“Calvinism” Sans Double Election

Aug 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Would Calvinism be improved if it dropped all this talk of ‘double election,’ the doctrine that God chose some from before all time for salvation and the rest for damnation?

Rev. Alvin Hoksbergen, a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church, proposes in The Banner that a major retooling of election-speak from Reformed pulpits is needed.  While making the claim that “most [Reformed] seem to have moved away from the concept of double predestination,” Rev. Hoksbergen believes that “the biblically based concept of election remains a major factor in [the Reformed] theological structure.” Reluctance to preach on election to heaven after death may follow from it being “an arrogant position that may consign good acquaintances to hell while granting heaven to only a select few.”  To solve this teaching silence, Rev. Hoksbergen proposes that Reformed pastors “shift the focus of election away from eternal bliss to the biblical concept of God calling the elect to be a blessing in the world.”  The pastor’s primary emphasis should be “on how believers are to conduct their lives,” rather than on the eternal end of the decree of election. This would allow the world to see the positive impact made on it by Calvinists.

Such a change of preaching, he believes, would bring his particular denomination (and its sister denomination, the Reformed Church in America) into partnership with the “new Calvinism” that was recently highlighted with admiration in Time magazine. But is this focus on how believers conduct their lives, over a focus on the mystery of God’s sovereign grace, Calvinism at all?  Or is it rather a turning back to pre-16th century catholic thought on the meaning of election and predestination?

In a way, Rev. Hoksbergen’s call to preachers to stress the Christian’s duties in this world is a predictable turn of events.  Double election, being based on the fixedness of God’s eternal determinations, leaves the soteriologically focused Reformed preacher only to marvel at the mystery of God’s will.  He can’t very well dwell on that topic week in and week out, year in and year out, so naturally he will turn to the likes of “how believers are to conduct their lives.” But in another way, this is an unusual turn of events, since Calvin denied the necessity of man’s cooperation in (along with any other condition on) his election to salvation.

Calvin and the confessional Reformed denominations centrally teach that God, by his sovereign grace, unconditionally chose some, and not others, from before all time to salvation.  A “new Calvinism” that leaves this position behind in favor of emphasizing the Christian’s call to bless the world is something other than Calvinism.  If it is something that wants to marvel at God’s sovereignty and grace, while calling us to holiness and leaving room for debate on the conditions or rigidity of election, then it is far closer to the catholic position on election and predestination that existed before Calvin taught.  In that sense, Rev. Hoksbergen is actually calling Reformed pastors to preach in the way of Roman priests prior to the Reformation.

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  1. Hi, Tom.

    Interesting reflections. Is Rev. Hoksbergen counseling that Reformed scholasticism’s view of election and overall soteriology be “left behind” (for some reason I feel like we should be talking about eschatology…), or is he giving a piece of pastoral advice — counseling that preachers shift their focus from me-and-my-election-to-personal-salvation to my-being-called/used-by-God-to-bless-the-world?

    (By the way, I must say I’m unfamiliar with the “reluctance to preach on election” and the concomitant “teaching silence” he’s responding to here. Maybe things are a bit different in the CRC, but in my old PCA/OPC Reformed circles preachers never failed to find room to insert “divine sovereignty in election” into their sermons, pretty much irrespective of what the sermon was centrally about.)

    My thought here is that if he’s trying to address what he perceives as a pastoral problem (“teaching silence”) or is trying to focus on an aspect of theology that has not been sufficiently emphasized but with which Reformed people can agree (“God wants to use me to bless the world”), this doesn’t by itself entail a conflict with Reformed views of election. So I think he/Reformed pastors can direct their flocks’ attentions to the positive role elect persons are to play in the world without suggesting that the good they bring to others is a condition of their election or by otherwise compromising Reformed distinctives. So it seems to me.

    However, there may be truth to the claim that many Reformed Christians have “moved away from double predestination,” since I think a lot of them view reprobation as God’s “passing over” non-elect individuals or simply refraining from giving them efficacious grace. I’m pretty sure there’s a good, permissible Catholic way of saying this. (Cf. Bouyer’s treatment of Aquinas and Trent toward the beginning of The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, and also the Akin article on TULIP linked on our resources page.)



  2. I attended a Reformed Church for about 5 years and never did I hear the Minister teach “Double Predestination” nor in in my reading of MOST Reformed theology was “Double Predestination” seen as the ONLY way to look at Predestination. The view I heard was that God elected some to salvation and just left the un-elect to perish in their sins. In my reading of both St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas that was pretty much the way they saw Predestination, IE that God chose some for salvation and passed by the non-elect.

  3. John,

    Yes, that’s right, that jives with my experience too. I think I remember hearing my old pastor bring up “double predestination” from the pulpit once, and remarking that “even Calvin called it a ‘horrible’ doctrine, but it is nevertheless true…” or some such (understanding the Latin horribile to mean precisely what it sounds like in English, which it doesn’t). But on the whole, I think many Reformed people hold to the “God just ‘passes over’ the reprobate” view, perhaps thinking that this just is the doctrine of double predestination. But this isn’t something the Catholic Church condemns so far as I understand, and I read Sts. Augustine and Aquinas in the same way.



  4. Dear Neal,

    Please let me know if you formed a different opinion from his short article in The Banner, but my conclusion was that Rev. Hoksbergen was not simply giving pastoral advice within the framework of a double-election theology. He noted, without any apparent remorse, the doctrine’s having already been left behind, and described it as an arrogant position.

