Let’s Talk About Predestination

The Parable of the Good Shepherd Separating the Sheep from the Goats

If you would allow me, I’d like to try something a little different today.

Instead of “pontificating” about a subject that’s been rolling around in my head, I want to hear from you about something.

I want to talk about election.

Not presidential elections.

Biblical election. You know, the election that determines who gets to go to heaven and who gets to go to hell.

If you’re not familiar with the doctrine of election, or predestination, let me briefly fill you in before explaining what sparked my interest, and then sharing with you the questions I have about it.

The doctrine of election essentially states that because God is sovereign and controls all things, God therefore determines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Now, there are nuanced versions of this that would try to argue that God only decides who goes to heaven, but suggesting that that decision doesn’t necesserarliy also determine who goes to hell by virtue of not being chosen for heaven is absolutely and unequivocally nonsense. If God determines everything and there are only two options in this scenario, then by choosing people for one option God necessarily chooses people for the other option.

It’s basic logic.

And that’s where my questions about election come in to play.

Yesterday a popular mega-church preacher tweeted that one of his members had recently been saved, therefore that person must have been among the elect. This raised a lot of questions in my head, questions I’m very curious to know how you would answer or reconcile if you affirm the doctrine of election.

My first questions is this: If God has already predetermined before the dawn of time who will or will not be elected, i.e. saved/chosen for heaven, then how exactly could the aforementioned preacher’s congregant “get saved?”

Now, I’m not talking about the atoning role of Jesus in salvation. What I’m referring to, and I honestly hadn’t really thought about this before, is this: If God already decided who is saved, then how could this church member choose to get saved?

In other words, how is evangelism even a possibility if God has already chosen the elect?

To me, and many others, it seems that the need to “get saved” is actually an impossibility if God has already decided who is saved because in that paradigm they are already saved and therefore couldn’t be saved in the evangelical understanding of that idea.

Which leads to my next question: If God has already chosen who will go to heaven, what is the point of evangelism and/or missionary work?

If God has already decided our eternal fate, then logically these sorts of activities are a complete and utter waste of time.

Now, I have heard the rebuttal to this that despite election, evangelism and missions should continue because the Bible, specifically Jesus, commands it.

Which leads me to another question: Why is it that Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples,” a calling which implies this is possible (and would only be possible if people could be saved), if, based on the doctrine of election, those people are already saved? In other words, why does Jesus call for evangelism and missions not give those of you who affirm election pause to question the idea that God has already decided salvation?

To me, and many others, it seems that Jesus’ call to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth is a pretty clear affirmation that the gospel is needed everywhere because everyone has the possibility of hearing and being saved.

Which leads me to another question: If that is not the case, that not everyone can be saved, and Jesus is calling us to preach the gospel to those who have already been condemned (by God, not by their own decisions), then what doesn’t that imply some pretty terrible things about God? Namely, that not only does God create people for hell, but God torments them in this life by pretending to offer them salvation even though God has already determined they are not part of the elect.

To me, and many others, this makes us questions why anyone would choose to believe in such a God? What is the appeal? Because belief or not, worship or not, your eternal fate is sealed.

Which leads me to another question: If via election our eternal fate is sealed before the dawn of time, then why does sin matter? Moreover, why does Jesus even need to die for our sins if God predestined our salvation before the cross?

To me, and many others, logically speaking, election makes the issue of sin essentially irrelevant.

Finally, I have a couple questions about Biblical interpretation.

(I promise this is the end of my questions.)

I understand and agree that the Old Testament narrative is pretty clear that Israel is a chosen, or elect people. God chose them out of the nations on no account of their own.

Fair enough.

However, Paul says everything changes in Christ, i.e. in Christ the old has gone, then new has come; in Christ we are a new creation, there is no more male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free.

So, my question is this: If the old order of doing things has passed away, then why must one passage from Romans (“for those God foreknew he also predestined), trump everything the New Testament (and even the Old Testament if you consider Jeremiah’s prophetic statement about God doing a new thing) says about God extending salvation beyond Israel, beyond the elect?

If that verse trumps all of that, then doesn’t it necessarily require a rewording of the most famous passage in Scripture?

If election is true, then doesn’t John 3:16 have to be reworded from “For God so love the world” to “For God so love some of the world”?

And finally (for real this time, I promise): Why do Paul’s words about predestination have to only be about a few people?

To me, and many others, it seems that since God created everyone, God necessarily also “foreknew” everyone.

Why would Paul, whose entire mission is a mission to the Gentiles, e.g. a mission to take the gospel beyond the elect, suddenly change his tune from “this gospel is for everyone” to “this gospel is just for a few”?

Ok, that’s it.

Those are my questions about election. At least for now.


