Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ang Lai Hoe: Addressing the biblical validity of a claim against unconditional election

The biblical doctrine of election has many foes, and much misunderstanding. In this paper, Lai Hoe Ang attempts to clear up the fog over the matter, in dealing with one objection against the doctrine of election: the salvation or damnation of infants. An excerpt:

Many objections have been raised against the biblical teaching of divine election. This paper aims to address one of them, namely that “God is not fair to send non-elect infants/babies upon death to burn in hell”.

This particular objection is predicated upon a denial of Original Sin, or at least a non-consideration of that doctrine. Those who make such an objection thus reveal their error, denying the direct teachings of the Bible on the sinful nature of the baby and even the unborn (Ps 51:5) such that infants are sinners born in sin. This objection therefore does not primarily deals with the state of non-elect infants but rather on the biblical teaching of original sin. If one truly understands the doctrine of divine election and the salvation of man biblically, this objection would not be raised, for the eternal judgment of the non-elect is for the glory of God.

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Pastor Lemuel Hii reviews Ang's paper as follows:

预定论是教会历史中一直争论不休的课题,有人就知难而退,认为毕竟这是牵涉到上帝的奥秘。预定论的确会因为错误和不完整的了解,以致产生一些的危机和误解。但,就如奥古斯丁所说:“对预定论绝口不提的人,他们要用什么掩饰自己的骄傲,因为他们这样就间接指控神是愚昧的、无深虑的,就如神没有预测到他们自以为有智慧所看见的这危险?"

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The review has been translated into English as follows:

The doctrine of predestination is a contentious topic throughout the history of the Church. Some discern the difficulty in addressing it and therefore refrain from doing so, figuring that we should not transgress the hidden mysteries of God. Indeed, misunderstanding or incomplete understanding of the doctrine of predestination does indeed cause spiritual danger and doctrinal error.

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The paper is now open for discussion.

34 comments:

PuritanReformed said...

It seems to me that Pastor Lemuel is suggesting that a belief in double predestination logically implies that God is the author of sin. I dispute that reasoning as being fallacious. For unless we say that God is not really sovereign, then God must be the first cause of everything, including sin. God however escapes moral culpability because sin and sinful actions are not directly caused by Him, but are caused by secondary agents under His control, not through creating evil but through regulating, curbing and channeling their evil for His greater glory. After all, evil is the absence of good, not an equal but opposite force of good, which is Gnostic Dualism.

Augustinian Successor said...

I agree with Daniel. God is not subjected to Platonic ideas of the Good. God is Good. God is Love. On the other hand, we are creatures who are subjected to His Will. This is why we are morally culpable, and God is not.

Anonymous said...

我完全同意神有绝对的主权,神也不是罪恶的源头,罪是从完美创造中,误用自由所产生的。问题的重点是,双重预定论或绝对预定论是否会有这种错误的嫌疑,因为预定人得恩典,也预定人灭亡。我的看法是神预定人得救,而不蒙预定的人,是因自己的罪灭亡。可以更多谈谈你们的意见。

Pastor Lemuel Hii

PuritanReformed said...

Pastor Lemuel:

I think the doctrine of double predestination does not say that God predestines unto election and reprobation in the same way. Rather, double predestination is assymmetic. Election is active (积极) while reprobation is passive (消极).

Augustinian Successor said...

"Rather, double predestination is assymmetic. Election is active (积极) while reprobation is passive (消极)."

I would slightly disagree with Daniel here. Yes, double predestination is "asymmetric." But I disagree that reprobation is passive. Reprobation is just as active as election is. But election is always in the foreground - reprobation in the background.

Election, in other words, always has the priority. Election comes "beforehand" reprobation. Thus, reprobation is grounded in election.

Augustinian Successor said...

Election implies reprobation; reprobation presuppose election.

Election is the "proper" work of God; reprobation is the "alien" work of God.

PuritanReformed said...

Jason,

I would rather say that both election and reprobation are personal/primary works of God. By passive, I mean that God does not have to "add" anything or "do" anything extra besides destining the reprobates unto destruction. Whereas for election, God has to work in the sense of foreknowing, calling, sending His Son to die on the Cross for our sins, sending the Holy Spirit to regenerate the elect etc etc.

See my short article on this subject here (http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/ddd_chc82/theology/fatalism.html)

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Daniel,

Good point.

On the other hand, I believe we can agree that reprobation also involves 'hardening' the hearts of the reprobate. Just as Jacob and Esau were representative of the elect and reprobate, respectively, likewise the case of Pharoah is not unique to him alone.

