Discourse 100 – John Calvin: True and False Predestination.

On the Calvin anniversary.

The Catholic Church and the tyranny of the Papacy. / Institutio IV,5,13

Of the Appendages to the Doctrine of Satisfying Works, namely, of indulgences. / Institutio III,5,1

Of the Appendages to the Doctrine of Satisfying Works, namely, of purgatory. / Institutio III,5,6

Predestination, whereby God has handed over some to eternal life. / Institutio III,21,1

Predestination, whereby God has handed over some to eternal damnation. / Institutio III,21,1

The error in Calvin’s teaching and the true election of human beings by God, according to the Bible.

Is God responsible for the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan in the Second World War?

Concluding remarks.

The doctrine of Calvin – INSTITUTIO I

The doctrine of Calvin – INSTITUTIO II

The doctrine of Calvin – INSTITUTIO III

The doctrine of Calvin – INSTITUTIO IV

On the Calvin anniversary

On the occasion of the 500th birthday of Johannes Calvin (7.10.1509 - 5.27.1564), the theologian and great reformer of the church, this year will see celebratory events, exhibitions and lectures throughout Europe. This will stimulate much interest, of course, in Calvin’s great work, the Institutio christianae religionis (Instruction in the Christian Religion) and in its importance for the European Reformation.

Johannes Calvin

(See also Institutio: "Inmstruction in the Christian Religion.")

The "Institutio", as Calvin’s work is familiarly known, was completed by Calvin on 23 August 1535 and to begin with consisted of just six chapters. In March 1536 it was printed and published by the Basel printer Thomas Platter. In the time up to 1559 the Institutio was continually expanded. Eventually running to four books and eighty chapters, it became a massive compendium of the Christian faith as understood by the Reform movement, and was translated into French first of all, and then many other languages.

While it is possible to read up about Calvin’s life on the internet and in many published books, it is of course exceedingly hard to describe or form an assessment of a magnum opus on this scale. So I would like here to cast light on just a few of those important statements of Calvin’s which have had a powerful influence on the Christian faith over the last 450 years, and which have repeatedly called forth responses of agreement or disagreement.

A great part of his writing, understandably, is concerned with the false doctrine of the Catholic Church and the deplorable conditions prevailing in that church at the time, e.g. the sale of indulgences, transubstantiation, auricular confession and the papacy as such. Calvin knew that the Popes of preceding centuries ‒ especially in the period from the 11th to the 13th century ‒ had often had great power over the princes of Europe, and had not only appointed but had even "head-hunted" kings and emperors. They had conducted predatory expeditions with their armies and carried on wars of conquest. They committed fornication and then placed their sons as bishops in the Catholic Church.

They used the sale of indulgences to take money out of the pockets of the poor. Finally and above all, they built St. Peter’s in Rome with money from the sale of indulgences. This means that the biggest Catholic Church in the world is built on lies and deceit. And when you look at the statues of the saints and altars to Mary which are worshiped by Catholics in this church, you can recognize that it is actually a temple to idols.

Against this background, we can also understand the following passage from The Tyranny of the Papacy, from Book 4 of Calvin’s Institutio:

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(The Catholic Church and the tyranny of the papacy / Institutio IV.5.13)

IV,5,13 If someone now carefully considers and investigates the entire power of church government as it exists nowadays under the papacy, he will find that there has never been a den of robbers where the robbers raged more willfully without law or measure. In any case everything in this church is so dissimilar from that which was instituted by Christ, indeed alien to it, there is such an extreme falling away from the old institutions and customs of the church, the life that is lived here presents such a contradiction with nature and reason, that we can hardly do Christ any greater dishonor than that of using his name as a pretext for the defense of such a disorderly regiment. "We," they say, "are the pillars of the church, the highest authorities in religion, we are the deputies of Christ, the heads of the faithful; for the full authority of the apostles has descended through the ordained succession (of the bishops) to us." They boast continually with trivialities of this kind ‒ as if they were talking to senseless blocks!

But every time when they harp on about this, I ask them again what they have in common with the apostles. For here it is not a matter of an inherited dignity, which could be conferred on a person in sleep, but rather of the office of preaching, which they try by all means at their disposal to avoid. And similarly, when we declare that their regime is the tyranny of the Antichrist, they always protest that it is that honorable "hierarchy" of theirs which has so often been praised by great and holy men.

As if the holy fathers, when they gave high praise to the church hierarchy or the spiritual regiment as it had come down to them from the apostles, could ever have dreamed of this malformed chaos filled with desolation, where the bishops are either in most cases uneducated asses who do not even know the first and most basic elements of the faith, or else they are children fresh from the wet nurse; where, when there are some few who are somewhat more learned ‒ though this is rarely the case ‒ they see the office of bishop as nothing but a title of pomp and worldly glory; where the chief representatives of the churches have as little thought for feeding their flocks as the cobbler thinks of plowing, and where everything has been so tangled into a more than Babylonian confusion that no intact trace of the institutions of the church fathers can any longer anywhere be made out.

Johannes Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion – Book IV: How God invites and receives us to community with Christ

Although the situation in the Catholic Church of today shows considerable changes in practice (there are no wars of conquest, no predatory expeditions ‒ no military ones at least), the trade in indulgences is still a standard practice, even if no longer practiced for cash. Pope Pius XII, for example, gave a radio address to the people of Portugal on 31 October 1942, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima, concluding with a prayer of dedication:

"Queen of the holy rosary, help of Christians, refuge of the human race, conqueror in all God’s battles! Imploringly we throw ourselves before your throne. We come filled with confidence that we will obtain mercy, grace and true help in our afflictions. We do not have confidence in our deserts, but only in the infinite goodness of your motherly heart. To you and your immaculate heart we entrust ourselves and dedicate ourselves in this fateful hour of human history. (…) Grant the world peace from weapons, and peace in men’s souls. (…) So also we dedicate ourselves for ever to you, to your immaculate heart, O mother and queen of the world."

This prayer of dedication was published in the Kirchlicher Anzeiger für die Diözese Aachen und Köln [Church Gazette for the Dioceses of Aix and Cologne] of 1.15.1943, with the following comment: "The Holy Father has been pleased to grant an indulgence of three years to those faithful who perform this prayer in the spirit of devotion; those who pray it every day will receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions, which can be obtained once in the month."

Other large parts of the false Catholic doctrine ‒ transubstantiation, purgatory, the infallibility of the pope, service to idols (with the worship of Mary and the saints) etc. etc. ‒ still continue to be in force. The above arguments of Calvin’s (though not the vituperative style) come right from the soul of any Bible-believing Christian of our day as well, and the same is the case with the following criticism of the sale of indulgences.

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(Of the appendages to the doctrine of reparation through works, namely of indulgences / Institutio III,5,1)

III,5,1 From this doctrine of satisfaction, indulgences spring forth. What we lack in the ability to make such satisfaction can be supplemented by indulgences, according to the Roman chatter. Yes, they go so far in their madness that they define indulgences as the distribution of the merits of Christ and the martyrs, which the pope would perform with his bulls. Now the advocates of this view, however, are more in need of riveting (a remedy for insanity according to the view of the time) than they are worthy of any proof, and therefore it is not particularly worth the trouble of laboring with the refutation of such frivolous errors; for these have already been pierced by many storms and are already beginning of their own accord to become obsolete and dilapidated.

Nevertheless, a brief refutation will be of use to some inexperienced people, and I will therefore not refrain from it. One can really say: that the indulgence could last so long, that it could remain unpunished in such rampant, wild exuberance for so long – this may really serve us as a proof of what a deep night of error the people have been sunk into for several centuries. They saw how they were openly and openly fooled by the pope and his bull-bearers; they saw how their salvation was being played for money; they saw how their blessedness was estimated at the price of a few hellers, but nothing was to be had for free; they saw how, under such false pretenses, they were cheated out of offerings, which were then squandered in adultery and procuring and at banquets; They knew well that the most full-bellied preachers of indulgences were at the same time the worst despisers of indulgences; they saw how this monster raged from day to day with more and more wantonness and became more and more boisterous, and how such goings-on found no end, no, how every day new lead was added, new pennies were lured out of the people’s pockets!

They saw all this – but they still received the indulgence with the highest reverence, worshipped it, bought it! And those who saw more sharply than other people, thought that it was a pious fraud, which could be deceived with some benefit! Since the world has finally allowed itself to become a little wiser, the indulgence has grown cold, it has almost turned to ice, until it completely disappears.

Johannes Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion – Book III: Of the Appendages to the Doctrine of Satisfying Works, namely, of Indulgences and Purgatory

While this massive deceit of the trade in indulgences could finally no longer be kept up in the Catholic Church, thanks to the Enlightenment and the resistance of pious church communities, money is still being taken out of people’s pockets in a different way (e.g. with masses for the souls of the dead). And the foundation of these deceptions, namely the doctrine of purgatory, remains Catholic doctrine to the present day.

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(Of the appendages to the doctrine of reparation through works, namely of purgatory / Institutio III,5,6)

III,5,6 Also with their purgatory the Romans shall cause us no trouble; for that is smashed with the same axe, destroyed and completely overthrown down to the ground. Now there are people who think that one should look through their fingers in this piece, should leave aside the mention of purgatory, because from it – as one then says – sharp disputes arise, but very little edification can be attained. I cannot agree with these people. Admittedly, I would also advise to pass over this gossip, if it did not entail such serious consequences.

But this purgatory is built of many blasphemies and is supported every day with new ones, it also arouses many and serious offences, and therefore one can by no means be gentle here. It could have been overlooked for a while that the doctrine of purgatory was conceived without God’s word in a bold and presumptuous way, that one believed in who knows which "revelations" of Satan’s art, that one quite foolishly twisted a number of scriptural passages to support it! And this, although the Lord does not suffer human presumption to break into the hidden abysses of His judgments in such a way, although He has strictly forbidden to investigate the truth in contempt of His Word from the dead (Deut. 18:11), and although He does not permit His Word to be so shamelessly defiled!

But even admitting that all this could have been tolerated for a time as a matter of no great consequence, such silence is a very dangerous thing as soon as atonement for our sins is sought elsewhere than in the blood of Christ, and satisfaction is transferred to someone else! So we must strain our voices and throats and lungs and cry it out loud: purgatory is a corrupting invention of Satan, it makes the cross of Christ vain, it does unbearable dishonor to God’s mercy, it shakes our faith and overthrows it! For what, according to Roman doctrine, is purgatory but a satisfaction which the souls of the departed must make for their sins after their death?

If, therefore, the delusion is destroyed that we have to suffer sufficient punishments, then purgatory is also immediately destroyed to the root! But if it has become more than clear on the basis of our preceding discussion that Christ’s blood is the only satisfaction for the sins of believers, the only atonement, the only cleansing – what else is left but that purgatory is nothing but a terrible blasphemy of Christ? Leaving aside the many outrages with which it is defended nowadays, and also the impulses that arise from it in religion, and many other things that we have seen burst forth from such a fountain of impiety-.

Johannes Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion – Book III: Of the Appendages to the Doctrine of Satisfying Works, namely, of Indulgences and Purgatory

The idea of purgatory goes back to Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century:

"We have to believe that for certain small sins there is still a purificatory fire appointed before the Judgment, because the eternal truth tells us that if someone speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him ‘either in this age or in the age to come’. We can infer from this statement that some sins can be pardoned in this world, others in the hereafter."

Gregory incorporated purgatory in the system of his "salvation machine", as a result of which it acquired major social, cultural and historical importance, until the time of the Reformation at any rate.

Consequently the practice of confession experienced a massive uplift at the start of the 11th century, and brought the Catholic system of indulgences to its apogee. By payment of the sum necessary to secure an indulgence, people could buy their way out of hundreds, thousands or even millions of years (!) of punishment in purgatorial fire.

Even as recently as the year 1992 (!) Pope John Paul II, in giving his approval to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, refers to the above passage from Gregory the Great by way of explanation of this doctrine.

Eternal election (Predestination) according to John Calvin

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(Predestination, whereby God has handed over some to eternal life / Institutio III,21,1)

III,21,1 Now the covenant of life is not preached equally among all men, nor does it find the same place equally and continually among those who hear its preaching. In this diversity the wondrous majesty of the divine judgment comes to light. For it cannot be doubted that even this diversity serves the judgment of God’s eternal election.

But if it is obvious that it is by God’s will that salvation is offered to some without their intervention, while to others access to this salvation remains closed, then equally great and grave questions arise here, which cannot be solved in any other way than when the pious have clearly grasped inwardly what they must know about election and predestination.  (…)

We shall never, as clearly as we ought, arrive at the conviction that our salvation flows from the fountain of God’s undeserved mercy, until God’s eternal election is made known to us; for this glorifies God’s grace by the inequality that He does not, after all, indiscriminately accept all men as children for the hope of blessedness, but gives to some what He denies to others. How much ignorance of this principle diminishes God’s glory and how much it detracts from true humility is obvious.

