A fond apologetic argument of Calvinists is that if Arminianism is true in regard to universal atonement (i.e., Jesus died for everyone, and not just for the elite few), then he has failed miserably. Here is the argument as one Calvinist wrote to me, "If you believe that Christ was sent into the world to save every single man, Christ has failed... and not only slightly failed, He has failed miserably, for more men than will be saved, will be damned...."
If God's purpose was to save believers, then he is 100% successful. If God's purpose is to save a people who choose to believe in him without him throwing on the all powerful, irresistible and automatic faith switch, then God is 100% successful.
So I suppose how you define success is relevant here. I'm not impressed with the success rate of a God who throws his almighty, all powerful Godness at a hapless human being making him believe! In such cases, of course 100% will believe, but this is nothing to be impressed about. If God were to decide to wipe out 100% of the human race, he'd be successful, but such power goes without saying. I'm much more impressed with a God who loves 100% of his creatures so much that he sent his son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
The sad thing about Calvinists in regard to their claim that Arminianism has a God who miserably fails, is that they will see responses such as mine and realise that their logic is completely flawed and that their argument really isn't worth the time of day. But then, the next time it comes up in a discussion, they will repeat the same lame logical argument or not bother correcting one of their own who uses it.
i) But that does nothing to close the gap between a God who “loves 100% of his creatures” and the percentage of his loved ones whom he actually saves. He still fails to save 100% his loved ones.
ii) Moreover, someone who subscribes to limited atonement or unconditional election can also say that God was successful in saving those, and only those, he intended to save.
iii) Furthermore, sure–you can say “If God's purpose was to save believers, then he is 100% successful”–but how is that successful in relation to the universal extent of the atonement? If the atonement is for 100% of sinners, but only a fraction of sinners is saved by the atonement (even if it’s a high percentile), then there’s a gap between the extent of the atonement and the extent of the saints. A 100% atonement is unsuccessfully in saving 100% of those for whom atonement was made.
As the post states, the issue is what does God intend. I think it can be simply addressed by asserting that God desires all to be saved on a conditional basis rather than unconditionally. Only if God’s intention is to save all unconditionally, and some remain unsaved, could it be said that God failed to accomplish His intentions. But if God desires and intends for all to be saved conditionally, then he has not failed if some refuse to meet the necessary condition, since his intention is not for them to be saved unconditionally.
i) Of course, a Calvinist also appeals to divine intent to circumscribe the scope of the atonement.
ii) A Calvinist could also apply that distinction to Arminian prooftexts like 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Pet 3:9.
iii) If you qualify God’s redemptive love or will in that fashion, by placing conditions on his redemptive love or will–conditions which may or may not be met–then you put limits on God’s redemptive love or will.
Once you read the fine print of Arminian theology, with its parenthetical caveats regarding God’s redemptive love or redemptive will, then it loses a lot of its prima facie appeal.
Instead, it becomes a quid pro quo, like a dad who tells his son, I’ll keep loving you as long as you score touchdowns and make the old man proud.
God loves us if we do something in return. Suddenly, the Arminian gospel doesn’t seem all that magnanimous in contrast to Calvinism. All of a sudden, the Arminian gospel got a whole lot smaller. The fractional love of God. The provisional love of God.