Elected to What ?!

calvin aghast 3Following up on my last posting on the excellent little book  Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt by Ted V. Foote Jr. and P. Alex Thornburg, I wanted to share what these two ministers have to say about the Presbyterian(USA) view of election, a thorny issue that has resulted in a lot of interdenominational warfare:

If, then, God mysteriously and graciously elects or chooses for salvation because God loves us so much and is so passionately willing to seek us out in life with that salvation, we may well ask, what are we elected to?

Moving away from the heaven and hell afterlife categories, most Presbyterian-types would concede that there’s plenty of hell to worry about and, we hope, plenty of heaven to celebrate in the earthly here and now.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order state that God elects God’s people both for “service and salvation”, which means that God freely chooses God’s people both (1) so that they may receive grace in life for healing and wholeness and (2) so they will serve God among God’s people, this for upbuilding the larger community which is God’s world…..

…Yet there is a distinction we need to clearly make. It’s between serving others and living with an agenda for others. Living with an agenda for others is self-motivated and self-serving.  Serving as the Lord of heaven and earth calls us to serve demonstrates an openness that is not manipulative but rather leads each one to be available for serving others respectfully and for serving with others respectfully. We’re called to serve in this way, realizing that such others may, or may never, recognize God’s grace blessing in whatever ways God’s grace does bless them. Such others may, or may never, chang their lives to be “more Christian” in our judgment. Such others may, or may never, culturally be “as we are” or in agreement with us on matters of faith and practice.

And if God is truly sovereign, it also can be said that God works where there is no naming of God’s name, that God works among those who don’t “know God” as we have experienced God, and that God works where we believers do not perceive or understand God to be working. This understanding of God who is truly sovereign allows God to be truly God on God’s terms, not according to our understanding of God.  It does not take away our freedom of choice in life-decisions, nor does it take away the component of human choice from the complex makeup of the universe. This understanding does deny that we humans ever have the power to “save” ourselves with our own choices.

Wow! I never would have believed that someone could explain the doctrine of election in a way that I could (almost) agree with.  This certainly ain’t your great-great-great-great grandfather’s Calvinism.  And it certainly isn’t close to the double predestination -“God chose me for heaven and you for hell“- theology we are getting from the pulpits of today’s popular  Hyper-Calvinist preachers , who are generally not members of the PC(USA) but of the PCA, SBC and various independent reformed churches.  The PC(USA) must have poor JC (that’s John Calvin, not Jesus Christ)  spinning in his grave.


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  1. #1 by Ben Currin (TheoPoet) on September 15, 2009 - 2:04 am

    Haha—good one and close to my view on Election as well.

  2. #2 by logioetc. on September 15, 2009 - 6:57 pm

    You wrote, “Living with an agenda for others is self-motivated and self-serving.”

    Are these folks mind readers?

    How would these people possibly know another person’s motivation?

    • #3 by Christian Beyer on September 15, 2009 - 7:40 pm

      I didn’t write it, they did. How can having an agenda for another ADULT not self-motivated? Give me an example.

  3. #4 by ambrosia on September 16, 2009 - 6:08 pm

    Maybe they just like to help.

    How IS this self-serving?

    Doesn’t you boss have an agenda for you?

    • #5 by Christian Beyer on September 16, 2009 - 9:18 pm

      Man you really nailed it on the head. He sure does. But he IS my boss. And there lies part of the problem doesn’t it. A sense of superiority among the “saved”. And it is so obviously misplaced.

      To consider one self to be somehow superior to another – isn’t that self serving?

  4. #6 by John Shore on September 17, 2009 - 8:08 am

    Chris: Could you BE more of a hippie?

  5. #7 by Christian Beyer on September 17, 2009 - 10:02 am

    Hippie? YOU calling ME a hippie? Hah! You forget: I’ve seen your pictures my friend. I’ve seen your pictures.

  6. #8 by b4dguy on September 17, 2009 - 11:11 am

    We’ve attended quite a few churches over the past couple years that cut a wide swath across theological/doctrinal boundaries. We’ve been around and we can handle it, but I don’t think we stopped to consider how it might effect our children. Our youngest daughter set out to read the Bible for herself with all of the different church “distinctive” doctrines in the back of her mind – she wanted to see for herself what the Bible had to say.

    She concluded that all the doctrines fall short in some way, but that “the thing about predestination” at least had some actual scriptural basis. She still doesn’t think that the presbyterian church quite understands what Paul was saying though.

    • #9 by Christian Beyer on September 17, 2009 - 12:10 pm

      Hey Bad. Long time.

      Well, I would say that the PC(USA) is right on the money here, as evidenced above. The PCA, however, are the ones who are obsessed with the idea of pre-destined heavenly salvation coupled with pre-destined eternal damnation. That just doesn’t fly when considered along side the overarching narrative of scripture. Of course, the HRC folks are more inclined to concentrate on scriptural details at the expense of any meta-narratives.

  7. #11 by Christian Beyer on September 18, 2009 - 8:00 am

    Everyone, you need to check out Ben’s latest posting. It’s a little satirical take on Martin Luther that very accurately skewers the neo-evangelical mind set, particularly our friends in the HRC camp. I think Logio in particularly might enjoy it.

  8. #12 by Timothy Fowler on September 19, 2009 - 12:04 pm

    One perceives things from their own schema. When I see a picture of the World Trade Center in flames, it conjures up my own background knowledge. For a native of the Middle East, it may produce other emotions, images, etc. All the more reason for God to show us Himself in human form in Jesus Christ. That we can understand, although we have to delve into culture sometimes.

    The recent photo of the molecule in the news was fascinating.

    Some Scripture comes to mind.

    I Cor 13-“now we see in a mirror dimly

    Hebrews 11:1 6-Faith is the certainty of things hoped for; the assurance of things not seen… Without faith it is impossible to please God. For whoever would draw near to Him must believe that He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him

  1. Baptist Pastor Calls Calvinists “Grace-hating Man-loving Man-exalting Semi-Pelagian Arminian Heretics!” « The Online Discernmentalist Mafia

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