"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Election: Introduction

This is a bit of a cheat, I must admit. The following is a modification of a paper I wrote 10 years ago. I came across it again while looking for a paper I had done on the Council of Niceae (a subject for another time, perhaps). Given the recent discussion at the 2006 SBC Pastor's Conference, it seemed like time to think about the subject of election in a more systematic way again. I'll try to get a section out every couple of days. Also, it should be noted that I will use Calvinism and Reformed Theology as synonymous terms and may arbitarily switch back and forth.

My first real introduction to the doctrine of election occurred in my high school world history class. Covering the reformation, the teacher talked about Calvin, his viewpoints, and influence. Whether his presentation of Calvin was fair I cannot recall, but it likely was, as in my unregenerate state I immediately rejected the teaching. My reaction was vehement, and I was sure that there was no way I could ever believe that doctrine.

God, however, had other things decreed for me. In 1985, after having spent several months reading the Bible, I was converted to Christ. Continued study of the Scriptures lead me to a conviction of God’s sovereignty, and though I had begun to consider myself a Calvinist, I really was not clear on what that meant. In the spring of 1989, however, through God’s providence, I was led to a church where I would sit under the teaching of two men, both of whom taught unashamedly the doctrines of grace.

Dr. S. Lewis Johnson had taught at Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for several years, and continued to be the preacher for the Sunday Morning services at Believer’s Chapel. He would tell us that if we got nothing else out of his ministry, he was going to convince us of God’s sovereignty in salvation. Shortly before I became a member of Believer’s Chapel, Dr. Curt Daniel had started a class on Wednesday nights on “The History and Theology of Calvinism.” This class was very detailed, running for seventy-five weeks, and Dr. Daniel’s notes will be referred to in this paper.

But the transition was not as easy as the above makes it sound. In between there were my own growing pains, both before, and especially after, Dr. Daniel showed me the implications of what I was coming to believe. And there was the reaction of people in the church I attended prior to 1989. During one in home Bible study, a Bible college student stood up and pointed his Bible at several of us and said, “I think we have Calvinism here.” We really did not at that time, we just had a high view of sovereignty, but the study deteriorated into a shouting match and the unity in the Sunday School class was never regained. The church used a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding reformed doctrines, and chose to ignore the incident rather than call any of us to repentance, and we all needed to repent after that meeting.

All of this serves to illustrate what seems to be a pattern. In the individualistic culture which exists in America, a growing conviction that God is sovereign, especially if it includes His determining the eternal destiny of man, is the “road less traveled” (though I must say that I think Reformed Theology is more common than when I originally wrote this). For that reason, in future posts I will attempt first of all defend, all too briefly, the sufficiency and reliability of God’s record to us in the Scriptures. Then, again in a cursory manner, the character and attributes of God shall be discussed. This is very important groundwork for discussing the doctrine of election. Having done this, predestination will be discussed as part of the decrees of God, with a brief discussion of election’s “evil twin” reprobation. In this discussion, reprobation will be shown to be more of a “wicked step sister” than a twin to election. Then, we shall discuss election in two aspects. The first is as part of the decrees of God. The second is in relationship to the state of man after the fall.

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