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A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, January 14, 2008

"To Those Who Are Elect...According ot the Foreknowledge of God the Father..."

I thought I had predestination figured out, at least as was humanly possible. It wasn't until I spoke with my Orthodox friend who had issues with how we as Lutherans speak of predestination until I noticed a word that, to the best of my knowledge, Luther skips over in his Lectures on the Catholic Epistles. It is also glossed over and skimped on in exegetical explanation that I have seen very few people mention it.

McG (the Orthodox friend who used to be LCMS) said that the Orthodox concept of predestination is that God predestined in eternity those who would be elect on the basis of foreknowledge of perseverance in faith until the end. I was shocked...for I thought that election was based upon grace and done without foreknowledge....until I was reading both St. Peter and St. Paul on the subject.

St. Paul says in Romans 8:29-30, "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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

St. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:1-2, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 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:"

In both passages election is not treated as some divine decree in eternity by a Sovereign God who wants all to be saved, but only elects to save a few. To me that still made our view of God the Calvinist view of God, but without simply saying Limited Atonement and Double Predestination......simply to be nicer.

But these passages brought about several questions: God's election is based upon foreknowledge of individuals (at the least, something about them) as the passages clearly say. Therefore, what is being or why are some foreknown within the context of predestination? The Formula of Concord on this subject simply says that God elects to salvation, that both foreknowledge and predestination are "separate," and that God's foreknowledge is over the lost and the saved.....fair enough, but that doesn't answer my question.

Could the Orthodox position actually be accurate? I have been reading (trying) a paper by Robert Preus on the view of election by Lutheran dogmaticians during the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy, and I must admit I still don't see what our Synod's view on this is. Is it accurate to say that God's election is based upon foreknowledge of perseverance (hence, non-rejection) of the Gospel by man? This still puts the blame of damnation on man and the glory of salvation on God.

I would greatly like some help on this matter as it is bugging me quite a bit. Is God detached from those whom He predestines to salvation as our usually worded answer seems to suggest? Or is God truly a God who elects for Christ's sake and is consistent with His ultimate will in all of man's salvation?

9 Comments:

Blogger William Weedon said...

Chris,

I was reading from Walther in *God Grant It!* this week, and he offered these words on the topic:

If we recognize that God could not elect many to salvation because He foresaw that they would not believe and be converted, we must not think, on the contrary, that God elected others because He foresaw that they would be better than others, believe, and be converted. God did elect only those in whom He foresaw this, but that was not the cause of their election.

God was moved to save a number of people because of His love in Christ and the people's misery and need. God did not choose the elect because He knew they would remain in faith; instead, their election is the reason they persevere in believing. God did not choose them because He knew they would be saved; rather, they will be saved because they were elected. (p. 198)

The whole section for Septuagesima makes for some interesting reading. If I understand him correctly, he does not dispute at all that those whom He foreknew, He also elected. It disputes making WHAT He foreknew be the CAUSE of His election - rather than the cause being His great love in Christ.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thank You Fr. Weedon...but I still have some trouble with that.

If Walther is right, then why does the language in most English translations for 1 Peter 1:2 say, "elect ACCORDING to the foreknowledge of God the Father?"

I still have some trouble...perhaps with how we SAY our doctrine, because it still seems as if God in His love chose some over others...a view that does not jive with His ultimate will that all be saved.

Perhaps the election being not the cause of perseverance, but intimately connected to it is the mystery of God's counsels.

Our Confessions say, God's foreknowledge extends to both the unsaved and the saved...yet if that is the type of foreknowledge that St. Paul was even talking about in Romans...God should have therefore elected all mankind ("those whom He foreknew, He also predestined") to salvation.

I'm just trying to make sense of the Scripture's teaching concerning the relation between foreknowledge and election...and I think Walther might be rearranging the cause/effect nature of the two from what the Scripture says. At most I think I would grant, based on this, that it is a relation between God and man in time and outside of time that makes it such a mystery.

If God is not a respecter of persons, I don't see how Scripture would then teach that God out of His love, but seemingly randomly elected some and passed over others...especially since Christ's sacrifice was for all men whom He also genuinely calls and desires.

2:51 PM  
Blogger William Weedon said...

I think Walther's point was that those who are elected are elected purely from God's love toward ALL in Christ; those who are not elected were not elected because of their rejection of that love. It's the same impossible to solve equation: If you are saved, God gets all the credit; if you are lost, you get all the blame. Which means that there is not one answer to the crux theologorum, but two: one for those who are saved; another for those who are lost.

Piepkorn, by the bye, went another route, and I find his thoughts quite intriguing. He puts all the eggs in the "in Christ" of election and points out that's wide enough for all and all are intended to be in it. To refuse CHRIST is to refuse election, for He "is My Servant, My CHOSEN in whom My soul delights."

8:33 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Fr. Weedon,

Thank you again. The Piepkorn thought is interesting...and perhaps more along the lines of what I was referring to when I pointed out St. Paul's comment in Romans that "Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined," which according to our Confessions and Scripture itself, foreknowledge encompasses both saved and unsaved because of God's omniscience.

I guess I have come to an understanding, but it wasn't until I realized that God works through means in order to elect those in time...something which does make the election based on communion or rejection of communion with God (not just the Sacrament of the Altar per se), rather than based simply on God's grace acting as a Sovereign and seperated king in eternity as the Calvinist's view Him.

From what I've heard, I still have some questions based on what "foreknowledge" entails, at least with regard to Romans 8 (The KFUO Bible Study series on 1 Peter 1 [the newer one] answered some of my questions with regard to what is foreknown, that being purely the merits of Christ...but I don't see the same concept applied in Romans 8.

Contrary to what many people think when I bring this up, I'm not trying to solve the problem...merely trying to fully understand what Scripture says...and also to identify where the actual mystery lies. In so doing I am hoping to see how God is free from being the actual cause of man's damnation as well as placing said damnation squarely on man's shoulders where it belongs (and within man, the individual men among the fallen, who are under universal grace).

The mystery of the crux theologorum is not in the power of God to convert or prepare the heart, nor in the limit of the merits of Christ on the cross...but in the interplay of God's election in eternity in accordance with His foreknowledge and with man's reaction to God's fervent call in the means of grace. Perhaps then I would agree that if that is not two crosses for theologians to bear...it is one big and complex one!

Should I tell my Orthodox friend that their view is too simplified then :-D.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Matthew N. Petersen said...

Actually, I think if you pressed them, they would agree with Pr. Weedon. And if you looked at other Orthodox sources you would find near agreement with Pr. Weedon. (If not on the language of "predestinate" with the substance of what he said (if I understand him correctly.))

Matt

5:19 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

That does help Matt :-)

2:05 PM  
Blogger orthodoxy hunter said...

I have rested in the "in Christ" position... even before becoming Lutheran.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Derek Joseph said...

Look up the meaning of foreknowledge in a lexicon - and look how it's used in the OT.

Immediately speaking to the context - look at the grounds and results of foreknowledge and election.

Every exegesis I've seen of these passages does treat this...

9:42 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Derek,

Thank you...the only problem is I lack a lexicon :-(. Which one do you use?

9:20 PM  

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