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Against single predestination

Single predestination is the view that although God is active in regenerating humans according to His unconditional, particular, definite and unchangeable election, He is passive in reprobation (I hesitate to even say that they believe in a "decree" of reprobation). So John MacArthur:

Here you have an active verb in verse 23, God actively preparing vessels of mercy for glory, you have a passive verb in verse 22, you have certain vessels of wrath that were prepared for destruction, God is not the actor, He receives the action. So God never takes the responsibility for damnation, except for the fact that He will be the judge and the executor, but He is not responsible for the unbelief. So you don't have double predestination(MacArthur, "Bible Questions and Answers", Part 42)

Of course, this is my attempt at an impartial description of single predestination. Single predestination, though its advocates will not admit it, is what happens when someone is embarrassed by God's total sovereignty. They want to get God off the hook for evil even though the Bible assures us in multiple places that no such thing is necessary. That said, while it masquerades under a veil of humility, it actually belies the deepest and most hideous arrogance. Calvin points this out in his polemic against the absurd notion of a merely "permissive" will of God with respect to God's predestination of sin. So Book I, Chapter 18 of his famous "Institutes":

1. The carnal mind the source of the objections which are raised against the Providence of God. A primary objection, making a distinction between the permission and the will of God, refuted. Angels and men, good and bad, do nought but what has been decreed by God. This proved
by examples.
2. All hidden movements directed to their end by the unseen but righteous instigation of God. Examples, with answers to objections.
3. These objections originate in a spirit of pride and blasphemy.
Objection, that there must be two contrary wills in God, refuted. Why
the one simple will of God seems to us as if it were manifold.
4. Objection, that God is the author of sin, refuted by examples. Augustine’s answer and admonition.
1. From other passages, in which God is said to draw or bend Satan himself, and all the reprobate,
to his will, a more difficult question arises. For the carnal mind can scarcely comprehend how,
when acting by their means, he contracts no taint from their impurity, nay, how, in a common
operation, he is exempt from all guilt, and can justly condemn his own ministers. Hence a distinction
has been invented between doing and permitting because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable
how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that he directs their malice
to whatever end he pleases, and employs their iniquities to execute his Judgments. The modesty of
those who are thus alarmed at the appearance of absurdity might perhaps be excused, did they not
endeavour to vindicate the justice of God from every semblance of stigma by defending an untruth.

It seems absurd that man should be blinded by the will and command of God, and yet be forthwith
punished for his blindness. Hence, recourse is had to the evasion that this is done only by the
permission, and not also by the will of God. He himself, however, openly declaring that he does
this, repudiates the evasion. That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not
discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to
pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture.
What we formerly
quoted from the Psalms, to the effect that he does whatever pleases him, certainly extends to all
the actions of men. If God is the arbiter of peace and war, as is there said, and that without any
exception, who will venture to say that men are borne along at random with a blind impulse, while
He is unconscious or quiescent? But the matter will be made clearer by special examples. From
the first chapter of Job we learn that Satan appears in the presence of God to receive his orders,
just as do the angels who obey spontaneously. The manner and the end are different, but still the

