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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, June 12, 2006

That "Insidious" Doctrine of Election

Wes Kenney shares that Dick Lincoln, pastor of Shandon Baptist Church, Columbia, South Carolina, was the first to preach last night at the SBC Pastor’s Conference. It looks like he is setting the tone for some of the preaching. In his message Dick referenced a doctrine that “teaches that the number of the elect cannot be changed.” Kenney goes on to quote Dick who then said, “It’s too bad Paul never got the message,” when referring to 1 Corinthians 9:19 and Paul’s expressed desire to “win more people.” Kenney adds that Dick went on to call the doctrine “insidious.”

This preaching, much like Ergun Caner’s on Romans 9, has left me scratching my head. Where in the world do people come up with this? I am not trying to be funny here. I want to know what basis, what foundation, what exegesis, what teaching supports such a statement that would conclude one to think that the doctrine of election is “insidious.”

The only thing I can think of is that Dick believes that when a sinner puts their faith in Jesus Christ (hence “won” to Christ), they become elected at the point of their conversion. They were not elected by God’s eternal decree; rather the basis for their election is their faith in Jesus Christ, a faith I presume Dick believes is sourced in himself and not a gift from God. As a result, a person’s election is not God’s election. It is man’s election determined by man’s libertarian free will which exercises a faith inherent within the ability of man to choose Christ on his own. If this is the case, then election according to the Scripture is rejected so that the sovereign in salvation is not God but man, and the real election that takes place is the present decision in which one determines to choose Christ.

To say that the number of the elect can be changed when someone is saved is to dichotomize the doctrine of election from evangelism and attempts to pit the doctrine of election against evangelism as though it is an either/or proposition. It also argues that God does not know the elect and does not really save the elect; instead, he just tallies up the people who are saved who have recently become elect. Thirdly, this idea confuses the chain of grace in predestination, regeneration, and conversion and lumps it all when a person becomes a Christian. Yet one does not need to look far in the Bible to see the folly of this statement made by Dick. Paul tells us that those whom he foreknew he also predestined, and those whom he predestined he called, and those whom he called he justified . . . (Romans 8:29-30). Notice that all the action is past tense. Paul again says that God chose us in him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). When? Before the foundation of the world. If in God’s eternal decree, God has predestined those whom he would save, then the number is fixed and cannot be changed. Where Dick gets the idea that the elect is some flexible number which can change assumes that God does not know who the elect are, and that the causal effect of one’s salvation is deterministically the work of man, not God. But the Scripture clearly tells us that those who received Christ and believed in his name were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-14).

The truth of the matter is that election is foundational to evangelism. Paul became all things to all men so that all might possibly be saved precisely because he believed in the doctrine of election according to Scripture. Paul was encouraged to go to Corinth by the Lord because Jesus told him that he “had many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9-10). Indeed, Paul did everything “for the sake of the elect” so that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul sums up that everything he did was for the sake of the elect. Election was foundational to Paul’s evangelism, because when you face wild beasts at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32), beatings, imprisonments, stonings, shipwrecks, you must believe that in these places there are some who are the elect whom God has chosen. Paul was not adding to the elect by winning people to Christ. He was simply evangelizing because he believed in God’s sovereign working in salvation and evidenced the elect by being a God-ordained means of bringing people to Jesus.

I submit to you and to Dick Lincoln that it is insidious to preach about something that is not in Scripture. Our sole authority is the Word of God alone. If you have a problem with election, don’t take it up with Calvinists, take it up with God. After all, it was his choice that you have a problem, not the Reformed community. Paul got the message all right, for “the Lord knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). Indeed, what a firm foundation in God’s eternal decree! Note: Tony Kummer has reminded us that Calvinists are people too and has provided a link for the SBC t-shirt that would be a good reminder for all the anti-Reformed folk.


Blogger Timmy said...

For those interested, this is also posted on Strange BaptistFire in which some comments are being posted as well. You can find it at:


6/12/2006 08:24:00 PM

Blogger Rev.J. Theodore Helms said...

Timmy, great post. Even though this pastor from Columbia would deny the charge as does Paige Patterson this week at the convention, this is rank Arminianism at its best. The leaders in the SBC are trying their best to distance themselves from both Arminiansim and Calvinism at the same time (some are, I should say) by calling themselves "modified Calvinists." There is no such animal. One is either a Calvinist or not. But the stigmatism rightly linked with Arminianism is too much to bear even for an Arminian.

These modified-calvinists know the appeal this position carries for the others who deny being either of the two camps. Calvinists are known for being "thinkers" whereas Arminians are not (Caner, for example). So I guess this makes modified-calvinists "modified-thinkers."

They have modified the Bible's clear teaching on the nature of God and the nature of man. They have exalted dead-in-sin man to the position of being able to make spiritual decisions based on his own reasoning ability. They have lowered God to the position where He can know nothing of what man will decide to do until he does it. And they have modified God to the point where He is "semi-omnipotent" and "semi-omniscient." This is bordering on open theology, or whatever they call it these days. In fact, they may have crossed the border (hmmmm, illegal immigrants, there is a sermon in that).

And one last thing in closing, does anyone remember "the god of this world" and the role he plays in the blind hearing and seeing the gospel? If justification or salvation is ultimately up to man and not God, then this necessarily puts Satan into the picture on equal footing with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and me, the "semi-sinner." God is reduced to a "hand-wringing God," so worried about whether or not the lost person will make the right decision. Somehow, that is not the picture of the Biblical God I have in mind.

6/13/2006 11:12:00 AM


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