Not everyone consciously affirms the doctrine of election. The reasons for this vary and are definitely outside the scope of this particular article. But whether you don’t like it, don’t agree with it, or are simply neutral about it for the time being, predestination and election are concepts in Scripture that every believer will be confronted with. Even if you choose not to deal with it, the unbelieving world still has heard about it, learned it when they were in church as a kid, and/or logically deduces it through the knowledge that God knew before hand that man would fall, and yet still created us. So even if we bury our head in the sand and ignore this, the world will not let us. And, if we have faithful pastors and brethren in Christ who challenge, edify, and provoke us in godliness through the word of God, they won’t let us ignore this topic either.
Although you may hold to a more unique position concerning predestination and election, you will probably sympathize with either of these two views:
- God chose to save some out of His own free will, without regard to their future faith in Him.
- God chose to save some out of His own free will, but with regard to their future faith in Him.
I hate to be overly simplistic, but this is really the pivot point of almost every predestination conversation. Regardless of whether or not you believe man’s will is totally free or a slave, whether man can fall away from grace, or that man has the ability to resist God’s grace, this is where the starting line is painted.
Does God choose men from before the foundation of the world in accordance with man’s future faith? Or does God do this freely from His own volition without regard to who He knew would choose Him? This may sound a little extreme, but I propose that, although this conversation is important, and that I lean toward God choosing of His own volition without regard to our future faith, in the grand scheme of things, both are essentially saying the same thing, just with different emphasis. Here’s what I mean.
Whenever I get into a conversation with someone that strongly insists that God foreknew who would choose Him, and therefore chose who would be saved from that, my normal reaction is not to exegete Romans 8:29 properly (although certain contexts may allow for it). Nor do I fret when someone dogs election and predestination when they make mention of how God is a tyrannical, diabolical, evil, etc., for electing some to salvation while choosing others also to hell (which is often a straw man, misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ad hominem, and most of the time, a deliberate negligence to comprehend the doctrine of reprobation. Meanwhile wrongly attributing predestination to double predestination). I just simply ask if they believe God is omniscient. That’s all. Here’s why.
If God is omniscient, then that means He knew even before all of us were born who would be saved. God still possessed this knowledge of whom He would choose, and He had it without our permission. How we see God working this out from Scripture can be debated, but it can still be a bit of a red herring sometimes to discuss in my opinion. Because since God is omniscient, He knew from the foundation of the world who was destined to salvation. Understanding this, if God knew who would be saved, even before we were born, how does the fact that He chose based off our faith change the reality that God was in the beginning sovereignly deciding who would be saved? Did you catch that? Let’s say it another way. Even if God did indeed choose to save some based off of who would trust Him, and He foreknew who would believe Him, and from that decided, how does that negate the fact that He decided before we were even born? Even before we were even able to exercise that faith? We still didn’t have a say in the matter!
My intent here is not to rouse strife for shock and awe. I developed this in order to establish some peace in a conversation as well as some logical agreement. If you are a Christian, and you believe that God is omniscient, by default you implicitly ascribe to predestination and election, although unadmittedly. You may not believe that God elected and predestined some despite their faith, but you must logically deduce and concede to the fact that God’s omniscience alone makes election at least plausible. And by simply trying to soften the blow of election in saying that God chose some to be saved in accordance with our faith, one must admit that it doesn’t sweep away the problem at hand – that man’s problem with God is His sovereignty and free will to do as He pleases way before we were even born! A problem that even most professing Christians today have contention with. But if we are honest, we have no choice but to affirm this if we believe God is omniscient.
