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June 6, 2022 12:01 am
Since "predestination" is a biblical word, every student of Scripture must seek to understand what the Bible means by this term. Today, R.C. Sproul discusses the controversial yet important subject of election.
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Today I'm Renewing Your Mind. Why is the doctrine of election so controversial. The debate has its roots in the question of millions ability to respond to the gospel in his fallen state and I would say as we enter into any discussion of predestination, but working always behind the scene of discussions on predestination. Is this fundamental debate right here hello and welcome to the Monday edition of Renewing Your Mind more than 30 years ago my wife and I decided it was time to leave the mainline Protestant denomination which we were both raised in a family member heard. We plan to visit a particular church one Sunday she warned us. Be careful.
They believe in predestination.
I don't. I have to admit that my theological knowledge at that time wasn't deep so I heeded that morning but I set out to try to understand why the subject was so controversial. Long story short through the clear teaching of Dr. RC role in others.
I brace this doctrine in the process gain a deeper understanding of who God is and who I am. That's why I'm pleased to have you join me now as we listen to Dr. schoolteacher from his series, chosen by God. As I look at the history of Christian scholarship, we see that every great Christian teacher.
Every theologian that the church is overproduced at some point or another has had to address this question of predestination, and though there is wide divergence of interpreting the doctrine of predestination is one thing that we can find that every theologian I've ever examined agrees on and that is that this doctrine must be treated with great caution.
It's a dangerous subject because the more we study at the tendency it has to raise more questions than it answers.
And I'm convinced that of all the doctrines that we struggle with in Christendom. There is none that is more shrouded in misunderstanding and confusion than the doctrine of predestination so that in itself calls for a certain kind of sober caution as we approach the subject. I would add to the theologians warning of caution that I think it's also a doctrine that requires an extra measure of charity as we struggle with it and that we need to be patient with each other and with those who differ from us in our views of this particular question because I said there is a lot at stake here and feelings can run very high when we discuss the matter of predestination and we ought to be careful to manifest the fruit of God's Holy Spirit among ourselves as we try to deal with the now. I keep saying the doctrine of predestination as if there were only one doctrine of predestination or if there even were such a thing as a viable doctrine of predestination. There are those who look at the question of predestination and stated in categories like this to say to a discussion between Christians will be do believe in predestination and some people answer the question either by saying yes I believe in predestination or they will say no I don't believe in predestination as if everybody understood what we were talking about when we talk about the doctrine of predestination that may come as a surprise to some of you that every church that I know of. Historically, every denomination that I'm aware of. Historically that is formulated a doctrinal statement of sorts has formulated some doctrine of predestination. There is a Roman Catholic doctrine of predestination. There is a Lutheran doctrine of predestination. There's a Presbyterian doctrine of predestination is a Methodist doctrine of predestination and so on. So we need to get that clear at the beginning that there are many many different doctrines of predestination. The reason why so many different denominations and different churches have doctrines of predestination is because the Bible speaks about predestination and all Christians who take the Bible seriously are therefore led to taking the concept of predestination seriously because it's a concept in a word that we find in the New Testament. Let's just take a moment and let me read a couple of passages to refresh your memory that introduce this idea of predestination to us on reading from the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians where Paul, in his opening greeting says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him in love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the kind intention of his will. And then if we move on down the page in the first chapter of Ephesians verse 11. Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to his purpose who works all things after the counsel of his will. Unless, of course, is not the only place in the Bible that we encounter this concept of predestination, but I just read that passage so that everybody will see that the word predestination is a biblical word and because it's a biblical word. All of those who have been diligent students of the Bible have tried to understand what the Bible means by divine predestination. Before we explore that closely. Let me get a little bit more historical background. There are many many many many different theologies to be found in the history of the Christian church just as there are many denominations that we've already noted, but I think it's safe to say that there are three basic generic types of theology. Historically and theologians speak of them in these general categories. One is what we call Pelagianism.
The second is what we call semi Pelagianism and the third is what we call Augustinian-ism know the reason for this threefold designation of basic types of theology has its roots in the fourth century when the church underwent a titanic struggle over many serious issues of theology and the one man who was recognized and usually acclaimed as the greatest theologian, at least of the first thousand years of Christian history, if not the greatest theologian of all Christian history who defended the faith at that.
Was of course St. Augustine and his chief opponent in several debates at that period of Christian history was a monk by the name of Pelagius and one of the critical things about which they debated was how important or necessary was the grace of God, for human salvation.
