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The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVII- The practical importance of the doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVII

THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE

5. THESE DOCTRINES NOT UNREASONABLE WHEN UNDERSTOOD

Perhaps no other system of thought has been so grossly and grievously and at times so deliberately misrepresented as has Calvinism. Many of those who have criticized Calvinism have done so without making any adequate study of the system, and it may truly be said that our opponents in general know little of our opinions except what they have picked up by hearsay in which there is neither connection nor consistency. The doctrine of Predestination especially makes the wisdom of the world a laughing stock, and in turn the wisdom of the world scoffs at Predestination. If any doctrine is to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Gentiles foolishness, certainly this one is. Nakedly stated, the doctrine of Predestination seems paradoxical; and those who are acquainted with no more than the mere statement of it are likely to feel surprised that it could have been maintained by the pious and thoughtful minds that have maintained it. But in this case, as in many others, when we carefully examine its ground and construction, its paradoxical character is at least diminished, if it does not disappear altogether.

Hence we ask that this system shall be examined without passion and that it shall be studied in its relations and logical consistency. We have already seen that it is abundantly established on Scripture authority; and when we add to this the evidence which comes from the laws of Nature and the facts of human life, it becomes altogether possible, probable, just, and righteous. Viewed in this light it ceases to be the arbitrary illogical, immoral doctrine that its opponents delight to picture, and becomes a doctrine which sheds glory on the divine Majesty. These, of course, are not the doctrines which the natural man expects to find. Salvation by works is the system which most naturally appeals to unenlightened reason; and if we had been left to develop a system ourselves, there is hardly one chance in a thousand that we would have developed a system in which a redeemer acting in his representative capacity would have earned these blessings and graciously given them to his people. Says Zanchius, “The judgment of the flesh, or of mere unregenerates reason, usually starts back from this truth with horror; but, on the contrary, the judgment of a spiritual man will embrace it with affection,” (p. 152). “If Arminianism most commends itself to our feelings,” says Froude, “Calvinism is nearer to the facts, however harsh and forbidding those facts may seem.” It is plain that Calvinism makes its appeal to Divine revelation rather than to man’s reason; to facts rather than sentiment; to knowledge rather than supposition; to conscience rather than to emotion.

As stated before, many people see nothing in this system but a strange sort of foolishness. But when studied with a little care these doctrines are found to be neither so uncertain nor so difficult as men would lead us to believe; and the uncertainty and difficulty which does attach to them is due largely to our pride, love of sin, and ignorance of the real state of our heart. Those who have come to accept this system almost feel that they are living in a different world, so different is their outlook upon life. “Wherever the sons of God turn their eyes,” says Calvin, “they behold such wonderful instances of blindness, ignorance and insensibility, as fills them with horror; while they, in the midst of such darkness, have received Divine illumination, and know it, and feel it, to be so.” 7

If we may paraphrase the words of Pope we can most fittingly say of this subject: “A little Predestination is a dangerous thing; Then drink deep, or else touch not the sacred spring.” Here, as in some other instances, first draughts confuse and unsettle the mind, but deeper draughts overcome the intoxicating effects and bring us back to our right senses.

This sublime philosophy of God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom is found in all parts of the Bible. No attempt, however, is made to explain to us how these two factors are related. The unvarying assumption is that God is the Sovereign Ruler who governs even the intimate thoughts and feelings and impulses of men; yet on the other hand man is never represented as anything else than an intelligent, free, moral agent who is responsible for his actions. The doctrines of foreordination, sovereignty, and effectual providential control, go hand in hand with those of the liberty and responsibility of rational creatures. It is not claimed that the doctrine of Predestination is free from all difficulties, but it is claimed that its denial is attended with more and greater difficulties. That a Being of infinite wisdom, power and goodness would create a universe and then turn it adrift like some huge vessel without a pilot, is a supposition which subverts our basic ideas of God, which contradicts the repeated testimony of the Scriptures, and which is contrary to our daily experience and common sense. Charles Hodge prefaces his discussion of “The Decrees of God,” with the following statement: “It must be remembered that Theology is not Philosophy. It does not assume to discover truth, or to reconcile what it teaches as true with all other truths. Its province is simply to state what God has revealed in His word, and to vindicate those statements as far as possible from misconceptions and objections. This limited and humble office of Theology it is especially necessary to bear in mind, when we come to speak of the acts and purposes of God. ‘The things of God knoweth no man; but the Spirit of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:11). In treating, therefore, of the decrees of God, all that is proposed is simply to state what the Spirit has seen fit to reveal on that subject.” 8

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVII- The practical importance of the doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVII

THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE

4. ONLY CALVINISM WILL STAND ALL TESTS

The harmony which exists between all the branches of Scriptural doctrine is such that truth or error in regard to any of them almost inevitably produces truth or error, in a greater or less degree, in regard to all the others,— which means that only Calvinists hold views which are, in all respects, Scriptural in regard to any of the leading doctrines of Christianity. This does not mean that the main substance of the most important doctrines, such as the Divinity of Christ, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc., are not held by others; but that the general tendency of mistaken views in regard to these distinctively Calvinistic tenets is to lead to greater departures from sound doctrines on other subjects. As a general rule anti-Calvinists so seriously impoverish doctrines such as the atonement, the agency of the Holy Spirit, the guilt and inability of man, regeneration, etc., that these are often little more than empty words; and along with this impoverishment goes the tendency to neglect them entirely. Anti­Calvinists commonly make little distinction between the objective work of Christ for us, and the subjective work in us; and for all practical purposes the atonement is reduced to little or nothing else than an exhibition and proof of God’s indiscriminate love to men, through which it is shown that God is ready and willing to forgive. The tendency of other systems is to the “moral persuasion” theory of the atonement, while Calvinism holds that the suffering of Christ was a full satisfaction made to the justice of God,— that his sufferings were a full equivalent of those which were due to His people for their sin.

We are living in a day in which we see practically all of the historic Protestant churches attacked by unbelief from within. Many of them have already succumbed; and the line of descent has invariably been from Calvinism to Arminianism, and from Arminianism to Modernism or Unitarianism; and this latter state has proved to be self-destructive. We firmly believe that the fortunes of Christianity are bound up with the fortunes of Calvinism. Certainly the history of Modernism and Unitarianism in this country has proved that they are too weak to maintain themselves. Where the principles of Calvinism are abandoned, there is a powerful tendency leading downward into the depths of Naturalism. Some have declared— and rightly we believe — that there is no consistent middle ground between Calvinism and Atheism.

These distinctions which we have set forth between Calvinism and Arminianism are broad and important; and until one has made a special study of these truths he does not realize what a large amount of heresy has been incorporated into the Arminian system. If one system is true, the other is radically false. As strict Calvinists we believe these doctrines to embody final truth and to be eternally right. We believe this to be the only system of Christian truth which is taught in the Bible and the only one that can be logically and respectably defended before the world. And certainly it is much easier to defend a type of Christianity which is in harmony with both Scripture and reason than to defend any other type. We believe that Calvinism and consistent theism do not merely have points of contact but that they are identical, and that to fall away from Calvinism is to fall away by just so much from a truly theistic conception of the universe. Dr. Warfield has said that Calvinism is “Theism come to its rights,” that it is “Evangelicalism in its pure and only stable expression,” that it is “religion at the height of its conception.” We believe that the future of Christianity — as its past has done — lies in its hands, and that as Christianity progresses in the world this system of doctrine will gradually come to the front.

Because of the inconsistent position of Arminianism as a half-way measure between a religion of grace and a religion of works, it has been able to offer but little resistance to the naturalistic tendencies of the last few years. Practically all of the professedly Arminian churches have been swallowed up by the present day Liberalism.

“If we are not only to defend Christianity against modern attacks,” says Dr. S. G. Craig, “but to commend it with any hope of success to the modern world, we must undertake the task armed with a consistent and scientifically conceived life and world view that rests on Christian facts and principles . . . . I hold with those who believe that such a consistent Christian life and world view is given us only in Calvinism, and hence that a renaissance of Calvinism is an outstanding need of the times if we are successfully to defend even what we call common Christianity in the forum of the world’s thought.” The late Henry B. Smith was right at least in principle when he wrote, “One thing is certain — that infidel science will rout everything excepting thoroughgoing Christian orthodoxy. All the flabby theories, and the molluscous formations, and the immediate purgatories of speculation will go by the board. The fight will be between a stiff thorough-going othodoxy and a stiff thorough-going infidelity. It will be, e.g., Augustine or Comte, Athanasius or Hegel, Luther or Schopenhauer, J. S. Mill or John Calvin.” The fight is between the naturalism of science and the supernaturalism of Christianity; all compromising schemes are doomed to failure. (Let it be understood at this point that we have no quarrel with true science as such. We recognize the great value of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, etc., and realize that much of our twentieth century progress has been possible only through the contributions which these sciences have made. We welcome truth from whatever source it comes, and believe that in the end it will be seen to substantiate Christianity. The psalmist declared, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth His handiwork,” Psalm 19 :1; and again, “O Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth,” Psalm 8:1; and certainly the more we know about these things the better we shall understand God. Our quarrel rather is with certain unbelieving scientists who attempt to bring their anti-Christian or even atheistic theories over into the spheres of religion and philosophy, and who profess to speak with authority on subjects concerning which they are ignorant.)

