Admittedly, my views for years were Arminian without my knowing what that was or meant, having been ‘raised’ in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles. However, after suffering for years by this misconception and it’s resultant effects, there was an altering of and a traveling down a long road theologically, often unexpectedly, with all it’s twists and turns. I’ve now come to different understandings concerning many theological positions, that while yet being scriptural, transcend the usual polarization found between the schools of Calvinism and Arminianism.
The history of either view, with any comprehensive comparison between Calvinism and Arminianism, is not possible in this note. However before I divulge my views, here’s a brief comparison between the two schools of thought:
Calvinism (using their acronym ‘TULIP’):
1. Total Depravity: This is the belief that sin controls every part of man. He is spiritually dead and blind, and unable to obey, believe, or repent. He continually sins, for his nature is completely evil. This is based on verses such as Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:3, and 53:3.
2. Unconditional Election: God chose the elect solely based on His free grace, not anything in them. He has a special love for the elect. God left the rest to be damned for their sins.
3. Limited Atonement: Christ died especially for the elect, and paid a definite price for them that guaranteed their salvation.
4. Irresistible Grace: Saving grace is irresistible, for the Holy Spirit is invincible and intervenes in man’s heart. He sovereignly gives the new birth, faith, and repentance to the elect.
5. Perseverance of the Saints: God preserves all the elect and causes them to persevere in faith and obedience to the end. None are continually back-slidden or finally lost.
To summarize a very basic picture of the Calvinistic viewpoint would go something like this: Man’s heart is depraved. If left to himself, he would only do selfish, sinful things. However, God arbitrarily decided, before time began, which people would be saved and which would be lost. Jesus Christ came to earth and died on the cross for the sins of those God had decided would be saved. The Holy Spirit comes upon a person’s heart in an irresistible way, so the person will choose to be saved. The saved person can never become unsaved, no matter what.
1. Free Will: Sin does not control man’s will. He is sick and near-sighted, but still able to obey, believe, and repent. He does not continually sin, for his nature is not completely evil.
2. Conditional Election: God chose the elect based on their foreseen faith. He loves all men equally. God passed over no one; He gives everyone an equal chance to be saved. This is gleaned from I Timothy 2:4; II Peter 3:9; Matthew 18:14.
3. Universal Atonement: Christ died equally for all men, and paid a provisional price that made salvation possible for all, but guaranteed it for none.
4. Resistible Grace: Saving grace is resistible, for God does not overrule man’s free will. Man is born again after he believes, for faith and repentance are not gifts of God.
5. Falling from grace (as a possibility): Believers may turn from grace and lose their salvation.
To summarize a very basic picture of the Arminian viewpoint would go something like this: Man’s spirit is damaged, but still somewhat good. God, able to see all things past and future, knowing who would say ‘yes’ to the Gospel, elected those people to salvation. Jesus died on the cross giving everyone the opportunity to repent and turn to Him, excluding no one from the possibility of salvation. The call of God can be resisted and, ultimately, rejected. A Christian can turn from God and no longer be saved.
– The preceding definitions and summaries of Arminianism and Calvinism are by Robert Driskell [slightly edited], from a website, ‘What Christians Want to Know’.
Both views commented on:
There are both good points and bad points in both schools of thought- Calvinism sees that salvation is not dependent on man’s will, but on God’s sovereignty. And because of that we’re wholly dependent on grace. Yet, they consign all the non-elect, based upon unknown and arbitrary determinations, to an eternal hell.
The Arminians rightly see that Christ’s atonement was universal, and that the possibility of salvation is open to all. However, they exalt man’s will to such a degree that God cannot effectively save without violation. Also, they place so much focus on the will, that it could be said that men and women basically save themselves by virtue of choosing. It’s a works oriented, and behavior focused salvation.
What is then woefully lacking in each school is Christ Himself, and what He accomplished for us on the cross is seen as inadequate or impotent. In Calvinism God is unwilling to save all of humanity; in Arminianism God is unable to save all humanity. Thus, without a Christ-focus, man’s views of God are distorted, and abstracted.
