetic discourse is intended, not so much to supply information, but to provoke a reaction, one way or the other. 
Moreover, in addressing a mass audience, it may be intended to provoke more than one reaction. It can have a polarizing effect, separating the chaff from the what. The faithful heed the warning while the faithless spurn the warning. 
But if irresistible grace is something that God dispenses, then he could have easily provided that and infallibly brought Israel to bear good fruit. Many passages in the Old Testament talk about how God extended his grace to Israel over and over again but they repeatedly resisted and rejected him (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:7-23; Jer 25:3-11; 26:1-9; 35:1-19). 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 mentions that God’s persistent reaching out to his people, which was rejected, was motivated by compassion for them. But this could only be if the grace he extended them enabled them to repent and avoid his judgment yet was resistible since they did indeed resist it and suffered God’s judgment.This shows God allowing his purpose to not come to pass because of allowing human beings a choice of whether to yield to his grace or not. 
i) According to Calvinism, no one can resist predestination. But they can resist the Gospel. They can resist verbal warnings. Indeed, their very resistance is predestined. 
ii) Once again, Abasciano fails to appreciate the fact that prophetic discourse can have more than one aim or audience. It can be for the benefit of the remnant, and the detriment of the reprobate. 
iii) How does God allow his purpose to not come to pass? Did he purposefully not allow his purpose to come to pass? Does God first form a purpose to bring about something, then form a contrary purpose to disallow his former purpose? 
Stephen also furnished a good example of the resistibility of grace when he said to his fellow Jews, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53).
In what sense do they resist God's grace? Stephen's appeal has a tertiary referent. To begin with, he's alluding to Isa 63:10-11. But that, in turn, is alluding to some event in Pentateuchal history. There are two options: the Shekinah in the tabernacle or the prophetic enduement of Moses. If the former, it refers to resisting the visible evidence of God's holy presence. If the latter, it refers to resisting God's prophets. Acts 7:52 suggests a prophetic referent. 
But either interpretation is thoroughly consistent with Calvinism. The reprobate can resist miraculous external evidence. They can also resist the prophetic word. 
When Calvinism talks about "irresistible grace," it's referring to monergistic regeneration. Inner grace. Not signs or words. So Abasciano's appeal is confused.  
Luke 7:30 tells us that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.”
i) Coming on the heels of the previous verse, "rejecting God's purpose" is equivalent to rejecting John's baptism. The ministry of John the Baptist was a part of God's redemptive plan. The Pharisees and lawyers indirectly rejected God's purpose by directly rejecting the ministry of John the Baptist. They refused to acknowledge their need to repent. 
But, once again, that's thoroughly consistent with Calvinism. The reprobate can resist the prophetic words. That's not only something they are able to do, but something they were bound to do. They were predestined to reject God's prophets. So Abasciano's appeal continues to be confused. 
ii) In addition, if God planned to save them, but they thwarted his plan, then God was mistaken. If I plan to do something, but my plan falls through, then I was mistaken in imagining that I could do it. I didn't plan to fail. 
And Jesus, who spoke to people for the purpose of saving them (John 5:34), yet found that they refused to come to him to have life (John 5:40),
Jesus is addressing a general audience. His words have a winnowing effect. He intends to save some, but expose and inculpate others (Jn 3:19-21; 9:39; 15:22). 
 and who came to turn every Jew from their sin (Acts 3:26; see the treatment of this text under “Atonement for All” above), yet clearly found that not every Jew believed in him, 
i) If Jesus came with the intention of turning every Jew from their sin, then his mission is a failure.
ii) The syntax is ambiguous. Fitzmyer renders it "blessing you as each one of you turns from your evils ways." The point is not that everyone repents, but everyone who repents is blessed. 
lamented over his people’s unwillingness to receive his grace, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34; see further Ezek 24:13; Matt 23:37; Rom 2:4-5; Zech 7:11-14; Heb 10:29; 12:15; Jude 4; 2 Cor 6:1-2; Ps 78:40-42).
That fails to distinguish between illocutionary and perlocutionary discourse. Prophetic discourse is often perlocutionary. Designed, not to inform (although that's a part of what prophets do), but to trigger a response–which may be a varied response. 
