“The doctrine of unconditional election violates the impartiality of God. If God chooses some over others irrespective of their faith, he is playing favoritism.”
God is impartial (2 Sam. 14:14; 2 Chron. 19:7; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rom. 2:11). What does this mean? At the anointing of David instead of Saul, the Lord rebuked Samuel and said, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7)” Peter cried out at after the vision concerning Gentile inclusion, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35)” James echoes both of them when he admonished, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (James 2:1)” John MacArthur said, “An attribute of God that is not thought or spoken of often is His impartiality. Yet this is a serious and recurring theme throughout Scripture. God is absolutely impartial in His dealings with people. And in that way, as with His other attributes, He is unlike us. Human beings, even Christians, are not naturally inclined to be impartial. We tend to put people in pigeonholes, in predetermined, stratified categories, ranking them by their looks, their clothes, their race or ethnicity, their social status, their personality, their intelligence, their wealth and power, by the kind of car they drive, and by the type of house and neighborhood they live in. But all of those things are non-issues with God, of no significance or meaning to Him whatsoever.” God does esteem what we sinfully esteem. The grace of God takes no notice of social standing, intelligence, or works.
God does not show favoritism. Does the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election violate this clear, biblical teaching? What is the doctrine? Unconditional election is a work of God before the creation of the world in which he chooses some people to be saved; not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because his sovereign good pleasure (Deut. 7:6; Neh. 9:7; Hag. 2:23; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30, 9; Eph. 1:4-6). Election is always to the holiness of the individual (Eph. 1:4-6; 1 Thess. 1:4-7; Col. 3:12-17; 1 Pet. 1:2), is a reason to praise God (2 Thess. 2:13), is a comfort to the believer amidst suffering (Rom. 8:28-30), and is an incentive for evangelism (2 Tim. 2:10; Acts 18:9-10). Before the creation of the world, God also decided to pass over some in the redemption of humanity leaving them eternally in their fallen state (Prov.16:4; Jude 4; Rom. 9:17-22, 11:7; 1 Pet. 2:8; Rev.13:7-8, 17:8). Because salvation is a gift of grace and mercy, he has done no wrong in leaving some in their fallen state (Grudem, 670-680).
Is there a tension here? Maybe. Is there a contradiction? I do not think so. Many problems in theology stem from misunderstandings concerning various doctrines. I think this is an example of one. The doctrine of unconditional election does not make God into a school-yard lad who picks his friends over others. How can I say that? The school-yard lad shows favoritism by choosing his friends based upon certain qualities they possess. This is not the case with God. Understanding the grounds of the election removes the problem. When Reformed people say that election is unconditional, they mean that there is no condition within the agent being saved that inclines or makes God choose them. A person’s goodness (or badness), a person’s beauty (or ugliness), a person’s money (or poverty), a person’s social standing (or disenfranchisement), and a person’s intelligence (or ignorance) are all not the reason God choose you before the foundation of the earth. The reason lies not in the person being chosen but the One choosing.
The problem is a failure to recognize that a distinction is not necessarily an unfair discrimination. God is no more obligated to save everyone anymore than a philanthropist is obligated to give all his earnings to every charity instead of specific ones. God gives injustice to no one. To one class of people, he gives justice by passing over them in their sinful state and to the other class, he gives grace and mercy. The grace and mercy are not cheapened because they were not given to everyone. Grace and mercy are by definition undeserved. Furthermore, justice is treating all people appropriately; not treating every person in the exact same way.