Calvinism, Arminianism, and the Middle Road

Soteriological Choices

I will be delib­er­ate­ly sim­pli­fy­ing things in this post; I ful­ly real­ize that the par­tic­u­lar teach­ings men­tioned here­in are much more nuanced than I will be express­ing. I also real­ize that with­in the groups ascrib­ing to these par­tic­u­lar teach­ings, there are a myr­i­ad of dif­fer­ences and par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of doc­trine; it is not my inten­tion to explain all of that here. Like­wise, there may be cer­tain peo­ple with­in a group which dis­agree with one or more things I am ascrib­ing to that group, and again that is fine. The bot­tom line is that this post is being writ­ten for a friend of mine in an attempt to answer her ques­tion, and I am bas­ing my answers large­ly upon my own per­son­al expe­ri­ence. You’re of course more than wel­come to ask ques­tions via the com­ments and even to debate these sub­jects at the Hall.

There are many dif­fer­ent takes on Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy, and it itself is com­posed of a great many sub­jects. Some Chris­tians believe Satan was once a cherub named Lucifer who got a bit too big for his britch­es, so to speak; oth­ers believe that Satan & Lucifer are unre­lat­ed enti­ties. Many Chris­tians today believe that there is yet a 1,000 year reign of Christ in Earth­’s future; oth­ers rec­og­nize that “Mil­len­ni­al Reign” has being sym­bol­ic of the entire church age, no mat­ter how long it goes for.

And then there is the sub­ject of sal­va­tion itself, a sub­ject which touch­es on sin, free will, works, grace, mer­cy, judg­ment, sov­er­eign­ty, and so much more. With­in Protes­tantism today there are two big “streams” of sal­va­tion the­ol­o­gy (or from here on, sote­ri­ol­o­gy): Armini­an­ism & Calvin­ism. ((There are also groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church, which make good works (the sacra­ments) a req­ui­site for sal­va­tion; I have too much dis­dain for such teach­ing to even con­sid­er it under the umbrel­la of “Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy” and so will not go into it or oth­er such works-requir­ing sys­tems here.)) And basi­cal­ly what I want to do here is give a brief intro­duc­tion to both sys­tems, start­ing with Arminianism:

Arminianism

Armini­an­ism most broad­ly describes the the­ol­o­gy affirmed by Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609). It’s pop­u­lar­i­ty is like­ly due in large part to John Wes­ley (1703–1791). You’ll find Armin­ian the­ol­o­gy taught in Wes­leyan & Methodist church­es as well as Nazarene church­es. Basic Armin­ian sote­ri­ol­o­gy could be described as follows:

  1. Man is total­ly depraved, sin hav­ing affect­ed every facet of his being; how­ev­er, God has grant­ed enough grace to all men to allow them to either choose or reject Him.
  2. Elec­tion to sal­va­tion is con­di­tion­al upon faith; in oth­er words, the elect (i.e., the saved) are those who exer­cise faith in God and as a result were cho­sen by Him.
  3. The atone­ment (or more accu­rate­ly, the pro­pi­ti­a­tion) which Jesus accom­plished at Cal­vary was uni­ver­sal — for every man and woman who has ever lived and will ever live; it is thus unlim­it­ed in scope, yet its ben­e­fits are only bestowed upon those who believe unto salvation.
  4. God’s grace for sal­va­tion is extend­ed to every­one, and while He may work to draw unbe­liev­ers unto Him­self, they are capa­ble of resist­ing His will and remain­ing in their unbe­lief. In oth­er words, man has unbound free will (at least regard­ing sal­va­tion) and is thus capa­ble of choos­ing or reject­ing God.
  5. Because man has such free will, the sal­va­tion which they receive upon believ­ing is depen­dent upon their con­tin­u­ing in their faith. At any point a believ­er could repent of his belief and go back to his life of sin, los­ing any ben­e­fit of sal­va­tion which he once had. Like­wise, a believ­er through grow­ing and matur­ing could begin to live a tru­ly holy life with­out sin. ((I noticed this par­tic­u­lar belief in the doc­trines of the Nazarene church of which I was tem­porar­i­ly a member.))
  6. The Gospel mes­sage — that of grace through faith in (and only in) Jesus Christ on the basis of His life, death, and res­ur­rec­tion — should be preached to every one, for all have the abil­i­ty to be saved if they so choose.

So in sum­ma­ry, we see that the Armin­ian view­point is that God saves those who He sees will have faith in Jesus Christ; any­one may exer­cise this faith, and many will. Some of them will fall away, but those who remain in their faith will be saved. God helps & aids believ­ers on their way, but ulti­mate­ly the choice is theirs.

Per­haps a para­ble would help: Mankind is adrift in a riv­er which is head­ed toward a water­fall. God is on the bank with His arm out­stretched, will­ing to save any­one who would take His hand. Most peo­ple reject the real­i­ty of the dan­ger and ulti­mate­ly per­ish; how­ev­er, many choose to take God’s hand. At any time, how­ev­er, they may jump back into the riv­er — at which point they could again choose to take God’s hand or remain in the river.

