Caleb Bass

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Caleb Bass is an associate pastor, hospital chaplain and Junior Undergraduate in Biblical and Theological Studies at Regent University. His extensive social media accounts allow him and his content access to thousands of people around the world.

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Double Predestination

The biggest problem we face in our society is not whether or not we believe God intervenes from time to time in mortal affairs, but rather who does He intervene with and how. This has been the central issue of the theological topic of “double predestination” dating back to the third century. There are those who claim that God does in fact, actively intervene in some people’s lives. The question then becomes: does God completely ignore the others, or does He “inactively” interact with them? Double predestination explores this soteriological issue.

While in a few particular passages it seems to come close to it, the Bible does not technically teach the doctrine of double predestination. “The Bible does teach that all salvation is based on the eternal Election of God in Jesus Christ, and the eternal Election originates from God’s sovereign freedom.”1 Erickson, Millard. “Salvation.” in Christian Theology : one volume edition. Grand Rapids : Baker Publishing Group, 890.

Although the Bible does not technically teach a decree of rejection, it does teach that there are those who are elect, there are those who are not elect, of whom are “reprobate” and that the elect are the minor portion of all individuals. Eternal election is the origins from where salvation is taught. So when the final history of the world is recorded, there will be two types of people: those who experienced salvation or ruin and received Heaven or hell. However, the further conclusion is not drawn that destruction is also based upon an equal decree of doom.

Is predestination double? That is the wrong question. The right question is, “how is predestination double?” There are a variety of views on double predestination. One of them is called “equal ultimacy”, and is based on a symmetrical view of predestination. It sees an active and equal symmetry between the work of God in election and his work in reprobation. Just as God intervenes in the lives of the elect to create faith in their hearts, the doctrine of equal ultimacy says God intervenes in the hearts of the reprobate to work unbelief. The active working of unbelief is inferred from biblical passages that speak of God’s hardening people’s hearts.

Traditional Reformed Theology rejects the doctrine of equal ultimacy. It is often regarded as “hyper-Calvinism”, but by reformed standards it is “sub-Calvinism”. Though Calvinism certainly holds to a kind of double predestination, it does not embrace equal ultimacy. Reformed theology makes a clear distinction between God’s positive and negative decrees. “God positively decrees the election of some and he negatively decrees the reprobation of others.”2 Buttrick, George. 1953. The Interpreter’s Bible in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 9, Acts Romans. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. The difference between positive and negative does not refer to the outcome (though the outcome indeed is either positive or negative), but to the manner by which God brings His decrees to pass in history.

The discrepancy regarding double predestination can be explained this way: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. By logical conclusion, God operates on the same lever with the elect and the reprobate. That refers to God decreeing some to election and by divine intervention, places faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation.

The opposite of that is, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum).”3Bruce, F.F.. 2008. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Romans. Donwers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. Regarding the elect, regeneration is the monergistic (singular) work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin is also monergistic.

This establishes a parallelism of both foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this a positive-positive view of predestination. God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation. Likewise, God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the sinner to bring him to sin.

That is not the Reformed view of double predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine. That is technically described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism (the election of some men to salvation in Christ and the reprobation of the others).

Now in the Reformed view of double predestination, God from eternity, decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith. “To those who are not-elect, God does not actively work sin in them, rather He simply passes them by, leaving them to themselves.”4Mohler Jr, Albert. 2017. ”Why We Protest.” Table Talk, October. Even though the hearts are hardened, God does not, as Martin Luther stated, “work evil in us (for hardening is not working evil) by creating fresh evil in us.”

The positive side refers to God’s active intervention in the lives of the elect to work faith in their hearts. The negative refers, not to God’s working unbelief in the hearts of the reprobate, but simply to His passing them by and withholding His regenerating grace from them. When you see evil acts committed on Earth, you are seeing what mankind can do when there is no active presence or restraints on the human mind, soul or spirit. When you see acts of evil on Earth, you are seeing the very heart of man without God. When you see acts of evil on Earth, you are seeing a hardened heart, turned over to its own evil and empowered by Satan himself.

This is why the doctrine of predestination is so profoundly important to the complete perspective to the relationship we have with God. It would be a matter of wicked neglect to denigrate or dismiss, in anyway, the importance of this doctrine. I would also take the stand that Martin Luther took, which is the belief that the doctrine of predestination is the “core ecclesia”, that it is in fact the “heart of the church”!

I don’t know of any other biblical doctrine, that adequately conveys the teaching of scripture regarding our utter dependence on the Mercy and Grace of God and our own inability. This is the promise of scripture, the very promise of God, that you are unable and woefully inadequate to save yourself by any means.

If you were able to save yourself by any means, men would be able to boast. “Ephesians chapter two is adamant, that there are no possibilities of boasting if you have been given the gift of salvation.”5Porter, S. E. 1993. “Holiness.” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald Hawthorne, 397-402. Downers Grove : Intervarsity Press. “The scriptures are clear: God saves men by His good pleasure”6White, R. E. 2017. “Sanctification.” in Evangelical dictionary of theology. 3rd ed. edited by Daniel Treier, 770-772. Grand Rapids : Baker Publishing Group. and since God is all knowing, He would had to of made the decisions of who to actively save and who to inactively leave alone, before the foundation of the world. Hence: double predestination.

By | 2018-04-28T04:19:02+00:00 May 3rd, 2018|

ESV Study Bible Review

ESV Study Bible Review

ESV Study Bible

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Book Overview

The best way to use a study Bible, is always to begin and end with the words of the Bible. We should always begin by reading the Bible’s actual words, seeking with our hearts and our minds to understand these words and apply them to our lives.

