by Roger Olson
Arminian scholar William Klein provides this analogy to help understand the difference between classical, high Calvinist soteriology and Arminian soteriology (posted here with his permission):
Possible Analogy for ‘the biblical doctrine of Election’
1. There exists a devastating famine among the poverty-stricken Srennis. They bear responsibility for the famine for they refused to engage in proper planning or farming techniques that could have sustained them though the time of drought. They depleted the land, and it has become worthless. The people are all destitute, without food, money, or hope.
2. Their only chance for survival is to leave their barren land and travel across the sea to a place where there is enough food.
3. Alas, such a voyage would cost each person the equivalent of $100 for the boat trip. There are boats that could be made available, but not a one of the Srennis has any money left, let alone $100.
4. An international relief agency sends a worker to their land who identifies a select group of people to whom to give $100 for the boat trip. Although the agency has virtually unlimited resources and could rescue the entire population, it decides to distribute the money only to a minority of people. Even though none of the Srennis merit the money, the agency insists that its selection of people to save has nothing to do with those selected; its selection was not based on anything about any of the people who needed to be saved.
5. All those that the agency selected are rounded up, given the undeserved $100, and, because they now have the required fee for passage, placed on boats for the trip to the land of plenty. Their joy knows no bounds. Then, safely in their new land, they rejoice in the grace the relief agency showed to them in providing the $100, the boats, and the bounty of their new country. The boats depart so they can’t leave their new land of great bounty.
6. Though they cannot understand why they were selected and not others—since they deserved their rescue no more than the others—they consider themselves blessed. The relief agency explains that it chose not to save everyone because it thought it would make the agency look better to have the vast majority of the people die (after all, they deserved their fate, and the agency was not obligated to save any) as a contrast to the company’s magnanimous and undeserved aid to the few it did choose to rescue.
7. Those Srennis who were not given the requisite money could not board the boats since they don’t have the fare for the journey. Since they have no other hope of acquiring the money for passage across the sea, they die of starvation. They are doubly condemned to their deaths: the famine (for which they bear some responsibility) and their failure to have the requisite $100, which alone could have saved them.
4. An international relief agency announces that it will make available the $100 passage fee to all citizens who wish to leave the island. It invites all Srennis to proceed to the specified office and receive their money. No one will be turned away; at the same time, this is the only way to obtain the needed fare.
5. The location of the boats and departure dates are announced to all the people. It is clear that each person will need $100 for the trip.
6. The day of departure arrives. All those who procured and saved their $100 can make the trip to the land of plenty. These ones board the boats, embark on the journey, and safely land. They rejoice in the generosity the relief agency showed them in providing the $100, the boats, and the bounty of their new country. [It is an open question whether any of the rescued could or would decide they didn’t want to remain in the land of bounty. But if they decide to swim away, they face certain death in the sea.]
7. Those who did not procure the freely available $100, or who did and squandered it, were not allowed to board the boats. Since they have no other hope of acquiring the money for passage across the sea, they die of starvation. They have no one but themselves to blame. They are doubly condemned to their deaths: the famine (for which they bear some responsibility) and for their failure to procure the requisite $100 which alone could have saved them.
Which scenario better fits the biblical data, our understanding of God’s character, and our sense of justice?
[Original post and comments from Roger Olson’s site.]