Sweet, Pleasant, and Unspeakable Comfort: The Anglican View of Predestination (Part I)

The doctrine of election is one of the most misunderstood of Christian doctrines and one of the most contested within Christian communities. In a previous post, I debated some questions about election with Peter Ould. Since then, I have done more reading in the scriptures and more research into the classical Anglican teaching on this topic and have found that while my previous rejection of Calvinist predestination was appropriate, my understanding of the Anglican approach to election may have been deficient. Over the course of this brief series, I hope to sketch out the Anglican theology of predestination and election that comes through in the Anglican formularies and in classical Anglican teaching. For today, though, let me begin by showing why I believe the Calvinist understanding of predestination to be insufficient in regards to the teaching of holy scripture.

There are multiple Calvinist sources that could be consulted to gain a clear view of Calvinism’s approach to election, but they all tend to ground their position in Romans 9. From there, they argue for what is commonly referred to as “double predestination.” The word predestination here does not mean that God has mapped out every move we will make in our lives per se but refers only to what will happen in regards to our salvation. Before the world began, God elected or chose certain people whom He would create to be saved and others whom He would create to be damned. All of us would deserve to be damned through our own choice to sin, but some would be saved by grace through Christ’s work on the cross. Thus, Jesus Christ did not die for all, but merely for the elect. For an elementary explanation of this position set to an unbelievably bad hip hop track, click here.

The only way to use Romans 9 as a proof text for double predestination is if it is ripped out of the context of the rest of Romans and the rest of scripture. There are many places in the Bible where God’s election is discussed. Almost all of them point to an election that is gracious and motivated by mercy, not by some sort of arbitrary choice. In Ezekiel 18:23-24, the Lord says, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.” This hardly seems indicative of a God who chose those who would be eternally damned before the world began for the sake of proving His own sovereignty to…er…Himself. Similarly, John 3:16 and its famous proclamation that “God so loved the world” makes no sense if the world is only the elect. Finally, Paul himself says in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as all die in Adam, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Similarly, in 1 Timothy 2:4 he says, God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And in 2 Timothy 2, Paul speaks of God’s election in terms of our continuing in faith or choosing to fall away. There is no once saved always saved, no once damned always damned.

Romans is an incredibly beautiful account of the way in which we are saved by Christ’s offering of Himself for all of us. And Paul is clear that this gift is for all of us. He calls on the Church in Rome to preach the Gospel to “all the world” (1:8). And that Gospel is that “as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (5:18). Justification comes from Christ for all, just as wrath is for all without Christ since all have sinned (2:12, 3:12, and just about everywhere else).

Though the word “elect” is not used there, the most specific teaching about election in Romans is what is found in chapter 6 where Paul speaks about Baptism as the means by which we receive this grace that Christ has won for us on the cross. We have been baptized into Christ’s death, which means that we will be raised with Him in resurrection (6:3-11). There is nothing symbolic about this. It is what Baptism actually does. As it says in the 1979 BCP Baptismal liturgy, Baptism “marks us as Christ’s own forever.” We receive our election in Baptism. If that is true, how then can there be some who receive their condemnation prior to birth and without any reference to human sin?

We are marked as Christ’s own forever in Baptism, elected by grace, through God’s choice and not our own, and yet we can lose that election through making the choice to reject faith. What election tells us is that saying yes to God is not a choice that we can make and thus not something we can boast about. The choice for us to say yes is entirely God’s. And yet, the choice to say no is entirely ours. That is the mystery that Calvinism attempts to tie up in a neat little package by proclaiming God the one who decides both yes and no, making the God of grace into a God of arbitrary cruelty.

Now, Romans does speak directly about election in chapter 9, but it does so also in chapter 11. And in the context of Romans 11, election is spoken of with regards to the people of Israel, whom God has chosen, but some of whom will not inherit salvation—at least not until God’s work is done—because they have refused to believe. Thus, the gentile believers are grafted onto the tree, but they may not boast because it is the root of that tree—the Jews—that supports their branch which God has grafted on. “They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again” (11:20-23). This passage makes it clear that what leads to our salvation is not arbitrary. We receive the gift that God gives us through faith and faith alone. Israel’s election was tossed aside by Israel’s lack of faith. The Gentiles received the fruits of election by receiving the Gospel in faith. And if the faith reverses, so will the gifts. That’s what Romans teaches.

So, with all that in mind, how can we understand Romans 9? What Calvinists contend is that double predestination is implied in this whole chapter but especially in verses 22 and 23, which say “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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” But in order to understand these verses, we have to take a step back and look at the examples that Paul gives that lead him to ask this question. Paul is arguing for the sovereignty of God, one of Calvin’s favorite subjects, and Paul demonstrates through examples from scripture how God is able, in His sovereignty over all creation, to draw forth good from evil, even in spite of the evil of mankind. Paul’s two examples are the divergent paths of Jacob and Esau and the hardening of Pharoah’s heart in the days when Moses was leading Israel out of slavery in Egypt. In both cases, what God does is not to choose someone for destruction but to harden the hearts of those who have already rejected Him in order to crush them completely, to crush their willful hearts and rebellious spirits, out of which they might still be saved. In Pharoah’s case, the hardening of his heart that is done by God happens only after he has hardened his own heart multiple times (Exodus 7:13-14, 7:22-23, 8:15, 8:19, 8:32, 9:7). The Lord says that He will harden Pharoah’s heart in 7:3 but the first time He actually does it is at 9:12. Even after that, there are moments at which Pharoah hardens his own heart, implying that the Lord has given him another chance which he has chosen to reject (9:34-35). This can hardly be said to be an example of God choosing before all time to damn Pharaoh. If anything, this shows God’s great love for Pharoah and the lengths that God was willing to go to in order to see Pharoah saved.

But then, what about Jacob and Esau? As Romans 9:13 puts it, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” Clearly this is an indication of double predestination, right? God chooses Jacob and condemns Esau. He saves the one and lets go of the other, without any sort of reasoning. Except, He does have a reason. Esau sins in Genesis 25 by giving up his birthright to his brother in order to follow the desire of his belly. In that famous King James phrase, he sells his birthright “for a mess of pottage.” In verse 34, it says that Esau “despised his birthright.” Jacob will go on to commit his own sins, of course, the most notorious being his tricking of his father into giving Jacob his blessing (Genesis 27:1-40). Nevertheless, Jacob’s faith remains strong and thus his sins are forgiven. And it is worth adding that there is no indication anywhere in scripture that Esau is beyond redemption. While God hated Esau in the moment of Esau’s great sin and lack of faith, it is entirely possible that Esau went on to have faith and be redeemed. A glimpse of this possibility can be seen in Genesis 32 and 33 when Jacob and Esau are reunited and Esau weeps and embraces his brother despite his brother’s earlier treachery against him. Did God hate Esau at that moment? Was he still damned for all eternity then?