Calvinism

Calvin­ism most broad­ly describes the the­ol­o­gy affirmed by John Calvin (1509–1564). Notable evan­ge­lists from his­to­ry which held to Calvin­ist the­ol­o­gy include Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) and Charles C. Spur­geon (1834–1892). ((I’m includ­ing two very promi­nent & fruit­ful evan­ge­lists here due sim­ply to the com­mon charge that Calvin­ists don’t evan­ge­lize or that some­how Calvin­ism is anti-evan­ge­lism; his­to­ry, how­ev­er, dis­proves such an idea!)) You’ll find Calvin­ist the­ol­o­gy taught in Pres­by­ter­ian & Con­gre­ga­tion­al­ist church­es as well as Reformed Bap­tist church­es. Basic Calvin­ist sote­ri­ol­o­gy could be described as follows:

  1. Man is total­ly depraved, sin hav­ing affect­ed every facet of his being; left in this nat­ur­al state, man will nev­er seek the true God but will only ever choose that which allows them to remain sinful.
  2. Elec­tion to sal­va­tion is uncon­di­tion­al; in oth­er words, the elect (i.e., the saved) are those whom God has cho­sen arbi­trar­i­ly, apart from any­thing inher­ent with­in those cho­sen (includ­ing their actions, beliefs, etc.).
  3. The atone­ment (or more accu­rate­ly, the pro­pi­ti­a­tion) which Jesus accom­plished at Cal­vary was not uni­ver­sal — Jesus died only for those whom God has cho­sen; it is thus lim­it­ed in scope, its ben­e­fits only being bestowed upon the chosen.
  4. God’s grace in sal­va­tion is only bestowed to the elect, and when He thus exer­cis­es grace on a sin­ner, they will not resist it. In oth­er words, God’s grace over­rides man’s inabil­i­ty to come to God, grants man this abil­i­ty, and drags man to Jesus for salvation.
  5. Because sal­va­tion (even faith itself) is sole­ly a work of God, the saved will per­se­vere in their faith; falling away from the faith com­plete­ly is a sign that a per­son was nev­er tru­ly a part of it in the first place. This per­se­ver­ance in faith does not pre­clude sin, and Calvin­ists rec­og­nize that until we are giv­en new bod­ies, Chris­tians will con­tin­ue to sin, albeit not habitually.
  6. The Gospel mes­sage — that of grace through faith in (and only in) Jesus Christ on the basis of His life, death, and res­ur­rec­tion — should be preached to every one because God has com­mand­ed it, the preach­ing of the Gospel being the pri­ma­ry means He has cho­sen to reach those He has chosen.

So in sum­ma­ry, we see that the Calvin­ist view­point is that God saves those whom He has sov­er­eign­ly cho­sen; only they will exer­cise faith in God, and they will con­tin­ue in this faith through­out their lives. Regard­ing sal­va­tion itself, man brings noth­ing to the table — even his faith being the hand­i­work of God; sal­va­tion, from begin­ning to end, is cred­it­ed only to God.

Per­haps a para­ble would help: Mankind is adrift in a riv­er which is head­ed toward a water­fall. While mankind seeks a great vari­ety of things to alle­vi­ate the sense of dan­ger — life pre­servers, life vests, float­ies, indif­fer­ence, and so on — none of them are a true help, and none are aware of where true help comes from. God, how­ev­er, is in a res­cue heli­copter which is unheard due to the rapids below. Pri­or to human­i­ty ever being in this riv­er, God has cho­sen those He would save, and it is those which He plucks out of the riv­er below, lift­ing them into the heli­copter so that they will remain with Him.

The Middle Road

Oh my good­ness, I can­not believe I for­got that this posi­tion could be described as “Semi-Pela­gian­ism”! Chalk one up to my imper­fect mem­o­ry, and I tip my hat to Glen for remind­ing me of this title! Thanks, buddy!

I’m unsure if this posi­tion actu­al­ly has a name or not. Actu­al­ly, I’m real­ly unsure just how com­mon this posi­tion is. I’m fair­ly cer­tain most inde­pen­dent, fun­da­men­tal Bap­tists believe this, and while there may very well be oth­er more promi­nent teach­ers, David Cloud (1949-) is the only one com­ing to mind at the moment.

And as the title of this sec­tion says, this real­ly is a mid­dle of the road posi­tion; it takes ele­ments from both Calvin­ism & Armini­an­ism (but most­ly Armini­an­ism) along with some “cus­tom” mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Of course, var­i­ous adher­ents of the Mid­dle Road view will have diverse (per­haps even wild­ly so) beliefs. This sum­ma­tion is based upon my own experiences.

