Richard Coords, “Lottery”

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The Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Election seems to turn salvation into the luck of a lottery. In Calvinism, those who are born saved are far more fortunate than those born non-elect and un-savable.

What do Calvinists believe?

The elect are better termed “graced,” than “fortunate” or “lucky.” Grace is neither luck nor good fortune since grace is not determined by blind, random chance or possibility, but rather is determined by God.

Our reply:

Whichever way Calvinists perceive things having been fixed in their favor as “graced,” the ultimate conclusion is still that they were fortunate and lucky that God cosmically worked it out that way.

John Goodwin: “And whether that doctrine, which teacheth that God intendeth only the salvation of a few, but the condemnation of many, and yet commandeth all to believe that they may be saved, doth not make the glorious gospel of God like unto one of such lotteries, I leave to all understanding and unprejudice men to consider.”223

By “unprejudice men,” the implication is that those who are not fully indoctrinated into Calvinism will naturally associate Calvinist election with luck and good fortune. Calvinists deny the natural association because it gives a negative impression of Calvinism.

What do Calvinists believe?

R.C. Sproul: “Every time I look at chapter 9 of Romans, or teach on this passage, there are immediately people who respond to me by saying (and maybe you are thinking this), ‘Well, I’m not a believer now, so why should I even be concerned by about these things because if I’m not elect, I’m not going to be saved; and why should I bother—I guess I just missed the lottery or I lost the decision in eternity.’ I want to say to those of you who do not have faith in Jesus Christ right now, that if you do not, at this moment, have faith in Christ, there is no reason whatsoever to assume your non-election. Because every person who has ever come to faith in Christ has had a period in their life that preceded that moment of faith, and all of the elect who come to faith at one time were unbelievers, and you may very well be numbered among the elect and have not yet realized your election. And one of the most important questions that the New Testament raises to us, or admonitions given, is that we make our election and calling sure. And if you don’t know if you are numbered among the elect, I can’t think of a more important question for you to focus your attention upon until you know the answer to that question than that one. And here’s some good news: if you are struggling about that question. That’s not proof positive that you are elect, but it’s a good sign because most of the non-elect could care less—ever—about being reconciled with God.”224

Our reply:

If they are not “elect,” in the Calvinist sense, then indeed in that system, they would have “missed the lottery” and “lost the decision in eternity.” There is really no way around that. Also, the fact that Calvinists fixate so much on the question of an eternal election shows how much Calvinism is centered on a presumption to election rather than being centered on the promise of eternal life for whosoever believes in Christ.


223 Redemption Redeemed: A Puritan Defense of Unlimited Atonement (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 140-141.

224 R. C. Sproul, Predestination: Lecture 4, The Divine Choice.

[This post has been excerpted with permission from Richard Coords, Calvinism Answered Verse by Verse and Subject by Subject, © 2020.]