fact is, that he cannot attempt anything without the will of God. But though afterwards his power
to afflict the saint seems to be only a bare permission, yet as the sentiment is true, “The Lord gave,
and the Lord has taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so it has been done,” we infer that God was
the author of that trial of which Satan and wicked robbers were merely the instruments. Satan’s
aim is to drive the saint to madness by despair. The Sabeans cruelly and wickedly make a sudden
incursion to rob another of his goods. Job acknowledges that he was deprived of all his property,
and brought to poverty, because such was the pleasure of God. Therefore, whatever men or Satan
himself devise, God holds the helm, and makes all their efforts contribute to the execution of his
Judgments. God wills that the perfidious Ahab should be deceived; the devil offers his agency for
that purpose, and is sent with a definite command to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets
(2 Kings 22:20). If the blinding and infatuation of Ahab is a Judgment from God, the fiction of
bare permission is at an end; for it would be ridiculous for a judge only to permit, and not also to
decree, what he wishes to be done at the very time that he commits the execution of it to his ministers.
The Jews purposed to destroy Christ. Pilate and the soldiers indulged them in their fury; yet the
disciples confess in solemn prayer that all the wicked did nothing but what the hand and counsel
of God had decreed (Acts 4:28), just as Peter had previously said in his discourse, that Christ was
delivered to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23); in other
words, that God, to whom all things are known from the beginning, had determined what the Jews
had executed. He repeats the same thing elsewhere, “Those things, which God before had showed
by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he has so fulfilled,” (Acts 4:18). Absalom
incestuously defiling his father’s bed, perpetrates a detestable crime. God, however, declares that
it was his work; for the words are, “Thou midst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel,
and before the sun.”14 135 The cruelties of the Chaldeans in Judea are declared by Jeremiah to be
the work of God. For which reason, Nebuchadnezzar is called the servant of God. God frequently
exclaims, that by his hiss, by the clang of his trumpet, by his authority and command, the wicked
are excited to war.
He calls the Assyrian the rod of his anger, and the axe which he wields in his
hand. The overthrow of the city and downfall of the temple, he calls his own work. David, not
murmuring against God, but acknowledging him to be a just judge, confesses that the curses of
Shimei are uttered by his orders. “The Lord,” says he, “has bidden him curse.” Often in sacred
history whatever happens is said to proceed from the Lord, as the revolt of the ten tribes, the death
of Eli’s sons, and very many others of a similar description. Those who have a tolerable acquaintance
with the Scriptures see that, with a view to brevity, I am only producing a few out of many passages,
from which it is perfectly clear that it is the merest trifling to substitute a bare permission for the
providence of God, as if he sat in a watch-tower waiting for fortuitous events, his Judgments
meanwhile depending on the will of man.

2. With regard to secret movements, what Solomon says of the heart of a king, that it is turned
hither and thither, as God sees meet, certainly applies to the whole human race, and has the same
force as if he had said, that whatever we conceive in our minds is directed to its end by the secret
inspiration of God.
And certainly, did he not work internally in the minds of men, it could not have
been properly said, that he takes away the lip from the true, and prudence from the aged—takes
away the heart from the princes of the earth, that they wander through devious paths. To the same
effect, we often read that men are intimidated when He fills their hearts with terror. Thus David

left the camp of Saul while none knew of its because a sleep from God had fallen upon all. But
nothing can be clearer than the many passages which declare, that he blinds the minds of men, and
smites them with giddiness, intoxicates them with a spirit of stupor, renders them infatuated, and
hardens their hearts. Even these expressions many would confine to permissions as if, by deserting
the reprobate, he allowed them to be blinded by Satan. But since the Holy Spirit distinctly says,
that the blindness and infatuation are inflicted by the just Judgment of God, the solution is altogether
inadmissible. He is said to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh, to have hardened it yet more, and
confirmed it. Some evade these forms of expression by a silly cavil, because Pharaoh is elsewhere
said to have hardened his own heart, thus making his will the cause of hardening it; as if the two
things did not perfectly agree with each other, though in different senses—viz. that man, though
acted upon by God, at the same time also acts. But I retort the objection on those who make it. If
to harden means only bare permission, the contumacy will not properly belong to Pharaoh. Now,
could any thing be more feeble and insipid than to interpret as if Pharaoh had only allowed himself
to be hardened? We may add, that Scripture cuts off all handle for such cavils: “I,” saith the Lord,
“will harden his heart,” (Exod. 4:21). So also, Moses says of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan,
that they went forth to battle because the Lord had hardened their hearts (Josh. 11:20). The same
thing is repeated by another prophet, “He turned their hearts to hate his people,” (Psalm 105:25).

