I left off in my last EC (Evangelical Calvinism) post explaining how we view election as about Jesus. He took our reprobation (rejection by God) on the Cross and gave us His election (being God’s Chosen One). So now humanity is the elect in Jesus Christ, the Elect.
This brings in an obvious question. If all humanity is chosen by God in Jesus, then does this mean all humanity will be saved? If not, then how do some people benefit from the salvation God gives to His elect, while others are still lost? What roles do choice and sovereignty play in salvation?
Love as True Freedom
In classical Arminianism, Molinism, and Open Theism, freedom (specifically libertarian free will) is the basis of true love. Love is not true unless it is chosen freely. Yet EC sees this in a reverse way, with God’s infinite life of Triune love as the basis for freedom. Traditional free will requires an equal capacity for good or evil, for love or hate. Yet this is not the freedom we see in God. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. It is impossible for God to lie. The Father is not equally disposed to love or hate the Son, but simply loves the Son. Yet God is truly free in His love. It is by loving that God is free. Love creates true freedom to be and act for the other.
True freedom is found in love, which is found in God.
This is visible enough in Scripture and common experience. It is not those who are in sin who are free, but they are slaves of sin. Those who love God, and who love others, are free. It is the truth that sets us free, and what truth is there but Jesus, the Truth, who is also the God of love? It is the Son who sets us free indeed, and the Son is the God who is love.
Again, one common experience, we do not find ourselves free when we have the capacity to love or hate by arbitrary choice. Instead, we find ourselves bound by all kinds of selfish thoughts and desires, while love sets us free to live for our beloved. All of this points us to this conclusion: true freedom is found in love, which is found in God. Any metaphysical concept of “free will” based on individual choices and autonomy is inferior to this reality.
Jesus vs. Sin
Now, this freedom is something help first and foremost by God Himself, as He lives and loves within the Trinity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus is God the Son, He enjoys and exercises this seem freedom. And because humans are made in the image of God, who is Jesus, we can also experience the freedom of love.
Our human freedom from Christ is completely blocked by slavery to sin.
The problem comes with sin. Because of sin, we as humans are not fully participating in the freedom of the image of God. Sin’s origins are unknown. Scripture tells us nothing about how evil entered this world. We know that Satan fell, but we do not know how or why such terrible thoughts and desires came into his heart. Ultimately, this is a mystery known only to God Himself. But now that sin does exist, it has through Adam come to corrupt us all. While because we are made in Jesus’ image we should all live free lives of love, sin works within us to counteract and destroy our connection to Jesus. We have no way of escape, for all our thoughts are bent away from the freedom of love and into the slavery of selfishness. All together are under this, so that no one does good and no one seeks God. We are totally depraved.
So in our individual human wills, we have two competing powers. Our connection to God’s freedom of love though being made in Jesus’ image leads us to life and righteousness, while sin’s corruption leads us to death and wrongdoing. Our human freedom from Christ, however, is completely blocked by slavery to sin. As it is, we have all gone too far astray on sin’s path and are left with no way out, only occasionally and incidentally doing anything in true freedom.
Set Free Once More
How is this contradiction between the image we were created in, Jesus and His life of love/freedom, and the sin which corrupts us to be fixed? Only God’s in His grace can even keep us around in this state. So what is God’s solution?
The Holy Spirit makes us alive with Jesus’ life, free with Jesus’ freedom.
The answer is Jesus, yet again. Though we lived a whole life of slavery to sin, Jesus also lived a human life. He was born into the sinful human race and just like us, only in His life He did not succumb to sin but instead healed it. He in His own human person eliminated the power of sin and lived the freedom of love. This is the basis on which we can now be freed. Jesus did all things right, He believed in the Father, He turned away from sin, He resisted temptation, He did good works, and He was perfect, all as a human being.
This is the basis for our salvation. As I said before, we are made in the image of God, who is Jesus. So if Jesus lived this life as a human, we should be able to as well. He had made the human life of salvation that we need. Because He did all this, He has not only created a basis for humanity to begin with, the image we were created in yet broke, but He has also created the basis for us to turn from our sins and come to God.
How do we get in on this as individuals? The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, does this for us. He comes to us in power when we encounter the Gospel, and so brings us to life by reuniting us with Jesus Himself, and the free life He lived. So we are freed and joined to Jesus’ own turning from sin that we can turn from sin, connected to Jesus’ faith so that we can have faith. The Holy Spirit makes us alive with Jesus’ life, free with Jesus’ freedom.
Unbelievers refuse the very Spirit of the very Jesus whose image they are made in and deny their own existence.
“Okay,” you’ll say. “But if the Holy Spirit makes us who believe share in Jesus’ faith, what about those who do not believe? Does He not do that for them?” This is a good question. The TC (TULIP Calvinist) doctrine of irresistible grace also makes faith the product of the Spirit, but God only does this in the elect. Of course, in EC all of humanity is elect, but some do not believe, so how does this work? Surely God does not withhold the Spirit from people when He could save them?
This is where we get back to the same question of sin’s origins. Where did sin come from? No one knows. How did sin enter a world perfectly in line with God’s will? Scripture doesn’t say. Likewise, while it should be impossible because of the perfect work of Jesus and the relationship the Spirit creates with Him for anyone to remain unchanged, somehow some people do. Unbelievers refuse the very Spirit of the very Jesus whose image they are made in and deny their own existence. They do the impossible, resist the Spirit of the God who reconciles all things to Himself through the body of Jesus Christ. Bobby Grow calls it a surd, a fact of reality that doesn’t fit in to our understanding of reality. Unbelief doesn’t make sense.
A Wee Bit More
Honestly, I expect there are still questions, and I do intend to address them. In my next post, part 5 of the EC series, I plan to cover more details on two crucial points: the sovereignty of God in relation to man’s will, and the importance of a doctrine called the vicarious humanity of Christ to understanding. I believe I will conclude with that, though I will certainly have various posts in the future on these subjects, just not in this series.
If you have any questions you can actually figure out how to ask (I know at first I didn’t really know what to say about all this), be sure to mention them in the comments so I can address them in my next post. I may do a FAQ post at the end of the series for any miscellaneous things. Until then, the grace of Jesus and the Father be with you all.