Since it seems unlikely that either of these examples is meant to show us a permanent and arbitrary decision by God before time to damn anyone, the words about “vessels of wrath” and “vessels of glory” in Romans 9 require an alternate explanation. The most fitting one, given all that scripture says about the fate of the fallen world, is that the vessels of wrath marked for destruction are all of us since we all have sinned and all are destined for death, as Romans point out repeatedly. God endures the vessels of wrath in the present time for the sake of those vessels of glory whom He will rescue from the fire, those vessels being His elect who have believed His Word when it was preached to them and received His grace through Baptism. That is what Romans 9 means in its biblical context. There is not a whiff here of double predestination, not even a little bit.

The purpose of the doctrine of election is not to scare us and make us wonder whether God chose us for the one place or the other. It is to reassure us of God’s unfailing love for us and that if we have faith in the promises of God that He will deliver. In the next section, we will see how that understanding of the doctrine is reflected in classical Anglican teaching.

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About Fr. Jonathan

Your average traditional crunchy Christ follower with a penchant for pop culture, politics, and puns.
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23 Responses to Sweet, Pleasant, and Unspeakable Comfort: The Anglican View of Predestination (Part I)

  1. John Thorpe says:

    A couple of thoughts. First, I take issue with your hermeneutic. It reminds me of Luther’s: Luther said that what was authoritative was not the text of scripture, but the message of Grace (I call this the Lutheran Goggles); therefore he felt justified (heh heh) in taking parts of Scripture as more authoritative than others, parts even of Paul as more authoritative than other parts of Paul! However you get there, that’s cut-and-paste hermeneutics. It has now become tradition to take, for instance, Paul’s insistence on justification by grace alone through faith and privilege it above James’ insistence on salvation only with good works, explaining the latter in terms of the former. Paul almost always gets the mine, and James the shaft, even though both are inspired by the Holy Spirit and both have equal authority. Both are the Word of God, yet one is more the Word of God than the other?

    You’ve done the same thing here with Romans 9, sidestepping the issue altogether. The plain fact is that Romans 9 does open the door for a kind of double predestination, clearly and obviously. To say that we have to read it in context with the rest of Romans and the rest of Holy Scripture is, on its face, correct – but in practice what you’ve done is explain away the plain reading and allow us to ignore it, or do some hermeneutic gymnastics to make it say something different. You’ve used the context argument as a road to cut-and-paste. The better approach would be to say that not only do we need to read Romans 9 in context with the other passages you’ve mentioned (which I do not dispute); but also we have to read those passages in light of the plain reading of Romans 9! The one thing we must not, at all costs, pretend is that the Holy Scriptures nowhere support double predestination – we must not make the Scripture say what we wish, but take it as it is. We must affirm what the Scripture affirms, since it is God’s Word to us.

    So what do we do with Romans 9? First, we must affirm that the Scripture in a number of places loudly affirms the opposite of double predestination, as you’ve mentioned. This leads us to think that the problem is in the man-made theory of double predestination, and that of Arminianism; which summarize these ideas in ways that force us to understand scripture in false dichotomies. Truth is always consistently true. The mistake must be Calvin’s, or Armenius’, or Luther’s, or our own, in that we have failed thus far appropriately to articulate the Bible’s position on Predestination. We can only blame ourselves. The pure truth about God has eluded us, and we should not be surprised by this.

    To affirm what the Scripture affirms leads us to this: That the choice of faith matters; that a persons works matter; that God’s choice matters; that God’s promises to see His elect through to the day of Christ Jesus matter. Also that God may chose at any time to make a ‘vessel of wrath’ or a ‘vessel of honor.’ Romans 9 does not discuss the general state of humanity, but only that of one soul, Pharaoh. We have little direct evidence that God has ever done such a thing again, but clearly it is within His prerogative to do it. The problem with all theories that rule out double predestination is that they end up denying what Paul clearly affirms; and those that make predestination universal end up denying what is affirmed elsewhere. Let us stand only on such stones as we can see – that God has done double predestination in some cases, at least one, is indisputable. That God does not predestine all is a position available to us. These two fit easily together.

    Second thought: (wait, there’s MORE?!?) Calvin’s theology of predestination as articulated in the Institutes is rarely practiced. As he understood it, it was a comforting doctrine that explained why some people never seem to get it. It spurred people on to evangelize, because those who were elect and hadn’t yet found out needed to know that. It filled believers with an overwhelming sense of God’s goodness and grace and Fatherly care, to have chosen them from the beginning of Creation and pursued them, remaining faithful, even when we were yet sinners. Calvinism properly understood is a joyful theology that celebrates all that is good in the world and in humanity: remember, Calvin was a humanist and deeply admired Erasmus. The essence of humanism is to celebrate humanity and the world in which we live: Calvin just ascribed all the good in us and the world to God’s grace; and all the evil to our own nature. Predestination properly understood should always lead to joy, humility, a sense of grace, and a deep desire on the part of all to obtain, by persevering in God’s way, the heavenly inheritance. In our pessimism we say the problem with double predestination is that no one can ever really know whether they are elect, whether God loves them, etc. But that’s backwards: No one can ever really know whether they are a vessel of wrath! No one can ever really know whether they are NOT elect, unless they try, and persevere; in which case (wonder of wonders) it turns out that they WERE elect all along; and only those who fall away show, by their choices, that they were not elect (but even of these there is hope, since anything is possible until you die). So keep in mind that for a 21st Century American, unless you’ve really studied the Institutes, probably all
    your experience with double predestination is the doctrine badly practiced, poorly understood, misshapen, and poorly articulated. It’s the same reason people look at bad catholics or watch the Godfather movies and say the Roman church is full of hypocrites. All churches are full of failures! To accurately respond to the doctrine requires study.

