The most common explanation I’ve heard which is designed to blunt the force of election is the be kind, please rewind form of it. This explanation says that God has looked down the tunnels of time, and saw what you would do (based on your own free will of course), and then rewound the tape, and chose you to do exactly what he saw you already doing. In other words, God can choose how the movie of your life will end, because he has already watched it before. Thus God knows the future, your free will is still determinative, and election is not unfair because after all, it is based on what God already knew you would do.
Do you remember Blockbuster Video and VHS tapes? When I was a kid, that was how my family watched movies. After watching the video, there would be a bit of an argument over who had to rewind the tape. Our VCR would open after rewinding, pop the tape halfway out, and if there was nobody there to get it, it would try and close, and likely end up breaking. So one of us had to stay up ten minutes longer, all to honor the sticker on the front of the VHS tape.
You know the sticker I’m talking about. It said, “Be kind, please rewind.”
Those stickers are now a thing of the past—along with VHS tapes and Blockbuster for that matter. But the sentiment lives on in some people’s theology, particularly when it comes to the doctrine of election.
The doctrine of election teaches that God chooses whom he will save. Before the foundations of time, God determined to create the world, allow sin into the world, to allow all of mankind to fall into sin, send his Son as a Savior, then send his Spirit to regenerate people through faith. The Spirit does not come to everyone, but rather comes only to the elect, those whom God has chosen to save.
This doctrine is taught in John 6:37, 44-47, 65; Ephesians 1:3-9; Romans 9:6-26; Revelation 13:8, 17:8; 20:12-15 (to name but a few of examples). Despite the fact that election is the clear teaching of Scripture, it is a doctrine that has caused no small controversy. It was controversial in Paul’s day (as evidenced by Romans 9), and it remains controversial today. It strikes us as unfair, undemocratic, and unjust.
If God chooses whom he will save, then how come he doesn’t choose everyone? How can he still hold people responsible for their sin, if their real problem is that God didn’t choose them?