Friday, November 15, 2013

Calvinism and Arminianism Reloaded

Several years ago, I wrote a trilogy of posts on the rudimentary difference between Calvinism and Arminianism, two significant schools of thought within Christian theology. In its purest sense, the former results in a "once saved, always saved" view of salvation, by grace alone, ignoring works altogether. The latter is often misinterpreted as salvation through works alone, ignoring grace altogether. These are, of course, exaggerations of the teachings of these two men, both of whom must have understood that the Bible, particularly the NT, tells us that salvation is a synergy of both grace and works. If you have not read those posts yet, I strongly recommend that you do that first, because whether you know it or not, if you claim to be a Christian, your worldview has been influenced by these two theologies.

Our church's bulletin this week contained this pithy saying: "Salvation is not a reward for the righteous; it's a gift for the guilty!"

This, of course, immediately brought to mind the grace vs. works debate. I get that they're trying to remind us that we cannot earn our way into Heaven, and that is true, but in the effort to sound clever, the writer ignores God's call to righteousness and holiness, "without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Or how does it stand against the claim that God "is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6b)?

And if salvation is solely a gift, requiring no effort on our part, why, then, did Paul feel pressed to write the following?

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Salvation is indeed a gift, offered to us through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ crucified, not by the will of man, but that of God. But let us not rest easy, falsely believing that no heart-change and no "fruits of the Spirit" are necessary, lest we find ourselves before the Lord on that Last Day, counted among the goats, and we hear Jesus say to us, "I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity" (Luke 13:27).

Therefore, since we are indeed called to be holy, we all must stand with Paul and say, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14).


Andrew Clarke said...

If I understand, the key to it is: believing is what saves you, by free grace, but if you truly believe it will show in your life and deeds. Your gratitude for salvation will be reflected in the way you live and direct your life. It's a good question to keep us focussed on our Christian walk.

Greg said...

Absolutely, Andrew! Thanks for dropping by.