Saturday, January 30, 2010

What I Believe About Election by Jack Brooks

I was recently asked why I described myself as a moderate Calvinist. The "moderate" part reflects the fact that I understand the Scripture to teach that, in some sense, Christ died for everyone without exception. Christ provided the possibility of redemption for everyone, and an actual redemption is applied only to the elect -- those who are given the gift of faith. The logic problems that my five-point Calvinist brethren immediately raise don't sway me, since the only concern I choose to have is over what specific verses actually say in the original languages -- not how many logic syllogisms my view might seem to contradict, or how one escapes "double jeopardy", and so on. Those philosophical objections don't matter to the question, "what does this verse mean?" because, in the end, they are philosophical objections, not exegetical questions. Only exegetical principles matter when one is asking the question, "What does this verse mean?" The question, "How can I reconcile this with these other ideas over here" is a secondary, or even a tertiary, concern. Not a primary concern. Limited atonement does not survive consistent, thorough-going exegetical analysis. It's our job to iron out any wrinkles that the exegesis might create in the over-all fabric of our systematic theology.

But what about election to salvation?

It is impossible for God to elect anyone to salvation on the condition of foreseeing the sinner's willingness, or exercise of faith. This is because sinners are not capable of being willing, or of exercising faith, apart from the grace of God causing them to become so. Sinners are dead, not wounded. They have zero godly virtue in their hearts. All their righteousness is like filthy rags in the eyes of God. Lost people, that is, people who are still in their natural, Adamic condition, cannot exercise faith in Christ. An unregenerate person is incapable of accepting, welcoming, embracing the truths of God's Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12-14). It isn't just that the sinner will not accept them. He cannot accept them.

Unbelievers are spiritually blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). They do not want to find God (Romans 3:11). They commit sins, not because of bad up-bringing, but because their hearts are hardened by sin (Ephesians 4:17-18). Their thoughts and actions are controlled by sinful lust, lusts of both body and mind, which are inflamed by the prince of the power of the air, Satan (Ephesians 2:3). Non-Christians have no ability to put faith in Christ (John 6:44, 65).

To affirm free will, as "free will" is commonly understood, is the same thing as denying the Bible's teachings about sin, and its effects on the human race.

God chose us to be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:13). He didn't chose for us to just have an opportunity to be saved, but to actually be saved. According to this text, the two-sided method God used was the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (exerted on our hearts prior to faith) and our faith in the Gospel. God chose to do this for us prior to the creation of the universe. He could not foresee our faith, because we had no faith for Him to foresee, nor did we have any ability to have faith for Him to foresee. Any faith God might foresee was foreseen because He put it in our hearts. The ultimate goal of our salvation is to enable us to attain Christ's resurrection glory.

Read Jesus' words in John 6 carefully. Jesus was the most "Calvinistic" preacher around. Jesus said that sinners come to Him because the heavenly Father first gave them to Christ (John 6:37). It is impossible for anyone given to Christ by God not to come (John 6:37). The converting work of the Spirit cannot be successfully resisted. It is impossible for anyone who comes to Christ to fall away and be lost (John 6:39-40). God irresistibly draws the sinner to Christ by spiritually teaching him or her the truth of the Gospel (John 6:45).

God desires many things that never happen. God did not desire Joseph's brothers to sin against Joseph, because God hates sin, but He ordained that they should go ahead and sin against Joseph, for a higher purpose of His own intent (Genesis 50:20). God predetermined that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Romans, and the people of Israel should reject Jesus, and crucify Him (Acts 4:27). He found displeasure in their sin, but preordained that they should act as they did, fully in obedience to their own wicked souls. God calls all men everywhere to repent, while at the same time knowing that all men everywhere will not repent. Even Arminians teach this, and don't charge God with insincerity. So we cannot charge God with insincerity in regards to election, either.

The affirmation of free will reflects a humanistic, anti-Biblical view of the spiritual condition of lost mankind. The Bible clearly teaches that everyone's heart is in bondage to Satan. You can baptize them until they drown, it won't save them. You can fill them with consecrated bread and wine until they can eat and drink no more, and it won't save them. You can strive to live a faithful Christian life until the day you die, and it doesn't save you. God, by Himself alone, saves you, from beginning to end.

HT: Truth Matters

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