Author Archives: Ronald L. Roper

Untangling “Predestination” — Part 5

Those who have been following this blog site will already be aware of the fuller context concerning God’s premial justice and, in turn, the premial Atonement, into which this treatment of “predestination” is getting unceremoniously dropped. When I started this analysis back in 2008, I had not yet read the brief but trenchantly argued treatise from 1741, An Essay on Redemption: Being the Second Part of Divine Rectitude (104 pages), by John Balguy, who first coined the term “premial” (please see my “About” page at the top of this site, along with the first couple of blogs, where I quote at length the passage containing the only two instances of the new word). I first read the book in late January of 2011, so never used ‘premial’ in this exploration of predestination. Nevertheless, the contents were fully in accord with Balguy’s use of the word, so his label nicely covered the contents regardless.

Therefore, it will not be inappropriate to poise my results more precisely within the context of the premial Atonement perspective which I have already elaborated in this blog site. Readers will know that the apostolic take on the Atonement that I simply label “premial” is free of those several “penal” elements now so commonly assumed by conservative evangelical Protestants and gathered under the rubric “penal substitution” or “penal satisfaction.” This latter position was most fully developed within Calvinism, and is in fact its most characteristic doctrine, although other Protestant traditions share significant elements as well. However the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” have amplified them at greatest length. And among these, “the doctrine of predestination” was simply embedded within “Unconditional Election.”

I have tried to show on this blog site that Penal Substitution logic is stretched entirely on an economic framework of logic that is qualified penally. This is decidedly not the framework of the New Testament explanation of the Atonement, nor, for that matter, of Justification or Reconciliation either, which do, however, likewise draw upon legal language, and thus are jeopardized no less by penal pretensions and impositions.

The fact that every one of the Five Points bears the marks of abuse by stretching on this punitive ‘rack’ will raise the presumptive expectation that what Calvinists do with “predestination” will bear the same marks of torture. Sure enough. “Predestination” is said to be necessary because a “sovereign” God’s plan to pay/satisfy for the debt of sins incurred by a limited number of chosen/elect—for to pay for the sins of all mankind would be uneconomical, hence unfitting for a prudent Sovereign—can only seem plausible on the premise that sins/debts must be paid for by someone, in any case, without fail, in other words: by a Penal Substitute. Such “prudential” logic may be worthy of a for-profit, self-aggrandizing, client-deceiving insurance behemoth; it is unworthy of a God who is Our Rock, who indemnified the whole population without exception, for the sake of His own grand reputation and Brand Name!

We have shown throughout this site that this particular construal of economic metaphors and concepts is not to be found in the Bible. Sin (even as “debt”) is never said to be “paid [for]at all. Indeed, it is exclusively the saints or believers that are said to be bought and paid for. However, their faith itself is their own willful contribution to salvation, turning as it does on their natural (and not “fallen” as such!) human response to the necessary but not sufficient testimony of Holy Writ, which requires getting “blended together with faith in those who hear” (Hebrews 4:2) in order to achieve its intended beneficial outcome. To be sure, this evidence does powerfully evoke or induce faith, but does not “guarantee” faith. This process happily accords with God’s graciousness (Romans 4:16), which, in fact, enhances and fosters human sovereignty, authority, judgment/decision-making, and choice, even if it should happen to result in a rebuff of His gentle advances. God is all about “inviting” folks to the Party of the Kingdom.

Nevertheless, as we know, comparatively few are chosen—only those who exert their own self-authorized faculty of faith—which even as Calvin so validly declared, is simply the outstretched hand (not the laboring hand, mind you!), ready to receive the Gift God is handing out.  That Gift is most emphatically not faith; that Gift is the Holy Spirit itself, which could not consequently show up early (“preveniently”) in order to create the very faith by which itself is thereupon received. The logical incoherence of such a contention should be perfectly clear. My refutation does not exclude, however (as was the burden of my above paper), that a Book inspired by the Holy Spirit may precede faith and perform the honors, without any incoherence or contradiction. (That, in particular, was the burden of my preceding “Appendix.”)

The premial justice of God is directed upon the blameless Defendant to exonerate and then repay him due restitution for his painful labors of love on behalf of the whole blamed (!) world of sinful humanity. However, no quid pro quo equivalence of “pain for pay” characterized the transaction. It was purely gratuitous, which is not to say “wasted,” but simply rationally appropriate to the intended outcome, without overreach or shortfall. It hit its mark precisely: “Now if anyone is loving God, this one gets known by Him” (1 Corinthians 8:3).

This premial rationale relieves theology of any burden to “limit” the divine outlay of beneficence or graciousness to one that accords with alleged economic rationality, much less to economic penury! After all, what the Lord Jesus Christ procured was a prize, booty, spoils, winnings, judicial damages, just deserts, not an “equivalent payment” or “commercial exchange” of any sort, as I have been at great pains to establish in this blog site from the very beginning.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.                   —Annie J. Flint

This was in full satisfaction, if you will, of “the righteousness/justice of God,” as Paul was at even greater pains to establish in his epistle to the Roman believers, but which the Protestant Reformation, at yet more (and needless) pains accidently—let’s be charitable here—sabotaged in favor of a convoluted pretzel of a doctrine: Paul meant rewarding (premial) justice dispensed directly to Christ (who deserved it), thence graciously distributed for free to us (who did not deserve it) by our faith and baptism (i.e., by inclusion in Christ); Luther, et al, meant punitive (penal) justice distributed to us (who deserved it) indirectly through Christ (who did not deserve it) by his substitution. The difference between these alternatives for Christian behavior and mental stability is immense.

Perhaps we need to ponder more deeply the fact that a reward can be distributed at the good pleasure if its legitimate recipient, irrespective of particular “merits” possessed by any subsequent recipients chosen. A penalty/punishment, however, cannot be thus “freely” distributed; that would be immoral and illegal. Yet penal substitution doctrine is based squarely on this latter indefensible premise, and usually even glories in it!

The premial position, we can see, comports with a faith that is exocentric (focused on an outside object) and authentically voluntary, not an “act/work” at all, but simply proper reliance on credible evidence and testimony (so not coerced), and which ultimately comports with an election that is conditional on such faith and, by reflex, with a destiny that is potentially alienable. However, the divine ambience suffusing this perspective is as different from the effluvium of penal substitution as a loaf of bread is from a stone, or a fish is from a serpent, or an egg is from a scorpion, or a REWARD is from a PUNISHMENT.  That is, as opposite as might well be imagined.

The premial framework allows the weaving of a startlingly contrasting systematic pattern of salvation across the board. This, naturally, affects all the familiar “points” of Calvinism: all alike collapse in the absence of the mortar of penal economic necessity. The premial universe is one in which an inheritance in the Kingdom of God is free…but must be claimed with steady expectation as a right of believing children of God answering to God’s promises in His own Words, contracted by Covenant—the Bible.

The premial world is one in which sin is not passed along generationally (needing to be washed away in baptism, even from infants), nor so pervasive or perverse as to make faith impossible without the prosthetic of adventitious “regeneration” to trigger it.

The premial universe is one in which Atonement is universal and plenty powerful for its appointed objective of nurturing lovers of God, but without arm-twisting others. Élégance!

In a premial cosmos, graciousness, appealing and fetching as it may be, does not act so unseemly as to make its drawing influence irresistible as a magic spell. No spellbinding here, only the spell of unforced love. “Prevenient grace” is an encumbering artifice that ought to be perceived as an insult to the grace of Christ’s resurrection, the plain bold Report of which turned that ancient civilization upside down within decades!

A premial reality is one in which believers press on toward God’s impending Kingdom impelled by the covenantal promises and warnings of God’s living Explanation, producing rich fruits of Christ’s personality to encourage others in faith and, reflexively, secure one’s own confidence and delight in the faith once for all drop-shipped to the saints of planet earth.

In a premial creation, the dark oppressive clouds of graphically visualized punishment, wrath, and condemnation poured out on a perfectly innocent, though willing (as if he “needed” to be!) victim so as to satisfy the demanding justice of God (thereby impugning justice wholesale as exclusively penally retributive), is lifted and dispelled, permitting the cheering rays of divine benignity to burst forth and bless earth’s shores.

In a premial civilization, the repugnant spectacle of Christians playing in the dung heap of sordid pleasures, toying with the profane, venal options our culture places on the bottom shelf of easy accessibility with the click of a wayward mouse—all these pleasures of Egypt would lose their glamor under their deceptive marketing as “harmless diversions for the unconditionally elect” and be discerned for the mortal perils they are.

In a premial galaxy, the affecting sight of many a seasoned churchgoer manifesting pathological anxiety concerning their destiny as a child of God, presenting the watching world with an oddly ambiguous, if not highly unsettling testimony to the comforting certitudes of the Gospel as advertised, should be as rare as jellyfish fossils.

In short, the premial justice of God manifested supremely in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from among the mouldering dead to proliferating immortality, agrees to perfection with the heralding of an endless sparkling destiny as children of God, privileged to inherit a whole New Creation, starting with Christ’s resurrected body and proceeding to incorporate all others who believe and get immersed in him by his Holy Spirit. The fundamental heart of the New Testament Proclamation is not, therefore, “penal substitution” but “premial inclusion,” in an inconceivably marvelous destiny as “priests and kings” on the New Earth a comin’! Having announced such a future with abundant corroboration, God leaves the choice up to us whether we wish to join the Party or keep our unsafe distance and sadly perish.

