Posted by: Chris Avery | September 6, 2008

Is Divine Election Unfair?

By John MacArthur, Pulpit Magazine

In spite of the clarity with which Scripture addresses this topic, many professing Christians today struggle in their acceptance of God’s sovereignty — especially when it comes to His electing work in salvation. Their most common protest, of course, is that the doctrine of election is unfair. But such an objection stems from a human idea of fairness, rather than the objective, divine understanding of true justice. In order to appropriately address the issue of election, we must set aside all human considerations and focus instead on the nature of God and His righteous standard. Divine justice is where the discussion must begin.

What is Divine justice? Simply stated, it is an essential attribute of God whereby He infinitely, perfectly, and independently does exactly what He wants to do when and how He wants to do it. Because He is the standard of justice, by very definition, then whatever He does is inherently just. As William Perkins said, many years ago, “We must not think that God doeth a thing because it is good and right, but rather is the thing good and right because God willeth it and worketh it.”

Therefore God defines for us what justice is, because He is by nature just and righteous, and what He does reflects that nature. His own free will and nothing else is behind His justice. This means that whatever He wills, is just; and it is just, not because of any external standard of justice, but simply because He wills it.

Because the justice of God is an outflow of His character, it is not subject to fallen human assumptions of what justice should be. The Creator owes nothing to the creature, not even what He is graciously pleased to give. God does not act out of obligation and compulsion, but out of His own independent prerogative. That is what it means to be God. And because He is God, His freely determined actions are intrinsically right and perfect.

To say that election is unfair is not only inaccurate, it fails to recognize the very essence of true fairness. That which is fair, and right, and just is that which God wills to do. Thus, if God wills to choose those whom He would save, it is inherently fair for Him to do so. We cannot impose our own ideas of fairness onto our understanding of God’s working. Instead, we must go to the Scriptures to see how God Himself, in His perfect righteousness, decides to act.



  1. By John Macarthur’s definition, in other words, might makes right.

    God is all powerful, and he wills something, and so he does it. And because he does it, it is right. Period.

    This turns God into an authoritarian, a devil, a Nietzschean, where the will of the most powerful one, however horrific, is all and “right.”

    CS Lewis, in his Mere Christianity, warned Christians about detaching divinity from our common notions of justice, otherwise Christians will turn God into a “demon.” (Lewis’s word).

    Macarthur is frightfully authoritarian and callous in the way he talks about God.

    I think that his brand of fundamentalism makes the heart hard.

  2. John doesn’t say any god who says something is right. We are talking about THE God. The one whose nature is perfect and just. If you were to make any other god up than yes… they would be using their power to enforce “their” rules.

    As for His authoritarian speech, he speaks from the only authority, the word of God.

    I’m sorry that MacArthur seems to make the heart hard. I have had the exact opposite effect. I am loved by a perfect God and am completely comfortable in His perfect will.

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