Sunday, 14 August 2011

Was The Cross Unnecessary?

I have argued before about the logical extension of hyper Calvinism. In fact, I'm afraid that the type of Calvinism that most of those who would call themselves Calvinists, if the logical extension of their view be examined, would be what even they derisively call, "hyper-Calvinism." This Calvinism is that which includes the view of election that holds that God, before the foundation of the world, chose particular individuals for salvation and other particular individuals to unconditional and irreversible individual reprobation and therefore damnation. I will call it, "John Piper calvinism," not out of any disrespect for the man (he is a man whose teachings I admire in other areas and hold in high regard), but because John Piper is often one to whom many Calvininsts point as an example of its proponents.

But the logical extension of even this type of Calvinism, if examined in all honesty, is that evangelism is, at the end of the day, unneccessary. Now, most Calvinists would deny this of course, attributing such an idea to hyper-Calvinism, but that is without thinking the matter through. Because if they are honest, that is exactly where their own position leads. If God has pre-chosen all who are to be saved, as well as all who will perish, and God's immutable purposes cannot be thwarted, then it matters not whether these, "elect" are evangelized, or by whom; they will be saved -- period! It may be argued that God uses means. But then it must be admitted that God also then must ordain the means, leading to a kind of complete and controlling determinism. Either that, or God is at the whim of someone who chooses or chooses not to obey the great commission. In other words, I may say, "I don't feel like speaking to that person (one of the elect, let's say) about Christ." Which then would force God to say, "Well then, guess I'll just have to use someone else."

In any case, if God has preselected His chosen, it can be argued that it doesn't matter whether we evangelize or not; the elect will be saved no matter what.

All that is to say that I am now reading a book by Robert Shank, "Elect in the Son." Although I may not agree with all he says, I found that he puts my view of election quite well. In fact, I discovered a name for it; "Corporate election." It holds that it is Christ who is elect )
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1 NKJV)
and that we who are saved were chosen, "in him" (from that great predestination passage in Ephesians 1), and we are his, "body."
In other words, it is the body that is elect, and saved individuals only by virtue of being included in it.

But evangelism is not the only thing made unnecessary by unconditional particular election. So, ultimately is the cross, is it not? If God has decreed, unconditionally and immutably in eternity past, those who will be saved, then the cross becomes a mere symbol of a decision already made. Shank writes,
Calvin's reference (folowing Augustine) to Christ as, "the mirror of election" has been construed by some as indicativeof his concept of the role of Christ in election as being merelyt reflect what God already had accomplished in eternity by His decree. Thus Christ's "redemptive" career -- the incarnation, His death and resurrection, His ascension and intercession -- are seen as incidental and symbolic, divine pageantry rather than authentic saving acts. Election becomes predicated on God's decree in eternity in abstractio from all occurrences in time in the experience of Jesus. (p32)
To push the point further, either there can be no truly unconditional election, because salvation, and therefore election, is conditional on the cross, or the cross becomes irrelevant, ineffectual and merely symbolic.

When it comes right down to it, though, I believe that every passage on election in the Bible can be read and understood in the light of the concept of corporate election. It is not necessary to consign, or have God consign, anyone to hell without any hope of redemption or access to appeal.

Take Care


Warren said...

You've made me curious. In a June 2008 post, you called yourself a partial Calvinist. Robert Shank is an Arminian theologian. Are you trying to occupy that middle ground that hardline Calvinists and Arminians say can't exist? I'm probably in that zone too.

John K said...

Hi Warren,
I still consider myself a partial Calvinist. In fact even more so that when I previously wrote. I believe I can subscribe to each letter of TULIP, with the proviso that election be defined as corporate election and not particular. Shank argues against the perseverance of the saints, so we disagree there. I would have to examine things much more closely before I change my mind on that one.

BTW, I posted this before I had actually finished it, so there is more here now to read.

John K said...

Warren, are you back in Canada now?

Warren said...

I'm a Winnipeger again. Go Jets (and Blue Bombers)!

Warren said...

I brought back a new/old car; a 2007 Mazdaspeed6. Although very different in many respects, it has some similarities to the Grand National in terms of having a small displacement turbocharged engine. Good drivers are able to get into the high 13s in stock form (I'm not that kind of driver). All-wheel drive won't hurt for Winnipeg winters.

John K said...

Hi Warren,
I checked out he Speed 6 on Google. Looks like quite the ride. Speaking of Winnipeg and its teams, it looks like your Bombers are doing well and heading in the opposite direction of our Eskimos. In any case, welcome back.