In like manner, in Isaiah, he says of the Assyrian, “I will send him against a hypocritical nation,
and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey,”
(Isaiah 10:6); not that he intends to teach wicked and obstinate man to obey spontaneously, but
because he bends them to execute his Judgments, just as if they carried their orders engraven on
their minds. And hence it appears that they are impelled by the sure appointment of God. I admit,
indeed, that God often acts in the reprobate by interposing the agency of Satan; but in such a manner,
that Satan himself performs his part, just as he is impelled, and succeeds only in so far as he is
permitted. The evil spirit that troubled Saul is said to be from the Lord (1 Sam. 16:14), to intimate
that Saul’s madness was a just punishment from God. Satan is also said to blind the minds of those
who believe not (2 Cor. 4:4). But how so, unless that a spirit of error is sent from God himself,
making those who refuse to obey the truth to believe a lie? According to the former view, it is said,
“If the prophet be deceived when he has spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet,”
(Ezek. 14:9). According to the latter view, he is said to have given men over to a reprobate mind
(Rom. 1:28), because he is the special author of his own just vengeance; whereas Satan is only his
minister (see Calv. in Ps. 141:4).
But as in the Second Book (Chap. 4 sec. 3, 4), in discussing the
question of man’s freedom, this subject will again be considered, the little that has now been said
seems to be all that the occasion requires. The sum of the whole is this,—since the will of God is
said to be the cause of all things, all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed
by his providence; so that he not only exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the Holy
Spirit, but also forces the reprobate to do him service.
3. As I have hitherto stated only what is plainly and unambiguously taught in Scripture, those
who hesitate not to stigmatise what is thus taught by the sacred oracles, had better beware what
kind of censure they employ. If, under a pretence of ignorance, they seek the praise of modesty,
what greater arrogance can be imagined than to utter one word in opposition to the authority of
God—to say, for instance, “I think otherwise,”—“I would not have this subject touched?” But if
they openly blaspheme, what will they gain by assaulting heaven? Such petulance, indeed, is not
new. In all ages there have been wicked and profane men, who rabidly assailed this branch of

doctrine. But what the Spirit declared of old by the mouth of David (Ps. 51:6), they will feel by
experience to be true—God will overcome when he is judged.
David indirectly rebukes the
infatuation of those whose license is so unbridled, that from their grovelling spot of earth they not
only plead against God, but arrogate to themselves the right of censuring him. At the same time,
he briefly intimates that the blasphemies which they belch forth against heaven, instead of reaching
God, only illustrate his justice, when the mists of their calumnies are dispersed. Even our faith,
because founded on the sacred word of God, is superior to the whole world, and is able from its
height to look down upon such mists.

Their first objection—that if nothing happens without the will of God, he must have two contrary
wills, decreeing by a secret counsel what he has openly forbidden in his law—is easily disposed
of. But before I reply to it, I would again remind my readers, that this cavil is directed not against
me, but against the Holy Spirit, who certainly dictated this confession to that holy man Job, “The
Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” when, after being plundered by robbers, he acknowledges
that their injustice and mischief was a just chastisement from God. And what says the Scripture
elsewhere? The sons of Eli “hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would
slay them,” (1 Sam. 2:25). Another prophet also exclaims, “Our God is in the heavens: he has done
whatsoever he has pleased,” (Ps. 115:3). I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author
of all those things which, according to these objectors, happen only by his inactive permission. He
testifies that he creates light and darkness, forms good and evil (Is. 45:7); that no evil happens
which he has not done (Amos 3:6). Let them tell me whether God exercises his Judgments willingly
or unwillingly. As Moses teaches that he who is accidentally killed by the blow of an axe, is delivered
by God into the hand of him who smites him (Deut. 19:5), so the Gospel, by the mouth of Luke,
declares, that Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired “to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel
determined before to be done,” (Acts 4:28). And, in truth, if Christ was not crucified by the will of
God, where is our redemption? Still, however, the will of God is not at variance with itself. It
undergoes no change. He makes no pretence of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the
will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect,
we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same
Paul terms the calling of the Gentiles a hidden mystery, and shortly after adds, that therein
was manifested the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10).
Since, on account of the dullness of our
sense, the wisdom of God seems manifold (or, as an old interpreter rendered it, multiform), are we,
therefore, to dream of some variation in God, as if he either changed his counsel, or disagreed with
himself? Nay, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us
to do, let us call to mind our imbecility, and remember that the light in which he dwells is not
without cause termed inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:16), because shrouded in darkness. Hence, all pious
and modest men will readily acquiesce in the sentiment of Augustine: “Man sometimes with a good
will wishes something which God does not will, as when a good son wishes his father to live, while
God wills him to die. Again, it may happen that man with a bad will wishes what God wills
righteously, as when a bad son wishes his father to die, and God also wills it. The former wishes
what God wills not, the latter wishes what God also wills. And yet the filial affection of the former
is more consonant to the good will of God, though willing differently, than the unnatural affection
of the latter, though willing the same thing; so much does approbation or condemnation depend on
what it is befitting in man, and what in God to will, and to what end the will of each has respect.
For the things which God rightly wills, he accomplishes by the evil wills of bad men,”—(August.

