Calvinism and Arminianism: What Do They Want to Preserve?

There has been significant interest over the past decade in a resurgent Calvinism (or Reformed Theology).  Some call it a “New Calvinism” (as per Collin Hansen’s book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists). The popularity of John Piper as well as the renewal of Calvinism among the Southern Baptists (specifically Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a signal of a new vibrancy for the Reformed tradition. Read a review and discussion of this new phenomenon here.

The blogosphere is full of ongoing discussions between Arminians and Calvinists. My blogroll contains two such sites–Evangelical Arminians and John Piper’s Desiring God. The discussion is seemingly endless.

My own training was at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1977-1979 (M.A.R.) and 1981-1985 (Ph.D.). Consequently, I have a certain familiarity with the Reformed tradition, particularly the Westminster Confession of Faith. At the same time I grew up in the broadly Arminian Stone-Campbell tradition (often more Pelagian in character than Arminian) and have taught in schools within that tradition for twenty-five years. I have a certain familiarity with Arminianism as well. Indeed, I once told one of my Westminster Professors that my biblical, theological and historical studies at Westminister had helped moved me from Pelagianism to Arminianism but I could not cross the Rubicon into Calvinism.

I have a rather deep appreciation for Reformed theology as a whole though I cannot embrace the theological system itself as characterized by the TULIP. My books on sacramental theology, for example, evidence a great indebtedness to Reformed formulations. But I also have a deep appreciation for classic Arminianism (Arminius himself) and its related evangelical expression in Wesley.

It is important, I think, to understand what the Calvinist and Arminian think is so important–what is it that they want to preserve?  This is a crucial question. It can be a significant starting-point for mutual appreciation even though we may not find full agreement.

At the heart of Reformed theology is the desire to give God all the glory and to exclude all human boasting in the work of salvation. Faith is wholly located in God’s electing grace and sovereign work. The ground of election is God’s own will. Humans cannot boast of their salvation in relation to anything within themselves; salvation is rooted in God’s act of election. Calvinists seek to preserve the glory of God as the sole cause of salvation.

At the heart of Arminian theology is the desire to proclaim God’s love for all humanity–for every single human person. The philanthropy of God is the root of salvation and this love extends to all; God does not desire the loss of any human. Arminians seek to preserve the faithfulness of God to his own relentless love for every one of his creatures.

The two cross swords in answering the question, “Why are some damned?” The Calvinist responds: “because they were not chosen” (or more specifically, they are damned because of their own sin and God chose to leave them there). The Arminian responds: “because they did not believe” (or more specifically, unbelief is a human rejection of God’s gracious offer of salvation). Calvinists accuse Arminians of making faith a meritorious cause of salvation which becomes a ground of boasting and detracts from the glory of God (in other words, humans save themselves with their own faith). Arminians accuse Calvinists of subordinating the love of God to the glory of God in that God leaves some in their sin to demonstrate his justice as well as for the sake of his own glory (in other words, he loves his own glory more than he loves his world).

Calvinists ask how faith as a human act does not become a human work of righteousness if God himself has not elected a person to faith out of his own grace. Arminians ask why everyone does not believe if the sole cause of faith is the gracious work of God in election and God loves everyone. The Calvinist wants to preserve God’s glory and the Arminian wants to preserve God’s love.

Ultimately–at least at a theoretical level or in the context of the Arminian/Calvinist debate–one must choose which is the priority of God’s heart: is it his glory or his love? Or, do we have to choose? That is a subject for another post.



47 Responses to “Calvinism and Arminianism: What Do They Want to Preserve?”

  1.   markus z Says:

    well, thanks john mark for getting me out off pelagianism during my time at dlu. the calvinsits do have something to give. i am learning that over and over again. but, true, i cannot ever see myself crossing that ULI line. T, as argued by Olson, from an A. standpoint, I totally agree with. P? who knows?
    by the way, on an sidenote: the late stanley grenz is getting a lot of heat from piper, carson etc. wanna tell me the reason for picking “created for community” as a textbook for undergrad? still think it is a great book, no worries.

  2.   Randall Says:

    Calvinism is the worst understanding of the sovereign grace of God that I have ever heard; except for Pelagianism, semi-Pelagainism, Arminianism, Lutheranism and any other explanation I have come across so far. (With apologies to Winston Churchill who is said to have made a similar comment about democracy.)

    No doubt Calvinism it is a feeble attempt of a finite mind to comprehend and explain God and His salvation. It simply seems to be lacking less than all the other explanations on the subject.

    Decades ago I had the pleasure of sitting in Lemoine Lewis’s Church History class and am still impressed with the manner in which he addressed the controversy. I wonder how many in our fellowship are aware Thomas Campbell held his Calvinism as his “private property” all his life and considered the Westminster Confession one of the finest expressions of Christian theology ever penned by man.

    We would do well to strive to understand the doctrine better as we would benefit from the study whether we accepted the doctrine or not. Thanks very much for bringing it up.

  3. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    T(otal Depravity) can mean very different things to differeing people. I don’t have a fundamental problem with Olson’s take on it but even his definition is different in intent from the Calvinist (Dort) version of T. The Calvinist intent is to exclude any kind of synergistic cooperation between God and humanity in faith. P? I’ll have more on that later.

    I still use Grenz. I think his emphasis on community, the eschatological community as goal (kingdom of God), is important. His work is often under fire from Carson and others because of the role he gives to tradition and contemporary thought forms in the formulation of theology. The difference between Carson and Grenz is the difference between Evangelicals and Postevangelicals.

