So Here’s What Stumps Me in the Debate About the Doctrine of Election

Well, let me say at the outset that some of you (many) will not agree with my point here.  If you’d like, please read my article about Calvinism (so called) to understand why I think of myself as a 1.5 Arminian (Click Here for the Article).

I’ve run into a number of folks who say they are 0.0 Calvinists and not Arminians either.  I really have not been able to decipher that notion, so if you can explain it, please pitch in!  Frankly, you don’t have to like the label (or even wear it for that matter), but it doesn’t change the fact that each of the ‘5 points’ are simply either / or…and everyone believes something about some of them.  Either people are depraved or not, God has an effective call or He doesn’t, one can resist God’s call or he can’t, etc.

But here is where I’m stumped.  There is an argument for a ‘corporate election’, but most folks have abandoned the weakness of that argument; so all that is left is that (a) God choose freely apart from our choices, or (b) God chose based on our actions.  This second view is where I get lost.  Good friends of mine believe that God knew which individulals would chose Him, so He chose each of them…a case of mutual love and choosing.

Here’s my problem—if it is a mutual choice, then why does the Bible use the word elect /  chosen?  We can all spend time in our language tools, but it doesn’t seem to matter.  Here’s an example:

30.86 ἐκλέγομαιa; αἱρέομαιa; λαμβάνωe: to make a choice of one or more possible alternatives—‘to choose, to select, to prefer.’
ἐκλέγομαιa: ἐντειλάμενος τοῖς ἀποστόλοις διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου οὓς ἐξελέξατο ‘he gave instructions by the power of the Holy Spirit to the men whom he had chosen as his apostles’ Ac 1:2; οὐχ ὁ θεὸς ἐξελέξατο τοὺς πτωχοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ; ‘has not God chosen the poor in this world?’ Jas 2:5.
αἱρέομαιa: τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω ‘I do not know which I should prefer’ Php 1:22; μᾶλλον ἑλόμενος συγκακουχεῖσθαι τῷ λαῷ τοῦ θεοῦ ἢ πρόσκαιρον ἔχειν ἁμαρτίας ἀπόλαυσιν ‘he chose to suffer with God’s people rather than enjoy sin for a little while’ He 11:25.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., 360 (New York: United Bible societies, 1996).

The word just means ‘to choose’ and that’s all it means; context informs everything else.  So, God chooses His own…but why is this a problem for the second view (we both choose each other / He foreknows that we will choose Him so He chooses us)?

Well, in my way of thinking, ‘elect’ (choose) is a really silly word to use unless it means He chose us apart from our actions or choosing.  Honestly, if God calls everyone and only some choose to accept the calling (meaning they choose Him too)…then how is that being chosen?  It isn’t a choice for God at all because He actually called everyone but only some chose.  If this is the case than ‘chosen’ is not the word to use…He didn’t chose us we chose Him.

Let me say that again.  If ‘foreknowledge’ is the reason He chose someone, then it isn’t a choice, He had to choose that person BECAUSE that person chose Him.  This debate has been hashed out ad-nauseum over the centuries, but in my slow mind it just seems obvious now.

Unless God chose His own apart from any action (deserving) on their part, then the wrong word is used…it is not a choice.

I still hold to the mystery of it all…I certainly understand that I came to believe without Him simply regenerating me spiritually.  Yet, I also believe He clearly looked down though time and decided, “Fred, you’ll be mine.”  I don’t get the mystery of  it, but I also don’t want to argue with the gift-giver!  What kindness…and as I ponder, I wouldn’t have chosen Him without this kindess (I’m just not that noble apart from His grace).

So, what do you think?  Can we really say we are chosen / elect if we believe He chose us because we chose Him?

I’m not saying that there aren’t challenges in thinking this sort of thing through, but really, how can anyone argue it was God’s choice if it was dependent (contingent) on our choosing?  I’ve heard speakers use the notion of human love and marriage.  My wife chose me and I chose her…so it goes.  Well, the English means to select out of various alternatives.  So, I guess you could say I ‘selected’ my wife out of the choices…and…I guess you could say I ‘chose her’ because she was the only one who would have me; but, that really isn’t the nature of a choice.  We really don’t talk that way.  We fell in love, we decided together, etc.  She is my bride and my wife, but she isn’t my chosen one (unless I have the authority to pick whomever I want…like a king perhaps).  She could be my chosen one if our parents arranged the marriage, but these contort the point don’t they?

Next, consider the use of the word from the angle of those abandoned to their own destiny apart from God.  If believers are ‘the chosen’ then unbelievers are the ‘unchosen’—there is no other way to go.  So why did God not chose them?  Option #2 above says it is because they did not ‘choose’ Him.  So really, God chose everyone, but some rejected.  Again, the word elect / choose is NOT the right word.  He didn’t choose, He just got rejected.

Finally, pretend God really did ‘choose’ individuals apart from anything in the individual (just His own  free volition).  What word would you have wanted Him to use to convey that idea.  How could God have said it so it was CLEAR that He chose them apart from any reason other than His own will.  I’m pretty confident He would use the word CHOSE / ELECT.