Rather than re-hash what has already been writ­ten, I will go down the six points as above as sim­ply as possible:

  1. The Armin­ian view is tak­en with­out much modification.
  2. The Armin­ian view is tak­en with­out much modification.
  3. The Armin­ian view is tak­en with­out much modification.
  4. The Armin­ian view is tak­en with­out much modification.
  5. Not much of a mid­dle road so far, is it? Any­way, on this point, the Mid­dle Row views lean more Calvin­ist, adopt­ing what is com­mon­ly called “once saved always saved.” Like the Calvin­ist “per­se­ver­ance of the saints,” this is a form of “eter­nal secu­ri­ty”; unlike the Calvin­ists, how­ev­er, Mid­dle Road adher­ents believe that once a per­son is saved, it is pos­si­ble for them to leave their faith and once again adopt a life of sin. Because they were saved at one point, they are still saved.
  6. The Armin­ian view is tak­en with­out much modification.

And That’s That

As I not­ed at the begin­ning, this was by no means meant to be in-depth, com­pre­hen­sive, or any­thing of that nature, and I am very much open to sug­ges­tions on what should be added to these brief intros.

Why does any of this mat­ter? Should­n’t church­es be aloud to teach what they want, all the while remain­ing respect­ful of oth­er church­es? No. The above dif­fer­ences between the three view points rep­re­sent dif­fer­ences in their under­stand­ing of the Gospel, of God, and so on. Do you believe in a Jesus Christ who died for every man indis­crim­i­nate­ly or in a Jesus Christ who died only for His elect? Do you believe in a God reach­ing out wait­ing on you to come to Him or in a God active­ly sav­ing those whom He has chosen?

The answers are impor­tant because, as you can see, whichev­er sys­tems are wrong are thus point­ing to a false christ or a false god. God is Truth, and He demands truth in wor­ship­ing Him.

Like­wise, because these issues regard cen­tral truths of the Gospel, it’s very pos­si­ble that to adhere to the false sys­tem is to adhere to a false gospel, which accord­ing to Gala­tians 1:8, 9 results in curse, not bless­ing or sal­va­tion (those who are saved are not under a curse).

As for me, I hold to the Calvin­ist view­point, believ­ing it to be in line with what the Bible teach­es, ((Ulti­mate­ly the Bible is my rule in faith & doc­trine; how­ev­er, Calvin­ism pro­vides a handy frame­work of the­ol­o­gy which has proven trust­wor­thy enough to rely upon thus far.)) and I would be hap­py to explain why to any­one who asks. In the inter­im, how­ev­er, you can browse over to the Chris­t­ian Apolo­get­ics & Research Min­istry for their brief intro to Calvin­ism which includes all sorts of scrip­tur­al support.

19 thoughts on “Calvinism, Arminianism, and the Middle Road”

  1. What are your thoughts on the Calivin­ist teach­ing that the Atone­ment was actu­al­ly Uni­ver­sal, in the thought of Christ buy­ing every­thing back, but it’s only the elect few that actu­al­ly Redeemed. Sim­i­lar to the para­ble of the man who pur­chased the field to Redeem some­thing out of it.

  2. Good ques­tion, Glen; I’m not entire­ly hap­py, how­ev­er, with the word “atone­ment” as it is applied to what Christ accom­plished. I pre­fer instead the term “pro­pi­ti­a­tion.” As a mat­ter of fact, in some Bibles (the ESV, for exam­ple), the word “atone­ment” does­n’t even appear in the New Tes­ta­ment, nor does “atone.”

    Cer­tain­ly I think that the Lord is redeem­ing the whole world to Him­self based upon what He accom­plished at Cal­vary; in par­tic­u­lar, the Cross pro­vid­ed pro­pi­ti­a­tion only for the elect.

    So rather than the terms “Lim­it­ed Atone­ment” or “Unlim­it­ed Atone­ment,” per­haps we should be speak­ing in terms of pro­pi­ti­a­tion, and if that is the case, then it is tru­ly “lim­it­ed.” Atone­ment was an annu­al thing that any­one with a sac­ri­fice to slaugh­ter could have done for them; pro­pi­ti­a­tion, how­ev­er… Whoso­ev­er has pro­pi­ti­a­tion made for their sins has no more guilt, no more legal oblig­a­tion to God for evil deeds com­mit­ted. They are for­giv­en, washed away, once for all.

    If pro­pi­ti­a­tion was made for the whole world — if Christ’s sac­ri­fice was as uni­ver­sal as Armini­ans claim — then no one — NO one — would be pun­ished for their sins, the preach­ing of the Gospel becomes a use­less exer­cise (if pro­pi­ta­tion was made for every­one whether they believe or not, why the need for any­thing more?), and so on. Cer­tain­ly they would say the same to Calvin­ists — if God pro­vid­ed pro­pi­ti­a­tion to the elect, why must they believe? To that I’d respond that it is because they are the elect — because pro­pi­ti­a­tion has been made for them — that they believe. Such log­ic does not work in the Armin­ian sys­tem, and sud­den­ly “believ­ing in Jesus Christ” becomes some­thing which can be boast­ed of. If every­one is afford­ed the same oppor­tu­ni­ty to be saved, the same grace, the same woo­ing of the Spir­it, then those who have faith are bring­ing some­thing to the table in and of them­selves — their will­ing­ness, their faith, what­ev­er. Either way, bib­li­cal sal­va­tion affords noth­ing to the man, cast­ing all glo­ry, all work­man­ship, all hon­or unto God.