    I agree with you that the Reformed pastor can properly instruct his flock to live well (in this life) for God, without conflict with Reformed theology. But this combination of double-election-is-arrogant + focus-on-living-well seems to create a disconnect between this particular Reformed body and its historical justification for being separated from the Christian corpus.

    As for the CRC’s teaching silence over and against the PCA and OPC, my observation has been that things are different in the CRC, but not in any radical way. I have spoken with people in PCA/OPC circles who dismiss the CRC as having gone the way of mainstream liberal denominations (i.e., abandoned the gospel), and this usually on account of their synodical decision to ordain women. However, I know of many CRC congregations with great evangelical zeal and love for Reformed theology. So I believe we (at Called to Communion) would be in error to omit them from the “Reformation meets Rome” discussion just because they are not like the OPC or PCA (not that you are suggesting as much).

    Peace in Christ,

  5. Dear John W.,

    Thank you for sharing that observation!

    I have heard double election preached in Reformed churches in recent years, and heard it taught in the Sunday School setting. The trouble I see in being Calvinistic, but then saying that God merely passed over those he did not elect, is that it seems to miss the Calvinist view on God’s complete (and monergistic) sovereignty. From the Calvinist view, nothing happens — or fails to happen — in the world without a positive determination of the Divine Will, because everything that does happen is a product of the Divine Will. Since what God did NOT do is as much a product of God’s election as is what he DID do, there is no ground for distinguishing between election to salvation and election to reprobation within an historically Calvinist framework. This leaves me wondering what is left of a Reformed system that has left double-election speak behind; it may be more catholic, but it is not confessionally Calvinistic.

    Peace in Christ,

  6. Tom,

    Oh, no, I wouldn’t exlcude CRC folks (from the discussion or the Reformed fold) by any means. I think you’re right, too, about the perception that the CRC is somewhat more “liberal.”

    As to your other questions and remarks, I didn’t read through his article, but just through yours. So I’ll happily defer to your judgment about what he says. (It is very striking, though, to hear a Reformed person call the doctrine(s) of election “arrogant” and indicate that it should be dropped! In my old circles you’d get pushed off the stage for saying that sort of thing, or would at the least get a corner cut off of your Reformed card and receive a round scolding.)

    One thing I wonder about (not having read his piece) is this: is he arguing that the doctrine of double predestination specifically should be replaced by the doctrine that Christians should go and be salt and light for the earth, etc., but that the doctrine that God sovereignly elects some to final salvation should be retained (regardless of what we ultimately say about the reprobate)? Or is he suggesting that Reformed people just stop talking about election (whether to salvation or damnation) period, and focus on alternative messages? Or what? I’m trying to get clear on his reasoning, and how (or whether) it entails that Reformed people should give up certain historic/confessional Reformed commitments. Because it seems to me that if his argument proves anything it proves too much: to the extent that any doctrine should be replaced with the less-arrogant-sounding doctrine that Christians ought to go out there and do good, I guess it would be the “arrogant-sounding” doctrine of election, not double predestination as such. So it’s kind of a strange argument against double predestination, if it isn’t likewise intended to be an argument against Calvinist predestinarianism.

    I agree with what you say to John W.


  7. I’m just wondering if you guys were still Protestant when Dr. Ergun Caner (Liberty University) came down really hard on this subject during a Sunday night service at Thomas Road Baptist Church (now deceased Jerry Falwell’s church)?
    I know this is a bit off topic, but I remember he got a tremendous amount of “flack” from the New Reformed who were about 1/3 of the student body then, as well as alot of negative comments from prominent reformed theologians.
    Since he was a former Muslim (he and his brother Dr. Emir Caner), he has made no secret of his comparison of Calvinism hyper-predestination with Islam and Allah. He said he already knew about the “God” that those types preached. The God he met when he converted to Christianity didn’t act like Allah.
    I had never heard that comparison before.

    Thanks for another great blogpost.
    May the peace of Christ be with your spirit,

  8. Teri.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    I had never heard of that but it is interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Dear Neal,

    The article is quite short, so the author doesn’t go into great depth on double election — it’s more like he walks right past it. So he was not arguing for a replacement of double predestination, but seemed (to me) to be declaring matter-of-factly that double predestination isn’t taught any more but perhaps in the rare pulpit. We should preach on ‘election’ as it was experienced in the old covenant — an election to be salt to the earth. (And this will get the CRC in touch with the New Calvinism.)

    I think a lot can be learned about the Reformed faith by watching the CRC and other denominations. This seems akin to astronomers able to peer deep, and then deeper, into space. By this method they are able to see stars at various stages of their existence. Much is observable about the Reformed faith as it is lived out ecclesially that wasn’t available to the 16th century Swiss or Dutch.

    Peace in Christ,

  10. Dear Tom,

    Interesting thoughts. Would you apply this idea equally to various traditions? When a denomination begins to decentralize the very idea which they initially believed to be the key to unlocking scripture are they doing so in response to some sense of thier own sectarianism? Mark Driscoll says that denominations are becoming increasingly irrelevant. In a way, I think he’s right. A few hundred years ago, something like “together for the gospel”, where baptist, presbyterian, and non denominational put on a conference together? Do you think Driscoll believes a new sort of “catholicism” can be acheived? Is this something Catholics should pray for and desire to see happening within Protestantism?

