or unconditional?


From the book

If Ye Continue, By Guy Duty



Statement of Purpose


This question has been a cause of stormy debate among Biblical interpreters for at least 16 centuries. It has divided the Christian world of theology since the days of the church fathers. Christian denomina­tions today remain sharply divided over it. Doubtless the reader will agree that the truth on this question must be found on one side or the other. Truth is not a house divided against itself:

An impartial truth-seeker accepts facts as he finds them. He has no personal preference. I have no doctrinal preference for any subject taught in the Bible. Let truth be whatever it is about anything. If salvation is unconditional, then I desire to believe it; but we must have proof for our beliefs.

The literature on this subject is immense and highly conflicting. How shall we decide between the two sides? Both claim to be right. What is truth to one interpreter is error to another. Denominational teachers read a Bible text and get different ideas from it. How can we decide what is truth? What shall be the standard of evidence for our conclusion?

A Bible doctrine cannot be established merely by someone making a dogmatic statement. Doctrinal despots have done this for centuries. Even the church fathers were divided on conditional and uncondi­tional salvation. How can we know who was right? (assuming that one was right). We respect the fa­thers but there was much in their writings that leave us on uncertain ground.


The Apostle Paul said, “Prove all things” (I Thess. 5:21), and nothing is more important than to prove our doctrines. So, there must be some way to prove them. If not, then we are adrift on a sea of hopeless confusion.

The point to be proved is whether salvation is conditional or unconditional. I take the position that it is conditional, and will present an array of evi­dence from Genesis to Revelation to prove it. Using the eight world-wide adopted rules of interpretation in the Appendix of this book, I will not only show that my interpretation satisfies all these rules but that the opposing interpretation violates them all.

With these rules of interpretation we shall see there is no contradiction in the Scriptures about salvation, but that the whole Bible is bound to­gether in a harmonious unit of truth concerning it.

It will be helpful to a right understanding of this question to know a few historical facts that lie in the background. The origin and history of a doc­trine are important to the proper understanding of it. Many eminent names are connected with this history but the four most prominent are Augustine, Pelagius, Calvin, and Arminius.

Augustine was a monk of the 5th century (354­-430) in Africa. He is generally considered the great­est of the church fathers, and a theological genius. He was the dominant doctrinal authority of the Middle Ages, and his influence throughout the Chris­tian world of theology has been enormous. He gen­erally controlled the leaders of the church, and his influence extended for more than a thousand years.


Before the creation of the world, God formed the resolution to redeem certain men in Christ and to apply to them his grace. There is a “good pleasure of his (God’s) will,” which has nothing to do with human merits, not even with such as were foreseen by God. On the contrary, the de­termination (propositum) of God is the ground upon which the good will is imparted to this or that one. Predestination is the cause of sal­vation. All saving ordinances are means for re­alizing it, and therefore really serve and benefit only the predestinated.                Only to the elect comes the effectual “peculiar calling of the elect”. All, therefore, rests in the hands of God, depends upon his choice.

Therefore, whoever have in the most provident ordering of God been foreknown, predestinated, called, justified… are now the sons of God and can by no means perish.


The unpredestinated, or foreknown, on the other hand, under all circumstances, fan into ruin, as parts of the niassa perditionis. Even if they appear to be real Christians, called, justified, regenerated through baptism, renewed they will not be saved, because they are not elected. No blame attaches to God; they are alone to blame, as they simply remain given over to their just fate. He who falls, falls by his own will; and he who stands, stands by the will of God. In such God reveals his justice, as in the elect his mercy. No one is saved unless God wills it.

When Augustine was asked why God chooses some for salvation and leaves others for damnation, he replied that it was God’s mysterious will, and that “the creature must bow humbly before his Cre­ator.” ­


When Augustine was confronted with logical ob­jections that exposed the “glaring defects” in his system of interpretation on predestination, he re­plied: “The more difficult this is to understand, the more laudable is the faith that believes it.”