Johannes Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion – Book III: Predetermination, whereby God has handed over some to eternal life, others to eternal damnation.

As Calvin states in this passage, quite rightly, "we are at once faced here with major difficult questions". And he is quite correct when he writes "that our salvation flows to us from the fountainhead of the undeserved mercy of God", but this mercy is not "God’s eternal election", as he goes on to say, but rather the acceptance of the redeeming sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Calvin’s doctrine of election not only converts the justice of God into injustice, the injustice of determining some for eternal life and others for eternal damnation, quite arbitrarily and without any action on the part of the individual ‒ but at the same time, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and acceptance of his redeeming sacrifice for our sins becomes completely irrelevant, because, after all, the result of this supposed predetermination by God is that the one group are elect and saved whatever they do, while the other group can do what they like but will still have no chance of being saved.

With a view to nipping any objections in the bud, Calvin then postulates that "ignorance of this fundamental principle diminishes God’s honor and undermines true humility". Anyone who dares to examine his thesis minutely and get to grips with it in the light of Scripture finds himself accused of arrogance and shamelessness:

"He (the critic, i.e.) cannot be restrained by any kind of bar from running off on forbidden bypaths and trying to penetrate heights above his own station; if it is possible, he will not leave God any secrets that he does not search and rummage through. We see how many people repeatedly fall into this kind of arrogance and shamelessness, even when they are persons of good character in other respects." (Institutio III,21,1)

We cannot help being reminded here of some leaders of sects of our own day, who likewise write off any criticism or denial of their false doctrine as "blasphemy". And just like them, Calvin does not realize that he is doing exactly what he condemns, namely searching for higher knowledge in God’s word. But we do not wish here to concern ourselves with Calvin’s well known insults of his critics, but rather to analyze his doctrine and endeavor to come to a well grounded judgment of what is true and what is false in his theory, and why. But for this we need to look at statements that are more detailed than the global pronouncements quoted above.

In the following passage Calvin’s formulation of his thesis is more specific and precise ‒ even if he still fails to supply biblical references ‒ so that it becomes possible for us to follow his train of thought.

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(Predestination, whereby God has handed over some to eternal damnation / Institutio III,21,5)

IIII,21,5 The predestination, by virtue of which God accepts some as his children in hope of life, but delivers others to eternal death, no one who wants to be considered pious dares to deny outright, no, one only entangles it in many quibbles; especially those do this who declare foreknowledge (praescientia) for its cause.

NNow we also establish both in God, but we declare it wrong to subordinate one to the other. When we ascribe foreknowledge to God, we mean that everything has always been before his eyes and will always remain so; for his knowledge, therefore, there is nothing future or past, but everything is present, and so present that he does not merely imagine it on the basis of figurative thoughts, as things occur to us again, of which our sense preserves a memory, – but that he really sees and perceives these things as objects standing before him! This foreknowledge now extends to the whole circumference of the world and to all creatures.

By predestination we understand God’s eternal order, by virtue of which he decided in himself what should become of each individual man according to his will! Because the people are not created all with the same determination, but to the one the eternal life, to the other the eternal damnation is assigned before. So now as the individual is created for one purpose or another, so – we say – he is "predestined" to life or to death.

Johannes Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion – Book III: Predestination, whereby God has given over some to salvation and others to death.

Let us point out, first of all, that Calvin here gives us a quite outstandingly successful description of God’s omniscience (foreknowledge). But we also notice two things about these statements. Calvin had already had violent discussions with critics of his doctrine ("clever qualifications … of those who take God’s foreknowledge (praescientia) as its cause and origin"), who had evidently refuted the absolutely arbitrary election by God postulated by Calvin, and refuted it in the light of Scripture.

But actually this proof based on God’s foreknowledge or omniscience is the only possible scriptural option for confirming a doctrine like this ‒ though with an important difference from Calvin’s understanding in terms of one important detail. (We will discuss this interpretation based on God’s omniscience later on).

And because Calvin had evidently realized that from this point of view his thesis was incorrect, but was unwilling to admit to his mistake, he simply asserts that predestination (predetermination) is "God’s eternal ordinance, whereby he resolved within himself what should become of each individual human being in accordance with his will!" ‒ Never mind that we cannot find any reference whatever in the Bible to this ordinance, or to this resolve on the part of God ‒ Calvin is clearly the only person who knows about it. But of course he fails to mention this, nor does he give us any relevant scriptural references. 

Here, sad to say, is an error in biblical interpretation which has probably escaped the notice of all the commentators. The important thing is that the argument should be conducted on the basis of Scripture, and the error put right. If this has not occurred in Calvin’s case, that may represent a failing on his part, but is not yet actually all that dangerous, as other commentators can detect and correct the error at some time in future.

What, however, is absolutely deserving of condemnation is the way in which Calvin ‒ prophylactically, so to speak ‒ endeavors to gag any critics of his doctrine, by branding them outright as arrogant and shameless for diminishing the honor of God and undermining true humility. In this way he puts a stop to further research ‒ he himself, in fact, is the one lacking in humility, the one who subordinates the honor of God to his own honor.

But since in the following centuries the argument based on God’s omniscience in this connection has gained continually in strength, Calvin’s followers too have adopted this biblical proof of the doctrine of predestination. Not however in its entirety, for then they would have had to give up the doctrine altogether. Whether they overlooked or ignored the consequence, which we will discuss in more detail below, need not be decided here.

But it is probable that Calvin himself took this biblical approach as a starting point and then failed to realize the crucial issue involved, so that in arguing with critics of his doctrine he was later obliged to drop this interpretation completely, simply setting up in its place the bare assertion that his understanding of the matter was the will of God and to contradict it was blasphemy.

Since Calvin’s time, different versions of his doctrine have also been developed ‒ so that for purposes of distinction we finally find Calvin’s original doctrine described as "double predestination", because it states that God both preordains a part of humanity to eternal salvation and preordains the rest to eternal damnation. This is defined today as follows:

"Predestination is defined as ‘God’s eternal decree whereby all creatures are predetermined to eternal life or death’, and what is known as ‘double predestination’ is described as follows: ‘God determines or elects on the basis of his eternal decrees the one group of human beings to eternal blessedness and condemns the other group to eternal damnation.’" (Donald McKim)

Here again, of course, we fail to find any mention of any scriptural passage where these "eternal decrees" can be found and read about.