    Third, as you look at the classical Anglican formularies and try to differentiate them from Calvin, keep in mind that Calvin himself corresponded with Cranmer and had a DIRECT hand in revising the 1549 BCP. It may be that some of Calvin’s own words made it into those formularies. So watch your back.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Good to hear from you, Fr. Thorpe. Allow me to respond to your comments:

      I take issue with your hermeneutic. It reminds me of Luther’s… Luther said that what was authoritative was not the text of scripture, but the message of Grace (I call this the Lutheran Goggles); therefore he felt justified (heh heh) in taking parts of Scripture as more authoritative than others, parts even of Paul as more authoritative than other parts of Paul! However you get there, that’s cut-and-paste hermeneutics.

      The problem that you’re having with my hermeneutic seems to be that I have a hermeneutic. If what you’re suggesting is that we should read every single verse of scripture as if they hold equal authority and are all doing the same thing, I think you’re terribly mistaken. It is impossible to do that. Every verse is inspired, yes. But the Bible has many different kinds of books with many different functions. It is ridiculous on its face to say that 1 Chronicles 6:1 has the same authority as John 3:16, or even to say that we read John 3:16 through the lens of 1 Chronicles 6:1. Properly understood, all scripture communicates the Gospel. When we read the Bible without understanding that, we run headlong into chaos because we are then not approaching the Bible on its own terms. This is the error that is at the heart of fundamentalism.

      It has now become tradition to take, for instance, Paul’s insistence on justification by grace alone through faith and privilege it above James’ insistence on salvation only with good works, explaining the latter in terms of the former. Paul almost always gets the mine, and James the shaft, even though both are inspired by the Holy Spirit and both have equal authority. Both are the Word of God, yet one is more the Word of God than the other?

      It would be easy for us to get lost in a conversation about James and what James means, which is somewhat beside the point here, but I am curious how you can hold to double predestination without also believing in justification by faith alone? How does works righteousness make sense in a system where our salvation or lack thereof is a fait accompli? Furthermore, if you’re going to go after Luther for his treatment of James, which I would agree has some deficiencies, you have to also go after Calvin since on this topic they essentially believed the same thing.

      To say that we have to read [Romans 9] in context with the rest of Romans and the rest of Holy Scripture is, on its face, correct – but in practice what you’ve done is explain away the plain reading and allow us to ignore it, or do some hermeneutic gymnastics to make it say something different. You’ve used the context argument as a road to cut-and-paste.

      Not in the least. I quoted all of the relevant text and explained what it actually means in context. What you seem to be suggesting is that because Romans 9 can be read a different way out of context, therefore we should read it that way even if the rest of Holy Scripture and indeed the rest of Romans says otherwise. Either Paul was a moron and did not realize that he argues against double predestination in the same letter, both before and after chapter 9, or else it is incorrect to read Romans 9 that way. In order for Romans 9 to carry the meaning you (and Calvin) want to give to it, you have to prove both that the plain meaning of the text can support such a reading and that the rest of Romans does not say what it says. The Calvinist reading fails on both counts because the Calvinist goggles will not allow the text to say what it says.

      To affirm what the Scripture affirms leads us to this: That the choice of faith matters; that a persons works matter; that God’s choice matters; that God’s promises to see His elect through to the day of Christ Jesus matter. Also that God may chose at any time to make a ‘vessel of wrath’ or a ‘vessel of honor.’

      So your argument is that the Bible contradicts itself?

      Romans 9 does not discuss the general state of humanity, but only that of one soul, Pharaoh. We have little direct evidence that God has ever done such a thing again, but clearly it is within His prerogative to do it.

      First of all, if you’re going to argue that Romans 9 makes the case that God condemned Pharaoh, you also have to believe that God condemned Esau since both examples are used by Paul in support of his larger point. As I demonstrated, there is no evidence that God condemned Esau. It is entirely possible, likely even, that Esau was redeemed in the end. So in at least one of the two examples, there is no sign of eternal condemnation and thus no sign of double predestination.

      Secondly, as I also demonstrated, God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart comes well after Pharaoh has hardened his own heart many times over. To conclude then that Pharaoh was being set up for a fall does not bear out with what is actually in the text of Exodus. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart to punish him, not because God made him for the sake of destroying him. What kind of a sick, evil god would that be?

      Predestination properly understood should always lead to joy, humility, a sense of grace, and a deep desire on the part of all to obtain, by persevering in God’s way, the heavenly inheritance.

      I agree, hence the title of this series. And the problem with Calvinist predestination is that it doesn’t do that. It does the exact opposite.

      In our pessimism we say the problem with double predestination is that no one can ever really know whether they are elect, whether God loves them, etc. But that’s backwards: No one can ever really know whether they are a vessel of wrath! No one can ever really know whether they are NOT elect, unless they try, and persevere; in which case (wonder of wonders) it turns out that they WERE elect all along; and only those who fall away show, by their choices, that they were not elect (but even of these there is hope, since anything is possible until you die).

      This is exactly the problem. And it cuts in both directions.

      First of all, we can know if we are among the elect. Calvin didn’t believe that, but it’s true. The Bible teaches it. In fact, Romans 6 teaches it. If you are baptized, you are among the elect. If you have faith in the promises made at your Baptism, you are among the elect. Do you want to know if you are elect? Ask those two questions. Are you Baptized? Yes. Do you believe the promises? Yes. Then you’re in. It is that simple. And that’s why election is a comfort, because it is an assuredness to the faithful. But for the Calvinist who has absolutely no way of knowing for sure it is a constant source of fear and agony.

      Second, people do worry that they are among those whom God chose to be damned before the world began. The Biblical doctrine of election teaches that God has chosen us, that this cannot be taken away from us, but that we can reject it by rejecting faith. The Calvinist doctrine teaches that God’s choice is entirely arbitrary and that He decided not only who would be saved but who would be damned before the world began, without regard to human sin or human merit or even faith. Limited atonement, irresistible grace, all of that. So really, there’s no point in trying to persevere, because if you persevere it’s because God always intended that for you and if you don’t it’s because God always meant for you to fail. Far from teaching people to persevere, it teaches them that no amount of perseverance will make even the least bit of difference.

      I’ve seen people literally come to tears over this because they fear that God created them for the purpose of destroying them. It’s horrific. And it denies not only God’s goodness and His desire to save all people, but also the effectiveness of the signs by which we receive the grace of Christ. This leads to the kind of sacramentarianism that is a part of Zwinglian Reformed movements and that also marks the followers of Calvin in later times. Baptism has no meaning because the reprobate are among the baptized. The Eucharist imparts no grace upon any but the elect, which is why it cannot possibly be objectively the Body and Blood of Christ, because if it were then some reprobate person might gets his greasy hands all over it and receive grace not intended for him. Double predestination denies Catholic sacramental theology, just as it ultimately denies the sufficiency of the cross.

