The Decree of Preterition

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Aco, Nov 21, 2018.

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  1. Aco

    Aco Puritan Board Freshman

    It is my understanding that the decree of predestination is twofold: election and reprobation as two aspects of the one decree.

    I'm reading Zanchius' The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination, and he explains more or less predestination in the same way as I've outlined above. But immediately he mentions somewhere "the sovereign decree of preterition." Now I've never read about such a decree anywhere else before. I looked it up quickly it means "non-election." If reprobation is an aspect of the decree of predestination, what then is preterition? How shall it be understood?

    Thank you for your replies.
  2. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    As Zanchius explains:

    IV.—On the contrary, reprobation denotes either (1) God's eternal preterition of some men, when He chose others to glory, and His predestination of them to fill up the measure of their iniquities and then to receive the just punishment of their crimes, even "destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." This is the primary, most obvious and most frequent sense in which the word is used. It may likewise signify (2) God's forbearing to call by His grace those whom He hath thus ordained to condemnation, but this is only a temporary preterition, and a consequence of that which was from eternity. (3) And, lastly, the word may be taken in another sense as denoting God's refusal to grant to some nations the light of the Gospel revelation. This may be considered as a kind of national reprobation, which yet does not imply that every individual person who lives in such a country must therefore unavoidably perish for ever, any more than that every individual who lives in a land called Christian is therefore in a state of salvation. There are, no doubt, elect persons among the former as well as reprobate ones among the latter. By a very little attention to the context any reader may easily discover in which of these several senses the words elect and reprobate are used whenever they occur in Scripture.
    We distinguish between preterition, or bare non-election, which is a purely negative thing, and condemnation, or appointment to punishment: the will of God was the cause of the former, the sins of the non-elect are the reason of the latter. Though God determined to leave, and actually does leave, whom He pleases in the spiritual darkness and death of nature, out of which He is under no obligation to deliver them, yet He does not positively condemn any of these merely because He hath not chosen them, but because they have sinned against Him. (See Rom. 1.21-24; Rom. 2.8,9; 2 Thess. 2.12.) Their preterition or noninscription in the book of life is not unjust on the part of God, because out of a world of rebels, equally involved in guilt, God (who might, without any impeachment of His justice, have passed by all, as He did the reprobate angels) was, most unquestionably, at liberty, if it so pleased Him, to extend the sceptre of His clemency to some and to pitch upon whom He would as the objects of it. Nor was this exemption of some any injury to the non-elect, whose case would have been just as bad as it is, even supposing the others had not been chosen at all. Again, the condemnation of the ungodly (for it is under that character alone that they are the subjects of punishment and were ordained to it) is not unjust, seeing it is for sin and only for sin. None are or will be punished but for their iniquities, and all iniquity is properly meritorious of punishment: where, then, is the supposed unmercifulness, tyranny, or injustice of the Divine procedure?
    Now, in the matter of election and preterition, God is influenced by no such motives, nor indeed by any exterior inducement or any motive, extra se, out of himself. He does not, for instance, condemn any persons on account of their poverty, but, on the reverse, hath chosen many who are poor in this world (James 2.5). Nor does He condemn any for being rich, for some, even of the mighty and noble, are called by His grace (1 Cor. 1.26). He does not respect any man's parentage or country, for the elect will be "gathered together from the four winds, from under one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24.31), and He hath redeemed to Himself a select number "out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5.9; 7.9). So far is God from being in any sense a respecter of persons, that in Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3.28). He does not receive one nor reject another merely for coming or not coming under any of these characters. His own sovereign will, and not their external or internal circumstances, was the sole rule by which He proceeded in appointing some to salvation and decreeing to leave others in their sins. So that God is not herein a respecter of their persons, but a respecter of Himself and His own glory.
    In general, predestination when spoken of historically, is related to election unto salvation. A positive decree. Reprobation, in the negative, can be permanent or temporary as seen from the above. In the case of the non-elected, it is an action of God's volitional will to permanently leave those passed over in their dire state. Preterition is the often used word used to describe God's passing over of the objects of His contemplation.
  3. Aco

    Aco Puritan Board Freshman

    So, if I understand rightly, preterition is a sub-category of reprobation? While reprobation might be refering to temporal reprobation in some contexts for example.

    I asked the question to understand, if these distinctions are one decree, two or three separate ones?
  4. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Reprobation is described in our Confession:
    "The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth 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." (Matt. 11:25-26, Rom. 9:17-18, 21-22, 2 Tim. 2:19-20, Jude 4, 1 Pet. 2:8)​

    The act of passing by is what is called preterition. Preterition is not a sub-category, if you will, but simply a noun describing the verb (the action) of passing by.

    Per Zanchius, some acts of reprobation—versus God's eternal preterition of some men—such as in the case of a country being passed over for condemnation, are not necessarily permanent given the forbearance of God. Context will determine the differences.

    The many contents of God’s single eternal purpose are, because we are finite and God is infinite, limited by our faculties to comprehend fully, hence when we speak of the decree of God, we conceive of the decree in partial aspects and/or logical relations, and thusly we, as finite creatures, speak of the decrees of God. So while we may write or speak about the “decrees” of God, we should always remember that there is but one decree.

