Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Point of Dispute in Divine Election

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Eph 1:4 ESV)
I am teaching on divine election this week and found this summary of the point in dispute by Sam Storms helpful.  Sam has a way of making complex theological concepts clear and understandable.  I had him speak at our church several years ago now on the role prophecy in the local church. 

The point of dis­pute between Calvinists and Arminians is surprisingly simple. No one who believes in the Bible questions the fact that election is taught there. It isn’t the reality of election, or even its source, author, time, or goal that has elicited so much venom among professing Christians. The point of primary dispute, rather, is the basis of divine election, that is to say, why and on what grounds some are elected to salvation and life and others are not. There are essentially only three options, the first of which is more pagan than Christian. 
First, someone might want to argue that God elects those who are good. In this view, election is a debt God is obliged to pay, not a gift he graciously bestows. God elects men and women on the basis of inherent or self-generated righteousness. This is a view consistent with ancient Pelagianism, named after the British monk Pelagius, who became famous in the fifth century due pri­marily to his dispute with the famous church father Augustine. One would be hard-pressed to find an advocate of this perspective within the professing Christian church today.
Second, others contend that God has elected some who are bad who, notwithstanding their being bad, chose to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. It is on the basis of this foreseen faith that God elects them. This is the doctrine of Arminianism, named after the Dutch theologian James Arminius (1560–1609). 
It has also been called Wesleyanism because of the influence of John Wesley in popularizing this perspective. 
Third, there is the view that God has elected some who are bad who, because of their being bad, are not of themselves able to exercise faith in Christ. It is on the basis of his own sovereign good pleasure that God elects them. This is the doctrine of Calvinism, named after the French theologian John Calvin (1509–1564). 
We are concerned with the latter two options. The question reduces to this: Does God elect people because they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, or does God elect people in order that they shall believe in Christ? Sam Storms, Chosen For Life, p. 21-22.

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