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Protestantism: Critique and Debate Thread

Not you, I, or anyone else has the slightest clue as to what God is seeing.
On the face of it, this is true. This is why we look to the Scriptures to make our experience intelligible to us. We're going astray when we define the divinely-revealed truths based on our experience. The God's eye-view is the objective truth.

That's why predestination is completely worthless on a day to day, basic decision making level. Tells us nothing of how to be saved, or who is being saved.
If this were true, then the Bible would not speak of it.

Calvinism is such a dark and bleak view of God's creation. It essentially boils humanity down to sockpuppets or automatons that God is toying with. What a thing to believe. Never mind the fact the pretty much the entirety of the Gospel is instructions on how to exercise our will toward God. Crazy how Christ spent so much time preaching and teaching something that is apparently impossible!
John 6: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day."
 
If this were true, then the Bible would not speak of it.

The Bible doesn't speak of it. The Bible speaks of making huge effort to save oneself and climb the ladder to salvation. Those who think they are saved are usually the most damned, being pulled down by their pride into the gaping maw of Satan.

The_Ladder_of_Divine_Ascent_Monastery_of_St_Catherine_Sinai_12th_century.jpg


What this 6th century icon shows us that many of these monks are being pulled down into hell by their own prayer ropes. Those who believe they are righteous are among the most damned.

Hence why Christ says "blessed are the poor of spirit," and why many Pauline Epistles stress humility because we cannot know the ways of the Lord. Even Paul claimed he was unworthy, and did not presume himself as automatically saved.

Paul stressed by staying faithful, he could be saved through grace, but, it was only on the condition of him staying true to the faith and that even if he deviated from it to ignore him! Paul stressed humility to an extreme degree and Paul never considered himself automatically saved; that his entire life was a penance to repent from his earlier wicked ways.
 
The Bible doesn't speak of it.
Romans 8:27 He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 29Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers; 30and those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified.

The Bible speaks of making huge effort to save oneself and climb the ladder to salvation.
We do not save ourselves. Christ Jesus is the one who saves us. And because He has saved us, we should walk in the same manner as He walked.

Paul stressed by staying faithful, he could be saved through grace, but, it was only on the condition of him staying true to the faith and that even if he deviated from it to ignore him!
Romans 9: "It is not up to the one who wills or the one who runs but on God who has mercy."

Our humility comes from recognizing that we cannot save ourselves. Even our faith in Him is not of ourselves, that too is the gift of God.
 
We do not save ourselves. Christ Jesus is the one who saves us. And because He has saved us, we should walk in the same manner as He walked.

Yet according to your theology, it is impossible for man to choose to walk in the manner that Christ walked (despite Christ constantly teaching as if we have the ability to make a choice to do so or not do so). So it is self-contradictory for you to say that we "should" walk in the same manner He walked. There is no "should" in your worldview when it comes to choosing God or not.
 
We do not save ourselves. Christ Jesus is the one who saves us. And because He has saved us, we should walk in the same manner as He walked.


Romans 9: "It is not up to the one who wills or the one who runs but on God who has mercy."

Our humility comes from recognizing that we cannot save ourselves. Even our faith in Him is not of ourselves, that too is the gift of God.

You are confusing several things.

Your effort comes from your will, which comes from God. Simply because God enables our wills does not mean we do not have free will. Paul in Romans 8:27 is talking about how this process works; he is not denying the importance of free will or individual effort. He is saying that God enables us to follow Him through our wills, and on a divine level it looks as such:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 29Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers; 30and those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified."

This does not mean we have any inkling of how God predestines the world, nor does it mean that any of us at any time can consider ourselves saved. Salvation is a never-ending process that only comes from humility and effort. God has predestined which of us will remain humble and hard-working towards the Kingdom until the end of our lives, but that does not mean we know which of us is worthy.
 
Yet according to your theology, it is impossible for man to choose to walk in the manner that Christ walked (despite Christ constantly teaching as if we have the ability to make a choice to do so or not do so).
On his own, yes. The natural man cannot do so. He must be born again.
Having been regenerated, we can and should walk in the same manner that Christ walked. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

There is no "should" in your worldview when it comes to choosing God or not.
Everyone should choose God. But they choose to sin instead. They need to be born again by the Holy Spirit.
 
On his own, yes. The natural man cannot do so. He must be born again.
Having been regenerated, we can and should walk in the same manner that Christ walked. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.


