Nepaug Bible Church - http://www.nepaugchurch.org
MAKING SENSE OF GOD'S ELECTION: a Digest of the Essentials of the Work by Donald R. Shell - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/election/elmss930.s.htm
MAKING SENSE OF GOD'S ELECTION: a Digest of the Essentials of the Work by Donald R. Shell
Part IV: Resolving The Election Debate
B. Explaining Why The Misunderstanding On Election Ever Arose And Resolving The Election Debate
- Our work counters centuries of MAJOR beliefs in Christendom, so we owe answers to questions a reader would raise about our path less traveled. We first explain why the misunderstanding arose:
- The major errant views on divine election and predestination originated with the corruption of Bible truths by pagan philosophies in (partial) fulfillment of Christ's Matthew 13:33 (cf. Matthew 16:5-12) prophecy.
- We trace the development of this doctrinal corruption as follows:
- First, the British Isles monk, Pelagius adopted pagan Stoicism's belief that one could discipline himself to function rightly, so he held unsaved man could participate in his own salvation (opening the door for Arminianism's use of faith to help in salvation) (Williston Walker, Hist. of the Christ. Ch., rev. by Richardson, Pauck & Handy, 1918, reprint (N.Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959), p. 168).
- Then, Augustine reacted to Pelagius' error by using beliefs laced by Plato's pagan philosophy, a claim we can justify from the book, Calvin and Augustine [reprint 1956 (Presb. and Ref. Pub. Co., 1974)] by the reputable scholar and Calvinist, B. B. Warfield [in the preface of this work, J. M. Kik, Ass. Ed. of Christianity Today claimed B. B. Warfield was eminently qualified to evaluate Calvin and Augustine.]
- Plato taught there were two worlds of reality, a lower, imperfect one witnessed by the senses and an upper "World of Being" with perfect knowledge beyond the senses (Gorton Carruth, ed. in chief, The Volume Library, reprint, 1917 (Nashville: Southwestern Co., 1994), v. 22, p. 2025.
- "At the top of" his "World of Being" was Plato's " . . . greatest Form . . . the Good . . ." (Ibid.)
- Medieval thinkers tried to merge Christianity with philosophy, and Plato's "Good" offered them a match for God (Ibid.); the first to unite them "in a convincing way was St. Augustine." (Ibid., v. 22, p. 2026) Even B. B. Warfield wrote of Augustine: "The task he had set himself was to construct a Christian philosophy out of Platonic materials," Ibid., Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, p. 375.
- Yet, doing so left Augustine open for developing a view of how salvation faith is authored that rises from errant pagan influence: since Plato's "Good" heads all reality, identifying it as God yields a mystical kind of pantheism where man is but an extension of God (Ibid., Walker, p. 98, 163-164) and even his faith is thereby of divine authorship! Even Warfield held Neo-Platonism impacted Augustine's anthropology, writing that Augustine's "ontology of innate ideas' . . . is that they are the immediate product in the soul of God the Illuminator . . . in which alone it perceives truth. No doubt there is a Neo-Platonic factor in this construction . . ." (Ibid., Warfield, p. 395-396)
- Warfield adds that Augustine admitted he exchanged his former Semi-Pelagian belief that "the faith by which we believe in God is not the gift of God . . . [and by it] obtain the gifts of God" with the view that salvation faith was authored by God "especially by'" what he read in 1 Corinthians 4:7, Ibid., Warfield, p. 378 (brackets ours). However, as we found in our chapter on efficacious grace, salvation faith is not even named in that context, so Augustine's Neo-Platonism had to be the source from which he concluded that in place of Semi-Pelagian belief, faith is authored by God! (Secular historian E. M. Burns would agree with this conclusion, West. Civ., 6th ed., 1963, p. 272).
- Centuries later, the Protestant reformers, Luther and Calvin saw in Augustine an authority figure even their Catholic opponents deeply respected, an authority who also said justification was by God's pure grace. Calvin especially adopted a number of Augustine's teachings, including his claim God authors salvation faith. His writings thus borrow quite freely from Augustine on the subject, cf. Edwin A. Blum, "Augustine: The Bishop and Theologian," Bib Sac, (Dallas: Dallas Seminary), 138:549, p. 66.
- Finally, Arminians have opposed Calvinism to give freedom to the human will through usually errantly reducing the depravity of man's sinful nature. However, besides the illogical treatment of God's election, doing so has often revived the initial Pelagian error of a meritorious salvation "faith" in man.
- Resolving the Debate - The major views on divine election must be purged of their respective pagan leavens: (1) man is not a pantheistic extension of God as Augustine's Neo-Platonism led him to see man, for man authors his own faith; (2) yet, man's faith is not meritorious as in Pelagianism, a stance impacted by Stoicism, for God alone saves man, Romans 4:5. As man authors his own faith and God alone justifies him, God's grace is not compromised, faith and election stay logically necessary and the Bible remains God's inerrant Word in accord with the main thesis of our work! Glory to God!