Part I: Popular explanations concerning our natural human condition and what does the Bible say about our natural human condition?
Part II: Three Answers to our natural human condition
The five points of Calvinism are: 1. Total Depravity; 2. Unconditional Election; 3. Limited Atonement; 4. Irresistible Grace; 5. Perseverance of the Saints. Calvinism restricts saving grace to the elect. The sins of the elect are forgiven when God brings them to faith. The implications of Calvinism leave one wondering: "Can I find evidence of faith to be sure I am one of God's elect?" To answer that, a person has to look within his own heart.
The five points of Arminianism are: 1. Predestination in view of faith (conditional election); 2. Atonement for all people; 3. Free will enables a person to cooperate in his conversion; 4. Grace can be resisted; 5. A believer may fall from grace. Arminianism extends saving grace to all on condition of faith. The sins of a believer are forgiven when he decides to receive Jesus into his heart. The implications of Arminianism cause one to ask, "Am I obedient to the gospel (as evidence of having made my decision for Christ)?" To answer that, a person has to look within his own heart.
God's grace extends to all, unconditionally. The sins of all people were forgiven when Jesus died on the cross. The implications of Lutheranism cause a person to ask, "Has God done all that needs to be done to restore me to right standing with him?" To answer that, the person looks to God's Word to read "God so loved the world" and " God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ". God directs us to look, not into our hearts, but into His Word for certainty.
Each of these three systems has important implications with regard to how a person understands the gospel. Both Calvinism and Arminianism direct a person to look in to his or her own heart for the answer to the question about where one stands with God. The Lutheran understanding of the gospel, on the other hand, teaches us to look away from our hearts and to focus only on the promises that God has made to us in Christ. The focus of our faith is never subjective (inward). It is always objective (outward). This difference has far-reaching consequences on our outlook, our motivation for faithfully serving the Lord, and on the way we worship God in our liturgy and our hymns.
Next...Part III: Some thoughts from Walther and Senkbeil