God Decides 2008!- Answers to Common Objections of this View (part 1)

October 21, 2008

Having fully developed an argument for a specific view of the doctrine of election, the issue of objections must now be addressed. So, in the next two posts I will be doing my best to faithfully recall those objections and then to quell the concerns they raise.

Thus, let’s begin with the big one:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3.16

Objection: How can you hold to such a view of election (namely, unconditional election) and at the same time affirm John 3.16?

This is a common objection to both unconditional election and to the Calvinist understanding of limited atonement, but here we will only face the election side of it. The thing that really gets me is that, even though so many people are dead convinced that John 3.16 is the end game for Calvinistic beliefs, the solution seems quite simplistic. The question I have is, where is this supposed problem?

Of course, what will be said is that when the verse says “that whoever believes in him shall not perish” that this necessarily nullifies any possibility of there being an unconditional elect, unless election is for us all, and in which case election cannot be effectual for salvation without taking on universalism.

Working backwards, I think we can safely say that we are in no place to argue election for all, since Scripture seems to speak plainly that this is not the case. Romans 11.7 says, “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.” If everyone is elect then this is a pointless thing to say, which I doubt anyone is jumping on the bandwagon of saying that God inspired pointless statements. Therefore, we must look at the charge that this necessarily nullifies the unconditional aspect of election.

But does it? Let’s analyze what the verse says more closely:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

It is that one clause, “that whoever believes” which I think is the hinge this all swings on. To say that John 3.16 means that election cannot be unconditional is actually presupposing something, namely it is presupposing that anybody is capable of believing. But is that what we see in Scripture? What is believing but coming to Christ (John 6.35)? And what does John 6.44 say about coming to Christ?: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” So, according to Jesus, those who believe have to first be drawn by the Father. Well, unless the Father draws all men, which again would be saying a portion of Scripture is useless babble (as well as contradicting John 6.64-65), it must be the case that, even without a well-formed doctrine of unconditional election, the “that whoever believes” must be limited.

It is at this point that I would go back to previous arguments and make the case that the full thought is “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life, and the ones who do that are all and only those elected by God from the foundation of the earth,” and thus, it appears that this objection is no problem for our view.