(The following are documents I put together for an extra handout for a 2009 Bible Study)
God's Sovereignty And Man's Free Will
Making The Biblical Case For Both Predestination/Election And The Free Will Of Man
A BALANCING ACT
God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Will
Predestination, Election and What They Really Mean
Meriam Matthews – Winter 2009
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. –Romans 8:29-30
There is still, after hundreds of years and innumerable writings, a debate about the doctrine of Predestination ("election"). The doctrine is clearly biblical, so there really should be no debate because most Christians believe in some form of predestination without realizing it; they just disagree on how God predestines. For example, does He look down the corridors of time to see who will accept Christ and on that basis (man's choice) choose to predestine that person to salvation? Or because God knows that as a result of the Fall no one has the ability to save himself, He thereby mercifully ordains, or predestines that some will be saved purely on the basis of His own good pleasure and purposes, rather than letting all mankind perish?
The following, while in no measure a complete treatment of the subject, does not pit God's sovereignty (predestination/election) against man's free will and is in no way designed to have the reader come down on one side or the other. Both situations are biblical; man has free will and is responsible for his choices. But God is also sovereign, leaving nothing outside of his will. Hence such terms as "foreknowledge", "predestined", "called", "elect", "before the foundation of the world", all of which are found in Scripture, cannot be simply ignored.
Because many people including most clergy do not want to address the doctrine of Predestination or Election for reasons of their own, and because many people do not wish to consider the doctrine because it may seem either unbiblical or unpleasant, the issue is rarely talked about. This reluctance is the main reason that there are more people who do not accept the doctrine of predestination than do. In my Bible studies it is discussed because of all the references to it in Scripture. We cannot simply ignore them. It is necessary to undertake an investigation of the entire counsel of God, not just the parts we like or find easy to grasp.
Once the doctrine of election/predestination is understood in full rather than superficially, one begins to see its beauty and its ubiquitous nature throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. In this doctrine can be appreciated the magnificence of God's grace and mercy instead of the notion that God is a capricious, sadistic God who chooses some for salvation but damns others to eternal hell. There is nothing more merciful than a God who justifiably should doom everyone to eternal perdition because of their fallen disobedient state, but who chooses instead to save some, based solely upon His own good pleasure and not upon anything we have done, can do, or will do in the future. This choosing by God is sheer grace and most lovely.
Does this mean we should all be fatalists, assuming that all is pre-determined, that we should leave everything to God and do nothing to further His kingdom on earth? Absolutely not! As for why not, the main reason, though not the only one, is that we are commissioned to evangelize because Jesus tells us to. But that is not the end of the story nor is it the full explanation of how God's will works with and through our wills.
Without the Holy Spirit's guidance and teaching regarding these doctrines, little understanding is possible solely on an intellectual level. This doctrine is a great and marvelous mystery. At first blush, it appears that predestination negates man's free will. This is not so. Both must be held in tension, allowing each to hold sway in its own sphere of biblical context. To come down solidly on one side or the other is to do violence to both.
For further reading on these matters, may I respectfully recommend two books? J.I. Packer's "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God", and R.C. Sproul's, "Chosen by God". The latter is also available as a lecture-format DVD.
Strongs Hebrew and Greek Dictionary
From G4253 and G3724; to limit in advance, that is,
predetermine:—determine before, ordain, predestinate.
From "The Message of Romans"
John R.W. Stott
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30.)
The verb "predestined" ["predestinate" in the KJV] translates Proorizo, which means to "decide upon beforehand", as in Acts 4:28 ("They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen"). Clearly, then a decision is involved in the process of becoming a Christian, but it is God's decision before it can be ours. This is not to deny that we 'decided for Christ', and freely, but to affirm that we did so only because he had first 'decided for us'. This emphasis on God's gracious, sovereign decision or choice is reinforced by the vocabulary with which it is associated. On the one hand, it is attributed to God's "pleasure", "will", "plan" and "purpose" (Eph.1:5,9,11; 3:11), and on the other it is traced back to "before the creation of the world" or "before time began. (1 Cor.2:7; 2 Tim.1:9; cf. 1Pet.1:20; Rev.13:8) C.J. Vaughan sums the issue up in these words:
Everyone who is eventually saved can only ascribe his salvation, from the first step to the last, to God's favour and act. Human merit must be excluded: and this can only be by tracing back the work far beyond the obedience which he evidences, or even the faith which appropriates, salvation; even to an act of spontaneous favour on the part of that God who foresees and foreordains from eternity all his works.
Neither Scripture nor experience allows us to weaken this teaching. As for Scripture, not only throughout the Old Testament is Israel acknowledged as 'the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself', to be his special 'treasured possession', but throughout the New Testament it is recognized that human beings are by nature blind, deaf and dead, so that their conversion is impossible unless God gives the sight, hearing and life.
