Wade Burleson has posted a thorough review of Richard Land’s presentation on congruent election at the John 3:16 Conference. If you have been following the conference, you have probably already read Andrew Lindsey’s summaries of the sessions and John Mark’s posts on the conference, Burleson’s posts have been helpful–its interesting to get another perspective on the conference from another 3:16 attendee and SBC pastor.
Dr. Land basically said that Romans 9-11 are not about the individual election of believers unto eternal life but about corporate election of Israel. I would like to hear him defend that view exegetically but since I was not at the conference and won’t be able to hear Land’s presentation (unless I drop $50 on the CDs–the sessions will not be streamed online), I thought I would offer just a couple of insights along with an some insight from pastor Burleson.
First, even Romans 9-11 were about corporate election, that doesn’t change the fact that Romans 8:28-32 clearly is about individual election–I have never heard the case made that Romans 8 is about corporate election and in fact I don’t think the case could be made. Secondly, Paul is not at all the only NT writer who speaks of individual election and Paul clearly discusses individual election at numerous other points in his epistles. Examples include: Ephesians 1:1-10, Matthew 11:25-27, John 5:21-23, John 10:25-30, John 15:16, John 17, Acts 13:48, Acts 18:9-11, Romans 8:28-30, 2 Timothy 1:8-12, James 1:18, James 2:5, 1 Peter 1:1-2, 1 Peter 2:9-10, Revelation 13:8. 1 Peter 1 and Ephesians 1 are both addressed to a primarily Gentile audience and thus cannot be explained away as references to the corporate election of Israel. I have never heard Acts 13:48 dealt with by any of the non-Calvinists crowd–this stunning statement also refers to primarily a primarily Gentile audience–“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
Here is Burleson’s summary of Land’s arguement:
But, according to Dr. Land, this is where God’s “foreknowledge” comes in to play. God knows all things that happen in time – now. There is no “future” to God. Everything is now to Him. God treats sinners as either “elect” or “non-elect” because He knows what the sinner will choose from eternity. Time is irrelevant to God. Again, the future is the now to God. Therefore, He desires all to be saved, He gives His Son for the atonement of all sins without exception, and all that is lacking is the sinner’s reception of what God has provided, and God will treat sinners based upon His knowledge of how they will choose.
Dr. Land then made clear what is required for God to “elect” a sinner. “As the sinner attempts to respond to the saving work of God, then God gives to that sinner saving faith.” In other words, God gives the faith, and treats the sinner as His elect, His child, etc . . . when God sees “an attempt to respond.” He does not turn a deaf ear to the sinner who calls upon the name of the Lord.
Burleson goes on to ask this timely question–if God knows that some will not believe and will face eternal punishment–why create them? If God could intervene, why wouldn’t he? If God knows their fate but does nothing to change it, how is he any less responsible than in the Calvinistic view of election? Land’s view at face value seems only a few short steps away from open theism–in which the future is a mystery to God altogether.
Its not difficult to see where this kind of thinking falls short of presenting all of Scripture’s teaching on election and salvation as a whole. Burleson rightly notes:
Man is responsible – to obey God perfectly. God holds man responsible for this perfect obedience. Yet, no man seeks God. No man obeys God. No man listens to God. We are all rebels. We are all sinners. The fact that a great number of us will one day repent of our sins and fall in love with Jesus Christ is because He first loved us. Our salvation is due to God’s unconditional choice to redeem us and shower us with His favor, which includes the softening of our hard hearts and the vivifying (regeneration) of our spiritually dead hearts. I agree wholeheartedly that if a sinner desires God to save Him, God will. But for a hardened rebel like me to even begin to desire Christ’s Lordship, and for me to even come to the point that I hate my rebellion to God, then God must first change my heart. We love our rebellion way too much, and just as it is impossible for the Ethiopian to change the color of his skin or the leopard his spots, so it is impossible for those of us accustomed to doing evil to change our ways.
I wonder how many Southern Baptists share Land’s eternal now perspective. My guess is that very few do. It seems to me that it provides more questions than answers and fails to address the breadth of biblical teaching on election and perhaps most troubling serves to diminish the fact that Salvation is God’s gracious doing. When people start saying things like, “As the sinner attempts to respond to the saving work of God, then God gives to that sinner saving faith,” I start to wonder where that idea is taught in Scripture and I start to worry that we are beginning to give man reason to boast of his salvation when Paul clearly taught that all boasting of our salvation is excluded (Ephesians 2:8-9). How is this idea not a step closer to Trent? I am not accusing, just asking a simple question.
Read Burleson’s post and feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment meta.