Categories
Theology

Conversation Between a Calvinist and an Arminian

This is from John Piper’s post earlier this week about how Charles Simeon, a Calvinist, tried to reason with John Wesley, an Arminian, about the supremacy of God in the salvation and perseverance of Christians.  I have adapted it to contemporary language.

So you call yourself an Arminian. People call me a Calvinist; and therefore we are supposed to argue about finer points of theology. But before we start fighting, may I ask you a few questions? Do you think that you are a depraved person, so depraved, in fact, that you would have never turned to God if God had not put it in your heart first?

Yes, I do indeed

And do you reject your coming to God with your works as the source of your righteousness, and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

And since you were at first saved by Christ, do you try to continue to be saved by something other than him?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Since then you were first saved by the grace of God, do you need to keep yourself saved by your own power?

No.

Are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, just like a baby in his mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you so that you will be able enter into his kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, let me say, my friend, that this is what Calvinism is. This is election and justification by faith, and perseverance. This is really all there is to it and nothing else. Therefore, instead of searching for differences in language and definitions and having that be a source of contention between us, can we please be united in these things that we agree on?

Obviously, there is a lot more in Reformed theology than just this, but I think Simeon’s point is to show that “Arminians” and “Calvinists” have more in common than they think.  Furthermore, I think that Simeon may have tried to show the inconsistencies in Arminian thought.

How do you think the conversation would have gone if Wesley had asked the questions?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of coming to God with your works as the source of your righteousness, and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

And supposing you were at first saved by Christ, do you try to continue to be saved by something other than him?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Since then you were first saved by the grace of God, do you need to keep yourself saved by your own power?

No.

Are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, just like a baby in his mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you so that you can enter into his kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, let me say, my friend, that this is what Calvinism is to me.  This is election and justification by faith, and perseverance.  This is really all there is to it and nothing else.  Therefore, if you please, instead of fighting about language and having it be a source of contention between us, can we please be united in these things that we agree on?

Categories
Life

Sovereignty and Happiness

If God is sovereign, then it follows that he is happy. Sovereignty implies dominion and autonomy, and a sovereign God accomplishes his will because he ordained everything to happen. Such a God is always happy because everything he ordained happened, and he would never do anything to displease himself.

If God is subjugated, then it follows that he is frustrated. Subjugation implies no dominion, no autonomy, and a subjugated God will not always accomplish his will because he did not ordain everything to happen. Such a God will, at times, be frustrated because something he did not ordain happened.

The question then remains: do you serve a sovereign, happy God or a subjugated, frustrated god?

Categories
Life Theology

Three Reasons I’m a Calvinist

In Christianity there are a lot of perspectives/traditions that people draw from to formulate their theological doctrines.  For the longest time, I was the average Classical Arminian Evangelical American Christian (long name, huh?).  As I’ve learned more Scripture and how to interpret, God has settled me into the Reformed theological tradition.  Otherwise known to most people as Calvinism.  I define Calvinism (or Reformed theology) as that perspective which holds to the five Solas of the Reformation, the the five doctrines of grace (TULIP), and adheres to the Westminster Confession or Heidelberg Catechism.  With that, here are three reasons I’m a Calvinist: 

  • I want Jesus Christ to get all the credit.  Christianity is supposed to be “Christ-centered” of course.  However, before the Reformation, man-centered doctrines had slipped into the church.  For this reason Martin Luther, among others, declared an all-out attack on the cultural Christianity of his day.  Still today, those man-centered doctrines are filtered throughout the church.  People say things like, “God values humans so much so he sent Jesus to die for them” or “God is a gentlemen and doesn’t force himself on anyway — that’s why we have free will.”  Ultimately, following Jesus is about, you guessed it, Jesus.  A quick survey of Scripture will reveal that God is passionate about his glory and that was the end for which God created the world.  From what I have found after looking at countless perspectives within Christianity, the only one that has stood above the rest as radically Christ-centered is Calvinism.  I don’t want to take any of the credit for anything that happens because I am nothing and Christ is everything.  I am but a worthless sinner saved by grace — God’s predestinating, electing, wooing, justifying, sanctifying, glorifying grace.  And he’s the only one who will get credit for everything that happens in this universe. 
  • The doctrine of election and predestination is the only thing I have found that explains the hardness of the human heart and why everyone does not come to Jesus.  I work in ministry full-time as a missionary for Campus Crusade.  I have shared the gospel with literally hundreds of people in my short of being involved with Crusade as a student and staff member.  I have family members who are in darkness and cannot see the light that God offers.  Just a short 18 months ago, I was your typical American Evangelical Arminian Christian.  I believed that people had the free will to come to Jesus or not.  I have learned since then that though our choices are free and non-mechanistic, they are not autonomous or free from a dependence on God.  There are some people in this world who have been given so many opportunities to come to Jesus and yet, despite it all, they refuse.  There are others — murderers, rapists, child molesters, thieves, fornicators, and politicians (I couldn’t resist) — who were so far gone no one thought they’d be saved, but God by his mercy and grace drew them to himself.  Can anyone explain to me that someone does not come to Christ because they are less intelligent, wise, or discerning?  Is it because they are not in the right place at the right time?  Is it because they can do a stronger work than the Holy Spirit by saying “No”?  Or is it because God, in his mysterious and glorious will, chose not to enlighten their hearts, open their eyes and, feed them his grace?
  • The Reformed position that holds that God is the ultimate Sovereign and cause of all things is the only thing that can explain natural evils, moral evils, and all other kinds of evil.  Again, I used to think that God simply knew everything and that he did not cause everything.  When a natural disaster happened, I would say, “God simply allowed it.”  He did allow it.  But he did more than that.  In Hebrews, it says that Jesus holds the world by the word of his power.  Jesus is in Sovereign control and nothing/nobody can do a more powerful work than God.  Can you imagine Satan or a human causing some kind of evil and God reacts thus: “Oh, that’s so frustrating!  I can’t believe they got away with that again.”  God is not a frustrated God.  He is infinitely higher and wiser than we are and for God to do something that would be wrong for us (i.e. to cause a natural disaster that kills thousands of people) is not wrong for him.  Scripture gives him credit for all things, but never blames God for bad things.  (See my article Death, Disaster, Disease and God for further explanation.)  Not all Christian perspectives teach the exact opposite, but perhaps none quite as thoroughly and passionately as the Reformed/Calvinistic position.  This connects well to Jesus getting all the credit, because he is in control of everything

Read the other posts in this series:

Three Reasons I’m a Christian
Three Reasons I’m a Christian Hedonist
Three Reasons I’m a Campus Crusade Staff Member

Categories
Theology

Why More People are Becoming Reformed

Read a great post on why more and more people (espcially in my generation) are becoming Reformed.