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Friday, March 08, 2013

Arminian Election: An Unbiblical Paradox?

Lately I have had a lot of interesting discussion with Arminians. The following came to mind while considering some of their arguments:

Arminians have classically advanced the idea that election is based on God's foreknowledge of our future choices. Let's assume for a moment that this view is true. Under this scenario, God elected a person not because God chose of His own free will to save them, but because He foresaw that they would choose to be saved.

How, then, did God treat those He knew would believe for a time and then apostatize? Would such people be considered elect or non-elect? Were they termporarily elect during the time they were "saved"? If God elected a person from eternity based on the person's foreseen faith, did He un-elect them from eternity based on their foreseen apostasy? Are such people considered to be both elect and non-elect?

Perhaps Arminians would call this a paradox, or relegate it to the "mystery" of foreknowledge. But I wonder where the Biblical basis for such a supposed paradox could be derived?


  1. Hello Derek,

    Derek I think you bring up a real problem for Arminians who believe that a genuine believer can later be lost (and believe that the basis of God’s choice of an individual is their foreknown faith).

    But what about Arminians who hold that true believer cannot be later lost, that true believers never lose their salvation or apostacize?

    Derek are you aware that not all who hold to an Arminian soteriology believe that a true believer can later become a nonbeliever?

    For example many Southern Baptists may not refer to themselves as “Arminian” and yet many of them hold what appears to be an Arminian soteriology while simultaneously affirming that true believers will never be lost or apostacize.

    And while you bring up a problem for those who take the “election based upon foreknowledge of freely made choices” view: how is this a problem for Arminians who hold a corporate election view?

    Lastly you wrote: “Under this scenario, God elected a person not because God chose of His own free will to save them, but because He foresaw that they would choose to be saved.”

    What about other scenarios?

    You present only two options here. Either (1) God chose of His own free will to save them, or (2) God chose them “because He foresaw that they would choose to be saved”.

    But what if God set up the plan of salvation in such a way that only those who choose to trust in Him would be saved?

    He freely made the choice that the plan of salvation would be this way.

    If He then later chooses to save a particular individual who freely chooses to trust in Him for salvation: how is this not “God choosing of His own free will to save them”?

    And if God did it this way, His freely choosing to save an individual would ultimately be based upon the way in which He freely chose to set up the plan of salvation. So under this scenario God would be freely choosing to save the person, the person would be freely choosing to trust in God alone for salvation and the basis of God’s choice would be that he chooses to save those who respond in faith to the gospel (i.e. the choice as to the nature of salvation would come first, before the person freely chose to respond to God, so ultimately God would be freely choosing to save anyone that he wants to save, which amounts to anyone who responds properly to His plan of salvation).
    This then presents a third possibility in contrast to (1) and (2) which were the only possibilities you presented.

    This third possibility maintains (1), and does not make foreknowledge the basis of God’s choice of an individual. Instead the basis of God’s choice is that He chooses those who respond properly to his plan of salvation. According to the plan of salvation He devised and developed and carries out: He chooses those who trust Him to be His people. So according to (3) the basis of God’s choosing a person is that they respond properly to His plan.

    It is true that God foreknows they will freely choose to trust in Him alone for salvation, but the basis of God’s choice under this third alternative is not foreknown faith, but the fact the person had the proper response to the gospel message. Put simply: under this scenario God chooses those who trust Him alone for salvation to be His people. He foreknows who they will be, as He foreknows all things. But the basis of His choice of them is not foreknown faith, but the faith they have in real time and history, when they freely choose to trust Him alone for their salvation. Derek you leave out this possibility and there are others as well.

    An Arminian could hold to (3) and yet not deny (1) or affirm (2). An Arminian may also hold to Arminian soteriology while simultaneously affirming that genuine believers will not become nonbelievers, will never apostacize, as is the case with most Southern Baptists. For these folks your presented problem is a non issue.


  2. Derek,

    Robert makes some good points on how even the classical foreknowledge view doesn't really create the problem as you describe it. However, it should also be noted that the corporate view of election avoids this supposed difficulty as well. That view does not put the basis of election in God's foreknowledge, but in God's free choice of Christ as His chosen covenant Head through whom believers become the elect of God (God's chosen people). Their election is wrapped up in His election and through faith union/identity with Christ, the chosen covenant Head. In that case, one is "elect" as long as one is "in Him" and not elect outside of union with Christ. So an apostate would be someone who was previously elect through union with Christ and the elect body (the body of Christ), but is no longer elect as he has been cut off from Christ and the election that is "in Him" alone (Eph. 1:4).

    Romans 11 illustrates this principle nicely. The ancient olive tree represents the people of God (the elect) throughout salvation history. Individuals are grafted into that elect body through faith, or broken off through unbelief. Furthermore, Paul says that the Jews that he previously described as not elect ("the rest" who were instead "hardened", in contrast to the "elect") can yet be grafted into the olive tree, "if they persist not in unbelief." So Paul gives us a clear picture of those who were not elect becoming elect and vise versa. That is big trouble for the Calvinist view of election.

    And I want to emphasize the point Robert made concerning your comment: "Under this scenario, God elected a person not because God chose of His own free will to save them, but because He foresaw that they would choose to be saved." This assumes that if God chooses to elect conditionally rather than unconditionally, then it was not of "His own free will." But that doesn't follow at all, and many real world examples could easily be given. People make free choices all the time that are conditional. This is especially true when the person making the choice sets the condition for the choice in the first place (as Robert well pointed out). Here is a short post that concisely makes the point:

    Unfortunately, all of this effectively takes the fun out of those particular election/free will paradoxes that you so cherish, so I can see why you might not want to entertain such ideas.

    God Bless,


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