Sovereign Election – More Than Salvation?

Below is a letter that Colleen had posted elsewhere on this blog that I think lends itself to its own post. I will have a response to Colleen’s letter in the next day or two. As always, I welcome people’s thoughts and viewpoints.



Setting aside God’s sovereign election of individuals to eternal life, let us agree on three other types of election. First, what we could call a “national” election. Wouldn’t you agree that some nations and communities have been given more exposure to a knowledge of true religion and the gospel than others? God undoubtedly does choose some nations to receive much greater spiritual and temporal blessings than others (i.e., America). The contrast is very striking when we compare these to third-world nations such as Africa, India and China. Did these people choose their fate? I don’t think anyone would say they did. The diversities of religious privileges in the different nations can be ascribed to nothing but the good pleasure of God.

Another form of election taught in scripture is that of individuals to the external means of grace, such as hearing and reading the gospel, association with other people of God, and sharing the benefits of the civilization which has arisen where the gospel has gone. None of us has had a chance to say at a particular time in world history or in what country we would be born–or whether we would be a member of the white race or some other. One child is born into health and wealth in a favored land, while another is born into poverty or neglectful parents. Have these things not been sovereignly decided for them? Furthermore, was it not of God’s own choosing that He created us as human beings, in His own image, when He might just as easily have created us as frogs or mosquitos or cats? These things, too, are due to God’s overruling providence, and not to human choice.

Lastly, I offer yet another kind of election, that of individuals to certain vocations. Some are given to amazing gifts for classical guitar, and others have gifts of painting or singing or speaking. Some people have been given personal beauty, some intelligence, some a kind disposition. Did we choose these gifts? I’m here to tell you, Bob, no matter how many guitar lessons I might take, I will never play in the beautiful way you do.

In each of these “types” of election, God gives to some what He withholds from others. We can easily see from conditions in the world and from our own everyday experiences that these blessings are bestowed sovereignly and unconditionally, irrespective of any previous merit or action on the part of those so chosen.

If we are highly favored, we can only be thankful for His blessings; if not highly favored, we have no grounds for complaint. Why, precisely, this or that person is placed in circumstances which lead to saving faith can only rest in the providence of the God Himself.

In Christ Alone,



Author: Bob

I’m an upper Midwestern guy who has recently entered the "Buick stage" of life and decided to migrate to Florida. This blog is an attempt to rectify discordant aspects within my Christian faith ... or what often feels like my lack of Christian faith. Things which make life more enjoyable include strong black coffee, charcoal grilling anytime of the year, putz'ing at a table saw, playing chess, a good orthopedic surgeon and an occasional IPA. Please feel free to poke around and comment as you wish. I welcome discussion and the insights of others.

7 thoughts on “Sovereign Election – More Than Salvation?”

  1. Dear Colleen,

    While reading your letter, the phrases that kept coming to mind were, “I don’t think so.” and “Where is that taught?” In addition to divine election for salvation, I understand the following from you –
    – God chooses some nations over others for greater spiritual and temporal blessings.
    – God pre-determines not only one’s salvation but also where individuals are born, their specific race, health (or lack thereof), wealth (or lack thereof), neglectful parents, and probably a whole host of other things.
    – God determines everything about everyone such as looks, personality, skills, talents, abilities and probably a whole host of other things.

    I can’t argue where scripture is clear and specific on a given fact regarding someone or even a nation such as Israel in the OT. I won’t argue that certain people may have been born at certain times or otherwise “tasked” to accomplish God’s will. I won’t argue that God may have given certain people “a thorn in the flesh” to help them place their dependency on Him and not on themselves. “National election”, “external means of grace election”, and “individual vocation election” – what other kinds of election are there? Does God predetermine everything that that happens? Perhaps you have references that would help me see things from your perspective. In my opinion, however, God predetermining everything about everybody is an overly broad and sweeping generalization.

    Except in OT times with Israel, I don’t see God’s sovereign blessings of one nation over another. Rather, those nations that have most closely assimilated biblical principles will inherently “do better”. In fact, I’m convinced that if non-believers exercised the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs they, too, would inherently “do better”.

    Perhaps this is a little off topic – but what about salvation for those who have never had the opportunity (perhaps the word “chance” would be a better choice of words) to hear about Christ? Jn 14:6 – no one comes to the Father except through me. I have some thoughts on this but will save them for another time.