And so, rather than trying to pick and choose from each school of thought as to what is the Gospel, one must return to a Christ-centered focus as revealed in the scriptures. This will be done by touching on 7 areas of concern shared by both Calvinists and Arminians.
Concerns between Calvinists and Arminians:
* God’s sovereignty
* Man’s depravity
* Christ’s atonement
* Man’s will
A Christ Centered View:
1. God’s Sovereignty:
God’s sovereignty is absolute, but His Will is never arbitrary. God’s Will is based on His inscrutable character, which in turn is based on His nature which is love.
His sovereign Will to save all of humanity is finished, and paradoxically without either:
1) violating the human will (as in Universalism);
2) nor depending on the human will (as in Arminianism).
(Ps 115:3; Mt 10:29; Rom 9:13-16; 1Jn 4:8, 16; Mt 22:36-40; Gen 18:25; Ps 129:4; 2Pet 3:9; Dt 8:2; 2Chron 32:31; Ps 139:23-24; Prov 17:3; Lam 3:36; Rev 3:20; Rom 10:9-10; Jn 12:32; Lk 3:6; Rom 5:18; 1Tim 4:10; 1Cor 15:22).
2. Man’s Depravity:
Man’s depravity is not inherited from Adam in terms of morality. The Fall did not directly cause human depravity, nor did Adam pass down a physiological ‘sin-nature’ to his posterity. Moral depravity is a result of one’s own personal immoral decisions learned through example.
What is inherited from Adam are the results of sin, which are a fallen [cursed] world, war, sickness, poverty and death. The Second Adam (Christ) reversed the fall and it’s consequences, inaugurating a new humanity.
(Ps 139:13-14; Dt 24:16; Ezek 18:4, 20; Rom 5:12-19; 1Cor 15:45-49; 2Cor 5:14-17)
God has elected Christ, and all are included in that election by virtue of Christ’s taking on not only a human nature, but incarnating as humanity itself. God has thus elected each human being in Him. This constitutes a kind of ‘double-predestination’, not in the sense of hyper Calvinism, but in that each individual has been negated in Christ’s death, and affirmed in Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Thus each person has been judged and consigned to death, in the crucifixion of Christ, and likewise saved and consigned to life in His resurrection- and thus has been rejected in terms of sin and it’s consequences, and accepted in terms of Christ’s righteousness and acceptability before God.
(Eph 1:4-12; 1Cor 15:22; Rom 9:13-16; 11:1-7, 11-12, 15, 23-33)
4. Christ’s Atonement:
Christ’s atonement was universal, and all inclusive, effectively saving all humanity by an imputation of righteousness upon them. Christ’s faith thus saved us, but the individual must come to a personal faith in Christ in order to appropriate it. This faith in Christ may be explicit or else implicit in terms of personal knowledge as to the particulars of salvation- this being a difference between the inclusion of the cross in terms of divine intent, and an inclusivist application in terms of individual knowledge.
(Jn 3:16-17; Rom 3:21-31; 2Cor 5:19-21; Ga 2:16; Acts 10:34-35; 1Tim 4:10)
God’s grace has appeared to all mankind in Christ, giving salvation to all sovereignly. Grace itself is neither resistible (Arminian) nor yet irresistible (Calvinist). Rather what’s at issue is that human pride being divinely resisted in relation to grace, cancels out the availability of it when the mind and heart are in that condition. This places such a one outside of the sphere of grace directly, at least until the mind has ‘repented’ (Gk. metanoia), or else has been renewed. One thus is an enemy in their mind through wicked works. This condition determines man’s spiritual/psychic state after death, at least until that one becomes directly receptive to grace.
