Into the Book

3

Chosen by God - R.C. Sproul

Recommended
R.C. Sproul, a Reformed theologian, has really written an amazing book in Chosen by God. I picked up the book supposing it had something to do with predestination (The idea that God chooses who will be saved) but in reality it covers so much more than that.

As I said, Mr. Sproul is a Reformed theologian, and I, as a fifteen year old, know very little about the Calvinism-Arminian debate. I do know that they disagree on certain points, such as predestination, among other things. After reading this book, at least I have a clearer vision of some of what Calvinists believe and why, and I have to say that what Mr. Sproul says in this book makes sense.

He opens the book with a brief introduction to predestination, and his personal story about how he became a Calvinist. Chapter two begins with Mr. Sproul’s definition of predestination,
“Predestination means that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God before we are even born.”
He then continues to say that God is sovereign, and that if God were not sovereign, then he would not be God. Bouncing off of this, the author points out that all Christians, Armenian or Calvinist, face the question of why God doesn’t save everyone when he could, being a sovereign God. Even though God could, he doesn’t owe salvation to everyone. God’s mercy is voluntary. All of us deserve death and the fact that some of us receive salvation is a blessing.

Chapter three is entitled predestination and free will. This does bring up problems, because how can man’s free will be preserved while at the same time God decree who is saved and who isn’t? What is free will? It is the ability to make choices according to our desires. Sproul concludes, therefore, that we struggle with choices we have to make in life because our desires are always changing. And fallen Man, he continues, has the ability to make choices but has no ability to make morally right choices. We cannot come to Christ unless we have help from God.

In chapter four the author answers the question that many non-Calvinists often ask, “How can our sinful nature be inherited from Adam?” He then proceeds to answer this question, but I won’t say much about his answer because it is very much an indirect answer and hard to summarize. But what about things inside Calvinist doctrine that seem to contradict each other. Over the next chapter or two Mr. Sproul takes the famous acrostic TULIP and explains why certain points of it are not accurate, so that they fit into the acrostic. Until God makes us alive, we are spiritually dead. Not very ill, but dead to Christ. So, our salvation can only come if God initiates it. Without this rebirth no one will come to Christ, but all who are reborn will come to Christ. Unless God makes people alive, they remain dead.
“Salvation is of the Lord”

Most Christians who reject Reformed views of predestination adopt foreknowledge (which Reformed people do as well…see below), or the theory that God knew which humans would accept Christ so he chose them, knowing what choice they would make in their life about Christ. Foreknowledge, however, makes redemption a human work. As a matter of fact, the very verse which supporters of foreknowledge use as a basis for their view shows that our justification depends on God. Foreknowledge is a part of Calvinist doctrine however, but they believe that foreknowledge is a relationship God has with his people, a relationship that existed even before we were created!

Mr. Sproul could have finished the book right here, but in Chapter 7 he jumps into the frightening double predestination, or the question, “If God predestines some people to salvation, does he make the others sin so that they go to hell?” Sproul’s answer is NO. God does not create sin in the hearts of sinners. And it is not unjust for God to not save everyone. Some people receive grace, and go to heaven. And the others receive justice, what they deserve, and go to hell. There is no injustice there. However, who God chooses is not arbitrary, but comes from his holy character.

How can we conclude that we are saved. In chapter eight Sproul concludes that if we aren’t assured of our salvation, then we will not grow as a believer and we are hit by doubts from every side. God tells us to make our salvation sure, and to find the comfort and strength that He offers in assurance. This finding of assurance is a privilege we are given, but a duty as well. Coming off of this question is another that the author also answers, “Can a true believer ever lose his salvation?” Mr. Sproul says no. Christians can fall at times, often great leaders can fall into terrible sins, but never completely back into the sin in which we all once were. We all persevere, not under our own strength, but because of God’s preserving grace.

The last chapter touches upon several remaining questions about predestination, but I feel the most important of them is this, “What does predestination do about evangelism?” Christ commands us to evangelize, the author says, and that should settle the matter right there. But not only is this a duty we have to do, but it’s also a privilege, God allowing us to take a part in the work of redemption going on around the world!

All in all, this book answered several big questions I’d had (Notably, the evangelism one) and while I won’t say I’m a Calvinist (Because still, I don’t know as much about the two views as I think I need to decide) I do agree with what R.C. Sproul says in this book, and I highly encourage other teenagers to read it as well. And just bouncing off of that (and onto the Do Hard Things soapbox) we’re at a time in our life when we are old enough to think about what we really do believe (as opposed to four and five year old children who know nothing about predestination). So I think that books like this are important for us to read, scary as they seem, because we need to decide what we believe about these different things. Just a thought.

Andrew J. is the founder of Into the Book and keeps the site up and running. He is an avid reader and loves to write as well as read new books. He is a part of the Rebelution movement, a teenage rebellion against low expectations.

3 comments:

  1. Hey everyone,
    My paragraph in this book review about foreknowledge isn't the clearest in the world. I would appreciate discussion in the comments specifically about this...as I didn't completely understand the chapter in the book.

    In Him,
    Uriah

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  2. I am participating in a Bible study on the book, "Ten Lies About God" by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, and in "Lie 5:God is obligated to Save Followers of Other Religions" he explores the issues of predestination, foreknowledge and a third concept in which "He credits their sin to Christ's account even though they do not know this to be the case - though eventually they will." For example: "The Savior accepts the sincere Hindu or Buddhist who meets Christ only at death. Just like children, who many believe are saved without personal faith in Christ, others from diverse religions are saved though they have not explicitly believed in Him."
    Personally, I believe that God does know,perhaps from the instant we are conceived (Psalm 139:13 - 16)if we are and will be His unto eternity. It is dreadful to think that God would even pre-judge an unborn fetus to eternal death...but one of the attributes of God is His wrath. I believe that those He does choose are instrumental in His Plan for eternity; and even unbelievers can evangelize to the truth (The Lord works in mysterious ways). All our lives bring glory to God (He is jealous for it), whether for good or for ill...in one way or another our countenance will demonstrate his unapproachable Light or His condemning wrath.
    It's a very complex topic and it is distressing to think that some people we think of as good, may not be chosen by God at all. But only God can see the hearts of man, where judgment truly lies.

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  3. May I add that I am a God-fearing follower of Christ...born a Roman Catholic, turned agnostic for a season, became a seeker, followed Pentecostal teaching, accepted Presbyterian PCA reformed-Calvinist teaching and am now a member of the Episcopal Church (though I have problems with its blanket acceptance of all who profess Christ). All I can say is, we are all trying to find our way in this world and, until we all dive into the Scriptures and discover its truths for ourselves, there's no telling who God will pluck out of the refiner's fire - who will be seen as old chunks of coal or treasured like pure gold. As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, His rod punishes and His staff corrects and the dross is ever falling away. I am not sure if I wear the right "label of religion" but "He's Not Finished with Me Yet."

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