Whilst the Gospel is to be preached God's unconditional grace, it has the 'hardening effect' on the reprobate, just as if the rest of the Word is proclaimed.

(Will read your article).

Augustinian Successor said...

The hatred God had for Esau is grounded in His love for Jacob. It is not evident from the text of Romans 9. But other passages such as 'God is Love' sets the balancing perspective.

Augustinian Successor said...

Likewise, the Cross forefronts the love of God. But in the background stands God's reprobation.

The Cross is to be proclaimed as God's love for all *sinners* (emphasis not on all, but sinners).

But Jesus died for *elect* sinners alone.

Augustinian Successor said...

If I may, I would like to say that supralapsarianism is not inconsistent with christology.

Ephesians 1 declares that the elect are chosen in Christ. The same Paul in Romans 9 also teaches love and hatred of God towards Jacob and Esau respectively.

Mejlina Tjoa said...

Always find it hard to stay at discussion level when probing deep into this doctrine of double predestination... it appears that submission to God's sovereignty and silent wonder are called for. As John Calvin said, It is a terrible doctrine...

PuritanReformed said...

Mejlina sis:

the doctrine of predestination is IMO one of the most comforting doctrines in Scripture. Without it, no assurance of salvation =)

Anonymous said...

或者简单来说,上帝既然预定了某些人得救,因此不被拣选的,就是上帝所弃绝的。这可以说是积极和消极的分别,虽然圣经中说:上帝爱雅各,恨以扫,但这“恨”也可以说是消极。只要这个消极没有被动的意思。或者也可以说是一个事情的两面。
但,人总会问:那神为何要造这些神所弃绝的人呢?让他们没有机会得恩典,以致受罪恶的刑罚。你们会如何从理性和感性上给予他们答复?

Lemuel Hii

PuritanReformed said...

Hi Pastor Lemuel,

>但,人总会问:那神为何要造这些神所弃绝的人呢?让他们没有机会得恩典,以致受罪恶的刑罚。你们会如何从理性和感性上给予他们答复?

The biblical answer is found in Rom. 9: 20-23. The Christian philosophical answer is to manifest the justice of God. And since grace by nature is undeserved, nobody can ask the question why they do not "have a chance" to taste the grace of God (没有机会得恩典).

Jacky said...

@Daniel, "After all, evil is the absence of good, not an equal but opposite force of good, which is Gnostic Dualism."


Just to clarify:

Are you saying that all evil is the absence of good?

Are you referring to Augustine's understanding of evil?

Ming Liang said...

Quote Daniel Chew:

"God however escapes moral culpability because sin and sinful actions are not directly caused by Him, but are caused by secondary agents under His control"

... but He is the ultimate cause, yeah? Begs the question.

.. and non sequitur - why then "not directly caused by Him" therefore He not responsible huh? Must be directly meh?

Mother abort child, doctor do the abortion (directly responsible), but according to your understanding only doctor responsible lor, mother no wrong lor lol! After all, mother no do abortion what!

"... not through creating evil but through regulating, curbing and channeling their evil for His greater glory."

Bare assertion - God didn't create evil meh? Please explain/argue why.

"After all, evil is the absence of good"

Another bare assertion. Pse argue why ... Or are you just parroting Augustine?

truly yours,

Ming Liang

PuritanReformed said...

@Jacky:

yes, I am saying that.

I am not exactly sure about Augustine's understanding of evil, especially since it has beeen quite a long time since I read anything by him. I do vaguely remember that it was said that Jonathan Edwards advocated the same view of evil here described.

PuritanReformed said...

@Ming Liang:

>but He is the ultimate cause, yeah? Begs the question.

I was not trying to explain evil, but to give a viable philosophical explanation of how God can be the ultimate cause but not the author of sin.

>and non sequitur - why then "not directly caused by Him" therefore He not responsible huh? Must be directly meh?

First of all, according to the Scriptures, whatever God does is good so therefore God can never be the author of evil. Your direction of reasoning is wrong. Scripture teaches us that God is good, and that God is sovereign. These two are axioms for the construction of any philosophical explanations that seek to answer the question of theodicy.

Since God hold all responsible for the actions they themselves do, therefore God cannot be the direct author of evil. Since God is sovereign, evil must be under His control. The only way IMO that the two can be put together consistently is that evil is indirectly caused by God.

