Boettner on numbers of the elect vs. non-elect

Status
Not open for further replies.

Sherwin L.

Puritan Board Freshman
So I've been making my way through Boettner's classic, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, and have found it to be an enjoyable read so far. But I've found myself scratching my head after reading this passage under the section entitled 'Many are Chosen' in the chapter on unconditional election (emphasis mine):

When the doctrine of Election is mentioned many people immediately assume that this means that the great majority of mankind will be lost. But why should any one draw that conclusion? God is free in election to choose as many as He pleases, and we believe that He who is infinitely merciful and benevolent and holy will elect the great majority to life. There is no good reason why He should be limited to only a few. We are told that Christ is to have the preeminence in all things, and we do not believe that the Devil will be permitted to emerge victor even in numbers.

Our position in this respect has been very ably stated by Dr. W. G. T. Shedd in the following words: "Let it be noticed that the question, how many are elected are how many are reprobated, has nothing to do with the question whether God may either elect or reprobate sinners. If it is intrinsically right for Him either to elect or not to elect, either to save or not to save free moral agents who by their own fault have plunged themselves into sin and ruin, numbers are of no account in establishing the rightness. And if it is intrinsically wrong, numbers are of no account in establishing wrongness... At the same time it relieves the solemnity and awfulness which overhangs the decree of reprobation, to remember that the Scriptures teach that the number of the elect is much greater than that of the non-elect."

I'm having a hard time seeing how this doesn't contradict Matthew 7:13-14 and Matthew 22:14 (many called, few chosen). Perhaps I'm reading the chapter wrong, but I'm baffled why Boettner and Shedd would make such statements, given the plainness of Christ's word in the gospels. Is there really Scriptural support that the elect outnumber the non-elect?
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
I guess one answer would be to point out that the passages which you reference speak of those who receive the outward call. If there is potentially a great number of the elect among those who do not receive the outward call (i.e., those who die in infancy), then even a reading of such passages as references to the number of the elect does not necessitate that the elect constitute a minority of humanity throughout history.

That being said, here is Dr. Boettner's answer from the same work:

But, it may be asked, do not the verses, "Narrow is the gate, and straightened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it," and, "Many are called, but few chosen," Matt 7:14; Matt 22:14, teach that many more are lost than saved? We believe these verses are meant to be understood in a temporal sense, as describing the conditions which Jesus and His disciples saw existing in Palestine in their day. The great majority of the people about them were not walking in the ways of righteousness, and the words are spoken from the standpoint of the moment rather than from the standpoint of the distant Judgment Day. In these words we have presented to us a picture which was true to life as they saw it, and which would, for that matter, describe the world as it has been even up to the present time. But, asks Dr. Warfield, "As the years and centuries and ages flow on, can it never be—is it not to be—that the proportion following 'the two ways' shall be reversed?"

These verses are also designed to teach us that the way of salvation is a way of difficulty and of sacrifice, and that it is our duty to address ourselves to it with diligence and persistence. No one is to assume his salvation as a matter of course. Those who enter into the kingdom of heaven do so through many tribulations; hence the command, "Strive to enter in by the narrow door," Luke 13:24. The choice in life is represented as a choice between two roads,—one is broad, smooth, and easy to travel, but leads to destruction. The other is narrow and difficult, and leads to life. "There is no more reason to suppose that this similitude teaches that the saved shall be fewer than the lost than there is to suppose that the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1ff) teaches that they shall be precisely equal in number; and there is far less reason to suppose that this similitude teaches that the saved shall be few comparatively to the lost than there is to suppose that the parable of the Tares in the corn (Matt 13:24ff) teaches that the lost shall be inconsiderable in number in comparison with the saved—for that, indeed, is an important part of the teaching of that parable."[31] And we may add that there is no more reason to suppose that this reference to the two ways teaches that the number of the saved shall be fewer than the number of the lost than there is to suppose that the parable of the lost sheep teaches that only one out of a hundred goes astray and that even it shall eventually be brought back, which would indeed be absolute restorationism.
(The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, pp. 139-140)
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
For one thing, perhaps at the most basic level, you have to remember that Boettner is speaking as a postmillennialist. It is in that context that he makes that statement.
 

KGP

Puritan Board Freshman
Spurgeon has said something similar...

"“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west,
and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the
kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast
out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of
teeth” Matthew 8:11, 12.

“. . . my text hath a yet greater depth of sweetness, for it says that “many shall come and shall sit down.” Some narrow-minded bigots think that heaven will be a very small place, where there will be a very few people, who went to their chapel or their church. I confess, I have no wish for a very small heaven, and love to read in the Scriptures that there are many mansions in my Father’s house. How often do I hear people say, “Ah! strait is the gate and narrow is the way, and few there be that find it. There will be very few in heaven; there will be most lost.”
My friend I differ from you. Do you think that Christ will let the devil beat him? that he will let the devil have more in hell than there will be in heaven? No: it is impossible. For then Satan would laugh at Christ. There will be more in heaven than there are among the lost. God says, that “there will be a number that no man can number who will be saved;” but he never says that there will be a number that no man can number that will be lost. There will be a host beyond all count who will get into heaven."

From Spurgeons Sermon number 39
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
For one thing, perhaps at the most basic level, you have to remember that Boettner is speaking as a postmillennialist. It is in that context that he makes that statement.

This was my first thought as well.

Interestingly, the late S. Lewis Johnson, who was an ardent premil, stated on many occasions that we shouldn't be quick to assert that ultimately many more will be lost than will be saved.
 

KGP

Puritan Board Freshman
To throw in my two cents; I have to say that apart from the election of untold multitudes of children and infants who die as such (and there have been millions who have died such deaths), I can't see it. Unless a large majority of global Catholics and Pentecostals are saved; then maybe. But God's people have always been a remnant...
 

Pilgrim Standard

Puritan Board Sophomore
To throw in my two cents; I have to say that apart from the election of untold multitudes of children and infants who die as such (and there have been millions who have died such deaths), I can't see it. Unless a large majority of global Catholics and Pentecostals are saved; then maybe. But God's people have always been a remnant...

The position is not from a perspective of today, or even that of history passed, but the potential of the future. One need not look at this as a "present, in the moment" evaluation, but from the vantage point of the day of Judgment looking back at the whole of history. If someone has either an eschatological position that the effectual spread of the Gospel will decline, become stagnant, or never excel, or an eschatological position of the imminency of the Return of Christ without an even more imminent global revival, then one is left attempting to evaluate what can be seen today and in history.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top