Q&A 11: What Do You Think About Unconditional Election?

Question: What is your view when it comes to the doctrine of unconditional election?

Reply:

When it comes to the issue of unconditional election I believe that there is a mystery to the doctrine, while at the same time, there is some clear teachings that need to be affirmed. I do believe that the Bible teaches clearly that God predestines and elects people to be saved. I think that is the clearest and most fair reading of texts like Romans 8-11, Ephesians 1 and 1 Peter 1. In other words, election is grounded and rooted in God not man. Though I have had some dear and precious heroes of the faith who have said things like, “God voted for us and Satan voted against us and you cast the deciding vote”, I respectfully but firmly disagree with such a perspective. If that perspective were accurate, then basically men and women elect themselves. That is foreign to the plain teaching of Scripture. However, I also think we must affirm that God’s electing purpose works in such a way as to do no violence to our freewill and moral responsibility to repent of our sins and believe in Christ. I think the Abstract of Principles says it well with respect to the tension and balance that we need to maintain when it affirms, “God from eternity decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events: yet so as not in any wise to be author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.” So I do believe that God elects and predestines people to be saved but he does so in such a way as to be perfectly consistent with our freewill and moral responsibilities. What I try to say to our students is this, I will hold on to the doctrine of election and predestination with one hand and the doctrine of freewill, repentance and faith with the other. Anything that questions or detracts from the sovereignty of God I adamantly oppose. And, anything that would lessen our evangelistic passion and zeal to fulfill the Great Commission I adamantly oppose. I will preach the gospel and share the gospel like an Arminian who does not use manipulative tactics! I will also pray like a Calvinist and plead with God to turn the hearts of sinful rebellious people and to bring them unto Himself. I find both postures to be thoroughly biblical and I gladly live with the mystery and the tension that exists. I am more than happy to join Paul who at the end of his great treatise on election in Romans 11:33-36 breaks out in a doxology of praise and affirms, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Q&A 10: What Do You Think About Total Depravity?

Question: What do you think about total depravity?

Reply:

Having been asked about my own perspective on Calvinism, I think it would be helpful for me to walk through what are known as the 5 points or the classic acronym TULIP. I should note that I spoke to this issue some years ago in an SBC Life article. That article can be accessed at danielakin.com . My views have not changed in any real sense since I wrote that article. In fact, my views have not changed concerning the issue of Calvinism since I began teaching at Criswell College back in 1988.

When it comes to the issue of total depravity, I simply cannot see how anyone can read the Bible and not come to understand that we come into this world with a fallen sin nature that we soon follow with moral culpable acts of disobedience against our God. Romans 3 is so crystal clear on this. There is none righteous no not one. There is none who seeks after God. In other words we come into this world with a sin nature that is bent toward and determined to sin. To say it another way, I believe every molecule in our body is infected with the disease and the germ of sin. If God did not take the initiative in reaching out to us through the ministry of His Spirit and the Word, no one would take a single step in the direction of God. We are at the very core of our being rebellious sinners who wish to idolize ourselves in arrogance and pride. Therefore, when it comes to the doctrine of total depravity, I believe that the Bible is crystal clear.