58. Doesn't the doctrine of unconditional election hinder evangelism and missions?
Another objection that is often raised against the doctrine of unconditional election is that it hinders evangelism and missions. After all, if only the elect will come to faith, why should we evangelize everyone? In fact, if we cannot change anyone's heart, why evangelize at all? Should we not just repeat what John Ryland supposedly said to the zealous (and Calvinistic!) missionary Wlliam Carey: “Sit down, young man; when God wants to convert the heathen, he'll do it without your help and mine.”?
This objection has a twofold response: first, and most fundamentally, Christ has commanded us to evangelize all the nations (e.g. Mat. 28:18-20), and we do not have the option to refuse to obey our Lord because of our lack of understanding of his ways. And besides, the scriptures assure us that, even though God will certainly call out all his elect (and only his elect) from every nation, he will always do so only through the gospel-proclamation of his word (Rom. 10:13-17). He is not only sovereign over the end (the salvation of the elect), but also over the means to that end (the preaching of the word).
But even beyond this, the fact is that, apart from God's unconditional election, evangelism and missions would be utterly hopeless. Naturally, there is none who is capable of obeying the gospel, believing in Christ, understanding the things of the Spirit, or seeking God (John 3:3, 27; 6:44, 65; 8:43-45; 10:26; 12:37-41; 14:17; 1 Cor 2:14; Rom. 3:10-11); so then, the doctrine of God's sovereign election, which overcomes those impossible barriers, is a necessary foundation for missions. Thus, when Paul was discouraged by opposition in Corinth, God comforted him by reminding him that he had already chosen many people in that city (Acts 18:9-10). The truth that with men salvation is impossible would be a hindrance to evangelism were it not for the truth of God's unconditional election, which does the impossible (see Matthew 19:26).
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