What I Remember it Meaning: If you're chosen, you're in, period...you can't not choose God.
What it Actually Means: God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen.
Engaging Unconditional Election
Okay. So I looked up a couple of people's thoughts on election and discovered, just two tenets in and we are already getting down and dirty. Before I get into some Mark Driscoll, I do want to share I was disheartened at his lack of a broader perspective that includes the Catholic tradition, let alone the Orthodox Christian. But...we'll let him throw the first mud, which can be found here.
But first a little detour to explain his comments. Rooted way back in Augustinian theology was this thing called prevenient grace. Basically it means that before man has been reconciled back to God, man has been given a choice whether to partake in the salvation of Jesus Christ or not. So, basically there is this opportunity that God affords to man that involves free will. That's right folks. Just two tenets in and predestination rears its head.
The doctrine of prevenient grace has been very controversial because it has little, and arguably no, biblical basis. Furthermore, it assumes that a person can simply exercise faith, when the Bible says not only is salvation a gift from God, but also even the faith to believe in Jesus is a gift of God’s grace.
Because heaven is God’s home, he has the right to decide who lives there forever with him. Since we are saved by grace, which is a gift that God gives, he has the right to give it as he determines is best. And, we need to trust him to do what is right and best.
Now, let's get a Catholic voice in here. Mr. Thomas Aquinas. (This dude is legit!)
|Aquinas also reminds me of these.|
And now someone from the conditional election camp...none other than the author of The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer.
Alright. So a lot of guys talking about a lot of things that we don't normally think about. It basically boils down to God predestines or we have free will. My buddy Samuel just left and talked about how he understands those concepts in complimentary terms which is pretty cool. Me being a theological mutt, I am kind of all over the place. So, once again, let me jump over to the Orthodox Church and quote a couple of guys.
We ought to understand that while God knows all things beforehand, yet He does not predetermine all things. For He knows beforehand those things that are in our power, but He does not predetermine them. For it is not His will that there should be wickedness nor does He choose to compel virtue. So that predetermination is the work of the divine command based on fore-knowledge. But on the other hand God predetermines those things which are not within our power in accordance with His prescience.
Following him is St. Gregory Palamas:
So...that is a lot of information. And your head may be spinning as much as mine. But when I pull back from the lens, here is what I see. The playing field here is not really even salvation...it's the nature of God. That is why this is so heated. You have a crew of people (Calvinists) emphasizing God's sovereignty and a group arguing that this brand of sovereignty somehow prevents God from being good. That is really what is at stake here. Is God sovereign or is He good?
So, if you know me, you know quickly where this going...I'm Team Jacobus! Always have been, probably always be. I think of myself as a pretty teachable guy, but the way that I approach the Lord, I just don't see this changing too much. The problem is, I don't see anyway around double predestination once you start down that road. If God chooses certain people, there is no way around him not choosing the others. Calvinists argue that this view is too anthropocentric and not christocentric enough. Arminians argue that Calvinists are missing their point altogether.
The deal is, as I understand goodness, a supreme deity cannot be good and choose arbitrarily that I am elect and my buddy Ryan isn't (which is funny, because at one point he was a Calvinist who believed he wasn't chosen...now that sucks!). This isn't about God choosing based on merit. This is about God giving over the reigns of choice to humanity. And if that limits the sovereignty of God for you, I'm sorry. I get it...I really do. I like the idea of not having any responsibility because, you know, God chose that. (Okay, low blow on my party and caricature that nearly no good Calvinist would hold.)
I fall in the camp of God's foreknowledge, instead of God's predetermined choice. And part of it comes down to what many saints throughout history have argued: God will not cause men to purposefully sin against Him. First, thing's first: Pharaoh. Yikes. I concede you are right...but even in the end Pharaoh had a choice. The plagues were a testing ground for Pharaoh and God ultimately did give him a choice. Re-read it. There are plenty of places where it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Ultimately Pharaoh led himself to his own demise by pursuing the Jews into the desert.
Instead of saying that God caused Pharaoh to sin, I am firmly in the camp of saying that God knew Pharaoh's heart and therefore his response. God causing someone to sin against Him is like Jesus' house divided. God invoking sin against Himself just doesn't work. God choosing His own creation to cause the death of His Son is a terrifying thought. Throughout Scripture it says that God knows the heart of man. Therefore, as I said, I go with foreknowledge...not predestination.
So, I think this lands me square with 0 points this round. I know, how disappointing. But I think I will choose to get over it.