Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

U is for Unconditional Election

This is the next in a series of articles to define the 5 points of Calvinism. Yesterday I defined total depravity. Today, I will define the second of the 5 Canons of Dort, unconditional election.

The five points stand or fall together as one coherent system. If any one point is ever disproved, then the whole system falls apart. Conversely, each point builds logically from the previous point. If total depravity is true, then election must be unconditional. Let me explain further.

First, from the Calvinist viewpoint, we take it as a given that total depravity is true. That being so, man has nothing to offer God that will make God look favorably on him and save him. So, if God is going to save a person, it will be because God wants to and not because of anything in the person who is being saved.

The Bible speaks of those who are saved as God's "elect." To elect someone means to choose that person out of a group. Election = to choose out of a group. Out of all humanity, God has chosen to save some people. Both Arminians and Calvinists agree with that statement. They differ on why God chooses to save one and not to save another.

The Calvinist sees election as unconditional from man's side. That is to say that nothing man does affects whether or not God chooses to save him. All we have to offer God is sin. The Bible describes us in our own righteousness as "filthy rags." The word "righteousness" means "right covering." Think about the works you do. All the good works you do to try to make God happy with you are like "filthy rags." I keep putting that phrase in italics because it literally means "menstrual cloth." One commentator compared it to the rags used to wipe the puss out of oozing sores. It is a vile, nasty, and disgusting thing. This is how God sees our good works that are done in and of ourselves. Why? Because everything we do is stained with sin and our God is the Holy One. Angels fly over His throne shouting "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." And since we are totally depraved, all of our faculties are contaminated with sin, there is nothing we can do, not even think a good and holy thought, that we can offer God to make Him want to be gracious to us. With all this being so, if God chooses to show us grace it is because of His free choice to show us grace.

In scripture we see this shown to us in John chapter 6. We quoted John 6:44 in our last article to show that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. John 6:37 says that all that the Father gives to Jesus will come to him and all who come to him will be saved. If you put the two ideas together, you can plainly see that is a person is not saved it is because the Father has not given or drawn that person to Jesus. God chooses who will be saved. And He does so based on no condition that we (humans) can meet. Therefore, God choice of who He will save is unconditional from our point of view.

By the way, the only reason scripture gives for why God chooses to save a person is "for God's glory." Nothing else. If there is another reason it is hidden from us and contained in the "secret things of God."

The Arminian believes in conditional election. That is, God chooses to save a person based on their fulfillment of the necessary condition. In Arminianism, the necessary condition is said to be faith. In Arminian theology, God looks into human history and determines (by His infallible foresight) who will choose to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God chooses to elect all the ones who will choose Christ as their savior. So, election is based on God's foresight of a person's choices when confronted with the gospel.

I said yesterday that both Calvinists and Arminians believe in total depravity. This is true. Arminians believe God overcomes man's depravity by giving every human a measure of "Prevenient Grace." Prevenient grace moves man to a point of moral neutrality so he can now choose to believe in Jesus if he wants to. Now, election is no longer an act of God's free grace, it is an act of man's will. Man chooses if he will be elect or not. Prevenient grace frees man's will from the slavery of depravity so that man can choose Christ. And God has chosen to elect all those who freely choose Christ.

So, the Arminian scheme holds to a position of prevenient grace and conditional election. The Calvinistic scheme holds to unconditional election. As with every doctrine, (and I should have said this in my first article and repeated it in the second), it does not matter what John Calvin or Jacob Arminius or me or what anyone else says ... what matters is what saith the scriptures? What doctrine is Bible doctrine? Is election conditional or unconditional? Search the scriptures and find out. We are, after all, biblical Christians. No matter who we are, Calvinist or Arminian, our first task is to see that our doctrine is Bible doctrine.

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