Original Research

With regard to persons: Divine election of the poor in James and Paul

Pieter Dirk Dekker
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 58, No 1 | a3073 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v58i1.3073 | © 2024 Pieter Dirk Dekker | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 February 2024 | Published: 24 June 2024

About the author(s)

Pieter Dirk Dekker, Department of Texts & Traditions, Faculty of Religion and Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Department of Systematic Theology and the Study of Religions, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium


Traditionally, Reformed accounts of divine election presuppose that God elects without regard to persons. As a result, they cannot fully accommodate the biblical motif of God’s choice for the poor. In response, this article has tentatively, and in continued conversation with its contemporary Reformed theological context, advanced a biblical-theological argument that God, in a way, elects with regard to persons. Drawing on James 2:5, 1 Corinthians 1:27–29, and Romans 9–11, it has suggested that God indeed elects the poor and otherwise marginalised. In doing so, it has highlighted the way in which, according to these texts, this election of the marginal is an expression of divine wisdom. This has located the notion of divine election, in general, and of God’s election of the poor, in particular, firmly in the heart of a Christian understanding of God and in opposition to the so-called ‘wisdom of this world’. As such, this article has challenged both theologians who want to maintain an unamended Reformed account of divine election and advocates of prosperity gospels who consider wealth a definitive marker of election.

Contribution: This article contributes to the ongoing debate concerning divine election within the Reformed tradition. It also contributes to scholarly reflection on several New Testament texts, that is, James 2:5, 1 Corinthians 1:27–29, and Romans 9–11, and in so doing, secondarily adds to reflection on divine wisdom as an attribute of God.


reformed theology; divine election; predestination; poverty and wealth; James; Paul.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities


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