Election Confusion

Dear Colleen,

Thank-you for your clarification regarding my “taking on” the responsibility for my justification.  Reference your comment in https://martinsmercurialmusings.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/literal-vs-figurative-interpretation/ .  It’s taking me a couple of readings for this to sink in, so please correct me if I’m missing your point.  You think I am confusing the terms “free will” (having equal ability to accept or reject the gospel) with “free moral agent” (being free to do what I wish).

You make a distinction between free will and free moral agent that I don’t believe is taught in scripture.  There’s no ambiguity as the law tells me on which side of that demarcation line I’m standing.  I can know right from wrong (Romans 3:20b).  I think you and I would agree on this point.  However, I think where you and I diverge is you do not believe it is possible for people to voluntarily act contrary to their sin nature and are thus not able to choose (for ourselves and by our own efforts) to accept God’s God gift of salvation.  In other words, ultimately the reason that some are saved and others are not is because God (Himself) chose to save some and not others.

Some thoughts come to mind:

  1. Didn’t Jesus die as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)?  His blood covers it all.  Maybe this is a stretch – however, Jesus dying for the whole world’s sin implies, although I would agree it certainly doesn’t prove, that there is at least the potential for people to reach out to God if for no other reason than doesn’t He want to be our savior?
  2. Does God want anyone to perish?  Please read John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4 if you answered ‘yes’.  Reading these verses, Colleen, I get the sense that there is every reason to believe God would choose everybody to be saved.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone will choose to believe.
  3. As I wrote in my post https://martinsmercurialmusings.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/struggling-with-calvinistic-arguments/ , I don’t think your reference to Romans 3:10 supports your contention that “no one seeks God”.

I believe your statements regarding divine election should be placed in the context of “corporate election” and not “individual election”.  Think of the “nation of Israel” or “the Gentiles”.  That said, I’ll certainly agree that John the Baptist, the twelve disciples, Paul, and other OT and NT people were individually chosen – heck, I’ll even use the word ‘elected’ if you’d prefer.  However, those are exceptions and not the rule and to that point, I disagree with your statement, “The Bible tells us (from Genesis to Revelation) that divine election is according to God’s sovereign good pleasure.  God is glad He chose some and not all.  It pleased Him to choose some for salvation out from among the mass of hell-deserving sinners.”

God is glad that He chose some and not all?  Please reference point #2 above.  Don’t angels rejoice when people are saved (Luke 15:10)?  If that is true, it certainly stands to reason that angels mourn when a soul is lost.  And is it not reasonable, then, to assume that these emotions are of God who would also rejoice when one is saved and mourn when one is lost?

Perhaps, Colleen, it’s not I who is confused about free will.  Perhaps you are confused between a “condition” and a “cause”.  You earlier referenced a quote by Greg Boyd so please allow me to return the favor.  This comes from the book Divine Foreknowledge pg 193-194:

  • “If we in any sense caused God to save us by exercising faith, that would imply that we merit something from God and thus are not saved solely by grace.  But this is not what freewill theists generally affirm or what Scripture teaches.  Rather, we hold that salvation is graciously given on the condition that one places their trust in the one giving it.  This no more makes salvation a merited reward than does my freely accepting a birthday gift makes this gift a reward.
  • Not only this, but most freewill theists believe that we fallen human beings would not even meet the condition of faith were it not for the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We agree with Calvinists that we cannot have faith on our own.  We simply reject the Calvinist view that the work of the Holy Spirit is irresistible.  People can and do resist the Holy Spirit and thereby thwart the will of God for their lives (Luke 7:30, Acts 7:51, Eph 4:30, Heb 3:8).  Hence, we affirm that if a person is saved, it is all to the glory of God, whereas if a person is damned, they have only themselves to blame.

I guess it comes down to free will.  I believe individuals have it and that scripture supports that belief.  You, on the other hand, do not believe individuals have free will and you believe scripture supports your belief.  Maybe we ought to flip a coin.  Heads I win, tails you lose.  That’s scriptural, isn’t it (Luke 1:9, Acts 1:17)?  You get a hold of John.  I’ll talk to Greg.  Your place or mine?  We’ll flip a coin, or if you prefer, roll a dice to see who’s right.  BTW, Colleen, did you pick-up on the “heads I win, tails you lose”?

The question does come to mind, how is it that you and I are supposed to understand all of this?  The book I referenced earlier, Divine Foreknowledge, is a fascinating look into four distinct views of God’s foreknowledge presented from the Open-Theism (Greg Boyd), Simple-Knowledge (David Hunt), Middle-Knowledge (William Craig) and the Augustinian-Calvinist (Paul Helm) perspectives.  Certainly I would be more comfortable if Christianity was akin to mathematics i.e. if A=B and B=C, then A=C.  Maybe that was what the law was all about.  However, the law and mathematics are not relationally oriented.  God is – and so too are people.  And even though you and I may diverge and disagree on matters of faith, I do appreciate your continued “relationship”, engaging me on these matters, and being a dear friend.

Most Sincerely,



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.

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