      As you look at the classical Anglican formularies and try to differentiate them from Calvin, keep in mind that Calvin himself corresponded with Cranmer and had a DIRECT hand in revising the 1549 BCP. It may be that some of Calvin’s own words made it into those formularies. So watch your back.

      I am unaware of Calvin having any kind of direct hand in the 1552 BCP, although that book certainly held things that would have been more to Calvin’s liking than 1549 was. I do know that Cranmer corresponded with Melanchthon and even tried at one point to get him to come to England. That said, 1559 corrects the major errors of 1552, and even 1552 was a bridge too far for most of the Genevan Puritans. I would not presume to deny the Calvinist influence upon the development of Anglicanism, but to say that Anglicanism is Calvinist is mistaken. Otherwise, why were the Puritans fighting so hard against the BCP and the Articles?

  2. Matt Kennedy says:

    Hi Fr. Jonathan, I appreciate your willingness to engage with Calvinist thinking regarding predestination, but I think in places you may not quit understand what is being affirmed. I also agree with the above commenter with regard to your exegesis of Romans 9. Might I suggest that if you’d like to engage Calvinist thought that you might start by wrestling with some of the more knowledgeable and articulate Reformed teachers and theologians. Dr. RC Sproul springs to mind. A great book to start with might be his “Chosen by God”. You can get it pretty cheaply here: http://www.ligonier.org/store/chosen-by-god-pocketsize-book/

  3. Peter Ould says:

    But then, what about Jacob and Esau? As Romans 9:13 puts it, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” Clearly this is an indication of double predestination, right? God chooses Jacob and condemns Esau. He saves the one and lets go of the other, without any sort of reasoning. Except, He does have a reason. Esau sins in Genesis 25 by giving up his birthright to his brother in order to follow the desire of his belly. In that famous King James phrase, he sells his birthright “for a mess of pottage.” In verse 34, it says that Esau “despised his birthright.” Jacob will go on to commit his own sins, of course, the most notorious being his tricking of his father into giving Jacob his blessing (Genesis 27:1-40). Nevertheless, Jacob’s faith remains strong and thus his sins are forgiven. And it is worth adding that there is no indication anywhere in scripture that Esau is beyond redemption. While God hated Esau in the moment of Esau’s great sin and lack of faith, it is entirely possible that Esau went on to have faith and be redeemed. A glimpse of this possibility can be seen in Genesis 32 and 33 when Jacob and Esau are reunited and Esau weeps and embraces his brother despite his brother’s earlier treachery against him. Did God hate Esau at that moment? Was he still damned for all eternity then?

    Incorrect. Your quote of Romans 9:13 misses out the prior three verses which turn you idea that God hates Esau’s sin which he performs on its head.

    And not only so, but salso when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of thim who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”

    And I would challenge the notion that God’s Election is arbitrary. That would suggest that there is no discernible purpose to it, whereas Romans 9 (again) helps us by stating,

    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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
    (Romans 9:22-23 ESV)

    So God’s Election is not arbitrary but rather makes known his power and the riches of his glory. That is, as Scripture clearly argues, its purpose.

    You might repost by asking why God needs to demonstrate his power and glory by using humans, and once again the response is clear.

    You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
    (Romans 9:19-21 ESV)

    And indeed, I think these verses are the killer, for I have yet to hear a non-Electionist explanation in context as to why they are there. For the Electionist they are uncomfortable but understandable verses – we mere humans have absolutely no right to argue with God about why he does anything (which is the argument also of the writer of Job). And yet, despite our gross rebellion and the utter unwillingness of the entirety of the human race to be saved. God still saves hordes of wretched reprobates. How glorious! How graceful, that he should make a way through his Son!

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hello Peter. Thank you for your comments.

      Nothing in the verses preceding 9:13 helps your case. This entire section of the chapter build upon Paul’s assertion that the Gentiles are being grafted into Israel because at least some of the people of Israel have given up their faith. Though this would seem unfair to some, as if God is not honoring His promise, Paul makes the point that God is sovereign and does as He will. The description of God’s favoring of Jacob is a description of God’s work in history, not a delineation of God’s intent for either the eternal soul of Jacob or of Esau. God chooses to give a blessing to Jacob “not because of works but because of him who calls.” It is this choice that then bears out in what happens to Esau and Jacob with respect to the birthright. The issue that is being addressed is God’s promise with regards to the birthright, not damnation. Hence, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.”

      And I would challenge the notion that God’s Election is arbitrary. That would suggest that there is no discernible purpose to it…

      I am trying to fairly characterize the Calvinist position, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that God’s reason for choosing one individual for salvation and another for damnation is arbitrary. That doesn’t mean that election itself is arbitrary, as you demonstrate with the Calvinist understanding of Romans 9, that the purpose of election to both salvation and damnation is to show both God’s glory/justice? and His mercy. Nevertheless, the reason why God picks one person for one and another person for the other is entirely arbitrary. If it weren’t, you’d be Arminian.

      And indeed, I think these verses [19-21] are the killer, for I have yet to hear a non-Electionist explanation in context as to why they are there. For the Electionist they are uncomfortable but understandable verses – we mere humans have absolutely no right to argue with God about why he does anything …

      The phrase “electionist” and “non-electionist” fascinates me. I believe in election and in (single) predestination. How does that make me a “non-electionist”?

      I would also agree that we have no right to argue with God, who chooses to do as He will, and who would be well within His rights to exercise His wrath to punish and destroy each of us if He so chooses. Who are we to say otherwise? But I fail to see how that becomes the lynchpin in an argument that says that God creates certain people with the intention from all eternity that they will eventually do evil, on His behalf, and that He will then destroy them. Perhaps. if these verses were the only verses in all of scripture to address this subject. But even then It requires quite a bit of reading into the text to make that happen.

