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Posts Tagged ‘Greg Dutcher

Does Unconditional Election Bother You?

Having just read Greg Dutcher’s book, Killing Calvinism, Dutcher tells the story of his being asked by a non-Calvinist friend if the doctrine of unconditional election bothers him.  Dutcher was honest to his friend and said, “It does.”  Nonetheless, Dutcher feels that he must surrender to the authority of Scripture and affirm the doctrine despite his acknowledgement that the doctrine does bother him.  He writes that Calvinists should be honest about their feelings toward their doctrinal views without fear.  He said his friend believed that Calvinists had no feelings toward people and just viewed them as robots or pawns in a divine chess game.  Dutcher writes that his honesty was a good starting point to discuss Calvinism with his friend.

I appreciate that about Dutcher.  Like R.C. Sproul before him, he is willing to admit that he doesn’t like everything about Calvinism while accepting it as true.

I would add another approach to this though and that would be to just admit that the doctrine is wrong.  The doctrine of unconditional election is not based on the clear reading of the Bible but upon taking the TULIP and forcing it upon the text.  That is my approach to this issue.  I agree with Dutcher that it bothers me that God has not chosen to save many, many, many people and in fact He has chosen to damn them for eternity all while holding them responsible for a gospel that they could never have accepted in the first place.  That bothers me too.  It bothers me that someone could read the “all” passages such as John 3:16 or Romans 11:32 or 1 Timothy 2:3-6  or 1 Timothy 4:10 or Revelation 22:17 and says that the “all” there is simply the unconditional elect that God has chosen before time began.  It bothers me that God would grant Adam and Eve free will to fall into sin but then He, in His sovereignty, chooses to save only a few for His glory when He could save all for His glory and make the foundation of that election faith in His Son.  That does bother me.

So I choose, from my free will, to reject the teaching of unconditional election.  I don’t do so blindly.  I do so because I don’t see it in Scripture.  I see God choosing people for His own purposes such as Abraham or Moses or Jeremiah or Paul.  I see God choosing nations such as Israel or Egypt.  I see Jesus choosing His disciples (John 15:16).  But I don’t see these as guaranteeing salvation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Romans 9 is clear about this with regard to Israel.  Only those who place their faith in Jesus become His elect that He foreknew (Romans 9:30-33; 10:9-17; 11:2).  Through God’s foreknowledge (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2), God knows those who will freely believe the gospel and be saved.

I choose instead to affirm a conditional election.  I believe in the sovereignty of God.  I believe that God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to send His Son to be the elected one who will die for our sins.  Jesus shed His blood for all men but only those who appropriate His sacrifice are those accepted in the beloved (1 Timothy 4:10).  Romans 3:21-26 are powerful verses on this point.  It reads:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We are justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1) and not unto faith.  At what point are we then saved?  In Calvinism, God’s election of the person means that Jesus shed His blood for that elected person.  When Jesus died on the cross (in Calvinism), He died to save the elect that God had ordained before the world began.  Thus Jesus died to secure the elect’s salvation.  Now when were the elect justified?  Where they justified before time began when God ordained that Jesus would be the Lamb of God for the elect (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8)?  If this is the case, are the elect eternally justified?  Most Calvinists will answer no to these questions.  Calvinists, like Arminians, will acknowledge that the elect are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  But if Jesus died to secure the elect’s salvation, are what point are they saved?  When Jesus died or when they place their faith in Him?  Further, are the elect born regenerated since regeneration must occur before faith because dead men cannot place their faith in the living Christ?

I believe that we are saved when we place our faith in Christ.  Most of my Calvinist brethren do too.  While some of them will say that we are regenerated before faith in Christ, they all acknowledge that they are saved by grace through faith.  I am thankful for that.  We agree on that.  But I wonder, are they, the elect, born without sin?  If Christ died for their sins on the cross (and none of His blood was spilled in vain according to this view), then the sins of the elect were atoned for when Jesus died.  Thus the elect are born sinless?  Correct?  So how can an elect person then need to be justified through faith if in fact Jesus already shed His blood for their sins even before time began?

Perhaps I am wondering here a bit but my point is that the unconditional election view leads to other issues.  I am not asking for them to be resolved here.  I don’t mind that we all appeal to a bit of uncertainty when it comes to some theological issues (the Trinity is a tough one to grasp and though I try,  I have not been able to but I don’t reject the doctrine because I do see it in Scripture).  But when it comes to unconditional election, I do reject it and not just because of where it logical leads (to reprobation of sinners by God’s sovereign choice and makes God guilty of sin and favoritism which He is not in any way) but also because I see the best alternative in Scripture, conditional election based on God’s foreknowledge.  This view, to me, not only is based on the sacrifice of the Messiah but also the doctrine of God Himself wherein He has revealed Himself as loving, good, and just.  The focus of election, in the works of Arminius, is based on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the focus of election.  He is the elected One and not only that but He is the foundation for our election.  I was just reading from Ephesians 1:3-14 and it is amazing to me how much “He” and “Him” appear in the text (I was reading it from the NASB).  “He” and not “me” is the focus of election.

I pray that I have not misunderstood Calvinism as this point.  I know many godly Calvinists who are active in evangelism despite their agreement with unconditional election and I am grateful for that.  I don’t mean to cast Calvinists as being ignorant of God’s Word in the least bit.  Many of them are far greater thinkers than I am but I do acknowledge that I am not comfortable, as Dutcher has above, with the doctrine of unconditional election and my rejection of it is, in my mind, based on both Scripture and logic.

 

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