Calvinists often site Eph 1:4 as “proof” that God chosen certain individuals from “the foundation of the world”. As I looked at the wording of the verse, it occurred to me that if the prepositions are removed, then the verse essentially distills down to God deciding that we were to be holy and blameless before he created the world. Calvinists often site Eph 1:4 as “proof” that God chosen certain individuals from “the foundation of the world”. As I looked at the wording of the verse, it occurred to me that if the prepositions are removed, then the verse essentially distills down to God deciding that we were to be holy and blameless before he created the world.
Well, it didn’t take long before I was chided (albeit, gently) with the following comment: “Ummm, [the word] ‘to’ is also a preposition [and] if you remove all 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.”
In some back and forth comments, I maintained that the premise of the verse/passage was not about the individual salvation of certain individuals but is instead rather a bestowing of spiritual blessings. In my estimation, God is taking the initiative for creating holy beings because his desire is that none should perish.
Ultimately, I remain unconvinced as to unconditional election. I was reminded of an article written several years ago (noted below) in which John Piper 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) It’s a powerful incentive for evangelism.
To me, Piper, like so many who espouse unconditional election, attempt to rectify discordant scriptures through the application of a theological overview which ultimately fails because verses used to support Calvinistic doctrines are often so egregiously taken out of context. I am truly baffled that such a learned man as Piper, whose understanding of Biblical languages, culture and history ought to, in my estimation, lead to an entirely different conclusion.
This begs the question, why do I get so worked-up over the notion of unconditional election? Some time ago Micah Murray (noted below) provided some interesting perspectives that resonate within me:
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 quotes John Piper, “Before you were born or had done anything good or bad, God chose whether to save you or not.” Does this not seem to paint God as rather random and capricious? No matter how one understands the sovereignty of God or free will, unconditional election clearly implies that God picks “winners” and “losers” for no obvious or apparent reason.
And, so far as I can calculate the number of winners (see below for reference) it appears that for every person born throughout the world, there is a likelihood of ~96% that that person is NOT ‘elect’. Why would God intentionally create so many “losers” in the world? What is the point of intentionally casting 96% of everyone to Hell? Perhaps God’s love, grace and mercy are, well, 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.” If this is true, that the overwhelming vast majority of people don’t have any hope of anything other than eternal torment, how can God not be considered cruel? Murry goes on to state that God is essentially creating human firewood with but one purpose – to forever stoke the flames of hell.
This is not good news! If unconditional election is true, God cannot be trusted. Suppose it’s true, that “before you were born or had done anything good or bad, God chose whether to save you or not.” If I believed that, I don’t think I would even pray to God about anything, because if He didn’t care enough about most of His creation to save them, why should He care about anything in my life?
Why should I lift my hands or my voice to praise God who doesn’t want to save all of his creation? How could I call God “good” or “beautiful” or “loving” if I believed his redemptive work has been reserved for an exceedingly small number of favored recipients?
How could I believe that this life we’re living has any meaning if our eternal destiny is based only on the role of the dice in the hands of a God who is too small or too self-absorbed to adopt everyone?
If our free will allows us to choose hell instead of heaven, I have to believe that it breaks God’s heart every time.
It sounds like nonsense that God who would lay down his life for His creation, who joins us in our brokenness and begs us to join Him in eternal life.
I can’t accept that God would choose a few and then choose that the rest should perish as part of his plan. This is about the very nature of the God, and whether or not He cares about His own creation.
I therefore maintain that unconditional election is a deeply flawed theology. To me, unconditional election paints a picture of a monstrous God that is not in the life-form of Jesus. I can’t accept unconditional election as “what the Bible teaches”. I can’t accept the argument that “God doesn’t have to hold Himself to our standards”. If Christianity is worth anything at all, I must believe that God is more compassionate, more merciful, more loving than I am. I refuse to redefine love to match a twisted view of God patched together from scattered Bible verses.
The only thing left to do is go back to the Scripture and read it again until I can find God who reflects the two truths which I’d like to think are certain: That God is like Jesus, and at the core of his being, God’s essence is love. I could never intentionally turn my back on any of my children and can’t fathom God turning his back on any of his creation. Should I do conclude that unconditional election is correct, well, I’m left with little more than to continue down the path of deconstruction.
If you’re looking for a good explanation of predestination/election, see the Epilogue from Pastor Jonathan Martin on this post.
If you you’re wondering why I chose not to include Biblical support for my ideas, see this: “Beware of Thinking Biblically”