I hear the marching drum pounding with an army of rebuttals. One rebuttal is that even though God is omniscient, that doesn’t mean men are not accountable for their sin. I agree. Often Calvinists are attacked because others believe that in the doctrine of election that man can’t be held responsible for their sin. This of course is not true, but once again outside the scope of this article. Another rebuttal is that God’s omniscience is not the same as God choosing some to be saved. I agree again. But His omniscience alone approves of His will to choose because it was already in His nature to know and do as He pleases. So while the act of knowing and choosing may be distinct, they are in harmony with each other. Because how does God know who will be saved, and yet, decide against it? And if He did change His mind, and like man wavered between choosing (which I don’t believe), it still leaves us with the same conclusion.
Let’s say you’re still not convinced. For argument sake, let’s say you’re not persuaded that God’s omniscience does not equal affirming predestination and election, and that election (where God chooses of His own will and pleasure without regard to who would choose Him) still presents an evil, unbenevolent God. Philosophically speaking, you cannot have mercy without judgment, can you? Can you have evil without good? Can you understand salvation without sin? At base level, if you didn’t believe in double predestination (the idea that God chooses some to heaven as well as hell), or even predestination (God elects some to be saved meanwhile passing over others), you still would have to conclude that God knew from the beginning who would go to hell and to heaven. Unless you believe in universalism where God saves everyone eventually, or affirm a pelagian/deistic god who purposefully limits His own knowledge of the future so as to not infringe upon the will of man (both are heresy by the way), you must believe, as a Christian, that some will inevitable go to heaven or hell in the end. And God knew it! This isn’t fun to talk about out loud. I know. But it is still reality. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, you must, I repeat, you must submit to the idea that God knew from the beginning who would eventually go to heaven or hell. It’s not about whether or not God is evil or good, or making Him more or less benevolent. It’s about accurately representing God and His word without conceding to man’s ideas of how they feel God should act.
I don’t say any of this without grace. It took me a long time to come to these realizations, and I trust that many readers will find what I have said offensive. Meanwhile others are perhaps still trying to comprehend such a deep theological issue. Trust me, I sympathize. I only wish to make plain that in arguing for whether or not God chose in accordance with man’s will or His own, that we don’t cower from it simply because some have issues with it. And whatever the motive someone has to propagate that God chose because He knew who would have faith in Him, it doesn’t really change anything in light of God’s omniscience. Because if God is omniscient, He still knew, before we were born, who would be saved. And He still acted, prior to our birth, based upon His own will and good pleasure and consulted no one in process!
In essence, we will always end up back to square one regarding the most classic question ever asked by man: “If God knew man would fall, why did He create us in the first place.” The answer may vary depending on your theology, but it doesn’t do away from the inescapable truth that God, if He is truly that, has already determined who would be saved, based off of the good pleasure of His will, and the benevolence of His person. And that it will be through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – Son of God, 2nd person of the Trinity, fully God fully man – that this salvation is attainable. Because, if you think about it, God didn’t have to save anyone. None! We all deserve hell. Period. If God saved one person, it would be the most gracious and loving act that God could have bestowed upon a human being, and God would be perfectly justified in sending the rest to eternal torment. But since God is infinitely more gracious than we could imagine, He has chosen to save millions to date (by my puny estimation). If man wants to secure his free will and be a contributor to their salvation, they can have it. So as long as God gets to keep His free will and do as He pleases without obligation to any man’s volition.
-Until we go home
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
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Very well thought out and I happen to agree with predestination/ election. I have seen discussions become emotional over the subject, it seemed to me because of differing definitions of certain terms. However, I have suspected, at least in some cases, the “pride of the flesh” being involved in arguing an emotional case for man’s ultimate free will. God’s sovereignty precludes an absolute ultimate free will bestowed on any person other than God, Himself, by Himself. But as long as the issue is discussed it’s not a wasted trip as long as the central figure remains God-focused. Very interesting article.
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Thank G.W. for your comments. It has been a topic of discussion with unbelievers and believers alike. I believe the sooner we welcome the implications of God’s omniscience the more resolute we’ll become in sharing the gospel and affirming the nature of God.
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You walked a tightrope on this one with good balance.
