Question About Doctrine

2 comments Written on July 8th, 2010 by
Categories: Alumni, Faculty, General, Pray For MU, Programs, Seminary

We often get messages from people around the world asking questions about what we believe, or what our stance is on [insert your subject here]...below is a great example of one of those. President Dan Lockwood took a moment to answer.

The Question

The Multnomah Doctrinal Statement says "the Father has planned all that comes to pass." Could you please briefly clarify what this means?

The Answer

The Multnomah Doctrinal Statement section, which says "the Father has planned all that comes to pass." is taken directly from such passages as Ephesians 1:11, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” This statement emphasizes the sovereignty of God over all the creation and affirms that there are no accidents with God. It was included primarily as a response to “open theism” and “process theology,” which views some human events as occurring both outside the foreknowledge and outside the power of God to control. We believe these two views are unbiblical and unworthy of God.

Multnomah is by tradition “moderately Calvinistic,” and this phrase in our doctrinal statement, along with our statement about the security of the believer, are two reflections of this belief. We do not, however, imply that all things happen in a deterministic way (i.e., that God is the author of evil, or that human beings have no free will). That “the Father has planned all that comes to pass,” would include both God’s direct and indirect plan. Sometimes the Lord will directly predetermine things to happen (for example, the crucifixion of Christ, Acts 2:23). At other times, he will permit things to happen (e.g., evil human choices). The statement reflects a “compatibilistic” relationship between the doctrine of divine sovereignty and human freedom. That is, we believe the Bible teaches that both doctrines are true and that when seen from the perspective of divine revelation they are compatible—not contradictory—to one another. (Look again at Acts 2:23 for an example of this compatibilism.

Evidence With Faculty & Classes

Our faculty are encouraged to have differing views on what “the Father has planned” means in relationship to human freedom. Faculty opinions range from traditional Calvinism to forms of Arminianism.

In our theology and Bible classes at both the Bible College and the Biblical Seminary, all points of view are discussed fairly; students are encouraged to make up their own minds based on their interpretation of the Word of God.


Daniel R. Lockwood, Ph.D.

What Say You?

Yes, that's a lot of "isms" for one simple theology question (can any theology question ever really be simple?). Anyway, we're all wondering what you, the community would say about it.

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Dr. Daniel R. Lockwood is Multnomah University's fourth president. Inaugurated in 1997, he has overseen an era of exceptional transitions. Under his leadership, Multnomah has achieved regional accreditation; solidified name and logo branding; changed to a University structure; built several buildings and launched numerous new programs.

2 comments “Question About Doctrine”

That is a Calvinistic statement, alright. However, a more apt expression of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:11 may better read “all that the Father has planned comes to pass.” (Some other scriptures may be better suited for the statement in question). A more Arminian phrasing could be “the Father has planned [for] all that comes to pass.”
As for the whole Calvinist/Arminian debate: I think we get caught up a lot in temporal perspectives, when, in fact, once the omni-temporality of God is added to the equation, the aspect of “knowing”, “planning”, pre-destining” is moot. 1,000 yrs = day; day = 1,000 yrs. is not some encryption key for deciphering Daniel and Revelation. It is a reality of God’s being. All (past, present and future) is the eternal now for the creator of time who stands apart, affecting yet unaffected by time. Thus, only from our perspective is something planned, predestined or fore-seen. For God it is, was and will be in that instant that we cannot even speak before it passes–the elusive “now”.
I address the Calvin/Arminian debate with this question, the answer to which, I believe answers the debate entirely: “Pick one–Is Jesus God? or Man?” While at first gloss, this may seem to avoid the question, this is at the very heart of the issue as, whenever the eternal touches the temporal, reasonable explanation and human intelligibility suffers greatly, and the human mind boggles, rather. I guess I’m not a very good Calvinist OR Arminian.

Dear Paul,

Thanks for your comments. I’d prefer to say ours is a biblical (not Arminian or Calvinistic) statement that reflects Eph. 1:11 “him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (ESV). I’m not certain how your alternative readings are really different, unless you intend to mean that, while all the things God plans come to pass, there are many things he doesn’t plan, so the outcome is uncertain. We do not believe that reflects the best interpretation of Ephesians 1 (or other passages). And if you hold to uncertain outcomes, then open theists would say you’ve moved into their camp, where God is neither omnipotent nor omniscient.

“Temporal perspectives” must be taken into account but I am not as optimistic as you seem to be that they offer a simple solution to the paradox. After all, when Paul says, “before the foundation of the world,” be gives a time-related phrase that he sees as meaningful.

Nor is the question “Is Jesus God or man” really the issue, either. Calvinists and Arminians stand shoulder to shoulder in affirming Christ is the God-man. While this, too, is a mystery, we should not shy away from trying to give some understandable statement of what Scripture means by both of these “mysteries” even if we cannot perfectly resolve them.

Thanks again for your interaction!