This is the second of six posts regarding TULIP. If you are not familar with that acronym, Wikipedia has a number of articles on the subject. This one is probably the most succinct and provides links to the counter positions of Arminians.
2) Unconditional Election
Here the Calvinists and Arminians part ways, and the Arminians usually take a bit of an undeserved beating. Calvinists usually treat Arminians as if they were Open Theists, but many of the staunch opposers of Open Theism are Arminians. Arminians don't believe that God is surprised by the actions of men, nor that He is unsure of the outcome of His creation.
Both see God looking into a future over which He is the Master. They acknowledge that God knows the future perfectly, and that He knows all who will be saved. They agree that God elects before time begins. They differ over the whether the election is conditional or not.
Calvinists portray God contemplating the entirety of time, and observing that some people will be strong and beautiful, and that others will be weak and helpless. God, they observe, chooses the weak and helpless. They see God choosing from amongst the billions of souls who will live on His earth a relative few, but absolutely a great company. He chooses some fraction of those whom He will create, and decides to love them. The rest, the average Calvinist believes, He either chooses to hate or to watch until they willfully earn His hatred, depending upon the interpretation of a couple of key passages.
Arminians believe in conditional election. They believe God lives as much in the future as the past, so it is well within Him to elect those whom He knows will believe in Him when the time comes. He loves every man equally, and desires all to be saved, but He is unable to influence them all to believe in the Son. This willing inability of God's is established in point 4, so I am not going to dwell on it here. The point is that God does choose whom He will save, but His choice is based effectively on whether they will subsequently choose Him. If He could, He would choose everyone, but He cannot.
Codepoke believes that God foreknows and foreordains, but that this is not the most significant point. Both Calvinists and Arminians focus upon man's salvation, when salvation was not even at issue when God was making these decisions.
When God was contemplating the creation of a thing called "a physical universe," there was only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They were One, and yet they always had each other. They lived by perfect Love, and their Food was to know each Other. They were not deciding to create billions of people, but to create a single bride for God the Son. They were deciding to create an ezer kenegdo - a one outside of and facing Themself, suitable to Themself, equally yoked. The bride would not be equal, but she would be equally yoked with the Son.
God purposed in Himself a mystery.
Eph 3:9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
This mystery was hidden in God for ages, but Paul was charged with making it known. And this hidden mystery was all about an eventually betrothal between Christ and His church.
Eph 5: 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing [b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Eph 5: 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
God purposed for Christ to somehow leave the Godhead, and to be united to His wife. This He did when He came to earth.
Now, I am going to tell you that I cannot picture God leaving anything about this process to chance. Nothing. God knew everything about this bride before They did anything to bring that purpose to fruit.
God did not elect a billion people to salvation. He elected a single bride. But he didn't stop there. He chose in Christ those portions of His Life that would be made into that bride. Just as Eve was made from a specific part of Adam, the bride was chosen from specific parts of Christ. God knew, before He ever considered creating people, how many living spirits would go into the perfect bride. He knew the color of her eyes, and everything else about her, because He knew every cell in her body by name.
Then, and only then, God decided to create a universe, and a galaxy, and a solar system, and a world, and a species of man, and every individual who would eventually carry a piece of that bride around in her heart. And He knew each of us by name.
Eph 1:11 In him we were also chosen, [e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Rev 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
Rev 17:8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.
2 Tim 1:9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
The bride is not amorphous. The names of all those who make her up are known to God, and written in His Book of Life before the beginning.
In point 3 we will talk about what saves those who make up His bride, and in point 4 how they obtain that salvation. Here we talk only about whether God elected these people, and how.
Arminians and Calvinists both agree that God elected these people. They disagree about how He did it. I side with the Calvinists on the point that He elected them without consideration to anything they might do (for example, foreknowing their believing or not believing in Him.) I step away from the Calvinists, though, when they talk about Him electing from a vast sea of people who would be born.
God elected the members of the bride. He called them by name, before He even considered making a world to put them in. Their living spirits were marked off in Christ and named from before the beginning. When time began, and God created the physical realm, the men and women that He created were all empty, living souls, in need of living spirits. They were empty humans, needing and waiting to be filled with that piece of Christ God had marked off for them.
Only they didn't know that!
That's why it's called a great mystery. God's eternal purpose was hidden from men, and not even fully revealed by Christ when He was here. Jesus fulfilled that purpose, but He did so without fully explaining it. Paul was given that calling.
Unconditional Election falls vastly short of describing what God truly did. I would like to replace the term with, "Mysterious Purpose."
Yes, we were chosen by name in Christ before the foundations of the world were laid, but not in a simple "you're a sheep - you're a goat," kind of a way. We were all blessed parts of a bride chosen in Christ for God's own good and glory. We were named and known for His good purpose in a way that no man could have guessed, but in a way that was finally revealed in the church.
This Mysterious Purpose is all about the Godhead. And God is satisfied with His purchase.