Arminian Today

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Old Calvinist Arguments

Almost weekly the same posts from Calvinist bloggers and apologists come out attacking Arminianism for the same things that we have answered them before.  They keep pounding the same arguments because they are either convinced that they are true (even if we deny them and Arminius even addressed them) or they just want to beat up on Arminians (which is sometimes the case).  I will not spend time answering the arguments but I will point you to the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA) which answers most if not all of the Calvinist attacks on biblical Arminianism.

1.  Arminianism is Man-Centered Theology

How many times have I heard this one?  I remember responding to a Calvinist over the issue of justification by faith in which I argued that Arminians hold to justification by faith and not by works (Romans 4:5; Titus 3:5).  He responded that Arminians are “works righteousness.”  When I asked why he believed this about Arminianism, he responded that Arminians believe that we and not God is the one who saves us.  When I pointed out that Arminius never held to this view nor has any Arminian that I know of, he still kept saying that we believe that we “help” God through our faith.  I asked him how are we saved?  He said by faith but he insisted that faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8 wrongly used by the way) but when I asked him if he believed or did God make him believe, he said God made him wiling to freely believe.  But I asked again, “So are you saved by faith or not?”  He said yes but God gave him the gift of faith to believe thus his salvation was all of God.  When I responded that we Arminians believe that faith is the gracious gift of God as salvation is all a work of God and that He saves us by His grace, the Calvinist simply said that I still hold to works-salvation because of my Arminianism.

In reality, I am man-centered in my theology: the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:1-6) whom I believe shed His blood to save all who would come to Him in repentance and faith (John 6:37).

2.  Arminianism Denies the Sovereignty of God.

In reality, we Arminians exalt the sovereignty of God because we believe that our God is so sovereign and He is in control to the point that He can allow for mankind to have the gift of free will.  The God of Calvinism, in my estimation, is afraid.  He fears losing control so He has to control everything down even to determining all things and rendering them certain including sin.  The God of the Bible is certainly the creator of all things (Hebrews 1:3) and He certainly is in control of all things (Psalm 115:3) but He allows people to make free decisions.  How God gets His will done while allowing free will is a mystery in Arminianism and one I can live with.  The mystery in Calvinism is tougher.  Their mystery is this: how can God not be accused of sinning when He plans and determines all things and renders all things certain even sin?  The Calvinist has no answer but appeals to mystery (Deuteronomy 29:29).  I would not want to hold to a theology that makes God this monster who determines all things including sin and renders them certain for one reason: His own glory.

A.W. Tozer wrote:

Here is my view: God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.

3.  Arminianism Denies the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

In other words, Arminians deny that Jesus saved anyone when He died on the cross.  This of course is not true.  Roger Olson, in his great book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities wrote an entire chapter aimed at this subject.  The atonement, for the Arminian is precious.  Jesus shed His blood for our salvation!  The Arminian doctrine of unlimited atonement, in my estimation, is the strongest point of Arminianism.  The atonement is glorious and big in Arminianism because Jesus didn’t die for just a few people’s sins but He died for all men that whosoever can come and be saved.  This is a wonderful truth that led the early Methodists to world evangelism (along with their postmillennial hopes).

The Calvinist says that when Jesus died on the cross, He died only for the elect (John 10:11).  They teach that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2) but He died only for the elect out of the world.  At the Society of Evangelical Arminians, one brother wrote a piece on Jesus dying only for Paul based on the Calvinist logic.  You can find that here.

The elect are very small.  It seems that throughout the Church Age, the Calvinist view of God has God saving only a few while damning millions all for His glory.  I know that I am not God but it would be more for His glory to save as many as possible (and even more than the damned) if I were determining all things that come to pass.  Of course, the reason that sinners reject God is not because of predestination in the Calvinist sense but rather because they reject the cross and condemn themselves in their sins.

