He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Eph 1:4 ESV)
I am teaching on divine election this week and found this summary of the point in dispute by Sam Storms helpful. Sam has a way of making complex theological concepts clear and understandable. I had him speak at our church several years ago now on the role prophecy in the local church.
First, someone might want to argue that God elects those who are good. In this view, election is a debt God is obliged to pay, not a gift he graciously bestows. God elects men and women on the basis of inherent or self-generated righteousness. This is a view consistent with ancient Pelagianism, named after the British monk Pelagius, who became famous in the ﬁfth century due primarily to his dispute with the famous church father Augustine. One would be hard-pressed to ﬁnd an advocate of this perspective within the professing Christian church today.
Second, others contend that God has elected some who are bad who, notwithstanding their being bad, chose to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. It is on the basis of this foreseen faith that God elects them. This is the doctrine of Arminianism, named after the Dutch theologian James Arminius (1560–1609).
It has also been called Wesleyanism because of the inﬂuence of John Wesley in popularizing this perspective.
Third, there is the view that God has elected some who are bad who, because of their being bad, are not of themselves able to exercise faith in Christ. It is on the basis of his own sovereign good pleasure that God elects them. This is the doctrine of Calvinism, named after the French theologian John Calvin (1509–1564).
We are concerned with the latter two options. The question reduces to this: Does God elect people because they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, or does God elect people in order that they shall believe in Christ? Sam Storms, Chosen For Life, p. 21-22.