Calvinist response to Conditional Election article not surprising

A response to critiques of my article regarding the terminology used by Calvinists. Addresses the two leading issues of contention with my article.

I’ve had the chance to get some responses to my argument for Reformed conditional election from some Calvinists. Their response often has two aspects: (1) they don’t understand my purpose and (2) they say I don’t understand how Calvinism defines ‘unconditional election.’ Therefore, I will respond to these criticisms of the article, beginning with the second.

Criticism: Misunderstanding of Calvinistic teaching of ‘unconditional election.’

I completely understand that Calvinists define ‘unconditional election’ as related to man being the condition, whether it be man’s work, faith, or possessions. The article begins by quoting Reformed theologian Wayne Grudem’s explanation.

Calvinists argue that election is “‘unconditional’ because it is not conditioned upon anything that God sees in us.” (original article)

Therefore, I acknowledge and understand the Calvinistic, or Reformed, definition of the terms. After presenting their view, I then seek to expand the definition of ‘unconditional’ based on its common English use (it is an English term used to qualify the election). Once the common definition is presented, I state that Calvinism does not use the term as it is most commonly understood. Instead, they constrain the definition to apply only to things related to man. They define ‘unconditional’ as referring only to conditions related to man and not all possible conditions.

In response, I seek to return to using ‘unconditional’ in its fuller sense of referring to all possible conditions, including God’s will. Therefore, since God’s will is a condition, or a qualifier of the election, I state that Reformed theology actually accepts a conditional election, but simply do not label it as such. Instead, they redefine ‘unconditional’ to meet their theology. This was done in order to distinguish their theology from that of Arminian theology, which sees man’s faith as a condition of election. Therefore, Calvinistic election is actually labeled ‘unconditional’ more in response to Arminian teachings than in relation to the Reformed doctrine of election.

It would seem logical to me that, in order to maintain academic objectivity, scholars would be willing to evaluate the terms used to describe a doctrine. This evaluation would include seeing if the terms accurately describe the doctrine fully. If the term must be redefined in order to fit a teaching, then the term may need revising or replacing.

This leads to the second criticism of the article.

Criticism: the purpose of the article is unclear.

It is here that I admit a failing on my own part: the purpose of the article was never presented. Therefore, I here present the purpose (I’ve also added an opening statement to the original article outlining the purpose and thesis). After contemplating Scripture, doctrine, and terms, I began to consider whether election was truly unconditional. This led me to determine that God’s will is a condition of the election. Therefore, I sought to open a discussion on the terminology used in Calvinistic theology.

The ideas presented are admittedly contrary to centuries of tradition. However, tradition should not be immune from examination. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and others examined and criticized Roman Catholic tradition. Theological journals of full of articles that seek to evaluate traditional views. Therefore, just as many others seek to discuss and evaluate traditional views, I hope that scholars would be open to discussing the traditional terminology used regarding election.

About John L. Rothra
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