What does Ephesians 1:4 Mean? Who are the “us in Him?”

Ephesians 1:4
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
καθως εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη

God is electing “someone” to be holy and blameless before Him.  When did this election to holy and blameless occur?  It occurred before the foundation of the world.  Lest anyone complain that before the foundation of the world means in regards to the fall, the companion verse in Timothy explains when the foundation of the world happened.  It was before time began.

2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

The Calvinist “us” was inserted to propagandize an interpretation of this verse.  There is no us after calling and a better translation is 2 Timothy 1:9Young’s Literal Translation (YLT):

who did save us, and did call with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, that was given to us in Christ Jesus, before the times of the ages,

The holy calling is according to God’s purpose.  His purpose was given to us before the times of the ages.  Both the Second Timothy and the Ephesians verses should be understood be two important elements.  There is an election to something; what is being elected?  Who are persons being elected? Who are the “us in Christ?”

There is nothing inherent in the meaning of the verb “to choose” that implies salvation.  The common use of electing or choosing people for public office is a good English equivalent of the Greek verb.  Many people are elected or chosen to office all the time.  The verb is very generic.

The word to choose in Greek “ἐκλέγομαι” occurs 19 times in the New Testament.  Only perhaps three or four times does this verb mean an election to salvation.  Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, an early scholarly work in English has been a basic reference book since 1885. In this book he lists at least five different types of election relating to this verb:

1)      to pick out, choose, something of personal interest. i.e. Luke 14:7 to pick places of honor
2)      choosing one for an office i.e. Stephen to be a deacon Acts 6:5
3)      of God choosing the elect,  Mark 13:20
4)      the Israelites, Acts 13:7
5)      choosing the disciples, Acts 1:2

John Calvin certainly misuses Ephesians 1:4 as a reference to election to salvation.  Here in Ephesians Paul is describing an election to be holy and blameless.

Does Ephesians 1:4 really imply that all saved men were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world? As in the above example, it is common for the supporters of double predestination to leave out the infinitive clause at the end of verse. Those who are chosen are chosen to be holy and blameless. Grammarians classify verbal infinitive clauses in at least five ways: Purpose, Result, Temporal, Casual, or Complementary.

1)  Purpose – God chose us in Christ for the purpose of being holy and blameless.
2)  Result – God chose us in Christ as a result we are holy and blameless.
3)  Temporal – God chose us in Christ while we were holy and blameless.
4)  Casual God – chose us in Christ to make us holy and blameless.
5)  Complementary – “there is not a corresponding complementary use, since a verb of desire or wish is needed.”

There are good arguments for any of the above constructions.  There is an observation that must be made.  None of these uses implies “God chose us to be saved before the foundation of the world.”  The counter argument is that when we are chosen naturally we become holy and blameless.  This would make the statement into a banal tautology, God chose us to be chosen.

Corporate Election

What is the object of the verb “chose?”  The object is the pronoun “us” but the “us” is modified by the phrase “in him.”  God is choosing the persons who are already in Christ for something.  The something is in the infinite; “to be holy and blameless.”  Those who are already in Christ are chosen to be holy and blameless.

How does one get to be “in Christ?”  From the context a person becomes “in Christ” by believing first.  How can the chosen in Christ be predestined before the foundation of the world when there are no persons to believe?  This is corporate election.  Paul is outlining God’s plan for the body of Christ.  Those in Christ will be predestined to be holy and blameless.  The predestination of the group was predestined before the foundation of the world.   All those who would be in the group is not known until the end times.

Ephesians 1:13
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
13 εν ω και υμεις ακουσαντες τον λογον της αληθειας το ευαγγελιον της σωτηριας υμων εν ω και πιστευσαντες εσφραγισθητε τω πνευματι της επαγγελιας τω αγιω

What Calvin wants to do is to translated this verse as God chose from the world a group of people to be saved.  For this construction to work the words after “should be” would be the phrase “in Him.”  This would be the infinitive of purpose.  He chose us from the world for the purpose of being in him.

John Calvin has this wrong.  We were not chosen before the foundation of the world to salvation, those in Christ were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless.  The comment with no regard to our own worth means that a person neither works for salvation nor exercises belief for salvation but is chosen based on the whim of God.

1 Thessalonians 4:15
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [a]and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

Did Paul die before the “coming of the Lord?”  Of course he died about two millennia ago.  When he says “we who are alive” is he referring to the believing persons alive in the first century or is he referring to the believers who may be alive when the Lord returns.  No one believes the “we” in this verse refers to Paul and the first century believers.  The “we” is a corporate idea.  Paul is referring to a group of persons who may be alive when Jesus returns.  This group may or may not include Paul.  Corporate is from the Latin meaning body, the adjectival use of the world refers to a unified group of individuals.  To belong to this group, one must be alive when Jesus returns and be a believer.

Romans 12:5
5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ουτως οι πολλοι εν σωμα εσμεν εν χριστω ο δε καθ εις αλληλων μελη-

The basic sentence is “we are one body in Christ.”  Here is the corporate use of “we.”  The reference is as universally applicable to the members of the body of Christ who are alive today as the message is applicable to the first century believers.  Paul is using the plural pronouns, “us,” “we.” and “you” in referring to the corporate body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
υμεις δε εστε σωμα χριστου και μελη εκ μερους

The reason Paul keeps referring to the individual members of this one body is to avoid an esoteric interpretation of oneness that is common in pagan religions.  In Platonism the goal of the initiate is the unification of the individual with god who is called the one.  This unity is an absorption into god.  The Christian is not absorbed into God, he is unified with him but the individual retains his identity as a person.  He is not absorbed into the Godhead.

How does one get to be “in Christ.”  If a believer is chosen to be “in Christ”  before the foundation of the world then that person is not
1)      dead in his sins
2)      By nature children of wrath
3)      Without Christ
4)      Having no hope
5)      Without God

Ephesians 2:1-3; 11-12
 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others…

11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

The Scripture is absolutely clearly when a believer become “in Christ.”

Ephesians 1:13 (NIV)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

A believer becomes “in Christ” after hearing the gospel and believing.  This is not before the foundation of the world, this is after a person is born and reaches an age of maturity where he can understand the gospel.

