In one of the comments left concerning the Unwanted Answers – Part 2 post, the following challenge was given:
Are you willing to acknowledge the truth in these scriptures? I challenge you, and everyone who reads this, to meditate and study those scriptures, and prove to me that these scriptures do not support unconditional sovereign election.
Now, this challenge concerns the following verses:
(Ephesians 1:3-11; Ephesians 2:8-10; John 1:13; Romans 8:28-30; Romans 9: 15-16; 11:4-8; 2 Timothy 1:9 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Titus 1:1; Revelation 13:8;17:8; 20:15; 1 Corinthians 1:25-31; James 2:5)
There are a couple of things that we should note prior to answering this challenge. First, there is a presumption in this challenge that we cannot let stand. That presumption is found in this statement:
prove to me that these scriptures do not support
Notice this does not state:
prove to me these Scriptures support conditional election
Rather, for whatever reason, Aaron chose to issue a challenge wherein we are supposed to prove the NEGATIVE. Now, this is a logical fallacy. One cannot prove the negative without having an absolutely positive statement in the verses and passages presented. Now, if that were the case, those particular passages would have never been offered as “proof.” Additionally, there is also the reason of the second presumption in the challenge:
prove to me that these scriptures do not support unconditional sovereign election.
The presumption here is that “unconditional sovereign election” is a valid, proper, Scriptural doctrine, and silence concerning how one is elected in any passage where election, or salvation is spoken of, is automatically interpreted as supporting “unconditional sovereign election.” This is called the “argument from silence” and it also is a logical fallacy. The following excerpt from the Wikipedia article on “argument from silence” explains:
The argument from silence (also called argumentum ex silentio in Latin) is generally a conclusion based on silence or lack of contrary evidence. In the field of classical studies, it often refers to the deduction from the lack of references to a subject in the available writings of an author to the conclusion that he was ignorant of it. When used as a logical proof in pure reasoning, the argument is classed among the fallacies, but an argument from silence can be a valid and convincing form of abductive reasoning.1
Given the one condition in which “argument from silence” could be valid for determining Scriptural doctrine, we must devise a test to see whether “argument from silence” is valid for determining doctrine. In making that determination, we can accurately and properly state:
If there is a single instance where conditions for salvation are laid out, or put forth, then unconditional sovereign election is not true. If even one person, one single time is told “this do and you will be saved” then we have salvation that is conditional, based upon the actions of the person. If this is ever the case, then the argument from silence falls flat as it must now be considered that silence in the text means the conditions found in other verses are operative, they simply are not spoken of at this place in the text. Moreover, just because there is a distinct lack of mention of conditions in the verses we are challenged with, does not mean that conditions for salvation do not exist elsewhere in the Scripture. It would be foolish to assume that the issuer of the challenge has provided all scriptures that apply to salvation that exist in the Bible. Certainly the brevity of the list of Scripture references informs us that he did not.
Moreover, there are other factors that come to bear in taking on this challenge. It is plain that violation of clear rules of English grammar or deliberate mis-definition of words are grounds to go beyond the challenge given, so that we may determine, and then demonstrate whether bad faith on the part of the issuer of the challenge exists. Bad faith is a term used to describe ill motives or deceitful intent and is revealed by the deliberate misuse of clearly known precepts and concepts for the express purpose of gaining advantage – regardless of the truth.
As we have already seen, bad faith was clearly demonstrated on the part of Westboro Baptist Church when, in a published article they clearly lied about the definitions of an underlying Greek word, so that they could “prove” the view they hold. If this is done, that is: the deliberate misconstruction of grammar or mis-definition of words; then we have sufficient grounds to charge the issuer of the challenge with “bad faith” in issuing the challenge. Moreover, operating in bad faith does invalidate whatsoever doctrines are put forth as true by that individual.
With the foregoing explained, let us examine certain of the verses given in the challenge. As is customary and proper, all verse are taken from the King James Version, 1769 Edition.
