Skip to comments.Calvinism and Arminianism
Posted on 01/18/2003 12:35:28 PM PST by fortheDeclaration
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Election and predestination can be traced to St. Francis, who derived it from the works of St. Paul, who did not know Christ.
The central issue we want to study tonight is the interplay between God's sovereignty and human choice with regard to salvation. Do humans have free will to believe or reject the gospel? How should we understand the New Testament's statements about election and predestination?
Reminder: Some weeks have more immediate and obvious application than others. This is not one of those weeks . . . However, there is some practical applicationlike the implications for evangelism.
This term is actually a misnomer. Calvin did not emphasize predestination in his Institutes (only 4 chapters). Calvin warned against delving too deeply into this subject (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, section 1). However, it became the controlling principle in Reformed Theology, expressed by the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619.
Starting point for Calvinist/Reformed theology: God is sovereign and decrees certain things.
(Isa. 46:10,11) My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (11) What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.
As a result of Adam's sin, people are born in a "depraved" state. This means that although people may do things that are good, they are constitutionally unable to submit themselves to the gospel.
(Rom. 3:11,12) . . . there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless . . .
(John 6:44, 65) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.....(65)And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."
Because of total depravity, salvation is completely dependent on God's choice to bestow it. For his own good reasons, God sovereignly chooses which individuals he will save. "Unconditional" in this context means that there are no conditions that humans must meet, including faith. Faith is a gift of God (Rom. 12:3; Eph. 2:8). If human-generated faith plays a part in salvation, salvation is not entirely by grace.
(Eph. 1:4,5) He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. (5) In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . .
(1 Pet. 2:8) . . . they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
(Rom. 9:16,18,22-24) So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy . . . (18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires . . . (22) What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (23) And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (24) even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
"Double predestination" (also called reprobation) means that God predestines the elect to heaven, and that he predestines the non-elect to hell (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; Rom. 9:22,23).
(John Calvin) " (God) does not create everyone in the same condition, but ordains eternal life for some and eternal damnation for others." (Cited in Alister McGrath, Christian Theology, p. 396)
Not all Calvinists believe in double predestination. Instead, they follow Augustine's teaching that God is active only in the salvation of the elect, while he is passive with regard to the non-elect.
Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect. Calvinists infer this from the passages that say that Christ died "for his people" (Matt 1:21; John 10:11,15,26-27; John 15:13; Acts 20:28). Since God sovereignly elected some to salvation, he sent Christ to die only for them. Not all Calvinists hold to limited atonement.
God's grace in salvation includes imparting saving faith to the elect. This grace is irresistible since it does not depend on human will (Rom. 9:16; Jn. 6:37,44,65; 15:16). God causes the elect to believe the gospel (Acts 13:48), even though they may not be aware of this fact.
(Jn. 6:37) All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
(Acts 13:48) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Because election depends on God, those who are elected cannot lose their salvation (i.e., eternal security). However, the elect will show evidence of their election by continuing to believe in Christ and manifesting good works consistent with salvation (2 Pet. 1:10; Heb. 3:6,14; Col. 1:23). This is the origin of "Lordship Theology" discussed last week.
(2 Pet. 1:10) Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.
(Heb. 3:6,14) Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end . . . For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.
Implications for Evangelism
|"Since Christ has elected people to salvation, I can persevere in witnessing with the confidence that I will be fruitful." Bill Bright, and many other effective missionaries have been motivated in this way.||"If God has already decided who will be saved and irresistibly calls them, does it really matter whether I witness or not?" This was the logic of those who told William Carey, "Sit down, young man! If God wants to save the people in India, he can well do so without your help."|
Arminianism is named for Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian who strongly objected to the Reformed system described aboveespecially limited atonement. His position was published posthumously in the Remonstrance of 1610.
Starting point for Arminian theology: God wants all people to be saved.
(2 Pet. 3:9*) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
(1 Tim. 2:4) (God) desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Arminians agree that left to themselves, people are unable to respond to the gospel. However, God in his (prevenient or common) grace has enabled all people to respond to his convicting influence (John 12:32; 16:8)he has given the gift of faith to everyone.
(Jn. 12:32) "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."
(Jn. 16:8) "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment . . . "
(Henry C. Thiessen) "Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores to all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to him. This is the salvation-bringing grace of God that has appeared to all men." (Henry C. Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949], pp. 344-345).