  4. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, Randall, for the comment.

    Unfortunately, we all fall somewhere on that continuum from Calvinism is to Pelagianism. We cannot avoid historical alignment because we are historically situated.

    Indeed, Thomas Campbell claimed the title “Calvinist” and never relinquished it. I think, however, he was using the term in a broad manner, e.g., the Reformed tradition as a whole (that is, the Westminster Confession as a whole). But it is clear that he did not regard his embrace of “Calvinism” as essential or necessary to the gospel or the project of restoration.

    I think this is a good model. We can discuss and debate various historical understandings of Christianity but also understand that no interpretation is equivalent to the gospel itself. They often fall into the category of opinion and even metaphysical speculation.

  5.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    I’ve Got some serious issues with what you’re talking about, first and foremost… I don’t know what you are talking about.

    I would like to know, and have always wanted to know, I’ve never known anyone, really that I trust enough in their theology, that could teach me from a proper foundationial viewpoint.

    what i am saying here John Mark, is I have an awful lot of faith in your foundational viewpoints

    And for me to say that and you know in what I think about theologians that says quite a bit my friend.

    Blessings rich in California

  6.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    p.s.

    although.. seeing as how it only took me 35 years to come to a conclusion of my study on faithfulness in Romans 3:21-through 26, and not without your help I may on add 24.

    Which I think is pretty good for a person like me.
    Being ignorant and all.
    From a “theologians” point of view.
    Now from God’s point of view and what I consider his providential working.
    Thanks for being there John Mark.
    I am a hard teach.
    From my point of view I have been diligent trying to rightly divide the Scriptures,
    and relentless in my search for God’s truth.

    Again blessings rich in California

  7.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    Can I use this as a basis for understanding what you’re talking about or would you like to add to it.
    Blessings rich in California

  8. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Rich, I have deleted the long quote from Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s “Death of the Death”. It was too long, but is a classic piece that seeks to explain Calvinism and J. I. Packer is a major representative of a classic Puritan Calvinism.

  9.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    thanks john mark i will try to get up to speed on this topic to comprehend your subjectmatter

    blessings rich in ca.

  10.   Randall Says:

    Thanks, John Mark for your rely to to my comment as well as your comments on T(otal Depravity). I hope we are all struggling to understand the nature of our salvation. It cn be difficult to understand boith God’s nature and our own.

    Recently a Coen Brothers movie titled No Country For Old Men won the Oscar for Best Picture. In the film Woody Harrelson asks Javier Bardem if he even knows what his own nature is. It is evident that Bardem does not even understand the question. I suspect the writer intended for his audience to ask themselves that same question. Regrettably we don’t.

    We need to be careful in coming to any conclusion about the nature of man for if we accept the notion of T the rest of the TULIP logically follows. More importantly, we need to base our understanding and conclusion on scripture.

    So what is the nature of man and how far did he fall? Some may think I fell into a shallow ditch along the side of the road. True I fell into the mud and got dirty but I was able to reach down and grab my bootstraps and pull myself out of the muck and walk out of the ditch and go take a shower and clean myself up.

    Another may think I fell off a steep cliff and rolled down 75 feet but somehow survived the tumble. After gathering my wits I made a commitmetn to climp up the cliff. I scraped and clawed my way up. True enough, I got tired and discouraged along the way but God helped me. He encouraged me and directed me through the the roughest spots and with His help I reached the top. Once I was safe I avoided the edge of the cliff again lest I tumble once .

    Yet somenone else might say that I fell into the abyss. I was hopelessly lost in sin and did not seek the Lord before He intervened in my life and saved me. There was nothing I could have done nor did I want to – not deep down inside. I willing chose to sin. No one held a gun to my head and made me sin. No one even twisted my arm to make me blaspheme, or lust or be proud or arrogant or any of the other behaviors in which I chose to engage. I did them all, and more, because I wanted to. It is tough to admit it but it is true. I did not become sinful becauew I sinned. Just the opposite, I chose to sin because I was sinful. It was my nature and a man will be ture to his nature.

    T has been represented as the doctrine thart man is as bad as he can be, but I don’t know of any Calvinists that teach that. The presentations I have heard and read is that T is the teaching that every aspect of man’s nature (e.g. body, emotions, intellect, will etc.) has been touched by sin to a degree that he is unable to overcome it by himself.

    My body has been corrupted by the fall. I body gets sick; I need a knee replacement, I have high blood pressure and cholesteral and other issues that will eventually lead to my physical death. I can not overcome it.

    My emotions are subject to the same type of corruption – and I think I speak for every man and woman on the planet.

    Relative to other men, I score well on IQ tests but there is no salvation to be found in my intellect or ability to understand complex cognitive processes.

    And my will – what I can say? Like Paul in Romans 7, I do the very thing I hate. None the less, it is not me but sin which indwells me.

    Scripture speaks frequently of the nature of man. The thoughts of his heart were only evil continually. So God brought a flood on the earth – and with good reason. The fool has said in his heart “there is no God.” Jesus asked the man, “Why do youi call me good since there is none good but God?” and of course there is Pauls condemnation of all men in the opening chapters of his letter to the Romans.

    So how far did man fall? A little ways but he was able to climb back? Or did he fall farther and only with a lot of determination and some help from God was he able to get back on the strait and narrow path. Or was everyone else, like me, utterly, hopelessly lost in sin? There was no hope for me at all. “But God being great in mercy”… reached down and saved even me for He loved me with an everlasting love far beyond anything we are capable of. I think the scriptures clearly teach the later.

