Chosen by God – R.C. Sproul
There are few doctrines as difficult and controversial as the Doctrine of Unconditional Election. As we have seen through our study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, our understanding of this weighty truth invariably effects the way in which we understand salvation, God’s sovereignty, his activity in this world and his dealings with men and women.
Essentially, the Doctrine of Unconditional Election teaches that God, in eternity past, predestined (i.e. chose in advance) some for salvation apart from any good work they might do. In other words, this Doctrine teaches that God takes the decisive action in our salvation. Unsurprisingly, many find this unsettling and some find such a notion to be outrageous.
Historically then, the Church has divided along this line, Calvinists on the one side and Arminians on the other.
Chosen by God is perhaps the clearest and most readable defence of the Doctrine of Unconditional Election available. Dr Sproul, a skilled theologian, explores this Doctrine, firstly from a historical perspective, then philosophically and, finally, and most importantly, from a Biblical perspective.
In dealing with the historical backdrop to this doctrine, Dr Sproul is careful to show that ‘Reformed theology’ did not originate with the Reformers. We find then that both Augustine and Thomas Aquinas argued for the Doctrine of Unconditional Election. This is important. One should be exceedingly wary of theological and doctrinal innovation. In addition, there is a balance in all of this. Dr Sproul generously cites those significant historical figures who held opposing views.
The central section gives consideration to the Doctrine of Unconditional Election from a philosophical standpoint and it is here that Dr Sproul is most eloquently persuasive. Dr Sproul confronts and dismantles opposing views by pushing them to their logical extreme. Most particularly, great attention is given to arguments which privilege free-will. Dr Sproul defends Unconditional Election with skill, great care and good humour. Indeed, this book is written with a general reader in view and Dr Sproul’s tone is typically brash and avuncular.
The final section is, quite rightly, the most important part and Dr Sproul gives considerable attention to drawing out the passages of Scripture that most clearly express the Doctrine of Unconditional Election. There is transparency and balance in Dr Sproul’s approach in that he deliberately tackles difficult issues (for example, in Chapter Seven, ‘Is Predestination Double?’) and a selection of verses that do not directly help his argument.
In the final part, Dr Sproul directly tackles, ‘Questions and Objections Concerning Predestination’. Again, Dr Sproul is thorough and generous, it does not appear that he is cherry-picking the simple questions or caricaturing his opponents and his tone is warm and reasoned which leads me to my final point.
This book is intended to be helpful and this is exceedingly important. Too often weighty and controversial matters are used as an excuse to exercise the intellect or to argue pointlessly. Chosen By God, however, takes is topic exceedingly seriously and presents its arguments with considerable care. Dr Sproul believes this matter to be important and profitable for believers.
Dr Sproul believes that the Doctrine of Unconditional Election brings encouragement and assurance to the believer. More importantly, however, Dr Sproul understands that these weighty truths, when rightly understood, magnify the infinite glory of Christ: we were saved by him, to ‘the praise of his glorious grace’.
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