Is a person chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” or “after believing?”  When Paul says the “us in Him” he is referring to the body of Christ.  The individual members of the body of Christ are not chosen until they exercise faith and are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  The corporate group is chosen to be holy and blameless before Him.  We do not know who is in this group until much later than the foundation of the world.

Maybe an analogy will help.  The director says “the band is really fortunate this year, we will play in Hawaii this winter.”  Of course each band member has to try out for their chair in the band.  There remains a competition to determine who is going to be in the band.  The individual members have not yet been determined.  The corporate entity, the band, will go to Hawaii.

God chose the body of Christ to be holy and blameless before Him in love.  The body of Christ is the “us in Him.”  The individual members of the body have yet to be determined.

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The Doctrine of Reprobation, The Damnable Doctrine of John Calvin

Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children…When Paul declares that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), he certainly shows that no regard is had to our own worth;.[1]
John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Did God make a choice before the foundation of the world that particular individuals are to be saved or reprobated based only on the whim of God?  Are there no conditions for salvation such as belief in Christ?  Are men condemned to eternal damnation without any hope of salvation?  John Calvin links his concept of reprobation to Ephesians 1:4:

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
καθως εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη

There are several presuppositions and a conclusion which are necessary to support this reprehensible doctrine of reprobation.
1) Each individual exists in the eternal now before the foundation of the world,
2) that God choses these individuals before the foundation of the world to predestine each person for salvation and faith,
3) that without being chosen a person has no chance to be saved and is by default reprobating all other individuals to eternal damnation.
Therefore, God must hate all those whom he reprobates.

If anyone should doubt Calvin’s conclusion we have his own words.

This I concede, but it does not affect the doctrine which I maintain, that the reprobate are hateful to God, and that with perfect justice, since those destitute of his Spirit cannot produce any thing that does not deserve cursing.[2]
John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

The concept of eternal now has already been addressed see “The Eternal Now of Augustine and Calvin, Will the Real God Step Forward June 30, 2014 by craigfisher.”  In short the concept is ridiculous and the result of a Platonic world view.  God does not exist outside of time and there is no eternal hell in which all mankind relives every shame and torture in history.

This doctrine of double predestination, some to eternal life and the rest of humanity to eternal damnation, is based on Calvin’s personal obsession of unmerited grace.  Unmerited grace means a person cannot or may not do anything, neither by works nor faith, that represents merit before God. The correct doctrine is unearned grace.  Man cannot earn his salvation (Rom 4:1-5) with his works.

Romans 4:4-5
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

Clearly faith is different than works.  If a person could work for his salvation, then God would be obligated to pay His debt.  In contrast faith is the pass into righteousness.  Righteousness is the badge of their salvation.  Grace is not unmerited, grace is unearned.

One definition of merit is something to be praised.  In Hebrews 11 each person is said to be worthy of praise because of his faith.

Hebrews 11:1-15
11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval…By faith Abel…By faith Enoch…By faith Noah.. By faith Abraham…By faith even Sarah…All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

These person earned merit or favor with God by their faith.  They were not robots unable to do anything other than the programmed suggestions from God.  They exercised some control over their faith and earned praise or merit from God.

According to Calvin, not only does God pass over any hope of most of the world for  salvation he is even pleased to do so. (for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them)  This is an insult both to God and to the reader.  The implication is that anyone opposing this view is denying God one of his pleasures. The insult to God is that he is pleased to damn people. According to 1 Tim 2:4 God desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  The Scriptures deny that God is pleased to reprobate any man to eternal damnation.

When Paul declares that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), he certainly shows that no regard is had to our own worth;[3]
John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Calvin or his translator cleverly puts the “in Christ” after the verb implying the verb chosen is being modified. In the Greek the “in Christ (Him)” modifies the pronoun “us”.

Ephesians 1:4
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
καθως εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη

What is the object of the verb “chose?”  The object is the pronoun “us” but the “us” is modified by the phrase “in him.”  God is choosing the persons who are already in Christ for something.  The something is in the infinite; “to be holy and blameless.”  Those who are already in Christ are chosen to be holy and blameless.

How does one get to be “in Christ?”  From the context a person becomes “in Christ” by believing first.  How can the chosen in Christ be predestined before the foundation of the world when there are no persons to believe?  This is corporate election.  Paul is outlining God’s plan for the body of Christ.  Those in Christ will be predestined to be holy and blameless.  The predestination of the group was predestined before the foundation of the world.   All those who would be in the group is not known until the end times.

Ephesians 1:13
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
εν ω και υμεις ακουσαντες τον λογον της αληθειας το ευαγγελιον της σωτηριας υμων εν ω και πιστευσαντες εσφραγισθητε τω πνευματι της επαγγελιας τω αγιω

What Calvin wants to do is to translated  verse 4 as God chose from the world a group of people to be saved.  For this construction to work the words after “should be” would be the phrase “in Him.”  This would be the infinitive of purpose.  He chose us from the world for the purpose of being in him.

John Calvin has this wrong.  We were not chosen before the foundation of the world to salvation. Those in Christ were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless.  As will be seen in a later post, this is a corporate election.  There was a group of people chosen from the beginning to be holy and blameless.  Election to this group would not be made until each individual exercised his faith.  John Calvin often proclaims God has no regard to our own worth.  Actually God has great regard for the worth of the whole world and each individual.  For God so loved the world that he offered up his greatest possession, his Son Jesus Christ.  The offer was “whoever believes in him has eternal life.”  The offer expires when a person dies and is no longer part of the world.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

1 Timothy 2:4
 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

[1] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion,, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845) p. 573, (3,23,1)
[2] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion,, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845) p. 606, (3,24,17)
[3] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion,, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845) p. 573, (3,22,1)

 

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The Being Described In His (Calvin’s) Five Points Is … a Demon of Malignant Spirit

His [Calvin’s] religion was demonism. If ever a man worshiped a false god, he did. The being described in his five points is … a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious, attributes of Calvin.
— Thomas Jefferson, Works, 1829 edition, vol. 4, p. 322, quoted from Franklin Steiner,

Whether Thomas Jefferson was a true Christian or a Deist or whatever is not the point.  Any human being examining the reprobation described by Calvin would be repulsed at this doctrine being ascribed to God.  Reprobation is the predestination of unbelieving mankind to hell, for sins committed by the predetermination of God.  This “Calvinistic God” would be unjust and possess an irreconcilable hatred of mankind.  This is not the God of Scripture who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)

Did Calvin believe in the doctrine of reprobation described above and how did he justify his belief?  This quote from his quintessential work “The Institutes” demonstrates his knowledge of the arguments raised against his position and his arrogance in responding to the question.

