What are the differences between Wesleyan Arminianism and Calvinism?

Time for a little in house debate between Protestants in preparation for my dangerous posts on “Why I am not a Catholic” and “Why I am not a Calvinist”, which will lose me 90% of my Christian readers. Sigh. I don’t want to lose any readers, but I like to be me!

Anyway…

I spotted this article over on Birds of the Air blog. (H/T Neil Simpson)

Excerpt:

Classical Wesleyan Arminianism:

1. Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
2. Salvation is possible by grace alone
3. Works of human effort cannot cause or contribute to salvation
4. God’s election is conditional on faith in Jesus
5. Jesus’ atonement was for all people
6. God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
7. Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

Standard Calvinism:

1. Total Depravity – After the Fall, human will was given over to sin and is as if it were dead, so that without being “awakened” by the Holy Spirit (the initiator) a human is unable to choose to be saved.
2. Unconditional Election – God’s choice was not determined by anything ever done or to be done by a human; it is a free gift not earned by merit. Under this view, God is the initiator of salvation.
3. Particular Redemption (AKA Limited Atonement) – The blood of Christ was a substitution for the penalty of sin, and was effectual for the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, it not only secures but guarantees salvation.
4. The Efficacious Call of the Holy Spirit (AKA Irresistible Grace) – The outward call to salvation is made to all, but the Holy Spirit also places an inward call in the hearts of those who are elected for salvation. The outward call can (and often is) resisted, but the inward call is more powerful than human willpower. The Holy Spirit causes the sinner to respond in faith.
5. Perseverance of the Saints – The Holy Spirit will keep the believer secured in faith in Christ to the end.

I am basically in agreement with the Classical Arminian view, and I would accept the following points of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Definite Atonement. I totally disagree with Irresistible Grace. Perseverance of the Saints is fine, except for people who literally reject their former faith. I.e. – you can’t lose your salvation by committing sins X,Y and Z. I am a 3.99 point Calvinist.

For my non-Christian readers who struggle with understanding why you are assumed to be in rebellion, ask yourself how much of your busy lives you have spent trying sincerely to decide whether God is really there by watching debates, making friends with Christians, visiting church, reading the Bible, praying test prayers, etc. Before God starts to work on you, you are in full flight away from God. That’s just the way it is.

When you are at the point of inventing an infinite number of universes to explain the fine-tuning, you’ll know what I am talking about. For every 100 non-Christians who starts to make that speculative multiverse reply to the fine-tuning argument, maybe 1 of you closes his mouth and says “ENOUGH”.

The doctrine of middle knowledge

And I think Wesleyans like me can recover an extremely robust view of divine sovereignty by invoking the doctrine of middle knowledge. This is the view that God can foresee what any individual will do in any set of circumstances (counterfactuals of creaturely freedom). And he uses this middle knowledge to actualize a world in which everyone who can freely choose to be respond to God’s saving initiative will be placed in the exact time and place where they would freely respond.

Consider Paul’s defense in Athens on Mars Hill: (in Acts 17:22-31)

22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

I’ve actually stood on Mars Hill, so this is a special, special passage for me.

Without God’s actualization of the conditions needed to save each individual person, no one could be saved. And it’s more than just the time and place, God has to individually reveal just the right amount of himself to the person in that time, so that they have the choice to respond without being coerced. So you have unilateral salvation initiated by God, but man is still responsible for rejecting God. It’s PERFECT!

If you haven’t heard of middle knowledge, I highly recommend that you take a look at it. It solves the problem of reconciling divine foreknowledge, free will and human responsibility. It’s kind of new though, so you may not have heard about it unless you are into philosophy of religion research. I went to a Wheaton Philosophy conference which had the Calvinist Paul Helm of Oxford University as the main speaker. He plowed, but the consensus among the audience (90% in the people I surveyed and judging from audience questions) was that middle knowledge was the correct solution to these thorny problems.

Further study

I have to mention this post on Between Two Worlds linked by Muddling Towards Maturity. This has to do with the scope of the atonement.

For whom did Christ Die?

