Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Why, then, is one person saved and another lost? The Arminian says the difference is to be found in man. … The Calvinist says that the difference is in God, for all men are equally in bondage to sin. Any differences in disposition is due to his work in the human heart. Thus since some are saved, it must be that God has elected them.” (The Doctrines That Divide, pp.180-181, emphasis mine)
Throughout the history of Calvinism, the doctrine of Unconditional Election has, in my opinion, rarely, if ever, been taught with clarity. John Calvin, I believe, only briefly touched upon genuine Calvinistic Election, and without being explicit. Again, the central formula is that Elective Grace predetermines Regenerative Grace which results in Persevering Grace.
Here are some examples of what Calvin describes, that is consistent with what I believe to be the essence of Unconditional Election:
Calvin writes: “Then, when Paul lays down as the unique cause of election the good pleasure of God which He has in Himself, he excludes all other causes.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.69, emphasis mine)
Calvin adds: “Paul further confirms this, declaring that God was moved by no external cause; He Himself and in Himself was author and cause of our being elected while yet we were not created, and of His afterwards conferring faith upon us.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.69, emphasis mine)
What is meant by “in Himself”? Perhaps he intends that Ephesians 1:4 means God chose us in Himself before the foundation of the world. And what does that mean, except that Calvinistic Election is first and foremost, in the Father?
Calvin writes: “The calling is therefore a certain and specific calling, which seals and ratifies the eternal election of God so as to make manifest what was before hidden in God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.70, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “...God has chosen to salvation those whom He pleased, and has rejected the others, without our knowing why, except that its reason is hidden in His eternal counsel.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.53, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “Christ therefore is for us the bright mirror of the eternal and hidden election of God, and also the earnest and pledge. ... We see here that God begins with Himself when He sees fit to elect us....” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.127, emphasis mine)
How does God begin “with Himself” and what is “hidden in His eternal counsel”? Perhaps he intends that those whom He has chosen to salvation are hidden in His mind, being secretly elect in the Father?
Calvin writes: “First he points out the eternity of election, and then how we should think of it. Christ says that the elect always belonged to God. God therefore distinguishes them from the reprobate, not by faith, nor by any merit, but by pure grace; for while they are far away
from him, he regards them in secret as his own.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.393, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “Christ certainly counts none among His own, unless he be given by the Father; and He declares those to be given who before were the Father’s (ibid. 17:6).” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.147, emphasis mine)
What is “in secret...his own” and how were they “the Father’s”? Perhaps he intends that “the elect” are His eternal secret possession, having always belonged in the Father?
Calvin writes: “This way of speaking, however, may seem to be different from many passages of Scripture which attribute to Christ the first foundation of God’s love for us and show that outside Christ we are detested by God. But we ought to remember, as I have already said, that the Heavenly Father’s secret love which embraced us is the first love given to us.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.76, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “I answer briefly that Christ was so ordained for the salvation of the whole world that He might save those who are given to Him by the Father, that He might be their life whose Head He is, and that He might receive those into participation of His benefits whom God by His gratuitous good pleasure adopted as heirs for Himself.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.102-103, emphasis mine)
What is meant by the “first foundation” by which God “embraced us” and “adopted as heirs for Himself” except perhaps that he intends to convey an eternal in the Father election?
Calvin writes: “There are some, too, who allege that God is greatly dishonored if such arbitrary power is bestowed on Him. … they should look up to the sovereignty of God and not evaluate it by their own judgment.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.209-210, emphasis mine)
Calvin adds: “We must simply remember this, that God is deprived of part of His honour if He is not allowed authority to be arbiter of life and death over men.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.210, emphasis mine)
How is a person eternally adopted in the Father? Calvin answers that it is by the “arbitrary power” of the “sovereignty of God,” such that if God did not have the right to select a people in Himself, He would be deprived of His “honour.”
These examples reinforce what I believe John Calvin really intended to convey on the Calvinistic doctrine of Unconditional Election, that is, an in the Father election.