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Monday, May 16, 2016

An Election That Matters

We have a very unpleasant election coming up in November, and the best option we appear to get is ... disaster. Luckily, believers are trusting God, not human politics, to do what's right. In a sense, then, that election doesn't really matter. God is in charge.

There is, however, an election that matters immensely. It is the biblical doctrine of Election. Now, I know, this one brings up all sorts of reactions, responses, feelings, thoughts and even battles. But it is undeniable that the doctrine is biblical.
- God chose Abraham (Gen 18:19)
- God chose the people of Israel (Deut 7:6; Deut 14:2)
- God chose Levi (and family) as priests (Deut 18:5; Deut 21:5)
- God chose Saul as king (1 Sam 10:23-24)
- "Many are called but few are chosen." (Matt 22:14)
- Christ was chosen (Luke 9:35)
- Jesus chose His disciples (John 13:18 John 15:16,19; )
- "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matt 11:27)
- God chose Saul (Paul) (Acts 9:15)
- The chosen obtained grace (Rom 11:7)
- God chooses who will be His (Col 3:12; Eph 1:4)
- A remnant according to God's gracious choice (Rom 11:5)
- The chosen Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:4)
- Christians are called and chosen (2 Peter 1:10)
- "As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48)
- Paul was appointed to know God's will (Acts 22:14)
- Jesus called His own "the elect" (Matt 24:22,24,31; Luke 18:7)
- "Who will bring a charge against God's elect?" (Rom 8:33)
- Paul was "an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God" (Titus 1:1)
- Those who return with Christ are called and chosen (Rev 17:14)
- Paul endured for the sake of those who are chosen (2 Tim 2:10)
It's amazing how many of the New Testament epistles are written specifically to the elect.
Rom 1:6 - the called
1 Cor 1:2 - saints by calling
2 Thess 2:13 - God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification
1 Peter 1:1 - those who are chosen
2 John 1:1 - the chosen lady and her children
2 John 1:13 - your chosen sister
It is unavoidable that God's choice of His own is a running theme throughout the pages of Scripture, Old to New Testaments, without a break. It's not in some dark theological corner. It is constant. The Bible says that God chooses whom He will save in accordance with His purposes (Rom 9:11) and His will (Matt 11:27; Rom 9:16).

Problems of Election

If God chooses people based on His purposes rather than their free will, it's not fair. He chooses to send billions to Hell.

This is a tough objection, very touching, and hard to avoid. Of them all, however, the last is the most troubling -- hard to avoid. You see, it is, in fact, unavoidable. Let's say that there is no election at all (in direct contradiction to all the Scriptures to the contrary). Let's say, as the Open Theist does, that God doesn't know in advance who will choose Him. Thus, God launches this whole creation into the unknown, hoping that some will come to Him and pretty sure that most won't. He cannot choose some according to foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:1-2) (meaning that He knew in advance what their choice would be). He just doesn't know. So why, after the angels rebelled and Adam and Eve rebelled, didn't He just carry out His original and just threat and end it all? Cut the losses. Instead, He chooses to send billions to Hell. "Oh, no," most of you would respond, "He knows. He is Omniscient and knows everything. He knows in advance who will choose Him and chooses them to be His own." The most popular position, to be sure, but it still fails to avoid the problem. God knows who will choose Him and saves them, but also knows who will not choose Him and still makes them, causes them to be born, and still damns them. He still chooses to send billions to Hell.

Election is according to God's foreknowledge, not simply His choosing.

Yes, election is according to God's foreknowledge. We see that multiple times (Eph 1:4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; Rom 8:29). But just what is that foreknowledge? Is it simply looking down the corridors of time (so to speak) and seeing, "Oh, this one will choose Me, so I'll choose Him"? That's very popular, but is it biblical? We read, for instance, when Peter was preaching in Acts 2, where he told them "This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." (Acts 2:23) If "foreknowledge" is simply "prediction", then God looked ahead in time, saw that Jesus would be arrested and die, and chose to make Him our Savior based on that. That is certainly not reasonable. On the other hand, even the world understands the phrase, "knew her in a biblical sense." The Bible is full of "knowing" that is not mere "mental information". Adam "knew" his wife (Gen 4:1). Jesus "never knew" those who were false believers (Matt 7:23). We are saved, in fact, by being known by God (Gal 4:9). Thus, "knowing" and "foreknowing" in the Bible is not simply data in advance. It is a prior relationship. It typically includes "predetermined" (e.g. Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28; Rom 8:29). It is a relationship in advance, not based on permission of Man. One of the popular "proof texts" for those who believe that God sovereignly chooses whom He will save apart from their choices or actions is in Romans 9. Here Paul speaks of Jacob and Esau. "Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad -- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls -- she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.'" (Rom 9:11-12) This clearly indicates that is is not based on the brothers, but God's purpose. "But," they'll tell me, "God knew in advance (foreknowledge) what Jacob and Esau would choose." So apparently what Paul shoves out the front door they smuggle in the back way. It is not based on what they did, but on God's purpose ... except that God's purpose is based on what they did. This makes no sense.