In the 20th century, Karl Barth then engaged with the dilemma of the doctrine of election, which sets out on the one hand to preach the justice of God, but on the other converts this very justice into injustice. Barth interprets double predestination in a new sense. He rejects the election of human beings by God, putting in place of this Christ as both the elect and the rejected.

For him it is not a matter of God’s dual decision to save the one group and to pass over the other. Rather it is first of all a matter of God’s self-predestination to be a gracious God, and secondly of the predestination of humanity to be elect and redeemed by God (William Stacy Johnson).

To be elect or to be rejected ‒ for Barth these are not first and foremost attributes relating to human beings, but rather to God: God is in Jesus Christ both as the God who elects and as the human being who is elect; so predestination, for Barth, is in the first instance always divine predestination, Christ is the elect and also the rejected. In him we are elect, so there cannot be any opposition of elect and rejected humanity.

According to Karl Barth, predestination can then have a double effect on the Christian congregation: on the one hand it dissolves all fears and doubts in respect of a person’s own status as elect, on the other it removes all grounds for any kind of arrogant exclusiveness, any ostracism of "the other" ‒ since as things actually are, there are no others, because we all stand together in the presence of Christ.

The error in Calvin’s teaching and the true election of human beings by God, according to the Bible.

This interpretation by Karl Barth does draw the sting of Calvin’s doctrine of predestination; at the same time it changes it so drastically that we have to see it as a different variant altogether ‒ one, too, in which that part of Calvin’s interpretation that is actually correct has been somewhat obscured. So let us return now to Calvin’s doctrine with a view to examining to what extent it can be confirmed on the basis of Scripture.

As already mentioned earlier, Calvin may well have been not altogether unaware of this approach based on the foreknowledge or omniscience of God. He puts it like this:

"If we attribute foreknowledge to God, we mean by this that everything has constantly been before his eyes and will remain so for all time; for God’s knowledge, then, there is no future and no past, but everything is present ‒ and present in such a way that he does not just imagine it on the basis of thoughts and images (in the same way as things recur to our minds when a memory has left its trace on our senses), he actually sees and registers these things as objects that are standing before him. This foreknowledge, now, extends to the entire circle of the world and all its creatures." (Institutio III,21,5)

And although Calvin ‒ as he states above ‒ completely rejects the interpretation of his doctrine on the basis of God’s foreknowledge, this explanation is entirely in accord with that scriptural passage most frequently used today as a justification for the doctrine of predestination:

As He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

Eph 1,3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 1,4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 1,5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 1,6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Eph 1,3-6;

Paul tells the Ephesians here that God has chosen human beings and predestined them to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. So there is no way of getting around it: it will hardly be possible to find a clearer biblical demonstration of the doctrine (the correct doctrine, that is) of election. Why Calvin rejects it, though, is a thing that we will see presently. ‒ Paul then specifies in the Epistle to the Romans just what he means by "predestined":

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

Rom 8,28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8,28-29;

And here we come to the crucial issue. Paul explains to the Romans which human beings are the ones whom God has predestined: they are those whom God has foreknown, in his foreknowledge (omniscience).

Advocates of predestination here tend to favor Luther’s translation. The Elberfeld Bible reads "Denn die er vorher erkannt hat …" ‒ "those whom He foreknew", or "recognized in advance". Luther on the other hand renders the Greek text of Rom 8,29 as "Denn die er zuvor ausersehen hat… " ‒ "those whom he selected" or "picked out". Wolfgang Nestvogel makes use of this in his sermon to BEG-Hannover [the Confessional Evangelical Congregation of Hanover] on 5.22.2005:

"Paul tells us: those whom God has picked out ‒ selected, that is ‒ have also been predestined by him to be conformed to the image of his Son. And then he goes on to say in Rom 8,30, These whom he predestined, he also called."

But when we compare this with the Greek (see Nestle-Aland) and all other international translations, it is easy to demonstrate that the translation of Romans chapter 8, verse 29, in Luther’s Bible is plainly wrong. The Greek verb in the original corresponding to the supposed "picked out, selected" is proegno.
"Pro" is a prefix and means "before". The syllable "gno" occurs in the following words, for example: gnomo = knower, gnoriso = to recognize, gnoripso = recognizable, gnosis = knowledge. So the correct translation of this passage must be: "whom he foreknew", as the Elberfeld Bible and all international Bibles give it, and not "whom he previously picked out" in the highly tendentious and incorrect wording of Luther’s version.

It is a similar situation with 1Pet 1,2, where Luther again gives "ausersehen", "picked out", while the Elberfeld Bible rightly reads "nach Vorkenntnis Gottes", exactly rendered in the American versions as "according to the foreknowledge of God".

Having now cleared this up, we arrive at a quite different meaning to Paul’s statement in Rom 8,29: God has not predetermined those whom he has "picked out", but rather in his omniscience (prescience, foreknowledge) has recognized those human beings from before the foundation of the world who would, in their lives on earth, confess allegiance to him and to his Son.

For if God has recognized these people in his omniscience, this "recognition" must after all necessarily have been preceded by a search procedure. And for a search procedure you need to have a search criterion. And just this search criterion of God’s was the decision to believe on the part of every human being in his or her life, and the love of such persons for God and his Son.

Before the beginning of the world God sought out, recognized and selected or predetermined for eternal life all those people who in the course of their lives would make a decision for him, and wrote their names in the Book of Life (Phil 4:3). These people are the property of God and they are also the ones whom the Father has given to the Son (Jn 17:24).

We find further confirmation, incidentally, in the first Epistle of Peter of the connection between this previous recognition or foreknowledge of God and the subsequent election and predetermination, based on that foreknowledge, of people for eternal life:

Peter, to those who reside as aliens, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

1Pet 1,1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1,2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1Pet 1,1-2;

So here we have sound biblical proof of the fact that God has not just predetermined some people quite arbitrarily for eternal life and others for eternal damnation; rather, as we are also told repeatedly by our Lord Jesus Christ, it is the decision to believe in the life of every individual that is exclusively important in determining whether that individual shall enter into eternal life or not.

Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,36;

Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jn 11,25-26;

Jn 12,44 And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. Jn 12,44;

Jn 12,46 "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 12,47 "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. Jn 12,46-47;

Jn 3,14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 3,15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 3,16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Jn 3,14-16;

In these passages we have a repeated and unmistakable indication from our Lord Jesus Christ: "Whoever believes in me will have eternal life". So nobody is excluded. Everyone who believes is saved. The completely wrong view of advocates of predestination, whereby God has ordained a part of humanity to eternal life and the rest to eternal damnation, is purely and simply attributable to superficial study of the Bible, or perhaps ‒ which would be still worse ‒ to a deliberate reinterpretation, so as to have grounds for that "arrogant exclusiveness" and "ostracism of the other", in Barth’s words quoted above, which Barth’s understanding of double predestination was actually designed to prevent.

And when Wolfgang Nestvogel then states in his sermon:

"God elected quite specific human beings as his children. (…) God, in his sovereign freedom, has selected individual people for the purpose of belonging to him. (…) God predetermined you before the foundation of the world."

‒ we must oppose to him what is said in the Bible, in all its clarity:

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1Tim 2,3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 2,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2,5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 2,6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1Tim 2,3-6;

Through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

Rom 5,18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Rom 5,18;

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1Jn 2,1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2,2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1Jn 2,1-2;

So God did not elect "quite specific human beings" and "individual people" for eternal life while condemning the rest to eternal damnation ‒ it is rather the case that God wants all human beings to be saved. And the redeeming sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross did not happen as atonement for some bunch of the "elect" but as atonement for the sins of the whole world ‒ of all human beings, that is, who have made their decision for Christ and accepted his redeeming sacrifice for their sins.

So when John MacArthur, another well known advocate of predestination, writes as follows, we find it completely incomprehensible:

"The highest expression of the love of God for sinful humanity is to be seen in the fact that before the foundation of the world God directs his love to certain unworthy sinners, and has elected them for salvation." ("Lampen ohne Öl" ["The Gospel According to Jesus"] by John F. MacArthur, p. 117. Published by CLV – Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung e.V., Bielefeld).

The highest expression of the love of God is and remains the offering of his Son on the cross for the sins of the world. That, and nothing else.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.

Jn 3,16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Jn 3,16;

Now the attempt has also been made by the advocates of predestination to present this acceptance of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ as an act of justification through works, and to condemn it for this reason. The scriptural passage referred to in support of this view is Eph 2,8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith.

Eph 2,8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 2,9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2,8-9;

As I repeatedly endeavor to point out, we must read and analyze the text of a scriptural passage in its entirety. With the words "For by grace you have been saved through faith", Paul is placing the main emphasis on God’s grace towards us human beings through the redeeming sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

By "grace" Paul means the God-given opportunity for the sinner personally to accept this grace and this very work of redemption by the Son of God, and to be justified by God as a result. That implies however, quite plainly, that this faith is not found automatically in the human heart ‒ rather, the individual human being must first accept this faith, explicitly and personally ‒ just as, for example, a beggar accepts a gift so that it comes into his possession.

So we must accept this grace of God in the redeeming sacrifice of his Son for our sins, accept it in faith. There is no justification through any kind of works, salvation is just the gift of God ‒ giving no one any call to boast.

Him God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith for the remission of sins.

Rom 3,22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 3,23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 3,24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 3,25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 3,26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Rom 3,22-26;

And just as a beggar cannot boast that his "acceptance" of a charitable donation amounts to any kind of performance on his part ‒ since, after all, he has just taken what was held out to him ‒ so too the sinner who accepts the gift of God in the redeeming sacrifice of his Son cannot attribute to himself any kind of desert. It is like the situation at a wedding, when the bride says that she will marry the bridegroom.

The "Yes" she utters is not a performance by which the bridegroom could be purchased, or through which the bride might be supposed to have earned the bridegroom’s love. But one thing is quite certain: just as the beggar who does not accept the gift does not come to possess it, so too the wedding cannot be accomplished if the bride does not give her assent.

Now of course there are cultures in which the bride and bridegroom are "elected" while still children, or even married while they are still children. In cultures of this kind people would find it incomprehensible if someone were to ask whether the bride and bridegroom had made a decision for each other. In such cultures this kind of decision is strictly ruled out ‒ everything is determined by the parents’ expectations.

And that, now, is exactly analogous to the predestinatarians’ understanding of the way in which they come to believe. They rule out any thought of a decision by the individual human being to believe in Jesus Christ, claiming that God has elected only some quite specific people ‒ themselves, that is ‒ to come to faith.

So the consequence of this view is also very easy to recognize. Just as the beggar fails to come to possession of the gift if he does not accept it, and as the bride is not married to the bridegroom unless she gives her "Yes", so too all those people who think they have already been chosen by God, and thus do not have to make their own decision to have faith in Jesus Christ, have failed to accept God’s offer of salvation and the forgiveness of their sins. They are comparable with the bride who has refused to give her assent at the wedding, but then lives in the belief that she is married to the bridegroom just the same. ‒ A deceptive belief indeed!

Finally, the following interpretation of Rom 8,29 by Wolfgang Nestvogel gives us a very exact view of the difference between the doctrine of predestination and true biblical teaching. Mr. Nestvogel preaches as follows:

"And Paul says(…): The reason why you belong to Jesus Christ, the reason why you have been converted, converted from your former life, is because almighty God in his sovereign power elected and predetermined you for this." – (false predestination)

But when we look to see what Paul actually writes in Rom 8,29, we find something quite different:

Rom 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8,29;

Here, in actual fact, what Paul is saying is this:

True predestination

Almighty God, in his omniscience, foreknew even before the foundation of the world that you would convert and would decide for Jesus Christ, and for this reason predetermined you for eternal life with him and wrote your name in the Book of Life.

As we can see, this biblical interpretation is roughly half way between Calvin’s understanding of the matter and most current attempts to refute his doctrine ‒ those, that is, that basically deny any kind of election. The Bible does say that there is an election of human beings by God ‒ and it actually happens before the foundation of the world!

But God has not elected human beings in a random or arbitrary manner ‒ rather, in his foreknowledge, he has sought out and recognized those who would convert to Jesus Christ and has predetermined them to eternal life.

And here we can also clarify some of those biblical passages which the Calvinists advance as a proof of election. For example Rom 9,11-12:

For though the twins were not yet bornn it was said to her, "the older will serve the younger."

