consider this objection to unconditional election
One of the most hotly debated topics in theological circles today is the issue of God’s election of sinners to salvation. The doctrine of election is a theme that all readers of the Bible must come to terms with because it is clearly taught in the biblical texts. The question to consider however, is how it is that God does His electing of sinners to salvation. The doctrine of unconditional election says that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has loved certain individuals with a special redemptive love before the creation of the world. It is because of this mysterious, but majestic type of love, that those whom God has affection for will come to salvation in the Lord Jesus.
While the doctrine of unconditional election is what is taught in holy Scripture, there are several good objections, that on the surface, seem to provide a refutation to the doctrine of unconditional election. One of the strongest objections to unconditional election is to say that God’s election is not unconditional at all, but rather conditional based on the understanding of God’s foreknowledge. Those who would hold to this view say that God has foreknown before the foundation of the world those who would choose Him, thus concluding that those who choose God are in fact the ones whom God has elected. There are a couple of passages that would seem to suggest this. Consider 1 Peter 1:1-2,
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
Also consider Romans 8:29-30,
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
From these two passages of Scripture, the concept of God foreknowing those who would come to salvation is apparent. The reason why this specific objection is such a strong one is because when people today read the word foreknowledge, it must mean to foreknow in advance. On the outset, it does seem to say that sinners are elect to salvation because God saw that they would choose Him, but there is much more being said in these passages.
As a matter of fact, the word foreknowledge, or to foreknew, does not mean God’s foresight into the future, but rather an intimate type of foreknowing. This foreknowing has to do with God’s covenantal affection for His people. It is much more than just simply foreknowing who would choose Him. Take for example Jeremiah 1:5 as one piece of biblical evidence fo this covenantal affection,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Also consider Romans 11:2 where the word foreknew functions as a choice on the part of God because He has intimately known His people,
“God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?”
When digging deeper in to the meaning of the biblical text, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems at times concerning the word foreknowledge. Though on the surface, the Scripture would seem to indicate that God’s foreknowledge is that God has foreseen who would choose Him, that is simply not the case. This is why the foreknowledge argument against unconditional election has such a strong case at times. Not all are willing to investigate the claim deeper.
In the end, to understand that God’s foreknowing is an intimate, personal type of foreknowing is the best answer to this objection. Though the foreknowing of God seems to be a strong refutation of unconditional election, it just does not stand up to deeper biblical investigation. We as biblical theologians can safely trust in the words found in Ephesians chapter 1,
“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
There is no doubt that God has set His covenantal love upon those whom He has freely chosen for reasons only fully known to Him. Our God is mysterious but majestic and worthy of praise. In love, God has chosen us in His Son Jesus before the foundation of the world. Not because of His foreknowledge of who would choose Him, but rather because of His amazing covenantal love. What an awesome God we serve.
Grace and Peace