Friday, 12 May 2017

A WELL-CONSIDERED REFORMED RESPONSE TO MY PLEA OF 5 MAY 2017 FOR HEALING BETWEEN ARMINIANS AND CALVINISTS.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
(Galatians 5:22-23)


I received this response to my article of 5 May 2017 from my very dear brother Andrew who is of a Reformed/Calvinist persuasion, and whilst submitted via the comments section on that article I felt it relevant to publish it instead as an article in its own right, giving a more rounded airing to this most contentious of topics. He has graciously agreed for me to do this.

Original article:

http://watchman4wales.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/grace-is-much-greater-than-resistible.html

Hi Rob
Thank you for bringing this issue to the table, and I have no doubt that the cause for you to do so is firmly grounded in love. Like yourself, I wish to state from the outset that I have very dear Christian brothers and sisters in both camps. Confronted with the conviction to ‘come out of her my people’ in regard to leaving their Arminian or (NEW) Calvinist church alike, saints today due to the apostasy are faced with the dilemma of…what to do next.
As you know Rob I come from/hold to a Reformed perspective on the doctrines of salvation and sanctification. I say this for the benefit for those reading this who don’t know me. I was brought up Arminian and like a good ol Pastors son I played the piano/drums in the Pentecostal church. The comments I make are made from conclusions only, and in no way are intended to cultivate debate over the issue, as I believe there is a God given time and opportunity for such. I would like to point out at this early stage that I agree with your premise that we as the family of God can unite as house/underground groups at this point in church eschatologyFirst, I wish to state that, now that the church faces unprecedented times, it is possible that the debate now shifts away from Calvinism V Arminianism to those of the narrow way v those of the broad way. The former still stands, but it is perhaps now a case of priority. Just like the political landscape has changed from Labour v Conservative to Nationalism v socialism ‘ ‘Third Way’ (or better put Globalism).
So in agreement with you, I believe the source of these doctrinal rifts in churches are simply down to mans pride and self-will. Pride in needing to prove that he/she is right, and self-will providing the fuel to the pride. I have seen both Calvinist and Arminian guilty of this evil, and this ugly behaviour in my eyes immediately removes the strength of their argument, forgetting that ‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.’ Proverbs 11:30. With my own eyes I have several times witnessed sincere, though sincerely wrong Calvinists bring schism within an Arminian church, and likewise witnessed (though arguably seen more) Arminians spew venomous words against the leader of a Reformed church. Right now I know of a church located in England which is theologically Arminian, and has a Calvinist attendee pridefully showing off his knowledge of doctrine, while also forming a schism. Likewise, my dad (Reformed) has experienced the butt end of the same venomous spirit from an Arminian fox sent into the church to cause strife. He displayed the same prideful and aggressive character traits as the Calvinist in the first example.
Now, in agreement with you, I believe that applying the relevant scriptures, we as both Calvinists and Arminians can (and perhaps will have to) unite together in worship and prayer in the house/underground group context mentioned. I believe that the persecution coming with be so great that our pride and self-will won’t get the chance to become a priority for discussion. After all we must differentiate between errors in doctrine v heresy. There won’t be enough time to call it ‘The Arminian/Calvinist Underground Church…sorry I left out the ‘Community’ in that title.
However, while I agree with you that we can unit in the house/underground context, I don’t believe we can establish a church outside of the said context. While I agree that both Calvinist and Arminian are all saved, I don’t agree that they share the same fundamentals. It is for this reason that church tenets are established in a church. Perhaps we could learn from Wesley and Whitfield who had to agree to disagree. Wesley went on to establish Arminian Methodist churches while Whitfield established Calvinistic churches. However, at Whitfield’s funeral he would have nobody else to preach at his service except John Wesley. 
To quote you self, after mentioning the total depravity of man you state ‘Then in the essentials we are indeed perfectly joined together in the same mind.’ I am not convinced of this, but I feel that I need to bring the acronym of TULIP into the text. For those who don’t know TULIP was developed in the Reformed/Calvinistic tradition to cement they’re doctrine in the fight against the Counter Reformation. The acronym TULIP stands for (I know your fully aware of this Rob)
T = Total depravity of man’s spiritual condition before God.
U = Unconditional Election of certain individuals to salvation, while passing over others.
L = Limited Atonement i.e. Christ died for the elect only.
I = Irresistible grace (as afore mentioned by Rob in the original article) i.e. that the gift of faith in Christ to the elect the power of God unto salvation as irresistible.
P = Perseverance of the saints i.e. the elect must persevere.
While both Calvinists and most Arminians will agree on T and P, the points in between would be denounced by most Arminians. Points U, L, and I are both serious and precious truths to the saints walk in the Christian life, and could therefore not possibly be expected not to preach/teach these special truths to other struggling saints. Id have to disagree with you Rob with the assertion that ‘in the essentials we are indeed perfectly joined together in the same mind.’ For example it would not be possible for a Calvinist to tell someone on the street who needed evangelism that Christ had died for them. We can tell them that Christ died for sinners, but that wouldn’t necessarily be for them.
In summery the point I’m making Rob is that I am with you all the way that both Calvinist and Arminian can and should unite in home/underground groups in these last days of apostasy, and I’m looking forward to worshipping together with you. As you said in the article there will needs be humility for the different views and convictions of other saints. However, the idea of setting up a church beforehand drawing on the idea that we can’t infringe on these issues discussed is not only impossible, but I don’t think the Lord expects us to do away with the denomination system which has proved successful for the last 500 years since the reformation. The way I see it, there are much brighter and godlier men than myself in history who settled for the denomination system. However, there is a day coming, and is oh so near, that those who follow the narrow way (both Calvinist and Arminian) will I believe be glad to merely enjoy the company and fellowship of praise and prayer with those of the other camp of doctrine. Some of the Godliest men I know are Arminian. On that day of persecution, I shall be proud to share that bitter cup of persecution experience with my Arminian bother/sister.
Every blessing bro

