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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Presbyterians have historically advocated predestination and election as intimately related to the doctrines of God as sovereign Creator, providential ruler, and savior of his chosen people. Using Augustine’s interpretation of major Old and New Testament passages as a foundation, Presbyterians have generally understood election to be unconditional and to rest on God’s mercy necessitated by humankind’s original sin. John Calvin answered objections to the doctrines, emphasized predestination as a pastoral comfort to believers, and affirmed human responsibility. Calvin’s successors debated the order of God’s decrees and Jacob Arminius’s attack on Calvinism, which denied double predestination, interpreted predestination as conditional, and proposed prevenient grace as enabling all people to choose to be saved. Calvin’s views were reaffirmed by the Council of Dort’s five points in 1619 and upheld by Presbyterians in the Westminster Confession of Faith, adopted in 1646. In the nineteenth century, Friedrich Schleiermacher proposed a paradigm shift by rejecting original sin and arguing that God’s decree was based on his foreseeing faith in the elect. Presbyterians also debated whether Calvinism should be altered to conform to revivalist practices and whether the Westminster Confession should be revised in light of new theological trends. In the twentieth century, conservative Presbyterians continued to affirm traditional Calvinist theology, while most mainline Presbyterians either rejected or ignored it and focused on the work of the church.

Keywords: Arminianism, five points of Calvinism, foreknowledge, infralapsarianism, original sin, Pelagianism, reprobation, supralapsarianism, New School Presbyterian, Old School Presbyterian

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