Enchirid. ad Laurent. cap. 101). He had said a little before (cap. 100), that the apostate angels, by
their revolt, and all the reprobate, as far as they themselves were concerned, did what God willed
not; but, in regard to his omnipotence, it was impossible for them to do so: for, while they act
against the will of God, his will is accomplished in them. Hence he exclaims, “Great is the work
of God, exquisite in all he wills! so that, in a manner wondrous and ineffable, that is not done
without his will which is done contrary to it, because it could not be done if he did not permit; nor
does he permit it unwillingly, but willingly; nor would He who is good permit evil to be done, were
he not omnipotent to bring good out of evil,” (Augustin. in Ps. 111:2).
4. In the same way is solved, or rather spontaneously vanishes, another objection—viz. If God
not only uses the agency of the wicked, but also governs their counsels and affections, he is the
author of all their sins; and, therefore, men, in executing what God has decreed, are unjustly
condemned, because they are obeying his will. Here will is improperly confounded with precept,
though it is obvious, from innumerable examples, that there is the greatest difference between
them.14 136 When Absalom defiled his father’s bed, though God was pleased thus to avenge the
adultery of David, he did not therefore enjoin an abandoned son to commit incest, unless, perhaps,
in respect of David, as David himself says of Shimei’s curses. For, while he confesses that Shimei
acts by the order of God, he by no means commends the obedience, as if that petulant dog had been
yielding obedience to a divine command; but, recognising in his tongue the scourge of God, he
submits patiently to be chastised. Thus we must hold, that while by means of the wicked God
performs what he had secretly decreed, they are not excusable as if they were obeying his precept,
which of set purpose they violate according to their lust.
How these things, which men do perversely, are of God, and are ruled by his secret providence,
is strikingly shown in the election of King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:20), in which the rashness and
infatuation of the people are severely condemned for perverting the order sanctioned by God, and
perfidiously revolting from the family of David. And yet we know it was God’s will that Jeroboam
should be anointed. Hence the apparent contradiction in the words of Hosea (Hosea 8:4; 13:11),
because, while God complained that that kingdom was erected without his knowledge, and against
his will, he elsewhere declares, that he had given King Jeroboam in his anger. How shall we reconcile
the two things,—that Jeroboam’s reign was not of God, and yet God appointed him king? In this
way: The people could not revolt from the family of David without shaking off a yoke divinely
imposed on them, and yet God himself was not deprived of the power of thus punishing the
ingratitude of Solomon. We, therefore, see how God, while not willing treachery, with another
view justly wills the revolt; and hence Jeroboam, by unexpectedly receiving the sacred unction, is
urged to aspire to the kingdom. For this reason, the sacred history says, that God stirred up an
enemy to deprive the son of Solomon of part of the kingdom (1 Kings 11:23). Let the reader
diligently ponder both points: how, as it was the will of God that the people should be ruled by the
hand of one king, their being rent into two parties was contrary to his will; and yet how this same
will originated the revolt. For certainly, when Jeroboam, who had no such thought, is urged by the
prophet verbally, and by the oil of unction, to hope for the kingdom, the thing was not done without

