Grudem and Newbigin Chat About Election

The following excerpt comes from JR Woodward’s new eBook A Missional View of Election: How a Robust View of Election Leads to a Holistic Gospel and Meaningful Missional Engagement.

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Grudem holds to the historical Calvinist view of unconditional election. It is unconditional election because “it is not conditioned upon anything that God sees in us that makes us worthy of his choosing us.” Both Grudem and Newbigin hold to God’s sovereign free choice in electing whom He chooses to elect. Newbigin, when discussing issues surrounding “ultimate authority,” is asked, “By what authority do you…” One of the reasons he cites is, “only because I have been laid hold of by Another, and commissioned to do so. It is not primarily or essentially my decision” (The Open Secret).  

Newbigin’s Question

While Grudem focuses on the “why” question: “Why did God choose us?” Newbigin focuses on the “what” question: “What is the purpose for which God has elected us?” This leads Newbigin from an orientation toward “us,” to an orientation toward “the other.” For Newbigin, election is God’s chosen method of bringing his blessing to the world (Hunsberger, Bearing the Witness of the Spirit)

Newbigin consistently seeks to fight what he considers a false idea of election – that it is about a privileged status before God. He persistently emphasizes that the nature of election is that God has called us to be bearers of the blessing, not exclusive beneficiaries. After asking the “what” question, Newbigin proceeds to the “why” question, but his “why” question is different than Grudem’s. It is “Why has God chosen this method of election?” instead of “Why has He chosen us?”

Newbigin gives three reasons why God has chosen the method of election to bring his blessing to the whole world. The first reason relates to the personal character of God, and that we are made in his image. The logic of election relates to the “inter-personal relatedness” which belongs to the very being of God, and because we are made in the image of that “being-in-relatedness,” it is logical that salvation for humans takes place in relationship. Second, the nature and destiny of humanity require election, as we will see in a moment. Third, the very nature of salvation, which God is working out in the world, demands it. In other words, why did God chose the method of election?

“It means that the gift of salvation would be bound up with our openness to one another. It would not come to each, direct from above, like a shaft of light through the roof. It would come from the neighbor in the action by which we open the door to invite the neighbor in. But the neighbor would have to be sent (Romans 10:14). There would have to be one called and chosen to be bearer of the blessing. The blessing is intended for all.”

Download the Entire eBook Here!

About the Author

JR Woodward


JR Woodward has been passionately planting churches on the East and West Coast that value tight-knit community, life-forming discipleship, locally-rooted presence and boundary-crossing mission for over 25 years. He is the author of Creating a Missional Culture (IVP, 2012) and co-author of The Church as Movement (IVP, 2016). He co-founded the Missio Alliance and currently serves as the National Director for the V3 Church Planting Movement. He is the co-founder of the Praxis Gathering and writes for numerous websites and journals. He has a Masters of Arts in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary and is working on his PhD at the University of Manchester (UK). He loves to surf, travel, read, skateboard and meet new people. He enjoys photography and film and tries to attend the Sundance Film Festival whenever he can.

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