by Reverend Donald R. Shell, A. B., Th. M. on July 31, 2000
  1. Introduction
    1. I have written a 260 page manuscript entitled, "Making Sense of God's Election," and have been asked by my human and spiritual brother, Paul to present an "executive summary" of its contents on the Internet.
    2. The unabridged manuscript has been reviewed by Dr. John F. Walvoord, Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary and past President of that institution from which I received a degree of Master of Theology in 1976. In a letter to me following his reading of the manuscript, Dr. Walvoord stated the position I express in it is not far from his own view, and that the unabridged work is "scholarly."
    3. Since the Lord has prodded me repeatedly for decades to do this work, and due to my brother's request, I am putting this summary on the Internet for those seeking abridged insight on the subject. Perhaps through this the Lord may meet some spiritual needs until the unabridged manuscript might be published.
  2. Making Sense of God's Election: A Overview of the Work, by Donald R. Shell, Th. M.
    1. I hold that each of the mainline theological views of divine election stand in need of correction as they treat Scripture as errant opposite the Scripture's teaching that the Bible is inerrant (as follows):
      1. Arminianism (along with Amyraldianism) holds that God's election of who would be justified was based upon His "knowing beforehand" just who would in some way believe in the salvation Gospel. This view makes God's election appear to be unnecessary to the salvation process, for it leaves no apparent need for God to elect one to be saved if he is going to believe in the first place.
      2. Calvinism (along with the L. S. Chafer/Walvoord Moderate Calvinist view) holds that all who believe in the Gospel do so because God's eternity past election in some way led to that faith's expression. This view makes faith appear to be unnecessary in the salvation process: if one is saved because he is elect to that end, there would be no apparent need for a faith expression for him to be saved.
      3. Now, making either divine election or faith appear to be unnecessary as these views promote violates logic: Webster's Third New International Dictionary (s. v., "logic") states that for an idea to be logical, it must interrelate facts when seen by rational analysis so that all of those facts involved are necessary.
      4. Then, according both to Christ's assertion in Matthew 5:18 and to Clark Pinnock's work that is promoted by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, all revealed truth in human language, including every part of Scripture, must be logical or it is not true (Pinnock, A Defense of Biblical Infallibility, p. 16-17; James Montgomery Boice, Does Inerrancy Matter?, p. 29, "A Select Bibliography" where this work by Pinnock is recommended reading on inerrancy).
      5. Thus, Calvinism, Moderate Calvinism, Arminianism and Amyraldianism all stand in need of correction if a theologian were adequately to present the Bible in his view on election as being inerrant!
    2. So, to arrive at the correct view on divine election, and that to defend the inerrancy of the Bible, I was motivated and impelled to perform an inductive study on three Biblical passages as follows:
      1. I selected 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and Ephesians 1:4-5 for the inductive study, for each of these texts are considered by all Evangelical theologians at least to be relevant to the election doctrine.
      2. In that study, while doing a thorough job of investigating the New Testament Greek text on each passage, I used my findings of the logical errors of the mainline views above to reject exegetical conclusions en route that reflected any one of these mainline views on election.
      3. In the process, I discovered only one logical definition allowed by Scripture on election: I found that divine election is God's selecting those whom He positionally knew from eternity past would believe the Gospel to progress toward eventual conformity to Christ's glory in their experience. Thus, election does not result in who is justified, but results in blessings that follow the eternal awareness of God of just who would believe the Gospel.
