Calvinism and Arminianism 1

One of the greatest differences between the evangelical Calvinists and those they deride as “Hyper-calvinists,” is the evangelical Calvinists believe Arminians and Pelagians are otherwise sound “Chrisitans,” and refer to them as their brothers and sisters. The Hyper-calvinists believe that as long as one is unconverted from his natural freewill state by the operation of the Spirit of God, and converted to the free grace of God by the Gospel of the grace of God, there is insufficient evidence to consider such as a “Christian,” or a “brother or sister.” This is not to say that they consign then to hell–that is not their desire, for by their own experience they understand that before that gracious divine call out of darkness, they, too, were “vessels of wrath even as others.” Arminians and Pelagians are as much in need for the gospel as any “heathen” or pagan. Calvinists would do well to “evangelize” their Arminian or Pelagian “brothers and sisters.     Anonymous

The quote from above sets forth some distinctives that are important to consider from a biblical and a historical perspective. It also gets at some issues of the nature of grace and the Gospel of grace alone. While the quote from above might make one think it was written by Martin Luther, it is not Luther and is by a man who just died in the last few years. The real question has to do with the nature of sin and the Gospel. If it is true that there is no real agreement between the two camps as to the Gospel, can the two camps consider each other as Christians with much confidence at all? How can a true Calvinist work together as brothers and sisters with Arminians?

It is just assumed by most, or at least it appears to be the vast, vast majority, that the differences between Calvinism and Arminians are relatively minor. While the differences between modern Calvinism and modern Arminianism may not be all that different, there is a huge difference between historic Calvinism and historic Arminianism. The differences between historic Calvinism and modern Arminianism are even greater. It is my contention that modern Arminianism is closer to the historic Pelagian teaching than it is to historic Arminianism.

We live in a day where it is said that as long as people preach Christ then they are preaching the Gospel. That is simply incorrect and is a huge error. Roman Catholics say they preach Christ. Mormons say that they preach Christ. Latter Day Saints (Jehovah Witnesses) say they preach Christ. But even those three groups cannot agree on which one is the true Christ.

A friend of mine recently sent me this note from the Geneva Bible on1 John 4:3: “He giveth a certain and perpetual rule to know the doctrine of Antichrist by, to wit, if either the divine or human nature of Christ, or the true uniting of them together be denied; or if the least jot that may be, be derogate from his office who is our only King, Prophet, and everlasting high Priest.” This is to say that the biblical teaching of Christ must include all of who Christ is or the teaching is of the antichrist. It is true that the three groups above preach something about Jesus Christ, but they limit their teaching to something about Christ (or some aspect of) rather than preaching the true Christ in all of His offices.

The question, then, is not whether Arminians preach Christ, but it is whether they teach a whole Christ and the true Christ. The question will also include modern Calvinists and the Christ they preach as well. Is the sovereign Lord of the universe portrayed as the reigning King of kings and the sovereign over all the hearts of men and women? Do we teach men that Christ came to save His people or that Christ has done all He can do and leave it to men and women to do what they will? The issue is not whether one is a Calvinist or an Arminian, but whether one is saved by the grace of Christ or not. The question is not whether one is a Calvinist or an Arminian, but whether one preaches the true Christ and a true grace or not.

It seems that the vast majority or preachers in our day (regardless of their professed theological position) are preaching a salvation that is conditioned on the response of the free-will of man rather than the free-grace of God. While this is astonishing considering what the Bible teaches and the Reformers taught, it is still what is going on. So many appear to be afraid to tell men and women that they must have faith and that God must give them faith by grace that they leave men and women to their own devices to come up with faith. These people are left looking to self rather than Christ in order to be saved. This is a huge difference between historic Calvinism and today.

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