Briefly, in regard to the extent of the atonement of Christ and the doctrine of election, I was Arminian in my theology for most of my Christian life. For the past few years, until recently, I was a Calvinist. I taught both sides for several years. However, I’ve come to see the shortcomings and extremes of both. I believe both are correct, but also that both are incorrect. I’ve come to believe that we make this a lot more complicated than what it really is, as I highlight below. What’s presented here is what I would refer to as a “balanced soteriology,” where both the grace and sovereignty of God and the responsibility of the sinner are brought into harmony.
Here I expand on all the points I made in my shorter version of this position (no longer on website) by looking at Scripture and comparing them with both the Calvinist and Arminian position. I believe there’s a more reasonable way of understanding these doctrines than the other two extremes. Balance is the key.
One: I believe the Bible teaches corporate election.
By this I mean, actual corporate election, where God chose the Church in its COMPLETE and eternal glorified form (Rev 19:7; Rev 21:2,9). In choosing the complete Church, He chose every individual member of the Church (Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9). What’s true of the Church is true of its members, because the Church in its complete form is the total community of the redeemed (individual citizens of Christ’s Kingdom – Col 1:13-14). It doesn’t make sense that God would look upon only part of the Church (as members are being added in this life) when He chose us in Christ. That should seem really obvious. God chose according to His foreknowledge (Ro 8:29; Eph 1:4; 1 Pe 1:2). He chose those whom He already knew as His people (in their eternal state). More specifically, God chose His Son to be the Savior of the world (Lu 9:35; Jn 1:29). In choosing His Son, He also chose the Church (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:23,25). In choosing the Church, He also chose every member of the Church (Jn 10:11,14,27). In other words, He chose us together (Eph 1:4). This is true corporate election. Therefore, we do come into the world as God’s elect as individual members of the Elect Church.
Discussion: I believe it’s a mistake to view election as either individual or corporate at the exclusion of the other. When Paul says that God “chose us in him” (Eph 1:4), we should view this as all-encompassing, and not one or the other—because it’s just a fact that both the collective body of Christ and the individuals who make up the body are “in him.” The idea that one of the two is excluded from election makes no sense. The question is, is the Church in Christ? YES. Are individual believers in Christ? YES. Follow-up questions: How did we get there? That is, how did the Church get there? God chose the Church “in him.” How did individual believers get there? God chose us “in him.” When God sees His Son, who does He see? Is it just individual believers? Or is it the collective body of Christ? Is it not both? Of course it is. It would have to be. I believe what God saw and knew and chose in Christ, are the same ones revealed to us in Revelation 5:9; 7:9, 19:7; 21:2,9. What we see in those passages is the complete Church, and every member that make up the Church. Therefore, in Ephesians 1:4, I don’t believe Paul was making a distinction between the two. I don’t believe he wanted us to guess which one he was talking about. I believe it should be understood that he was referring to both individuals and the collective body of individuals. I believe that if he was making a distinction between the two, that he had one in mind, at the exclusion of the other, he would have made that distinction. I believe in Paul’s mind, and as the overall teaching of Scripture supports, both the Church and each member of the Church are in view in regard to election. We are all elect in Christ. To speak of one is to speak of the other. I don’t believe this was meant to be some great mystery that we’re all supposed to try and figure out and debate about. “Us” means just that—“Us,” as in the Church; “Us,” as in individual believers. I believe making a distinction between the two leads to an erroneous understanding of this doctrine, which involves so many other soteriological teachings of the faith.
Two: I don’t believe God deals with sinners as elect or non-elect.
While we, as individuals, do come into the world as God’s elect, I don’t believe God deals with humanity as elect or non-elect. Rather, He deals with us as sinners in need of a Savior. Which means, I believe Christ died for all and that salvation is available to all who hear the gospel of Christ (1 Ti 2:5-6; 1 Jn 2:2; 2 Pe 3:9; Jn 6:33,51; Matt 24:14; Jn 3:16; Jn 4:42). This means that even though God knows His own people (each elect individual), the offer of salvation is genuine and legitimate to all. Salvation is genuinely possible for all who hear, because God deals with us in real time, according to where we are in this life, as each person is faced with the truth in real time. Everyone either receives the truth or rejects it according to the inclination and receptivity of their own hearts (2 Th 2:10).
