Election and Freewill
By P. Davis © 2005
It seems to me that hundreds of years after Calvin first raised this issue, there is still much to be resolved. The Bible presents both points of view in the strongest terms; both election and freewill are presented as pillars in the scriptures. Since they seem to be an apparent contradiction, I find many fine people who either give up on seeing it, or worse, seize one side or the other to the detriment of the Biblical view. Of course this issue has been debated almost ad nauseum, and I realize that revisiting it is like trying to boil an egg a second time- it probably is a useless gesture. Here I do not hope to resolve the bitter fights of each side. Rather I just want to speculate on one way in which they might be in total harmony with each other.
With the wise Christian the harmony must, it seems to me, be assumed. How could we countenance a God who authored evil? Or how can we hold people responsible for what they cannot help, as they are being manipulated?
God has of course given us the preeminent example of the two working in harmony together way back in Genesis. Pharaoh hardened his heart exactly one half of the time in not letting the people of Moses go; the Lord hardened his heart the other half of the time. So is God responsible for Pharaoh’s actions? After all, it might be argued, God is a lot bigger than Pharaoh, and how could Pharaoh possibly be held responsible?
While trying to think of an analogy which might help understanding, I found myself thinking of a huge livestock corral. In a large corral there are different paths or chutes which the cattle may be driven and sorted. For the sake of my analogy, assume that there is one chute splitting into two minor chutes. One chute leads to the slaughter house; the other leads to the greenest pastures imaginable.
For the sake of our analogy, cattle are now literate. Plastered along the chutes that all the cows are being pushed through are signs warning of what is ahead. Cows are given ample opportunity to read signs. Signs picturing the greenest pastures are clearly marked; signs of becoming a future Big Mac are equally well presented. All cows have free choice.
Now let us imagine that the head cowboy is somehow omnipresent with each cow, even before they enter the chute. The head cowboy somehow lives outside of the process of time. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. All points of time he is totally aware of for his cows, yet he is commanded by none of the points. In other words he sees the end and the beginning of each cow even before the cow enters the chute.
Further he is present at all times with each cow bumbling through the chute and through vigorous means he attempts to call each cow to the green pastures. But his appearance is found to be appalling to many of the cows, who find themselves shying away from the one who would direct their paths. Frustrated with their hardness of heart, the head cowboy waves his hands in disgust, further shying the cows away. Other cows seem to recognize the head cowboy, and listen eagerly to his call. Those he chooses and has sweet cubes of sugar to feed them along the chute.
Is the cow free to choose? Yes. Has each cow been called, yet only some chosen? Yes. Can the head cowboy say that each cow is predestined for one end? Yes. Did the head cowboy harden the hearts of some of the cows along the way? Yes. We now have a possible scenario where free will and election peacefully coexist.
In the beginning of my paper, I said I did not want to go beyond speculating one way in which it might happen; I do not suggest this is the way that it is happening. I merely wish to suggest that the God who so loves the world is in harmony with the God who judges those who will not heed his manifold warnings. The Christ of the first coming is in perfect accord with the Christ of the second coming. Of that the Christian should be assured for, as the Scripture reminds us, He is truth, and those that worship him must worship him in truth.