You may already know of my doubts of my Calvinistic views from one of my previous emails. Specifically the lore of election. Now I was wondering if you can absolutely refute the five points of Calvinism? [Editor’s note: he is referring to the standard formula of Calvinism: TULIP Total Depravity, Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Irresistable Grace , Perseverence of the Saints] How do you justify yourself in the passages that appear to be so inescapable? In the past you have claimed that 1 John 2:1 refuted one of the five points which was limited atonement. Well, basically I want to know more in detail. Can you help me with verses like Romans 8:28? Or Ephesians 1:11? What’s the authors intention here? It seems clear to me. Last question, this ultimately isn’t a contradiction is it? I don’t believe that it is, because I should gather up evidence from both before I make such a conclusion. Thanks much.
In dealing with Romans 8:28 I concede immediately that if we were just reading this passage alone, not taking into account the overall biblical message and not taking as a presupposition any particular theology, then there are two possible interpretations, one of which would lead to a Calvinistic conclusion. However, we should not read any single passage by itself. We must interpret any passage–especially a difficult one such as Romans 8:28 in the light of other passages, including ones with obvious meaning. If we are trying to determine a fundamental question of Christian theology we cannot begin our investigation by assuming the anwer before we investigate. Therefore, we must interpret Romans 8:28 in the light of the Bible as a whole.
So, which is true?
1. God predetermines everything. It is decided before we were created whether we would go to heaven or hell. We have absolutely no role in determining whether we do good or evil. We are completely devoid of free will–are totally depraved before God saves us, with or without our will agreeing to be saved. God creates the vast majority of humans so that he can send them to hell.
2. God, in his love, gives us the ability to choose whether we will love him or not. God has prepared a destiny for all–which is to be with him in heaven, but we choose whether we will respond to that love and submit to him or whether we will rebel, reject the destiny he has prepared for us, and be condemned. God is sovereign, and his will is never defeated, but part of his will is that we have free will, including the opportunity to choose whether we will repent or not.
I will not at this point do what I have already done more than once for you, which is show beyond a doubt that, of the two above, clearly the second theology is correct. If that is true, then we have two choices:
1. Accept the Biblical picture of God and interpret Romans 8:28 in light of this truth about God. In other words, interpret this passage in the light of the assumption that we have free choice.
2. Admit that the Bible is not inspired and that it can contradict itself on the most fundamental truths, such as whether we are free to choose God or mot, and interpret Romans 8:28 to imply that God predetermines for all of us whether we go to heaven or hell.
If we choose choice #2 in the first set and choice #1 in the second set (which is what I do), then this is how I interpret Romans 8:28f
“For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son that hemight be the forstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified he also glorified.”
My interpretation. God foreknows who will be saved. That does not mean that he predestines who will be saved or lost (after all, we have free will), but he does foreknow this. Those he foreknew would choose salvation, he predestined for that, he also called them to that, and he also justified them and he also glorified them.
The passage deals with those whom God knows will be saved. It does not deal with those that God foreknows will not choose to be saved through repentance and the blood of Jesus. God also predestined them to salvation, in that he prepared a destiny for all of us to be glorified. However, for this group, all are predestined, but not all are called, because not all hear. Of those who are called to salvation by hearing the gospel, not all choose to accept the salvation offered. Of those who are saved, not all make it to heaven, as some turn back, fall away, and lose the salvation they had had (Hebrews 3,4,6,10).
I am well aware of the Calvinist interpretation of this passage. I believe that they make this interpretation, not because the text demands it, but because of thier presupposition of predestination. Now, I will admit freely that I also brought a presupposition to the interpretation. I stated it above in my answer to your question. The advantage is that my presupposition, which is that God loves us all, not just a very small chosen few, is the correct one.
I hope this helps.