John MacArthur - God is passive with the reprobate

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Herald, Sep 26, 2007.

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  1. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I've been listening to JM's series on Election (current series on his website). In message # 2 he stated that the bible doesn't teach "double" predestination. He said that all mankind is born in sin and bound for hell. Instead of choosing some for hell, God simply allows them to continue in their sinful condition and elects others.

  2. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I wouldn't want to disagree but what about Rom 9:19-23? Is Paul just presenting a 'hypothetical' or an allegory describing the election process?

    Thanks for the tip since I am preaching about election right now. I will check them out.
  3. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    I've never thought the 'passive reprobation' position held much water. For instance, I'm fairly certain that God is a decent mathematician. In choosing the elect, He cannot but actively choose the non-elect, since he knows his creation. If the set of all humans is C (and God knows each and every one of those who make up that set) and God elects some (which make up the set, A) then what remains is B, where C - A = B. If God knows both the individuals that make up the set C, then he very well knows who are in set B, and he intentionally has them there. To use this namby-pamby "passes over the non-elect" doesn't make any sense to me at all. When a coach selects his starting lineup, even though he "actively" names the starters, he just as "actively" non-names the bench players.

    Romans 9 is quite hard to understand in light of a 'passive' position, as well, as Ken noted.
    In taking the 'passive' view, it seems to me that one is simply trying to get God off the hook for the full impact of election rather than actually accept what the doctrine means.
  4. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I think it is important to note that there is a difference in the way that the reprobation of the wicked is spoken of in comparison to the predestination of the elect:
    [bible]Romans 9:21-24[/bible]
    Note that the Confession agrees with the Biblical data that speaks of predestinating with respect to the Elect but foreordination with respect to the reprobate:
    I don't know precisely how MacArthur puts the issue. I don't want to presume that he actually believes God is completely passive with respect to the reprobate. It is appropriate, however, if he's saying that God passes by the reprobate and does not extend mercy to them.

    I agree, then, that the Scriptures don't teach "double predestination" but that the elect are predestinated to eternal life while the reprobate are passed by and ordained to eternal destruction for their sins.

    Notice the assyemtry in the passage in Romans 9 (and in the WCF as well). God is seen as actively showering mercy upon the Elect, specifically saving them from their sins. The reprobate, on the other hand, are seen as passed by. This is not a passive act, per se, but God is not actively damning the reprobate in a symmetrical and equal manner to the way he is saving the elect. Sin, itself, is enough to damn a man apart from God's grace and the sins men commit as a result of their sinful nature adds to their condemnation. It is only the superabounding Grace of God in Christ that can overcome the wrath that men are willfully incurring.
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    In light of WCF 3:3,5,7 do the Westminster Standards allow only for infalapsarianism or can a supralapsarian adhere to them as well?
  6. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    WHat is the distinction between predestinating and foreordination....
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    The difference between the two is highlighted above. Predestinating is a loving, re-creating work of God toward His elect where they are effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved. One might argue that it is merely semantics and that the idea of a pre-destiny is equal to God's fore-ordination but predestination is spoken of with respect to the elect alone in the Scriptures and, I believe, it ought to be connected to God's grace toward the elect and not, broadly, to His foreordination of all things.
  8. Machaira

    Machaira Puritan Board Freshman

    I think those that deny so-called "double predestination" are playing a game of semantics. I would agree with Todd that the idea is to get God "off the hook." If God chooses to pass you by is your "destination" any less chosen by God than the "destination" of those whom He chooses to save?
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Do you believe that the WCF is "playing a game of semantics" in purposefully using two different terms?

    Did you read what I wrote before you posted the above?
  10. Machaira

    Machaira Puritan Board Freshman

    The words predestined and foreordained mean the same thing in English and the NT doesn't make a distinction either. If the Westminster divines were truly attempting to make a distinction then yes, it's merely a game of semantics.
  11. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Very well, Mr. Polk, let's play.
  12. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I want to play too!

    Rich, what do you do with Rom 8:29 "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son..."?

