Saturday, October 9, 2010

Calvinism and Arminianism (Part I)

John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius. Click on each, to go to their respective Wikipedia articles.

I had already been saved for several years and thought I knew a lot about Christianity and the Bible, when I began fellowshipping with one of my colleagues at work. He was a very sincere Christian and devout Biblical scholar, but some of his views were so contrary to mine, that I was taken aback. The points he was making and the terminology he used were like second-nature to him.  So much so, that neither of us seemed able to understand where the other was coming from!

That was my first exposure to Calvinism and Reformed Theology. I did not grow up in any church, and when I got saved, I was mentored with (I would later discover) an Arminian worldview. But at the time, I did not know that's what it was called, or even that there was another view, some of whose doctrines were diametrically opposed to mine... but yet, well-founded in scripture.  Since my initial discovery of the two views, I have had numerous deep discussions with Calvinists.  I still lean Arminian, but can definitely see both sides of the coin.

Recently, I had a run-in with a young and very zealous Calvinist, who pretty much picked a Theological argument with me.  He didn't say anything I hadn't heard before, but he knew his supporting scriptures much better than I knew mine, so I just backed out of the discussion.  I couldn't help but rehearse the experience over and over in my head, until I came to two revelatory conclusions, which I would like to share with you now.

I will not try to summarize the two beliefs here, but you can click on either portrait above (even though they may not look like links), to read Wikipedia articles on the theologies these men ignited. (If prompted about scripts or active content, please allow them to run.) Instead, I will focus on some core concepts and leave the deeper digging to the curious.

Both belief systems hold that humanity is inherently sinful and, but for the Grace of God, unable to seek reconcilliation with God. This is called total depravity. Closely tied to this concept is the idea that no works of man can atone for his sins and earn him salvation from an eternity in Hell. Jesus' blood is the only atonement, and a calling from God is the only way one's eyes are opened to the unmerited Gift that is free for the taking. These ideas are well-founded in scripture and you will be hard-pressed to find a Calvinist and an Arminian who will disagree on these points.

However, where the two will greatly differ is in answer to the question, "If God is Love, and He created us, why doesn't everyone go to Heaven?" Perhaps they don't consciously think in these terms, but a lot of the doctrinal differences appear (to myself, at least) to stem from their differing answers to this single question.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Hi Greg, Look forward to your next post. Though I myself may be thoroughly reformed in my worldview, I have much appreciation at the the thoughts, prayers, and sacrifices of my Arminian brothers.

The question I wrestle with most is this: How can an absolutely Holy and Righteous God allow any sinner in His presence? - Transformer2You

Greg said...

You and I have had some awesome koinonia the past few months, and you've been a true blessing!

That's a great question that I don't want to shoot from the hip to answer. We should chat about it.

Dr. Russell Norman Murray said...

Hi Greg

A reasonable introduction. I ran into a young and zealous hyper-Calvinist at Seminary. I would have had to hit him over the head with a 2x4 to make a long point with all his interruptions.

He had some good points and since then my terminology has become more educated with the MPhil and PhD. However, my view is still basically the same.

His main mistake in my mind was not to explain that God does not force or coerce people to heaven or hell. So, his presentation came across as hard determinism.

BTW, I consider myself Reformed more so than Calvinist. My favouring of Believer's Baptism one reason.

Anyway, I just wrote on a similar topic on thekingpin68, so enough of this.;)

Wifey-Pifey said...

Welcome back, Hubby-Bubby! Now I can gross your readers out with more frequent mushy-wushy, coochie-poochie, talkie-walkie! ;-)

Greg said...

Eww!! Hee-hee! Always appreciate your cute little comments, Hon!

Russ, that was funny about the 2x4! I keep one by our door for Mormon "elders" that stop by... Just kidding! I'll have to find that post of yours, because I'm not sure where the dividing line is between Calvinism and Reformed Theology; I've always just lumped them together (out of sheer ignorance, it appears!). Now let me see if can try being a "follower" on your blog....

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Greg,

Welcome back! Of course, I've been so infrequent on the "blogosphere" that I've decided to quit hoping for regularity on my own blog!

As you may have already known (or guessed), I came from an Arminian (Southern Baptist variety) background and didn't know there was anything else "out there". Of course, all we were taught was that this was the truth and anything else was heresy (not that I even knew about any other "system" of beliefs). Anyway, I'm now Reformed (semi-Calvinist) but have wonderful fellowship with my non-Reformed brothers and sisters!

The danger with identification is that many times "hyper-calvinism" is often mistaken for Calvinism--and the "hyper-calvinists" are usually very aggressive and reject as heresy any other belief but their own. They give Calvinism a bad name!

Actually, I would say that I'm mainly a Calvinist and a partial Arminian in the tradition of T.F. Torrance and Trinitarian Theology. Here is a link to a very, very short comparison of Calvinism, Arminianism and Trinitarian Theology.

I see that you've commented on Sacred Space; I'll respond when I get a chance.

Welcome back!


Dr. Russell Norman Murray said...

'Now let me see if can try being a "follower" on your blog....'

Thanks, if you feel so led.

With the PhD basically in hand, paperwork should arrive in November, I am trying to make my blogs entertaining but as professional as possible and increasing follower amounts does add to the professional look.

I went to GGM's blog, commenting, as well, and left a comment on his Facebook. I actually promote his blog more than he does sometimes.;)

Marketing is so important in blogging.;)

Greg said...

Thanks for the links, Jason. I'll check them out, when my brain is a little less crowded. ;)

Russ, if you're starting a new career as a promoter, allow me to suggest a stage name: Don Kingpin. Keep the shades, but raise the hair!

Greg said...

Thanks for following, Russ and Warren!