BREAKING THE GOLDEN CHAIN
I don’t find the infamous (from an Arminian standpoint) “Golden Chain” very threatening.
(1) Calvinistic “irresistible” conversion of unsaved individuals is nowhere in view, for three reasons.
- a) It’s the already-converted who are being addressed: “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom. 8:28, LEB).
- b) The destiny of the converted – not their conversion itself – is outlined in v. 29: “those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son[.]” (This echoes 8:17-23.)
- c) The people of God are addressed corporately: it isn’t “certain individuals are predestined to be converted”; rather, it’s “the people of God are corporately predestined to experience glorification with Christ.”
(2) “Foreknew” could be taken to mean “forechose” (the typical Calvinist view), or as referencing a preexisting relationship. I opt for the latter, because it seems to me that nowhere in Scripture, either Hebrew or Greek, can the verb “know” be legitimately construed as “choose.” It seems to always refer to knowledge, whether intellectual or experiential.
But in the case of either “forechoose” or “foreknow,” Paul and Peter show us elsewhere that the locus of this action isn’t in the individual convert – but in the Christ to whom we’re converted (see Eph. 1:4-13; 1Pet. 1:20 [Christ himself being “foreknown”]).
(3) “Called.” Paul doesn’t explain the nuance of “called” either in 9:28, 30, or in the potentially “Calvinistic” 9:7, 11, 24. But he does in 1:1, 7; 9:25-26, in which verses it means “named” or “labelled.” Therefore, I would argue that where Paul actually clarifies the nuance, that should be our frame of reference for understanding “called” when it goes unexplained in 8:28, 30: “those whom He predestined, He also named….”
(4) “Glorified.” All the verbs in this passage are aorist, typically (but not always) referring to past-tense actions. We could possibly construe these verbs as “purely” aorist – i.e., not referencing past, present, or future – yet English translations overwhelmingly render them as past-tense actions. If that’s accurate, then how can the saints be spoken of as already glorified in the past? … That’s only happened to one person: Jesus.
Therefore I think it’s at least possible that this “chain” of divine actions toward the saints actually hints at our having been positionally acted upon already in Christ, including glorification.
This is certainly the case with “justified,” since we aren’t declared righteous in ourselves, but only in Christ. And as indicated earlier, “predestined” (along with “chosen”) is also Christocentric in Ephesians 1.
Conclusion: We can anticipate glorification with Christ, our ultimate destiny, on the grounds that Christ – as representative of the New Humanity – has already been foreknown, predestined, named, justified, and glorified.