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.
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.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.
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,