Posts Tagged ‘calvinism’

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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My Take on Calvinism’s 5 Points

So in reading back through some of blog posts I remembered that I said I wanted to tackle where I stand in terms of Calvinism versus Arminianism. While I haven’t seriously studied Arminianism enough yet to see how I view that theology, I did do some research on the 5 points of Calvinism. While these points don’t comprise totally the philosophy of Calvinism, they are tenets that strong Calvinists adhere to. I like that they form a pretty word acrostically, but as for the tenets themselves, some questions arise.

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perserverance of the saints

TOTAL DEPRAVITY – due to the fall of Adam, everyone born into the world is enslaved into the service of sin (i.e. we are born with sin)

My take: I agree with this one completely. No objections.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION – it is God’s choice from eternity whom He will save, and it is not based on foreseen virtue, merit or faith in those people

My take: This idea is supported by Paul in both the book of Romans and 1 Corinthians, so I agree with this one too.

LIMITED ATONEMENT – since God predestined the elect, Jesus’ death that atoned for sins was only meant to atone for the sins of the elect, and not all of the world

My take: Paul doesn’t make the claim that “Christ came to the world to save SOME sinners, of whom I am the worst.” I believe that Christ came to testify to the truth (as He states in John 18:37) to all of the world, otherwise Christ wouldn’t have said, “Go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS.” The Word of God is readily available to anyone who wants to read it, not to an elect few who were destined to read it. The caveat comes in the form of free will. I believe God would give everyone the chance to accept the atonement; it’s just that not everyone does, and He knew that from eternity

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE – the Holy Spirit is able to overcome any obstacles put up in the way of saving those whom God had predestined to be with Him

My take: I like the idea of this one, but not the explanation. This explanation makes it sound like the Holy Spirit tries harder to reach some than others, because they are the elect. I think God tries with the same earnest to reach every individual, because as He tries to reach someone, another might come to Him in free will as a result.

PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS – Those whom God has called into communion with Himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who fall away were either never really saved or will return.

My take: I don’t like this explanation either. What happens to a person who is undeniably saved but dies in a sinful act? For example, what happens to the saved pastor who is killed while trying to murder a man who raped his daughter? No chance to return, but no one doubts the salvation. If you simplify the explanation of POTS to simply “You can’t lose your salvation,” then I agree.

So that’s it. I guess I’m a 3 1/2 point Calvinist, which means I must agree with some of Arminius’ beliefs too. Or perhaps not. I guess we’ll find out eventually.

A Simplified Explanation of 3 Big Bible Words

Are you one of those people that likes to throw out big words to make yourself seem smarter? I definitely am, but I still get frustrated if someone throws one out that I don’t completely understand. Sometimes this happens to pastors, too. Often there are views on doctrine that require certain belief systems, and often those systems get big words. So here I’m going to attempt to give a simple explanation of three key Bible buzzwords.

1) Sanctification – There are many different ways to describe this, but the simplest way I can think to describe it is the process of being set apart by God through His grace. It is the way by which God has cleansed us of sin, so that we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). It seems evident that among Evangelical Christians that there is nothing we can do (i.e. works) that can make us sanctified. That power resides with God alone. However, among many people this is deemed as a process, as sanctification is seen as making us more and more holy over time.

2) Justification – According to Wikipedia, justification is God’s act of declaring or making a sinner righteous before God. I heard a John Piper sermon on this topic, and at a root level it made sense to me. When Adam sinned (remember from my earlier post that sin was the fault of the man, not the woman), the only way we could be made righteous and worthy of heaven was to have someone pay the price for that sin we are born with. So Jesus’ death and resurrection justified us in the eyes of God, so when we have faith (Ephesians 2:8) and believe in Jesus as God, we are justified. This is different from sanctification in that we have to act on faith (or more commonly, give your heart to Christ) in order to receive justification.

3) Glorification – Again referencing Wikipedia, glorification is the completion, consummation, perfection, the full realization of salvation. This one seems to me to mean that before we actually enter heaven, God makes us perfect, for only can a perfect being be fit for heaven. It does seem that Romans 8:30 allows for glorification to be placed on us while we are still here on the earth, so there is probably some kind of a placement of His glory on us, so as we go about our lives others can see His glory as part of that. (Interesting aside: maybe this is why even if some Christians aren’t living an “on-fire” life for God, they can still cause non-believers to seek God – that’s my own personal thought and there is no factual basis for it).

I hope these explanations helped to make sense of these big words. I hope one day to lay out the arguments for Calvinism and Arminianism here, simply because I don’t know what they are. I was told once that I’m a 4-point Calvinist, so I’m curious to see where I fall in that sliding scale.

Anyway, have a blessed day everyone, and may God either justify you through new faith or sanctify you by the grace you have already received!