Calvinism vs. Arminianism – A Response

Wow. My previous blog post generated the most response of any of the blog posts I’ve done up to this point. I’m guessing it has to do with the fact that this is an extremely hot and controversial topic. I decided to a bit more research to make sure I feel a bit better about where I fall.

One friend encouraged me to read the book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words,” and after previewing the first chapter on Amazon, looks pretty interesting and suggests that maybe I should use the term “reformed” instead of “Calvinist.” WIFE (which, in case you’re a new reader, stands for Woman I Find Exceptional) also suggested that maybe I hastily jumped too much into the argument without enough research.

I have to say, this post is probably where I draw the last line. I will probably read the above suggested book, but as far as expounding on my personal feelings, this is probably it.

That said, I went looking for some comparisons between the 5 points of Calvinism and the corresponding 5 points of Arminianism. This one was a pretty good one, in my opinion, and helped me draw the line on a couple of questionable ideas I had about some of the 5 points: http://www.fivesolas.com/cal_arm.htm.

Without getting too deep into it, the points in my previous posts that I disagreed with the explanation (Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints) are a bit more clear cut here, and in reading the “strict” Arminianist counterpoints, I have to say I fall closer to the Calvinist view of these doctrines than the Arminianist view. So I guess this pushes me to a 4-point Calvinist, which apparently is a fairly common theological position.

So my issue still lies with Limited vs. Unlimited Atonement, which again according to research is possibly the most controversial of the 5 points. When looking at both viewpoints, they both seem to have compelling arguments. So my first question to myself was, “Haven’t I heard somewhere about ‘the hope of salvation,’ which would extend to all men?”

I looked up the passage (1 Thessalonians 5:8, if anyone cares to reference it) and went to Strong’s concordance to learn the actual Greek word and meaning for “hope” in this verse. The literal definition, plus various other references using the same Greek word, liken that “hope” more to an “expectation” or “faith in,” which leans closer to the Reformed viewpoint. (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G1680 is the link for Strong’s concordance to this word)

But I was still interested in the point about 1 Timothy 1:15 (“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the foremost {of all}.”). It doesn’t say SOME sinners, it just says sinners. The last prepositional phrase isn’t in all translations of this verse, but the Greek word for “sinners” is hamartolos, which in its most literal sense means “not free from sin,” but in a more specific sense is applied to “all wicked men.” (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G268&t=NASB&page=2 is the reference for this one.). Other passages using the same Greek word seem to point to such an understanding of the original Greek.

This idea seems more concrete to me, so I think in the sliding scale I fall closer to the side of Unlimited Atonement, but the basis for both viewpoints is Scriptural, so who am I to decide one is solely right and one is solely wrong?

My last point goes back to my original statement in this post. This will be my last post on this subject. Why? Because I base my belief on what the Bible says. There are clearly enough mysterious passages in the Bible to make you fall on one side or another. I fell into that behavior earlier in life when determining that I was a “pre-tribulationist” believer in the Rapture. I think if God wanted us to know the answer outright, He would have just said specifically in His Word, “This is how it is.” But I guess the underlying point is that both doctrinal viewpoints believe that we need Christ in our lives to be saved, and that is the most important doctrinal position of all!

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