Discussion: The fact that God deals with us in real time should be beyond obvious, because Jesus commissioned His Church to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Ro 10:17), and “how will they hear without a preacher?” (Ro 10:14). The fact that God deals with us where we are in this life, in real time experiences, is understood by all of us. Yet, Calvinist teaching does not actually reflect that fact. Rather, from their point of view, God deals with us as either elect or non-elect, instead of simply as sinners in need of a Savior. In Calvinism, the decision has already been made, salvation for each elect person has already been decided. Thus, in Calvinism, Christ died only for the elect, and therefore, they are the total focus of Christ in bringing them to salvation. But I don’t believe that’s the right way to look at this. Rather, there is no elect or non-elect in the process of bringing people to Christ—just lost, helpless sinners in need of forgiveness, everyone with the same spiritual need and the same opportunity to respond to the gospel message in faith.
On the other extreme, Arminianism does not take into account that there actually are elect individuals, but rather the elect are those who receive Christ, and not until that point (Arminian corporate election)—or according to another view, God looked into the future and saw who accepts Christ, and those are the ones He chose. Thus, in the Arminian understanding, there is no actual choosing by God, but completely left up to the individual.
I believe both Calvinist and Arminian teaching on this is out of balance. Between the two extremes, I believe there’s a more reasonable understanding. Namely, that even though God knows His elect as they come into the world, God doesn’t deal with them that way. Rather, He deals with them according to the inclination and receptivity of their own hearts in real time, on the same level as everyone else who hears the gospel message. In other words, those who are receptive to the truth and receive Christ as Savior, are revealed as His elect, those who were “chosen in Him.” Sinners don’t believe because they are God’s elect, but rather, they are revealed to be God’s elect by believing. They believe according to their own heart before God. A person either has a heart that is receptive to the truth or it’s not. We’ll get into this in more detail next.
Three: More specifically, I believe God deals with every individual sinner according to the condition of their hearts.
(Rev 2:23; 1 Sa 16:7; Lu 8:15; 1 Ki 8:39; Jer 17:10; Pr 17:3; Prov 4:23; Matt 12:35; Acts 1:24; 2 Th 2:10).
God looks upon each person’s heart (in real time) to determine if it’s a heart that is humble and receptive to the truth and conviction of sins (Ja 4:6; 1 Pe 5:5; 2 Th 2:10; Lu 8:15; Prov 16:5; Jn 16:8). In other words, God doesn’t look to see if a person is one of His elect or not, but rather, He looks at each person’s heart to see if it’s a heart that is open and receptive to the truth, receptive to the voice of Christ. God knows each person’s heart; He knows if it’s a heart that can be influenced and won over by the truth as He reveals it to them. Or more precisely, God knows if a person’s heart will be influenced and won over by the truth. God does not deal with people as elect or non-elect, but as sinners whom God seeks to save (Lu 19:10). In other words, God deals with everyone on the same equal terms. He does this by examining each sinner’s heart to determine if it’s a heart that is humble and a willing receiver of the truth and the call of Christ. If it is, those are the ones He “draws” to His Son (Jn 6:44). Those are the ones who are proven to be the elect of God.
This drawing is our “call” to salvation (Ro 1:6; Ro 8:30 Ro 9:24). It involves God opening one’s spiritual faculties/senses (spiritual eyes, spiritual ears) to the truth (Acts 26:18; Eph 1:18), which enables faith in a humble and ready heart as they hear the message of Christ (Ro 10:17). It’s at this point that they’re regenerated (Jn 1:12-13; Jn 3:7; Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pe 1:3; 1 Jn 5:1)—not before faith. Everyone who is drawn will respond in faith. These are the ones the Father gives to His Son “out of the world” (Jn 17:6; Jn 6:37,39; Jn 17:2). These are the ones Jesus refers to as “My sheep” (John 10). Christ’s sheep are not the elect, per se (in the Calvinist understanding). Rather, His sheep are those who have “ears to hear” (Mk 4:8-9) the voice of the Shepherd when He calls, and upon hearing, they follow in faith. Thus, they’re revealed as His elect sheep by responding to His voice and call to salvation—NOT BECAUSE they are elect sheep. The response to the voice of Jesus is as natural as sheep following their shepherd when he calls.