    It would appear, as you claim, that these words are not exactly interchangeable. But 'foreknowledge' cannot be applied only to the reprobate as it is clearly applied to the elect in this verse.
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I'm not sure why you're asking what I'd do with Romans 8:29. It's perfectly compatible with what I just said - especially since the follow-on verses are specifically linked to God's intention to utterly save those whom He foreknew.
  14. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    My bad.
  15. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Todd - in defense of JM's position, he is trying to avoid an epistimological argument. I'd have to play back his message, but he is basically saying, "I'm just believing what scripture says." Of course just his saying that doesn't make his interpretation of scripture correct. In his series he develops the doctrine of election scripturally but doesn't spend much time on his singular view of reprobation.
  16. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Incidentally, this makes a good point with respect to "semantics". Certainly we can say that God knows both the elect and the reprobate from all eternity. Further, in the Reformed understanding of ordination, God knows the beginning from the end because He ordains and superintends the beginning from the end. One could make the "semantic" argument that God "foreknows" the reprobate and to distinguish using this verb to refer only to the elect would be a "game". Yet, in Scripture, only the elect are referred to as "foreknown".

    It is one thing to assert that a manner of terminology is a game it is another to make an argument. I don't mind arguments but I do mind rude assertions. The former will be tolerated here, the latter will not.

    {Ken, this is not directed at you}
  17. Calvibaptist

    Calvibaptist Dallas Cowboys' #1 Fan

    Man, you guys are picking on Piper in one thread and MacArthur in another! You're getting on all my boys!

    Incidentally, I don't know if this plays much into MacArthur's view, but when I was at DTS, a lot was made of the fact that in Romans 9:22, in the phrase "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction," the word "prepared" is in the middle or passive voice, which would indicate either that they prepared themselves (doubtful, since they weren't around) or that their preparation was not active, but passive.

    In Romans 9:23, in the phrase "vessels of mercy, whom he prepared beforehand for glory," the word "prepared" is in the active voice, obviously indicating an action performed by God.

    This is the main argument I have heard used exegetically defending the view that there is no double predestination. The preparation of the elect was active, while the non-elect was passive.
  18. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    What about... [bible]Zechariah 3:1-5[/bible]

    Clearly the Lord chooses (predestines - vs 2 & 4) us out of the fire we are already headed for.

    But this does beg the question, "Who 'destines" [probably not a word] us for the fire in the first place?" :think:
  19. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    What is the difference between the manner in which God elects some people and the manner in which God damns the reprobate?
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I think that's been answered to a large degree already.

    This is one of the reasons why the WCF in Chapter 3 teaches:
    That is to say that Paul primarily introduces the issue of election and reprobation in order to assure Saints that their salvation was not begun in themselves but in God's decision. Election and reprobation are treated far too often as pets that can be rent from the reason why they are introduced in the Word.

    We certainly may draw some logical inferences about reprobation from the nature of God and also from other Scriptures but specifically how God chooses the elect and passes over the reprobate is hidden from us. We cannot speak with much Scriptural surety regarding reprobation in the same way we can say a great deal about how much God has purposed for His elect. We are given regular assurances of His kind intentions to save us to the uttermost for that is the reason why Paul introduces the topic.
  21. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    I usually don't disagree with you, Rich, so this is new territory. Can you explain where you see asymmetry in the Romans 9 passage you quoted? How does "prepared beforehand for glory" and "prepared beforehand for destruction" end up being asymmetrical?

    Now we are perfectly agreed that no act of God is passive; whether we're talking about elect being saved from the destructive path they would otherwise be on, or the NOT choosing of those who are on that path - both are active choices of God. There is a natural asymmetry inherent in choosing to a new destination vs. choosing to leave on a path that is already the destination of the reprobate. I'm not sure there is an asymmetry, though, in the language of "predestinate" vs. "fore-ordained". Fore-ordained is used later in the same chapter of the WCF to describe all the means of salvation of the elect. His ordination of the reprobate to damnation is, it seems to me, not much different than the predestination of the elect to salvation. Each is an active verb, each is an active and conscious decision of God according to His eternal counsel, and each is done before time, and I'm content to leave it at that.
  22. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I don't know how to answer this question in brief but it assumes you understand the rest of the Biblical data, especially in Romans, about the special care that God takes to save men from their sins.