Rom 9,9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son." 9,10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 9,11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 9,12 it was said to her, "the older will serve the younger." 9,13 Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Rom 9,9-13;

Of course when it comes to Esau and Jacob, God already knew before the foundation of the world how they were going to decide in the course of their lives ‒ that Esau would become godless, despise his birthright and sell it for a lentil stew, and that Jacob would come to believe in God and would love God.

We even find here the proof that God always leaves human beings free to make their own decisions. If God could make it possible for Sarah, at 90 years of age, to bear a son to the centenarian Abraham (in the previous verse, Rom 9,9; cf. Gen 18,10; 21,1-2), then of course it would also have been possible for him to arrange the birth of the twins in such a way that Jacob would come out of his mother’s womb as the first-born.

If it were a matter here of an arbitrary election of Jacob by God, this is just what would have been the obvious course. But God actually avoided doing this so as to allow justice to take its course, and to allow the two brothers complete freedom of decision ‒ even if it meant accepting the fact that Jacob and his mother Rebecca would have to deceive the dying Isaac (Gen 27).

And in the same way we can also refute the assertion of the Calvinists that Paul confirms predestination, four verses further on in Rom 9,17, when he writes that God has raised up Pharaoh for damnation.

For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you.

Rom 9,17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "for this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed througout the whole earth." Rom 9,17;

But if we look at the translation of the Old Testament Hebrew original, in Ex 9,16, what we find is this:

But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power.

Ex 9,15 "For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. 9,16 "But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Ex 9,15-16;

And Martin Buber too gives a similar rendering in his translation from the Hebrew:

"Yet even for this purpose I allow you to remain: for the purpose of letting you see my power, and so that my name may be proclaimed everywhere on the earth."

Here God says that he has allowed Pharaoh to remain during the six previous plagues, so that the world may recognize that he is God and no one is like him. So Pharaoh would have had all the time in the world ‒ as well as every reason ‒ to convert to God and to let the Israelites leave Egypt. And yet he decided against it. So finally he and his people would have to die. But God knew that too in his foreknowledge, right from the foundation of the world.

Even if Mr. Nestvogel confirms God’s foreknowledge in his exposition (see also the above prophecy in Rom 9,12), so documenting the fact that in the eyes of God the behavior of every individual throughout his or her entire life is present, he still does not believe that the decision of the individual is the crucial factor in God’s election but rather insists that God has chosen quite specific human beings and individual people as his children, in a quite arbitrary way and without any action on their part:

God elected quite specific human beings as his children. (…) God, in his sovereign freedom, has selected individual people for the purpose of belonging to him. (…) God predetermined you before the foundation of the world."

As we can see, the doctrine of predestination inverts cause and effect, and does not hesitate to attribute arbitrariness and injustice to the perfectly just God under the pretext of "sovereign freedom". So it is hardly surprising either when this false doctrine gives rise to unbelievable consequences.

A while ago, for instance, an advocate of this doctrine wrote to me that in his view there just are people who are the elect ‒ the wheat ‒ and the others are the "tares". And neither the one group nor the other can do anything to change their fate. "Wheat remains wheat, and tares remain tares," as he wrote.

We can generally recognize the advocates of false predestination by the fact that they speak of the "sovereignty" or the "sovereign freedom" of God. So that they will not have to declare openly that in their doctrine it is a pure act of arbitrary will whereby God sends some people to eternal life and other to damnation without any action on their part, they designate it as the "sovereignty" of God.

This is as much as to say that God does not judge justly, but simply does what he wants. ‒ Now of course, in actual fact, God is almighty and could do anything he wants. But our God is also a God of absolute justice. And this justice governs the omnipotence of God. Omnipotence without absolute justice would be absolutely arbitrary.

But the advocates of false predestination are clearly unable to perceive this consequence. From their point of view it is unthinkable that someone who possesses sovereignty should, in this state of sovereign freedom, practice self-restriction for the sake of justice. This Calvinist mentality of the unrestricted exercise of power is also to be found in the dictators of this world, like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and many others.

So the sovereignty of God ‒ if we choose to speak in this way ‒ consists in his absolute justice. For the Lord our God is righteous in all his deeds. He does not show partiality, but treats all alike.

For the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done.

Dan 9,14 "Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. Dan 9,14;

For the LORD your God is the God of gods who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.

Deut 10,17 "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 10,18 "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. Deut 10,17-18;

Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!

Rev 15,3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Rev 15,3;

Ascribe greatness to our God! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God without injustice.

Deut 32,3 "For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! 32,4 "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. Deut 32,3-4;

Make ready the way of the Liord, make His paths straight, the crooked will become straight.

Lk 3,4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make ready the way of the Liord, make His paths straight. 3,5 ‘every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low; the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth; 3,6 and all flesh will see the salvation of God.’" Lk 3,4-6;

This absolute righteousness of God evidently goes so far that even the conveyance of his person, on his throne on earth, can only be effected in a straight path, as the prophet Ezekiel was able to observe both on the river Kebar and in Jerusalem. ‒ God does not go by crooked paths or travel by oblique routes ‒ not even when it is a matter of the conveyance of his own person.

(See also Discourse 72: "The righteousness and the throne of God.")

(See also Excursus 11: "The throne of God.")

And when W. Nestvogel speaks above of "very specific people", then one must agree with him insofar as it is obviously vanity and the thirst for recognition of very specific people which cause them to define themselves as "chosen" by God for eternity and to hand over the rest of mankind, the "tares", to damnation. This denies the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for all people of the whole world.

And thus this teaching exposes itself: it is not about showing people the way to God, but simply to "reserve" eternal life for themselves in their own saturation as the "chosen ones" and to proclaim to the rest of mankind that God has not provided any possibility for them to come to faith at all.

But because the Bible nowhere describes such a preference for "very specific people", but on the contrary says that all people are sinners and that the redeeming sacrifice of the Son of God was therefore made for all people, these people got the idea to claim that God in his "sovereignty" alone had given them this grace.

And here we see the completely wrong image of God of these representatives of predestination: the one, only and true God, is a God of absolute justice, perfect in his actions, who favors no one.

Ascribe greatness to our God! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God without injustice.

Deut 32,3 "For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! 32,4 "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. Deut 32,3-4;

For the LORD your God is the God of gods who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.

Deut 10,17 "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 10,18 "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. Deut 10,17-18;

So it is quite impossible that God would have chosen any people in pure arbitrariness – in his "sovereignty", as they think – and give them salvation. This false doctrine insinuates unjustified preference and groundless condemnation of people to the absolutely righteous God.