Our own experience confirms this. Dr. J.I. Packer, in his fine essay Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, points out that in fact all Christian people believe in God's sovereignty in salvation, even if they deny it. 'Two facts show this', he writes. 'In the first place, you give God thanks for your conversion. Now why do you do that? Because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it. You did not save yourself; he saved you….There is a second way in which you acknowledge that God is sovereign in salvation. You pray for the conversion of others…You ask God to work in them everything necessary for their salvation." So our thanksgivings and our intercessions prove that we believe in divine sovereignty. "On our feet we may have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed."
Is the Doctrine of Election Biblical?
John MacArthur (1996)
Among the most hotly contested and persistent debates in the history of the confessing church, the doctrine of election is perhaps the greatest of all. The question goes like this: Does God choose sinners to be saved and then provide for their salvation? Or, Does God provide the way of salvation that sinners must choose for themselves?
Where’s the evidence?
This question of choice is called “election” because of the Greek word for those who are chosen—the Bible calls them eklektos. There are many such uses in the Bible (cf. Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 5:21; Tit. 1:1; 2 John 1), but one of my favorites is in Romans 8:33: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” The answer is, “no one,” but why? Is it because I chose God, or is it because God chose me?
One passage that is critical to the discussion is in the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Immediately after his customary greeting, Paul launches in Ephesians 1:3-14 with a great song of praise. It’s only one sentence—but, with 200 words in the Greek, it may be the longest single sentence in religious literature. Paul touches on all the great biblical themes in that hyper-complex sentence—sanctification, adoption, redemption, and glorification—and all of them rest on one foundational doctrine, the doctrine of election. The most superlative spiritual blessings stand on Ephesians 1:4—“He chose us [elected us] in Him before the foundation of the world.” So the doctrine of election is biblical, but what does that passage really teach? I want to help you get a better grasp of that by pointing out what Paul teaches about election. If you are a believer, you can equip yourself for your next conversation on this topic. But more important, as one of His elect you can rejoice in the astonishing kindness God showed you before the world began.
What does it mean?
Paul’s song is essentially his reflection on the amazing truth that God “blessed us with every spiritual blessing … in Christ” (v. 3). And how did He bless us? “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). God didn’t draw straws; He didn’t look down the corridor of time to see who would choose Him before He decided. Rather, by His sovereign will He chose who would be in the Body of Christ. The construction of the Greek verb for “chose” indicates God chose us for Himself. That means God acted totally independent of any outside influence. He made His choice totally apart from human will and purely on the basis of His sovereignty. Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And in the same Gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12-13, italics mine). And Paul said, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).
Those statements defining God’s sovereign choice of believers are not in the Bible to cause controversy, as if God’s election means sinners don’t make decisions. Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). Admittedly the two concepts don’t seem to go together. However, both are true separately, and we must accept them both by faith. You may not understand it, but rest assured—it’s fully reconciled in the mind of God.
Understand that your faith and salvation rest entirely on God’s election (cf. Acts 13:48). And yet the day you came to Jesus Christ, you did so because of an internal desire—you did nothing against your will. But even that desire is God-given—He supplies the necessary faith so we can believe (Eph. 2:8). Think about this: if your salvation depends on you, then praise to God is ridiculous. But, in truth, your praise to God is completely appropriate, because in forming the Body before the world began, He chose you by His sovereign decree apart from any of your works. The doctrine of election demonstrates God being God, exercising divine prerogatives. For that we praise Him.
“But that’s not fair!”
Some are shocked to find that God didn’t choose everyone to salvation. Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39, italics mine). God the Father chose certain individuals to form a Body as a gift to Jesus Christ. Every believer is part of that love gift to Christ—a gift of the Father’s love to His Son. To those who say that is unjust, Paul answers: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (Rom. 9:14-15). So why does God still find fault in unrepentant sinners when He didn’t choose them? Doesn’t this deny human responsibility? Is it fair for God to still hold them accountable?
Paul answers all such questions with a rebuke—“who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” (v. 20). Does the clay jump up and ask the potter why it looks the way it does? Not at all. Some believe that is terribly cold and calculating. But that is only one side of God’s sovereign election. Paul continues in the next chapter by saying, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved … for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (10:9, 13).
How these two sides of God’s truth—His sovereignty in choosing us (Rom. 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Rom. 10)—reconcile is impossible for us to understand fully. But Scripture declares both perspectives of salvation to be true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and joyfully accept them by faith.
Unconditional Election [Predestination, or
Election] - is it Biblical?
