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One can ask:

  • if one believes in predestination, then why share the Gospel?

A common response one often hears is:

  • because God also said to share the gospel or

  • perhaps God predestined you to be the one to share the gospel to cause this other person to become converted

I never quite found either response intellectually satisfactory. I recently came across the following, and wanted to see if it's consistent with reformed theology:

  • if you share the Gospel, and the person is among the elect, then you glorify God because you've brought someone closer to salvation (i.e. probably one part of a multi step program)

  • if you share the Gospel, and the person is not among the elect, then you also glorify God, for you have increased that person's sufferings in Hell, and it glorifies God to punish those in hell

Thus, one should avoid hyper-calvinism in only preaching to only those that one believes to be among the elect, but rather preach to all: for in either way, God is glorified.

Edit

Both of the responses below are beautiful. The flaw in my question is that "intellectual satisfication" is not a vaild measuring stick for biblical doctrine.

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1) Your claim that it glorifies God to punish those in hell is too crass to make clear Biblical sense. God is not willing that any should perish, yet in His plan many do. Is God glorified in this? Yes. Does He delight in it? No. He doesn't take joy in it. Your crassness doesn't let one appreciate the difficulties of this problem. –  San Jacinto Sep 28 '12 at 11:48
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2) Let me put my friendly critic hat on: what's curious is that you also don't ask the same question about communion, baptism, prayer, and works. If you're saved by grace, you don't need any of those things for salvation, right? So why even bother? If holy, sovereign God already knows who is going to do what, why they will do it, when they will do it, and whom they will do it to, then why pray? What about these things do you find "intellectually satisfying?" –  San Jacinto Sep 28 '12 at 11:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Perhaps the two "common" responses are not "intellectually satisfying", but at the very least, they are both highly biblical:

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." {Mark 16:15}

and

for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!"
However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" {Romans 10:13-16}

Therefore, it glorifies God to preach to all because His Word is being proclaimed, and we also know that His Word never returns "empty" {Isaiah 55:11 and 1 Corinthians 15:58}:

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

and

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

While God's Will is ultimately accomplished - whether via displaying His grace or in pouring out His wrath on evil, He does not please Him to punish anyone:

"For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live." {Ezekiel 18:32}

and

"Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" {Ezekiel 33:11}

The first point you raise, therefore, would be both biblical and in keeping with reformed theology, but the second point (regarding helping to increase punishment to Hell) is both unbiblical, and out of line with reformed thinking.

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Praise God for when we no longer look upon His commandments as "not intellectually satisfying." –  San Jacinto Sep 28 '12 at 11:42

The problem you raise is only a problem because a doctrine has been cherry-picked and used out of context. Taken in step with and understanding of God's Covenant relationship with men and the whole counsel of Scripture, this becomes a non issue.

And no, your suggestions are not particularly in line with Reformed theology, at least not as a motivation for evangelism.

Frankly, those just are not the Biblical terms this issue is framed with (see warren's answer). The common responses that you listed as "not intellectually satisfactory" are likewise somewhat lackluster, and even concerning that intellectual satisfaction is being used as a measure of their usefulness. What happened to faith or obedience? Do you find the command 'thou shalt not murder' to be intellectually unsatisfactory? Is that even a valid question?

God commands it. If a direct order from the maker of heaven and earth isn't good enough rationale what is? But seriously, to somebody who has first received and been transformed by this Gospel the order to spread the message is hardly a burden or unsatisfactory assignment. What higher privilege could we be given than to be charged with such a task?

A proper understanding of predestination must be taken in the context of the whole of Scripture, from which we understand not just that God has chosen people, but HOW he works to bring those chosen people to himself. Through His word. How shall they believe if they have not heard? Who is charged will telling them? Who are we told to tell? Everyone.

Election is God's business, it says nothing about what man is going to be able to figure out about other men along the way. This quite has always amused me:

If God had put a stripe down the back of every one of his elect, I would walk around London lifting up coattails. Since God didn't, I preach "whosoever will." -- Charles Spurgeon

Election isn't something you see written on people's foreheads as you approach them with the Gospel. "Hey Sir can I tell you something? I've got this great news about a Savior. See, you're lost and ... wait let me see that ... sorry to bother you, this message isn't for you."

Has the Gospel done its work in you such that you love lost people the way Christ did? These kind of objections / sentiments seem to come mostly from people who have never actually reveled in the sheer magnificence of what they have heard nor shared that message and watched it do it's work in others. The Word changes people. Transforms them from dead bones to living beings. You watch this happen a time or two and the question "why share these words" stops even being a question.

Hyper-Calvinism is easily avoided by preaching the Word itself rather than Calvinism. The doctrinal framework may help us understand the word, but it itself is not the word.

