The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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Review of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

...ated things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.[2]

God is absolutely sovereign over His creation. Nothing can happen without His will. Moreover He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Although God is absolutely sovereign, even over chance events (Prov 16:33), man is still held responsible (Isaiah 11, Gen 50:20; Acts 4:27-28).

This is above our understanding, but it is what the Scriptures teach and thus we are to obey it.

This is not Fatalism, this is the carrying out of a divine plan of a God who is just, holy, wise and merciful.

We are not “robots,” as many non-Calvinists would accuse Calvinists of making man, we make responsible choices, but these choices are absolutely under the control of God.

See my commentary on chapter 3 (Of God's Decree) and chapter 5 (Of Divine Providence) on the 1689.

The Person of Christ

The treatment of of the Person of Christ is excellent. His two-fold natures in one Person, His effective and definite atonement, resurrection and ascension. All these he handles in part 4 with great care and persuasive biblical argumentation.

Before reading his treatment on the Person of Christ, I thought that Christ now was only divine and not man. God graciously used Dr. Grudem to persuaded me otherwise. 

In the incarnation the Word took on flesh (Jn 1:1, 14). He did not lay aside His divinity, but added humanity to His divine Person (Phil 2:5-11). He was resurrected with a human body and went into heaven with that glorified body, nothing actually convinces us that the Lord Jesus ceased to be human at the moment of His ascension. In fact the Bible tells us that it is the man Christ Jesus who is our Mediator:

1Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 

The Application of Redemption

Part 5 is entitled The Doctrine of The Application of Redemption. Therein Dr. Grudem handles among other things:

  1. Common Grace
  2. Election and Reprobation
  3. The Gospel Call and Effective Calling 
  4. Regeneration
  5. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
  6. Justification (Right Legal Standing Before God)
  7. Adoption (Membership in God’s Family)
  8. Sanctification (Growth in Likeness to Christ)
  9. Death and the Intermediate State
  10. Glorification (Receiving a Resurrection Body)
  11. Union with Christ

These chapters are excellent like the rest and if you didn't know, Dr Wayne Grudem is a full-fetched Calvinist and in these chapters, what is called “Calvinism” is argued and shown to be the system of the Bible itself. He follows Romans 8:29-30 in laying out these doctrine sin this way:

Rom 8:29 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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

The Doctrine of the Church

Part 6 of this treatment deals with Ecclesiology. I've learned a ton in this part, because it wasn't something that I've read about before.

Being a baptist, he argues for a congregational and independent type of church and makes the case for the consistent plurality of elders in NT congregations.

What I also liked was the distinction that he made with with more and less pure churches. He admits that in the present time there will not ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

...ne book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that "it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."

I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure.

Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or Fatalism.

That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.

If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.

These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.[13]

This should be enough about God’s absolute sovereignty. I believe that I have given a satisfactory case for the things contained in paragraph 1 as I understand them.


§2 He hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future

  1. Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, 1 yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. 2
    1. 1 Sam. 23:11-12; Matt. 11:21, 23; Acts 15:18
    2. Isa. 40:13-14; Rom. 9:11-18; 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16

God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass. He does not merely know what is going to come to pass, but what may come to pass. He does not merely know the actual, but also the plausible if the circumstances were different whatever the supposed conditions (1Sam. 23:11-12; Matt. 11:21-23) would be. God decreed all things in Himself (paragraph 1) and this means that He hath not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future. His decree grounds the future and gives shape to the future. God is not influenced by things not yet existent or have not been decreed. The only thing God is influenced by is Himself. 


Everything God has decreed He has done so because of his “most wise and holy counsel of his will,” not because He saw X do it or looked in the corridors of time. God is independent and such a thing would make Him dependent on something that He has not even yet brought into being. It is an absurdity. The Scriptures teach us that the Lord takes counsel from no one and is independent (Isa. 40:13-14; Rom. 11:34; 1Cor. 2:16), but such an idea that God would be dependent upon some actions of man and that's why He decrees it goes against the concept of God's freedom and independence. This is why the whole idea of “God looked down the corridors of time and saw who would freely choose Him, and those God chose” i...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

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Chapter 9: Of Free Will

I would like to take a look at the freedom of will endued to us by God. Is it a libertarian free will, which most of the non-Reformed find essential for love? Is it another kind of freedom? Does our freedom mean that God is not sovereign? Does God ordain our free actions? These are some questions that we’ll have to wrestle with. For this study and my position on it, I am greatly indebted to the following authors:

  • Jonathan Edwards – The Freedom of the Will
  • R.C. Sproul – Willing to Believe (see review)
  • Thaddeus J. Williams – Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will?
  • Scott Christensen - What about Free Will?: Reconciling Our Choices with God's Sovereignty

Calvinists have always been leveled the charge that our understanding of God’s absolute micro-managing sovereignty makes men as puppets and robots. One wonders what the reason was for the Westminster, Savoy and 1689 to offer a chapter on free will if they thought that people were merely puppets and robots as many critics like to mock Calvinism.

In section 1, we will have our longest discussion of the will. There, I hope, with Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, to lay the understanding of the human will as believed by Calvinists, which I believe happens to be biblical and logical. I have chosen to do this for two purposes: 1) I want to understand Edwards' position better first hand from him. Edwards is difficult to read and understand and sometimes you have to read sentences and paragraphs over and over or look somewhere for an explanation to understand what he's getting at. 2) And I would like you to understand Edwards’ position on the will which is the commonly held view by Calvinists. In the following sections, we will try to lay some things concerning man's will in the four states, from innocence until glory.


§1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice

  1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forcednor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1
    1. Matt.  17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19[1]

The will of man, by definition and nature, is endued...with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice. This is also one of those things which set us apart from the lower creation. Paragraph 1 does not speak about Adam's will before the Fall; paragraph 2 will do that. Rather, in paragraph 1, the will of man is spoken of generally without reference to it being enslaved to righteousness or sin. It is by nature free. What does this freedom consist of? That is is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. Man is not a robot as many non-Calvinists like to caricature Calvinism. No one has done something because they were forced by God in their wills to do so. Rather, they acted with that natural liberty of will which we are endued with. The second thing that the Confession mentions in connection to this natural liberty is that the will is not determined by nature. By nature, the Confession is referring to the natural world or what we call the laws of nature. There are no physical or natural laws forcing man to do good or evil. But as we will soon discover, another kind of nature is important for the will, that is, the nature of man.


God Ordains Human Actions

It is clear from chapter 3 that God is sovereign and ordains even human actions...