    3. Having done this, I exegetically studied all the other will-related passages of Scripture to test this definition on election, being careful to appeal to the relevant Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic Scripture texts en route. These passages included those handling divine election in Scripture besides the 3 texts studied above, and to all relevant texts respectively on God's predestination, God's foreknowledge, the extent of Christ's atonement, "efficacious grace", the call of God in the Gospel, the authorship of faith and the depravity of man. Though space forbids me to address all the significant passages or word studies covered in each section in this brief overview, here is a summary of major, often-debated words & verses:
      1. Acts 13:48 - This passage, in the KJV states that as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed in Christ. It would appear this verse teaches divine election and/or predestination results in who will be justified, a mainline election view. However, the word translated "ordained" is in either the middle or the passive voice of tasso, and the middle voice means, "as many as had marshaled themselves on the side of . . . eternal life believed." (R. B. Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 221) Since our study shows that election cannot result in justification to protect the Bible's inerrancy, we must take the middle voice as R. B. Rackham has shown. This also fits the context better (as we show in the work).
      2. Romans 9:6-33 - This section that reveals God's hardening especially relative to Pharaoh's heart is used by doctrinaire Calvinists to indicate predestination unto justification, or even unto damnation. However, Ex. 3:19-20 with Ex. 5:2 and 6:1 show Pharaoh had rejected belief in Israel's God before God instituted this hardening, and that the hardening was most likely external factors that Pharaoh's own decision picked up and utilized for his own demise (God greased the slide Pharaoh chose!). Also, the Lord seen as the Potter in the context relates to Jeremiah 18 where God showed that, if a nation repented, He would decided not to destroy it. That indicates the cause of Pharaoh's demise was in his own choice, and that God merely gave him plenty of rope to hang himself in condemnation!
      3. "Foreknowledge" (prognosis) - Though the Arndt & Gingrich, N.T. lexicon defines the Greek term, prognosis to mean "predestination," we show this to be a very theologically-induced definition: among other things, we cite C. Gordon Olson's paper ("Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward Amyraldian Soteriology," presented at the Evangelical Theological Society, Toronto, 29 Dec., 1981, p. 8) where he notes that for many years after having taught the Calvinistic position on this word, i.e., that it meant predestination, he was distressed to see that the classical Greek, Koine and Septuagint usage along with the Apocrypha only supported the "knowing beforehand" meaning in contexts. Thus, I conclude the word is used to describe God's eternal awareness of who would freely believe the Gospel, and hence elected these foreseen believers unto post-justification stations and blessings.
      4. "Know/choose" (yada) - This Hebrew word is understood by doctrinaire Calvinists on occasion to mean "elect," but I show from the cognate uses of Akkadian, Aramaic, Ethiopic, Phoenician and Syriac that the lexical meaning is merely "know." I show that yada has been misunderstood to mean "elect" by Calvinists because the word is used to reflect the unique, Ancient Near Eastern relationship between a sovereign suzerain and the vassal people with whom he is in covenant relationship in typical suzerain treaties: yada is used to mean "chosen" or "favored, select" in such contexts, and does not carry an election unto becoming a vassal at all! We also cite Olson's paper above where he saw yada had been taken to mean "choose" by Calvinists quite apart from its normal, lexical meaning.
      5. "Many" (pollus) - This word is used in passages like Mtt. 20:28 to speak of the many for whom Christ died, and limited redemptionists of the Calvinistic persuasion utilize this word to indicate Christ died for many, but not for all men. However, we show this word is used to mirror the Hebraistic sense of "many" found in the Isaiah 53 to speak of Messiah's forensic death for "many," and emphasizes not an exclusive sense (as in Greek), but the inclusive, Semitic sense (a mere emphasis on "many" without thinking of limiting the number covered in any way). This, along with clear teaching in 1 Jn. 2:1-2 among other texts leads us to conclude Christ died for all men, providing an unlimited atonement.
      6. 2 Peter 2:1 - Limited Redemptionists of the Calvinistic persuasion want to make this verse speaking of unsaved, apostate teachers mean these apostate teachers deny the fact that they are covered by Christ's atonement rather denying the Lord who indeed covered their sin in His atonement. However, "buy" is used in the attributive position to modify "Lord," meaning "the-bought-them-Lord", making the text mean that it was the Lord and not some belief about the atonement that is denied. If anything, this text defends the unlimited atonement view, showing even apostate teachers are covered by Christ's death.
