For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
We are told that Calvinism is “Christocentric” on the grounds that God purposes His elect to be Redeemed by Christ. But that’s just a technicality then. The Arminian criticism is that this is merely incidentally back-end Christocentric, rather than meaningfully front-end Christocentric, as Arminians wish to know from Calvinists exactly how, why and on what grounds “the Elect” supposedly became the Father’s “elect” in the first place? Did it have anything whatsoever to do with Christ, and if so, how? This is the challenge that Arminians have historically put to Calvinists, which Calvinists have never answered adequately, since they will simply defer to an unknowable mystery of God’s sovereign prerogative and will to Elect, rather than Christ’s authentic mission to save.
One Calvinist responds: “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.”
Keep that quote firmly in mind, as we now delve into commentary by J. Vernon McGee:
J. Vernon McGee writes: “We need a mediator, we need a priest, and we have one, the Great High Priest.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.38, emphasis mine)
Why? Because of a technicality in the chain of secret Election? Why would Calvinism’s Elect truly “need” to be mediated to the Father, if they were already, eternally mediated to Him according to His secret purposes, as John Calvin states: “…the elect always belonged to God…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) So again, what real “need” (other than a technicality), have the Calvinistically elect have of being mediated? The historical Arminian complaint against Calvinism is that it renders Calvary as little more than divine pageantry and symbolism, rather than an authentic saving act, and it’s a good point, which Calvinists need to ponder before shooting off a quick answer.
J. Vernon McGee writes: “Job’s heart cry even in his day was, ‘Neither is there an daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both’ (Job 9:33). In effect, Job was crying out, ‘Oh, if there were somebody who could take hold of God’s hand and then take hold of my hand and bring us together that there might be communication and understanding between us!” Well, my friend, today we have a Mediator--the Lord Jesus Christ has come. He has one hand in the hand of Deity because He is God. He is able to save to the uttermost because He is God, and He has paid the price for our salvation. He is a Mediator because He has also become man. He can hold my hand; He understands me. He understands you; you can go to Him, and He is not going to be upset with you. He will not lose His temper or strike you or hurt you in any way. You may say, ‘Well, I’ve failed. I’ve done such-and-such, and I’ve come short of the glory of God.’ My friend, He knows that, and He still loves you and wants to put His arm around you.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.38, emphasis mine)
This is why we “need” Jesus, because He is able to stand between God and man and reconcile the two, but this is rendered absurd if the roles of Father and Son are blurred in order to try make Calvinism front-end Christocentric.
McGee adds: “And you should go through Him, because there is really no use coming and telling me your troubles. I may not be sympathetic with you; I might not really understand your case. He does. He’s human. He is a daysman, a Mediator. He has put His hand in mine. I don’t put my hand in His; He puts His hand in mine and taken hold of me, but He also holds on to God because He is God, and He has brought us together.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.39)
But all of this is pure absurdity if the Father is already holding your hand through secret Election, as John 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)
If that’s true, then the whole process of Christ being Mediator between us and God the Father is one big charade, and the work of Christ no more than a technicality, formality and a rubber stamp for special Election. Yes, Christ is indeed our Mediator to the Father, as both Calvinists and Arminians agree, but if according to Calvinism, the Father gives an elect group to His Son, who He in turn mediates back to the Father, Mediation is thereby made into a trivial technicality. The elect, in this case, must already be in good standing with the Father (which Calvinism teaches is the sole basis for the Elect to be given by the Father to His Son), and hence, what does the Son’s mediation really accomplish?
Here is what Arminians think of such a premise:
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)
Again, Arminianism is not about doing homage to Free Will, as alleged so often by Calvinists, but rather Arminianism is about preserving the integrity of both Scripture and of God’s character.