Reformed theology has been around for a long time – since the, when was it again? Ah yes the Reformation. One of those Reformers of course was John Calvin (born: Jehan Cauvin – hence my title). It has also gained quite an impetus with the likes of John Piper, Wayne Grudem et al. Of course there are alternatives with Roger Olson (Arminian), Greg Boyd (Open Theology) and such. The old Reformed frameworks are of course from that era, and although Luther found a great resonance in Paul’s Gospel, it is certainly highly questionable if Paul was suffering under the guilt that Luther was. It is from the Reformation that we get the impetus for the penal substitionary view of the atonement with guilt being dealt with through punishment.
So I thought today I would take a few minutes to scribble a response to ‘predestination’. The classic Calvinist doctrine is that there are those who have been predestined (the elect) for salvation. Simply then salvation is from God, so no one can boast… no one can save themselves. Justice is we all are guilty and automatically would go to hell, but God has chosen in his grace to rescue some. We are not the judge of who so we are to present the Gospel to one and all, and we can be assured the elect will respond. The foreknowledge that God has of who will be saved is because of his predetermined choice. There were those such as Spurgeon who claimed he prayed: ‘save the elect then elect a few more’ which might be a good prayer but not too in line with the theology outlined!
I have always struggled with the Calvinism as expressed through the acronym TULIP (total depravity; unconditional election; limited atonement; irresistible grace; perseverance of the saints) and do remember discussing (arguing!!) with a professor and I think I backed him into a corner when he agreed that God wants all to be saved but only chooses to save some!
Let’s take a Scripture:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. (Ephes. 1:3-5)
We have election and predestination there in these verses. Predestination sets the destiny for those who are elect. The elect have been predestined to be adopted into the family. The destiny has already been set – predestination is the ‘what’ not the ‘who’. We are predestined to be like him, to receive the gift of eternity etc. I think that runs pretty consistently throughout the Scriptures. And it is the elect who are predestined for this outcome – so who are the elect?
They are elect 1) in him and 2) before the foundation of the world.
Those two qualifiers are very important… so first let’s get behind the language. A Jew could say:
I am elect in Abraham 4000 years ago (rough time dates there, no stones yet please!!).
To say so would be to recognise that Abraham was the chosen one and that the Jew’s election was because he was of Abraham’s seed. The Jew would not be thinking that God chooses each individual person – they are elect in Abraham. Abraham was chosen, I am of Abraham therefore I am elect in his election.
This is the language used here. We were elected when he (Jesus) was chosen. When was he chosen? He is the Chosen one from all eternity, before the foundation of the world. All in Christ are elect, they are chosen before the foundation of the world in him. This I do not believe even comes close to suggesting that before the foundation of the world God chose who will be saved in the sense of which individuals, but the choice is whoever is in Christ are children of God.
There might be other Scriptures suggesting something different, or that there was a foreknowing in the sense of knowing who will respond, but I cannot see it in this Scripture.
All in Christ are elect. We cannot think of election apart from the Chosen one. We are only elect in Christ. We cannot think of predestination apart from the one who has fulfilled the destiny for the human race.