Every biblical Christian must believe in divine election. The question throughout history has never been whether or not divine election in salvation is true or taught in the Scriptures. God’s thoughts on the issues are unquestionably clear. But even though the teachings of Scriptures on the issue of election are plain, the implications of divine election aren’t quite as clear. What is at stake in divine election? What is the controversy about?

I suppose the issue really is this: What does God value or prize more than He values the salvation of sinners in divine election? The reality about salvation is that it isn’t universal. All men are not and will not be saved. In other words, God does not value the rescue of all men from their sin above everything else in His character or will, or else all men would be saved. Salvation for the world would be universal, for nothing is impossible with God. So, if all men are not saved, then it becomes apparent that there must be something that God values more than he values the redemption of sinners. And here lies the issue that has been debated by godly men for hundreds of years: What does God value more than He values the rescue of perishing sinners from their sin? The Calvinist says that God values the revealing and display of His glory to all creation more than anything else. He seeks to display the full kaledioscope of His character to all of creation, and to achieve this goal He cannot value or shine the spotlight on any element of His character over or above another (namely, God desires to equally display His love, justice, wrath, righteousness, mercy, etc, rather than manifesting one characteristic as supreme over any of the others). The Arminian says that God’s desire to preserve the free will of men trumps His desire to save all men. God’s foreknowledge is the basis of His election and He preserves the sanctity of human freedom by electing those whom He foreknows (or foresees) will choose Him since God is not limited by the past,present or future.

In Chosen for Life, Sam Storms has presented an appealing, balanced, fair, and most of all, biblical argument for a Calvinistic understanding of divine election. One of the things I really appreaciated about Storms work is that it is extraordinarily clear and courteous. So often in the converstation about divine election those on either side of the debate (Calvinists, Ariminians and everyone in between) about election resort to spewing venom, articulating caricatures and labeling their opponent unfairly or unobjectively. Storms avoids this at all costs. Though a Calvinist, he seems eager to cast the Arminian position in the most positive light possible,  never resorting to name-calling or unhelpful caricatures. He is respectful in his dialogue and careful in the distinctions that he makes.

Storms is at his best with his patient and masterful exegesis of the biblical text. This is by far the most compelling part of this work. He is thoughtful in dealing with what the Gospels and Epistles say about election. Typically when someone is trying to prove a point they build their argument around the evidence that supports their position while either ignoring or minimizing any evidence that might controvert their position. To his credit, Storms doesn’t dodge verses which have historically been used to undermine a more Calvinistic understanding of divine election (such as 1Tim 2:3-4, 2Pet 3:9 and John 3:16). Once again, Storms tackles these texts with thoughtfulness, thoroughness and careful exegesis in an attempt to allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves.

One of the primary questions I carried into this book was whether or not Storms work is accessible for the common lay person. Thomas Schreiner was quoted as saying when his “students have asked me for a concise, clear, pastoral and practical explanation of election, I have said that [this book] is my top choice.”  But most church members aren’t seminary students. Saying this is a good book for a seminary student isn’t the same thing as saying it is a good book for the typical church member. I have friends within my own congregation that want to think more deeply about this issue, so I read this book with them in mind.

All in all I think that Storms book is accessible for the common lay person, if by common you mean someone who loves Jesus and His Word. In other words, church members who are moderate to serious students of God’s Word will be able to navigate Chosen for Life – but not without effort. It requires a thoughtful, discerning reader. The casual church member who only opens his/her bible when they visit their church campus will find Storms work difficult. While it isn’t an “academic” work, casual readers of Scripture will likely be quickly overwhelmed. The reason for this is that while Storms does an excellent job in his explanations with the use of illustrations and re-stating difficult ideas, you can’t simply browse this work  with an expectation to understand precisely what is being said.

In closing I think the best thing I can say about Storms work is not what it contributed to my knowledge of divine election, but the effect of the what the Scriptures say about election had on my heart. This past Sunday I attended worship with my wife’s family in Greenville, SC. As we began to sing Jesus Paid It All my heart was filled with praise, adoration and utter humility that the Son of God would set aside His glory with the Father in order to rescue sinners like me. As I sang my mind and heart begin surveying the biblical texts that I had spent most of the week meditating on as I read through Chosen for Life. I thought about the fact that “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt 11:27); “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” (John 6:65); “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28-29); “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:3-6). The reality that God had set His affection upon me before the foundation of the world came alive in my heart as I confessed through song that I owe everything to Jesus. I sang with tears of joy as I worshipped God, humbled by the reality that apart from God’s electing love I would have remained dead in my trespasses and sins. The only reason that I had any love for God in my heart at that moment was because of the grace of God that made me alive in Jesus!  It was a beautiful moment of worship that confirmed that I can only know and love God fully when I know truth about God as He really is.

I would recommend this work to anyone, whether Calvinistic, Arminian or somewhere in between, who wants a better understanding of what the Scripture teaches about divine election. Those who read it will be encouraged, challenged and pointed toward the all-surpassing worth of God.

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