Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Biblical Case Against Unconditional Election

There have been statements made that those who do not accept the teaching of unconditional election despise it because they would like to get credit for their own salvation. While that may seem like a plausible statement, it is untrue for those who believe the Biblical Gospel.

The Biblical Gospel is that “Christ died to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Those supporting this doctrine have claimed that the word world does not mean world at all times. But Jesus used it four times in two sentences. I think that the rules of grammar (which were created by the Inventor of Languages Himself) state that unless you do some serious modification, words that are repeated in a sentence must have the same meaning throughout the sentence.

Furthermore, Jesus gave us a parable of election in Matthew 22. It sounds nothing like Reformed Theology:

And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

“Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

“Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

“And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

What distinguished the few that were chosen from the many that were not? The chosen obeyed the King! They willed to do as He commanded. They were counted worthy, not because of their history, not because of their status, but because of their obedience on these two things: Come to the feast and wear a wedding garment. That’s it. The King’s prize list rejected the King’s wishes.
Christians are called to do two things: Repent and believe the Gospel. They are rewarded for keeping these two commands. Obviously, these are not works of the Law, for by them no man can be justified. However, Paul says that God will take vengeance on those who “obey not the Gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8); therefore, obedience in this matter does not constitute works, because this commandment is not of the Law but of Grace. Since we cannot keep the Law, God offers a pardon through His Grace and commands us to take it, else we die. Those who obey the Gospel (repent and trust) are rewarded as the chosen of God. It would seem that Reformed Theologians have it all wrong.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is often quoted by those who hold the Reformed position as being a Calvinist. But listen to what else he said in one of his sermons: “As it is my wish [and] your wish…so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved…He is no less benevolent than we are.”

In His statements to the prophet Ezekiel, twice God said that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires that the wicked repent (18:21-23; 33:11). These statements are the basis for both Paul’s and Peter’s statements in the New Testament:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. –1 Timothy 2:1-4

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. –2 Peter 3:9

These are very clear statements of the Love and Character of God Himself, comments made by God Himself and then repeated by His Apostles. To deny these truths is to call God a liar. And that is what Reformed Theologians have done.

No matter the difficulty of reconciling these passages to others, we cannot let ourselves lose sight of what God Himself has said about Himself. We must interpret all Scripture in light of all Scripture. We cannot take single verses that appear to contradict these plain statements and create an opposing paradigm—no matter how many scholars support that paradigm.

Romans 9 is a chapter often cited in support of the doctrine of unconditional election, because of its statements about Esau and Pharaoh. However, nothing in God’s counsel here condemned either of these men to eternal damnation.

Concerning Esau, God only said that Esau would serve Jacob—nothing to do with his soul. That did not mean that Esau was condemned to do only the things which he did that cost him his birthright. The counsel of God would have stood one way or the other. This is just the way it played out. There were many other ways that it could have happened, but this is the way it did.

He had picked this man to be Pharaoh at this time in order to show His power over the Egyptian gods, of whom anyone holding the title of Pharaoh was one. Thus His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was intended for the salvation of many Egyptian souls, which did happen (the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with the children of Israel). It did not mean that Pharaoh necessarily had to go to Hell. He still could have repented of his sins and humbled himself after such a disastrous defeat at the hands of a clearly Superior God.

Another argument is made that God’s glory is lessened if we have anything to do with our salvation. What!?!

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5)--Paul contrasts work with belief! Our repentance and faith are not works, in God’s economy. They are simply choices. We can continue to drown in perdition or we can allow the Savior to rescue us. There is no work involved in that.

No glory comes to the man who is saved by the lifeguard, only glory to the lifeguard for saving him. But there is blame placed on the man who doesn’t trust in the lifeguard to save him from sure death. That is the Biblical picture of salvation.

4 comments:

kinky said...
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Chris said...
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Chris said...

I thought about your post some more and would like to interrupt this public service announcement for a special bulletin.

"There have been statements made that those who do not accept the teaching of unconditional election despise it because they would like to get credit for their own salvation. While that may seem like a plausible statement, it is untrue for those who believe the Biblical Gospel."

God forbid, may I never make such an accusation without evidence. I *love* the doctrine of unconditional election but I also *love* born-again Christians who do not agree with that doctrine, primarily because they are born-again Christians! This doctrine can be difficult to accept and/or difficult to understand at times, and we ought to be gracious to those such as yourself who disagree with us. Far be it for me to assign uncharitable motives for your rejection of this blessed doctrine. You see the Scriptures that say thus and thus and you have a, perhaps misinformed, understanding of the doctrine of unconditional election and say, "Aha! But of course! Here in XYZ Scripture it says thus and thus so therefore unconditional election is wrong!" How can I hate you for taking the plain reading of God's Word to heart? How can I assign uncharitable motives? I cannot! I will not!

But I will kindly and humbly guide you to see how you might be misinformed.


The Biblical Gospel is that "Christ died to save sinners, of whom I am chief." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

As a Christian who loves all five points of TULIP, I agree with that statement. Whosoever believeth in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.