    Is my salvation synergistic or the work of God as Jesus says in John 6? I could answer that it is synergistic if I explained that I fought against it and God did the rest. I did my part in that I rebelled and He did the rest. Man does cooperate with God in the reception of the gospel, but he does so becasue God enabled him to do it. I doubt he would have ever done it alone, left to his own devices.

    It is not necessary to understand Calvinism to respond to the gospel. Most of us are saved as semi-Pelagians or Arminians. There is enough of the gospel in many presentations that a regenerated man/woman will respond. As God gives the growth we may come to understand more about the nature of our salvation, but that doesn’t mean a person will ever come to agree with the Calvinists. For we were never saved on the basis of our abilty to understand complex theology. The gospel, like all theology, is shallow enough for a child to wade in and deep enough for an elephant to drown in.

    I have just travelled a long way and changed many time zones. It is 3:00 AM as I wrote this as I was unable to remain asleep. If I rambled and made a lot of typos, please overlook my errors.

  11. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I would think T only logically entails TULIP if it is defined and undestood as Calvinists understand it. I would agree we fell into an abyss and are wholly dependent upon God’s initiative and upon his enabling grace. The point at which classic Arminianism (not Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism) and Calvinism would diverge is in the cooperative nature of the enabling grace. God enables sinful humans to respond to the gospel. This saving grace, according to Arminians, is not irresistible. It is thus synergistic in the sense that grace is cooperative and God enables a free response or rejection of that grace.

    The saving work of God is wholly out of his grace–the ground of salvation is found in God’s work. But the means of salvation is a cooperative divine-human movement. God enables faith and humans cooperate (synergistic–work with) with the grace of God. But humans can also work against and reject the grace of God. I think John 6 bears out this perspective, particularly in the context of the Johannine theology as a whole.

    I certainly don’t think people have to understand the complexities of theology to enjoy God’s grace. My, if that were true, we would all be in a hole out which no one could climb.

  12.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    I really do think that most of these problems are of theology revolves around a fundamental flaw in understanding Romans 319 through 26.
    John Mark it skews the whole book of Romans to make, to say nothing of the four or five other times that Paul uses the phrase faith of Christ in other books.

    I’m just wondering how this works just wondering how this works

    2Co 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish:
    2Co 4:4 in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.
    2Co 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
    2Co 4:6 Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
    2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves;

  13.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    Oh and by the way
    I remember my mom coming over with the preacher one night right before I was 21.
    And we sat down and had a little talk and I told him I would not believe anything that I could not plainly see was right from reading contextually out of the Scripture.
    Who ever came up with do what they do and say what they say and you’ll be pretty safe.
    Do those words somewhat which it might have been Campbell I am not sure.
    Simple Christianity got me in what was simple as taken the better part of 40 years
    blessings rich in California

  14.   Randall Says:

    Hello John Mark. May God richly bless you and your ministry. In your reply to me you said “I would think T only logically entails TULIP if it is defined and undestood as Calvinists understand it.” Of course that is correct. I am wondering how Arminians understand T? I thought they belived in total depravity but also believed in “prevenient grace.” That is that God gave all men without exception enough grace to enable them to overcome the effects of the fall and come to faith on their own. Is this it, or pretty close? Perhaps I am mistaken as your comment seems to suggest that others understand T differently.

    Different subject:
    In your original post you said “At the heart of Arminian theology is the desire to proclaim God’s love for all humanity–for every single human person. The philanthropy of God is the root of salvation and this love extends to all; God does not desire the loss of any human. Arminians seek to preserve the faithfulness of God to his own relentless love for every one of his creatures.”

    My understranding of Arminianism is somewhat different in that it seems to me to emphasize human ability to come to faith (all by myself) as the ultimate deciding factor in who is or isn’t saved. It is always some variation of the theme that god wrote a check with my name on it but it is up to me to cash it. The ultimate deciding factor for the Arminian is human choice rather than God’s choice. Logicaly some of the credit then belongs to man who chose to come to faith over the man that didn’t make that choice – or that one man initially resisited but eventually stopped resisting God’s calling and respnded in faith while the lost man continued to resist God’s relentless efforts to save him.

    I must say this doesn’t leave me with a strong sense of God’s ability to accomplish what He intended if he fails to overcome the resistance of a puny human. Some argue that God doesn’t want to violate our free will. I decalre, sometimes I think some of us bow down and worship at the altar of Man’s Free Will.

    I love my son and daughter and there is nothing I would not do to ensure their salvation. Would God do less for those upon whom He has set his love? Of course not! He works in our life and woos us. His calling is effectual. His gifts and calling are irrevocable. He accomplishes all that He wishes and is not frustrated by the will of man.

    I do not think that Calvinists think God loves human beings less than the Arminian opinion. It seems to me that they recognize that God’s justice and righteousness and even his wrath against sin are included in His attributes as well as His sovereignty, knowldege and power. love, grace, mercy etc..

    Your statement could be understood to evaluate God’s love based on the quantity of people saved rather than the quality of loving us in spite of how unlovable we are. I doubt you think that accurately expresses your perspective, so could you explain a little further. Calvinists believe God’s love in unlimited/unconditional to those that are His but not all of us are His in that special sene. From eternity past He made both Paradise and Hell and I think He knew what he was doing when he did it. Jesus indicated that some are children of their father, the devil. God has always made choices when it came to man, He chose Jacob over Esau, Issac over Ismael, Israel over the nations etc etc. I think the problem is that that offends our sense of fairness and right and wrong. We find God lacking if he doesn’t treat all of us equally.

