I Want To Be Elected!

Posted: July 1, 2012 in 99-Uncategorized

If you are old enough or are just a fan of early 70’s heavy metal glam bands, you are probably thinking of that song by Alice Cooper right now. Cool song and I got your attention now…but I am going to talk about the Christian doctrine of Election instead of analyzing the lyrics of Alice’s song! Stay with me….

The doctrine of election is one of those doctrines that educated Christians talk about in the corner of the café down the street from the university where they teach. It is not a popular doctrine. It is often a doctrine that most Christians do not even think about. Informed Christians are troubled by it and leave it to the theologians to sort out. Less mature Christians often do not realize that such a doctrine exists. However, it is there. It is like the 800 lb. gorilla in the room – you can ignore it but that does not mean that it is not there. It has scriptural basis; therefore, it is a doctrine for which we must have understanding. Throughout the history of the church, this issue has been a divisive one. The positions developed in the history of the church fall into three camps. These are unconditional election, conditional election, and concurrent election. In this post, I will summarize the various views and then finally point toward concurrent election being the most logical and scriptural view of election.

Approaches to the Doctrine of Election
1. Unconditional (Calivinist)
i. Though God has not revealed why he chose one person and not another or how he arrived at his choices, he does have the sovereign right to make these choices.
ii. Although this presents moral problems and logical ones as well, Calivinists feel that the Scriptures allow no other conclusion.
iii. Election is an expression of his sovereign love.
iv. Critics say:
1. Unconditional election means that God ordains all things and if this is the case, he ordained sin which makes God the author of sin.
2. God does not love all humanity if a person is damned before they are even born.
3. If we are pre-destined to damnation, then Christ died only for certain people.
v. Supralapsarianism (before the fall) – High Calvinism which states that God is the ultimate cause of the choice by those who accept and those who reject Christ.
1. Advocates
a. Since God is the source of all things and he is omni – potent, nescient, present, this view fits in with the sovereignty of God.
2. Critics
a. Smacks of the fatalism of Islam.
b. Makes God’s hatred equal to his love.
c. It stifles evangelism and missions in that it leads to the gospel being presented to those who show outward evidence (works) of being regenerated.
d. Often leads to judgmentalism, humans deciding who is saved and who is not, by those that consider themselves Christian as a result.
vi. Infralapsarianism (after the fall) – argues that God ordained only one decree – the decree to elect. After the fall, he decided to save some of them. He decreed to send Christ to provide salvation only for the elect.
1. God is not the cause of damnation. We are not sentenced to damnation but our rejection of Christ results in our exclusion from glory in heaven – thus we are by result damned.
2. Election is unconditional but rejection or reprobation is conditional.
vii. Decretal theology of Unconditional Election –
1. Presents an entirely gracious salvation.
2. Strives to uphold the sovereignty of God.
3. Magnifies God’s glory
4. Criticisms
a. Highly speculative about things that have no biblical reference. Thus, it is philosophy masquerading as theology.
b. It is a logical system that ultimately fails logically. In the name of logical consistency, it has sometimes run roughshod over certain clear teachings of Scripture.
c. It leaves the moral problems of predestination unresolved.
d. It reduces Christ to a mere instrument by which God’s decrees are accomplished.
5. Correction to decretial theology (Amyrut)
a. Amyrut saw his position as more faithful to Calvin’s view than the Calvinists.
b. His argument had six points
i. We must begin with what God revealed in Christ. Otherwise, you descend into a hopeless logical quandry.
ii. We must not deny God’s revealed will by appealing to his hidden will.
iii. Election must be considered under the doctrine of salvation and not God’s sovereignty.
iv. We must pay more attention to God’s revealed will than His hidden will.
v. We must focus on God’s conditional will to save all rather than on his absolute will to redeem the elect.

2. Conditional (Arminian)
i. It is the view that before the world ever existed God conditionally predestined some specific individuals to eternal life and the rest to eternal damnation.
ii. Arminian order of decrees involves:
1. God determined to provide Christ as Savior
2. God determined to save those who believe and damn those who do not.
3. God determined to provide sufficient grace for all to believe.
4. He chooses to save and damn particular individuals according to his foreknowledge of their foreseen faith.
iii. Linchpin of Arminian thought is that election is according to foreknowledge.
iv. The conditional election view has no problem with affirming the universal salvific will of God. Arminians believe that God desies salvation for all.
v. They believe also that all persons are capable of responding to the Gospel message.
vi. Problems with Arminianism are that
1. it reduces God’s decision to ratification of what man decides for himself.
2. If God knows that one person will freely accept the gospel message and another will not, then this is a mysterious, sovereign and unconditional determination of the part of God.
3. Concurrent
i. The concurrent position contends that Bible teaches both that God sovereignly and unconditionally chooses the elect for salvation and that each individual person freely decides to accept or reject Jesus Christ as Savior. Scripture presents predestination and human freedom as twin truths in tension.
ii. This view is considered Thomism so named after its proponent, Thomas Aquinas. Views that since God is timeless and eternal and not temporal that his foreknowledge and predestination are the same thing.
iii. If all moments are equally present (in His eternal state) then God’s election of a person and a person’s free choice to accept the gospel occur at the same time in God’s timing. This means that God does not cause the choice but because of His timelessness all free choices are known by God.
iv. Molinism says that God does operate in temporal time and space and argues that God predetermines human decisions in such a way that does not violate free will using “middle knowledge.”
1. God knows everything that COULD happen – natural knowledge.
2. From the infinite set of possibilities, God knows which scenarios WOULD result in a person’s freely responding in the way that He desires – middle knowledge.
3. This brings about God’s knowing of what WILL occur – free knowledge.
4. God meticulously sets the stage so that humans freely choose what he has predetermined.
5. The dissatification with Calvinist and Arminian approaches is that they start with either divine sovereignty or human freedom and often to the exclusion of the other.

