You can’t even get through one verse in 1 Peter before coming across an enormously controversial theological issue: divine election and foreknowledge.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”
I didn’t even try to wade into these choppy waters in my sermon this past Sunday. Though I did tip my hat that I do not fall in the Reformed/Calvinist camp on this issue. (Though I genuinely respect those who do.)
For the novice, what’s at stake in this debate? What’s been keeping theologians and pastors up at night for 2,000 years? Some of the following questions are at play:
- Does God sovereignly choose, or elect, some people to be saved and others to be damned?
- If so, do we really have “free will”? If so, then are we really responsible for our choices?
- What do we do with texts that say things like “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) if God indeed has “willed” that some should be saved and others perish?
- Does God exhaustively know the future — all things that will come to pass? Or does God merely know all possibilities that might come to pass depending on the free choices of human and angelic beings?
- If the future is to some degree “open” because God has given his creatures (human and angelic) real free will to reject God and his purposes, then does this mean God is not all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-knowing (omniscient?
- Are we genuinely partnering with God to bring about his purposes, fighting real evil that can at times really (temporarily?) thwart God’s purposes?
- Or is all history following some predetermined blueprint, and God has really ordained all things that have and will come to pass? How then do the atrocities of Auschwitz, or the kidnapping, rape and murder of an innocent child fit into God’s sovereignly predetermined plan for history. Why would he ordain such evil?
- If God’s sovereign will cannot be thwarted and God is always all-powerful, then how do we explain Satan’s role in the cosmic drama? Is he just a pawn who God could overpower but chooses to let him win a battle here and there?
- Or, has God actually chosen to give up some of his “power” by creating a world populated with genuinely free beings who can actually rebel? If so, how can we be confident that God ultimately wins in the end?
- More to the point of our passage above: When the Bible talks about “election”, is it usually referring to chosen/elect individuals or a group? This is where I believe we need to begin in understanding the Bible’s teaching on the ‘elect.”
So, for those who want more of my perspective on this hotly contested debate, I am offering you the following Q&A video where two of my professors and mentors offer a great answer to the question: “Are some chosen for salvation and some not?” Greg Boyd is a proponent of the Open View and Paul Eddy would probably fall in the Arminian camp. For those wanting to explore the other (Calvinist/Reformed) side of the spectrum, I recommend exploring John Piper’s Desiring God resources.