For my first official “post”, I want to offer a bit of explanation about why I chose the name that I did for this site. For many of my “Reformed” (or “Calvinistic”) friends, a word like “elect” is a common part of our theological language and is simply making reference to a basic biblical truth, namely that GOD initiates our salvation. However, many of my non-Reformed friends (and, being a Southern Baptist who grew up in the United Methodist Church, I have many non-Reformed friends…), this word makes them uncomfortable and perhaps even makes them think that they’re really not going to like hearing what I have to say. Needless to say, this point of “division” among my Christian friends troubles me.
I do not imagine that, in the space of a few sentences here, I will persuade all who read this to fully embrace a “Reformed” perspective on theology – and I’m really not even setting that as my goal. However, I do want to begin by trying to calm the waters a bit, and encouraging all who read this to acknowledge that the word “elect” – and the doctrine of “election” – is not some “new” idea that is intentionally contrived to stir up controversy, but rather that it is simply a basic, theological term straight from the pages of Scripture. Furthermore, you do NOT have to take on the title “Calvinist” in order to acknowledge that this is true…you simply have to believe what the Bible says.
From a “human” perspective, salvation involves individuals who (1) recognize their sinfulness; (2) believe in the historical life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; (3) confess their sins to the Lord and trust in His atoning work on the cross to accomplish their salvation from their sins; (4) make this decision public, submitting their future lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9; etc.). However, the Bible clearly teaches that we don’t go through this process in our own strength and abilities….and this brings us to the doctrine of “election”.
The ESV Study Bible (a truly fantastic resource!) introduces this doctrine very simply, as follows:
“From God’s vantage point salvation begins with his election of individuals, which is his determination beforehand that his saving purpose will be accomplished in them (John 6:37-39, 44, 64-66; 8:47; 10:26; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; Romans 9; 1 John 4:19; 5:1). God then in due course brings people to himself by calling them to faith in Christ (Romans 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:9).” (p. 2531).
In our own abilities, we are truly incapable of “saving” ourselves. If we are saved purely by praying a prayer, then that implies that the power to be eternally saved is in our hands. Yet, the Bible teaches that, as a direct result of the Fall in Genesis 3, we are all born “dead” in sin. In other words, our human tendency is to do as we please, not as God pleases – all of our thoughts and actions are tainted by sin, and we are therefore incapable of saving ourselves. Just as a man trapped deep in a pit cannot rescue himself, neither can we pull ourselves up from the depths of sin in which – apart from Christ – all of us live (Romans 3:23). Only someone separate from us – greater and stronger than us can offer us the salvation that we need.
So, God – who alone has the power to save – elects to save whom He chooses. Why doesn’t God “choose” to save every single person? That’s a question for God alone to answer. Clearly, the Bible does tell us that God DESIRES for all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), but this is not to say that salvation is completely in our hands and that God is merely waiting to see which way we choose to go. On the contrary, Jesus teaches us that, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44). Even the Old Testament paints a beautiful picture of Christian salvation in Ezekiel 37, when the Lord leads the prophet Ezekiel to the Valley of Dry Bones, and teaches him that “dry bones” can not breath life into themselves – only the Giver of Life has this power. Similarly, we can not save ourselves, for we are “dry”, dead in sin, and totally incapable of accomplishing our own salvation.
Simply put, those who live their entire lives and reject God to the end have nobody to blame but themselves, for God has made His presence clearly known throughout the world (Romans 1:18-20) and yet, most people choose to live and die in their own sins. On the other hand, those who experience true salvation and come to a life-altering knowledge of God’s love, grace, and mercy have nobody to thank for their salvation but God (Eph. 2:8-9), for it is God’s Spirit who draws us, opens our eyes to our sinful nature, and convicts us of our need for Him, and – of course – it was Jesus who paid the ultimate price for our sins, and God the Father who sent His only begotten Son to do so.
Can people be truly saved from their sins without understanding the doctrine of “election”? Of course they can. If an individual truly surrenders his or her heart to the Lord and trusts in the work of Jesus on the cross, then they will be saved. However, since the Bible does call us to continue studying, meditating upon, and growing in our knowledge of His Word, it’s also good to move beyond the stage of simply “being saved”, and to learn about the good, deep doctrines of the faith which are taught in the pages of Scripture, such as the doctrine of “election”, which reminds us that God is the one who initiated our salvation, and that we are to be forever thankful to Him for the great gift of salvation! After all, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn. 4:19), and the real definition of salvation is, “…not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn. 4:10).
Regardless, whether you agree with and understand the doctrine of “election” or not, I write for you. It is certainly not required that you share my theological convictions in order to read (and hopefully enjoy!) reading what I post on this blog. I strive to not limit my reading to only authors with whom I agree at every point. In fact, reading beyond our own convictions helps to stretch us, and sharpen our convictions in what we do believe.
That’s actually where the “Echoes” part of my title comes in; We need to continue listening to the great ministers of the past, and benefiting from the knowledge and biblical wisdom that their writings impart. We must allow their voices to “echo” right into our contemporary setting, and help us remember how to stay faithful to the teachings of Scripture. So, please feel free to read, post a comment (Please be considerate and kind with your remarks!), and perhaps even grow a bit in your theological knowledge. I am hoping to post excerpts from classic Christian writings, write some reviews of books that I feel have something significant to teach us, and possibly even feature some brief articles by other “theologian” friends of mine. I certainly hope that you will benefit from what is written, and that it will truly glorify the One who has called me to use my gifts and abilities for His glory.