I’m really wanting to get the argument, but honestly my friends, you wouldn’t let anyone get away with shape-shifting language in another discussion on another topic.  Why do it here?  Why can’t ‘elect’ just mean elect?


Fred Lybrand

24 thoughts on “So Here’s What Stumps Me in the Debate About the Doctrine of Election”

  1. Fred, have you considered a compatibilist version of Molinism at all? I hear your thoughts, and in some respects it is a Gordian knot. However, I think Molinism as it has been adjusted makes a good case to uphold both free will and divine sovereignty.

  2. Hey John,

    Good question. I’m pulling over our comments from Facebook here:

    John…I have a bit…Dr. Chay has been appealing to Norman Geisler (isn’t this his current view)?

    It would be great if your posted this on the blog for others to see.

    Actually, I don’t see the Gordian Knot…unless I have God needing to submit to higher laws than His own will….

    I posted it on the blog just now Fred. Well, I suppose the Gordian knot comes when the many, many texts appealing to the will of people comes into play. There are verses that uphold the sovereignty of God in election, plenty of them. There are also verses that highlight the universal offer of salvation to all people and make it contingent on … See Moretheir response to the gospel message. This seems an antimony, i.e. a Gordian knot. Perhaps Molinism in some form can help alleviate the tension while upholding both.


    Actually, I guess that it is William Lane Craig who is the chief proponent. It is fine enough to have theological systems (theories) which eleviate the tension; however, I don’t see mystery (antinomy…sort of) as a knot. In my 30 years of theological wranglings, I haven’t been able to deepen my confidence on the various ways of explaining God. At some point He simply is God and my logic cannont dominate him.

    When we work on ways to explain the ‘seemingly contradictory’ I think it is fun and interesting up to a point…what I can’t say it is, is convincing.

    Like you, I care about the text. Luke 1:15 tells us that John the Baptist had the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (meaning from the moment he was conceived…or, at least…born). There isn’t a good way to explain this (John’s will is not in play) unless God simply can do what He’d like.

    The flavor I get from the text is that exact point (not flavor but point)—God get’s to be in charge. His allowing of things fits, but we will all wrestle with ‘HOW’ He allows not ‘THAT’ He allows.

    If the compatability view of Molinism affirms His choice without depending on our choice / rejection…it certainly then matches the nature of language.

    I’ll have to study up…but you giving a summary would be even faster! 🙂



  3. Hi Fred,

    This question is a tough one. I’ve previously been satisfied with the simplistic explanation of “many are called, few are chosen.” This would see a few chosen to be saved, and the call open to the many.

    Frankly I do not at all find any reason to believe in Total Inability, as Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of GOOD and evil.

    I do believe that God accurately describes the depraved heart in that our every imagination is evil. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot see our need for salvation, and that need satisfied in Christ.

    So, I simply do not see the problem of some being elected to salvation and others not, but salvation still being available to them.

    God who cannot lie says that everyone is without excuse in Romans 1. If people are not able, then they surely have excuse.

    That was the simplistic answer I was satisfied with. However, now I’m more and more convinced that people are “elected” to works, not to salvation.

    Paul was elected to do the work he did, like I have been elected to the work I’m doing. The good works prepared beforehand. I was chosen to do them.

    Foreknowledge is best explained, and even the operation of how God would have elected some people to salvation (if he indeed has) by Middle Knowledge, as noted above by John C.

    As John notes, Middle Knowledge clearly allows for God to be completely sovereign, while not being a tyrant. People clearly exercise their volition, but God’s will is done because God can see every possible outcome of every possible decision point and He works it out in order for His purposes to be accomplished.

    So I wouldn’t rule out election to salvation, but the more I read the Scriptures without the help of commentaries and teachings, the more I’m convinced Election almost always has to do with how God uses a person, not how God saves them.


  4. Kev,

    Thanks very much for the input.

    I think I need a little more on your thoughts about being ‘elected to works’.

    I’ve always liked the way Chrysostom described the works God prepared beforehand (Eph 2.10) as rather like a group of islands that one may visit in any particular order. The works were prepared that we should walk in them…I don’t see a guarantee that we’ll do them. The works are a class-type or category…he prepared them as the type of works that befits a follower of the Savior.

    What it sounds like you are saying is the version of ‘perseverance’ that says we WILL have good works or we aren’t saved. I’m pretty sure that isn’t what you mean…so give me a little more.

    On “many are called…”—here’s my rubbing point:

    Rom 8.30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    Despite some efforts to the contrary, it is unavoidable that this is referencing a specific call that will result in final glorification. Unless universalism is true (which it isn’t), then there is a special call to a special group. The last version of Gordon Olsen’s book I looked at didn’t even mention this verse.

    For me I can see different demands on the person before and after regeneration. It just seems that God can do what He wants…totally justified to dump the whole race, but graciously didn’t.

    Depravity…if we have the ability to choose Him, then our salvation is fundamentally to our own credit. We save ourselves…a hard sell scripturally. Perhaps God provided a way without which no one could be saved (so He made it possible)—yet what makes the difference between one and another? In the final analysis we will have to congratulate ourselves…which, for me, is all but impossible to rectify biblically.