Michael Bird posts three short entries by three different scholars regarding the intent and extent of the atonement:

My guy in the race is my favorite historian, Ben Witherington, but I’m not familiar with Jensen. Witherington is highly qualified scholar who is respected and endorsed across the spectrum. He is an evangelical.

I’ll be posting something about the atonement later this week.

48 thoughts on “What are the differences between Wesleyan Arminianism and Calvinism?”

  1. Wesley actually seemed to believe that committing bad sins could result in forfeited salvation. I think you’re actually describing the Classical Arminian view rather than the Wesleyan view.

    I personally do not believe that continued faith is necessary to insure eternal life. There are numerous verses in scripture that suggest eternal salvation cannot be lost, and if “eternal life” can be lost, then it has the wrong name.

    Luther basically embraced the view your espousing, but there was a difference between his time and today: Back then, Christianity was taken as a given. For Luther, cessation of belief meant not a casual increase of doubt over time, but rather an intentional rejection of the atonement and a reversion back to works-salvation. To him, cessation of belief didn’t mean walking into a high school and getting brainwashed by atheists, but rather intentionally delving back into Catholicism and thereby rejecting Christ’s grace. So Luther could confidently have assurance of his own salvation simply by knowing that such apostasy was unthinkable. Nowadays, though, various lose-your-salvation schemes have become just another way to scare people into staying faithful to God.

    The deal with Calvinism, though, is that even Calvinists themselves hardly believe it. When you really press Calvinists about irresistible grace, they usually start bringing up Molinist arguments in its defense — even though the two systems are contradictory. The very fact that we must read our Bibles to insure spiritual growth lends support to Molinism over irresistible grace. If spiritual growth were automatic, we would not need a Bible.

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    1. You’re right, my soteriology is basically Lutheran. See, and you all thought I was a heretic just because I didn’t like singing.

      Just wait until tomorrow when I show why Calvinism is false. If Calvinism is true, then life is LITERALLY meaningless. Nothing we do or do not do has any effect on the most important thing in our lives: our relationship with God.

      Drew, I think you are a grand thinker. I agree with almost everything you said.

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      1. “If Calvinism is true, then life is LITERALLY meaningless.”

        I’ll be interested in this one because in EVERY case I’ve ever seen that this has been argued … it has ALWAYS been a misunderstanding of Calvinism. So be sure you understand it before you explain it away. ;)

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        1. Actually, maybe I will explain it a little more. The most important thing about being a human is whether you are going to spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell. That decision is made for you by God, if Calvinism is true. Nothing you do can affect where you go when you die, on Calvinism. So, nothing you do has any ultimate meaning. It just doesn’t matter because it doesn’t affect where you end up when you die. Nothing you do affects whether anyone else ends up when they die.

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          1. I have to agree with WK. Calvinism ends up being a form of gnosticism (not really even rooted in salvation by grace) based on a few philosophical misunderstandings of Luther when it came to the meaning of the word necessity.

            Arrive at a correct philosophical understanding of necessity, and Calvinism becomes self-contradictory. (This doesn’t refute Lutheranism, since that isn’t the core of Lutheranism).

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          2. Develop that idea please.

            I’m guessing there’s some assumptions about the other side’s assumption that maybe just isn’t so. :P

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          3. Okay, will develop a bit.

            Gnosticism, at its core, is essentially a belief that knowledge will save you.

            The consequences of Gnosticism can be varied, sometimes expressed as a rejection of the flesh, sometimes rejected as total hedonism, and all sorts of stuff inbetween. But it’s important to note that these are consequences. The core belief is still about knowledge saving you (for example, in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, it contains ‘secret knowledge’ telling people what to say when they get to certain gates when preparing to enter heaven. The KNOWLEDGE is what saves.)

            With a system like Calvinism, even though it says lots of things, we need to turn to the core beliefs. One (in my opinion fair and correct) way of evaluating Calvinism is that it ends up being a form of Gnosticism, because it is one’s knowledge of Calvinism that results in one being saved (or, knowing one is saved, for a slight variation).