Arminians differ among themselves about some of the details of how God’s prevenient grace works, probably because Scripture itself does not give a detailed description. Some Arminians believe that God continually enables all people to believe at all times as a benefit of the atonement. Others believe that God only bestows the ability to believe in Christ to people at select times according to his good pleasure and wisdom. Still others believe that prevenient grace generally accompanies any of God’s specific movements toward people, rendering them able to respond positively to such movements as God would have them.
In other words, the details of Arminian theology lack Scriptural support. 
The concept of “freed will” raises a broader question of whether human beings have free will generally, apart from the realm of pleasing the Lord and doing spiritual good (again, people are not free in this area unless God empowers them). The Arminian answer is yes. People have free will in all sorts of things. By this we mean that when people are free with respect to an action, then they can at least either do the action or refrain from doing it. People often have genuine choices and are therefore correspondingly able to make choices. When free, the specific choice someone makes has not been efficiently predetermined or necessitated by anyone or anything other than the person himself. In fact, if the person’s action has been rendered necessary by someone else, and the person cannot avoid doing the action, then he has no choice in the matter and he is not free in it. And if he does not have a choice, then neither can it properly be said that he chooses. But Scripture very clearly indicates that people have choices and make choices about many things (e.g., Deut 23:16; 30:19; Josh 24:15; 2 Sam 24:12; 1 Kings 18:23, 25; 1 Chron 21:10; Acts 15:22, 25; Phil 1:22). 
Abasciano is operating with a seat-of-the-pants definition of choice rather than a philosophically precise definition. Compare his sloppy usage with how some libertarian philosophers define or delineate the issues:
A choice is the formation of an intention or purpose to do something. It resolves uncertainty and indecision in the mind about what to do. Robert Kane, Four Views on Freewill (Blackwell 2007), 33. 
Before going into the arguments for determinism, it is necessary to remove some misconceptions about the determinist position. To begin with, it must be emphasized most strongly that determinists do not deny that people make choices…The experience of choosing–of seeing alternatives, weighing their desirability and finally making up one's mind–is not any different whether one is a libertarian or a determinist. For while determinists believe that there are sufficient conditions which will govern their choices, they do not know at the time when they're making a decision what those determinants are or how they will deduce as a result of them. So, like everyone else, they still have to make up their own minds! William Hasker, Metaphysics (IVP 1983), 37. 
So what does it mean to have free will? Some thinkers have said that it is the ability in causally identical situations to choose either A or not-A. It seems to me, however, that this so-called Principle of Alternative Possibilities is not a necessary condition of willing freely. I’m persuaded by illustrations like that given by Harry Frankfurt to show that freedom does not require the ability to choose other than as one does. Imagine a man whose brain has been secretly implanted with electrodes by a mad scientist. The scientist, being an Obama supporter, decides that he will activate the electrodes to make the man vote for Obama if the man goes into the polling booth to vote for Romney. On the other hand, if the man chooses to vote for Obama, then the scientist will not activate the electrodes. Suppose, then, the man goes into the polling booth and presses the button to vote for Obama. In such a case it seems that the man freely votes for Obama. Yet it was not within his power to do anything different! 

Back to Abasciano:
Moreover, it explicitly speaks of human free will (Exod 35:29; 36:3; Lev 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Num 15:3; 29:39; Deut 12:6, 17; 16:10; 2 Chron 31:14; 35:8; Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28; Ps 119:108; Ezek 46:12; Amos 4:5; 2 Cor 8:3; Philemon 1:14; cf. 1 Cor 7:37) and attests to human beings violating God’s will, showing that he does not predetermine their will or actions in sin. Furthermore, the fact that God holds people accountable for their choices and actions implies that those choices and actions were free. 