It is very interesting to notice how, in the history of the Church, other systems of theology have risen and fallen while this system has steadily endured. Arminianism, in its present form at least, is of comparatively recent date. From the time of the Reformation until late in the eighteenth century it was consistently outlawed by Protestant church counsels and creeds. Nor has it fared much better in the Catholic Church. In the fourth century Augustine succeeded in making his doctrine of Predestination the recognized doctrine of Christendom and at no time has the Catholic Church consistently and officially adopted the tenets of Arminianism. Likewise Neatorianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Semi Pelagianism, Socinianism, etc., have risen, have had their day, and passed out; while this system, known in different ages as Augustinianism or Calvinism, has remained fundamentally the same in its basic principles. Is not this in itself a strong proof that it is the true system? In regard to the Calvinism of the Westminster Confession, Dr. C. W. Hodge has said: “The newer modifications of Calvinism have passed away, and this pure consistent form of supernaturalism and evangelicalism stands as an impregnable barrier against the floods of naturalism which threaten to overwhelm all the churches in Christendom.”

In Calvinism alone does the logical and consistent mind find rest. That it is a logical system is admitted even by its opponents. A man who is acquainted with Calvinism will either love or hate it, but even if he hates it, he cannot but speak respectfully of it. The criticism is sometimes made that it places too much stress on logic and too little on emotion. It is true that this anthracite Calvinism does not blaze up like straw; but it is also true that once afire it produces an intense and steady heat. “Calvinism,” says Prof. H. H. Meeter, “bears the distinction among religious groups of being highly intellectual. Calvinism is known for its dialectics. The Calvinists are recognized as the logicians par excellence among theologians. Oliver Wendell Holmes even went so far as to satirize this aspect of Calvinism in his burlesque: ‘The Deacon’s Masterpiece.’ The old one-hoss shay, which was so well constructed that every nut and bolt and bar and spoke was of equal strength and collapsed all at once before the meeting house, was to him the story of Calvinism. As a masterpiece of logic it had continued for ages, but was supposed to have collapsed completely when transcendentalism gained the ascendancy in New England.” 6

The objection, however, that it over-emphasizes logic, has no adequate basis, as anyone who approaches the system from a sympathetic standpoint can readily see. Yet if we are to err on either side it is probably better to err on the side of the intellect than on the side of the emotions. But who ever heard of a system being thrown out because it was too logical? Instead we glory in its logical consistency.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVII- The practical importance of the doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVII

THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE

3. CALVINISTIC EMPHASIS ON THE DIVINE AGENCY IN MAN’S SALVATION

He will be only a very imperfect Christian who does not know these deeper truths which are brought to light by the doctrine of Predestination. He can have no adequate appreciation of the glory of God, nor of the riches of grace which are given him through redemption in Christ; for nowhere else as brightly as in the predestination of the elect to life does the glory of God shine out in its full-orbed splendor, undimmed and unsullied by human works of any kind. It shows us that all that we are and all that we have that is desirable we owe to His grace. It rebukes human pride and exalts Divine mercy. It makes man to be nothing and God to be everything, and thus preserves the proper relation between the creature and the infinitely exalted Creator. It exalts one absolute Sovereign, who is the universal Ruler, and humbles all other sovereigns before Him, thus showing that all men in themselves and apart from God’s special favor are on the same level. It has championed the rights of mankind wherever it has gone, in the State as well as in the Church.

The doctrine of Predestination emphasizes the Divine side of salvation while its rival system emphasizes the human side. It impresses upon us the fact that our salvation is purely of grace, and that we were no better than those who are left to suffer for their sins. It thus leads us to be more charitable and tolerant toward the unsaved and to be eternally thankful that God has saved us. It shows us that in our fallen state our wisdom is folly, our strength weakness, and our righteousness of no account. It teaches us that our hope is in God, and that from Him must come all our help. It teaches us that lesson of which so many are fatally ignorant, the blessed lesson of self-despair. Luther tells us that he “used frequently to be much offended at this doctrine,” because it drove him to self-despair; but that he afterward found this kind of despair was profitable and near of kin to divine grace. In fact we may say that it solves more questions, it involves fewer difficulties, it gives more solid ground for faith and hope, and it more exalts and glorifies God than does any doctrine which contradicts it. We do not go too far in saying that it is fundamental to the religious conceptions of the Biblical writers, and that to eradicate it from either the Old or the New Testament would transform the entire Scriptural representation. The matter was well put by Dr. J. Gresham Machen when he said, “A Calvinist is constrained to regard the Arminian theology as a serious impoverishment of the Scripture doctrine of divine grace; and equally serious is the view which the Arminian must hold as to the doctrines of the Reformed Churches.” 4

It must be evident that there are just two theories which can be maintained by evangelical Christians upon this important subject; that all men who have made any study of it, and who have reached any settled conclusions regarding it, must be either Calvinists or Arminians. There is no other position which a “Christian” can take. Those who deny the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death turn to a system of self salvation or naturalism, and cannot be called “Christians” in the historical and only proper sense of the term.