If God not only uses the agency of the wicked, but also governs their counsels and affections, he is the author of all their sins; and, therefore, men, in executing what God has decreed, are unjustly condemned, because they are obeying his will(Calvin paraphrasing an objector)… Thus we must hold, that while by means of the wicked God performs what he had secretly decreed, they are not excusable as if they were obeying his precept, which of set purpose they violate according to their lust.[1]

John Calvin “Institutes of the Christian Religion”

John Calvin is summarizing an objection to his doctrine of the providence of God. It is not just to condemn someone to eternal damnation after predestining the same individual to unbelief.  This is an accurate summary of the objection.  Unfortunately, he does not offer any real counter arguments other than offer examples of these same types of behavior in other places in Scripture.  Of course none of the examples cited are about reprobation nor do these examples imply the forced performance of wicked acts.

He boldly contradicts all rational thought and any reasonable application of cause and effect.  There is no lack of communication, but there is a stubborn refusal to face the obvious.  If God causes all things to happen, and men have no ability to resist the providence of God, then God is responsible for sin.   Of course John Calvin would not admit that his doctrines portrayed God as solely responsible for the sins of the wicked, but this is due to the incoherence of Calvin’s doctrines.

What is Calvin’s way out of this logical argument?  Against all logic, he simple states as fiat the contradictory propositions; God decrees the lust of men and men are guilty because of their lust.  What is lacking is either a logical position developed from Scripture or Scripture supporting something very close to reprobation.

(God performs what he had secretly decreed) Why are these decrees “secret?”   The decree is secret because Scripture has no record of this decree.  Almost all of the revealed decrees of God seem to be left undone or fail.  The secret decrees are done universally and to the letter.

God has a revealed decree 1 Samuel 15

2 Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, God makes a decree, he will punish Amalek.  All persons and animals are to die.  Saul spares Agag and the best domestic animals.  God rejects Saul as king.

If there is a common factor among all the decrees God makes to Israel, it is this; the decrees never seem to get done.  God commands Saul to kill every man in the tribe Amalek but Saul fails to carry out the command.  Calvin calls the decree to slaughter every person the revealed will of God.  The act of disobeying the revealed will is the secret will.  What actually happens therefore is the secret will of God.

That nothing happens by chance, though the causes may be concealed, but by the will of God; by his secret will which we are unable to explore,[2]

John Calvin Institutes

According to Calvin the secret will is always obeyed to the letter, the revealed will is almost never obeyed.  The secret will and the revealed will make no sense.  If God really wanted his will done he should make all his intensions secret wills.

What would be the purpose of a revealed will?   Why would God reveal what he knew the subject could not accomplish?  Would this not subtract from God’s glory?  What benefit is there for the subject?  God reveals what the subject cannot do because God has predestined him to do something else.  Then the subject is supposed to feel guilt for actions that he is incapable of performing?

Why are “we unable to explore” this “secret will.”  Perhaps because “secret will” is not in the Scripture.  If the decree is in Scripture it would not be a secret.  Is it a secret decree because it is embarrassing to God or perhaps it is a secret because man is not able to understand the decree?    In addition, how does Calvin know this secret decree?

Since Calvin seems to understand the decree, incomprehensibility is not a reason for the secrecy.  It is easy to understand, a man believes or does not believe in God.  What is incomprehensible is that a man can be held accountable for belief when he is incapable of believing.  Is God ashamed therefore he has to hide his secret decree?  Of course God is not embarrassed by a secret decree which He never made.

The unexpressed reason for Calvin’s secret decree is that logically the “secret decree” fails.  Are these secret lusts which condemn men to hell also predestined by God?  How can someone be condemned if he does not have control over his actions and are performing these actions like a puppet?  The concept of “secret” does not add anything to the argument.  In fact this is a subterfuge to hide the lack of evidence.

 

[1] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion,, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845) p. 149, (1,18,4)
[2] Ibid. p. 919

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Matthew 24:2 The Subjunctive in Greek Grammar

It seems that the openness proposal faces a serious dilemma. Either reject the inerrancy of Scripture and admit that God can only give us probabilities about the future, or reject the openness proposal… In fact, Pinnock seems to adopt the first option when he states: “We may not want to admit it but prophecies often go unfulfilled… despite Jesus, in the destruction of the temple, some stones were left one on the other (Mt. 24:2).[1]

One of the controversies, in the continuing debate between Open Theists and Calvinists is the controversial verses of Mathew 24. Is this a real dilemma?  Are there only two options, believe Piper or reject inerrancy?  There are at least five options.  How does Clark Pinnock interpret Mathew 24:2?  He offers Jesus’s words as an example of unfulfilled prophesy. Another solution is hyperbole where an event is exaggerated for effect.
John 21:25 (NKJV)
25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

The world can hold a lot of books, but this is an example of hyperbole an exaggeration for effect.  Jesus was imagining what could happen in the destruction of Jerusalem and used the exaggeration to engage the listener in his sorrow devoid of any consolation.  There is a fifth solution, maybe Jesus was only expressing deep sorrow on what might happen in the future? This “might” expresses the subjunctive mood in the Greek that is unexpressed in the English.

The first solution “reject inerrancy” would throw such persons out of the evangelical circle of theology.  Piper’s solution, hold to the prophetic fulfillment even though some stones are still standing is foolish.  Pinnock’s solution, “this is an unfulfilled prophecy,” has some merit. However, I disagree with the term prophecy.  Jesus was only expressing a probable event not making a prophecy.  Hyperbole is a possibility but the last solution is more appropriate to the context and the obvious emotional nature of Jesus’ statement.  This satisfies inerrancy, respects the archeological evidence and the context of the event,  and does not depend upon unfulfilled prophecy.