Whether you affirm election or not, but especially if you do, I want to hear from you.

How do you respond to my, or others’, questions about elections? Why must this doctrine be affirmed?

Or, if you don’t affirm election, what are your thoughts on all this? What other questions about election do you have for those that do affirm it?

I am genuinely and seriously interested in having this conversation. So if you have some thoughts, please don’t hesitate to share them. And if you know of someone who doesn’t regularly read this blog, but would be a valuable contributor to the conversation, please invite them to join our dialogue.

Obviously I have a lot of questions, and I want to give you plenty of time to respond. So, instead of posting something new tomorrow, I’ll be staying with this one so there will be as much time to discuss as there needs to be.

Anyway, I can’t wait to hear what everyone has to say in the comment section.


Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

  • iamstillrobdavis
    February 6, 2013

    When I was still an evangelical (and sort of a Calvinist) the only way I could make sense of election was based on the work of Lesslie Newbigin (and later Chris & NT Wright). That election wasn’t primarily about “salvation” or who goes to heaven or hell (i.e. privilege) – but it was about who was given the responsibility to share the “good news” with the world. Chosen TO BEAR FRUIT. Blessed TO BE A BLESSING. And so on.

    • ZackHunt
      February 6, 2013

      Interesting approach. I think I like it. So is about those set apart to preach the good news, not those set apart to go to heaven?

      • iamstillrobdavis
        February 6, 2013

        I first encountered Newbigin’s approach toward election in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (there’s an entire chapter about it). Then, Chris Wright picks up his line of thinking in The Mission of God. And, NT Wright’s “new perspective” seems to follow very closely this line of thought. I think each of them would also expand what “preaching the good news” actually means…that each of our lives “preaches” in many ways beyond simply the words we say.

      • iamstillrobdavis
        February 7, 2013

        I guess the difficulty comes in IF someone wants to say they think the ENTIRE Bible is important/divine/inspired/whatever, then they seem to be required to figure out how to INTERPRET the concepts of being chosen, predestination and election – since those words and related concepts are used from beginning to end.

        But, if you’re an apostate like me, you don’t really have to deal with them at all… 🙂

        • Jon
          February 7, 2013

          No need to figure out the interpretation. Just follow what the Deposit of faith of the Apostles handed down for the last 2000 years through the Apostolic Churches (catholic/orthodox).

          • iamstillrobdavis
            February 7, 2013

            So there’s been NO disagreement in 2000 years about what election and predestination mean? Ha!

          • Karen
            February 7, 2013

            Not among the Eastern Orthodox!

          • Jon
            February 7, 2013

            This is a Protestant problem. I’d love for you to show me a pre Calvin debate/document debating predestination. It may be out there but I’ve never seen or heard it.

          • Jon
            February 8, 2013

            I was certain you would come back with Augustine. I am sure we can agree that Augustine’s idea that God moves in an individual to lead that individual to himself is very very different than what we are talking about here. Augustinian theology is for all mankind. It puts God as the first mover in the hearts of men, but does not say that God does not move in all men, just some men do not heed the prompting of God. Good evidence of this idea is the fact that all mankind for all of history has had some religious beliefs and looked to God or what they best could understand God to be. It is always interesting to me that Calvinist’s point to Augustine and say “Look at what this Church Father Said it must be true!”. They say that about one chapter of his writings and ignore the thousands of other pages regarding the Catholic Church, Church Authority, Papal Authority, the Eucharist, and the rest of the Sacraments. He is wrong apparently on all of that (90% of his writing) but he is not just correct but authoritative in laying the foundation for Calvinist thought. As the Wiki link you shared clearly says “In broad Christian conversation, predestination refers to the view of predestination commonly associated with John Calvin and the Calvinist branch of the protestant reformation; and this is the non technical sense in which the term is typically used today. when belief in predestination is affirmed or denied….Augustine’s formulation is neither complete, nor universally accepted by Christians.”

            You’ll notice in the next section on Wiki where it shows the various views of Christian predestination it starts with Arminianism (16th century) and then continues to talk about Protestant Reformation ideas and beliefs.

            The debate of the Calvinism Predestination, and the types of questions posed on this blog are not questions that the ancient churches (Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic) have to deal with. It is not something that the Church Fathers debated. It was always clear that God’s message was for all people. Whether they accept Christ due to a complete act of themselves, or if they answer God’s call, is all that was really ever discussed, and neither denies free will.

  • Ed_Cyzewski
    February 6, 2013

    My current theory with this is that God predestines certain things, but not everything. Also, my understanding of sovereignty of late has shifted to the point that I think God really wants to be involved in guiding us and helping us make decisions, but he’s not trying to control us. He wants to work with us. So while God knows “what is best for me, he does not map my entire life out before me. He gives me a choice. That choice is something I see all over the Bible as God laments Israel, Jesus laments Jerusalem, and Paul laments those who rejected the Gospel.

