Monday, June 14, 2010

Pet Peeve

One of my pet peeves is when people claim that they are neither Calvinist nor Arminian. There is so much wrong with that statement that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all it assumes that two mutually exclusive claims can both be true. This is patently false. Believe in both/and propositions all you want, you and the semi truck cannot both cross the intersection at the same time without grave consequences. There is only truth and error. There is only life or death.

More importantly, this statement reveals a fundamental ignorance of what both sides actually represent. What baffles me about this is that the statement itself implies a knowledge of both sides and a fair amount of study.

Before going any further, I should perhaps clarify at least a few things about both sides so that my point becomes clear. First of all, the distinction between Calvinist and Arminian, although other things are logical consequents of the respective positions, is a distinction regarding the doctrine of salvation: i.e., How is one saved? Even without delineating what either side believes, it should be clear that this is an important issue. Doctrine is important. It does matter what you believe, especially when it come to the question of how one is saved.

The person who makes this claim is typically one who eschews theological terminology. This in itself is problematic. No one comes to the Bible without a set of presuppositions. When someone says, “It’s just me and my Bible,” that person is invincibly ignorant. How do you reason with someone who refuses admit their presuppositions.

Calvinists aver that all men are dead in sin, thus no one is capable or willing to repent and believe savingly in Christ unless God first enable them by regeneration. Salvation is of the Lord. One becomes a Christian, not by a decision for Christ, but because God has resurrected them from the death of sin and given them faith to trust in the imputed righteousness of Christ who died as an atonement for their sins. Since Christ actually died to save them, and since they did not earn their salvation by any works of righteousness (including repentance and faith), their salvation is eternally secure because Christ has promise to not lose any of those given Him of the Father. Arminians place great emphasis on man’s supposed free-will. Further they affirm that one becomes a Christian by choosing, of their own uncompelled free-will, to believe in Christ. Moreover they believe that Christ’s death, rather than actually paying for their sins, makes it possible for God to forgive them. As a result, any lapse in Christian character endangers one’s salvation.

They difference is night and day. I am a Calvinist – unashamedly so. I am infuriated however when someone makes the ignorant remark that I follow a man rather than Christ. After all, didn’t Paul warn the Corinthians of saying they followed Apollos or Paul? The reason that is an ignorant statement is because Paul and Apollos were NOT teaching differing schemes of doctrine. Had Apollos been teaching salvation by works, Paul would’ve called him a heretic that the Corinthians needed to avoid like the plague. The issue at Corinth was not different theological parties represented by different teachers. The issue was petty, immature, schismatic sectarianism with no regard to actual doctrine.

Arminianism is always concerned that unless a person is saved as a result of a conscious free-will decision, then he has no incentive to live a holy life. Not only is this patently false, but it impugns the wisdom of God. If salvation is a regeneration – a real translation from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of His dear Son – then it will produce a change in character. We needn’t bother ourselves with taking things into our own hands to make sure they get done properly. God is entirely capable. In fact Jude tells us, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

But there is another thing that this statement ignores. There are no other options. You either think you are saved solely by the sovereign power and choice of God or you think you play some part in the decision. There is no third option. That is why I said earlier that there is only life and death. A living person is not a corpse, nor is a corpse living. There are no shades of existence between the two options. Simply put, any attempt to ride the fence places one squarely in Arminianism.

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