How have you escaped a Reformed view of election?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: I'm interested in how you've developed your stand on election, but especially as it relates to the Reformed view of sovereignty and free will. Can you point me to some resources?

Answer: I'd be happy to share my thoughts on election with you... although I can’t just give you my recommended readings without explaining myself... so bear with me. When it comes to election, I stand at the antipode of Reformed theology. I subscribe to the libertarian free will of humankind... but on steroids!

Why steroids? I don’t see where God would bother creating even one atom unless his target was to create beings with legitimate free will… and not that glorified robot existence that the Calvinists offer up as the human condition — the one that has to be “declared” as compatible with free will… because it’s so obviously not.

I base my stand on the assumption that God knows that he can make things… and that he doesn’t have to prove anything to himself…. or to rocks, trees or fire hydrants... and if this is true, then why did he create at all?

Creation only makes sense in a world where there are beings who can choose to love him or ignore him... because only these types of beings can glorify God. But note this well: beings who feel like they are exercising free will (as most people do)… but are actually walking towards a predetermined outcome (which Reformed people affirm), are not beings who have free will… this, by definition. Such beings would only be fire hydrants with the illusion of self (albeit with high diction)... and I find it interesting that Richard Dawkins and his ilk believe that very same thing... just for different reasons.

Now, I believe that people choose to be elected, and Reformed people do not agree with me… and I get that. But my question stands: why would God bother with robots? … because without true risk, there is no true volition, and without true volition, there is no true personhood, and without true personhood, why bother with creation at all?

Now… I take this all one step further (… so prepare to cringe). I don’t believe God had a choice as to whether or not he created us. Why not? Because the state of being where even only one volitional being gives God glory is greater than a state of being where that doesn’t occur at all… or where they offer faux glory — which is the only type you can get from pseudo-volitional creatures… and this is the only type you’d get from the Reformed understanding of election.

As such, creation was a go/no-go decision for God, based on his glory … and the greatest possible being cannot have less glory that can be legitimately obtained. But, instead of creating just one or two people, he designed creation to optimize the number of legitimate salvations. This involves a true choice by the creatures… and this involves true loss of the creatures… and Revelation tells us that countless will be saved. The number is likely in the billions… so, it’s not all doom and gloom. But it’s still tough!

I realize that we are out there playing in Philosophy and Natural Theology more than Biblical Theology, but that’s where the answer to election lies… and the ancient Reformed Theologians created a Puppeteer God… while insisting that they hadn’t.

Now that you know my stand, let me show you how I got there.

I’ve only incidentally studied election from the older sources (understanding the Bible to be the primary source) because I don’t think the Reformed tradition had it right… and they had the majority voice for quite a while. But it’s hard to keep a sovereign God on one hand… and volitional humans on the other. So, I use three “tricks” to get me out of the pickle.

The first is to understand God’s sovereignty as allowing free will by definition. We were created in his image as volitional beings, among other things… and the nature of volition is that we must be able to thumb our noses at God. The nature of God’s sovereignty, then, is to absorb that — and to absorb the support systems that allow that to happen.

The second “trick” has to do with God’s omniscience. We know that an omniscient God knows every actual thing… but an omniscient God also knows every possible thing… and we call this area God’s middle knowledge. Since God knows your every possible future and how you will respond to every possible contingency (these are called counterfactuals), you get to live every possible full and volitional life directly without being elected to any.

But, when God actuated the life you are experiencing now — which is the best one for the kingdom of God that was your election. God's election is assigning a category to those who have already put themselves in that category.

Third, God is also omnitemporal. He exists in all time at the same time. So, it’s not just a matter of him “knowing” your future and saying, okay! He announced election before the foundations of the earth… and no one got saved for countless years after that… yet these events occur at the same time to him. But God knew he had to write a Bible for an analog world, so he needed to present things in some kind of order. The Bible reveals things as if they occurred on a timeline... and perhaps some of them did... but the order is primarily causative, not temporal.

These philosophical stands allow me to make sense of election and free will — which is no small task for those unfortunate Calvinists. But no one is going to crack this nut without taking the Bible outside of itself to unpack it. As long as what we bring back in does not contradict the Bible itself, we’re good.

William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith taught me about middle knowledge (and a lot of other stuff!) … but I graze broadly, and I do my own thinking. But the closest thing to a “source” I have for you is Craig.

Craig covers ideas like Election in the Salvation section of his Defenders Bible study on the Reasonable Faith website. I recommend listening to the audio, but he also has a full transcript of every class! Craig is a first-rate philosopher and Christian apologist… with two earned European doctorates! But he keeps his popular-level work accessible… and he’s challenged my thinking on a lot of things.

Also, I've written other articles about election. If you'd like to visit them, click here and click here.

I pray this all helped more than it hurt! God bless you.

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