  3. Rick,
    Would you mind expand­ing your thoughts a lit­tle more on your dis­like of the word “atone­ment?” I’m think­ing of the com­par­i­son of “katal­lagē” vs. “hilastēri­on.” Thanks.

  4. I don’t dis­like the word “atone­ment”; it applies per­fect­ly well to what the Old Tes­ta­ment sac­ri­fices. How­ev­er, “atone­ment” is not a word ascribed to the New Tes­ta­ment sac­ri­fice of Jesus Christ in numer­ous trans­la­tions of the Bible (includ­ing the ALT, ESV, NASB, LITV, Dar­by, and JPS). The one time the word appears in the New Tes­ta­ment in the KJV is Romans 5:11, which states that we have “now received the atonement.”

    If that’s the word we’re using, then tech­ni­cal­ly we’ve been receiv­ing the atone­ment for mil­len­nia each year via sac­ri­fices of animals.

    Oth­er ver­sions trans­late that word as “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” rather than “atone­ment,” and so it is: through Jesus, we have received true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion to God, not a mere cov­er­ing over of sins (i.e., atonement).

    My NASB con­cor­dance says that katal­lagē means only “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.” Like­wise, the cou­ple of words from which we trans­late “pro­pi­ti­ate” always mean “pro­pi­ti­ate” or “pro­pi­ti­a­tion” or similar.

    So I’m not sure why those two words are in a “ver­sus” sit­u­a­tion, but I am by no means a Greek scholar.

    It seems to me that the act of atone­ment in the Old Tes­ta­ment was but a tem­po­rary or per­haps even “minor” pro­pi­ti­a­tion — the peo­ple made amends (expi­a­tion or pro­pi­ti­a­tion) to God through the tem­po­rary cov­er­ing over of sins (atone­ment). This is con­trast­ed by the once for all time sac­ri­fice of Christ which accom­plished true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, per­ma­nent pro­pi­ti­a­tion, and the wip­ing away of sins (rather than the cov­er­ing over, or atone­ment, of them).

    If any Greek schol­ar sees this, it’d be great if they could weigh in on this. :)

  5. I don’t think it is a “vs” sit­u­a­tion at all. I am not a schol­ar of any kind. I am famil­iar with Greek; but we can keep this dis­cus­sion in eng­lish and still clar­i­fy things a lit­tle. You said you pre­fer the word pro­pi­ti­a­tion. With­out going into fur­ther expla­na­tion right this sec­ond; I under­stand the doc­trine to go some­thing like this — “Christ became our the pro­pi­ti­a­tion for sin, so that we could receive THE ATONEMENT. Look back over the vers­es that con­tain “pro­pi­ti­a­tion” and then look at Rom. 5:11, Rom. 11:15, II Cor 5:18, and II Cor 5:19. All the­ses vers­es con­tain the same Greek word trans­lat­ed “atone­ment” in Rom 5:11. Look past the eng­lish trans. and see what they are saying.

    Lat­est from Rob: Hap­py Birth­day My Buggy!

  6. You can’t say “we can keep this dis­cus­sion in Eng­lish” while at the same time say­ing “Look past the eng­lish trans.” ;-)

    That said, the word in Romans 5:11 is “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.” Christ pro­vid­ed the pro­pi­ti­a­tion for sins so that we may be rec­on­ciled to God.

    Old Tes­ta­ment sac­ri­fices were able to pro­vide atone­ment; Christ pro­vid­ed rec­on­cil­i­a­tion — so much more than a mere cov­er­ing of sins (atone­ment).

    The King James Ver­sion is the only ver­sion I have that says “atone­ment” at Romans 5:11; it seems every oth­er ver­sion has fig­ured out that the word is actu­al­ly “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” or a form there­of, for if all Christ did was pro­vide atone­ment, then our sins would still exist, albeit cov­ered up.

    That, how­ev­er, is not what the Scrip­tures teach Mes­si­ah would pro­vide; He com­plete­ly removed sins, blot­ting out the record of tres­pass­es so that nev­er again would God remem­ber our sins. Under the Old Tes­ta­ment sys­tem of atone­ments, sins would have to be cov­ered yearly.

    So my ques­tion is, if Christ pro­vid­ed us “atone­ment” rather than “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” at Romans 5:11, are our sins mere­ly cov­ered over or are they com­plete­ly blot­ted out? In any event, the pro­pi­ti­a­tion pro­vid­ed by His blood accom­plished this reconciliation.