By way of comparison we may say that the Lutheran Church emphasizes the fact that salvation is by faith alone; the Baptist Church emphasizes the importance of the sacraments, particularly baptism, and the right of individuals and of congregations to exercise private judgment in religious affairs; the Methodist Church emphasises the love of God to men, and man’s responsibility to God; the Congregational Church emphasizes the right of private judgment and of local congregations to manage their own affairs; the Roman Catholic Church emphasizes the unity of the Church, and the importance of a connection with the Apostolic church. But all of these, while good in themselves, are paled by the great doctrine of the sovereignty and majesty of God which is emphasized by the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. While the others are more or less anthropological principles, this is a theological principle, and it presents to us a GREAT GOD who is high and lifted up, who is seated upon the throne of universal dominion.

Dr. Warfield has given us a good analysis of the formative principles which underlie the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches. After saying that the distinction is not that the Lutherans deny the sovereignty of God, nor that the Reformed deny that salvation is by faith alone he adds: “Lutheranism, springing from the throes of a guilt-burdened soul seeking peace with God, finds this peace in faith, and stops right there… It will know nothing beyond the peace of the justified soul. Calvinism asks with the same eagerness as Lutheranism the great question: ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ and answers it precisely as Lutheranism answers it. But it cannot stop there. The deeper question presses upon it, ‘Whence this faith by which I am justified?’ . . . . It has zeal, no doubt, for salvation, but its highest zeal is for the honor of God, and it is this question which quickens its emotions and vitalizes its efforts. It begins, it centers, and it ends with the vision of God in His glory; and it sets itself before all things to render to God His rights in every sphere of life activity.” 5 And again he says: “It is the vision of God in His majesty, in a word, which lies at the foundation of Calvinistic thinking,” and after a man has seen this vision he “is filled on the one hand with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight, as a creature, and much more as a sinner, and on the other with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.” All dependence on self is gone, and he casts himself on the grace of God alone. In nature, in history, in grace, everywhere, from eternity to eternity, he sees the all-pervading activity of God.

If God has a definite plan for the redemption of man it is very important that we shall know what that plan is. The person who looks at a complicated machine but who is ignorant of the purpose it was designed to accomplish and ignorant of the relation of its several parts, must be unable to understand or usefully to apply it. Likewise, if we are ignorant of the plan of salvation, the great end aimed at, or the relation of the several parts, or if we misunderstand these, our views will be confused and erroneous; we shall be unable properly to apply it to ourselves or to exhibit it to others. Since the doctrine of Predestination reveals to us so much concerning the way of salvation, and since it gives so great comfort and assurance to the Christian, it is a great and blessed truth.

We have no hesitation in affirming that this system of belief and doctrine, as given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the true and final system of Philosophy. Furthermore, Theology studies God Himself, while the physical sciences and liberal arts study only His garments. In the very nature of the case, therefore Theology must be the “Queen of the Sciences.” Philosophy, as it has usually been studied by the different schools of thought, is indeed the ground and mistress of the merely human sciences, but is itself only an auxiliary science in the study of Theology.

Calvinistic Theology is the greatest subject that has ever exercised the mind of man. Its very starting point is a profound apprehension of the exaltation and perfection of God. With its sublime doctrines of God’s sovereign grace, power, and glory, it rises to far greater heights than does any other system. In fact, the one to whom it is presented is moved to cry with the psalmist, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain unto it”; or to exclaim with the apostle Paul, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Psalm 139: 6; Romans 11:33). It is a subject which has challenged the intellects of all great thinkers in earnest times, and there is little wonder that we are told that these are things which angels desire to look into. To pass from other systems to this one is like passing from the mouth of a river and launching out on the mighty ocean. We leave the shallows behind and feel ourselves out on the great broad deep.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVII- The practical importance of the doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVII

THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE

2. A SOURCE OF SECURITY AND COURAGE

“It is the doctrine of a particular providence,” says Rice, “that gives to the righteous a feeling of security in the midst of danger; that gives them assurance that the path of duty is the path of safety and of prosperity; and that encourages them to the practice of virtue, even when it exposes them to the greatest reproach and persecution. How often, when clouds and darkness seem to gather over them, do they rejoice in the assurance given by their Saviour, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ ” 2 The sense of security which this doctrine gives to the struggling saint results from the assurance that he is not committed to his own power, or rather weakness, but into the sure hands of the Almighty Father,— that over him is the banner of love and underneath are the everlasting arms. He realizes that even the Devil and wicked men, regardless of whatever tumults they may cause, are not only restrained of God but are compelled to do His pleasure. Elisha, lonely and forgotten, counted those who were with him more than those who were against him, because he saw the chariots and horsemen of the Lord moving in the clouds. The disciples, knowing that their names were written in heaven, were prepared to endure persecutions, and on one occasion we read that after being beaten and reviled “they departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name,” Acts 5 :41.