We give due respect to Augustine, but a doctrine is not true because it is adorned with a great name. Augustine, “the oracle of 13 centuries,” was guilty of violating major rules of interpretation in his pre­destination teaching.

Augustine had the serious’ weakness of other prejudiced interpreters. He specialized on those parts of Scripture that seemed to favor his position, but he twisted or ignored other parts that went against him. He laid down rules for his opponents on other doctrines, but he violated the same rules when teach­ing predestination. He warned others about the dangers of distorting the Scriptures, but he was guilty of constantly doing the same on the predestination Scriptures.


Historians friendly to Augustine wrote:

He was badly equipped for the work of exposition.

He knew no Hebrew, and had but a meager knowledge of Greek… This is admitted even by his Benedictine editors… His etymologies are terribly weak. .

[There was] “a multitude of inconsistencies and self-contradictory tendencies in his teachings (e.g., predestination and church,… Christ and grace, grace and sacraments, the knowledge of God and the definition of God, faith, and love, et cetera).”


Some theologians followed the Augustinian ideas on predestination but others saw through his falla­cies. Others partly accepted his theology and were called Semi-Augustinians. During the many-centuries history of this hotly debated doctrine, strong argu­mentation continued from both sides; but for many there was always something obscure, uncertain, and unclear about it. Confusion about the doctrine never ceased nor has it to our day. Multitudes today cannot accept Augustine’s dictum: “The more diffi­cult this is to understand, the more laudable is the faith that believes it.”

Augustine’s chief opponent was a learned British monk named Pelagius, who also lived during the 5th century. He opposed Augustine’s predestination and asserted the freedom of the human will to do good and evil.

He once led a theological disputation in Rome where he refuted the Augustinian doctrine of pre­destination and asserted the freedom of the will. He argued that as God had commanded men to do what is good, he must therefore have the ability to do it; that is, man is free and it is therefore possible for him to decide for or against that which is good. Freedom of the will consists in the possibility of com­mitting sin or of abstaining from it. Man by nature is capable of good or evil but he must choose one or the other. Because of these views Pelagius was condemned and banished from Rome. Some theolo­gians went half-way with Pelagius and were called Semi. Pelagians.

The Augustinian dispute continued for about 13 centuries to the time of a French theologian named John Calvin (1509-1564). In Geneva, Calvin was a pastor and professor of theology. He helped to establish a theocratic government there. Geneva was the center of defense of Protestantism throughout Europe. Calvin gathered and systematized the re­formed theology of that period.

Even his enemies admitted he was a brilliant theologian.


Calvin got his inspiration on predestination from Augustine. He developed Augustine’s doctrine to a conclusion that is called, with other doctrinal points, “Calvinism.” Today, Calvin’s predestination is gen­erally called “Eternal Security.”

Calvin, like Augustine, defined predestination as God’s eternal decree by which God’s absolute sov­ereign will decided the eternal destiny of every in­dividual. It was God’s absolute predestinating pur­pose that determined who would be saved and who would be damned. Calvin admitted this was a “hor­rible decree,” but argued that it was based on God’s love and justice.

Calvin taught, like Augustine, that “man there­fore falls, God’s Providence so ordaining, but he falls by his own fault.” He said that no cause for salva­tion was to be sought other than the absolute and unconditional will of God; and he said there was a deep mystery to this “horrible decree.”

Calvin’s writings on predestination greatly in­tensified the dispute. It raged back and forth among the theologians as it had for more than a thousand years. Synod after synod debated the doctrine but multitudes remained perplexed. There is widespread perplexity about it to this day.


I quote from Calvin’s Institutes, Book 3, Chapter XXI.

Predestination we call the decree of God, by which he has determined in Himself, what he would have to become of every individual of man­kind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny: but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these two ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or death.


Calvin’s meaning here is forcefully evident. The facts of language are clear. But, as we shall see later, Calvin, like Augustine, made inconsistent and self-contradictory statements. It seems to me that sometimes they were on both sides of the question. I do not see how anyone, especially those trained in precise analytical work, could get a clear and con­sistent picture of what they meant by predestination. Study their teachings thoroughly, analyze them, and even though you are an expert in language and logic, at times you will find yourself in a foggy world of words.