    • ZackHunt
      February 6, 2013

      “I think God really wants to be involved in guiding us and helping us make decisions, but he’s not trying to control us. He wants to work with us.”

      I agree. I think we can say God is at work in the world and has particular desires for us, without taking the next step to say God predetermines everything in the world.

      • Fitzgerald Thomas
        February 7, 2013

        I see God as inviting us – drawing us towards what is best. God calls us always towards something better – the Kingdom of God, Heaven, God’s plan for our lives. We all have lots of room for improvement – lots of need for redemption. I think that God hopes that all of creation will be part of that redemption, but God lets us decide whether or not we will respond to God.

  • Chris Ott
    February 6, 2013

    I’m pretty opposed to classical predestination/election ideas for most of the excellent reasons you cited. If I were to come up with an explanation for some of the bible passages in context that seem to be about election – however heretical this idea of mine is – I might explain it like this: God predestined/elected ALL of humanity to be with him. It’s what we’re created for, we’re created to be with him. The purpose of the scripture is to say – we are all meant to be with him and making any choice otherwise will put you where you don’t belong (Hell). He wants all of us, 100%. Fair enough? God being omnicient/omnipresent and standing outside of time – he knew/knows/anticipates what choice you will make, but it’s your choice. We have free will, He just already knew what would happen.

    • ZackHunt
      February 6, 2013

      “I might explain it like this: God predestined/elected ALL of humanity to be with him. It’s what we’re created for, we’re created to be with him.”

      That’s where I’m at. In light of the Biblical witness, particularly Jesus, I can’t imagine/justify a God who creates people for hell.

      • Chris Ott
        February 6, 2013

        Exactly – it’s inconsistent with everything else. Ephesians 1, anyone? Eph1:10 “…to unite ALL things in him…” (ESV)

      • Adam Menard
        February 13, 2013

        I can’t believe in predestination without universalism. I don’t want to be part of a small select group that gets saved. Or at least I don’t want to want that. My heart says “I won’t go in unless everyone can go in,” and my flesh says “Screw them, as long as you save me.” If I did that, I don’t know how I could live with myself. How could anyone? How could anyone go to heaven knowing that 99% of their human family is going to be subjected to eternal conscious suffering, without being a monster? If I were able to live with that, I wouldn’t be fit to.

        And yet I know so many people who would tell me that I’ve got it backwards. That the part of me yelling “To hell with justice; save everyone!” is actually my selfishness, rebelling against God’s perfect love to satiate my own desires; and the part of me that would desperately grab at salvation for myself without worrying about the countless billions who weren’t as lucky as me is my righteous side, unquestioningly submitting to God’s will.

        But what about the ones who did question? What about Abraham, who argued with God that he should spare the city? What about when the roles were reversed, and it was Jonah arguing that God in his righteousness should destroy all those sinners, and God refused to indulge Jonah?

        Are we Nineveh, with the holier-than-thou man-o-gawd so eager to proclaim destruction, and God arguing in our defense?

    • Karen
      February 6, 2013

      This is a very Orthodox Christian position to take. It’s what we believe.

  • Drew
    February 6, 2013

    Where I attended school for my undergrad, predestination and Calvinism was the “it” thing to believe. I struggled with many of these questions myself, more precisely with pain, to which I was “comforted” with blanket statements about God’s sovereignty and how he planned this to make me better (which seemed to ignore major OT themes, as well as a savior that wept). I also had close friends that gave up the faith, to this I was told they never really believed. As I lived 8 years of my life with them, in close quarters, sharing our lives together, I found this to be horribly inaccurate.

    To try and answer some of your questions, I think when it comes to evangelism the most intelligible answer I got was that there was a “known” and “hidden” will of God. Who was to be saved was the “hidden” or unknown will of God, while what we have in Scripture and the commands we find give us what God wants us to do with out lives, the Known will. I found this answer to be better than the rest, but nonetheless falling short of a God that knowingly set people to hell. I often found John 3:16 to be hard to understand, and misleading, if that were to be true.

    Lastly, Greg Boyd’s book “God of the possible” does a great job of having the discussion and looking at Scripture. I will admit that I did not finish the book because I found it redundant, but to someone asking these questions I think it would be very helpful. He deals with a lot of the OT passages we choose to ignore as enlightened Greek thinkers. The common argument to these verses are that they are anthropomorphic which I think does the OT injustice and does not account for why people would change their lives in the OT on such an interpretation. We want to have superman theology, as you put it, for God because if he must be all knowing, all powerful, etc to be God. Boyd paints a picture of a God who is immensely more powerful because he does not control everything (but as Ed mentions, does control somethings).

