This is the first of a four-part series on the relationship between control and election. It logically follows the last “Dear Co-Laborer” letter on “The Myth of Autonomy.”
The Need for Control and Why Biblical Election is Odious
My impression of the culture in the United States and Europe is that it is a combination of wanting control and fearing that people cannot obtain what they want. Insecurity robs people of humility. For these people, meaning in life is found in getting rather than giving, using others rather than serving them. Kindness, manners, deferring to others, gratitude – all are signs of weakness.
Culture argues for transparency, but only to a degree, with care given in avoiding being too vulnerable. Commitments are fragile and tenuous. The culture is characterized by anger, bitterness, and narcissism, all because people are not in control and thus their expectations are not met. Words like entitlement, victim, and abuse form the ethos of life.
I know that there are wonderful exceptions to this, and hopefully you are one of them, but I suggest that this attitude forms the environment in which you live. The objective of this short series is to look at the various components that form this worldview.
All people want to elect; they insist on the freedom of choice. In this series I will consider election, choice, decide, determine, and select synonyms. There are obviously some things you cannot elect, and we will look at these later, but you wish to decide whom you will marry, your vocation, choice of friends, etc.
For this reason, most consider the biblical doctrine of election odious. The idea that God decided who goes to heaven and who does not offends their moral sensibilities. The Bible teaches, “…and not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, ‘The elder will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Romans 9:10-13).
Anticipating a negative reaction, the Apostle Paul presents two objections: “God is not just” in verse 14, and “Why does He find fault” in verse 19. Both questions deal with a moral issue, and the Bible teaches that election is not a moral question; it is merely a question of who gets to elect. God is no more obligated to have a relationship with His creatures than you are to love and treat two animals the same. You decide to take one chicken as a pet and kill the other for dinner. God insists that He has that freedom with His creatures as well.
In order to elect you need to be in control. A man asks a girl to marry him, and she refuses his offer. He has no ability to control her answer, while realizing that if he could control her response, she would be a robot. And so it is with all interpersonal relationships; do you want others to determine whether or not you like them and want to be their friend? Thus, people are torn between wanting to control and not wanting to control.
Control belongs to the strongest. Under certain circumstances the man can force the girl to marry him. It is axiomatic that justice is defined by the strongest. Because God is sovereign, He defines justice; He is in control. Therefore, a person may be in control because he is the strongest, such as the dictator of a country, or he may have control because authority has been delegated to him – as exemplified by the traffic policeman standing in an intersection stopping a semi-truck by the raising of his hand.
The absence of control produces fear, illustrated by the businessman who watches his net worth disappear because of a bad market, and he has no power to stop it. This means that in some areas, we desperately want to be in control, while in other areas we are glad we are not in control.
Grateful that God is in control,