Unconditional Election is a phrase that is used
to summarize what the Bible teaches about the predestination—or the election—of
people for salvation. It represents the second letter of the acronym TULIP,
which is commonly used to enumerate the five points of Calvinism, also known as
the Doctrines of Grace. Other terms for the same doctrine include “Unmerited
Favor”, “Sovereign Election” or “Adopted by God.” All these terms are good names
for this doctrine because each reveals some aspect of the doctrine of election.
However, more important than the term we use to describe the doctrine is how
accurately the doctrine summarizes what the Bible teaches about election and
The debate over unconditional election is not whether or not God elects or predestines people to salvation but upon what basis He elects them. Is that election based upon foreknowledge that those individuals will have faith in Christ, or is it based upon God’s sovereign choice to save them? As the word unconditional implies, this view believes that God’s election of people to salvation is done “with no conditions attached, either foreseen or otherwise.” God elects people to salvation by His own sovereign choice and not because of some future action they will perform or condition they will meet. Those who come to Christ become His children by His will, not by theirs. “They were not God's children by nature or because of any human desires. God himself was the one who made them his children” (John 1:13 CEV).
God, before the foundation of the world, chose to make certain individuals the objects of His unmerited favor or special grace (Mark 13:20; Ephesians 1:4-5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8). These individuals from every tribe, tongue and nation were chosen by God for adoption, not because of anything they would do but because of His sovereign will (Romans 9:11-13; Romans 9:16; Romans 10:20; 1 Corinthians 1:27-29; 2 Timothy 1:9). God could have chosen to save all men (He certainly has the power and authority to do so), and He could have chosen to save no one (He is under no obligation to save anyone). He instead chose to save some and leave others to the consequences of their sin (Exodus 33:19; Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Romans 9:10-24; Acts 13:48; 1 Peter 2:8).
There are many verses in both the Old and New Testaments that speak of election, and when one looks at all the Bible teaches about election and predestination it becomes obvious that God’s choice was not based on any foreseen act or response, but was based solely on God’s own good pleasure and sovereign will. Properly understood, God’s unconditional election is one link in the unbreakable chain of salvation seen in Romans 8:28-29: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” All those who are predestined will be saved (John 6:39; Romans 8:30) because they are the ones that God the Father gives to Jesus Christ (John 6:37) who will raise them up on the last day (John 6:39; John 17:2). They are Christ’s sheep (John 10:1-30) who hear His voice and for whom He died (John 10:15) in order to give them eternal life and make them secure forever in the hand of God (John 10:26-30).
There are several common misconceptions about unconditional election. First it is important to understand that the doctrine does not teach that God’s choice is capricious or arbitrary. It is not random or made without reason. What it does teach is that the reason God elects someone to salvation is not because of something worthy God finds in that individual but because of His inscrutable, mysterious will. He makes the choice as to who will be saved for His own reasons, according to His own perfect will and for His own good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5). And while some object to the doctrine of election as being unfair, it is nevertheless based upon God’s will and it pleases God; therefore it must be good and perfectly just.
Another misconception is that unconditional election precludes and stifles evangelism, but the reality is just the opposite—it empowers and confirms it. When one correctly understands that God has not only elected certain individuals to salvation but also has ordained the means of salvation—the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 1:16; Romans 10:14-17)—it empowers the spreading of the Gospel message and the call to evangelism. We see this very thing in Paul’s writing to Timothy in the midst of deep persecution. “I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ…” (2 Timothy 2:10). A proper understanding of the doctrine of election encourages evangelism and guarantees its success. It overcomes the fear of failure when sharing the Gospel and empowers people to remain faithful to the message in times of great persecution. They know that the power lies in the Gospel message and in God’s sovereign election and not in their own feeble presentation. A biblical understanding of election helps one share the Gospel freely with all people, knowing that anyone of them could be Christ’s sheep whom He is calling into His fold (John 10:16). It is not up to us to determine if someone is elect or non-elect, and there is always a hope of salvation for anyone who will repent of their sins and believe in Christ. The Gospel message should be preached to all people in the knowledge that God will use it to draw His sheep to Himself.
Unconditional election also does not mean that there will be people in heaven who do not want to be there, nor will there be people in hell who wanted to be saved but could not be because they were not elect. Unconditional election properly recognizes that, apart from God’s supernatural work in the life of a sinner, men will always choose to reject God and rebel against Him (see the article on Total Depravity for more information on this subject). What unconditional election does correctly recognize is that God intervenes in the lives of the elect and works in their lives through the Holy Spirit so that they willingly respond in faith to Him. Because they are “His sheep…they hear his voice and follow Him” (John 10:1-30). As for the non-elect, God is still gracious to them, but because of their sin they are not thankful for that grace, nor do they acknowledge Him as God (Romans 1:18-20). Consequently, they receive the just punishment due them. Those whom God elects are beneficiaries of His sovereign grace and mercy, and those whom He does not elect receive the justice they have earned. While the elect receive God’s perfect grace, the non-elect receive God’s perfect justice.
