Although figuring prominently into the biblical story, predestination more likely to generate more arguments than adoration. Some paint predestination as evidence that God is a cruel puppet master, making us dance for His good pleasure. Some seem more passionate about the doctrine of predestination than sharing the gospel. To be sure, whenever the topic comes up, battle lines are quickly drawn.
In Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul tackles this contentious doctrine by examining its impact on God’s sovereignty, free will, original sin, regeneration, foreknowledge and the assurance of salvation.
Dr. Sproul’s primary purpose is to both help readers understand a misunderstood doctrine and challenge us to examine our affections for God.
“Do we love a God who is sovereign? Do we love a God who demands absolute obedience?” he asks. “I am not asking whether we love this God and this Christ perfectly; I am asking whether we love [them] at all” (p. 166). This is heart of the debate—how we react to the way the Bible speaks of predestination reveals much about our understanding of the God who is sovereign over all things. And to be sure, if predestination means “that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God . . . before we are even born” (p. 22, 48), then we must wrestle with this question.
The primary issue that comes to mind is that of justice and goodness—is God truly just and good in saving some and not others? Sproul’s point on this matter is simple: At no point does God ever do evil or commit an act of injustice in saving some and not others—to some He shows justice and others mercy (non-justice), and in all of it God “reserves the right of executive clemency” (p. 38).
For those of us wrestling with this, we have to ask ourselves one question: What is it we’re really doing when we say God “ought” to save all? Are we not being arrogant beyond all measure?
As a human being I might prefer that God give his mercy to everyone equally, but I may not demand it. If God is not pleased to dispense his saving mercy to all men, then I must submit to his holy and righteous decision. God is never, never, never obligated to be merciful to sinners. That is the point we must stress if we are to grasp the full measure of God’s grace. (p. 38)
The result of our wrestling should lead us to have one reaction: humility. We see the intricate relationship between human freedom and God’s absolute sovereignty—something Sproul notes isn’t unique to Calvinism or even Christianity, but is a basic tenet of theism (“If God is not sovereign, then God is not God,” he writes [p. 26])—and naturally become confused. And if we’re not careful, we begin to see the relationship in a way that Scripture does not: as a contradiction. The two cannot coexist, and therefore if God is sovereign, humanity doesn’t have freedom.
Yet, a careful reading of the Bible shows that there’s no room for contradictions of this sort or any other. There is a paradox, a mystery that we will never be able to fully understand or explain. But that does not mean that we are left without the ability to comprehend it in part. But what we do comprehend necessarily leads us to humble ourselves before a God who is so far above and beyond being fully understood by finite beings.
In some ways, reading Chosen by God is a crash course in humility. Sproul’s robust defense of this doctrine is cogent and careful, but it’s clear that none of us will every fully plumb the depths of its riches. And that is a very good thing. Whether you come away agreeing with Sproul’s position or not, you will be challenged by Chosen by God. Read the book, wrestle with it in light of the Scriptures and see how God might use it to grow your understanding of His sovereign work in the salvation of humanity.
Title: Chosen by God
Author: R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers