Neither Reformed Nor Free Will - Part 2
God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).
God chose who would be saved based on knowing beforehand who would believe. God chooses those whom He knows will believe.
Ah...it is a cool fall day. The wind is gently blowing through the trees, and fallen leaves swish around on the sidewalk as you enter the courthouse. It is Election day, and you are going to elect The Chosen to enter office.
Perhaps Election isn’t as unfamiliar a concept as some might have us believe. However, unconditional election, as posed by Calvinism, is much less familiar, as our elections are always conditional. We vote based on what the politician believes, not by some preordained plan that we concocted in which the voting would be determined based, not on the politicians’ position, but on some (random?) method not based on merit (I’ll come back to merit in a moment).
One thing with election is that it seems to preclude evangelism. What of scriptures that say, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
While you might reason that God might just place someone on the mission field in order to preach to those who were predestined to believe, in order to facilitate His will, I have talked to others who do not believe in evangelizing because God will save those predestined to believe no matter what they do, and that if they evangelize, they might, by accident, convert someone who was not predestined to believe. While the latter argument has some rather inherent fallacies, the first argument also seems to lack some common sense.
While I might be willing to concede that the first argument does indeed have some sense to it after all if indeed predestination were true, I will say that personally, I would have little motivation to go out on the mission field if I thought the Elect would be saved no matter what I did.
Okay…back to merit. According to Calvinism, God elects the Chosen not by merit. So that means God doesn’t choose based on how good a Christian somebody will make, or based on their talents, or anything. So really, the logical thing is that God randomly picked the Chosen, if he did indeed not pick by merit—for by what other measure would he pick? Any other measure would be based on merit, which is contrary to the Calvinist position on election.
Now, as far as that goes, yes, I’ve heard the arguments that we just don’t understand how God picks the Chosen. But…there is no higher or lower level on which to pick a human than merit (merit being used in this case as a broad-based term).
And Calvinism also refutes that God looks into the future to see who would pick him, and base his election on that, so really, Calvinism is attempting to destroy their own foundation for any attempt to deny that God did indeed elect randomly.
And indeed, we ARE saved by merit. If you look at the OT laws and commands and promises, salvation was by merit. If you obeyed the law, you were saved.
Now, as we all well know, none of us can obey the law. We are all doomed. And that is why Jesus died on the cross.
We are saved by merit—but not by OUR merit—but by Jesus’ merit. Jesus lived the perfect life. He did not sin or omit one jot of the law. He fulfilled the law, and made the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross. And through the covering of His blood, He enabled us to “take on His merit”, and to be as He was. That is why God allows us into heaven—not by our merit, but by the merit Jesus bestows on us. When we are cleansed by the Blood, God no longer sees our merit, but the merit of a perfect man—Jesus.
Truly, that is the wonder of salvation.
Now, as I will point out later, God did choose the Hebrews to be His people. But as you trace the lineage and the history, you will realize that although God did indeed chose Him a people from among the nations, we see a little bit of interaction here—those who rebelled were removed from the lineage of His people. They were removed from “the chosen”, so to speak. How does that happen? Surely one couldn’t be removed from “the chosen” after being chosen!
But there is another aspect here. So we have the Jews—the Chosen people. Take a look at just how many non-Jews were incorporated into the Jewish nation over the years. How did these “non-chosen” people creep in? For a quick example, take Ruth, the Moabitess, who married a Jew and became part of the lineage of Jesus. Take the times that the Jews intermarried with other nations.
So is “The Chosen” a set-in-stone definition? Is it truly those whom God predestined from before the world began, not based on any merit or inclination to accept God? Or is “The Chosen” a flexible number?
Now…I have a theory on The Chosen. If you will be so kind as to bear with me…
I think the Israelis are The Chosen. If you think back through scripture, this should make quite a bit of sense, and I don’t think I need to look up scripture to prove that satisfactorily—at least to the extent that the Israelis were chosen by God as His people.
Now, if you accept that the Jews are indeed the Chosen, then I submit to you the “radical” change under the New Covenant. Suddenly, salvation no longer lay in proselytizing Gentiles so that they could be part of the Chosen. Now they could be saved outside of the Covenant to Israel. (and all you Covenant Theologist people, please don’t kill me for talking about distinction between the Covenants…I’m not quite a regular sort of dispensationalist... )
We see in Acts the radical change for the Israeli believers. They didn’t want to accept that the Gentiles could indeed be saved without being part of the Jewish Covenant. (you know, I love how we have about a million words to describe the people who live in Israel… )
But that is precisely the New Covenant. No longer need you become a Jew to be saved. To the “Not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Rom. 9:24). For indeed, “there is no respect of persons with God.” (Rom. 2:11)
Does God indeed limit salvation to “The Chosen”? Remember, many are called, but few are chosen. Could this possibly mean that while the whole world is called, few are Jews? While the meaning of this verse is debatable, I think it’s quite clear that salvation no longer is for the Jews only, but “for whosover shall call upon the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13).
Romans chapters 9-11 detail the opening of salvation to the Gentiles.
So perhaps you ask, what then is special about the Jews being chosen? Are they no longer special? Has “God cast away his people?” (Rom. 11:1).
Of course not. “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.” (Rom. 11:2)
What then is the purpose? Romans 11 elaborates on that. One verse in particular says of the Jews, “Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” (Rom. 11:11)
Now, depending on who you talk to, they might argue that the Gentiles do not enter into the Jewish Covenant, but are drafted into a new Covenant with Christ—the Body of Christ, known as the Church (not to be confused with any one church, such as Baptist or Catholic).
Or, you might hear the argument that we are simply grafted into the Jewish race when we become believers, and thus become part of the Chosen people.
On the one side, the Bible does refer to the Gentiles being “grafted in”. But on the other hand, we also see in Acts where Peter makes a case that the Gentiles shouldn’t be compelled to bear the same yoke as the Jews, and resulted in a simpler set of commandments.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” (Acts 15:28-29)
Now, see, if the Jews are indeed the Chosen that the Bible talks about, then that would explain quite well all those passages about predestination and foreknowledge. God chose Him a people from among the nations—He predestined the Jews to be His people.
But, as you can see, this predestination did not inevitably result in each and every Jew’s salvation., so it appears to be predestination in a slightly different sense than the Calvinists normally use it. The Calvinists say predestined to salvation, whereas this seems to be implying something else.
So where does that leave us? Well, God said that He would that all men be saved, and that whoever calls upon His name will be saved. And while I believe that God does know (foreknowledge) who will repent and believe, I don’t think we can reasonably deduce from scriptures that God chose (predestined) any of the Gentiles for salvation, at least in the way we think of predestination.
Now as far as conditional election, I think that it is faulty and doesn’t attribute as much power to God as He really has. Simply saying that God chose his elect, based on looking into the future and picking those who would believe. First of all, God is at once outside time and not bound by time, so there is no need for God to look into the future. Second, to simply say that God elects His Chosen based on those who will turn to Him is a rather simplistic way to view the matter.
As I said before, I believe that the Jews were the Chosen (well, I believe it tentatively, at any rate…I’ve heard no great proof against it), and that God allows Gentiles to join his Chosen people, in whatever form that may be. So, beyond the Jews, I don’t really believe in an Elect, or the Chosen.
And therefore, while God does know, and did know before the world began who would be saved, He did not limit Himself to choosing willing followers as His Chosen. Instead, He chose the Jews as His special Chosen people, but is willing to accept any who will repent and believe.
Part 3 to come...maybe...