    Lastly, when dealing with NT verses talking about how we were predestined before creation. Paul often wrote these things to church’s, not individuals, yet we read them as such and therefore interpret it to mean that “you” (and as the reader I read “I”) was predestined. I think this election is Corporate. It makes sense that before time God had the church, people dedicated to Him, in his “mind”. This I believe truly is a miracle, that the church has survived, with it’s crazy beliefs of God as a man, who died and came back to live, for thousands of years. This seems to me to be a much fuller interpretation of the reading of the Pauline letters, in light of his actions as a missionary.

    Sorry for the long post.

    • ZackHunt
      February 6, 2013

      No apologies necessary. Really loved this point you made:

      “Paul often wrote these things to church’s, not individuals, yet we read them as such and therefore interpret it to mean that “you” (and as the reader I read “I”) was predestined.”

  • Robznest
    February 6, 2013

    Predestination is at odds with free will. I would also recommend Greg Boyd’s book for a great resolution to those looking for an explanation of what Paul was referring to as the “elect”. There is also a podcast of a sermon Greg Boyd did at Woodland Hills church entitled, “He choo, choo, chooses you”. Very helpful.

    • ZackHunt
      February 6, 2013

      Thanks for the heads up, I’ll have to check it out.

  • Karen
    February 6, 2013

    Regarding this subject, listen to this. The really interesting part starts at about 4:45 minutes:


    • Jon
      February 6, 2013

      Wow Karen,

      An excellent example of the slippery slope of complete self interpretation of scripture. Not to mention the despair, hopelessness, and heartache associated with strict Calvinism.

  • Matt Appling
    February 6, 2013

    This is why I’m only a four point Calvinist. 🙂 I prefer to talk about the providence of God, as I’ve seen it at work in my life (really only visible when I look over the years, not day to day.) But the “elect” just seems to boil things down into too easy a formula. God is a mystery, and I think the answer of how God works it all out is far more complicated than what He has told us.

    • ZackHunt
      February 6, 2013

      “God is a mystery” – Whoa, whoa whoa….are you trying to say we can’t figure out everything about God?? If I can’t fit God into nice box and wrap God up in a bow, then I don’t want to believe in God. 🙂

      • Jon
        February 6, 2013

        “For if you understand it, it is not God”.

        St Augustine

        And no St Augustine was not a Calvinist.

  • Tim Steed
    February 6, 2013

    Good sources on election

    “Predestination and election do not refer to certain people of the world becoming saved or lost, but they relate to those who are already children of God in respect to certain privileges or positions out ahead; they look forward to what God will work in those who have become His own.”
    Samuel Fisk, Election and Predestination p. 37.

    “In the New Testament, the verb eklegomai is used 22 times, the adjective eklektos is also used 22 times, and the abstract noun eklog 7 times. In examining these contexts it would be expected to find them being used much the same as before the New Testament, that is, the appointment or commissioning of qualified people to an office or responsibility with an obligation to fulfill it well. Those appointed are usually the ‘choice’ people.”
    Gordon Olson
    Astounding New Greek Discoveries about ‘Election’

    “His choice in Ephesians 1:4 has nothing do with who will go to heaven and who will be sent to hell. His choice in Ephesians 1:4 are of those who are already on their way to heaven, and He chooses them to perform tasks while they are headed there. You choose wet water to perform a task; God chooses Christian men and women to perform a task. A study of God’s choosing and election throughout Scripture will reveal the same truth. God does choose. He does elect. But never to salvation or damnation – He chooses groups or individuals for certain tasks.”
    Jeremy Myers

    “We can conclude based on the argumentation therein, that Ephesians 1:3-4 refers to the corporate elect in Christ. This interpretation maintains a pre-temporal election in which God, for His own good pleasure, chose a person, a plan, and corporate body to benefit from the plan. However, we are never informed that His choice included particular individuals. Rather, only those who participated in and identified with the elect One could be saved (1 Peter 2:6).
    Joshua Ratliff

    • Robznest
      February 6, 2013

      Excellent theological explanation. And, if you need a “simpler” explanation for a new Christian or someone (like me!) who needs a more basic answer initially, I recommend my earlier mention of Greg Boyd’s sermon.

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      Great resources, thanks for sharing!

  • Jon
    February 6, 2013

    I think you can title this “The 10 Points Against 5 Point Calvinism” ! The reason these questions are difficult is because they are trying to figure out the man made doctrines and traditions of a 16th century heretic and his followers throughout the centuries. I am sure Jesus and the Apostles would find these questions very strange. They preached Christ’s love “to the ends of the earth”. The hope of heaven is available for all people. The parable of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25 affirms the free will of men and the knowledge God has of our hearts and actions. Further the Great Commission as you said makes no sense in light of Calvinism.

