3

Although this question regarding 1 Corinthians 10:13 is thematically closely related it differs in specifics to what I am asking. It asks about God's provision of a way to escape and endure temptation and the subject audience is arguably those who are saved whereas I am asking about God's provision of repentance leading to salvation and the audience is arguably the unsaved.

In Act 17:30 we have it clearly declared that:

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 

  • A quick sidebar - It is noteworthy that the apostle Paul is here addressing a crowd of unbelievers at the Areopagus in Athens, which crowd is parenthetically described as all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing. The reason I make note of this is because of an answer to an earlier question where the verse in question was assumed to scope universally but was indicated to potentially scope to believers only.

Paul begins his address to this crowd by pointing to a statue (amongst many statues) inscribed to an "Unknown God". He expounds to them the one true God, whom they do not know, and in this context to this group declares that God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. Since the meaning of repent is to change one's mind it seems that Paul is relating that God has commanded all men everywhere to change their mind. Since the context of the discourse is the existence and nature of the one true God it seems that the command is to change one's mind about God.

From other answers in the Reformed/Calvinist perspective I have gleaned that repentance is a gift that is given by God. That is to say, unless repentance (a change of mind) is given to an individual that individual cannot repent (change their mind). I have also gleaned from these answers that God does indeed give this gift of repentance ... but only to some, and the some are the few that "find" the narrow gate to life (Matthew 7:12-14).

It appears then that, according to Calvinism, God has universally commanded a change of mind to a group that is universally unable to do so unless God gifts the ability AND that he does not gift that ability to the majority of the group. Is this the Calvinist position? According to Calvinism does God both issue commands AND withhold the ability to obey to the same group?

5
  • 1
    The verb is παραγγελλει. Para (alongside) and ἀγγελία (a message). It is an 'alongside message' to the εὐαγγέλιον the evangel. Alongside the glad tidings of the gospel is another message : to (metanoia) have another mind. To say this is a 'commandment' is very poor translation. Alongside the gospel message is a message to have another mind. This message is sent to all humanity. 'Glory in highest Godward. And on earth, peace. Among men : goodwill' : as said the angelic host when the Christ was born in Bethlehem. These are invitations : not 'commandments'. Whosoever will - take freely.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 8 at 17:55
  • 1
  • I wonder if people disliked my answer bc of the wording about Calvinists facing contradiction. I only meant that until one faces all the implications of a belief he can’t resolve such questions. Not that Calvinism per se is or is not contradictory. I took that sentence out. Anyway the answer is there. Is a good question. I’ll check the other
    – Al Brown
    Aug 9 at 2:07
  • @curiousdannii Yes this is almost exact duplicate. Yeah the answer there is esp good. But one can still run each time to “but God made them that way. why?” This is the objection that must be faced not shuffled back and forth between God and man. And for “real” Calvinists as below: it is all for His ultimate glory. (many quotes available). This cosmos is about God not us
    – Al Brown
    Aug 9 at 2:28
  • @Nigel KJV has it right. "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 4:17 Repent is in the imperative mood which makes it a command. Aug 9 at 12:22
2

You used the phrase, "God's provision of repentance leading to salvation". God's provisions are seen throughout all of creation to be supplied in order for good appetites to be satisfied. Do we feel hungry? God has provided an abundance of food so that we do not die. Do we feel thirsty? God has provided an abundance of drink so that we do not die. Do we feel sexual urges? God has provided the means to enjoy sex (within stipulated circumstances, it must be added) so that the human race will not die out. And here is where the provision of repentance unto life comes in. Let me explain.

God has created us all with a conscience. A God-given conscience starts out as sensitive to what is wrong, (sensitive to sin, in theological terms) - sensitive to doing, and even thinking, that which is against God and his ways. That conscience can lead to desiring to avoid that which is against God. But that desire has to be much more than wishful thinking; it has to be a heart-felt longing to please God, not self. That is because the supply of a God-given conscience is designed to satisfy the desire to please God. Everybody starts out with that, whether they acknowledge that fact in later life, or not. But because the heart of sinners is corrupt (spiritually 'dead') God has to create a new heart that beats for him - which he does, for those who cry out to him.

Therefore, God's provision of repentance is initially his provision of conscience, which will satisfy our need to live in harmony with our creator. It is also his provision of the finished work of Christ - already available. Tragically, many people stifle their conscience, if not actually sear it as with a branding iron. (1 Timothy 4:2 - "having their conscience seared with a hot iron...") God does not sear their conscience. They do that themselves because they have no appetite for doing what pleases God. They do not want God's provision to satisfy the need to please God because they choose to please themselves.

That is why the call to repent is both a command and an invitation, for nobody is forced to repent if they prefer to satisfy their own desires instead of God's.