June 2, 6, 8-9, 2017

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Untangling “Predestination” — Part 4 (Appendix)

THE GOSPEL STORY:

GOD’S LIVING POWER TO EVOKE FAITH FOR SALVATION

compiled by Ron Roper

 

In the beginning was the Explanation….All came to be through it….In it was life, and the life was the light of mankind.” (John 1:1, 3, 4)


For the Explanation of God is living and operative and keen above any two-edged sword.” (Heb. 4:12)


Having been regenerated, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the Explanation of God, living and permanentthe Declaration of the Lord is remaining for the age. Now this is the Declaration which is being proclaimed to you.” (I Peter, 1:23, 25)


Receive with meekness the implanted Explanation which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)


For the Explanation of the crossto us who are getting savedis the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:18) “We are heralding Christthe power of God.” (I Cor. 1:23, 24) If Christ has not been raised, vain is your faith—you are still in your sins.” (I Cor. 15:17)


No one can come to Me if ever the Father who sends me should not be drawing him“; “and I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to myself.” (John 6:44, 12:32)

If ever you should be confessing with your mouth the Declaration that Jesus is Lord, and should be believing in your heart that God raises him from among the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart it is believed unto justness, yet with the mouth it is confessed for salvation.” (Rom. 10:9)


The Proclamationis God’s power for salvation to everyone who is believingfor a justice of God is being revealed in it, out of faithfulness for faith, according as it is written: ‘Now the just one out of faithfulness shall be living.” (Rom. 1:16, 17)

Consequently, faith is out of tidings, yet the tidings through a Declaration of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17)


The sacred Scripturesare able to make you wise for salvation through faithfulness which is in Christ Jesus.” (II Tim. 3:15)


Now I am committing you to God and to the Explanation of His graciousness, which is able to edify and give the inheritance among all who have gotten hallowed [by that Explanation of Truth they believe, John 17:17-20].” (Acts 20:32)

November 2007; revised July 30, 2009, April 3-4, 2015, May 10, 2017.

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Untangling “Predestination” — Part 3

Summary Reflections

The foregoing survey is now complete. As we have seen, nowhere in the New Testament do we read of anyone being “predestined” to “reprobation” or “destruction,” nor for that matter to “salvation,” or even “to believe.” Even more surprising, perhaps, designate beforehanddoes not meanpredestine” at all, but simply “destine,” whose meaning already denotes the idea of previous determination of a future scenario, i.e., prior to its projected realization, naturally! However, this kind of destiny is conditional and may potentially be forfeited prior to its fulfillment if a condition is not met. Happily, the condition affixed by Scripture is quite in concert with God’s graciousness as historically displayed in His saving justice, that is, His restorative or “premial” justice of raising our Lord from the dead (among whom he was wrongly, undeservedly plunged, yet with such cosmically liberating results!). That singular condition is, of course, durable faith. In a real sense, then, this announced destiny of sonship and the wonderful inheritance of everlasting life, a share in God’s Kingdom on the New Earth, blessings galore, etc.—that manifold destiny is held out as an attainable prize to motivate us to keep trusting Christ and obeying what the Father wants us to achieve as he revealed it in the directions Jesus conveyed to his disciples. As such, these verses do not compel us to hold that only certain arbitrarily chosen individuals are “predestined to salvation” while all the rest are “predestined to destruction,” whether by design or default. Much rather, all who believe and keep on believing are chosen because of their faith in the “stupidity of the heralding” (1 Cor. 1:18-26) of Christ’s resurrection-from-death-by-crucifixion, i.e., his compound “exaltation,” in John’s mode of explaining the matter (John 12:32, 6:44)—which the Father chose in his wisdom as the narrative dynamo for “placing” us in Christ” that we might become sons. This is the way we get “destined” to sonhood, which includes inheriting allotments, portions, or shares in the future Kingdom of God (equivalent to attaining salvation).

Consequently, Jesus’ unique status as Firstborn Son of God, designated beforehand in principle before the ages, in the secret depths of God’s heart of wisdom, thereafter designated in writing within Old Testament prophecy, and ultimately specified in actuality by a veritable historic resurrection, effectively confers sonship on everybody else who believes the Explanation about his resurrection from the dead. All who believe it at heart and declare it verbally before others at their baptism in water are immediately immersed in his Spirit and thereby get incorporated into his now immortal body, destined for inheriting God’s Kingdom on the New Earth…that is, if we stay in the Explanation and don’t defect. Only that Explanation, accepted as Good Seed into our hearts, possesses the power to nurture faith and keep us progressing through the obstacle course of this present wicked age along the sole way of access that Christ blazed to the Father. Christ’s own already historically achieved and forever inalienable destiny is thus our shared and assured destiny if we remain in him, the true Vine, by faith.

John 15:1-14

1I am the true Grapevine, and my Father is the Farmer. 2Every branch in me bringing forth no fruit, He is taking it away, and every one bringing forth fruit, He is pruning [literally, “cleansing”] it, that it may be bringing forth more fruit. 3Already you are pruned [“clean”] because of the Explanation which I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, I also am in you. Just as the branch can not be bringing forth fruit from itself, if it should not be remaining in the grapevine, thus neither you, if you should not be remaining in me. 5I am the Grapevine. You are the branches. He who is remaining in me, and I in him, this one is bringing forth much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone should not be remaining in me, he was cast out as a branch and it withered. And they are gathering them, and into the fire are they casting them, and he is getting burned. 7If ever you should be remaining in me and my Declarations should be remaining in you, whatever you should be desiring, request, and it will be occurring to you. 8In this is my Father glorifyied/accredited, that you may be bringing forth much fruit, and you shall become my disciples. 9Just as the Father loves me, I, also, love you. Remain in my love. 10If ever you should be keeping my directives, you will be remaining in my love, just as I have kept the directives of my Father and am remaining in His love. 11These things have I spoken to you, that my joy should be remaining in you, and your joy may be filled. 12This is my directive, that you be loving one another, just as I love you. 13Greater love than this has no one, that anyone may be laying down his soul for his friends. 14You are my friends if you should be doing whatever I am directing you.”

God’s plan, then, according to which he is administrating the remainder of history to the end of the age, is to “head up the universe in Christ—both that in the heavens and that on the earth” (Ephesians 1:10), reconciling warring factions into one peaceful New Humanity by the blood of the Cross. That’s his wonderfully worthy cosmic objective! It even looks for all the world like we get to participate in that adventurous future, somehow, in modes we are not yet prepared to imagine or verbally capable of articulating. We need to leave room for happy surprises, which “eye perceived not and ear heard not and to which human heart ascended not—whatever God makes ready for those who are loving Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)! Hence the emphasis in 1 Corinthians 1-2 on heralding the Resurrection Explanation of the Cross of Christ—which was mere “stupidity” to the ancient Greeks and a “stumbling-block” to the Jews—“to the entire creation” (Mark 16:15). God wants everybody to hear this Proclamation, which has the attention-getting wisdom and persuasive power to evoke initially and to nurture progressively the quality of trust in God, plus the consequent following of Christ’s directions that will shepherd us along to reach the destined status of perfect sonhood as peaceful “brethren” of our big Brother, the Lord Jesus, long ago perfected through tough, arduous disciplines.

This whole scenario, far from giving undue credit (“glory”) to human beings for figuring out how to get saved or how to gut it out to perfection independent of God’s power—recalling the famous controversy between Pelagius and Augustine—rather gives due credit to the power of God’s Proclamation of his Kingdom and Explanation about Christ’s cruel cross plus God’s ultra-compensating resurrection, which in tandem are calculated to turn the hearts of enemies back to himself in conciliation and peace by nullifying our hostile feelings against him. The Gospel of the Kingdom itself contains the inherent credit/glory, abundant diverse testimony, and prima facie proof to win our confidence and create love, loyalty, and devotion.

Note well: the Holy Spirit is not ushered in to perform the special duty of creating faith; the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible for Heaven’s sake! The Holy Spirit corroborates the Gospel Truth, not seldom with extraordinary evidences of God’s coming Kingdom, yet it’s Proclamation itself is always honored in Holy Scripture (inSpired by Holy Spirit evidently for this very function!) as the divine means for inducing faith. (See Appendix: “The Gospel Story—God’s Living Power to Evoke Faith for Salvation.) Clearly, God, by his appointed mechanism, means to make room for very human faith, but built on very solid ground…if we will amenably accept what is so kindly proffered. Hebrews 11, the longest New Testament passage on a single sustained topic, is all about glorifying/accrediting faith! Reestablishing the unique role of the Gospel message itself to regenerate sinners will go far to disestablish the errant teaching concerning a “graciously arbitrary” “predestination to faith and salvation” of sinners by a prior and unpredictable “regeneration” by the Holy Spirit via an “effectual [irresistable] calling” in the interests of “particularly elect” sinners without regard to their own human wills and divine likeness! Yet does a denial of this common wayward teaching thereby jeopardize our hopeful attainment of our destinies as daughters and sons of God? God forbid! Yet we may be surprised by the verses by which the apostle Paul wished to encourage our willful perseverence!:

Philippians 1:2-11

2Graciousness to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3I am thanking my God at every remembrance of you, 4always, in every petition of mine for you all, making the petition with joy, 5for your contribution to the Gospel from the first day until now, 6having this same confidence, that he who undertakes a good work among you will be completing it until the day of Jesus Christ, 7just as it is right for me to be disposed in this way over you all, because you, having me in heart, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel, you all are joint participants with me of graciousness, 8for God is my witness how I am longing for you all in the compassions of Christ Jesus. 9And this I am praying, that your love may be superabounding still more and more in realization and all sensibility, 10for you to be testing what things are of consequence, that you may be sincere and no stumbling block for the day of Christ, 11having gotten filled with the fruit of righteousness that is through Jesus Christ for the glory/credit and laud of God.”

In case you missed it, Paul has just commended the Philippian congregation for their splendid contribution of undertaking the good work of defending and confirming the Gospel along with him, as fellow-participants in God’s graciousness through the Lord Jesus Christ, and, moreover, with joy and great expectations that they will continue to perform such good works sincerely and without stumbling until the Day of Christ’s Judgment of human works. Are you disappointed that nothing here teaches that God “sovereignly” keeps the saints persevering in faith regardless of such considerations as Paul has generously ladled out in this passage? Then you may have gotten bulldozed by human traditions that actually provide less comfort than they are usually touted to have. But I quite understand. You still need a clincher:

2 Corinthians 8:6-12

6So that we entreat Titus that, just as he undertakes before, thus also should he be completing in you this graciousness also. 7But, even as you are superabounding in everything—in faith and word and knowledge and all diligence and the love that flows out of you into us—that you may be superabounding in this graciousness also. 8I am not saying this as an injunction, but, through the diligence of others, testing also the genuineness of this love of yours. 9For you know the graciousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, being rich, because of you he became poor, that you, by his poverty, should be rich. 10And in this I am giving an opinion, for this is expedient for you, who, for a year past, undertake before, not only the doing but the willing also. 11Yet now complete the doing also, so that, even as the eagerness to will, thus also may be the completion, out of what you have. 12For if eagerness lies before, it is most acceptable according to whatever one may have, not according to what he has not.