Those who argue against unconditional election often use verses like 1 Timothy 2:4 and John 3:16. How can we reconcile election with a verse like I Timothy 2:4 that says that God “desires all me to be saved” or John 3:16 that says God “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? The answer lies in correctly understanding the will of God and the love of God. God’s passive will needs to be understood in contrast to His decreed will (those things He foreordains to happen). The passive will of God includes the things He might desire in a sense but does not foreordain or bring to pass. Certainly if God is sovereign and all powerful, as the Bible declares Him to be, then He could bring about the salvation of all men if that was His decreed or pre-determined will. Reconciling this verse and others with the many that teach election is an unconditional choice of God is no more difficult that recognizing that there are things God might desire but does not decree to happen. It could be said that God does not desire men to sin but as part of his predetermined plan He allows them to sin. So while there is a real sense in which God does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked and desires that all be saved, His pre-determined plan allows for the fact that some will go to hell.
In a similar way, concerning John 3:16 and God’s love, the difference lies in God’s general love for all creation and all humanity versus His specific love for His children, the elect. The difference is that God’s love for His elect is an intensive love that has Him actually doing something about their lost condition instead of simply sitting by wishing that they would in turn love Him, a picture so often conjured up by those who believe themselves to be in control of their own eternal destiny. In a generic sense, God desires all to be saved and He loves all of humanity, but that is completely different from the specific love He has for His elect and His desire and provision for their salvation.
When one examines what the Bible teaches about election and predestination, it becomes clear that the doctrine of unconditional election does accurately represent what the Bible teaches on this important subject. While this—or any of the other Doctrines of Grace—can stand on their own merit, their importance becomes even clearer when they are considered together systematically with all the Bible teaches about salvation. They essentially serve as building blocks with each one furnishing a necessary part of a biblical understanding of salvation.
Total depravity defines man’s need for salvation and reveals his hopelessness when left to his own resources. It leaves man with the question “Who can be saved?” The answer lies in an understanding of unconditional election—God’s sovereign choice to save people despite their depravity and based solely on His redeeming for Himself people from every tribe, tongue and nation. This He accomplishes by predestining them “to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). A proper understanding of this doctrine should not result in questioning the justice of God, but instead in marveling at His great mercy. The question we really should ask is not why God chooses only some to salvation but why He would choose any at all.
Quotes from "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God"
by J.I. Packer (recommended reading)
· People see that the bible teaches man's responsibility for his actions; they do not see (man, indeed, cannot see) how this is consistent with the sovereign Lordship of God over those actions. They are not content to let the two truths live side by side, as they do in the Scriptures, but jump to the conclusion that, in order to uphold the biblical truth of human responsibility [free will], they are bound to reject the equally biblical and equally true doctrine of divine sovereignty [which includes "election"], and to explain away the great number of texts that teach it. The desire to over-simplify the Bible by cutting out the mysteries is natural to our perverse minds, and it is not surprising that even good men should fall victim to it. Hence this persistent and troublesome dispute.
· What is an "antinomy"?.....It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable. There are cogent reasons for believing each of them; each rests on clear and solid evidence; but it is a mystery to you how they can be squared with each other. You see that each must be true on its own, but you do not see how they can both be true together.
· Be careful, therefore, not to set them [election and free will] at loggerheads, nor to make deductions from either that would cut across the other……Use each within the limits of its own sphere of reference (i.e., the area delimited by the evidence from which the principle has been drawn.) Note what connections exist between the two truths and their two frames of reference, and teach yourself to think of reality in a way that provides for their peaceful coexistence.
· The particular antinomy which concerns us here is the apparent opposition between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, or…..between what God does as King and what He does as Judge. Scripture teaches that, as King, He orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose. Scripture also teaches that, as Judge, He holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action he pursues. Thus, hearers of the gospel are responsible for their reaction; if they reject the good news, they are guilty of unbelief. "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed." Again, Paul, entrusted with the gospel, is responsible for preaching it; if he neglects his commission, he is penalized for unfaithfulness. "Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!". God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are taught us side by side in the same Bible; sometimes, indeed, in the same text. Both are thus guaranteed to us by the same divine authority; both, therefore, are true. It follows that they must be held together and not played off against each other……To our finite minds, of course, the thing is inexplicable. It sounds like a contradiction, and our first reaction is to complain that it is absurd.
· The antinomy which we face now is only one of a number that the Bible contains. We may be sure that they all find their reconciliation in the mind and counsel of God, and we may hope that in heaven we shall understand them ourselves. But meanwhile, our wisdom is to maintain with equal emphasis both the apparently conflicting truths in each case, to hold them together in the relation in which the Bible itself sets them, and to recognize that here is a mystery which we cannot expect to solve in this world.
