Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Below is the information submitted at www.ericbarger.com on May-9-2007 11:4 EST
Comments: Hi Eric,
I have been listening to an online church for some time now and here lately I
have be questioning their beliefs. They claim to be Calvinisms. I would like you
take on this. Is this man made or is it from God?
God bless you and your family
Thanks for writing!
I took a few moments and looked over some of the www.radiomissions.org website.
They appear to be Christians indeed, teaching salvation by grace and holding to the Scriptures. By the looks of those whom they revere and recommend (such as Charles Spurgeon, George Witfield, E.M. Bounds, Jonathan Edwards and others) it would appear that they are recommending classic Christianity. They are coming from a Puritan background theologically.
Please note that many Christians believe in the "Tulip" or "Five Points" of Calvinism including many Baptists, most all Presbyterians and certainly all Puritans. I have many friends, pastors and churches that appreciate our ministry from those circles inside Christianity. I also have many good friends in ministry and in congregations who do not believe in the "Five Points" but again, this set of doctrines does not redeem nor excuse anyone. It is our view of Christ and our acceptance of His finished work which saves us.
However, with that said, the group you are inquiring about does appear to be hyper-Calvinistic in their peripheral doctrine. Though I do not know if this is the case with The First Baptist Church of Algiers, if they or any other group takes Calvinism to the extreme and build their view of who they can fellowship with upon this alone or who is authentically saved based on an individual's view of Calvinism alone then it can become divisive and nearly cult like.
You may have heard this before but as Calvinists they believe in God's sovereign choice of the elect and believe that if one is truly saved that they had little or no part to play in salvation and that there is no way that one's salvation could be rescinded or lost.
The other main position on these issues in Christianity is Arminianism. It was the position held to by Charles Wesley who founded the Methodist Church. They believe in mans free will and though God's Spirit woos or draws individuals and calls men to be saved that it is a decision each person makes to accept or reject the free gift of salvation as he gives way to the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. They also generally believe that in individual circumstances one can make a cognizant decision to abandon their salvation. This position is generally held to by those in The Church of the Nazarene, the Assemblies of God, Wesleyans and of course orthodox Methodists.
I understand the beliefs of so-called "Five Point" or "Tulip" Calvinists as I was a youth pastor for a year in a Presbyterian Church (in the PCA or Presbyterian Church in America) in the 1980's. The congregation I served were indeed Evangelical in the true sense of the word and many there were authentic Christians. Also, I have had good fellowship with many from the PCA and also from the Reformed Church and Reformed Presbyterian Church including Dr. D. James Kennedy. However, while I was serving in the PCA church I realized that I simply could not adhere to all that Reformed Theology dictates. My mentor, the late Dr. Walter Martin called himself a "Cal-Minion because he believed in some of both Calvin and Wesley's peripheral views about salvation and eternal security. Even before I began to be influenced by Dr. Martin's thinking in this area I had come to the conclusion that I could not personally and in good conscience adhere to all of the tenants of or teach at least two and probably three of the five points of hyper-Calvinism.
The Calvinistic "Tulip" is:
Perseverance of the Saints
The points, which I personally differ with the “Tulip” teaching the most, are:
Unconditional Election/Irresistible Grace - says that man has no part to play in his own acceptance of God's gift of salvation. This seems to run counter to the many passages which deal with the free will of man and also the many evangelistic passages found in the Gospels and Epistles which plead with sinful man to repent and be saved. I believe that God is completely sovereign and that He knows exactly who will, in the end, be saved. But does He manipulate mankind, making us mere human robots concerning our eternity? Tulip Calvinism would never admit to being robots but they do believe that they have absolutely no choice in the salvation process. Arminianism certainly acknowledges God's ability to save an individual and the Holy Spirit's relentless power to convict and convince a sinner to accept their one and only hope: Jesus Christ. But Arminianism also acknowledges the free will given to men to ultimately accept or reject salvation.
The very fact that we reside in a fallen creation (that was once in perfect order but is now far less) testifies to the existence of free will. When Lucifer rebelled against God (and ultimately resulted in the mess we have here on the Earth), God could have surely stopped him. Rebellion was not in God's perfect will. Neither was the resultant fall of mankind by Eve and then Adam in the Garden of Eden. Lucifer's rebellion was a matter of autonomous free will that resulted in one of God's choice servants being banished from Heaven and 1/3rd of Heaven's angels following him and thus being cast out. Where did that free will come from? It came from God which indicates that it was originally good, perfect. But true to what the Scriptures indicate, all Satan can do is attempt to twist and pervert what God has made perfectly. The point is that from Scripture we see that free will existed in eternity past in Heaven, it exists today, and it will absolutely exist until after the Millennium and possibly into eternity future.
Two notes: First, in the midst of this tumultuous uprising by his created creatures God remained completely in control, with a plan and 100% sovereignty. This is a fact that my little finite brain has trouble grasping yet I believe it completely.
Second, I do not believe that the Scripture teaches in any way that God promulgates evil. Allowing it because of the free will choices of His created beings cannot be construed as producing it. Plus, we see that God is already rectifying the result of Lucifer's rebellion and that of Adam and Eve. The cross, the resurrection, and eternity as spelled out in Revelation speak directly to this. We know how it ends up for Satan. Revelation 20:10 states: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
Limited Atonement - says that Christ's sacrifice was only for the predestined elect and that some individuals are doomed and without any hope of being redeemed by faith/grace. While millions will ignore and thus reject Christ's atoning work, the Scripture says that "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (I John 2:2) This doesn't endorse universalism or mean that everyone will be saved but it points to the great truth that Jesus' perfect and finished work made it possible that each individual could then be saved. It doesn't mean they will be saved but that the price (redemption) has been paid.
I personally cannot ignore the words of Peter which tell us that God wishes, or as is said in the King James Version is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9)
If God truly does not wish that any perish then how could limited atonement exist? Because of Christ's death and resurrection atonement has been made and is complete for anyone and everyone - if they choose Jesus as Savior and then follow through another act of free will and repent of their sins. This is reflected in the very capstone verse of the entire Bible. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Salvation is open to "whosoever believeth in Him." I don't see any conditions there. Praise God!
You asked if Calvinism was from God or made up by men...I believe we can probably say that the divergent views expressed in Christian churches today that were popularized by John Wesley (who held to part of the teachings of the scholar Arminian from the 16th century) and John Calvin about the sovereignty of man and eternal security is the work of two brilliant Christians who saw and then emphasized opposite views on this issue. Thankfully for all who followed their teaching, both Wesley and Calvin taught vigorously that Jesus Christ is the answer and that His blood paid the penalty of the sins of all those who would place their trust in Him and that His resurrection triumphed over the grave. Praise the Lord!
What about me? Personally I have no problem preaching and ministering in a Calvinist or Puritan church...or in a Nazarene or to an Assemblies of God congregation. I teach no peripheral or non-essential doctrine along these lines in my apologetics seminars which would segregate me from those in either camp. Others may feel differently. Personally, I don't. After all, it is the Cross of Christ and His precious blood that saves us - not our belief on what comes down to an issue related to the sovereignty of man.
So, even though there is much more that could be said on this topic, there is a rather long answer for you but I do hope that it helps you sort out and also recognize the two main beliefs within the bounds of Christianity on this issue.
Let me know if I can be of any further help.
God Bless you!
(c) copyright 2007, Eric Barger
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