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Posts Tagged ‘Arminians vs. Calvinists

Should Arminianism or Calvinism Be An Issue For Unity?

I want to say from the beginning that I enjoy various Calvinist blogs, podcasts, and ministries.  My wife and I have financially supported a few Calvinist ministries now and again.  I have no trouble praying, worshiping, fellowshipping, and even evangelizing with my Calvinist brethren.  I would stand with my Calvinist friends to defend the gospel, to defend key doctrines such as the inerrancy of the Bible, and I would stand with my Calvinist brethren to preach the gospel.  I have no ill will toward my Calvinist friends.  I simply believe they are wrong in their starting point for their theology though I regard them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

If I had a larger ministry context, I would not exclude Calvinists from my group.  I would love to have a ministry that reaches people with the gospel much like Ray Comfort’s Living Waters or Paul Washer’s Heart Cry Missionary Society.  In Ray Comfort’s ministry, it is well known that both Arminians and Calvinists have served together with one another.  There has been unity even in the midst of theological disagreements.  The reason is simple: the gospel is not about Arminianism or Calvinism.  One can be an Arminian or a Calvinist and be lost.  This is clear from our churches were people attend but are lost.  There are many people who would claim to be an Arminian or a Calvinist but are not saved.  Salvation is not an ism.  Salvation is found in the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Salvation is found in Jesus alone (John 1:12-13; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Salvation is not agreeing with facts about Jesus (James 2:19).  Salvation is loving Jesus and worshiping Him alone for His saving work on the cross (John 14:21-24; 1 John 2:3-6).

In fact, Calvinist Tony Miano wrote this when he was part of Living Waters ministry:

Silence by Living Waters regarding various theological or philosophical issues should not be seen as a position in favor or against those various theological or philosophical issues. And all members of the Living Waters staff are free to believe, study, worship, and fellowship according to their personal convictions and preferences, without compromising their deeply held spiritual beliefs, so long as those beliefs, convictions, and preferences are consistent with the ministry’s Statement of Faith.

This was part of a blog post Miano did on Living Waters and whether they are “anti-Pentecostal.”  While Miano admitted he was not a Pentecostal, he stated his love for them and the fact that they had a few Pentecostals working at Living Waters.  He also wrote this about Arminianism:

A Christian can be a non-Calvinist without being anti-Calvinist in their doctrinal positions; just as a Christian can be a non-Arminian without being anti-Arminian.

I agree with Tony Miano here.  I agree that one can be a non-Calvinist and not be anti-Calvinist.  That would describe myself and so many other Arminians I know.  I am not against my Calvinist brethren but I am not a fan of Calvinism.  I can read Calvinist books, pray with Calvinist saints, preach with my Calvinist brothers, and yet not agree with Calvinism.  Why?  Because Calvinism is the not the gospel.  Jesus doesn’t save Calvinists nor does He save Arminians.  Jesus saves sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).

Yet Miano recently stated in his blog talk radio program that Arminianism is the problem with the American church.  He blamed the “sinner’s prayer” and altar calls on the Arminianism of the 19th century here in the United States.  He went on to rant that Arminianism is one of the unbiblical problems in the American church (along with some other things).

I have watched this slowly developing in my brother Tony.  I am not like some who will call Tony a liar nor will I berate him as a sinner.  I love Tony Miano and love his work for the Lord.  I appreciate his heart to preach the gospel to the lost.  I appreciate his service for the King.  I don’t agree with Tony on every issue.  His Calvinism is often where we disagree.  That said, I appreciate him as a brother.  I would ask he do the same toward me and other Arminians.

What I would like to say to Tony (and other Calvinists) is this: read Arminians.  I wonder when Calvinists attack Arminians, have they read the Works of Arminius?  Have they read any Arminian theologians such as Adam Clarke, Vic Reasoner, or Roger Olson?  Do they know the Arminian Puritan John Goodwin?  Have they read the writings or sermons of John Wesley?  Do they know that Whitefield said that Wesley did evangelism better than he did for Wesley put his converts into bands or small groups?  When was the last time they had meaningful time with Arminian brothers and sisters and talked about theology with them?

