Friday, April 01, 2011

A Discussion About Unconditional Election

So I'm reading Norman Geisler's Second Edition of Chosen But Free copyright 2001 for the first time. It is a discussion about Election seemingly from a "Moderate Calvinist" perspective. It would be reasonable to term myself as a "Moderate Calvinist" in that I tend to hold to a lot of what John Calvin wrote about, but I do not at all go beyond that. An "Extreme Calvinist" is someone who is more "Calvinistic" than John Calvin was, and that would include all 5 Point Calvinists, and many 4 pointers as well. I'm currently at page 69 of 290 (according to my Kindle).

For the most part up to this page I thought the book was presenting a view which is "more Calvinistic" than I am but it is extremely well thought out and presented so I have been enjoying it nonetheless. Turns out I was reading some of my ideas about Calvinism into what the author was writing. Also, he has opened my understanding and I believe my views have changed ever so slightly - functionally, but not practically - if that is clear at all...
I previously believed that Election was mostly about what we are elected to do BECAUSE we have been saved; ie works prepared beforehand for us to walk in, suffering, sanctification, glorification... and that also some people (perhaps John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul) were Elected to Eternal Salvation... that there is a group who were elected to Salvation, but that believing the Gospel was open to every person. I have discussed as much before. See Tripping TULIP Part 3: Unconditional Election. In that article I had these closing thoughts:
This is probably the doctrine I come closest to believing in TULIP. I believe that God has elected some to be Eternally Saved. Many are called, few are chosen sort of thing. However, I cannot let my thoughts decide what Scripture says. Scripture must always define what I think. Theology that is an inch deep and a mile wide comes from the presupposition that Salvation, Justification and Repentance are always about Eternal Salvation.
My struggle with the concept was clear back then, and has been on going since.

The Moderate Calvinist view of Election is well explained in a story shared on pages 68-69 of Chosen But Free. I'm going to quote that story here because I believe it is invaluable to understanding how God can "choose" who is saved, without also choosing who will be damned - and it is this very point on which our understanding either offends all of God's attributes or offends some or all of them.

Discussing a young Believer who is interested in marriage Geisler relates that the man (Jim) is interested in pursuing one of two women, Joan or Betty. Geisler states that the man has three possible courses of action. (1) to propose to neither of them; (2) to propose to Joan; or (3) to propose to Betty. He then notes that the man is under no compulsion to propose, or not to propose to either. It is his "free will" choice to make. Now here is the story, please read it carefully because without the context of the previous 67 pages one may jump to the conclusion that Geisler is making an Arminianistic argument that supposes God is dependant on the decisions of men; he is not.

Suppose further that the young man happens to konw that if he proposes to Joan she will say yes and if he proposes to Betty she will say no. Suppose then, in accordance with this foreknowledge of how she will freely respond, that Jim chooses to propose to Joan. Suppose even that he knew she would be reluctant at first but with persistent and loving persuasion she would eventually--freely--accept his offer. The decision on his part was entirely free, uncoerced, and not based on anything outside himself. But it was also a decision that was with full knowledge of the response and which respected the free choice of the person to whom he decided to propose. This is analogous to what the moderate Calvinists believe about God's unconditional election.
Note here that Jim's election was done according to his foreknowledge, that he determined, but she freely chose. She was not compelled, it was freely Joan's decision to accept. Jim also freely chose, soverignly chose. Yet he did not make his choice a violation of the one he chose. He did not force himself on her. He also did not choose that Betty would remain unmarried. It was not his choice, it was hers.

This view may be complicated to wrap your head around based on one short story, but note this: It lines up, I would say perfectly, with all election passages - including that God does not will that any will perish but desires all to come to repentance. Jim didn't will that Betty would be alone, she wouldn't accept him so she willed that she would be alone. Also - for those God foreknew he also predestined.... Jim foreknew Joan would accept, so he chose her - she wouldn't have been able to marry Jim if Jim didn't ask her. She was reluctant at first and he had to pursue her. She was not seeking him, he was seeking her. Sound familiar?

I find rest in my thinking, a removal of needless tension in the Scriptures, and clarity of understanding with this view.

So that's my take on it, what are your thoughts?


mark said...

Hi, it appears that you are reading this book a little late are you not? This book came out a long time ago, and has been discussed at length in the past by many people. Mark

Kevl said...

Hi Mark,

Late? The Scriptures were "published" millenia before Chosen But Free and it's still considered ok to read and discuss them. ;)

Just because election and this book have been discussed before does not make it unprofitable to have new discussions. I suppose for some it would only be a rehash, but for me where I am on my walk it will be most profitable. Perhaps it will also profit some of the readers here as well.


Jan said...