    Hmm, I guess the issue is “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” vs. “atone­ment”; why do you feel all the mod­ern trans­la­tions of the Scrip­tures have got­ten it wrong? Many of them do not con­tain the words “atone” or “atone­ments” in the New Testament.

  7. yea, you are com­plete­ly right — “You can’t say “we can keep this dis­cus­sion in Eng­lish” while at the same time say­ing “Look past the eng­lish trans.” ;-)”
    The way I am used to study­ing, I real­ly don’t pay very much atten­tion to the dif­fer­ent Eng­lish trans. I guess i should.

    “why do you feel all the mod­ern trans­la­tions of the Scrip­tures have got­ten it wrong? Many of them do not con­tain the words “atone” or “atone­ments” in the New Testament.”

    Regard­less of whether they trans­late ” ” As rec­on­cil­i­a­tion or atone­ment, the doc­tri­nal impli­ca­tions are the same. The trans­la­tors maybe should have paid more atten­tion to The Let­ter To the Hebrews; chap­ters 9 and 10. These pas­sages demand a syn­the­sis between the over­ar­ch­ing OT theme of atone­ment, and the work of Christ.

    That said, I do not think there is any­thing wrong with using the word ” rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.” Except that we think of it in terms of… “we were friends, then we were not, but now we are rec­on­ciled.” In bib­li­cal terms, it is a book­keep­ing allu­sion. As in… ” You owed me mon­ey, but some­one paid the mon­ey for you, so now we are rec­on­ciled;” which harkens back to the OT just as Heb. 9 and 10.

  8. Hebrews 9 & 10 still do not men­tion atone­ment, pre­fer­ring instead to focus on redemption.

    Alas, though, I real­ly don’t know much else about the top­ic than what I’ve already said, and none of this seems to affect what the orig­i­nal post was about.

    And I still wel­come any­one knowl­edge­able in Greek (or the fin­er points of sote­ri­ol­o­gy) to weigh in. :-)

  9. we may need to use anoth­er forum to con­tin­ue this, if you so desire. Either way, you may find it help­ful to get a hold of a copy of Gor­don Lewis & Bruce Demarest’s Inte­gra­tive The­ol­o­gy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1990) They do a won­der­ful job describ­ing atone­ment as a “mul­ti-faceted dia­mond” which includes pro­pi­ti­a­tion, redemp­tion, reconciliation,substitutionary sac­ri­fice, free­dom, vic­to­ry, and even the aton­ing work of the Res­ur­rec­tion. Atone­ment is the the­o­log­i­cal term derived from the rev­e­la­tion of God in the OT used to describe ALL the work of the Christ.

  10. Thanks for the link Rick.
    I must say that I do not agree with the Armin­ist #5. You expla­na­tion also helps in regard to those who were not elect­ed for sal­va­tion. I believe in OSAS but in the con­text of “real­ly” saved. I guess that would be where those who are not elect­ed fall into. I would sus­pect that I am more Cal­vanis­tic than i thought ;) What about evan­ge­lism? Would there be any need for it with that belief or is it some­thing that we do because of the Great Com­mis­sion and he fact that we don’t know whom God has selected?
    I just start­ed look­ing at the dif­fer­ent doc­trines the last part of 07 through a Bible school cor­re­spon­dance course. The pas­tor who crat­ed it lives very close to me. Let me know if you would ever want to check it out. It is not accred­it­ed but it would help you brush up on the books of the Bible before you go to school. i thought i had read some­where that you were look­ing into it

  11. Clint: If you’ve read that I was think­ing about going to school, it was a pret­ty old post. I have an asso­ciates degree in the­ol­o­gy from Slidell; how­ev­er, I don’t often claim it, and I would­n’t be sur­prised if they revoked the degree if they knew how anti-King-James-Only­ist and Calvin­is­tic I have become. :P

    Regard­ing evan­ge­lism, it is impor­tant to note that many of his­to­ry’s great­est evan­ge­lists were Calvin­ist, per­haps most notably Charles Spur­geon. (But also Jonathan Edwards, John Knox, John Bun­yan, and so on and so on).

    Bot­tom line is, Calvin­ism demands a deep respect and obe­di­ence to the Word of God; where it says evan­ge­lize, we ought to say, “Your will be done” and get our­selves out there evan­ge­liz­ing. We don’t do this sim­ply out of love-inspired obe­di­ence, but we do this with a hum­ble recog­ni­tion that it is through the preach­ing of the Gospel that God instills faith in His elect. Romans 10:14–17 estab­lish­es that beyond any doubt. Inter­est­ing­ly enough, those very evan­ge­lis­tic vers­es fol­low right beyond Romans 9, which is one of the most clear teach­ings of Calvin­is­tic doc­trine found any­where in the Bible (although Jesus’ words in John 6 are right up there as well).

    Armini­ans seem to like to claim that Calvin­ism is anti-evan­ge­lism, but I can only sur­mise that they make such lame claims against us because they have no real scrip­tur­al grounds for their par­tic­u­lar doc­trines with which to argue.