    To make a symmetrical application in terms of what God has prepared for the damned compared to the elect, He would have to be damning them in the same active sense that He is saving the elect. That is, even as He is at work in us to will in do His good pleasure, He would be at work in the reprobate to will and do what He forbids. It would make Him the author of sin with the equal force that He is the author of our salvation.
  23. Calvibaptist

    Calvibaptist Dallas Cowboys' #1 Fan

    Todd, the assymetry is found in the voice of the verbs used. You must have missed my post up above, so I will quote myself (which I don't often do!)

  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Here is an extract from a brief article by R.C. Sproul:

  25. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  26. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Isn't Adam held responsible? He and the individual who chooses to sin?

    So God is passive toward the reprobate in that He allows them to continue down the path that they and Adam chose whereas God is active in that He graciously bestows the promise on the elect.

    I guess the question would be, "Did God predestine/foreordain Adam's sin and if so, did He do so actively?"

    I agree with Rich and JM in that we should not go where Scripture does not take us. However, what do we do with Rom 9:18 "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth." That sounds pretty active.

    And Rom 9:21 "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" That sounds active as well.
  27. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor


    See this thread: Did God create evil?


    But I'm just thinking, "Will God not actively cast the reprobate into the lake of fire at the final judgment?" Or is this seen as a separate thing as opposed to being predestined to wrath?
  28. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist Staff Member

    I don't have any argument with you on this at all - clearly he actively does things in the elect that he does not do in the non-elect. He must actively work, through His Spirit, in the elect in such a way so as to effect his will for them - that is, their salvation. That work, though, is an effect of his decree to save, though... and not the decree itself. My argument, though is (and perhaps this is all that there is) that the decree to save and the decree to damn are equally active. God actively chooses the elect, and by extension, actively dis-chooses the non-elect. The Standards put these in different senses: passing by the non-elect, with the express purpose of sealing the non-elect to their proper and deserved end, and ordaining the elect, with the express purpose of working salvation in them, and granting them graciously an undeserved and unmerited end. My point in entering the discussion at all is that this 'passing by' can't be passed off as some inactive or passive thing - it's an active decision on God's part, just as much as the decision to choose the elect to salvation is active. God either purpose to set the sinner on the path of regeneration, justification, etc., or he purposes to leave them on the path of destruction. I think this is the only fair distinction - and to call one active and one passive seems oddly uncessary to me.
  29. Calvibaptist

    Calvibaptist Dallas Cowboys' #1 Fan

    Except that the voice of the verbs in Romans 9:28-29 DOES call one active and one passive.
  30. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    On of the main issues I have with this topic is we unintentionaly, confessions included, seperate the Triune Godhead in the election/reprobation, and salvation/damnation of individuals. We cannot forget we were Elect IN Christ. When too much emphasis is put on the Fathers decree, this leads to a diminishing role of the Cross and the Activity of the Holy Spirit.

    I do not know why they chose to use 2 different words to mean the same thing.

    fore·or·dain (fôrôr-dn, fr-)
    tr.v. fore·or·dained, fore·or·dain·ing, fore·or·dains
    To determine or appoint beforehand; predestine.

    One verse that gets overlooked is:

    Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor?

    He MAKES both from the same lump. Now if this verse said He makes the elect to honor and leaves the rest to dishonor, passive reprobation could be concluded, but alas, it does not. The vessels do not make themselves. God does. katartizo, means "to fit, to frame, to prepare." This word compels us to say God was active in this 'fitting'

    Getting back to my original point, the reason they end up "unto honor" is becasue they are elect In Christ. And the Holy Spirit applies His death to those fitted unto honor. We must be careful to make a distinction between the decree and the ratification(The Cross) of the decree. If we do not, we end up with Justification IN (not from) Eternity and the cross, and the Holy Spirit being none effect..
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2007
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