Example 14 – Kenneth O. Gangel on 2 Peter 1:10 and 3:9

Back to Chapter 11 – Examples of Calvinist Interpretive Incoherence

2 Peter 1:10 reads,

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

It is worth noting for hermeneutical purposes how Calvinists interpret this verse in light of 2 Peter 3:9 where, speaking about God’s patience in bringing about the coming day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly, Peter states that the Lord is,

 “…not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (CSB)

Kenneth O. Gangel writes the commentary on 2 Peter in The Bible Knowledge Commentary edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck in which the contributors are all Dallas Seminary faculty members.  It certainly appears that Gangel takes a Reformed Calvinist view of 2 Peter 1:10.  Gangel states,

“Calling” refers to God’s efficacious work in salvation (cf. Rom 1:7; 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:9), and “election” is God’s work of choosing some sinners (by His grace, not their merits) to be saved (Rom. 8:33: 11:5; Eph. 1:4; Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 1:1).  Election, of course, precedes calling.  A believer shows by his godly life and his growth in the virtues mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5-7 that he is one of God’s chosen.” (867)

I take this to be the standard Reformed Calvinist understanding of their doctrines of an effectual call and unconditional election.  Yet regarding 2 Peter 3:9 Gangel writes,

“The second reason the Lord’s return seems so long in coming is that God wants as many people to be saved as possible…The words not wanting anyone to perish…describe God’s wishes or desires; He longs that all would be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4) but knows that many reject Him.” (876, emphasis mine)

Note that two incoherent concepts are being proposed as the proper interpretation of Peter’s thoughts on the matter of salvation.  Gangel pits Peter’s thoughts against each other with respect to the nature and possibility of salvation.  Again, this incoherence reveals a failure of a fundamental hermeneutical principle – interpreting in context.  The hermeneutical principle of interpreting a text in context, if it means anything, means to read the author’s statements in one text as coherent with his statements in another text.  We take it as a sound hermeneutical principle that the authors of Scripture did not write incoherently or contradict themselves.

According to Gangel, God has unconditionally chosen some sinners to be saved, yet God wants as many people to be saved as possible.  But according to unconditional election or predestination, the number of people to be saved has been fixed by God himself. It is therefore incoherent to say “that God wants as many people to be saved as possible” when God has already decided whom he will save and that number cannot be altered.  God has predetermined precisely who will be saved and who will not be saved with the decision being unalterable.  For the Calvinist, this is what it means for God to have been gracious to sinners.  Also, God longs that all would be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), yet he does not provide for their salvation.  Furthermore, although God irresistibly calls only the elect so that they alone are saved, Gangel describes those that are not elect with the words “many reject him.”  “Reject” implies a decision those people made regarding their relationship to God – a decision that could have and should have been to accept him.  It also makes them responsible for their damnation, and yet it is God who never intended their salvation. He predetermined that they would never be saved.

The point is that there are real incoherencies is here, yet Gangel does not seem to be concerned about them.  He simply dismisses these incoherencies as interpretively insignificant.  Therefore, it certainly seems that coherence is not an essential element in his hermeneutic.  I submit that this indifference to the incoherence of one’s interpretive conclusions amounts to a very defective hermeneutic.  What do you think?

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Go to Example 15 – Greg Koukl on How He Became a Christian

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