Without doubt the Doctrine of Election stirs up emotions. And with the recent buzz just months ago in the Southern Baptist Convention concerning the issue it is beginning to once again make an appearance in the forefront of evangelicalism. For some time the Convention seemed at peace with the idea that Calvinist and non-Calvinist could co-exist alongside in cooperation regarding the issue. But many of the rising leaders made it clear that this could not be the case. For example, the opening lines of the source article in the link above states,
“Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.”
The drafters of this new statement make it abundantly clear that Calvinism’s doctrines (namely that of election) are no longer acceptable within the Convention.
It seems that the traditional understanding of the Doctrine of Election from a non-Calvinist perspective focuses solely on predestination, and consequently double predestination, rather than on the real scope of this beloved truth. The Doctrine of Predestination is not about election–that is, it is not primarily based on God’s choice of His elect from eternity past. It’s primary focus is on God’s grace to underserving sinners.
It is all too often forgotten that God is not obligated to show His grace to any one person in particular, and more specifically to the entire human race. It is essentially agreed among Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike that if God were to send the entire human race to Hell He would be just in doing so. If this is so, why then do we tend to focus on the logistics of election rather than on the scope of its effects; the salvation of poor, blind, wretched, and wicked God-hating people?
Just as an inmate on death row deserves to die because of his/her atrocities against other people, so we too deserve nothing less than an eternity separated from God’s presence in Hell for our crimes against the Most High Court of all. If then, that judge, being gracious to the offender decides to pardon the offender for mercy’s sake, yet does not pardon all those on death row he would not be unjust for letting the others die for their crimes. They are simply reaping the consequences of their own actions.
In the same way, God has chosen to pardon a mass of the human race who have been on death row for their crimes against Him. This is the scope and meaning of Election. It is not that God has chosen not to pardon all, but that He has chosen to pardon any.
And in that lies the beauty of the Doctrines of Grace!