the knowledge or against the will of God, who had expressly commanded it; and yet the rebellion
of the people is justly condemned, because it was against the will of God that they revolted from
the posterity of David. For this reason, it is afterwards added, that when Rehoboam haughtily
spurned the prayers of the people, “the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying,
which the Lord spake by Ahijah,” (I Kings 12:15). See how sacred unity was violated against the
will of God, while, at the same time, with his will the ten tribes were alienated from the son of
Solomon. To this might be added another similar example—viz. the murder of the sons of Ahab,
and the extermination of his whole progeny by the consent, or rather the active agency, of the
people. Jehu says truly “There shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the
Lord spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the Lord has done that which he spake by his servant
Elijah,” (2 Kings 10:10). And yet, with good reason, he upbraids the citizens of Samaria for having
lent their assistance. “Ye be righteous: behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him, but
who slew all these?”
If I mistake not, I have already shown clearly how the same act at once betrays the guilt of man,
and manifests the righteousness of God. Modest minds will always be satisfied with Augustine’s
answer, “Since the Father delivered up the Son, Christ his own body, and Judas his Master, how
in such a case is God just, and man guilty, but just because in the one act which they did, the reasons
for which they did it are different?” (August. Ep. 48, ad Vincentium). If any are not perfectly satisfied
with this explanation—viz. that there is no concurrence between God and man, when by His
righteous impulse man does what he ought not to do, let them give heed to what Augustine elsewhere
observes: “Who can refrain from trembling at those Judgments when God does according to his
pleasure even in the hearts of the wicked, at the same time rendering to them according to their
deeds?” (De Grat. et lib. Arbit. ad Valent. c. 20). And certainly, in regard to the treachery of Judas,
there is just as little ground to throw the blame of the crime upon God, because He was both pleased
that his Son should be delivered up to death, and did deliver him, as to ascribe to Judas the praise
of our redemption. Hence Augustine, in another place, truly observes, that when God makes his
scrutiny, he looks not to what men could do, or to what they did, but to what they wished to do,
thus taking account of their will and purpose. Those to whom this seems harsh had better consider
how far their captiousness is entitled to any toleration, while, on the ground of its exceeding their
capacity, they reject a matter which is clearly taught by Scripture, and complain of the enunciation
of truths, which, if they were not useful to be known, God never would have ordered his prophets
and apostles to teach. Our true wisdom is to embrace with meek docility, and without reservation,
whatever the Holy Scriptures, have delivered. Those who indulge their petulance, a petulance
manifestly directed against God, are undeserving of a longer refutation(Calvin, The Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 18).

So what of Romans 9? Let's look at the context of v. 22:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—(Rom. 9:1-23)

Before getting to v. 22, in which the passive voice is used of the preparation of the reprobate as vessels of wrath, let's count the number of times in which God's reprobation is explicitly spoken of as being active in this chapter; particularly, in the verses leading up to it:

1) Rom. 9:11 - "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or evil..."(Rom. 9:11). God declared "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated" totally independently of the moral states of either Jacob or Esau. God predetermined that Jacob would be elect, totally independent of his moral state, and God determined to reprobate Esau, not because of an antecedent consideration of his sin, but simply according to His own good pleasure. God did not reprobate Esau because Esau was a sinner. He reprobated Esau simply because of His own will, and predestined Esau to sin as the means of causing Esau to incur this guilt.

2) Rom. 9:14-18 - immediately following upon Paul's affirmation of the righteousness of God's decree of reprobation totally independent of a consideration of their antecedent moral state (v. 13), Paul affirms that God is nonetheless righteous to do this. We are told "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated"(v. 13). The obvious objection one might have to the notion that Esau was predestined to sin and condemnation totally apart from anything he had done is that there is injustice on God's part. Note the logic of the verses following this anunciation: "What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."...So then, he has mercy on whomever He wills and he hardens whomever he wills"(Rom. 9:14-15, 18). What is Paul's logic? He does not say: What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For Esau and Pharaoh were sinners already deserving of God's wrath, and God simply gave them exactly what they deserved." No, Paul has no recourse to an antecedent consideration of their moral state, whether it be one of merit or demerit. The operative principle of justice or righteousness here is God's will, not God's punitive justice against sin.

3) Rom. 9:19-23 - Paul, having made his point in two literary units, with increasing emphasis that God has mercy on whomever He will, and hardens whomever He will, now delivers the coup de grace. This literary unit is our "problem" passage. Paul has anticipated exactly what the objector will say, as he has done before in this chapter, and he addresses it accordingly. "Why does He still blame us? For who can resist His will?"(Rom. 9:19). This is how this literary unit begins. What is this person saying? What is the object of their objection? One thing is certain: This objector, though an enemy of God, has understood Paul's logic far better than our single predestinarian friends. He correctly attributes the ultimate origin of the rebellion of the reprobate to God's will. "Why does He still blame us?" In other words, why does God punish us for our sin? "For who can resist His will?" You mean it was in some sense "God's will" that the reprobate rebel against God's will? In other words, "Paul, if it is the "will" of an omnipotent God that creatures should rebel against Him, why would he still punish them for their sin? How does that make any sense at all? Who can resist His will? Of course creatures rebel against an omnipotent God if he predestines them to do so."