· We must realize that when God sends us to evangelize, He sends us to act as vital links in the chain of His purpose for the salvation of His elect….Whatever we may believe about election, the fact remains that men without Christ are lost, and going to hell (pardon the use of this tarnished phrase: I use it because I meant it.) "Except ye repent", said our Lord to the crowd, "ye shall all…perish".
· Whatever we may believe about election, and, for that matter, about the extent of the atonement, the fact remains that God in the gospel really does offer Christ and promise justification and life to "whosoever will". "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
· It is true that God has from all eternity chosen whom He will save. It is true that Christ came specifically to save those whom the Father had given Him. But it is also true that Christ offered Himself freely to all men as their Saviour, and guarantees to bring glory to everyone who trusts in Him as such. See how He Himself deliberately juxtaposes these two thoughts in the following passage: "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day, And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." "All which he hath given me" – here is Christ's saving mission defined in terms of the whole company of the elect, whom He came specifically to save. "…every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him" – here is Christ's saving mission defined in terms of the whole company of lost mankind, to whom He offers Himself without distinction, and whom He will certainly save, if they believe. The two truths stand side by side in these verses, and that is where they belong.
· They go together [God's sovereignty and man's free will]. They walk hand in hand. Neither throws doubt on the truth of the other. Neither should fill our minds to the exclusion of the other. Christ means what He says, no less when He undertakes to save all who will trust Him than when He undertakes to save all whom the Father has given Him.
God's Options for the Salvation of Mankind
"Think About It" suggestions
FROM THE BIBLE:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-- Romans 6:23
And He said,“..and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” – Exodus 33:19
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. -- John 6:44.
And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” -- John 6:65
There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
– Romans 3:14-18
"..both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” --Romans 3:9-12
Some of the following are collected excerpts from R.C. Sproul's "Chosen By God" Bible Study
All of the following are things God can do (is able to do) if He so chooses:
#1. God can offer the opportunity of salvation to no one.
#2. God can offer the opportunity of salvation to all or to some. (non-Augustinian)
#3. God can choose to divinely intervene to ensure (guarantee) the salvation of all. (Universalism)
#4. God can choose to divinely intervene to ensure (guarantee) the salvation of some. (Augustinian)
· If God chose #1, would there be anything wrong with that?
· If God were obligated to be merciful to some or to all, is it still "mercy"?
· Does God owe mercy to anyone?
· In #2, some or all have a chance of salvation, but none have a guarantee of salvation: Compared to #4, which of the two choices is more merciful?
· Regarding #3, does the Bible support that this choice is operative? (HINT: Sheep and goats, wide gate/narrow gate, weeping and gnashing of teeth, cast into outer darkness, eternal judgment, etc….)
· If God so guided some people's lives in order to bring them to faith, which of the above numbers would that be?
· Would God be more fair or more gracious if He ensured the salvation of all rather than just some? Why or why not?
· Only #2 and #4 are left but before we decide which is true, could God ensure the salvation of all if He so desired?
· If He does have the power to save all, why doesn't He do it?
· In #2, if God has the power to bring everyone to salvation and doesn't do so, then all He is offering is an opportunity, not a guarantee.
· In #4, God ensures the salvation of the "elect", which gives assurance to those who are saved. #2 gives no assurances to anybody.
· If God actually applies Christ's Cross to some lives by bringing them to salvation, is this more gracious than leaving people with an opportunity but no assurance?
· Since millions of people have never heard the Gospel, may we assume that although God has the power to ensure that everyone hears the Gospel, He has chosen not to have everyone hear it?
· Has God done everything He can possibly do so that everyone in the world has the opportunity to be saved?
· God is under no obligation to save anybody but He does save some; "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will not have mercy on whom I will not have mercy", and other similar quotes from Scripture. In light of this, does God owe mercy to anyone?
· The Augustinian view is that God sovereignly chooses some for mercy and others for justice. Who gets injustice?
· Which of the following can be considered "non-justice": mercy or injustice?
· Is injustice a violation of God's mercy?
· Is injustice sinful and evil?
· Is God capable of being sinful or evil?
· Is God always just?
· Which of the four numbered choices above is most merciful, gracious and just?
1. All human beings are sinners.
2. Sinners cannot save themselves.
3. God alone can save sinners.
4. Therefore, only those sinners whom God saves will be saved.
· Why is #1 true?
· What does Jesus' work on the Cross have to do with #2 and #3?
· Does man's free will include the ability to choose God without first receiving divine grace?
1. All people are not saved.
2. Some people are saved.
3. God alone saves.
4. Therefore, God has not saved all, but has saved some.
· How do we know #1 is true?
