Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Does God Choose?

An issue there is considerable dispute over, and which frequently produces a strong emotional reaction, is the idea that God chooses who will be saved. I understand the reaction to this teaching and have only one reason for holding it. Taken in the simple, straightforward way, Scripture clearly teaches it(Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:1; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29-30; 9:22,23; John 1:13; 2 Timothy 1:9). There are also verses speaking of God's control over all events, including those involving human choice (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28; Psalms 135:6; Genesis 50:20; Daniel 2:21; 4:35; Acts 4:27; 2:23). The common response to this that God simply foreknew these things and did not determine them (1 Peter 1:1, 20; Romans 8:29; Acts 2:23). But if this is so, could not God have said things in a clearer way? Now God can foreknow things in one of two ways; either He foresaw what would happen or He planned it that way. Also, to chose a person you must know about them. God knew Jeremiah and chose him as a prophet before he was born, but God did not just foresee Jeremiah would become a prophet; God made him one (Jeremiah 1:5).

But how does this fit with our doing something to accept salvation, which implies a choice on our part (John 3:16; 1:12; Acts 2:38; 16:31; Romans 4:4,5; 10:9:10; Revelation 22:17)? Also, we are called to make the right choices and held responsible for those choices (Deuteronomy 30:19,20; Joshua 24:15; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Romans 1:18-20). It is difficult to reconcile God's control of all things and human responsibility. J. I. Packer in his book "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God" says that how they fit together is beyond human understanding. I would agree with him. But I am convinced the Bible affirms both. We do choose, but what we choose is determined by the providence of God, without God being the direct cause of evil. How He does this is beyond human comprehension. But one thing that puts this in perspective is to recognize that people reject God because they want to reject God and that only the power of God working in their lives can change that (Romans 3:11; John 6:44,45; 1 Corinthians 2:14). The problem with our choosing God is not with God, but with us, and in calling us to Himself, God overcomes our natural tendency so that we choose to come to Him.

But in the final analysis the biggest problem with the idea God chooses who will be saved is it conflicts with our human understanding of God's love and justice. I am familiar with this struggle, having experienced it myself. But ultimately I am faced with the fact that God is beyond my human understanding (Isaiah 55:9; Romans 11:33), and if He says He chooses who will have faith, that is what I need to believe. Even if I struggle to make sense of it intellectually.

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