Everyone should choose God. But they choose to sin instead. They need to be born again by the Holy Spirit.

According to you, we have no choice of whether we are regenerated/born again or not. So my point stands.
 
According to you, we have no choice of whether we are regenerated/born again or not. So my point stands.
In John 3, Jesus describes regeneration as the work of the Spirit. It is not of the flesh. Indeed, He does not present the work of the Spirit as something that the flesh has control over.

So your point is only true if you're talking about man in his fallen state. It does not stand with respect to the new man who has been regenerated by the Spirit.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which has been born of the flesh is flesh, and that which has been born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who has been born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and bear witness of what we have seen, and you do not accept our witness. 12If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
 
Our attitude is that you get to partake of the sacraments because you have been redeemed, not that you need to do the sacraments in order to be redeemed.

What I'm suggesting is that what if we get to the point where we don't even need that kind of motivation of "knowing that I've been redeemed" so now I get to partake and get to do something. What if someone can just do something out of love for Christ because they love him. Look, I'm not saying I'm to that point in my heart in my motivations but I think this is what Christ is cultivating in us.
 
In John 3, Jesus describes regeneration as the work of the Spirit. It is not of the flesh. Indeed, He does not present the work of the Spirit as something that the flesh has control over.

So your point is only true if you're talking about man in his fallen state. It does not stand with respect to the new man who has been regenerated by the Spirit.

Right, and man is in his fallen state prior to being in his regenerated state. And we cannot choose to enter into that regenerated state, according to you.
 
What if someone can just do something out of love for Christ because they love him. Look, I'm not saying I'm to that point in my heart in my motivations but I think this is what Christ is cultivating in us.
We should do things out of love for Christ. Not to earn anything with Him but to present our lives as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for what He has done for us. Our motivations, passions, and fleshly desires get in the way of doing this as we ought, so we must die to ourselves and embrace the Spirit. Christ absolutely does cultivate this Spirit in us.

Right, and man is in his fallen state prior to being in his regenerated state. And we cannot choose to enter into that regenerated state, according to you.
The fallen man cannot regenerate himself nor does he desire to be born again. Regeneration is the work of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4in whose case the god of this age [the devil] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
It takes the supernatural work of God to make us born again and to see His kingdom.
Knowing that those who believe in Christ, which includes us, are saved is not prelest. There is no greater prelest, spiritual delusion, than to not believe in the Gospel and the power of God to save.
 
We should do things out of love for Christ. Not to earn anything with Him but to present our lives as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for what He has done for us. Our motivations, passions, and fleshly desires get in the way of doing this as we ought, so we must die to ourselves and embrace the Spirit. Christ absolutely does cultivate this Spirit in us.


The fallen man cannot regenerate himself nor does he desire to be born again. Regeneration is the work of the Spirit.



It takes the supernatural work of God to make us born again and to see His kingdom.
Knowing that those who believe in Christ, which includes us, are saved is not prelest. There is no greater prelest, spiritual delusion, than to not believe in the Gospel and the power of God to save.

Yeah so you're spending a lot of words and rhetoric to admit that I'm right and my point stands:

You have an enormous book full of Christ teaching us sinners how to move our will toward God and yet you maintain that movement of the will toward God is impossible.
 
Yeah so you're spending a lot of words and rhetoric to admit that I'm right and my point stands:

You have an enormous book full of Christ teaching us sinners how to move our will toward God and yet you maintain that movement of the will toward God is impossible.
John 6:63 The Spirit is the One who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
 
The fallen man cannot regenerate himself nor does he desire to be born again. Regeneration is the work of the Spirit.

Not trying to nitpick but it almost sounds like you're saying a man can't even desire to be converted and saved until he is converted and saved.
 
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How do the Orthodox interpret the numerous verses that make reference to God's predestination of the elect? Because you can't just handwave those verses away or give them some transparently inaccurate interpretation. They're very clear in their language and meaning, and the theme is touched upon repeatedly in both the Gospels and the Epistles. Of course we can argue and speculate as to the nature of predestination/determinism vs. free will and how both concepts seem to exist simultaneously in scripture (I believe this is one of the topics that Paul refers to about us seeing through a glass darkly - such things are essentially impossible for us to understand from our human perspective and can only be reconciled in the omniscient mind of God which exists outside of space and time entirely).