  • Josh Wren
    February 6, 2013


    This is an article I had to read for my Philosophy of Religion Class, which has William Lane Craig talking about how God relates to time at the C. S. Lewis Conference at Oxford in 2002. This is very helpful because how we view God’s relationship to time will force our theology on how he interacts. Is he atemporal or omnitemporal which Craig explains the difference. I ultimately agree with him.

    I am by no means any # of point calvinist. I actually probably sway closer to the Open Theist. A standard Cliche that I have generally noticed from Election asserting Calvinist or Christians in general is that God is Love. For me to say that “God is Love” and to also hold that he has “predestined” people even before they are born is inconsistent to assert both are contradictory. I feel that the thrust of Scripture and the Gospel and the reason for Christ is Grace, Mercy, Love always triumph justice as in an eye for an eye style justice. Jesus seeks the dignity of all human beings. I do ask your question if the fate of everybody has been decided then why Jesus. For myself, it is easier to deal with why Jesus at the time he came than why did he in general.

    I have also come to hold that if we Profess that God is all loving and seeking a genuine relationship with us then both parties have to want it. We cannot make somebody else love us, they have to decide to love us, unless if both parties have not chosen and one has been coerced then that is not truly love. True love is found when the person seeks the to help and experience a help another person. For God to be truly loving while seeking a relationship with us I assert that there has to be the possibility that we can reject God freely. If God is all loving and has also predestined everything to happen then I do not see how universalism is not true. The argument to that I feel would be that God is sovereign over all and because has to seek sovereignty he has to seek justice of everyone who has lived which quickly turns into an “eye for an eye” Is that not part of what Jesus claim to destroy in pronouncing the Kingdom of God?

    A good book on the will of God an how he relates to time and decisions is “The Will of God” by Leslie Weatherhead. It has been a while since I have read it. It is though a quick but good read. I like it except for one part which does not diminish the whole book which is where he states that he believes all Women are to birth and have children but outside of that assertion I like it.

    I ultimately hold that in our case that the future is undetermined. As I stated before for God to have a relationship with us he has to grant us the freedom to choose to accept or reject and I think also it is an ongoing answer that at times can lean to frustration and seem as rejection. Like Weatherhead holds, I look as that God has an Ultimate Will in that some of those and hopefully all will be redeemed and that this world will end at some point but most of the other is fairly open to me. If the fate of every person is open then I see the reason for missions and evangelism or just plainly spreading the Gospel as things that we do need. I also hold to that if God has already decided the Ultimate Fate of where all people are supposed to Go (Double Predestination) then I tend to view that as a “Trump Card” and that is someone holds to that then anything we do this is meaningless. if there is nothing we can do about what happens to us then why are we even caring. I do not currently see how it is logical to even say that we have freedom but at the same time our fate is already decided. I ultimate have a hard time not ending up at theological determinism even though there may be some nuances between the two.

    I also hold to that some people may know Jesus but may not call him by that Name. If we truly believe in an all loving Gracious God then how far does that Grace extend? I think it extends pretty far. There is the scripture in John which states, “No one comes to the father except by me.” I view that yes you cannot have God without Jesus but does that mean you pray a prayer to Jesus and go thorough the ABCs, maybe not necessairly.

    One of my professors gives the view of God as the Grand Chess Master in that while dealing with this world he is watching mow 7 Billion people react to life whose lives intertwine to a seemingly infinite web of influences who moves while every 7 Billion people also move and a God who can be dealing with understanding individually 7 Billion while all of the various moves intertwining with others is fairly Powerful. I also view in relation to God’s Omniscience in that God can know all there is to know at the current time while seeing all the possible moves that he can make to help the world with him assumingly seeking to redeem all but knowing that it can be changed by a Human’s decision.

    I ultimately agree with Craig on his view on how God relates to time and that gives that best hope and to me currently is most consistent with God’s Character. We see seemingly two different Gods in the different testaments. In the Old we see a God who is very personal and is commanding his chosen people to send forth his message. Who even at one time commands to act out Genocide Then in the New we see a God who is heavily similar to the Greek Philosopers’ view on theos. Now did one of the testament get it better than the other. No. I do not think so I think that we have always as the cliche is “to err is to be human”. We have always missed God and so I think it is some what both. Though I lean heavily to the Greek theos with in relation to creating existence and look more to the Hebrew model in relation to here and now but that does not mean he was one then the other. Those are some thoughts sorry for the Novel.

    In Christ.

    *Note that anywhere I say “I hold to” does not mean that is what I will always believe. It is just my way of saying what i believe currently and is subject to possible change but that does not mean it has to eventually change.

