It has been a long standing aspect of my Christian walk that I’ve questioned whether the prevailing (Calvinist) understanding of election and predestination is true. It really boils down to the reconciliation of the following facts:
- God is omnipotent
(Isaiah 14:26-27; 10:6; 32:17,27; 51:15; Lam. 3:37; Matt. 19:26b)
- God is omniscient
(Heb. 4:13; 1 Sam. 2:3b; Ps. 33:13-15; Job 9:4)
- God selects (elects/predestines) certain individuals to be saved and others to go to hell before the creation of the world
(John 6:37,44,65; 8:47; 15:19; 8:28-30; 9:10-24; 11:7; Eph. 1:3-8,11; 2:1-10; 2 Tim. 1:9; Col. 3:12; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:3; Acts 13:47-48; Deut. 30:6)
- God wants all men to be saved
(1 Tim. 2:3-4; John 3:36)
- God doesn’t want anyone to perish and He wants all men to come to repentance
(2 Pet. 3:9; Mk. 1:15; John 3:16; Ezek. 18:23; John 7:17)
- All men are not saved. Many do not repent and do perish.
(Matt. 7:13-14; 22-23; 25:46; Luke 13:34; Acts 7:51)
So, could it be that we’re misunderstanding election and predestination? 1 Tim. 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are very clear and unambiguous. I checked the Greek on the word translated ‘all’. The Greek word ‘Pas’, means “each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything”. I also checked the word for ‘Men’, which is ‘Anthropos’. It means: a human being, whether male or female; generically, to include all human individuals. So, these verses tell us in very clear terms that God wants ALL PEOPLE to be saved. Although God is omnipotent and omniscient, His word tells us (and we also see plainly) that all men are not saved and do not repent. So, those facts lead me to conclude that God gives men the free will to resist Him or to choose Him. As C.S. Lewis said in “The Great Divorce”:
‘There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.’
So, if that is true, how can the verses be true that say God elects people to be saved before the foundation of the world? Well, I think the key may be Romans 8:29, which says “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren”. The Greek word translated “foreknew” is Proginosko, which means “to have knowledge before hand”. So, could it be that God has foreknowledge, looking into the future, of those who would believe if presented with the gospel and then elects those individuals? He can then work that out by placing them in places and times where they will in fact hear the gospel:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:24-27
So, for those who dogmatically and unquestionably hold to the Calvinist view of election/predestination, I ask you to humble yourselves and consider these facts from God’s word and how they might be reconciled. I want to emphasize that I strongly believe that we are saved by God’s grace, not through our own works. I want to make that clear, so that no one will misunderstand my message here. I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but am searching and digging into God’s word for the truth.
One additional thing. John Piper tries to address my concern in an article entitled “Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved”. I think in that article he really has to do gymnastics to get these verses to mean what he needs them to mean. Also, there is a response to John Piper’s article by the Society of Evangelical Arminians called “John Piper: Are There Two Wills in God? A Response.” These are great articles for additional reading on this very important topic.