Does the Bible "explicitly speak of human free will?" 
i) His OT prooftexts all refer to "freewill offerings. To begin with, this is just a convention of traditional English translations. For instance, the Complete Jewish Bible renders it "voluntary offering." Needless to say, a determined or predetermined action can still be voluntary. It's not as if the human agent is acting against his will. There's no sense of compulsion.
ii) More to the point, these are called "freewill" offerings because they are optional. That stands in contrast to most OT sacrifices and offerings, which were mandatory under specified conditions. It's not referring to a faculty of the will, but distinguishing what's obligatory from what's optional. Most OT sacrifices or offerings were religious duties. By contrast, the worshipper isn't required to present a "freewill" offering. 
iii) Furthermore, his argument proves to much. Freewill offerings were a tiny subset of OT sacrifices and offerings. They could either be burnt offerings or one of three kinds of peace offerings. If freewill offerings imply the libertarian freedom of the worshiper in those cases, then that denies the worshiper's libertarian freedom in all other cases
Regarding his NT prooftexts:
 2 Cor 8:3: That refers to their financial means, not a psychological faculty or ability. Indeed, their financial resources were quite limited. 
Phlm 14: Abascino ignores the rhetorical pose. Paul is being tactful. Calling in a favor. He's imposing on Philemon without seeming to be heavy-handed about it. Exerting moral authority. And, legally, Philemon is in a position to refuse, which is one reason Paul must be diplomatic. He must respect Philemon's social prerogatives. 
If this proves libertarian freewill, then it proves too much, for it would mean the slave master has a psychological faculty of libertarian freedom, but a slave does not.
1 Cor 7:37: Paul's point is that in choosing between marriage or bachelorhood, the Christian isn't bound by social obligations or customary expectations. 
Finally, the concept of freed will also implies that God has ultimate and absolute free will. For it is God who supernaturally frees the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ, which is a matter of God’s own free will and sovereignty. God is omnipotent and sovereign, having the power and authority to do anything he wants and being unconstrained in his own actions and will by anything outside of himself and his own judgment (Gen 18:14; Exod 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jer 32:17, 27; Matt 19:26; Luke 1:37; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:34-36; Eph 3:20; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:11). Nothing can happen unless he either does it or allows it.
Except that freewill theists do think God's actions and desires are constrained by something outside himself: namely, the ability of humans to counteract his plans and desires. So Abasciano doesn't really think God is sovereign. Although he doesn't wish to cede that attribute (divine sovereignty) to Calvinists, his claim to that attribute is self-contradictory.  
There are two main views of what the Bible teaches concerning the concept of election unto salvation: that it is either conditional or unconditional. For election to be unconditional means that God’s choice of those he will save has nothing to do with them, that there was nothing about them that contributed to God’s decision to choose them, which seems to make God’s choice of any particular individual as opposed to another arbitrary.
i) "Arbitrary" in the sense that if a sinner has no right to God's mercy, then God can justly discriminate. Since God's not obligated to show mercy to any, he's not obligated to show mercy to all. Does Abasciano imagine God is duty-bound to show everyone mercy? 
Not only does that fail to distinguish between guilt and innocence, justice and mercy, but it would mean Abasciano denies to God the freedom to do otherwise. is Abasciano a necessitarian about the plan of salvation? 
ii) However, who God elects or reprobate will makes a difference in how history unfolds. To take one example, if Abraham was reprobate rather than elect, that would entail an alternate timeline in which events play out very differently. 
 It also implies unconditional and arbitrary reprobation, God’s choice of certain individuals to not save but to damn for their sin for no reason having to do with them…
Abasciano's statement is self-refuting. If God damns them "for their sin," then God is not damning "for no reason having to do with them." 
Sin is a necessary, but insufficient condition of reprobation. 
Desiring the salvation of all, providing atonement for all people, and taking the initiative to bring all people to salvation by issuing forth the gospel and enabling those who hear the gospel to respond to it positively in faith (see “Atonement for All” and “Freed to Believe” above), God chooses to save those who believe in the gospel/Jesus Christ (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47, 50-58; 20:31; Rom 3:21-30; 4:3-5, 9, 11, 13, 16, 20-24; 5:1-2; 9:30-33; 10:4, 9-13; 1 Cor 1:21; 15:1-2; Gal 2:15-16; 3:2-9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 26-28; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Phil 3:9; Heb 3:6, 14, 18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20). This clear and basic biblical truth is tantamount to saying that election unto salvation is conditional on faith. 
No, that's not  "tantamount to saying that election unto salvation is conditional on faith." Although salvation is contingent on faith, but doesn't make election continent on faith. Indeed, it could be the other way around. Faith is contingent on election, which is why God grants faith to the elect. 