  5. Hi Fred,

    I have been thinking about whether I should chip in my two cents on this topic since I rarely add anything constructive to such conversations. However, for better or worse, here it goes. I don’t think that the definitions of words like “election”, “predestination”, and “chose” that we often use are necessarily faithful to the original languages. In fact I believe that the English definitions of these words have been heavily influenced by Calvinists.

    Over the past years I have been reading and studying a book that goes into these issues in depth by the name of “Calvinism: A Closer Look” by Daniel Gracely. I won’t go into too much detail but I would like to say that Mr. Gracely comes to some very different conclusions than you do about the definitions of these crucial words. You mention the passage which is translated “many are called but few are chosen” but Mr. Gracely states that “chosen” should be translated “invited.” Here is the quote:

    [Begin Quote]
    […] the word called means “to invite” in the phrase, Many are called, but few are chosen (thus, who truly invites by irresistible coercion?).
    [End Quote]

    I would also like to add that he believes that “predestine” should be translated “preappoint” which makes a big difference. Here is another quote:

    [Begin Quote]
    Observe here how the believer in Christ is said to be predestined (preappointed) to obtain an inheritance. This is a long way from saying we are predestined to be saved. While salvation is necessary to obtain an inheritance, the Bible (KJV) never says we are predestinated unto salvation, but only unto conformity to the son, predestinated unto son-placement, and predestinated to [obtain] an inheritance. Thus, the same essential thought is expressed each time the word predestinate or predestinated is given in the Scriptures.

    Calvinism: A Closer Look
    Chapter 16, Section on Predestination
    [End Quote]

    While I doubt you will agree with this I think you will agree that definitions are critical.


    1. Glenn,

      Thanks for your input, glad for your two cents. I actually was only quoting someone on the passage your mention (many are called…).

      The passage I’m concerned with (Romans 8:30) uses a different word for ‘call’. I’m not familiar with Mr. Gracely’s book, but I am familiar with words and language. I spent a little time at his site, but it will just take too much time right now to study it.

      I would be the last one to say that Calvinism is correct down to it’s details (not that anyone can demonstrate a uniformed view of Calvinism because it doesn’t exist), but also don’t think it is reasonable to villify all of ‘Calvinism’ (as is often the case with anti-Calvinists).

      Our guys are always victims and the other guys are always the villians (this is so imprinted in our design that it is a basic premise of marketing). As a dispensationalist, I have been on the ‘unfair’ end of that conversation for some time.

      I don’t give weight to English definitions like I do the Greek ones…especially as they are used throughout the New Testament (and especially be the same author).

      The ‘predestination’ argument is not really on target with what I’m pointing out. I agree that we are predestined to be like Christ (ultimately in glory). However, I was talking about ‘election’ and the word ‘elect’.

      It can be translated ‘invite’ —depending on the context (as with all non-technical words). You can go to the link below and see the use of the word ‘called’ (the one used in Romans 8:30) as it is mentioned throughout the New Testament.

      The use of the word ‘invited’ actually emphasizes my point— ALL who are ‘invited’ are ultimately glorified. That either means everyone is invited, and in this context, it means they are all saved…or…a special group is ‘invited’ and they are all saved.

      How does Mr. Gracely handle Romans 8:30?

      God bless,


      So, do say the Calvinists

  6. In response to just a few of Glenn’s comments:

    I was dead. The Bible says so. How does a dead man or woman make a choice? They cannot.

    How is someone predestined to obtain an inheritance (which is heaven) and that isn’t the same as being saved?

    How is someone predestined “unto conformity to His son” but not be saved? Our good works are like filthy rags. You are taking a giant leap to say we can be conformed to the son but not be saved and going through the process of sanctification.
    Please identify, for yourself, (for I will not be back), the long list of people you know who have obtained an inheritance (the only one He speaks of when speaking on this topic) and obtained a “son-placement” and obtained conformity to the son without salvation. In fact, you say it yourself. You say salvation is necessary to obtain an inheritance and we are preappointed to receive the inheritance. That seems pretty clear to me, even using the definitions and logic you’ve used here. You say some people are preappointed to obtain an inheritance but that they can’t be unless they are saved. I’m becoming dizzy from the circular reasoning here.

    The KJV doesn’t use “preappointed” it used predestined. Now, we’re to doubt the KJV, too.

    The concept of something happening without God’s ordaining it, but just sort of knowing it ahead of time is foolishness. “Oh! So that’s what happens! I can see it in the future! Joe marries Sally and Sally gets saved and then they have two children and it’s lucky I have a crystal ball and can see these things which I never had a hand in creatingl!” To my ears it sounds blasphemous.

    Read about Esau and Jacob in the New Testament. Critically important.
    Read in Timothy, I believe, about pots being made for different purposes. No, it isn’t fair from our point of view. That’s because we don’t understand how horrible sin is to God, and that what would be “fair” is for all of us to go to hell. He chose some of us not to. Who? Well, there’s certainly no pride in it. In one place in the Gospels (I think; sorry, I’m in a rush) he talks about choosing the weak and despised things of this world. In another He said, in a manner of speaking, that if you don’t need a doctor, okay then, He didn’t come for you. He only came for some, the ones who DO need a doctor. He has shown mercy on some and chosen them and they are the elect and we can take no credit, and we are in His hands. Secure. Some are sinful enough to take that for granted. That’s no surprise. Some who take it for granted that they are secure may never have been saved.

    In Psalms, he knew me before i was born. Not about me. He knew me.
    It’s all through the Bible, and while we are commanded to choose, that doesn’t negate the fact that He already chose some. Our viewpoint from here on Earth, with our little minds, is likely quite different from the point of view of someone who created galaxies. We can be talking about the same thing, but using different words (God and people.) I knew very well the absolute second that I was saved that while it may have appeared that I made a choice, a choice that I didn’t particularly want to make, that God had 100% responsibility for it. And thank God, for me, that He did.

    Romans 3:11 “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.”

    Obviously, then, anyone who seeks, cannot do so without God. Romans 11:7-10, please read this: “Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elected have obtained it, and the rest were blinded”…the passage goes on and things look even worse for those who say we choose God of our own free will.

    That is our flesh, our sinful nature. How do people get saved? Let’s turn to Ephesians 2 for the answer. So much to quote here, I could get repetitive stress injuries typing it. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…But God (my two favorite words in the Bible…But, GOD—the words that follow a description of us, who by our very nature are objects of his wrath) who is rich in mercy…made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved…By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast…We were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God PREPARED BEFOREHAND that we should walk in them.” I pick portions here, not to avoid a single word, but simply because there is so much here to make it clear as day that to type it all would take forever. This how differently Ephesians 1 and 2 would have been written if the credit for gaining salvation was even slightly in our hands. An entirely different picture would have been painted.

    The vein I see running through the many full-blown Armenians I have known very well over the 30 years since my salvation, is a deep secret in their hearts, I’m very sad to say: They believe at some level that they have some of the credit for their salvation and what’s more that therefore, of course, they have a major hand in KEEPING their salvation (an absurd notion), and that they are therefore, in some way, superior to a degree, to those who didn’t make this “choice” and who aren’t white-knuckling it through life the way they are. They see other believers as sort of lazy. They’d never say it but, way deep down inside their hearts, they actually resent the idea that others can be saved without trying as hard as they themselves did. This is sin. They are right out of a number of parables full of resentful people who don’t like the “break” that others are getting.

    Looking at the whole of the Bible, whether God explicitly controlling Pharoah’s choices as if he were a puppet, to the hundreds of other instances of God controlling people, places, events, you really have to be trying hard to find a verse here and there to take out of context and pretend that we operate independently of Him. He doesn’t have to follow our rules of what seems to make sense. He can say that the elect must appear to make a choice…we’re the ones who think there must be some sort of way to connect the dots so that we end up with some of the credit. Things may seem, in a phrase here or there to be contradictory. They aren’t. They are just what we’ve been commanded to do, placed in a context of a God who didn’t just know what was going to happen but ordained it.

    And in that, I find love, security, peace, hope, mercy, grace, gratitude, safety, and a powerful desire not to sin.

    1. Chuck,

      As a note of clarification, many believe that once a person is saved he is then predestined to become like Christ (ultimately in glory). This takes the issue out of play in their thinking…but it really doesn’t.

      The issue of election still looms. So if God predestines saved people and elects who will be saved…it turns out to be the same.

      This is the reason they divide it so that they can deal with the election issue separately in there resistance against it.

      I do agree with you that it is unavoidable (at some level) that those who do not adhere to a generic classic view of election believe that they have a hand in their own salvation.

      I reject that, which makes me a bit of a classic election guy. On the other hand, in sanctification (as a new creation) I believe that we clearly have a hand in our own sanctification (at least in surrendering :-), hence, we are properly ‘rewarded’ in glory (see 2 Cor 5).



  7. Hello Chuck,

    I see that you disagree with my stand on election, predestination, choseness, etc. I am going to respond to a couple of the points you made mostly by quoting once again from Daniel Gracely’s book. I do this for two reasons: first Dan was a Calvinist for many years and knows the subject much better than I do and he was a Liberal Arts major and says things so much better than I do.

    You said:

    How is someone predestined “unto conformity to His son” but not be saved?

    You should have read Dan’s treatment of that question. We are “preappointed” because of God’s foreknowledge. Here is a short quote from Dan from that section on predestination that I linked to in my previous comment:

    [Begin Quote]

    First, note that God foreknows whom He predestinates (preappoints). Calvinists claim that foreknowledge means something more than knowing the future—that it implies the kind of intimate knowledge only a Creator could have for His creation, i.e., the kind which Adam, for example, had for his wife Eve, when he “knew” her (i.e., in Adam’s case, intimately and sexually). Again, however, the Greek word foreknowledge (proginwskw) in extra-biblical sources contemporary with the New Testament era never implies such an attached understanding, but simply means, to know ahead of time.

    [End Quote]

    You said:

    Our good works are like filthy rags. You are taking a giant leap to say we can be conformed to the son but not be saved and going through the process of sanctification.

    You are stirring in the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity into the mix here. If all a person has is a hammer then everything looks like a nail.

    You said:

    Please identify, for yourself, (for I will not be back)…

    Yes you will if only see that I am properly humbled and contrite.

    You said:

    The KJV doesn’t use “preappointed” it used predestined. Now, we’re to doubt the KJV, too.

    I believe that the scriptures in the autographs are divinely inspired but that translations are not. Do you hold to a King James only view? Dan discusses the issue of translation at length in CHAPTER SIX: Translation as Interpretation.

    Every passage you refer in your response Dan goes into detail throughout his book. I believe his interpretation to be correct.

    You said:

    To my ears it sounds blasphemous.

    Of course it does and would to any Calvinist. I am not a Calvinist so your caricature does not sound blasphemous to me. I have a paper by Vern Poythress (Editor of the Westminster Theological Journal) where he states that anyone that doesn’t use his form of “Trinitarian logic” is an idolater. I also know that Charles Spurgeon said that Calvinism is Christianity. Their approval, or lack thereof, does not sway me.

    I am going to close this out with a longer excerpt that Dan wrote regarding total depravity and total inability:

    [Begin Quote]

    But the question arises-If Calvinism says that God has placed His desire in Dan against Dan’s desire, then Dan’s desires have been negated in order to receive the construct of God. That is, without God’s forceful and coercive removal of Dan’s own desires, Dan would simply remain as he is. How then, for example, can Sproul or Edwards say that this new desire is Dan’s desire? For if I now say the sentence, “God has changed my desire” there is an illusion of meaning because there is no more ‘my.’ God has overthrown the ‘my.’ He has negated the ‘my’ and replaced the vacuum with His desire. The only way, then, that ‘Dan’ could say that “God has changed my desire” is if we reduce the ‘my’ to particle physics. Thus, in place of Dan’s essence is now a bio-organic automaton that, in effect, calls up a program that God has put within him to give the illusion that when the automaton speaks saying, “I am Dan, and my desire has been changed,” Dan and his desire are still present, when in fact they are not. In reality ‘Dan’ must only be a bio-computer which God has made out of material creation. So the mass of collective molecules in process that sits in a chair, which we call ‘Dan,’ has been the object of God’s construct. ‘Dan,’ for that matter (as previously noted), could be a laundry basket for all the distinction that Calvinism requires. The ‘my’ enacts no final thinking or willing as a separate entity distinct from God. Thus ‘man’ is a non-predicated being, and the uniqueness that distinguishes him from a laundry basket is lost. For God could just as well sustain the being of a laundry basket, a plant, or an automaton in His presence, and cause it to echo back His constructs as willless computers with no consciousness. Either way it is God’s continuation of an object’s being in His presence-and that is all. We see then that under Calvinism the result is a total annihilation of the person, because to say that “God chooses another person’s choice” is the same type of irrationality that would say that “somebody else is me.”

    CHAPTER THIRTEEN: “We Had to Destroy That Village to Save It”
    From the section titled: Utter Depravity, Utter Oneness, Utter Bliss

    [End Quote]

    1. Glenn,

      Thanks for your thoughts. A couple of items:

      1. I don’t think Dan’s point follows Maslowe’s ‘hammer / nail’ arguments. It actually is a real argument. If our works are as filthy rags…then how is what we offer acceptable? It isn’t, but our faith is…so there’s the answer. Except, what makes our faith that comes from us acceptable when the works that come from us are unacceptable? I, of course, do not believe that God zaps us with faith (it is clearly OUR faith)…but I do believe He woos us graciously to believe. If He is out of the event, then I don’t see how anyone’s salvation could ever occur. I don’t mean that He points the way, but that He is on the path with us throughtout the journey toward Him.

      2. You said, “I also know that Charles Spurgeon said that Calvinism is Christianity. Their approval, or lack thereof, does not sway me.” This rather goes to my point about Calvinsm. Spurgeon (I assume he said something like this, though I don’t recall it) was bitterly opposed by the Hyper-Calvinists of his day (read Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism by Murray when you get a chance). There is great variation in Calvinism (so called)…so much of what we tend to battle is a bit of a straw man.

      I am forever indebted to Luther and Calvin for bringing back into the light ‘faith alone in Christ alone’ (of course they flubbed in the sanctification / works area as I document in Back to Faith (see at

      Many thanks,


  8. Hi Fred,

    I don’t have a well established argument, but many of the passages about Election seem to have more to do with the things people are doing. For this reason God raised this or that person up…

    2Pet 1:5-11 for example, this is about Election, but seems more to do with your fruitfulness & walk than it does with Salvation. Note that those who don’t do the things Peter is instructing don’t find out they were never elected in the first place, but that they forget their sins were purged.

    No I don’t believe that all believers will carry out good works, 2Cor 5 is a good proof-text (though I despise such) for the fact that some believers will have nothing they’ve done to be rewarded for.

    Your work on James 2 is most edifying on this subject as well.

    However, I do believe that those who are available (prepared, mature, and willing) will be elected to good works which have been prepared for us.

    I think Election suffers from the same problems that Justification, and Repentance do. People have blended a number of doctrines together and have had to use theology to explain away the problems.

    I do agree with someone above that Reformed Theology is pervasive in the Church and colors our understanding of Scripture much more than any of us would like.

    For example, I think the question of who gets credit for calling on God is a red herring.

    Do you ever say to the saved drowning man – it’s a good think you yelled out from the water! Congratulations!

    Not only is this a silly argument in our everyday experience, it is also a subject which is foriegn to the Scriptures. There is no discussion of who gets the credit in the Scriptures. God is not that fragile.

    Over and over the Bible says the sinner must repent, believe, call on the name of the Lord… and we are told that things happened because this person had faith, believed, called on the Name of the Lord or repented… we’re told that sinners have no excuse because God has been made known to them and they chose to worship the created instead of the Creator.

    I truly think the red herring of sinners claiming credit for calling on the Name of God forces us down poor theological paths instead of simply reading the Text for what it says.

    if it says ALL it means ALL even if that doesn’t jive with Reformed Theology.


  9. Kev,

    Thanks for your good thoughts.

    I’m not yet convinced that the All of Grace argument isn’t persuasive (and important). I actually do believe that people who call out for help get some of the credit. Swimming may or may not be a good example (lot’s of people get saved without calling for help because they are choking…no role, just rescued). I one time used CPR on boy who had drowned (was blue and gone)…he asked for nothing…was pulled from the bottom…dead to us. Yet he is happy and healthy today (I don’t think I violated his will :-).

    There is a very real sense, by analogy, that people have a hand in their deliverance. It seems cancer survivors is a pretty decent example. When they survive under medical care it is often because they went for help at an early enough stage. That isn’t the case with everyone. I’ve personally counselled people who have avoided getting the help they needed (denial I suppose) until it was actually too late.

    When we look at ourselves as having a hand in our own salvation, it does diminish God’s glory. At the Bema, however, we actually share some of the glory as we are rewarded. We are rewarded because we earned it…and God designed the game that way for us as new creations with new capacities. He is glorified in honoring us…who followed Him. Giving rewards to those who couldn’t help it would just be weird (I address this in my Chafer article on CORPORATE REWARDS:

    Prior to our regeneration we are different creatures, dead in trespasses in sins. Our works are as filthy rags. I think it is tirelessly difficult to see salvation as not God-initiated and God-led from top to bottom.

    It seems to me that reading the text for what it says in Ephesians 2:1-10 emphasizes this very point…All of Grace (not of us). We certainly believe with OUR faith, but God is at work.

    In fact, I’m still hoping to discuss Romans 8:30. How else can we explain the verse except that God specially calls some who are guaranteed to be justified and glorified?



  10. Hi Fred,

    Thanks for taking the time to dig through all of this.

    God is at work when we believe because He has drawn us. He has revealed Himself. He has convicted us of our sin.

    You and I have discussed the nature of belief before, without coming to a satisfactory understanding. But I do believe that the action of repentance is a passive action – if you’ll go with me.

    I do not believe that Repentance is an individual gift… I do not believe that faith is an individual gift.

    I believe that loved His creation (kosmos) in this way, that He gave His Son so that any who believe would have Eternal Life. His giving His Son at the Cross IS a demonstration of His love, and it also ensured that He actually IS just in justifying sinners who believe.

    A sinner can choose to believe, or choose to reject but he or she cannot deny that they have had God revealed to them – thus they are without excuse.

    If they could not believe, or if it was not even their choice, then they would have excuse when they stand at the Great White Throne Judgment.

    Eph 2:8-10, I wholly believe, indicates that “Salvation by Grace through faith” is the gift of God. Though I have yet to read a good English translation, the genders of the Greek words do not agree to any other interpretation. Not the faith, but the fact of salvation by Grace through faith. The sinner is responsible to “obey” the Gospel, by believing the report as Isaiah puts it.

    I honestly believe, that like you and I had discussed some time before – given sufficient revelation, and surrendering (yikes! I do not want to imply LS theology’s surrender) of one’s resistance enough will result in simple belief which is not an action so much as a unhindered automatic response. You can’t help but believe the pot which burnt you is hot… for example. One cannot brag (validly so anyway) about believing the pot is hot.

    Romans 8:30, as you know is not the entire passage. I’m well aware that many try to twist words of Scripture to fit their own theology. I’ll try not to do this here, but I suspect you’ll be familiar with my explanation.

    To save space I won’t quote, but put together Romans 8:18-30 there is a theme of God’s working in our lives, to transform us into the image of Christ. (no matter successful the process is, this IS the pattern that God follows with every single believer. Heb 12 is also the same.)

    With this in mind, we can shorten our study to Rom 8:27-30 and see that God is working out His will. He explains that He works all things to the good of those who are “called” according to His purpose.

    He explains who He is dealing with in this manner as those whom He “foreknew” and those that He foreknew He predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ. These whom He predestinated He also called, and these same He also justified, and glorified.

    The “foreknew” is first, it is the basis for all the rest. The predestination is of those who He foreknew, and the predestination is to sanctification in this life, and actual conformance o to the image of Christ in Heaven – not Salvation per se.

    So the issue here is what does God mean by “called”?