            The whole set of beliefs concerning how one should act, live, what one should do, what one should believe are all predicated on having knowledge of one’s salvation. SO, what ends up being the key to everything in the Calvinistic system?

            What you know.

            This is different from what we can call ‘historical christianity.’ Luther, the Catholics pre 1517, the Orthodox, all the Church Fathers, etc, all have a clear focus on a person (and a community’s) relationship with Jesus Christ.

            One is focused on the relationship, the other is focused on the knowledge. One is focused on the person of Christ mediating grace, the other is focused on knowledge mediating grace.

            When we really consider these things, it’s possible to categorize Calvinism as a form of Gnosticism. We could take this further and demonstrate how Calvinism’s ‘pious practices’ end up being similar to how some Gnostic communities lived as a consequence of their views, so we could also show how the effects and outward expressions of Calvinism match those of some Gnostic sects, which I think serves as circumstantial evidence reinforcing the argument. You start to get a lot of quacking for it not to be a duck.

            I hope that helps a bit James.

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    2. Drew, I’m a little confused. Molinism is essentially the Middle Knowledge concept. What has irresistible grace to do with that? The doctrine of “irresistible grace” (really poor name) is simply that when God so chooses, He can overcome anyone’s resistance. So what is the connection to Molinism?

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    3. The wisdom of man is folly. Truth is not based upon what Calvin or Luther says or even what you or I think makes rational sense. It is based upon what God says in the Bible in context and interpreted and supported by the entire Bible. Anything else is speculation and reliance on Man’s false wisdom like the Greeks of old. Any discussion of truth should include Bible verses again in context and supported by the rest of the Bible.

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      1. No, in this series I am addressing non-Christians especially, so I am not going to use the Bible. When a person is seeking to see which religion is true, they should be able to make the cut based on logic and evidence. You can’t assume the Bible without having reasons to accept it.

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      2. Logical fallacy, begging the question. You presume what you seek to prove.

        “Any discussion of truth should include Bible verses again in context and supported by the rest of the Bible.”

        Further, where does Scripture say this?

        Your point is self refuting. Reason must be used to understand and temper faith, just as faith must be used to keep reason in check from excesses.

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  2. Before doing your other Christian posts I would suggest you do a “Why I AM Christian” and survey the various Christian possibilities, concluding with a “Why I AM Protestant.”

    On that topic you ought to address the specific issues of the origin of your views in relationship with the Church Fathers, the Sacramental understanding in the early Church, the logical issues associated with Sola Scriptura, and the authority of the first 7 ecumenical councils.

    Finally, I would recommend concluding with a discussion of how your faith is not defined by a rejection of Catholicism.

    Not trying to tell you what to do on your own blog obviously, just trying to point out the issues that are generally most important to touch on from the perspective of a Catholic as well as a non-Christian, since Catholicism is such a defining part of the non-Christian perspective of Christianity.

    As a segue into Christianity, I feel you would certainly not make an error to discuss why syncretism with non-Christian faiths is not acceptable, with a brief discussion of the uniqueness of Christ Jesus.

    In addition, I feel that one can certainly work backwards through a process of elimination to Christianity, but once there one must put forth:
    1) An affirmative explanation of why they are Christian beyond an elimination of the alternatives
    2) An affirmative explanation of why one holds their specific denominational views

    Hope this feedback is helpful and positive.

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  3. I personally think that Calvinism is one of the worst ideas that has ever been foisted upon Christians. I think it is a destructive idea to bring to the unsaved: “Hey God loves you, that is unless you are one of those He chose from the beginning not to save, and in that case you are going to Hell. But God loves you anyway.”

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  4. When you are at the point of inventing an infinite number of universes to explain the fine-tuning, you’ll know what I am talking about. For every 100 non-Christians who starts to make that speculative multiverse reply to the fine-tuning argument, maybe 1 of you closes his mouth and says “ENOUGH”.

    Well said! The multiverse theory is an atheist concession speech. It is a good litmus test to see if they are seriously seeking God or seriously seeking reasons to avoid God.

