One Calvinist explains: “Do Calvinists secretly believe that God chose them for some reason other than their need for salvation? Would I, as a Christian, believe that God chose me for some other reason than my need for salvation? Yes, I do. God chose me for His glory, for His pleasure, for His purposes. Sure I had a need for salvation. But that is not why He saved me primarily. ... In the Bible, God does not say He chose us because of our desperate need. He chose us before our need ever arose.”
But, then, how is salvation based upon mercy? To some, it is not, but rather, that (as according to the alleged, immutable and eternal decree), salvation is based upon purpose, insomuch that God purposed to save some and not others, for a reason which is presently unknowable for any man to know.
Calvinist, John MacArthur, states: “We are chosen unto salvation. We are chosen to belong to Him. When you look at your salvation, then thank God. Thank God! Because you are a Christian because He chose you. I don’t understand the mystery of that. That’s just what the word of God teaches. That is the most humbling doctrine in all of Scripture. I take no credit, not even credit for my faith. It all came from Him. He chose me. He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
Everyone has a need for salvation. Everyone has a need for mercy. If God had Calvinistically elected people for salvation on the basis of needing mercy, then everyone would have to elected for salvation, because everyone is equally in need of mercy. But since not everyone is saved, the logic requires that Calvinistic Election is not based upon mercy, but based upon hidden purpose, and thus the resulting distinction of the saved vs. unsaved.
Dan with Arminian Chronicles explains: “Anyone who claims God saves and damns people based on a hidden purpose, without considering them sinners or believers must explain how God is having mercy. Uncreated humans would not require mercy or punishment.” (An Analysis of Romans 9 – 11 from an Arminian Perspective, emphasis mine)
The Arminian perspective would be an election considered from the basis of believers, as in, being chosen in Christ. (Ephesians 1:4). The Calvinist perspective would be an election considered from the basis of being in the eternal, secret possession of the Father, with the result that the Father gives these “Elect ones” to His Son. Hence, Calvinistic Election is not mercy-based, but purpose-based, that is, for the purpose of displaying various divine attributes in the contrasting castes of elect vs. non-elect.
Calvinist, James White, writes: “Jesus begins where Christian salvation begins (and ends!), with the Father. The Father gives a particular people to the Son.” (Debating Calvinism, p.118, emphasis mine)
James White adds: “...God brings His elect to Himself in love....” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)
Again, I quote White: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because the Father, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, gave me to the Son in eternity past.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)
And what is the basis? Calvinists can offer no other basis than the hidden purpose of God. All are equally in need of mercy, so that cannot be it. “Hidden purpose” is the only thing left. By contrast, for the Arminian, Election is the Father’s eternal plan to honor His Son, and all who are in Him, as in, the body of Christ, that is, those who are in Christ. As such, God wills mercy for all, as much as it is up to Him. For His part, He is willing that all receive their needed mercy, by coming to His Son. That’s the eternal plan of God, when humanity is considered from its fallen state.