Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Calvinism and the "arbitrariness" of unconditional election

Calvinist's believe God's elective decree is unconditional, which is to say that God's decree is not founded on factors external to God's purpose. This often times prompts the non-Calvinist to accuse the Calvinist of holding to a doctrine of election which is arbitrary. They ask, "why did God choose to elect you and not Joe reprobate?" and proceed to argue that an unconditional election must be arbitrary. There are several possible responses to this:

1. Everything God has decreed is for His glory. How one individual's election and another's reprobation may function as means by which God's glory is manifested is a separate issue. Even if the answer to this latter question is one which pertains to God's "secret things," it begs the question to state that a counter-factual world - one in which all are elect or whatnot - would more greatly manifest God's glory. This is a sufficient defense, if not a comprehensive one.

2. The question seems to presuppose an infralapsarian-like position in which Joe and I were at some point considered by God without respect to our elective states. If I'm not mistaken, asking this to a supralapsarian would be rather like asking a bachelor if he's stopped beating his wife.

3. Throw a variation of the question back at the questioner, which will help him see the validity of response 1 and shed some light on whether or not response 2 is appropriate. E.g. On what non-arbitrary basis did God decide to make me a male? Can the fact that I am a male be abstracted from who I am? If not, why can my elective status? Etc.


Joshua Butcher said...

You could also go to the primary definition of arbitrary, which simply means, "subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one's discretion" (according to Dictionary.com).

Most people mean to imply the fourth definition listed from the same site: "capricious; unreasonable; unsupported," but to argue against unconditional election on the basis that it is capricious (subject to sudden changes), or unreasonable is really to straw man the Calvinist, who never denies that God has a reason for electing whomever He wills, but who only denies that such reason is based upon any foreseen condition in the individual.

Of course, what the non-Calvinist wants is a God who is subject to human volition, rather than a God who subjects human volition to His own. Makes you wonder exactly whom non-Calvinists sing to when they sing "What a mighty God we serve" doesn't it?

Ryan said...

Good point.

James said...

"Why did God choose to elect you and not Joe reprobate?"

So it gives God "more" glory for you to be among the Elect than say Joe Schmo down the street from you.

Okay, then. How so? In what manner is He more glorified? Or are we really talking about you?

Do you mean that you (as an Elect) make a better Elect than Joe? If so, how do you know? Are you saying you're more clever? A better preacher? Better hair, perhaps?

'splain please.

Ryan said...

I think you missed the point that knowledge of "How one individual's election and another's reprobation may function as means by which God's glory is manifested" is not necessary.

How I know this world is conducive to the maximal manifestation of God's glory is a question I answer here.

Would you mind answering the questions in point 3?

James said...

"Can the fact that I am a male be abstracted from who I am?"


"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." There has been much speculation about whether gender differences will ultimately be irrelevant. After all, if there is no reproduction, what need is there of sexual organs? Your "maleness" may only a necessity of the physical world.

Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus"

Ryan said...

Citing a passage that highlights the fact there are no distinctions amongst persons with respect to inclusion in the church does not at imply there are no more distinctions between men and women at all. Paul's church polity is clear enough about differences between men and women. Neither he nor the other apostles suddenly cease to recognize a male and female as such. Quite the contrary. Furthermore, Abraham and the dead beggar and rich man in Luke 16 are all referred to with masculine pronouns even after their deaths. Angels are also referred to using masculine pronouns, and there is some debate regarding the ontology of the two women in Zechariah 5:9 which also connotes post-mortem differences in sex.