Last week in my diatribe against the current doomsday theology of Harold Camping and his campaign to make everyone aware the Jesus is returning on May 21, I touched on a piece of popular theology that I find particularly offensive. Most of the comments I received focused on my first and second points about the hypocrisy of the authors and the absurdity of the math but none of my readers picked up on this last bit buried within my third point on the theology of fear.
I’ve read a few other bloggers that have lamented the aspects of fear within these claims and took up the cause of the most vulnerable victims, those being the children of the adherents, but so far no one has picked up the gantlet I threw down on the so called theory of Divine Election. Maybe I was too subtle so not because I’m looking for a fight but because the lack of response on this point leads me to believe that a lot of you just missed it here it is again;
Mankind is desperately wicked and rejects God. We cannot come to Him on our own; rather, God draws those whom He had chosen before the creation of the world to Himself.[Nothing is More Important, pg40]
This is classic Calvinism and as much as many Christ-followers try to sugar coat it, ignore it or explain it away it is at the core of most Christian theology today. To people who are not Christ-followers but believe that they can do good things while remaining outside of the church this theological position is offensive and I dare say aside from outright Atheism it is the single most prominent obstacle to evangelism in the western world. With this one doctrinal position John Calvin and those who adhere to his popular theology have done more damage to relational based “friendship” evangelism than all the wars, crusades and pedophile priests the world has ever known.
John Calvin (Jean Cauvin) was a 16th century French lawyer come theologian who was a leader of the reformation. He broke with the Catholic Church in 1530 and fled to Switzerland where he lived out the rest of his life writing and preaching on what would eventually come to define protestant theology for centuries. While I personally understand and apply a good portion of Calvinist theology there are some key points that I find extremely offensive. They are based on poor application of both the scriptures themselves and Calvin`s own teaching and lead to some very misguided, lazy and just flat wrong interpretations like those of the aforementioned Mr. Camping.
So What is The Theory of Divine Election?
Divine election is closely tied with the theory of predestination and based on the idea that God alone will decide who will receive salvation and there is nothing, apart from God’s grace that can determine that. While many Christ-followers find comfort in this notion and use it to assuage their guilt at the many evil things they have done (and continue to do) by saying that they are saved by grace and not by works, it leads many outside the faith to question how a good God can therefore elect not to save everyone. The argument goes something link this;
If God is eternally good and loving, and God is omnipotent, how can bad things happen to good people? Since it is obvious that bad things do happen then is stands to reason that God is either quite evil or his power is somehow limited.
Mr. Camping and others would respond that according to God, no one is good enough and therefore the point is moot.
That’s where I get off!
The whole argument for a predestined Divine Election falls apart on this point. If Divine Election is predestined, the free will act of “following” God is irrelevant and God is an evil puppet master, there is no coming back from that.
Rather it is clear from scripture that God desires a relationship with ALL humans and that it is we who elect to accept or reject Him. Therefore God’s power is limited. It is limited by his choice to love for us no matter what. God could, if he wanted to, remove our free will and turn us all into divinely good creatures but that would be contrary to his nature. Nothing is more loving than for a parent to allow his children to make their own mistakes, so it is with God.
Again and again through scripture we see a God who is grieved when his children do not follow him, a God who actively seeks out those who have strayed and a God who is overjoyed when we get it right. We also see a God who makes no distinction between those he has “elected” and those he hasn’t when it comes to lavishing grace upon creation.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. [Ecclesiastes 3:11-13]
There is no election there; eternity, happiness and satisfaction, is a gift for ALL people. The choice is ours, God already made his and it included everyone.
Divine election makes it too easy for Christ-followers to opt out of the Great Commission. Jesus made it very clear that it was our job to spread the gospel throughout the world but if we believe that ultimately the decision of salvation rests solely with God himself then there is very little need to go beyond our comfort zones and spread the good news. Not only does God not need our help, what ‘s going to happen has already been determined so he knew we weren’t going to help him anyway.
Sooner or later God will return to judge the world, that much is clear, but no one will be more grieved by the choices of humanity that God himself. Those of us who are saved will be overjoyed, those lost will be lost forever and God will grieve inconsolably over the loss of just one. That is not a God who views man as wicked and in need of punishment, nor is it a God who will pick and choose who he will save, that is a father who loves us equally and completely and wants nothing more than be in a relationship with us.
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? [Luke 15:4]
My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. [Luke 15:31-32]
Jesus wept. [John 11:35]