    Thanks for the com­ment, though; glad you found the arti­cle edu­ca­tion­al. :D

  12. Walt Dickinson

    Don’t for­get the great­est evan­ge­list of all, George White­field. He was a Calvin­is­tic Methodist.

    And then you have today’s preach­ers: John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, Jr., etc., etc..

    I’ve always won­dered why most Calvin­ists have the name John.

    For exam­ple…

    John Calvin
    John Knox
    John Owen
    John Bunyan
    John Howard
    John Gill
    Jonathan Edwards
    John L. Dagg
    John Duncan
    John Brown
    John Angell James
    John Murray
    John Piper
    John MacArthur
    John Frame
    John W. Hendryx

    Those are just the famous ones!

  13. Walt Dick­in­son: Mark Driscoll said the same thing dur­ing a les­son on Calvin­ism and Armini­an­ism, avail­able on YouTube.

    You left off a very notable Calvin­ist named John: the Apostle!

    If I believe Calvin­ism to be a tru­ly bib­li­cal sys­tem of the­ol­o­gy, then I must include the Bible’s teach­ers as Calvin­ists for they taught it cen­turies before John Calvin was ever born!

    Hope you’re doing well, Justin. :D

  14. Rick: “You left off a very notable Calvin­ist named John: the Apostle!”

    I thought about includ­ing him, but now I don’t even remem­ber why I didn’t. :)

    “Hope you’re doing well, Justin. ”

    By my stan­dards, I’m doing well. What­ev­er your stan­dards are, I can’t say.

    My dad is get­ting mar­ried tomor­row to a won­der­ful lady he is so lucky to have found. She was tru­ly a mir­a­cle for him.

  15. Ear­ly on in my walk with God I strug­gled with these issues a great deal, as I had had an encounter with a Calvin­ist who drew my atten­tion to cer­tain scrip­tur­al pas­sages, which seemed to indi­cate that Jesus did not die for all, but only for those for whom He had cho­sen to be saved from the beginning.

    As a result of this I became quite angry with God, because I did­n’t think that it was fair of Him to cre­ate some for sal­va­tion and oth­ers for damna­tion, and then to put us through all of this trou­ble when our lives were already mapped out in detail from the beginning…

    In oth­er words, if some are to be saved no mat­ter what, while oth­ers were cre­at­ed for damna­tion, then what sense would there have been in God allow­ing the saved to go through all of the trou­ble of being tor­ment­ed, per­se­cut­ed and abused, by the damned when the pre­des­tined were to be saved regardless?

    More­over, if we nev­er had the will to choose to be some­thing oth­er than what God had willed us to be, then why did­n’t God at least cre­ate us to be good in that all that God’s cre­ation would do is noth­ing but good things?

    In oth­er words, if God wants us to be good, and we have no choice but to be what He wants us to be, then why not just sim­ply make us what He wants us to be from the begin­ning and not cre­ate an oppor­tu­ni­ty for a wicked peo­ple to tor­ment the righteous?

    After all, what sense is there in hav­ing us do bad things to each oth­er when we don’t have the will to be any­thing oth­er than what God had made us to be? All God had to do was to just sim­ply not allow wicked­ness to be, as He would elim­i­nate at some point anyway.

    Indeed, there are some very seri­ous log­i­cal issues that must be dealt with in order to jus­ti­fy such a view!

    So I prayed to the Lord that evening, plead­ing with Him to open my eyes. It was­n’t com­mon for me to lis­ten to the radio. But short­ly after pray­ing to God for an answer, I had a sense of urgency to turn the radio on…

    After hav­ing done that, the very first thing I heard was the voice of a per­son who shared his thoughts about this issue, and basi­cal­ly had said that Jesus died for all peo­ple, and that God gives every­one an oppor­tu­ni­ty to be saved, even though He already knows who will and won’t accept His gift.

    You see, just because He already knows these things in advance that does­n’t mean we don’t have a choice. For, He gave us the will to choose, while know­ing what choic­es we would make. And so we are still free, but known by God as He is capa­ble of see­ing things from eternity.

    There­fore, I took this as an answer to my prayer. Of course, just tak­ing a per­son­’s word for it would not suf­fice entire­ly. But the tim­ing of the response gave me great assur­ance in that it indi­cat­ed that God was speak­ing to me through that person.

    After that, I spent a great deal of time in the scrip­tures, and God opened my eyes even more…

    Thus my knowl­edge of the sub­ject was great­ly enhanced as Jesus showed me via the Holy Spir­it, that even if God foreknew that no one would have giv­en their life to Him, Jesus still would have died for all, as it isn’t mere­ly a ques­tion of who God is will­ing to save, but also one of how mer­ci­ful a sav­ior He is, and how far reach­ing His love extends. Hence, Jesus did not only die to save sin­ners; He died to dis­close the full­ness of God’s love…

    to demon­strate at the present time His right­eous­ness, that He might be just and the jus­ti­fi­er of the one who has faith in Jesus.
    (Rom 3:26)

  16. Hey Rick

    First let me start by say­ing, “I’d rather have dis­cus­sions of this nature in per­son because there’s some­thing about being up close and per­son­al, espe­cial­ly with sen­si­tive issues of this sort (at least for some). This debate has been ongo­ing (through­out his­to­ry) and I don’t think it’s wise to expect some­one to change their view because of nice­ly pre­sent­ed points about who believes what and why.

