Unconditional Election and Stargates...
I know -- after seeing the picture of the Stargate portal from the Sci-Fi show Stargate I’ve most likely lost what little credibility I might have gained with you the reader. But, if you will indulge me for just a moment, I think I can explain myself in a way that I hope makes sense – especially in light of the continuation of my post on extreme Calvinism. Today’s post will deal with the ‘U’ which stands for unconditional election.
To quote Dr. Geisler’s book Chosen But Free on p. 68, “The second premise of extreme Calvinism is unconditional election, by which is meant that there are absolutely no conditions for God’s electing some to salvation or for our receiving it. Strangely, even some extreme Calvinists seem to acknowledge this distinction, saying ‘We must be careful to distinguish between conditions that are necessary for salvation and conditions that are necessary for election…’ He adds, ‘There are all sorts of conditions that must be met for someone to be saved. [Geisler commenting on Sproul: A strange statement for one who believes salvation is by “faith alone!”] Chief among them is that we must have faith in Christ” (a quote from Chosen by God, 155
(The footnote from Geisler on Sproul’s book reads: The catch is that even faith is a result of “irresistible regeneration.” Surprisingly, Sproul even admits that “The Reformed view does, in a narrow sense, see obedience as a ‘condition’ (but never the ground) of justification…The real necessary condition is the presence of real faith which will of necessity yield the fruit of obedience” Willing to Believe, 179.”)
Now that we are all confused, let’s try and get to the heart of the matter. Moderate Calvinists agree there are no strings attached to the gift of salvation – it is unconditional. When election occurred – before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) – the elect were not even created yet. God elected on His own, with out any conditions that needed to be performed on the part of the elect. However, the question is not whether there are any conditions for God giving salvation; the question is whether there are any conditions for man receiving salvation. And here the Bible seems to be very emphatic that faith is the condition for receiving God’s gift of salvation. Quoted from p. 69 of Chosen But Free
In a nutshell, the error of extreme Calvinism regarding “unconditional election” is the failure to adhere to an election that is unconditional from the standpoint of the Giver (God), but has one condition for the receiver – faith. And this in turn is based on the mistaken notion that faith is a gift only to the elect who have no choice in receiving it.
As footnoted by Geisler on page 74 of Chosen But Free, ‘Some extreme Calvinists admit that faith is a condition that unregenerate humans must exercise before they can receive the gift of salvation. Sproul acknowledges that this is “the most crucial point of the debate between Dispensationalism [moderate Calvinism] and Reformed Theology [extreme Calvinism] (see Sproul, Willing to Believe, 198
Back to my picture of the Stargate – you thought I’d forgotten, or better yet you hoped I had forgotten! Here’s why I have the picture. I know this is a crude analogy, but I think in some ways it ‘pictures’ salvation. First, when the gate isn’t turned on there is no obvious or representative power available. In other words, man can not save himself and he can’t wake up and decide today he will make a decision to believe the gospel apart from the power of the gospel being present to convict and provide the means for salvation. So, the person who decides to walk through the non-powered Stargate goes nowhere. However when the power is activated, a person responding to that power could walk through it and be transported or transformed from one place in the galaxy to another place thousands of light years away – at least on television!
Now imagine the Stargate represents the ‘power of the gospel’ so that when a person hears the gospel the gate is activated as a result of the preaching of the Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The person hearing the gospel must respond in faith to the gospel and believe the gospel to be born again. To use the analogy, they would have to believe and walk through the gate to complete the mission of being born again. If the gate is turned on and you ‘choose’ not to go through it, you remain in the same place. Maybe you are afraid of the gate or what it might do to you so you reject the turned on gate and choose to stay where you are. The bottom line is the person must ‘choose’ to believe the power is there to transform them. In faith they step through the gate when it is turned on and they go to another place.
So it is with the gospel. When the convicting power of the Holy Spirit moves on the heart of a person through the preaching of the word and the power of the gospel is available to save that person (the gate is turned on), that person must believe the gospel to be saved (walk through the gate). As the Philippian jailer said, ‘what must I do to be saved?’, and the reply came, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…’
Back to the analogy of the Stargate – to steal from Spurgeon, the sign above the Stargate reads “Whosoever will…” and once you go through it the sign on the back side of the Stargate reads “Chosen before the foundation of the world”…
If any of you are Stargate fans, explain to me how those walkie-talkie radios work thousands of light years away from the person on the other end of the radio! Enquiring minds want to know…