    What follows in the Spoiler below is from my past debate with an open theist and describes the decree of God.
    The decree of God is His
    1. eternal;
    2. unchangeable;
    3. holy;
    4. wise; and
    5. sovereign purpose.

    The decree of God comprehends at once all things
    1. that ever were; or
    2. will be.

    These things are comprehended in their
    1. causes;
    2. conditions;
    3. successions; and
    4. relations.

    The decree of God also determines the certain future existence of all things.

    The many contents of God’s single eternal purpose are, because we are finite and God is infinite, limited by our faculties to comprehend fully, hence when we speak of the decree of God, we conceive of the decree in partial aspects and/or logical relations, and thusly we, as finite creatures, speak of the decreess of God. So while we may write or speak about the “decrees” of God, we should always remember that there is but one decree. [​IMG]

    Also, we should be on the same page with respect to God’s foreknowledge and God’s foreordination.

    Foreknowledge is an act of God, infinitely intelligent, knowing from eternity, without change, the certain future existence of all events of every type that ever will come to pass.

    Foreordination is an act of the will of God, who is infinitely intelligent, foreknowing, benevolent, and righteous. Foreordination is an act of God from eternity determining the certain future existence of all eventsof every type that will come to pass. Foreknowledge recognizes the certain future existence of events, while foreordination makes them certainly future.

    In summary:
    1. God's decrees are eternal. Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:4; 3:11; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Cor. 2:7.

    2. They are immutable. Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:9.

    3. They comprehend all events.
    (1) The Scriptures assert this of the whole system in general embraced in the divine decrees. Dan. 4:34, 35; Acts 17:26; Eph 1:11.
    (2) They affirm the same of fortuitous events. Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:29, 30.
    (3) Also of the free actions of men. Eph. 2:10, 11; Phil. 2:13.
    (4) Even the wicked actions of men. Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 13:29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; Rev. 17:17. As to the history of Joseph, compare Gen. 37:28, with Gen. 45:7, 8, and Gen. 50:20. See also Ps. 17:13, 14; Isa. 10:5, 15.​

    4. The decrees of God are not conditional. Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14:24, 27; 46:10; Rom. 9:11.

    5. They are sovereign. Isa. 40:13, 14; Dan. 4:35; Matt. 11:25, 26; Rom. 9:11, 15-18; Eph. 1:5, 11.

    6. They include the means. Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2.

    7. They determine the free actions of men. Acts 4:27, 28; Eph. 2:10.

    8. God himself works in his people that faith and obedience which are called the conditions of salvation. Eph. 2:8; Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25.

    9. The decree renders the event certain. Matt. 16:21; Luke 18:31-33; 24:46; Acts 2:23; 13:29; 1 Cor. 11:19.

    10. While God has decreed the free acts of men, the actors have been none the less responsible. Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27, 28.

    I offer the following six observations as the traditional Calvinistic views on the matter of events so decreed by God.

    1. Since God has decreed them and, as I have defined above, thusly made them certain to occur in the future, God foreknows all events.

    2. The decree of God relates equally to all events of every type that will occur. This includes free actions of moral agents, the actions of necessary agents, whether these actions be morally right or sinful.

    3. That said, and what is often abused by those that are not well-informed about Calvinistic doctrine, things have been eternally decreed by God under certain aspects.

    - God has decreed some things Himself immediately. For example, God’s act to create the universe.

    - God has decreed to do make certain some things through the action of secondary causes, causes which act under laws of necessity, such as physical aspect of nature, e.g., planetary motion.

    - God has decreed to move or to permit free moral agents to act in the exercise of their free moral agency. Nevertheless, despite these distinctions between these classes of events, they are all rendered certain by the decree of God.​

    4. While God has decreed all events, it is vitally important to note that while God’s decree includes the ends, His decree encompasses the means, the causes as well as the effects, the conditions as well as the instrumentalities, for all events that will depend upon the same.

    5. While the decree of God determines the certainty of future events, the decree of God neither directly effects or causes no event. (Please read that statement one more time!) But…hang on now…in every case the decree of God provides that these events are rendered certain by causes that are acting in such a manner that is perfectly consistent with the nature of these events in question.

    In other words, when considering every free act of a moral agent, God’s decree provides at once, that:

    1. the agent is a free agent;
    2. the agent’s antecedents and every antecedent of the action in question be what they are;
    3. the present conditions of the action be what they are;
    4. the action by the agent be perfectly spontaneous (i.e., freedom of spontaneity) on the part of the agent; and
    5. it shall be certainly future.

    6. The purposes of God that relate to every kind of event constitute one single, comprehensive intention by God’s comprehending all events. Thus God comprehends the free events as free events, the necessary events as necessary events, all together, including all their causes, their relations, their conditions. This comprehension is one, indivisible system of things, every link of which is essential to the vital integrity of the whole.

    Does this help?
  5. Aco

    Aco Puritan Board Freshman

    That helped, thank you!
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