Review of Fred H. Klooster’s Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination
The question of appropriate interpretation of Calvin’s writings perplexes the thinkers of today. This is true in the doctrine of predestination. In this pamphlet, preliminary considerations are introduced before the doctrine proper is discussed. It is asserted that Calvin’s doctrine will be properly understood if four foundational factors are considered: the location of the doctrine in the Institutes, the practical benefits of the doctrine, the biblical basis of the doctrine, and the definition of the dual aspects of the doctrine.
In expounding the doctrine of predestination, three major factors are discussed in relation to both election and reprobation: the plan of God, the cause and ground and the goal and means of each aspect of predestination.
The doctrine of predestination is not the primary subject discussed in the Institutes. It is placed at the end of Book III when he was dealing with the doctrine of salvation. It precedes the chapter on prayer and followed by his teaching on resurrection. This location tells us that for Calvin this teaching is not something speculative.
For Calvin the doctrine of predestination has three practical benefits: it teaches us to trust only in the mercy of God, to be humble and it exalts the honor of God.
The biblical material where he learned the doctrine came from the epistles of Paul to the Romans and to the Ephesians with supporting passages from other parts of the Scriptures.
Calvin teaches that both election and reprobation are rooted in the plan of God. This plan pertains to every individual. Their ultimate cause is the sovereign pleasure of God. In the case of the elect, the ground is Christ. The goals of election are twofold. The primary goal is the glory of God while the immediate goal is the sanctification of the elect. In reprobation, the ultimate goal is the glory of God. This goal is displayed by the final and just condemnation of human wickedness based on his sovereign will. The means of election is the calling of God made effective by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel. In this sense, faith could also be regarded as a means of election since it is the primary work of the Holy Spirit. Concerning reprobation, the means that God employed in the language may take varied forms: deprivation of hearing the word, and blinding and stupefying them through the preaching of the word.
Evaluation and Application
This teaching is hard but it must be taught primarily because this is what the Bible teaches. The church has affirmed the testimony of the Bible concerning predestination throughout history. The doctrine of predestination tells us that salvation is indeed of God in its entirety and the response of man is either to humble or to rebel. Those who responded in humility and submission to the sovereign will of God ought to express their gratitude in committed service.
Cunningham, David S. Editor. 2004. To Teach, To Delight, and To Move: Theological Education in a Post-Christian World. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. 323 pages.
The main thesis of the writers is about the richness of rhetorical tradition and its usefulness in reconstructing theological education in the post-modern age. The writers are seeing the collapse of modern age and theological education based on modern assumptions. They call for a re-visioning of theological education on the basis of rhetorical tradition. The contributors aim to present the product of the conversation among many educators of various persuasions centering on the retrieval of rhetorical tradition. In this presentation the writers have no intention to offer a definitive standard in reconstructing theological education. Instead, they are inviting other theological educators to join in this conversation. The writers believed that as far as their own experiences are concern the insights coming from the rhetorical tradition did really work. They are also convinced that such reconstruction of theological education utilizing the insights from rhetorical tradition is an appropriate approach in a post-modern, post-Christian civilization.
I have reservation to accept the thesis that our time is a post-Christian one though I would concede to the idea that our time is post-modern. The reason for my reservation is my refusal to equate modernism with Christianity. Though I believe that Christianity is largely influenced by modernism, there remains a minority voice within Christianity that critiques modernism itself and offers a different alternative. I think it is not fair to categorize all who uphold to coherence and objectivity in human thought as modernist. It is more proper to distinguish between two kinds of coherence and objectivity. I have no problem accepting the bankruptcy of the kind of coherence and objectivity based on modernist assumption. But this does not follow that all claims to coherence and objectivity are baseless and useless in theological education. Furthermore, if it is granted that our time is indeed post-Christian resulting from the bankruptcy of modernism, my question is, “Is this era reversible or not by human decision especially through the influence of theological education?” If it is not, then not even rhetorical tradition could help to reverse the situation. All the rhetorical tradition could offer is just a “more effective” way of communication in a post-modern age? But what is its connection to man’s future? No one can be certain. If it is, then somehow rhetorical tradition could help change the tide or we have still to wait for some development in the future to effect such a change. I think the biblical vision offers us a certain future. Its vision is different from the vision gleaned from rhetorical tradition. The mission mandate given to the church expects a future that is progressively governed by the knowledge of God not only in eternity but also in time.