      As it is, these are not the only verses in all of scripture to address the subject, nor even the only verses in Romans, nor even the only verses within this particular argument within Romans which stretches roughly from chapter 8 through chapter 11. And chapter 11:30-33 clearly teaches to the contrary:

      For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

      The purpose of God’s election, the purpose of His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and His choosing of Jacob over Esau, the purpose of all that He does that leads up to the cross, and indeed the purpose of the cross itself is to show mercy to all. My reading of Romans 9, which I believe reflects the early Church’s reading of the same, does not have to hold it in tension with Romans 11 because they both form part of one cohesive argument. Your reading requires the ignoring of everything that surrounds a few isolated verses.

  4. John Thorpe says:

    I’d like to state, for the record, that I am no more than semi-Calvinist, and probably a lot less. So it does no good to tell me that this part of Calvin’s system undermines Catholic sacramentalism: I’m not necessarily committed to either. All I know is, Luther’s wrong all over. :P

    But there is a lot to like about Calvinism. I agree with the other posters that I think you’re arguing against a version of Calvinism that is somewhat removed from the original. Even TULIP is second-gen. You really don’t get a good look at Calvinism from the weeping person worried whether they are reprobate, just like you don’t get good Catholicism from the syncretistic Latin villager, or good Anglicanism from the person who’s worried they used the wrong fork for the salad course. You asked for correction – you’ve got at least two votes on the thread for a re-visit. Much of my post went in to explaining how Calvinism is different from what you’ve expressed.

    You make a good point about the radically egalitarian hermeneutic; a good Lutheran point, I might add. :P I’m not against an extra-biblical ‘Gospel’ that colors and directs all our readings – certainly several of the Reformers did this, and we all tend to do with with the parts that are difficult for our theology. But positing the need for such a guideline begs the question: whose guideline? Who has the authority to do such a necessary but possibly dangerous thing? If we chose the wrong hermeneutic, as I believe Luther did, we risk being left with half a bible and being unable to hear the Word of God in those other parts, except as they agree with our preconceived notions. This is exactly the fault of the Word of Faith movement, to my mind, having spent a lot of time with those folks. They are completely unable to hear the Word of God if it’s not Hagin Orthodoxy. Not a pretty picture.

    Being of a catholic ecclesiological pursuasion, I’m convinced that the only legitimate way to make that decision is for the whole body over centuries of time to witness to the truth of Holy Scripture: in a word, Sacred Tradition. It’s perfectly OK to see one’s own ministry and vocation in terms of a particular part of Scripture – this is, I’m convinced, what God was calling the Reformers to do. This enriches the catholic whole. But it’s not OK for one person to decide authoritatively which texts are to be privileged over other texts, whether that person is Luther or the Pope or me. That would give us the Gospel according to Me, a lamentable and impoverished version of the original. I certainly have no evidence, empirical or spiritual, that God intends me to privilege Paul over James (again, we could have a long conversation about whether they actually disagree – rabbit trail) or Romans 8 over Romans 9. It’s one thing to explicate a difficult passage; quite another to try to take away the passage’s plain sense. We can say our Tandoor Chicken tastes mostly of curry, but we can’t pretend there’s NO ginger in there at all. Double Predestination flavors the Gospel; maybe it doesn’t dominate – no problem there; that’s my own position, actually. But it’s there, and it’s Bible, and it has to be accepted and built upon, or else we are creating our own blind spot toward the text; again, not a pretty picture.

  5. Whit says:

    Here’s where my Wesleyan background shows most plainly. I reject the doctrine of predestination utterly and completely, and I reject a single predestination as much as I reject a double predestination, for the simple reason that if only some people are elected to salvation, the others are by default elected to damnation. Therefore in any sort of predestination, the non-elect are in effect predestined to damnation, whether or not this is by God’s conscious will.

    I would also argue that at least in the North American provinces, Anglican orthodoxy is defined by the Creeds and Scriptures alone- the articles are a description of who we were, not who we are today. Calvinism is within the bounds of Anglican orthodoxy- but it is not a requirement for Anglican orthodoxy.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Whit,

      I understand why you would think that a single predestination must necessitate that God has chosen those who fall. You’re doing there the same thing that Calvinism does, which is to try to grasp and form a logical and easily understandable conclusion about what scripture reveals. I used to do something similar, rejecting any notion of election because I couldn’t bear the idea of the predestination to damnation. But I would encourage you to put your mind’s need to understand aside and just read what scripture says (through the lens of the Fathers, of course). What has come through to me in doing that is that God clearly has elected some, not all, and yet Christ has died for all, and so there is no predestination to hell. Now, that doesn’t add up in a way that we can wrap our limited reason around, but it does account for what scripture actually says on the subject. I would encourage you to read what God’s Word has to say about election with an open mind. You might be surprised at what you find there, as I was.

  6. John Thorpe says:

    I don’t hold double predestination, nor justification by faith alone. To my mind, both are theologies with half a bible. The Scripture talks too much about salvation by means of works for it to be completely jettisoned. As a good Anglican I assert that works and faith cooperate.

    I don’t say that the Bible contradicts itself, only that it affirms several things which we humans have set in opposition; we have made them contradictory. I’m not convinced they must be so of their own nature (again, Paul and James). Better, if we can’t figure it out, to stand upon mystery or even to act according to both seemingly contradictory affirmations, on the principle of willing obedience.

    One place where you’re mischaracterizing Calvinism: Calvin did believe there are visible marks of Election, many of the same ones you mentioned. (flirting with Geneva John, are you?) And he certainly would not recognize the pessimistic, American, apathetic Calvinism we’ve all seen bantered around at parties. Just because a lot of people don’t get it right doesn’t mean that Calvin got it wrong. The errors you mention are easy, introductory kinds of errors when one approaches Calvinism. It’s armchair theology. There’s a lot more to him when you dig in there. When I studied him intensively in college, reading large chunks of the Institutes (can’t say I’ve read it all), I was amazed at the differences between the grocery-aisle Calvinism I thought I knew and the vibrant, brilliant, daring theologian in the Institutes. I really think it deserves your closer attention.

    Calvin’s direct hand in 1552 was referenced by a source I used for my online course on the Reformers. I’ll look for a reference. But your points about the development of the BCP are good ones. Keep in mind, though, that the Puritans were Calvinist through and through – even to the point of not being separatists. I just learned the other day, studying Calvin, that he was not himself a separatist and discouraged his followers from leaving their churches to pursue the Reformation. That explains a lot of Anglican history that I had not understood. The Anglican Separatists (like the Pilgrims) leaned more toward the Anabaptists, I think.

