July 22, 2007 12 Comments
This is the second of my posts on TULIP and my understanding of the 5 points of Calvinism or Reformed Theology.
What is taught by Reformed Theology: This choosing of the elect (and non-elect) is totally in conjunction with (or a function of) God’s sovereignty over His creation. God’s sovereignty basically means that God had the right to do anything He wishes with His creation. This is sometimes hard for us to accept but it is true. The Creator is always greater than the creation. In Romans chapter 9 the Apostle Paul gives us 3 examples explaining God’s sovereignty. In verses 9-13 Paul explains the Esau will serve Jacob, in verses 17-18 Paul tells of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and in verses 19-23 Paul uses the example of the potter’s right to create out of the clay whatever he wishes. I recently saw (in his chat room) Dr. James White explain God’s sovereignty in the matter of election in this way (I will paraphrase). God has 3 choices in election – 1) God can save everybody, 2) God can save nobody, or 3)God can save some. Option 1 and 2 give God no room to exercise His sovereignty. Only option 3 allows God to exercise His sovereignty over His creation.
First we must consider the meaning of unconditional. By definition we see that there must be an absence of conditions for God’s sovereign election of His people. There are no conditions placed on God that require He elect or not elect someone. If conditions were imposed on God during this process then God ceases to be sovereign.
Next we turn to election. Throughout the Bible the concept of election or predestination is taught. The elect are the group of people who will receive salvation and who will become known as God’s children (John 1:12-13). Two examples are found in these passages
1 Peter 2:8-9 says, “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Romans 8:28-30 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Unconditional election basically means that God, of His own will and pleasure, chooses some people to be among the elect. This choice is not merited in any way by the person God chooses. God does not see some good in the person, He does not look down the corridor of time and see that the person will choose Him, He does not see any future good works the person will do, etc. It is solely a choice by God according to God’s plan and purpose and for His glory and pleasure. God made this election or choice before the foundation of the world…before anything was created and before any man was born (Ephesians 1:3-14).
In summary, God has chosen to set apart (elect/predestine) some people to receive salvation and to become the children of God. He does this for His own purpose and pleasure and the decision to elect or not elect is in no way connected to any merit found with the person. In fact, the decision as to who would be included in the elect was made before the foundation of the world.
My Questions and Comments: The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this is that it IS God’s right to do with us as He chooses. God is sovereign over all of creation. If God wants to choose only some people to be included among the elect that is His right. It is a hard thing to swallow that God would choose some to be elect and others to be reprobate and those who were reprobate would never have that chance to receive salvation. This is known as Double Predestination. If God actively and sovereignly chooses some to be members of the elect (and He does) then He also is actively and sovereignly choose everyone else to be members of the reprobate. I can see no way around this. Not choosing is still a choice.
The next thing that comes to mind is a question. Does God allow the person to have a say as to whether he wants to be included in the elect? If God does allow the person to have a say then who is really sovereign – God or the person? Some would day that if the person has a say then God in no longer the sovereign being in the deal and the person is really sovereign. I have always thought that God’s allowing the person to have a say…to accept the offer of salvation..takes nothing away from God’s sovereignty. It would seem to me that it only sheds more light on truly how sovereign God is. Do you agree or disagree?
As a Southern Baptist, I have always been taught that we have to accept the offer of salvation to become a member of the elect. In my studies this seems to be implied throughout the New Testament but nowhere does it say it explicitly (that I am aware of). As a result, I have been doing a lot of reading and studying to see what the text of the Bible really teaches.
A key passage that I am struggling with right now is John 6:44. It says: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. The problem I am having is with the word “draws”. Draws seems to imply that God convinces or woos the person to come to Him. RC Sproul, in his book Chosen By God (p. 69-70), states that the same Greek word translated draw in this verse is translated as drag in two other NT verses. If the correct meaning in verse 44 is drag then it would change my entire understanding of the concept and necessitate a change in my theology. This actually caused me to have trouble sleeping the night I read this as the implications of the different meaning of the verse were bouncing around in my head.
Remember this is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of the topic but just some points to help me work through them in my mind. Any questions or comments are welcomed.