The discriminating theological trajectory of Calvin’s Doctrine of Election

Election has been a hot button for most Evangelical Christians, since it rightly highlights the sovereignty of God that is conveyed in Scriptures. With regards to Election’s relationship with ethnicity it can be said that it can be traced to the Election of Israel which is put into operation by God’s summoning of a certain herdsman from Ur to become the father of a nation who will in time become His people (Gen.12:1-4). The answer to that call came in three successive generations (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel) which served as the root upon which the trunk of Israel's nationhood that started with the liberation of the Jews from Egypt (Deut. 4:32-39) that grew through the years to eventually becoming the Kingdom of Israel.

In the New Testament sense Christians claim to be heirs of this Election which now encompasses race, and over time have some like Calvin developed systematic ways of underscoring this Election into a theological system. Thus putting forward an understanding of the Scripture (particularly the Pauline Epistles) that perhaps this election must have taken place before the creation; that God had pre-ordained some to salvation and others to reprobation. Having decided the lot of all individuals in this manner, God then worked through providence to make sure the ‘elect’ would realize their salvation and that those destined for reprobation would be blinded and hardened to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The problem with this understanding of Election is that it becomes an appropriation of an existing theological system that subordinates Scriptures to how the theological system interprets God, the world, God's relation to the world, salvation and the human response in terms of faith and conduct, the significance and relevance of the Church in accordance with the insights and categories of this existing theological system.

Tragically, while such systematic theologies have succeeded in giving a simple and methodical articulation of the Christian faith it has also effectively succeeded in conveying a picture of a 'discriminating God’. Whereupon, even when God is spoken of as gracious and loving, in order to explain away the miseries of millions and the many dominations and disparities, God is spoken as gracious only towards those elected to be recipients of God's grace!

Thus for example gender or ethnic discrimination is legitimized through convenient stories of creation, discrimination against the poor and discriminated ethnic groups through disparaging stories of origin.

In other words, such a system make 'the discriminating will of God' as the ruling criterion and God's grace is interpreted within God's sovereign right to choose some and reject many.

Ironically of the New Testament’s many references to "election" or "God's elect,"( Mt. 22:14; Rom. 8:33; Col 3:12; 1 Pet 1:1) the obvious point that those passages refer to are people who have been saved in and through Christ. Unfortunately many Christian thinkers are like Augustine and John Calvin were not at all content with such a simple explanation.

Click here for an interesting take on the Doctrine of Election

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