A Must-Hear Sermon on the Doctrine of Election

In the movie The Prestige, a film about a deadly rivalry between two stage magicians, a turning point in the story occurs when one of the magicians, Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale), introduces a new trick: “The Transported Man.” His rival, Robert Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) goes in disguise to see Borden perform “The Transported Man,” and is questioned by his assistant about Borden’s performance. In a great bit of acting, Jackman as Angier sits astonished and replies, “It was the greatest trick I’ve ever seen.”

The post you are reading is about a sermon on the doctrine of election preached by Dr. Russell Moore at the Southern Seminary chapel a week ago today. No trickery was involved in this sermon, but after Dr. Moore was through, I felt as thoroughly astonished as Angier was in the scene mentioned above. When it comes to the doctrine of election, this was the greatest sermon I’ve ever heard.

Awhile back, I was speaking with a mutual friend I have with Dr. Moore. This friend (whom I will not mention by name in this context) was writing a chapter for a book on the Emergent Church Movement, and was telling me about various trends that have arisen out of the larger Evangelical Movement- each trend responding to legitimate critiques of the movement, yet each trend containing inherent dangers. I asked what the next major trend might be, in my friend’s opinion, and he replied that he thought it would be something to do with Reformed theology, which is still gaining popularity through the influence of various ministries represented by the Together for the Gospel conference. I asked my friend what possible dangers could come from within a Reformed movement (as this friend has, at least, a great deal of agreement with Reformed theology) and he replied that we must be careful not to speak of God’s sovereignty or His electing work in the abstract- that we must be careful to remain Christ-centered in our theology.

This is what I have always appreciated most about Dr. Moore’s preaching, and what I found true of his sermon on election as well: his preaching is always radically Christ-centered. From Romans 8:26-9:6a, Dr. Moore spoke on “purpose-driven predestination,” with the purpose of our predestination being the glory of God through conformity to the image of Christ. Dr. Moore preached that God is actively working in the lives of the elect to bring us into conformity with Christ in the following ways:
1. In our prayer-life: that we would, like Christ, call out, “Abba, Father!” trusting in God’s sovereign, powerful hand.
2. In our peace: that we would trust God with our eternal destiny due to the work He has accomplished in Christ.
3. In our passion for evangelism: that we would be zealous to proclaim the Good News of Christ to others.
[Note: Dr. Moore did not alliterate the above points; that’s just how they came out in the outline that I made while hearing him speak.]

Dr. Moore noted two reasons why people fear the doctrine of election:
1. They imagine that this doctrine will rob them of any assurance of salvation- they imagine that if this doctrine is true, then they may get to God’s throne earnestly desiring salvation and yet be turned away. Dr. Moore combated this fear by demonstrating the purpose for which Paul explained this doctrine: that he was writing to a church facing persecution and internal strife, facing their own doubts and hypocrisy, and that this doctrine of election is given for the assurance of those who have faith in Christ, that our salvation is God’s work, which will not fail.
2. They imagine that this doctrine will destroy zeal for evangelism. Dr. Moore combated this fear by demonstrating the connection that Paul makes between the doctrine of election and his own evangelistic passion- that it is due to the doctrine of election that Paul can be sure that the Word of God has not failed, in spite of the constant rejection Paul was facing from the Jews.

Dr. Moore then challenged his hearers: “If you are not more evangelistic now than you were when you came to understand the doctrine of election, you have not understood the doctrine of election.”

Dr. Moore closed with the following: “They tell me this [Southern Seminary] is ground zero for the doctrine of election- man, I hope they’re right.”

This post has barely scratched the surface of how exiting and challenging this sermon is. I cannot express how strongly I would urge readers to listen to this sermon and to send a link for this sermon to others. The sermon can be heard HERE.

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9 Comments on “A Must-Hear Sermon on the Doctrine of Election”

  1. Nathan White Says:

    This sermon is available through iTunes, along with the rest of SBTS chapel sermons, at the following address:

    http://www.sbts.edu/rss/chapel.xml

  2. Darrin Says:

    So do I understand correctly that this sermon and Dr. Vines’ (from a recent post) were both preached at SBTS within about a week? If so, does this indicate that SBTS carries the philosophy of much of the SBC, that wherever you stand on reformed theology is OK with us – “we can’t really tell which is right, and even if we did, it’s not that important”? I haven’t yet listened to much of these two messages, but Dr. Moore appears doctrinally sound, and I’ve been exposed to Dr. Vines’ foolishness before. So I’m just going by that.


