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Predestination is not the issue, regeneration is

Discussion in 'Salvation (Soteriology)' started by Skala, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    There's hundreds of threads on these forums about predestination. People asking questions, leaning this way or that, talking about "predestination vs free will", etc.

    There's nothing really wrong with discussions about predestination, but predestination is not really the important thing to talk about.

    Regeneration is.

    The reason Calvinists believe in predestination is because they believe in:
    monergistic regeneration

    If you want to study predestination and settle your mind about it, study regeneration instead.

    Study the difference between monergistic and synergistic regeneration. It will give you a more full understanding of predestination. Talking about predestination with no mention of regeneration is a bit like talking about addition/subtraction with no mention of the numbers themselves. Sure, you can understand the concept of addition/subtraction without actual numbers, but the context would be lost on you.

    The reason Calvinists believe in predestination is because (aside from seeing it taught in the Bible) it's the only thing that makes sense if regeneration is monergistic.

    synergistic regeneration
    If people are responsible for changing their own hearts or have some part to play in their own heart-change from saying "No" and rejecting the gospel/Christ, to saying "Yes" to the gospel/Christ, then regeneration is synergistic (the result of effort from both God (who offered salvation) and you (who wised up and accepted the offer)), then predestination was not necessarily settled by God in eternity past and therefore your fate is/was determined by your free will.

    Monergistic regeneration
    But if the bible teaches that regeneration is monergistic, that means God alone is the cause of our conversion, our heart-change. It means God alone is to be credited for when a person says "no" to Christ, but then suddenly says "yes" to Christ. It means God alone is to be credited for when a person who is unwilling to repent and believe, suddenly becomes willing to repent and believe. If God alone is responsible for this free gift of grace, that means somewhere, in eternity past, God decided who to do this to. Bob but not John. Jason but not Jimmy. It means God somewhere in the past decided to save some people by grace but leave others (justly) in their sins.

    So the question is, do you take some of the credit for your willingness to repent and believe? Or do you give God all the credit for the reason you did what your unbelieving neighbor won't do?

    If you're a person who is new to entertaining these topics and studying them to try to figure out the truth, stop studying predestination and study regeneration instead.
     
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  2. Gracia Singh

    Gracia Singh Newbie Supporter

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    Though not a Calvinist, I find the theological controversies and doctrines surrounding and resulting from the Reformation and Counter-Reformation kind of fascinating. The Council of Trent's concluding documents are an interesting and valuable read, too. Gives a view of the essential issues, Catholicism's response, and how each side expressed, defended, and justified their perspectives. I do feel that many Christians deeply interested in the theological debates and nuances of early Protestantism would also benefit from studying Trent, as well as Early Church Fathers and Saints like Augustine, Saint Pope John Paul II, and the spiritual thoughts of Counter-Reformation Saints, like Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross.
     
  3. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    /wave Gracia Singh.

    Didn't expect to talk to you again so soon :D

    PS Augustine was a monergist ;)
     
  4. fhansen

    fhansen Oldbie

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    God absolutely covets our participation-which is why faith pleases Him so much-He simply knows that faith is the main step in man's rectitude-in his becoming right or just according to the wisdom of His design for us. But He'll never force us or override our wills, even as He uses grace to draw us. His intention has never been to force or manipulate man's will; He didn't do it with Adam and He doesn't do it now. If He were to do so, then a somewhat kinder God would've at least stocked heaven with the elect and hell with the reprobate to begin with-and avoided all the pain, drama, and suffering that has ensued in our world since the Fall.

    St. Augustine's “Grace and Free Will” begins with this:

    "With reference to those persons who so preach and defend man’s free will, as boldly to deny, and endeavour to do away with, the grace of God which calls us to Him, and delivers us from our evil deserts, and by which we obtain the good deserts which lead to everlasting life: we have already said a good deal in discussion, and committed it to writing, so far as the Lord has vouchsafed to enable us. But since there are some persons who so defend God’s grace as to deny man’s free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended, I have determined to write somewhat on this point to your Love, my brother Valentinus, and the rest of you, who are serving God together under the impulse of a mutual love."
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  5. Gracia Singh

    Gracia Singh Newbie Supporter

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    Hey again, man! Yeah, I thought I'd throw Saint Augustine's work out there. A lot of Protestants like and study him. I haven't actually read his work, but should, and would like to.
     
  6. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    Free will is not denied altogether in its activity in faith and repentence. The monergistic view affirms that we willingly and freely do those things because we want to do them.

    What monergism says is that we'd never be willing to do those things in the first place unless God first regenerates us, and that he does all by himself (mono). After we are regenerated, we freely and willingly, with our wills, put our trust in Jesus.

    For an analogy of synergism vs monergism:

    Fire requires 3 things:
    heat
    fuel
    oxygen

    If any of those 3 things is missing, fire is impossible. They are all necessary.