· How do we know #2 is true?
· How does God determine who will be saved and who will not? (Revisit biblical quotes, above.)
1. God is never unjust.
2. All people, because of their sinful nature, deserve God's justice (the eternal-death penalty).
3. God does not mete out mercy to everyone nor is He obligated to do so.
4 The saved have graciously been given mercy – unmerited salvation through Christ.
5. The unsaved have been given justice (left in the sin they have been born into).
6. Therefore, no one is ever given injustice at the hands of God.
1. Man has free will.
2. Man is incapable of choosing God without God first preparing or inclining his heart toward Him. (“there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for god; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” --Romans 3:9-12)
2. God is sovereign and more powerful than man.
3. Therefore, God can work His own will through man's will if He so chooses.
EXPLANATORY EXAMPLE: Gen. 12, 15:1-6, 16:1-4, 17:15-21, 18:1-19, 21:1-3, : It was God's will and promise that Sarah would have a child by Abraham in their old age. Through that child, Isaac, the "seed" or Messiah would come.
But Abraham and Sarah were too impatient to wait for God's promise to be fulfilled and instead acted to have a child (Ishmael) by Hagar the servant girl, to fulfill the promise God had made. They substituted their own wills rather than wait for God's original plan to eventuate. But God fulfilled His plan anyway, by divinely intervening, giving Sarah and Abraham the child, Isaac in their old age.
In this way, God worked His divine plan (that Jesus would come through the seed of Isaac because of the Abrahamic Covenant) by working events through man's free will (the sin of disobedience and of taking God's covenant into their own hands with Hagar).
The consequences of Abraham and Sarah's act of disobedience have left the world fighting the descendants of Ishmael to this day. Even though God forgives the sin, the consequences of sin are a judicial act by God and must necessarily follow at some point, immediately or generations later. God must be just by punishing sin in some way. To not do so would be to go against His own law and His own nature.
Jesus took the punishment for all sins for all time (a judicial, sovereign act by God the Father), but the consequences in history of those sins still reverberate. In the end, man's free will is often responsible for evil, while God's mercy and grace, which are sovereign, are responsible for working His own perfect and good will through our imperfect wills wherever He sees fit.
Verses concerning Unlimited Atonement
(Christ died for everyone)
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you...denying the sovereign Lord who bought them" (2 Peter 2:1).
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).
"He [John the Baptizer] came as a witness to testify concerning that Light, so that through Him all men might believe" (Jn. 1:7).
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2 Pet.3:9)
Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (Jn. 11:51-52).
"Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
"Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men" (1 Tim 2:6).
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
"Jesus...suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9).
John the Baptizer said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn. 1:29).
"For God so loved the world all that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" (Jn. 3:16-17).
“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (Jn. 4:42).
"I did not come to judge the world, but to save it" (Jn. 12:47).
"Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men" (Rom. 5:18).
"The world all cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him" (Jn. 14:17).
"He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 Jn. 2:2).
Verses Concerning Predestination/Election
(Christ Died for the Elect)
Genesis 21:12-13 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah has said unto you, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
Exodus 9:16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised you up, for to show in you my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
Deuteronomy 4:37 And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought you out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, has the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.
Deuteronomy 32:8 When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
Joshua 11:20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.
1 Samuel 12:22 For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it has pleased the LORD to make you his people.
1 Kings 20:42 And he said unto him, Thus says the LORD, Because you hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.
2 Kings 19:25 Hast you not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that you should be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.
2 Chronicles 6:6 But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel.
Job 23:13 But he [is] in one [mind], and who can turn him? and [what] his soul desires, even [that] he doeth.
Job 23:14 For he performs [the thing that is] appointed for me: and many such [things are] with him.
(Psalms 33:12) Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance.
Psalms 37:39 But the salvation of the righteous [is] of the LORD: [he is] their strength in the time of trouble.
Psalms 56:8 You tell my wanderings: put you my tears into thy bottle: [are they] not in thy book?
Psalms 56:13 For you hast delivered my soul from death: [wilt] not [you deliver] my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?
Psalms 65:4 Blessed is the man whom you choose, and cause to approach unto you, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.
Psalms 78:67 Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:
Psalms 105:17-22 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: 18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: 19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. 20 The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. 21 He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: 22 To bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom.
Psalms 100:3 Know ye that the LORD he [is] God: [it is] he [that] has made us, and not we ourselves; [we are] his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Psalms 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
Proverbs 16:4 The LORD has made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Isaiah 43:5 Fear not: for I [am] with you: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather you from the west;
Isaiah 43:6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
Isaiah 43:7 [Even] every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
Isaiah 44:1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:
Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have graven you upon the palms of [my] hands; thy walls [are] continually before me.