    My aim is not to change some­one’s mind or view about Calvin­ism but to men­tion some points, cri­tiques ( on the exeget­i­cal foun­da­tions) or food for thought if you will con­cern­ing Calvin­ism. I will also list some points of ref­er­ence, because peo­ple need to research and wres­tle with these the­o­log­i­cal doc­trines for themselves.

    It’s the ques­tions not answers that lead us down life’s path. I would also rec­om­mend learn­ing about Hermeneu­tics (apply­ing it accord­ing­ly even if it departs from our tra­di­tion). The same can also be said of exe­ge­sis. Remem­ber, there’s a dif­fer­ence between the­o­log­i­cal ideas (doc­trines) and exe­ge­sis. I’m afraid that much of what we see today are the­olo­gies being forced into the text because peo­ple come to it wear­ing dif­fer­ent the­o­log­i­cal lens, which leads to a dis­tor­tion of the author’s orig­i­nal intent and mes­sage (apart of exegesis)

    “… any effort to mount an inter­pre­ta­tion of the Bible that ignores its first read­ers is doomed to end up with a bou­quet of frag­ments that are nei­ther the book of the church nor the imag­i­na­tive well­spring of West­ern lit­er­a­ture, art and music. Uproot­ed from the soil that feeds them, they are like cut flow­ers whose vivid col­ors have fad­ed.… Yet, and this is the cen­tral point, the bib­li­cal nar­ra­tive was not reduced to a set of ideas or a body of prin­ci­ples; no con­cep­tu­al scheme was allowed to dis­place the evan­gel­i­cal history.”
    — R. Wilken, quot­ed from the Prob­lem with Evan­gel­i­cal The­ol­o­gy by Ben With­er­ing­ton III (high­ly recommended)

    The prob­lem, already hint­ed at above, is read­ing the text out­side of its prop­er orig­i­nal con­texts- his­tor­i­cal, rhetor­i­cal, social, the­o­log­i­cal, and so on. Proof- tex­ting or some call it strip-min­ing of the text are endem­ic prob­lems with Bib­li­cists who can­not wait to get to the the­o­log­i­cal or eth­i­cal impli­ca­tion or the appli­ca­tion stage. I find it amaz­ing how many peo­ple impose a the­o­log­i­cal grid on the schema of inter­pre­ta­tion and assum­ing that if text A can­not pos­si­bly mean that because it inter­feres with one’s pri­or the­o­log­i­cal commitments.

    First, your first foot­note (wow, my friend that’s rough… I’m not Catholic but I know both Catholic and non-Catholic pro­fes­sors and friends that would take you to task on that point alone.) Please, don’t mis­un­der­stand me, I’m not upset or using fight­ing words. I used to think like that dur­ing my ear­ly years as a Chris­t­ian ( or Dis­ci­ple if you pre­fer). :) Side note, the term Chris­t­ian means “lit­tle Christ.” At least ear­ly on it did. Anyhow.
    Some points to con­sid­er, any­one that has stud­ied ear­ly church his­to­ry knows we all came from that umbrel­la. Sec­ond, if it was­n’t for the ear­ly Chris­tians and tra­di­tions, there’s a chance we lose many of the ancient copies of the scrip­tures avail­able to us. Third, I rec­om­mend, as best as you can to approach the text with­out your Calvin­is­tic lens, side with the text and not your tra­di­tion and you may learn some­thing, which is not being blind­ed by your presuppositions.

    “Some­times it is more pre­sup­po­si­tion­al than it is a mat­ter of care­ful expo­si­tion of texts.” — Ben With­er­ing­ton III

    A lit­tle his­to­ry, Jose­phus indi­cates that deter­min­ism, or fate, or pre­des­ti­na­tion, was an issue very much in dis­pute in ear­ly Judaism, most­ly between Paul’s for­mer sect, the Phar­isees, and oth­er dom­i­nant sects.

    Remem­ber, the Essenes, in regard to des­tiny or fore­or­di­na­tion, exempt­ed noth­ing from its con­trol, while the Sad­ducees took the oppo­site end of the spec­trum, deny­ing there was any such thing as fore­or­di­na­tion, while the Phar­isees held the mid­dle ground, name­ly some things, but not all things, are the work of divine des­tin­ing. Some things, such as whether one responds to divine grace, or whether one con­tin­ues in one’s faith, are with­in the con­trol of human beings. ( I’m not just pulling this out of thin air or from the pul­pit speak­er, do your research it is there.) :)

    “… it hav­ing pleased God that there should be a co-oper­a­tion, and that to the delib­er­a­tion (of God) about des­tiny, humans in the case of the one who wills should assent, with virtue or wickedness.”