    Re. Mars Hill — you were there?! Wow, I’d love to do that. I spent my morning drive thinking about Acts 17 and the minimal facts approach.

    Re. the point of the post: One thing I find interesting about the debate is that the critiques both sides use are often superfluous as they cut both ways. For example, you could say that Calvinism leads to pride (“God chose me!”) or that Wesleyanism leads to pride (“I chose God!) or vice verse with humility (“There is no way I would have chosen God” / “I’m so grateful I had a chance to choose God”). I try to sift those arguments out as they really don’t prove much.

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  5. I take issue with both lines of thinking.

    The problem I have with Classical Wesleyan Arminianism is that faith is defined as mere belief. That is false. Read Hebrews 11 and then try to convince me that faith is merely belief. Faith is a belief so deep and compelling that it moves one to action. This is exactly what James was getting at in his entire “faith without works is dead” diatribe. Even the devils believe and tremble (James 2:19), but they are not saved.

    Calvinism is further flawed, obviously, for exactly what has already been stated.

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    1. Oh, I’m glad to tell you that we don’t think that. We have a 3-part definition of faith from Calvinism that requires active trust, in addition to having the propositions themselves and the informed assent to the propositions. Have you read James? It’s not that the particular actions you do while you are trusting save you – they don’t save you. But the active trust in what you claim is true is a part of faith.

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      1. I have read James quite a few times. I agree that the particular actions you do are not what saves you. However, there are definite actions you will take if you truly have faith. “I will show you my faith by my works.”

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        1. I’ve read R.C. Sproul on this (I think I read it in his book “Faith Alone”) and he seemed correct – that works were your way of justifying yourself to other people that you are indeed saved, and that works were vital and necessary to know that you are saved yourself.

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        2. It’s not hard to know *yourself* if you are saved. All you have to do is ask yourself, “Do I believe in Christ alone for my eternal salvation?” For most people, answering that question should be easy.

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          1. Do you believe that going forward, or raising your hand, or saying a prayer makes you saved?

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  6. Arminians believe in irresistable grace, too!

    Know any Arminians who have persisted in resisting it?

    Drew, I don’t think foreknowledge is a retreat to being “pressed” about the efficacy of the Holy Spirit. This middle knowledge idea is simply a proposed manner by which God makes Himself irresistable. If God knows us inside and out (He does), then wouldn’t He also know what levers to pull and buttons to push that will be irresistable to the individual? That allows them to make a meaningful and real moral choice to Christ while maintaining God’s sovereignty over the whole process.

    Both Calvinist and Arminians *should* assume middle knowledge. William Lane Craig has spoken on it, and makes a good case that it’s well supported by multiple biblical texts including the teachings of Jesus.

    Your statement “Molinism generally assumes…(free will)” seems to indicated that you think Calvinists don’t believe in free will. This would be a serious misunderstanding to say the least.

    It’s also clearly where WK is going to take his argument (feel free to suprise me!). I’m going with Stan on this one: “So be sure you understand it before you explain it away”

    I find several things interesting about the Calvin/Arminian split. The first is that both sides seem to have serious blind spots, both for the weakness in their own take and for the defense of the other.

    The second is that both models are trying to deal with some difficult truths of the bible, and propose systems that try to fit the model. Either one is forced to start applying weight to certain verses, and taking it away from others. Imagine for a second if we didn’t have the Letter to the Hebrews, and how that would affect the arguments on both sides, and I think you’ll see my point.

    When the Arminian weighs everything out, he says, you can be saved, forgiven of your sins by Jesus and that a person can let go of that, walk away from God, and spend an eternity seperated from Him.

    The Calvinist takes that same case and says, that person had the appearance of salvation but was never saved.

    But in a practical way, both act the same: If you have a brother, who is walking in sin, then you are worried he a) is losing is salvation, or b) never had salvation. You point him to the cross either way.

    Neither model is “proven” by the bible, but attempts to deal with difficulty in the bible. I think if we were really honest, we’d admit that we just don’t know some things, some of which are touched on here.