John Piper loudly disagrees with Pinnock’s solution but does not offer any real counter arguments apart from personal attacks on the character of his opponents. He quotes Josephus but he ignores the stones still left standing one upon another that are clearly seen in any walk around the Old City of Jerusalem.  His philosophy, “believe what I tell you and not on what you see with your eyes” seems to work with most evangelical Christians.

First, it is clear, that many stones are left one upon another at the Temple Mount. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in the sixth century before Christ. The Second Temple was built in the time Ezra and Nehemiah, but this second temple was again rebuilt by King Herod and his successors in the first century. This rebuilt Second Temple would be temple Jesus and his disciples were observing in Matthew 24:2.

One of the features of this building is the type of stones used by the Herodian builders called ashlars. The Temple ashlars were unique in design with smooth sides that were framed with recessed borders. These ashlars are clearly observed on the Western Wall, the Southern Wall, and even on sections of Eastern and Northern walls. These stones are have not been moved since construction and are still sitting in their original positions.

These four walls acted as retaining walls for the Temple Mount. These walls rest on solid bedrock. The height of the wall is about 107 feet high and 12 feet thick at the bottom to about three feet thick at the top. Although Rome in 70AD and 135 AD tore down the temple some stones were left standing. Today these large ashlars can be seen along the bottom of the wall.

Are these stones part of the original Temple in Jerusalem?  These walls are retaining walls and are clearly a part of the temple. When Jesus cleared out the temple of money changers, the Temple area included the court of the Gentiles.

Matthew 21:12

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

The Temple included much more than the inner building which housed the Holy of Holies.  It also included the walls around the temple courts.  The temple walls were made without concrete.  As can still be observed today some stones on the southwest and southeast corners of the Temple Mount, weigh over 80 tons, and are still over  are still 100 feet above the foundational stones.  The foundational stones rest on bedrock as a weak foundation of soil would be disastrous.  It is very likely the outer wall of court of the Gentiles utilized these retaining walls for their foundational support.

Jesus even referred to the destruction of the entire city of Jerusalem in the same words “not one stone left upon another.”  This language is employed in Luke 19 which refers to the destruction of the entire city not leaving one stone upon another.[2]

A Calvinist or an Augustinian theologian believes God looks upon future events as present realities, this is called the “eternal now.”  Therefore it is impossible to interpret any of Jesus’ statements as probable and not actual events. However, Jesus often used the subjunctive in his statements and these statements are never translated in deference to the subjunctive mood of the Greek language in English translations. The suspicion is the translators are more interested in theology than in the correct translation of the New Testament.

Here are the controversial verses:

Matthew 24:2 (NKJV)

2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

2 ο δε αποκριθεις ειπεν αυτοις ου βλεπετε ταυτα παντα αμην λεγω υμιν ου μη αφεθη ωδε λιθος επι λιθον ος ου καταλυθησεται

Luke 19:41-44 (NKJV)
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it…44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
44 και εδαφιουσιν σε και τα τεκνα σου εν σοι και ουκ αφησουσιν λιθον επι λιθον εν σοι ανθ ων ουκ εγνως τον καιρον της επισκοπης σου
Luke 21:6 (NKJV)
6 “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”
6 ταυτα α θεωρειτε ελευσονται ημεραι εν αις ουκ αφεθησεται λιθος επι λιθω ωδε ος ου καταλυθησεται

Mark 13:2 (NKJV)
2 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
2 και ο ιησους ειπεν αυτω βλεπεις ταυτας τας μεγαλας οικοδομας ου μη αφεθη ωδε λιθος επι λιθον ος ου μη καταλυθη

Using the subjunctive mood Mark 13:2 would be translated:

2 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone may be left upon another, that would not be thrown down.”

The verbs for “left upon” and “shall be thrown down” are in the subjunctive mood. [3]
In the Greek of the New Testament, each verb has a mood which relates to actuality: indicative, subjunctive, optative, and imperative. The indicative refers to reality and the remaining three are references away from reality. The subjunctive mood indicates probability, the optative indicates a wish and the imperative is a command. The distinctive feature of the last three moods is the action being referenced is a reference to what may happen or one which one wants to happen.

The indicative Mood is the mood of reality. The verb is referring to events that are happening, have happened or will occur in the future.

The subjunctive mood is the mood of probability. These events are probable to happen, but it is not certain if the events will occur.

The optative mood expresses a desire or a wish. This is farther removed from the actual than the subjunctive mood.

The imperative mood is dependent on the actions of whoever is being commanded. The uncertainty is dependent on the one being directed by the command. The event may happen or not happen depending on the obedience of the subject.

The Subjunctive

Archibald Thomas Robertson’s book A Grammar of the Greek New Testament In the Light of Historical Research is the authoritative biblical Greek grammar of the 20th century has this to say of the subjunctive. A.T. Robertson was an inerrantist, Baptist Professor with unimpeachable credentials in Greek grammar. He writes this about the subjunctive while citing favorably the most influential Greek grammarians of his day.
1)         Delbrück is clear that “will” is the fundamental idea of the subjunctive…

2)         Goodwin denies…that a single root-idea of the subjunctive can be found. He cuts the Gordian knot by three uses of the subjunctive (the volitive, the deliberative, the futuristic).

3)         W. G. Hale1 identifies the deliberative and futuristic uses as the same.

4)         Sonnenschein2 sees no distinction between volitive and deliberative, to which Moulton3 agrees.

5)         Stahl sees the origin of all the subjunctive uses in the notion of will. The future meaning grows out of the volitive.

6)         Mutzbauer finds the fundamental meaning of the subjunctive to be the attitude of expectation.[4]

Many other grammarians are cited but finally we are graced to Robertson’s own analysis:

It is the mood of doubt, of hesitation, of proposal, of prohibition, of anticipation, of expectation, of brooding hope, of imperious will.[5]

The mood of the subjunctive is one of will. This is related to the future use since most future events are the result of the will of someone in bringing future events to pass. A person expects an event to happen because the subject deliberates to bring the event to pass. It is not a statement of reality. The reality is unknown until the event happens. The reader judges by the subject, is it the king or is it God, who will make the event happen. The certainty of the event is controlled by the integrity and the power of the subject.

John 3:16 (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The verbs for “perish” and “have” are in the subjunctive. The subjunctive is volative meaning the event has not yet happened but is dependent on the will of the one making the promise. We can be sure that Jesus will save all who believe, not because, he looks into the future and sees the act of salvation, but because, he has the power and the will to make that salvation happen.

Emphatic Negative Subjunctive

..the subjunctive denies a potentiality. The negative is not weaker, rather, the affirmation that is being negatived is less firm with the subjunctive. Ou mh rules out even the idea as being a possibility. [6]

This is a quote from Daniel B Walker who authored arguably the most used Greek grammar in today’s  Christian colleges.  He imagines that a double negative or emphatic negative changes the subjunctive mood to the indicative.  Contrary to all ancient and modern Greek grammarians he imagines the negative negates the mood, the potentiality or the volitional nature of the subjunctive.  He has completely ignored Greek grammar for a theological intrusion on the Scripture.  To believe in inerrancy is to respect the way the language is used and the rules grammar that form that language.  Daniel B. Walker and sadly even some of his contemporary grammarians have little respect for these verses in the subjunctive in Scripture.

In contrast to Mr. Walker, we will pay respect to Greek grammar and the historical development of the Greek language rather than force our theology on the New Testament. In many respects the theology of Calvin has a philosophical and not a Scriptural flavor.  This philosophical intrusion on the Word of God will not be ignored.

How should Matthew 24:2 be interpreted under this idea?

Matthew 24: (NKJV)

2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

The verbs for “be left” and “thrown down” are in the indicative in the English translation but the Greek places the verbs into the subjunctive. Beyond all principles of grammar and interpretation, Mr. Wallace believes the emphatic negation Ou mh seems to convert the verb from the modal subjunctive (may be left and may be thrown down) to the extreme indicative.

This magic transformation from the subjunctive to the indicative is explained

One might think that the negative with the subjunctive could not be as strong as the negative with the indicative. However, while οὐ µή + the indicative denies a certainty, οὐ µή + the subjunctive denies a potentiality.[7] The negative is not weaker; rather, the affirmation that is being negatived is less firm with the subjunctive. οὐ µή, rules out even the idea as being a possibility.[8]

Mr. Wallace will explain the emphatic statements are found in the sayings of Jesus and occurs only rarely outside of Scripture. His review of Scriptural sources leads him to the conclusion that emphatic negation is an extreme form of the indicative. His real intentions are explained:

Outside of these two sources it occurs only rarely. As well, a soteriological theme is frequently found in such statements, especially in John: what is negatived is the possibility of the loss of salvation.[9]

This is a theological and not a grammatical analysis of the subjunctive. According to Mr. Wallace our assurance of salvation rests on his analysis of the subjunctive. This is not true. Our assurance of salvation rests in the character, the promise and the will of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 is an assurance of salvation based on the character of Jesus Christ and not the eternal now of Plato. The Augustinian believes God exists in the eternal now and sees the future as existing now. This is a Platonist concept not in the Scripture.

Emphatic Negation Subjunctive

But the root-ideas of the subjunctive changed remarkably little in the millennium or so separating Homer from the Gospels

James Hope Moulton, A Grammar of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. CLARK, 1908) 186

Even grammarians of Modern Greek have similar ideas about the subjunctive mood. They call the subjunctive mood ἡ διστακτικὴ ἔγκλισις , “the mood expressive of doubt.” The indicative mood is called ἡ ὁριστικὴ ἔγκλισις , “the definitive mood.” The function of the subjunctive mood has been very consistent in the history of the Greek language.

Contrary to the claims of Mr. Wallace the emphatic negative when used with the subjunctive mood has been analyzed and is much more common than claimed.

One of the most used and authoritative grammars in the study of ancient Greek is “Greek Grammar” by Herbert Weir Smyth (1857-1937). His comprehensive grammar of ancient Greek is the standard reference in the academic world since its publication in 1920. He comments on the emphatic negation as follows:

1801. Doubtful Assertion.—The present subjunctive with μή may express a doubtful assertion, with μὴ οὐ a doubtful negation. The idea of apprehension or anxiety (real or assumed) is due to the situation…“μὴ οὐκ ᾖ διδακτὸν ἀρετή” virtue is perhaps not a thing to be taught” P. Men. 94e…

1804. From the use in 1801 is probably developed the construction of οὐ μή with the aorist (less often the present) subjunctive to denote an emphatic denial; as ““οὐ μὴ παύσωμαι φιλοσοφῶν” I will not cease from searching for wisdom” P. A. 29d, ““οὐκέτι μὴ δύνηται βασιλεὺς ἡμᾶς καταλαβεῖν” the king will no longer be able to overtake us” X. A. 2.2.12.[10]

H.W. Smyth, Greek Grammar

In his quote from classical Greek literature, the interpretation is not “virtue will not be taught” as a most certain reality but is an emphatic doubtful assertion “should not be taught.”  Mr. Smyth interprets the “οὐ μὴ”  construction as an emphatic denial “I will not cease from searching for wisdom.”  Of course the reality of the “search” depends on the will and the ability of the philosopher.  It is not a statement of certain reality.  Using emphatic denial as an interpretation of Matthew 24:2 what does this mean?

Matthew 24: (NKJV)

2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone may (shall) be left here upon another, that may (shall)  not be thrown down.”

Jesus looks upon the walls and the buildings of Jerusalem. The whole point of the context is the compassion Jesus has for Israel and Jerusalem. He knows it is likely the Jews will not be converted and believe but will revolt against his message.  The perpetrators of the future events are fallible humans and the will and the ability of the perpetrators makes the statement a doubtful assertion.

Although Jesus realized the real possibility of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Gentiles there is still some hope in the repentance of Israel and the commencement of the final week of the seventy week prophecy of Daniel.

