Determinism

In this section we will review the deterministic position.

Westminster Catechism (Presbyterian):

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and some foreordained to everlasting death (iii. 3). They whom God hath accepted in his beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved (xvii. 1).[1] Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the word and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved (x. 4). These angels and men, thus predestinated and preordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished (iii. 4). Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only (iii. 6). The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendetli or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice (iii. 7). Man by his fall into a state of sin hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation ; so, as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself or to prepare himself thereunto (ix. 3).[2] As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God as a righteous judge for former sins doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts, &c. (v. 6). By this sin they [our first parents] fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. . . . They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed our actual transgressions (vi. 2, 3, 4). Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth in its own nature bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, — spiritual, temporal, and eternal (vi. 6). Much less can men not professing the Christian religion be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they ever so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and to the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is very pernicious and to be detested (x. 4).[3] Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things that God commands, and of good use both to themselves and to others, yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith, nor are done in a right manner according to the word, nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God (xvi. 7 ; iii. ix. ; vi. 4). But the wicked who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (xxxiii. 2).”[4]

Auburn Declaration (“New” Presbyterians):

“While repentance for sin and faith in Christ arc indispensable to salvation, all who are saved are indebted, from first to last, to the grace and Spirit of God. And the reason that God does not save all is not that he wants the power to do it, but that in his wisdom he does not see fit to exert that power further than he actually does.”[5]

Savoy Confession (Congregational Church):

Very similar in wording to the Westminster Confession on these points.[6]

John Calvin:

“Again I ask whence it happened that the fall of Adam involved without remedy in eternal death so many nations, together with their infant children, except because it so seemed good to God? A horrible decree, I confess.” “Many, indeed, as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that any one is reprobated. Bat this is puerile and absurd, because election itself could not exist without being opposed to reprobation. Whom God passes by, therefore, he reprobates, and from no other cause than his determination to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestinates for his children.”[7]

 


  1. [1]This touches upon the concepts of irresistible grace and unconditional election.
  2. [2]This concerns the concept of Total Depravity.
  3. [3]This deals with the concept of exclusivity and rejects any thought of pluralism. It indicates that it is not possible for any one to so please God apart from Christ to receive salvation – no matter how well they may live.
  4. [4]This quotation is taken from John Wesley Hanson’s The Leaven at Work, pg. 9. Hanson was a Universalist of the 19th century and it is worth noting that he includes the Catechism’s discussion of the imputation of sin and the total depravity of man b/c it is likely he disagreed with these concepts in addition to the concept of eternal post-mortem punishment.
  5. [5]Again, this quote is from Hanson’s The Leaven at Work, pg. 11.
  6. [6]A selection demonstrating this can be seen in Hanson’s work already referred to. See pg. 12.
  7. [7]Hanson, pg. 23.

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