    Enjoyed the article! Peace in Christ, Jeremy Tate

  11. Dear Jeremy,

    I do agree that in American culture denominations are becoming irrelevant. This is pretty easily observed from the prevalence of “non” denominations, as well as from the ease of inter-denominational changes (and the lack of raised eyebrows from our fellow pew sitters and families). More significantly, but a little further back in history, we saw the opening of communion tables to other denominations.

    But diminished denominational significance, and denominational “decentralization” from their original dividing values do not have to go together, do they? I mean, adherence to the PCA may only be a little important compared to how important adherence to the Presbyterian Church in our country was 100 years ago; while at the same time the PCA could stay relatively central to its central distinguishing feature.

    The real question for me is: what is the proper (true) center toward which all churches or faith communities should strive? What makes Driscoll’s “catholicism” the proper center? Is it a center at all, or rather a blotting out of the various centers to which the various groups are trying to cling? I think Catholics should pray for and desire to see Christian unity; but is some new sort of “catholicism” unity? Or analogously, when two people “agree to disagree,” are they in unity or disunity?

    Peace in Christ,

  12. While some of the less committed Reformed denominations are moving in the arminian direction via the federal vision and new perspectives on Paul and other compromises of Holy Scripture, the biblical doctrine is technically one of election and reprobation. Strictly speaking, the Bible speaks of predestination of the elect but not of predestination of the reprobate. However, there is a double decree where God chooses whom He will have mercy upon and whom He will not have mercy upon. This double decree is taught openly in Romans 9 and throughout the Old Testament.

    It might be more helpful to deal with what Scripture itself has to say on such matters rather than using out of hand ad hominem to discredit an “apparent” position with which you disagree. The idea that God is absolutely omnipotent and omniscient negates absolutely that somehow a deistic view of a god not in providential control of every detail of the universe and history and individual’s lives leaves one without hope. Only a God who is really in control can actually change your circumstances and your relationship with Him.

  13. Pelagianism rears its ugly head everywhere.

  14. Why would God be obligated to save anyone at all? You ought to be glad He decided to have mercy on some of Adam’s descendants. Justice is that God damns the whole race. Mercy is he elects some to salvation. This does not remove our responsibility and accountability but rather establishes it. God in fact enables us to be responsible in the first place.

  15. Dear Charlie,

    Thank you for commenting. I am a little confused about some of your comments, and perhaps it is based on some presumptions you have about where I’m coming from, or where I’m going, with my comments. You explained that “there is a double decree where God chooses whom He will have mercy upon and whom He will not have mercy upon” and cited Romans 9. I think this is how I characterized the Reformed teaching when I made my observation about the CRC article from Rev. Hoksbergen.

    But then you said:
    “It might be more helpful to deal with what Scripture itself has to say on such matters rather than using out of hand ad hominem to discredit an “apparent” position with which you disagree.”

    Please identify my ad hominem; I take it as a serious accusation against me. Where have I made a character attack against a person, in an improper effort to debunk that person’s position? Was it because I said that Rev. Hoksbergen noted the demise of preaching on double election “without any apparent remorse”? If so, that is not an ad hominem. He did note the demise, and no remorse over the demise appeared (i.e., none was apparent). I was commenting on the CRC article, not on the doctrine of election per se (cf. my comment #9 above).

    “The idea that God is absolutely omnipotent and omniscient negates absolutely that somehow a deistic view of a god not in providential control of every detail of the universe…”

    Right, but where have I attacked this position? What did I say to discredit it? Are you even sure that this is a position with which I disagree? I hope you could re-read my comments and look for the thesis. I meant it to be this: Reformed churches should really be Reformed, or they should openly leave Reformed teaching behind; but teaching an un-Reformed “new Calvinism” makes it very difficult to have honest, open, critical discourse on which position is truly scriptural.

    Peace in Christ,

  16. First of all, to refer to the double “decrees” as a “double” election is unbiblical language and in itself meant to disparage the Reformed position. While there is a double decree, the decrees are distinguished as “election” and “reprobation.” One is a positive decree to eternal life and the other is a negative decree to “reprobation” whereby God turns the reprobate over to his own evil nature of rebellion. Thus, the emphasis is on both God’s decree to reprobation AND on the sinner’s willful rebellion which is freely chosen though not necessarily of a “free will” since the will is in bondage to sin.

    So you are correct that God does determine who receives mercy and who receives divine justice. But why would God be obligated to give mercy to anyone at all? It would not be mercy at that point. Justice requires that all of Adam’s progeny receive eternal punishment. Mercy is God has mercy on some and those whom He sovereignly wills to have mercy. The others, like Pharaoh, are hardened. So in the language of the Bible it is not double “election.” Election is only to life while reprobation is a turning over to the reprobate mind. (See Romans 1:18ff).

    I’m always amazed at the misrepresentation of the Reformed position. By the way, Luther taught double decrees of election and reprobation as well. If you doubt that, look closely at The Bondage of the Will. In fact, all of the Protestant Reformers, with maybe the exception of Phillip Melancthon, held to double predestination. Though predestination strictly speaking in biblical terms refers only to election, reprobation is the flip side of predestination. Preterition is definitely biblical whether you call it reprobation or preterition the point is the same. God withholds effectual grace or irresistible grace from some of the human race and He does so in perfect justice.


  17. Dear Charlie,

    You earlier accused me of the ad hominem. I asked you to isolate my ad hominem. You did not do that.