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Finnegan, I apologize for any trouble you may have had posting a comment. I assure you there wasn’t any purposeful censorship on my part. I did not see any comments that were pending If there is something you wish to say, by all means present your thoughts.
Since saving faith is a gift from God, predestination cannot be based on “future faith.” “Future faith” is the inevitable product every one who was chosen by YHWH before the foundation of the world.
Thanks for your comment Manfred. Predestination is based off of the will of God to do as He pleases from before the foundation of the world. Regardless of how God decided to choose, it was His will to do so without consulting or conceding to anyone else’s will but His own. To think in this direction helps everyone to understand that, regardless of whatever emphasis we press, it is a mere distraction to the bigger issue that God is in the heavens, and He does what He pleases. Although I agree that faith is a gift from God, whether it is given at the point of conversion or given to men to exercise prior to their conversion, the Holy Spirit is nevertheless the only influence upon that process. We could talk circles around one another and forget that these main points are still nevertheless revealed in Scripture. In essence, we can discuss our differing points with emphasis in differing areas, but sometimes it doesn’t remove certain realities like the one written above. It is important to focus on those absolute realities as a guide post and common ground for preaching the gospel, and fellowshiping between believers.
Thank you Finnegan.
Man is made in God’s image, but that image was shattered, like a mirror, into pieces because of the fall. Like a mirror, some of those pieces may reflect the image of God, but are still affected by sin. Only Christ can fully restore the image that has been desperately marred by Adam and put in a new reflection made in the new creation of Christ. In other words, Christ is the last Adam fulfilling what the first Adam failed to do, and that righteousness that is imputed to us restores the image of God that was shattered and marred by the fall and original sin. This is total depravity.
I want to thank you for your precise and graciously written article.
It seems to me that with any topical discussion misunderstandings arise from differing definitions of the same words.
You speak about election and predestination and sovereignty and omniscience and others can only respond with the slanderous pejorative hyper Calvinism.
Understanding the asaity of God proves that He alone is utterly non-contingent.
Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. How we understand such terminology inevitably shapes our definition of the God we worship. Is it going to far to suggest that such misunderstandings can lead to idolatry? To put it another way, at what point does our understanding or misunderstanding lead us into worshipping another God crafted within our minds.
Jesus warned of the dangers of being led astray by false Christs. Every cult follows a false Christ.
Thank you Finnegan for the reply.
I fail to see how man being sciential matters. Please don’t miss the point what man was at the time of creation, or became after the fall. God was still aware and knew what would occur. It makes no difference still whether man is sciential or not. It does not, nor ever will, put a dent in God’s sovereignty. His omniscience trumps everything. I pray you understand the original meaning behind this post.
Finnegan, I didn’t see the other post until now. Here is what I think the central point of your argument is:
“I have no problem accepting the fallen sinful nature of MAN and I have no problem believing that God in HIS foreknowledge KNEW that MAN would fall into sin but it is absolute speculation that God CAUSED MAN to sin.”
If I am correct, and you assume that this is what I believe, then I assure you that not I nor the Scripture affirms this. Not sure why you brought up this point.
It’s not too far to suggest that misunderstandings of God can lead to idolatry. However, it does depend on where it leads as to how we make that decision. Also, it serves us well to use caution before we pull the idolatry card when sometimes we are a creation that is slow to understand at times. So if an individual is resisting orthodoxy versus just failing to comprehend it, we should learn to make such a distinction and provide the benefit of the doubt. If we know such a misunderstand can lead to a heretical understanding of God, warning the hearer wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question either if we feel the individual could potentially move in that direction.
Hope this helps.
I am not offended. You’re questions are not offensive. I’m not sure what your line of questions are trying to achieve from this post though. I think you can gather from my post(s) that I am calvanistic in my theology. If you have a question that is related to the post, I’ll be happy to clarify. If it drifts, I will not be inclined to reply so as to save ourselves frustration on this forum. Discussing rabbit trails are not helpful on this medium in my experience.