A host of other Scriptures reinforce this same doctrine in similar language and in spades: Romans 15:13-14, Galatians 5:10, Philippians 2:12-13, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10, 2 Thessalonians 3:4-5, Hebrews 6:7-10, Revelation 2:2-6.

This survey of the usage and fuller contexts of horizo and prohorizo hopefully makes clear that these terms cannot validly contribute to some speculatively spun “doctrine of predestination.” The first of these terms was a common household word in ancient Greek. And although the second of these is almost exclusively attested from the New Testament, neither can be commandeered systematically or woodenly to establish some arcane doctrine concerning “the sovereignty of God” (an expression, incidentally, that never occurs in Scripture!). They simply convey that the Creator likewise (“like” human beings!) can make long-term plans to act in history—in this case redemptively and with intimate knowledge of how his creatures tend to react. This is far different from some full-scale elaboration of a “doctrine” about a “divine sovereignty” that pre-determines every motion in the universe (as the Westminster Confession of Faith would have us believe)—which is not only contrary to the plain meaning of Biblical Scripture taken as a whole, but also contrary to the universal (“catholic”) teaching of the orthodox early church on the subject. The ante-Nicene churches quite uniformly emphasized what has somewhat confusingly been translated “free-will,” but literally means “self-authorization” (autexousiotes), in other words, authority over our selves and our personal faculties—quite plausibly a subcategory of the sovereignty, authority, and dominion over our earthly habitat bequeathed to our fore-parents. This is an ineradicable characteristic of all who have been created in God’s image. God evidently is no iconoclast when it concerns his own image!

Much more might be said concerning the historical theology of this contentious topic, especially the gnostic roots of “predestination,” traceable from John Calvin and Martin Luther, et al, back to Augustine’s early influence from Manichaeism, as well as via his mentor Ambrose, an ardent devotee of the Jewish philosopher/theologian Philo of Alexandria, among whose formative contemporaries was the Jewish Essene sect, which was predestinarian as well. When push came to shove in his famous pitched battle with Pelagius and his associates, Augustine seems to have reverted to such prevalent pre-Christian influences (not entirely abandoned) of his theologizing—not a happy turn in Western theology, and exceedingly auspicious of further corruptions. Nor did Augustine ultimately repent of his view of predestination so as to include it among his end-of-life Retractations. However, enlarging on such considerations must be left for another time.

God’s overwhelming favor to Christ at his resurrection and ascension came as his public answer to the egregious abuse done him at his cross. We might even say (with qualifications) that his cross was the chief cause of his resurrection and that without it God’s lavish favor to Christ—and through him to us—could never have flowed! Among other factors we need to grasp that without a public injustice of that magnitude, Christ’s resurrection would have been relegated to a merely private, virtually non-attested episode that could easily have gotten ‘buried’ amid the onrush of more mundane public events. (In sad fact, the atoning significance of Christ’s Resurrection has gotten buried anyway, and Paul’s Gospel was indeed largely forgotten already quite early in church history.) This event had to be a ‘big deal’…but not so big that it could not be denied or ridiculed or reviled by those who prefer the darkness to the light. For God does not desire coerced obedience but filial obedience. He wants legitimate daughters and sons after the pattern of Jesus. Volunteers, not draftees! This means that personal choice/preference (a reflex of our being pressed in God’s own mold) is essential in the execution even of God’s own more original, transcendent, and universal authority. Thus God generously allowed a measure of “plausible deniability” as a release valve from the potential charge of naked coercion. God decided to run a handicap race and give mortals (after all!) fair wiggle-room for authentic volition during their ephemeral tenure under the sun. Whatever advantage he may have lost as a “despot,” he more than regained as an ingenuous, independent, and impartial character witness. And as could be expected, given a fair amount of mortal freedom, sinful humans always fail to achieve the credit/glory of God’s desire, nevertheless, Jesus did stick to the Script and won the gold for his entire team regardless! Three cheers for God!!! Yaaay team!

Concluding Thoughts

It has doubtless dawned on many a gentle reader at a number of points in this biblical review—for some gradually, for others more swiftly—that “predestination” is not only not an authentic New Testament doctrine, but it is superfluous and worse: vicious in its very tendency. It may seem to rank as one of those further “points” of Calvinism that saint Arminius was not permitted to live to articulate separately. In truth, it was the very first of his controversies and led to the unraveling of all the others. Some scholars may simply range it under the rubric of “Unconditional Election,” and leave it at that. However, it seems to me it deserves a categorical “Point” of its own. But that shuffling may be of little consequence. It is of more importance that we keep in mind that although God alone is the judge of John Calvin and his successors, God gives us the job of judging Calvin’s theology. Let us undertake our task with as much clarity and charity as we can muster, confessing that Scripture alone must be our ultimate norm, let the chips fall where they may.

(For the stimulus to write this paper, I wish to acknowledge discussions with my daughter Marie, who was drawn into the perennial issue by a theology course in the fall semester of 2008 at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

Nov. 24-26, 29-Dec. 10, 26-27, 2008; revised Aug. 9, 2009, May 26, 2014, April 31, May 4-5, 8, 14, 16-19, 21-23, 25-31, June 1, 3, 11, 2017

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Untangling “Predestination” — Part 2

PROHORIZO—Specify beforehand/Designate beforehand

Peter’s healing of the lame man at the door of the temple triggered a succession of events leading to the only use of this word in the book of Acts. The healing brought the crowds, which occasioned Peter’s second public proclamation. This oration, in turn, moved the Jewish authorities to apprehend Peter and John and hail them before the leaders on the next day. That led to yet a third speech:

Acts 4:5-12

5Now it occurred on the morrow that their chiefs and the elders and the scribes gathered in Jerusalem, 6and Hannas, the chief priest, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and whoever were from the chief priestly race. 7And, standing them in the midst, they got ascertained, ‘In what power or in what name do you do this?’ 8Then Peter, being filled with Holy Spirit, said to them, 9‘Chiefs of the people and elders! If we today are being examined as to the benefaction to the infirm person, in what [power or name] he has been saved, 10let it be known to you all and to the entire people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, whom you crucify, whom God roused from among the dead, in this [name], this person stands by before you sound. 11This is the Stone that is being scorned by you builders, which is becoming the head of the corner. 12And there is no salvation in any other one, for neither is there any other name, given under heaven among humans, in which we must be saved’.”

After they were released without punishment, they returned and reported to the believers what the chief priests and the elders had said. Then comes the response of their listeners:

Acts 4:24-28

24Now, those who hear, with one accord lift up their voice to God and say, ‘O Owner, You Who make heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, 25Who through Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father, Your boy David, are saying,

What perturbs the nations?

And why do the peoples mumble empty phrases?

26Standing by are the kings of the land,

And the chancellors gathered at the same place,

Against the Lord and against His Christ. [Psalm 2:1-2]

27For of a truth, in this city were gathered against Your holy Boy Jesus, whom You anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the nations and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your plan designate beforehand to occur.”

And what was that? It was their crucifying of Jesus, plus God’s raising him from the dead climactically and conclusively, as Peter had just alleged in his preceding speech. This accords perfectly with the three relevant usages of horizo in Luke and Acts that we looked at above. And, as in Acts 2:23, this “plan” [boule] or strategy of allowing Jesus to get surrendered, abused, executed, but then raised to immortal Life is what was pre-designated or specific within Hebrew Scripture. Whatever details this “plan designate[d] beforehand” seem to be identical to the contents of the “specific plan” of Acts 2. This integral, inseparable, indissoluble event (a ‘Crossurrection’ as it were) by which God’s Son, Messiah, Lord, and Judge was historically designated is also pinpointed by John’s Gospel in rather unique words. John 6 teaches us most revealingly that no one can (has any power) to come to the Father except by his decreed drawing power. And what, pray tell, conveys that drawing influence to sinners who would otherwise die in their sins? We learn the answer from chapter 12: glorification/accreditation (i.e., the attracting radiance) of the crucifixion/ resurrection’ episodes. I cover these two passages at greater length below.

I shall treat the next two occurrences of prohorizo in reverse order, for reasons that will become clear.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

6Yet wisdom are we speaking among the mature, yet a wisdom not of this age, neither of the chiefs of this age, who are getting discarded, 7but we are speaking God’s wisdom in a secret, which has gotten concealed, which God designates beforehand, before the ages, for our glory/credit, 8which not one of the chiefs of this age knows, for if they know, they would not crucify the Lord of glory [i.e., who accredits us with glory]. 9But, just as it is written, which eye did not perceive, and ear did not hear, and to which the human heart did not ascend—whatever God makes ready for those who are loving Him. 10Yet to us God reveals them through His Spirit, for the Spirit is searching all, even the depths of God.”

Paul had declared only a few verses earlier (2:2), “I decide not to perceive anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For, as we saw in the horizo passages, this crucifixion was understood to be inextricable from the nexus of decisive events indicated “beforehand,” i.e., in prophetic Scripture. But here the horizon shifts from the intermediate written form which announced the designated event/person, and instead focuses all the way back on its conception “before the ages,” in the secret plan of transcendent wisdom and sustainable fruitfulness. This crucial (!) event, through which salvation could exclusively be secured, is here declared to have gotten strategically concealed so as to prevent its becoming known—the implication being that it might otherwise have been scuttled if Satan (along with his pawns in power) had caught on to that wisdom and stopped short of his characteristically foolish attempted murder of his arch rival for possession of Earth. Yet what “not one of the chiefs of this age knows” during “the times of ignorance” (Acts 17:30), God, happily, specifically “foreknew”:

Romans 8:28-30

28Now we are aware that God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God, who are called according to the purpose [prothesispre-placement’] 29that, whom He foreknew [proginoskopre-knew’], He designates beforehand, also to be conformed to the image of His Son, for him to be Firstborn among many brethren. 30Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also, and whom He calls, these He justifies also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies [i.e., accredits as true sons] also.”