    You say that my using the term “double election” was “meant” to disparage the Reformed position. You are too sensitive here; it is not what I meant, and no evidence of my inner intentions is available from the statement. Why do you think that is what I meant? The terms double decree and double predestination are fine by me. Election, in our language, means (among other things) choosing or choice. When our sovereign God makes a choice (election), I see no distinction between this and a decree. Besides this mere word selection, I don’t see where we disagree on what the Reformed position is. I don’t see where I have misrepresented it.

    You seem to have looked past my reply, but I already told you that I am not attacking Calvinism, but addressing whether historically Calvinistic denominations should pursue this apparently un-Calvinist thing of “new Calvinism.”

    Again, besides scolding my word choice, you have not said anything that leads me to believe I am wrong on the substance of Calvinism. Your talk of divine mercy and justice is not news to me, and doesn’t seem to add to what I’ve already said on its behalf.

    So please, 1) where was my ad hominem, and 2) don’t you agree that we’d all be much better off if Reformed churches would stick to teaching Calvinism (including double election/decree/predestination)?

    Peace in Christ,

  18. Tom,

    I think your reference to “double election” is an ad hominem attack against anyone who holds to that position. First of all, “election” is used in Reformed theology and particularly in Holy Scripture ONLY of the elect. Thus, while there is a double decree, the double is election on the one hand and reprobation/preterition on the other. In fact, God is wholly sovereign in the matter and no Reformed person I know of would dare to suggest otherwise. God decides who will be saved and who will be lost. Our response to believe is only possible if we have been born again first. And the wicked and reprobate who reject Christ do so of their own choice, thus the reason for their condemnation is both the imputed original sin of Adam and their own inner corruption and their own sinful choices.

    That being said, it is obvious that you don’t understand what “new” Calvinism is. The neo-Calvinists are those who adopt the views of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck in positing three points of common grace, which is not found in Calvin or in the Bible. There are definitely equivocators and dissimulators who use common grace as a beginning point to compromise the doctrines of particular atonement and of God’s sovereignty in the double decrees. For example, to reference predestination as only connected with election without mentioning the flip side of divine reprobation of the wicked is a dishonest avoiding of the balanced view.

    As for this website, I disagree with it absolutely for the purpose of Christianity is not compromise for the sake of communion or fellowship but the preaching of the law and the Gospel. The thesis of this website is one of compromise and not one of taking a stand for the truth.

    “Why can’t we all just get along” is an illegitimate question. The real question is “why can’t you preach the truth”? We cannot see into God’s decrees here on earth but in general we can recognize who is truly converted by their testimony.

    It seems to me that your citation from Rev. Alvin Hoksbergen from the Christian Reformed Church only proves my point. The CRC adopted the 3 points of common grace around 1927 or so. If you really want to understand the issue, go to the Protestant Reformed Church website at: http://www.prca.org/prc.html Read their article on the common grace controversy. It is no surprise to me that someone from the CRC would advocate throwing out the doctrine of double predestination.


  19. Tom,

    After reading the testimony page, I can tell you “why” all of your so-called “Reformed” buddies converted to Rome. I would include you in that accusation. It is because the “neo-Calvinism” I am speaking of IS the position of practically all the Reformed denominations and seminaries here, including RTS Charlotte, Orlando, etc. The “semi-pelagian” seed is planted in Kuyper’s theology of “common grace.” In answer to your question then, I strongly disagree with the compromise with common grace because it is not biblical nor is it found in Calvin’s writings.

    One deception inevitably leads to another as they say. It is indeed sad that the papist propaganda is so appealing to the pursuit of personal glory. The hard road may not be popular or self aggrandizing but it is the right one. I would rather perish in the midst of the Congo preaching to the natives than to sell out to St. Peter’s Basilica. Call me a redneck theologian.


  20. Neo-Calvinism: The New Road to Rome, by Charlie J. Ray at: http://reasonablechristian.blogspot.com/2009/08/neo-calvinism-new-road-to-rome.html

  21. Charlie,

    Which Reformed denominations and seminaries are “pure”?

  22. Taylor, no reformed “denomination” is pure. In fact, no local Reformed congregation is pure either. There are varying degrees of faithfulness to Scripture and the Gospel. That being said, however, the Roman Catholic Church fares much worse, particularly since the Council of Trent and Vatican II.

    You can see my article in response to Tom Brown at: http://reasonablechristian.blogspot.com/2009/08/neo-calvinism-new-road-to-rome.html

  23. Hi, Charlie.

    I understand the desire to ensure that Reformed theology (at its best/most pure, etc) is not being misrepresented, but you appear to be conflating the form of the presentation with the substance of what has been said. Your remarks in 16 above are perhaps best seen as a request that the terminology deployed (especially concerning the term ‘election’) be used in a different way, and there is nothing wrong with using them the way that you are suggesting they ought to be used. But the substance of the issue is the metaphysics, and I take it that the main point concerns Calvin’s (et al.’s) rejection of the distinction between God’s active and passive wills. If God is just as active in hardening the hearts of the reprobate as He is in bringing about faith (leading to obedience) in the elect, then we have the doctrine of “double predestination,” whether or not we decide to call God’s activity in the latter case “election” and God’s activity in the former something else. I don’t think you’ve made the case that referring to reprobation as “election” of a sort must inevitably lead to a distortion of “the Reformed doctrine” on this point, or that it leads to semi-pelagianism and so forth.



