The choices of God
The best we as time-bound humans can do is use our God-given agency to choose whom we will serve.
The second and third of the Five Points of Calvinism (known by the acronym of TULIP) have to do with the time God decided or knew (past tense) about what would happen (future tense). As I said in my previous column, these doctrines violate the fact that God does not exist in time, which in turn creates serious questions about the doctrines we confess in the CRC.
Calvinists believe that before the foundation of the world God chose persons who would be saved in time, and that this choice is unconditional. God predestines the elect based solely on God’s good grace; there is nothing a person can do to influence God about this choice. Those not chosen by God’s good pleasure, the reprobate, are consigned to eternal punishment. Since all persons are totally depraved in this view (see my previous column), the reprobate receive what they deserve. God demonstrates love for humankind in that God mercifully saves some even though all deserve to perish.
Arminianism, the belief system that the Canons of Dordt were written to counteract, holds that election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in God through faith. In other words, those who choose God of their own free will are the ones God elected. Election is conditional on one’s response to God’s gracious offer of salvation.
The third of the Five points of Calvinism continues: since election is unconditional and not all are saved, Christ’s atonement for sin is limited to the elect. Since Christ died only for the elect, his atonement is wholly successful.
On the other hand, Arminians believe that Christ died for everyone. The Saviour’s atoning death provides the means of salvation for the entire human race, and Christ’s atonement is unlimited. However, while unlimited, his atonement is effective only for those who believe. (Arminians are not necessarily universalists.)
Choose whom you will serve
All this theological speculation founders on assuming that God is, like us, a time-bound entity. And that assumption makes a mockery of God’s sovereignty. There is no past that God has left behind and no future that God does not yet inhabit. God exists in an all encompassing present. It is not our prerogative to limit God to our time-bound notions of existence, even though God drops down to our level to communicate with us in human, time-bound language. We experience our existence as a continuum moving from a past through the present to a future with consequences. Existentially we know, and the Bible tells us, that we have considerable responsibility for our actions within time. The best we as time-bound humans can do is use our God-given agency to choose whom we will serve. Joshua challenged the Israelites: “Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) If that is our choice, I’m sure a loving God, in Christ, will honour it.