Here, finally, as in the following passage from Ephesians 1, the designation refers to something other than Jesus or the plan itself. Notice that the beneficiaries are “those who are loving God.” This fits nicely with the final words of the above 1 Corinthians passage. Moreover, both within this immediate context and elsewhere God “calls” people sons, “justifies” them as being legitimate sons and glorifies [“accredits”] them accordingly, via their own future resurrections, with the status of sons. It’s all about sonship, sonhood, or, to use the traditional term, adoption. And adoption, in turn, is closely associated with the idea and practice of inheriting property. The foregoing leads us naturally to the final and culminating passage containing prohorizo.

Ephesians 1:2-14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ, 4just as He chooses us in him before the disruption of the world, us to be holy and flawless in His sight, 5in love designating us beforehand for sonship [huiothesia—‘son-placement’] for Him through Christ Jesus; in accord with the delight of His desire, 6for the praise of the glory/credit of His graciousness, which graces us in the Beloved; 7 in whom we are having the liberation through his blood, the forgiveness of offenses in accord with the wealth of His graciousness, 8which He lavishes on us; in all wisdom and prudence 9making known to us the secret of His desire (in accord with the delight, which He purposed [protithemi—‘pre-placed’] in him) 10to have an administration of the remainder of the eras, to head up all in Christ—both that in the heavens and that on the earth—11in him in whom we have gotten allotted also, being designated beforehand according to the purpose [prothesis—‘preplacement’] of the One Who is operating all in accord with the plan of His desire, 12that we should be for the praise of His glory/credit, who are pre-expectant [proelpizo] in Christ. 13In whom you also—on hearing the explanation of truth, the proclamation of your salvation—in whom on believing also, you are sealed [at baptism] with the Holy Spirit of promise 14(which is a surety of the inheritance of our allotment) to the liberation of that which has been procured, for the praise of His glory/credit!”

For good reason this chapter is regarded as a pinnacle of Paul’s revelation about the dimensions and contours of our salvation, waxing lofty about the splendor of God’s graciousness toward us in Christ. Therefore I have quoted at greater length. Paul starts by calling God “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” obviously because his fatherhood is the premise of our Lord’s sonhood, and, in turn, also of our own, since we are one in the Son. Here God’s own love for us is brought into the picture yet again, which as we know from 1 John is what prompts our reciprocating love for Him (significantly mentioned also in the 1 Corinthians and Romans passages, as we noted):

1 John 4:19

We are loving God, for He first loves us.”

Hence the initiative is God’s, not ours. Such love, thus demonstrated, has credibility and therefore creates trust. John enlarges on this theme in the most celebrated verse in the New Testament:

John 3:16-18

16For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in him should not be getting destroyed but may be having life everlasting. 17For God does not commission His Son into the world that he should be judging the world, but that the world may be saved through him. 18He who is believing in him is not being judged; yet he who is not believing has gotten judged already, for he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”

This passage raises the issue about Jesus being a Judge, as we saw above in Acts 10 and 17. This passage does not deny him that role, it only clarifies how the timing plays out: Jesus was commissioned, the first time he appeared, with the objective of saving people, but if they decide to refuse the invitation and rebuff God’s love, they simply stay under God’s indignation and eventual destruction (i.e., death) that resulted from Adam’s sin—the divine ban from the Tree of Life. At the future Judgment, after the general resurrection of everyone, that sentence is sealed and delivered with finality. During the merciful interim, people have the God-given right/authority either to choose the destiny of sonship by believing in the wrath-proof Jesus or to resist the drawing power of the Story—which the Holy Spirit, let us remember, exhaled into Writing—about his exaltation by Cross and Resurrection. Simple options: life or death. Easy choice: choose life, for Heaven’s sake! Elsewhere, John gets more detailed about the inner workings of this intriguing process.

Paul’s Ephesians passage additionally brings up the theme of secrecy again, but clearly not as a factor intended to keep mankind in the dark under a permanent shroud of “mystery.” Much rather, as Paul clarifies in 1 Corinthians 2:7 above, only to prevent the chief powers of this age from sabotaging the ultimate strategy for their downfall before it could take effect. This wisdom entailed the utter nullification of Christ’s death at their hands by means of his powerful but unanticipated resurrection from among the dead, making possible at last the supreme historic demonstration on planet earth of God’s justness that rewarded with lavish graciousness the Faithful One who endured in obedience, and that in turn likewise “graces us in the Beloved,” Which is all to say that whoever stay in Jesus Christ (so leveraged by faith and baptism) receive a share in the reward he received by his obedience even through the hard discipline of an excruciating and wrongful death

John develops it in his first epistle:

1 John 5:9-12

9If we are obtaining the testimony of humans, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10He who is believing in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; he who is not believing God has made Him a liar, for he has not believed in the testimony which God has testified concerning His Son. 11And this is the testimony, that God gives us life everlasting and this life is in His Son. 12He who has the Son has the life; he who has not the Son of God has not the life.”

To this logic Paul would add his own imprimatur:

1 Corinthians 1:21b, 27-31

21bGod delights, through the stupidity of heralding, to save those who are believing.” “27but the stupidity of the world God chooses that He may be disgracing the wise, and the weakness of the world God chooses, that He may be disgracing the strong, 28and the ignoble and contemptible things of the world God chooses, and that which is not, that He should be disgracing that which is, 29so that no flesh at all should be boasting in God’s sight. 30Yet you, from [ek] Him, are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, besides justness and holiness and deliverance, 31that just as it is written, ‘He who is boasting, in the Lord let him be boasting’.”

Yet someone might appropriately ask how exactly a person can be “from” [ek] God. The beloved disciple started explaining right up front, on the threshold of his Gospel:

John 1:12-13

12Yet whoever got [the Explanation], to them [the Explanation] gives the right to become children of God—to those who are believing in [the Explanation’s] name, 13who were begotten not from [ek] bloods, neither from [ek] desire of flesh, neither from [ek] desire of a man, but from [ek] [desire of] God.”

Notice how John ties together such vocabulary choices, highlighted by strategic repetition, into a strong multi-fold cord of explanation:

John 6:40, 44

40For this is the desire of my Father, that everyone who is beholding the Son and believing in him may have life everlasting, and I shall be raising him in the last day.”

44No one can come to me if ever the Father who sends me should not be drawing him.”

John 12:32

32And I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to myself.”

John 3:14-15

14And just as Moses exalts the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of Mankind be exalted, 15that everyone believing on him should not be getting destroyed, but may be having life everlasting.”

Peter unloads more of the same at Pentecost:

Acts 2:29-36

29Men! Brethren! Allow me to say to you with boldness concerning the patriarch David that he deceases also and was entombed, and his tomb is among us until this day. 30Being, then, inherently a prophet, and having perceived that God swears to him with an oath, out of the fruit of his loin to seat One on his throne, 31perceiving this before, he speaks concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither forsaken in the unseen, nor was his flesh acquainted with decay. 32This Jesus God raises, of whom we all are witnesses. 33Being, then, to the right hand of God exalted, besides obtaining the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he pours out this which you are observing and hearing.

34For David did not ascend into the heavens, yet he is saying,

Said the Lord to my Lord,

Sit at My right

35Till I should be placing your enemies for a footstool for your feet’.”

36Let all the house of Israel know certainly, then, that God makes him Lord as well as Christ—this Jesus whom you crucify!”

Then later, before the Sanhedrin:

Acts 5:29-32

29Yet answering, Peter and the apostles say, ‘One must yield to God rather than to humans. 30Now the God of our fathers raises Jesus, on whom you lay hands, hanging him on a pole. 31This Inaugurator and Savior, God exalts to His right hand to give repentance to Israel and the pardon of sins. 32We are witnesses to these declarations, as well as the Holy Spirit, which God gives to those yielding to Him’.”

But now notice, parenthetically, the grim consequences, according to Paul, if the Savior had not gotten exalted by God raising him from having gotten hung on a pole until dead:

1 Corinthians 15:17

17Now if Christ has not gotten raised, vain is your faith—you are still in your sins!”

Here, two apostles have forged the crucial links between resurrection, exaltation, and atonement. Peter conveniently elaborates further in his first epistle:

1 Peter 1:18-25

“…18being aware that not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, were you ransomed from your vain behavior, handed down by tradition from the fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a flawless and unspotted lamb, 20having gotten foreknown, indeed, before the disruption of the world, yet manifested in the last times because of you, 21who through him are believing in God, Who raises him from among the dead and is giving him glory/credit, so that your faith and expectation is to be in God. 22Having purified your souls by the obedience of truth, for unfeigned fondness for the brethren, love one another out of a true heart earnestly, 23having gotten regenerated not from corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the Explanation of God, living and permanent, 24because

All flesh is grass,

And all its glory/credit is as the flower of grass.

Withered is the grass,

and the flower falls off...

25Yet the Declaration of the Lord is remaining for ever.

Now this is the Declaration which is being brought to you in the Gospel.

Observe further in the previous Ephesians passage that God “chooses” us “inChrist (v. 4), who was exclusively and uniquely designated Son and Judge (Acts 10, 17, Rom. 1), so that Christ could “be Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). God wanted lots of kids! And what was the rationale for his choice? Why, simply that after he announced his love so eloquently at the Cross (where he forebore from destroying his Son’s killers) and at the Resurrection (which proved that he obviously had the right and power and sufficient angelic troops to have pulled it off, but instead, in a grand cosmic surprise, instead lavished everlasting life on Jesus, plus gloryofficial or royal accreditationas his own Son, thus reversing his capital sentence after it was already an accomplished fact), some listeners actually took the hint and responded to such pre-emptive love by believing and falling in love with such a Being, naturally!

Launching from Peter’s reference to God’s foreknowledge concerning Christ in the above passage, which we first noticed at the outset in his speech at Pentecost in Acts 2:23, let’s now fold in two of Paul’s own remarks concerning objects of the divine knowledge:

1 Corinthians 8:3

3Now if anyone is loving God, this one gets known by Him.”

