Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jesus, Parables...and the doctrine of Election

After listening to the July message-of-the-month from Ligonier Ministries, I was compelled to blog about a particular aspect of it. The topic of the message was the Parables of Christ. In usual fashion Dr. Sproul began by speaking on why it is important to glean from the pedagogical methods used by Christ...hence the parables. He then pointed out how Jesus' use of parables is one of the indicators that point to the doctrine of election. And to this I agree with Sproul's overall summation. Therefore I wanted to do a brief run down of the passage Sproul uses to make his point.

We're all familiar with Matthew 13 where Jesus delivers the parable of the sower. He gives us the four possible conditions/reactions that we will encounter when the Gospel is preached. Not only is the teaching itself profound, but in verse 10 it leads the disciples to then ask Jesus his purpose for parables, to which Jesus responds, to you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (ESV). I personally cannot see how else this verse can be interpreted? I think its overtly clear that Jesus is telling his disciples that they have received the ability to understand what was being spoken, and the others have not; which, as Jesus goes on to say, is a fulfillment of Isaiah 6. So, I think it's safe to conclude from this passage (and others) that the ability to [ultimately] hear what Jesus [truly] meant was something that was/is not given to everyone.

Now why would Jesus say that the revelation of the Gospel has been given to his disciples and not given to the others, outside of teaching the doctrine of election? We see the same thing taught in several other places, particularly John 10:26. For purposed of keeping this post short, the classical Arminian appropriation will not be considered. I will say this: Why would the biblical authors use concepts like this, and terminology such as "chosen," "elected," "given/not given," if in fact something wholly other was intended? For purposes of clarification, and to avoid confusion it would seem much easier to leave the aforementioned out.

I'm going to end here and give you John Calvin's commentary on this verse. I think captures the essence of the passage by stating,
To ascertain fully the meaning of the present passage, we must examine more closely the design of Christ, the reason why, and the purpose for which these words were spoken. First, the comparison is undoubtedly intended by Christ to exhibit the magnitude of the grace bestowed on his disciples, in having specially received what was not given indiscriminately to all. If it is asked, why this privilege was peculiar to the apostles, the reason certainly will not be found in themselves, and Christ, by declaring that it was given to them, excludes all merit. Christ declares that there are certain and elect men, on whom God specially bestows this honor of revealing to them his secrets, and that others are deprived of this grace. No other reason will be found for this distinction, except that God calls to himself those whom he has gratuitously elected. (my italicizing)


Anonymous said...

So then, you are saying that only the disciples were saved and the rest of the population were nothing more than cord wood for the fires of hell?

Are you also with those believers who carry signs at "gay" functions proclaiming "No Tears for Queers", and "God Hates Fags"?

Does adherence to this doctrine cause you to be offhand about evangelism because God will save whom He will and there is nothing that we can do about it?

I have heard these comments, and more, from Calvinist believers, but I do not read of them in Jesus' words.

Yes, maybe that IS and extreme view, and maybe I AM being unfair to you, but I just have to ask those questions to make people think through the end result of their theology.

No personal offense is intended.

Damian Romano said...

Bobby, no offense taken. That's just part of being a Calvinist.

In answer to your first question, I'm not saying that only the disciples were saved, certainly there were others. I am saying from Jesus own definition for his use of the parables and other places do point to a redemption for a specific people and not everyone. Off hand, John 6:44, 65; John 10:26, etc. I think the trouble with questions like this is a matter of perspective. See, this question presupposes that God might be wrong (or unjust) if he were to do this. What prevents God from being able to cast all of sinful humanity into hell? Could he not do this and still remain holy and just?

With respect to the second question, God forbid! Individuals who are decidedly homosexual could just as easily be chosen of God as anyone. Sin manifests itself in many way against God. Though this is more heinous than others, having done this before accepting Christ will not keep one from getting into the kingdom (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11). However that doesn't prevent me from preaching the whole council of God, which includes denouncing sin as rebellion against God, which includes homosexuality.

Third question, not at all. If anything the doctrine of election enriches the task of evangelism in that though we don't know who will be saved, we know that some will be saved. Unfortunately those who take the opposite position have no real guarantee that anyone will be saved.

Anonymous said...

Read a new article on the doctrine of election at:

See what you think.

God Bless!