Pelagius was of the opinion that the grace of God assists human beings to be saved but is in no way necessary. His fundamental assumption was that man in his natural state has within himself the capacity to keep the commandments of God, to such a degree as to be redeemed without any help from divine grace. Augustine stressed the absolute dependence of the fallen sinner upon the grace of God for that sinner's salvation and really repudiated Pelagianism as an early form of sheer humanism and Pelagianism was seen not merely as a sub division of Christian thought. But really, as sub Christian and it's thought that is not even worthy of being considered Christian LSA.
There are three basic trains of thought to have come down to the church. Historically, I agree with this set up here I didn't invent this designation. But I agree with that. These are the three major generic types of theology that have influenced church history, and I see Pelagianism as the father of liberalism, so Simeon is in the came in the 16th century liberalism in the 19th century and so that you lower on coming from.
I would consider Pelagianism as on Christian fundamentally anti-Christian. Not an option for Christians like about the debates that have gone on within the church between semi Pelagianism and Augustinian-ism, which reflected later on in history between the remonstrance in the 16th century and the Calvinists, and so on. In the Methodist. These I would regard as debates within the household of faith. The arguments between semi Pelagianism and Augustinian-ism.
Semi Pelagianism says that man cannot be saved.
Apart from the grace of God. But there is something man must do, even in his still fallen state to cooperate with an assent to that grace of God before God will save him. That is a safe, he can't be saved. Apart from grace. But it is left for man in the final analysis to either cooperate with God's grace or reject God's grace and that becomes the convincing point of whether or not a person is saved or not, Augustinian-ism says that man is so seriously fallen that he is totally dependent upon the grace of God, even for his initial response to the gospel, even for the very cooperating and assenting to the gospel of Christ in the first so you can see at the outset that the debate has its roots in the question of man's ability to respond to the gospel in his fallen state and I would say as we enter into any discussion of predestination that working always behind the scene of discussions on predestination.
Is this fundamental debate right here between semi Pelagianism and the Augustinian, and I also need to warn you at the outset that I am persuaded of the Augustinian view of predestination and I will be setting forth the Augustinian view of predestination in the seminars. I will be trying to explain it to clarify misunderstandings that I think about concerning and I will try to respond to objections that are brought to it from some ablation brothers and sisters and try to convince you and persuade to that the Augustinian view is the Pauline view and consequently the biblical view and therefore the right one. But, of course, not everybody believes that not everybody agrees with and I think again we have to be honest at the outset and recognize that some tremendously important Christian leaders who have had an enormous influence for good in the kingdom of God have not espoused the view that I will be setting forth in the seminal. Let me just draw the scorecard for you and try to be fair, broad-minded, and all at the list on this side of the board theologians and church history who on this question. Predestination, in my judgment would fall into the camp of the Augustinian view and then to balance it off. I'll try to mention the names of the theologians who fall on the other side so will look first of all on the pro side of the Pro Augustinian view not remember we haven't really defined the Augustinian view, this is still background will get into what that view. Actually, it those that follow Augustine in the document. Predestination would include this may surprise you. And this may even be challenged by some, but first let's put Augustine himself since he didn't believe what he himself taught so will put Augustine at the top of the list that I was saying Augustine's perhaps most eminent disciple with respect to theology in general and even these doctrines, in particular my judgment the man belongs on the side of the column. St. Thomas Aquinas, Francis Schaeffer, I can almost hear him screaming at me from heaven right now because he would certainly not agree that Aquinas belongs in that category. But remember that Aquinas himself indicated his indebtedness to Augustine more than to any other theologian, church history, but since St. Thomas Aquinas is the supreme theologian of the Roman Catholic Church and since contemporary Roman Catholic theology does not embrace the Augustinian view of predestination. Protestants generally make the assumption that therefore St. Thomas didn't either.
You can challenge that if you want I will leave that open to debate and discussion the next man, there's no debate. The next man definitely belongs with Augustine and he is the reformer's reformer, the man who most emphasized predestination in the 16th century and the Reformation who was a no I wasn't John Calvin. John Calvin was his junior partner. The man who most adamantly defended the Augustinian view of predestination was Martin Luther not comes as a surprise because in the world today Lutheranism lines up opposite Presbyterianism on this particular doctrine is because a little quirk in church history where shortly after Luther's death, the Lutheran body under the leadership of Philip Melanchthon on a different turn and did not follow Martin Luther in his articulation of the view of predestination, but I think it's safe to say that Luther wrote more on predestination than Calvin ever dreamed of, and that there's nothing in the document predestination. I can think of the John Calvin ever taught that Luther didn't teach first and louder. So then now we can stick Calvin and there is a junior partner, John Calvin, and then I would add to the side of the column.
