No legitimate student of the word denies that "election" is a biblical concept. It is present from Genesis to Revelation.
This is not an exaggeration - if you cut out the passages that reference the topic of "election," you'd be left with a picked over rack of ribs with only pieces of tasty meat left.
Since we want to keep our Bibles thick and hearty, we must feast on the issue at some time.
Now is that time.
But this is a blog, so this can really only be an election snack.
Key Biblical Texts
The topic of election encompasses several biblical words (predestine, choose, appoint) used to define people who have been saved by God. For simplicity's sake, here are two key passages where election is firmly present:
1) Eph. 1:4-6
Here we see that believers were "chosen" before the foundation of the world and that they have been "predestined" for adoption (inclusion into God's family).
2) Acts 13:48
Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch. They preach the gospel to "almost the whole city" and when the Gentiles hear that they can have salvation, "as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."
Two Major Schools of Thought - Calvinist vs. Arminian
As seen in the passages above, God undoubtedly "elects" some for salvation - so the question becomes "How and why does he choose?"
God elects solely because he desires to, not because of any action or characteristic of the individual. This is called "unconditional election." God's choice depends entirely on his mercy.
- God chose the nation Israel, despite their incompetence and disobedience (Deut. 7:6, 9:4-6).
- All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and deserve death (Rom. 5:6), yet God has chosen people for salvation in Jesus Christ.
We have all made willing choices to sin against him, yet instead of executing justice on everyone he has been gracious to some. God has freed some sinners from the bondage of sin and death, and others he has allowed to willingly continue in their sin.
Because of this, his elect will praise him forever. This brings him glory.
There are several opinions in this camp, but the dominant Arminian view is that election is based on God's foreknowledge that a person will freely believe in Christ. (As an aside, Arminians don't believe that a person earns their salvation since faith is still "enabled" by God).
God, at some point in eternity past, looked into the future and saw who would believe in him, then gave them the USDA choice stamp of "elect."
Or, another common Arminian stance is that God elected the church collectively, and that upon belief a person becomes one of the "chosen" ones.
Regardless, Arminians as a whole argue that God is love, and, since love necessitates free choice for it to be real, we must have free will to love him back. We are not robots.
In essence, God gives you the opportunity and ability to eat the tasty cake, but he does not force it down your throat.
Which Way Do We Go?
Both sides are prone to having a theological food fight where proof-texts are thrown across the biblical lunchroom (all these food metaphors should tip you off to the fact that I have not eaten lunch yet, and it is affecting my focus).
And both sides equally raise the "how is that fair?" question. Whether God determined that some would not be saved or allowed some to not be saved despite being powerful enough to stop their damnation, the result is the same.
Yet Living Stones unashamedly holds to the Calvinist position. Here, in part, is why.
The Arminian position falls short because it presupposes definitions of freedom and love that are foreign to the Bible (which, of course, both sides use to defend their positions).
Again, I will use food as an example. I have the "freedom" to choose where to eat lunch. But I'm in Reno, so that narrows my options. I'm on a time crunch because I have to write this blog, so I can't enjoy a five course meal. I'm trying to maintain my figure, so that rules out 99% of Reno's restaurants. We're on a budget, so eating healthy at a restaurant is out too. So I'm going to have a salad at home. But I'm going to freely choose the dressing! Wait, we only have vinaigrette.
As you can see, my "free" choice has limitations. Severe ones.
Here's the point: we can only make decisions based on our nature. Just as we have physical limitations (such as what we're going to eat), we have limitations on our wills precisely because we are beings created by God. This concept is repeatedly emphasized in Scripture - God is sovereign, we are not.
Does this still sound like we are robots? It shouldn't, because even God isn't totally free by the Arminian definition. Can God lie? Negatory (Titus 1:2 NASB). Can God be tempted? Nope (James 1:13). God is the one being in the universe with unlimited liberty because he is uncaused and unending, yet he does not act contrary to his nature (e.g. he can't cease to be loving). Free will, therefore, is not essential to our nature.
Also, if God looked into the future and saw that some would believe then the future has still been determined. Otherwise, his foreknowledge would be as uncertain as an NFL analyst picking this Sunday's games.
We have to concede that the exact mechanics of election is God's secret recipe. This isn't a cop out - we must avoid going beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). God loves us immensely and we are responsible for our sin - but it is not necessary for us to have God's level of freedom for his love to be genuine. This is the philosophical presupposition that Arminians place on the text, and thus skew the biblical evidence.
The main point of this blog is that all of us deserve the worst kinds of death.
But God has chosen some for salvation because he desired to.
And we don't know who all of them are.
So we continue to preach the gospel indiscriminately.