I can see why you might assume reformed theologans haven't read those verses but they have, I promise they have. John 3:16 was one of the first Scriptures I memorized. The GOOD theologans don't try to change the plain and obvious meaning of those verses but harmonize other Scriptures which (only at first) seem to contradict these. They harmonize in such a way that all of God's Word remains intact and the plain reading remains consistent with everything else.


Those supporting this doctrine have claimed that the word world does not mean world at all times. But Jesus used it four times in two sentences. I think that the rules of grammar (which were created by the Inventor of Languages Himself) state that unless you do some serious modification, words that are repeated in a sentence must have the same meaning throughout the sentence.

We were just talking about this at Bible study on Wednesday. My good friend said something like, "I am not Bill Clinton. Words do not have new meanings just because I don't like their implications." I agree. If I see the word "world" I will almost always let it mean every person in the world.

I really, really, REALLY do not like the argument that "world doesn't always mean every person." I'm not willing to throw the argument out completely, for perhaps there are a few places where that applies, but when I read "God so loved the WORLD" I have a great deal of difficulty reinterpreting "world" as to mean "all classes of people." No, "world" means "world," Bill Clinton. ;-)


Furthermore, Jesus gave us a parable of election in Matthew 22. It sounds nothing like Reformed Theology:

(Matthew 22 snipped)

What distinguished the few that were chosen from the many that were not? The chosen obeyed the King! They willed to do as He commanded. They were counted worthy, not because of their history, not because of their status, but because of their obedience on these two things: Come to the feast and wear a wedding garment. That’s it. The King’s prize list rejected the King’s wishes.
Christians are called to do two things: Repent and believe the Gospel. They are rewarded for keeping these two commands. Obviously, these are not works of the Law, for by them no man can be justified. However, Paul says that God will take vengeance on those who “obey not the Gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8); therefore, obedience in this matter does not constitute works, because this commandment is not of the Law but of Grace. Since we cannot keep the Law, God offers a pardon through His Grace and commands us to take it, else we die. Those who obey the Gospel (repent and trust) are rewarded as the chosen of God. It would seem that Reformed Theologians have it all wrong.


I humbly submit that Reformed Theology has no problem with your interpretation of Matthew 22. Furthermore, I don't see why Reformed Theologans have it all wrong based upon this interpretation? You might have to explain some more.


Charles Haddon Spurgeon is often quoted by those who hold the Reformed position as being a Calvinist. But listen to what else he said in one of his sermons: "As it is my wish [and] your wish ... so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved ... He is no less benevolent than we are."

Tee hee :-)

Spurgeon's statement fits perfectly into Reformed doctrines. Of course it is God's wish that all men should be saved, it says so right there in the Bible! :-) What do I mean?
http://devidal.blogspot.com/2007/04/non-calvinist-says-god-doesnt-want-any.html


In His statements to the prophet Ezekiel, twice God said that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires that the wicked repent (18:21-23; 33:11). These statements are the basis for both Paul’s and Peter’s statements in the New Testament:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. –1 Timothy 2:1-4

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. –2 Peter 3:9

These are very clear statements of the Love and Character of God Himself, comments made by God Himself and then repeated by His Apostles. To deny these truths is to call God a liar. And that is what Reformed Theologians have done.


I don't know of any __good__ Reformed Theologan who has denied those truths. If you can think of any let me know so I can be forewarned about their teaching. Of *course* God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Only hyper-Calvinists say God takes delight in the death of the wicked.

And no, I'm not changing the meaning of your words. I'll take your definitions of those words, they suit me just fine.


No matter the difficulty of reconciling these passages to others, we cannot let ourselves lose sight of what God Himself has said about Himself. We must interpret all Scripture in light of all Scripture. We cannot take single verses that appear to contradict these plain statements and create an opposing paradigm—no matter how many scholars support that paradigm.

Totally agree. I have sometimes questioned my favorite pastors because they appeared to contradict Scripture.

The question I have for you is: do you promise to trust that if all of Scripture says ABC, you will not change its meaning, regardless if it doesn't make sense? Regardless if it doesn't agree with your feelings?

I've taken that attitude toward a doctrine called "active/active predestination." Hyper-Calvinists say that God was as active in predestining the lost to hell as he was in predestining the saved to heaven. They say God forced men to sin, damning them to hell forever. While I really dislike this doctrine and currently do not believe it (I'm with active/passive), I've taken the attitude that if the doctrine is correct, let it be correct! God forbid I change the meaning of a single verse just because I don't like or understand it!

Do you promise to do the same? The things we are discussing don't seem at first to make sense, nor on the surface do they seem just and right. But in all my thinking I have tried to always look for how God's love justice works through reformed thinking, and so far, it has.

So do you promise to do the same?


Romans 9 is a chapter often cited in support of the doctrine of unconditional election, because of its statements about Esau and Pharaoh. However, nothing in God’s counsel here condemned either of these men to eternal damnation.