The fact is that if brother Tony had read Arminius or the works of Arminians he would see that what he berates as sloppy American evangelicalism does not come from Arminius nor the Arminians of the 19th century but rather from the semi-Pelagianism of Charles Finney.  While many Calvinists try to make Finney an Arminian, he was not.  I would admit that many Arminian churches fell prey to Finney’s theology at the turn of the 20th century and sadly many Arminian churches today look more like Finney than like Wesley.  Dr. Vic Reasoner in his excellent two-volume work, Holy Livingshows that Finney’s theology does not reflect the teachings of Arminius nor Wesley regarding salvation, sin, holiness, etc.  I recommend the book.

I appreciate my open air brethren who happen to be Calvinist.  I would appreciate if they take the time to read Arminians.  I suspect many will not because they have begun with a presupposition in mind and that is that Arminianism equals man-centered theology, that Arminianism equals heresy, or that Arminianism is not God-exalting theology.  All of this is false.  I confess that Arminian books are not as easy to find as Calvinist books but they are there.  I would appreciate them reading Arminius or reading Wesley and seeing that the current state of the American church has nothing to do with Arminius or Wesley but with the teachings of Finney.

Let me end by asking my Calvinist brothers to not do one thing and that is draw a line in the sand with Calvinism being the gospel.  I heard Jeff Rose from Jeremiah Cry (a ministry I support and appreciate again in spite of their Calvinism) saying that he was going to start making a call for people to abandon all forms of theology but Calvinism to work with them.  I ask why?  If Calvinism is not the issue?  If Calvinism does not save?  If Calvin was but a man who saved no one?  Why do this?  Why make Calvinism a gospel issue?

Let us return to the gospel.  Let us return to preaching the gospel and uniting around the fact that the blood of Jesus saves us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Let us draw near to God through the Lord Jesus Christ through His precious blood (Hebrews 9:14).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/16/2015 at 12:24 PM

Do You Grow Weary With the Arminian-Calvinism Debate?

I had someone write and ask me this and my answer is: yes.  Arminianism and Calvinism doesn’t consume me though I do read a good bit of theology books.  I typically can be always found reading a theology book and it usually will revolve around the Arminian vs. Calvinism debate but only as a side note.  I enjoy reading theology books that focus on a subject such as God (theology proper) or salvation (soteriology).  My reading doesn’t typically focus on just the Arminian vs. Calvinist debate.

My theology reading actually is diverse.  I do enjoy reading some Calvinist theologians and writers.  For instance, I enjoy reading John MacArthur and John Piper though I don’t agree with them on every issue.  I enjoy reading dead Calvinists too such as Robert Murray M’Cheyne or Charles Spurgeon and even enjoy reading Calvin here and there.  I have been reading John Gill as of late.

My point here is not to glorify my reading but to just point out that I don’t make the Arminian vs. Calvinist issue a big deal for me.  Those who know me best will know that I often joke about being Arminian (such as yelling, “That is an Arminian song” after we sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children” at church).  I joke with my sister (who is Presbyterian) often about Calvinism.  I truly do enjoy my Calvinist brothers and sisters and believe them to be genuine followers of the Lamb.  I am not “anti-Calvinist” as some would believe a good Arminian must be.

In the end, salvation is the work of God by His grace (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9).  God doesn’t save poor Arminians or poor Calvinists.  He saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16).  Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Jesus didn’t die for Arminians or Calvinists but for sinners (Isaiah 53:4-6).  That qualifies me (Romans 3:23).  It will be redeemed sinners who will be in heaven (Revelation 5:9-10) who have been saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  For that, I rejoice!

The one thing we all must do as disciples of Jesus is to look to Jesus alone to save us (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Not to our Arminianism or Calvinism but to Jesus alone.  He said He was the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6).  Friend, if you and I are to be found in glory it will be because of Christ and not because of Arminius or Calvin or Spurgeon or Wesley.  We are baptized only into Christ and not in a human being (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).  May we all make much about Him and His glory (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/11/2014 at 5:22 PM

Why Do I Read Calvinists?

I recently had an Arminian brother e-mail me to ask why I read Calvinists works such as blogs, books, and listen to their sermons?  He believes that as Arminians we should fill our minds with Arminianism to combat the errors of Calvinism.  In some ways, I agree.  I do believe that Arminians should read the works of Arminius (and you can easily obtain them on your Kindle) or read various works from Arminian theologians such as Dr. Vic Reasoner, Dr. Robert Picirilli, or Dr. Jack Cottrell.  People are surprised to find that there are actually a number of good Arminian resources available and I have linked to many of them here.