>Mother abort child, doctor do the abortion (directly responsible), but according to your understanding only doctor responsible lor, mother no wrong lor lol! After all, mother no do abortion what!

Wrong analogy. In this analogy, the mother is the one who is directly responsible for the abortion; the doctor is the human instrument and accomplice. A better analogy would be that of the State and the poor in the state.

>Bare assertion - God didn't create evil meh? Please explain/argue why.

As stated earlier, your epistemic direction is wrong. We must start off with the axioms of Scripture, then seek to understand how they logically cohere. We are not to start with our own autonomous human reasoning and question the teachings of Scripture.

Ming Liang said...

@Daniel Chew

Daniel: “I was not trying to explain evil, but to give a viable philosophical explanation of how God can be the ultimate cause but not the author of sin.”

>In your previous comment you wrote, "God however escapes moral culpability because sin and sinful actions are not directly caused by Him, but are caused by secondary agents under His control"

So yeah, it begs the question, “Why is it so that God “escapes moral culpability” just because evil are (allegedly) not directly caused by Him?”

It also begs several other questions:

1. Is evil (all kinds of evil?) not directly caused by God? What is your argument for this?

2. What kind of evil are you referring to in “I was not trying to explain evil …”?

3. You referred to moral evil in “sin and sinful actions.” But does God escape moral culpability for metaphysical evil and physical evil? If so, why?

4. If God is the ultimate cause of all things, and if all things include evil, God is the ultimate cause of evil. Do you agree/disagree with this? If so, why?

Daniel: “First of all, according to the Scriptures, whatever God does is good so therefore God can never be the author of evil. Your direction of reasoning is wrong.”

>I’m sorry, but I believe you’re trying to convince me with circular reasoning i.e. we know that P (e.g. P=God is Good; God is sovereign etc) because the Bible says so; we know that the Bible is true because God inspired it (and God cannot lie); we know that God inspired the Bible (and God cannot lie) because the Bible says so. Hence, a circulus in probando … yeah right. Your direction of reasoning is illogical.

Daniel: “Scripture teaches us that God is good, and that God is sovereign. These two are axioms for the construction of any philosophical explanations that seek to answer the question of theodicy.”

>Yeah right, same fallacy as above. LOL!

Daniel: “Since God hold all responsible for the actions they themselves do, therefore God cannot be the direct author of evil.”

>The Bible claiming that “God [does] hold all responsible for the actions they themselves do” doesn’t mean that this ought to be the case. What if God shouldn’t have held them responsible i.e. **gasp** the Bible is actually incorrect here, or that your interpretation of the Bible is incorrect here, or there’s a mistake in your version, or … etc (e.g. Calvinists even believe that God actually made some humans unto destruction for His glory, depriving reprobates of effectual and particular grace, and these cannot choose otherwise etc)? The Is-Ought distinction must be clearly argued for, not merely asserted (is-ought fallacy plus bare assertion, yeah right).

Even if you can argue that God is not the “direct author” of evil (which you haven’t even begin to show), it does not mean that God is “automatically” morally non-culpable if he is an “indirect author” (using your lingo). But God as a necessary being must be the ultimate cause of all things, don’t you agree?

Ming Liang said...

con't
@Daniel Chew

Daniel: “Since God is sovereign, evil must be under His control. The only way IMO that the two can be put together consistently is that evil is indirectly caused by God.”

>Yeah right, same fallacy as above – circular reasoning from Bible. Haha!

Here you acquiesce that “evil is indirectly caused by God.” GIVEN [emphasis here to emphasize that this is given to you, and not that I agree with you] that God is the indirect cause (and indeed, the ultimate cause) of evil, how would you argue from that fact (?fact) that He is not morally culpable?

Daniel: “Wrong analogy. In this analogy, the mother is the one who is directly responsible for the abortion; the doctor is the human instrument and accomplice. A better analogy would be that of the State and the poor in the state.”

>My analogy doesn’t become a “wrong” one simply because you claim it to be. That’s wishful thinking … heh heh heh … you got to show why it is a wrong analogy. Also, why is your State/poor analogy a better or correct one?

I can also insist (assert) that God is the one who is directly responsible for evil; the human is the instrument and accomplice. You got to learn to argue from propositions, not merely assert leh …

Daniel: “As stated earlier, your epistemic direction is wrong. We must start off with the axioms of Scripture, then seek to understand how they logically cohere. We are not to start with our own autonomous human reasoning and question the teachings of Scripture.”

