What’s up with the doctrine of election?
As far as I know, the doctrine of election states that all human beings given 100 chances or 1,000 chances or an infinite number of chances, will always choose, because of their desires and such, to be their own lord and savior and they will never choose Jesus. And so God opens the eyes of some so that they can see the truth, but he doesn’t open the eyes of everybody.
The first question to face, which is the easiest, is: What do other Protestant churches believe about it? The fact is that the Protestant churches have been split over it for a long time. For instance, in the church that I am a part of (Independent Baptist), we tend to “major in the Majors.” What is meant by this is that the belief in election sometimes underlines and informs the things that are said, but nobody is going to be saying that you have to tow-the-line on this particular doctrine to be a member of the church.
Martin Luther taught election very strongly; however, his followers kind of backed away from it. So the Lutheran’s are pretty split on this issue. Presbyterian and Reformed churches have always taught it, and the Baptists have been split on it too. For the first 50-100 hundred years of America’s history, all Baptists believed in this doctrine. That’s the reason why the Baptists who didn’t were called “Free Will Baptists.” However, today, the average Baptist wouldn’t believe in election.
I think the best way to understand and explain the doctrine of election can be summed up in this: If you wrestle with the doctrine of election long enough it creates a problem that was always there and you didn’t see it. And the denial of election, or disagreeing of it, doesn’t get it to go away.
If you believe that years and years ago, at the beginning of time, God said, “I see that the human race is going to sin. So here’s what I’m going to do, I’m gonna go out and save a quarter of them.” Aww! That sounds awful! However, if you say, “No. What I believe is that years and years ago God said, ‘Aw, the human race is going to sin. I will send my Son and I will give everybody free will.” But since he is God, he immediately knows, if he does it like that, who will believe and who will not. So in other words, either way you have an action of God in the deeps of time that automatically consigns some people to heaven and some people to hell.
So we’re all in the same boat. Because here’s the issue: God looks like he can save everybody (we think), he says he wants to save everybody, but he doesn’t save everybody. Why? Nobody has an answer for that. Nobody. And everybody has got the same problem.
When we first hear of election we question the fairness of God. “He’s unfair. He could save everybody, but doesn’t.” My question is: Well, how do you get out of that, even if you don’t believe in predestination? The usual answer I hear is that, “Well, I don’t believe God would violate my free will.” Why not!? What’s the big deal!?! If I’m going to go to hell, then by all means necessary I want God to violate my free will. I need God to violate my free will. He can throw it away for all I care. I don’t want to go to hell.
Another concern then arises, “God doesn’t want robots. He wants people who freely love him.” This concern is usually borne out of a sincere and heartfelt compassion for the lost; however, it is also tainted by a completely twisted view of the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election doesn’t say that God made man as a robot. It says that God opens the eyes of men so that they can see spiritual Truth, which enables us to choose him freely. Imagine a bunch of people who are blind-folded running into a pit of fire and you say “Stop!” And they say “Why?” You then say, “You’re going to die!” Then they say, “No. We’re on our way to the beach. We can feel it getting warmer.” “No. You’re going to die!” And so you grab someone and take their blindfold off. Then the person says, “Oh my word. Thank you. I didn’t want to run into that.”
Is this forcing someone’s will? Not a bit. That’s all the doctrine of election says.
We all have the same problem: God opens the eyes. True. Why doesn’t he open them all? I don’t know.
The reason I believe in election is this: I have all the same problems that you do, but there’s one thing I need. The Bible tells me that I am saved by grace, not by anything better or good in me. I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
The truth is simple,but the implications are huge. Follow this ficticious conversation.
Student: I don’t believe in predestination.
Teacher: Fine. Have you thought about that in regards to it’s implications on grace?
Teacher: Is your roommate a Christian?
Teacher: Why are you a Christian and she isn’t?
Student: Well, because I received Christ and she didn’t.
Teacher: Ok. That’s fine. Why did you receive Christ and she didn’t?
Student: Well, because I repented.
Teacher: Fine. Why did you repent and she didn’t?
Student: Because I humbled myself.
Teacher: Fine. Why did you humble yourself?
Teacher: Are you really saying that somewhere, someplace, the real reason you are a Christian and she’s not is because something a little smarter, a little more open, a little better, a little…Are you really saying that basically you are the author of your salvation because Jesus didn't do anything more for her than he did for you, and it’s all the same?
Predestination has all kinds of problems for me to work through, but the one thing it is true to, is my experience: that my salvation has nothing to do with me being smarter or better at all. This is radical and unconditional grace…and it creates problems. But if you believe in a less-radical grace…you’ve got more questions that you can bear to answer.