In short, I read Calvinistic works because I am not an enemy to my Calvinist brothers and sisters.  I disagree but I do not believe they are “outside” of Christianity as perhaps some would feel about me.  We are justified before God through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  We can debate this justification but we must agree that we are justified in Christ Jesus.  We must agree that Jesus and His blood alone washes away our sins (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7).  Our only hope for redemption is the blood of Jesus (Romans 10:4; Hebrews 9:13-14, 22).  We are saved in Christ Jesus and not in Arminius or Calvin or Wesley or Luther.  We are not saved because we have been baptized in such and such church.  We have not been saved because we read from a certain Bible translation.  We are not saved because we simply said a prayer for salvation.  We are not saved because we know facts about Jesus.  We are saved through knowing Christ Jesus as Lord (1 John 2:3-6; 3:6-10).  Jesus is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) and not any thing or any one else.

That said, I can read the works of Calvin or a book by a Calvinist theologian and though I will not agree with all that they write, I can agree with much of what they write.  I have been reading from Dr. Sam Storms as of late and his edited version of Jonathan Edward’s book, Religious Affections.  I believe any disciple of Jesus could read this book and should read this book.  On my bookshelf next to me I have an entire section I have for Calvinists.  I have the works of Calvin, a book on Calvin’s commentaries, works from Spurgeon, works from the Puritans, and many books by Calvinist authors such as R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur.  Of course, right above them is two shelves full of Arminian books!  

On my Kindle I have many Calvinists books.  Most of them I have not read.  I get  many of them free and in time will start to read them.

My point here is not boast in my reading or my book collections.  I want to simply say that we can learn from each other.  How often do we create straw men when debating Arminianism and Calvinism.  We should read from each others books to see just what do Arminians or Calvinists believe.  Of course, there is no one spokesperson for either.  Even the works of Arminius and Calvin (while vital to the theology) are not 100% agreed on by Arminians or Calvinists.  And frankly, both Arminius and Calvin were just fallible men who were liable to mistakes and neither were 100% clear on all issues.  In fact, neither theologians dealt with many aspects of theology that today we debate such as inerrancy or the new perspective of Paul and other issues.

In the end, the true disciple should read the Bible more than any other book.  The Bible is the grid by which we judge all things (1 John 4:1).  The Bible is the perfect revelation from God given to us by inspiration of the Spirit to lead us to all truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Jesus Himself said the Word of God was truth (John 17:17) and could not be broken (John 10:35).  If Jesus so felt this way about the Scriptures, so should the child of God.  The disciple could literally read only the Bible and never any theologians or other books and still be safe in the arms of the Lord Jesus.  As the psalmist wrote, “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life” (Psalm 119:93).

May we all be a people who love the Word of God more than any other works.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/13/2013 at 9:43 AM

Posted in Books

Tagged with , ,

Great Post on Caged-Calvinists

I want to point you to a great post from brother William Birch on caged Calvinists.  I first heard of  the term “caged Calvinists” from Dr. James White in which he was referring to Calvinists who are new to Calvinism and seem bent on making everyone around them into Calvinists as well.  These Calvinists are not hard to find.  Just go onto Twitter and put something negative about Calvinism with a hashtag of Calvinism and within minutes you’ll likely have caught your first caged Calvinist.  Caged Calvinists believe the gospel equals Calvinism and Calvinism equals the gospel.  They believe that Calvinism is the pure truth of God’s Word, orthodoxy, and the standard by which to judge all things.  I have seen some caged Calvinists lifting John Calvin to almost Catholic sainthood position as they speak of this fallen man as if he were the greatest single theologian since Paul the Apostle (and in some cases, better!).

Ironically, we in Arminianism have no caged Arminian tags that I am aware of.  I have never met a caged Arminian.  I would argue this is the case for a few reasons.  First, I know of no Arminians who believe that Arminianism equals the gospel or that the gospel equals Arminianism.  We believe that God has granted to us all the gift of free will and each person can decide if Arminianism or Calvinism or Lutheranism or any other ism is from God or not.  Ism’s do not save in Arminianism, only Jesus saves (John 14:6)!  This emphasis on free will leads us to reject the idea that God had to “open our eyes” to see the teachings of Arminius.  Any soul can read Arminius if they choose and either receive him or reject him.  In reality, we believe one can freely reject Arminius and still be saved but one cannot reject Jesus and still be saved.

