57. Doesn't the doctrine of unconditional election make people into robots?
The objection that God's absolute sovereignty in his choice of individuals for salvation or condemnation makes them into mere robots misunderstands and minimizes the glory of his power. God does not need to “put a gun to someone's head” or truss someone up with puppet strings to get his will done. He is so glorious a Creator and so wise in his providence that, as difficult a time as we have comprehending it, he can work all of his flawless and righteous designs through the willful choices of the wicked; and he can likewise perform his powerful work of sanctification through the freed and re-created wills of weak and sinful recipients of mercy.
Examples of the former truth appear all throughout the bible, for example in the case of Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 50:20); Haman, whose evil construction of a gallows God sovereignly used to deliver the people for whom it was prepared by destroying their enemy (the book of Esther); Job, who was purified by the willfully antagonistic actions of the devil, etc.; yet the clearest example is the cross, where “there were gathered together in truth, against your holy child Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do as many things as your hand and your decree predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). In other words, God is sovereign to accomplish his will through those whom he has predestined for judgment; but his purpose is accomplished through their willfully wicked actions (see also Acts 2:22-24).
The latter truth, that God does not mechanically force anyone to receive his grace, but works upon him to embrace free mercy in Christ with all his heart and will, is equally clear in the bible: when God chooses persons for salvation, he does not mechanically make their heart of stone acknowledge him with forced and empty words; he instead regenerates them, gives them a heart of flesh, creates in them a willingness to believe and embrace the Savior (see Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26-27; 37:3-6, 11-14; John 1:11-13; 3:3-8; 5:21; Eph. 2:1-5; Jam. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 2:29; 5:1). His power is greater than the makers of computers and robots – he makes willing hearts, creates anew souls of fervent praise, calls forth the dead and makes them alive. We cannot accomplish our wills through another agent without coercion or forced constraint; but God is greater than we, and he can accomplish his eternal purpose through agents who work willfully and are morally responsible for all their actions. His people will not be forced to praise him; but as the psalmist says, “Your people will offer themselves up willingly in the day of your power” (Psalm 110:3). What power that is!
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