2 Timothy 2:19

19Howbeit, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knew those who are His, and, Let everyone who is naming the name of the Lord withdraw from injustice.”

Hmmm. So it would appear that both our getting known and getting designatedbeforehand”—i.e., our destiny as sons of God—is inextricably linked to Christ’s own having gotten foreknown and getting designatedbeforehand” as God’s Son. Evidently this title, although specified in previous prophetic Scripture, was only made evident and real in history by God’s unleashing the power of justice that raised him from the dead. What stupendous wisdom this demonstrated before the eyes of the watching universe! The vicious deed of the Cross uniquely allowed God to unload a vast wealth of graciousness on Jesus to pay him back for his losses, and some! Moreover, this blessing overflows to us “in Him” (v. 4), “in the Beloved” (v. 6). This is why God’s graciousness gets so much press and praise in the New Testament. Our enjoyment of it is purely a function of our being “inChrist and staying there! It takes effect by our believing the proclamation about his Cross/Resurrection and continuing to believe to the very end of the ordeals of our life. Our success is never presumptuously to be taken for granted. God granted us Jesus, yes; he even granted us the sin of killing him (!); but far more, he granted us the Holy Spirit which he repaid Jesus in abundance for bearing those very sins of abuse and execution. These are all gifts, to be sure. But our starting and continuing to accept these gifts is not automatically granted, for that would override the authority of will or ‘willpower’ or personal choice that God granted us constitutionally as creatures made in his own image—a trait he evidently honors as necessary not merely for our humanness, but equally for our maturation as sons of God, even at the risk of its painful and even prematurely fatal misuses. However, once we do believe his powerfully inSpired Story, he does grant additional power from his Spirit. Those who accept the inherently powerful Explanation of his historic graciousness in the Gospel are granted further graciousness via his Spirit! “Graciousness in exchange for graciousness” (John 1:16). So all who accept God’s Written Invitation by faith and get immersed, simultaneously get regenerated and born above in the New Jerusalem, where our new citizenship gets established. Notice how Peter draws these themes together in a mighty flourish of exuberance at the very start of the same chapter of his epistle that I cited above:

1 Peter 1:1-6

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the expatriates of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia, 2chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, in holiness of Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ [i.e., the objective for choosing them]:

May graciousness and peace be multiplied to you!

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His vast mercy, regenerates us into a living expectation, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, 4for the enjoyment of an allotment incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, kept in the heavens for you 5who are garrisoned by the power of God, through faith [in the powerful Gospel!], for salvation ready to be revealed in the last era, in which you are exulting…”

In passing, we observe that only Peter writes about God’s foreknowledge concerning Christ (and that to kick off Pentecost!). Both Peter and Paul write about God’s foreknowledge of believers, the chosen, as well as about His designating beforehand both Christ and those whom God graciously chooses in Christ because of their foreknown faith. Bear in mind that such faith is not manufactured by any human effort but is generated solely by learning the Proclamation about God exalting his only-born Son by justly raising him from unjust death and, through his ascension, to the pinnacle of royal glory/credit at God’s right hand. There was no lack of eye-witnesses and corroborating testimony of different sorts, including miraculous, prophetic, visionary, and angelic. This Report is uniquely invested with the power to draw and conciliate sinners to God by evoking staunch faith that can endure the storms of life, whether temptations, afflictions, persecutions, what have you. Hence, what God is in fact “foreknowing” is the natural regenerative effects of his own incorruptible, living, and permanent Seed—the Declaration of the Gospel as originally inspired by the Holy Spirit and now inscripturated for candid human review and global circulation.

That Story is the invariable factor in the formula; the ground condition is the variable factor. Here we can be reminded of Jesus’ parable of the soils/grounds in Matthew 13:3-23. The Seed is one and unvarying (although it is only fair to factor in the troublesome element of diverse and conflicting traditions of translation and interpretation which invariably seem to get dragged alongside like a ball and chain), yet receptivity of the Good Seed is dependent on the prior quality and condition of the ground—symbolic of human hearts. A good farmer knows her soils. Even so, she also knows that some excellent seed will be lost in various ways and not bring its expected fruit, no matter how diligent she may be to practice proper cultivation and conservation. So also, God certainly knows his soils. Therefore he also foreknows those that will not resist, devalue, get deprived of, or suffer destruction of his quality Seed, but will respond positively, appropriately, to his powerful (but not too overwhelming) Gospel by falling in love with him. God foreknows those that love him.

Meanwhile, back in Ephesians 1:11 Paul writes about the “purpose” (prothesis—‘pre-placement’) which God “purposed” (protithemi‘pre-placed’, v. 9) in Christ, according to which we were “designated beforehand” (v. 11). The very form of the Greek word strongly hints that it refers to nothing other than this very “sonship” (huiothesia‘son-placement’)!

The “plan” (v. 11) of God’s desire also makes its appearance in this passage as it did in Acts 2 and 4. And although it necessitated the shame of his own Son, it issued in “many sons” who eventually would be “for the praise of His glory/credit” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14)—the diametric opposite of that humiliation!—and therefore would make it all worthwhile. From his toil of soul he shall see descendents and be satisfied by such knowledge (Isaiah 53:10-12).

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Untangling “Predestination” — Part 1

for Marie

(For the stimulus to write this paper, I wish to acknowledge discussions with my daughter Marie, who was drawn into the perennial issue by a theology course in the fall semester of 2008 at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

The Greek word translated “predestination” (prohorizo) in many English versions of the New Testament is built on the root word, horizo, from which the English word ‘horizon’ comes, i.e., the distant “termination” point of sight. Hence the common translation, “determine.” A. E. Knoch renders it “specify” or “designate” in the Concordant Literal New Testament (CLNT). I will begin my analysis with the eight occurrences of horizo in the New Testament. After that I will treat the six N.T. uses of prohorizo. All theologically relevant passages containing these two words are in red type. However, the remaining passages containing these words are still linguistically relevant since they display common usages from daily life that throw light on its normal range of meaning. I have highlighted in variously colored typefaces other recurring elements of the relevant contexts that throw further light on interpretation. For convenient reference, I will use these bold and color features throughout. I quote the CLNT version, but with some of my own alterations of vocabulary and grammar. (For example: rendering the Greek ‘middle voice’ by adding forms of the English helping verb ‘get’—a generally unrecognized yet common way of forming the English equivalent of the ‘middle voice’. This serves quite well in translating the New Testament, and, though occasionally awkward, is usually illuminating.).

HORIZOSpecify/Designate

Luke 22:22

“…22the Son of Mankind is indeed going, just as it has been specified. However, woe to that person through whom he is getting surrendered!”

Notice the term that Matthew and Mark use in their parallel passages:

Matthew 26:24

24The Son of Mankind is indeed going away just as it is written concerning him, yet woe to that person through whom the Son of Mankind is getting surrendered! Ideal were it for him if that person were not born!”

Mark 14:21

“…21the Son of Mankind is indeed going away just as it is written concerning him, yet woe to that person through whom the Son of Mankind is getting surrendered! Ideal were it for him if that person were not born!”

This comparison suggests that Luke has in mind what was specified in writing, i.e., in Old Testament Scripture. The event prophesied (in blue) refers, of course, to his departure by crucifixion. Yet that’s only part of the complete scope of what was pre-specified in Scripture. Now let’s look at Luke’s other usages of the word in the book of Acts. (In each case, if the text indicates, I have underlined both the thing or person specified or designated as well as the agent responsible.)

Acts 2:23 (Peter speaking on the Day of Pentecost)

22This One, given up in the specific plan and foreknowledge [proginosko—‘pre-knowledge’] of God, you, gibbeting by the hand of the lawless, assassinate, whom God raises, loosing the pangs of death, forasmuch as it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

This message of Peter’s emphasizes the evils of Christ’s surrender, gibbeting, and assassination—mainly as poignant backdrop for an honest and credible resurrection.

Acts 10:40-43 (Peter speaking in the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion)

40This One God raises the third day, and gives him to become disclosed, 41not to the entire people, but to witnesses who have been selected before [proteneo—‘pre-selected’] by God, to us who ate and drank together with him after his rising from among the dead. 42And he charges us to herald to the people and to get certified that this One is he who has gotten specified by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43To this One are all the prophets [prophetespreasserters’] testifying: Everyone who is believing in him is to obtain the pardon of sins through his name.”

Here the “horizon” of what was “pre-horizoned” stretches out before us to embrace the Son’s Judgeship (in which the adopted sons also participate, according to 2 Corinthians 6)!

Acts 11:29-30

29Now just as any of the disciples thrived, each of them designate something to send to the brethren dwelling in Judea, for dispensing, which they do also, 30dispensing to the elders through the hand of Barnabas and Saul.”

Acts 17:26-27 (Paul speaking to Greeks in the Areopagus on Mars Hill)

26Besides, He makes out of one every nation of mankind, to be dwelling on all the surface of the earth, specifying the setting of the seasons and the bounds of their dwelling, 27for them to be seeking God, if, consequently, they may surely grope for Him and may be finding Him, though to be sure, not far from each one of us is He inherent…”

Acts 17:30-31 (Paul continues)

30Indeed, then, condoning the times of ignorance, God is now charging mankind that all everywhere are to repent, 31forasmuch as He assigns a day in which He is about to be judging the inhabited earth in righteousness by the Man whom He specifies, tendering faith to all, raising him from among the dead

The usage in Acts 2, in light of Luke 22, clarifies that Scripture is where the plan was specified in writing. The Acts 17 passages are from Paul’s famous speech on Mars Hill in Athens where, because his audience comprised educated Greeks, he never quotes the Hebrew Scriptures at all, but only Greek philosophers (notably, Epimenides of Crete, Cleanthes the Stoic and Aratus of Cilicia) to make his points. This probably explains why he does not outright declare Jesus as “the Man” to Whom “all the prophets are testifying,” as Peter does in his speech in the house of Cornelius in Acts 10, above, because Jewish prophets would carry no weight with these sophisticated Greeks. (Cornelius, though a Roman, was said to be “devout and fearing God with his entire household, doing many alms to the people and beseeching God continually…” Acts 10:2. Therefore he would obviously be familiar with and respectful toward the Jewish Scriptures.) Notice how this message of Paul’s in Acts 17 reinforces Peter’s message in Acts 10 about Christ being specified by virtue of his being raised from among the dead to be judging the earth.

