Calvinism and Arminianism 19

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.”

There are two considerations which require the preaching of these truths. The first is the humbling of our pride, and the comprehending of the grace of God; the second is the nature of Christian faith. For the first; God has surely promised His grace to the humbled; that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. Luther

Again, it is vital to note the difference in older Calvinism and the modern variety. The statement of Luther (just above) sets out a great truth that older Calvinism operates upon. It is that God humbles the heart of its pride before He gives it faith and grace. It is only the humbled heart that God gives grace to, but we must also be careful to note that dead sinners cannot humble their own hearts in order to get God to give them salvation. But note again, Luther says that these things require the preaching of these truths. This is to say that Luther does not believe that the Gospel of grace alone can be preached apart from preaching which seeks to humble the pride of the heart.

Luther then gives us a few things on what this humbling of the heart entails. One, the humbled heart is a heart that mourns over and despairs of itself. This is an important point and it must be driven home. This was said by the man who rediscovered justification by faith alone by the grace of God and this happened over a several year period which involved much pain and inner agony. Faith and pride cannot stand together, so God works in the soul to deliver it from pride and so He can make it a soul where faith can dwell in. The “job” of faith (which comes by grace) is to receive grace and Christ and as such a proud heart cannot receive grace, so God works the pride out of the heart (though leaving enough to make the soul look to Him at all times) in order that the soul may receive grace. After all, Scripture tells us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

The Arminian position does not need for the soul to be humbled and delivered from its pride, but instead the “free-will” can make a choice at any point. This is the natural freewill state in which the theory has the person who has this “free-will” as having an ability to exercise faith at any point of time. The older Calvinists like Luther, however, would insist that as long as the person with the supposed free-will could trust in his or her own power to come up with faith that person was not truly humbled and so could not have true faith or grace. The older Calvinism said that the person must repent from its trust in the free-will that it may trust in free-grace.

The second thing about humility, according to the quote from Luther above (though indeed it is really part of the first thing about humility), is that “a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone.” Here is the part that the Arminian theory simply cannot stand with. There can be no real reconciliation between this statement of Luther and the Arminian position. Only one of these positions can possibly be biblical since these two positions are polar opposites of each other, though logically both of them could be wrong. But both cannot be right.

When modern Calvinists try to be winsome and gracious to Arminianism, it is most likely the case that they don’t really understand the absolute contradiction between the two positions. One cannot be a Calvinist that is consistent with Luther and the older positions and still think that the Arminian position is consistent with the Gospel of grace alone. The older position viewed the free-will position (quite accurately I might add) as one where salvation was in the power, counsel, effort, will and work of the human soul. Luther and the old Calvinists said that until a person was thoroughly humbled from all of those things it could not depend absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of God alone in Christ. It is quite clear to see that one cannot agree with the older Calvinists and with the orthodoxy of modern Arminians at the same time. The Gospel is at state and we must not be quiet about it.

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