Calvinists often use Eph 1:4 as “proof” that God elects or otherwise choses specific individuals for salvation from “the foundation of the world”. The thought recently occurred to me that with the prepositions removed, the verse distills down to God deciding that we were to be holy and blameless before he created the world. That is, the verse is not talking about a specific individual’s salvation having been predetermined.
Before too long, I was chided (albeit, gently) with the following comment, “Uh, [the word] ‘to’ is also a preposition [and] if you remove all [of] the prepositional phrases, [then there’s] no verse left! The idea that there is an end-result to God’s choice does not define in any way how God made the choice, or why God made the choice. [T]he basic facts we are left with are that 1) God chooses, and 2) those chosen will be made holy. [Eph 1:4] supports “Calvinistic” election more than it does not.”
Irrespective of my failure to realize that the word ‘to’ is a preposition, I maintain that the premise of the verse/passage is not about the individual salvation of certain individuals. Rather this verse is instead acknowledging the bestowment of a spiritual blessing wherein God is taking the initiative to create holy beings via the cross because of his desire that none should perish. John Piper, in an article written several years ago, (noted below) says he embraces unconditional election because: 1) it’s true, 2) it makes us fearless in proclaiming God’s grace, 3) it makes us humble, 4) it gives impetus for compassion, kindness, and forgiveness & 5) is a powerful incentive for evangelism.
Piper rectifies (what must be) a “discordant verse” with his Calvinistic overview and modifies a clear teaching of the Bible to justify an element of TULIP. Again, Eph 1:4 says nothing about one’s individual salvation. Instead, we’re to be made holy. It baffles me that Piper (and so many others, too), with knowledge of languages, cultures and history derive an entirely different conclusion.
All of which begs the question – why do I get so worked-up over the notion of unconditional election? Of the five TULIP elements, unconditional election is the one that most bothers me. Micah Murray (noted below) has a differing perspective on unconditional election and states:
If unconditional election is true, then salvation is an arbitrary lottery.
If unconditional election is true, then God’s creation is an act of cruelty.
If unconditional election is true, then God cannot be trusted.
Murray’s sentiments are at complete odds with Piper’s perspective. Per Piper, “Before you were born or had done anything good or bad, God chose whether to save you or not.” When viewed through a Calvinist lens, I can’t help but think that God looks to be a rather random, mysterious and capricious deity as unconditional election clearly implies that it is God who picks the “winners” and “losers” – and for no obvious or apparent reason.
A while ago I tried to calculate the percentage of “winners” (aka elected people – see link below). Maybe my math is a bit off as I essentially used the approximate number of Evangelical Christians divided by the total number of people in the world. As is, the likelihood of one being “elect” is ~1%. A rather puny number. But, put another way, for every person born throughout the world, there is a likelihood of ~99% that the individual is NOT one of the elect! So, why would God intentionally create so many “losers” in the world? What is the point of intentionally casting 99% of people to Hell? Perhaps God’s love, grace and mercy are in fact exceedingly limited? As Murray says, “If God chose before the foundation of the world who He would save and who He would not save, then it is an act of unimaginable cruelty to create [all of those] people he has already chosen not to save.” Murry goes on to state that God is essentially creating human firewood with only one purpose – to forever stoke the flames of Hell.
I can already sense the incoming responses:
- God’s ways are not our ways.
- Our understanding is confined by time and space – God’s isn’t.
- He is God.
- He is sovereign.
- He is in control.
- He is the potter and we’re just the clay. He makes us into whatever “vessel” he desires.
The end-result, though, is that I find unconditional election to be a significant bastardization of the Bible’s teaching. Furthermore, Calvinism lays waste the fundamental nature and character of God – one who loves all (John 3:16) and wants none to perish (2 Pet 3:9). TULIP, in and of itself, has a logical construct. However, when I look at various scriptures purporting to support Calvinism, it so often appears that the context of the verse/passage often indicates something altogether different. Being blunt, Christian faith is seems to be pointless with Calvinism at its core and fancy words spoken in a gentle manner by the likes of John Piper can’t cover the ugliness of a monstrous God who’s more inclined to display his wrath than he is to love his creation.