The Mystery of Election

As to the mysteries of foreordination and predestination, there’s too much connected to this than can be accounted for by divine foresight of what men will do with the words and actions of God in history. It not something I care to debate but I must contend for what scripture plainly affirms, of course. I am neither Calvinist or Arminian in the systematic or “consistent” kind of way. I do not, for example, subscribe to limited atonement, although I understand their logic, despite its contradiction of plain scriptures to the contrary.

When it comes to those who pass into reprobation, such as Pharaoh or Judas, I certainly don’t believe God is setting those guys up. He is, as you say, foreseeing and incorporating their own self chosen rebellion into His plan. However, once they have advanced to a certain place, God is free and just to take certain measures that He knows will exacerbate their condition and drive their fallen natures into greater exposure and damnation as judgement on an already existing condition.

On the other hand, even fully respecting a certain kind of limited free will, which I do, it cannot be denied that God does NOT operate according to the perceived rules of human fairness. What do I mean? I mean you have only to look at history, as also the history of revival and conversion. Paul himself and the surviving remnant of Israel (i.e., the third that is saved in one day), are perfect examples of God “tampering” with human freedom in a way that far exceeds and surpasses what He does with the general population over the general course of time.

Who can deny that in the case of some, much more than others, He brings far greater constraints and inducements? For example, for nearly 2,000 years, most of the remnant of God’s people was from among the Jewish nation. Then, for what has been nearly another 2,000 years, it is quite the exact opposite. Then, for a final 1,000 years, there is one nation under heaven whose population is 100 % saved while all throughout the nations there is ongoing evangelism and clearly a number of increasing preponderance, particularly towards the end of the millennium who refuse to behold the majesty of the Lord (Isa 26:10). Am I to believe that all of this happens only by God’s foreknowledge of men’s free will and actions. Besides Yada, as in Amos 3:2 and its Greek counterpart, prognosei, means intimacy or prearrangement of relationship, as when Adam knew his wife, Eve. It is much more than divine omniscience. .

I believe that God is free to bring such constraints as to conquer the natural resistance of the will without violence to the will. I further believe He is free to do this in the case of some without being thereby obligated to do the same in the case of all, and that, of course, is the offense. It is also the mystery of theodicy that Paul does not solve by merely invoking free will, which He so easily could have done in anticipation of the inevitable objections. Why did God choose Jacob, an individual and a nation, but not Esau, also both individual and nation independently of their works and before works were even possible. The answer is not mere foresight of their works. That would say nothing about grace. The scripture gives the reason very clearly. It was “in order that” His purpose in grace might stand, not of him who wills or works but of Him who calls, as always, “lest any flesh boast.” Special discrimination election was necessary for grace to be grace, that is of the biblical kind.

I would tend to go with you that this is only with regard to the Jewish nation as a corporate entity and your persuasion of that puts us at one in what I believe to be the main burden of Ro 11, but corporate entities are made up of individuals, and unless someone can explain a goodly number of scriptures that shows the instantaneous salvation of the Jewish nation, with all the subsequent population preserved in gospel holiness, without a single defection that is not met with quick chastisement and correction for a thousand years, then I’ve got to believe that something more than divine foresight is at work here. It is discriminating, apprehending grace that is NOT universal for the very reason that God’s lavish mercy on one does not obligate Him to the other, though He takes nothing from, nor imposes no disadvantage on the other. He is justly free to take special measures in behalf of one without this obligating Him to do the same for another, though He has done more than enough for the salvation of all so that all are without excuse. Their greatest damnation will be His goodness to all, but there’s a manifest difference between what some call ‘common grace’ and the special grace that is manifest by His deliberate and always successful pursuit of those the father gave to Jesus to bring home.

To fail to appropriate His provision lies entirely with the free will of man. God has done all on His part to be gracious, even pleading all the day long, not willing that any perish, taking no delight in the death of the wicked. On the other hand, those who appropriate God’s provision do so under conditions and constraints that do not prevail equally and at all times so that there is nothing in them to credit for the conversion of the will and transformation of their nature. That’s where I tend to leave it. While men are free and responsible for their actions, else judgement would be a mechanical sham, still, by any reckoning, there is more going on here than mere free will and divine foresight of what men will do with what comes their way.

As God got His man on the road to Damascus in one day by a sudden blast of transforming divine revelation (“when it pleased God to reveal His son in me”), just so, He will get His nation! (“the time to favor Zion, yea, the set time has come!”) In terms of a human perception of divine fairness, where does this leave the many generations that were not so specially constrained, their power fully shattered and met by a mighty, divinely timed in-breaking of transforming revelation that kills the old and quickens the new? Not an every day event, to be sure.

God is free to raise the dead and quicken whom He will, not just those who will and run. He’s God and that’s the point He seems to go out of His way to make, even for a thousand years of requiring the nations to recognize and honor His just prerogative in discriminating election and grace. It’s a mystery, hid and laid up among His treasures from the beginning. It is a mystery how one is made to differ from another only by God’s grace, yet without injustice to those not so specially wrought upon by God, even while His just severity is seen to fall without remedy on the unwilling for the very sake of their unwillingness. But the people will be willing, not of themselves, but in the day of His power. That’s not just any day that man chooses to make the day of God’s power. It is the time of His special act. It’s a day of resurrecting grace that is specially directed on one people, but no less every individual who will make up that nation.

That’s just some of my thinking on the matter. It makes no one happy on either side, so I’ve never gotten too spoiled to having the luxury of full doctrinal agreement on this among those I love and with whom I rejoice to fellowship. But here I stand though it loses me much support, as you can imagine, even though I’ve never pushed it or indulged in the philosophical problems it can tend to create beyond what the scripture explicitly or leaves to necessary inference. There it is: Man is responsible and God is sovereign and the twain do meet. But free will, by itself, or God’s foreknowledge by itself alone, does not seem to sufficiently account for what we see in scripture, history, and most especially prophecy.

God is free and just to constrain and bring powerful and rare inducements to an extent that becomes a natural offense when the same is not done equally for others. When you think about it, both the Calvinist and the Arminian must bear the implications of this scandal to humanistic reason. Why didn’t God provide atonement and potential for repentance for Satan? His grace towards man did not thereby obligate Him towards the angels that fell and I can imagine that this is part of their rage, but that is speculative and I have to quit. It’s all too deep for me but I am only obligated to affirm what the scriptures most plainly affirm regardless of how this perturbs or disturbs the reasoning mind, mine included. Hope that helps explain me a bit more though I doubt I can answer many of the questions it must raise. I’m as non plussed about much of this as the next person, but feel God is saying something through these things that we must not miss only because it boggles the mind and creates philosophical problems. The answer seems more to bow than to understand.

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Church Doctrine, The Mystery of the Gospel
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