God's election of people to salvation is conditioned upon their faith response to the gospel (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 3:28). Arminians reject the claim that faith is a work, since faith merely receives the gift that God offers (Rom. 4:4,5; Gal. 2:16).
(Rom. 4:4,5) Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. (5) But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness . . .
Illustration: Having been handed a million dollar check, the Arminians would not state that it was work for you to go to the bank, endorse it, and to have it deposited into your account.
Both predestination and election are based on God's foreknowledge (presumably) of our decision to trust Christ (1 Pet. 1:1,2*; Rom. 8:29).
(1 Pet. 1:1,2*) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen (2) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.
(Rom. 8:29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;
Christ died for the whole human race. Christ's atonement is therefore sufficient for all people, but effective only for those who believe (Jn. 1:29; 1 Jn. 2:2*; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Tim. 4:l0; Heb. 2:9).
(1 Jn. 2:2*) He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
(2 Cor. 5:19) God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
(1 Tim. 4:10) For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
Illustration (continued): The above check is sufficient to cover your debt, but you must deposit it to your account.
It is God's will that all people be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9*; Ezek. 18:23). Therefore, God in his grace draws all people to himself (Jn. 12:32; 16:8). But scripture clearly teaches that humans are capable of resisting God's will (Mt. 23:37; Heb. 4:2; Lk. 7:29,30).
(Matt. 23:37) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."
(Luke 7:29,30) And when all the people and the tax-gatherers heard this, they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. (30) But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.
Most Arminians do not believe in eternal security. Like John Wesley, they believe that we can have present experiential assurance of our salvationbut that we could lose our salvation for various reasons. This was evidently Arminius' view as well. However, it is neither logically nor biblically necessary for Arminians to reject eternal security. In Xenos, we hold a moderately Arminian position while also believing in eternal security.
Implications for Evangelism
|"I am motivated to share my faith because I know that more will be saved if I am faithful as Christ's ambassador." The logic of Arminianism makes it easy for Christians to believe that evangelism is both a privilege and a responsibility.||"Evangelism is a heavy burden since my friend's salvation depends on my witness." Arminians need to be careful to fully emphasize God's will and non-Christians' responsibility as they evangelize. Unless we remember this, we can become unhealthily anxious, taking on more responsibility for people's salvation than is rightfully ours.|
The following passages are interpreted differently by Calvinists and Arminians. We believe that the passages teaching the Arminian position are clearer, and that it is easier to harmonize the following passages with this position than it is to harmonize passages supporting Arminianism with the Calvinistic perspective.
(Jn. 6:37) "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."
Calvinists argue that this passage teaches irresistible grace. The individual cannot refuse God's choice. Therefore, all those given to Christ will respond.
Arminians reply that "those given to me" in vs. 37 are the same as those who "believe in him" in vs. 40. In other words, when God foresees that some will believe, he gives them to Christ. See that in vs. 45, those who have "heard and learned from the Father" are the ones who "come to me."
(Jn. 6:44,65) "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" . . .(65) And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."
Calvinists usually hold that these passages teach total depravity and unconditional election, and also imply limited atonement and double-predestination. This is because:
"no one can come to me unless. . ." because they are totally depraved.
". . .it has been granted him from the Father," or ". . .the Father draws him," meaning unconditional election. Unconditional in this case, because the cause is the Father, not the individual.
Limited atonement and double-predestination are usually inferred from the fact that it is impossible to come to Christ without election. Therefore, those whom the Father has not drawn are naturally destined for judgment and are therefore those for whom Christ did not die.
Arminians agrees that these passages teach total depravity. However, they argue the Father draws all men to Christ (Jn. 12:32; 16:8).
They further hold that to assign the cause exclusively to the Father ignores vss. 29,35,40,47. To attribute the cause exclusively to the Father regardless of the response of the person flies in the face of the stated will of the Father in vs. 40 that "every one who beholds the Son and believes in him" be saved.
Finally, with regard to limited atonement and double-predestination, these are positions which depend on the earlier conclusion (unconditional election), and therefore beg the question.
(Jn. 15:16) "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you."
Some Calvinists view this passage as a proof text for unconditional election, emphasizing the irrelevance of human choice.