    Calvin wouldn’t say Election is arbitrary. He connects it with God’s foreknowledge and Providence. Calvin (a good humanist, remember) held as a philosophical commitment of the first order the Aristotelian/Aquinian concept of the First Cause; that is, God is continually the power behind everything that happens. His decisions about Election must therefore be related to other decisions about the world and how history would unfold, because in Calvin’s philosophy, there is only one way for it to unfold. And he is not a strict determinist, because he believes in free will in a non-moral sphere. If I want to eat a pear but decide to eat an apple, Calvin would say I have fee will; but not if that apple is the one in the Garden of Eden, because then it’s a moral choice that determines my relation to God, and in such matters the will is chained (also a good Lutheran concept). So the world is unfolding in a mixture of human decisions and God’s inexorable will, in a way that He has foreknown and fore-planned, completely within His control yet allowing creativity and even self expression on the human level (he’s a humanist, remember). Election comes out of God’s management of this complex matrix of choice and His goals, and there is a mystery to it, in Calvin’s view.

  7. Robbie says:

    Regarding the issue of God’s arbitrary choice, I think it’s important to highlight the ‘version’ of God that Calvin is operating with. It seems to me that predestination questions go astray when we forget that Calvin was operating with a certain version of God stemming from late medieval voluntarism, and although he didn’t quite so far as Luther’s nominalism, he still is firmly entrenched in the via moderna. Fr. Jonathan can say more about this than I, but it seems to me that the Anglican reformers were less willing to go down the road of late medieval theology, opting instead to operate within the the theo-logic of the Fathers and even to some extent, Aquinas. In other words, they weren’t as tempted by an understanding of God who is God in virtue of his capacity to will.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Good point, Robbie. I wouldn’t say that the Anglican Reformers and Divines were divorced entirely from medieval views of God. Hooker is something of a Thomist, after all. And it would be somewhat unnecessarily narrow to say that all theology done after the patristic period is unprofitable. Nevertheless, Anglicanism privileges the witness of the early Church in a way that other Reformation traditions do not, which helps to guard Anglicanism against reading scripture solely through our own era’s filter (or at least it does when Anglicans actually do read scripture this way).

  8. Fr. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for some further thoughts, Fr. Thorpe. I have to admit, though, the more you say about this, the more trouble I am having understanding your position clearly.

    First of all, I’m confused by this:

    I’d like to state, for the record, that I am no more than semi-Calvinist, and probably a lot less. So it does no good to tell me that this part of Calvin’s system undermines Catholic sacramentalism: I’m not necessarily committed to either…

    I don’t hold double predestination, nor justification by faith alone…

    If you are not a Calvinist, why are you so vigorously defending a Calvinist position? Especially if you don’t actually agree with that position?

    When I said Catholic sacramentalism, I did not mean Roman Catholic. I meant Catholic in the sense that the early Church used it, fullness, wholeness, universality. There are a few different ways of slicing this, obviously, but I would assume that we agree that the biblical and patristic view of the sacraments is that Jesus Christ is truly present in them and that we truly receive Him through them. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Jesus’ actual Body and Blood. My point above was that Calvinist double predestination negates the need for this, makes it irrelevant to our salvation, which is why, in my opinion, Calvinism often leads to sacramentarianism or the denial of Christ’s presence in the sacraments. I realize that this is not exactly what Calvin himself believed, but it is the inevitable conclusion that comes from Calvinist thought.

    Second, you wrote:

    But there is a lot to like about Calvinism. I agree with the other posters that I think you’re arguing against a version of Calvinism that is somewhat removed from the original. Even TULIP is second-gen…You asked for correction… Much of my post went in to explaining how Calvinism is different from what you’ve expressed.

    I am happy to be corrected, but I do not see in your previous post anywhere where you have challenged my understanding of the Calvinist position. Perhaps it is fair to say that later Calvinism has simply misunderstood Calvin. I’m not enough of a scholar of the Institutes to know the answer to that. But let me ask you this, did Calvin teach that God chooses before all time to elect some people to eternal salvation and others to eternal damnation? And does he ground that claim at least in part in Romans 9? If the answer is yes, then what exactly am I missing? You say that Calvin intended for this teaching to be a comfort, and that very well may be the case that this was his intention. I’m not arguing against Calvin’s intentions. I’m arguing against double predestination, which falsely interprets the scriptures and creates despair rather than comfort. And if that’s what Calvin taught, then I’m arguing against him. If not, I’m sorry for having maligned his good name. But I’m fairly skeptical that the problem here is that I just don’t get Calvin. Either he taught double predestination or he didn’t. His good intentions are irrelevant. We all know where the road leads that is paved with good intentions.

    Third,

    I’m not against an extra-biblical ‘Gospel’ that colors and directs all our readings – certainly several of the Reformers did this, and we all tend to do with the parts that are difficult for our theology. But positing the need for such a guideline begs the question: whose guideline? Who has the authority to do such a necessary but possibly dangerous thing? If we chose the wrong hermeneutic, as I believe Luther did, we risk being left with half a bible and being unable to hear the Word of God in those other parts, except as they agree with our preconceived notions…
    Being of a catholic ecclesiological pursuasion, I’m convinced that the only legitimate way to make that decision is for the whole body over centuries of time to witness to the truth of Holy Scripture: in a word, Sacred Tradition.

    I agree completely. The problem with Luther, Calvin, and most other Reformation figures is that they threw out the baby with the bath water, assuming that because the Church was not doing its job in interpreting the scripture that therefore we do not need the Church to perform this function. And as an Anglican, I certainly believe that tradition is not only a good but a necessary device for understanding what scripture teaches, particularly if by tradition you mean the liturgy, the creeds, and the witness of the early Church. Moreover, though you don’t mention it here, a healthy conciliarity is necessary for the Church to fulfill her calling. Check out my article on that here where I take to task both confessional Lutheranism and Calvinism for failing on this front:

    http://conciliaranglican.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/ask-an-anglican-confessionalism-vs-conciliarity/

    All of that said, as an Anglican, I still hold that the final source of authority is the scripture itself which is God’s Word. Councils can err, traditions can become corrupted, but God’s Word remains unchanged. On that account, the Reformers had it right, even if they overemphasized the ability of the individual to discern what scripture teaches.

    Likewise, I also agree completely when you say this:

    I don’t say that the Bible contradicts itself, only that it affirms several things which we humans have set in opposition; we have made them contradictory. I’m not convinced they must be so of their own nature (again, Paul and James). Better, if we can’t figure it out, to stand upon mystery or even to act according to both seemingly contradictory affirmations, on the principle of willing obedience.

