Calvinists & Arminians: Just the Facts
Dec 6, 2012
From the time frame of the 1970’s to early 1990’s, Southern Baptist engaged in a “Battle for the Bible.” The debate centered on the inspiration and sufficiency of God’s Word. The resurgence of conservative theology within the SBC coincided with a resurgence of Calvinism. From the late 1990’s to the present, Southern Baptists appear to be engaged in a “Battle for the Doctrine of Salvation.” Throughout the calendar year 2012, I attempted to offer irenic discussions of this battle without advocating either position, except for perseverance of the saints. In this concluding article, I hope to offer suggestions for going beyond the impasse.
Nov 12, 2012
Calvinists and Arminians agree on many points of theology. Both groups affirm the necessity of God’s grace for the salvation of humans. Regrettably, Arminians and Calvinists depart company in understanding grace beyond the common agreement of the necessity of God’s underserved grace. Arminians affirm God extends grace to every individual, a grace that enables the believer to respond to the Gospel invitation, while humans may resist God’s gracious call to salvation. Calvinists, on the other hand, distinguish between two kinds of grace: a general call to salvation that humans resist and an irresistible grace, or efficacious grace, that actually brings an individual to salvation.
Oct 5, 2012
One of the distinguishing features of contemporary Arminianism is the doctrine of conditional security. Conditional security denies that salvation is an unconditional gift from God and affirms that salvation is conditioned on the continuing willingness of a believer to remain in a relationship with God. Furthermore, contemporary Arminianism affirms that a believer may commit “apostasy” and forfeit the gift of salvation. Rather than affirming conditional security, James Arminius expressed humbleness regarding this issue. “Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect….”
Sep 6, 2012
Both Arminianism and Calvinism are frequently misunderstood today. For example, James Arminius and classical followers of his system of theology affirm as robust a doctrine of total depravity as Calvinists. Arminians affirm two corollaries of total depravity: total corruption and total inability. Further, both Calvinists and Arminians affirm that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. What then separates the Calvinistic and Arminian understandings of salvation? A major demarcation between the two groups is how each group understands the nature of God’s grace.
Aug 9, 2012
The doctrinal systems of Calvinism and Arminianism are a historic divide within the evangelical world and Baptist life in particular. Yet, the doctrinal perspectives are closer at some points than many people realize.
Jun 27, 2012
Recently, a group of Baptist leaders released a document, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” Perhaps opponents have criticized no statement in the document as much as the statement on “The Sinfulness of Man.” Some of the authors of the document claim that Baptists are neither Calvinists nor Arminian. In the sense that the document’s statement on “The Sinfulness of Man” fails to set forth either a Calvinist or classical Arminian view of human sinfulness, then the adherents of the statement are correct that the view expressed in the document neither affirms Calvinism, Arminianism, nor semi-Pelagianism. The statement denies two aspects of the classical Arminian understanding of human sinfulness. “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” First, contrary to classical Arminianism, the statement denies that Adam’s sin resulted in the destruction of human free will. Second, contrary to classical Arminianism, the statement denies the guilt of all humans because of the natural connection of the human race with Adam.
May 24, 2012
In the nineteenth century, Calvinists developed the acrostic T.U.L.I.P. as a tool to summarize their theological convictions. The “L” in the tulip acrostic stood for “limited atonement.” The phrase “limited atonement” is problematic for two reasons. First, Arminians also affirm the atonement of Christ is limited in that Arminians deny universalism. Second, according to Baptist Calvinist Timothy George, “limited atonement” may imply some lack or deficiency in Christ’s atoning work. A more appropriate tem to describe the Calvinistic view is “particular atonement,” the belief that Christ died only for the elect. Timothy George proposed the alternate phrase “singular redemption” and defined the term as follows: “singular in the sense of having to do with particular individuals, not just with a general class or group of people.”
Apr 25, 2012
The followers of John Calvin and James Arminius disagreed on the nature of election. The two sides further disagree on the extent of the atonement. The central question in the disagreement on this issue is how representatives of each viewpoint answer the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Did Jesus in his death bear the sins of the elect alone (particular atonement) or did He bear the sins of all humanity (general atonement)?
Mar 8, 2012
As John Calvin himself recognized, election is a divisive issue. Calvin wrote, “The human mind, when it hears this doctrine [election and damnation], cannot restrain its petulance, but boils and rages as if aroused by the sound of a trumpet.” The followers of James Arminus [the Remonstrances] disagreed with the doctrine of election as set forth by the Dutch Reformed Church. In response to the Arminians, the Estates-General convened in 1618 a council at the city of Dort charged with the task of determining the orthodox adherence of the Arminians to the Calvinist confessions of faith. The council condemned the Arminians, resulting in the removal of 200 Arminian pastors, and issued the Canons of Dort. The Canons responded to the five point doctrinal summary of the Arminians.
Feb 9, 2012
“I do not believe in election,” the man said with anger.
The doctrine of election is a dividing point in the sometimes-heated discussion between Calvinists and Arminians. Calvinists affirm that God chose to save some individuals based on unconditional election. Arminians affirm that God chose to save individuals based on His foreknowledge of a faith response to Christ’s redemptive action.