When God gives, he gives to all people in his absolute justice. Thus, God gave His Son to all people and let Him die on the cross for the sins of all people. This is the love of God for all people. And every person who believes this is saved. To deny this is to deny Christ.

Now whereas we human beings can hardly have a glimmer of God in his omnipotence and omniscience, we can recognize a trace of his nature in his justice. For the justice of God cannot be a mystery for us human beings ‒ otherwise, after all, it would not be recognized as such.

So God’s righteousness is always necessarily based on two criteria: on the one hand the behavior of the person who is to be assessed, and on the other hand God as judge, who assesses this behavior in the light of his commandments. And this judgment must be known to the person in question and must also be comprehensible for the person from an objective point of view. Secret or inexplicable judgments would not be an instance of justice, but would rather represent arbitrary will. It would be the same attitude that we are able to observe in corrupt or indeed despotic rulers.

The justice of God, then, is not a "hidden decree" as Calvin supposes. Even if all other properties of God remain mysterious, God’s justice must be something that human beings can understand, otherwise it would fail of its object. And so we can recognize from the Bible that God in his judgment only exercises absolute justice. Only the right path is valid.

Any deviation from it leads to condemnation. So it is impossible for human beings to achieve righteousness in the eyes of God by their own efforts. We have nothing to set against God’s justice but the grace of God in his Son Jesus Christ, and Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, according to His grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.

2Tim 1,8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 1,9 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 granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity. 2Tim 1,8-9;

In his omniscience, God has sought out and recognized ‒ before the foundation of the world ‒ all those people who will come to faith in him and his Son in the course of their lives. These are the people whom he has predetermined for eternal life, and whose names he has written in the book of life.

Rev 3,5 ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. Rev 3,5;

Rev 13,8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Rev 13, 8;

Rev 21,27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Rev 21,27;

When God’s Son then became a man on earth in order to satisfy the justice of God and perform his redeeming sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all human beings, it was those people elected by God because of their faith whom the Father gave to his Son. They are the ones whom the Lord describes as his sheep.

Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.

Jn 17,1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 17,2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 17,3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. Jn 17,1-3;

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world.

Jn 17,6 "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 17,7 "Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 17,8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; Jn 17,6-9;

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me.

Jn 17,24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Jn 17,24;

My sheep hear My voice – My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all;.

Jn 10,27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 10,28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 10,29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 10,30 "I and the Father are one." Jn 10,27-30;

But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.

Jn 10,24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." 10,25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 10,26 "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. Jn 10,24-26;

At the same time it must be said that these people whose names have been entered by God in the book of life may still be blotted out of it again.

May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous.

Ps 69,26 For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, And they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded. 69,27 Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness. 69,28 May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous. Ps 69,26-28;

Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Ex 32,31 Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 "But now, if You will, forgive their sin ‒ and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" 33 The LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. Ex 32,31-33;

Those who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.

Hebr 6,4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 6,5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6,6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hebr 6,4-6;

So any of those people who have confessed Jesus Christ ‒ those going by the false name of "born again" Christians ‒ and who yet had fallen away from the true faith, will be blotted out of the book of life again. And these people who have been blotted out of the book of life ‒ those Christians who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and yet have fallen away from the faith ‒ cannot be renewed again to repentance either.

(See also Discourse 85: "True and false rebirth.")

Is God responsible for the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan in the Second World War?

Finally I would like to refer to another argument which the Calvinists favor and which they bring forward to prove the correctness of their doctrine of predestination. Here is a comment along these lines, from a believer in predestination who visited Immanuel.at but wishes to remain anonymous:

"Imagine you had been born in Japan (Hiroshima) in 1940. And just 5 years later for the first time you start wondering about the point of life and the existence of God. But just at that moment, the bomb drops. Too late. The boy in Japan hasn’t had any say in where and when he would be born. He didn’t seek out his parents, and didn’t contribute to the idea of the atom bomb in any way. And he didn’t have any friends who could have explained to him the necessity of conversion before the bomb fell. Only he hasn’t chosen that either. But if he didn’t choose this for himself, who did? Coincidence? Did he just have bad luck? Or did God know that this boy was never going to convert? Well?"

Whether someone is saved for eternal life or not does not depend exclusively on whether he believes in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. Otherwise, all people – especially all Israelites – who lived before Jesus and therefore knew nothing about him would go to eternal damnation.

Those who think like this confuse cause and effect. Faith in Jesus Christ is an "alternative offer" that God makes to us because in most cases we are not able to fulfill the primary conditions for a life pleasing to God: Righteousness. God would rather have one righteous person than ten converts to Jesus, since these are sinners. But it is just not possible otherwise.

The righteous person is actually without sin. That is, he has never wronged any of his fellow human beings. He is blameless. And while this is an impossibility with adults, it is the normal case with many children. They do not yet know sin and in the vast majority of cases they do not yet know wickedness, and if they die prematurely they will most certainly enter eternal life.

When we are told about a five-year-old boy who died in the atomic bombing in Japan, we are naturally moved emotionally and feel sorry for this child. However, if we imagine that Hitler and Stalin were also once dear little five-year-old boys, this story is put into perspective and we would certainly not object to the early demise of these two mass murderers, who together were responsible for the deaths of 80 million people.

Almost 80 years later, we humans can now recognize this. God, however, also recognizes the future of mankind. He has recognized before foundation of the world all those humans, who will confess themselves in the course of their life to him and registered them in his book of the life. I.e., God knows, how humans will behave in their life – or also would behave, should they die prematurely.

Now this is a better answer – because it is in accordance with the Bible – but whether a certain person will ultimately go to eternal life or to eternal damnation after the Last Judgment, of course we cannot predict, even in the biblical-Christian faith. But anyone who has read this discourse attentively up to this point has long since realized: this is not at all the real question in connection with Calvinism.

The fundamental difference between predestination and biblical Christianity is not the end, but the beginning of divine action. For it is a matter of proving – according to the Bible!!! – whether God is an arbitrary tyrant or if he is justice in person. Whether God has determined humans arbitrarily – thus without the possibility of an influence by humans – before foundation of the world or vice versa, whether God leaves this decision of humans "for or against God" to humans themselves.

And according to biblical-Christian faith God does exactly that: he gives man the full freedom to make a decision for or against his creator by himself and without "intervention" of God. – Yes even more, we have even the possibility, after initially different "disposition", to redispose in the course of our life.