  24. Dear Charlie,

    You won’t substantiate your accusation that I committed an ad hominem attack, and now you level your own. Instead of engaging with our position, you critique our character — that we ‘really’ bought into semi-Pelagian-infected Reformed teaching, so were never ‘really’ truly Reformed. I am not sure what the few sentences of my “bio” said to you, or how they convinced you that I come from a less-than-truly-Reformed background, but you are mistaken. If I was not truly Reformed (even though I thought I was) but you are truly Reformed, how do we know that? What litmus test did I fail that led you to say, “I would include you in that accusation”?

    “In answer to your question then, I strongly disagree with the compromise with common grace because it is not biblical nor is it found in Calvin’s writings.”

    So it sounds like we completely agree in our view of the subject article in the Banner.

    Peace in Christ,

  25. Dear Charlie,

    “It is indeed sad that the papist propaganda is so appealing to the pursuit of personal glory.”

    This is also an ad hominem: you are saying that the contributors of this site converted to Catholicism because they pursued personal [implied: vice God’s] glory. But this does not engage in the position, it merely attacks the character of your interlocutor. We should be careful to avoid the ad hominem, as it is a hindrance to the truth-seeking process.

    Peace in Christ,

  26. Tom, we are in absolute agreement on Rev. Hoksbergen’s article. It is not classical Calvinism. Furthermore, pelagianism is always popular. It de-emphasizes the total corruption of humanity with original sin.

    But I could see how Rome could be appealing to some in the Reformed camp since many have an overly high view of Presbyterian ecclesiology.

    Emil Brunner’s book, The Divine Imperative notes this tendency well:

    The Reformation made a fundamental breach with this kind of ecclesiasticism; in principle the Reformation was a return to the original Christian conception of the Church. But the relics of that theory of the Church which identified the human element with the Divine, which still lingered on in the minds of the Reformers, produced a fresh growth of this malignant error within the Protestant Churches; But since it was also impossible to forget the objections to this theory Protestantism has wavered uncertainly ever since between a false churchmanship and a lack of churchmanship, and this is still its character at the present day. The thought–or more accurately the feeling–of the average ‘Protestant’ oscillates between a secret or at least half-concealed longing for the imposing splendor of the Roman Catholic Church, and an indifference to all that bears the name of “Church” (The Divine Imperative, page 563).

    From: http://reasonablechristian.blogspot.com/search?q=Why+Anglo-Catholicism+is+wrong

  27. Neal,

    The doctrine of common grace leads to semi-pelagianism. My point is that Tom’s reference to “double election” is not common usage even among non-Calvinists, which, had he been Reformed at some point as is claimed, he already knows. This would lead me to suspect it was a deliberate swipe at the Calvinist position.

    My point is that the seed of semi-pelagianism is planted in the Reformed position via the three points of common grace and Abraham Kuyper. Therefore, it no surprises me that “Reformed” folks convert to Rome than it surprises me that Reformed folks convert to Anglo-Catholicism. Any focus on mankind as the center of theology eventually ends up in natural religion. My quote from David Broughton Knox on Vatican II is good evidence in that regard: http://reasonablechristian.blogspot.com/2009/08/neo-calvinism-new-road-to-rome.html

    However, I can see this discussion is going nowhere.


  28. One more thing, Charlie.

    After reviewing your comments a little more closely I’m not confident that the central issue of the denial of the distinction between God’s active and passive wills is really controlling your personal thinking about this issue, at least it doesn’t appear to be guiding your train of thought in the way that it did for Luther (whose Bondage of the Will you recommend) or Calvin (whose debates with the Libertines and the Epicureans, in which his most substantive discussions of providence and divine and human agency take place, you do not mention).

    On the one hand you see Pelagianism rearing its ugly head everywhere (13), a perception apparently connected to your previous remarks in (12). But your remarks in (12) (and later in (14))simply report the obvious fact that God elects to save some and does not elect to save others and that God is above reproach in so doing, which nobody here denies. Moreover, nothing in (12) (or (14))entails that God’s operative conferral of grace upon the elect is jeopardized by a denial of the further claim that God actively works sin and disobedience in the reprobate. The closest you come to that is in your comments about Pharoah in (16), but there (I note) you are careful to use the passive voice, claiming only that Pharoah et al. “are hardened.” I think it can be allowed that God played an active role in the hardening of Pharoah’s heart in this instance in view of his repeated and willful disobedience, etc. This doesn’t seem problematic to me. But it seems that you are not trying to use this as a prooftext for anything stronger, since you say later in that same comment that “God withholds effectual grace or irresistible grace from some of the human race and He does so in perfect justice.” Well, fine. But withholding effectual/irresistable grace from the reprobate isn’t equivalent to effectually/irresistably causing them to sin in a manner equivalent to the manner in which He effectually/irresistably brings about saving faith (leading to obedience) in the elect.

    Indeed, it isn’t clear to me how you can get to the Pelagian conclusion simply by denying that latter claim. How would the argument go? And why would God need to bring about disbelief and disobedience in the reprobate in any case? Assuming a sufficiently substantive doctrine of original sin, we know that persons born in sin can’t and won’t come to faith in God (leading to obedience) unless the grace of God operates upon them in an effective manner. So (assuming original sin) God doesn’t need to do anything to the reprobate or work anything in them to ensure that they will remain in their sin. Supposing, then, we affirm that God acts effectually and irresistably upon the elect so as to bring them to faith, who otherwise would remain in their sin, we thereby preserve God’s sovereignty and His “positive decree” concerning the elect without committing ourselves one way or the other to the existence of a “passive will” in God or, indeed, to the existence of a “common grace” which is by itself neither effectual nor salvific.