    The point: Paul was a Phar­isee before his Dam­as­cus Road expe­ri­ence; he affirms God’s fore­knowl­edge, his des­tin­ing of some things, and also he affirms human respon­si­bil­i­ty for sin, and the awful pos­si­bil­i­ty of rad­i­cal rebel­lion against God by a believ­er, name­ly apostasy.

    Take note, it is not an either/or mat­ter for Paul when it comes to viable human moral choic­es and God’s sov­er­eign­ty, but rather a both/ and sit­u­a­tion. He stand direct­ly in the line of the ear­ly Jew­ish dis­cus­sions by affirm­ing that in the most impor­tant mat­ter of all- one’s sal­va­tion and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of vir­tu­ous behav­ior- humans must respond to the ini­tia­tive of grace freely, and con­tin­ue to do so freely after ini­tial­ly becom­ing new crea­tures in Christ. The divine and human wills are both involved in such matters.
    It is essen­tial to set Paul in the con­text of ear­ly Jew­ish discussions

    Some tools: http://www.asburyseminary.edu/chapel/ntwright.php

    Com­men­taries on Romans or just Paul in gen­er­al, look up schol­ars like Robert Jew­ett, James Dunn, N.T Wright, Dou­glass Moo (Calvin­ist back­ground but sides with the text over his tra­di­tion) and Ben With­er­ing­ton among others.

    BTW, great work in the The­sis forums. I see your pret­ty active there, keep up the great work! :) I should add, we have only starched the sur­face. Please try to equip your­self with the nec­es­sary tools, learn­ing bib­li­cal Greek was amaz­ing, fun but no easy. A lot changes when you not only real­ize the lim­i­ta­tions of Eng­lish Ver­sions but the work required to trans­late. It’s unre­al my friend. All the best!

  17. Hi, I’m an assis­tant pas­tor in a chapel (Prim­i­tive Methodist — we do still exist!) in Eng­land, and have long been fas­ci­nat­ed with the whole Armin­ist vs. Calvin­ist ques­tion. It seems a bit dif­fi­cult to reduce scrip­ture to ‘sound­bites’ to prove a point of this com­plex­i­ty on a site, so I won’t try oth­er than to sug­gest approach­ing the appar­ent con­tra­dic­tions in scrip­ture on this point by this sim­ple approach:

    1. God choos­es who are saved.
    2. So, who are pre­des­tined to be saved by the Lord?
    3. Answer… those who love God.

    Summary/supposition: God choose those who love Him (those who have a heart for Him), and love in that con­text (from the Greek) means have good­will or affec­tion towards.

    This may sound sim­plis­tic but isn’t (but I’m real­ly not pre­pared to present a the­o­log­i­cal argu­ment in too much depth here since get­ting to this sim­plis­tic point is rather com­plex!). It explains why an accu­rate knowl­edge of God’s nature is vital and why we have to repent (which word sim­ply means, trans­lat­ed, ‘think dif­fer­ent­ly’. Once some­one grasps the love God has poured out to us though His Son, then the prop­er response is love). Our rela­tion­ship with the Lord can then be both based on knowl­edge AND expe­ri­ence (our church­es often fall into one of two camps; knowl­edge-based or expe­ri­en­tial-based, where­as both are necessary).

    This approach does how­ev­er take away any appar­ent con­tra­dic­tion in scrip­ture, which as we all sure­ly realise does not con­tra­dict but is in inerrant.

    Read one point of Romans, for exam­ple, and you’ll be a con­vinced Armin­ist, read on and you’ll then turn into a con­vinced Calvin­ist… in the end even Paul the Apos­tle seemed to get exas­per­at­ed with explain­ing it all and just remarked that it was enough to say if you con­fess with the mouth and believe in the heart that Jesus Christ was raised then you’re in the King­dom! But then we could have an argu­ment over what ‘believe’ means in this con­text. It seems to me to mean ‘to trust’ which is not some­thing you do once and then for­get about, but keep doing. Works don’t save you, but what you put your trust in can, and if your trust is real­ly in Christ Jesus and you know Him then there is noth­ing to wor­ry about and we can approach Him bold­ly. But will some­one ever get to that point with­out love for God in their heart in response to God’s love?

    I am also con­vinced that some­one can lose their sal­va­tion if they turn from God bad­ly enough. That obser­va­tion is clear in the Bible texts (Hebra­ic and Greek) from start to finish.

    I realise this could get messy but pro­pose you just delve into the Word with the thought ‘God choos­es those who love Him’ in mind and you’ll see the pattern.

    Hope that helps.

    Or maybe a fourth way of look­ing at this ques­tion will just have you tear­ing your hair out!!!

    Thank you all for a very inter­est­ing conversation!

    God is good all the time.

    Grace & Peace,

    Richard D. White-Watts

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