There are only two things that a person in the biblical-Christian faith is not allowed to do without losing eternal life: he is not allowed to commit the sin against the Holy Spirit and when he has become partaker of this Holy Spirit, he is not allowed to fall away from the faith anymore. In the first case, forgiveness is no longer possible, and in the last case, this person himself will no longer find faith.

(See also Discourse 69: "Predestination and the chosen.")

(See also Discourse 83: "Do we not have to decide for Christ, in order  to be saved?")

As already shown above, however, this question of God’s "pre-selection" can be answered quite simply and correctly with the correct translation of the relevant text from the Epistle to the Romans.

Rom 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8,29;

In his timeless eternity, before the foundation – i.e. before the creation – of this world, God has sought and recognized in the entire temporal dimension those people who will respond to his love and confess him. He has entered these in his "book of life".

Thereby God "predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." This means that these believers in God will go the same way via death and resurrection into eternal life as the firstborn – our Lord Jesus Christ – went.

True predestination
The almighty God in his omniscience has already recognized before the foundation of the world that you will repent and decide for him or his Son and has therefore predestined you for eternal life with him and entered you in the book of life.

Concluding remarks

On Calvin’s works

As we can see from the extracts from his works quoted earlier, Calvin criticizes all people who think differently from him, and he is not sparing in his judgments. Here he very often abandons the path of objectively based argument and goes off into abuse and condemnation. He himself, on the other hand, reacts to criticisms in a highly emotional way.

Especially when it is a matter of those who do not share or actually contradict his false doctrine of predestination ‒ all such people he describes as heretics and recalcitrant spirits, indeed he even goes so far as to assert that the questioning of his doctrine is tantamount to blasphemy (Institutio III,21,4 last sentence)

He likes quoting the "fathers of the church" and does so frequently, especially Augustine, seeing that Augustine too taught a doctrine of election. If Augustine also advocated the doctrine of purgatory, this evidently was less disturbing to Calvin, even though he himself at other times quite rightly condemned this false Catholic teaching (see above).

In his argument for election Calvin goes to great lengths to leave out all those countless biblical passages which tell us that human beings must first accept faith in Jesus Christ before they can be saved.

Calvin’s doctrine of predestination has been rejected by various Reformed theologians in different countries. For example, the doctrine of predestination has not been adopted at all in the Heidelberg Catechism, which relates to Calvin in many other respects. By contrast with Calvin’s own time, when only a few people disseminated this doctrine of his apart from his "disciples" Farel, Beze and Knox, we find very well known preachers and pastors in our own day.

Like Wolfgang Nestvogel for instance (see above, and also Discourse 69), Jens Grapow in German speaking countries, and John F. MacArthur (see also Discourse 85) and James I. Packer (see also Discourse 69) in English speaking countries, who promulgate this false doctrine in the congregation and from the pulpit.

On the effect of Calvin’s activities

Calvin’s activities in Geneva led repeatedly to the expulsion, or even the execution, of people who believed differently from himself. Against this background, the question what personal part Calvin had in these persecutions has been a matter of heated controversy ever since Calvin’s own time.

His defenders point to the fact that Calvin was not a member of any of the responsible committees which passed these judgments. In addition, some statements of Calvin’s have come down to us in which he gives testimony of his having made efforts to alleviate the penalties imposed. His accusers on the other hand, like Stefan Zweig in his book "Castellio gegen Calvin" ["Castellio Versus Calvin"], point to council minutes and sermon transcripts which have come down to us.

There we find evidence that Calvin, who frequently gave his opinion to the various council committees empowered to pass judgment, expressed himself orally and in writing as vehemently in favor of the persecution and condemnation of persons who thought differently, and even threatened council members with excommunication in his Sunday sermons if they did not vote the way he wanted them to. (Wikipedia)

In the case of Calvin’s most celebrated victim ‒ the Spanish doctor and theologian Miguel Servet, handed over on being discovered by Calvin to the secular authorities, and burned at the stake in 1553 ‒ not only was there a personal antipathy between Calvin and Servet, there were also theological and political factors that played a part in the latter’s condemnation. At the instance of Calvin Servet was executed, after having been tortured for days, at Geneva on 27 October 1553.

As he refused to recant, he was "roasted on a slow fire" and died in unspeakable torment at the stake. Calvin’s role in the trial was that of the expert who convicted Servet of heresy, based on his deviant opinions on the doctrine of the Trinity. The secular authorities of Geneva were afraid of political difficulties ensuing if they were to allow a non-trinitarian confession of belief, though they had also turned down an extradition request from Vienne.

This was why they were inclined to harshness, and they were strengthened in their stand by the statements of opinion they had requested and received from other Reformed cities. Calvin himself later said in his defense that he had spoken in favor of beheading as a punishment for Servet, rather than burning at the stake. But there is no doubt that he was entirely convinced that Servet’s condemnation was in itself justified.

After Servet’s death Calvin immediately applied all his efforts to the persecution and annihilation of Sebastianus Castellio, whose pamphlet in defense of Servet had denounced the killing of a human being for his or her faith as a violation of the principles of the gospel. Castellio, who had previously been one of Calvin’s supporters, openly reproached him for being power crazed, abusing power and betraying the very principles he had himself formulated in his commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia.

In the sequel Calvin denounced Castellio as a "vulgar wood-thief" and induced his religious underlings in the other Protestant cities of the Swiss federation to issue an order preventing the "traitor" and "arch heretic" from printing or publishing. Reduced to poverty and crushed by Calvin’s persecutions, which continued for years, Castellio died just a few weeks before the start of yet another legal proceeding instituted against him by Calvin ‒ so "escaping from the clutches of his opponent by the help of God"..

Based on the statement in Exodus, "You shall not allow a sorceress to live", Calvin approved the persecution and execution of supposed witches, urging that "witches" should be unmasked and remorselessly "exterminated". In his sermons on the First Book of Samuel, he therefore criticized those who were against the burning of witches and demanded that they should be ostracized from society as contemners of God’s Word.

We have a particularly good documentary record of Calvin’s attitude in the witch trials of Peney. Calvin believed that for three years men and women in Geneva had been spreading the plague by their magic arts, lent credence to the confessions extracted from them under torture and held their subsequent revocations to be false. In 1545, in the space of a few months, 34 of these unfortunates were burned, after frightful sufferings, in front of all those houses which they were supposed to have magically infected with the plague.