    Which is in fact why I believe in single predestination, which I cannot fully understand or wrap my mind around, but which nevertheless accords with what scripture actually teaches.

    Fourthly,

    I certainly have no evidence, empirical or spiritual, that God intends me to privilege Paul over James (again, we could have a long conversation about whether they actually disagree – rabbit trail) or Romans 8 over Romans 9. It’s one thing to explicate a difficult passage; quite another to try to take away the passage’s plain sense.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but once again, I am not privileging Romans 8 over Romans 9, or Romans 11 over Romans 9, or Romans 6 over Romans 9. I am saying, rather, that all of Romans is true, which means that my interpretation of Romans 9 cannot put it into absolute contradiction with the entire rest of the letter. I’m saying that Paul did not just drop these verses from an airplane into the text without knowing what he was doing. He was actually building an argument, and within the context of that argument what Paul says in Romans 9 makes sense. Outside of that context, there is no “plain sense” of the passage. The Bible is not a choose-your-own-adventure. All the parts have to fit, or else you get the very thing that you’re accusing me of, a personal interpretation based on my own designs and interests.

    Fifth,

    One place where you’re mischaracterizing Calvinism: Calvin did believe there are visible marks of Election, many of the same ones you mentioned…

    Sort of. He believed you could know, sort of. Baptism and the Eucharist are marks of knowing, sort of. Good works are also a mark of knowing, sort of. But see, the sort of is the problem. You can get yourself a pretty good idea, but as you said above, it could turn out in the end that you were wrong the whole time. Because election is fixed in Calvin’s view. You can’t lose it, nor can you gain it if you’ve been predestined for damnation. What I’m saying, and what the Bible (and tradition) teaches, is that you can know for sure. There doesn’t have to be any ambiguity. You can actually know and be comforted by that.

    Finally,

    Keep in mind, though, that the Puritans were Calvinist through and through – even to the point of not being separatists.

    This, in fact, causes some of the problems in the Church of England that eventually lead to the Civil War. The Puritans rejected Anglicanism but wished to remain in the Church of England and to change the Church’s theology, incrementally at first though this eventually proved to be a losing strategy, to something more thoroughly Reformed in the Calvinist/Zwinglian sense. Many of them tolerated the BCP and the 39 Articles coming out of the Elizabethan Settlement only because they assumed that something better would be forthcoming. As it is, some clergy ignored the prayer book entirely, or at least certain provisions of it, and went about engaging in iconoclasm and utilizing unauthorized catechisms. There is a certain irony to the way in which English Calvinists in a later century would try to rally to the 39 Articles that their forebears had so decisively rejected as woefully insufficient. This is why it is important, I believe, to mark a firm distinction between Anglicanism and Puritanism.

  9. John Thorpe says:

    It has been said that the inaccessibility of knowledge of ones ‘electoral’ status is a major flaw of Calvinism, one that ‘cuts both ways.’ certainly in the popular conception of it, this is true – because few people care to do their homework or think with philosophical rigor (perhaps the fact that good Calvinism demands this is a flaw in its design). Calvin’s epistemology (tellingly enough, the first chapter of the institutes) says that moral knowledge such this is not a quality that can properly be ascribed to the reprobate. The very nature of reprobation is that of deception and does not allow true moral knowledge. The opposite is true, he says, of election: the nature of that status is truth, so it begets true moral knowledge. Thus the Elect CAN know that they are elect, while the Reprobate can NEVER know for sure that they are reprobate. The sword does not cut both ways. this leaves the Elect in a constant state of gratefulness and the mass of unconverted in a constant state – not of despair – of hope, should they by the prevenient grace of God be drawn to discover their status. But anyone who is drawn, anyone who cares or worries about their status is BY DEFINITION Elect, because the truly reprobate would not care to inquire.

    The unlearned (Not the Reprobate, but the unlearned Elect) inevitably begin to doubt their election – Calvin’s response is pastorally to address the doubt by pointing to various visible marks as signs of the underlying grace and other techniques as may be useful to the individual. He does not, I think, see doubt as a visible sign of Reprobation, at least not in the way that actual apostasy is. But these pastoral techniques should not be confused with a doctrine of absolute proof of Election. In the end, for Calvin, Election has little to do with whether we humans FEEL we are elect, and everything to do with God’s faithfulness to His own promises. The absolute proof resides only with God and is accessible to the Elect through grace and their faith.

  10. Bob says:

    Thank you for this post on predestination, I think it has helped clear up some things for me. I have a brother who has abandoned the faith, and I think one of the things that got him looking elsewhere was his (mis) understanding of predestination. He came to the conclusion that if double predestination was true, then a) what we do is pointless, b) God is unmerciful, c) such a God is not worth worshiping.
    Problematic texts for him include the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and the idea of being “chosen from the foundation of the world”.
    To put it in other terms, no one wants to be a vessel of dishonor. Neither do we want to be “ultimately” responsible for the life we lead, and have this short life be the deterministic factor in where we spend our eternity. We want 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 70 x 7 chances… and even then more mercy.

    I can see where Romans 6 gives assurance for those who are baptized and resting in the promises of God. Does there remain hope for the reprobate brother? Does that hope extend past the veil of death – so that those who die in ignorance who then learn the truth might then conform their will to Christs? Christs death on the cross is sufficient for the whole world – but is the “hearing” and “believing” in this life a requirement for salvation, or just a requirement for assurance?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Bob, thanks for your comments. I know folks who have been where your brother has been. I hope that he may come to find rest in God’s loving mercy.

      You ask about what happens once we go beyond the veil of death for someone who is “reprobate.” I assume you mean by that a person who has never been baptized and/or never heard the Gospel. The short answer to that question is, we don’t know. Is it possible that God will somehow, in His mercy, grant that person an opportunity to receive the Gospel beyond the grave? It’s possible, but there’s no evidence for it. The Bible does not tell us that, and so if we choose to believe that, we’re operating from something other than revelation. What the Bible does tell us is that Baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:21). If we believe in Christ, we will be saved (John 3:16). Jesus Christ is the one and only way to the Father and thus to salvation (John 14:6). And those who reject Christ will be forever lost (Matthew 13:40-42). So while the fate of the unbaptized, unevangelized person is not totally spelled out for us, we have no assurances. This may seem like a hard teaching–and it is–but it should also spur us to go forth as Christ commands and to baptize all nations and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). God may use that word that you speak to melt a sinful heart.