    You know Romans 9, especially verses 1 – 23. I don’t see how one can read that passage and not take it the way Calvinists explain it. Piper’s book, The Justification of God, lays it out well enough. I have heard Calvinists claim that that there has never been a substantial Arminian refutation of Piper’s explanation despite the fact that his book was published back in the 1980s. What do you think?

    Grace and peace,
    Randll

  15. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Randall,

    You ask alot of questions in one post. :-)

    On Piper’s book, I think Cottrell’s commentary on Romans does a good job as a general Arminian response. I would suggest that Romans 9 does not negate faith as a means of salvation where Arminians and Calvinists can agree. Read in the context of Romans 10-11, Romans 9 suggests to me that God’s ordained means of salvation includes humans cooperating with God’s gracious acts in faith.

    My statement said nothing about quantity of people saved but rather is about God’s pursuit of all human beings out of his love. Clearly Calvinists believe in the love of God for the elect, but my problem with Calvinism is that there is no love of God for the non-elect simply because God did not chose to love them.

    I’m not talking about my sense of fairness–God does not have to treat all humans just alike. Rather, I am talking about God’s own commitment to his love for all people which is what Scripture declares about God.

    I would suggest that God’s desire to save all (that none should perish) is frustrated by human resistance to God’s intent for relational love. Humans do resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) and those whom God wanted to gather he did not because they would not (Matthew 23).

    Faith is not a merely human act would be my response–it is not coming to faith all by myself. Not only is there prevenient grace, but there is cooperative grace as well. It is grace from beginning to end and God is active all along the line to empower faith.

    Either God decides who will be lost and who will be saved by his own fiat independent of human instrumentality or God decides who will be lost and who will be saved through human instrumentality. I think the latter and not the former. This is God’s decision about how he will redeem and consequently it is not an assertion of human autonomy. Rather, it is human acceptance of what God intends.

    The difference in the Calvinist intent for total depravity is to exclude prevenient grace for all. Classic Arminians (Arminius himself, for example) would never say that people come to “faith on their own.” With prevenient grace and God’s love for all humans and his will that none should perish, “T” does not logically imply the whole Calvinist system.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  16. Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Randall,

    One other point…..I suggest that the Calvinist and the Arminian are actually in practical agreement about human participation in faith. They both believe a human decision is involved and that humans participate in the act and perseverance of faith. Humans believe. Where they disagree is on why they believe and the relation of faith to election. They disagree about the theory, but they agree on the pragmatic experience of faith itself. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that we know our election through our experience (and, yes, even decision) of faith.

  17.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    i know that i learned bunches from that exchange

    how about some more randall, if john mark doesn’t mind, how bout ithat john mark.

    peace and blessings
    your ignorant brother,
    rich in ca.

  18.   Cameron Says:

    “At the heart of Arminian theology is the desire to proclaim God’s love for all humanity–for every single human person.”

    We don’t see God being fair to all and loving all equally in Scripture! If that’s true, then saying that God loves everyone equally 1. fails to specify which type of love, and 2. could simply be a traditional statement which has been handed down. Kind of like how Ghandi, not Jesus, said “God loves the sinner but hates the sin”.

    The Calvinist wants to preserve God’s glory and the Arminian wants to preserve God’s love.

    The Calvinist preserves God’s love 100%. In fact, God’s special love to His elect is the means of His glory.

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Cameron,

      I understand your point and I can appreciate your perspective within the framework of Reformed theology.

      I did not equate “fairness” with “loving equally” as I recognize that God does treat people different, but I would suggest he has the same goal for everyone, that is, his love means he has salvific intent for all (not willing that any should perish, etc.). That is my point, not what you describe as Ghandiesque.

      I don’t see how Calvinists can preserve the love of God 100% when God’s salvific love excludes, wholly by God’s own decision, many (or any). My point is rooted in the explicit texts of Scripture that state God’s salvific intent for all.

      So, we are at the great Arimian/Calivnist divide here…which is the point of my post.

      Blessings,
      John Mark

      •   Cameron Says:

        John,

        The Arminian has a similar predicament (only from a different angle) as the Calvinist in reference to God’s love. This is because it is believed God still created those whom He has eternally known wouldn’t choose Him anyways. So how was God loving to these people? He has destined them to Hell by virtue of creating them, because He did so while knowing they would never choose Him. The framework of Arminian theology does not allow the omniscience of God (knowing some will not believe) to comport with what God demands of us (hypothetical belief).

        And like I said in my first response, the Calvinist does preserve God’s love 100%, namely, His special love for His bride. We have to examine the different types of love. Humans have different types of love, how much more God? Even God is loving to Satan and the demons. He let’s them live for a while longer until the final judgment.

        As far as quoting verses which deal with God’s “universal” love, maybe that’s something we can discuss on another one of your threads. But let me real quick touch on what you’ve mentioned so far, such as 1 Pet 3:9. I believe 1 and 2 Peter are speaking to the elect, hence why 2 Peter is addressed to the elect, and the elect are spoken to throughout 1 Peter. Further, Rom 5 states repeatedly that Christ died and was righteous for “many”, not “all”. While “all” or “pas” has to be determined by the context whether it can mean “all without exception” or “all kinds”, etc.

        • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          We are at the Calvinian/Arminian impasse, I’m afraid. I believe God has salvific intent for all, but you for only those whom God determines. I don’t think we should insert the word “elect” into 2 Peter 3:9…but that is for another time.

          My point in the post above was to seek mutual understanding. I can appreciate why the Calvinist wants to preserve God’s glory and exclude boasting and it is my hope that Calvinists can appreciate why I want to preserve God’s love for all.

          In any event, I much more interested in what the Calvinist and Arminian have in common than in how they differ. That has been the task of my articles and posts on the subject.

        •   Cameron Says:

          John,

          That’s really cool that you want to focus on the commonalitites. I know for one, Hank Hanegraaf is my favorite Arminian. Namely, because he isn’t legalistic, and makes sure the real gospel is presented without blinking, all along while WOFers are cringing at him. He talks on gospel topics which have been utterly abandoned in modern evangelicalism and replaced with flattery, and man-centered theology. Namly, a gospel which reveals God’s holiness and our unholiness through the moral law, and that we are ultimately saved from God’s wrath, by God, and to God. (while the Calvinist would also emphasize “for God”). I would vouch for Wesley on advocating this most Biblical gospel too. To me, these things are primary and Calvinism/Arminianism is very important yet secondary.

          Also, Calvinists and Arminians have commonalities with thier “problems” too! For example, like it’s been stated above, Calvinism supposedly is problematic because God is not equally loving to all (yet why should He love Satan equally to us, whom is guilty for lawlessness just as well). But Arminianism is supposedly problematic when it comes to God’s love too, because God still created those whom He knew would end up in Hell. In this sense He destined all will end up in Hell too because He 1. didn’t do what He knew He could have to cause them to believe, or 2. there was nothing He could have done but created them anyways (almost sounds like Calvinism).

        • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          I agree that each system has its own problems, but the problems are nevertheless different and thus people see it differently so as to affirm different conclusions (e.g., I don’t buy your point above about God’s knowledge as equivalent to the Calvinist problem). I will not extend the discussion on the point, however, since I don’t intend for this website to be a debating ground.

          I welcome your perspectives and insights as we seek to know God more fully.

        •   Cameron Says:

          John, just for clarity, I didn’t say it was equivalent to Calvinism, and in Calvinism it isn’t considered a problem but a truth which is antithetical to our normal way of thinking. I said it sounds like Calvinism. The difference is that Calvinism allows God to destine people for Hell justly and for His glory (Rom 9), and with Arminianism they are still destined to Hell because God still creates those whom He knows will never choose Him, yet doesn’t want them to go there even though He already knows they will before creating this universe.

  19.   rich constant Says:

    how bout I go out on that limb again, john mark,(you know the one i am always on,and most of the time it breaks… now i have been trying to figure this topic out so when this limb breaks may be you can tell me why it broke’ “again”
    :-)

    gods elect
    the people of promised faith that do gods good even though under condemnation of the sin of Adam,until the “but now” of rom.3.20.
    before the “but now”those that would be gods elect would be those that are “of the faith of Abraham” doing good trusting in god(ROM4:16)AND AFTER THE “BUT NOW”
    THOSE THAT ARE “OF THE FAITH OF CHRIST”
    THE SEED OF PROMISE THAT is inerrantly faithful to gods word, and spiritually vindicated by god as being perfection, of the spiritual perfection that was warranted by god’s law, that was spiritural in it’s nature and weak in the flesh and cursed a righteous man (CHRIST)doing a righteous act of faithful obediance to Bing about gods promise to Abraham out of righteous faith(trust+obedience), which faith brings a quicken or life eternal which was gods intent Titus 1 .
    so then gods elect would would be those that from Adam until redemption would be those that are of the faith (trusting in god’s good and doing it).which equates to imputed righteous.
    and after redemption that imputed righteousness is vindicated through the resurrection by the spirit of god through the see of Abraham.
    but now the elect of god are those that believe in god Trust that he was faithful to his word and become part of the living body of Christ through the spirit of truth the word of god that reconciles when preach as the word of faith the faith of Christ trust in god and acting on the words of christ through the spirit that was teaching through the apostles and prophets
    the “faith of christ” those that believe and do according to there gifting by the spirit for the building up of the body of christ.
    they are the elect of god the new creation the body of gods love for the world.
    so

    should i of not went out on the limb

    bless i tried
    rich

  20.   Cameron Says:

    That article ‘Two Cheers for the Resurgence of Calvinism in Evangelicalism: A Wesleyan-Arminian Perspective’ is just more Arminian philisophical conjecture against Calvinism, which once again doesn’t deal with the text of Scripture. The author is basically just saying, “I don’t like Calvinism because it leads to determinism and they don’t read anything from the patristic period”.

    I’m really trying not to laugh here. Last I checked there are many Calvinists (probably all of them) who address the issue of God’s complete soveriegnty, and man’s will. It’s called the doctrine of concurance, is a paradox, and isn’t necesarily held only by Calvinists but by Arminians as well! And Calvinists need to read more books from the patristic period? Umm, even though they all heavily read Augustine?! I was affraid he was going to start naming some WOFers, but thank goodness he didn’t!

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Actually, I would suggest that Calvinists don’t fully take into account the Eastern Patristics and focus too much on Augustine. So, I understand the critique.

      As I noted in my post on Providence (see my Systematic Theology series under “Serial Index”), I advocate concurrence as well (it is a classic Arminian as well Calvinist idea–actually, Thomist). The specific application becomes the source of contention and how we understand the ultimate nature of secondary causation. But, I too, would object to the latent determinism in many Calvnist constructions of divine sovereignty.

      •   Cameron Says:

        Who are the Eastern patristics so I can check them out, and what is so significant about them? I know concurrence is advocated by both Calvinists and Arminians, that’s what I just pointed out above too. Therefore, why does Calvinism have to lead to determinism? Most Calvinists don’t use that term and don’t believe that. I find that many Arminians think that Calvinists believe that predestination is refering to God predestining every human action, while the Biblical concept of predestination (such as in Rom 8) is only referring to God predestining unto salvation, not every human action. God’s complete soveriengty isn’t even in the TULIP but is something which flows throughout it, so Calvinists seek to have a Biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty. Determinism is what it may look like from OUR angle, but is not the theological conclusion held by most Calvinists.

        • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          The Eastern patristics would range from Irenaeus to the Cappodocians to the Chrysostom (which would bring us up to a contemporary of Augustine).

          Concurrence (and I know you stated it previously–I was commenting on your ponit) can lead to determinism if secondary causation is not given integrity of action and divine action is ultimately the true (real) cause. Much of Reformed theology affirms such and even the Westminster Confession of Faith affirms that God decreed whatever comes to pass (not just about salvation). If effect, I believe Calvinism ultimately reduces everything to a single cause–God.

          But, having been trained at a Reformed Seminary, I understand that Calvinists want to avoid that. Concurrence is one attempt to do such, but it does not seem to me that the Calvinist version of concurrence succeeds since it ultimatley places the cause in the divine determination (hence, determinism).

          But I shall leave the discussion to you if you want to make another comment. As I said previously, I would rather focus this discussion on what is in common rather than what divides.

          Blessings, John Mark

        •   Cameron Says:

          I just can’t quite this rabbit trail yet while we’re on it. 1. I’ll check out those guys. Which writings do you recommend and what are a couple significant things you’ve learned from them that has radically impacted your faith? 2. A commonality of Calvinism and Arminiamism is that we BOTH run into difficulties when it comes to reconciling man’s will and God’s sovereignty. If God only responds to our actions, then we write history, not God. Therefore, Arminiansim breads determinism, it only places it upon man (in the historical sense). But human will is in accordance to human nature (either sinful, sanctified, or glorified), as with God as He can only act in accordance to His nature. How God works in the details of our natures, thus our actions, is the brick wall. Futher God cannot truley be omniscient because He must learn things. In regard to salvaiton He must learn at least 2 things at some point in time in eternity. First He must learn who will choose Him, then after that He is able to learn who will be in Heaven or Hell.

          I don’t believe it divides to look at these commonalities in problems of both Calvinism and Arminianism, but allows for humility of one’s prefered system.

        •   rich constant Says:

          seems funny that you guys bring this
          subject up and there is no working
          of the spirit of god,that dwells in us,
          also how the spirit works in us,as
          we apply the word (knowledge 1cor.2)of
          god in us through integrating,
          ( Christ working as the
          spirit of god is leading or
          more importantly the
          Christ in us is allowed by each
          of us to work)and our true selves our lost through the love and light that we receive.
          unto the building up the body of Christ
          in love. correct me here john mark
          if i miss UNTILL WE ALL COME TO A UNITY OF THE SPIRIT…
          which i suspect is the true mission
          of god in Christ through the spirit
          showing us how to work together.
          and then teaching others through the spirit
          how to accomplish that.
          unfortunately we men became of no good use
          to god.in this purpose rom.3.17 or so.
          so to make a long story short
          maybe we need to ask god in a way
          that is a little more congruent with his sons
          character attributes that we truly
          (his p.o.v.) actualize and we may find some answers to the questions that allude us because my friends we have to one degree or another found
          security in our in our wondrous selves and the attainments and the strides of movement in the direction i am speaking of and lost our first love
          complacency to a degree.
          my understanding is we need but to ask our father
          any way that is what the lord did.
          but then HE WAS PERFECTLY FAITHFUL.
          THE TRUE GRONINGS OF OUR HART WILL BE HERD AND BROUGHT TO FRUTITUTION THROUGH THE INTERACTION OF THE LIGHT IN US WORKING TOGETHER WITH THE LOVE OF CHRIST.

        •   rich constant Says:

          OPPS
          WHICH GIVES GOD THE GLORY
          WITH BLESSINS,
          RICH

          I WILL USE MYSLEF AS AN EXAMPLE
          JOHN MARK YOU KNOW ME MY EDUCATION
          AND TO ME REPROBATE BACK GROUND.

          I WOULD SAY FROM MY P.O.V. GOD IS A
          COMEADIAN WITH AN ODDEANCE THAT REFUSES TO
          LAUGH AND REJOICE.

          THE LAW OF RANDOMNESS DENIGHS
          THAT I AM EVEN HERE WRIGHTING HERE
          I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS BLESSING JOHN MARK
          RICH

        •   Cameron Says:

          Rich constant,

          I think you have an unbiblical view of “working together in the spirit”. Jesus and Paul rebuked Peter when his theology was off. Our discussion isn’t even close to that! All this is an in-house discussion about God. He’s the best thing to talk about, because He’s God. The real issue is, are we able to be respectful even when we disagree.

        •   rich Says:

          i don’t know why, i guess i will
          ask you why cameron,
          although i am not qurite right a lot and that is my point.
          contenue?

