Arminian Today

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Why I Am Not A Calvinist (The Short Answer)

Some people often wonder about me.  I had someone recently e-mail me from an Amazon.com review that I did for a Calvinist book in which they said, “You sound so much like a Calvinist but its shocking to learn that you are not.”  I might sound much like a Calvinist because we Arminians and Calvinists actually agree on many issues.  We agree, for example, on salvation being by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We disagree over the issue of whether this salvation is conditional or unconditional based on the sovereign decree of God.  We Arminians and Calvinists agree that God is sovereign but we disagree over whether this sovereignty means divine determinism or His causation of all things.  We Arminians and Calvinists agree over the five solaes of the Reformation and we Arminians are very comfortable calling ourselves Protestants along with our Calvinist brethren.  As an Arminian, I ascribe all glory to God in His saving me and I acknowledge that it was by His grace alone that saved me.  He chose me.  I didn’t choose Him first (1 John 4:10).

That said, why then am I not a Calvinist?  How is it that I can read and love my Calvinist brothers and sisters and yet reject Calvinism?  How is it that I love Calvinist preachers and teachers such as John MacArthur or Joseph Pipa or Albert Mohler but reject Calvinism?  You would think that their Calvinism would have influenced me by now since I have spent years reading, studying, and listening to Calvinist teachers.  How is it that I can speak so highly of the grace of God in salvation or that the sovereignty of God is fully involved with the salvation of the sinner yet reject “the doctrines of grace?”

So why am I not a Calvinist?  Let me not beat around the bush and get right to the issues.  Let me narrow this down to three reasons why I am not Calvinist.

1.  The Character of God.

Dr. Roger Olson in his book, Against Calvinism, states that the issue for the Arminian is not the issue of free will or the issue of eternal security but the issue is the character of God.  How has God chosen to reveal Himself?  Does the Bible present a sovereign God who ignores the free will decisions of His creatures?  Does the Bible present a God who chooses to save people by His own sovereign will while sending the vast majority to eternal hell simply because He wanted to reprobate them?  The core issue for the Arminian is that we hold that the Bible does present a sovereign God but it also presents a loving and good God who does not cause people to sin nor is He tempted by sin (James 1:12-15).  The Bible presents a God who loves humanity and sends His Son for their sins so that through faith in His Son, the world might be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  The Bible presents God as love (1 John 4:7) and a God who demonstrates His love through the sacrifice of His Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).  Certainly God hates sin but He equally loves people and has sent His Son so that they can repent and live (Ezekiel 18:30-32).

2.  Unlimited Atonement.

Most Calvinist scholars admit that there are many passages concerning the nature of the atonement that seem to suggest that the atonement is unlimited in nature.  Even J.I. Packer has admitted this.  The problem is that the Calvinist theologian must then take their own presuppositions and force them upon Scripture.  I have often laughed at Calvinist theologians who seek to take a text like John 3:16 or 1 John 2:2 and seek to turn the text into teaching Calvinism.  The bias of universal atonement texts is another strong reason I reject Calvinism.  1 Timothy 2:1-6 is a hard passage for a Calvinist to read through since the text says three times the word “all” (ESV).  Verse 1, verse 4, and verse 6.  All here means “all” and to ignore this would have to because you simply don’t want the text to say all.  I will not ignore the all texts.  I will embrace them and preach them.  Jesus can save all (1 Timothy 4:10) and I believe that, based on the love of God, He desires to save all who call upon His name (Romans 10:13).

3.  Conditional Election.

I reject the concept of unconditional election.  I have read many works from Calvinists on passages such as Romans 9-11 and have heard sermons on the texts but am not convinced.  I have read Calvinist scholars works on texts such as John 6 or Acts 13:48 or Ephesians 1:4-13 and am still not convinced.  Why?  First, because of the character of God that I see in Scripture, that He is loving and good.  Unconditional election is not loving and good.  It is harsh and unfair.  I can hear my Calvinist readers saying now, “You don’t want fairness with God.”  But think about it.  God looks at humanity before the Fall (depending on your Calvinism) and picks these few in comparison to the vast majority.  He does this before man sins, before he is even created.  Mankind is given no choice whatsoever and yet we are to believe that mankind is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27)?  We are told that this is a good and loving God, that He would choose to even save one from the likes of sinful humanity.  Further, God even says over and over again that He desires to save all who call upon Him (Acts 2:21), that He gave His Son for all (John 3:16), for the world (John 1:29) and He calls the nations to repent (Acts 17:30-31) but in reality, He desires to save only those whom He predestined to be saved before time began.  Would that not mean that God is not truthful in His desire to save the lost?  I believe that the character of God shows us that He is willing to save all who come to Him through Christ (John 6:44-45; 12:32; Romans 11:32).

Conclusion

So there you have it.  Sweet and to the point.  I love my Calvinist brethren while rejecting their Calvinism.  I can gladly read, pray, worship, evangelize, and fellowship with my Calvinist brethren because Calvinism (nor Arminianism) saves sinners.  Only Christ does.  Further, I admit that I am but a man and my knowledge is very limited.  I, like Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13:12, see through a mirror dimly.  I admit that I bring my own presuppositions to the Bible.  Perhaps when I die, I will find that Calvinism was more biblically than Arminianism but I suppose that none of that will matter in eternity since Jesus will be Lord of all and He will exalted above all flesh (Revelation 5:9-10).

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/16/2013 at 10:00 AM

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