But the Bible is very clear in saying that God has predestined certain individuals to salvation. Our exact understanding of how that works will assuredly remain imperfect on this side of heaven, but paradoxically, a complete understanding and internalizing of this doctrine leads one to behave in much the opposite fashion as one might expect (it instills an overwhelming degree of humility and desire to please God, rather than being a "license to sin" as some would characterize it).

Most of all, I think it should be emphasized that no Reformed/Calvinist Christian believes in predestination simply because they prefer that doctrine or because they're looking for some kind of easy road to salvation. They believe it because it's very plainly what the Bible says. In other words, the interpretation of scripture does not follow the pre-existing doctrine, rather the doctrine is itself entirely derived from the clear teaching of scripture. Predestination did not spring out of Calvin's head sui generis. Augustine wrote about it, and it's a doctrine/theme referenced repeatedly in both the Old and New Testaments. So portraying it as some kind of wacky Protestant heresy pulled out of thin air is simply absurd.
 
Not trying to nitpick but it almost sounds like you're saying a man can't even desire to be converted and saved until he is converted and saved.
The desiring of faith is a sign of faith itself. The truths of God are foolishness to the unbeliever, he is not desiring to be converted and saved.

Romans 8:5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God, for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh are not able to please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
 
How do the Orthodox interpret the numerous verses that make reference to God's predestination of the elect? Because you can't just handwave those verses away or give them some transparently inaccurate interpretation. They're very clear in their language and meaning, and the theme is touched upon repeatedly in both the Gospels and the Epistles. Of course we can argue and speculate as to the nature of predestination/determinism vs. free will and how both concepts seem to exist simultaneously in scripture (I believe this is one of the topics that Paul refers to about us seeing through a glass darkly - such things are essentially impossible for us to understand from our human perspective and can only be reconciled in the omniscient mind of God which exists outside of space and time entirely).

But the Bible is very clear in saying that God has predestined certain individuals to salvation. Our exact understanding of how that works will assuredly remain imperfect on this side of heaven, but paradoxically, a complete understanding and internalizing of this doctrine leads one to behave in much the opposite fashion as one might expect (it instills an overwhelming degree of humility and desire to please God, rather than being a "license to sin" as some would characterize it).

Most of all, I think it should be emphasized that no Reformed/Calvinist Christian believes in predestination simply because they prefer that doctrine or because they're looking for some kind of easy road to salvation. They believe it because it's very plainly what the Bible says. In other words, the interpretation of scripture does not follow the pre-existing doctrine, rather the doctrine is itself entirely derived from the clear teaching of scripture. Predestination did not spring out of Calvin's head sui generis. Augustine wrote about it, and it's a doctrine/theme referenced repeatedly in both the Old and New Testaments. So portraying it as some kind of wacky Protestant heresy pulled out of thin air is simply absurd.

The Bible also very clearly says that God wills all men to be saved in 1 Timothy 2:4. Yet we know that not all men will be saved. So in the case of salvation, what God wills, does not come to pass? What's the missing link? Can it be our ability to accept Christ or reject Him?

Predestination and free will/synergism are only incompatible inside of time, and God is outside of time. He has known everything that would ever happen since before He fashioned Creation, He already knows how all this will play out, and He is the ultimate cause of all, so you can say that everyone who will be saved (from our vantage point in time), were always the people who were going to be saved, because ultimately there is one age & one history taking place, not some kind of multiverse. While also acknowledging that this is the result of God's providence but also the result of His gift to men, that we may freely choose God & life, or sin & death.
 
The Bible also very clearly says that God wills all men to be saved in 1 Timothy 2:4. Yet we know that not all men will be saved. So in the case of salvation, what God wills, does not come to pass? What's the missing link? Can it be our ability to accept Christ or reject Him?
This is a very interesting question and something we can't fully understand, as the answer ultimately lies within the mind of God himself. But this is the Calvinist interpretation of the meaning of that verse.

All we can say for sure is that God is sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent, so that whatever His ultimate will and design entails will assuredly come to pass. But the exact mechanisms by which God's will is accomplished, through a combination of his predestination and human free will in regards to salvation, are extremely murky from the human point of view.
 
How do the Orthodox interpret the numerous verses that make reference to God's predestination of the elect? Because you can't just handwave those verses away or give them some transparently inaccurate interpretation. They're very clear in their language and meaning, and the theme is touched upon repeatedly in both the Gospels and the Epistles. Of course we can argue and speculate as to the nature of predestination/determinism vs. free will and how both concepts seem to exist simultaneously in scripture (I believe this is one of the topics that Paul refers to about us seeing through a glass darkly - such things are essentially impossible for us to understand from our human perspective and can only be reconciled in the omniscient mind of God which exists outside of space and time entirely).

But the Bible is very clear in saying that God has predestined certain individuals to salvation. Our exact understanding of how that works will assuredly remain imperfect on this side of heaven, but paradoxically, a complete understanding and internalizing of this doctrine leads one to behave in much the opposite fashion as one might expect (it instills an overwhelming degree of humility and desire to please God, rather than being a "license to sin" as some would characterize it).

Most of all, I think it should be emphasized that no Reformed/Calvinist Christian believes in predestination simply because they prefer that doctrine or because they're looking for some kind of easy road to salvation. They believe it because it's very plainly what the Bible says. In other words, the interpretation of scripture does not follow the pre-existing doctrine, rather the doctrine is itself entirely derived from the clear teaching of scripture. Predestination did not spring out of Calvin's head sui generis. Augustine wrote about it, and it's a doctrine/theme referenced repeatedly in both the Old and New Testaments. So portraying it as some kind of wacky Protestant heresy pulled out of thin air is simply absurd.
Because God already knows how we will use our free will. God knows which of us will choose him. God has predestined it so that we will all choose in a way towards or away from Him.

But only God is capable of knowing such things. From our perspective, we 100% have a choice, even though God already knows how we will choose. The point of predestination is within the larger context of Paul's letter to the Romans 8: That our sufferring would not be in vain.

The entire point to describing predestination is listed in the two sentences Romans 8:18-19:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God;

The entire point of listing predestination afterwards is to stress these first two points: That that reason the entire universe was created, was that so that the sons of God may inherit His glory. Paul is stressing the paradise to come. And to stress this point, he focuses on the grand plan of God, how everything that happens always happens according to the Will and Knowledge of God, which is standard OT teaching.

Thus, saying the elect are predestined does not mean that anyone who has accepted Christ is among those who are guaranteed saved, because they have already been chosen to be saved; it simply means that those who do save themselves, are ultimately saving themselves according to the Will of God, and it was always predestined this way.

That does not mean it was predetermined. Destiny does not mean determined. Predestination is according to the mystery of God who exists outside of time and space, whereas predetermination leaves no room for free will and only exists within a mechanical universe. I believe Prots get destiny and determination confused with each other, because this is a very difficult concept to understand.

God knows how we will use our free will, but this does not mean we do not have a free will. We are freely capable of choosing or rejecting Him. Just because God knows our destiny in how we shall use our wills, does not mean that how we use our will is outside of His Will.

His Will has always been to create a paradise for His sons, who will come to know Him through His Son, and it has already happened according to His Will. We are simply watching it play out in real time, according to our limited human senses and knowledge, but we have absolutely no way of knowing what the future will bring because we only exist in time and space (temporal).

That is why using predestination as a practical concept is dangerous; we cannot know our destiny because we cannot know the Will of God. We can only know what God has revealed to us through His Son, that we must choose Him and we must act with force towards Him to stay on the narrow path and not fall into the wayside (Mt. 7:14).

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Christ spoke to us in terms of choices; will you choose the narrow or wide gate? God already knows which one we will choose, but, it is still our choice to make.
 
This is a very interesting question and something we can't fully understand, as the answer ultimately lies within the mind of God himself. But this is the Calvinist interpretation of the meaning of that verse.

All we can say for sure is that God is sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent, so that whatever His ultimate will and design entails will assuredly come to pass. But the exact mechanisms by which God's will is accomplished, through a combination of his predestination and human free will in regards to salvation, are extremely murky from the human point of view.

Agreed with your second paragraph. I appreciate you sharing that link in good faith, as you might expect I don't give much credence to that interpretation but I think it lays bare one of the underlying tensions in this discussion, which is the necessity of Holy Tradition to properly interpret Scripture. Not saying this is you, but many Reformed-type folk will be incredibly literal autists when it comes to the interpretation of certain verses, but with other verses demand tons of "reading into the context." All the while maintaining that Scripture speaks plainly for itself. In some cases it does... but in other cases the teachings are very hard, superficially contradictory or even meaning something rather different than they might initially appear to on the surface.

As the Ethiopian Eunuch, we must seek teachers in the interpretation of Scripture and choose them wisely indeed.
 
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