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      “The argument to that I feel would be that God is sovereign over all and because has to seek sovereignty he has to seek justice of everyone who has lived which quickly turns into an “eye for an eye” Is that not part of what Jesus claim to destroy in pronouncing the Kingdom of God?”

      I think you raise a really fascinating point here. Gonna have to let this one marinate for a while, but it’s a really really interesting perspective on atonement/salvation. Thanks for sharing!

  • D Lowrey
    February 6, 2013

    I’m tending more for the simple method of understanding this. Both branches of Protestant belief are attempting to get whoever caught between them and us. When you had/have both branches who are more than willing to get into a shouting match on who’s right…who’s wrong and have been willing to kill the other…BOTH of them are wrong. Too bad that neither branch will read the words of the gospel which tells us simply to do go out and tell whoever about the gospel. In the end…too many members of each belief system have been and are going to end up in hell arguing about predestination and free will…rather than just do what you are told by Jesus. Hell is where you end up and arguing on which viewpoint is pointless.

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      “Too bad that neither branch will read the words of the gospel which tells us simply to do go out and tell whoever about the gospel.”

      But isn’t that exactly what one “branch,” i.e. the one opposed to election, is arguing?

      Likewise, isn’t that very fact a reason to have this conversation? After all, as I was suggesting, if election is true, I don’t see a reason for evangelism, which, as you correctly point out, would put us in contradiction with the command of Jesus.

  • Jeff Byler
    February 7, 2013

    “Evangelism is simply obedience. Only the spirit saves people. Our command is to present the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).”
    “If you get saved or are saved then you were obviously elect. Obviously.”
    “You think you chose God but it was all Him, the Spirit’s prompting you to Him. You were so dead in sin and so unlike God, who do you think you are that you could choose Christ?”

    These are all easy questions to answer at the church my parents attend back home.

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      Yeah, I’ve heard all those too. I’m fairly ok with the third one. How could you know either way on the second one. And the first one, well, that’s the one I really just don’t get. If it is salvation for EVERYONE who believes, then how is there such a thing as election? 🙂

  • Kevin Williams
    February 7, 2013

    From the beginning, God chose a people as a partner, but election was always for the sake of the world. Abraham’s promise states he will be blessed in order that all will be blessed. I argue Adam was given this role even before the fall. God placed in humanity the garden to work it and move it forward.

    In Romans 9-11, it seems the Gentiles take the place of the Jews not a new elect, but for the sake of the salvation of the Jews. Election is they way God works salvation for all because God works through the a partnering humanity.

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      “election was always for the sake of the world.” – I would definitely agree with that. God blesses to be a blessing to the world, not to keep that blessing to ourselves.

  • Jessica
    February 7, 2013

    For me and many others, I share in your questions.

    Except I would have led with, “If you’re not familiar with the doctrine of election, or predestination, please run screaming in the other direction right now and live a full life of blissful ignorance.”

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      lol touché

  • Jeremy
    February 7, 2013

    I think you’ve pretty much asked all the relevant questions 🙂

    I’d like to add two things to the discussion that I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    1) We now know that time isn’t linear. The people who developed the doctrine of election thought that it was. Since we now know for a fact that a “hypothetical” being with infinite power could transcend time (according to Einstein), why can’t we realize that ‘infinite power’ is a synonym for ‘omnipotence’ and therefore realize that God exists/can exist outside of time (in part, at least) and therefore, doesn’t need to ‘foreknow’ anything or anyone? Because he can see time like we see a painting. This isn’t new, exactly. The Christian philosopher Boethius said as much in The Consolation of Philosophy, written in the 6th century AD.

    2) As a social scientist, I cannot overstate the importance of NOT imposing one’s own worldview onto one’s understanding of other cultures. The people who used words like “chosen” or “elected” in the Bible came from a highly tribal, collectivist, non-Western, and not modern, culture. That’s why we have so many phrases like “he and his entire house were saved”. In collectivist cultures, this is how people think. They are not individuals. They are a group, like a school of fish who all turn at once. This still exists all over the world today, just not in the Western worldview. We are even slightly (or highly–I’m from Georgia!) revolted sometimes to think of such a lack of individualism 🙂 In other words, I think that since Paul’s personal mission was to the Gentiles, that he took a loaded term used by the Jews to flaunt their superiority (“we have Abraham as our father” and all that), and reapplied it to everyone else, in a radical social-activist sort of a way.

    Ok, 3 🙂

    3) Read this book for a FAIR discussion that doesn’t compromise logic:

    Walls, Jerry L. and Dongell, Joseph R. Why I Am Not a Calvinist. Downers Grove, IL:
    Intervarsity Press, 2004.

    • Jon
      February 7, 2013

      Your first point is excellent. The absolute best argument against Calvinism I have seen! I will definitely use that argument!

      • Jeremy
        February 8, 2013

        Thank you! You know, most of the Calvinist-type people I’ve talked with usually like to shrug off the bits about God being “sad” or “walking in the Garden” as anthropomorphisms. As humans using their limited human understanding and vocabulary to attempt to describe God.

        If that’s the case, why can’t the passages that describe God in relation to time, or foreknowledge be considered in the same way? For me, it isn’t offensive to think of God walking in a Garden. But for me to attempt to describe something existing outside of time, whether it’s God or photons or whatever, THAT is a hard task to put into words. Especially since my temporal brain can’t even perceive things in that way!

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      Great points, thanks for sharing!

    • Drew
      February 8, 2013

      I do have a question about your first point. If your conclusion is true, how do we explain God in the OT, and even more difficult Jesus, someone most assuredly “trapped” in time. Not only that, but in the OT when God says he regrets, or resents doing something or is angry? How can you be angry if you knew it was coming? I can’t watch many movies more than once because I know what is coming (especially thrillers and suspense movies), it’s just not an authentic emotion at that point. Was God pretending to feel angry? Because if we say it is authentic I think we will struggle with the concept that He knew it was coming.

      Just my two cents. Love to read your response

      • Jeremy
        February 8, 2013

        Free will? I believe that God can (does) have a plan, that at least part (or most all) of that plan involves letting people make genuine choices, and that we can genuinely mess it up. I think that’s why bad things happen. I think the point in those passages–which I love, by the way–is that God is about the relationship. I believe Paul was onto something like that in Acts 17:27.

        As far as how that involves the future, I don’t know. We are all born with a temporal perspective. If I had to guess, I’d say that the future is much more “dynamic” than we might be comfortable with. I do think God was honestly disappointed, or sad, or angry. And Jesus is “God with us”. In time, just as we are.

        I think the biggest implication of “foreknowledge” in the traditional Calvinist argument is that God cannot be wrong, so if God knows something, his knowledge of it cannot be wrong. The next step is to put the cart before the horse and say that since God knows something, it has to happen that way, and that since God knows the future, it has to happen the way he’s seen it.

        I personally like to believe that God is big enough to handle letting us make our own choices, just like a good father isn’t a dictator or a micromanager. Otherwise every prophet who ever said that God was begging Israel to repent was really just lying. And all the kinds of passages you mentioned are false as well. Which I do not believe is the case.

        • Drew
          February 11, 2013

          Thanks! good stuff. I too think that a God capable of handling our choices is far more powerful and sovereign than a God who forces our behavior.

          Thanks for the response!

    • urbanpastor
      February 10, 2013

      If it’s OK to recommend books, I would recommend “Faith, Grace, and Free Will” by Robert Picirilli.

  • Ben Irwin
    February 7, 2013

    I believe in election; I just think it’s a generally corporate category, not an individual one. (I think other commenters have alluded to this already.) I wrote about my own views here, for what it’s worth: https://benirwin.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/corporate-election

    Ironically, when you read Romans 9-11 (the Calinvist’s favorite proof text) as an affirmation of individual predestination/limited atonement, you wind up defending precisely what Paul argues against in Romans. The entire letter was written to validate Paul’s ministry to Gentiles by arguing that God was offering salvation to everyone, not just Jews (and explaining how God could do this and still remain faithful to some of his earlier promises).

    This leads to what I think is one of the most important points we can make about election: it’s just as much about the supposedly “non-elect” as the “elect.” No one individual and/or group of people is ever chosen as an end unto itself. People in the Bible are chosen/predestined/elected for the benefit of others…i.e. the “outsiders.” Abraham is “elected” to become a blessing to all nations on earth. Israel is “elected” to serve as priest to the nations, pointing the way to God.

    Even if salvation starts with the election of some, it never, ever stops there. It’s just the beginning.

    Just my two cents.

    • ZackHunt
      February 7, 2013

      “Ironically, when you read Romans 9-11 (the Calinvist’s favorite proof text) as an affirmation of individual predestination/limited atonement, you wind up defending precisely what Paul argues against in Romans. The entire letter was written to validate Paul’s ministry to Gentiles by arguing that God was offering salvation to everyone, not just Jews (and explaining how God could do this and still remain faithful to some of his earlier promises)”

      Exactly! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • andrewf
    February 8, 2013

    The problem a logical argument like this (and have realky never seen any attempts to deal with these, particularly the evangelism question) is tha you leave no room for tension. Further, from the outset you’ve dismissed any nuance on the basis of logical necessity, creating an unfair strawman, just as it would be unfair to say that the Arminian view logically leads to open theism therefore, defend open theism, please… Basically, pne gets the feeling that you don’t want there to be any valid answers to such questions.

    Fwiw, I don’t think debating election/predestination as an abstract doctrine is particularly helpful, as it’s primarily discussed in the bible in a pastoral context of encouraging believers to persevere.

  • Josh
    February 15, 2013

    I’m a little late to the show, but I’ve been wrestling with this topic, then you posted, and I’ve been wrestling some more.

    The Calvinistic approach to predestination and election has never complete sat well with me, but like quicksand, the more I struggle against it, the more it sucks me in.

    The idea of inappropriately applying this doctrine individually, when it “should” be applied corporately appeals to me… but when viewing God through Jesus, it throws me off a bit.

    In my head, I keep on point/counter-pointing myself…. it’s dizzying.

    – Jesus chose the twelve. Including the one who would betray Him.
    – Peter suggests that Judas played the role that need to be played.
    – That might’ve been a role ANYONE could have played, and it happened to be Judas, or it was predestined to be Judas.
    – Jesus gives them an “out”, after a “hard to swallow” message (pun not specifically intended), many disciples leave… Jesus asks the twelve if they would leave too. They (Peter) say no.
    – But that same passage suggests that Jesus knew from the beginning who would believe and who would betray (John 6:64).

    – “Knowing ahead of time” isn’t necessarily “Causing to happen” or “Predestining”
    – But Jesus, seemingly, chose them all specifically.

    Does this make sense? Does it even apply?

  • Brian Midmore UK
    February 20, 2013

    Is not predestination tied up with Gods omniscience. If God knows what I shall do then what I do is predetermined. If I had freewill then God would not know what I was about to do. This idea is questioned by the fact that God did not know that Abraham feared God till after he had offered up Isaac. If he had known that Abraham would offer Isaac he would have known before that Abraham feared God. This interplay between the eternal and the temporal is tricky to understand. My vicar says that predestination means that in some way God was involved in your decision to become a Christian. I think it best left like that.

  • Nate Pyle
    March 21, 2013

    Really, really late to the game but…

    What if it is both? The ancient person, and the non-western person, is much more willing to hold two contrasting views in tension with each other. So God is sovereign and sovereignly elects people to himself? And God allows the free will of the individual to choose to believe and accept the free gift of grace? Yes.

    It might just mean that we have to stop trying to box God into the rules of logic and rational argument. Dying to bring life surely isn’t….

  • johnny
    May 13, 2013

    See salvationbygrace.org for ALL your answers to ALL your questions.

  • Melissa Linn Askew
    June 24, 2013

    I have spent hours studying both sides to the point of nausea. I understand both sides and see where both sides are coming from. I have come to an understanding of “election” or “predestination” in a corporate sense. The Nation of Israel was the original chosen or “elect’. But with the appearance of Christ, The Gentiles were also included in that “elect”. Yes, in God’s Sovereignty, He can do whatever He wants. He can harden hearts, He can soften hearts. And I believe throughout history he has predestined certain individuals to know Him and to fulfill His purposes, and those people had no choice, but to be saved. The Apostle Paul I believe was predestined to carry out God’s plan. But nothing in all of my studying leads me to believe that God ever predestines anyone to not be saved. Yes, we all deserve Hell, but Jesus’ whole mission in life was to rescue us from that fate. He predestined that everyone would have the possibility to be saved from Hell. We all have the ability to submit to Him or rebel against Him. I don’t believe “predestination” is about individual salvation or non-salvation. It was first about Israel as a whole and then about the Gentiles as a whole. There’s so much more to say. I feel a new blog coming on. I just read a book called “Killing Calvinism” and the guy (a Calvinist) made many good points, but it still got me all riled up. Instead of worrying and debating over the mechanics of salvation, I wish we would all just rejoice in the fact that we have salvation through Christ. It seems like the Calvanistic viewpoint wants to argue and debate for the sake of debate. And this is coming from a person who is an avid “student” and “researcher” and I love to get very deep into doctrine. But at some point, even I realize I have to step out and make sure I’m not getting into that mode of glorifying my own studying just to be right. I feel a peace about my non-Calvanistic viewpoint and what God has convicted me of in my heart. I have never felt like any of my former pastors and friends who strongly teach Calvanism have ever been comfortable with it. The Scripture is not about us being “comfortable”, but I do believe that God is not the author of “discomfort” either and if we are trying to teach someone a doctrine and we are uncomfortable with it and even how to explain it, then I’m don’t think God is in that doctrine. Thanks for your time.

  • Abbey Madayag
    February 8, 2016

    Interesting Opinions! I hope to see more posting like this.

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