    Does God choose each person’s make-up? I personally don’t think so. You could probably guess that I see things such as looks, personality, skills, talents, abilities, etc. as more of a random chance. Maybe even a “cosmic dartboard”. I have no scriptural evidence to back this up, but certainly, there’s a whole world’s worth of empirical evidence to suggest that most of life is more or less on a bell-shaped curve and that behaviors have more to do with where one ends up. People make choices and manage risk based upon criteria and parameters that (for whatever reason) are deemed important. Some people seem to exercise better judgment. For those who do exercise better judgment – on average I would submit that they have better outcomes. I don’t see a lot of God being involved in the day-to-day details of life. There is what I can best describe as a natural occurring consequence (be it positive or negative) to just about any action we do or behavior we elicit.

    A couple of examples to illustrate the point:

    1) Does God control or determine when someone gets cavities? At my last check-up, the dentist made it quite clear I need to floss my teeth and use a special fluoride mouthwash to help prevent “soft spots” between some teeth turning into cavities. I have a decision to make regarding my “dental behavior”. If I do floss and use the mouthwash, I’ll likely experience a positive natural occurring consequence of my actions – better dental health i.e. no cavities. If I don’t floss and use the mouthwash, I’ll likely experience a negative natural occurring consequence of my actions –many cavities.

    2) I don’t intend for this to sound harsh, but it’s my opinion that the vast majority of people currently experiencing difficulty making their mortgage payments has to do with decisions made anywhere from 1-5 years ago. People may have paid an inflated price for the property. Maybe people got a little greedy and bought more house than they needed. Perhaps people took on a variable rate mortgage and never factored into the equation the possibility that the house payment could go up. Well, eventually the ebb and flow of the housing industry coupled with the rising cost of oil and any number of other economic issues has driven many people into foreclosure. Is this a God thing? I personally don’t think so. I see no evidence of that.

    That said, does God have the power to put cavities into someone’s teeth or bring about a national recession? Yes. But does He? I personally don’t think so. However, to your point that if we are highly favored we can only be thankful for His blessing and that if we are not highly favored then we have no grounds for complaint – it doesn’t make sense to me. I guess I’m not convinced that the providence of God determines national election, external means of grace, or vocational election. To that end, it isn’t clear that God gives to some what He withholds from others. Perhaps we need to discuss further as to whether blessings are bestowed, as you say, sovereignly and unconditionally irrespective of any previous merit or action on the part of the chosen (elect).

    As always, I welcome your thoughts. Oh, by the way, I’m delighted that the shoulder is doing better. After Marine Corps boot camp, our son kept repeating a couple of phrases, “Pain is good. Extreme pain is extremely good.” And, “Pain is fear leaving the body.”

    Take care and warmest regards,


  2. My Dear Friend,

    I hardly know how to respond. Chance? God not in control of the cavities in your teeth? I offer this. I’m not sure if you can create a link to this or not, but I offer it nonetheless. Have you ever heard of laminins?

    Laminins are a family of proteins that are an integral part of the structural scaffolding of basement membranes in almost every animal tissue. You see….laminins are what hold us together….LITERALLY. They are cell adhesion molecules They are what holds one cell of our bodies to the next cell. Without them, we would literally fall apart.

    If you look up laminins in any scientific piece of literature, this is what you will see:

    The technical definition of laminins can be found at the following:

    Note the term “cruciform shape”. You would never in a quadrillion years convince me that is anything other than the mark of a Creator who knew EXACTLY what laminin ‘glue’ would look like long before Adam breathed his first breath!!

    Bob, the providence of God is EVERYWHERE, in EVERYTHING, and AT ALL TIMES for EVERYONE. I beg you to stop reading the post-modern, universalist crappola that you’re reading and focus your mind on what is lovely…Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, George Mueller, John Bunyan, Luther, Calvin…


  3. Dear Brother,

    I was studying away this afternoon, and the following discourse made the breath go out of me. It comes from a man named Don McCurry, who holds a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary and ministers to Muslims in Pakistan. He is the author or editor of several books, including “A Muslim World Overview”, “The Gospel and Islam” and “Sharing the Gospel with Iranians”. If offer it to you:

    “What if I have not thoroughly applied the benefits of the atonement to my life? For example, in the area of cleansing, in the area of removal of guilt, in the area of total freedom from the guilt that would hang over me. What if I have not really applied that to my life? What effect is that going to have on my witness? What will I be communicating to other people? Will I be convincing? Or will I come across as mixed-up as the people I am trying to help?