“The godly consideration of predestination, and our election in Christ,” says the seventeenth article in the creed of the Church of England, “is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons.” Paul’s injunction was, “In nothing be anxious.” And it is only when we know that God actually rules from the throne of the universe, and that He has ordained us to be his loved ones, that we can have that inward peace in our hearts.

Dr. Clarence E. Macartney, in a sermon on Predestination, said: “The misfortunes and adversities of life, so called, assume a different color when we look at them through this glass. It is sad to hear people trying to live over their lives again and saying to themselves: ‘If I had chosen a different profession,’ ‘If I had taken a different turning of the road,’ ‘If I had married another person.’ All this is weak and unChristian. The web of destiny we have woven, in a sense, with our own hands, and yet God had His part in it. It is God’s part in it, and not our part, that gives us faith and hope.” And Blaise Pascal, in a wonderful letter written to a bereaved friend, instead of repeating the ordinary platitudes of consolation comforted him with the doctrine of Predestination, saying: “If we regard this event, not as an effect of chance, not as a fatal necessity of nature, but as a result inevitable, just, holy, of a decree of His Providence, conceived from all eternity, to be executed in such a year, day, hour, and such a place and manner, we shall adore in humble silence the impenetrable loftiness of His secrets; we shall venerate the sanctity of His decrees; we shall bless the acts of His providence; and uniting our will with that of God Himself, we shall wish with Him, in Him and for Him, the thing that He has willed in us and for us for all eternity.”

Since the true Calvinist sees God’s hand and wise purpose in everything, he knows that even his sufferings, sorrows, persecutions, defeats, etc., are not the results of chance or accident, but that they have been foreseen and foreappointed, and that they are chastisements or disciplines designed for his own good. He realizes that God will not needlessly afflict His people; that in the divine plan these are all ordered in number, weight and measure; and that they shall not continue a moment longer than God sees necessary. In sorrow his heart instinctively clings to this faith, feeling that for reasons wise and gracious though unknown, the affliction was sent. However keenly afflictions may at first wound, a little reasoned thought quickly brings him to himself again, and the sorrows and tribulations, in great measure, become pointless.

And in accordance with this the Scriptures say: “To them that love God all things work together for good,” Romans 8:28; “My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, Nor faint when thou art reproved of Him; For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth,” Hebrews 12:5, 6. “It is Jehovah: let Him do what seemeth Him good,” 1 Samuel 3:18. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward,” Romans 8:18. “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you,” Matthew 6:11, 12. “If we endure (suffer with Him) we shall also reign with Him,” 2 Timothy 2:12. “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; Blessed be the name of Jehovah,” Job 1:21. When someone slanders us we shall at least not be so angry if we remember with David that “the Lord hath bidden him curse,” 2 Samuel 16:11.

Our predestination is our one sure guarantee of salvation. Other things may give us comfort, but only this can give us certainty. It makes the Gospel to be what the word really means, “Good News.” Any other system which holds that Christ’s sacrifice did not actually save anyone but that it merely made salvation possible for all if they would comply with certain terms, reduces it to good advice; and any system which carries with it only a “chance” for salvation, also carries with it, of logical necessity, a “chance” to be lost. And what a difference it makes to fallen man as to whether the Gospel is good news or good advice! The world is full of good advice; even the books of heathen philosophers contained much of it; but the Gospel alone contains for man the good news that God has redeemed him.

This system, logical and severe though it may be, does not make one sad and silent, but courageous and active. Knowing himself to be immortal until his work is done, courage is a natural result. Smith’s estimate of the Calvinist is expressed in the following words: “His feet plucked from the horrible pit and planted on the Eternal Rock, his heart thrilled with an adoring gratitude, his soul conscious of a Divine love that will never forsake him and a Divine energy that in him and through him is working out eternal purposes of good, he is girded with invincible strength. In a nobler sense than Napoleon ever dreamed, he knows himself to be a ‘man of destiny.’ ” And again he says, “Calvinism is at once the most satisfying and the most stimulating of creeds.” 3

Yet along with these motives for courage are to be found others which keep the person properly humble and grateful. In the present stage of the world he sees himself as a brand plucked from the burning. Knowing himself to have been saved not by any merit or wisdom of his own, but only by God’s grace and mercy, he is deeply conscious of his dependence on God, and has the greatest incentive to right living. All in all no surer way will be found to fill the mind at one time with reverence, humility, patience, and gratitude than to have it thoroughly saturated with this doctrine of Predestination.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVII- The practical importance of the doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVII

THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE

1. Influence of the Doctrine in Daily Living. 2. A Source of Security and Courage. 3. Calvinistic Emphasis on the Divine Agency in Man’s Salvation. 4. Only Calvinism Will Stand All Tests. 5. These Doctrines Not Unreasonable When Understood. 6. The Westminster Assembly and the Westminster Confession. 7. These Doctrines Should be Publicly Taught and Preached. 8. Ordination Vows and the Minister’s Obligation. 9. The Presbyterian Church is Truly Broad and Tolerant. 10. Reason for the Depressed Fortunes of Calvinism Today.