As a note, the site does have a moderation list of posts awaiting approval. Please be patient as we sift through them and approve them as we see it. Be assured this post is not censoring you.
I appreciate your cordial attitude as well.
Finney. I’m curious. Who initiated your salvation? You or God? Did you respond to Him or did He respond to you? I guess I’m looking for a simple answer like, “I responded to Him.” Or, “He responded to me.” I will have no comment regardless as to your answer, I just want to better understand where you are coming from.
I agree with Spurgeon on this topic. Spurgeon said this:
“I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.”
Great comment Manfred! You’ll appreciate this
Spurgeon also said about Calvinism-
“We will believe only what the Scripture teaches.”
“I believe nothing merely because Calvin taught it,, but because I have found his teaching in the word of God.” We believe something not because John Calvin , we believe it because Matthew, Mark and John taught it. And because the great head of the Church– the Lord Jesus Christ teaches these matters. I am content to be a mere repeater of Scripture.”
“All we have to say is what the bible teaches. Everything must rest upon the pure teaching of the word of God. Calvinism did not spring from Calvin, we believe that it sprang from the great Founder capital (F) of all truth. We believe what we believe not because Great men have taught it but because we can put our finger on chapter and verse.”
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Thanks, Linda. I am with the old cigar smoker on this one. Not a Calvinist, per se’ – but I do hold to and believe in the doctrines of grace that are clearly revealed in Scripture.
Finnegan, I have been quite busy of late with a job change, a great deal of training, preparing for Sundays each week, and still trying to spend time with the family. With that in mind, I have not been able to post as much as I would like. However, I do want to clear up a few items.
One, the Lord in His grace has allowed me to become the owner of Defending Contending for a couple of years now, and I am the longest continuous contributor as well at this time for over 8 years. I have other brothers and sisters who contribute and I am thankful for their contribution although we may not always agree.
Two, the spam filters were set years ago to catch certain words and it is not based on doctrinal differences. For some reason, some comments keep going to moderation even though they should not, even Manfred and George have had some comments that went automatically to moderation.
Three, I also hold to the doctrines of grace, but I do not classify myself as being “reformed.” I am mostly Baptistic (historical) in my belief system and I do not believe that historically Baptists were ever “Reformed.”
Fourth, and maybe most importantly, my desire has long been for this blogsite to be an encouragement to many not to be here as a mouthpiece for all things related to Calvinism, Reformed Theology, etc., etc., etc. We have had hard posts in the past and will yet in the future. However, this is a site dedicated to the truths of God’s Word, not man-made traditions and certain buzz words that generate discussions over endless genealogies.
I hope the gracious and cordial responses continue on all sides, even though we may not always agree. If you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact me privately as well through email.
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James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
Mark – It is great to see you chime in with such peaceable wisdom. The Lord bless you, your family, local church and your new job.
James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
I am no card carrying ‘reformed’ or ‘calvinist’ christian (I abhor such labels and the general states of those religious groups) but the scriptures teach that Jesus Christ has pre-eminence (Col 1:8) in all things including the salvation of our souls (John 15:16, Rom 9:16). Be careful not to exalt yourself and your role in believing against the unmerited grace of God. Wish to God all carnal isms would die a painful death as they do NOT bear good fruit according Pauls letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:3). Yes, of course, good fruit might come from any actual truth contained in the ism, but NOT the ism itself.
Spurgeons idea of ‘calvinism’ is a lot different than modern ‘calvinism’ in many ways (still we’d do better according to scripture to drop the isms all together). The prince of preachers admits there is a sense of mystery in how God works out these biblical truths outside of time and space. The prideful modern ‘calvinist’ can admit no such thing because they are so wise in their own eyes. They have to reject or explain away this quote to maintain their hyper stance and views and sense of theological pride.
“That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.” -Charles H. Spurgeon