Romans 1:1-5

1Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, a called apostle, severed for the proclamation of God 2(which He promises before [proepangello—pre-promises’] through His prophets [prophetes—pre-asserters’] in the holy Scriptures), 3concerning His Son (Who comes from [ek] the seed of David according to the flesh, 4Who is designated Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by [ek] resurrection of the dead), Jesus Christ, our Lord, 5through whom we obtained graciousness…”

There is a lot going on here. Notice the “pre” words, whose primary references go no farther back than the Old Testament. Notice also the interesting use of “ek” to distinguish the respective means by which he was born “according to the flesh” and “according to the Spirit”. The resurrection was the Spirit’s means of “birthing” Jesus as Son of God! Thus Paul forges a link between Christ’s being “designated Son of God” and his “resurrection”. Here we get “the rest of the Story” that unfolded under the thrust of God’s pre-designated plan. In fact, all three relevant passages in Acts include this element of Jesus’ “raising” or “resurrection” (unrelated Greek synonyms). Then in Peter’s speech he is designatedJudge.” As we have already observed, this nicely parallels Paul’s statement in Acts 17 that “the Man” was assigned a “judging” role, i.e., to be a Judge. These observations imply that the designation foretold in ancient prophecy testified to future events that would somehow pinpoint the identity or role of the designated person. This function also holds for Acts 2, although since this is an extended speech the assigned titles are delayed until verse 36, which says:

Acts 2:36 (Peter speaking)

36Let all the house of Israel know certainly, then, that God makes him Lord as well as Christ [Messiah]this Jesus whom you crucify!

The role of the Lord as Judge is mentioned in other Scriptures, too, so here we have an illuminating convergence of testimony. Even the titles Paul uses in Romans 1:4 may possibly be intended for inclusion in this designation. It will be helpful to recall these titles later in order to more satisfactorily re-interpret ‘predestination’.

Hebrews 4:7

“…7He is again specifying a certain day, ‘Today’—saying in David [in Psalm 95:7-8] after so much time, just as has been declared before:

‘Today, if ever His voice you should be hearing,

You should not be hardening your hearts’.” [that is, against the evidence/testimony of the voice]

Notice again that the specification was stated in a written Scripture from the Old Testament that could be referred to by later generations. Moreover, “a certain day” refers, as is common biblical shorthand, to a day of Judgment, as in Acts 17:31. This throws linguistic light on the usage of our word in the more elaborative passages, where it refers diversely to either: 1) the planned and foreknown events surrounding the Cross and Resurrection or 2) the Person who underwent this Satanic human abuse and divine vindication. Nothing else or more is either stated or further implied by these Scriptures in connection with horizo. But more particularly with reference to the notion of “predestination,” neither this passage nor Acts 11:29-30 and Acts 17:26-27, which contain the other two common uses of horizo, will easily allow for its translation as “destine.” Yet we should have been able to expect a comfortable fit if “prohorizo” really does mean “predestine.” Thus these common usages lend valuable linguistic testimony against the translation (and, as we shall see, even against the very idea of) ‘predestination’.

With the above as background, we may now turn to the term of pivotal interest for the alleged “doctrine of predestination.”

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Reflections on Excerpts from *DOCTOR WHO AND THE DOOMSDAY WEAPON, by Malcolm Hulke

In celebration of this 5th Anniversary of the Premial Atonement blog site, my mind travels yet further back to 1974 (through the marvels of TARDIS technology) and the arrival of Doctor Who in Sector 27 of a planet being newly colonized by people threatened by the criminal encroachments of the Interplanetary Mining Company (IMC). Yes, it’s the same old same old story tragically repeating itself on one virgin planetoid after another—many a courageous community of settlers attempting a sustainable livelihood, being literally undermined by ravenous companies out only for outsized profits at any cost, including that of ‘mere’ human life. You know the routine…unless you’re a devotee of FOX so-called news:

‘The big mining companies don’t bother about people’s rights,’ said Leeson, full of bitterness. ‘They move in, rip the minerals out of a planet, and move on somewhere else. It happened to the planet we got our seed from.’…

…’If it happens here and we even have time to complain to Earth Government, there’ll be no decision from Earth till the miners have finished their job. There won’t be anything left to have rights about!’ [p. 29]

The plot unfolds with growing intrigue as forces of good and evil entwine and tension builds. In chapter 15, “Primitive City,” an instructive dialogue unfolds between the Guardian, a doll-like humanoid figure anciently charged with protecting some fateful structure inside the planet, and Doctor Who, along with his young female assistant, Jo Grant, who had been getting bored with her stalled career plans to become a spy. Their conversation gets embroiled in issues of personal sacrifice, condemnation of the innocent, just laws, the value and purpose of life, the right to continue living, etc.—just what you’d expect from a Time Lord desperately laboring to outwit the grim ratiocinations of legalistic security personnel. Thus a discourse is set up that will play out dramatically in the denouement.

‘I am the Guardian,’ said the little doll figure that seemed to float in the flames. ‘Why have you entered this place?’

‘I was brought here,’ answered Jo.

‘And I came to take her back,’ said the Doctor. ‘May I ask what it is that you guard?’

The Guardian ignored the Doctor’s question. ‘All intruders in this city must die. That is the law.’

‘The race who built this city,’ said the Doctor urgently, ‘were intelligent and civilized. Their laws would not condemn the innocent.’

‘The law must be obeyed,’ said the Guardian.

‘Surely all true laws must be based on justice?’ the Doctor argued. ‘We are strangers to this planet. All we ask is to be allowed to go.’

The Guardian seemed to consider this point. Then it spoke again: ‘You are of superior intelligence, so you may go free.’

Jo hugged the Doctor. ‘Thanks,’ she said to the Guardian.

‘But you,’ the Guardian said to Jo, ‘are of no value. I shall give you to the servants for a sacrifice. It amuses them.’

‘I refuse to leave without her,’ said the Doctor. ‘I am responsible for her safety.’

‘And I,’ said the Guardian, ‘am responsible for the safety of that which I guard.’

‘Does the amusement of your servants warrant the death of an intelligent being?’ said the Doctor.

Again the Guardian seemed to weigh up the doctor’s words before answering. ‘I was sacrificed, and I still live.’

‘Not all are like you,’ said the Doctor, ‘so that is no argument.’

‘I appreciate logic,’ said the Guardian. ‘Is this creature you protect of some value?’

‘She is life,’ said the Doctor. ‘That which is living is always of value. It cannot be replaced.’

‘Therefore,’ said the Guardian, who seemed to be enjoying this debate, ‘do you not eat?’

‘I regret, sir,’ said the Doctor, ‘I do not understand your question.’

‘If you eat flesh then the life of that flesh ceases to exist,’ said the Guardian.

Jo clung to the Doctor’s arm. ‘Tell him we’ll be vegetarians from now on.’

‘I understand your remark,’ said the Guardian. ‘But if one eats vegetation, that too dies. What is your answer to that?’

Jo whispered desperately to the Doctor. ‘Doctor, just plead for my life! I have a right to live!’

‘It’s no good,’ whispered the Doctor. ‘The Guardian only understands logic. Leave this to me.’ He turned back to the little doll creature that floated in the white hot flames. ‘I concede your point, Guardian. All nature kills to eat, but that is for the purpose of continuing life in another form. To throw this girl into those flames would be to extinguish life totally.’

The Guardian thought for a full minute before replying. ‘You make good argument. Both of you may now leave. You will not be harmed.’ Slowly the Guardian faded back into the flames. [pp. 119-121]

We pick up the thread again after events further complicate. Chapter 19 begins:

John Ashe [the acknowledged older leader of the colonists] lay in bed, trying to read in order to calm his troubled mind. He had brought two books with him from Earth: one was on agriculture, from the days before all Earth’s food was taken from the seas; the other was a copy of something written thousands of years ago, and was largely about someone called God. It was this second book he now tried to read, not because he really understood it, but because the strange language fascinated him. It contained four versions of a story about a man who sacrificed his own life for the sake of others. It was this part of the book that most interested Ashe, because it was so difficult to understand. Why, he asked himself, should anyone willingly give his own life for other people? [p. 137]

Hold that thought. After several more chapters, the plot brings us back to the underground chamber, facing the hatch of the white-hot electronic furnace where the Guardian first appeared.

The Guardian addressed itself to the Doctor. ‘Why have you returned?’

‘I was brought here against my will,’ said the Doctor.

The Master [a malevolent renegade Time Lord bent on ruling the universe] still couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘What is it?’ he asked the Doctor quietly. ‘How can it live in that heat?’

‘I think it’s the ultimate development of life on this planet,’ the Doctor whispered.

‘You,’ said the Guardian, looking at the Master, ‘what do you want here?’

The Master smiled. ‘To restore this city and this planet to their former glory. You have here a wonderful invention. With it we can bring peace and order to every inhabited world in the Universe. Your planet will be the centre of a mighty empire, the greatest the cosmos has ever known.’

‘This invention,’ said the Guardian slowly, ‘has destroyed us. Once the weapon had been built our race began to decay. The radiation from its power source poisoned the soil and even the upper atmosphere.’

‘Exactly,’ said the Doctor. ‘The weapon has only brought death.’ He pointed at the Master. ‘This man wants to spread that death throughout the Universe. Only you can stop him. You must destroy the weapon.’

‘I am the Guardian of the weapon, and its radiation gives me life.’

‘Then I am afraid,’ said the Doctor, ‘you must give up your own life so that others may survive.’

‘Don’t listen to such rubbish,’ said the Master. ‘You can continue to live, and I shall protect you! With the Doomsday Weapon, I shall protect all the Universe.’

