The subject of election is one that I have regularly revisited over my years of blogging. The responses to my posts on the subject have left me a little confused. Where there has been a response it has generally been critical and negative. On other occasions there has been hardly any response at all. When I treat this subject on Reformed forums online I am almost invariably misunderstood and can receive some rather harsh replies. I am left puzzled. I am certain that I am on to something and I am surprised that no one else seems to see it.
The traditional approaches to election in Reformed circles now appear quite unsatisfactory to me. Some claim that this can only be because I never understood the Reformed position in the first place (even though I have probably read far more Reformed works on election that most of those who raise this criticism). I am aware of the various clarifications, qualifications and modifications of the doctrine of election that exist in Reformed circles, but have yet to encounter one that really goes far enough.
Whilst the traditional Reformed positions lose their appeal for me, I have become increasingly convinced that there are ways of doing justice to the biblical text, ways that go beyond the simplistic oppositions that one often encounters. My position is neither ‘Calvinistic’ nor ‘Arminian’, nor is it a mixture of the two. I find both positions quite unsatisfactory. I believe that the position that I now find myself holding dissolves many of the problems associated with the various common views of election that one often encounters.
I believe that my position, if it is more or less on the right track, calls into question large and significant elements of traditional Reformed theology. However, whilst I reject traditional Reformed ways of approaching the issue of election, I can’t help but feel that it is a strong Reformed instinct that leads me to do so. The concerns that are foremost in my mind in my thinking on the matter are Reformed ones.
I believe that the Reformed doctrine of election has tended to be too man-centred and has not been focused enough on the glory of God. I also believe that there are some Reformed positions that can leave the goodness of God in question. I believe that their grounding in Scripture is quite tenuous and that they quite probably owe more to the imposition of extra-biblical assumptions upon the text than to the text itself at certain points. I believe that concern for the glory of God, the centrality of Christ and the biblical basis for our doctrine are concerns that I hold in common with the average Reformed Christian. Reformed Christians are accustomed to accusing ‘Arminians’ of compromise on these points. For this reason they should be all the more ready to examine their own doctrine against these standards.
Over the next while, I plan to post occasional short entries on the subject of election and related issues (perseverance of the saints, limited atonement, etc.), each addressing slight different aspects of the doctrine. There is no particular order to these posts. Ideally they could be read in any order. Their purpose is to raise important questions that I believe Reformed Christians need to ask about the doctrine of election. I hope that people will be prepared to comment and interact with the material that is posted. I would be interested to hear other perspectives on the matter. Constructive criticism would be especially appreciated.