"This is just more of that old Calvinism stuff."

Let me point out that you brought up Calvin, not me. I've written only what is in Scripture. The only place that Calvin has been mentioned here is to point out that it has nothing to do with Calvin. Election is not a peripheral doctrine taught in philosophical or theological corners. It is a major theme of all of Scripture. It is predicated on God who chooses and only brings glory to God. It elevates God and His Sovereignty over Man and his free will. And it comes straight from the Bible.

The doctrine that God sovereignly chooses people for salvation based on His purposes (Rom 9:11) and apart from their choice (Rom 9:16) is generally uncomfortable, to the point of producing angry responses from genuine believers. The question, then, is whether you will go with what the Bible says or will you go with how it makes you feel?


1eternitymatters said...

"If God chooses people based on His purposes rather than their free will, it's not fair. He chooses to send billions to Hell."

Unless someone is a universalist, which is wrong for a bunch of other reasons, their accusation against the "mean" God comes back on them.

If God created someone who could "freely" choose Jesus (using their definitions for free will, election, predestination, etc.) but He never did, then what other possibilities exist for those going to Hell besides these two?

1. God refused to save them. The person would have chosen Jesus but God deliberately didn't put the right people/circumstances in his lives to lead him to that choice.

2. God was unable to save him. The person wouldn't have chosen Jesus no matter what God did.

Please note that I'm assuming the Arminian worldview is true and merely pointing out that it results with God having perfect foreknowledge of the person's choice yet electing (heh) not to reorder events to "make" him choose differently or creating him knowing that he wouldn't choose Jesus under any circumstances.

Assuming Arminians agree that God knew before creation precisely which people wouldn't use their "free will" to choose him, then their view would cast God in at least the same negative light as their Calvinist caricature, if not worse.

You can show them that by asking if the God of Arminian theology could have done anything to convince the Hell-bound person to choose differently, such as putting top-notch apologists, more loving Christians, etc. in their lives.

If they say yes, then ask them how a "good" God of love would let someone go to Hell just because He chose not to re-order things for their benefit. And if He chose not to do those things, how is that different from the Reformed view of election with respect to God's goodness and love?

If they say no, then ask them how it differs from Reformed theology to say that God created someone who wouldn't have used his "free will" to choose him under any circumstances.

In other words, in God created people knowing that they would go to Hell because they either wouldn't believe under any set of circumstances or that He wouldn't re-order circumstances to cause them to "choose" to believe. So why are they criticizing the God they claim to worship?

Molinism doesn't fare differently. Under Molinism, if God selected the scenario where the most people would "freely" believe, then one of these must be true:

1. Some people would have become Christians in other scenarios but not in the one God created. How loving is that towards them, assuming you consider predestination, as defined in Reformed theology, to be a liability? They could rightly claim that if God had done things differently then they would have believed.

2. Some people would not have become Christians under any of an infinite amount of scenarios. How is that different than the Calvinist view of predestination?

And if you assume in scenario 1 that no one who doesn't become a Christian in this universe would have become one in any universe, then you've just chosen option 2.

Bob said...

If God has to look into the future to see who would choose to be saved, then that would imply that God is not Omniscient. that would imply that God's knowledge is contingent upon what he sees in the future. If God were to change his mind about what he was going to do to that same person that chose salvation, then God would not be immutable.
it is interesting to note how un-biblical ideas diminish God's character.

Stan said...

Yes, Neil, the problem is not in the lap of the doctrine of Election, but even in the lap of those who deny it. The simple fact is that the Bible is clear that "few" will be saved. Thus, the simple fact is that God knowingly made humans who would not be saved. The other inescapable fact is that humans on their own have earned their damnation. The question is not "Is God a monster for not saving them all?", but "Why would He save even one?" If He saves one, it is a miracle of grace.

Stan said...

Yes, Bob, the question is apparently His Sovereignty. If He simply knows who will come and chooses them, that is no sovereignty. That's "playing nice". That's what we do as kids choosing teams -- we choose our friends. That is, our choice is contingent upon them. If God chooses by looking into the future, His choice is contingent and "contingent" is not Sovereign.

1eternitymatters said...

Stan, I agree completely. I just use that as my starting point. If they can't realize that their personal attack on God's character (or, as they would say, on the allegedly false "Calvinist" view of his character) is the same attack that they'd have to make on their own beliefs, then the odds of them seeing the merits of additional arguments is basically zero.

Stan said...

And I was agreeing with you, Neil.

Craig said...

I've always thought it strange that while we see God choosing people for particular roles throughout scripture and don't really question it until it comes to salvation. At that point it becomes a huge issue.

Stan said...

It seems like it comes from a Man-centered view of the world. Choosing one of us for a role is okay, but WE must be allowed to be the determining factor of whether or not WE get saved.

Craig said...