‘Against what,’ said the Guardian, ‘will you protect the Universe?’

The question took the Master off balance. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘against anyone who tries to attack it.’

‘But the Universe is all matter in Space,’ said the Guardian. ‘So what can attack that which is everything?’

‘I…I shall protect it against itself,’ said the Master, desperately wishing to get out of this discussion. ‘I shall protect it against evil-doers.’

The Guardian said nothing for some moments. Then, it spoke again, ‘The price is too high, the risk too great. The weapon is too terrible to be under the control of any creature that might use it.’

‘Surely it is under your control?’ said the Master, who clearly now doubted whether the Guardian actually controlled the weapon.’

‘No,’ said the Guardian. ‘I am only the Guardian. I have the power, as you saw, to destroy that small metal weapon with which you menaced your companion, but I have no power to destroy you. The controls of the Doomsday Weapon are at your side, there for you to command.’

The Master looked at the control console. ‘Then I am now the master of the Universe,’ he said. He strode over to the controls filled with a sense of victory and total power. ‘That planet you so favour,’ he said to the Doctor, ‘the one called Earth, can become a cloud of ashes at my touch. Even the Daleks will tremble when they know my power!’

‘But this is not to be,’ said the Guardian. It turned to the Doctor. ‘This man proves you are right. The Doomsday Weapon is not only evil, but it creates evil in others. It must be destroyed. And therefore I must die.’

The little doll-like figure of the Guardian began to fade back into the flames. The Master swung round to the open hatch. ‘Just a minute,’ he shouted, ‘you and I can make an arrangement, I didn’t really mean to use the weapon, only to frighten a few worlds.’ The Guardian was already only half visible in the flames. ‘Please come back,’ screamed the Master. ‘I am very clever. I may be able to restore you to the creature you were before you get so small and lived in those flames.’ Only the head of the Guardian was now visible. ‘Let’s discuss this a little longer! Please don’t go away!’ But the image of the Guardian had now vanished completely. The Master turned away from the hatch, angry that he had shown himself so upset in front of the Doctor. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve still got the Doomsday Weapon. Do you wish to share it with me?’

‘I somehow think,’ said the Doctor, ‘that very shortly there will be nothing to share…’

The Doctor’s words were swamped by a terrible roaring sound from within the furnace. A blistering wave of heat swept out from the hatch. Then the first sheet of flame burst from the hatch. The whole room started to tremble! The Master stared unbelieving at the now belching furnace. ‘You fool,’ he screamed, ‘you’re destroying yourself! You’re destroying the Doomsday Weapon!’

‘And it’ll destroy us if we don’t get out of here,’ said the Doctor. Another great sheet of flame burst from the furnace. The room trembled violently and a huge crack appeared down one of its silvery-coloured metal walls. ‘If you don’t mind, I’m leaving before we get roasted to death. I suggest you do the same.’

The Doctor ran to the doors, then realized the Master was not following him. He turned back to see the Master still staring at the furnace as though mesmerized. ‘Come on, man,’ he called, ‘you’ll be killed!’ The room trembled again as in an earthquake. Flames were now bursting from the furnace. ‘We’ve got to get away!’ called the Doctor.

The Master turned to him. ‘The Doomsday Weapon,’ he said, ‘it will never me mine.’ Then he followed the Doctor. As they left the room flames spewed out from the hatch engulfing the control console. [pp. 156-159]

‘Doctor?’ It was Jo, running down one of the corridors towards them, Caldwell [IMC’s mining expert, who had lost confidence in the legitimacy of its mission] behind her. ‘Are you all right?’

‘None of us is all right,’ said the Doctor, trying to read the map and understand it, ‘not while we’re down here.’

‘What’s happening?’ said Caldwell.

‘I think the whole place is going to explode,’ said the Doctor. He looked up from the map, ‘I think we may find an exit this way.’ He grabbed Jo’s arm and started running again. As they left the spot, the rock wall fell in. [pp. 159-160]

‘So much for your interest in science,’ said the Master, hurrying along behind the Doctor and Jo. ‘The most powerful machine ever created in the Universe, and you let that fool Guardian destroy it all.’

‘Science like that’ said the Doctor, ‘is something we can all do without.’

Captain Dent [Captain of the IMC spaceship] stepped out from behind a boulder, his gun raised. ‘Stop!’ He signaled with his free hand. IMC men carrying their high-powered guns appeared from all sides. Dent turned to Caldwell. ‘Thank you for leading them to us. Now stand over there.’

Caldwell stood speechless. Jo knew by his expression that he had no knowledge of the ambush. Resigned, he walked over to the spot indicated by Captain Dent. The Master walked up to Dent.

‘Congratulations, Captain Dent,’ said the Master. ‘You’re just in time. Put these people under arrest.’

‘Get back with your accomplices,’ ordered Dent, and pointed his gun directly at the Master.

‘You don’t understand,’ the Master protested, ‘I’m the official Adjudicator, sent here by Earth Government.’

Morgan [an ambitious younger officer] stepped forward, also armed. ‘You’re an imposter. Now get back.’ He pushed the Master back in line with the Doctor and Jo. Then he turned to the IMC guards. ‘All right, firing squad, step forward!’

Six IMC guards lined up in front of the Doctor, Jo, and the Master. They raised their guns, ready for the order.

‘You’re insane,’ said Caldwell, speaking to both Dent and Morgan. ‘You’re murderers!’

Dent turned to him. ‘Caldwell, if we didn’t need you as our mining expert, you’d be over there with them. So shut up!’ He turned to the IMC guards. ‘Take aim!’

Suddenly Winton’s [a young leader of the colonists] voice called out from somewhere among the surrounding boulders. ‘Drop those guns, all of you!’

Dent turned and fired wildly. All around colonists rose up from behind the boulders shooting at the IMC men. The Doctor grabbed Jo to pull her to safety. The IMC men fired at any colonist’s head they could see appearing over the boulders. But they had to fire from crouching positions in the open, whereas the colonists all had the protection of the ring of great rocks. Morgan fell dead as a colonist’s bullet hit him, and Captain Dent’s gun was shot from his hand. Within moments half the IMC men were either dead or wounded.

‘Surrender,’ called Winton. ‘You will not be killed.’

‘We give in,’ Dent shouted. He called to what remained of the IMC guards. ‘Throw down your guns!’

The IMC men dropped their guns, and raised their hands in surrender. Now, from all sides, colonists appeared from behind the boulders. Winton ran forward to the Doctor and Jo. ‘Are you two all right?’

Jo let Winton help her to her feet. ‘But the spaceship,’ she said, ‘it exploded.’

‘Captain Dent left one lookout to make sure no one should escape by leaving the ship,’ said Winton. ‘I stayed behind and knocked him out. That let all the others get out of the ship to safety before it took off.’

‘Did you make it take off by remote-control?’ asked the Doctor.

Winton shook his head. ‘No. John Ashe went up with it. He insisted on doing so. He gave his life for the sake of the rest of us.’ He shrugged. ‘Maybe he was a bit crazy.’

‘Perhaps,’ said the Doctor, ‘or a saint.’ [pp. 160-162]

The colonists stood in a circle around the big grave they had dug a little way from the main dome. Most of the IMC men had been safely locked up in their spaceship, ready to be sent back to Earth. But Captain Dent, Caldwell, and three guards were present at the ceremony to bury their own dead. Colonists and IMC guards killed in the final battle were laid side by side in the grave. Gentle rain fell from the clouds, soaking the colonist’s poor clothing and making the dusty soil turn into mud. When all the bodies were in the grave everybody turned to Winton, expecting him now to speak as John Ashe had done before. He turned to the Doctor. ‘You say something,’ he pleaded.

‘No,’ said the Doctor, ‘it has to come from one of you. This is your land now.’

Winton turned to face the colonists and the IMC men who stood sullenly as prisoners on the other side of the communal grave. ‘I don’t know how to make speeches,’ he said, ‘but I can tell you how I feel. Our people didn’t die for nothing. To get anything worth having, like freedom, sometimes you have to fight, and sometimes you have to die. So now it’s up to us to make this colony work, for the sake of the people who died.’ He paused, then turned to the five IMC prisoners. ‘Your people died for the wrong things, but I’m still sorry they got killed.’ He looked down into the grave. ‘There’s one man missing—John Ashe. We can’t bury him, but we can always remember him. He died so that we could live.’ [p. 164]

It was soon time for the Doctor and Jo to leave the brave pioneers to their tasks.

The Doctor thanked the man and then hurried over to Jo. “I know where the TARDIS is. I think it’s time to go.’

Jo was busy pouring tea for the others. ‘But there are so many things to do here, Doctor. Are we in a hurry?’

‘Stay if you want to,’ he said to her. ‘But I’ll never be able to explain it to the Brigadier [Lethbridge-Stewart, of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), at whose headquarters the Doctor operated a laboratory].’

Jo Smiled. “All right. I’ll just say goodbye to everybody.’

The Doctor checked her. ‘No. They’ll all start asking where we came from again. Let’s just slip out while they’re enjoying their victory.’ He took Jo’s hand and together they went out of the dome. The rain had stopped now, and the sun was shining brilliantly.

‘Look!’ said Jo in wonder. ‘It’s all green!’

As far as the eye could see the one-time impoverished land was shooting up tiny blades of grass. Even the little shrub plants had grown new leaves.

‘We’d better be quick getting to the TARDIS,’ the Doctor laughed. ‘The speed things can grow here, we may find ourselves having to cut through a jungle!’

They hurried away from the dome. [pp. 165-166]

*London: A Target Book/the Paperback Division of W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd, 1974. Based on the BBC television serial Doctor Who and the Colony in Space by Malcolm Hulke, by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Ah, well, I suppose I should have issued a spoiler alert since I’ve given away the climax of this surprising book. My daughter dropped no hint about these plot elements when she gave me the used paperback, although she read it before passing it along. I hope I will be forgiven for giving away the ending of this old series of TV episodes, especially in view of its age. I confess, stumbling across a reference to the central theme of Jesus’ career in this extremely popular British science fiction/adventure/comedy series—the longest-running series in television history—was startlingly unexpected, and delightfully so. Many fine screenwriters have contributed to its success, including Douglas Adams (who, coincidentally was also born on March 11), originator of the outrageously funny The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

So why would a writer fetch way back to the first century for a theme? For one thing, it’s perennial. Western civilization is profoundly influenced by the New Testament narrative. This author gives it a fresh twist by situating his own story far into the future and by indicating that by then it had become forgotten out of memory as the common heritage of the colonists’ civilization. Science, exploitative industries, doomsday weapon—sure, these we know. But Jesus?

