This is unfortunately not my writing, but my pastor's. It was too long to publish in the comments section, so I'm posting it here. My own defense of predestination and election will be coming soon.
First, what glory does God gain by forcing us to choose Him? (or not to choose Him)
1.) We are not forced to choose God. We choose God freely in light of the Holy Spirit’s work of releasing us from the thralldom of our sinful nature. Once one is released from the bondage of sin they freely choose Christ every time. So, until we are born again we cannot close with Christ but once we have been born again by the Spirit through the Word we choose Christ freely every time. This is not an opinion but rather a truth that is clearly taught many places in Scripture – one prominent place being Ephesians 2:1-10.
2.) Second, God gains glory by being the sole author of our salvation. Were we to be necessary and instrumental to our salvation then God would have to share the glory, but Scripture clearly teaches that God does not share His glory with another. Salvation, from beginning to end is all God’s work and it being all God’s work this brings Him glory. What great glory accrues to God that He would provide complete reconciliation to repentance given sinners who deserved nothing but His opposition and wrath.
3.) The idea of irresistible grace (God choosing us) is everywhere taught in Scripture. One of the most prominent places being John 1:10-13. Even were we, for some strange reason not like the idea of God’s sovereign choosing, we are hardly in a position to argue with God’s word.
Second, what is the reason for the Great Commission, and what hope can we show the world, if no one has any choice?
The reasons for the great commission are
1.) Obedience – God commands us to be witnesses. The command does not require my understanding as to how God’s ends comport to His means.
2.) The necessity to have someone who proclaims the Gospel (Romans 10:9). God has not only predestined ends but He has also predestined means to ends. The means to the end of people being gathered to Christ is the proclamation of Christ crucified.
3.) The hope that we can have is that God chooses. Since sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins (totally depraved) they are totally unable to convert themselves or contribute to their conversion. But the great hope that we have is that God will send forth the Spirit of the living Christ to cause His elect to hear our stammering Gospel presentation. Part of the Gospel is that God, because of the work of Christ on the Cross that accomplished salvation, has given sinners such as us hope. He has not left us where we deserved.
Third, If free will is not what we think it is, and God predestines all of our actions, like an author writing a story, how is it possible for God's people to sin? And why would He punish them for an action over which they had no control?
If free will is what you appear to think it is then God is not free to do what God wants. What God is limited by is the freedoms of humans choosing contrary to what God would have them choose were God really sovereign. Fortunately passages like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 clearly teach the understanding of predestination that Rachel has begun to hint at in her post.
Secondly, predestination does not negate human responsibility. It is possible for God’s people to sin because we still contend with the sinful nature.
Let’s take David for example. David was one of God’s people and yet we know all about his sin against God in the affair w/ Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Now, certainly God predestined this but David, Scripture teaches, sinned because He gave into His own desires (James 1:13f). Further Scripture teaches in Acts 2:23 (Also Acts 3:18, 4:28) that God predestined the crucifixion of the Son and yet in that same passage Peter is holding them responsible for the death of Christ.
As to your question as to why God punishes them when they have no control, we must first examine Romans 9:19-21 where we find the same objection you’ve raised here raised there and the answer is given that the creature is in no place to find fault with God. But were we to examine this a bit closer we would say that people have a natural ability to control themselves even if they do not have a moral ability and it is for the natural ability refusal to obey God that God punishes them.
But let’s reverse engineer this a moment. If God is not absolutely sovereign to the degree that the Scriptures clearly teach then why do you bother praying to Him? After all, a non-sovereign God can’t be trusted to have the control necessary to answer prayer. And if God is not absolutely sovereign then why bother worshiping Him? After all, is a non-sovereign God that is limited by the Free will of humans really worth worshiping? And if God is not absolutely sovereign then how do we know that whatever is said in Scripture will come to pass? After all, a God limited by the free will of humans may end up getting his promises and purposes thwarted in the end. These are issues you must really come to terms with before you jettison the absolute sovereignty of God.
I have no problem with the idea that whatever actions we take, God is able to bring good (and with that good, glory to Himself) from the results of those actions. Thus predestining us for His glory. (none of what I have said is meant to suggest that God is not sovereign, and I don't think that God's sovereignty and humanity's free will are at odds).
Now, let’s be honest. Your seeming embrace of libertarian free will does indeed mean that God is not sovereign. For every bit of absolute free will you give to humans you take that much away from God.
Second, I quite agree that God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will are not at odds. Humanity’s free will is what is called a contingent secondary freedom. Our free will is secondary to and contingent upon God’s free will. Were we to give humans libertarian free will we would invest them with the freedom of God’s will and of course Scripture doesn’t teach that and so it will never do.
I also believe that God is humble, not proud, it seems to me to be the course of a proud and unjust tyrant to force a people to worship him against their will.
That is a very unfortunate way of phrasing things Josh. To suggest that the God of the Bible is a unjust tyrant makes my eyes hurt just to read it. I trust you’ve learned by now from what I’ve written that people never worship God against their will. It is only when the Benevolent God releases people from Satan’s tyranny that for the first time they willingly and gladly desire to worship God.
Josh,God is not willing that any should persish,
You’ve taken this snippet of scripture out of context. In context the verse is teaching that God is not willing that any of His people should perish.
but if someone truly wants nothing to do with Him, He will, eventually, give that person what they desire. This is what C.S. Lewis believed really sent people to hell, their desire to seperated from God.
Response,This is not what Scripture teaches, despite what C. S. Lewis taught. Scripture teaches that we should fear only Him who can cast body and soul into Hell. God is the one who casts people into Hell, though certainly they are cast there because they do desire to be separated from God. Indeed, so deep is their hatred of God that if they were to be in heaven it would probably be as Hell to them. (Consider Lewis’ “Great Divorce.”)