My very first post I ever wrote was in relation to Calvinism and Arminianism. It wasn’t a very clear post (probably because it was my first one), so, after a lot of studying on this subject, I feel like I can dish out a more clear answer. First, I am going to talk about the tenets of each of them, and describe the beliefs of each of them.
- Total depravity
- Unconditional election
- Limited atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Preservation for the saints.
Now, I have to say one thing about these points. I cannot see how there is any free will at all, of any kind if you truly stick to these 5 points. God chooses us according to the Calvinist view. If you think we have some free will, then you are not a Calvinist. If God unconditionally elects us and we are not able to resist it, then how could there be any say on our part? There can’t be. Is this unbiblical? Well, I’ll address this issue later, when I talk about my own view. However, I see Calvin as having a primary goal of showing God’s sovereignty. This is a good thing. The good motive behind Calvinism is the fact that God loves us enough to be actively involved in our lives and put forth an effort to save us. So, to say it in short, Calvinism has many pros and cons.
- salvation (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the graciously enabled faith (or unbelief) of man;
- the Atonement, is qualitatively adequate for all men, “yet that no one actually enjoys [experiences] this forgiveness of sins, except the believer…” and thus is limited to only those who trust in Christ;
- “That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will,” and unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will;
- The (Christian) grace “of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of any good”, yet man may resist the Holy Spirit; and
- believers are able to resist sin through grace, and Christ will keep them from falling, but whether they are beyond the possibility of ultimately forsaking God or “becoming devoid of grace”, “must be more particularly determined.”
This is literally a direct contrast from Calvinism. Jacobus Arminius wanted to show that God gave us the ability to choose him. This is a good thing. However, I will make the argument (and obviously Arminians will disagree with me) that you cannot claim that God is involved in our lives at all. This troubles me, because it almost makes God out to be a deistic god. I know, if you’re an Arminian you will disagree with me, but aside from point 3, this is the way I see it.
Where the conflict really lies.
Here’s the thing. Aside from point 5 (which I think is a completely different issue), this is merely a perspective issue. So, why do Christians get so bent out of shape with this issue? I don’t know. But I think it’s kind of ridiculous. It simply doesn’t really matter. At all. The conflict lies in the fact that Christians do not know how to discuss important issues (yes, I am guilty of this as well). If you think that one of these positions depends on your salvation or your overall view of God, I’m sorry, but you have greatly missed the entire purpose of Christianity. Calvin and Arminius have unintentionally put a huge constraint on the Christian religion and it is greatly affecting the way we view our belief system.
So, what do I believe?
I do have to say that Calvinism and Arminianism are trying to achieve the same goal, and that is trying to get a proper perspective on how all of this works. However, this cannot be put into 5 simple points. The issue is much more simple, but at the same time, much more complex than that. Regardless of what you believe, I personally think that every belief system: Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, Libertarianism, etc. is flawed in some way because we simply cannot know the mind of God. Is this a copout answer? Maybe. But I don’t think that’s always bad. I think it is impossible to read the Bible and take it in its proper cultural context and see that God doesn’t choose His children. God chooses us, and He chooses us unconditionally. Why? Because He loves us! God is personally involved in our lives in every way. However, what is the purpose of the Great Commission? To reach the world for Christ. So, is God driving us as robots to achieve His purpose? I feel no inclination to believe that.
“All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the LORD freewill offerings for all the work the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do.”
Yes, this verse is old, but I think the concept is still relevant. I think we have to come to a point where we realize that God and man have to meet at a certain point to where God stretches out His arms and we choose to jump into them. This is the most beautiful way in which it can happen. Are Calvinists and Arminians both trying to achieve this understanding? I think so. Are they achieving it on either side? I don’t think so. Are there unanswered questions? Absolutely. And that’s okay.