Above: Synod of Dort: Dordrecht, Netherlands 1618-1619 (Arminians at middle table).
Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: This I believe Series #11 Our Conviction To hear this teaching and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM
An Age Old Debate All believers in Christ should have a conviction (a firmly held belief) regarding what they believe about God and salvation. As believers we must adhere unwaveringly to the essentials of Christianity (i.e. the deity of Christ, salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ alone, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Biblical Gospel, monotheism: the Holy Trinity and Faith) , but allow the inclusion and friendly debate of those who may differ on non-essential issues. The Bible alone, and not our feelings, must be the absolute source of what we believe”, however; sometimes even the most devout lovers of Jesus and the Bible have disagreed upon what it says (for this reason we have many denominations in the Church). The greatest of these debates is called the Calvinist–Arminian debate beginning in the early 17th century in the Netherlands with a Christian theological dispute between the followers of John Calvin (French pastor, theologian, reformer 1509-1564) and Jacobus Arminius (Dutch Pastor, theologian 1560-1609), and continues today among some Protestants, particularly evangelicals (those actively teaching and evangelizing).
The basis of the dispute came about as Arminius studied the Bible and began teaching different views on the established foundations of the faith laid by Augustine (Roman, African early Church theologian and philosopher 354 AD-430 AD) and later taught by Calvin, thereby lending his name to a movement—Arminianism—which resisted some of the Calvinist tenets. Arminius was called to appear before a council where he intended to defend his teachings but died before his hearing. Followers of his teaching became known as Remonstrants (opposers) after they issued a five point document (one year after his death) to the Church. The Synod of Dort (1618–19), met and condemned Arminius’ theology and presented the five points of Calvinism which would later develop into the acronym TULIP. Arminian pastors who remained in the Netherlands were persecuted, but the Remonstrants continued in Holland as a distinct church and grew influencing key figures in church history, such as John Wesley (British cleric, theologian, evangelist and founder of Methodism 1703-1791 ) We will now look to the two teachings side by side:
Note: Lutherans avoided this debate because the Arminians never issued them a refutation of their errors. The Synod of Dort had 154 meetings (debates) over six months. Nov. 13,1618—May 9, 1619
T= Total Depravity Vs Deprivation Ephesians 2:1-5, John 1:4-5, 9-13, 17-18
The doctrine of Original Sin/ Total Depravity means that man is absolutely cursed by Adam’s fall and born into sin; therefore, in the words of singer songwriter Bob Dylan, “stone cold dead as we stepped out of the womb” (Saved: 1980, Columbia Records). Arminias and his Remonstrants were accused of Pelagianism (belief that original sin did not taint human nature)— taught by Pelagius (British monk, theologian 354–420 or 440) and condemned by the Church, but his critics brought no proof of such charges. Calvinist say, and the Bible supports that we are “dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1-5). Their position is that a dead person can do nothing—certainly they can not turn to Christ unless God enables them to do so; therefore, God must elect them to come to Him or they will not. Those God elects will come to Him—those He does not elect will perish. Arminians agree that man is indeed born into sin and depraved (“dead in sin”); however, when Christ came into the world He broke through this “darkness” (curse) for all of mankind. “Darkness has not overcome it”. (John 1:4-5,9—13, 17-18). According to Arminianism that “Light” gave “”all mankind” , even though “dead in sin” the free will and grace to turn to Christ.
U= Unconditional Election Vs Conditional Election John 15:16, Ephesians 1:3-6, Romans 9:14-24, 1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16-18, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 10:9-13
Calvinisim says that since humans (dead in sin) cannot choose God —God has, in His grace, chosen some (the Elect) to be counted as righteous by Him without condition. The Bible supports this by saying Christ choose us and we did not choose Him (John 15:16). Even before the creation of the world He predestined them for adoption and Sonship— for His pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:3-6). Calvinist also say that those who God does not elect will be cast into hell forever (Revelation 20:15). In answer to the question “how can a just God eternally judge those who had no will to choose Him?” they sight Romans 9:14-24— “who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?”. Arminians agree that Christ choose and fore knew, even before the creation of the world, all who would be “saved” (He is after all omniscient) and that without God’s choice all would indeed be lost forever, yet according to 1 John 4:9-10, and John 3:16-18 He sent His son so that “whoever believes” would not perish but have everlasting life. God desires that no man perish (2 Peter 3:9) and the choice and consequences of that choice is left to each man’s God given free will. In response to the Calvinist’s use of Romans 9:14-24, they say that chapters 9-11 must be read in context—the teaching regards Israel’s pride in rejecting Christ and God’s sovereign choice in making Him the atoning sacrifice for sin. Romans 10:9-13 expresses salvation for anyone who believes in Him—Jew and Gentile.
L= Limited Atonement Vs Unlimited Atonement Revelation 22:17
Calvinism says that atonement (reconciliation through Jesus death) is limited only to those who God has pre-selected (elected). Arminians say that atonement is made available to “whosover will” take the free gift (Revelation 22:17) “four-point Calvinists”, reject the doctrine of limited atonement and instead believe it is available to all who will believe in Christ. They argue that it was never endorsed by Calvin or the Synod of Dort, however, if one believes in unconditional election then limited atonement reasonably follows.
I= Irresistible Grace Vs Resistible Grace Romans 8:39, Ephesians 4:30-31
Calvinism says that if God has elected you then His grace can not be resisted. God moves the elect according to His will. Nothing can separate the elect from Christ (Romans 8:39). Arminians believe that God’s grace can be resisted by man’s freewill and therefore “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30-31).
P= Perseverance of the Saints Vs Assurance and Security John 10:28, Hebrews 10:26-31
Calvinism says that if God has elected you then you are eternally secure (John 10:28) whereas Arminians believe that a believer may reject Christ and lose his salvation if he does not persist (Hebrews 10:26-31). Afterall, man has a freewill.
Our Conviction Isaiah 55:6-11, Proverbs 3:5-6 So now you clearly see how sometimes even the most devout lovers of Jesus and the Bible have disagreed. What is your conviction—Calvinisim, Arminianism or a mix of both—wait…is that even possible? The dilemmas were and are: “Can God be Sovereign if man truly has a free will? Can something truly “dead in sin” be given just enough life by his creator to choose Him?” At The Gathering our conviction is to preach the word as it reads and trust that God knows. Our ways are not His and He will accomplish what He desires rather it fits into our theology or not. Trust in the Lord little Christian and not your own understanding! And by all means do not divide the body of Christ over such issues. There are great lovers of Christ and the Bible on both sides. There are great ministers and missionaries on both sides.
…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 1 Corinthians 12:25