  3. Darrin,

    Re: “we can’t really tell which is right, and even if we did, it’s not that important”

    That is certainly not the attitude in the classrooms; I’m not sure how to respond to the issue of seeming inconsistencies of views expressed by speakers in chapel except to say that as long as these inconsistencies persist in the SBC, then they will be found in various venues (whether at seminary chapels or the annual convention) where SBC leaders are invited to preach. This is why this site and Founders Ministries are calling for further reformation in the SBC.

    Re: “Dr. Vines’ foolishness”

    Though we certainly disagree with Dr. Vines’ attacks on the biblical doctrine of election, and (even more importantly) the methodology he uses in attacking this doctrine (which methodology is inconsistent with other positions Dr. Vines advocates), and though we would promote careful evaluation of what Dr. Vines proclaims (I will probably be making a comment on something he said in his chapel sermon tomorrow), I would also point out that Dr. Vines, a former president of the SBC, was a strong proponent for the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture during the Conservative Resurgence and he has been promoting expositional preaching for many years, so it seems hard to make the case that he should not be allowed to speak at a chapel service of SBTS.

    -Andrew

  4. Darrin Says:

    Andrew,
    I agree with your assessment of the issues, and appreciate your civility. My desire was not to attack the man, but to take strong issue with his doctrine and methods. I am aware of his eminence and leadership in the SBC. However, quite a few such leaders have similarly brought many of us considerable discouragement. I greatly appreciate the battle for inerrancy, but would love to see some of these same leaders cease striving to vindicate God from the very characteristics of Himself which He has revealed to us, and to cease from holding on to anthropology which presents man as anything but completely dead in sin unless and until God gives him life.


  5. Darrin,

    I entirely agree with your last comment (as I usually do!).

    -Andrew


  6. Andrew,

    Do you think it consistent that a person can hold to inerrency but say that matters of soteriology are unclear? In other words, can a person hold that the word of God both says one thing and another that is mutually exclusive depending upon one’s interpretation and say that the Scripture is inerrant? And secondarily, if the doctrine is not solid ground, the firm foundation laid by Christ, and men can diagree upon the truth and be equals, doesn’t that eliminate a proper ground of doctrinal teaching seeing that we are to speak as oracles of God, that we are not to go beyond what is written (understood), and that we will be judged for every word that does not work that we carelessly speak?

    I think the issue is far beyond the benignity that many treat it. These are irreconcillable positions and as James White says, one is the Gospel which can clearly be understood, the other is not. He made this very point in Alaska recently at a conference that Tom Ascol attended. My question then is when will those who have called out the differences, making one camp or the other to preach a gospel that is not the Gospel, own their distinctions? Frankly, I am tired of one side being able to use labels (anti-Calvinists) and the other cowtowing (Calvinists) to only being able to use definitions and sheepishly at that. At some point the people of the SBC are owed a explanation as to which is heresy, and which is not. Or, they need to be told that their teachers have been teaching them mere opinions of men and not the inerrent word of God. If as James White says, inerrancy is bound up with the clear understanding of the Gospel, then one or the other has to give way. We either need to explain that we do really know how a person is saved or admit that we really don’t know what Scripture is teaching and thus abandon it as definitively authoritative and without reliability as the inerrent word of God.

  7. Darrin Says:

    Andrew, now that I finally got to hear the whole sermon, I want to thank you and say that it is indeed both extremely encouraging and convicting.
    Thomas, good to see you here at the new site. I’ve always appreciated your thoughts about the certainty of God’s word. We dare not offend Him by calling unclear that which He has clearly revealed to us. How arrogant for anyone to assume the authority to declare anything He has shown us as unknowable or to forbid its discussion.


  8. Thomas,

    Re: “Do you think it consistent that a person can hold to inerrency but say that matters of soteriology are unclear?”

    -No. I think it highly inconsistent. I think that such an inconsistency should be pointed out, and I think that this site has always tried to graciously bring attention to such inconsistencies that are frequently found within Baptist circles. But I do not think that if a person holds to such an inconsistency that we should therefore automatically label him a heretic and ignore all the good things he may have done and said.


  9. […] and thus be doctrinally unacceptable to God. In his sermon on election that I linked in a previous post, Dr. Russell Moore gives a great, personal illustration of this second negative result: I remember […]


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