    “It seems to me of immense importance that in faith you bring yourself, shall we say, to the foot of the cross and to see that this is the climax of God’s effort to totally redeem you–to wash you completely clean, to make you holy. And that, from your side, you need to have a total embracing IN FAITH (emphasis mine) of the application to your life, TO THE POINT WHERE YOU HAVE JOY (emphasis mine again). To the point where you are free. That you experience peace, that you are liberated to love, the way Jesus loves. As you pore over what could be just dead theology, renounce that, and enter into a new and beautiful relationship with your loving Father God, as you succeed in applying the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross FOR YOU (emphasis mine once again).”

    This is what I am praying for you, my friend…that you will go to the foot of the cross and apply the atoning work of Christ to the point where you have joy, freedom and peace.

    Still your friend (even if you don’t think so),

  4. Dear Colleen,

    Sorry for the delay in responding but we (youngest daughter and I) were out of town over the weekend having some fun at the Maritime Festival in Duluth. Of course, yours truly had to do the requisite lusting after and drooling over some beautiful sailboats that are way beyond the point of affordability. Still, it’s fun to dream and perhaps someday I’ll have the funds to dream.

    Anyway, here are some immediate thoughts on your recent posts. By the way, thanks again for all the time and effort you’ve spent posting here. I appreciate your continued willingness to “engage”.

    I don’t doubt for a second the sovereignty of God. He is the creator and He can choose to do as He wills. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (as referenced by your comments about laminins) and everyone is precious in the sight of the Lord. That said, you and I interpret differently what constitutes God’s sovereignty. If I understand your position correctly – ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that ever happens to ANYONE at ANYTIME is directly attributed to God applying His sovereignty. I respectfully disagree with that definition of God’s sovereignty as I don’t believe God predetermines each step or action we’ll ever take. I find ample evidence throughout scripture of God allowing His creation to have free will and plan to post on this subject later.

    To my earlier comment about my last dentist appointment, I firmly believe that God, if He so chooses, can put holes in my teeth or otherwise make them fall out. However, and for whatever reason, God has designed teeth in such a way that acids form from sugars breaking down in saliva which then attack the enamel which then leads to tooth decay. Who knows why – and it doesn’t really matter – but my mouth is on the acidic side of the bell curve. Some (perhaps you?) might think it’s acerbic! In any event, could God change the ph level of my mouth? Yes! Will He? I personally don’t think so.

    Please allow me to put the question to you. When you started having problems with your shoulder, why did you seek medical help? If, as I think you to believe, your shoulder problems were a direct result of God’s sovereignty in your life, why did you seek medical advice, undergo surgery, go through physical therapy and rehabilitation, take medications, etc? Why would you wish to alter in any way God’s sovereign will? Are you not choosing to minimize, if not eliminate all together, the pain and discomfort that God decided you should experience?

    I honestly don’t know what you mean with the term post-modern. Of the theologians you listed, the only one that I am familiar with is Calvin. And, at this point in my journey, I’m still of the opinion that Calvinism is in error. Would you consider the works of Henry Blackaby, Rick Warren, and Max Lucado to be post-modern? For what it’s worth, the writers I like best include Bob George (Classic Christianity), Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline), and – you may wish to avert your eyes, Colleen – Greg Boyd (Letters to a Skeptic & Is God To Blame?). I know how you feel about Greg Boyd. What is your opinion of Bob George and Richard Foster?

    Well, there is more I wish to write and will do so later.



  5. Colleen,

    With regard to your letter with quotes from Don McCurry, I freely admit that I am conflicted about my Christian faith. I don’t necessarily feel bad about that. Troubled – perhaps. And sometimes I’m more troubled with my faith than at other times. But my faith (or lack thereof) is what it is and if nothing else, I think I’m being honest with my Lord, with myself, and with everyone else when I admit that I am troubled by what I perceive to be the wide variance of beliefs that are expressed within Christianity. I’m not convinced that I know and understand what is the truth about my faith. That said, have no fear that I’m going Joel Osteen on you. Just thought you’d like to know that.

    My NIV describes atonement as “the process whereby God draws sinful men and women back to be ‘at one’ with Himself.”

    I appreciate your prayers and your friendship.


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