Divine Election: Calvinist & Arminian Perspectives

What is Divine Election?

What is divine election? The Bible teaches that God’s chooses who will belong to His people and receive eternal life in His Son; this teaching is referred to as divine election. Before we get into the differences between Calvinists and classical Arminians let me first mention the area of agreement. Both camps believe that God elected (chose) which individuals would be saved from before the creation of the world. That God chooses, and that He chooses individuals, was not debated between Calvinists and Arminians until recently with the introduction of a new theological position which I will briefly explain at the end of this post.

Arminian Divine Election

Arminians believes that God determines whom He will elect by establishing a certain condition for His election; that condition is faith in Christ. God does not randomly choose whom He will elect by some secret decree, instead He has determined to choose those individuals who place their faith in Christ. When they choose Christ, He chooses them.

Now the logical question is this, if our decision to trust in Christ happens long after the creation of the world, how then could God’s choice of individuals have been decided before the world began. Before the world began God knew what each person in history would decide. And according to this foreknowledge He elected those who would believe. So, though He elected individuals before creation, He did not do so without knowing what they would decide.

Calvinist Divine Election

Calvinists believes that election is not determined by anything God sees in us or foresees about us; they hold that the divine choice is unconditional. The reason why God chooses one and not another is known only to God and is in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. God does not choose people who place their trust in Christ, instead God grants saving faith to those whom He first chooses according to His own purpose.

This eternal purpose is not primarily centered on mankind and their salvation. That is to say, saving rebellious sinners from wrath and hell is not God’s primary goal in human history, though it is certainly an important part of it. God’s primary purpose in history is to glorify His one and only Son. God has glorified His Son by making Him both Savior of the people whom God has chosen and Judge over those who refuse to bow to the Son’s lordship. In this way God both magnifies His grace in the elect and magnifies His wrath and power in the unrepentant. God’s choice of whom He will save is made in accordance with this eternal plan.

The Calvinist Objections

The Calvinist primarily objects to the Arminian’s view of conditional election for the same reason he objected to the Arminian’s belief that the saving grace of God can be resisted, namely it takes the glory for salvation away from God and gives it to mankind’s free will. From the Calvinist perspective, the Arminian view of divine election is not divine at all. Instead it is simply God following the decisions of men. God only chooses those who first choose Him. The Calvinist believes that the Arminan fails to give God the glory He is due for the salvation of sinners.

Secondarily, the Calvinist believes that such a view of election is a form of “salvation by works.” To the Calvinist, the Arminian concept of “conditional” election means that a person’s choice to accept Christ is what causes Him to merit salvation and God’s election. From this perspective the Calvinist believes that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is compromised and the purity of the Gospel is put in jeopardy.

The Arminian Objections

The Arminian primarily objects to the Calvinist view because once again it seems to make God unloving. If God is love, reasons the Arminian, and He truly desires all men to be saved, then surely He would not randomly choose some to be saved and leave the rest to perish without ever even consider saving them. The Arminian believes that the Calvinist fails to acknowledge the true loving character of God.

Secondarily, from the Arminian perspective, the idea of unconditional election makes proclaiming the Gospel unnecessary. After all, God has already decided whom He will save and whom He will lead to saving faith in Jesus. Since God’s eternal election cannot be altered, and all whom He desires to be saved will certainly be saved, why preach to, and pray for, the lost? This view, concludes the Arminian, does not account for all the biblical exhortations to pray for and evangelize the lost.

Input Welcome

These are the views and objections from each side. If you consider yourself either Arminian or Calvinist and feel I have failed to accurately (though very briefly) present your side, please comment below about how I could have best summarized your position.

Quick Note: Corporate Election

There is a third perspective that has arisen and many modern Arminians lean towards this perspective. In this view God does not elect particular individuals, either conditionally or unconditionally. Instead this view holds that the passages referring to election in the Scripture primarily refer to the fact that God has always planned to choose a people for Himself out of every nation. Proponents of this corporate election view believe that God always determined to create His Church by saving anyone who puts their trust in the Savior.



