Gal. 1:15; Election To Salvation and Mission

So the great Calvinist-Arminian debate...

First, I'm going to annoy some people and suggest that the debate has been shaped a bit unfairly. For one, the debate has been shaped by "Reform" writers who seem to ignore that Jacob Arminius was, in fact, a Reform theologian. For two, the debate (again, from the side of "Reform" writers) describes "Calvinism" (rather than what Calvin explicitly taught) and "Arminianism" (which casts Finney-ism as the straw man, rather than the Weslyan tradition). So the whole thing is a bit of a set-up.

Second, The Debate goes (very simplistically) like this: either God pre-ordaines and decrees people to be saved before any consideration as to how those people might choose, which smacks of fatalism; or God is a bit dense (or powerless) and has to look forward to save those people who actually will respond to the gospel.

Dr. Breshears, in an attempt to square the circle on this matter, suggests that when faced with an intractible apparent contradiction we should look for an untested assumption. He suggests that such an assumption exists in the election issue. The assumption is that God always acts exactly the same way with all people. Is that assumption warrented?

Maybe God acts differently with different people. Maybe some people are persuaded and others are decreed. That popped into my head as I read Galatians 1:15: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, ..."

What's interesting about Galatians 1:15 is that Paul only speaks for himself. He says that he was called apart even before he was born. Why didn't he say the same thing about all the other believers in Galatia?

Now the traditional view of this text is that Paul is talking about his calling to preach the gospel to Gentiles - to a specific ministry. But the grammar here is a bit uncertain. There seems to be room to read that as, "God (the same who called me to salvation) was pleased to reveal Jesus to me in a way that would allow me to do this special ministry to the Gentiles." That is, Paul was affirming two callings: (parenthetically) one to salvation, the other (the main point) to a special ministry. "set me apart..." and "called me through his grace" seem to be subordinate clauses to the main thought: "But when God ... was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might (do this special mission)."

So that gets me wondering about the nature of election. Do we assume - presumptively  - that God must act with everyone in exactly the same manner?


JohnMark said...

To quote that most theologically obtuse and misleading hymn, "It was good for Paul and Silas It is good enough for me... Give me that old time religion..." Then obviously if God did that with Paul He will do the same with everyone else. After all, God does not change and a handfull of other one sided rebuttals that are more concerned with upholding (recent) theological traditions than with an accurate reading of Scripture.

Eric said...

Some thoughts.

1) Salvation is based on belief not choice (John 1:12, 3:16, and much of the rest of the NT). Calvinism-Arminianism debate seems to focus on choice and will. To me all of that's missing the point.

2) Of course God works differently with different people. What Abraham believed is different than what Paul believed.

3) We must believe in Jesus. However, I challenge anyone to show what exact content we must believe about Jesus to be saved. In other words, show me in the Bible where it says we are saved if and only if we believe A, B and C. Do we need to believe Jesus died and rose again? Probably. That he's God? Again, I would think so. But even that I can't prove from Scripture. Abraham, of course, believed neither of these.