4.  Arminianism Appeals to Immature Christians.

The argument is that people are born again and often become Arminians only to later have the Lord open their eyes to the “doctrines of grace” and they become true Christians which are Calvinists.  Calvinism, according to Calvinists, is the highest one can ascribe to theologically that truly exalts the Lord God.  While some Calvinists will acknowledge that we Arminians and other non-Calvinists are saved (albeit barely in some views), the Calvinist is the one who is truly reached the highest intellectual level of Christianity.  So men such as John Wesley, Adam Clarke, Richard Watson, Francis Asbury, William Pope, Thomas Oden, Jack Cottrell, these are all lesser men of God than say Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, or James White.

Now I do believe Calvinism is a step up from most of American evangelicalism.  To go from listening to Joel Osteen to John MacArthur is a good thing.  All of us who have truly been saved know what we came out of (1 Timothy 1:15).  I was a lost sinner before Christ saved me by His grace.  I was nothing and then He made me something (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Now as a young Christian, I was ignorant of theology.  I knew I was saved but that was it.  As I grew, I was blessed to attend an Arminian church and was discipled by an Arminian pastor.  He pointed me to John Wesley and eventually Wesley pointed me to Arminius.  I begin to grow in my understanding of theology.  This is true not just for me but other Arminians and Calvinists as well.  After I had been saved for about 10 years, I begin to read the works of Calvin but I never have been a Calvinist.

I believe that Arminianism is a step up from Calvinism.  If you will, there is saved and then a person steps up to being a Calvinist and then the next step is to being an Arminian.  That is my view and one that is very biased indeed.  I believe Arminianism has a healthier view of God and His sovereignty than Calvinists do and I believe that our passion for prayer, for evangelism. for worship is deeper than Calvinists despite their protests otherwise.

5.  Arminianism is All About Free Will.

There is no doubt that compatibilism and libertarian free will are involved in our debate with Calvinists.  Calvinists believe that everything that happens happens because God decrees it and renders it certain.  Therefore, when Joe Blow sins against God by murdering his mother-in-law, Joe does so because God willed it so and rendered it certain by not giving Joe the grace to resist the sin.  Calvinists would insist that Joe committed the sin freely by his own free choice (based upon his nature according to Jonathan Edwards) and Joe is responsible for his sin.  But by responsible the Calvinists means that Joe is punishable for his sin not that Joe could choose to do otherwise.  There is no free will in Calvinism.  For an Arminian analysis of the issues, read this.  For now, let me post what Calvinists believe about free will from Monergism.com:

We should be clear that NEITHER compatibilism nor hard determinism affirms that any man has a free will. Those who believe man has a free will are not compatibilists, but should, rather, be called “inconsistent”. Our choices are our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures, nor seperately from God’s meticulous providence. Furthermore, compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will. Therefore voluntary choice is not the freedom to choose otherwise, that is, a choice without any influence, prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Voluntary does mean, however, the ability to choose what we want or desire most according to our disposition and inclinations. The former view (libertarianism) is known as contrary choice, the latter free agency. (the fallen will is never free from the bondage of our corrupt nature, and not free, in any sense, from God’s eternal decree.) The reason I emphasize this is that compatibilists are often misrepresented by hard determinists at this point. They are somehow confused with inconsistent Calvinists. When compatibilists use such phrases as “compatibilistic freedom”, they are, more often than not, using it to mean ‘voluntary’ choice, but are not referring to freedom FROM God’s decree or absolute sovereignty (an impossible supposition).

I have heard Calvinists insist that they we have free will but only the will to sin.  The ability to freely choose with either choice A or B is not found in Calvinism.

Now is this the issue within Arminianism toward Calvinism?  I don’t think so.  Our view on free will is not the heart of our theology.  It is the nature of God.  We believe God desires to have a true relationship with people and so He does not force this relationship.  Our God calls sinners to Himself through the gospel and He freely allows them to respond to His gospel but He does not force people to believe and be saved (despite what Sproul believes about John 6:44 and “drag” people to salvation).  Free will only flows from our view of God.  We believe God is loving and good and He truly wants to save all sinners.  God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32).  God’s call to salvation in Arminianism is genuine.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/14/2015 at 11:39 AM

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