Those who do not have a heart that is humble and receptive to the truth (Jn 5:38-42), God leaves them in their sin and does not draw them (Jn 6:64-65); He does not call them—because everyone who is drawn will believe unto salvation (Jn 6:45). It’s not that they can’t resist—they can—it’s just that it’s not in their hearts to do so. Jesus Himself reveals that it’s a matter of the heart in John 5:39-40:
(John 5:39-40) – 39 You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, 40 but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life. (NET)
Here Jesus told these Jewish leaders that even though they had the OT Scriptures, they didn’t believe them, nor did they believe His words. Why? It’s because they were not willing to believe (2 Th 2:10); they were “not willing to come to me,” which would have resulted in eternal life if they did. They would have been revealed as the elect of God. This was a legitimate offer of salvation to them. If they would have come to Him in faith, they would have gained life. But He knew their hearts, that it just wasn’t in their hearts to believe. He was dealing with them where they were at that moment—not on the basis of being elect or non-elect. They didn’t have hearts that were humble and receptive to the truth—either to the OT Scriptures or to the words of Jesus. If they had had a heart that was receptive to the truth, then God would have opened their eyes of understanding, and would have enabled them to see the truth in His Son (Jn 6:45). At that point, the Father would have drawn them to Jesus—as Jesus said, “Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me.” Therefore, because of the condition of their own hearts, Jesus left them in their sin. It was not because they weren’t “His elect,” but because of their own rebellious hearts. God does not draw (call) and enlighten those whom He knows will not respond in faith. Everyone is responsible for their own heart.
So to be clear, everyone has an opportunity to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s up to their own individual hearts whether they do or not. If it’s not in their hearts to do so, God knows, and leaves them in their sin, and does not draw them. He does not reveal the truth to those whom He knows are not willing listeners. Those whom He chooses to draw to His Son, are those whom He knows have receptive hearts. Those are the ones who are revealed to be the elect of God.
Note: There’s a sense in which God is at work in a person’s heart to draw them to Christ (via the gospel), even though they may never come to faith in Christ. However, this is more about influencing, than actual “drawing” (I’ll discuss this more later in the section about praying for the salvation of others).
We see here both the grace of God and the responsibility of the sinner before God to respond to the gospel of Christ in faith. No one suffers eternal punishment because they weren’t able to believe. It’s that it simply wasn’t in their hearts to do so. I believe Jesus will say to them what He said to the Jewish leaders in John 5:40: “you were not willing to come to me.”
In the context of Calvinism, a person only comes to Christ because he or she is one of the elect, where God intervenes and regenerates them, grants them faith, and thus, making their salvation a certainty based on that and that alone. But against the Calvinist position, a person can hardly be held accountable for rejecting Christ when God Himself has made it impossible for him or her to receive Him. As one who was a full Calvinist, this disturbing idea tends to get pushed to the back of our minds, where the focus is completely on God’s sovereign unconditional election. Yes, everyone is responsible and accountable for their sins, but the same can’t be said (sensibly) about rejecting Christ when it’s not even possible to believe in Him. In truth, the reason people don’t believe is because it’s not in their hearts to believe—not because they can’t believe, not because they’re not one of the elect.
In the context of Arminianism, the idea that God draws and opens the spiritual faculties/senses to the truth of everyone who hears it, conflicts with what Jesus Himself said, that “everyone” who is drawn will go to Him in faith (Jn 6:37-45, 64-65). We’ll deal more with this later.
Example: Here’s an example of how I believe the process of leading a person to Christ works: There are two types of people sitting in church while the gospel of Christ is being proclaimed. The people in one group are hardened to what they’re hearing. They’re totally disinterested and unreceptive to what they’re hearing, loving their sins and their lives the way they are. They don’t believe, nor do they want to believe. It’s simply not in their hearts to believe. God knows their hearts and does not draw them. He leaves them in their sins.
The people in the other group listen to the message with great interest, open and receptive to what they’re hearing. The message is appealing to them. They also feel the weight of their sins. God sees the humility of their hearts and draws them to His Son. He does this by fully opening their spiritual eyes to the truth and of their need for Christ as Savior—which enables faith in a humble and ready heart. They hear the voice of Christ and follow. It’s a response as natural as sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd and follow. It’s not that they can’t resist, it’s just not in their hearts to resist. Everyone whom God calls, receives Christ as Savior (Jn 6:44-45).
This example demonstrates why some are completely moved by the gospel (resulting in salvation), while others are completely unmoved by it. It’s a matter of one’s heart—a heart of humility vs. a heart of pride (Ja 4:6; 1 Pe 5:5).
Four: We are eternally secure in Christ.