Just as salvation is by faith (e.g., Eph 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith”), so election for salvation is by faith, a point brought out explicitly in 2 Thes 2:13 – “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (NASB; note: “God has chosen you . . . through . . . faith in the truth”; on the grammar of this verse, see here). 
Far from being explicit, commentators like Beale, Bruce, Fee, Green, Marshall, and Wanamaker (as well as Bill Mounce) all regard "salvation" rather than "faith" as the object of divine choice in this verse.  There's no presumption that Abasciano has a better grasp of Greek syntax than all these other NT scholars. 
The fact that the Holy Spirit is given to believers on the condition of faith in Christ is also profoundly supportive of conditional election. For in Scripture the presence of God/the Holy Spirit is the bestower and marker of election. As Moses prays in Exdous 33:15-16: “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Or as Paul states in Rom 8:9-10, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (emphasis added). The giving of the Spirit conveys election, and having the Spirit makes a person elect. Thus, having the Spirit also marks a person out as elect. But the Spirit is given to believers by faith, making election to be also by faith.
To say the Spirit is given on condition of faith begs the question. What if faith is given by the Spirit? 
From a non-traditional Arminian view (see below on differing Arminian views of election), this accords with the facts that the Holy Spirit sanctifies believers and sanctification is sometimes identified as the means by which election is accomplished (2 Thes 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). To sanctify means “to make holy, set apart for God.” The initial sanctifying work of the Spirit is roughly equivalent to election—believers are chosen or set apart as belonging to God and for service and obedience to him. The Apostle Paul told the church of the Thessalonians, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thes 2:13; NASB). Election is here presented as taking place through or by sanctification that the Holy Spirit performs. But as we have seen, the Holy Spirit is received by faith, making the sanctification he brings also conditional on faith and shedding light on the mention of “faith in the truth” immediately following in 2 Thes 2:13. 
He's very dependent on that particular verse, and his particular rendering, to make his case. But most scholars disagree. 
Similarly, 1 Pet 1:1-2 speaks of “elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood . . .” Election takes place in or by or through the sanctification effected by the Spirit. That is, a person becomes elect when the Holy Spirit sets him apart as belonging to God, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood (i.e., the forgiveness of sins), an act consequent on the giving of the Spirit, which again is itself consequent on faith in Christ.
No, election takes place through God's prior choice. Not only were they chosen ("elect exiles"), but they were chosen by God, and they were chosen beforehand (even Abasciano concedes that's what proginosko means). 
The final state of grace of those mentioned above for us to consider is union with Christ, which is the most fundamental of them all, serving as the ground of each. As Eph 1:3 states concerning the Church, God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” The phrase “in Christ” indicates union with Christ, a state entered into by faith, as mentioned above. 
He's building on a false premise (see above). 
More directly, Eph 1:4 then explicitly indicates the condition of election specifically with the phrase “in him [Christ]”: “he [God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Just as God blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing indicates that God has blessed us because we are in Christ (Eph 1:3), so God choosing us in Christ indicates that God chose us because of our union with Christ (Eph 1:4). Ephesians 1:4, therefore, articulates conditional election, an election that is conditional on union with Christ. But the fact that union with Christ is conditional on faith in him makes election also conditional on faith in Christ.
No, it doesn't indicate that God chose us "because of our union with Christ." Rather, it either means God chose us in Christ as our federal head, or that God chose us to be saved through the work of Christ. 
The next phrase in Eph 1:4—“before the foundation of the world”—brings us to a difference of opinion among Arminians on the nature of conditional election. The traditional view conceives of conditional election as individualistic, with God choosing separately before the foundation of the world each individual he foreknew would freely be in Christ by faith and persevere in that faith-union. The view seems to find striking support in two prominent passages that relate to election.Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Now without question, God’s foreknowledge of human beings is total and would include prior knowledge of each person and whether they would believe or not. And in Rom 8:29, divine foreknowledge is presented as the condition for predestination. Given all that we have said so far, many would find God’s foreknowledge of the faith of believers to be the most natural element of his foreknowledge of them to be determinative for his decision to save them and predestine them to be conformed to the image of Christ.The other prominent passage providing support for election being conditioned on divine foreknowledge of human faith is 1 Pet 1:1-2, which speaks of elect status as being “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood . . .” Here elect status is explicitly said to be based on God’s foreknowledge. And again, the type of evidence we have been reviewing leads many to believe that it is especially foreknowledge of the faith of believers that is in view as that to which the divine election conforms. Since this text does not specify the foreknowledge in view to be of people, another option compatible with both main Arminian views of election would take divine foreknowledge in 1 Pet 1:2 to be of God’s own plan of salvation, meaning election is based on God’s plan to save those who believe.
Even if we grant for the sake of argument that proginosko means prescience, there's nothing in these verses about foreseen faith. What is foreseen?
The non-traditional Arminian view of election is known as corporate election. It observes that the election of God’s people in the Old Testament was a consequence of the choice of an individual who represented the group, the corporate head and representative. In other words, the group was elected in the corporate head, that is, as a consequence of its association with this corporate representative (Gen 15:18; 17:7-10, 19; 21:12; 24:7; 25:23; 26:3-5; 28:13-15; Deut 4:37; 7:6-8; 10:15; Mal 1:2-3). 
Of course, that's consistent with covenant theology in Calvinism. 
Some have mistakenly taken Paul’s appeal in Romans 9 to the discretionary election of the former covenant heads to be an indication that the election of God’s people for salvation is unconditional. But the election of the covenant head is unique, entailing the election of all who are identified with him rather than that each individual member of the elect people was chosen as an individual to become part of the elect people in the same manner as the corporate head was chosen. In harmony with his great stress in Romans on salvation/justification being by faith in Christ, Paul appeals to God’s discretionary election of Isaac and Jacob in order to defend God’s right to make election to be by faith in Christ rather than works or ancestry.
Here he seems to idiosyncratically classify Isaac and Jacob as "corporate heads." But God didn't make his covenant with Isaac and Jacob. God made his covenant with Abraham. Abraham was the federal head or covenant mediator. Isaac and Jacob beneficiaries. They are party to the covenant by virtue of Abraham. So they are individuals.
Mind you, I think Paul is using them as representatives to illustrate a principle: individual election.  
Paul’s olive tree metaphor in Rom 11:17-24 gives an excellent picture of the corporate election perspective. The olive tree represents the chosen people of God. But individuals get grafted into the elect people and participate in election and its blessings by faith or get cut off from God’s chosen people and their blessings because of unbelief.The focus of election is the corporate people of God with individuals participating in election by means of their participation (through faith) in the elect group, which spans salvation history. 
i) Calvinism is not opposed to corporate election. Rather, it's opposed to pitting corporate election against individual election.
ii) Keep in mind that Rom 11:17-24 doesn't use elective language. 
iii) Also keep in mind that we need to distinguish between elective words and the concept of election. The same word can be used to denote more than one concept. Although the Jews were the "Chosen People," that doesn't mean God chose to save every Jew. God's choice of Israel isn't "election" as that's defined in Reformed theology.
iv) In the history of Israel, you have a contrast between a faithful remnant and many nominal Jews. 
v) There's the question of what the olive tree represents in Paul's metaphor. Who is Paul warning? For instance, Paul is addressing the church of Rome. A local church may be (usually is) a mixed multitude of true believers and nominal believers. Over time, the nominal believers can outnumber the true believers. Over time, a local church can lose its Christian identity. In church history, you also have apostate denominations. Some began well, but ended badly.
But this is consistent with the perseverance of the saints. God preserves elect individuals–not necessarily institutions. 
While agreeing that God knows the future, including who will believe, 
Yet Abasciano says humans have the freedom to do otherwise. But in that event, human choices are inherently unpredictable. How can God foresee an intrinsically unpredictable event? If the outcome could go either way, then it's unpredictable. If it's unpredictable, then it's unforeseeable. 