You have just reminded me that I was given this newer edition of this book for Christmas and I haven't read it yet! Actually, I started to but then put it down to attend to other things and never went back to it.

I had the original edition and I recall that one being like a roller coaster ride: It took you on lots of twists and turns and at the end dropped you right back where you started. I don't remember any of the specifics of it, though.

Funny thing. We were cleaning out our book shelves and I decided to get rid of the first edition of this book, so I gave it to a friend who wanted it. And, don't you know, just after that we received this later edition for Christmas! Hahaha. :)

This second (I guess it's the second) edition seemed to start out really good and I have to get back to it.


Gary said...

Hi Kevl,

I appreciate your well-thought out post. I wonder if I could challenge your position a bit. Let me say up front that I am a zero point Calvinist. A college chancellor that I am acquainted with calls himself a "No point Calvinist," quipping that there's no point in talking about it.

However, being a zero pointer is not to infer in any way that I am an Arminian. So, my challenge is this: could you site me a verse-in context-that specifically says that anyone has been elected to salvation?

Let me offer the following:
Scripture uses the word "elect" and its related forms of four groups or individuals-Israel, Christ, angels, the Church. Obviously, the first three were not chosen to be saved, unless you believe that all Israel in the OT was saved.

However, all four groupings above do share a common thread: they were all chosen to be God's servants.

Eph. 1:4 declares that "in Christ," we were chosen. We were not chosen to be in Christ, but because we are in Christ, we were chosen. Election is not for salvation, but for service.

My advice would be to read Geisler with great discernment. If I may, let me encourage you to get a copy of George Bryson's "The Dark Side of Calvinism." Also, there is a fairly new book which I am currently reading entitled, "Calvinism: A Closer Look," by Dan Gracely. The entire book, over 700, is online, or you can buy a hard copy. It can be found at Dan was a Calvinist for years, so writes from a unique perspective.

Those are, I hope, some helpful thoughts.


Kevl said...

Hi Gary,

Yes of course you can challenge. I'm not into "debates" as I used to be.. but I am definitely into iron sharpening iron.

I normally don't post comments with links in them, and I am going to be off line for the rest of the evening. I'll check your post out tomorrow, or perhaps late tonight.

Please, yes, challenge away with Godly arguments that bring people closer to truth.


Kevl said...

Hi Gary,

I made it a point to get back on-line early so I could read your post. Thank you for it, but before we discuss very far it's very important to me that you know that I reject all 5 points of TULIP (as defined by those who hold to them) as well.

You can see my long series Tripping TULIP to see this explained as well as I have been able.

I will provide you with the verses that I do believe connect Election to Salvation, but not tonight. :) I'm only taking a few moments here - because it's important to me to do so.

Please check out the series linked above.


Kevl said...

Hello Gary,

While I call myself a "Moderate Calvinist" please don't let that cloud your understanding of me. I don't hold to any of the points of TULIP, but I do hold to many of the things that John Calvin did - so I have Calvinistic views... I very much agree with his view of saving faith as I have read him explain it. See John Calvin Describes The Faith That Saves

On to our discussion of the concept (not so much the doctrine) of 'election.'

I fully agree that Election and being Chosen are not always referring to being chosen for Eternal Salvation. Much like the word "saved" isn't always about Eternal Salvation.

You rightly noted how Eph 1:4 has us chosen in Christ, not chosen "to be in" Christ. And I would add that what we were elected to was to sanctification to become like Him.

However, Verse 5 does state that we were predestined to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will.

That is the kicker for me, we were predestined to adoption.

1Peter 1 and Romans 8 each have to do with being elected to sanctification and suffering, not so much directly to salvation.

2Thes 2:13 reads like it has to do with Eternal Salvation, but I believe the context of the letter makes it about being preserved through suffering.

All in all, Eph 1:5 coupled with the fact that each time it is explained that we were elected to sanctification, we are surely a saved people foreknown before time.

I believe Geisler has done well to show how election works with God's foreknowledge of our free reception of His offer, without limiting His sovereignty or His violating the ones He loves - both those who will receive and those who will not.


John Gregory said...

Calvinist, Moderate Calvinist, :: OR :: Arminianist, Moderate Arminianist,
every one seems to have the idea that these four ( or Two ) ways of understanding Scripture are the only choices that we have!
I suggest that there is at least one more avenue that we may
choose. I am not Arminianistic nor Calvinistic. I am Biblicistic.
I am surprized at the number of
people that have good educations that have never heard of Biblicistic Theology. WE do have a third choise! We are not forced to limit our theology to the above
mentioned catagories. If you have truly not heard of Biblicistic
Theology, go to a web site "the, & then click on their learning center. There are many more good sites, but this one will be adequate to start. God Bless
John G.