Now that is something I haven't considered before. Great job bringing that to my attention, I will consider it further.


Concerning Esau, God only said that Esau would serve Jacob—nothing to do with his soul. That did not mean that Esau was condemned to do only the things which he did that cost him his birthright. The counsel of God would have stood one way or the other. This is just the way it played out. There were many other ways that it could have happened, but this is the way it did.

When I talked to you on the phone, you said you disagreed with open theism but the statement above sounds like open theism? "The God of the Possible" is the title of one of their books. Sounds like you believe God works within any possibility because He isn't certain of the outcome?

About Esau, it says God hated him. Before you jump to conclusions, we also know God loves the world, including Esau. The classic Calvinistic Christian simply says God does both. Not equally, but certainly Scripture says God does both and so I cannot, must not deny that.


He had picked this man to be Pharaoh at this time in order to show His power over the Egyptian gods, of whom anyone holding the title of Pharaoh was one. Thus His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was intended for the salvation of many Egyptian souls, which did happen (the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with the children of Israel). It did not mean that Pharaoh necessarily had to go to Hell. He still could have repented of his sins and humbled himself after such a disastrous defeat at the hands of a clearly Superior God.

It had never occurred to me to look at this through the lens of a temporary hardening. Good argument.

And no matter how many times I'd read Genesis and Exodus, I never ever saw that Scripture says Egyptians came out with the Israelites. Wow! Fascinating! Is this not a forecast of the gospel? The gentiles being saved along with the Jews?

That Bible, it is SO COOL!!


Another argument is made that God’s glory is lessened if we have anything to do with our salvation. What!?!

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:5)--Paul contrasts work with belief! Our repentance and faith are not works, in God’s economy. They are simply choices. We can continue to drown in perdition or we can allow the Savior to rescue us. There is no work involved in that.


I can see what you mean. That's a good Scripture, by the way, to talk to our no-Lordship brothers, who say repentance is a work and therefore is not necessary for salvation (yeah, I couldn't believe it either). Gotta tuck that one away.

Back to the question, do you have the boldness to thank God for everything in salvation -- but your faith?
Does Ephesians 2:8 not say that faith is a gift?
Does 2 Timothy 2:25 not say repentance is a gift?


No glory comes to the man who is saved by the lifeguard, only glory to the lifeguard for saving him. But there is blame placed on the man who doesn’t trust in the lifeguard to save him from sure death. That is the Biblical picture of salvation.

Is it? While I agree with your basic statement that only a lifeguard gets the glory, I disagree that mankind is drowning. I think the Bible says mankind is dead at the bottom of the lake.

Does the Bible use terms like "sick" or "drowning" to describe the lost? Or "captive," "slaves," "deaf," "blind" and "dead"? I can think of only one place where the word "sick" could be referred to the lost: Luke 5:31,32 (parallels in Matthew 9 and Mark 2). I thought about it alot, and since we have SO MUCH other Scripture which refers to the lost as "captive," "slaves," "deaf," "blind" and "dead," the only way I can read this is as a loose metaphor that wasn't intended by Jesus to be completely precise, perfectly and forever equating "sick" with "sinners."

I'll be honest, I don't like that conclusion that I came to in the last paragraph. It doesn't feel right to call it a loose metaphor when it feels so much tighter than that. I'm still thinking about this verse. What keeps me from completely giving in to an Arminian understanding is the great number of Scriptures which describe sinners as "captive," "slaves," "deaf," "blind" and "dead." So I'm trying to find a way to harmonize Luke 5:31,32 with the rest of Scripture. Might have to read the parallel verses in Matthew and Mark.

Dead men don't need a physician, they need a prophet. They need THE Great Prophet.


Have you heard these messages by John Piper about TULIP? One thing I appreciate about John is he is very honest with the Arminian point-of-view. He does not burn straw men but accurately demonstrates their beliefs in such a way that they would actually agree with and then addresses their shortcomings on that basis, such as I did above with the sick/dead paragraph above. Notice I did not misrepresent your view, and even quoted the Scripture your view might come from, and then I talked about why I did not believe that was right. I learned that from Piper.

He even says he still doubts some areas of TULIP. I'm with John; I still have some questions about unconditional election that we didn't explore above.

Have a listen, it's free and very good:
http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Audio-and-Multimedia/Doctrine-and-Theology/Calvinism/John-Piper--TULIP/


That was an invigorating discussion, brother! You raised a few good points that I must think about some more. I didn't explain every thought I had, so please ask questions.

Chat with me on my blog, too. These are tough things to figure out. Let's have a good discussion about this. Don't forget: patience, charity, humility, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, love. "By this all people will know that you are [Jesus'] disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 ESV)

Love you, brother! Keep tractin' hard! I'll pray about supporting your next trip.

Chris said...

Oops the blog page cut off the link to Piper's TULIP series. So I turned it into a TinyURL:
http://tinyurl.com/2eogw4