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—(Rom. 9:20-23)

Professing Calvinists oftentimes have recourse to this passage against Arminians, but it is not obvious at all that they really understand it. Let's look first at what Paul is not saying here. Paul, once again, does not have recourse to God's punitive justice against the reprobate for their sin. They do deserve condemnation, of course. We all do, because we are all sinners. But this desert is not the condition of their reprobation of their sin. Paul does not say "You have misunderstood me. It was not God's will for them to sin and incur condemnation. Rather, they sinned according to their own will, incurred condemnation, and God justly left them alone." It is certainly true that they did sin according to their own will and incur condemnation. But this is not going far enough, because Paul goes far beyond this. He attributes the ultimate origin of their sin and final condemnation simply to the will of God. In v. 21, uses the analogy of a clay and his potter. The potter actively creates a vessel for honorable use and another vessel for dishonorable use. Note that the analogy portrays the sovereign molder as active in the creation of both sorts of vessels. Then in v. 22, he reiterates his point but he uses the active voice only of vessels prepared for mercy but the passive voice of vessels prepared for wrath. Therefore, many have concluded that God is passive in reprobation and active only in election.

Hopefully at this point, the impartial reader can see how utterly implausible such a conclusion is. It is not even remotely in keeping with Paul's logic so far. So what are we to make of the passive voice? The answer is quite simple. The function of the passive voice here is that of what is called a "divine passive." A divine passive occurs when the implied, active subject is God. So for example:

"And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months"(Rev. 13:5)

"Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation"(Rev. 13:7)

Do these passages teach that God is merely passive in "allowing" the behavior of the Beast? No:

"for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled"(Rev. 17:17).

"The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place"(Dan. 11:36).

Any thoughts on who's "determined" what must take place? Wink wink (e.g., Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28). Matt. 13:11 says that the truth was "revealed" to the disciples. But any single predestinarian can tell you who does the revealing. The literary device of the divine passive is very well-known to biblical scholars, though an exhaustive review of its usage in the Bible is beyond the scope of this article. For interested readers, there are easily accessible, comprehensive overviews that can be found online. One is on the use of the device in the Gospel of Matthew alone, and another is on its usage by Jesus in general.

As Calvin has noted above, God is spoken of as actively ordaining sin in innumerable passages of Scripture (1 Kgs. 22:21-23, Ezek. 14:9, 1 Sam. 2:25, Isa. 63:17, Rom. 9:14-18, Ex. 10:1-3, Rev. 17:17, 2 Sam. 24:1, 10, Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28, Dan. 5:23). What do we do with these passages? Do we insist that God must have meant the passive voice instead of the active voice, and change the grammar of scripture itself? Or do we allow scripture to interpret scripture, and come to the reasonable conclusion that, where a passive voice is used, context dictates whether or not God is the implied agent? Does this not make much more sense?

Another passage used by single predestinarians is James 1:13:

"13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death"(Jas. 1:13-15)

Does this passage mean that God does not ordain sin, but is totally passive? If it does, what do we do with 2 Sam. 24:1, 10, where God is explicitly spoken of as actively ordaining the sin of a believer? Do we change the active voice of v. 1 to a passive voice? No, we allow scripture to interpret scripture. Done properly, we should not feel forced to change the grammar of any text. We emphatically affirm that the reason sinners are culpable for their sin is because they sin according to their desire. We only insist that God ordains both our sinful desires, as well as our actual sins according to those desires. God does not make us sin against our will. He ordains that we have sinful wills, and ordains whatever sins we commit according to that those sinful wills. That we sin according to our desires is all James is saying in the aforementioned text, and it is in complete harmony with what we have been saying. So Calvin on the importance of distinguishing necessity from compulsion in one's discussion of 'free will':