    What I think you’re missing here, at least so far as I can tell from your remarks, is the underlying position concerning the will(s) of God which undergirded the views of the Reformers you mention. I don’t think you’re seeing how they got to their conclusions, or why what you’ve said here is not enough to establish “double predestination” as (some of) the Reformers understood it. Certainly it wasn’t simply a matter of flipping over to Rom 9. Absent the underlying theory, neither “Pelagianism” nor “semi-pelagianism” automatically follows from the claim that God merely withholds effectual grace from the reprobate; the issue is a little more complex than that.



  29. All of my comments are “awaiting moderation.” Therefore, until you post my responses, I have nothing further to say. Oh, one other thing, Neal… I have no idea what all that philosophical rabbit trail was about. It is established and general knowledge that the Roman Catholic system is synergistic and semi-pelagian. We need not go into any convoluted dotting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s to understand that. And your final statement about what constitutes a departure from the doctrine of effectual grace is merely another non-sequitur. I would suggest that you reinvestigate Luther’s Bondage of the Will. I have absolutely no problem with saying that there is only one will of God. He actively hardens the heart of the reprobate. Your old common grace views are still poisoning your reason. How could God not be in control of even the evil hearts of men? Of course He is!

    Perhaps you might be familiar with Gordon H. Clark’s book on Predestination?


  30. Hi, Charlie. (I’ve no idea about the “awaiting moderation” business.)

    So let’s see. You’ve got no idea about what the philosophical rabbit trail is all about. Indeed. That is, I think, already evident in your previous comments. You don’t think that’s a big deal because you don’t think that the exegesis and theologizing of Luther or Calvin or whoever else was influenced in the least by their prior philosophical/philosophical-theological theorizing. This helps to explain why you don’t understand how Luther or Calvin arrived at their “double predestination” conclusions, and it also helps to explain why you’re in the grip of an unsophisticated and naive theoretical outlook concerning “Reformed Theology” vis-a-vis the theol0gy of Augustine or Aquinas, for example.

    “Merely another non sequiter.” I note first that you’ve been shy of establishing any non sequiters so far forth, and that you have quite conspicuously failed to engage with anything I’ve actually written to you, still less are you (apparently) in the possession of the requisite resources that would enable you to respond to anything that I’ve actually written here in plain view. It’s easy to toss about charges of “ad hominem” and “non sequiter.” It’s a little harder to move beyond the rhetoric and into the actual argumentation. So far forth, you’ve lodged a few accusations against us, and you’ve even used Latin phrases, but you haven’t actually engaged with any of the actual things I’ve actually said. What is the “final statement” I said that “constitutes another departure from the doctrine of effectual grace,” for example? I specifically stated that the necessity of effectual grace in the case of the elect can be sustained irrespective of what we say about God’s putative active hardening of the heart, and I provided an argument (grounded in the doctrine of original sin, as endorsed by the Reformed) which explains why this is so. I notice you have refrained from engaging me on this point. I note, too, that your only line of response is to suggest that I look once more at the Lutheran book that is sitting about 5 feet from me as I write this, without explaining how looking at that particular book (which I’ve read and read again) is supposed to answer the questions I’ve just now put to you in the light of common day.

    You speak of my common grace views and the poisoning of my reason, etc. And you ask me whether I’m familiar with Clark on predestination — an author who, I would have thought from your previous remarks, you wouldn’t be too friendly toward in view of his altercations with the pure doctrine as presented by Van Til. (Doesn’t one mistake lead to another? Doesn’t Clark’s departure from Van Tillianism entail that he doesn’t quite get the pure, true Reformed faith? Isn’t it the influence of Clark and his likeminded fellows who have succeded in poisoning American Reformed seminaries? Or no?)

    Your admition that you’ve got no clue what I’m talking about, or how it is related to the Reformed and Lutheran doctrines of double predestination, suggests once more that you haven’t actually engaged appropriately with the Reformers whose views you wish to defend. Calling people names is easy. But if you’re going to tell us that we don’t understand Reformed theology, or that we are misrepresenting it, I think you need to get al your ducks in a row. Explain to me the connection between divine and human agency according to Calvin. Explain to me why synergism finds its place in progressive sanctification according to the Westminster divines. Explain to me why Luther’s philosophical views disallowed him from following Augustine on the nature of “operative” and “effective” grace, and explain to me why, exactly, from the theological starting points you adopt, your understanding of “double predestination” would be threatened if we were to affirm that God does not actively cause sin, but rather “passes over” those who in their state of depravity bring about evil, in accordance with their status as reprobates. Explain to me how Luther’s argumentation in the Bondage of the Will answers the particular questions I’ve raised to you, right here and right now.

    Do these things, and maybe we can start to talk. Stand aloof from the actual theological and philosophical positions, and the actual historical arguments supporting them, then you’ll be left making unsupported accusations of the kind you’ve already displayed.

    So what’s it going to be, Charlie? Are you going to engage? Or no?


  31. Neal, you have said nothing meaningful. What you have done is failed to understand the Reformed position, then tried to obfuscate and hide behind rhetoric.

