Is it Hillary? Rudy? Barack? Mitt? More importantly, has he chosen your friend or your neighbor, your wife, your parents or your children? Has he even chosen you?
Because, some Christians say, long before the universe was but a twinkle in God’s eye he decided on who he was going to be with in heaven and who he would condemn to the fiery pits of hell, for ever and ever and ever. Using scripture verses such as Ephesians 1:3-4 there is an entire theology based upon a very specific and literal interpretation of certain passages in the Bible. Although some of those passages would seem to be in opposition to others (even those attributed to Christ) there is usually no chance of chatting amicably about this over a cup of coffee. The case is closed and theological minds on both sides are made up. In fact, a persistence in opposing either particular point of view can result in the religious version of WMD (the word ‘HERETIC’) being brought out and dusted off. (I’ve come to develop quite a perverted fondness for that label, myself. )
Considering how cemented this philosophy is within the minds of its adherents you might think that it has roots growing all the way back to the teachings of Jesus. But, though some say Augustine is the father of this doctrine, most would give John Calvin the lion’s share of the credit. It is only after the Protestant Reformation, fully 1500 years after the death of Christ, that this philosophy was fully articulated and expounded.
I count as friends some who believe fervently in predestination, that God has decided long before we are ever born what our fate will be. I mean no offense when I say that, personally, I find this doctrine to be completely at odds with what I believe the Bible teaches us, particularly through Jesus. I also think it contradicts what God reveals to us through nature and the lives of others. Of course, I am hardly alone in this regard. It is almost as if the Christian faith is split right down the middle on this issue and, in spite of how important it would seem to be, there is something like a cease fire over the topic. John Wesley ( an opponent of this doctrine) is said to have said, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”. But wouldn’t this be considered an essential of the faith? I have heard popular preachers accused of being “abominations” (that’s a constructive word, isn’t it?) because they professed to having difficulty with the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity. Why is there no greater debate within the church over this very clear-cut Doctrine of Election?
I’ve read John MacArthur’s take on this; (as well as others) but I just don’t buy it. (And sorry, John, I think you are just a tad arrogant when you attribute any disagreement with the very man-made ‘TULIP’ formula as to being driven by pride. I think we could turn that one back on you as well.)
I’ve read that the renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon had such a problem with this that one week he would preach a Calvinist sermon and the next he would preach an Armenian one. Certainly we can do better than that. Can we open this up for discussion without offending each other? I would hope so. I admit that I have much to learn about the ‘why’s and wherefore’s‘ of the reformed church and I would like very much to be sympathetic yet I cannot see my way clear of this very thorny subject. Am I destined to never understand?