Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Concept Flaw: The Calvinist "Reprobate"



Catholics have a different understanding of what "predestination" means. All people are created with the capacity and intention to love and do good and to, ultimately, relate with God. That is to, through His Son, Jesus Christ, become a friend of God and seek Him to one day live in heavenly glory. Calvinists believe that God has predestined those (i.e. predetermined) who will be with Him in Heaven and who will go to Hell. The reprobate is the latter of these predestined: one that has no hope of salvation.


"Reprobation, in Christian theology, is a corollary to the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election which derives that some of mankind (the elect) are predestined by God for salvation. Therefore, the remainder are left to their fallen nature and eventually to eternal damnation." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reprobate)


What Calvinists also believe in that it is Christ/God alone that enables a man (sic.) to come to faith and be saved and there's nothing they can do to resist this grace (i.e. "irresistible grace"). Again, these are men (sic.) that have been predestined to come to faith and accept his God's grace in the first place, unlike the reprobate who, like mentioned earlier, has no hope of salvation also due to this predestination.


So here's the problem with the Calvinist concept of the reprobate: theoretically it's impossible for them to exist.


The Calvinist concept of the reprobate actually makes it impossible for any sinner to come to faith and be saved, which in key is the problem with the Calvinist understanding of predestination.


The reason why, however, the reprobate cannot even theoretically exist is because of free will. Much in the same way "irresistible grace" (that men, once they come to faith, cannot reject this grace) cannot exist. Even those who have been "saved" have sinned (mortally) and by doing so have rejected God's grace; they are no longer "saved" (unless of course they repent and seek to restore their relationship with God through and penitent act, e.g. the Sacrament of Reconciliation). There have also been those that were sinners that have come to faith through Christ and have been forgiven of their sins.


The reprobate is, according to Calvinist understanding, to do anything beyond the realm of sin due to their "fallen nature". But here's the thing: if all men have sinned (Romans 3:23) and if those who claim to be without sin live in deceit (1 John 1:8-10), then how does anybody at all come to faith?!? We already know that the notion of God predestining people to go to Him and the rest to damnation is completely and utterly ridiculous - in other words God creating people intentionally for Heaven/Hell - and not to mention not at all in the character of God: we're created in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) and that means if some are depraved beings (i.e. reprobates), then God himself had to infuse that depraved nature within us which would have to have been part of His own nature (i.e. His "image" and "likeness"). We know this is also impossible because God, our heavenly Father, is perfect:


"You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:48 (RSV)


And since we've touched on Genesis let's talk a bit about The Fall...


Man (Adam and Eve) created in the image and likeness of God, living in paradise (Eden), were perfect, that is they were free from sin and did not sin... until... ol' Lucifer comes along, takes advantage of Adam and Eve's naivety, makes them think that God is oppressing them and thus convinces them to disobey God's instruction to them knowing full well what would happen to them if they did (Genesis 3:3). Now if God created us in His "image and likeness" then it's impossible for him to make beings with a fallen nature, i.e. it's impossible for Him to create reprobates. What corrupted us was sin; what destroyed our friendship with God was sin; willing disobedience of God's instruction.
Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. - CCC, par. 1850
 Every man (sic.) inherits the sin of Adam and Eve: Original Sin; but this is not to say that we are no longer created in the "image and likeness" of God who is perfect. The stain of Original Sin is overcome by baptism; baptism is the outward sign of our relationship with God, as children of God the Father.
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word." - CCC, par. 1213
 So here's another problem with the reprobate: if there are those destined for damnation, why is it that all ma be baptised and have Original Sin remitted, and according to scripture be saved?


"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..." - 1 Peter 3:21


Looking at it from a purely practical perspective and based on that verse of scripture alone: how can one that has been baptised and still be a reprobate, i.e. still have nothing more to hope for than the pits of Hell? If even the baptised have no hope of salvation, then this makes St. Peter a liar, scripture itself errant, and Christ's work on the cross completely and utterly pointless!


Of course we know that we must remain in God's friendship through Christ in order to be saved (Matthew 24:13; Romans 11:22; 2 Timothy 2:11-13), and that all may come to faith through Jesus Christ, but we must be perfect (i.e. to act and continue to grow in holiness) just as our Heavenly Father is (Matthew 5:48).


Even if a person is not baptised and not made one of the people of God, it's possible even for them to be reprobates and even they may be saved:


"Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men." - CCC, par. 848
Please note the bolded part: the Church still exhorts all Christians to evangelise and bring more to Christ. Paragraph 848 does not mean we can sit back and leave the rest up to God; it is better that all come to the Church, but I digress slightly...
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:


Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. - CCC, par. 847
We're talking about the invincibly ignorant here. These people, obviously, differ to those who are aware of the Gospel message and its salvific power, but knowingly and willingly reject this truth. The individual that rejects this truth and makes erroneous judgements brings condemnation upon themself (CCC, par. 1790), and if the parables in Luke 15 are anything to go by, this is applicable to those who already know the truth and walk in holiness but later reject it and those who are "lost" from the very start (salvation is there for them too).


Then there's the matter of the nature of salvation itself: offered to all...


"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16


It's true that while all may not choose to believe in Christ in order to merit salvation, the fact that God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) is another nail in the Calvinist reprobate coffin: it means that absolutely nobody is beyond the hope of salvation and that all may be saved.


The reprobate cannot exist because even grace is extended to them. No, not all accept this grace (as mentioned above), but it is still offered to them, and consider this: if God makes it possible for all men to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then why did He make those - a certain elect - that are destined for damnation and have no hope of it? And it would seem that the Calvinist reprobate is punished/damned simply for according according to how God made them, i.e. what He destined them for.


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Want more?


"For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15


"And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." - Acts 2:21


"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, 'every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'" - Romans 10:12-13


I'd like to thank you all for your patience over the last couple of weeks; things have been very hectic at work and I've had to put blogging on hold for a little while, but things are starting to settle down a bit and I've been able to complete this particular blog entry which was promised just over a month ago now.


Thank you very much for reading. :-)


God bless. 

1 comment:

  1. 1 John 2:1-2
    My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just. 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

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