    I have a strong hunch that which way you lean has a lot to do with either the tradition you’re raised in (and consequently being raised to misunderstand the other position) or based on your salvation experience. God took me from atheist to adopted child in 4 amazing days. Looking back, I can see the series of amazing coincidences, stumbling blocks, perfect timings, people bringing up the oddest things, hands going to the right page, that tells me God had a direct hand in drawing me to Himself. Was it irresistable? How could I answer other than the affirmative? I’m here? Hence my first point above. Was it a cudgel he beat me with? Not at all. Each step was well suited to how I work. It was difficult, and painful, but loving and sweet, and I love Him dearly for it. Therefore I see no contradiction between free will and irresistable call.

    I hope that helps.

    Oh, and I don’t know that I’d throw myself solidly in with either camp. I’ll just admit that my judgement is clouded.

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    1. Thanks for your fine comment!

      Your statement “Molinism generally assumes…(free will)” seems to indicated that you think Calvinists don’t believe in free will. This would be a serious misunderstanding to say the least.

      Calvinists don’t believe that free will is involved with being saved. That’s where things go wrong.

      The Calvinist takes that same case and says, that person had the appearance of salvation but was never saved.

      This seems to me to be ad hoc.

      I have a strong hunch that which way you lean has a lot to do with either the tradition you’re raised in (and consequently being raised to misunderstand the other position) or based on your salvation experience. God took me from atheist to adopted child in 4 amazing days. Looking back, I can see the series of amazing coincidences, stumbling blocks, perfect timings, people bringing up the oddest things, hands going to the right page, that tells me God had a direct hand in drawing me to Himself. Was it irresistable? How could I answer other than the affirmative? I’m here? Hence my first point above. Was it a cudgel he beat me with? Not at all. Each step was well suited to how I work. It was difficult, and painful, but loving and sweet, and I love Him dearly for it. Therefore I see no contradiction between free will and irresistable call.

      I am inclined to say that the way God led me was also irresistible, but I put that down to the fact that he actualized a world where I would freely choose to respond to him. Middle knowledge.

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  7. “The Calvinist takes that same case and says, that person had the appearance of salvation but was never saved.

    This seems to me to be ad hoc.”

    Right. It does fit a purpose. Of course it fits a purpose that is directly in line with the subject matter and covers the general situation. I fail to see a fallacy, but perhaps you can develop it more for me.

    On the matter of eternal security or salvation at risk, what does the Arminian say about the person who is appearantly saved but walking in sin, and what does the Arminian do? What about the Calvinist?

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  8. Sorry, moving too quickly, hit reply early:

    “Your statement “Molinism generally assumes…(free will)” seems to indicated that you think Calvinists don’t believe in free will. This would be a serious misunderstanding to say the least.

    Calvinists don’t believe that free will is involved with being saved. That’s where things go wrong. ”

    Please support. I think you’ve made a leap that seemed logical, but is not necessary.

    “I am inclined to say that the way God led me was also irresistible, but I put that down to the fact that he actualized a world where I would freely choose to respond to him. Middle knowledge.”

    How is that different from irresistable grace?

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  9. OH! And I love Dr. Witherington. I read his blog every day. I’m SUPER jealous of his current adventures. But I won’t spoil the nerdy suprise for anyone who doesn’t know…

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  10. Not trying to start fires, but can someone explain to me the appeal of Calvinism?

    I’ve never really understood the appeal to it. I’ve read the major Calvinistic theologians, and I just find the whole concept of Calvinism to be unappealing.

    Not trying to start fires, I seriously don’t get the appeal of Calvinism.

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    1. It doesn’t look like anyone was willing to actually answer your question, so I will.

      I ended up in the Reformed Theology camp “by force”, not by chance. I wasn’t raised in it. I wasn’t a “natural”. I was faced again and again with the Scriptures and the Scriptures didn’t fit what I was taught. They DID fit the points of Calvinism. So the first appeal to me is that it seems to align better than any other with Scripture.

      The second appeal to me is the emphasis placed on the Sovereignty of God. No other doctrinal position seems to take such a high view of God’s Absolute Sovereignty. In difficult times and difficult circumstances, NOTHING gives me greater comfort than the belief that God is ABSOLUTELY Sovereign (rather than the “mostly sovereign” I have to conclude from the “Free Will of Man” proponents).

      The third appeal to me is that I end up minimized. The position that Calvinism gives to God is maximum, and the position of Man minimum. In my original Arminian view, God was pretty great … but I DID have that 0.01% satisfaction of having made the right choice. Calvinism leaves me a total “victim” of grace, and, oh, so glorious a victim.

      There you have my top 3.

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  11. LCB,

    I think both Calvinism and Arminianism try to understand biblical truth. That’s why so much of the argumentation goes to the negative. “You Calvinists make God out to be bad.” “You Arminians deny God’s sovereignty, making human will to be superior to it.” Neither is quite on the mark, is it?

    I think the “appeal”, especially to scholars who hold either position, is that they think it’s “true”.

    People who take the bible seriously don’t pick and choose doctrines they like. They go with where they think the evidence points.

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  12. WinteryKnight, I suggested you might not have a genuine understanding of the Calvinism you planned to refute. I would suggest, again, that this is so. We do NOT believe that “God arbitrarily and unilaterally regenerates some people but not others.” We believe He does so with purpose. We DO believe that “free will is involved with being saved.” We just don’t believe that Natural Man is capable of exercising that choice without first being regenerated. (Need a Scripture for that?) Calvinism does NOT believe that “That decision is made for you by God.” We believe that humans choose Hell. Nor do we agree that “Nothing you do affects whether anyone else ends up when they die.” We believe that God uses means and our preaching of the Word is one of those means. None of this is an attempt to change your mind. I’m just pointing out that your understanding of the concept may not be entirely accurate.

    I dislike the term “Calvinism” (because it suggests following a man named Calvin), but the doctrinal structure (AKA “Reformed Theology”) makes full biblical sense to me. On the other hand, what one normally finds is that in a discussion with Arminians (who mostly don’t like to be called “Arminians” either), the hostility levels are WAY too high. You’ll often get things like “Calvinism is one of the worst ideas that has ever been foisted upon Christians.” I’m not suggesting that an Arminian amongst Calvinists fares any better. It’s just that THIS is clearly not a place for someone who sees the biblical sense of Calvinism to discuss it among friendly antagonists. It’s a shame, too. So I’m just saying that I won’t debate it here. I’m just suggesting that what is ACTUALLY believed has not been fairly represented here.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Help me to understand your view.

      First: Identify the purpose that God has for choosing to regenerate some but not others. (Calvinist answer: we don’t know)

      Second: The issue IS regeneration. That is what is arbitrary and unilateral. Is there free will involved with regeneration? (Calvinist answer: No)

      Third: Who makes the decision about who will be regenerated arbitrarily and unilaterally? Humans or God? (Calvinist answer: God)

      Fourth: Can human free will be used to thwart that decision by God to regenerate you? (Calvinist answer: No)

      Fifth: What happens to you if God chooses not to arbitrarily and unilaterally regenerate you? (Calvinist answer: you go to Hell)

      So it seems to me that unless and until these answers can be changed, that everything I have said stands.

      On Calvinism:
      God pre-destines the majority of humanity to Hell.
      Nothing humans do can affect where they themselves end up.
      Nothing humans do can affect where others end up.
      The choice to regenerate determines where you end up.
      God alone makes that choice.
      The choice is not conditional on anything humans do. (Unconditional election)
      Nothing humans do can thwart God’s choice to regenerate them. (Irresistible grace)
      Therefore, human activities in this life, including reading the Bible and going to church, are literally meaningless. The only thing that matters ultimately is God’s choice to regenerate you or not.

      I don’t mind being called any name. So long as I am left free to speak. I am not being hostile. I apologize if I was mean. I am aiming for clarity. Please be specific about what part I got wrong. What I said seems to me to emerge from TULIP.

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      1. TULIP is a pithy acronym.

        It is concise and memorable. It is not theologically precise.