    Monergism says one thing is required in regeneration:
    God

    Synergism says two things are required:
    God
    Man

    In synergism, God won't convert the man all by himself - it requires at least some willingness or inclination that arises from the man's natural faculties, before regeneration happens.

    Monergism denies that such willingness is even a possibility with man's natural facultiies - they are only things that happen from a person who is born again/regenerated/spiritually alive.

    That is why in Calvinism/monergism, it is said that regeneration precedes (and gives rise to) faith.

    In synergism, (man-produced) faith precedes (and gives rise to) regeneration.

    In my estimation, synergism puts the cart before the horse.
     
  7. fhansen

    fhansen Oldbie

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    I tend to think otherwise. In synergism God wants to produce something, of value, because we will rightly and do so increasingly as we continue to remain in the faith, continue to walk and cooperate with Him. In this scenario God, again, draws man...into justice. There's nothing superior about a being whose will is totally controlled for all practical purposes. But there is something potentially great about a being who wills rightly, to whatever degree he can, with help but not strictly by a sovereign sweep of God's hand. And greatness is what He created us for; that's what reflects and glories Him as He endeavors to appeal to that part of us that is made in His image, and mold more of it into us.

    While humility demands that we recognize God, and not man, as God, and that we acknowledge and repent of our sins, there's nothing necessarily right and noble about continuously patting ourselves on the back for seeing ourselves as worthless or inept or depraved. Maybe God doesn't want to do it all. Maybe He made us for greater things, as said before, and desires to elicit the right stuff out of us, the stuff He made. Maybe He expects more from us, and wants more for us. Otherwise why not just prevent Adam from falling to begin with? If salvation involves nothing more than man falling, and God later saving those He's elected for salvation from the beginning, then what's the point of creation? This world has no real purpose in that case. But if man's will is involved, and continues to necessarily be involved since salvation isn't a one-time event, then this world is seen as a sort of school, where the evils, alongside of the good, in this world can serve to help inform our wills, and drive us towards the good alone, especially when such ingredients as revelation and grace are added into the mix. Here we work out our salvation as we struggle with sin, being tested and refined, no one knowing with absolute 100% certainty just who is numbered among the elect and who is not, whose names are written in the Book of Life and whose aren't.

    The RCC teaches that God created His world "in statu viae", in a "state of journeying" to perfection. I've come to appreciate these teaching from my faith:
    1731 Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

    1732 As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.

    1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."28


    The above paragraphs speak of man's freedom, and the obligation that this freedom places upon him as he, hopefully, strives towards the goal God has set for us all. The last paragraph below describes a delicate, subtle balance, where both grace and man's will are preserved in the act of justification.

    1993
    Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:
    When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  8. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Or you could just be Lutheran and avoid speculating about these things altogether and be assured that your justification is God's work alone.

    We don't look for justification in our religious experiences or piety, we look for it in the Word and Sacraments. If we doubt God's good will towards us, all we have to do is look to Jesus dying for us on the Cross, that is where we find our predestination.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  9. fhansen

    fhansen Oldbie

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    Sounds speculative as well-heck, we can be assured about whatever we prefer to be assured about. Whose predestination in this case, due to God's good will-everyone's? Or just those who 're convinced and convicted by what they see, and opt to embrace His love?
     
  10. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It is predestination for the one who believes.
     
  11. fhansen

    fhansen Oldbie

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    And continues to. And acts on that belief, as God wills him to. And perseveres in that to the end. Nothing we can predict with absolute certainty.
     
  12. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Is that the message you'ld preach to the despairing?

    We absolutely can have assurance that Christ died for us and payed for all our sins, past, present and future.
     
  13. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    I’m not sure the issue is what happens so much as how we think about it.

    It’s pretty obvious that we can’t take credit for being Christians. Whether we grew up as Christians or were converted, the things that led to us being Christian are outside of us. Even aspects of our character that led us to choose as we did aren’t anything we can take credit for. So salvation is from outside ourselves.

    If you combine that with an Augustinian concept of the impact of the Fall, that leads to monergistic regeneration. Even if we don't operate within the Augustinian framework (which increasingly I think i don't), if God is in control, then we can at least say that salvation has to be part of his plan. I think there's Scriptural support both for saying that salvation is from outside ourselves and that it's part of his plan. I.e. there's support for election.

    But predestination, at least as taught by traditional Reformed theology, goes beyond that. I claim it adds to the observation that salvation is from God, claims about the intention that lies behind God's plan.

    As Calvin describes it, it seems like he’s saying that before the creation of the world, God chose certain people to be damned, and set up his plans to do that. I don’t think you’ll find Scriptural support for that. Scripture says that he doesn’t want anyone to be lost.