We have died with Christ and have been raised to new life in Him (Eph 2:5-6; Col 3:1-3). We have entered into His death and resurrection. Therefore, if Jesus is “never going to die again” (Ro 6:9), then neither can we ever die again. In addition, we’ve been “set free from the law of sin and death” (Ro 8:1-3). This means that since Christ has “condemned sin” (a death sentence to sin), we are therefore, not condemned (death sentence) ourselves! We’ve been set free from the governing law of sin and death (“sin that leads to death” – NLT). We’ve been set free from the only thing that could ever cause spiritual death and separation from God. You may find an expanded study on this here.
Here we’ll take a look at several scriptures that are pertinent to our discussion. Here I will attempt to answer all or most of the questions you may have as you consider this particular position on the extent of the atonement and the doctrine of election.
1 – (John 6:44) – 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (NET)
Arminians interpret the words of Jesus in John 6:44 to mean that, while everyone is “drawn,” not everyone who is “drawn” will be saved. It’s only those who are drawn and believe who will be saved and “raised up at the last day.” Meaning, there are many people who are drawn who do not or will not believe. But this interpretation is no more than an assumption, which is an attempt to bring Christ’s words into harmony with their position. However, I believe an objective view of His words in the whole context of His discussion in John 6, strongly implies that everyone drawn will believe (Jn 6:45), and thus, “will be raised up at the last day.” This is an objective interpretation that understands what Jesus says in the most natural way—without trying to force an interpretation.
2 – (John 6:64-65) — 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus had already known from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 So Jesus added, “Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come.” (NET)
Knowing the hearts of all, Jesus makes it clear that the reason people are not drawn by the Father (“allowed him to come”) is because of their unbelief (2 Th 2:10). It’s a receptive heart to the truth and to the voice of Christ that “allows” a person to be drawn and given to the Son in faith (Jn 6:37). To be more clear, “Because of this,” because of unbelief, “I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come.” It’s a receptive heart to the truth that results in belief, that allows a sinner to go to Jesus. This takes us back to John 5:39-40 in our above discussion. I’ll repeat part of what I said there:
“Jesus told these Jewish leaders that even though they had the OT Scriptures, they didn’t believe them, nor did they believe the words of Jesus. Why? It’s because they were “not willing to come to me,” which would have resulted in eternal life if they did.” (go back and read that paragraph).
It’s a person’s own unwilling heart that prevents a person from believing and being drawn to Christ.
3 – (John 12:32) – And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (NET)
Where Jesus says that He will “draw all people to himself,” this should be understood as all people of the world in general—not to every person who comes into the world. Because obviously, not every person around the world hears the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, at the same time, it should also be understood to mean that everyone who hears the gospel will have a genuine opportunity to believe in Christ. It should not be understood as referring only to the elect. To go from “all people” to “all the elect,” is a huge assumption on the part of Calvinists. I believe it should be understood in the most natural way, which is:
In the context of their day, it refers to all the people groups of the world, and not just to the people of Israel. Since the cross, God’s dealing with humanity is no longer through Israel, but now through Christ, who is Himself true Israel. It should not be understood to mean that everyone who hears the gospel will be drawn—rather, only those who have hearts that are receptive to the gospel, as explained above.
4 – (Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Cor 2:14-15) – Calvinists make the argument that since we are spiritually dead, we’re not able to understand the truth. I agree. The “natural man,” those without the Spirit, “don’t accept the things of the Spirit of God” (2 Cor 2:14). Left to ourselves, apart from God, we cannot understand spiritual truth. However, that does not mean that God must regenerate us first. That does not mean that God cannot open our spiritual eyes and ears apart from regeneration. God is obviously able to break through our spiritual blindness and darkness as we are, by illuminating the truth to our hearts—if He so chooses. Based on what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, I believe that’s exactly what He does. If God is able to give us a whole new nature, then He is certainly able to break through the darkness of our old nature to reveal the truth to us. Consider carefully:
“For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.” (NET)
This is an obvious reference to creation, when God commanded light to shine in the darkness via the sun and moon and stars (Ge 1:3-4,14-19). Note that it was in the darkness that God commanded the lights to shine. If God regenerates us first in order to shine the light of truth upon us, then God is actually shining light within light, because in a regenerate condition, we’re no longer in darkness. If God is truly shining His light in the darkness of our “hearts,” then that has to come before regeneration. It’s not until we’re regenerated that our hearts become light, where we receive a new nature. We go “from darkness to light” upon “faith in me,” that is, faith in Jesus (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13). We must conclude that the Calvinist view does not make sense in the context and discussion of 2 Cor 4:6 and Gen 1:3-4.
