Arminianism Dethrones God?
It’s a common accusation by Calvinists that Arminian theology dethrones God and puts man on the throne, because in their view, a faith that is not irresistibly given by God, is a works type of faith. They also like to accuse Arminians of making “strawman” arguments. I believe the opposite is true. The idea that the Arminian view of soteriology puts man on God’s throne, is as “strawman” as it gets. This claim is not only biblically wrong, it’s bizarre. Jesus is the One who saves. We don’t save ourselves!
It’s inconceivable to me that faith is the equivalent of works, when God’s Word plainly makes a distinction between the two (Eph 2:8-9; Ro 3:20-22; Gal 2:16; Gal 3:1-29; Titus 3:4-8). Scripture clearly teaches that faith and works are polar opposites. I find it difficult to believe that there is a debate about this at all. That the two are not the same should be obvious.
Now if Arminians added a set of works to faith, certain things that we must accomplish first, then Calvinists would have a legitimate argument. But let’s be real. If God offers us salvation as a gift, and instructs us to receive it by faith, how is that a work when the Bible makes it clear that works are not included in God’s plan of salvation? And how do we take control of God’s throne by doing what He instructs us to do? That type of reasoning is illogical.
Think about this. Here we are, sinful human beings, on our way to the torments of hell, without hope, having no way of rescuing ourselves. But then God looks upon us with love and compassion and provides a plan to save us from what we have no way of saving ourselves from. Central to that plan is His Son, Jesus. It’s God’s plan that He die on the cross for our sins and to rise from the dead, to shed His blood for us, providing the only means of forgiveness. As part of His plan, we must place faith in His Son in order to have this forgiveness. How does this put man in control? How does this put man on God’s throne? How does this limit the sovereignty of God?
Calvinism’s Version of Faith
While calvinists view the faith of Arminianism a works type of faith, the argument can easily be made that the faith of Calvinism isn’t faith at all. How so? If God chooses who will believe and who won’t, if He irresistibly causes “the elect” to believe, then how is that genuine faith? If it is God who creates the faith within us, where there was no faith before He put it there, how is that true faith? Why not just save those whom He’s “chosen,” rather than having them go through motions of a faith that He Himself produces? Furthermore, if God chooses who will believe, why have any plan at all? I think it undermines any real need to even have a plan of salvation, especially one that involves a faith that He Himself creates out of nothing. A faith that is produced by God, is the equivalent of God believing for us. Genuine faith is a faith that is enabled by God, not a faith that is done for us by God. There is a vast difference between God giving us the capacity for faith (freeing our will), and causing us to believe. Again, there is no real difference between causing us to believe and God believing for us.
A True Plan of Rescue?
I believe the Calvinist version of election creates a false need of salvation, and therefore, a false need for a plan of salvation. If people walk into this world with the “I’m one of the elect” tagged to their chest, why not just save them and be done with it? Why have any plan at all? For there to be a real plan of salvation, there must be a real need to be saved. The need of rescue is only real if a person is truly helpless. May I suggest that the “elect of Calvinism” are not truly helpless. Within the Calvinist system, the ones who are actually helpless are the “non elect,” since there is no way for them to ever be saved. Immediately we can see a conflict in their theology. We see a plan of rescue for those who don’t truly need rescuing, while those who truly need rescuing, are left without even the possibility of being rescued. What kind of plan of salvation (rescue) is that?
We must conclude that within Calvinism, God’s plan of salvation is not a plan of rescue at all, but a plan of identification, a plan that simply identifies whom “the elect” are. For God’s plan of rescue to be a plan that truly rescues, it must be a plan that is designed for those who truly need rescuing, which, in the Calvinist system, is obviously the “non-elect.” But of course, that wouldn’t make any sense, because the so-called “elect” would be the one’s who are actually left out of that plan, for there is an absence of true need, since they come into this world marked out by God as “My chosen ones,” those whom have no possibility of ever going to hell. Again, if anyone needs rescuing, it’s the “non-elect,” for they’re the one’s without hope of ever being forgiven. And isn’t that the whole point of salvation? To forgive and save those who are in need of it? Those who are helpless? The Calvinist version of God’s plan of salvation is unreasonable. It’s an illogical theology.