Repentance is certainly not an option for, without it, nobody will be saved. You said, "unless repentance (a change of mind) is given to an individual..." I have just explained why it is a God-given conscience that is given to every individual, but repentance is not just changing one's mind about matters; it is receiving the mind of Christ, which is impossible without God's enabling (1 Corinthians 2:16). That is what accompanies salvation and convinces the individual that God truly has forgiven and saved them. They think entirely differently. Their desire to please God increases year on year as they become ever more sensitive to a now spiritually enlivened conscience.

The Westminster Confession has a section on Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience, which I will briefly allude to.

"The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel, consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin [a matter of conscience, I would suggest], the condemning wrath of God" [and many other things] "as also in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love, and willing mind." XX.1

A commentary on this section of what can be called 'a Calvinistic' stance explains:

"But man in his fallen state, has liberty without ability to do good because of his total depravity. He is free to do as he pleases, but he is not pleased to do good at all." The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, p147, G.I. Williamson (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1964)

A God-given conscience starts to be stifled by displeasure at what God calls 'good', substituting that for what sinful, spiritually dead people call 'good'. The desire to please self begins to grow until that conscience is seared.

So, this is not really a matter of the ability to obey being withheld (by God, as you think). As the Westminster Confession goes on to say about God alone being the true lord of the conscience:

"God alone is lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience." XX.2

When men desire to be lord of their conscience, they are rejecting God's provision to satisfy the desire to please God. Neither is this really a matter of 'just' having a change of mind, for repentance is being given the mind of Christ so that one then desires to live obediently to honour God. Trying to obey laws won't cut it. Only having the mind of Christ brings transformation of mind that is shown in transformed living. Right desires are rightly provided for by God, and those who have God as lord of their conscience know it.

4
  • So there are those who don't sear their consciences as much or as actively as others and are, therefore, more inclined to respond to the "repent and be saved" of the Gospel? Or, everybody sears their consciences to the point where they cannot respond because they have no desire to please God? Aug 15 at 16:38
  • 1
    @Mike Borden Everyone starts out with a God-given conscience, but it is not until a person has God as LORD of their conscience that the transformation is seen to have happened. You and I can never tell what stage a person is at, if God is beginning to call them or not. But he reads hearts and minds and knows the way a person will take. The desire to please God only comes when a person’s awareness of their sin causes them to cry out to God for forgiveness. “Repent and believe the good news” is all of the one miraculous ‘thing’. A seared conscience WILL not respond.
    – Anne
    Aug 19 at 16:53
  • "But he reads hearts and minds and knows the way a person will take." This sounds like a step away from hard-line Calvinist election and more in line with election according to foreknowledge. Aug 20 at 12:09
  • 1
    @Mike Borden Yes, it does, rather. Interesting, uh?
    – Anne
    Aug 21 at 10:57
1

Yes Calvin would certainly be comfortable with your phrase but only feel it was too weak in expressing the severity of the truth concerning Gods justice and power.

God is much more bold in exercising his freedom, he ‘actively hardens’ into disobedience those he commands to obey, in order that they might be used as objects of his amazing wrath. Of course this is evident in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, then killing him for his obstinance.

On Romans 9:22 one can get a glimpse of Calvins thoughts on the subject:

Romans 9:22 (Calvin Ro): 22. And what, &c. A second answer, by which he briefly shows, that though the counsel of God is in fact incomprehensible, yet his unblamable justice shines forth no less in the perdition of the reprobate than in the salvation of the elect. He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected; for it was not meet that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men; and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable. He therefore keeps us from curiously examining those things which exceed human comprehension. He yet shows, that as far as God’s predestination manifests itself, it appears perfectly just. The particles, εἰ δὲ, used by Paul, I take to mean, And what if? so that the whole sentence is a question; and thus the sense will be more evident: and there is here an ellipsis, when we are to consider this as being understood,—“Who then can charge him with unrighteousness, or arraign him?” for here appears nothing but the most perfect course of justice. But if we wish fully to understand Paul, almost every word must be examined. He then argues thus,—**There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God’s vengeance and displeasure. **If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth;—what is there worthy of being reprehended in this dispensation? But that he is silent as to the reason, why they are vessels appointed to destruction, is no matter of wonder. He indeed takes it as granted, according to what has been already said, that the reason is hid in the secret and inexplorable counsel of God; whose justice it behoves us rather to adore than to scrutinize. And he has mentioned vessels, as commonly signifying instruments; for whatever is done by all creatures, is, as it were, the ministration of divine power. For the best reason then are we, the faithful, called the vessels of mercy, whom the Lord uses as instruments for the manifestation of his mercy; and the reprobate are the vessels of wrath, because they serve to show forth the judgments of God. (Calvins Commentaries on Romans 9:22)

However one must not conclude that by not arguing against the scriptures and accepting Gods free right to soften and give grace to who he will and to harden and destroy who he will, like a potter with his clay, that it creates conflict with his love for the world. Gods predestination does not contradict his universal love for all. However it certainly seems to contradict to a dumb human like me but that’s because humans can’t look directly into the glory of God and live, otherwise his infinite councils of knowledge would blow up and end our finite spools of thread we call the brain.