In contrast, the words of Scripture have a sim­plicity and clarity that even the “wayfaring man, and the fool [uneducated]” can understand. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22: 17).


Perhaps Augustine and Calvin didn’t mean all that their opponents charge them with on predesti­nation, but their teachings are so obscure and con­tradictory that perhaps no one could be blamed for being confused about their meaning.

Paul said: “God is not the author of confusion” (I Cor. 14:33). Who then is the author of this doctrinal confusion in Christianity today?

It seems strange that Calvin, the law student, did not see the “multitude of inconsistencies and self­-contradictory tendencies” in the Augustinian theol­ogy he adopted.

Calvin, honest as he meant to be, found… the fatal facility of reading into Scripture what he wished to find there.”

I am not quoting from Calvin’s enemies but from a historian friendly to him. Dean Farrar, an eminent scholar, admitted that Calvin was one of the fore­most interpreters of Scripture, but he also said: (Calvin] had a manner in which he explains away every passage which runs counter to his dogmatic pre-possessions.


Some of Calvin’s friends couldn’t go all the way with him on predestination, and they were called Semi-Calvinists. Full-fledged Calvinists were Hyper ­Calvinists. Many Calvinists today disagree about pre­destination.

As the Calvinist dispute continued, there appeared on the scene another important theologian named Arminius (1560-1609). He was a Dutch pastor. At first he defended the views of Calvin, but further study caused him to adopt the beliefs of Calvin’s opponents. He engaged in bitter arguments about Calvinism, rejecting the Augustinian-Calvinistic doc­trine of absolute predestination and taught condi­tional predestination. He was a powerful influence against Calvinism, and his influence extends to our day.

During the many-centuries dispute about the doc­trine, confusion was widespread. Perplexity never ceased, nor has it to our time. In an effort to settle the dispute, there was assembled (1618-1619) the famous Council-of Dort, “a Council which has no parallel in the history of Protestantism.”

The Dort Council was meant to be a general council of all the Calvinist churches to sit in judg­ment on Arminianism. The great majority of the representatives were Calvinists. Present were 84 theologians and 18 secular commissioners. Civil gov­ernments sent delegates to represent their countries. Deputies were present from Switzerland, Nassau, Hesse, Bremen, Scotland, and England. The Council met in 154 formal sessions from November 1618 to May 1619. Arminius died before this Council was held.


The Arminians were summoned before this Council and given a hearing, but biased from the start, the Council’s decision was a foregone conclusion. The old prejudice and jealousy was fanned into hotter flames. The Arminian doctrine of conditional predestination was examined and condemned. Ar­minius was branded a heretic. Two hundred Arminian pastors were deprived of their pastorates, and those who refused to be silenced were banished from their country.

The Council members were determined to crush the Arminian heresy. Arminian leaders were im­prisoned. One was beheaded on the false charge of high treason. It was dangerous to oppose Calvinism, as Servetus, another theologian, learned when Cal­vin and his associates at Geneva burned him at the stake as a heretic.

The Dort Council did not settle anything about the 1300 year old dispute, as many of the important church councils from the Council of Nice (324 A.D.) to the Council of Trent (1545-1563) also failed to settle doctrinal questions brought before them. Much of this history is a sad record of dishonorable in­trigue, power politics, word jugglery, and evasion of facts. The Calvinists at Dort did not answer the diffi­culties and objections that beset their doctrines, nor have they to this day. What did “predestination” mean? In these councils, attempts to get Scriptural definitions never ceased.

Professor Emil Brunner of Zurich is generally considered one of the world’s leading theologians in our day, and he once said that the best thing Chris­tianity could do for the world, would be to “give it a dictionary of Biblical terms.” Anyone who knows the doctrinal history of predestination may agree.


Later, I shall give you the Biblical definitions for predestination and kindred terms, and the authorita­tive sources for them.