If you really need a way to think about it, I was once encouraged by a preacher who used my sister as an object lesson. "It's obvious to me you love your sister very much", he said. "Now, what would you do if she was lost? She has been abducted and is a slave somewhere. Is there anywhere you wouldn't go to find her? Is there anything you would not do to win her back? Would any depth of she might have been plunged to ease your desire to reclaim her?". By the same token as adopted heirs of Christ, we have family out there that is lost. We don't know what they look like or where they are. We don't know what level of depravity they might have sunk to or under what guise they pass. What we do know (an these are Biblical terms) is that they are enslaved to sin, bound in darkness. Do we love them? If so are we still going to sit around looking for an intellectually satisfying reason to get out there and find them?

2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV)
20  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

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Two aspects seem inadequately covered in the previous answers: the natural human response to good news (Gospel) and the glorification of a person one loves (particularly a hero).

One would think it odd if a citizen of Berlin did not become a bit evangelic about the fall of the Berlin wall but just went about as if nothing special had happened and when told about the good news of great joy just said something like "I already knew about this wonderful news and have already taken a piece of the wall. Now I need to get back to work." There is something human about wanting to share good news. (Of course, fear, doubt, and other factors can suppress this natural inclination.)

The motive of glorifying one's beloved is also a very natural, human motive. One might think it a bit odd if a husband did not want to tell the world about some great accomplishment of his wife (though this sort of boasting seems more common with parents and children). The husband would naturally try to convince others that the accomplish is great which includes expressing the relevance to each individual. This aspect may be expressed in 1 Peter 2:9b: "that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (NIV). Even Christ as a hero should naturally generate boasting (e.g., consider how some boast of the accomplishments of sports heroes; I suspect that such boasting would occur even if the boaster knew the other would never be convinced beyond "okay that person is not the worst athlete in the world").

Even if there was no love of neighbor, no awareness of the command, no appreciation of being an active part of this grand plan of redemption, I suspect basic human nature would provide some motivation for sharing this Good News; so part of the answer to "why evangelize" may be "because one is human" (the perfecting of this humanness may 'simply' be part of sanctification; so true humanness plus an awareness of the goodness of the news with a love/admiration of the hero behind the news would lead to spreading the news).

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Good observation. The view IS intellectually untenable. See where it goes.

One can ask: if one believes in predestination, then why share the Gospel?

Absolutely. Predestination, if true, guarantees the person will be shown the gospel, will believe, will be saved. The evangelist is redundant.

A common response one often hears is: because God also said to share the gospel

That's because predestination is wrong. Why would anyone have to make an effort if the end result is a foregone conclusion? Its pretty wasteful. 'Least hyper calvinism is consistent. It is the logical outcome of Calvinism.

perhaps God predestined you to be the one to share the gospel to cause this other person to become converted

If God predestined me then God will show me a surefire target. That the believer is not known beforehand is obvious, because God expects everyone to spontaneously manifest ”the image of God” and chose right, rather than manifest ”not the image of God” and chose wrong. Everyone has the image of God within him or her. One is free to exercise the right to manifest or not.

I never quite found either response intellectually satisfactory. I recently came across the following, and wanted to see if it's consistent with reformed theology: if you share the Gospel, and the person is among the elect, then you glorify God because you've brought someone closer to salvation (i.e. probably one part of a multi step program)

If you share the Gospel and the person is elect, then his salvation has nothing to gain from your input, because God has done all the work and His command to you is a nullity and He has basically goofed up. The Gospel is going to reach that person even with no effort, so God was duplicating His efforts: another person may evangelise, he may read a Bible on his own, God can send a dream. God seems to be mounting a multi pronged effort. Seems like too much contingency planning. Pretty un-Godlike. More like ”human effort”. Or a ”God who emptied Himself” effort.

if you share the Gospel, and the person is not among the elect, then you also glorify God, for you have increased that person's sufferings in Hell, and it glorifies God to punish those in hell. Thus, one should avoid hyper-calvinism in only preaching to only those that one believes to be among the elect, but rather preach to all: for in either way, God is glorified.

This is the phenomena we observer in Calvinist thought: when the logical outcome of their view is horrific, the goalposts are moved and a view is adapted which is contradictory to the first view.

  1. The elect will always be saved. Logically, evangelism is redundant.

  2. The elect will only be saved if they hear. Logically, there are no elect amongst the Taliban or undiscovered Amazonian tribes.

  3. God can evangelise with a dream Logically, it would be more efficient to send dreams to all the elect.

  4. God commanded us to evangelise. Logically, a dream is more convincing than human speech.

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