Wednesday, October 07, 2015

More on Reprobation and Damnation

As I continue through Muller's book, some clarity is dawning on me.  Part of the difficulty I've had with the traditional Reformed delineation of the doctrine of predestination has been its supposed justice.  I've heard the claim many times that "the reprobate are justly damned because of their sins."  However, if they sinned necessarily (even if not under compulsion), then where is justice?  More than this, though, is the bizarre logic needed to hold reprobation and damnation together.  The Scriptures abundantly tells us that those who are judged are judged according to their sins, or their works (sin is, in some forms at least, very labor intensive): however, this cannot be the same as God's reprobation, since that is done without regards to their works or sins.  Yet only the damned are reprobate (and vice versa).  So, what's the connection between the two? Is this a case of "correlation does not equal causation?"  It seems, according to the early Reformed thinkers, that this is in fact the case: reprobation and damnation at not causally linked in any fashion; both happen, though, to have the same outcome, the eternal perdition of some (most?) of the human race.

How, then, do we not have reprobates who are actively sinless?  Isn't this a logical possibility?  No, according to the Reformers: because of the Fall (which was at least permitted, if not outright planned, by God), we humans -- elect or reprobate -- sin necessarily.  Salvation, then, is the intrusion of God's predestinating decree into that necessity, so as to reveal His hidden counsels in the space of history.  Your salvation reveals that, in God's eternal will, you are in fact ontologically different from the mass of humanity: they may be made in the Image of God just like you, but that doesn't matter (God, apparently, is the original iconoclast), for you are imago Dei and elected.  Election is not just a legal matter, but a qualitative ontological difference between those who ostensibly share human nature.  The implications of this are profound.  There is more than one human race, even though they look and necessarily act the same. This difference in ontology, though, is not passed on sexually (as, can be argued, human nature is): you very well could be producing the reprobate as the next generation.  No matter your catechesis, your family worship, or your faithful church attendance: if they are ontologically reprobate, there never was any hope for them.  Certainly, you can keep them from sinning too greatly and thus lessen their punishment in Hell; but, as any parent would tell you, this is rather cold comfort.  Your prayers for their salvation, as well, are wasted breath for the predestinating decree is done without regard to human merit, including your own.

The difficulty I am encountering, and one which I'm not sure I'm capable of overcoming or comprehending, is this: how is human existence as we know and experience it, that is as contingent and free, not a cosmic farce?  A fiction that covers up the real truth of the decree?  "You will be damned according to your sins" is meaningless against the backdrop of eternal reprobation.  You are damned because you were created into a nexus of necessary sinful causality: your damnation is merely the logical out working of your original reprobation.  God, in this scenario, may not be the author of sin, but He is the author of the conditions that make sin necessary.  How justice can be related to this is beyond me.  Someone might say, "because God defines justice, whatever He does is just."  Point granted.  So, how does God define justice?  Is justice determining the outcome of an event before the event takes place?  Is justice determining the impossible conditions of that event and the punishing the players for acting out the necessity of their roles?  Is justice the exercise of partiality without hope of appeal?

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