Jonathan Edwards never and I were gonna be honest and fair and above board about a list if you'd asked me this question or say who do you think the five greatest theologians that ever work. I would have no difficulty identifying the five greatest theologians ever lived. They would be Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin Edwards at they want their way ahead of the next five whoever they might know as biased as that may be.
I think there would be safe to say that if we asked any hundred theologians from many different denominations who the greatest 10 theologians were in history at least 98 1100 would mention these five in the tent men here are recognizably five Titans, and Giants of the Christian and if they all agree on espousing the Augustinian view of predestination.
Does that mean that the Augustinian view of predestination is the correct one, absolutely not, because these five men disagreed on many things, and though they agree on the essence of this particular matter is no guarantee that their views individually or collectively look first. We carry no brief for the infallibility of human tradition or for the infallibility of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, tell members know that we were all in together. But I'll say this when those five agree on something it gets my attention.
My let's take a few minutes and to do some basic definitions the Lord predestination in English is made up of a prefix and a root of prefix pre-maintenance before and the word destination is a word were all familiar with in the English language. Many of you came to Lincoln near this week because Ligonier was your destination. It was the place to which you were going. Anytime you make travel reservations with your travel agent that they may want to know is what is your destination that is where are you headed where you hope to end up not what were talking about the doctrine of predestination. We are not talking specifically about questions of whether or not God directly cause on automobile accident to take place, or if you were determined in advance to be sitting in the chair in which you are sitting right now.
The doctrine of predestination is concerned specifically with the question of our ultimate destination.
There are only two destinations open to us as human beings.
Ultimately, they are heaven or hell.
That is to be in a state of salvation or to be in a state of damnation and predestination proper is concerned not with those daily questions of whether or not I dropped his chalk on the floor with that was predestined that would fall under the theological heading of Providence. Those questions are legitimate questions for theology.
How much God's sovereignty is involved in our everyday actions and activities, and so on, but the doctor predestination proper is concerned about the question. Salvation and predestination is concerned about something that takes place before we arrive at that destination. Predestination has to do with God's involvement in the ultimate outcome of our lives in this may strike you as strange, but both Augustinians and semi-Palladian's agree that predestination is something that God does predestination has to do with God's choice regarding salvation God's choice regarding the salvation of people and this may also surprise you that both sides agree that God makes that choice about our ultimate destination before we are even born. Indeed, the foundation of the world as we just read in Ephesians that God chose certain people before the foundation of the world that may surprise you. John Wesley believed that Philip Melanchthon on believe that I met the portfolio Melanchthon on that list a moment go to but I didn't. In any case where the point of the vision is, is this critical juncture on what basis does God choose to save you before the foundation. The work is God's choice to save you based upon his prior knowledge of something that he looks down the corridors of time and sees that you are going to do and therefore looking down the corridors of time, he knows for example that you're going to respond positively to the gospel that you're going to choose Christ. When the opportunity avails itself to unknowing that you are going to choose Christ. God then chooses you to be saved, but he bases that choice on his prior knowledge of Dick's decision is a clear so that God is choosing you for salvation, but he's choosing you because of something he foresees in your life. The Augustinian view. On the contrary would say that what God foresees in your life has nothing whatsoever to do with his choice of you that his choice is sincerely by the good pleasure of his will, without any view to anything you may or may not do in the future. That's basically the heart of the issue of whether or not the choice is with a view to what you do or without a view to what you'd or what you will do with respect to the proclamation. While there are other things that will hold in common.
And then as we agreed certain points than the divergencies come in. The first thing that every Christian agrees is that the God we worship is a sovereign God how somebody works itself out in matters of salvation is what divides us, and so on. Our next session were going to look at the concept of the Psalm, and even as we ramp up today's message. I can imagine that that we have listeners who fully agree with RCN listeners who fully disagree whether you should know that RC readily admitted he struggled with this doctrine, but after careful study, he became convinced that it's what the Bible teaches, and it's discovered not just by picking out a few verses. It's a theme that permeates all of Scripture would like to send you all six messages from the series. It's titled, chosen by God thereto DVDs and will send them to you for your gift of any amount to look in your ministries you can make a request by phone at 800-435-4343 or you can go online to Renewing Your Mind.org last year through the prayers and monthly gifts of our ministry partners later ministries reach more than 56 million people around the world with theologically rich resources in multiple languages. If you are ministry partner. Thank you.
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Just mention it while you're on the phone with his sure you can sign up email@example.com/partner your Guntersville mentioned today that everyone believes in God's sovereignty. Tomorrow he will examine just tell sovereign God is are there realms in the created universe that God does not govern. I hope you'll join us Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind