God Decides 2008!- Answers to Common Objections of this View (part 2)

October 22, 2008

Continuing on with common objections, let’s look at two more. First,

Objection: If one believes that election is effectual for salvation then they will no longer take part in evangelism.

This objection is almost a continuation of the John 3.16 objection, and usually accompanies it, but also has its’ own individual flavor.  Basically, the reasoning behind this question is, if God has chosen his elect, and if all and only his elect will be saved, then why should we participate in evangelism?

The first, and most to the point and terse answer to this, is the one RC Sproul so bluntly makes, that being that we do so because evangelism has been commanded of us by Christ: Matthew 28.19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Mark 16.15, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’

This certainly is good enough of a reason, but for the sake of thoroughness, I would like to look a little deeper.  To do this I want to call upon some passages in Acts which I think illuminate to us what the apostles knew of election and how they proceeded.  Acts 18.9-11 recalls for us a vision of Paul’s in which the Lord speaks to him:

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

In the vision, the Lord instructs Paul to “not be silent . . . for [the Lord has] many in [that] city who are [his] people.”  In other words, Paul is instructed to continue evangelism because of God’s election.  God had elected many in the city of Corinth to salvation, and it was by the means of Paul’s preaching which he had determined to awaken their souls (cf. Romans 10.14-17).  Then what was Paul’s response?  “And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (v.11).

Elsewhere in Acts, we see Luke give account of a gospel work in the city of Antioch in Pisidia in which he expresses similar sentiments about God’s electing and its effectualness for salvation for all and only the elect: Acts 13.48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”  This is almost unmissable, that God had preordained a section of the Gentiles to be saved, and that that preordination found effect in the preaching of the Word by Paul and Barnabas.  Once more a testament to the necessity of sharing and receiving the Gospel message as a vehicle for carrying out God’s electing graces, and an indictment on anyone who would say that believing in this view of unconditional election causes one to neglect the call to evangelism.

Objection: If God elects people to salvation, then necessarily those who he does not elect to salvation he is just electing to hell.

This is a tough one.  Yet, though it may be the hardest to answer, it is also probably the most esoterically useless.  The point is, a lot of people will try and argue that the specific view of unconditional election which has been voiced here necessarily leads to determinism, and that that philosophical position is incapable of standing with the nature of an Almighty loving God.  I have spoken towards this charge previously and so will not be answering it in too much depth, but I feel that one short illustration will do.

The problem for those who detail the objection in the way that if God is unconditionally electing some to salvation then this implies he is also unconditionally “electing” the rest to damnation, is that this seems unfair.  That is because, in this view, one is picturing God before the foundation of the earth with a bag of neutral souls in his lap, picking out each individual soul, and placing it unconditionally either in heaven or in hell.  In this case, God places all of us where he wants us and that is where we stay, which, I agree, sounds appalling.

However, for the consistent 5-point Calvinist who adheres to the stated view of unconditional election, what they actually see is God before the foundation of the earth with a bag of neutral souls, picking out some of the souls and placing them in heaven and just leaving the remaining souls in the bag.  Then, God creates the earth, man falls, and through the sin of Adam all of the souls move to place themselves in hell.  The ones that were just sitting in the bag actually make it there and are thus condemned (John 3.18), whereas the ones which God had originally placed in heaven are guarded by his power and kept from making the jump (1 Peter 1.3-5).  Thus, human responsibility is culpable for leading the condemned to condemnation, whereas God’s sovereign grace is the cause of the salvation of the elect, and nowhere does full determinism come into play.

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Well, this has been a fun series of posts, but I think with that we will draw it to a close.  I do not expect this to be the last word on election in this blog, as it is one of my favorite doctrines to look at, but for now I think I have said all I feel led to say.  Please continue to post with questions/objections and I will do my best to respond to them.  Thanks for your readership.