Narnia… Election and Free Will

I think that C.S. Lewis states the dilemma of Election and Free Will quite accurately in his book The Silver Chair. He outlines the basic question of how can they both be present and then describes how it is so in a conversation between Jill and Aslan. Jill wonders how Aslan could say he called her when she called him. Aslan begins,

“”But your task will be the harder because of what you have done.”

“Please, what task, Sir?” said Jill.

“The task for which I called you and him here out of your own world.”

This puzzled Jill very much…

“I was wondering – I mean – could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and [Eustace], you know. It was we who asked to come here. [Eustace] said we were to call to [you]… and perhaps [you] would let us in. And we did, and then we found the door open.”

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling you,” said the Lion.”¹

In this excerpt Aslan describes how he calls us when we call him. It is a wonder at the complicity of this concept yet, Lewis does a wonderful job at showing the simplicity of the real matter. It is God who calls us and so we call to him with our own free will.

¹ – C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair pp. 22-23 [Italics added for purpose of highlighting topic]

Good Works and Free Will

Good works, apart from Christ, are worthless. As Isaiah says in chapter 64, ” all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”. This is why I think that without Christ Jesus, none of our “good” works are really all that good. When religions say that you can “work” your way to heaven by making sure that your “good” acts outweigh your bad ones, I say that their good acts are really bad ones? Why do I say that? Well, because when they do the good acts they are not doing them out of love. They are doing them out of self-preservation. They are doing them so that “I can go to heaven”. I also think that when a good act occurs it has nothing to do with the individual. Philippians 2:13 says that “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Therefore it is really God who is doing the good act and it it only the individual displaying it. God willed the individual to desire to do the good work. Therefore, when and individual displays a good work it is really God who is doing it. This means that an individual does nothing and God does everything and therefore the individual’s salvation by works is controlled by the One and Only.

You may wonder how then we have free will. Well, and again I cannot say “this is what it is”, but I can take a shot (and this is not necessarily what I believe, but is the only way I can explain it when going through with this thought train). We have free will; and when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden they had free will to choose God’s ways or Their ways. And when they chose the bad option, they lost their privilege of free will. They became enslaved to the sinful nature and no longer had the power to choose good. But God can and does! And He chose every elected individual and enabled them to have the privilege of free will again (no longer enslaved by the sinful nature). Now that we are in Christ we can choose good once again! Only by his grace, however, are we able to do this.

Another thought, we have free will (even when we are enslaved) in the sense that we can and do make decisions everyday (neutral decisions).

With this thought train it seems that free will and election are both possible when coexistent.

Election and predestination

Really these controversial doctrines, are quite amazing if you think about it. As a Christian, basic doctrines such as believing that Christ saved us for 0ur sins and nothing else, are essential. I would like to suggest that election is essential. If, we chose Christ by our own will, then we could claim (although most of us won’t) that we have made our way into heaven that we have found forgiveness of sins; if we had not found Christ we would have gone to hell. In other words Christ saves us for 99%, but, we contribute to saving us by 1% because we accepted Him. Election, however, eliminates any possibility for us to claim we saved ourselves. Not only did Christ save us by dying on the cross for our sins and coming to life again, He also chose us to accept Him and ask forgiveness. We do not have a say in this. Yes, we do the act of speaking out desire for Christ, but, God gives this desire in us (Ephesians 1:9). He prompts us to accept Christ. Not only does Christ get the credit for doing the 99%, He also claims the 1%. He accepts us. Therefore, we cannot brag in our living in Christ because we did not do anything to deserve it or help in any way to get it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Now you, and I too did once, may be thinking that this is cruel. God favors one to another. This is an easy trap to step in. We have to remember that none of us deserve anything good. And to assume that God favors one to another is wrong because, that is assuming that we all should be equally treated by God. None of us deserve to be treated by God in any way ( this is because of our sinful nature).

If you were to ask a person who has not accepted Jesus (or may I say that Jesus has not yet entered into), you would never see any progress in them for the rest of their life towards Jesus if they were not part of the elect. They may become interested but they would never accept Christ. Being on the “not elected” list does not mean that the person wants to follow Christ, but can’t because they aren’t on the right list. No,  they do not want to be on the right list.

If you were to tell a person (who is not a Christian, at least not yet) that God elects people to believe in Him, I would suggest that you would get multiple reactions. Some I would guess, would scoff at you and your “unjust god”. They would say “what kind of god would not let everyone go into heaven?”. Another would probably wonder if he were an elect, not care and go on in life thinking that if God were to claim Him, God could do it at any time, but until then he would just keep living life how he wanted. And finally, there would be a person who would wonder if he were part of the elect, and then try to find out more. He would worry if he were part of the elect, and might ask God. I would suggest that he would be part of the elect, that God is working in him at that moment. The other two groups, might or might not be, maybe God would work in their hearts later at a better time. My point being, that those who are not part of the elect, really won’t care about not being part of the elect while they are on this earth. This is contrary to how we might think.

My last point that I would like to make, has to do with missions, and sharing your faith. Many will see election as an excuse to not share the Gospel. This simply is not true as we have no idea who is and who isn’t part of the elect. Meaning that the elect do not start out on the “sunny side” of things. God may work in them to accept Him by using you! You may counter, that if God elects people then He will find a way eventually, therefore why waste your time. If that thought just crossed your mind, then I would like to suggest that you need to rethink things. If you don’t care about the lost, then you need to do a major study on hell, heaven, forgiveness, and love. Also, if I am wrong on this idea of election, then anyone can come to Christ and you just blew your life away thinking that they were going to be fine, and you are now responsible (to some extent) for them being in hell.

Please remember that these are just my thoughts, and no one can really know the mind of God. However, I believe that God has made it clear that there is an elect to some extent. The book of Ephesians talks a lot about this.

Are you part of the elect?

Declarations….. Lesslie Newbigin

“Newbigin stands among those who search for the purpose of election. It is to him a betrayal of trust for believers when their minds ‘are concerned more to probe backwards from their election into the reasons for it in the secret counsel of God than to press forward from their election to the purpose for it, which is that they should be Christ’s ambassadors and witnesses to the ends of the earth.’…

Fundamental to Newbigin’s perspective, then, is his conviction that election is about the purpose God intends by the choice, not the reason God has for making the choice…. It is so that we are reminded that election is “not special privileges but special responsibility.”

– George R. Hundsberger, Bearing the Witness of he Spirit: Lesslie Newbigin’s Theology of Cultural Plurality