Tim Keller on Election (Not the Obama Kind)

The doctrine of election is this – I’ll just tell you what it is – it’s that all human beings, given a hundred chances, a thousand chances, an infinite number of chances, will always – because their desires are such – will always choose to be their own lord and saviour and they’ll never choose Jesus. And what God does, is he opens the eyes of some so they’ll see the truth, but he doesn’t open the eyes of everybody.

… Firstly, the fact is that Protestant churches have been split over [this] for a long time. And therefore, we would never say to somebody, ‘You can’t join Redeemer [Presbyterian Church] unless you believe it.’

Secondly, I try to major on the majors, and my understanding of election sometimes underlines and informs the things I say, but nobody’s going to be saying, ‘You have to believe this doctrine!’ That’s not the sort of thing  that you’re going to get in these services. You can be happily non-predestinarian at Redeemer, alright?

… The best way to understand this though… On the one hand, if you wrestle with the doctrine of election a little longer, it creates a problem, which was always there and you didn’t see it. And denying the doctrine of election or disagreeing with it doesn’t actually get it to go away. And I’ll show you what I mean.

If you believe, that years and years ago, in the beginning of time, God said, ‘I see that the human race is going to sin. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to go out and save a quarter of them.’

Ah, that sounds awful!

However, you say, ‘No! What I believe is years and years and years ago, God said, ‘The human race is going to sin. Therefore, I will send my Son and I will give everybody free will…’’

But since he’s God, he immediately knows who is going to believe, and who’s not. So in other words, either way, you have an action of God, that in the depths of time, automatically consigns some people to heaven and some people to hell. So you’re in the same boat. Because here’s the issue: God looks like he can save everybody (we think), he says he wants to save everybody, but he doesn’t save everybody. Why?

And here’s the funny thing. Nobody’s got the answer for that. Nobody. And everybody has got the same problem.

When you first hear of election, you say, ‘The unfairness of God! He could save everybody, but he doesn’t.’ But, see, how do you get out of that, even if you don’t believe in predestination?

‘Well, God doesn’t want robots who follow him round, he wants people to choose him freely!’ … But you know what? The doctrine of election only says God opens our eyes to be able to choose him freely.

But why doesn’t he do it for everybody? Well, we don’t know! You say, ‘Well he wouldn’t violate free will’. But he wouldn’t violate free will in election either. We all have the same problem!

This is what I’ve found, if you keep wrestling a bit further, you find that it’s not predestination [that is the problem]. This is one of the unanswered questions of the bible.

The reason I believe in election is, I have all the same problems you do. But there is one thing I need to conserve, because the bible is so strong on it. The bible tells me that I am saved by grace, not by anything better, or good, in me.

Predestination has all kinds of other problems. But the one thing it’s true to is my own experience, that my friends and relatives who aren’t Christians – and I am – I just know it has nothing to do with me being smarter or better at all.

So I’m living with the problems that come from believing in radical grace alone for my salvation. And the implications for thatare problematic. But you know what’s funny? If you, in order to get rid of those so-called problems, decide ‘I believe that everybody has an equal chance, and there’s free will, and I don’t believe in predestination,’ I think in the end you have more problems, because it really monkeys with your understanding of salvation by faith.

All I’m trying to say is, it’s too late, you’ve lost your innocence once you study the doctrine of election. It opens these issues up and you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. It makes you think about the implications of things, and I would say, hold on to grace and let the chips fall where they may everywhere else. It will be alright.” (HT: Tim Keller Wiki)