The above historical sketch of the predestination controversy should give you an idea of what it was all about. It is not necessary to take you through the long history of this complicated mass of con­fusion. I shall give you a few quotations from re­cent Calvinist writers and then we shall begin with our Scriptural proofs for conditional salvation.

Some Calvinists claim that we do not fairly pre­sent the Augustinian-Calvinist doctrine of predesti­nation, so I have selected two recent popular full­ fledged Calvinist writers who claim to be true ex­ponents of Calvin’s doctrine.


I quote first from the well-known and able Cal­vinist writer, Arthur W. Pink. He wrote in his book The Sovereignty of God:

God does not love everybody; if He did, He would love the devil, (p. 30)… It is God Himself who maketh the difference between the elect and the non-elect, (p. 61) … Faith is God’s gift, and apart from this gift none would believe. The cause of His choice then lies within Himself and not in the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He chose to choose them. (p. 71)

The new birth is solely the work of God the Spirit and man has no part in it. This from the very nature of the case. Birth altogether excludes the idea of any effort or work on the part of the one who is born. Personally we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth, (p. 88)

Again, faith is God’s gift, and the purpose to give it only to some, involves the purpose not to give it to others. Without faith there is no salvation “He that believeth not shall be damned” hence if there were some of Adam’s descendants to whom He purposed not to give faith, it must be because He ordained that they should be damned, (p. 101, his italics)

He (God) fits the non-elect unto destruction by His fore-ordinating decrees. Should it be asked why God does this, the answer must be: To pro­mote His own glory, i.e. the glory of His justice, power and wrath, (p. 118)


On page 119, Mr. Pink quotes Calvin:

There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction; they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God’s vengeance and displeasure, (his emphasis)


The next quotations come from Shall Never Perish:

No man ever willed to be born into the human race, and equally impotent is he to will to separate himself from the human race. . – – As it is impos­sible for man, by free action, to separate himself from the human race, so it is equally impossible for him, by a free act, to separate himself from God’s kingdom, (pp. 119-120)

Truly, once a son of mankind, always a son of mankind, and equally true, once a child of God, always a child of God. There is no possibility for a man, by his own will or action, to change either of these conditions. . . all who are saved are secure for all eternity, (p. 120).

When one has of his own free will accepted Christ….he is given a new nature which makes it impossible for him to will to return to his former state, (p. 124) We are not governed by reason but by revela­tion. (p. 129)

It is taught in Eph. 1:13-14, that after a person has believed (a finished act) he is sealed with the Holy Spirit until the redemption of the pur­chased possession. This passage once and for all rules out the argument that one must continue to believe. There is no need for continuous faith on the part of the saved person (pp. ISO­131).


There are similar statements scattered through­out the books of Pink, Strombeck, and other Calvin­ist writers. It is fair to say that many Calvinists do not agree with much that these authors have written about predestination. One Calvinist minister recently told me he wasn’t sure what he believed about pre­destination. So the issue is clearly before us:

        Is it true that sinners are damned without free­dom of will or choice?

        Is it true that the predestinated ones are “saved without regard to what they mayor may not do”?

Is it true that “if they sin, yet God so preserves His Holy Spirit in them that they can never fall en­tirely out of the state of grace”?

Does the Bible teach that “the unchangeableness of the divine decree excludes the possibility that they should entirely fall away or be lost”?

        Is salvation conditional or unconditional?


In our study, let us not be Calvinists nor Ar­minians but truth-seekers who accept nothing but proved facts.

Paul said: “Prove all things,” and this includes Bible doctrines. So let us accept only what is proved. The world’s foremost authorities on Evi­dence say: “What are the facts?” “Get the facts.” We shall try to get the facts from Genesis to Reve­lation.

Our premise is this: Jesus said, “Salvation is of the Jews.” It was of the Jews because it was founded on Jewish covenants. These covenants were condi­tional. Therefore, salvation is conditional. “Ye are saved…  If ye continue.



IF YE CONTINUE, Guy Duty 1966

Bethany House Publishers

Reproduced with permission



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