Thus, one can see that in Jesus Christ we have an example of the tension between free will and divine choice. Christ was fully divine and fully human. Similarly, God’s sovereign and our human free choice occur in a confluent manner. In the congruence theory, we see that it seems the logical choice in that salvation is the sovereign work of God from eternity (Ps. 3:8, Ps. 37:39). God desires the salvation of all humanity (Ezek. 18:23, John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). God purposes the salvation of the elect but permits those who do not respond to do so and thus they damn themselves. (John 15:16, 1 John 4:19). Election originates, is accomplished, and be consummated in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14, Rom. 8:26-30).

As you can see, the various “choices”, as we might call them here, for election leave little doubt in my mind that a “concurrent” view is the best one. It boils down to John 3:16 for me – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” In this verse we see the microcosm of election.

First, “for God so loved the world.” He so loves the entire world. There is no qualification in that statement. God loves the entire world not just those who believe in Him. This statement also rightly ascribes that God is the one who initiates salvific activity. It is in his love for us (whether we recognize it or not) that God operates as He does. He is not some far removed god that toys with humanity for his own pleasure. He is love. He loves us like a parent of a teenage child. He loves us no matter how much we rebel against him. He loves us regardless of whether we love him. This is the message and the point of the Bible. Therefore, to say that God predestines individuals for damnation is entirely inconsistent with the entirety of the message of the Bible.

Second, “he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Here is the free will part. God gave us free will at a risk, but with that risk comes reward. He gave us free will because God wants us to choose Him. He did not want us to be robots blindly marching off of a cliff one by one. Similar to the teenage analogy, a parent can easily tell his teenager that this is the law and you must blindly follow it. However, a parent in his love for his child wants the child to choose the right thing because in the choosing comes ownership. When we choose God rather than being robotically programmed, we see the value of the relationship and it means mountains more to us than a blind choice. Similarly, a soldier who understands his superior’s commands and the reasons for them, he executes those commands with vigor moreso than if he does not understand.

God gives us the free will choice to accept or reject his “only begotten Son”. Scripture says that “whoever believes in Him”. Inherent in that statement is choice on the part of man. Thus, man determines his own eternal destiny. This allowance of choice is consistent with God’s nature of love. God does not by nature damn one and elect another. It is our acceptance or rejection of the gospel message that determines our eternal fate. Like a teenager’s parent gives his teenager the opportunity to make the right choice. In love, you want them to make the right choice because it is for their own good. However, when they make the wrong choice, it does not cause us the parent to love the teenager any less but we allow them to suffer the consequences of the wrong choice.

How does this all play into the sovereignty of God? That concept being that God knows from eternity who will and will not accept his message. I agree with the point that we cannot grasp time in the same way that God does. We are temporary beings whereas he is eternal. Our concept of time has to do with birth and death. Our concept of time is finite whereas God has existed for all eternity. His time is everpresent. To God, He knows what could, would, and will happen as the result of the free will choices of his creatures. To return to the teenage parent analogy, a parent (from his own experience) what could, would and will happen when his teenager makes his choices in life. He knows how that child will respond to certain situations and he knows the results of those responses. However, a teenager’s parent allows the teenager to make those choices. God sovereignly gives us the opportunity to respond to his call because he loves us so much. God, our ultimate parent, knows the results of the choice we will make. In love, he gives us that chance to make our free will choice.

This is the Bible. God loves us. God desires us to step out of our sin nature and accept His offer of salvation through His Son. God wants us to take Him up on the offer of His Son. However, in order for us to see the true value of the offer, He gave us free will to choose to accept (be a part of “whoever believes in Him”) or reject. God finds no joy in the rejection. He knows the consequences of our choice. Just as a parent who loves his rebellious teenager so much cries over seeing the consequences of the poor choices of his child, God is saddened (because of his love for us) by our poor choice – the eternal choice. Eternal damnation is a choice. Eternal damnation is the car wreck that God sees coming for us ahead by making the choice to reject the Savior.

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