Andrew


I am grateful for Andrew's honest appraisal, and his integrity in pointing out the areas where we would agree and would differ in our respective convictions. My hope and prayer is that in not shrinking from but confronting this divisive issue head-on on this blog - but at the same time being vitally mindful of exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit - then at least one small but positive step will have been taken towards replacing soulish stand-off and sniping with graceful accord in Christ.

I'll close with my words to Andrew, when asking if it would be OK with him to have his response appear in a new article:

I think it could shine a ray of hope into this dark divide, that there is indeed potential for a way forward together - a way forward that is ever more pressing with every passing day, as the writing is on the wall for anyone with understanding enough to read it! (And the willingness!) When the persecution comes, as it inevitably will, the question on the persecutor's lips will not be, "Are you a Calvinist or are you an Arminian?" The question will only be, "Are you one who says that Jesus Christ is Lord?" And our answer to that question will not be, "Yes, I say that Jesus Christ is Lord because I'm an Arminian!" or "Yes, I say that Jesus Christ is Lord because I'm a Calvinist!" Our answer will only be, "Yes, I say that Jesus Christ is Lord because I'm a Christian!"

23 comments:

  1. What a beautiful piece and equally beautiful response by Bro' Andrew and yourself. And I too say. 'Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour,because I am A CHRISTIAN". Amen and Amen.

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    1. Amen! Thanks so much for voicing your empathy with these pieces! May a similarly graceful chord be struck with others who will both read and take heed!

      With best wishes in Jesus our Lord,
      Rob.

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    2. Hi Anonymous.
      Great to hear your on board. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Andrew

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  2. Off-topic, I know, but Mr Neville Stephens has wiped his blog clean (or someone else has?) and is having a 'new beginning' as he calls it.
    Lets hope that he can keep his feet on the right path?
    Blessings.

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    1. Hi, and thanks for the info.

      We will see what happens from here...

      Best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  3. This is a question I have struggled with over and over again Rob. I have had some interesting discussions with Colin, who is a Calvinist, and who often posts comments on my blog. We see things very differently but we are still friends thank God. There seems to be extremes on either side of the debate. However I personally have never come to a decision one way or the other. I do believe that Christ died for every person and that everyone has the opportunity to repent. I cannot think that God is arbitrary in choosing this one and that one for no particular reason. On the other hand, I do not like the works based extreme of Arminianism who seem to put faith as a "work". I think it is one of those questions that we will never fully understand until we are with the Lord in heaven... at least for me that is the case. Problems arise when someone asserts their view as an absolute TRUTH within a group. I think extreme Calvanists have a bad track record, but so do extreme Arminians... both views throw up more questions than answers I have found. God bless you Rob.

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    1. Hi Treena, and thank you so much for your comment!

      This is one of those vexed questions which defies any across-the-board consensus, and I'm very much in agreement with you that it's something that we now can only have a partial understanding of, and complete comprehension will only come with our arrival in eternity. 1 Corinthians 13:12 I feel very much applies here.

      I also feel that at the very least the beginnings of the "strong delusion" are becoming evidenced; the Apostasy is eating into both camps, which says much. I felt greatly moved to make a plea that at such a time as this, we need to put aside our respective leanings on this issue, and recognize an ever more urgent need for the Remnant to cleave together at such an unprecedented time in history. We have a greater priority than battling with each other fruitlessly; as you say, extreme Calvinists and extreme Arminians both have a bad track record. We need to ditch any pride inherent in our respective opinions, and let humility and grace prevail.

      With very best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  4. The main thing is to find peace when the scriptures are not specific enough for us to take a definitive position. In my early days as a Christian I was continually condemned in not being able to do God's will perfectly and I often doubted my own salvation. The other extreme is to become careless about we live. It is a tricky one Rob, but I have found peace.

