Pick me, pick me: Unconditional Election
As the Bible so clearly points out in Ephesians 1:4-5, He chose us "in Christ" before the foundation of the world...
Another passage that reads this out backwards, but still clearly, is this: Revelation 17:8, which clearly says that "they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world..."
"Arminians" don't see this, and don't like it. They believe that their choice towards God is what saved them...that ALL men have faith, they only have to exercise it properly, which couldn't be further from the truth. This verse is particularly useful when such an assertion comes up: 2 Thessalonians 3:2, "And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all ( men ) have not faith."
Those that don't see this could also include those of God's elect that just haven't seen it yet, but I believe every true child of God will eventually be led to see this core truth of their salvation...that God does all the work necessary to redeem a peculiar people, zealous of good works, with no "credit" going to mankind even for the seemingly simple act of believing on Christ. Ephesians 2:8-10 shows us that even faith is a gift of God. Philippians 1:29 shows us that " unto us it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but to suffer for His sake." 1 Peter 1:5 then shows us the end, in which we are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." Such a tremendous, wonderful and blessed thing to be found in possession of the gift of eternal life!
The very foundation of mankind's position and condition before God has eroded to the point where we are completely in love with our sin ( John 3:19-20 ), and want nothing to do with God who has every right to command His creation...every right to do with His creation as He sees fit...and does, regardless of man's objections. ( Romans 9:15 ). Mankind has no desire to have Jesus Christ rule over us, so God gave us over to all kinds of wickedness. ( See Romans chapters 1-3, especially Romans 3:10-18 as well as Psalm 14:2-3, Psalm 53:2-3.)
Arminians / Pelagians do not see this ( or will not ), and think that there is somehow something left in mankind that desires a relationship with God...They do not believe God's word at face value, that mankind's rebellion goes all the way to the core, and man will not seek God even if it means death and Hell. That is our position, and it is a dreadfully dire one from which God has to extricate each and every one that is to be saved, from the hands of sin and spiritual death and of the Devil. This God does flawlessly, presenting us to Christ as a perfect bride. :) \o/
Why is this so seemingly difficult for those who profess Christ to see?
1) 2 Peter 3:16. These things are hard for the natural mind to understand, so IMO most baby Christians do not see them at first ( Ephesians 4:14 as well ).
2) The probability that those who profess but don't see it EVER, don't possess the spirit of Christ. That is, those who say they believe, but do not possess the gift of God's Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth. 1 John 2:27 comes to mind as does John 16:13.
This is an old, old "debate", and one that is easily overcome if one takes God's word at His word, and is able to get past the objections of the carnal or natural mindset, IMO. I personally did not see this until I was into my 30's, after a friend dropped 3 passages on me...then everything just kind of fell together. The biggest obstacle in my way? I was a member of a fundamental Baptist church that not only did not believe this, but sought to stay as far away from any of these passages as possible. I didn't even know what biblical election was from the ages of 12 to 36...Mostly my fault, as I was living far from God and not reading my Bible.
At the age of 37, I came to realize that "freewill" ( something even unbelievers tout, and LOUDLY at times! ) is nothing more than an illusion; Unregenerate mankind is forever unable and unwilling to recognize his absolutely depraved condition before God, and his nature determines the course of his will...regenerate mankind falls under Romans chapter 7, and only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ are we then able to start obeying Him. He does it through us, and I only recently ( fully ) realized that fact of the Christian life ( Romans 7:18, Philippians 4:13 ).
The Lord has been most kind in His mercy towards me...
This is still the definitive book on this subject (in my mind).
The Death of Death in the Death of Christ - John Owen
I find difficulty with some of the thoughts that Dave has expressed but as one who tends to be a reader rather than poster I honestly don't have the time to engage in a long drawn out conversation that has happened on this site numerous times before.
However, I did have a quick observation regarding the article ...
As one who doesn't hold to a "hard-line" Calvinist position, it appears to me that too often and too easily those of a Calvinist persuasion see any mention in Scripture of election, choice, predestination, etc. and regardless of the context or possible variations of interpretation, just assume that it is talking of salvation and eternal destiny, and then run with it. Take the reference to Romans 9 in the article for example ...
I am far from a theological Einstein, however, as do many others, I can recognise that Romans 9-11 is a complex passage to interpret and apply. As I would suggest occurs quite regularly amongst similar circles, the article's author references Rom 9:11-13 in the discussion of the timing of election to saving faith. However, if you closely consider this passage, I would suggest that saving faith may not be the intended focus of this verse.
