googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Predestination: A Series on Election, Part 3 – Unconditional Election

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Predestination: A Series on Election, Part 3 – Unconditional Election

The next point in Calvinism is Unconditional Election. This is really the meat and potatoes of Calvinism. It's the idea that God has already chosen who is going to be saved and who is going to be lost. The word “elect” in the Bible is always a reference to those who are saved. Unconditional election means that God has ordained the elect to be saved only according to His divine will and is not conditioned upon anything that we have done.

Of the five points, this one probably has the most compelling Scriptural support. There are several passages that can be used to support the idea of election but the following are perhaps the most persuasive:

Ephesians 1:4-5, 11, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself,according to the kind intention of His will..... also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Romans 9:10-16, “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

What I find especially interesting is Paul's letter to the Romans, when he says that God loved Jacob above Esau even “before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad.” At first hearing, it seems a clear cut example of God simply choosing one person over another. Jacob certainly had not done anything before he was born to earn God's favor so he received God's mercy unconditionally. Yet as clear cut as it might seem, we must still consider these passages in the light of the rest of Scripture. Look at the following passages:

1 Timothy 2:3-4, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Acts 17:30, The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

If God has already ordained that only some people will be saved and the others lost, how can He simultaneously not want anyone to perish? Perhaps it is because God is omniscient and already knows who will accept Him and who will not. Peter said that he was elect, “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1 Peter 1:1-2). It could be that God elects those He knows will believe and makes plans for them even before they are born.

God is not capricious. Because of His love and mercy, He has made salvation available to everyone; but because He is also just and holy, He has laid out a very clear method of redemption. God will have mercy upon whoever believes in His Son – even the most vile sinner.


Steven J. said...

Of the five traditional elements of Calvinism -- Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints -- only the third, perhaps, is not logically implied by the other four. If humans are inherently incapable of desiring God or salvation, then obviously [a] God must do something to make them able to be saved and [b] this cannot be predicated on any merit or choice humans make. If God determines to save us, then obviously we cannot turn our back on His choice to save us (and, since we can't, obviously that salvation will not be lost -- anyone who appears to have apostasized must never have truly been saved). Limited Atonement itself seems to me more a verbal game for theologians than anything else -- how many red corpuscles of Jesus are needed to save one sinner? What would it mean to "waste one drop" of Jesus' blood? But probably even this can be understood as a restatement of the other four principles: since we cannot, of our own corrupted will, choose to avail ourselves of Jesus' blood, he must not have sacrificed himself for anyone whom God did not foreordain to be converted.

I note, again, that as a science fiction fan I tend to see prophecy and foreknowledge as working along the same lines as time travel: if I take a time machine back to November 21, 1963, my knowledge of what Lee Harvey Oswald will do does not make him do it. One can foreknow future choices without causing them, and even respond to them before they are actually made, if one can view history from the outside, or foresee the future.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I agree that the points blend to a large part. Even limited atonement cannot be completely separated from the idea of predestination because Christ's blood only redeemed those who were predestined to be the elect. I don't think the ideas are meant to be completely distinct but rather are a series of premises leading to a single conclusion. Calvin's five points were simply very succinct in laying out the case for predestination. People can agree or disagree to the different points to varying degrees. If they all simply were restatements of the same point, you would either or disagree to all five the same. As I've already said, I find Unconditional Election to be very compelling. I believe Limited Atonement (which I'll write about next), is somewhat weak. Finally, I believe the perseverance of the saints is the only correct understanding of Scriptures.

To your point of foreknowledge v. sovereignty, I have to disagree with you. In my reply to you on my last post, I gave a chess analogy. When I could see the checkmate coming, I not only knew the moves my opponent would make, I “forced” him to make those moves according to how I moved my pieces. He was free to move how he willed, but I “knew” what he would will and so guided him toward his loss. Maybe it's not a perfect analogy but I still think it's similar to how God uses our free will to accomplish what He desires.

God bless!!