Friday, June 27, 2008

Calvin / Arminian Viewpoints (Part II)

we're back to take another step forward in this discussion of these 2 contrasting Theological views. Now I used an important term in my 1st discourse. This term was “High” Calvinism or “5 point” Calvinism. I’d like to define now for you what it means. In Calvinistic Theology, there are those who hold to a form of Calvin’s teaching & accept them, but not to the extreme & such could be stated also about Arminian viewpoint’s, albeit they are in no way anywhere near as harsh as High Calvinism, after all they are based upon what we believe to be the truth that God gave mankind a freewill to choose, while also providing for a way for us to be “re-joined” back into fellowship & Covenant with Him, should we respond to His leading, etc. Some folks even like to be called “Calminian’s”! You’ll hear that a lot, I have a few Pastor friends who claim to be such! So let’s look at this 5 point system that created the need for a rival Theology like the Arminian viewpoint to come about in the 1st place. The acronym is “TULIP” which stands for the following:

T……….the total depravity of Man

U……….unconditional election

L……… atonement

I…………irresistible grace

P………..perseverance of the saints

Hence the term “Tulip”. In this 2nd discourse, I want to look at the first 2 points of High Calvinism, “total depravity” & “unconditional election”. So first, let’s discuss total depravity. Here is what is taught in H.C. (I’ll use this to define the term High Calvinism)

1) Total Depravity
The doctrine of total depravity (also called "total inability") asserts that, as a consequence of the fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.)

Jacob Arminius himself and some of his later followers, such as John Wesley, also affirmed total depravity. This is an area of some of that “common ground” I spoke of earlier. BOTH systems of thought agree that due to the fall of Man in Adam, all flesh has inherited a corrupted nature in bondage to sin. So we have common ground here, but I must also say that despite man’s “sin nature”, we clearly see that there are many good & wonderful people in the World at all times who live lives apart from Christ. In a recent conversation with a dear friend who shares most of the Calvinism viewpoint, he confessed to me that he was having a hard time with the concept of total depravity based on this observation that there are many good people out there who do many good & Godly type things while all the time not knowing Christ, hence I see this total depravity as more of a “overall” problem with our nature in general & it is Spiritually based, meaning that a person can indeed live a “good” life while denying Christ, but in the end as Proverb’s 14:12 so honestly put’s it “there is a road which seems right, but in the end it is the way of death”. So it would seem that the Enemy (satan) himself jumps in & convinces people that things like “Good Work’s, Philosophy & yes even Religion (not RELATIONSHIP)” are the way to happiness both here & in eternity. But certainly we see this concept based in Scripture & starting back in Genesis 3 at the fall of Man in the garden of Eden. So in this 1st point, there is common ground between the 2!

Let’s now look at the 2nd point of H.C., “Unconditional Election”. This is where things start to get much more interesting. Let’s define what H.C. means by this term:

2) Unconditional election

The Doctrine of unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone. The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the chief article of Reformed Christianity. However, according to the doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all that is taught. Unconditional election, and its corollary in the doctrine of predestination are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ, that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.

I think it would be wise for me to quote John Calvin on this:
By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death." (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5)

Yes, you heard that right, but just in case, I’ll explain. Here’s basically what he just said: The doctrine of Unconditional Election stresses that man has no choice (no free will) at all because man has no ability to seek God, (Total Depravity) therefore it is by God's sovereign choice that anyone is saved. So we must take this doctrine carefully to its “end implications” to see the outcome of such a Doctrine. Here’s what that would be friends: The bottom line, from everything I’ve read & know about this Unconditional Election, is that if true, basically in the beginning God said YES to Jane Doe, NO to John Doe, YES to Anne Doe, No to Jim Doe, etc. Get the picture friends? In other words, God Almighty in His creation, created some people who would have NO way to salvation! Now I can’t speak for anyone else, but I will speak for myself, this is totally inconsistent with scores of passages throughout the Old & New Testaments, while also being incompatible with the God I have come to know friends! As I pointed out earlier in the tree in the garden of Eden, in the Ark of Noah, in John chapters 3 & 7, it just does not line up with God creating us as "free moral agents" with choice. It also contradicted I think whom God reveals Himself to be & furthermore, His character is now being distorted in that what is being said is that He gave some NO freewill! Now there is certainly the subject of "Sovereignty" & I have NO problem acknowledging that God intervened more than a few times & we'll tlak about HIs Sovereignty in another part, but please allow me to close with this thought: “predestination is NOT pre-determination

Stay Tuned,

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