Do you like arguing about theology? Oh, wait, I forgot you are a 21st century western civilization Christian. You LOOOOVVVVEEEE to argue about theology....and doctrine....and church practices.....and pretty much everything else.
What gets people more heated than anything? Election vs Free Will debates. AKA, Calvinism vs Arminianism.
For those who have been lucky enough to have avoided knowing too much about this SUPER ESSENTIAL argument. Let me briefly sum up the two positions. But with the qualifier that I am in no way intending what I am about to write to in anyway be a completely exhaustive(or perhaps even fair) summation of either position.
Every person has to make the choice for Jesus. No choice is also considered a "no" for Jesus choice. No one is bound for evil, or, bound for good. We are free will moral agents responsible before God for the choices we make.
If I was a competent blogger I would list a number of bible verses here that support this position.....
God Himself "elects"(chooses) who is to be saved and who is not to be saved. This places a high value on God's absolute sovereignty and is hyper focused on our utter sinfulness and inability to do anything to "earn" salvation. If you are God's elect, you WILL be saved BECAUSE of HIS work, if you are not, you will NOT be saved.
Ditto on the competent blogger post...blah blah blah, bible verses.
Where we Go Wrong
Are you able to know whether or not you are elect? Probably not. You know what is inarguable? Jesus Christ came as fully God and fully man to die in the place of sinful man and to rise again and that through him(regardless of your view on elect/free will) and only him we can be saved.
The mechanism by which this actually works is a bit challenging to work out. Not that lofty and challenging theological introspection is without value. But here is the problem, the bible is pretty liberal at mentioning both. It mentions constantly our responsibility to claim with our lips the Jesus is Lord, AND, it talks about God's elect.
But, regardless of the actual details of the mechanism, both positions are clear. It is only through Jesus that it happens.
How did Jesus deal with the issue of election?
Let's take a look at an interesting exchange in Matthew 15
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Jesus appears to be a bit of a jerk here. This woman is making quite a scene begging for help, yet he ignores her. When pressed to respond to her he replies, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel"
Did you catch that? Jesus had a specific, pre-ordained, ministry goal....shades of Election perhaps??
But this non-elect woman does not stop. She comes right up to him, kneels before him and calls him Lord. And Jesus heals her daughter just as if she had been one of the "Elect".
Jesus was there for a specific people. God had elected to send him there for them. But when a non-elect person, by faith, comes to Christ crying "Lord Lord" Jesus commends her for her faith and in no small way shows great love and mercy to her. In a way, her position transforms from non-elect to elect.
I cannot deny that the bible speaks with clarity about God's elect. Yet, here is a beautiful picture of our Savior reaching across that divide to one who was not elected.
In practice and theology I lean much closer to Reformed and Calvinist theology. But this is how I personally read scripture regarding this issue. I do not believe that Election is a mutually exclusive position. Meaning, ONLY those who are elect will be saved. Scripture, as I read it, shows that the Elect WILL be saved, but when, by faith and calling upon the name of the Risen Savior, the non-elect come to the feet of Jesus, they will also be saved.
So how do we take this bit of theology and apply it to our lives. Well, you don't know if you are elect, and neither do I. But what I do know is that I have a responsibility to respond to the call of the Cross. And the message of the Gospel is a responsibility that all followers of Christ are called to share.
When we get lost in debating the nuances of the mechanisms by which God does what He does, we avoid the personal responsibility that we do have. So let us cut down the rhetoric and start proclaiming that the Cross of Christ is the only hope for ALL men!