Why Do People Hate the Doctrine of Election?
I cannot remember the first time I heard about the biblical doctrine of election, but I would argue that it did not sit well. I would also argue that it took a great deal of time and learning for me to embrace the idea that God has chosen some people for salvation, while reprobating others. Unbelievers naturally despise this doctrine, but we must also acknowledge that some who claim to believe in God, Christ, and the Bible also reject this doctrine, even hate it. But why?
Election is only a part of the broader doctrine of the sovereignty of God. Our God reigns (Rev 19:6). He sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). His will and good pleasure must be done (Phil 2:13). There is a proportionately large number of Scripture passages supporting God’s selection, making the clear biblical teaching a significant motif. A quick list of names might bring even the beginning Bible student to an understanding of this act of God choosing: Abel not Cain; Abram not Nahor; Isaac not Ishmael; Jacob not Esau; Joseph not his brothers; Israel not other nations; Moses not the rest; David not his brothers; Solomon not his brothers; Esther not the others; fishermen not Scribes and Sadducees; Saul not the other Pharisees; the church not the world; etc.
Election occurred before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5). Election is a mystery of God’s free will and grace. Therefore, it must be embraced by faith. This is true of other hated doctrines like the Trinity and eternal punishment. Natural man would have never conceived of these doctrines which he finds repugnant. Election manifests in a certain number of souls being conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). Election assures salvation unto glorification (Rom 8:30). The apostle Paul was elect, taught election (Eph 1; Rom 9), and suffered for the sake of the elect (2 Tim 2:10). The wise, the rich, the noble, the powerful do appear to be at a distinct disadvantage in this world; but this is so God’s character, power, royal prerogative, and glory might be displayed all the more in contradistinction to man.
Election is evident in the Bible, and it is evidenced in the world, today. The elect ones, chosen by God, are called out of the world (Rom 8:30), and they respond to Jesus, like a sheep to its one and only Shepherd (Jn 10:4). People we knew by their evil deeds have been transformed into lovers of Jesus Christ (Jn 3) by the will of God (Jn 1:13), and who now desire God’s will instead of their own selfish will (1 Sam 3:18; Lk 22:42). Love for God and for His church has been poured out in their hearts (Rom 5:5), as a product of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11), who is producing various spiritual fruit (Gal 5:22–23). Of course, a tree is known by its fruit, and Jesus is the vine of the elect branches grafted in by God the Father (Jn 15; Rom 11).
Election is worked out by the elect, who quest for the assurance seen on the pages of Scripture but longed for experimentally in the heart. They trust the One they pray to without ceasing (Prv 3:5–6; 1 Thess 5:18). They pursue peace (Heb12:14). They grow in grace (2 Pet 3:18). They bathe daily with the water of God’s Word to cleanse them from accumulated filth (Eph 5:26). They desire holiness because their Lover is holy (1 Pet 1:16). They rely on the Spirit of God, who lives in them (Gal 5:25). They persevere to the end (2 Tim 4:7).
Does all of this sound foul and reprehensible? So why do people hate the doctrine of election? There are a number of reasons for us to consider.
First, natural man is sinful and at enmity with God. Man’s ways are not God’s ways (Is 55:8–9). If man was God, he would construct salvation in such a way that he would have the choice of whether he was saved, not God. It is a natural law of sinful man to resist anything and everything that God is and does. God is God, and man resists Him by denying His very existence (Rom 1:18). God chose some people for salvation (2 Thess 2:13), and man calls God unjust for doing so. Election is not about God being just or unjust, it is about God having mercy (Rom 9:15–16). God’s justice demands God’s righteous judgment against sinners. Hell is justice for sinful man. God says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy (Rom 9:15).” Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Second, natural man hates the doctrine of election because she is a creature and not God. The Bible describes us as mere clay on the Potter’s wheel (Jer 18; Rom 9:21)). It is God who made us, and not we ourselves (Ps 100:3). The potter is sovereign over whether the object will be placed in the trash or on the trophy shelf (Rom 9:22–23). It is gross rebellion for creatures to rise up against their maker, and judge His existence, His works, and His ways. Can man ask God, “What are you doing? (Job 9:12).”
Third, natural man hates the doctrine of election because he hates the Bible. The doctrine of election does not exist outside of the Bible. Therefore, those who despise election despise the Scriptures, where this doctrine is clearly revealed. We must accept the Bible by faith, so we can accept the God of the Bible, by faith, who reveals each doctrinal truth as something to be believed in. We cannot pick and choose which doctrines we will embrace and which ones we will reject. The Bible and all of its hard teachings on homosexuality, women in ministry, justification by faith not works, continuation of the moral law, etc., must be believed and practiced. For one to reject the doctrine of election, one evidences ignorance at best but more likely a lack of regeneration (Jn 3:1–8; Rom 8:9; 1 Pet 1:3).
