There are plenty of heated debates between Evangelicals today over a variety of issues concerning the doctrines of the Bible and the nature of God. Some of the debates that continue on are not crucial and not to be made a big deal such as issues over eschatology (the end times) or baptism (immersion, infant, etc.). However, one key debate that has been going on since five centuries ago at the beginning of the Reformation, is an issue that is the most divisive in the body of Christ. The subject at hand concerns how God saves His elect: is it through conditional or unconditional election? In other words, does God choose who is to be saved, or does He rely on human will to accomplish His plans of salvation?
Philosophy has played a crucial part in science and even more so with theology. Before showing clear evidence of what the Scriptures teach concerning the matters of soteriology (doctrines of salvation), we must look at Arminianism from a logical perspective. If God relies on man’s free will to impart salvation, then that means God can be resisted. If God can be resisted, then God can fail. If Arminians believe that “God desires all to be saved”, and not all people are saved, isn’t God a failure? If God’s will was that depraved man would somehow be convinced through carnal and emotional means to come to salvation, isn’t grace pointless and faith invalid? Sadly, that is the case.
However, is Calvinism better? From a human standpoint, doesn’t it mean that God is inhumane (I purposefully chose that word) for using means of divine election to save mankind? If God chooses people who are to be saved, then it is logical that God also chooses some to damnation. Also, if the Father had predestined people that would be saved by the cross, then it would mean that Christ is exclusive only to the people that the Father had foreknown. Not only does Calvinism hold the view that God’s grace is exclusive, but it also teaches that the ones who are chosen are from the least. So, predestination is not based on the merits, achievements, or honor of a man, but only by the grace of God’s choosing.
Now, this begs the single greatest questions for Christians: does God elect some to salvation? Well, according to Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:4-5, Ephesians 1:11-12, John 6:44, 2 Thessalonians 2:14, and Romans 9 it seems pretty clear that the doctrine of divine election is clearly the means by which God ordains people to salvation. It is not by human will, but by God’s will that anyone can be saved from sin. This angers many Christians and causes them to refuse to believe the Doctrines of Grace (Calvinism). Their biggest complaint is this: it is unfair that God would choose some for salvation and He would damn others. Though this complaint is the stance that many Christians tend to have against the Doctrines of Grace, is it a valid argument? Is it truly unfair that God would predestine people to salvation? Is God’s nature that is presented by Calvinists an immoral view of God? We must look at what the Scriptures say about God and man before we reach any conclusion.
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) says, “The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Most people would read this verse and think that it proves that man is able to plan things to come to pass, as long as God grants permission. Strangely, when read alongside Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV), the text indicates a message of the wickedness of man: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” So if the heart is deceitful, and desperately sick, then what kind of plans is man making? The kind that can only be intervened by the Lord’s will. This means that only God is good, and He is the only one who can influence good. In the same way a dead man cannot sing the hymns of joy, so a man cannot seek the mysteries of God to bring salvation upon Himself; it is not just because it is impossible, but because man doesn’t even want to seek God.
In Romans 3, Paul quotes Psalm 14 to prove the point that mankind is in a constant rebellion against God. In Psalm 14:1-3 (ESV) David wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” It is saddening to think that God had sought for people that would seek Him, and yet He couldn’t find anyone. Why? Because the heart is sick, deceitful, sinful, corrupt, vile, etc.
Mankind has no defense against the holiness of God. We have fallen into darkest sins, and have considered them to be more attractive, more fulfilling, and more satisfying. We have all tasted from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, but despite the fact that we attain the knowledge of what is good we still choose evil. One example of this is concerning fast food. A documentary was released all around the country in 2004 called Super Size Me. It was about the dangers of fast food, specifically McDonalds. Not only was it the highest grossing documentary of that year (possibly even the decade), but it made sure that the majority of the United States was informed of the dangers of obesity. Nevertheless, in all our genius, we watched how disgusting McDonalds was, and yet somehow McDonalds sales grew exponentially since the release of the film that depicted the physical and emotional dangers of fast food consumption.
Yes, it is silly, but it is nevertheless the truth of humanity: we will always choose bad, because we are compelled to rebel against that which is good. The only way in which man can choose that which is good is through divine intervention, which is precisely what the doctrine of election is trying to point out. Salvation cannot be earned through works or be pleaded for with words; it can only be given. Repentance is not what brings salvation, since repentance is a good work; rather, repentance occurs within a person after salvation. This is a general principle that explains why Paul never advised his readers to pray a sinner’s prayer, but rather to “believe, and repent”.
Is it unfair for God to predestine some to salvation? No. If God had not predestined people to salvation, then mankind would be doomed for all eternity. The depravity of man hinders the ability of man to search for the things of God. That is what makes Calvinism more beautiful: God came to us out of grace and love, and predestined us to be conformed to the image of His son. He brought us out of darkness into marvelous light; this wasn’t because He had to, but because He wanted to out of the depths of His mercy and love. Divine election does not give a reason to believe God is cruel, but rather why God is all the more amazing.
Continuing in Psalm 14:7 (ESV), David proclaims the salvation of the Lord saying, “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.” We are to rejoice that salvation has come from Zion unto God’s people. We are not to question God’s methods, or to judge them either. We are to rejoice in them and praise Him for them. Predestination is not a reason to accuse God of being inhumane (even though He is inhumane as He is God) or immoral, but a reason to praise God all the more for having mercy on the elect He chose out of man. He could’ve chosen for all of man to suffer in the darkest parts of Hell, but instead He chose some out of the world.
God calls us to seek the elect, preach to the elect, and endure for the sake of the elect that are in the world. It is fair that God would choose election as it not only saves blind, sinful men from their ways through the revelation of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Son, but now we can now be called to share the joys of the gospel. We declare of God’s righteous mercies and He has saved many wretches to become precious vessels for honorable use. We are now the regents of God. How can that possibly be unfair? May the elect never forget the mercies God has granted to them, and may they never forget the others God predestined that we are to go and preach to.
Soli Deo Gloria.