Friday, December 9, 2011

Thoughts on Conditional Election

Conditional election: God chooses some people for salvation, and intentionally chooses those who meet some condition that He sets. Some christians hold to unconditional election, which I respect. I don't hold to it, myself, though. Like John Piper says, in his book “Future Grace,” conditional does not mean deserved. Grace in the life of a believer is spelled out to be conditional (God gives grace to the humble), but it's certainly not earned or deserved. And that's what I believe. I think that conditional Grace is unearned grace that God only gives out to some.

I would not say that God chose on His own, apart from any foreknowledge He has, because for me, God's knowledge, along with His power and Sovereignty, are all part of who God is – it's all unified. God is not apart from His knowledge, and therefore I don't think that God chooses apart from His knowledge anymore than He chooses apart from His Sovereignty. Rather, He chooses according to His knowledge, according to His Sovereignty, and according to His good pleasure.

“God chooses on His own.” I would agree with that sentiment. I also think that God choose conditionally, but since it is God who chooses the condition, God Himself is the foundation of all that He does. Some people think that if something is conditional, then the BASIS of salvation would be the person and not God. I see the merit of the idea, but I ultimately disagree with it. You see, if God had a compulsion to save everyone who had red hair, and if you had red hair, then He just couldn't help Himself and then saved you – then the basis of your salvation would be your hair, and not God. Or if God couldn't help Himself but to elect those who “pray a prayer,” then the basis of the salvation would be the prayer, and it would just kinda drag God into it, though His compulsion.

However, as we all know, it doesn't happen that way. If the condition of salvation was red hair, it wouldn't be because God is compelled, it would be because God, in His wisdom and according to His good pleasure decided that He prefers to only save those with red hair, and that it would give Him more glory that way. He would be picking the condition of salvation, but the BASIS of salvation would be in God's good pleasure – for God choose to save, He choose who to save, and He choose on which condition He would choose to save people.

That's how I see election. I do believe in conditional election, and I believe that the BASIS of salvation is God. It is not of man who wills (or else all Catholics would be saved, for they will to be saved) or man who runs (or else all the Mormons and Jews would be saved too, for they work hard), but of God who determines who to save.

And I don't believe that election is conditional just because I think it sounds nice. I believe it because every time I see salvation mentioned in the Bible, it is listed with a condition. Even in many non-salvation matters, God chooses to use conditions to deal with people. For instance:

Genesis 4:6

“So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Jeremiah 18:5-10

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?' says the LORD. 'Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!

The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.'”

[Side note: God's actions are not determined by the people doing this or that, rather, Jonah correctly speaks in regard to God's conditional mercy upon Ninevah by pointing to God's character and saying: “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.”]

Numbers 21:9
“So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”

It is not uncommon for God to deal with people according to conditions that He Himself, in His wisdom and good pleasure, sets. Jesus Himself, in fact, compared the salvation that He offered to the healing offered conditionally in the wilderness, to those who would look at it.

And then there's the commentary of Jacob and Esau, and how one was elect and the other was not – without regard to their works, whether good or bad. And that's exactly the point that Paul was making, he said: “nor having done any good or evil... [election is] not of works.” Paul says specifically that salvation is NOT conditional based on works, and that's exactly what the Jews there didn't want to hear, but they needed to hear it. He ends the chapter by saying that the condition God DID choose was faith: “Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. ”

And it all does come back to God's character too. We are told to imitate God's character through loving our neighbor as ourselves. If we see two men in a burning building, we are to try to rescue both if possible – not to save one unconditionally and leave the other. Even so, I do not see throughout the Bible that God's character is consistent with choosing to save some unconditionally, and not lifting a finger to even make salvation possible for the others. Now of course, I realize that for election to be conditional upon faith, people need to be able to have faith; or for election to be conditional upon ceasing to resist the grace of God, people need to be given by God the ability to cease to resist. We see this through Scripture as well, but that is another topic for another blog.


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