A plan of salvation is a plan of rescue. It implies a need to be rescued. It implies a helplessness. Calvinist theology is a senseless theology because it grants rescuing to those who don’t truly need rescuing – since they are already tagged for Heaven – and leaves out the ones who truly do need rescuing, since they’re not tagged for Heaven. Thus when one considers the true meaning of salvation, it reveals the Calvinist view of God’s plan salvation, not only illogical, but meaningless.
Again, it seems reasonable to me that the Calvinist gospel is not a true plan of salvation, but merely a plan of identification. It’s a plan that merely has “the elect” going through the motions of getting saved, when in fact, they’ve already been chosen for that. They have no real need of rescuing. It’s an illusion, since hell is not even a possibility for them. The ones who have the true need, are the so-called “non-elect” of Calvinism. Yet, there is no plan for rescuing them. Do you not see the conflict in all this?
An Offer to All
If the gospel of Jesus Christ is a true plan of salvation, it must be a plan to save all. Furthermore, it could only be made available in the form of an offer, where a person freely receives it or freely turns it down. If a person has already been identified as “God’s chosen,” where there is no possibility of going to hell, then there is no true need to be rescued. In that case, the “plan of salvation” is really nothing more than a means of welcoming the elect. Thus it would be more accurate to call it a plan of welcoming for “the elect.” However, if salvation is made in the form of an offer and people have a choice, and their rescue is not decided for them, then it’s a true need being met, it’s a true rescue, and not just going thru the motions of being rescued. It’s a legitimate opportunity to be rescued — for all.
If salvation is already a done deal for “the elect” of Calvinism, if hell is never a possibility for them, how could it be that they were ever truly condemned as Jesus Himself taught (John 3:18; Ro 5:18)? In truth, we are all sinners, condemned to hell until forgiven through faith in Christ. But if “the elect” of Calvinism come into this world already bearing the tag “made for Heaven,” how could they ever truly have been condemned to hell? It’s illogical to be both “the chosen of God” and condemned at the same time.
Christ’s Blood Makes No Distinction
Jesus died for sinners. The blood of Christ does not distinguish between the sins of one and the sins of another. Sin is sin. The blood of Christ sprinkles on the “non-elect” just as easy as it does on “the elect.” Blood that was shed for sins cannot distinguish one sin from another. It’s all the same. All sin comes from the same stream of sin (Ro 5:8, 12-19). The sins of the “non elect” do not flow down a different river. The same sin that was passed on to “the elect” is the same sin that was passed on to the “non elect.” Thus all sin of all sinners is all part of the same river of sin. If you add the blood of Christ to that river of sin, it spreads throughout the entire river — just like a drop of ink that spreads throughout a glass of water.
If Jesus died for sins (1 Cor 15:3), then His blood must be applied to all sin. However, if Jesus only died for “the elect,” then it follows that the sins He died for came from a different line of sin than that of the “non-elect.” But how is that possible? It’s not! We are all part of the same human race. We are all in the same line of sin that originated with Adam. All sin looks the same to Jesus. All sin looks the same to the blood He shed. There are no distinguishing characteristics that makes the substance of sin any different from one to person to the next. The substance of sin is of the same for all mankind.
Calvinists may respond, “with that line of reasoning, then everyone should be going to Heaven, since the blood of Christ doesn’t distinguish between sins or sinners.” However, that’s an illogical argument. Just as in the Calvinist view of election and salvation, universalism presents a plan of salvation for those who have no legitimate need of rescuing, since everyone has already been chosen for Heaven. In that type of gospel message, there is no one who is truly condemned and in true need of being rescued.
True Plan of Salvation
Only the Arminian understanding of God’s plan of salvation can be regarded as a true plan of rescue. For it sees everyone on equal ground; everyone a sinner and condemned to hell; everyone in true need of being rescued; the plan of rescue being in the form of an offer to anyone who will reach out and accept the means of rescue, which is through a willing heart of faith in Christ. It’s the offer of being rescued that makes it a legitimate plan of rescue, a legitimate plan of salvation. In this understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, no one has been pre-marked for Heaven; everyone is truly condemned and on their way to hell. It’s a plan that is freely offered, to be freely received by those who are truly helpless and in true need of being saved.
The true elect are the corporate people of God. The true elect are the people whom He has called out of the world unto Himself via His Son. The true elect are those who are in Christ. Individually, we don’t come into the world already bearing that title. We are only elect as we are in Christ and in His Church. Christ is the true Elect of God (Lu 9:35), and we enter into His election via faith in Him. Together, as one people, via our common faith in Jesus, we are the elect of God.