Acts 3:19-21 (ESV)
19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

It was still possible that Israel may repent and this would bring in the end times. This did not happen. This has not happened for 2000 years. Instead the times of the Gentiles would be placed in between the end times and the fall of Israel until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Romans 11:25)

Jesus is saying “Assuredly I say to you, not even one stone may be left upon another that may not be thrown down.” Jerusalem will be left to the mercies of the Gentiles. They may or may not throw each stone down but it certainly appears from all evidence known at the time that the destruction will be immense. Contrary to John 3:16 where Jesus in is control of the future and what he promises will be happen because he has the power to do it, the Gentiles will have the freedom to do what they want to Jerusalem. They may or may not throw down every stone. Jesus foreseeing the obvious, that the recalcitrant Jews will rebel and bring down the wrath of Rome. The point of the verses is to show his sorrow at the coming event.

William Watson Goodwin a renown Greek grammarian of the nineteenth century agrees with Mr. Smythe and offers this explanation of the subjunctive.

Subjunctive with μή and μὴ οὐ in Cautious Assertions. 265

In Herodotus v. 79 we have ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον μὴ οὐ τοῦτο ἦ τὸ μαντήιον, but I suspect rather that this may prove not to be the meaning of the oracle. This is the first example of a construction, very common in Plato, used also by Aristotle, and found once in Demosthenes, in which μή with the subjunctive expresses a suspicion that something may be (or may prove to be) true, and μὴ οὐ with the subjunctive a suspicion that something may not be true; the former amounting to a cautious assertion, the latter to a cautious negation. [11]

Contrary to Mr. Wallace’s statements the double negative in the subjunctive (Outside of these two sources it occurs only rarely) those scholarly grammarians who study ancient Greek provide evidence of the common use of the emphatic double negative.  The double negative is a suspicion that something may not be true.  This is in direct contrast to Mr. Wallace (Ou mh rules out even the idea as being a possibility.)  The negative never changes the mood of the Greek and certainly the negative never negates the mood, the negative changes the positive assertion like “I think there will be need of taking into account” into a negative assertion  “I think there will be no need of taking into account.”

There is a need to seriously consider the use of the subjunctive in the translation of the Greek New Testament.  Many statements assumed to be prophecies by Jesus are in the subjunctive.  The subjunctive is a mood of possibility which depends on the ability and the will of the subject.  If Jesus or God the Father were making an assertion about their future actions then the subject would have both will and the ability to bring about a future event.  However if Jesus was talking about the future actions of free individuals then there is an uncertainty in the exact fulfillment of the future event dependent on the will and the ability of the third person.  These statements by Jesus are not future prophesies but expectations which may or may not happen depending on future events.

 

[1] John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth, Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (Wheaton, Illinois, Good News Publishers, 2003) 267-268
[2] Luke 19:41-44 (NKJV)
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it…44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
44 και εδαφιουσιν σε και τα τεκνα σου εν σοι και ουκ αφησουσιν λιθον επι λιθον εν σοι ανθ ων ουκ εγνως τον καιρον της επισκοπης σου
[3] ἀφεθῇ shall be left V-ASP-3S 2647 [e]
καταλυθῇ shall be thrown down V-ASP-3S

[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Daniel B Wallace, Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1996) 468

[8] Daniel B. Wallace, The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2000) footnote 14
[9] Daniel B Wallace, Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1996) 468
[10] H.W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (rev. ed; Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1984)
[11] William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Rev. 7th ed. (Boston: Ginn and Heath, 1877) 92.

The extended content is provided below: Examples from Plato are:-

Μὴ ἀγροικότερον ἦ τὸ ἀληθὲς εἰπεῖν, I am afraid the truth may be too rude a thing to tell. Gorg. 462 ε. Μὴ ὡς ἀληθῶς ταῦτα σκέμματα ἦ τῶν ῥᾳδίως ἀποκτιννύντων, I suspect these may prove to be considerations for those, etc. Crit. 48 C. Μὴ φαῦλον ἦ καὶ οὐ καθ’ ὁδόν, I think it will be bad and not in the right way (i.e. μὴ οὐ ἦ). Crat. 425B. Ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐχ οὕτως ἔχῃ, ἀλλ’ ἀναγκαῖον ἦ εἰδότα τίθεσθαι (i.e. μὴ ἦ). Crat. 436B. Ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐ τοῦτ’ ἦ χαλεπὸν, θάνατον ἐκφυγεῖν, but I suspect this may not be the hard thing, to escape death. Ap. 39A. Ἡμῖν μὴ οὐδὲν ἄλλο σκεπτέον ἦ, I am inclined to think we have nothing else to consider. Crit. 48 C. Μὴ οὐ δέῃ ὑπολογίζεσθαι, I think there will be no need of taking into account, etc. Crit. 48D. Μὴ οὐκ ἦ διδακτὸν ἀρετή, it will probably turn out that virtue is not a thing to be taught. Men. 94E Ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐχ οὗτοι ἡμεῖς ὦμεν, but I think we shall not prove to be of this kind. Symp. 194C [Note]

See also Aristotle, Eth. x. 2. 4, μὴ οὐδὲν λέγωσιν (v. l. λέγουσιν), there can hardly be anything in what they say. ( crossSee 269.)

In DEM. i. 26 we have μὴ λίαν πικρὸν εἰπεῖν ἦ, I am afraid it may be too harsh a thing to say.

The present subjunctive here, as in dependent clauses of fear cross(92), may refer to what may prove true.

266

In these cautious assertions and negations, although no desire of the speaker to avert an object of fear is implied, there is always a tacit allusion to such a desire on the part of some person who is addressed or referred to, or else an ironical pretence of such a desire of the speaker himself.

267

The subjunctive with μή in this sense is sometimes found in dependent clauses. E.g. Ὅρα μὴ ἄλλο τι τὸ γενναῖον καὶ τὸ ἀγαθὸν ἦ τοῦ σῴζειν καὶ σῴζεσθαι, see to it lest (it prove true that) these may be different things, etc. PLAT. Gorg. 512D. The common translation, see whether they may not be different, gives the general sense, but not the construction, which is simply that of μὴ ἄλλο τι ἦ cross(265) transferred to a dependent clause.