5 – (Ephesians 2:8-9) – 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. (NET)
Calvinists understand God’s grace here in two ways. First, that God grants salvation to whoever He wants—namely, to the elect. Second, that faith for salvation is given or enabled via regeneration to His elect as a “gift.” However, this passage doesn’t have to be understood that way. It can be, and I believe should be, understood that “grace” first of all, refers to the opportunity to hear the gospel message—but also that it refers to the grace of salvation that is given to those who place their “faith” in Christ, knowing there is nothing within ourselves that can save us. We can’t “work” our way to Heaven. Salvation is a “gift,” granted to those who believe.
6 – (Romans 8:28-30) – 28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. (NET)
In brief, those whom God “foreknows,” are the ones He “chose in him” (Eph 1:4). In other words, those whom He “foreknew,” He also “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,” which refers to our being perfected in Christ. In other words, this speaks of our salvation. Or more specifically, it refers to our election to salvation. As I explained in the beginning, God chose those whom He already knew or “foreknew.” God also “calls” those whom He “foreknew.” This is the drawing and illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. There’s a general call that goes out to everyone who hears the gospel of Christ. But there’s also a specific and personal call to those who have receptive hearts to the call of Christ, where God draws them to His Son as He illuminates the truth to their spiritual eyes.
7 – (John 10:14-17) – 14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me—because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again. (NET)
There is a reality that Jesus knows His own (“my own”) even before they place their faith in Him, before coming into the world (Eph 1:4: Ro 8:29). However, in real time, God deals with us as sinners in need of a Savior. Thus, those who “listen to my voice,” are those who have receptive hearts to His voice, who are receptive to the truth He speaks to their hearts. As a sheep recognizes the voice of their shepherd, so does Christ’s own know His voice when He calls. It’s not because they are “elect sheep” that they respond to His voice in faith, but rather, they respond in faith because they have hearts that are receptive to His voice—thereby, revealing them to be His elect sheep. Being His sheep begins with a humble and receptive heart to the truth even before they place their faith in Him. It’s the humble and receptive condition of one’s heart that distinguishes them from everyone else—sheep vs. non-sheep.
In regard to this statement: “I lay my life down for the sheep.” It’s not that Jesus doesn’t lay His life down for the world in general, and it’s not that the opportunity for salvation isn’t available to everyone else who hears the gospel. It’s just that here Jesus makes it entirely personal. His focus right now is on His sheep, on all those who receive Him as their Savior and Shepherd. It’s still true that His sheep are those who have hearts that are receptive to the truth and to His voice before they actually place their faith in Him. But here I believe Jesus is looking beyond that and is seeing the finished product, if you will. Again, that Jesus laid down His life for His sheep, doesn’t mean that He didn’t also lay down His life for everyone else. It’s just that in this passage Jesus is making it totally personal between Him and all those who end up receiving Him as their Savior—everyone whom He foreknew to be His own. I don’t believe we need to make this more complicated than what it really is.
What’s said here about Christ’s individual sheep, is also true of His collective body of sheep, which is His Church (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:23,25). Thus, what’s said here about the individual sheep, is to be applied to the Church overall.
8 – (John 10:25-28) – 26 But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Jesus is not saying – as Calvinists believe – that the reason people don’t believe is because they are not among the elect. Rather, here Jesus is making a distinction between those who have receptive hearts to Him and His message, and those who don’t. His sheep are those who hear his voice with receptive hearts and follow Him in faith. His sheep are those who are humble and receptive to the truth. It’s not because they are the elect that they hear and follow. But rather, they’re revealed to be His elect by responding to His voice in faith.
In harmony with everything presented in this study, it’s a matter of one’s heart before God. Thus, it’s not that these people Jesus was talking to couldn’t believe, it’s that they refused to believe. In other words, it simply wasn’t in their hearts to believe. They were unreceptive to the truth that Jesus gave to them. This again takes us back to John 5:39-40 (see discussion above). What we see there and here in John 10:26 is the same type of situation. In both places the people were “not willing to come to me so that you may have life.” They refused to come because they refused to believe. It’s that simple. It’s not that they couldn’t believe, it’s that it wasn’t in their hearts to do so.
One: Can we pray for the salvation of the lost?
