Norman Shepherd Begins By Telling Us Not to Talk about Election
The ultimate way we can tell people that the gospel is “outside of you” is to tell them that the gospel they MUST believe excludes even this believing as the condition of salvation. The only condition of
salvation for the elect is Christ’s death for the elect.
No debated language about the objectivity of “covenants” or “sacraments” should be allowed to obscure this gospel truth. Unless you preach that Christ died only for the elect, no matter how
confessional you are, you will end up encouraging people to make faith into that little something that makes the difference between life and death!
I am not looking for another discussion about Calvin and Luther on the extent of the atonement. I am also looking for something ambiguous enough for influential people to sign in some “alliance” or “coalition”.. I am asking us if we believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved. Or has this doctrine become too “rationalistic” for us?
Would that doctrine perhaps take the grace of God out of the hands of those who hand out the “means of grace” and locate grace with the Father who has chosen a people and given them to Christ? (Romans 11:4-6) Would the doctrine of effective atonement take the starch out of those who thank God for how much changed their “hearts and souls” are?
I want more sermons about God’s love being found in the propitiation accomplished by Christ. Out there, back then!
Election is God’s love. When the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we only stipulate that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed. Instead a James Boice (sermons on Psalm 22) will turn the gospel into law, and tell sinners that the atonement was for them but they “ruined” it for themselves.
A propitiation for the elect which is also the same and enough for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. Does the Neo-Calvinist love the gospel of election, or does he hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but is the church the Norman Shepherd church of elect who become the non-elect? The Shepherd gospel is not first of all about future justification by works. It starts with the idea of talking about “covenant” instead of “election”, about water baptism instead of regeneration.
The Neo-Calvinist does not talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. He won’t even talk about Christ not dying for those who don’t put their trust in Him. The Neo-Calvinist wants you to give yourself to Christ without knowing anything about election.
The Neo-Calvinist will even defend this non-election gospel as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect. I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is NOT our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth’s wonderful book against preparationism– Glad Tidings).
But this is no excuse for leaving the Bible doctrine of election out of the doctrine of propitiation by Christ’s death there and then on the cross. We can and should teach the doctrine of election. The Bible doctrine of election does not teach unbelievers that they are elect, nor does the Bible doctrine of election teach unbelievers that they can find out if they are elect without or before believing,
The glory of God does not depend on human decisions, and the gospel must not become a hostage to collaborations with evangelicals who in the name of universal atonement condition salvation on what God does in the sinner.