    I actually don’t need the Reformers or Calvin to understand the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches predestination over and over again on almost every page of the OT. It was Romans 9 and other passages of Scripture which forced me away from Arminianism and toward the Reformed view.

    While you may impress yourself with your elegant circular arguments, you have committed the error of not interacting with what I actually said. Then you tried to bait the hook and switch the conversation.

    The fact is it is common knowledge that Rome is semi-pelagian and an apostate church. Why you would leave the Gospel to join a synagogue of satan I have no idea:)

    Save your breath. I have unsubscribed since it is obvious you agenda is to muddy the waters rather than to actually engage the position you “claim” you once held. It is more than obvious to me that either you never understood the Reformed position OR you’re deliberately dissimulating. Take your pick.

    May God grant you the grace to believe the Gospel of justification apart from good works,


  32. I need not believe in a “pure” denomination as long as there is a local church where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are duly administered. There is no “perfect” church, though some are more pure than others. Yours I would never attend for it has perverted the Gospel of grace into a gospel of merits, idolatry, and heresy.

    No thanks:)


  33. Charlie,





    I see that one of your comments awaiting publication has now been published; thanks for that. You’re probably right, though, that the discussion won’t progress much until you’re willing to argue rather than assert.

  34. It is more than obvious to me that either you never understood the Reformed position OR you’re deliberately dissimulating. Take your pick.

    It’s quite obvious the man is so interested in so honest an discussion that he has himself employed the fallacy of the either/or.

    Either Neal is just so pathetic an cognitive inferior that he simply is incapable of grasping the Reformed position, in spite of his extensive experience, let alone education; or it is the case that Judisch is himself a reprobate apparently in collusion with the Whore of Babylon:

    Take your pick!

  35. Save your breath. I have unsubscribed…

    Thank God, for you have thus saved yourself from further embarrasment as it is made clearly evident by your mindless ranting that you are not only incapable of intelligently refuting arguments; in addition to the necessary willingness to do so, you lack the needed intellect.


  36. That was difficult to follow, but I truly respect your ability to engage without personal attack.
    That is a true gift of Our Lord.

    I remember vividly now why I will always conclude that John Calvin’s disciples were a mixed blessing in my own life.
    Their “God” seemed to look for a reason to pour out his wrath on his miserable creatures. HE seemed to be portrayed as angry He created us, so as miserable wretches we should be thankful He lets us live and breathe one more day. I know it is written in some place that He is angry with the wicked every day….and since we were just the wicked covered in snow….I guess He was still angry at us.

    They had me running as fast I could to the place that said HE was sovereign, but HE wanted to make me HIS child and HE wanted to be close to me….not like a prisoner to HIM…but a child who wanted to please Him.
    God didn’t need to save anyone. He didn’t need to create. He doesn’t need us…HE wants us…

    Speaking of “Bible told me so and therefore I am my own authority per God” –
    the very twisted and sick man who held that girl for all those years and did unspeakable things to her…yes, he is the worst kind of wicked…but the paper’s have a link to his blogs….where he quotes many scriptures :
    The Truth Revealed
    and also here where he quotes Jeremiah and St. Paul:

    Does Calvinism believe God raised this human up to be a sick, perverted man so he could harm a child? That is Our Lord? This verse is the most condemning of all as it regards all of the theologies based on “Paul says”…from Marcion to the present.

    “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,
    and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,
    as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things,in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction”. 2Peter 3:14-16

    May the peace of Christ be with your spirit

  37. Что-то такое слышал, но не так подробно, а откуда материал брали?

  38. Dear Charlie,

    I think your reference to “double election” is an ad hominem attack against anyone who holds to that position. First of all, “election” is used in Reformed theology and particularly in Holy Scripture ONLY of the elect.”

    Calling it “double election,” even if done as a “swipe” against Calvinism, is not an ad hominem. An ad hominem criticizes an interlocutors character instead of his argumentation, which I did not do. So I still need you to show me where I committed an ad hominem.

    While I admit that I (unintentionally) failed to use the conventional term, I do not see why this is such a hang-up for you. No negative inference appears even from my unconventional (and now regrettable) use. Election = decree. And, contrary to your claims, the word election does not appear in the Bible. The Greek word ekloge does, which, according to Strong’s, means: “(divine) selection (abstractly or concretely):–chosen, election.” If you are truly Reformed, you believe that God equally chose (decreed, elected) some to receive glory and others wrath. You said, “While there is a double decree, the decrees are distinguished as ‘election’ and ‘reprobation.'” But the word reprobation is not in Scripture either, so again, I am uncertain why this is such a hang-up. This in no way makes “the elect” less than elected to glory (at least, no more than “double decree” does). As to your conspiracy theory that I was never actually Reformed, I assure you that I was raised by a *truly* Reformed pastor, and I recall, perhaps erroneously, both “double election” and “double predestination” spoke of in the home. I remained Reformed for a decade outside my parents’ home.

    That being said, it is obvious that you don’t understand what “new” Calvinism is.

    Charlie, this is a very unfair attack. Please identify one thing I said about neo-Calvinism which demonstrates (obviously or not) that “don’t understand” it. Where do we disagree about what it is saying. What led you to believe I was unaware of its Kuyperian etymology? Please stop attacking me when there is not substance to back up your attacks.

    As for this website, I disagree with it absolutely for the purpose of Christianity is not compromise for the sake of communion or fellowship but the preaching of the law and the Gospel. The thesis of this website is one of compromise and not one of taking a stand for the truth. . . ‘Why can’t we all just get along’ is an illegitimate question. The real question is ‘why can’t you preach the truth’?

