Arminian, Robert Shank, states: “Thus Christ’s ‘redemptive’ career--the incarnation, His death and resurrection, His ascension and intercession--are seen as incidental and symbolic, divine pageantry rather than authentic saving acts.” (Elect in the Son, p.32, emphasis mine)
Shank adds: “The atonement wrought by Christ was by no means symbolic. It was an authentic saving act made necessary by the holy character of God Himself, a saving act whereby God can adopt into sonship and into His kingdom men who have transgressed His righteous laws, outraged His holiness, and of themselves are sinners. The death of Jesus Christ was not pageantry. It was a decisive saving act in which Jesus Christ was truly instrumental in the election of men to salvation and the everlasting kingdom of God.” (Elect in the Son, p.36, emphasis mine)
First things first, it needs to be demonstrated that Calvinism does indeed insist that certain lost people are simultaneously In Adam and In the Father, that is, lost sinners in the secret possession of God:
John 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 adds: “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)
Next, the following quotes should sufficiently demonstrate why Arminians feel that Calvinism reduces Calvary to nothing more than a legal formality, rather than an authentic saving act:
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.”
Calvinists typically feel satisfied to say that “the elect” are lost sinners in need of a Savior, and not yet reconciled, and not yet Mediated. Yet, at the same time, they would already be in such good standing, as being the Father’s “own,” and that’s the problem. Calvary no longer becomes an authentic saving act, but only a formality of Election.
Here is a link to Blog discussion on this topic.