1. INFLUENCE OF THE DOCTRINE IN DAILY LIVING

This is not a cold, barren, speculative theory, not an unnatural system of strange doctrines such as many people are inclined to believe, but a most warm and living, a most vital and important account of God’s relations with men. It is a system of great practical truths which are designed and adapted, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to mould the affections of the heart and to give right direction to the conduct. Calvin’s own testimony in this respect is: “I would, in the first place, entreat my readers carefully to bear in memory the admonition which I offer; that this great subject is not, as many imagine, a mere thorny and noisy disputation, nor a speculation which wearies the minds of men without any profit; but a solid discussion eminently adapted to the service of the godly, because it builds us up soundly in the faith, trains us to humility, and lifts us up into an admiration of the unbounded goodness of God toward us, while it elevates us to praise this goodness in our highest strains. For there is not a more effectual means of building up faith than the giving our open ears to the election of God, which the Holy Spirit seals upon our heart while we hear, showing us that it stands in the eternal and immutable goodwill of God towards us; and that, therefore, it cannot be moved or altered by any storms of the world, by any assaults of Satan, by any changes, by any fluctuations or weaknesses of the flesh. For our salvation is then sure to us, when we find the cause of it in the breast of God.”1 These, we think, are true words and much needed today.

The Christian who has this doctrine in his heart knows that he is following a heaven-directed course; that his course has been foreordained for him personally; and that it is a good course. He does not yet understand all of the details, but even amid adversities he can look forward confident of the future, knowing that his eternal destiny is fixed and forever blessed, and that nothing can possibly rob him of this priceless treasure. He realizes that after he has finished the course here he shall look back over it and see that every single event in it was designed of God for a particular purpose, and that he will be thankful for having been led through those particular experiences. Once convinced of these truths, he knows that the day is surely coming when to all those who grieve or persecute him he shall be able to say, as did Joseph to his brothers, “As for you, ye meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” This exalted conception of God as high and lifted up yet personally concerned with even the smallest events leaves no place for what men commonly call chance, or luck, or fortune. When a person sees himself as one of the Lord’s chosen and knows that every one of his acts has an eternal significance, he realizes more clearly how serious life is, and he is fired with a new determination to make his life count for great things.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVI- A Comparison with the Mohammedan doctrine of predestination

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVI

A COMPARISON WITH THE MOHAMMEDAN DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION

4. THE TWO DOCTRINES CONTRASTED

Although the terms used in describing the Reformed and the Mohammedan doctrines of Predestination have much similarity the results of their reasoning are as far apart as the East is from the West. In fact, the further investigation proceeds the more superficial does the resemblance become. Their greatest resemblance seems to be in the teachings of each that everything which occurs happens according to the will of God. Yet very different ideas are meant by the “will of God.” Islam reduces God to a category of the will and makes Him a despot, an oriental despot, who stands at abysmal heights above humanity. He cares nothing for character, but only for submission. The only affair of men is to obey His decrees, so that, as Zanchius says, Predestination becomes “a sort of blind, rapid, overbearing impetus, which, right or wrong, with means or without, carries all things violently before it, with little or no attention to the peculiar and respective nature of second causes.” And concerning human freedom Dr. Zwemer says that in the doctrine of Islam, “God’s omnipotence is so absolute that it excludes all self activity on the part of the creature . . . . Whatever freedom is permitted is only under the term Kasb; that is, the appropriation of an act as his own which, after all, he is compelled to execute as a part of God’s will.”

The Koran and orthodox traditions have practically nothing to say about the concepts of sin and moral responsibility, and the morality of the Mohammedan system is notoriously defective. In Islam it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that God is the author of sin. The origin of sin and its character are wholly different concepts in Islam and in Christianity.

In Islam there is no doctrine of the Fatherhood of God and no purpose of redemption to soften the doctrine of the decrees. God is represented as having arbitrarily created one group of people for paradise and another group for hell, and the events of every person’s life are so ordered that little place is left for moral responsibility and guilt. They deny that there has been any election in Christ to grace and glory, and that Christ died a sacrificial death for his people. They have nothing to say about the efficacy of saving grace or about perseverance, and even in regard to the predestination of temporal events the ideas are often gross and confused. The attribute of love is absent from Allah. The ideas that God should love us or that we should love God are strange ideas to Islam, and the Koran hardly hints at this subject of which the Bible is so full.

