Predestination unto Salvation: Was Divine Election Conditional or Unconditional?
When faced with two statements that must be true but are in apparent contradiction, “inductively seeing” the different perspective of each statement often resolves the conflict:
To illustrate, the following statements about John are true:
Statement #1: “At 9 AM today John entered the state of New York”.
Statement #2: “At 9 AM today John left the state of New Jersey”.
The Apparent Contradiction: John is in two different locations doing opposite things at the same time. But as both statements are certified as “true”, missing information must resolve the conflict.
It is the opposite perspective of the observer that changed the statement. When observing from New York, at 9 AM John entered New York. When observing from New Jersey, at 9 AM John left New Jersey. Like Sherlock Holmes we must induce these are border states, so John entered New York at precisely the same time as he left New Jersey.
So also the “Apparent Contradiction” in “Divine Election”, according to scripture (which is always true 2 Tim. 3:16), its a matter of perspective whether its “unconditional” or “conditional”:
Divine Election is unconditional, solely by God’s gracious choice and not based upon anything “the Elect” would do or on anything else (their qualities, characters, decisions, or actions) in contrast to others. God made the choice according to God’s own good pleasure and will:
(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), (Rom. 9:11 NKJ)
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. (Eph. 1:4-5 NKJ)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10 NKJ)
Divine election is conditional as it is based upon God’s foreknowledge:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:29 NKJV)
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Pet. 1:1-2 NKJ)
The missing context wherein both statements are “true”:
God’s “Foreknowledge” is both an aspect of His Omniscience He wills to do, and Omniscience He possesses because He is infinite God. God is Omniscient without “foreknowledge”, but if He chooses to foreknow a people, see them like highlighted text before all others adding a dimension of “knowing them” above others, it is His Omniscience that supplies the foreknowledge.
Peter’s statement therefore is true: God elected “those who love Him” whom He foreknew in His omniscience (Rom. 8:28):
We know God interacts with everything in the best interests of those who love him, those called to implement his purpose. (Rom. 8:28 MIT) The Idiomatic Translation of the New Testament, by William Graham MacDonald. See End Note #1
Predestination unto salvation is the action God took to guarantee none of those He knew in His Omniscience, were lost because of the Fall.
Paul’s statement therefore is true:. God Predestined those He foreknew would fall, unto salvation. Not based upon anything the “fallen version” were or did in this life. It was God’s good will and pleasure not to lose any of His beloved because the Fall prevented the “unfallen version” from coming into existence.
In other words, there are two Perspectives of God’s Omniscience, both are called “foreknowledge”.
Peter’s perspective is before God created, the “unfallen version” God foreknew loved Him in His Omniscience. Not willing to lose even one of these because of the Fall, God ordains that all things will work together for their good (Rom. 8:28).
Paul’s perspective is after God created, the “fallen version” God foreknew would come into existence. Not willing to lose even one of these because of the fall, God predestined these He foreknew unto salvation regardless what they are or do in this fallen realm (Rom. 8:29-39).
Election unto Salvation resolved God’s dilemma. Only creatures with absolute free will, could love God freely for Who He is. If their Free Will were a farce, their “robot love” would be an abomination. Therefore, to endow free will yet permit the inevitable fall occur [or the Beloved would never exist], God had to predestine they be saved, regardless what the fall made them become.
In other words, in a fallen world few would be saved in this life. Most never hear the gospel. Many are deceived by the temptations and lies of this fallen realm and so ignore or despise what little of the gospel they heard.
Therefore, God predestines the Elect unto salvation, even if they must pass through hell first before they repent and believe in Jesus.
The torments of Hades are the “antidote” to the poison of the fall. Those torments cannot fail to bring one to their senses. Only those irrevocably set against living in God (John 17:21; Rev. 21:3, 22-23) in Holiness and light (James 1:17) will fail to repent and believe in Jesus and be saved.
But there is a penalty to pay for endowing creatures with free will. Some would choose evil. As God knew the fall was inevitable, He had to endure with much long suffering these vessels of wrath (Rom. 9:22-24).
Why didn’t God predestine everyone unto salvation? That would violate their free will. Not all in the “unfallen realm” loved God after God loved them first. Absolutely free will resulted in about a third of the angels (Rev. 12:4) choosing evil. The analogy implies a third of humanity reject God’s love also. They love evil. Forcing them into a relationship would be an evil act. Forcing them against their will, is antithetical to God’s character.
Everyone has every opportunity to choose life and join the Elect. That is required by the presence of names in the Book of Life that are not “The Elect”:
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Rev. 3:5 NKJ)
The promise is a fraud if the overcomer’s name cannot be blotted out from the Book of Life. Therefore, this is not spoken to the Elect whose names cannot be blotted out. Elected before they did good or bad (Rom. 9:11) their names were written “before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; 17:8; Eph. 1:4). As they are predestined unto salvation (Rom. 8:29) they overcome.
Therefore, names exist in the Book of life that are not “Elect”, they are “undetermined” and these names can be blotted out. They have free will choice and equal chance to be saved with the Elect. For example, the names of the wicked men chasing David were ALREADY in the Book of life. David asks God their names be blotted out, not recorded with the righteous:
May they be blotted out of the book of life, And may they not be recorded with the righteous. (Ps. 69:28 NAS)
The Book of Life has the names of both the Elect and the undetermined (who could choose to go either way), and the latter are judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13,15) which determined if their names were blotted out or not on Judgment Day.
God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9 NKJ). If the “undetermined” do what is right, their names won’t be blotted out from the Book of Life.
11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law
13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. (Rom. 2:11-13 NKJ)
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear (1 Pet. 1:17 NKJ)
Unfortunately, when Paul affirmed “there is no unrighteousness with God” (Rom. 9:14) he assumed readers accepted that premise without question. That all would discern God never subverted Pharaoh’s free will. Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God orchestrated events that enabled Pharaoh’s free will manifest itself, but never subverted it.
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 7:3) by permitting Satan work deceiving wonders (Ex. 7:11-13) that strengthened Pharaoh’s free will choice to resist God. No “hardening energy” went from God to Pharaoh to make him choose evil. That was entirely Pharaoh’s choice, but orchestrated events led to Pharaoh being ruler over God’s people and his choice to resist God be actualized. This tension between God’s working out His will in His creation as He decides, and not causing the choice to do evil, is clear in the following verses:
15 If any nation comes to fight you, it is not because I sent them. Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.
16 “I have created the blacksmith who fans the coals beneath the forge and makes the weapons of destruction. And I have created the armies that destroy. (Isa. 54:15-16 NLT)
The non-Elect are given every opportunity to choose eternal life with God in Holiness.
God’s gift of free will is just as irrevocable (Rom. 11:29) as His Election.
#1. The ancient versions translated this text better than today:
Literally the phrase τοῖς … κλητοῖς ‘to those being called ones’, i.e., the saints (Rom. 1:7).
And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints. (Rom. 8:28 DRA) The Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition, a very literal translation of the Latin Vulgate.
But we know that those who love God, he aids in everything for good, those whom he determined beforehand to be called [ones]. (Rom. 8:28 MGI) NT Peshitta Translation (2006) by Janet Magiera
And we know that he aideth him in all things, for good, who love God; them whom he predestined to be called. (Rom. 8:28 MRD) Murdock Literal Translation from the Syriac Peshito Version, 1851.