Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Calvin / Arminian Viewpoints (Part 1 - Opening)

Oh boy, perhaps you’re saying to yourself, who would ever want to dive into this topic? After all, it’s one of those “secondary” issues isn’t it, that some people & Churches have made primary? I guess that is a fair statement, I think at least?
This debate has been going on for a long, long time, all the way to the days of Reformation! So again, why write about the subject? Before I list a few of my reason’s, or at least my perceptions & also my undeniable experiences. Here is the MAIN reason why I am taking this on friends... And I suspect that many of my fellow Arminians would agree or perhaps feel the same way? Namely that our God, whom we have come to know through His Son Jesus Christ & through His Word, if High Calvinism is incorrect, then there can be no doubt that the Nature & Character of our God has been for a long time & continues through today to be impugned & badly mis-represented & we'll see this for sure in the 2 points of High Calvinism known as the "U & L" or Unconditional Election & Limited Atonement, thus you know exactly what drives me friends! It seems to me that we Arminian’s are all to often taken badly out of context, or are constantly being called things like “heretic’s or Pelagian’s or Semi[Pelagian's” by “High” Calvinist’s & actually even mocked very often by these High Calvinists on their websites & in print. Now I realize in order to share some good & valid information with you, I first need to define a few terms. When I say “High” Calvinist, I am referring to those who call themselves “5 Point or TULIP” Calvinist’s. These people have a much different point of view & approach to our Heavenly Father & His nature & attributes then those who simply called themselves “Reformed or just Calvinistic” in their thinking. They adhere to a system of thought that we will be looking into in depth in a bit. I seek to challenge a few of these thoughts for truly one basic & very important reason. Could it be that God’s character is being misrepresented in any or a few of these thoughts? We’ll come back to this later. Is the constant charge of Calvinist that Arminian’s are Pelegians, or Semi-Pelegians really true?
Let’s take a look at this charge first in depth to see if it hold any merit, sound okay? Now Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius. It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature (which God called very good), and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. Thus, Adam's sin was "to set a bad example" for his progeny, but his actions did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin. Pelagianism views the role of Jesus as "setting a good example" for the rest of humanity (thus counteracting Adam's bad example). In short, humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for its own salvation in addition to full responsibility for every sin (the latter insisted upon by both proponents and opponents of Pelagianism). According to Pelagian doctrine, because humanity does not require God's grace for salvation (beyond the creation of will), Jesus' execution is devoid of the redemptive quality ascribed to it by orthodox Christian theology. (Thus Pelagianism is Heresy or Un-Orthodox Theology) (Calvinists also regularly have accused Arminian’s of being “Semi-Pelagians” because of their free will emphasis) Okay, so that’s the skinny on Pelegianism. So let’s look at 2 crucuial points to see if Arminian Theology is a close companion or not as many High Calvinists claim.

That original sin did not taint human nature…… and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. In Genesis 3, we see the recorded “Fall Of Man”. That Satan tempted Eve who partook of the forbidden fruit & then gave it to Adam, who ate also & then later blamed God for giving him Eve basically! What was the outcome?
Was it not that sin entered the World? Was this not the “original” sin that lead humankind to walk down this path & now all humans would be born with what we refer to as an “Adamic” nature? Do we not also see here in Genesis 3 that the 1st effect or emotion of sin was fear? (Ge.3:10) So if one was to deny original sin or the fall of man, we see it would be unscriptural to do so! Also we see in Gen. 3 that fear entered in & we continue to see from God’s Word that many other effects of sin began to quickly show up leading to murder. (Cain & Abel) So to say that the fall of man or original sin did not taint the human race would be a denial of Genesis 3 & thus would void God’s word! I can honestly say I have never saw anything in the writings of Jacob Arminius or ever heard anything by a person who understands classic Arminian Theology that would adhere to such Pelegian thought. Prevenient (or preceding) grace is divine grace which precedes human decision and allows a person to thus engage their God given free will to make a choice concerning Christ. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 I believe goes hand in hand with this view, for the Scripture here states the following: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”. Notice “not from yourselves”, in other Words GOD gives us this Grace & it is a gift, hence we further have the gift to choose, WE have that gift. Friends, when I think about the concept of freewill or choice, I see over & over in Scripture example after example, thus prevenient Grace I humbly submit is a view that is compatible & in harmony with Scripture.
Here’s a few examples:

The Tree in the Garden of Eden……….. What did that tree represent?
Was it not freewill? Would not Adam & Eve of been a sort of “robot”? God says jump & Adam says “how high”, etc. Freewill to me at least & many other believers is the 3rd greatest “Gift” God gave us other than His Son & His Word!

The Ark of Noah…… In Genesis 6:5-7, God made this incredible statement:
“The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-- men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-- for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD”. Have you ever stopped to think that if God here would of allowed anyone else in the Ark if they were also found righteous? Do you see anything here to the contrary? God found Noah to be right before Him & thus He saved him & his family, but does this automatically mean He wouldn’t have allowed other’s in if they too were righteous? Remember the Scripture tells us that it was Noah who found God’s favor, thus NO one else had! In verse 5 God stated that with the exception of Noah, ALL men’s hearts were to do evil continually, hence only Noah & his family were saved from the flood, but the point is that God perhaps (feel free to disagree!) would have provided for others who CHOSE to place Him first in their lives as did righteous Noah. Thus I see the Ark as a provision for those who would choose to live righteous, sadly only one did!

John 7:37-38 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”.

John 3:16-17 “John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

I am sure by now you get what I am saying, I can certainly provide many more examples! Thus I believe the concept of choice & choosing is found all throughout the Bible, just as many Calvinists (not High Calvinists) can claim also & I get that & respect & understand that. One thing I am very happy about is that I rarely if ever have seen or read any writings of Arminian’s who mock or refer to Calvinists, especially High Calvinists as “heretic’s”, we’ll save that term for them. (only joking!) So my point is that as you can see, WE DO believe that it is God who is at work to “will” as the Scripture states, but while saying that, because we believe God made man as a “free moral agent”, mankind does hold the right or gift to choice, not only to chose Jesus, but what about the choices we make everyday? Do we not chose to attend certain functions, or go to certain places to eat, to pay our bill’s & so forth? God gave us very capable faculties, we need to use them in conjunction with His good & perfect will!

Thus I am hoping you can clearly see that Classic Arminian Theology is in NO way Pelegian, Jacob Arminias taught nothing of the kind & the truth be told, the 2 systems of thought, basic Arminian & Calvinistic thought are actually closer than you may think! Okay, that’s my 1st discourse on this most interesting topic, more to come, stay tuned & please share your thoughts if you dare, lol!

In Christ, Al

1 comment:

  1. Brother Al,

    You do an excellent job with the Arminian position. I like your knowledge of the overall subject matter. I truly hope you continue to post on this and other subjects.

    God bless you.