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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Is nowhere attested in Scripture
  6. 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.
  7. Contradicts Scripture’s testimony that election is the ground of faith: It is because of divine election that all true Christians believe.
  8. 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?
  9. Reverses who elects whom: The Arminian view makes God’s election of us follow our election of God logically.
  10. 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?
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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):

  1. God gets the full glory for human salvation: Unconditional election means that God deserves full praise and glory for every aspect of human salvation.
  2. The human heart is humbled: There was nothing in us whatsoever that moved God to choose us.
  3. Security: Our salvation is completely secure because it was neither initiated nor sustained by us.
  4. 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).

  • Andy

    Got any scripture references? I agree with your thesis, but these arguments won’t work without proof.

    • David Murray

      I agree Andy. I was only summarizing 20 pages from a chapter in the book. The chapter itself has a ton of scripture references.

  • James O’Brien

    Add a 14th reason. It makes God dependent on man for his knowledge. Ask any sincere believer if God knows or God learns. I’ve done this many times with people of every kind of ecclesiastical background. They always, without exception, answer immediately and instinctively that God knows. He does not learn. But election based on foreseen faith means, quite simply, that God looks and learns. That this knowledge is from eternity does not change the fact that God must look to learn what we will do. Every Christian should recoil from the thought, that God is dependent on us for anything at all. There is a kind of heart knowledge that the Spirit teaches, but is sometimes lost when we speak theologically. If Christians who believe in foreseen election (a theological proposition) understood how it contradicted what they know in their hearts, they would immediately reject their view. (That may not be the best way to describe this disjunction, but it’s the best I’ve discovered so far.)

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  • Mushet

    I read the claims made in the article and I respectfully disagree. The Biblical fact that God’s election of man is based on foreseen faith in no way, shape, or form, denigrates the Divine sovereignty and character of God. On the contrary, it does away with the horrific unbiblical contradictions and problems seen in the teachings of Five Point Calvinism. If Calvinism is true, for example, then God arbitrarilly and fatalistically picks who will be blessed in heaven forever and who will burn in eternal torment forever in Hell. I in no way deny the Biblical literal truth of eternal sulfuric Hellfire in the Lake of Fire for all who are lost, all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ as God and their only eternal Savior. But, Five Point TULIP Calvinism (true, consistent Calvinism) is totally fatalistic; it has God pre deciding everything and being the author of sin. God in this view intentionally creates people to burn forever. You may say: “But even in your view if God knows all things God knows that when He created humans, some would reject Christ and burn forever. That is no different than what we believe.” Yes God knew that. Absolutely. But that in no way takes away the fact that these people chose to use their free will choice to reject Christ. God knows all things I will do and what I will choose but all of my choices are still my own.

    Foreseen faith still gives God all the glory. He the Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior, not you and not me. If you offer a starving beggar a loaf of bread, who gets the glory in that situation? You or the beggar? You do because you are the one giving it to him. Just because he reaches out for it does not make it a work on his part and does not make him the honored one. You, in that situation, out of the kindness of your heart fed him. Same with us and God. Jesus offers us His grace and His mercy from eternal Hell and when we exercise faith alone in Christ alone we are made eternally secure and He gets all the glory for this. Why must Calvinists be so philosophically minded and demand that there is some “wordless mystery” to this?

    Regarding prayer, this in no way strips the power of prayer. God can use various methods and means to work on the hearts of people but yes ultimately if someone truly and completely rejects the Lord Jesus Christ as their only eternal Savior they will burn in Hell forever. God honors man’s choices.

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  • billy white

    very helpful. i believe it was Sproul who noted that it boils down to Total Inability. Calvinists believe man is spiritually dead and Romans 3:10ff refers to all lost folk. Arminians don’t. whatever lost man is, he still has enough life in him to make a “decision.” Thankfully God chose some or none of us would be saved. keep up the helpful posts. they are a blessing.