Election, The Humanity Of Jesus, And Possible Worlds -- By: Robert R. Hann
JETS 29:3 (September 1986) p. 295
Election, The Humanity Of Jesus, And Possible Worlds
“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4).
Even Reformed Christians appear to have become uncomfortable with the doctrine of election. Indeed, election seems to have become an endangered species of doctrine. Its habitat, which once included the entire Presbyterian and Reformed continent, has shrunk so that it now seems to thrive only in small preserves labeled “Orthodox Presbyterian” and “Christian Reformed.”
Two objections seem to have defeated the doctrine as it commonly has been understood. First, for God to have chosen some for special treatment seems contrary to what we have come to think of as “fair play.” In the civic realm fairness seems to require giving each person an equal chance to succeed. It seems somehow more just that God too would give everyone the same chance. Surely, if I am to be an Equal Opportunity employer, Christ must be an Equal Opportunity Savior. The idea that some are chosen does not conform to what Thomas Kuhn would call our “paradigm.” In terms of the sociology of knowledge, we have become Arminians all.1 This objection, however, has only a limited weight. Sociology-of-knowledge considerations, as has been pointed out both sociologically and philosophically,2 only incline us to consider concepts more or less plausible. They cannot tell us whether a given proposition is true.
A second objection, however, is more properly theological and thus deserving of our attention. Especially as the doctrine came to be elaborated by successive generations of theologians, election came increasingly to be discussed in terms of God’s decrees before creation, and the fates of both the saved and the lost were thought to be equally the direct outcome of the will of God.3 As a result, the doctrine that Charles Williams called “comprehensible in Calvin” became, in his words, “tiresome in English Puritans, and quite horrible” in later Pres-
*Robert Hann is associate professor of religious studies at Florida International University in Miami.
JETS 29:3 (September 1986) p. 296
byterians.4 It is little wonder that for many even of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches the doctrine of election seemed more and more to be an exercise in theological abstraction and less and less an expression of grace.
A more satisfactory approach to election is found in the earlier Refo...
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