In general, they are wont to place under the free will of man only intermediate things—viz.
those which pertain not to the kingdom of God, while they refer true righteousness to the special
grace of God and spiritual regeneration. The author of the work, “De Vocatione Gentium,” (On the
Calling of the Gentiles),15 150 wishing to show this, describes the will as threefold—viz. sensitive,
animal, and spiritual. The two former, he says, are free to man, but the last is the work of the Holy
Spirit. What truth there is in this will be considered in its own place. Our intention at present is
only to mention the opinions of others, not to refute them. When writers treat of free will, their
inquiry is chiefly directed not to what its power is in relation to civil or external actions, but to the
obedience required by the divine law. The latter I admit to be the great question, but I cannot think
the former should be altogether neglected; and I hope to be able to give the best reason for so
thinking (sec. 12 to 18). The schools, however, have adopted a distinction which enumerates three
kinds of freedom (see Lombard, lib. 2 Dist. 25); the first, a freedom from necessity; the second, a
freedom from sin; and the third, a freedom from misery: the first naturally so inherent in man, that
he cannot possibly be deprived of it; while through sin the other two have been lost. I willingly
admit this distinction, except in so far as it confounds necessity with compulsion. How widely the
things differ, and how important it is to attend to the difference, will appear elsewhere(Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 2, "Institutes of the Christian Religion").

That man is so enslaved by the yoke of sin, that he cannot of his own nature aim at good
either in wish or actual pursuit, has, I think, been sufficiently proved. Moreover, a distinction has
been drawn between compulsion and necessity, making it clear that man, though he sins necessarily,
nevertheless sins voluntarily. But since, from his being brought into bondage to the devil, it would
seem that he is actuated more by the devil’s will than his own, it is necessary, first, to explain what
the agency of each is, and then solve the question,17 167 Whether in bad actions anything is to be
attributed to God, Scripture intimating that there is some way in which he interferes? Augustine
(in Psalm 31 and 33) compares the human will to a horse preparing to start, and God and the devil
to riders. “If God mounts, he, like a temperate and skilful rider, guides it calmly, urges it when too
slow, reins it in when too fast, curbs its forwardness and over-action, checks its bad temper, and
keeps it on the proper course; but if the devil has seized the saddle, like an ignorant and rash rider,
he hurries it over broken ground, drives it into ditches, dashes it over precipices, spurs it into
obstinacy or fury.” With this simile, since a better does not occur, we shall for the present be
contented. When it is said, then, that the will of the natural man is subject to the power of the devil, and is actuated by him, the meaning is not that the wills while reluctant and resisting, is forced to submit (as masters oblige unwilling slaves to execute their orders), but that, fascinated by the impostures of Satan, it necessarily yields to his guidance, and does him homage. Those whom the Lord favours not with the direction of his Spirit, he, by a righteous judgment, consigns to the agency of Satan. Wherefore, the Apostle says, that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them.” And, in another passage, he describes the devil as “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” (Eph. 2:2). The blinding of the wicked, and all the iniquities consequent upon it, are called the works of Satan; works the cause of which is not to be Sought in anything external to the will of man, in which the root of the evil lies, and in which the foundation of Satan’s kingdom, in other words, sin, is fixed(Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 4, "Institutes of the Christian Religion").

To interpret the passive voice of v. 22 as teaching passivity in reprobation, one would have to violate an exegetical principle known as the principle of maximal redundancy. According to this rule, one ought to choose the interpretation of a text that contributes the least amount of information to the total context of the text, as G.K. Beale explains in his refutation of the dispensationalist interpretation of the use of the word 'kai/' relative to the phrase "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16.

C.A. Ray has applied to Gal 6,16 the linguistic rule for kai/ formulated by K. Titrud: though kai/ occurs many times in the NT with various meanings (approx. 9,000), instead of assuming that the most common meaning applies (which is "generally connective"), one should opt for that meaning "which contributes the least new information to the total context" (a principle sometimes referred to as "the rule of maximal redundancy"). In particular, Titrud maintained that, in view of the rule of maximal redundancy, if apposition is a viable option for kai/, then it should be seriously considered.

Likewise, interpreting the significance of the passive voice in Rom. 9:22 in terms of single predestination adds new information to a total context in which nothing but an active role in reprobation is affirmed of God, as we have argued throughout this article.

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