Many Calvinistic theologians accept both predestination and Gods love and don’t try to reconcile the seeming contradiction but rather trust God, knowing we are not equal to God we can’t even understand scientific things in the creation let alone eternal balancing of incomprehensible attributes of love, knowledge, justice, power, etc:

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 28:1-5 NIV)

3
  • 1
    It appears to me that Pharaoh first hardened his own heart several times before the Scripture tells us that God hardened Pharaoh's heart and this is keeping with the "giving over" principle of Romans 1. Election is said to be according to the foreknowledge of God and, is it God's foreknowledge of what He will do or what men will choose? Sep 7 at 12:34
  • Yes, true, the hardening before, on his own accord, is usually noticed by commentaries and may act as a clue into understanding God's incomprehensible will. At a minimum God certainly can't exclude his knowledge of men, in his deterministic knowledge of the future. For example when a prophecy was made that Jesus would be 'born in Bethlehem', God probably knew that nobody was going to burn Bethlehem down, preventing that fulfillment - but it's also true that everyone living in Bethlehem no longer had free will to burn it down either.
    – Mike
    Sep 7 at 13:36
  • 1
    God's foreknowledge doesn't eradicate free will in this way. The foreknowledge of every choice precedes creation itself and the choices made or not made are exactly what are foreknown. In your example, God perfectly foreknows that no choice to burn down Bethlehem will carried out. God knew Adam would choose to sin and He created anyway, having first slain the Lamb from before the foundation: He foreknew, sacrificed, and then created. Sep 7 at 13:49
0

First, you’re not wrong about Calvinists declaring God is determining all, the whole situation and outcome:

All events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God.

  • John Calvin in Institutes

I discuss Calvinist thinking on the general topic, and then apply it to your question: the answers to what was asked are in the second section. Finally, some words about what in Calvinism imo usually causes the balking.

Calvinist Take on The General Topic

In addition to references, we can reason out what other responses would likely be if consistent. Some less famous who havent faced the implications will dance around saying “No don’t put that on God” then “Yes He is sovereign” in a complex loop that avoids facing and addressing the issue. What I would call real Calvinists, who have faced all the implications and addressed all the questions, have something like layers:

Even though God created and predestined a sinful world, God then righteously rules it, post-creation, as love and truth and light. As a righteous God, He abhors sin. Calvinists stick to that, including especially His dealings with us after creation in both aspects (love and judgment). There is a kind of implied division between the Creator and Sovereign with Calvinism. So why did He do it?

Ultimately, as MacArthur and Spurgeon and Calvin often make explicit, all for Gods glory. Period.

Including MacArthur here: https://youtu.be/6LFzk1afiD8 If you ever wanted a picture of the glorious, awesome, dreadful, saved-assuring cosmos outlined by an unyielding neo-Calvinist, that talk of his on the problem of evil will do it. Creating in advance a situation with sinners where He will love them but will have be righteous and therefore judge them, and yet to mercifully provide a way out that some as He created them will take and some won’t... all for His glory.

Additional reasons for creation include 1. living through vessels made in His image, and 2. that they may glorify him too, and finally 3. the idea that we cannot really know the mind of God:

[Before creation, H]is all-sufficiency could spirit of no lack. Consider next, if ye can, the eternal purpose of God that he would create... He creates that he may display his own perfections. He does beget, as it were, creatures after his own image that he may live in them; that he may manifest to others the joy, the pleasure, the satisfaction, which he so intensely feels in himself. Certain I am his own glory must have been the end he had in view; he would reveal his glory to the sons of men, to angels, and to such creatures as he had formed, in order that they might reflect his honour and sing his praise.

  • Charles Spurgeon, 1916, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Your Questions

Applying that here: “makes a way out” could mean anyone seeking God’s will can escape. But some were designed and predestined such that they wouldn’t be seeking God’s will. But if they were, there would be a way out. So they were free to. But couldn’t due to Him, so kindve not free. This is the sense in which God provided a way out as I see that a Calvinist would answer.

