Baptists, Calvinists, Doctrine of Election (7)

Biblical Solution

Elmer Towns is honestly on to something. There is room for middle ground. Christians need to be cautious of any extreme view. The most Biblical solution is not an extreme view of hyper-Calvinism or the complete concept of “free will”. These are man-made concepts. Within the five-points of Calvinism there is a lot of wiggle room. Any given person who is seeking a “biblical solution” for Calvinism may decide to agree with Calvin on one point to a small degree and then completely disagree with another one of his points completely. While another person might decide that the most “biblical solution” is complete acceptance of all five-points in Calvinism! It is a false dichotomy to leave only two options: Calvinist or Arminius.

God elects people to salvation by His own sovereign choice and not because of some future action they will perform or condition they will meet. BUT… Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Admittedly the two concepts don’t seem to go together. However, both are true separately, and we must accept them both by faith. We may not understand it, but rest assured—it’s fully reconciled in the mind of God[1]. Both are biblical! Calvin is correct saying that God takes the initiative to save sinful sinners who cannot save themselves. The point of argument is to what degree do man work with God?

John Piper brings an interesting point to the table. “You may never feel the weight, you will never feel the wonder of grace, until you finally relinquish your claim to have any part of your salvation,” he said. “It’s got to be unconditional.”[2] If man is fallen and can only be reconciled by God, meaning God takes the imitative for salvation (Arminius might not agree with me up to this point[3]) then it follows that election and grace are unconditional. God chooses who He pleases. It is a free gift. Man did nothing to earn it, in fact, man is the one who chose to be fallen, man chose to sin.

Some objections that come up are: Is election fair? Think about it this way. Sin is punishable by death. All men deserved death and punishment. The fact that God chooses to save even some of us is demonstration of His grace. Secondly, who are we, mere humans, to decide if what God does is fair? If God ultimately decided to create some creatures to be saved and others not to be saved, then that was his sovereign choice. Ultimately, grace is not fair either.[4]

Another objection is that God wills to save everyone, right? While it is true that God desires to save everyone according to 1 Tim. 2:4 and 2 Pt. 3:9, there is one thing that God desires even more than that, His glory. God will do what most glorifies Himself. Men might not ever understand or know what brings God the most glory.[5] Arminians ask, “If God chooses to save some people from the beginning of time, why do evangelism?” But this question can be turned right back at them, “If God wills to save everyone, why do evangelism?” here in the Arminian argument, it sounds like God is going to do all the work, magically everyone will be saved. This sort of thinking leads to universalism. Karl Barth turned the doctrine of election into a thing of joy when he discovered that the entire world, no matter what religion, was elected in Jesus Christ.[6]

With a complete Biblical and moderate, not extreme, understanding of Calvin’s teachings many of these objections go away. “I felt like Calvinism was more than abstract points of theology,” said Cochran, 25. “I felt you would get a much bigger view of God if you accepted these things, an understanding of justice and grace that would so deepen your affections for God, that would make you so much more grateful for his grace.[7]For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.[8] It is not about what man can do or does. Man does not earn salvation. God gives it by grace. This Calvinist and Biblical way of thinking, in the context of a personal relationship with God should spur evangelism. It is this understanding of grace in light of the doctrine of election that Baptists need to get back to, much like the when J. T. Daggs wrote his Manuel of Theology.

[1] John MacArthur Jr. Is the doctrine of election Biblical? Adapted from The Body Dynamic. (1996.) Christian Art Distributors. Retrieved from accessed on Aug. 1st, 2009, pg. 1.

[2] Collin Hansen. “Young, restless, reformed,” pg. 37.

[3] Which is ironic, in my own personal opinion, I am not sure how Arminius does not see that. –He chooses not to! The one who advocates “free will” cannot understand that free will got us into total depravity and in need of reconciliation. But this is another argument for another paper on Total depravity!

[4] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Pg. 681

[5] Ibid, pg 683.

[6] Ralph Wood, “What Ever Happened to Baptist Calvinist?,” pg. 597.

[7] Collin Hansen. “Young, restless, reformed,” pg. 38

[8] NASB. Eph. 2:8,9.

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