The Two Sides of Election

A struggle for many people in discussions about election is not that God chooses some for salvation but that God chooses others for a future separate from God. For the last few years, this has been a difficulty for me. This summer, I was able to study the Canons of Dort which where this two-fold approach of election (chosen either for eternity in heaven or hell) is most prominently put on display in the Reformed tradition. For many in this tradition, there is where they may stray from affirming the standards of our denomination. Many people have tried to make sense of this by suggesting that God only elects those to salvation; the others, God does not destined for hell, they just are not elect. I do not see how this makes sense though. Maybe it’s similar to the doctrine of double effect in ethics in which one distinguishes between intention and consequence. God intends the elect for heaven; because God does not intend the non-elect to go to hell, it is simply a consequence of God’s actions. But at the end of such an analogy, I am forced to ponder whether it makes a difference in this scenario or not. Because God is sovereign, God knows both his intention in election and the consequences that come with it. There can be no distinction in relation to God because God knows the consequences. It seems logical then to be forced to conclude that because God elects some for salvation, that God must also elect others to damnation. This is a hard pill to swallow. But it follows the trajectory of God’s sovereignty and God’s election. We see this in the example of the Israelites and Canaanites in the Old Testament. The Israelites are God’s elect; the Canaanites are not, nor is written thought that they were elected to damnation. But as non-elect, the Canaanites are actually elected to damnation, which we see when the Israelites drive the Canaanites out of the land.

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