>As stated earlier, your epistemic direction is wrong. We mustn’t start off with circular reasoning, and then seek to understand how “circles” logically cohere. We should not be afraid to use reason and logic. Isn’t it hypocritical if we must first use reason and logic to understand or to interpret scripture (how else would you understand scripture or derive these “axioms”?), then turn around and say that we should start from scripture, and not from “autonomous human reasoning”?

Think about it.

One of my friend will take it from here … you’ll hear from him real soon. Yeah man, it will be fun.

Augustinian Successor said...

Ming Liang and friend(s) are trying to argue that God must be morally culpable is the Creator of evil.

God is not for the simple reason that God is not answerable to anyone but Himself. To be morally culpable is to be accountable for one's actions.

Augustinian Successor said...

"As stated earlier, your epistemic direction is wrong. We mustn’t start off with circular reasoning, and then seek to understand how “circles” logically cohere. We should not be afraid to use reason and logic."

Circular reasoning is not neccessarily illogical. Atheism is based no less on circular reasoning.

E.g. there is no God because there is no evidence of God. It begs the question, how do you know? How do you know that God has chosen not to reveal Himself to you (through His Word)?


"Isn’t it hypocritical if we must first use reason and logic to understand or to interpret scripture (how else would you understand scripture or derive these “axioms”?), then turn around and say that we should start from scripture, and not from “autonomous human reasoning”?"

Because you are confusing logic with contents. Logic is the art or science of thinking properly. It does not yield information. It only processes information. Scripture alone gives the information necessary to know the one true and living God.

Augustinian Successor said...

"The Bible claiming that “God [does] hold all responsible for the actions they themselves do” doesn’t mean that this ought to be the case. What if God shouldn’t have held them responsible i.e. **gasp** the Bible is actually incorrect here, or that your interpretation of the Bible is incorrect here, or there’s a mistake in your version, or … etc (e.g. Calvinists even believe that God actually made some humans unto destruction for His glory, depriving reprobates of effectual and particular grace, and these cannot choose otherwise etc)?"

Because the Bible which is the Word of God says so. Human beings are responsible because God says so. Thus, human beings ought to be responsible. The terrfying thing for you is that God predestines those whom He holds to be responsible.

What if this goes against my will? Well, it never goes against your will because you are not free to decide your destiny. To be free to decide your destiny is not freedom but bondage. Why? Because you are a creature not Creator. It is impossible for a creature to ever be free, free from his/her Creator, for to be that is precisely cease to exist at all.

It is only by trusting in God alone for our destiny that we can truly be free.

PuritanReformed said...

@Ming Liang:

>So yeah, it begs the question, “Why is it so that God “escapes moral culpability” just because evil are (allegedly) not directly caused by Him?”

>Even if you can argue that God is not the “direct author” of evil (which you haven’t even begin to show), it does not mean that God is “automatically” morally non-culpable if he is an “indirect author” (using your lingo). But God as a necessary being must be the ultimate cause of all things, don’t you agree?

I think I have mentioned that your epistemic direction of reasoning is wrong. You insist on arguing based upon your fallible autonomous human reasoning in disputing the Bible. However, the Bible and its truth stand over and against your reasoning. I will now deconstruct your entire argument.

========

>>So yeah, it begs the question, “Why is it so that God “escapes moral culpability” just because evil are (allegedly) not directly caused by Him?”

Why is it that God does not escape moral culpability just because evil is not directly caused by him?


>1. Is evil (all kinds of evil?) not directly caused by God? What is your argument for this?

What is your argument for the contrary? How do you know either way?

>2. What kind of evil are you referring to in “I was not trying to explain evil …”?

Precisely the point that I am not trying to explain why evil exists. I am only trying to explain how it exists given the axioms of Scripture.

>3. You referred to moral evil in “sin and sinful actions.” But does God escape moral culpability for metaphysical evil and physical evil? If so, why?

First of, upon what basis is evil defined as "evil". Secondly, why must God be culpable for "metaphysical evil and physical evil"?


>4. If God is the ultimate cause of all things, and if all things include evil, God is the ultimate cause of evil. Do you agree/disagree with this? If so, why?

No, I disagree. Please elucidate the arguments for saying so.

PuritanReformed said...

>>I’m sorry, but I believe you’re trying to convince me with circular reasoning i.e. we know that P (e.g. P=God is Good; God is sovereign etc) because the Bible says so; we know that the Bible is true because God inspired it (and God cannot lie); we know that God inspired the Bible (and God cannot lie) because the Bible says so. Hence, a circulus in probando … yeah right. Your direction of reasoning is illogical.