the corporate election perspective would tend to understand the references to foreknowledge in Rom 8:29 and 1 Pet 1:1-2 as referring to a relational prior knowing that amounts to previously acknowledging or recognizing or embracing or choosing people as belonging to God (i.e., in covenant relationship/partnership). The Bible sometimes mentions this type of knowledge, such as when Jesus speaks of those who never truly submit to his lordship: “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt 7:23; cf. Gen 18:19; Jer 1:5; Hos 13:4-5; Amos 3:2; 1 Cor 8:3). On this view, to be chosen according to foreknowledge would mean to be chosen because of the prior election of Christ and the corporate people of God in him. “Those [plural] whom he foreknew” in Rom 8:29 would refer to the Church as a corporate body and their election in Christ as well as their identity as the legitimate continuation of the historic chosen covenant people of God, which individual believers share in by faith-union with Christ and membership in his people. Such a reference is akin to statements in Scripture spoken to Israel about God choosing them in the past (i.e., foreknowing them), an election that the contemporary generation being addressed shared in (e.g., Deut 4:37; 7:6-7; 10:15; 14:2; Isaiah 41:8-9; 44:1-2; Amos 3:2). In every generation, Israel could be said to have been chosen. The Church now shares in that election through Christ, the covenant head and mediator (Rom 11:17-24; Eph 2:11-22).
Here he's tacitly admitting that the traditional Calvinist understanding of proginosko is correct: it doesn't mean prescience; rather, it means prior choice. 
Abasciano has created a dilemma for himself. On the one hand, he wants to disprove individual election by substituting corporate election. On the other hand, he can only do that by forfeiting another traditional Arminian maneuver. Arminians typically evade the predestinarian force of passages like Rom 8:29 by contending that proginosko means prescience, whereas Calvinists say it means prior choice. Abasciano is now conceding the Calvinist interpretation of proginosko. Even if (ex hypothesi) he's right about corporate election, he wins one point by losing another point. One step forward, one step back.
Similarly, to be chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world would refer to sharing in Christ’s election that took place before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20). 
Scripture doesn't teach Christ's election. 
Because Christ embodies and represents his people, it can be said that his people were chosen when he was just as it could be said that the nation of Israel was in the womb of Rebekah before its existence because Jacob was (Gen. 25:23) and that God loved/chose Israel by loving/choosing Jacob before the nation of Israel ever existed (Mal. 1:2-3) and that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek in Abraham before Levi existed (Heb. 7:9-10) and that the church died, rose, and was seated with Christ before the Church ever existed (Eph 2:5-6; cf. Col. 2:11-14; Rom 6:1-14) and that we (the Church) are seated in the heavenlies in Christ when we are not literally yet in Heaven but Christ is. Christ’s election entails the election of those who are united to him, and so our election can be said to have taken place when his did, even before we were actually united to him. This is somewhat similar to how I, as an American, can say that we (America) won the Revolutionary War before I or any American alive today was ever born.
How can Christians be chosen "when" Christ was? Even if you accept the dubious claim that Christ himself is elect, he was chosen before the foundation of the world. Yet Abasciano thinks election is contingent on faith (e.g. "individuals become elect when they believe and remain elect only as long as they believe"). Therefore, the election of humans must be subsequent to their faith. Moreover, since believers live at different times, how can they all be chosen when Christ is chosen? Abasciano's position is incoherent on its own terms.  
The corporate view explains why only those who are actually God’s people are called elect or similar appellations in Scripture and not those who do not belong to God but one day will. In the New Testament, only believers are identified as elect. As Rom 8:9 states, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Similarly, Rom 11:7-24 supports the corporate understanding of the elect as referring only to those who are actually in Christ by faith rather than also including certain unbelievers who have been chosen to believe from eternity. For in Rom 11.7, “the rest” are not elect. But Paul believed that those from ‘the rest’ could yet believe, revealing that the elect is a dynamic term that allows for departure from and entry into the elect as portrayed in the passage’s olive tree metaphor. 
It's not election that's dynamic, but hardening. And that's up to God
Since the election of the individual derives from the election of Christ and the corporate people of God, individuals become elect when they believe and remain elect only as long as they believe. Hence, 2 Pet 1:10 urges believers to “be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (NIV) and the New Testament is filled with warnings to persevere in the faith to avoid forfeiting election/salvation (see “Security in Christ” below; for an introduction to corporate election with links to further resources, see here).
This assumes that "chosen" language in Scripture is always a technical term for election. But election is a specialized theological category. And you can't simply quote one author's usage to define another author's usage. For instance, God's choice of Israel doesn't mean every individual Jew is thereby secured. 

No comments:

Post a Comment