A Helpful Election Apologetic

Those who reject the sovereignty of God in salvation often explain away election in this manner:

  1. Yes, the Bible does use words like predestine or elect to describe the salvation of Christians.
  2. However, the Bible also says that God foreknew those people before it says He elected them.
  3. What foreknowing means is that God in eternity past looked down the corridor of time to see what people would do when the gospel was preached to them.  He foreknew those that would believe in Christ.
  4. Seeing those who would believe, God then chose them to be His people.

Recently the July 2014 issue of Tabletalk magazine reminded readers that this teaching is what is known as the “prescient view of election” taught by Arminians.  I simply want to echo and further emphasize what this article stated so that we might help people better understand the Scriptures.  At its best the prescient view is an attempt to keep God from looking unfair in choosing some in salvation and not others; at its worst it is simply used as a polemic seeking to discredit Calvinism.

Regardless of intent, the prescient view is an incorrect interpretation of Scripture as it reads into the text teachings that are not present.  In Romans 8:28-30, we do read the words “foreknew” and “predestined.”

 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Though the text does place foreknew before predestined in the order of salvation Paul states here, note in the steps outlined above the logical gap that exists in the movement from 2) to 3).  The shift of emphasis moves away from God foreknowing believers to God foreknowing what believers would do.  The prescient view takes away the intimate knowledge God has of His people prior to their creation, which is the only basis for election described as His eternal love for the elect in other places in Scripture such as Ephesians 1:4-5.  This view then replaces eternal love with a mere beforehand knowledge of belief.  Often standard discussions of these views center around the definition of foreknow, and if my experience is any indication can become a bit tedious. While central and important to defending the Biblical doctrine of election, I wonder if a better starting point is to take them from a passage where their view is a misinterpretation of Scripture to one where it is a direct contradiction?

For as the Tabletalk article pointed out, the prescient view does deny what the Bible directly says. In Romans 9:14-16, as Paul is developing the doctrine of election further, he goes on to say:

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 

Note especially that last statement.  “So then it does not depend on the man who wills.”  God’s election does not depend on the will of man. Yet the Arminian is saying exactly the opposite. “Election depends on God seeing the will of man.”  In this passage, clearly Paul is concerned about God’s justice.  He expresses in the strongest possible terms the impossibility of God being unjust even as he rules out any view of election that is man-dependent.  Election depends on God’s mercy, pure and simple.

So perhaps when someone is explaining their prescient view to us yet again, we should respectfully ask, “So you are saying God’s election is based on the man who wills to believe in Christ?”  Then, with a loving smile, we can ask them to read and explain Romans 9:16.

Enjoyed seeing this so clearly explained I just had to pass it along!

2 Comments

  1. Chris September 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    The passage in Romans 9 is not referring to salvation, or even to individuals but is a discussion of the fact that Israel (or much of it) has been removed and the Gentiles have been grafted in. Many Jews would find this unfair or a great injustice but it doesn’t depend on them or their will which nation or group of persons God has mercy on but it is entirely up to God. This verse is so often taken out of context it is not even funny. It is about nations and Paul showing that God can grant mercy to any and all he chooses.

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