      7. Philippians 1:29 - Calvinists often treat this verse to mean God granted the Philippian believers the faith to believe the Gospel. However, the infinitive "to believe" is compounded with "to suffer," and God tests no man with such suffering, cf. James 1:13. Rather, as C. F. D. Moule's An Idiom-Book of N.T. Greek, p. 30-31 reveals that grammatically, it is not faith and suffering that are given, but the unspoken, elliptical idea of the opportunity to believe and to suffer (cf. J. B. Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 86, 106). Thus, this text does not teach an immediate gift from God (as in Calvinism) to believe.
    4. Having studied these things and numerous other significant words and Scripture texts, I arrived at the following stances in the unabridged manuscript:
      1. Where Calvinism, Moderate Calvinism, Amyraldianism and Arminianism all make election result in justification, I found the Bible teaches election deals with blessings that follow justification.
      2. Where Calvinists generally hold both the human will and nature to be totally corrupt in degree and extent, and where Arminians (and possibly Amyraldians) view human will and nature to be alike partly corrupt in amount but totally in extent, I found the Bible teaches the will to be separate from man's fallen nature so that the will is an incorruptible entity identifying man as still being in the image of God though fallen, cf. Gen. 9:6. However, the fallen nature in man is totally corrupt in degree and extent.
      3. In this way, man freely chooses to believe or reject God's revelation, whether it be only what He has revealed of Himself in nature (Romans 1:18-22) or the added special revelation of the Gospel, leading to man's eventually being totally and personally responsible for his eternal destiny. (I show that if man responds positively just to God's revelation in nature alone, God intends to get him the gospel to believe to be saved in his lifetime as is implied in Acts 17:24-30.) Yet, salvation itself is entirely of God's grace when one believes in the Gospel, it being God's sole work from beginning to end.
    5. In an epilog to the study, I explained why I am confident my view is accurate though it runs contrary to much scholarship of the last 1,500 years of Church History (as follows):
      1. I investigated historical authorities to find the problem began when Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, sought to defend the grace of God against Pelagian error by making God author even man's faith. This error arose out of Augustine's Neo-platonism that left man but a pantheistic extension of God Himself.
      2. In reaction to Augustine's position (as it was picked up and developed further by Luther and Calvin), Arminians have sought to give faith's authorship to man along with making faith a merit contributing to man's salvation work. However, this stand falls into the Pelagian error that counters God's grace.
      3. Thus, I concluded that Augustinian predestination that is laced by Neo-platonic pantheism to teach God author's man's saving faith must be corrected along with the Pelagio-Arminian error that faith and hence salvation is humanly meritorious. Opposite Augustinian thought, faith is totally authored by man, but opposite Pelagio-Arminian thought, faith has no salvation-producing work or merit so that God saves man separate from man's faith expression.
      4. I concluded the epilog by appealing to three authorities in Church History as credence to my findings:
        1. I cited Augustine himself who claimed: "Do not follow my writings as Holy Scripture. When you find in Holy Scripture anything you did not believe before, believe it without doubt; but in my writings, you should hold nothing for certain." (Ibid., Boice, p. 18. Boice cites Augustine's Preface to the Treatise on the Trinity.) Thus, we found Augustine's own view in need of correction!
        2. I also cited Martin Luther's pivotal stand on Protestant epistemology made at the Diet of Worms where he said: "Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or of councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen." (Bettenson, Henry, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, p. 282-283) In accord with Luther, my manuscript used manifest reasoning that is logically consistent to correct theological errors regarding the doctrine of divine election and predestination.
        3. I finally cited our Lord Jesus Christ, our Great Shepherd: in Matthew 5:18, He taught that every part of every letter of every word of Scripture is significant, and hence that we should interpret Scripture logically in accord with Webster's definition on logic provided earlier in this paper.
        4. Thus, I end the epilog, saying we "are confident our findings [of this work] stand true . . ."