Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

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 thats 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.

Question:  Why would we need Jesus if we were already, eternally reconciled in the good graces of the Father as His own possession, previous to he blood mediatorship of Christ at Calvary? In other words, if humanity is subdivided into eternal sheep vs. eternal goats, such that the eternal sheep will be saved, no matter what, and that the eternal goats will perish, no matter what, then why would the sheep, in this example, need Jesus in order to be reconciled to the Father, since they are already His sheep?

Answer:  Most Calvinists would respond that the elect,” while as lost sinners, are not reconciled or mediated to the Father, even if they belong to the Father, and see, that’s the paradox that the Calvinist must therefore explain.
Question:  Why would Arminians feel that Calvinism does not represent Calvary as an “authentic saving act”? Why would Arminians feel that Calvinism ultimately reduces Calvary to nothing more than “divine pageantry”?

Answer:  Because if there exists a group of people who are already the Fathers, then they are already reconciled to the Father, and thus Calvary is reduced to being a mere formality?
Another way to think of it is this: According to Calvinism, Election is the reason why one person becomes saved and another remains lost. Calvary does not cause people to be elect, but rather, Calvary saves people who are already elect. But if that is the case, then Calvary is not the root cause of salvation, but only a link in a chain.

Calvinism’s Paradox: It requires an essential 3rd federal headship: In the Father where the lost elect are simultaneously in Adam and in the Father, which is a complete impossibility. It further requires that certain people are in secret” Gods own possession, while simultaneously lost and separated from God.
Arminian Charge:  Calvinism reduces Calvary to Divine Pageantry.

Myth or Reality:  The Arminian criticism against Calvinism is that it inevitably would reduce the saving act of Calvary into nothing more than divine pageantry.