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
This verse does state that the bestowing of mercy is strictly the option of the LORD God, and no one can force the LORD to grant mercy by simply willing it to be, or by any number of good works. The problem here is that this passage is not addressing salvation per se, but addresses how the LORD deals with man generally, and specifically how He dealt with the children of Israel and Esau. Hence, though no conditions are given, neither is salvation expressly spoken of here. To draw the conclusion that “unconditional sovereign election” is proven here is to depend upon a very flimsy argument from silence and the drawing of the verses out of the context of the passage in which they reside.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
While it is true that salvation is a gift from God, it does not follow that this gift is given unconditionally. The above passages does not state that the gift was given unconditionally, it simply states the gift was given. Hence, this is another argument from silence. However, we may note here the similarity of logic between the Universalist (who believes God will save everyone, regardless of that person’s free choice) and the Calvinist who believes God will save whom He will regardless of that person’s free choice. (Same logic — radically different conclusions)
1 Thessalonians 1:4
Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
Here we find a need for “the rest of the story” as it were. Why? Simply because verse 4 is a fragment of a sentence. More properly, it is a clause at the end of a (somewhat) long sentence:
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. (I Thessalonians 1:2-4)
This does not say anything one way or the other how God elected those who believe, and is thus, another argument from silence. However, it does give rise to question the legitimacy of the Scripture references given, as this is a clear violation of English grammar and is plainly an instance of a deliberate pulling out of context.
Indeed, we find this to be particularly the case with the next verse cited:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Here again, it would seem at first glance, that this indeed does point to unconditional, sovereign election; except that the “evidence” comes only from an argument from silence, and would be true if sovereign, unconditional election was directly supported in some other Scripture, and conditions that one could meet were never delineated in Scripture. However, we also find that this verse to, is a sentence fragment, and thus a violation of clear and plain rules of English grammar. Perhaps this was done (though we can’t really be sure — the LORD knoweth) due to the content of the rest of the sentence.
The problem here is the fact that verse 13 is not a sentence. Rather, it is a dependent clause in a sentence. The reality is that the sentence actually begins in verse 12 and states:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: . . .
There are some very interesting things to consider about this clause of the sentence; but first an explanation of the grammar is in order. Now, we know verse 13 is a dependent clause as there is that little punctuation mark at the end of verse 12, which is a colon (:). Colons delineate dependent clauses and instruct us that the clause following the colon is dependent upon, or subordinate to the clause going before the colon. This means everything in verse 13 is dependent upon everything in verse 12, and that verse 13 cannot stand alone. It is verse 12 that then defines the context of verse 13. Absent this context, verse 13 might mean something entirely different. But the meaning that appears to be existent, is completely altered and dependent upon the environment set forth by verse 12. It is this environment set forth in verse 12 that bears great examination. But before examining it, let us look at the whole sentence together, which is verses 12 and 13:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Here we see the dependency or subordination of verse 13 “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” to verse 12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”
The most outstanding portion of verse 12 lies in the middle phrase of the superior clause, and states “ to them gave he power to become the sons of God,” If we carefully note what is stated here, we plainly see that something is bestowed upon those who the first phrase of the superior clause tells us “received him.” That thing which is bestowed is this:
“power to become the sons of God”
Here we are plainly instructed that He did not make them “sons of God” but rather “ to them gave he power” which is to say — ability — to become sons of God: where before they had none. Moreover, this ability or power is predicated upon those (as many as) receiving him. This is not Him causing them to receive him, rather, it is freely done, meaning they receive Him of their own free will. This is no more than what is stated in Revelation, Chapter 22:
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)
Here in John, Chapter 1, it is the same “whosoever will” stated a little differently using “as many as” in the place of “whosoever will,” but the meaning remains the same. That is, anyone who wants to, or anyone who will receive Him, He will grant them power:
Which is not making them be “sons of God, but is placing in their hands the ability, the means, the way, hence the “power” to “become” which is to arrive at, attain, or otherwise achieve the position of a son of God.
But by what means? It is answered thus:
“even to them that believe on his name:”
To be continued . . .