The Scriptures teach that God predestines persons to salvation. This is an inarguable fact with which all Christians agree. However, Christians have not agreed over how God predestines persons to salvation. There are two basic theological positions on predestination one called Calvinism and the other Arminianism.
Calvinists answer the how of predestination by arguing that God predestines persons to salvation according to his gracious plan without any foreseen merit or faith in the person. In the Calvinistic view, all are men are at the mercy of God’s grace for their salvation.
Arminians answer this dilemma in one of two ways. Most Arminians argue that God predestines those persons whom he knows will choose him. The other answer some extreme Arminians have adopted is Open Theism. Open Theists argue that God does not know the future; therefore, he does not know who makes up the elect. Consequently, they adopt a corporate view of election whereby God elects Christ and all those who believe being in Christ are also predestined. Most Arminians reject Open Theism as unbiblical. But, does predestination according to foreseen faith fair any better than Open Theism?
While most Arminians agree with Calvinists that God is omniscient, they thereby avoid the problem of limiting God’s knowledge. However, their system still limits God. Instead of limiting God’s knowledge, they limit his power to implement his plan. This is because in Arminianism God only forms his plans after he foresees man’s actions. Thus, God’s is unable to act; he can only react to man’s decisions. Therefore, God and his plan are at the mercy of mankind’s choices.
Take for example the Apostle Paul’s conversion: God’s plan for the early church was for Saul to be converted and be his instrument to spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Certainly, someone else could have been God’s chosen instrument, but in the Arminian system there can be no guarantee that someone will be willing. So, God’s plan is ultimately dependent not on himself but Saul. The inevitable conclusion of the Arminian view is that God and his plan are limited by man’s will.
An Arminian may rejoin: granted God’s plan is limited by man’s will, but the sovereign God chose to limit himself so that man would freely choose him. A self-impose limit is still a limit, and the effect is the same whether the limit is self-imposed or not. Man’s free will limits God and his plan.
The insurmountable dilemma of Arminianism is that their God is limited either in knowledge or power. To be fair, the Calvinist position is not free from difficulties. But, the difficulties are not as fundamental as God’s omnipotence and omniscience. Calvinism affirms that God is both almighty and all-knowing; consequently, his plan is certain. Furthermore, men are at the mercy of a gracious God.
Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church