ESV Study Bible Review 1

SUMMARY

Since we have been given the Holy Spirit, there seems to be a disregard for studying and study Bibles, because “all you need is the Holy Ghost”. I disagree and feel that study Bibles can be immensely helpful to any Christian, particularly so to Christians without extensive theological training. In the Introduction to the ESV Study Bible, it says the following, “The best way to use a study Bible, is always to begin and end with the words of the Bible. We should always begin by reading the Bible’s actual words, seeking with our hearts and our minds to understand these words and apply them to our lives.

Then, after starting with the words of the Bible itself, we can turn to the study notes and many other study Bible resources for information about the background to the text, for the meaning of puzzling words or phrases, and for connections to other parts of the Bible. Finally, we should return again to the Bible itself, reading it with a new and deeper understanding, asking God to speak through his Word to the situation of our life and to draw us near to himself.”

ESV

The English Standard Version translation of the Bible, is considered by many biblical scholars to be a superior translation of the Bible and it is fast becoming the de facto translation amongst conservative and Reformed Christians. While I am not demanding as some when it comes to Bible translations, I do feel that the ESV is the best translation available today. As I understand the issues, it represents the best combination of readability and faithful translation. It is a joy to read and I find it as simple as any translation to memorize. While there are several other excellent English translations available, the ESV is top of the class. I have also found that through my Associates Degree and now in my Bachelors, professors who have studied more than I, are fond of the ESV.

ESV Study Bible
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ANALYSIS

Look & Feel

The ESV Study Bible is available in eight editions: Hardcover, TruTone Nat Brown, TruTone Classic Black, Black Bonded Leather, Burgundy Bonded Leather, Black Genuine Leather, Burgundy Genuine Leather and Premium Calfskin Leather.

The Bible is made to be durable. It’s binding is smyth sewn, which allows the Bible to lie flat even on page one and on page 2,752 (at least in the Premium Cowhide). The fonts are very dark and easy to read with a heavy black serif font for the biblical text and a thin black sans-serif for the notes and cross-references. The page headings are in a bold gray with page numbers in a thin gray. Chapter numbers are a large gray serif font while headings are italicized black sans-serif. Most of us are accustomed to this bleed-through in our Bibles. Where it is a bit more apparent and distracting is where it shows through on the maps and illustrations.

Most study Bibles offer maps and illustrations only in grayscale. The ESV Study Bible, though, offers full-color illustrations and maps. This is quite a nice feature. Though the standard glossy maps in the back of the Bible are superior in quality to the ones scattered throughout, even the smaller maps are nicely done and provide important geographical context without having to slip to the Bible’s final pages. The illustrations, commissioned specifically for this project, are very well done and nicely supplement the notes. 

Format

Each book of the Bible begins with an extensive introduction. This may include sections dealing with Time, Date and Title; Author; Theme; Key Themes; Purpose, Occasion and Background; Literary Features; Outline; and so on. Particularly important is the History of Salvation Summary which sets each of the books within the context of the wider body of Scripture and hence within the history of salvation. Introductions may also include timelines, maps, and notes on literary features specific to that book. In every case, the reader will receive a thorough explanation as to the book’s authorship, purpose and context in God’s plan of salvation.

The text notes vary in density but typically comprise about half of each page in the New Testament and perhaps a third in the Old Testament. They focus primarily on explanation and rarely on application. In one handy feature, highlighted notes correspond to primary points in the outline while highlighted verses and headings within the notes correspond to secondary points in the outline. (I show this in my video review).

Scholarship

The ESV Study Bible has been produced by a solid group of scholars. The General Editor is Wayne Grudem, the Theological Editor is J.I. Packer, the Old Testament Editor is C. John Collins and the New Testament Editor is Thomas Schreiner. The study note contributors represent a broad cross-section of reputable Evangelical scholars. The articles included within the Bible have been contributed by some well-known pastors and scholars, including John Piper, David Powlison, Darrell Bock, Leland Ryken, R. Kent Hughes, Daniel Wallace, and many more. (I show the list of contributors in my video review)

Controversial Theology

When purchasing a study bible, questions arise. “Does this particular study Bible take a Reformed or Arminian position on salvation?” “A complementarian or egalitarian perspective on gender roles?” “An amillennial or premillennial position on the end times?” I found this an interesting comparison with the Reformation Study Bible.

It seems to me that the Reformation Study Bible came from a much more narrowly-defined theological position; it was Reformed, it was cessationist, it was amillennial. The ESV Study Bible, on the other hand, offers a less-defined perspective. Where the doctrine is clear and undisputed among Evangelicals, so too are the notes. But where doctrines are controversial and within the area of Christian freedom or disputable matters, the notes tend not to take a ultra firm position.

So while it is clear that the ESV Study Bible is not %100 Reformed in its position, neither is it Arminian. It is not cessationist or continuationist and is neither amillennial nor premillennial. In many cases a person from one perspective wrote the notes while a person from the other perspective screened them. This ensures the notes maintain both charity and some degree of objectivity in those areas of dispute.

Having looked at the areas of dispute, I would not hesitate to recommend the ESV Study Bible to either new or mature Christians. The matters at the heart of the faith are described and defended while the matters of lesser importance are presented charitably and non-dogmatically.

CONCLUSION

I suspect that many of the people reading this review will already be owners of at least one study Bible. If you are currently using the Reformation Study Bible and are happy with it, I cannot offer you a distinct reason to rush out and purchase the ESV Study Bible. 

However, as I have stated, the ESV Study Bible contains notes and maps and articles that are not found in the Reformation Study Bible. If you are a student of the scriptures, you will want that information in your domain. This is a powerful resource and one that can aid any reader of Scripture. It is one I recommend wholeheartedly.

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By | 2018-04-18T02:57:34+00:00 April 18th, 2018|

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