Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

My Thoughts on the Assemblies of God Position Paper on Reformed Theology

The Assemblies of God is the denomination that I was saved in and I served for over 10 years while in the “ministry” (I place this in brackets because I am still in the ministry as I serve the Lord while driving a truck for a living and seeking to glorify Christ through that).  The Assemblies of God (AG hereafter) have a special place in my heart and in my prayers.

Historically, the AG’s have been an Arminian fellowship.  As a boy, I was taught early on in Sunday School at our AG church that we were not Calvinists and most of it centered in my mind on the doctrine of eternal security.  In fact, after I was saved, for about three years, I honestly thought the entire Arminian-Calvinist debate was over the issue of “once saved, always saved.”  This was the doctrine that I believed was at the heart of Calvinism.  Of course, I know better now.

The AG’s preached hard against “once saved, always saved” but never taught me much about Arminianism nor about Calvinism.  I honestly never heard the terms even after being saved in our AG church.  While our pastor preached the Word of God, I remember him mentioning Calvinism only once and it had to do with predestination.  Our church focused more on the Pentecostal aspects and upon the end times.  While our church preached salvation, the doctrine of salvation as it related to Arminianism or Calvinism was not touched.  I also remember one Pentecostal pastor mentioning his Arminianism during a watch night service of all places.  That is it.

In my own times as an AG youth pastor and then pastor, I rarely touched the issue myself.  By the time I started this blog, I had left the church.  My family has attended a few AG churches over the years and I have known many AG pastors but I have yet to hear them speak of Arminianism or Calvinism.  I know of one pastor who left the AG’s over the issue as he became a charismatic Reformed Baptist (that I didn’t know existed till he left).

In my own experience, the AG’s were Arminian though they did not teach it per se.  My own youth pastor gave me books to read covering AG doctrine when I was first saved and I still have them.  Their theology is clearly Arminian in soteriology.  The official systematic theology text used by the AG’s (and edited by the late Stanley Horton) rejects Calvinism while trying to maintain an in-between over Arminianism.  I am not sure why.  The AG’s have long held to Arminian views regarding the work of Christ (unlimited atonement) and have rejected unconditional election as well as perseverance of the saints.

In the latest position paper published by the AG’s, the General Council (the core leaders of the AG’s) seek to reject Reformed theology while seeking not to be labeled Arminian.  At least that is how I read it.  While they acknowledge their Arminian roots, they don’t seem to take a stand for one against the other.

What I wish the AG’s would do is just come out in favor of Arminianism.  This would be no shock to those of us who are familiar with the AG’s nor would it create waves in the Bible colleges.  In fact, many would be grateful to know where the AG’s have stood on these issues.  Many younger pastors in the AG’s have been influenced by Calvinists such as Piper, MacArthur, and Wayne Grudem (they especially enjoy Grudem for his stand on the charismatic gifts).  Meanwhile, Arminian leaders have been slow to preach core Arminian doctrines among the AG’s.  In fact, many AG leaders seem to favor methodology over theology.  I know of one local AG pastor who is clearly pragmatic in his approach and will copy even Calvinists so long as they are growing (he flew out to Seattle while Driscoll was preaching out there to learn from him).  Many younger AG pastors reject many of the core Pentecostal teachings such as speaking in tongues as the initial, physical evidence of Spirit-baptism and many favor grouping with even Calvinists for church growth.  To many AG pastors, growth is the issue and not theology.  I have personally had AG pastors tell me that they avoid theology because “theology divides.”

The AG’s will see an influx of Calvinist pastors.  While the official AG position is only to reject “eternal security,” many Calvinists would agree as they hold to perseverance of the saints and not “once saved, always saved” (though I suspect there is not much difference).  The AG’s will see an in house debate over the Arminian-Calvinist issue as we are seeing in the Southern Baptists in the future.