In conclusion it may be said that the Arminian creed has little appeal for the Mohammedan. So far as mission work is concerned, the Calvinistic churches entered the world of Islam earlier and more vigorously than any other group of churches, and for more than one hundred years they and they alone have challenged Islam in the land of its birth. They have occupied the strategic centers and today are carrying on far the larger part of the mission work in the Moslem world. With God’s sovereignty as basis, God’s glory as goal, and God’s will as motive, the Presbyterian and Reformed churches are peculiarly fitted to win Moslem hearts to the allegiance of Christ, and are facing, with bright hopes of success, that most difficult of all missionary tasks, the evangelization of the Moslem world.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVI- A Comparison with the Mohammedan doctrine of predestination

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVI

A COMPARISON WITH THE MOHAMMEDAN DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION

3. CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE NOT DERIVED FROM MOHAMMEDANISM

But whatever may be said about the doctrine of Predestination, no reasonable person will charge that the Christian doctrine is borrowed from the Mohammedan. Augustine, who is admitted by Protestants and Catholics alike to have been the outstanding man in the Christian Church at his time, and whom Protestants rate as the greatest between Paul and Luther, had taught this doctrine with great conviction more than two centuries before Mohammedanism arose; and it was aggressively taught by Christ and the apostles at the beginning of the Christian era, to say nothing of the place which it occupied in the Old Testament.

A study of the history and teachings of Mohammedanism reveals that it is made up of three parts, one of which was borrowed from the Jews, another from the Christians, and the third from the heathen Arabs. Hence a part of the system is nothing more nor less than Christianity at second hand. But would any reasonable Christian give up certain articles of his creed only because Mohammed adopted them in his? What great gaps such conduct would make in our creed can be seen when we learn that Mohammed believed in only one true God, that he utterly abolished all idol worship, that he believed in angels, a general resurrection and judgment, a heaven and hell, that he allowed both the Old and New Testaments, and recognized both Moses and Christ as prophets of God. It is small wonder, then, that elements of the Christian doctrine of Predestination were incorporated into the Mohammedan system and united with the heathen doctrine of Fatalism.

Furthermore, an historical study of this subject shows us that the Mohammedans have had their sort of Arminians as truly as we, and that the questions of Predestination and Free Will have been agitated among the Mohammedan doctors with as much heat and vehemence as ever they were in Christendom. The Turks of the sect of Omar hold the doctrine of absolute Predestination, while the Persians of the sect of Ali deny Predestination and assert Free Will with as much fervor as any Arminian.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVI- A Comparison with the Mohammedan doctrine of predestination

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVI

A COMPARISON WITH THE MOHAMMEDAN DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION

2. MOHAMMEDAN TENDENCY TOWARD FATALISM

As a matter of fact, however, Mohammedanism places such an emphasis on God as the sole cause of all events that second causes are practically excluded. The idea that man is in any way the cause of his own acts has nearly ceased to exist, and Fatalism, the normal belief of the Arabs in their state of semi civilization before Mohammed, is the controlling force in the speculations and practices of the Moslem world. “According to these traditions,” says Dr. Zwemer, “and the interpretation of them for more than ten centuries in the life of Moslems, this kind of Predestination should be called Fatalism and nothing else. For Fatalism is the doctrine of an inevitable necessity and implies an omnipotent and arbitrary sovereign power.” 4

Practically, Mohammedanism holds to a predestination of ends regardless of means. The contrast with the Christian system is seen in the following story. A ship crowded with Englishmen and Mohammedans was ploughing through the waves. Accidentally one of the passengers fell overboard. The Mohammedans looked after him with indifference, saying, “If it is written in the book of destiny that he shall be saved, he shall be saved without us; and if it is written that he shall perish, we can do nothing”; and with that they left him. But the Englishmen said, “Perhaps it is written that we should save him.” They threw him a rope and he was saved.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVI- A Comparison with the Mohammedan doctrine of predestination

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVI

A COMPARISON WITH THE MOHAMMEDAN DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION

1. Elements Which the Two Doctrines Have in Common. 2. Mohammedan Tendency Toward Fatalism. 3. Christian Doctrine Not Derived From Mohammedanism. 4. The Two Doctrines Contrasted.

1. ELEMENTS WHICH THE TWO DOCTRINES HAVE IN COMMON

While Mohammedanism is a false religion and utterly destitute of power to save the soul from sin, there are certain elements of truth in the system, and we are under obligation to honor truth regardless of the source from which it comes. “The strength of Mohammedanism,” says Froude, “was that it taught the omnipotence and omnipresence of one eternal Spirit, the Maker and Ruler of all things, by whose everlasting purpose all things were, and whose will all things must obey.” 1 The striking similarity between the Biblical and the Koranic doctrines of Predestination has been noticed by many writers. Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer, who in a very real sense can be referred to as “the apostle to the Mohammedan world,” calls attention to the strange parallel between the Reformation in Europe under Calvin and that in Arabia under Mohammed. Says he: “Islam is indeed in many respects the Calvinism of the Orient. It, too, was a call to acknowledge the sovereignty of God’s will. ‘There is no god but God.’ It, too, saw in nature and sought in revelation the majesty of God’s presence and power, and manifestations of His glory, transcendent and omnipotent. ‘God,’ says Mohammed, ‘there is no god but He, the living, the self-subsistent, slumber seizeth Him not, nor sleep — His throne embraceth the heavens and the earth and none can intercede with Him save by His permission. He alone is exalted and great’ . . . . It is this vital theistic principle that explains the victory of Islam over the weak divided and idolatrous Christendom of the Orient in the sixth century . . . . The Message of Mohammed, when he first unfurled the green banner, ‘There is no god but God; God is king, and you must and shall obey His will,’ was one of the simplest accounts ever offered of the nature of God and His relation to man . . . . This was Islam, as it was offered at the sword’s point to people who had lost the power of understanding any other argument.”2