Logic, as Jason as said, is the manner of reasoning. It is nonsensical to say that a "direction of reasoning" is illogical. In fact, talking about circular reasoning, yours is also circular. After all, why it is that your axiom of the rightness of your moral sense is to be trusted?

>The Is-Ought distinction must be clearly argued for, not merely asserted (is-ought fallacy plus bare assertion, yeah right).

Sorry, you do not seem to understand what you talking about. I argue based upon what IS and OUGHT to be based upon the axiom of Scripture. Unlike you, who only argue based upon what IS.

>Here you acquiesce that “evil is indirectly caused by God.” GIVEN [emphasis here to emphasize that this is given to you, and not that I agree with you] that God is the indirect cause (and indeed, the ultimate cause) of evil, how would you argue from that fact (?fact) that He is not morally culpable?

How can you argue that God is morally culpable for sin even if he is the ultimate cause of it? Prove your bare assertion.

>>As stated earlier, your epistemic direction is wrong. We mustn’t start off with circular reasoning, and then seek to understand how “circles” logically cohere. We should not be afraid to use reason and logic. Isn’t it hypocritical if we must first use reason and logic to understand or to interpret scripture (how else would you understand scripture or derive these “axioms”?), then turn around and say that we should start from scripture, and not from “autonomous human reasoning”?

And of course, your own circular reasoning is off-topic for discussion, I presume. Aren't you doing the same, except instead of Scripture, you substitute your own moral sense?

>One of my friend will take it from here … you’ll hear from him real soon. Yeah man, it will be fun.

yea, right. Tell him (or is it you) to make more sense, instead of talking rubbish. And btw, don't expect to go to AT's slanderous and blasphemous site.

PuritanReformed said...

Jason,

I agree with you. Mingliang and co. do not even understand the definition of "culpability" and "responsibility". Humanistic reasoning always try to apply their concepts as defined by themselves and put themselves as judge over God, as if God is the one on trial instead of them. God is not culpable because He as the sovereign is not answerable to anyone, let alone an abstract definition of "goodness", as if goodness can be defined apart from the source of goodness - God. Similarly, Man are responsible because God as the CREATOR holds them (the CREATURE) responsible.

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Daniel,

What they don't understand is that their approach is nothing but self-justification. But self-justification is bondage. It is to be trapped in the game of self-defense. Free will is here a defensive doctrine. So in the end, free will ends up being not really free after all. One forever remain under the Law. Only by being justified by the Creator can one be truly free.

PuritanReformed said...

Jason:

=)

Mejlina Tjoa said...

Half the time this looks like disconnected conversation. I think before putting argumeents back and forth it is more helpful to clarify each party's presuppositions first, rather than assume it.

(E.g. do both sides of the arguing parties believe in an all good and all powerful God? If not, perhaps the arguments need to move even further back to start at a point of common ground).

@Daniel to your previous point. Yeah predestination is most comforting for believers, BUT most sobering too when you think about the entire humanity. At least I cannot go at length and depth on this topic without feeling the increasing tension to stop and be silent before His sovereignty.

Augustinian Successor said...

"(E.g. do both sides of the arguing parties believe in an all good and all powerful God? If not, perhaps the arguments need to move even further back to start at a point of common ground)."

Dear Mejlina,

I don't think the other side believe in an all-powerful and all-good God. Maybe I'm wrong. They never identify their position.

Augustinian Successor said...

Evil is not incompatible with an all-good God. It is just that on this side of the eschaton, we are unable to demonstrate or reconcile both. This is why we walk by faith, not sight. This is what it means to submit to Scripture.

Augustinian Successor said...

"BUT most sobering too when you think about the entire humanity. At least I cannot go at length and depth on this topic without feeling the increasing tension to stop and be silent before His sovereignty."

Yes, we can only bow and submit to the Word of God.

PuritanReformed said...

Mejlina sis,

with regards to election and predestination, for me I see the wickedness of men and the wickedness in myself, and I shudder. God is just in sentencing all humanity to hell; as such, I do not want justice, but mercy.

I hence cannot say that I am sobered by the thought of reprobaton and hell. Rather, I am sobered by the wickedness of Men and the "common grace" that God has dealt with all humanity in not wiping us out of the face of the earth immediately. If not for the grace of God, all of us would be 10 times worse a blasphemer than AT.