This We Believe: Second Helvetic Confession, part V

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woohoo, the Predestination chapters (10 and 11)!!

Okay, I’m a weirdo.

“God has elected us out of grace. From eternity God has freely, and of his mere grace, without any respect to men, predestined or elected the saints whom he wills to save in Christ…” “Therefore, although not on account of any merit of ours, God has elected us, not directly, but in Christ and on account of Christ…” “Finally, the saints are chosen in Christ by God for a definite purpose…that we should be holy and blameless before him in love…” “We are to have a good hope for all. Although God knows who are his, and here and there mention is made of the small number of elect, yet we must hope well of all and not rashly judge any man to be a reprobate….” “And when the Lord was asked whether there were few that should be saved, he does not answer and tell them that few or many should be saved or damned, but rather he exhorts every man to “strive to enter by the narrow door” as if he should say, It is not for you to curiously inquire about these matters…”

See, how great is that? I don’t even have anything to add yet, other than a clarification: remember that predestination is only and solely about salvation, nothing else. It is about God’s action, not ours. It is about God acting to save us before the beginning of the world. It is not about things that happen to us (that’s “foreordination” and is a completely different, and weirder, thing). It’s not about us. It’s certainly not about whether we can judge others. It’s not about whether Christianity is the only way or not. It’s about God. It is supposed to be good news, because we are not able to do anything to earn or lose our salvation, nor to judge others as elect/saved or not.

Now, to the point everyone always makes RE predestination: “if God already saved us and it doesn’t matter what we do, why should we bother trying to be good?” The confession says, “Therefore we do not approve of the impious speeches of some who say, “Few are chosen, and since I do not know whether I am among the number of the few, I will enjoy myself.” Others say, “If I am predestinated and elected by God, nothing can hinder me from salvation, which is already certainly appointed for me, no matter what I do. But if I am in the number of the reprobate, no faith or repentance will help me, since the decree of God cannot be changed. Therefore all doctrines and admonitions are useless.”  The reason for non-approval? Because we are commanded to teach, so that if God should be acting in either our or someone else’s life without our knowledge, we will be ready to live a life worthy of our calling, a life of gratitude in response to God’s grace, a life of following God’s will. In addition, since we cannot know for certain, it is our task to live as close to Christ as possible and be a part of building the kingdom of God and let God deal with the bigger picture. “It is to be held as beyond doubt that if you are in Christ, you are elected.” In other words–live as though you have received grace upon grace! “This is therefore above all to be taught and considered, what great love of the Father toward us is revealed to us in Christ.”

And who is this Christ? He is the one who is before all generation, before eternity, “coequal and consubstatial with the Father, true God.” (aka, the Son is also God, the same substance as the Creator, equal and not subordinate in any way.) He is also “true man, having real flesh…from the seed of Abraham and David…therefore the flesh of Christ was neither imaginary nor brought from heaven.” There have been many people who have asserted over the years that Jesus must have been either a very good man who became God after his death/resurrection, or a god who was only pretending to be human, wearing flesh like a costume. But “we therefore acknowledge two natures or substances, the divine and the human, in one and the same Jesus Christ our Lord. And we say that these are bound and united with one another in such a way that they are not absorbed or confused or mixed, but are united or joined together in one person–the properties of the natures being unimpaired and permanent.” So the divine and human are both fully present and fully real in Jesus, not mixed up into a new third thing, and they are not separable either. “Thus we worship not two but one Christ the Lord. We repeat: one true God and man.” Consubstantial with both the Creator and with us.

Because Jesus was truly human as well as truly divine, we believe “that our Lord truly suffered”–there have been those who insist that was all an act, that all of human life was just God pretending. Similarly, Jesus did not abandon his body in the resurrection. In this truly human and truly divine life, God experiences everything there is to know about human life–hurt, pain, joy, laughter, tears, torture, relationships, love, death. And in resurrection God shows us that love is above all.

What do you think? What questions do you have? What thoughts are sparked? What do you agree with, disagree with, wonder about? How do you think the idea of predestination and the stuff about who and what Jesus is are related–why are they lumped together in this section? What is the good news, to you?

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