Jeffrey Mallinson and Scott Keith, “Divine Election: A Representation of Different Views”

, posted by SEA

Please click on the attachment to view Jeffrey Mallinson and Scott Keith, “Divine Election: A Representation of Different Views,” Testamentum Imperium Volume 2 (2009)

Mallinson and Keith. Divine Election. A Representation of Different Views

Some introductory comments to the article by Brian Abasciano:

This article objectively surveys the various main views of the doctrine of election. It is satisfying that the authors suggest that corporate election as I have articulated it is the best way to move forward with a practical application of the doctrine of election (cf. their conclusion [p. 19] with their description of my view [pp. 6-7]). They note that “corporate election radically shifts the discussion away from philosophical theology—and speculation—to reinvestigation of biblical theological investigation into the nuanced understandings of the chosen people of Israel the church as the elect eschatological kingdom” and that, “The perspective of corporate election draws its strength from the context of biblical discussions of election . . .”

One major caveat is that the authors represent Calvinists as believing in free will. But given standard Calvinism’s exhaustive divine determinism, this must not be the normal conception of free will held by most people, but the Calvinistic re-definition of free will that holds that God irresistibly predetermines what people do, but people are free because God also irresistibly predetermines that people want to do what he predetermined them to do. That amounts to a freedom that is no freedom at all. At one point, the authors claim that, “Infralapsarians tends [sic] to shy away from philosophical determinism” (p. 12), but this also seems incorrect, unless the authors hold an implicit distinction between philosophical determinism and theological determinism. Most Calvinists are infralapsarian, and standard Calvinism embraces exhaustive divine determinism. However, Richard Muller, whom Thomas McCall describes as “a top-tier Reformation scholar and the leading historian of 17th century Reformed theology” (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2008/04/29/two-cheers-for-resurgence-of-calvinism/) has argued that “among pre-18th century Calvinists “there is not even a tendency toward metaphysical determinism” (Kenneth D. Keathley, “An Appreciative Reply to ‘A Serious and Respectful Interaction with Kenneth Keathley’ by Tom J. Nettles,” [http://www.founders.org/journal/fj82/article3.html], citing Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics [Vol. 1; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2nd edn, 2003], 128-29). According to Keathley, “Causal determinism entered Reformed theology primarily through the work of [Jonathan] Edwards” (ibid.). And, “It is primarily through Edwards’s Freedom of the Will that causal determinism became part and parcel of Calvinism’s doctrine of divine sovereignty” (Kenneth D. Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach [Nashville: B&H, 2010], 66). However, I have some question about this, since exhaustive determinism does seem to be the position of Calvin himself and the Westminster Confession of Faith (see e.g., the Westminister Confession of Faith, 3.1-2; 5.1-4, and these quotes of Calvin here: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Calvin-Taught-Unconditional-Predestination-of-Man-to-Sin-and-Condemnation ).

Finally, see below for the article’s introduction and the climax of its conclusion.

Article Introduction:

This essay does not intend to present new insights into the doctrine of election. Nor does it seek to assess constructive approaches to the doctrine in contemporary theology. Instead, we will survey the historical approaches to the question, focusing on classical Protestant thought from the Reformation to early twentieth-century dogmatic expressions, and show how different theological systems and hermeneutical approaches entail the distinct resolutions to the intellectual questions the doctrine of election raises. In other words, each theological tradition, earnestly seeking faithfulness to biblical texts, develops internally consistent doctrines of election that, nevertheless, result in teachings that significantly differ from those of rival traditions. We place the emphasis, therefore, on the different views of election, for each viewpoint approaches the relevant biblical texts with different questions in mind. By keeping the hermeneutical and dogmatic history in mind, theologians will be better equipped to readdress the doctrine of election in light of recent research in biblical—especially Pauline—studies.

The climax of the article’s conclusion:

Though our intent in this essay was merely to map the options that church history carries forward, rather than to provide a comprehensive defense or critique of the individual options, we nevertheless encourage those who wish to move forward with a practical application of the doctrine of election to consider operating from the perspective of the church. This perspective allows readers of Romans 9-11 to shift delicate consciences from worry about God’s freedom to hate the reprobate toward reflection upon God’s freedom to choose those previously considered outsiders. The church’s proclamation to those beyond the walls of the church can echo Christ’s promise to of rest for the weary and heavy laden (Matt. 11:28); its homilies to believers within the church can include a reminder of the humility (John 15:15) and comfort (Rom. 8:38-39) based on the gracious election of God in Christ. Such an ecclesial  perspective on election has the advantage of drawing from recent research into pre-Christian Judaism and the Pauline corpus, and has a rich history in both the Lutheran and Reformed traditions.