Secondly.. a command which any God-seeking person could obey. “Could” if they had chosen to follow Christ, which they (in some sense) also “could” have done, as the offer is for all. But he made them such that they wouldn’t. Yes, it’s harsh. But fairness seems to presuppose free will. Am I being unfair to my hammer, or screwdriver? All for His purposes and glory.

This “liberty” is compatible with our being depraved, the servants of sin, able to do nothing but sin. In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title [as “free will”]?

  • John Calvin, On God’s Sovereignty

(To choose independently of their sinful nature requires divine intervention. I find this rings true. Calling that free will is indeed generous. Were you free before Christ?)

In Calvinism, the universe is about God not us. Any “real” Calvinist won’t (because he can’t) pretend it’s all roses. They often unofficially separate God’s creating from Him thereafter, but ultimately God created sinners to damn. Some upfront ones will say that in those words. The implication for us, come to the Cross. In practice we still function this way.

Romans 9:22 ESV

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction

Key Points of Calvinism

This is mostly opinion about the challenges neo-Calvinism presents. Calvin himself didn’t run from them, but rarely discussed the trouble spots like those after him, “neo-Calvinists). He hammered home the hope and the opportunity.

Omnipotence

One factor making Calvinism seem harsh might be naive and fanciful notions of omnipotence. God is God, hence in control of all. But what constraints are inherent in reality? Omnipotent not meaning He can make the truly impossible happen (eg literally and mathematically make 3+3=10 be true), or other constraints. He has all the power there is, that is obvious. Beyond that we cannot know what realities can or cannot actually be made even by the Omnipotent.

The fine-tuned universe discoveries show that coherent reality is inherently difficult, not inherently robust, and that a universe where anything meaningful could happen is already not just a challenge but a miracle: https://youtu.be/bc44f_3QfwE?t=122 (next minute or so, sans his conclusion about it)

With that understanding of omnipotent, the shaking of all things, creating a new heaven and earth, and whatever else He is up to, are not simple to pull-off where it can be done in any easy fashion, and perhaps it requires some unrepentant? Or something else we cannot know.

Eternalism

Much of the problem comes from eternal damnation. If we did not believe that, then this plan of God’s would not seem so bad. Much of the objection hinges on that. Destroying the unsaved after then being used in this drama to save and glorify and eternally love the regenerate is more palatable. There is a link in the comments about the extent of support for Annihilationism.

Romans 9:23 ESV

in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory

Sovereignty would then be much more palatable, but eternal damnation is part of Calvinism. The point is that Sovereignty and predetermination in and of themselves are obviously compatible with Annihilationism as well.

Humility

Humility makes it easier. Who am I judge Him?

Job 38:1-7 ESV

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

And it goes on for two chapters challenging Job about the process of creating and running the cosmos since he claims it should be done better.

The Almighty is maintaining a cogent universe, creating a new heaven and earth. Can we understand the mind of God? Dogmatic clinging to any interpretation seems overconfident.

5
  • 1
    "and yet to mercifully provide a way out that some will take and some won’t" Wouldn't the Calvinist position say "and yet to mercifully provide a way out that some can take and some can’t" Aug 9 at 12:18
  • It depends on what we mean by “can”. If He puts some free chocolate in a room and He knows (or even made it so that) someone is allergic to chocolate, will they eat it? No they won’t. “Can” they? That’s a matter of definitions. Real answer goes past semantics. Honest Calvinists can’t and don’t shy away from it: Calvinists believe God made some people to be damned. Period. Is it justified if they are made (by Him) to be bad people who are “deserving” of damnation, or not? Other Calvinists circle forever saying “dont blame anything on God; later to say Oh yes He is sovereign.” Honest ones don’t
    – Al Brown
    Sep 5 at 19:41
  • But again, at the risk of repeating, annihilationism makes it so much easier to deal with, for me at least. christianity.stackexchange.com/a/84108/54533 (Incidentally Im a tad bit annoyed this got mass downvotes. Is slowly getting back to the surface. First time I was suspicious of someone grouping, or agenda or something. I pulled it verbatim from an answer with dozens of likes so that basis for annihilationism could be cleanly asked and answered somewhere on this se. Some group obsessed with claiming the Bible says eternal damnation? Those quotes provided dont seem to be so into it)
    – Al Brown
    Sep 5 at 19:42
  • 1
    Annihilationism doesn't affect this for me; damned is damned and I don't think God made most (few find the narrow way) for the sole and inescapable purpose of damning them. Sep 5 at 20:14
  • Ok. Sorry if I mentioned multiple times. Thanks for the clarity. Ive been a bit curious. Thanks. Id only emphasize the remaining fact that the upshot for us both is we are all sincerely invited. Thanks be well Sir
    – Al Brown
    Sep 5 at 20:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.