Assuming God did predestine only a select few to be saved, why would he bother creating people he did not elect for salvation?
“Only a select few” is not the doctrine of election. Scripture speaks of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9). The question of how many will be saved is not a question on our desk. Surely only God can be trusted with such questions (Luke 13:23-30).
But although it is unwise to speculate on the logistics of election, it can be valuable to think about the logic of election. The doctrine of election is not meant to provoke questions about who is chosen, how many will be chosen, or whether a particular person is chosen. It is to amaze us with the “depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33).
Indeed, the testimony of Scripture humbles us because God’s love is consistently surprising, reversing human patterns of exclusion. God passes over the powerful (Pharaoh was hardened) and gives preference to the poor (Israel was shown mercy). God chooses the youngest, the weakest, the far-off, the forgotten. Election should lead to amazement. As theologian Karl Barth once put it, it is the one thing no one can boast about.
In Deuteronomy, God tells Israel, “It was not because you were greater than all other people that the Lord loved you and chose you. … No, it is because the Lord loved you” (Deut. 7:7-8, CEB). That’s the doctrine of election: the Lord loved you because the Lord loved you. Your salvation—and with it your identity, your inclusion, your belonging—does not derive from your work or will, but from the free and faithful gift of God.
This means we are secure: nothing can ever come between us and the love of God revealed for us in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39). It also means we preach the gospel “without differentiation or discrimination” (Canons of Dort II.5), with great hope that what is impossible for us is possible for God (Matt. 19:26). For salvation is not a sealed envelope on Oscar night. It is something that has been brought into the open, made accessible in Jesus Christ: “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17).
We are never promised complete understanding of the ways of God, but we can know enough of God—revealed in Jesus Christ—to trust him, in life and death, for time and eternity.