In closing, I would not classify myself as Assemblies of God.  Again, I share much love for them and it was in the AG’s that I was saved and my life was transformed by the grace of God.  My salvation is in Jesus, of course, and not in a church group.  I classify myself as “non” but of course I would hold to the Wesleyan-Arminianism of men such as Vic Reasoner.  I use to describe myself as “Reformed Arminian” but moved away from that after studying more and seeing how Wesleyan theology is vastly different than the holiness movement of the late 19th century.  That said, I pray that many Arminian denominations (even those like the AG’s who lean that way but do not label themselves as such) would reject Reformed theology and preach and teach the doctrines of love as found in biblical Arminianism.

One final note: This is not meant to be an attack on Reformed brothers and sisters.  I regard Calvinists as my brothers and sisters in the faith.  We are united in Christ (Ephesians 4:4).  In heaven, there will be only disciples of Jesus and not denominations or isms of men.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/24/2015 at 5:50 PM

10 Responses

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  1. …never taught me much about Arminianism nor about Calvinism. I honestly never heard the terms even after being saved in our AG church.

    That was probably a blessing.

    Likewise the churches I was with in my earlier days never mentioned Arminianism and Calvinism and it was after almost 40 years as a Christian before I became aware of them through a Christian forum; and then I moved town and joined a church where the minister was a strong Calvinist and I eventually had to leave because I disagreed so much with his theology (and his insistence that I was an Arminian).

    For myself I refuse to be identified as an Arminian. I consider myself as following biblical theology (as far as my understanding allows) and find the Arminian-Calvinist debate distracts from solely biblical theology.

    While Arminian doctrine may be more in line with scripture than Calvinism, I’d rather go straight to scripture for myself than to rely upon AND IDENTIFY with one particular theological filter.

    I think it would be much more fruitful to forget both Calvin and Arminius. Neither are at the centre of the gospel.

    Onesimus

    11/24/2015 at 6:26 PM

  2. you write a lot. what do you do?

    C. J. Fang

    11/24/2015 at 6:40 PM

  3. I always appreciated theological discussion topics at my former Calvinist church, though once I rejected Calvinism I couldn’t stand talking about that since I was not allowed to make a stand for Arminianism as a then member. Now that I attend an AG church, I do wish theology was discussed and taught more. It seems people are some times more concerned with experience than with study.

    Gene Brode, Jr.

    11/25/2015 at 8:17 AM

    • It seems people are some times more concerned with experience than with study.

      Sadly “experience” seems to increases in significance by the same degree that discernment decreases.

      But regarding study, some seem more intent on studying “theology” than addressing scripture directly.

      There can be more debate over conflicting theological views than interaction over scripture itself. That’s what troubles me about the never-ending Arminianism vs Calvinism arguments.

      I’d be happy to see both Arminius and Calvin forgotten, and for people to stop adopting those names as identification labels.

      Onesimus

      11/25/2015 at 7:24 PM

      • I believe it’s good and helpful to study the lives and doctrines of godly people who’ve gone on before us. But you’re right–many of us focus too much on the debatable aspects of theology when we could find more productive things to do in the name of Christ–shepharding our families, discipling young believers, sharing the gospel with non-Christians, working harder at our day jobs, putting to death our corruptions, helping orphans and widows, etc, etc. Theology should be a jumping off point for practical living, not an end in itself where we rehearse hundreds of years of disagreements. There is a time and place for correcting wrong thinking and doctrine–but we need wisdom in discerning the point of diminishing returns.

        Gene Brode, Jr.

        11/30/2015 at 3:44 PM

  4. I’m A/G and still swallow hard at classifying myself as Arminian. Historically, I think A/G preachers have been more interested in preaching the Bible practically, and letting theology take care of itself. There was a day when we didn’t mind some of the divisiveness of theology, e.g. the initial physical evidence used to be absolutely sacrosanct (our distinctive testimony), but that may be slipping a bit today. The fellowship has grown very pragmatic with the passing of time and I too see the focus on growth as the be-all-and-end-all of leadership, and am troubled by it. I’d be much more optimistic if we’d dedicate ourselves to speaking the truth in love and letting the chips fall where they may.

    stephenwinters

    11/25/2015 at 9:19 AM

  5. Excellent writing, God bless

    Wally

    11/25/2015 at 1:40 PM


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