Sunday, April 15, 2012

Predestination Or Free Will?

The debate between Calvinists and Non-Calvinists is intensely emotional for some people.  I mean, most people feel strongly about their theology but are intelligent enough to recognize that this issue is one about which Christians can disagree and both still be Christians.  Maybe they wouldn't agree to plant churches together, but they could agree on some level of cooperation in gospel ministry.  Now, of course there is the lunatic fringe element on both sides that is boneheaded enough to call the other side "heretics", but they're easy enough to avoid and nobody really takes them seriously anyway.  I mean, who can take anyone seriously who quotes Wikipedia as a source (inside joke-LOL).

In all seriousness, one of the verses used by Non-Calvinists to prove that some of the points of Calvinism are wrong is II Peter 3:9.  They use this verse to make the point that Christ died for everyone and that God doesn't elect individuals to salvation, but rather He elected the means of salvation.  They make both of these assertions because of the word "all" in that verse.  Let's take a look at the verse, however, and see if perhaps there is another way that's just as biblical to interpret this verse and see what we can conclude about that.

The verse in question is

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

1) Who is “you”?
In the immediate context of the epistle, verse 8 says “But do not let this one fact escape your notice…” and verse 1 says “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.,,” In contrast, verse 3 talks about another group—“mockers”. Also, verse 5 uses a lot of 3rd person pronouns “…they maintain…their notice…” Also, in chapter two, Peter takes an entire chapter to describe this other group, consistently referring to them in the 3rd person and introducing the chapter by indicating that his audience is distinct from that group. v 1-“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” Further, the fact that Peter is writing to Christians and not just humanity in general is seen in chapter 1 and verse 1 of the epistle where he writes:” To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours,”
Therefore, the word “you” appears to be the Christians to whom Peter was writing.
2) Who is “any” and “all”?
If, as seems to be the case based on examination of II Peter, the “you” in this sentence is identified as the Christians to whom Peter wrote, it doesn’t make sense for “any” and “all” to refer to any human being and all human beings. Given the context and train of thought here, it doesn’t make sense for him to shift from the specific audience that he has addressed to a more general “all of mankind” audience. Mockers will come, and they will be destroyed (vs 3-7). In contrast, you are objects not of God’s wrath but His love and the delay in judgment is for your benefit (vs 8-9).

3) If “you”, “any”, and “all” are believers, what does it mean when Peter uses the word “wishing”? Doesn’t that mean that God’s desire is for everyone to be saved?

Short answer—no, that’s not what this means. While God certainly takes no pleasure in the death or punishment of sinners (Ezekiel 18:23), it would be very foolish for us to think that God does not demand justice for the sins commented that have offended Him so badly. Therefore, God’s will is to punish sinners who do not repent of their sins and trust Christ to save them. Further, God’s will is to save sinners who place their faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Therefore, it appears the most logical conclusion is that God’s patience is extended towards those whom He will save based on their repentance from sin and faith in Christ because He does not desire for them to perish but rather He desires to redeem them, all to the praise of His glory.

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