        You start well by saying, “Help me to understand your view”

        But then you immediately start stuffing words in the Calvinists mouth (“Calvinist answer: we don’t know”), which doesn’t have the posture of learning.

        I’ll suggest the same thing here I did in the other thread: Go to ligonier.org, click the videos tab, and scroll down to the explaination of Calvinism (7/13) for starters. You will probably run your eye across any number of other things you’d be interested in, but start there.

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        1. TULIP summarizes the Canons of Dort, which are sometimes distinct from Calvin’s Institutes. For example, Calvin stated that a person cannot be saved until that person is sure that God has accepted him, but modern Calvinists (followers of Dort/TULIP) usually denigrate assurance of salvation. They say it can delude the mind and lead to hell.

          But I think it would be erroneous to suggest that TULIP falsely attributed teachings to Calvin. In reality, John Calvin simply contradicted himself. His modern followers emphasize parts of his doctrines that form a consistent whole, but this consistent whole puts forth a warped view of Calvin’s overall mind. (For example, I’ve heard people make the argument from various passages in Institutes that Calvin actually believed in unlimited atonement.)

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          1. I wonder, why can Arminianism have “Wesleyan” in front of it, but Calvinist scholars are not allowed to differ from or refine Calvin?

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      2. “Identify the purpose that God has …”

        The non-Calvinist response is “We know God’s purposes”? I oppose “arbitrary” because God says that His choice is not based on what people do “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue”. It does not tell me what the purpose might be and it would be arrogant to guess. I would venture that it’s not a monolithic purpose. “I can use this one here to do this and that one there to do that and can accomplish this with that other one …” But “I don’t know” is not always a wrong or poor answer, is it?

        “The issue IS regeneration.”

        No. No one is saved by regeneration any more than anyone is fed by cooking. It’s the start of the process. No, we don’t choose regeneration, but there are choices that necessarily follow. (By “necessarily” I mean both “certainly will” and “must if it is to be effective”.)

        Look, you keep with the “arbitrary” accusation. If, by “arbitrary”, you mean “subject to God’s will without restriction”, I have no problem with that. I would wonder about Christians who question whether anything is arbitrary in that sense, since Scripture says that God “works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His will”. But normally “arbitrary” includes “despotic or tyrannical” and “capricious, without reason”. Do you think that Calvinists believe that God is either tyrannical or capricious in what He does? That’s the implication of “arbitrary”.

        You also seem to have an interesting view of “free will” that, frankly, baffles me. In your anti-Calvinist approach, free will is THE issue. (“Can human free will be used to thwart that decision by God to regenerate you?”) And the baffling thing is two-fold for me. First, your mandatory view appears to be “Unless humans are the ones making the ultimate choice, it doesn’t work.” I’m sure you affirm we have nothing of which to boast as believers … but if my choice is the ultimate choice, I did SOMETHING right. If I was able to choose something in the flesh, then the flesh profits SOMETHING. Second, you appear to see humans (unregenerated, “natural man”) as essentially fully capable of making any choice whatsoever. The Bible describes unbelievers as “dead in trespasses and sin”, “inclined only to evil”, “slaves of sin”, and so on. Paul specifically says, “Natural man DOES NOT accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is NOT ABLE to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). Paul includes a “does not” and a “cannot” in that sentence. But this “free will” concept that is so popular among the anti-Calvinist perspective seems to say, “Yeah, well, it’s not actually a ‘does not’ or ‘cannot’. It’s only a might not.”

        Does God predestine a majority of humans to Hell? Sort of. Actually, all humans choose Hell. God predestines some to be saved. Those who go to Hell predestined themselves. If left to our own devices, all humans choose Hell for themselves.

        I do have to say that this statement was fascinating. “The only thing that matters ultimately is God’s choice to regenerate you or not.” In ANY belief system in Christianity, then, the only thing that matters is whether or not you’re saved? It doesn’t matter if your faith produces works? It doesn’t matter if you work out your salvation with fear and trembling? It doesn’t matter if you obey all that Christ commanded? Really?? All that is meaningless??? Are you sure you want to hold that position (from whatever perspective you might use)? Or is it your view that all these things we do produce salvation? (I’m pretty sure that’s not your perspective either.)