Arminians point out that the statement is made to the disciples with reference to their apostleship, not to their salvation. This interpretation accords well with the next phrase "that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain. . ." See also Jn. 6:70 referring to the same choice. Clearly, Judas was chosen, but not saved.
(Acts 13:48) And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Calvinists hold that this teaches unconditional election.
Arminians point out that the participle translated "had been appointed to" (tetagmenoi) is the middle-passive voice form of tasso.
In Greek, the same form is used to designate both the middle voice and the passive voice. The NASB translates it in the passive voice (the subject receives the action). However, if it is translated in the middle voice (the subject initiates the action), the passage would read ". . .as many as set themselves to eternal life believed." This translation resolves the difficulty.
The context (see vs 46) indicates that Luke intended the middle voice in verse 48. In vs. 46, Paul says of the Jews, " you repudiate it (the gospel), and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life." Luke is purposefully contrasting the Jews' response to that of the Gentiles, who "began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had set themselves to eternal life believed."
Because of this grammatical ambiguity, neither view should base its position on this passage.
Calvinists normally hold that Rom. 9 teaches unconditional election and double-predestination.
Vs. 16 ". . It [God's choice] does not depend on the man who wills. . ."
Vs. 18 refers to double-predestination.
Vss. 22,23 refer to "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" and "vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory."
Vs. 24: The election involved is not a national election because vs. 24 states that the vessels of mercy are "us, whom he called not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles" (i.e., believing Christians).
Arminians argue that the first part of Rom. 9 deals with God's choice of nations and their roles in his plans.
Vss. 1-5 make it clear that the context is that of national choice.
Vss. 6,7: This is confirmed in vss. 6,7 because all Israelites were not saved, and all Ishmaelites were not damned.
Vs. 13: Paul cites Mal. 1:2, in which God says that he favors the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom. Furthermore, the phrase "I hate/I love" is a Hebrew idiom meaning "I do not favor/I favor" (see Luke 14:26-hate father and mother).
Vs. 16 refers to God's choice of how to lead the nation of Israel through the wilderness, which was independent of Moses' will in the matter. Personal salvation is not in view in the original passage (Ex. 33:19).
Vs. 18 is in the context of vs. 16 (see above) and vs. 17, which refers to God's temporal destruction of the Egyptians when they wanted to destroy Israel. The verse teaches that God caused his choice of Israel to stand regardless of Moses' attempts to help or Pharaoh's attempts to hinder. Neither Moses' nor Pharaoh's personal salvation was in view in these passages.
Vss. 21-23 refer to nations which have either a glorious or judgmental role in history. Two interpretations are possible:
God allows evil nations to exist and often uses them to bless the chosen nation Israel. Today, believers are able to participate in the covenant blessings of Israel because they have been "grafted into the rich root" of God's purpose in history.
Another explanation is that the "lump of clay" in vs. 21 refers to national Israel. God has the right to divide Israel into two vessels: unbelieving Israel, which has become a "vessel of wrath prepared ("fit" or "suited") for destruction," and believing Israel which, along with Gentile believers, has become a "vessel of mercy."
Note: Any interpretation of Rom. 9 must account for the transition that Paul makes from national choice in vss. 1-24 and individual salvation in vss. 24-33. Therefore, neither view can claim that the other is completely out of context. The question becomes one of which transition is more believable, and makes the most sense of the Old Testament quotations.
(Gal. 1:15,16) But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood . . .
Calvinists interpret this passage to mean that God irresistibly called Paul because he was elected to salvation. They further argue that Paul's salvation is typical of all Christians in this regard.
Arminians would point out that Paul's election and calling were based on God's foreknowledge of Paul's decision to believe. Some Arminians acknowledge that Paul may have been unconditionally elected and irresistibly called by God, but point out that this does not prove that God deals with all people in this way. There is no reason to think that God cannot deal with some people differently than others. Arminians would argue that the burden is on the Calvinist to demonstrate not just that God elected someone unconditionally, but that he elects all Christians in this way.
(Eph. 1:4,5) . . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . .
Calvinists cite this passage as teaching unconditional election.
God "chose us. . .before the foundation of the world." He "has predestined us to adoption as sons. . .according to the kind intention of His will." These phrases are taken to mean that God has sovereignly decided in advance who will be saved, completely irrespective of human choice.