Fourth, natural man hates the doctrine of election because she thinks God is unjust. Did God not so love the world? Does not God desire for all men to be saved? Did not Christ die for the sins of the whole world? Does God not call all men to repentance? Does God not claim to receive all who will come to Christ in faith? The answer to all of these questions is “yes.” God is not the problem. It is not so much that God is unjust, but that people are unwilling to come to Him (Mt 22:3; Jn 5:40).
Sinful man boasts about his free will. Man’s free will is a slave to sin (Rom 6:6). Man was made by God to be a free moral agent, which makes him responsible for every thought, every word, and every deed done in the flesh; but the Bible is very clear about Satan’s dominion over sinful man (Rom 6:14). If man is free, why is he not free to see where Satan has blinded his mind (2 Cor 4:4) from believing the Gospel? Why can he not believe that he is totally depraved, being spiritually dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1–3, 13)? Why can he not accept that he is a child of wrath (Eph 2:3), a child of the devil (1 Jn 3:10), whose works are like a bloody feminine hygiene product (yes, that’s what that means!)? Why does he think he can seek God in his own will and power, when God declares that the will of man does not seek for God (Rom 3:11), nor is it even able to seek for Him (Rom 8:7)?
Fifth, natural man hates the doctrine of election because it hurts his pride. The pride of life is the mother of all sin. Man thinks more highly of himself than he ought to (Rom 12:3). Pride comes before the fall and goes before destruction (Prv 16:18). Human pride is the source of man’s enmity with God. When God tells man that he is sinful, man’s pride tells him that he is a good person. When God tells sinful man that his works are worthless (Is 64:6), man’s pride tells him that he deserves a trophy for his last place finish. Man wants to be king of the mountain and captain of his own destiny. The pride of life gets a man out of bed in the morning. It causes him to compete with his neighbor (Eccl 4:4). It promises him a life full of rewards. But in reality, pride destroys a man’s family. It disposes of his friends. It ultimately kills the man and assures him a place in hell for lack of humble repentance from sin and simple faith in Christ (Mt 25:46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).
Man wants to be God so that he might have glory for himself, but God will not share His glory with another (Is 42:8). No flesh will boast its prerogatives, choices, and decisions in the presence of the Almighty (1 Cor 1:29). “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish (Ps 49:20).” Man is but dust of the earth, toiling in the dust for vanity’s sake.
Sinful man counter-claims that the elect are arrogant, for thinking they are chosen by God. Listen to a man or woman who has been redeemed of the Lord, for they will only boast in the Lord, like the apostle Paul did to the Corinthians. Salvation belongs to the God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1) is their cry from the rooftops. “I did not choose Him, but He chose me,” is their humble take on John 15:16, for they know that those who believe were ordained by God to eternal life (Acts 13:48). It is God who is found by those who did not seek Him (Is 65:1), a people made willing on the day of His power (Ps 110:3). It was for these that Christ prayed to the Father, not for those who remain proud in the world (Jn 17:9).
Finally, natural man hates the doctrine of election because salvation is entirely God’s will and work. This is a sort of summary of the other reasons. This is God’s story. He knew the beginning from the end before creating anything in the spiritual or physical realm. God chose to make man in His image. He determined man’s fall into sin and did not prevent his fall for His own reasons. This is a mystery as much as the doctrine of election. God made choices in every phase of Creation, even as He does, today. Everything is in His eternal good pleasure and by His eternal decree.
God is not hiding His sovereign will, grace, mercy, love, power, and plan. He has told us of His choices in His Word, the Holy Bible. The redeemed of the Lord, humbly receive the knowledge of God, and they glorify Him for it. The unregenerate persist in pride, rebellion, sin, and hostility toward God. God will be glorified for the doctrine of election and reprobation, regardless of the twisted arguments man constructs against God’s revelation of His sovereign will and choice. The truth remains, “many are called, but few are chosen (Mt 20:16),” for God has a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom 11:5).
Friend, do you kick against the goads? Do you loathe the preaching of Ephesians 1 and Romans 9? Do you pass over the Scriptural teachings of sovereignty, decree, predestination, providence, reprobation and election? Ask yourself why do you resist these biblical teachings? Is it because of the reasons given here? Will you remain unteachable in this matter?
Man-centered theology will never satisfy your longing for the God of the Bible. It will always pit you against Him. False teachers with their false teaching want to make you God, but that was the promise of Satan to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:5), and they suffered for it even as we do. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (Jas 4:7). It is not by the will of man (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 9:15–16), but by the grace of God that salvation (Eph 2:8–9), including sanctification comes to a man (1 Cor 1:30). As God the Father irresistibly draws you to Christ (Mt 11:28; Jn 6:44), the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24), make your request known for understanding the doctrine of election from God’s perspective. You have read about it here, but I encourage you to open your Bible and read about it there.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 24, 2021