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

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.

*     *     *

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.

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

  1. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    Good post. I am enjoying your series.

    Interact with this. John Calvin held to a strict doctrine of reprobation. God created person A for heaven while creating person B for hell. He builds his case off of a single text in Romans 9.

    The more common stance taken, as far as I know, is that of Augustine. Augustine held to what you are refering to in your post, namely, that God allows the fall and then chooses some to save while passing over others (infralapsarianism).

    Have you had a chance to look at sublapsarianism, infralapsarianism, and the others?

  2. Todd Burus Says:

    Yeah, I have read into the supra/infra questions and considered discussing it in this post, but eventually decided against it.

    For my part I am definitely an infralapsarian and I agree with the charge that many make against supralapsarianism that it puts forth an untenable view of equal ultimacy. I am not a fan of the objection that if God created someone for hell then he is a monster, but I do not find it consistent with the whole of Scripture to say that God presorted everyone and then decreed the fall in order that his sortings would be fulfilled.

    I can’t say that this is among the doctrines that I have spent a great deal of time studying, but in as much as I have, the way I see it is that God envisioned creation, knew that the fall would occur, and at that point chose the elect “according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1.5). After all this he initiated creation. This, I believe, allows us to avoid equal ultimacy while at the same time remaining consistent with the fact that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1.4).

    This of course leads to the question, If God knew the fall would occur then why did he create us at all? I think we have to assert that he knew the fall would occur because saying he didn’t runs smack-dab into open theism, which we can’t allow. However, if this is the case, then the question just becomes, Why did God create? To answer this I have to turn to Edwards who says that “an emanation of his own infinite fullness was what excited him to create the world; and so, that the emanation itself was aimed at by him as a last end of the creation.” I know that without the context this answer is kind of confusing, so I would recommend reading John Piper’s republishing of Edwards words in the book God’s Passion for His Glory to anyone who is searching for a solution on this item.

  3. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    I would say that God just didn’t “allow the fall” but that He created the world in such a way that the fall “would” occur. He did allow it, but I would guard against any view that would reduce God to being a mere spectator as if it was not His design in the first place.

    How He can create that a world in which the fall “would” occur, is consistent with Him being free from sin is still a little tough to answer.

  4. Todd Burus Says:

    Yeah, I agree with you on the fact that God was more than just a spectator on the fall, actively allowing the fall to occur, but I guess what I would try and avoid is the idea of Molinism where God manipulates circumstances so that our free will is determined to do what he wants. I would say that God made a world in which the fall could/would occur, but the choice to rebel against God was an active choice on the part of Satan and man and not just a manipulated circumstance as people like William Lane Craig would argue. I believe man was fully free to choose in the Garden, but God’s foreordained purpose so that his will would be accomplished was for man to choose in rebellion. This is definitely a tough subject to dissect.

  5. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    I agree….tough to disect. It really gets you thinking along the lines of “Possible World Theory” when you begin to speak about Molinism. It is a tough question…..and has proponents from various streams of philosophical and theological thought.

    Concerning this idea that God created a world with specific influences and circumstances around that would cause certain choices to be made, I have been told by a professor that Norman Geisler argues in this way. Our professor is supposed to trace for us this Monday how Geisler’s philosophy ultimately leads to him having to land in a place where God does not completely know the future. I am anxious to see how that is, especially since Geisler would deny that claim.

  6. Todd Burus Says:

    Hmm, that is interesting. I am going to be reading that “Chosen but Free” book here in the next few days. Is your professor going to draw his conclusions from things in that book or from somewhere else in Geisler’s writings?

    Have you listened to the Building Bridges lectures from Southeastern last year? Ken Keathley gave a lecture on Molinism there. It was pretty confusing, but I think I understood what he said enough to sufficiently disagree with him.

    I’m not a big fan of possible world theory because a big factor in possible worlds is the presence of certain unalterable laws like mathematics and logic. But then we are left with a question: is God one of the unchangeable “laws”? If so then it seems like how could there be any other possible worlds since his foreordination of events would appear to be unchanging as well? If God is not one of the unchangeable “laws” then that would seem to make God subject to the unchangeable laws, which I don’t believe we can allow. What do you think?

  7. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    I think I am not smart enough to inteligently inteact with your quesion yet. But, yes, God is the only necessary or “contigent” thing in the universe, thus He must be present in every “possible world”, without changing. However, to say that His nature does not change and that His decisions could change, doesn’t seem to contradict at first glance.

  8. Todd Burus Says:

    I think it is an interesting question about just how subjective are God’s decrees in “this universe.” I would be afraid to chase this too far for risk of it leading to a view that says God’s election is arbitrary, which my gut instinct tells me is not true. I can’t currently think of any arguments about why God’s foreordination would have to be unchangeable, but I also don’t have any good reason for saying that it isn’t. I think the question boils down to what is it about God’s purpose that leads him to ordain things the way he did, which . . . yeah, I think that’s out of my league too.

  9. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    Reading t hough your post, I had a thought that goes back to possible world theory. Some say, Alvin Plantinga for example, that the way God created the world is the best possible world. There is no better way to have created things…this is it! So, if God is perfect, and would always do His best (how could He do less than perfect) then to imagine a world where He ordained something else would mean that He has failed to be perfect, or do His best. If that is the case, then He has changed and thus does not exist as God. If God is the necessary “thing” of every possible world, which cannot change, then that world is not a possible world at all. So, I conlcude, it is not possible to have a “possible world” (remember we have to define possible world as something that could exist) where God decreed something different.

  10. Todd Burus Says:

    My only question would be, is it possible to have equally perfect alternatives (of course, I can’t even imagine what an example of this would be, but if it were it would allow God to make different decrees and still remain perfect)? But, in general, I agree exactly with what you have said.

    Plantinga, of course, is a Molinist, so it would be interesting to see how he would respond to this thought since Molinism is pretty much destroyed if possible worlds can’t have different decrees from God.

  11. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    I do not know how you can have “equally perfect” alternatives to the subject at hand. You can have one the perfect square and the perfect circle….so you can pick either the perfect circle or square option….don’t know if that makes any sesne. But that would lend to the idea that God could have equally perfect alternatives. I do not know if that can be the case in this discussion.

    Why? Because, men like Piper and Plantinga, are saying that God created the best possible world to display His glory…there was no better way to do it. But, does that mean there is not a equally perfect way to do it? Seems unlikely although I can not wrap my head around it!!!!!

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