The Case for Election The Original Doctrine of Predestination, Presented by the Apostles

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Ames, the key figure in the novel Gilead. Jack believes, given his past, that he is reprobate and he keeps pressing the two ministers to explain satisfactorily the doctrine of predestination.

Romans A New View of the Doctrine of Election

The two ministers waffle, say it is simply a mystery, and Ames in desperation recommends that Jack read Karl Barth on the subject! Recommend Karl Barth? Everything can change. The remarkable thing is that in a slightly different context essentially the same conversation occurs in the novel Home, written four years later. It crops up again and again in her various lectures and publications.


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Her motivations in doing so are several. This is another sense in which, paradoxically, it sets us free. Depravity is the other doctrine which has given Calvinism a bad name. Much maligned and misunderstood, Robinson comes to its defense. She begins by dismissing a popular myth. Robinson quotes a passage from the Institutes I. Robinson often refers to Psalm 8 in this connection. If so, how can the psalmist speak of our dignity? In passages like this Robinson is balanced and biblical.

Overall Calvin emphasizes the sinfulness of humanity, Robinson its nobility. Both truths are found in Calvin, although Robinson can be quite selective in her choice of Calvin quotes to support her thesis. Marilynne Robinson is obviously a Calvinist, but not a typical one. For one thing, she is not a confessional Calvinist. One will look in vain for any references to standard confessions, whether the Westminster standards or the various Swiss confessions.

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At the end of his first epistle, Peter further establishes that the elect were none other than Jewish believers, who were also in the diaspora. The question is, however, what is the something that the article and adjective refer to? The answer is to consider to whom the feminine something is sending greetings.

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That takes us back to the first chapter where Peter established already that he was writing to the pilgrims who were in the diaspora. Diaspora is a singular feminine word and hence it fits the bill perfectly. The word diaspora does appear and fits both in number and gender.

Lastly, we must acknowledge two important points: 1 Peter was the apostle to the Jews.


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When the Jews were given leave under Cyrus to return to Israel in BC, only a small remnant returned while many thousands stayed in Babylon. The writing of the Babylonian Talmud gives concrete proof to the fact that Babylon was a major center of Jewish life and culture. Since Peter was the apostle specifically appointed to take the Gospel to the Jews, then finding him in Babylon not Rome! Whether or not Peter ever ventured to Rome as church history would have us believe is therefore in question though it remains outside of the scope of this brief study.

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Nevertheless, we see that Peter is writing from Babylon, in the company of other Jews the chosen to fellow chosen ones who were also in the diaspora that is, not living in Israel. Realizing that Peter is the apostle to the elect Jews and is writing from Babylon to other elect Jews facilitates the interpretation of the two epistles. But you are a chosen generation [note: the Greek word is genos race not genea generation see: NASB], a royal priesthood , a holy nation, His own special people , that you may proclaim the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Unconditional Election

You were shown no mercy , but now you have received mercy. Therefore, this is not a Calvinistic call for us to somehow make sure that we have been chosen to eternal life! It is rather a reminder to the chosen people to embrace the fact that they were elected, chosen by God to be His special treasure. However, their election is by no means an absolute guarantee that they will inherit eternal life. As we have seen, election has nothing to do with salvation. Furthermore, election is generally a term used of the Jews, who are of course, the chosen people. Part of the challenge of understanding Romans is to recognize that Paul is speaking to the believers in Rome who are both Jewish and Gentile non-Jewish.

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Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. This concept is consistent throughout the book. Romans is the great defense of Scripture, par excellence, that God has not cast away His people. Paul begins the section by showing how God began with Abraham and then chose Isaac over Ishmael, and then Jacob over Esau. Just when Elijah thought all was lost, God informed him that He had reserved that had not followed the evil ways of Baal.


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  • And thus in like manner, most of Israel, who had been chosen, elected by God to be the conduit of blessing to the world, had rejected that special calling. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. God had called Israel to himself and would never let them go completely. God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants for a special purpose.

    His choosing them election had nothing to do with the Calvinistic idea of predestination to eternal life and eternal damnation. Though the Jews were elect, they were not automatically saved. They for the most part had rejected the invitation to the wedding feast and as such were blinded but they would be restored in the end.

    Foreknowledge is a companion of election — but just like election, foreknowledge is a general reference to God having known the Israelites beforehand. Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite , a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

    Predestination

    Certainly neither of those two examples carries any sense of Calvinistic predestination. There remain a number of verses that speak of the elect in the New Testament. In light of all that we have studied we can confidently know that they have nothing to do with the Calvinistic idea of predestined to salvation or damnation. This would make the most sense given that of the many other obviously believing brothers and sisters in the chapter, only Rufus is called elect. Why would Paul refer to only him as being elect, if the Calvinistic definition of election were true?

    Were the others not also heirs of eternal life? It must be noted that Priscilla and Aquila, from Rome, were also Jewish and yet were not called elect. We know that Paul traveled to Ephesus and there spent three months reasoning with the Jews in the synagogues Acts We also know that Paul first entered the local synagogue wherever he went in order to persuade the Jews first.

    Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another… how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? The letter to the Thessalonians is also a letter to the Jews first and then the Gentiles.

    Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures… and some of them were persuaded and … joined Paul and Silas. However, the term elect would again point to a reference to someone ethnically Jewish. The salutation also points to someone who is ethnically Jewish. When the Lord Jesus comes back his entourage will absolutely include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their seed.

    The question, however, is will Gentiles also be among that group? Given the fact that we Gentiles are grafted into Israel Rom and enjoy blessings that come with that, we can be confident that we will be in that number returning with the Lord.