(Tit 2:11; 3:4-5; Eph 2:4-5; Col 1:21; Rom 8:6-8; 1Pet 5:5; Jam 4:6; Job 22:29; Ps 138:6; Lk 18:13-14; Phil 2:12-13; Lk 15:28; Ps 139:7-10; Ps 86:13).
6. Man’s Will:
Man’s will is free [or able] to choose and yet powerless through the flesh to perform what is chosen in relation to the rightness of the law. The will however is indicative of what are the contents of the heart as to selfishness or benevolence, and is therefore of great interest to God in a relational sense. Man’s will is relative to God’s absolute Will (both ontologically and morally), and thus is dependent on His grace.
Will-worship is the bane of humanity, and is an idol which fosters the religion of Cain, as initiating works oriented and legalistic religious systems. Yet when in submission to God, the human will is a key that unlocks the door to the manifestation of the divine Will, opening up the rose-pedals of the heart, within an atmosphere of grace.
(Mt 26:41; Rom 7:15-25; 8:3; 2Chron 32:31; Mk 7:21-23; Rom 10:9-10; Ezek 36:26; Heb 3:12-13; Col 2:23; Mk 14:36).
Perseverance of the saints is a foregone conclusion, in consideration as to Who it is that saves and preserves us. And, we know that our ultimate state is found in Christ’s state, which is felicity and glory.
And yet this fact does not exclude the possibility of an individual’s ultimate choice being in unbelief with it’s consequential outworking in a postmortem interrelationship with the divine. This is to say that, our state and condition in the afterlife (in terms of either heaven or the hell-realms) will be in accordance to the supreme state of our heart or will upon death. This does not mean that one can abrogate their salvation, on the contrary, but that they may postpone the enjoyment of His love and felicity until that they’ve come to a place of faith and repentance (change of mind) in the afterlife.
The dealings of God with the individual, especially as found in a state of impenitence, in the afterlife is more of a mystery than what is usually considered in terms of the ‘black-and-white’ future as envisioned in most of Evangelicalism. But God’s nature as Love, and His intent on saving all of humanity, is not a mystery as revealed at the cross.
(Jn 10:27-30; Phil 1:6; Jude 1:1, 24; Phil 2:10-11; Rev 5:13; Mt 22:11-13; Lk 15:28; 18:17, 24; Rev 2:11; Mt 5:21-22).
To summarize the Christ-centered view:
God knowing all things in His Son (as the preincarnate Logos), predetermined to sovereignly save everyone in Him according to His infinite love and eternal wisdom, electing all humanity to eternal life and felicity.
Responding to man’s depravity, this election constituted a double-predestination, consigning all that is fallen and sinful in us to the death of the cross, including the laws of commandments which held sway and power over us. Likewise what He foreknew of us in eternity in His Son, He chose to consign to life and felicity through His resurrection from the dead.
Jesus Christ came and was crucified for us, effectively reconciling all of humanity to God by not imputing unto us our sin, but instead giving us righteousness. This state of rightness with God however can only be accessed by an individual faith, to which each may come via ‘repentance’- that is, a change of mind.
This faith in Christ may be either explicit or else implicit in terms of knowledge. This means that in all mankind being saved, one may enjoy the benefits of eternal life through either having an explicit knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, or else an implicit knowledge by virtue of believing in spite of a lack of doctrinal particulars, not necessarily being ‘Christian’ in name- but in virtuous disposition of the heart.
The non-believer then, those who choose to misidentify with their depraved and unrenewed view of themselves, will be wooed and pursued by God even after death, albeit in a ‘hell-realm’. This will continue until that they come of their own free-will unto faith and belief in the Gospel. Thus what is determined is not a will-violating Universalism, but a hopeful universal reconciliation of all unto God- even if it takes unto ‘The Age of Ages’. This then holds in a dialectical tension the mystery as to the individual’s ‘final state’- as being not a matter of dogmatic position (either as Arminian, Calvinist, nor yet Universalist), but as a matter of the heart in lieu of a relentless God Who is Love.Invite Leon to Speak