    Frankly, we don’t know how God’s choice works. We don’t know what range of choices he has. Surely he can’t create logical contradictions, and he may well have reason to provide scope for human choice, and this may limit his options. We don’t know much about his intentions and how they led to the world we see, except that we know that he says he loves us, and we can see him working through Israel and Christ.

    So I’m inclined to think that the later Luther was right in saying that in a situation like this, we shouldn’t go too far in attributing intentions to God. While we should acknowledge that our salvation is from God, we shouldn’t attribute intentions to God that Scripture says he doesn’t have, even if from a strictly logical point of view it seems to be implied.
     
  14. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Predestination is supposed to be about confidence in God's grace, that he wills to complete in us what he starts. If you get beyond that, it starts to get wierd and really starts taking the focus away from Christ and towards "religion" as an ideology. That's not helpful in actually regenerating anybody.

    Indeed, Luther seems to have criticized the Islamic concept of kismet or fate later in his life, because he found the doctrine of predestination was scaring people in his pastoral duties as he travelled around Germany and read letters from people with concerns. Using the "Turk" as an example of how not to think about predestination as hapless fate. He also distanced himself from some things he wrote in De Servo Arbitrio (On Bound Choice/will).

    The LCMS accused what became the ELCA of being Methodists on this issue, and the churches that became the ELCA in turn accused the LCMS of being Calvinists. It was a bitter dispute in the early 20th century, and the details are too arcane to go into. Predestination is not a major focus in our faith really, and we at our church (ELCA) seldom talk about it. In my experience, Lutherans in the LCMS can at times sound a bit Calvinistic, and they talk about it more. But it's still not a really important theme, either way.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  15. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    This way of putting it is slightly misleading. There are two meanings of regeneration. One is what God does to make us capable of coming to faith. The other is the long-term work of restoring us to what we're supposed to be. The first is before faith. The second is after faith.

    Both Reformed and Arminian theology believe in both. Arminians don't think that humans can come to faith on their own. So a kind of regeneration is necessary. What differs is the concept of how that regeneration works.
     
  16. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    Isn't the doctrine for long-term work of restoration technically called/known as sanctification, by theologians?

    Also, Arminains do not say that regeneration is what helps the sinner come to faith - they say it's "prevenient grace"
     
  17. Petros2015

    Petros2015 Well-Known Member

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    What begins Monergistic completes Synergistic, perhaps.
     
  18. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    In this thread, I'm only interested in discussing the vital turning point of when a person goes from unbelief/not-justified to belief/justified. The question is whether the decisive impulse is the result of a mixture of the person's will/natural faculties and God's grace, or if it's just God's grace alone.

    For example:

    1) monergism: God changes Bob's heart, and as a result, Bob has faith and is justified

    2) synergism: God woos Bob (but does nothing decisive as in monergism), and Bob feels God wooing, and the final decision is left up to Bob to cooperate, to use his natural faculties to produce willingness to repent and believe. As a result of both God efforts and Bob's good sense/ability to make a proper spiritual decision, Bob has faith and is justified

    Well, the proper understanding is that before the creation of the world, God chose certain people to be saved, and set up his plans to do that. People are already condemned because they are sinners (no additional input is required by God)

    People are condemned because of sin
    People are saved because of God

    Not:
    People are condemned because of God
    People are saved because of God
     
  19. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Each theological tradition can have different nuances or even meanings to words.

    There are as many iterations of how God elected people in "Calvinism" as you can shake a stick at. Infralapsarianism, superlapsarianism, etc. There are indeed some that say God actively chooses who to damn before the Fall. It just depends. Most European Reformed emphasized only a passive reprobation, but American, Scottish, and Dutch theologians started speculating more about God's sovereignty.

    Frankly, I think the whole thing is a mess and it was one of the major reasons I am Lutheran and not Reformed, though I do respect many Presbyterians for their faith anyways.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  20. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    Please note that synergism isn't talking about our active participation in the christian life. It's talking specifically about whether or not we contribute to our own conversion (regeneration).

    Ie, is our willingness to abandon our sins we love so much for the Christ we hate (by fallen nature) so much to be credited to God alone in changing our hearts? (monergism)

    Or is our willingness to do those things a mixture of God who is merely wooing us (but not doing any decisive such as changing our hearts so that repentance and faith is a gaurantee) and then us capitalizing on this wooing to produce a spark of some spiritual good activity from our natural (un-regenerate) faculties? (synergism)

    In other words, are we able while unregenerate, to produce faith? The monergistic view says "no, you are unable to do that while unregenerate, you have to be regenerate to do that"

    The monergistic view is that a just as a person who is physically dead cannot take any physical steps, a person who is spiritually dead cannot take any spiritual steps (such as faith, repentance, etc) So regeneration is absolutely mandatory for anyone to be saved because nobody would repent and put faith in Christ otherwise.
     
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