Sunday, December 18, 2005

Election and Freewill

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.


Danielle said...

Hi Pops!
I haven't had time to read this yet, but wanted to say YAY! You've joined this crazy blog revolution. Now we need to work on Mom...

Miroslav said...

Mr. D,
Congrats on the blog(s) man! They look great and from what I've heard you have a whole collection of writings to pull from. I am very excited for you!

I read this entry here and it brought to mind something that I see/hear quite often in discussions surrounding the verses in Romans 8 that discuss foreknowledge and predestination. Somehow it seems like people read in to the verse an extra couple of words ... something along the lines of this: "29For those God foreknew [would choose to have faith in Him] he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..."
It is very possible that I don't fully understand the implications of foreknowledge, but where does the assumption come from that those that God choooses were the ones that would have picked Him apart from his choosing? Is that thought imported in to the verse simply by the OVERALL context of the Bible and the character of God displayed elsewhere or??
I see a similar thought process in your analogy is why I thought I'd ask.
Peace and Luv to you!

Mr. D said...

Thanks for looking! Of course you caught that nuance. The question is in God's foreknowledge and election, can it involve the free will of man? You hit right to the heart of the problem.
Does it violate God's foreknowledge or election if somehow it involves the choice of man? Some would say so. But I do not think such a thing is a necessary violation. One thing we are sure of- that both free will and election have to harmonize. Men are responsible for their own acts, and God's mercy is all that saves us. I was just trying to come up with an illustration that would cover both acting together. Probably like one of Job's friends I have not done a good job of explaining.

David said...

Hello Mr. D,
I am a newcomer to the discussion of predestination and freewill. What I mean is that I don't know where everyone stands on it, in the deep theological aspects of it. My understanding, and please feel free to discuss, is that God has predetermined for everyone to be conformed into the image of His dear Son. He came to save and not to destroy and is not willing for any to perish. But one other thing He can't do besides lie, deny Himself, etc., is to trample on the freedom of choice of any one of His intelligent creations.
When the rich, young ruler approached Jesus, Jesus "beholding him, loved him." Mk. 10:21. Here was an earnest young man, who sought out the Saviour. He was forcibly convicted of something he lacked when he saw Jesus crowded and loved by the children and mothers.
What an opportunity would be found in this fellow if he were to choose the truth over tradition! Jesus looked at him as one who had followed up the wooing of the Holy Spirit for a long while and now would be the point when he would cross the threshold of being not just "not far from the kingdom" but joining it. The only thing left was to pass the final exam. Its understandable the intensity of disappointment and grief in Christ when He turned around to the people and cursed wealth and possessions.
Jesus could taste the joy of a new member in the kingdom through all eternity, but by the young man's choice it was all stolen away. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief has had to deal with this very same situation billions of times over. Because He refuses to trespass on the choice of His loved ones, even if it means their ultimate destruction. Jesus predestined the rich young ruler to be conformed into His beautiful image. He painted a beautiful and convicting real life dramatized picture for him and held it all out for the fellow to accept. The look He gave the man was the same look of love He gave Peter at the denial. With persuasion mustered, a skill He had honed all His life, Christ still wouldn't force the will. And at the final decision, Jesus didn't get what He wanted so much, as the youth turned bitterly away. "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

Mr. D said...

I actually think your understanding is great! God will not violate the free will, and however predestination works it must take that into account.