Unconditional Election the Ban of Rugged Individualism

So, in my article about Total Depravity I mentioned a congregation close to where I live. The pastor of that church stated his congregants struggled more with Total Depravity than they did limited atonement. My experience has been that Irresistible Grace comes in a close second to LA with Unconditional Election a close third. People like to believe that in some way, God is obligated to save them.

Unconditional Election meets opposition because most in Western Christian Culture want to be fully in charge of their fate. Conversely, this doctrine leaves God in the driver’s seat, and rebellious people hate it. None-more-so than Christians.

Because of WCC rugged individualism we have summed up the Christian faith to trite statements meant to affirm the individual. Statements such as “Love God and love people” have become confessions of faith without any substantive understanding.  Feel good preachers cater to the rugged individualists bent on their personal success.

Consider Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church and the little creed he recites at the beginning of his program:

“This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name.”

This is nothing more than self-help garbage that serves to stroke the egos of the hearers. Moreover, it places God in a position to be beholden to man for these self-proclaimed promises.

The bible says that man is wicked and rotten. Furthermore, the only things that man can do is sin against God and displease Him. This is not the root of Osteen’s a-biblical creed nor the of others of his ilk.

Just What Exactly is Unconditional Election

How many of us have had conversations with fellow Christians that claim to embrace election? How often have we heard, “It’s in the bible so of course I believe it,”? However, what does it mean to believe in election?

There is a massive disparity in the understanding of election in WCC. The majority believe that election means that God foresaw who would believe. This fore-sight means that having looked down the corridor of time God chooses us based on our choice of Him.

Yet, is this what the doctrine of Unconditional Election truly is? Does this understanding give God the glory?

The truth is no. The clear majority of WCC does not define Unconditional Election biblically. Furthermore, this failure to define Unconditional Election biblically leads to massive misunderstandings about the nature of God.

Unconditional election can best be understood this way:

God determined before the foundation of the world those who would become believers. This determination was based not on any personal merit or actions by the believer. Furthermore, the decision to choose all who would believe was an act of the sovereign will of God according to His own good pleasure and for His own purposes.

As difficult as this doctrine is for us to embrace, it is incumbent upon us to do so. Any resistance that we have to this doctrine does violence to our relationship with God. Ostensibly, we are lifting our fists to heaven and shaking them at God. We are screaming out, “What right do you have to make such decisions. It just isn’t fair.”

Oddly enough, those who protest the loudest against this doctrine rarely if ever assert that it is unfair of God to choose anyone at all for salvation. Conversely, they seem to believe that God should choose all people.

Unconditional Election Isn’t  The Straw Man of Double Predestination

I will be brief here.

It is necessary for us to understand what Unconditional Election is not. Some opponents of Unconditional Election have erroneously labeled the Reformed View of election “double predestination”.

We cannot misunderstand this doctrine to mean anything other than how I defined it in the previous section. Too many detractors build up a strawman accusing anyone who believes this doctrine of believing something they do not.

Simply put, all people are born dead in their trespasses and sins; already on the road to hell. God simply passes over some and chooses others. Left to our own devices, we would all gladly go to hell in our love for our rebellion against God.

As Voddie Baucham says so succinctly, “I do not have to defend what I do not believe.” Furthermore, if you meet any Christian who insists that God forces unwilling people into hell as much as those in heaven, rebuke them. No person who goes to hell does so devoid of a certain level of willingness. God is just to send all of the unregenerate to hell and they go there shaking their fists at the heavens.

Why Unconditional Election is Important to The Gospel

So many people have made profound statements about Unconditional Election and the preaching of the Gospel. There are almost too many to choose from, and lore tends to blend their comments together.

The story is often told of one of Spurgeon’s detractors asking him why he preached the Gospel in the public square if God elected those who would believe. Spurgeon being who he was replied rather humorously.

“Good sir, if you could lift the shirt of each person to show me the yellow stripe that marks them as elect I will gladly preach to them. Until then, I will preach to each one that passes.”

That statement is nearly sufficient enough to end with.

We preach the Gospel because we are commanded to. Consequently, we preach not because we know who the elect of God are, but because we know God has elected. This gives us the freedom to be bold and unflinchingly uncompromising in preaching the truth.

Because of Unconditional Election we do not need special gimmicks, heartfelt emotional manipulation to produce results. We rely on the full counsel of God and the power of the Gospel message. We trust that God will save who He will save through the foolishness of preaching.

What’s-more, not only do we not need to compromise the message of the Gospel, we also need not allow it to be needlessly hostile.

Unconditional Election, in its full glory, builds confidence in us, knowing that God will have the results that He intends. In 2 Corinthians 2 we are encouraged to stand firm. We know that because of Unconditional Election our preaching will work to save some and harden others in their sins. Yet, in knowing that, we are to plead with tears for the lost to turn to Christ and live.

In Conclusion

The more we understand the command from Christ to Go and preach the Gospel the more we come to understand its core doctrines. The Gospel does not exist outside of context. Likewise, the context of the doctrine of the Gospel is built line upon line, precept upon precept.  Each doctrine I have already wrote about and the ones I will address in the future, are foundational to how we preach.

If we fail to properly grasp so much as even one of them, we fail. The doctrine of Unconditional Election is no less important than the doctrines of the Gospel or Total Depravity. One does not simply get to by-pass it because others get it wrong.

Our task is to stay on point. The doctrines that God has revealed to us in His Word keep us from wavering. As I have said before, you may never mention this doctrine by name while preaching. However, the fact that the hearer doesn’t need to understand the doctrine to be saved, doesn’t make the doctrine unimportant.

We can disagree on certain doctrines, others we cannot. Matters such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity and the Resurrection are paramount. Yet, there can be room for us to disagree on others. However, one thing remains, preaching the Gospel requires fidelity to what God has revealed. If you walk into a Gospel encounter without your feet firmly planted in election, you will be tossed about by your own emotional reactions.

No matter which view of election you hold, it should drive you to preach the Gospel to all people. Like Spurgeon, you have not the faintest idea who the elect may be. This one truth mitigates against your disobedience to the Great Commission.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd