Calvinism and Arminianism 28

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 false idea of ‘free-will’ is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences” (Luther).

“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 issues involved in the differences between historical Calvinism and historical Arminianism get to the real issues at hand and show that this should not be a matter of party spirit. The deepest issue has to do with God and His glory in Christ Jesus, and the next issue is very related and that is the Gospel of grace itself. More than some historical war over words and theology, we are dealing with issues what is it that undermines the Gospel of grace alone. For example, Roger Olson, in his book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, says that he is a historical Arminian and wants to correct what people are saying about it. The quote that follows is from his book.

“One of the most prevalent myths spread by some Calvinists about Arminianism is that it is the most popular type of theology in evangelical pulpits and pews. My experience contradicts this belief. Much depends on how we regard Arminian theology. The Calvinist critics would be correct if Arminianism were semi-Pelagianism. But it is not, as I hope to show. The gospel preached and the doctrine of salvation taught in most evangelical pulpits and lecterns, and believed in most evangelical pews, is not classical Arminianism but semi-Pelagianism if not outright Pelagianism. What is the difference? Nazarene theological Wiley correctly defines semi-Pelagianism by saying, “It held that there was sufficient power remaining in the depraved will to initiate or set in motion the beginnings of salvation but not enough to bring it to completion. This must be done by divine grace.””…“Arminianism is almost totally unknown, let alone believed, in popular evangelical Christianity. One purpose of this book is to overcome this deficit.

This quote should be read across our land. Olson says that Arminianism is almost totally unknown in what we think of as popular evangelical Christianity. Instead of Arminianism being proclaimed, it is Pelagianism of some variety. This is vitally important. It would appear, from other places in Olson’s book, that he would agree with the quotes of Luther and Pink above. It is vital to note that the vast majority of what passes as Arminianism in our day is really Pelagianism. When the professing Reformed of our day want to extend the hand of fellowship to modern evangelicals that are identified as Arminian, most likely they are taking the hands of Pelagians. This requires a lot of discernment, seeking the Lord wisely, and seeking the wisdom of the Lord in prayer.

This is not to say that Olson is the standard of orthodoxy, but simply to note that historical Arminianism may not be the same brand or content of modern Arminianism. Modern Arminianism is, as Olson notes, a form of Pelagianism, yet we don’t have the discernment to notice that. It may also be the case that since modern Arminianism is really Pelagianism, that a lot of modern Calvinism could be little more than a practical historical Arminianism. If a person could truly be a historical Arminian and think of himself as a Calvinist, then it is no wonder that he would think of historical Calvinists as Hyper-Calvinists.

Whatever the historical and honored tag we put on a position, we must realize that God and His glory are the real issues. We must never let go of the sovereign grace of God and we must never let go of the deadness and inability of man in spiritual things. It is true that a party spirit can grab our proud hearts and we will fight for our side (so to speak), but that must not be where we ultimately come down. The Gospel of the glory of God by grace alone is what we must hold to and fight for. Regardless of what people call themselves, they may be deceived about that. Men must really have the real God and they must be saved by the real Gospel of the real God regardless of what they call themselves. As those who have been regenerated by grace alone and becoming temples of the living God by grace alone, we must learn to be careful with those around us and not just go by the titles people use. While Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses and meant that in one sense, it is true in some ways. People do use religion to make feel good about themselves and they are deceived by religious trappings. Being brought to God by grace alone is the only way to come to Him and the only way to know Him and His presence is by a real grace and not one that is diluted by human efforts and works.

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