Secondly, Arminians don’t know of a caged stage because we reject the Gnostic feel of some Calvinists regarding their “conversion” to Calvinism.  Arminianism has no such stage.  One does not need to read Arminius to understand unlimited atonement (1 John 2:2).  One does not need to read Arminius to understand conditional election (1 Timothy 4:10).  One does not need to read Arminius to understand the warning passages of Scripture and that faith is required for salvation from beginning to end (John 8:51; Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:21-23).  One does not need God to open their eyes to the five points of the Remonstrance for them to embrace Arminianism.  In fact, one can take a survey to find out if they are Arminian or not here.

Lastly, Arminians don’t champion Arminianism or the works of Arminius as the grid by which we judge all things.  We don’t come to John 3:16 or 1 Timothy 2:4 and then turn around and deny these passages because they don’t fit our theological system.  Again, one can read the Bible on their own and see that Calvinism is not there but must be read into the Bible.  I would not assume you would read the Bible and find Arminianism either but rather I would pray that you see Jesus for who He is.  After all, the Bible was not given to us so that we can know facts about Jesus or facts about Arminianism but instead to know salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (John 20:31).

I pray that we all see that the gospel is what saves and not a system.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/10/2013 at 12:11 PM

Christians Should Pull For Christians

I am a South Carolina Gamecocks fan.  I make no apologies for that.  I was born in South Carolina, raised in South Carolina, went to college in South Carolina, and then moved to Georgia for about 10 years until returning for a job back in South Carolina.  It makes sense then for me to be a South Carolina Gamecocks fan.  However, a buddy of mine is also from South Carolina and he pulls for our hated rivals, Clemson.  He and I even worked at the same church for a few years together.  We went back and forth with our love/hate relationship for South Carolina versus Clemson.  He was more graceful than I was (and am) when it comes to the Gamecocks/Tigers.  He would say things like, “I pull for South Carolina unless they are playing Clemson and then I am a true Tiger fan.”  I, on the other hand, pull against Clemson in every sport from football to water polo.  I love to see Clemson lose.  He would say, “Good luck against…” and I would only say, “Thanks.”  I never would say something as terrible as, “I hope you guys do well also.”

That is sports.  Sports are not eternal.  Sports do not save souls.  Sports do not advance the kingdom of God in truth and power.  In fact, as I wrote recently in another post, sports can be gods if we are not careful (1 John 5:21).  How many men and women will spend hours watching their favorite sports team and yet they can’t pray an hour?  How many will talk to strangers about sports but not about something more important as Jesus Christ and His gospel (Mark 16:15)?  How many people will spend vast amounts of money on their sports team but never give to the poor or help missionaries plant churches?  How many people fill stadiums to cheer for their teams but they don’t ever worship God with the same passion or desire?  God sees our hearts.

But my point here is not really about sports.  Some people around here would say, “Look why not just cheer both the Gamecocks and Tigers since its South Carolina in both circumstances and then cheer for the Gamecocks when they play Clemson?”  I see their point.  If both South Carolina and Clemson could do well then perhaps many in the United States would take notice of our small state and how passionate we are about our teams if both teams came to play each other and were ranked.  How many times have Michigan and Ohio State played and their rival game meant something?  Yet how many times have the Gamecocks and Tigers played and no one but South Carolina folks cared?  Why not just cheer on both schools so that you could have a game worth watching.  I see the point.

I ask the same question to both Arminians and Calvinists.  We are on the same team.  We are both in the kingdom of Christ.  Why not cheer on each other when we do good?  I understand that we debate issues and when we face each other, we have our sides but why not cheer on Arminian preachers or Calvinist theologians?  If an Arminian is preaching the gospel, cheer them on for the glory of the King!  If a Calvinist is sharing the gospel with the lost, cheer them as they are preaching Jesus!  Jesus said in John 13:34-35 that all men would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another.  Is this the case with Arminians and Calvinists?  I fear that it is not at times.  I know that we can be passionate about our beliefs and we are passionate that Arminius or Calvin were correct in their theology but in the end, Jesus is still Lord and He is the only one who is worth truly praising.

So pull for Christians.  When John Piper hits a home run with a powerful word, pull for him!  When Vic Reasoner writes a powerful article exalting Jesus, pull for him!  Let’s pull for the kingdom of God.  Let’s be devoted disciples of Jesus who seek to exalt His name above any sports teams or even above any theologians name.  Jesus is king of Kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 17:14; 19:11).

And no I will not pull for Clemson in any sports.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/16/2011 at 5:10 AM

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