    As useful article:
    The study of the history of doctrinal controversies seems to indicate that heretical movements usually begin as the result of the overstatement of a case in opposition to another system. The biblical theologian would do well to learn this lesson and be careful not to go beyond biblical revelation in the affirmation of doctrinal truth. Also, he should recognize the tendency of many to think only in extremes of dialectics. Therefore, when one states opposition of Calvinism, he tends to be labeled “Arminian” or “Pelagian” or sometimes “Semi-Pelagian.” In the minds of those who so label, these words all refer to the same doctrinal system known popularly as Arminianism. It is difficult for some to realize that one can seek a consistent biblical balance in his theology and in so doing oppose the extremes of both Calvinism and Arminianism.
    http://www.biblesprout.com/articles/church/weaknesses-arminianism/

    God bless.

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    1. Thanks Treena!

      This is definitely one of those issues which will always defy universal agreement in this life. Nevertheless, whether we are on either side, or indeed on neither side of the divide, we all have a great need to be at peace with each other, for we are all saved by grace alone, whether we consider that grace operates in a resistible or in an irresistible manner. Healthy debate over such a question as this is wholesome, but polarization and hostility is quite simply the product of pride, whereas humility should be a hallmark of our dealings with each other. Let us then extend good grace one to another, as the Lord has extended His grace - which is far beyond all measure - towards us!

      With warmest wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  5. Calvinism so-called was taught by the great Augustine, some 1200 years before Calvin was even born!
    At the Synod of Dort, the Remonstrance came to be; Dutch Protestants disagreed on the 'infamous' Five Points! Calvin never knew he was a Calvinist, he died previous to the Remonstrance!

    Spurgeon famously said "Calvinism is the gospel-nothing less." I would agree; but I digress!

    Some years back we invited a Christian couple to a barbecue. We weren't that well acquainted other than our association through a Christian school. As the barbecue progressed we discussed things regarding Christ (as you do!), the church and the school. As a result of something that I said, the husband loudly exhorted; "YOU'RE A CALVINIST!" I felt like a leper! I don't go around calling myself a Calvinist, not once, not ever! (A Christian-Yes!).
    In blog-world; the issue of pre-destination/election (Calvinism) vs freewill (Arminianism) comes up frequently; as there are no doubt many sincere enquirers trying to understand the important issue or 'mechanics' of salvation. It truly grieves me when Calvinists (hyper) call Arminians "blasphemers" and vice versa.
    Stereotypically, Calvinists are cold and hard hearted, Arminians warm and fluffy headed! Calvinists don't want to save anyone, and Arminians want to save everyone!

    Andrew alludes to Wesley and Whitefield; two men mightily used of God: I know of Calvinists who wrongly shirk at calling Wesley a "brother in Christ": They would even go so far as to say that Wesley was a heretic! (graceless words indeed?). In fact Wesley tirelessly preached salvation by the blood of Christ ALONE! Wesley couldn't see the truth (as I see it-and a great many others) of biblical pre-destination/election; nevertheless, he was NO papist (RCC are Arminian-he wrote against that pagan church). You really ought to read the account of Augustus Toplady and Wesley; words fail me in this short post to describe that most awful episode. I certainly side with Toplady's theology, but as for the polemics of both men-the things they said and done! 1 Cor 10.11 explains that "these (OT) things happened unto them for examples: And they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." I believe these episodes in Church history are recorded for us to learn from. There are Calvinists (to their shame) who presume on election to the degree that they carry on sinning because they believe their names are written in God's "Book of Life", and on the opposite side there are Arminians who believe that their holiness of living and piety will earn their place in that Book!
    It is written "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" Heb 12.14. This IS the truth! and we must aim in THAT direction!

    However, there are many (Calvinist) Christians who do understand that it IS all of grace; teachers through the ages such as Whitefield, Newton, Spurgeon, Ryle (to name but a few) who could allow for the fact that theology (though it be of utmost importance) can NEVER interpose or replace grace! How much theology did the thief on the cross ever possess; yet a saved man he was!

    Despite their theological differences; Spurgeon said "I believe the first man I will see in heaven will be Wesley" Such is the one great man's respect for the other, despite the gaping theological chasm! The Calvinist Bishop J.C.Ryle likewise said "There is room for Arminians in heaven".

    Many struggle with pre-destination/election, because the flip-side means that God CHOSE some, and rejected the rest, which some naively claim makes the Almighty to be an absolute monster, i.e. He made the non-elect so that they could burn forever-they never had a 'chance' as it were. They even say "I couldn't worship the Calvinist God". They have little understanding of His sovereignty!

    May we "Grow in GRACE, AND in the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3.18 Amen.

    God bless.