Jeremiah 1:4-5 4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations.
John 6:37 All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Malachi 1:2-3 I have loved you, says the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast you loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, 3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
Matthew 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
Matthew 20:23 And he says unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
Matthew 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 26:24 The Son of man goes just as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Mark 13:20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he has chosen, he has shortened the days.
Mark 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
Luke 8:10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
Luke 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Luke 17:34-36 34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Luke 18:7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
John 6:37 All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
John 6:39 And this is the Father's will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 17:2 As you hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you hast given him.
John 21:23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you?
Romans 1:6 among whom are you also, called-out ones of Jesus Christ;
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.
Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Rom 9:7,8 nor because they are Abraham’s seed are all children, but "In Isaac a Seed shall be called to you." Gen 21:12 7
8 That is: Not the children of flesh are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for a seed.
Rom 9:9-14 9 For the word of promise is this, According to this time I will come, and a son will be to Sarah. Gen 18:10
10 And not only so, but also Rebekah conceiving of one, our father Isaac,
11 for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the One calling,
12 it was said to her, "The greater shall serve the lesser;" Gen 25:23 13 even as it has been written, "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau." Mal 1:2,3
14 What then shall we say? Is there not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be!
Rom 9:15-33 15 For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity." Exo 33:19
16 So, then, it is not of the one willing, nor of the one running, but of the One showing mercy, of God.
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might show forth My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth." Exo 9:16
18 So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens.
19 You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?
20 Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, Why did You make me like this? Isa 29:16
21 Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? Jer 18:6
22 But if God, desiring to show forth wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction,
23 and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory,
24 whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations.
25 As also He says in Hosea, I will call those not My people, My people! And those not beloved, Beloved! Hosea 2:23
26 "And it shall be, in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, there they will be called, Sons of the living God." LXX-Hos 2:1; MT-Hos 2:23
27 But Isaiah cries on behalf of Israel, "If the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved."
28 For He is bringing the matter to an end, and having been cut short "in righteousness," "because the Lord" "will do a thing cut short" "on the earth." Isa 10:22,23
29 And as Isaiah has said before, "Except the Lord of hosts left a seed to us, we would have become as Sodom, and we would have become as Gomorrah." Isa 1:9
30 What then shall we say? That the nations not following after righteousness have taken on righteousness, but a righteousness of faith;
31 but Israel following after a law of righteousness did not arrive at a law of righteousness?
32 Why? Because it was not of faith, but as of works of Law. For they stumbled at the Stone-of-stumbling,
33 as it has been written, "Behold, I place in" "Zion a Stone-of-stumbling," "and a Rock-of-offense," "and everyone believing on Him will not be put to shame." LXX and MT-Isa 28:16; MT-Isa 8:14 (Romans 9:7-33)
Romans 9:22 [What] if God, willing to show [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
Romans 9:23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had prepared beforehand unto glory,
Romans 9:24 Even us, whom he has called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Romans 11:4 But what says the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
1 Corinthians 1:9 God [is] faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
1 Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
1 Corinthians 12:18 But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him.
Galatians 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
Ephesians 1:4 According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Ephesians 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself:
Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled
Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
1 Thessalonians 1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who has called you unto his kingdom and glory.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
2 Timothy 1:9 Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
1 Peter 1:1-2 1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
1 Peter 1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power has given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue:
2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
(MM's Note: all italicized words and phrases in brackets [ ] are mine. The rest of this article is from a Catholic website.)
While most Catholics hardly talk about it (and some might even think the Church does not teach it), predestination is one of the central teachings of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Encyclopaedia defines Predestination as the Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man’s free will.
Why there is predestination? Catholics believe that original sin makes us unable to reach salvation, not even will our salvation, without being first moved by God’s Grace. This leads to the question: Since the initiative of our salvation belongs to God, does He predestine who will go to heaven (the Elect) and who will go to hell (the Reprobate)?
All Christians believe in the predestination of the Elect – it is clearly stated in the Scripture (Matthew 25:34, Acts 13:48, Romans 8:28-30). In Catechism of the Catholic Church the term “the Elect” appears in a number of clauses (CCC # 769, 842, 1031, 1045, 1344). How does God predestine the Elect? Is it based on His foreknowledge of our response to His Grace or on His eternal decree when He created the world? The former view is known as Conditional Election and the latter as Unconditional Election.
Protestants and “Bible only” Christians who adhere to Calvinism believe in the latter while the so called Arminianist Protestants believe in the former.
Until now  the Catholic Church does not declare dogmatically on how God predestines the Elect, whether it is Conditional or Unconditional Election.
Catholics are still free to choose from a number of predestination views, among which are: Thomism (after Thomas Aquinas) and Molinism (after Luis de Molina). Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was philosopher, theologian, Doctor of the Church and patron of Catholic universities, colleges and schools. Luis de Molina (1535-1600) was Jesuit theologian. Thomists (and some Molisnists) teach Unconditional Election while Molinism believes in the Conditional Election.
[It becomes clearer all the time that all Christians believe in some form of predestination and/or election whether or not they realize it. Once again, the only debate is HOW, not IF God predestines. He does. The Bible tells us that.
Again, you see the misapplication of the word "Calvinism"; it is believed by some that one must be a Calvinist in order to believe in unconditional election – that God elects some and not others solely on the basis of His good pleasure and grace. The use of such terms as "Calvinist" when applied to those who are merely embracing the Bible's teachings, confuses the issue and serves to attach labels to "sola Scriptura" believers who do not subscribe to one denomination or another. Those who believe in predestination are obedient to Word of Christ, not to Calvin.]
Unlimited atonement (sometimes called general atonement or universal atonement) is the majority doctrine in Protestant Christianity that is normally associated with Non-Calvinist Christians. It originated as a protest against the supralapsarian doctrines formulated in the post-Calvin environment. The doctrine states that Jesus died as a propitiation for the benefit of mankind without exception. It is a doctrine distinct from other elements of the Calvinist acronym TULIP and is contrary to the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement.
The terms unlimited, universal, and general are somewhat of a misnomer and have been adopted primarily to distinguish this doctrine from a Calvinist understanding of limited atonement. More accurately, the call of the Gospel is universal and there are no limits on who can believe through faith, but the legal payment is still regarded as limited only to those that respond through faith in Jesus.The following statements regarding what it states and what it does not state are subject to close scrutiny of which many distinguished theologians on both sides of this issue disagree.
What It States
What It Does Not State
The above documents are just a few of thousands available to everyone. The internet is rich with them and they span the spectrum of opinion from A to Z. Some are scholarly, some abysmally poor. I have written some of the included documents myself, parts of others, copied and pasted from the work of others, and have selected bits and pieces from lectures, books, DVD's, Bible studies and other sources to assist you in a rudimentary understanding of the doctrine of Predestination, or Election, often referred to simply as "the sovereignty of God". A decision to go further than what is included here is yours. Again, this packet is NOT a denominational effort. It arrives purely out of a study of Scripture, not out of a preference for any one Church.
If you are at all like me, the documents will raise more questions than they answer. That is good. The study of Scripture never ends and the person who believes they cannot learn more is simply wrong. A doctrine at this level of fundamental Biblical truth should be examined thoroughly over a long period, regardless of what you have believed your whole life and regardless of how the doctrine appears on the surface.
Many people have come to understand this doctrine only through long hours and often years or decades of study. Others have believed it their whole lives. Some will come to it after only a brief period of examination. And some will reject it even after studying it, which is why there are more people who don't accept the doctrine than do. At first, it seems harsh. At last, it reveals its beauty. That the doctrine can be found in Scripture is not debatable. Where the debate usually occurs is whether Scripture tells us that man chooses Christ, or Christ chooses man first by preparing his heart or "inclining" it toward Him. Both are true and must be viewed as such. This sounds contradictory but only the detailed unpacking of the doctrine will explain why. That is beyond the scope of this packet.
More people believe in a faux Christianity today than they do a Biblical Christianity. That does not make them right nor does consensus always make for Truth. So it is with the doctrine of Predestination/Election. It is there and it is not silent (with a paraphrased nod to Francis Schaeffer's book.)
While your belief or non-belief in this doctrine will not affect your salvation (for reasons which become clear after one understands the doctrine better), studying it is nevertheless something you would benefit from because you will run into it throughout the Bible. At some point, it helps to tackle it, wrestle with it, scream at it, and then decide how you feel about it. If you find yourself swearing at me, I will be delighted. It will mean you are no longer comfortable with your status quo. We progress or stagnate.
This is difficult, but the rewards of studying it are immense. At the end of your study, should you receive this doctrine with the love out of which our Lord revealed it, the Bible will never look quite the same – it becomes lovelier than ever, if you can imagine that. You may not want to see the Bible differently and that is all right. Then again, you may find yourself irresistibly drawn to investigate anyway, at least superficially. In any case, you will be in the Word and that is never unrewarding.
Prayer will help a lot when reading Scripture with an ear cocked, eyes opened, and a heart ready to receive that which the Holy Spirit will teach you. If you wrestle with the doctrine, so much the better. You will find yourself in Christendom's minority at the end of your studies if you come to accept the doctrine, but that is not a bad thing. I would rather be right among the few, than wrong among the many.
God bless your efforts. God loves the open-hearted seeker of His wisdom and knowledge.
In Christ's name,