Colloquium presents debate of predestination vs. free will

By Ryan Hoover

Among the theological debates heard around Union’s campus, none is more prevalent than the fundamental discussion of predetermined salvation and the free will of humans.

The School of Theology and Mission’s Fall Colloquium hosted a forum pertaining to these two spiritual concepts expressed throughout the Bible.

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, presented a hybrid of the two opposing sides titled the “eternal now” model of election, arguing that each side has aspects that are biblically supported.

“I wanted to be able to expound every verse with confidence that I would not have to ignore those passages which are problematic    to one view or the other,” Land said.

Land began his argument by audaciously stating his belief in the biblical truths expressed in both predestination and free will.

“I believe there are two truths which allow us to construct a congruent or ‘eternal now’ model of election which resolves the tension,” Land said.

The first truth Land debated was the distinction between “Abrahamic election” and “salvation election.” Abrahamic election explains how God chose the Jews to be his chosen people, but is unrelated to eternal salvation.

Salvation election encompasses Jews and Gentiles and reveals the elective purpose of each individual to come to salvation. Land said the New Testament explains how salvation election is “intertwined with and connected to a foreknowledge” in humans.

He quoted Romans 8:29–30: “For those who He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified, and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Land said the second truth is the understanding of God in relation to time. Even Land, a University of Princeton and Oxford University graduate, claimed reading and understanding time continuum is complicated.

While Land noted the concept of God as omnipresent is widely accepted among the Christian community, he proposes a more detailed descriptor.

“If God is God, He must be eternal and living in the ‘eternal now,’” Land said. “But what if the Bible is saying, ‘Not only does God know everything, but He also experiences all things.’ This makes God ‘omniexperince.’”

He went on to say God has experienced every moment with each individual throughout time, and thus is the meaning of the biblical term “foreknowledge.”

While predestination is strongly supported in Land’s arguments, freewill seems to be a side note. The fact that those individuals who are predestined must choose Christ and accept Him to be their Savior is the simplest evidence. To Land, freewill is the difference between “must” and “will” be saved or “will not” and “cannot” be saved.

Land continued by adding his modified version of the Synod of Dort’s T.U.L.I.P., which is titled D.E.S.I.R.E. and is the name of his upcoming book.

The acrostic illustrates the “eternal now” model: the “D” stands for disabling depravity; the first “E” stands for eternal election; the “S” stands for sufficient salvation; the “I” stands for initiatory call; the “R” stands for regenerative grace; the second “E” stands for eternal security.
“Desire” comes from the first book of Timothy where Paul says God has a desire that “all men be saved” and come to the “knowledge of truth.”

While a majority of Land’s lecture was on original material, he took time to focus on something people in Union’s community would recognize: David Platt’s newest book “Radical.”

Land praised the book for some of its proclamations but pointed out a passage on pages 66–72 with which he disagrees. Platt’s main point is revealed on page 70.

“If ‘God loves me’ is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? God loves me. Me. Christianity’s object is ‘me,’” Platt wrote.

While Platt criticizes this viewpoint, Land said he disagreed with Platt’s explanation and claimed the Gospel is about Christ’s sacrifice for us.

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