Arminians agree that vs. 4 is teaching God's election of the believer to salvation.
However, they call attention to the significance of the phrase "in Him." This phrase, it is argued, means that Christ was the chosen One (Is. 42:1) and that believers corporately participate in his chosenness because they are baptized into him when they believe (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13).
With regard to vs. 5, Arminians hold that this passage is referring not to God's choice of who will be saved, but of God's choice that those who believe will be ultimately glorified. They interpret "adoption as sons" as a reference to the glorification of believers (cf. Rom. 8:23 for Paul's use of "adoption" in this way).
Arminians also insist that God's election and predestination are based on his foreknowledge of our choice to believe in Christ (1 Pet. 1:1,2*; Rom. 8:29).
(2 Thess. 2:13) But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
Calvinists interpret this passage to teach unconditional election.
Arminians point out that "from the beginning" could refer to the beginning of their Christian lives (i.e., conversion). Paul uses this same phrase in Phil. 4:15 to refer to people's conversion. If the term "salvation" refers to glorification (see vs. 14) or spiritual maturity (1 Thess. 5:23), Paul is simply reminding them of God's purpose for their lives.
(1 Pet. 2:8) . . . and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
Some Calvinists find support for double-predestination in this passage. God appointed certain people to "doom" and therefore they rejected Christ.
Arminians point out that the specific cause for their stumbling is not God, but that "they are disobedient to the word." Peter is not saying that God made them disobey, or that they cannot repent. He is simply saying that God has ordained judgment for those who reject the gospel.
(Jude 1:4) For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Calvinists hold that this passage teaches double-predestination. The false teachers were "long ago marked out [by God] for. . .condemnation."
Arminians point out that the participle "previously marked out" (progegrammenoi) can also be translated "previously written about." For an example of this usage, see Rom. 15:4. Since Jude goes on to cite several recorded examples of the destruction of ungodly persons (vss. 5-18), this translation is seen as preferable.
The Bible clearly teaches God's sovereign choice of nations for specific roles (Ezek. 38:4; Ps. 33:10; Ps. 2:1-6), and even of individuals for the roles they play in his national strategy (Isa. 45:1; Dan. 4:32,34-35). Other passages clearly teach that God sovereignly decides what spiritual gifts we get (1 Cor. 12:11), and our specific ministry callings (Gal. 1:15,16).
Christians should not break fellowship with one another over whether they are Arminian or Calvinist. We use many excellent theological texts that are written by Calvinists (e.g., Millard Erickson, Christian Theology). It is instructive that Francis Schaeffer makes no mention of this issue in any of his many books. Commitment to the work of evangelism and missions is more important than one's position on this issue.
1 Peter 1:1b-2* - Election is based on God's foreknowledge (evidently of who chooses to believe in Christ).
1 John 2:2* - Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world, not just of believers.
2 Peter 3:9* - God's will is for all people to be saved.
Read Revelation 19:11-21:8, and draw a timeline that locates each of these events in the order that John describes them.
Read the historical background material for Daniel.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, pp. 415-549. (Calvinist)
Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, pp. 907-928. (Moderate Calvinist)
Forster, Roger T. and Marston, V. Paul. God's Strategy in Human History. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1973. (Moderate Arminian)
Murray, John. Redemption Applied and Accomplished. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989. (Calvinist)
Packer, J. I. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1961. (Calvinist)
Pinnock, Clark, ed. Grace Unlimited. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1975. (Moderate Arminian)
Shank, Robert. Elect in the Son. Springfield, Mo.: Westcott Publishers, 1970. (Arminian)
Thiessen, Henry C. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1983. (Moderate Arminian)
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Romans 16:17
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. Hebrews 13:9
See also 1 Corinthians 2:14.
All the Calvinist is really saying is that regeneration precedes conversion, not the other way around. This is not strange doctrine. It is obviously correct.
"Remember that this is not an essential doctrinal issue." (This must have been written by an Arminian!)
"Not an essential doctrinal issue"? If this isn't, then nothing is. After all, we are only talking about 1)the nature of God, and 2) how He operates.
Nothing to see here, move along.
(Besides, the Arminians don't want to discuss this with us, else they would have invited us.)
Might as well say it was nailed down.
No appreciable difference....no...more than that. No difference that makes a difference. A distinction without a difference.
I hope not.
I apologize if it is.
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