6 thoughts on “Divine Election: Calvinist & Arminian Perspectives”

  1. Corporate election is the same with individual election in essence, because group consists of individuals. Without individual election ther is no corporate election.
    Aminianists are PARTLY wrong and PARTLY unbiblical about salvation, it is NOT because they believe that we are saved IF WE RWPENT OF OUR SIN AND TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST, BUT because they believe that ppl are thrown in into Hell because they are NOT ELECTED, AND HAVE NO CHANCE TO BE SAVED, and thus in this way blame God for their damnation in the Lake of fire.
    God bless.

    1. James,
      It is true that corporate election includes individuals, but the point of that particular doctrine is that the passages that speak of election are not referring to election as traditionally thought of. Instead it is merely God saying that from eternity He planned to allow Gentiles to be part of His chosen people. So, though it includes individuals, the Bible is not talking about individuals being elected, but a people, namely the Church being elected (according to that view).

  2. God will not condemn anyone whom he has not given a choice to (believe in Christ)?NO ! THE BIBLE SAYS THAT that the RIGHTEOUS AND HOLY GOD HAS CONDEMNED EVERYONE WHETHER GOD GIVES THEM CHANCE OR CHOICE TO BE SAVED OR NOT, BECAUSE ALL HAVE AINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD. IF anyone ends up in Hell, does God owe him a chance / choice to be saved because God is loving, merciful, and gracious? NO! THE ONLY THING THAT THE RIGHTEOUS AND HOLY GOD OWES TO ANYONE is to give him the due punishment according to hia sin agaist God. And if anyone is saved through faith in Christ, it is solemly by the grace of God according to his love and mercy.
    The point is, if we agree that we were born in sin, die in sin, God MUST PUNISH US, FOR HE (HIS NATURE) IS RIGHTEOUS AND HOLY. HOWEVER, HE DOES NOT HAVE TO give us A chance / choice to save us because He (His nature) is merciful, gracious, and loving. I dont owe anyone A gift, and the loving God dese not owe anyone A salvation, which is solemly A gift, in the Heavenly Court, from the foundation of the world, forever and ever.
    To God be the Glory !

  3. I have been reading your posts for years and have loved following you.

    Calvinists believe that we were born in total depravity. The Bible does not say that. The Bible says that we were “born in sin.” In Romans 1, Paul says of those who would not believe in God and practiced unspeakable sin that God “GAVE THEM OVER to a reprobate mind.” It takes a LOT for God to give humans over to a reprobate mind. He repeatedly gave them chance after chance after chance. And THEN and ONLY THEN gave them over to depravity.

    Calvinists believe that Jesus died ONLY for those God chose. The Bible says that Jesus died for ALL!
    I know I am saved because the Bible tells me that if I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him as Lord and Savior, I AM SAVED! The Calvinist cannot tell you for sure that HE IS, IN FACT, a ” CHOSEN ONE”!

    God gave Adam and Eve choice. He has always given man choice. That is the MIRACLE OF GOD’S LOVE!! It does NOT diminish His SOVEREIGNTY. The Calvinist puts His Sovereignty ABOVE His LOVE AND GRACE AND MERCY AND JUSTICE.


    MY GOD will NOT condemn to HELL those to whom He gave NO CHOICE!!!

    1. Lee,
      Thanks for the input & the encouragement!
      I hear where you are coming from & agree on some of it. On some though I think u misunderstand the calvinist position. Though u do seem to understand what I call modern philosophical calvinism which seems to talk about tulip like it is the only thing the bible & Christianity are about.
      -As for total depravity is just theological jargon for There is none that does good, no one that seeks God & that the carnal mind is at enmity with God. Both Arminians & Calvinists believe that.
      -Calvinists do teach limited atonement, & though I understand why they say that, I cannot understand why they hold that as a necessary position. There are some verses that emphasize the eternal perspective of Christ dying only for those that will believe, in one sense, but those do not make obsolete the verses that teach of Christ dying for all men.
      Calvinists would agree that God will not condemn anyone whom he has not given a choice to, but they would argue all have chosen rebellion. Total depravity doesn’t mean ppl can’t believe because of some hereditary weakness, but that they dont want to because they hate God with a passion. So, the calvinists believes they always have a choice, but never choose God.

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