In Gen 25:22-23, it is overwhelmingly clear that the prophetic word that God is giving relates to the nations that will descend from each of Rebekah's twins. This prophecy did not relate to personal salvation, but rather God's sovereign working in the rise and fall of nations and the choice of a nation that would produce His holy Heir that would be the Saviour of mankind. No one would argue that in Gen 25 God is arguing for the individual salvation of Jacob and the rejection of Esau as an individual. Instead, the focus is on the destiny (i.e. choice/election) of nations in God's sovereign plan.
Keeping this in mind, when reading in Rom 9 of the reference to God's "purpose of election" and His "loving/hating" (which many argue again relates to choosing/rejecting), why would the context suddenly mean personal salvation when the original clear prophetic Word of God in Gen did not mean this? Is it possible that Paul is indeed speaking of election (God's action of choosing) in order to see His sovereign ends accomplished, rather than election of individuals to salvation/damnation?
And then a couple of verses down Paul moves on to Pharaoh, who, without using the exact phrase, he infers is also "elected" according to God's purposes in order that His name might be declared throughout the earth. Obviously there is no way that Pharaoh was elected to individual salvation, so what exactly is Paul going on about then?
Anyway, this obviously is part of the wider discussion of the passage, namely what exact point Paul is trying to make and specifically what he means whenever he mentions election. Thought it was worth highlighting for what it's worth ...
(Hope my ramblings made sense ... it's 12:31 AM local time ...)
What some fail to recognize regarding Romans 9, is that there is considerably more to election than just what some consider to be the "core" of the verses..."Calvinists" ( who got their name from those that opposed them in the years following the Synod of Dort, IMO ) list Romans 9:10-18 as the proof of God's individual election of His saints to salvation. IMO, what they often fail to include are the prior verses: " Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."
The understanding God gave me: Verse 6 expressly denies that God's word has taken "none effect", that is, has been void. Verse 7 rules out those who are the natural descendants of Abraham as being included in the "promise" ( more on that later ) and declares that they are not " all children" ( children of what / whom? God, or just Abraham? ) and further declares that IN ISAAC is the "seed" to be called. Verse 8 declares that, just because one is a child of the flesh ( physical descendant of Abraham ) does not make them a child of the living God...the children of the "promise" are counted "for the seed".
In truth, the beginning of the chapter talks about the "promises" given towards national Israel, but in following the chapter carefully, noting the details, one sees that there is a difference between the "promise" and the "promises"...there were certain promises made to the nation of Israel under the Law...then there were certain promises made to Abraham BEFORE the Law was given by God to Moses. Israel as a nation, was made certain "promises" such as peace, welfare and protection from their enemies if they obeyed and followed God's Law...Abraham was made THIS promise: The righteousness of faith without ( outside ) the Law... ( Romans 3:21-31, Romans 4: 1-25 ) That is, the righteousness of faith through Jesus Christ, who is of the physical seed of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and David, through the whole line. Try looking up passages dealing with the "seed of Abraham" and basically I think you will see two differing kinds of "seed"...one that is physical, through Isaac and Jacob, and one that is spiritual, through Isaac, Jacob, David and pre-eminently Jesus Christ by faith. See also Hebrews 2:14-18, Hebrews 4:2, Hebrews 11:18, an finally, for the clincher: Galatians 3:6-29, with special emphasis on Galatians 3:16 and Galatians 3:29.
Many people try to skip over or smooth over Romans chapter 9 by saying it only deals with national Israel, when upon closer examination only PART of it does, and the rest deals with a spiritual people chosen of God, INCLUDING some from national Israel...a "remnant" according to the election of grace. See Romans 9:22-24 for clarification as to both parties which are represented in election: Jews and Gentiles. They do this because this doctrine is so divisive, IMO. But hey, God's word IS divisive, and Christ said it WOULD be ( Matthew 10:34-36 ).
The trouble is, the natural mind does not see these things at first, therefore it behooves every child of God to acquaint and immerse themselves in God's word every day.
Blessings to you sir.
EDIT: Romans is often considered to be the premier letter to the churches that deals with nearly everything that they need to hear..."theology", sanctification, justification by faith, election of God unto salvation, conduct, and several other subjects. IMO, it does the widest job detailing who believers are, where we get our faith and why. It definitely needs to be read ( as does the entire Bible ) many times before things begin to "stick".