Option c: The Time-Salvation Paradox

Calvin-and-Arminius
Portraits of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius

There is one aspect about God and our understanding of Him that I felt compelled to write about. This one area has divided Christians for centuries, and that is the subject of God’s sovereignty in relation to man’s free will.

Now, I know this is a topic which has been perpetually argued, but it is because of this fact that I had felt so passionate about the subject. I would love to end the debate, although I am not that naive to think that the argument I am about to outline could do so but it is my hope that it might possibly provide Christians who take a strong stance for Calvinism or Arminianism a more common ground and that is Option c.

To preface the argument, there are two reasons I think it is so important that Christians (notably Christian apologists) come to some agreement on the subject of God’s will and man’s will.

The first reason, is that when skeptics see how different Christians, churches, and denominations disagree and possibly even argue about God’s omnipotence, it builds a wall instead of providing a door.

The second reason, is that if the subject comes up when witnessing to someone who has doubts about how God’s will and man’s will can be understood, I feel taking a strong stance for Calvinism or Arminianism has the potential to hurt one’s witness, allow me to explain this:

For the Calvinist, “IF” he is wrong about the elect and we do have free will when it comes to choosing Christ, this can cause people to reject Christ when presented this view because they may feel their decision doesn’t matter when really it does (remember this is “IF” the Calvinist is wrong, similar reasoning is used in Pascal’s Wager).

On the other hand, a skeptic may argue against an Arminian’s views stating those views place God in a position of diminished authority, which causes logical inconsistencies with the Christian’s beliefs of God. So what I suggest is the third option which is my argument, so let’s examine Option c and what I like to call the Time-Salvation Paradox.

In my studies and thoughts about salvation, human will, and God’s transcendence, I have realized I was limiting God by thinking that what God has decreed is in the past. For example–when God chose the elect. And as it turns out, this is a very important detail with some surprising consequences. The idea occurred to me one day after reading this passage in the Bible:

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day
is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
2 Peter 3:8

This is not a verse one typically sees referenced when God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is argued, but stick with me. The one conclusion that I have come to is that the only people who choose God are the ones He elects, but God only elects those who choose Him. This statement alone may not sound logical but the reasoning behind it however, I believe, makes all the difference.

Option-c-

If you take into account the fact that God did choose those He elected before the foundations of the earth, and since God exists outside of time, what has happened with God may not have happened yet with us. To say that it did would mean that God is subject to the same confines and laws of time as we are. Because God is outside of time, what has already happened, (i.e. His choosing the elect) can be said to have not yet happened until we choose God (illustrated in the symbol above).

What I like about this stance is that it focuses on what God can do instead of what God cannot do. Calvinism says that God cannot make man with free will because that would compromise His authority. Arminianism says that God cannot choose people unto salvation because that would compromise His love and justice. Option c says that God can do both of those things, the paradox, if it can even be called that, is understanding how.

Again, God exists outside of our laws of time and space, and thus, outside of our understanding. God’s “time” is not faster or slower than ours, it is nonexistent as He is the creator of it and not bound by it. This is a foundational Christian belief about God, so with that in mind…

A summary of the argument is as follows:

Time-Salvation-Paradox 1.36.13 AM

God is spirit and He is eternal. God exists outside of time.

Man is physical and he is temporal. Man exists inside of time.

Because God exists outside of the laws of time, a moment that has already happened to man could be said to be happening right now with God.

But because man is temporal, a moment that has happened inside of time has already happened and will not happen again with man.

Also, since God exists outside of time, a moment that has not yet happened to man could be said to have already happened with God.

Similarly, consider how God had chosen the elect outside of time before the foundations of the Earth were even set. (Eph 1:4)

Because man is temporal, a moment that has not yet happened inside of time has not yet happened with man. (1 Cor 7:18, 20, 22, & 24)

And because man exists inside of time, man has not yet been chosen inside of time until the moment he chooses God. (1 Tim 6:12 & 1 Pet 5:10)

So it can be demonstrated that people who do not choose God are personally responsible for their choice for eternity, while people who do choose God do so because they were called by God.