In the context of the position presented in this study, can we still ask God to do a work in someone’s heart to draw them to Christ, and expect God to do so? I believe we can. Prayer for the lost is something Paul himself did (Ro 10:1). It’s the biblical thing to do. I believe God does work in people’s hearts in answer to prayer. However, they still need to be receptive to what God does in their hearts. Our hearts are influenced and develop according to everything that is involved in our lives—which includes our culture, people and experiences. We respond according to all these influences in different ways. I believe when we pray for God to speak to hearts, to draw them to faith in Christ, I believe God uses the various things and people in their lives to influence them toward the truth and toward His Son. I would refer to these as guiding influences. However, God does not force anyone to respond the way they should. Everyone responds to the influences (including God-directed influences) in their lives according to the condition of their own hearts. Many will be more open and receptive to the truth than others. Those who are truly open and receptive to the work of God in their lives – which obviously includes the gospel – will be “drawn” to Jesus in faith (Jn 6:44). God will lead sinners to the water, but He won’t make them drink. He won’t make their hearts do something they’re not willing to do. But He will influence them in positive ways that will encourage their hearts toward the light and truth that is in His Son. There’s a reason why some respond to the Scriptures in faith, while others don’t. There’s a reason why people in cults understand the Scriptures differently than orthodox Christians. It’s a matter of one’s heart. One heart is receptive to the truth, while another is not. And only God knows the difference. It’s really that simple. It’s not because they elect or non-elect.
Two: What about those who never hear the gospel of Christ?
This is a question we all have about those around the world who never hear and and never have the opportunity to receive Christ as Savior. In harmony with the position that’s presented in this study, I believe the answer is this: Since God knows every person’s heart – even before we come into the world – those people find themselves in unreached geographical areas of the world because of the providence of God (Acts 17:26), based on the condition of their hearts—namely, their unreceptive hearts. In other words, God knows they were never going to believe. Thus, when they stand before God, the true nature of their hearts will be revealed. Perhaps God may even show them what they would have done if they did have the opportunity to hear the gospel message.
Three: Can anyone really understand the doctrine of election?
No, I don’t believe so. How can we possibly understand how an all-knowing and everywhere present God, at all points of eternity, make decisions about anything when He’s already there? When He already knew what He would choose to do? Once you start thinking about all this, it boggles the mind. God simply hasn’t revealed to us how He works and accomplishes His will in the world and throughout the universe. The best we can do is try to understand on our own level, based on what God has revealed to us via the Scriptures—which is what the position in this study attempts to do. I would like to add that, while we can’t understand how, I believe God’s choosing and His knowledge and foreknowledge of all things co-exist. I don’t believe one comes before the other, but rather, they share the same space in perfect harmony.
In the position provided in this study, we have an understanding regarding the extent of the atonement and the doctrine of election, that is somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism. I believe the truth is in the balance. It considers the teachings of both sides and brings them into harmony. More precisely, it considers the Scriptures regarding both the grace of God and the individual responsibility of the sinner, and seeks a balanced understanding—such as you see here. I believe this is what God intended, instead of this war that exists between us. And I’ve been as guilty as anyone.
In this interpretation of Scripture, we have both the elect and the non-elect, but God does not deal with humanity as elect or non-elect, but according to our own individual hearts. Everyone is responsible to God for their own hearts and for their own decisions regarding Christ and His message. We have to get it out of our heads that God deals with sinners on the basis of being elect or non-elect. We have to bring this down to where we are in this life, where we’re living our lives and hearing the message of Christ in real time. To see election and salvation on the basis of being elect or non-elect, brings nothing but confusion. It distorts the truth about the gospel of Christ and to whom it applies.
The explanation of the position presented here is certainly not exhaustive. We can always go into greater depth. But this is not a book—it’s a blog study that seeks to present an overview that is sufficient to explain the position, while also extensive enough to explain the main differences between Calvinism and Arminianism in the most debated areas—all within the context of the position presented here. From my point of view, this balanced understanding makes the most sense.
From my perspective, not only does this position make sense (bringing harmony between the grace of God and the responsibility of individual sinners), but if I was a pastor, this would be a position I would give a lot of thought to. Because in most every church you have both Calvinists and Arminians, and if you teach in favor of one side or the other, you’re always going to ruffle some feathers, if not lose people—I think that’s especially true if Calvinism is taught. I speak from personal experience. Many years ago I left a church because Calvinism was such a stench to my soul. But then, many years later, I became a Calvinist! And even taught Calvinism on this website. I had believed, as an Arminian, that I would be the last man standing. Such was not the case. Life is full of surprises. But now, I’m right in the balance where I believe we all should be. It’s a wonderful place to be. I believe it sufficiently covers all the bases and answers most of the questions—although all the questions will never be answered this side of Heaven.