Calvinism and Arminianism 18

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 “Christians,” 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 them 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.”
To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of Law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue; whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether, in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self-reliance and self-effort. ‘Justification by faith only’ is a truth that needs interpretation. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood till it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia (Johnson & Packer’s intro to Luther’s Bondage of the Will).

Part of the reason that the issue of the will is a crucial issue is the relation of faith to grace. As can be seen in a comparison of the two quotes above, there is a huge difference in how people view the will, faith, and then grace. The way one views these three things (the will, faith, and grace) depends on how a person views God and man. A person can think of God as man-centered and yet think of himself as being God-centered, but that is simply another way a person can focus on self and the things of self. The difference, however, is that the person thinks of God as centered upon that person and so the person will view God in relation to self. The person that views God as God-centered will have a totally different view of the will, faith, and grace.

As noted in the first quote above, the older view of the Calvinist was that a person had to be converted from a person’s natural free-will position (relying on, trusting in the free-will) to a free-grace position by the grace of God to be considered a Christian. In the second quote above, we see that the will was considered by the Reformers as a crucial issue. The crucial issue had to do with the author of faith as to whether it was of God or of man. If grace does not give faith, then man cannot be said to be saved by grace alone. This points to a huge difference between the older Calvinistic view (from the Reformation) and the modern Arminian view. It seems that most of the modern Reformed people (in name) do not seem to find a huge issue with the Arminian view.

When the Arminian says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, what is meant is that the sinner has the free-will to come up with faith and then God justifies the sinner. This is to say, then, that the Arminian position (in theory and apparent practice) has the will of man free of depravity and free of grace and so the act of faith comes from the unregenerate person’s will. This is, without any real question, a work/act of the unregenerate soul that God is pleased with and then gives the person Christ and salvation. What the older Calvinistic position said, on the other hand, is that God was free to show grace to whom He pleased and so He looked upon all as dead sinners with absolutely no good in them and no faith in them and He saved them by regenerating them, giving them faith and Christ. On the basis of Christ alone He declared sinners just.

The Arminian view looks to self to come up with faith and then having faith looks to God to save it on the basis of that faith. The Calvinistic view sees self as utterly dead and so looks to God for life and faith that He gives by grace alone based on Himself and His own glory. The two views are diametrically opposed to each other as one looks to self and one looks to God. The one looks to self for what is needed in order for God to save it and the other looks to God for all that is needed in order to save it. While many think that it is mean and a strike at unity to point these things out with clarity, it may be that the Gospel of grace depends upon it. The Reformers thought so.

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