The next group of blog posts were written for an online conversation about “Calvinism.” I visited a forum and found plenty of misunderstanding surrounding the subject of Reformed theology so I set out to engage the posters in conversation and debate to help add clarity to the situation. It was declared by more than one poster on the forum that “Calvinism was unbiblical,” that they were “Biblicists.” Ok, fine. I reworked the posts for this blog.
“What are the doctrines of grace?”
The Doctrines of Grace, also known as Calvinism, are summarized as:
- T is for total depravity and inability of man to effect his own salvation.
- U is for unconditional or unlimited choice of God in election.
- L is for limited atonement.
- I is for irresistible grace.
- P is for the perseverance of the saints.
Does the Bible teach “Calvinism?” Before we get to scripture a little background.
Both Reformed Christians and other non-Reformed or Arminian Christians love the word of God and seek to conform to the word in all matters of faith and practice. Both groups believe they are expressing biblical doctrine and faith. Often those who oppose what is called “Calvinism” will lay claim to being a “Biblicist.” In my experience this claim is made in the spirit of obstinacy, one that simply ignores the facts of profane history, and embraces a modernistic view of theology. The person holding to such views often does so with an air of superiority, as if the person making this claim has a completely biblical theology “untainted” by any theologian. Both the Calvinist and Arminian lay claim to the idea of Biblicism. Both systems of theology believe they are expressing the literal, historical, and grammatical meaning of scripture. It is a pejorative when someone fails to recognize their own theological leanings, and claim the Calvinist is not attempting to explain what the divine word teaches. You will notice that I use the term Arminian for Bible believing Christians that support ideas about free will and I often use both identifiers together (ex. Arminian free will, free will Arminianism, etc.). This is not a slight but a historical theological definition to the chagrin of the Post-Modernist mind. To help clear the air I’ve included some questions. Many of them are my own, some of them I worked on with friends and others I’ve picked up from forums when having discussions about such theological issues.
Do you believe that human nature was gravely affected by the fall of Adam, but that sinners have not been left powerlessness in spiritual matters and can choose to be saved?
Do you believe that God enables every sinner to repent and believe but does not override man’s freedom to do so?
Do you believe each sinner possesses a free will that they will use to decide their final destiny depending on how they uses it?
Do you believe the sinners free will enables them to choose good over evil in spiritual matters?
Do you believe the sinner has the power to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and be regenerated or refuse to accept God’s grace and perish?
Do you believe the lost sinner needs help from the Holy Spirit but does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit to believe? Or that faith is man’s act and precedes regeneration?
Do you believe that God’s choice in election is based on what He foresees?
Do you believe that some sinners would respond to the preaching of the Gospel and God therefore elects them unto salvation based on His knowledge of their choice? Or that God decided to elect only those who would believe the Gospel?
Do you believe election is ultimately determined by man’s faith foreseen by God from eternity past?
Do you believe that Christ’s saving work on the cross made it a possibility for everyone single person that has ever lived to be saved but did not really secure the salvation of anyone?
Do you believe that Christ died for all sinners but only those who believe on Him are saved?
Do you believe Christ’s death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe?
Do you believe that Christ’s death did not actually put away anyone’s sin but made salvation a possibility?
Do you believe that redemption becomes efficient only if man chooses to believe it?
If you have answered yes to any of the above questions you are probably closer to Arminianism than you first believed, even if you reject the name. The history of the free will movement among Protestants sits squarely within the Arminian framework. If you answer yes to most of the questions, face it, you are an Arminian.
Once it is understood that modern Evangelicalism has a tradition wedded to Arminianism the debate breaks down into monergism and synergism. The free will Arminian tradition is very similar to Roman Catholicism. In fact, Arminius like Philipp Melanchthon before him, softened the Protestant doctrine moving Lutherianism toward the Roman church. When I say Protestant I refer to Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin. All there Reformers held to what is now called “Calvinism.” This is a remarkable fact considering the Reformers lived in different geographical locations.
The Reformers and Bible believers before them were monergists. A monergist believes the Holy Spirit will act effectually bringing sinners to salvation by spiritual regeneration. This is done without the sinner acting as an accomplice or assisting God. From beginning to end the work belongs to God. A synergist on the other hand believes the sinner must cooperate (Christ + something, you fill in the blank, faith, sacraments, works, etc.) in the salvation process often inserting ideas like “prevenient grace” to help explain the inconsistencies. For the Arminian or Christian supporting libertarian free will, it is the act of the unregenerate sinner in believing that begins the process of salvation. One dictionary describe this view as, “two efficient agents [acting] in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate.” This is the definition of modern Evangelism and is the hinge on which the discussion swings.
Do you believe a sinner must be saved purely by an act of God? or, Do you believe a sinner is saved by cooperating with the Holy Spirit? That is where we are today folks. We are discussing this very issue. Does the Bible teach that we are saved by God alone without any contribution made by the sinner? Or Does the Bible teach that we cooperate in the regeneration process? As we move forward I pray you take time to look up the passages cited and pray over them. It is important to read scripture as it is written and not fall to peer pressure, setting aside the Arminian comprise with Rome and let the Gospel of God’s free and unmerited grace wash over you. Let’s set aside our prejudices or bias, our traditions including American Evangelicalism or Reformed Calvinism and consider what scriptures teach.
The scriptures will be examined in subsequent posts.
Yours in the Lord,