The Calvinist and Arminian view on the doctrines of grace in relation to predestination is articulated in the doctrine of election and reprobation. J.L. Dagg defined election as “all who will finally be saved, were chosen to salvation by God the Father, before the foundation of the world, and given to Jesus Christ in the covenant of grace,” (Manual of Theology, p. 309). This work is a part of God’s pure decreeing act as the sovereign ruler over all of His created order.
Calvinist View on Election
The Calvinist view on election was originally established in response to the heretical teachings of the Remonstrants, thus composing the Canons of Dort (1618-1619) which define biblical election as the unchangeable purpose of God whereby:
“Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of His will, God chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. God did this in Christ, whom He also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation.” (Article 7 under Divine Election and Reprobation)
Election is performed by God solely on the basis of His sovereign will and good pleasure, not on any future merit foreseen in us. He chose us, not because we are saved, but so that we will be saved (Eph. 1:4). Moreover, just as God immutably and justly decrees that some be saved to His glory, He decreed that others not be saved and remain in their sin to the manifestation of His justice and to the glory of His name.
This view on election was also taught before the Canons of Dort by faithful men like Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin, and Martin Luther. It was merely thoroughly articulated in the Canons of Dort.
Arminian View on Election
The Arminian view of election was originally elaborated by the Remonstrants in their Articles and “Opinions”. They said:
“God has not decided to elect anyone to eternal life, or to reject anyone from the same, prior to the decree to create him, without any consideration of preceding obedience or disobedience, according to His good pleasure, for the demonstration of the glory of His mercy and justice, or of His absolute power and dominion,” (Opinions A.1).
Basically, God elected from before the foundations of the world based on “preceding obedience or disobedience,” but at the same time, “since the decree of God concerning both the salvation and perdition of each man is not a decree of the end absolutely intended, it follows that neither are such means subordinated to that same decree by which the elect and the reprobate are efficaciously and inevitably led to their final destination,” (A. 2.).
Ultimately, the Arminian view seems to attempt to reconcile the tension perceived in Scripture between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in salvation. They disagree that God can both be in control, decreeing all in creation and for men to also be responsible for sin. How are we still responsible for sin if God decreed everything already?
As Reformed Baptists, we believe that God, being sovereign over all creation as the infinite and a se (absolute life in all that He is) God, lovingly chose to save sinners because we cannot save ourselves. This is the hope we have in the gospel: that as we go out to proclaim the message and true and eternal life to the whole world, it will be heard and received wholly and effectively to glory of God. We know and are encouraged by the Word of God that our message is not in vain, that sinners will be saved because God decreed to save sinners (Is. 55:11). The children of God, the church, will be saved.
We find our understanding of this doctrine articulated in Chapter 2 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith: “God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; (Is. 46:10; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15,18),” (2.1). All that we know and see in the created order God ordained from the beginning in Himself since He is the perfect and absolute One. For He is God, the sustainer and provider of true life to all His creation.
“Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love (Eph. 1:4,9,11; Rom. 8:30; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:9), without any other things in the creature as a condition or cause moving Him thereunto (Rom. 9:13,16; Eph. 2:5,12),” (2.5).
The holy and righteous God of the universe had every right and freedom to ordain the eternal condemnation of all mankind for sin, but instead He predestined and elected to save His church, the bride of Christ (Eph. 5), to the riches of His glory. Forever. Amen.