    This is an unfair and erroneous comment. What led you to believe that the thesis of this site is compromise? You seem to be bringing preconceived notions about Catholicism or perhaps ecumenical efforts to the table, because one will not find anything on our site (particularly our “About” page) to support your false claim. We have never asked “why can’t we all just get along?” Charlie, do you think I would have posted a critique of a retired CRC pastor’s views on this site if I thought we should all just get along? Stop assuming we’re at loggerheads simply because I am no longer truly Reformed.

    Peace in Christ,

  39. Dear Roma Victor,

    Regarding “further embarrasment,” “mindless ranting,” and “lack the needed intellect,” I believe you have made uncharitable statements to Charlie. Our guidelines may be helpful here:

    Since truth and love go together, make sure that your comments arise from a genuine love for the persons about whom (or to whom) you are speaking.

    And again:

    ad hominems are not allowed. That means that you may not criticize or insult or belittle or judge or mock any person, his character, intelligence, education, background, or motivations.

    This is, I hope, a helpful reminder for all of us, for we are all subject to such uncharity when a conversation becomes personally frustrating.

    Peace in Christ,

  40. Without mutual respect, we will never be reunited in the fullness of the truth.

    I would like to point out that the Called to Communion guys made a laudable effort to even change the language on election they were using to more respect Mr. Ray’s requests, yet Mr. Ray continued using “Rome” and “Roman Catholic system” and “synagogue of satan” instead of “Catholic Church” or even RCC. I can understand that he believes that the Catholic Church teaches false and evil doctrines–I myself once did as well–but it does not help anyone to disrespect the others’ Christian tradition; it just ends the dialogue.

  41. Tom Brown:

    Whereas I simply retorted against Charlie’s scurrilous, not to mention, malicious maligning of the Catholic Church & the Faith, you found it more fit to isolate me instead of Charlie who, amongst other things, hurled such gems like:

    “The fact is it is common knowledge that Rome is semi-pelagian and an apostate church. Why you would leave the Gospel to join a synagogue of satan I have no idea.”

    Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised given the profound bias for not only heretics but their heresies, too.

    Sorry, but if folks like he are more interested in Jack Chick caricatures of the Church instead of genuine conversation; so be it.

    Yet, even more distressing is the fact that their attacks on the Church and Her Faith are welcomed with such open, remarkable glee while faithful Catholics are the ones condemned to Tyburn by purported Catholics.


  42. Roma, I always enjoy your fervor. I think that the way to look at Tom’s gentle rebuke would be that he is holding us Catholics to an even higher standard of charity in our dialogue. Mr. Ray’s comments were clearly disrespectful and uncharitable, which I think everyone can see, but we want to avoid stooping to the same level. It is understandable that his comments angered you–they read like a slap in the face to a Catholic–but I hope you will continue engaging in the discussions here.

  43. Dear Roma Victor,

    Some others and I have challenged Charlie since his first contribution here. E.g., I recently said, “Charlie, this is a very unfair attack.” E.g., I called him out on an ad hominem repeatedly. So I have not “found it more fit” to single you out. It is my responsibility to avoid being partial. The irony is that I made a note to call out your objective violation of our contribution rules because I felt not to do so would have belied partiality. You may not malign someone’s intellect here, only one’s position.

    “Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised given the profound bias for not only heretics but their heresies, too.”

    Please factually support this criticism, because I think it is baseless. I take it you don’t care for our approach to ecumenical dialog. Since you are a faithful Catholic, perhaps you can find a Papal encyclical, or text from the Catechism, or the like that our approach violates.

    “their attacks on the Church and Her Faith are welcomed with such open, remarkable glee while faithful Catholics are the ones condemned to Tyburn by purported Catholics.”

    This is also baseless, and an unfortunate distraction from the discussion at hand. If any of us have welcomed attacks on the Church with “such open” glee, you will not have difficulty putting your thumb on said glee for us. Please do. Calling us “purported Catholics” is also an ad hominem; please refrain. I am a candidate (not a Catholic), as my bio clearly indicates, and the others are “real” Catholics. If you think they are fakes, and thus misrepresenting the Church, I believe you have a duty to contact their local bishops.

    Peace in Christ,

  44. So my criticism is so baseless that my calling out Charlie on his ostentatiously malicious attack on the Church as a “Synagogue of Satan“, among other things, is not found objectionable whereas my response to him in kind was?

    Clearly, this should serve as evidence how certain people & things are found acceptable (e.g., calling the Catholic Church “apostate” & “satanic”) while genuine Catholics defending the Faith against these are not.

  45. Dear Roma Victor,

    You were proper to call Charlie out on his “Synagogue of Satan” comment, which lacked charity and was offensive in an unproductive way. You violated the rule I quoted above (#39) when you criticized his intelligence (see also #43). Besides the fact that a response in kind is no justification (two wrongs do not make a right, as it were), I was picking my battles with Charlie, and hadn’t gotten to the Synagogue of Satan comment yet (and was surprised no one else had yet).

    Why do you conclude that the silence means it is acceptable? And early you accused me (or us) of “gleeful” acceptance. Could it be, and I’m hypothesizing, that your animosity for our ecumenical efforts is coloring your interpretation of my comments and my interaction with Protestants? I mean that as a genuine question.

    Peace in Christ,

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