This is because everyone has a God given ability to choose God inside of time, while God has chosen the elect outside of time.

So, brothers and sisters, I hope at the very least this argument has brought you another way to look at God’s sovereignty in conjunction with man’s will. Whatever view you feel fits God’s Word and His character best, let it unify us as the Body of Christ. We are not labeled Calvinists, Arminians or a combination of the two; we are Christians, “Little Christs” saved and loved by God. Let our views bring us together for the sole purpose of glorifying God and spreading the Good News. As long as we are doing that, what else could possibly matter?

By Clark Campbell
This blog was written from multiple papers on our List of Theologetics Papers page posted here and here.

3 thoughts on “Option c: The Time-Salvation Paradox

  1. I willy try to offer a Calvinist critique of your position.

    (1) It seems you conflate God’s election (his choosing us) and his calling of us. God’s election is from eternity (logically prior to creation). But its effects, such as regeneration, our coming to faith, etc. take place in time.

    This largely nullifies what you say: “Because God is outside of time, what has already happened, (i.e. His choosing the elect) can be said to have not yet happened until we choose God”

    Because God’s decree is prior to creation it must have already happened. But its effects, while ‘present’ to God (since as you note, God is outside of time), occur in time. God’s election of us is not the same as his choosing us as a cause is not its effect.

    (2) Your view has God electing us because of what we do (we freely respond to God); it is election post proevisa merita. This is like Molinism and Arminianism, but unlike Calvinism or Thomism (which are ante proevisa merita; God does not elect us because we would respond to grace; we respond to grace because God has elected us.

    But there are plenty of passages (John 6, 10, Romans 9, Ephesians 1, 2) that show that the faith by which we receive Christ is itself given by God (i.e., monergism) and that we have an actual inability to put faith in Christ apart from the Spirit; in the words of Calvin ‘there is no half life given to man’: nothing between total depravity and regeneration. So your view fails as much as Molinism and Arminianism, unless you can show, for instance, that prevenient grace is resistible or that those who fail to come to faith could have done so.

    I think a Molinist would also agree with criticism (1). And Arminians could, too. Since God’s decrees are eternal but their effects are temporal.

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    1. Hello Sean, thanks for commenting!

      1. I don’t believe this objection to the argument holds up when we consider how timelessness and our time-contingent reality can be viewed interacting. All of our history; past, present and future, could be said to coexist from God’s perspective outside of time. In light of this there are two important points to salvation for us to consider. The first is that God is completely sovereign in that He calls us from outside of time. One could say that each of our callings and our choice of Christ happen “simultaneously” but ultimately God is responsible for our salvation. The second point is that we can have some degree of free will if that means we can choose God from inside of time. This second point is the more difficult of the two to imagine when considering the first but let’s consider what that actually means. From God’s perspective, outside of time, He elects each man and woman unto salvation. From inside time, we choose God via our God-given ability. Those who choose Christ are those who are called.

      2. I wouldn’t say this view simply advocates for God electing us because of what we do. I think it is more complicated than that but to attempt to simplify this argument, the furthest I would go is this;

      From man’s perspective – God’s election and my choosing Christ happened simultaneously.

      From God’s timeless perspective, He has chosen me (and each Christian) giving some element of choice for mankind to respond inside of time.

      I hope this sheds a bit more light onto what the argument tries to relay =) it’s been awhile since I wrote it and it was my human attempt at trying to better understand God in His complexity but I am by no means 100% certain this view is how God works but I do believe it allows a unique and logical way for all camps, from Calvinism to Arminianism, to try and reconcile our differing opinions of salvation as it essentially keeps God sovereign while allowing some time-contingent element of free will. Feel free to comment further if I didn’t answer any part of your objections fully or if you have any questions. Thanks and God bless!

      -Clark
      Theologetics.org

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