Monday, October 18, 2010

Intermission: 1 Thessalonians 1 and the Doctrine of Election

Yesterday I listened to a sermon on ten verses of Scripture. Of those ten verses, one of them included a verse on election (1 Thessalonians 1:4. The text reads,
“knowing beloved brethren, YOUR ELECTION BY GOD” (1 Thess. 1:4, NKJV).
The preacher responded with the following: “Your election by God? What’s that supposed to mean? Is he saying that God chose you? That God elected you? Yeah, God did. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER SALVATION. This has everything to do with predestination and God calling and God choosing His people...from our side of things...let  me give you an example: imagine if I was to look at two doors, door #1 and door #2, and I was told, ‘you choose.’ I think about it, and I choose the door I wanna go through. After I go through the door and close it, I look at the back of the door and it says, ‘Predetermined before the foundation of the world.’ In other words, God knew it before time. There’s nothing you can do that can surprise God...He’s above time, but FROM OUR HUMAN PERSPECTIVE, AND EVEN THE WAY THE BIBLE PRESENTS SALVATION TO US, IT PRESENTS IT TO US AS THOUGH WE HAVE A CHOICE...that doesn’t violate in any way God’s sovereignty above salvation. God is in complete control of all things” (caps mine).
He had more to say about election in wrapping up his analysis on verse 4:
“It is true, the Doctrine of Election, that God chooses, that God calls...but He also presents it to us AS THOUGH WE HAVE A CHOICE” (caps mine).
With regard to the Thessalonians, they seemed to genuinely believe:
“They responded positively to the Gospel...of THEIR OWN APPARENT VOLITION” (caps mine).
The reason why I provided the above quotes is to allow us to examine what was said regarding the idea of election.
The door example above that the preacher used basically amounted to nothing more but, “The Bible presents salvation to us AS THOUGH WE HAVE A CHOICE” (caps to emphasize, once again mine).
Now, let’s try this statement in an example of my own. Let’s say that a couple comes to the church and declares their marital separation because of what they believe to be “irreconcilable differences.” So the Pastor meets with both individuals on a one-on-one basis, and hears the two accounts of what has gone wrong in the marriage. Over a period of time, he begins to take note of their stories, trying to understand the feelings of these two individuals who seem to be at an impasse. One day, he hears the wife say, “At first, it is as though he really loved me.” If you were the marital counselor, what would you say?
Before you think long and hard about your response, let me ask another question: what would you ASSUME that the wife is saying? The phrase “as though he really loved me,” in the minds of most individuals, would lead to the phrase, “but I guess he never did,” or “now, I’m starting to think he never did.” If it “appeared” at the time that he loved her, and now, she’s starting to believe he never did, then doesn’t it make sense to say that the wife believes her husband has “deceived” her, that his so-called “love” for her was nothing more than a lie?
Back to the preacher’s quote above: if “the Bible presents salvation to us AS THOUGH WE HAVE A CHOICE,” the question becomes, “Is the Bible then DECEIVING us about the whole choice factor? Does the Bible “appear” to deceive us about the nature of choice...that really, God picks and chooses individuals and we never get to genuinely accept or reject the Gospel?” If the Bible presents salvation “as though we have a choice,” but really our choices were “predetermined before the foundation of the world” (the words on the door in the preacher’s example above), then how can we have a “predetermined choice” and still have genuine choice? If it is predetermined, then it is no choice at all.
In the Eternal Security series I’ve been doing, I’ve been discussing the idea of genuine choice in time. I’ve also spent time tackling Molinism’s dilemma in that it desires genuine choice in time, but predetermined choice from all eternity. The last post stated that tensed facts such as “I once was lost, but now I’m found” (as John Newton wrote in the hymn “Amazing Grace”) cannot be true IF one has been “eternally secure” (or “eternally saved”). Here, the concept rings true as well. What the preacher really said was, “You may think that you have a choice...and you might actually believe you chose...but, one day, when you stand in eternity with God, you’ll understand that God determined that you would choose Him, that you have been unconditionally elected.” While that may comfort the hearts of those who love God, it doesn’t serve justice to those who don’t love God (the unbeliever). For, when the unbeliever lifts up his eyes in Hell, he faces a different fate: eternal damnation, which he chose, was also predetermined before the foundation of the world. He is in Hell because it pleased the Lord to damn Him. And if anyone can live with this last statement, then shame on you...shame on you.

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