The Fairness Question
The most common reaction against the doctrine of unconditional election is that it is unfair to man and unjust of God. What audacity to level such a charge against God! It is never within the sinful creature’s jurisdiction to call into question the justice of God who alone does all things perfectly! We see here why it is so important to accept as a foundational fact the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. The simple fact is that if God had not graciously chosen some for salvation, none would be saved at all.
The fact that God did choose some, to the exclusion of others, is in no way unfair to those not chosen (called “reprobates”), unless, of course, we maintain that God was under some obligation to provide salvation for sinners. This is a position that contradicts the very meaning of “grace” as undeserved, unmerited favor. The Bible utterly rejects such a teaching.
We see this question raised in Heidelberg Catechism Q. 9 which reads, “Does not God, then, do injustice to man by requiring of him in His Law that which he cannot perform? No, for God so made man that he could perform it; but man, through the instigation of the devil, by willful disobedience deprived himself and all his posterity of this power.” It is man, due to the Fall, who has lost the ability to respond to the commands of God. It is not unfair for God to continue to keep the same demands for obedience as He did before the Fall.
Often coupled with the charge of “unfairness” is the accusation that those who believe in unconditional election are doing so out of pride. If that is ever the case it is a grave error. It is not a matter of pride for a Christian to express joy and thanksgiving in God’s electing love. As a matter of fact, this doctrine is an expression of genuine humility on the part of a believer who has recognized his natural unwillingness and inability. Paul expresses this humility: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10).
Common Objections to Unconditional Election
It is said by some that the doctrine of election destroys the mission of the church since those that God has determined to save will be saved anyway. So, why preach the gospel or make an attempt to reach the lost? This is a false and ignorant argument (called Hyper-Calvinism). Admittedly, there are some who have held (or still hold) this position, and is even an accusation wrongly leveled against Calvinists. A Hyper-Calvinist would say that if the church gets too involved in missions and calls men to repent and believe, that this must be an indication that it is moving toward Arminianism. This is a serious error in understanding this doctrine, for it is through the preaching of the gospel that God gathers His Church. It is preached to all men so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God will gather His elect – His sheep. Question 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism also addresses this subject when it says the Holy Catholic Church: “the Son of God, by His Spirit and Word, gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself unto everlasting life a chosen communion in the unity of the true faith.” See also Romans 10:13-17.
We should, however, be careful that the methodology of missions is consistent with the doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election. It is the duty of the Christian Church to proclaim and declare the gospel. It is to call, command, or “compel” (see Lk. 14:23) the lost to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. We are not to employ unscriptural methods that lure, snare, coerce, or trick people to make a decision. If we preach the gospel to all men, the Holy Spirit will work repentance and faith in the hearts of those who are ordained to eternal life, as Acts 13:48 says, “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 16:14 says that Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened,” listened and believed the words of the Apostle Paul.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he made it clear that the success of his mission to them did not rest with him. His purpose was singularly to preach “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Then Paul elaborates on that in saying, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Cor. 2:2, 4, 5).
One very popular approach to missions begins with the statement to all men, “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life” (the first of the “Four Spiritual Laws” copyrighted by the Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc. 1965). This copyrighted method might sound good to the lost sinner, but can we say that it is true? Does God really love all men? If He truly did, He would have to do more than just offer them salvation, but He would actually have to save them all, since it is in His power to do so. And, if it is true that God loves all men, how can the Bible say, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Rom. 9:13)? It is noteworthy that in these “Four Spiritual Laws” the Holy Spirit – the one who works faith in man’s heart – is not mentioned until after the person has “received” Christ and is engaged in his “growth” in the Christian life. It would certainly not be wrong to say that the gospel reveals God’s love in Jesus Christ, so that all who believe in Him will be saved.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.