    •   rich constant Says:

      EXCEPT FROM THE P.O.V. THAT I TRIED TO EXPRESS.

      FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE
      I GUESS MY MOMS WORDS FINALLY HIT HOME.

      RICHARD, SHE WOULD SAY THE PATH TO HELL IS LITTERED WITH GOOD INTENSHIONS.I HAD TO FISH OR CUT BATE.
      SO LUCKY YOU JOHN MARK.
      :-) :-) :-)
      TOO FUNNY
      HAVE I WORN YOU OUT YET
      CAN’T WAIT TILL YOU COME TO CA….

      I SO GET A KICK OUTA ME SOMETIMES
      DID I HERE YOU SAY I WILL NEVER GO TO THE WEST COAST AGAIN….
      BLESSINGS

  21.   Larry Short Says:

    First, with apologies to all the excellent text above, I think this argument is Off-center. Luther and Calvin discovered Romans, and without reconciling it to much other scripture developed a faith is everything philosophy. (If I worked for a church selling permission to sin, I would prefer their side also.) I get like that too, making theories on a few verses, then modify them as I add it to others.
    I would like to include God’s love (a more pervasive NT theme than election) as other’s have. I, growing up in a society that champions freedom, democracy, etc., really want to add free will. However, just because I want it, doesn’t make it so.
    I cannot combine Calvin and James, living faith that compels action seems better. I also take James view as Christ’s view. Most of the parables are people deciding actions and God’s (or master’s) reaction to their efforts. If faith is so all pervasive, why does Jesus tease us with actions? Apparently Jesus believed in living faith that the actions show.
    Let’s get OT. How does the garden of Eden show election or pervasiveness of faith? The garden shows the grace of God physicalized, the gift of free will, a tree to avoid, and the ingratitude of man by exercising free will in defiance of a generous God. The garden also shows total election, God put all Man in His favor, and let each, Eve then Adam, elect out! Also the garden is NOT total depravity, because each class of creation got God’s seal of approval saying, “it is Good”. This even included man! So maybe instead of total depravity we have total goodness! Poor Calvin’s Satan was more powerful than God!
    One more OT thought to reconcile with Calvin is JOb. God said look at my man Job! Satan said, ofcourse Job is faithful because you favor him, the feed a stray cat theory. Why didn’t Satan say, “well he’s elected so let’s talk about someone else”? The drama then unfords to find out if the blessing are the reason for the faith. Surely Satan didn’t need a lesson in persistance of grace, and seemed to take the “would faith survive” contest seriously.
    Ok, Calvinists, start explaining.

  22.   randall Says:

    Larry,
    Would you please share where you learned your ideas about Calvinism? If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Calvinists believe man was totally depraved when in the garden before the fall. Is my understanding correct?
    Thanks,
    Randall

  23.   Larry Short Says:

    First, to us It doesn’t matter what Calvin beleived, unless you think he will be at the right hand of God.
    Calvin seems impressed by Paul saying the war of the flesh and spirit. I think we all understand that feeling but this is a designer world, and our Designer is awesome.
    I meet good people all the time, not depraved people. I’ve yet to meet a perfect person, other than the One I’ve read about. The old argument is the glass half empty or half full, I tend to say God began it full, all lost some, but Calvin thinks it was all spilled in the orginal sin.
    The commentary above about did you just fall into a ditch, or over the cliff is very true. Jesus said the one who is forgiven most, loves the most. So if you want grandeous grace, it helps to have record setting sin.
    What is missed in all this is the whole OT. Why all the sacrifices, altars, burnt offferings of the patriachs and Israelites? Sin costs, and the repair is expensive. Add that to Hebrews, and it is beyond our ability to pay. Wether a ditch or off a cliff, or half full or totally empty, any sin is beyond our ability to pay. It took God’s perfect sacrifice to make it right. Unfortunately for Calvin, it took a WORK of God to save us. God exercises living faith (James), faith that compells love in action. We should be the same.

  24.   Larry Short Says:

    Sorry, but I need to correct myself. At the end should be: God exercises living grace (James), grace that compells love in action. (Jn 3:16) We should do the same.

  25.   rich constant Says:

    this is called the subjective genitive “faithfulness of Christ”
    and the objective genitive viewpoints “faith in Christ”

    reformed teaching holds to “faith in Christ” Luther ask the question in ROM 3.21-22 HOW DOES GOD JUSTIFY ME
    INSTEAD OF HOW DID GOD JUSTLY JUSTIFY ALL FLESH OF ADAM UNDER THE CONDEMNATION OF SEPARATION OR “DEATH” and Moses law covenant …

    this in my opeion skewed the teaching on most all of romans and gal.

    the answer is always the same
    god’s grace “Christ faithfulness to god’s word” “trusting obedience of the servant” ROM. 15.8 and phil. 2 might want to think on these things

    read this ;i realize this is a jump for most, think on it though,
    it is the reason behind the reason Luther thought James did not belong because it is a working orientated faithfulness.
    like CHRIST”S
    niv and any almost any bible,except for a transliterate or the Greek bible,is the preconceived theological predisposition i am speaking of of?
    faith in Christ when used in the place of faithfulness of Christ,.promotes,”antinomianism “While this word literally refers to the belief that legal precepts are no longer applicable to a “saved” individual, it has come to be used in regards to any libertine doctrines in common parlance. Thus, the groups that are experiential rather than ascetic have been referred to as antinomian.”