268

In a few cases Plato has μή with the subjunctive in a cautious question with a negative answer implied. As μὴ ἄλλο τι ἦ τοῦτο means this may possibly be something else, so the question μὴ ἄλλο τι ἦ τοῦτο; means can this possibly be something else? The four examples given by Weber are:-

Μή τι ἄλλο ἦ παρὰ ταῦτα; can there be any other besides these? Rep. 603C. Ἆρα μὴ ἄλλο τι ἦ θάνατος ἢ τοῦτο; is it possible that death can prove to be anything but this? Phaed. 64C. So μή τι ἄλλο ἦ ἤ, κ.τ.λ.; Parm. 163D. Ἀλλὰ μὴ ἐμὴ περιεργία ἦ καὶ τὸ ἐρωτῆσαί σε περὶ τούτου; but can it be that even asking you about this is inquisitiveness on my part? Sisyph. 387 C (this can be understood positively, it may be that it is, etc.).

In XEN. Mem. iv. 2, 12 , the same interrogative construction occurs with μὴ οὐ: μὴ οὖν οὐ δύνωμαι ἐγὼ τὰ τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἔργα ἐξηγήσασθαι; do you suspect that I shall be unable to explain the works of Justice?

In PLAT. Phil. 12D we have πῶς γὰρ ἡδονή γε ἡδονῇ μὴ οὐχ ὁμοιότατον ἂν εἴη; for how could one pleasure help being most like another? Here εἴη ἄν takes the place of ἦ, and πῶς shows that the original force of μή is forgotten.

 

 

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The Fullness of the Gentiles

The word for fullness in the Greek is pléróma (Greek πληρωμα) which means fullness. This is the noun form from the verb pléroó (Greek πληρόω) meaning to fill. In classical Greek πληρωμα was used in Herodotus to denote ships which are filled, freight and merchandise. In Mark the word is used to indicate a full basket of bread.

Mark 6:43

 And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.

As a reference to time the verb form is used in Luke 2:6 to indicate the completion of the pregnancy of Mary.

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

In Romans 11 Paul references “the fullness of the Gentilesand contrasts this with “the fullness of Israel.”

Romans 11

25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

The possessive pronoun “their” is a reference to Israel.

These are two dispensations characterized by different circumstances.

The fullness of the Gentiles

1)      Israel is blinded and are not believers

2)      The Gentiles are grafted into the vine (salvation) as unnatural branches

3)      Paul refers to this period as the mystery

4)      Israel is the enemy of the gospel

The fullness of Israel

1)      All Israel is saved

2)      Israel is grafted again into the vine

3)      Israel is accepted by God

When the fullness of the Gentiles is complete: the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Then a new dispensation occurs and Israel is the centerpiece of God’s program. In this dispensation all Israel will be saved.

At the completion of the fullness of Israel God will introduce a new dispensation called the dispensation of the fullness of times. This is a time when all things are subjected to God.

Ephesians 1:10

 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

Paul further explains what happens in this future dispensation of the fullness of the times. Christ will reign until the fullness of the Gentiles is complete and the fullness of Israel is complete. Then Christ will wrap up all things at the end of the age when death will be no more.

1 Corinthians 15:25-30

25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.”[a] But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

The phrase “all in all” is used in both 1 Cor 15 and Eph 1:23. In 1 Corinthians there is no express verb but there is an implied verb “to be” which is translated “may be” because this is clearly a future event. In Ephesians the verb “fills” is actually a passive construction meaning the word may be translated “is being filled” rather than the active construction “fills.” However the verb form may also be translated as a middle or more of an active meaning “fills.”

The Ephesians verse could mean “the act of subjecting all things to God fill up or completes Jesus” or “Jesus is filling up all things to complete God.” From the 1 Corinthian passage where God is the “all in all” the second meaning seems to be better.

Ephesians 1:22-23

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

In the Ephesians verse there is a double predicate nominative not readily apparent in the English. The which refers to the Church and the Church refers to two predicated nominatives. The Church is “His body” and the Church is “the fullness of Him.” This term “fullness” (Greek πληρωμα) is the body of Christ.

This leaves open a new view of two other Ephesians verses. The blessings referred to in chapters 3 and 4 may be a reference to the end time dispensation of the fullness of times when all things are reconciled to God.

Ephesians 3:19

19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 4:13

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

This leads to a new understanding of the Colossians passages on the fullness. If the fullness is the body of Christ then Colossians 1:19 is referring to the dwelling of the body of Christ in Christ. This makes sense because the rest of the verse is a reference of the reconciling of all things in the dispensation of the fullness of times.

Colossians 1:19

19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Traditionally the Colossians 2:9 verse in some way refers to the attributes of deity in Christ. He has all the attributes of Deity. But maybe this is reference not to the attributes of Christ but to the body of Christ dwelling in Christ. The context is a warning to the body of Christ not to accept philosophy or the basic principles of the world. The “fullness” reference pléróma (Greek πληρωμα) is supplemented by the verb form “are complete” pléroó (Greek πληρόω). The two forms are related, a fact not evident from the English translation and both forms are talking about the body of Christ in Ephesians 1.

Colossians 2:8-12

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

The concept of the “fullness of Christ” being the “body of Christ” has been overlooked in the commentaries of theologians. There are plenty of verses that prove the Deity of Christ without misappropriating these Colossians verses.

 

 

 

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The Eternal Now of Augustine and Calvin

I John 1:20

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

The battleground between the open theists and the classical theologians is often fought on the possibility of God seeing the future.  However, the mechanism of how God sees the future is often overlooked.  For a Calvin or Augustine the future must actually exist as a prerequisite of God’s knowing the future.  The eternal now is some kind of other dimension in which God sees the future as clearly as he sees the present.  He also sees the future as existing and not just some premonition of things to come.

In I John 1:20 what are the “all things” that God knows?  If something is not yet made or born is that a thing to be known?  The classical theologian must believe the future is already set and not only set but in existence in the “eternal now” of God.

“To know something exists” or to observe an existing object is a different knowledge than to imagine or perceive the existence of a future object.  If a person was foreknown or fated to come into existence than still God’s perception of that individual would change the moment he actually came into existence.  Instead of imagining what a person might look like then God would actually observe the real person.  If God were only imagining a a person, than God’s knowledge about the person would change the moment He sees the real person.  This would be a change in God’s knowledge.  In the eternal now the person must be observed as actually existing and not just potentially existing.