In addition to the Koran there are a number of orthodox traditions which claim to give Mohammed’s teachings on the subject. Some of these tell in almost identical language how before the person is born an angel descends and writes his destiny. It is said that the angel inquires, “O my Lord, miserable or blessed? whereupon one or the other is written down; and: O my Lord, a male or a female? Whereupon one or the other is written down. He also writes down the moral conduct of the new being, its career, its term of life, and its allotment of good. Then (it is said to him): Roll up the leaves, for no addition shall be made thereto, nor anything taken therefrom.” In another tradition we read of a messenger of God speaking thus: “There is no one of you — there is no soul born whose place, whether Paradise or Hell, has not been predetermined by God, and which has not been registered beforehand as either miserable or blessed.” 3

But while the Koran and the traditions teach a strict foreordination of moral conduct and future destiny, they also present a doctrine of human freedom which makes it necessary for us to qualify the sharper assertions of divine Predestination in harmony with it. And here, too, as in the Scriptures, no attempt is made to explain how the apparently opposite truths of Divine sovereignty and human freedom are to be reconciled.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

 

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXV- Predestination in the physical world

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXV

PREDESTINATION IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD

3. THE CALVINISTIC SYSTEM ALONE HARMONIZES WITH MODERN SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

The Calvinistic world- and life-view, which so emphasizes the fixity and certainty of the course of events, is thus in striking harmony with modern Science and Philosophy. How preposterous is that claim which is sometimes made, that no matter how clearly this doctrine of Predestination is taught in the Scriptures, it is disproved by established truth from other sources! That claim is made by many who wish to establish a different system of theology. But any one who is at all familiar with modern Science and Philosophy (with physiological psychology, for example), with their emphasis on universally fixed laws, knows that just the opposite is true. Witness the present day emphasis on behaviourism, determinism, and heredity. And what is Mendel’s law but Predestination in the realm of Genetics? The tendency is strongly against the free and the contingent. The Universe is conceived of as one systematic whole, interrelated in all of its parts, and following a very definite, prearranged course. With a different nomenclature and a different idea of the supernatural, the foremost modern scientists and philosophers hold the Calvinistic view in regard to the world as a unit. They may deny God’s freedom, or even His personality, and their necessitarian metaphysics may be radically at variance with the true doctrine of His providence and grace; they may attempt to explain the thought processes of the brain, and even life itself, by physical and chemical laws; yet their impression of the co-ordinated facts of life and nature is thoroughly Calvinistic.

Without faith in the unity, stability, and order of things such as that to which Predestination leads us, it is impossible for Science to go beyond mere conjectures. Science is based on faith in the organic inter connection or unity of the universe, a firm conviction that our entire lives must be under the sway of laws or principles established by some extra-mundane Power or Creator. The more we learn about Science the more clearly do we see the unity which underlies it all.

And when we come to study History we find that it is a “chain of events.” Just as every grain of sand is related to every sun in the universe, so every event has its exact and necessary place in the unfolding of History. All of us remember comparatively insignificant events which have changed the courses of our lives; and had one of these links been omitted the result would have been radically different. Often times a very small thing sets off a course of events which convulses the world, as was the case in 1914 when a Serbian conspirator fired a shot at the Archduke of Austria, and the World War followed. Quite naturally many people have drawn back from attributing all the free acts of men and angels, and especially their sinful acts, to the foreordination of God. Nevertheless, if God is to rule the world at all His plan and providential control must extend to all events, not only in the natural world, but also in the realm of human affairs; and the Scriptures plainly teach that the free acts of men and angels are as certainly foreordained of God as are the events in the material world.

This four-fold argument of Science, Philosophy, History, and sacred Scriptures is not to be taken lightly. In Science, Philosophy, and History the doctrine is reduced to the cold severity of impersonal force. But when the radiant light of the glorious Gospel is thrown upon this, showing that the racial choices, the personal elections, the divine calls, are made by sovereign grace and not simply by sovereign will, we see that God’s eternal purposes are in favor of man and not against him; and the heart finds rest and comfort in the fact that God’s love and mercy are as tender as His purposes are strong.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination