Is it that important to believe in unconditional election – God’s sovereign pre-creation choice to save specific people, irrespective of anything they would do or be? Can’t we just agree with other Christians who say that election simply means that God foresaw which people would believe and therefore chose them?
In his chapter on Unconditional Election, in Whomever He Wills, Andrew Davis lists 13 damaging consequences that follow from understanding election as merely foreseen faith (pages 58-74).
The Damaging Consequences
- It robs God of His glory as sovereign King of the universe: If God is the responder and man the initiator, God has surrendered control of the universe to the creature. God is a student of the human heart rather than the potter shaping the clay.
- Gives man ground for boasting: If our faith is the fundamental cause of our election before the foundation of the world, we can stand on our faith and boast.
- Severs the Scriptural connection between grace and faith: The Bible consistently presents faith as a gift of God’s grace, not the cause of it.
- Reverses the fundamental order of cause and effect: If our election is based on foreseen faith, that makes faith the cause and our election the effect.
- Is nowhere attested in Scripture
- Fails to understand foreknowledge properly: Foreknowledge means that God foreknows people, which is far more than knowing about people, and that “knowledge” is in the deepest sense a covenantal or marital knowledge.
- Contradicts Scripture’s testimony that election is the ground of faith: It is because of divine election that all true Christians believe.
- Finds good in man apart from sovereign regeneration: If the Bible describes us as “dead in trespasses and sins,” what good did God see in unregenerate people when he looked down through the corridors of time?
- Reverses who elects whom: The Arminian view makes God’s election of us follow our election of God logically.
- Makes the ultimate difference between someone in heaven and someone in hell something in man and not something in God: What makes the difference between a person who ends up in heaven and someone who ends up in hell? Something in the human heart or something in God’s heart?
- Makes God’s election a matter of justice, compulsion, and reward, not sovereign freedom: In the Arminian view, whenever God identifies this independent, man-originated faith, God is compelled by something outside Himself to elect that person to eternal life.
- Strips people of true freedom of choice: The doctrine of election based on foreseen faith makes both God and man subservient to another “force” or “drive” in the universe which neither can ultimately control.
- Renders evangelistic prayer meaningless: If God cannot or will not interfere in the inner workings of the human heart to bring about faith, what exactly are we asking Him to do when we pray for a lost person?
The Blessed Benefits
Andrew then proceeds to list four benefits of unconditional election (pages 75-76):
- God gets the full glory for human salvation: Unconditional election means that God deserves full praise and glory for every aspect of human salvation.
- The human heart is humbled: There was nothing in us whatsoever that moved God to choose us.
- Security: Our salvation is completely secure because it was neither initiated nor sustained by us.
- God-centered confidence in evangelistic and missionary endeavors: An evangelist or missionary that goes forth in the name of sovereign grace can do so with a completely humble confidence in God that the mission will be successful under God’s eternal purposes.
This is a superb chapter and should help to remove any grounds for apology or embarrassment for believing or teaching this doctrine.
But before you go out and use this as a club to beat up your Arminian friends, let’s also remember especially the first part of the Westminster Confession’s conclusion about the doctrine of election:
The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending to the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel (WCF 3.8).