Does Unconditional Election make God "a respecter of persons"?3
So, does the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional divine election and monergistic regeneration make God “a respecter of persons, arbitrary, and morally ambiguous”? Continue reading . . .
I recently came across this statement from Roger Olson, an evangelical Arminian theologian:
“From an Arminian perspective, if regeneration is monergistic (totally independent of any free human decision and irresistible) God would regenerate all people. Otherwise, if he selects a few to regenerate (the “elect”) he is a respecter of persons, arbitrary, and morally ambiguous if not monstrous (seeing that those he chooses not to regenerate are destined for hell)” (Roger Olson).
So, does the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional divine election and monergistic regeneration make God “a respecter of persons, arbitrary, and morally ambiguous”?
Or again, God is not impartial, say many Arminians, if he favors some with life but not all. He is guilty of showing partiality toward the elect.
Of course he is! That is what unconditional election is all about. But we should refrain from saying that God is “guilty” of being partial toward the elect because this kind of partiality is a virtue, not a vice. It is a divine prerogative for which God should be praised, not vilified. Let me explain what I mean.
To say that God is impartial means that he is not moved or motivated by human characteristics such as race or gender or color of hair or socio-economic achievements. When God set his electing love on some but not all, he was not influenced by wealth or power or beauty or education or skill or potential or any other human consideration. God favored the elect, God was partial toward them, because that is what he wanted to do. He was not obligated by anything in any person to show favor to anyone. If God grants preferential treatment to his elect it is solely because it pleases him to do so, and not because the elect distinguished themselves from the non-elect by fulfilling some condition, either spiritual or physical.
Scripture makes it ever so clear that there is nothing that makes one person to differ from another in the eyes of God. In every morally and spiritually relevant concern, all people are equal. No person in any morally or spiritually relevant way stands out as different from any other person, or manifests any feature or performs any deed or fulfills any condition that God is obligated to acknowledge or to which he must respond.
In that sense, therefore, God is utterly impartial when he chooses one but not another. The basis for this choice is not because of some distinctive element in the former which the latter lacks. No physical trait or spiritual virtue (or vice, for that matter), no financial or political achievement, nothing, dictates or determines God’s election of men and women to eternal life. This is just another way of saying that election is utterly of grace.
What is it, then, that dictates and determines God’s choice? God. He chooses one, but not another, because it pleases him to do so. Why that particular choice is more pleasing to God than another, or neither, is not revealed in Holy Scripture. That is simply the way God wants it, and so it shall be.
I’ve heard people say: “But I don’t agree with or care for God’s reason in choosing one person instead of another.” But what, may I ask, is that reason, the one of which you disapprove? I am not aware that Scripture provides such information. How can anyone object to the reason God elected one individual instead of another when no one knows what it is?
I can tell you what that reason is not. It is not anything having to do with either person, either foreseen or actual. God chooses one instead of another because it is pleasing to God, and that is all the reason he needs. This is the heart and soul of the doctrine of unconditional election, that God sovereignly decided to show love and favor toward some who did not deserve it, but not all, without regard to anything in either.
To sum up, God is partial toward the elect, but not because of the elect. He favors them with love and life, without regard for their life or love. He is, therefore, utterly impartial in the partiality he has for his own. This is just another way of saying that God unconditionally (impartially) loves (is partial toward) the elect.