Was Noah unconditionally predestined to salvation?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 2:54pm
QUESTION: What is your perspective on the “election” of Noah as it relates to the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate? According to the Arminian view it would seem that there was only one man (Noah) on the face of the earth with the faith for God to foreknow and choose for salvation. I suppose the Calvinist would say that God unconditionally chose one person from the mass of all people who were totally unable to come to faith. Both views seem to have serious difficulties, though. For the Arminian: if only one had faith, this seems a herculean meritorious accomplishment over all other people. For the Calvinist: God was merciful enough to choose only one from all the earth at this time. These statements presuppose that all destroyed in the flood were under God’s judgment for eternal condemnation. Perhaps there is a better view than this, but it seems most likely to me.
MY REPLY: We should distinguish between temporal condemnation and eternal condemnation. The flood, and the destruction of the Canaanites, were temporal judgments. Most likely those so destroyed were also eternally condemned, but we cannot assume so. We leave that up to God. (Obviously, those below the age of accountability were under God’s “original grace” and were thus protected from eternal condemnation.) But in my book “What the Bible Says About God the Redeemer,” I ask the question whether grace is conditional or unconditional. Calvinists say the latter, of course, and use Noah as an example. Here is what I say about this on pp. 389-90:
“Much if not most of the alleged evidence for unconditional grace is in the OT. For example, Noah is said to demonstrate the unconditional electing love of God. Genesis 6:8 says, ‘But Noah found favor in the eyes of God.’ According to [Walther] Zimmerli, ‘Undoubtedly there is implied here the mystery of the free divine decision whereby Noah came to have this attractiveness for God.’ While discussing the word “chen,” an OT word for grace, [Hans-Helmut] Esser makes the remarkably presumptuous statement that with reference to God ‘it is used mostly of the sense of his undeserved gift of election,’ and cites Noah as a prime example.”
In my response to this claim (“Redeemer,” 395ff.) I say generally, “We may say that God’s favor toward individuals and even toward the nation [of Israel] itself in most respects was conditioned upon their relative righteousness, with this sometimes being understood in the most general sense of turning one’s heart toward God in faith and repentance.” I then use Noah as an example: “This is true even of those examples usually cited as evidence of unconditional grace. To quote Genesis 6:8, that “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord,” and to omit verse 9 is inexcusable: ‘Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.’ In Genesis 7:1 the Lord says to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation’ (NIV). In view of this latter statement, it is difficult to see how anyone could say God’s choice of Noah was unconditional” (395).