“Arminians and generally all those who do not want to acknowledge the Sovereignty of God in salvation (especially the doctrine of election) seek to avoid the subject by insisting that whenever the apostle Paul speaks of Election or the Elect in the New Testament he is not speaking of individual election but a corporate one.”
In one sense of the word concerning “individual election vs corporate election”, Michael is right about us Armenians, but he misses the point that God’s Sovereign individual election is based on God’s word, which requires belief vs unbelief. Michael must insist that belief and unbelief are preprogrammed into each man. The fact that man can fall away from the faith requires one to believe either that God has given man free will to do so, or that God has preprogrammed the very thing that He abhors — “Rebellion” and sin, and that He has done that with each individual of His creation. To those whom according to Michael, He does not choose He created with no choice but to sin. Yet sin is different for every man because of choice. Sin entered the world because of Adam’s choice.
This is the very grave problem with Calvinism in its purest form. Now some, actually many have tweaked what I am calling “Pure” Calvinism to become a hybrid. These allow free will in belief vs unbelief concerning the Gospel, but once a man makes his choice his individual free will is removed. Well, not completely, God still allows him to sin (but not to turn God off with His [sorry his] sin. Which is it?), so, he can never lose his salvation, no matter what the sin; so with regard to salvation which is only in Christ, he is not free or required to work out his salvation. For he cannot fall, even when he finds the worlds goods more appealing than suffering for or dying for Christ this has no bearing on his salvation.
I know that I’m being sarcastic, but this loss of free will only has the effect of making God the responsible party in the facts surrounding the Biblical teaching concerning man’s falling away. Falling away is a matter of from what? Can’t be from a stance of once believing in, but now rejecting the one and only Christ, so this version of Calvinism removes any potential for denying Christ, when we are actually instructed by Christ to not do this. So if one falls away he was “never” saved.
I was raised on the understanding that belief must pass from the head to the heart in order for one to be saved. Yet, Salvation is of God and the heart is His to change. The spiritual battle takes place in the mind. Believing in the Gospel is man’s only part to play in his salvation. He is free to seek truth through prayer.
But back to what I’m calling pure Calvinism. Michael states the position well:
“Let there be no uncertainty about the meaning of our term. God has made a choice, for election signifies selection and appointment. God has exercised His own sovereign will and singled out from the mass of His creatures those upon whom He determined to bestow His special favors. There cannot be an election without a singling out, and there cannot be a singling out without a passing by. The doctrine of election means that from all eternity God made a choice of those who were to be His special treasure, His dear children, the coheirs of Christ.”
Again there is some truth in what Michael says, but God’s is not a choice without reason as Michael makes it sound, and the reason is summed up in belief vs unbelief.
And belief is not a work. It is a covenant trust. I can belief that I will ask one particular girl to marry me, but I cannot make her marry me. So belief in God accomplished nothing unless it is placed firmly in a complete trust in God. The Gospel is spread for whosoever will believe it’s message to be true.
When Paul says that even our faith is a gift given us by God, he is referring to the faith that comes when we hear the Gospel, but since it is a gift it still must be accepted, received or believed when it is preached, or read about, etc. We participate with God simply by believing, and continuing to believe as He reveals His truth. But belief requires the action of a covenantal trust. I could believe that Ellen loved me and that she would marry me, but if I never asked her, we would still not be married. So why did I ask her? Because she told me and showed me that she loved me. Jesus also did this for me. But in both cases I had to first believe accepting the gift of their love and then acting upon it. I entered into a covenant with Ellen. Yes God knew from before the foundation of the earth that I would do this with Him, but not because He preprogrammed it, but because He sovereignly knows all, including the end from the beginning. He therefore chooses those whom He knows will both begin and end well. The way of salvation is straight, the gate is narrow and few there be that find it.
He chooses us to be part of this promised eternal life. “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” “It is not as though I had already arrived, but I press on to the high calling in Christ Jesus.” Yes both quotes are from Paul, who tells us of our predestination corporately as long as we remain in Him, and only so long as we remain in our belief in Him, as His Spirit teaches and directs us forward.
Romans 11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (KJV)
Calvinism places the responsibility for your personal salvation upon God alone, you have no choice in the matter. Armenians place the responsibility for belief, or our response to God, within each individual, and the acceptance of the power from God to work out your salvation is also an individual transaction between you and God, as it is contained in the new covenant. He is the giver; we are the receivers. He paid our price so entrance is free, but to walk within the boundaries of the covenant is not without its boundaries, and its requirements. Becoming a bond slave to Christ makes one duty bound.
The belief in Calvinism coupled with the scriptural understanding that God is no respecter of persons is actually the crack in the door of truth that Universalism has walked through. If God does not respect persons He must love and save them all, because He died for them all.
My next article will be focused on the problems one finds in Armeanism.
Quotes taken from Michel Jeshurun’s article of 2/28/2020