Thursday, February 10, 2011

Predestination: 39 Articles of Religion

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

Is the above article from the the Church of England's confession of faith consistent with the Reformed confessions as noted in my last post?  Well, among most Anglicans today the answer would be an emphatic "No!"  Yet that answer, I think, would be strongly contested by the English 16th century reformers such as Cranmer, Ridley, Jewell, Grindal, Whitgift, and Hooker.  H. Bullinger of Zurich was referred to as "the pillar of the Church of England and a Second Elijah" by Jewell and Grindal.  Hooker clearly affirms his belief in the Calvinistic tenet of final preservation of all such true believers in Christ. “The faith of true believers,” he declares in his Sermon on the “Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith in the Elect,” “though it have many grievous downfalls, yet it doth still continue invincible, it conquereth and recovereth itself in the end.” [The Church Society]  And Cranmer, according to Ashley Null, "described the justification,sanctification, and eternal salvation of the elect wholly in terms of divine activity." [pg. 225, Thomas Cranmer's Doctrine of Repentance]

Let's take a look.  The first clause sets the parameters for the rest:  Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God...  The article then goes about teaching what that is and how God accomplishes it -

whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.  

To argue that this is not a sovereign work of God's grace alone which reaches back before time, as God alone purposed, is to miss the plain reading and clear import of what is written.  Saved man is the mere recipient of gratuitous grace from "before the foundations" all the way through to the attaining "to everlasting felicity."  Some might object that man has his part to add in this scheme by noting the article states "they walk religiously in good works."  Yes, but that clause is descriptive of the previous one - "they be made like the image of of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ:"  Notice the colon.  That image of Christ is expressed in believers as "good works", i.e. the good works are evidence of "being made like the image"... not how man himself acquires that image.  It is the moral (good works) image of Christ that is in view here.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons...  

Why is that?  For the good work that God has begun in his people He shall complete according to his decreed purpose stated earlier.

and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God:   

It is the Spirit of Christ who is working within us, mortifying the flesh, drawing up our minds up to the heavenly things, where Christ (who is our life) is seated at the right-hand of God.  That "working of the Spirit" in the believer inevitably establishes and confirms our faith of this "eternal Salvation"; that it is ours to enjoy through Christ as the Spirit's working rightly kindles love and gratitude towards God in us.

So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.  

Hmm...  this is where the article gets a bit vague upon first reading.  The clause speaks of a "sentence of God's Predestination" before the eyes of those without or "lacking the Spirit of Christ."  And that that condition is "a most dangerous downfall."  The implication here is that there is a sentence of condemnation upon those lacking the Spirit of Christ (who is freely given out of God's sheer mercy, not earned or attained), a sentence that flows from God's Predestination.  In other words, God has "decreed by his counsel secret to us" not only Predestination to life, but also a sentence or predestination upon those not by God's mercy predestined to life, i.e. without Christ; a sentence unto "a most dangerous downfall", i.e. God's just wrath and judgment upon the ungodly.  They confirm and deserve that sentence against them by either their desperation of life or the "wretchedness of most unclean living" that results from being under the Devil's dominion.  So it can be argued that in this part of the article one finds the outline of God's predestination of the reprobate, i.e. those not marked off for mercy who thus receive their just sentence of condemnation for their sinful alienation from God.  As the Apostle Paul writes in 
Romans 9:
18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
 22What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
and Romans 11:
5Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
 6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.


So then, predestination or election to Life is entirely of God's grace and not resulting from any works of man.

Romans 9:
13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
 14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
 15For 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.
16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Update [2-11-2011]
A final thought... Cranmer wrote in the above Article the words, "decreed by his counsel secret to us", reflecting the words of Augustine: 


"Therefore, as much as it pertains to us, who are not worthy to discern the predestined from those who are not predestined, and because of this we ought to wish all people to be saved, a severe rebuke ought to be applied medicinally by us to all people, lest they perish or destroy others.  However, it is God's [place] to make the rebuke useful for those whom he foreknew and predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." [Of Rebuke and Grace]

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