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It is important to remember that Arminianism (conditional election) and Calvinism (predestination) are manmade doctrines from approx. The 13th - 14th centuries and therefore, are not infallible. In a very small nutshell, Arminianism is a doctrine developed by Jacobus Armenius of salvation to anyone who accepts the free gift of the blood of Christ as payment for their sins. This doctrine was formed in direct opposition to Calvinism, the doctrine named for John Calvin, one of the supporters. Calvinists believe God determined, before creating humanity, who would go to heaven, that they were predestined (have no choice) to become children of God. Proponents of each can site numerous verses that support their theory. However, to take the position that one is right and the other is wrong requires ignoring or reinterpreting the opposing theories supporting verses. This also does not encourage unity among believers. I would encourage someone studying this subject to get a good study bible and, most importantly, a greek dictionary to look up key words in the verses listed as supporting each theory. Verses are frequently taken out of context to be made to support one position or another. I think, as humans, we want things to fit perfectly in a nice square box of human logic and understanding. But Gods thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are, at times, beyond our understanding. I personally believe that aspects of both theories are true: that God is not willing that any should perish and has offered the free gift of salvation through Jesus' death on the cross to anyone who believes. At the same time, God in His sovereignty will have mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and harden whom He wants to harden (Rom 9) in order to accomplish His over all plan. I don't think God wants us to become bogged down debating manmade doctrines, especially if it obscures Gods message of grace and mercy and salvation to a lost and troubled world or causes divisions among believers. Rom 3...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... Rom 6 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 5 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 10 That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved... For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved... Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The doctrine of conditional election teaches that salvation is available to the sinner based on his fulfillment of certain conditions set out by God in Scripture. The foremost condition is that the sinner must of his free will repent upon his conviction and turn to Christ. On this basis therefore, the sinner receives God's pardon and is assured of eternal life. There are several Scriptures that attest to this doctrine. John 3:16-17 is perhaps one outstanding example of conditional election. The sinner must believe in Christ. Romans 10:8-10 says "...“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." The above passage clearly affirms that the sinner has a part to play in God's plan of salvation. This is undeniable. Unconditional election on the other part stands in contrast to this doctrine. It teaches that God chose or elected a given number of sinners for eternal life from the foundation of the world. This doctrine is popularly held by deterministic soteriology groups who teach that the sinner cannot do anything in response to God's grace. Salvation is viewed in this context as a mornergistic process attributed to the actions and will of a sovereign God who exclusively determines the fate of sinners even before they are born! One of the key passages cited by proponents of the unconditional election doctrine is Ephesians 1:4-6 that says " just as He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [a]made us accepted in the Beloved." A close look at this text reveals a number of theological flaws. First, whereas the election is said to have been concluded at the foundation of the world, the same text reveals that the election is done in Him (Christ). This inescapably brings to bear the works of the cross which were accomplished at a given historical date and time in human history. The election or choice of sinners was only effected in Christ, through the works of redemption and by His sinless blood. No sinner could therefore have bypassed Calvary in receiving salvation. The idea that God chose believers from the foundation of the world simply speaks of his foreknowledge in Christ. It is not a deterministic fait accompli game ball that arbitrarily assigns privilege to a given set of sinners to the exclusion of others who are damned before birth. Secondly, the adoption in Christ is a futuristic event [cf. Romans 8:18-25]. It is awaiting Christ's coming for its fulfillment. Two other texts that are employed by proponents of unconditional election are Romans 8:29-30, 9:11. My view is that neither of these texts support the doctrine of unconditional election when read in their passage contexts. Romans 8:18-30 relates to an exhortation on Christian suffering while Romans 9:11 is part of a long treatise by Paul that runs through Romans 9-11. It is about Israel's need for the gospel. The final submission of Paul's thesis is that "...God has committed them all [Gentiles and Jews] to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all." (Romans 11:32). My concluding view is that the conditional election doctrine finds its support in the text of Scripture. Every sinner must repent and turn to Christ in order to be saved. This truth does not make God less sovereign or take away any glory due to Him. It affirms His sovereignty in graciously granting sinners the opportunity to come to Christ. God is not glorified by the damnation of the sinner.
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