        I didn’t mean to suggest that you were being unkind. I was referencing the venue, not anyone in particular. Forgive me for failing to communicate that properly. It is the “group” that is generally at anti-Calvinist discussions, not you.

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  13. Acts 7:51 teaches that you can resist the Holy Spirit. Resistible grace. Case closed. ;)

    Oh, if only these were so easy!

    That said, I wanted to locate this post and denounce myself as anathema (not really *anathema*, but dead wrong) with my arguments in this post. I allowed my position in this post to be entirely too swayed by people who presented themselves as Calvinists, but who do not fit the definition.

    James Arminius wrote this in his sixth proposition: “A theory, by which God is necessarily made the author of sin, is to be repudiated by all Christians, and indeed by all men; for no man thinks that the being, whom he considers divine, is evil; — But according to the theory of Calvin and Beza God is necessarily made the author of sin; — Therefore it is to be repudiated.”

    What theory is that? Limited atonement.

    So I wrote a research paper on this topic and it turns out that my thoughts on what Reformed (or 5 point Calvinist) theologians held has been off a bit. To a person, they deny middle knowledge of any kind. This is historical and current. In fact, this is an item that makes you not a Calvinist or a Reformer. Arminius himself died as a Reformed minister in good standing. It was only after his death that this whole debate came up.

    Here’s Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology (Reformed): God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.

    And Millard Erickson in his Christian Theology (Reformed): [God] foreknows what will happen because he has decided what is to happen. […] God’s decision has rendered it certain that every individual will act in a particular way.

    Don Carson discussing Acts 4:23-31 writes: Christians should confess to God that the conspirators “did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”

    These are not intellectual lightweights, but indeed some of the finest minds in Christendom. That said, they then proceed to make mental gymnastic moves to make God the controller and author of everything except sin and evil, while maintaining that creatures do not have the ability to act or to act otherwise, but just to act as God has already decided.

    As for middle knowledge, while the position of the Reformers is unanimous, I did not find any arguments I would consider particularly strong. I think Douglas J. Moo’s commentary on Romans gives an exemplary take on the position, but still fails to omit middle knowledge (See Romans 8:29, Reformers and Moo tend to focus on the knowledge part of foreknowledge, but fail to adequately address the before).

    If anyone would like sources for further research, I could suggest a few. :)

    That said, the theory of limited atonement, as presented w/ specific exclusion to middle knowledge logically makes God the ultimate agent of evil and sin, and this is a horrible doctrine which should be rejected.

    And I take back all my previous posts. Cheers!

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    1. James. I am having trouble remembering where you came down before. Were you a Calvinist before in our debates?

      This sounds like me:
      “the theory of limited atonement, as presented w/ specific exclusion to middle knowledge logically makes God the ultimate agent of evil and sin, and this is a horrible doctrine which should be rejected. ”

      So are you now a middle-knowledge guy like me?

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      1. I came in with the idea that people were misstating, misunderstanding, or misrepresenting the *other* side’s position. I was of a mind that this is a silly debate and not central.

        I no longer think it’s silly, and depending on how fully a person understands what’s at stake, it’s a very central issue (God’s character). I *still* think that this sort of topic will appear acrimonious and completely unnecessary to the average lay person.

        So without going too far down that path (I wrote 18 pages in evaluating *1* Calvinist scholar’s position on this, and I wished I had more room) I think that foreknowledge of some kind, with a minimum of one true choice in a person’s life (the ability to act or to act otherwise) is the only consistent way to say that God is both sovereign and not the cause of sin. I believe middle-knowledge fulfills this, but I don’t know enough about all the possible options to put both feet in on that.

        I will say that I think Wesleyan Arminianism still has an appearant weak spot that I’d love to explore more: Prevenient grace has weak scriptural support. It’s logically consistent with a workable systems, but I prefer stronger ground for an important piece of a systematic…

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