Calvinism and Arminianism 25

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.”

“Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

The idea of “free-will” sounds so attractive to the natural man and it seems to relieve the tension of many problems, but that is only apparent. Why does this sound or appear so attractive to the natural man? Because it makes it appear that men are not totally dead in sin and that the time and the final choice of salvation is left up to them. The natural man cannot seem to reconcile that the Bible has many commands to man with the teaching that man has no ability to keep the commands. But the natural man wants to be in control and to decide things for himself. The natural man wants to do things according to his own reason and power. However, as Pink shows in the quote above, until a person comes to see just how weak s/he is, which is to say that we have no strength at all, the idea of having ability repels the work of the Holy Spirit and of the Great Physician. The idea that man has even just a little goodness will keep Christ away and when Christ is kept away His propitiatory work is kept away.

Luther was so clear that until a man arrived at the point of utter helplessness and gave up any hope in his own will he was not ready for salvation. Pink makes the same point when he says that it is man’s not seeing that he has no strength at all that keeps him from believing. The idea of man’s utter inability is not attractive to unregenerate sinners, but it is an important teaching that the true teaching of justification by faith alone is built on. It is what proud sinners need to come to an understanding of and to arrive at a “felt” awareness of it. This is not to say that they must have high and exalted feelings about it, but that their awareness must move beyond a simple intellectual awareness of the teaching. It is only when sinners come to a deeper awareness of their inability and know that they can do nothing in the spiritual realm that they will begin to look to Christ to do it all. When the Gospel of Christ alone teaches us that Christ alone saves, this should make us know that true faith must come from Christ and it must rest in Christ alone.

Surely the great problem with Pelagian/Arminian teaching at this point should come into light. By definition the Pelagian/Arminian teaching does not teach men that they are utterly helpless, but that it remains up to them to make that final choice and that they make that choice of their own “free-will.” It seems that the vast majority of the Reformed today don’t see that as a problem and so they simply see Pelagian/Arminian teaching as an error, but they don’t see it as a deadly error. They see it as something of a problem, but they don’t see it as an error of another gospel. But the truth of the matter is that this is a vital point of distinction that shows how far the Reformed in our day is from the Reformed of older times.

If a crucial issue is the will, then it is crucial to make people aware of their sin and of their inability in order for them to see the true nature of the Gospel. The Pelagian/Arminian may instruct men to some degree that they are sinners, but they will not instruct men about sin enough to show them that they are dead in sin and must look to Christ alone. Instead, they will instruct men enough to show them that they need a Savior and yet tell men that the final choice is to made of their own “free-will.”

The older Reformed method was to teach men that they were dead and had no ability to save themselves but that they needed to look to God to give them life in their soul so that they could believe in Christ alone. The modern Reformed practice is more like the Arminian in that they seem to simply try to get men to believe and to pray a prayer. This practice, regardless of what a person may profess to believe, is simply nothing more than what the Pelagian/Arminian view and is in accordance with the Pelagian/Arminian doctrine of free-will. When those with the Pelagian/Arminian view accuse those with the historical Calvinist view of being a Hyper-Calvinist, the real issue is that the professing Reformed person is evangelizing according to the Pelagian/Arminian doctrine and is not Reformed at that point. It seems as if the older Reformed view on the issue has been virtually lost.

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