Arminianism vs. Calvinism – Unconditional/Conditional Election

The second of the five points of TULIP (Calvinism theology) is unconditional election. This was a direct response to the Arminian view of conditional election, or election based on foreknowledge.

Unconditional election is the view that God elects individuals to salvation based entirely on His will alone, not on anything inherently worthy in the individual. Paul states in Ephesians:

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:4-6

Unconditional election is basically saying “of God, by God, through God.” Conditional election, on the other hand, states that God elects individuals to salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will believe in Christ unto salvation, thereby on the condition that the individual chooses God.

I have heard two objections to unconditional election, which are completely understandable objections. First, if God chooses us by His will and not by our merit, does that mean that we can do whatever we want, since He is going to choose us anyway? Absolutely not. Unconditional election does not give us a license to sin. We don’t know (until it happens) that God chooses us, so we can’t go through life with the thought of “well God is going to choose me, so I can do whatever.” In fact, I don’t even think we have the ability to think like that. Then of course, when we are saved, we should want to turn from our old ways because we are made new in Christ.

The second objection deals with a strain of hyper-Calvinism (unbiblical). Critics argue, “Why should we do missions and evangelism if God has already chosen His people?” Again, we don’t know who God elects, so it is our job to spread His gospel faithfully, because that’s what He calls us to do. As Charles Spurgeon puts it,

“If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach ‘whosoever will’ and when ‘whosoever’ believes I know he is one of the elect.” – Charles Spurgeon

More from Charles Spurgeon,

“Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? I can tell you why God loves Jacob; it is sovereign grace! There was nothing in Jacob that could make God love him; there was everything about him that might have made God hate him as much as He did Esau, and a great deal more. But it was because God is infinitely gracious that He loved Jacob and because He is sovereign in His dispensation of His grace that He chose Jacob as an object of that love.” – Charles Spurgeon

That same principle applies today. Because of our sinful nature, none of us deserves to be chosen. It is sovereign grace.

“God owes salvation to no one. God would be entirely just if He would have condemned Adam and the entire human race immediately after the fall. God would be just to send every single person to hell because that is what our sin deserves: the eternal wrath and curse of God.” – Dr. Roger Shultz

The Arminian view of conditional election gives man more credit that he deserves. It is saying God chose us because we first chose him. That is making man more sovereign than God, and that is dangerous territory.

Study verses for this section: Matthew 20:16, Matthew 22:14, Mark 13:27, Luke 18:7, John 15:16, Acts 13:48, Romans 11:17, Ephesians 1:4-6, Romans 8:33, Colossians 3:12, 1 Timothy 5:21, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2, 1 Peter 5:13, 2 John 1:1, 2 John 1:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, John 10:26, Romans 9:15-18

– Adam Smith

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One thought on “Arminianism vs. Calvinism – Unconditional/Conditional Election

  1. Adam, I have been pondering these issues for a long time. I just cannot figure out which camp I’m in. The problem with me is I see truth in both camps. Therefore, I must be an ArmCal. Yet, I do not believe that we chose God first. Scripture clearly states that we love Him because He first loved us. Also, the Bible pictures the church as the bride and Christ as the husband. It is the role of the bride to be the responder, and it is the role of the husband to be the iniciator.

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