    As someone noted above, this could very well mean “invited” however I read it a bit more forcefully – which may well be my own bias. Verse 29 says “called according to purpose” (some translations put “His” ahead of purpose).

    I think this relates very well with Eph 2:8-10 and 1Peter 1 as well. As part of our sanctification we are called to suffer, and do good works. We are elected to these things. They are prepared for us, and we will be judged based on what we do.

    Romans 8:18-19 shows that we are to have Christ’s glory revealed in us, that all of Creation eagerly awaits this. The process for this is explained through to Romans 8:30.

    God’s purpose for sanctification is to reveal His glory through us, thus we are called or elected to do this. Not called individually to salvation – at least not in the passages we are discussing now.

    I guess you got some of my thinking about Election out of me after-all… was that some Pastoral arm-twisting? 🙂

    Thank you for indulging me. You are forcing me to contemplate the implications of the things I say, and to evaluate their basis.


    1. Hey Kev,

      Thanks…no arm twisting…just an irresistible thing with you (like your salvation?).

      Actually, I agree with much of what you said…except I think God is completely and judicially in the right to condemn us all to an eternity apart from Him given our sin via Adam and our sins via ourselves. I don’t see lostness as rejecting God, but rather just staying ‘as is’ in one’s lostness. The rejection of something isn’t really causal (though we talk this way from the human / phenomenological viewpoint).

      The kink with the Romans 8.28 and Romans 8.30 passages is that “call” is a different word in each verse.

      The real trick is that the destination to Christlikeness / glorification doesn’t solve the problem in my understanding.

      “Those He called…He justified”

      Would you say it means that those He ‘called to become like Christ’ He justified? If so, why say that? It’s sort of meaningless isn’t it? The sentence itself lays out the terms with sequence in mind…predestinated * called * justified * glorified.

      It still means that there is a special call on a certain group…and it is certain that they will believe. Of course, foreknow and predestinate can mean what the Calvinist say they mean too.

      I still wrestle with how God could have said it if He really meant that He looked down through time and saw Kev and said, “Kev, you will be mine!” Then, graciously and thankfully drew you to Himself.

      How could He have said that differently and better communicated such a ‘sovereign’ approach? I feel we miss the plain meaning here because we have other (philosophical / theological) concerns that sort of require us to miss it. I think a similar thing happens with Romans 9.

      Why would it be such a big deal for the God of the universe just to say… I pick you? The reason is all-but-inflamed by our democratic ideals and obsession (?) with our individual rights.

      For me…I’m down with God being totally in charge…even in ways I can’t fathom.

      Of course, none of this matters if the text says something else. I just still wonder why the word ‘elect’ would be used…and why He has to talk in terms of calling if it is essentially our choice / up to us.

      It seems to be a far more suitable understanding to be a Calvinist when it comes to pre-justification (old creature) and an Arminian when it comes to post-justification (new creature). That should happily bother everyone!

      I do know that I don’t want to make it up…I just want to understand and rest in it!

      Pray for me.



  11. Hi Fred,

    I’ll get back about Rom 8 but here’s a quick reply.

    “That should happily bother everyone!” – HAHAHA! now THAT is funny.

    “I do know that I don’t want to make it up… I just want to understand and rest in it!” – AMEN.

    “I think God is completely and judicially in the right to condemn us all to an eternity apart from Him given our sin via Adam and our sins via ourselves.” – OH I completely agree. We are guilty not just in some wonky spiritual way. We are demonstrateably (a word?) guilty in our selves, and in the Adamic Nature we each have.

    God is fully and completely just in condemning those who have not come (go with me) to Him on His terms, having had justice justly satisfied.

    Two different words translated call there? Yikes… missed it. I will re-evaluate.



  12. Hi Fred,

    I have been away on vacation this week and have just had a chance to come back and check the comment thread for this post. After glancing over your comments I am going to split my reply into two parts and hope that will make all of this more understandable. Before I do that I want to say that I was not attempting to start a major debate on this issue. I have gotten into online debates before and don’t consider them to be fruitful. What I was trying to do was to get a sense of where you stand on the definitions of words which is crucial to understanding the scriptures.

    The thing that I really picked up on in your post was basically that the Koine Greek word eklegomai is correctly translated into English as election with the sense that we are elected with one vote (God’s vote). I was trying to accomplish two things in my first comment. First, I wanted to point out that there can be legitimate disagreement even among experts about how Koine Greek words are used (I see people argue over how English words are used and it’s not a “dead” language). The point about the word called (“many are called but few are chosen”) was that if it is instead translated as invite (“many are invited but few are chosen”) it makes a huge difference as to how we understand it. I also usually see people use called, elect, and predestined as synonyms but I don’t think many would view invited as being a synonym with elect and predestined.

    I also wanted to get a deeper understanding of your view of election. Your article doesn’t put much stock in the idea that God predestines those that He foreknows will believe. The second quote from Dan Gracely in my first comment was meant to get a deeper response from you. The quote was from Dan’s [I don’t think he will mind my being familiar and using his first name] discussion of Romans 8 and he was stating that predestination in that passage was solely predicated on foreknowledge (I know that your article had already rejected that view) and had nothing to do with His choosing who would believe.

    I tried to track down a more detailed quote from Dan to use here. Dan doesn’t write in a way that makes it easy to provide small quotes but here is another one dealing with Romans 8:29-30 from Chapter 16 of his book:

    [Begin Quote]

    For example, one confused thinker on the internet (who failed to truly separate God’s foreknowledge of history from history itself) so completely stripped Romans 8:29-30 out of its surrounding context about God working with the believer in his earthly life of trial, while also failing to understand Paul’s synopsistic ellipsis that those “whom God foreknew” refers to those whom God foreknew would believe, that he attempted to claim that because God justified those he foreknew, it was impossible that foreknowledge could mean foreknowing only, since God foreknows what everyone will do in the world but not everyone is saved. (Yeah—don’t worry if you didn’t follow that one!) We must understand that a proper, biblical definition of foreknowledge is that God knows everything there is to know, both actually and contingently. This defines foreknowledge as the following: God knows exhaustively what will happen and what could happen without predetermining anyone else’s choices.

    [End Quote]


  13. Hi Fred,

    Here is part two of my comment. I suppose that this one is a bit more off topic even though I view it as closely related to the topic. In your reply to my second comment you ask how, if all of our works are as filthy rags, is what we offer acceptable? I suppose that I should first state that I agree with the conclusion to your rhetorical statement that we cannot offer God anything that is acceptable. However, since I do not believe that faith is a work I do not believe that there is any conflict here. Do you believe that faith is a work and therefore must be initiated by God to be effective?

    Rather than try and provide a sloppy definition of my beliefs on the topic of faith I am going to refer you to a post I worked up a few months back on the Doctrine of Faith at my blog (it is a small blog that few visit but it helps me organize my thoughts). The doctrine is the one I grew up with and I still believe it to be correct. The link will provide you with more of an answer than you probably want.

    I also want to extend this discussion and ask you a follow-up question (don’t feel obligated to answer if you don’t want to). I have come to the conclusion that many of these discussions on election (in fact discussions of any of the five points of TULIP) are rooted in our views of the Divine Decrees. I was taught that there are historically four different views of the Divine Decrees: Supralapsarianism, Infralapsarianism, Sublapsarianism, and Arminian lapsarianism. I do not pretend to have a deep knowledge on any of these views since they get very complicated. I will say that I do hold that God knew in eternity past all that would happen in human history including how events would have turned out differently if different choices had been made (contingencies). What is your view of the Divine Decrees in relation to our salvation? Do you believe that God decreed who would believe and who wouldn’t? Given that you hold to predestination I tend to think that you must believe that God decreed in eternity past whom He would redeem and who he wouldn’t. How anyone answers this question will pretty much decide how words such as chosen, elected, and predestined are interpreted.

    I have gone on for too long at this point. I hope this has helped answer your questions even though I am sure it was incomplete.


  14. Hi Fred,

    I thought I had to teach this morning so I’ve been preparing for that.. turns out I don’t so I can take a minute to reply. 🙂

    I agree completely that theology can cloud our ability to discern what the Text is actually saying. We have doctrines which are so often attacked that we naturally seek to defend them at every turn.

    However, I’m not doing this here.

    In Vs 28 we see the person is called, and in Vs 30 we see God doing the calling.

    These are not two different types of calls with different purposes. They are two perspectives on the same call. Those called, and Him calling.

    What the person is called to remains what is described in the overall passage – suffering, sanctification and eventually glorification.

    If I’m reading you correctly you see that God called us to justification and glorification. I do not think this is what the Text is saying at all.

    Rom 8:29-30

    29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

    Whom He foreknew He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.

    Whom He foreknew is the limit on the people group the Spirit is writing about. All of these whom He foreknew are thus predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son. This is only fully accomplished at glorification – 1Jn.

    This is what is being taught.

    Moreover those whom He predestinated He also called. Called to what? The suffering and sanctification that has been the topic of calling in this passage.. mostly from Vs 18 on.

    Whom He called, these He also Justified.
    Whom He called is identifying the people group, not the action by which Justification was accomplished or initiated.

    Those called to be conformed to the image of Christ, these He also justified. Or He didn’t just call them to be conformed to the image of Christ, He also Justified them. There are a number of ways to write this in English which are less open to interpretation.

    Whom He justified, these He also glorified.

    Now the teaching is complete, all who He foreknew are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ.

    The call comes from foreknowledge. This is God accomplishing His desire for those who believe. Not Him pre-determining who will and will not believe.

    BTW I’m completely OK with God picking and choosing as well…. However, this is not the way I see God revealed in the Text. I don’t get to choose the God I like best… I am fully aware that my need is to find the God Who is True, and revealed in Scripture.



  15. Kev,

    I haven’t forgotten you! I’ve just been a little busy on some pressing projects before leaving for vacation…I”ll write soon (from the lake)!


  16. Hi Fred,

    With regard to someone being able to brag because they had faith; Bobfromchicago noted at my blog that God does not share this view. In fact God says that it must be by faith so that grace is not offended.

    Romans 4:16a “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace…”

    So if a man were to have faith it would not violate Grace at all.


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