A Focused Question With a Sensible Answer

Crossway: What is the primary reason for the dispute between Calvinists and Arminians?

I would like to be able to say that it’s nothing more than a disagreement over the interpretation of certain biblical texts, but there’s more to it than that. Behind and beneath our reading of Scripture, I’m sad to say, are theological beliefs that often govern what we allow the biblical text to say. The bottom line is that Arminians are already persuaded that the Calvinist view of divine sovereignty destroys human responsibility and makes God the author of evil. Likewise, Calvinists are already persuaded that the Arminian view of human freedom renders God contingent and transfers credit for our salvation from God to us. These convictions color how we interpret the Bible and which texts are given priority over others. Now, of course, both would loudly insist that they hold their respective positions because they believe that’s what the Bible teaches, but all too often our interpretation is driven by a preconceived fear of where such interpretation might lead.

In addition to this, Arminians are concerned that Calvinism will undermine evangelism and the necessity of prayer. Calvinists are likewise concerned that Arminianism compromises grace and denigrates from the glory of God.

Needless to say, these are powerful and emotionally charged concerns that often derail the conversation and prevent us from looking at the text and allowing it to form and fashion our beliefs about the role of God in salvation.

(Excerpt from a Crossway interview with Dr. Sam Storms, who is coming to teach at Sojourn in mid-July. I think this is one of the best distillations of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate I’ve ever heard — finally, something that’s free from angry rhetoric and that assesses the problem honestly!)

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10 thoughts on “A Focused Question With a Sensible Answer

  1. Amen!!! I'm struggling with this seemingly basic theological stance that I see so many already have, and this has got to be the best way of describing the struggle. As I talk to students here at seminary, I see a lot of this fear of what the “other side” could mean.

  2. Songbird, I used to be on one side of the fence and now I'm on the other. I am completely willing to agree that genuine Christians can have genuine disagreement about this issue, but I don't think it's unimportant. We should wrestle with hard doctrines like election. I think that my position is the right one — or else I wouldn't hold it, of course. But at the same time, error and heresy are not the same. When we are in the presence of the Lord, we'll understand theology perfectly. As Dr. Mohler once said, some of us will just be corrected more than others. πŸ˜‰

    (Also, make sure you give credit where it's due: Sam Storms wrote this brilliant paragraph.)

  3. Yeah, this is refreshing in tone and honesty.

    And I am sitting here in the blog world, commenting on your blog. See, I still come around these parts. Don't you give up on me yet!

  4. as a five point Calvinist all i get to see of “the other side” are people
    who want to jump down my throat, grab my heart and pull it out. All i know is that they seem to be angry people
    which i have stories of pentecostal groups who want to kill me. (all that to say my point of view for that side is lop-sided)

    simply the prayer and evangelism question answered with this.

    john 14:15

    prayer to them (the one we destroy) is the prayer of invitation to Christ, which i believe to be more works based salvation than anything.

    Prayer if very very necessary….but it will not bring you salvation if you do it one time and forget about it.

    on the second issue….faith comes by hearing….

    thats all im gonna say about that
    – forest gump

    http://www.gracechurchmemphis.com

  5. Creek, I'm confused about what you mean by “the one we destroy.” Who are you referring to? It sounds like you're talking about an Arminian, which would be horrible! That can't be what you really mean…

    I've actually never met an “Arminian” who was one on purpose, but I've met tons who were Arminian just by default, or because they rejected the tenets of Calvinism because of some of the reasons Dr. Storms lists. And I've also met some pretty angry, arrogant, bible-thumping Calvinists in my day, which is absurd in the extreme. I'm not sure which part of God's sovereignty they're missing out on (or which part of “unconditional”) that would make them arrogant about their theology. Nutty.

  6. like i said my view is lop-sided
    i can only speculate what they mean by we destroy prayer. so i assume maybe thats it? I don't mean to be mean. i genuinely don't understand their argument. again I've never met anyone who would share their faith with me. unfortunately the only Arminians i meet don't want to talk about it only argue which never seems to take anyone anywhere
    i should also admit that i am a young young convert, only about three years now. and only recently baptized. so i have a lot learn from “older” Christians. πŸ™‚

    on the arrogant Calvinists…they bug me too. it seems they take pride in the means and their theology, doctrine. which is wrong…anything other than Christ is an idol. the best thing to do is to call them out on their pride and arrogance. it may lead to repentance!

    Thomas Watson lays that point of taking pride in grace well
    in his book “the mischief of sin”
    (I AM A HUGE WATSON NUT!)

  7. Ah, I see what you mean: the THING we destroy. “One” usually refers to a person.

    I would encourage you to do some reading on William Carey. He was a Calvinist who battled hard against hyper-Calvinists who thought they had no responsibility to preach the Gospel to the lost because of God's unconditional election — which is nonsense, of course. Carey explained to them that God uses means to accomplish his works, but they denied that even the preaching of the Gospel was necessary! Heretics!

    That is where the fear of Arminians lies — they are afraid that an affirmation of the sovereignty of God in salvation means denying human responsibility in preaching the Gospel. The fear is unfounded of course, because, as Paul said, “How can they believe unless they have heard?” Really, Arminians are afraid of hyper-Calvinism, which exists so rarely as to be practically unimportant.

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