Malcolm Hulke (1924-1979), whose “scripts for Doctor Who were known for avoiding black-and-white characterization and simplistic plotting” and “were noted for providing a wealth of additional background detail and character depth” (according to Wikipedia), evidently saw an intriguing way of giving the old, old story a bit of a comeback. “Man Bites Dog”—now there’s a headline that might still make the news. But the heart of the Gospel may by now have become somewhat hackneyed even by comparison with that old cliché. However, I don’t have to try too hard to remind myself that multitudes of American schoolchildren are migrating through our educational system without even a passing acquaintance with the old Story. How is “The Bible as Literature” faring in schools these days? And that’s not even taking into account immigrants of Islamic heritage who may never be “forced” to confront the Bible firsthand in school. And if not there, then where?

So I’m cheered by Hulke’s venture into ancient recollection and re-framing. I’m one to cheer on further adaptations, too. Naturally, certain elements may get highlighted and others dropped for artistic purposes. This process raises questions about the motivational effects of any particular blend of narrative elements. Such attempts suggest interesting questions about the shape of the original narrative, and whether even traditional theological processing has really done that Story justice.

Hulke necessarily gives his own context for the “four versions of a story about a man who sacrificed his own life for the sake of others” that John Ashe reads “in order to calm his troubled mind.” He accomplishes this in the conversation among the Guardian, the Doctor, and Jo. The Doctor insists that all laws should be based on justice, so any arbitrary sacrifice of human life is out of the question. The Guardian alleges that he was sacrificed yet managed to stay alive, but the Doctor counters that the Guardian is a different form of life than most in the universe, so is an exception to the observation that sacrifice kills life.

However, it is interesting to note that the Guardian, having survived being sacrificed (which the novel does not explore further) is indeed an exceptional form of life that can endure the conditions of the electronic furnace. (In the excerpt that followed, the Doctor ventures the opinion, “I think it’s the ultimate development of life on this planet.”) Not exactly the sort of immortality we may wish for, but evidently a superior sort of survival than before. So although this is not resurrection in the fully Biblical sense, it is an artfully contrived demi-form that moves the narrative suggestively along to its finale.

The ‘logic’ of the Doctor finally prevails when he argues that the sacrifices of life we observe in the plant and animal realms are “for the purpose of continuing life in another form,” and not simply “to extinguish life totally.” This dialogue should be kept in mind as the plot unfolds.

John Ashe found it difficult to understand why anyone should “willingly give his own life for other people.” The supplied earlier context hints at why, but he was not in on that exchange. Yet the very difficulty of understanding the reasoning of the story is what makes it so intriguing for him. The following page of this chapter explains that the colonists had become alienated from Ashe, but he “believed that with patience he could win back the support of the colonists. He knew Winton meant well, but the colony needed Ashe’s calmness and maturity. He got back onto his bed, and tried once more to read his book” (p. 138). He was pondering how to conciliate his fellow colonists.

The third excerpt above brings the evil Master into the conversation with the Guardian. In the interests of his takeover of the Universe with the assistance of the Doomsday Weapon, the Master attempts to ingratiate himself with the Guardian, declaring his intention “To restore this city and this planet to their former glory.” Ah, yes. To make it “great again!” Where have we heard that before (well, if not before 1972, when this novel actually appeared, certainly before 2972, when this episode is fictionally set)? Fat chance of that happening during this guy’s watch!

However, here the Guardian reveals that the planet’s previous civilization built the weapon. But the leaking of radiation from it has actually poisoned the planet, including its former inhabitants, except for a few primitives and mutant priests, so that it only sustains most living forms with great difficulty. And although the Guardian itself thrives on this energy, it is eventually deadly to other forms. Accordingly, the Doctor issues a gentle and noble but unwelcome ultimatum to the Guardian” ‘[Y]ou must give up your own life so that others may survive.’ The Master’s response is faintly reminiscent of Genesis 3: ‘Don’t listen to such rubbish,’ said the Master. ‘You can continue to live….’

During the course of the ensuing dialogue with the self-aggrandizing Master, his dastardly intentions are betrayed when the Guardian unreels enough rope to let him hang himself by his own words. It then becomes all too evident that the Doctor was, strictly speaking, correct. And since the Guardian is a creature of strict logic, he faces the Doctor and unemotionally concludes, à la Spock: ‘This man proves you are right. The Doomsday Weapon is not only evil, but it creates evil in others. It must be destroyed. And therefore I must die.’ In short order, the Doomsday Weapon starts to self-destruct, and the others flee for their lives.

Meanwhile, the colonists, who had been forced by the IMC troops into their old spacecraft in preparation for staging a takeoff that would deliberately doom the occupants, had all been secretly rescued. However, it was deemed necessary for liftoff to occur as scheduled in order to mount a surprise attack on the IMC’s armed forces. John Ashe volunteered to undertake this diversion…at the calculated cost of his own life. His suicide mission accomplished, the colonists proved victorious and regained possession of the planet.

Now notice how the author handles this heroic deed:

‘Did you make it take off by remote-control?’ asked the Doctor.

Winton shook his head. ‘No. John Ashe went up with it. He insisted on doing so. He gave his life for the sake of the rest of us.’ He shrugged. ‘Maybe he was a bit crazy.’

‘Perhaps,’ said the Doctor, ‘or a saint.’

Ashe gave his life for the sake of the rest…so that they could live. He had determined to follow in the steps of the Man he read about in the old book. Such a deed may still look “a bit crazy,” especially if a remote-control takeoff could have been engineered to pre-empt its necessity. This is worth a bit more analysis.

Books on the nature of the Atonement will often criticize the so-called exemplary theory of atonement as deficient on the grounds that if Christ had merely intended by getting crucified to set an example of divine love for us to follow in his steps, such a deed still would not have actually “dealt with the problem of sin.” Such a deed is likened to a person plunging into a deadly rapids in order to demonstrate love…but without actually managing to save another person from otherwise certain drowning in those rapids. Something more is called for.

Point taken. It would indeed be “a bit crazy” to risk death unless it resulted in life for others. Lifeguards are trained (full disclosure: I was so trained) to save others without losing their own lives in the bargain. But the point, in any case, is precisely to save lives, not to die unnecessarily. If there is to be a crucifixion, it must be necessary somehow so as to save other lives, not simply as a gratuitous spectacle of self-immolation. It must be efficacious for the sake of others. Such a self-sacrificing deed would be worthy of a “saint.”

In the story before us, if the spaceship could have been launched successfully by remote-control, without compromising the ultimate mission of saving the colonists and neutralizing their enemies, then for John Ashe to pilot it to its fiery end was merely suicidal without being necessary. For him to “insist” on going up despite knowing it was unnecessary would have been truly “a bit crazy,” and not “for the sake of the rest of us.” A nagging ambiguity therefore attends the above quotation.

That said, I would give the author the benefit of the doubt on this point. Perhaps Ashe wanted this liftoff operation to be more fail-safe than the old rickety ship—for that’s how it’s described in the book—seemed to justify. That would make his risk more necessary.

In any case, if Ashe, realistically speaking, can be assumed to have had sufficient time behind the scenes to delve into the four versions of the story that so captivated him, he could have arrived at the answer to his question, “Why…should anyone willingly give his own life for other people?” For Christ well knew that by surrendering to the benign will of his Father, and accordingly surrendering to the murderous will of those he came to save, God would avenge him of that heinous injustice by doing him the justice of raising him from the dead to superabundant immortal life, first of all, and thereby supplying him with an overflowing bounty of the Holy Spirit to give away in graciousness to anyone who would believe this life-giving Proclamation! For the Gospel explicitly promises believers our own individual resurrection from the dead—this is the very essence of our salvation. This fact puts a rational spin on the sacrifice of this present life. And all the more so if it means that others can continue to live out more of their present lives rather than dying prematurely.

If this scenario be granted, then the force of Winton’s final solemn words at the graveside is preserved at full value: ‘There’s one man missing—John Ashe. We can’t bury him, but we can always remember him. He died so that we could live.’

However, significantly, I think, Malcolm Hulke does not end his story there. The final lines of my last excerpt above has new life overtaking the whole planet at record speed! Interestingly, although this seems more a result of the self-sacrifice of the Guardian, it fits hand-in-glove with the self-sacrifice of John Ashe. This elegant little novel has a double-barreled resurrectionary punch! Like the two goats on the ancient Day of Atonement, they unite to tell a singular story of PREMIAL REDEMPTION without a hint of penal subtext. Herein is love. Neither the Guardian nor John Ashe suffered punitively, but voluntarily, in expectation of a vivifying outcome for others. There was no penal substitution in this fine story—only premial inclusion. This, moreover, is my premial conclusion.

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FIFTH ANNIVERSARY BLOG!!!!!

March 11, 2017

Wow!  It’s hard to believe that five years have passed since I launched this blog site.  Just this weekend I finally finished making corrections on the more than three hundred (!) pages that churned out when I decided to print it off as hard copy.  Soon I hope to actually do the online corrections.  There’s nothing that can’t be improved!  As you may have noticed if you have been following this site, I have been back-posting my blog notes and am currently up to about mid March 2015.  Do enjoy, and tell anyone else you think might be edified by its contents!

As a special feature, I am posting the following reflections on one of the series of Doctor Who novels.  My daughter gave me this old episode last Christmas.  Coincidentally, I became a fan wayback (remember the “Wayback Machine” from …was it Crusader Rabbit?) around Christmas 1980.  So last Christmas was the 36th Anniversary of my introduction to Whodom!  Anyway, you’ll see the relevance shortly.

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