Both Calvin and Augustine were aware of these logical existence problems and addressed them in their writing.  Both believed the real man is seen continually by the eyes of God, not just a future image of the man.  Not only that, but God does not remember what I looked like as a baby or a young adult, God is actually seeing the baby or young adult in the eternal now.

An extended quote from Calvin is presented for inspection:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny; but it is greatly caviled at, especially by those who make prescience its cause. We, indeed, ascribe both prescience and predestination to God; but we say, that it is absurd to make the latter subordinate to the former. When we attribute prescience to God, we mean that all things always were, and ever continue, under his eye; that to his knowledge there is no past or future, but all things are present, and indeed so present, that it is not merely the idea of them that is before him (as those objects are which we retain in our memory), but that he truly sees and contemplates them as actually under his immediate inspection.

Calvin, John, Institutes of Christian Religion,trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008-11), 609-610 (Book III, Chapter 21, Section 5)

This idea of existing in the eternal now is what Calvin says “all things always were.”  Each person also exists in each stage of development in which he existed.  God sees me as a baby, a young teenager and as an old man.  He does not remember what I looked like when I was a baby he actually observed my physical body as a baby:  he truly sees and contemplates them as actually under his immediate inspection.

In the Calvinist universe, death is not swallowed up forever, but it lasts forever in the eternal now.  The tears of pain last forever and the Lord never wipes all the tears away.

Isaiah 25:8

He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;

When theologians talk about God not having a past or future and living in the eternal present, this a reference to the “eternality” of God.  (that to his knowledge there is no past or future, but all things are present,)  Of course when the average Christian is told about the eternality of God he interprets this as the everlasting God.

Scripture refers to an everlasting God. According to Scripture God lives in temporal time.  This is not just how we perceive God, this is how he exists.

Revelation 4:8

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
ο παντοκρατωρ ο ην και ο ων και ο ερχομενος

This is three tenses of the word “to be”, one in the past, one in the present and one in the future.  God was in the past, is now in the present and will be in the future.  This is not the God in the eternal now. The eternal now of God would be translated, He who is, and is and is.  Notice the Scripture is not saying this is how God appears to you, Scripture is saying this is how God operates.

An important premise of the eternal now is that God’s knowledge does not change at all.  If I exist in everlasting time and know everything that happened in the past, everything happening now and everything that will happen in the future, my knowledge still changes.  I saw my brother as a baby but now I see him as an adult.  What I see now is a change from what he was in the past and the image I see now is before me not just a memory in my mind. God also observes the universe in this manner.

In order to avoid this kind of knowledge of change and affirm the immutability of God Calvin must say he truly sees and contemplates them as actually under his immediate inspection.  He does not imagine them as happening in the future or remember them as they happened in the past he actually observes them as happening now.  Calvinists often propose the omnipotent God proposition.  Is it not possible that God could see all events in the eternal now.  Whether this is possible, I do not know.  The real issue is how does God describe his knowledge of events past, present and future?

Calvin proposes a God who does not know the past or the future.  How many Christians would affirm this naturally corollary of the eternal now: there is no past or future for God?  This is not the everlasting God of Revelation 4.  This is the God which Calvin says that to his knowledge there is no past or future, but all things are present.

Without any doubt Augustine was the most cited and admired Church Father for Calvin. His doctrines of the attributes of God, sin and grace,  ecclesiology, and to some degree the sacraments, are Augustine’s doctrines. Calvin would not hesitate to use Augustine’s words as his own.

“Augustine is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so … out of his writings”

Calvin, “A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God,” trans. by Henry Cole, Calvin’s Calvinism, Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing, 1987), p. 38;

In the 1559 edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin quotes Augustine 400 times. In a reflection of the concept of the “eternal now” Calvin seems to paraphrase Augustine’s words:

It is not as if the knowledge of God were of various kinds, knowing in different ways things which as yet are not, things which are, and things which have been. For not in our fashion does He look forward to what is future, quite different and far and profoundly remote from our way of thinking. For he does not pass from this to that by transition of thought, but beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness; so that of those things which emerge in time, the future indeed, are not yet, and the present are now, and the past no longer are; but all of these are by Him comprehended in His stable and eternal presence.

Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, trans. Marcus Dods. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.)  Book XI, c.21, p 364

If God was in temporal time, he observes things in different ways as as yet are not, things which are, and things which have been.  However, according to Augustine he does not see things in this way at all.  He sees everything as existing now.  But Scripture describes God’s being as Who was and is and is to come.  (Rev 4:8)

In order for God to see all things in the same way, observing past events like they are present and future events as they are in the present, these past and future things would have to exist.  In Isaiah, God says he declares and then makes things happen that are not yet done.

Isaiah 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,

If some things are not yet done then the future does not exist in the eternal now even for God.  God always presents himself in Scripture as being in temporal time.  He never presents himself as in the movie “Back to the Future” as being able to return to past events and go forward to future events and then return to the present.  The Classical Theologians, Calvin and Augustine are wrong.  God does not exist in the “Eternal Now.”

 

 

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Unconditional Election – taking Calvin apart word by word

We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment. In regard to the elect, we regard calling as the evidence of election, and justification as another symbol of its manifestation, until it is fully accomplished by the attainment of glory.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion , trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002), 571-572. (III, 21,7)

God by his eternal and immutable counsel-counsel

God does have eternal purposed but these purposes are not “immutable” in the sense of determining and preprogramming each person who will be saved. His purpose is that all men be saved. He has criteria that men must accept or reject, this is his gospel, to determine their salvation. His purpose does not change. He offers salvation to all but not all receive it.

Isaiah 46:10

10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’

A declaration is a statement of an intention of a future action. God declares the end from the beginning, leaving a lot in between which is not all declared. His counsel and pleasure is that all men should be saved. In this dispensation, God wishes all men to believe in him and be saved. If God alone determined who would be saved with no cooperation from the individual then all men should be saved. On the other hand if God created man capable of creating and making free will decisions, he offers salvation to all on the condition of belief, then those who do not believe will not be saved.

Part of God’s purpose, pleasure or counsel is that in the “time of the Gentiles” salvation by faith is the key to eternal life:

Romans 10:9

 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

 

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