  11. Cadog says:

    Wow … I go away for a few days and return to this fantastic dialog!

    I can’t really participate in the discussion at the level of the “fathers” among us (Fr. Jonathan and Fr. Thorpe).

    With respect to the original post: Fr. Jonathan has articulated a response to Calvinism that addresses many of the contradictions I believe many Calvinists espouse, with confusion that does indeed ensue (with all due respect to R.C. Sproul, whom I admire a great deal).

    Until recently, I was a bit uncomfortable with my unwillingness to be pinned down as either Calvinist or Arminian. Clearly, both sides use scripture to support their positions – and both cannot be simultaneously and completely true. Either one is wrong or the other is wrong – or both are partially wrong.

    The peace I have found in Anglicanism, along the lines of what I think I hear Fr. Jonathan advocating on his wonderful blog, arises largely out Anglicanism’s willingness and humility to admit there are some things that we cannot fully understand.

    In contrast, the prescribing and dogmatic approaches of good Christian people across many traditions (and yes, I know there are Anglicans and Episcopalians counted among this number) contribute to the sad result that Bob has encountered. I am saddened that this is also where my 19-year-old son has settled – unbelief, for which he is of course ultimately accountable before our Lord.

    But what of the (well-meaning) teachers who voice un-humble confidence in their not-so-quiet convictions and theology (hermeneutics?)– whose inconsistencies, and all too often, insensitivity and lack of compassion — prompt folks like Bob’s brother and my son to run the other direction? This is unspeakably sad to me.

    Concerning the question of whether people get “another chance” after passing from this life on earth – there does not seem to be biblical revelation on this question. But C.S. Lewis tackles this in one of his under-appreciated works, and a favorite of mine, The Great Divorce.

    Blessings and peace to you, Fr. Jonathan, and all who fellowship here.

  12. Robert F says:

    I do not see how it would be possible for God to create something that is other than himself without imparting to it a measure of freedom, a kind of sovereign interiority. And this applies for bare material creation. In human beings, it ascends to the level of free will. That is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. The questions of creation and freedom seem integrally linked. It is God’s transcending sovereignty that makes creation and its corollary, the contextual freedom of the created, possible. Anything else collapses into pantheism, and this is exactly the danger that Calvinism encounters: it renders an image of created existence morally indistinguishable from pantheism. Only pantheism is more winsome.

  13. Pingback: Sweet, Pleasant, and Unspeakable Comfort: The Anglican View of Predestination (Part II) | The Conciliar Anglican

  14. Sorry for the very superficial engagement, but: John Davenant, Richard Hooker, James Ussher.

      • Hooker seems in Laws V.56.6 to put forth a robustly ‘Calvinist’ idea of election, including the idea that God eternally loves some in precedence to others, pursuant to which he inclines his saving power universally but not indiscriminately: ‘God therefore lovinge eternallie his Sonne, he must needes eternallie in him have loved and preferred before all others them which are spirituallie sithence descended and spronge out of him. These were in God as in theire Savior and not as in theire creator onlie. It was the purpose of his savinge goodnes, his savinge wisdome and his savinge power which inclined it selfe towardes them.’

        Likewise Bp Davenant, among the British divines who attended the Synod of Dort and thereafter ever defended its doctrine, seems neverthless to affirm that God does give his gifts as well to the reprobate as to the elect.

      • Fr. Jonathan says:

        Thank you for that clarification. In this article, I’m really just laying out the biblical case against double predestination, not getting into the Anglican argument against it. I do that in the second post in the series, which you can find here:

        http://conciliaranglican.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/sweet-pleasant-and-unspeakable-comfort-the-anglican-view-of-predestination-part-ii/

        I plan to go on to talk about what Anglicanism actually does affirm about election and predestination, which may also help to clarify why some of the folks you mention write as they do, in an effort to push the Church of England in one direction or another.

        There were certainly always Puritans in the Church of England, like Baxter and Perkins, who rejected classical Anglicanism and attempted to move the Church to a more Reformed, more Calvinist position. There were also a smaller number of people, like Hooker and the others you mentioned, who attempted to bridge the gap between Calvinism and Anglicanism. There are many places where Calvinism and Anglicanism are quite compatible, and even on the topic of election we have common ground when compared with Arminianism or any other number of theories.

        Undoubtedly, there were Anglicans who believed in double predestination and who tried to make the Anglican formularies sound as if they did too. Hooker was not one of them. He argues for unconditional election, certainly, but so does Anglicanism. I do not see how the quote you provide shows that Hooker believed that God loves some people more than others, nor that God chooses some to be damned even as He chooses those to be saved. Just the opposite. Hooker argues there and in the paragraphs that follow that election is eternally the product of our relationship with the Son, even as creation itself ties us to the Father.

        Davenant, on the other hand, does try to fit the whole Calvinist puzzle together with the Anglican formularies. And he jumps through some amazing hoops in trying to do so. His writing on Baptism is particularly of interest here, as he is forced to acknowledge that both the BCP and the Articles whole-heartedly endorse baptismal regeneration (as do the Fathers, as he also notes). His way through is to claim, rather astonishingly, that there are two kinds of regeneration, two kinds of justification, and even two kinds of salvation! This is the only way he can get “irresistible grace” to make sense. It does not work, not by a long shot, and it’s clear that his method of interpreting the formularies never held much sway, even amongst other Calvinists. Nevertheless, as you mention, he did go to the Synod of Dort. There he defended rather admirably the notion of universal rather than limited atonement, much to the chagrin of some of his cohorts. However, he also attacked Arminianism, which is fair since the Anglican position is not Arminian or Calvinist. And this is the reason why many people are puzzled by it, because they want to fit Anglicanism into one of those two boxes, rather than just allowing it to speak of its own accord.

        All of that said, while I think it is important to note the theological contributions of these many great men, particularly when they can give us an insight into how the Church actually functioned during the classical period, the pious opinions of any individual Reformer or Divine are not authoritative in Anglicanism. The formularies, however, are. And on this topic, they are surprisingly and wonderfully clear.

      • Fr. Jonathan says:

        The Devenant writing on Baptism to which I refer above can be found here: http://www.joelgarver.com/writ/hist/davenant.htm

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