    ( so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ)

    yet we know 1 that no one 2 is justified by the works of the law 3 but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. 4 And 5 we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ 6 and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one 7 will be justified.
    NIV ©

    biblegateway Gal 2:16
    know that a man is not justified by=2 0observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.

    blessings my brothers
    rich constant

  26.   Larry Short Says:

    Thanks Rich. Most people have to react to their surroundings and embrace some things and fight againist others. Paul had many fights with those requiring new Christians to be law abiding Jews, and therefore wrote the most againist it. Luther & Calvin came into a world where the church is selling rights to sin and developed the worship service to a ritual laden mass. Faith was crowded out, so I see how they reacted.
    I was born into a world with two main varieties of Christian thought and practice, either ritualistic high church of Orthodox, Catholic, or church of England OR reformed mostly by Calvin’s thoughts. The ritual is easy for me to drop, but Calvin requires more work.
    Calvin is like Christian Ecclesiastes, pragmatic but devode of the relationship with God. Find love in TULIP, or walking in the light, or us as God’s adopted kids, or Spirit filled lives. I have found in my life to not only try to get my theology correct but my morality for the best possible reason. I am compelled by love more than showing works that prove my elected salvation.
    Jesus left heaven for a ghetto earth, but seems more positive about the creation and man’s redeemption than Calvin. Jesus is constantly surprised by faith (who touched me? and Lordship chain of command by the centurion) and approving or right conduct in His parables.
    My Baptist friends strain the gnat to separate any physical action from faith. I look at our relation with God much like falling in love. If your significant other likes chocolate, you become an expert in where the best is sold, and eager to give it. Fall in love with God, and you will rush to baptism to be like Jesus, communion as often as practical because He said to remember, etc. I don’t earn my SO’s love by the loving things I do, it the least I can do to express my love.
    Anyway, the Spirit in me is saddened by any wish to separate my gratitude to God into belief vs. works. My whole God made being wishes to respond in love.

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Larry, I would suggest that your generalities about Roman Cathloicism buy too much into Protestant propoganda and your negative understanding of Calvin (and Luther) is overdone. There is much value in both and I think we should honor their faith and search for God as they interpreted Scripture.

      I agree with you that the removal of materiality (e.g., “sacraments,” for example) from soteriological discussions is a serious problem. But it was not Calvin’s. He insisted on the sacraments (baptismal water as well as Eucharistic wine and bread) as means of grace through faith. Our Baptists friends are often much too Zwingilian who is the real root of their ideas (not Calvin).

  27.   rich constant Says:

    john mark
    would you agree that buying into (which does not mean a person does not have the spirit of the lord through simple trust in god that he accomplished his gospel through the resurrection of his son, the promised seed.)the dead hand of tradition,IE.Lutheranism or Calvinism,probably would infuriate them if they were around today,knowing the cultural and hermeneutic advances brought about through the findings of archaeological manuscripts,etc…..
    along with the age of dynamic enlightenment that cultural theology has brought forward through the groundbreaking movement of these great thinkers, in an age of great suppression by a very powerful orthodox governmental Christen hierarchy.

    in other words if they were alive to day i think they would refute there own thinking on a lot of issues.
    as we have.

    blessings
    sure am glad to have you back,
    i was about to come out there and reprimand you.
    :-)
    blessings
    rich

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Luther and Calvin certainly valued Scripture more than tradition and did not hesitate to contest what had been long held within the medieval church. I would think that they would give the “New Perspective” on Paul a good hearing, especially versions that do not overturn some of their central insights but yet illuminate dimensions that were not as apparent to them due to their social location as they are to contemporary readers. I think there is a “New Perspective” that is both embraces Luther and Calvin while at the same time furthering their insights and broadening them.

      •   rich constant Says:

        SO, ….???? ARE YOU GOING TO CONENUE….

        :-)

        YOU KNOW THAT IS A MEGAR ATTEMPT AT BAITING
        YOU. .

        BLESSINGS

  28.   Larry Short Says:

    Thanks Rich and John. One of the reasons for my last post was giving due to men battling their flawed environment. May we do so with ours.
    Actually in the last few years I have spent hours watching EWTN, the Catholic TV voice. I have great respect for their hierachy holding fast to conservative religious values. Case in point is birth control. While I do not agree with their intitial beleif that all methods except abstainence are anti-life, if you take that unpopular view, I value their “if its right, popularity doesn’t matter”. In our time, some groups seem to value polictical correctness over authoritative theology.
    I very much beleive that without history, we repeat the same mistakes. I also beleive an honest person of any religious start would keep the best before adding new understandings. A. Campbell loved the Westminister Confession all his life. One of the best elders I have ever known was a pre-milentialist, and only on that subject could he be boring.
    One last note. I have attended a few Catholic masses per year for some thirty years. As a whole the distance from the worshipers and items of worship is widening. Years ago, everyone took the wafer, most the cup, but now the priest symbolically takes communion for the audience. Slight variation in smaller parrishes. The only plus side is service mostly in common language.

  29.   rich constant Says:

    just had to john mark

    good is responsible to good to do good = defined as
    gods love. for the very good work he rested from.

    glory =our intrinsic respect in the awe of his goodness and choosing to be only good,
    love = his intrinsic righteous character attributes,
    sets clear parameters and consequences.=
    choice
    a bad choice does not make anyone (flesh) evil.= fall/death
    good love is responsible to make good, good again justly,for the sake of respect to the defining of good.

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