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    1. Hi Colin, and thanks so much for this detailed and thought provoking comment from a Reformed perspective.

      Let us all who follow The Way debate theology in the earnest and humble pursuit of Truth, but never become hostile and polarized over an issue such as this. So easy for pride to overtake grace, something which must greatly grieve the Lord.

      May we indeed grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

      With very best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  6. Reading Treena's comment (15/06) there is much wisdom in it: It would seem that she is saying that if you reject Calvinism; that you become Arminian by default?
    She may care to correct me if I am wrong.
    God bless.

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    1. Yes - and I guess it can apply equally the other way round too, that if you are seen to reject Arminianism, you become a Calvinist by default!!

      With kindest regards in Him,
      Rob.

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  7. I think that is the assumption some people make Colin. I reject both extremes, so I am neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. As you say we are "Christians". By faith we are saved, and yet the mechanics of it?? Gods ways are beyond finding out. (Romans 11:33) I do not say this as an excuse, but some things are beyond us at the present.

    "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12.

    God bless.

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    1. Hi Treena!

      However we might understand, think we understand, or admit to not understanding the mechanics of salvation, let us all as thoroughly undeserving recipients of God's unfathomable grace extend that grace one to another in a spirit of humility and unfeigned Christian love. Complete understanding is firmly a future tense commodity!

      With best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  8. But Treena! does the testimony of Church history bear this out? I certainly don't believe such a 'middle ground' exists! I have heard many say "we are neither", they too reject both extremes, but are Arminian by default, I know we disagree on this, and probably always will do. These 'middle ground' believers variously call themselves "Biblicists" (as if Calvinists & Arminians aren't!) and/or 1,2,3 or 4 point Calvinists, but always rejecting the dreaded "L"! I prefer the description "Particular Redemption". (The 5 points stand or fall together). BTW, I agree with the Scriptures you quote; of-course!

    When I was in Pentecostalism, I often witnessed many so-called 'conversions' and I struggled with 'easy believism' as I perceived it to be, and it was only when I understood the doctrines of pre-destination/election that I understood how a name could ever be written in "The Lamb's book of life, slain from the foundation of the world". Because God in Christ PUT it there! Then I became a supralapsarian! Labels!!! could we exist without them? If we didn't use them, we wouldn't understand what people were talking about, most especially with regard to eschatology!
    Spurgeon once said "People are more scared of the doctrine of election, than if they were to come face to face with a lion"! Many naturally shirk from it, because of what it asserts, so why would any one try to understand something they hate? It took me a great deal of time to understand, and believe it, I can assure you. Monergism, are we robots? I certainly don't feel like one!!!
    Quite where the 'freewill' of man and the sovereignty of God meet, I don't quite know, I am not sure that we may know even in the next life.

    I DO know the Bible says "Make YOUR calling and ELECTION sure".
    God bless.

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    1. Hi Colin!

      Perhaps a "middle ground" doesn't exist, between a Reformed and Arminian understanding, but an "undecided" position to my mind is still both an honest and acceptable stance. And so let grace prevail!

      Best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  9. Rob,
    Judging by your reply we can at least agree that a "'middle ground' doesn't exist"?
    It sounds like sitting on a fence, as it were, but often there are very sincere believers in Christ who don't want to be labelled; I can to a great degree accept that.
    As a believer in salvation by God's free sovereign electing grace ALONE; grace WILL most certainly prevail! Though some think we don't need His grace in the closing hours of this age, but this is altogether another matter.
    May God bless your ministry.

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    1. If a "middle ground" exists, I certainly can't begin to imagine what that might be! But "undecided" is OK with me; let's all just have a mutual respect one for another.

      Best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  10. We all fall on the spectrum between Arminianism and Calvinism. So as long as we agree, we are justified by faith alone, everything else is secondary and opportunity to behave more like Christ.

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    1. Absolutely! I was talking just last night to my very dear brother Andrew, who penned the Reformed response published in this article, and we both concluded that what really matters at the end of the day is that we are true followers of The Way. As you say, Daniel, all other considerations come secondary to this. Let us debate, but certainly not divide!

      "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." (1 John 3:11)

      Many thanks for your constructive contribution, brother!
      Best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  11. I am sure that you have heard of the late Dave Hunt, an American evangelist? He fiercely attacked Calvinism (doctrines of grace)
    He actually taught and believed in a 'middle ground'!
    He contended that he was neither a Calvinist nor Arminian, but a 'biblicist' (as if we're not!), exactly where in 'the middle' he was, he wasn't quite decided!

    I KNOW where the middle of a football pitch is!

    Take a look at his Wikipedia page-worth a read! (it has recently been edited/toned down).
    God bless.

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    1. Hi Colin!

      I'm certainly acquainted with Dave Hunt and his 'The Berean Call' ministry. I'm aware of his book 'What Love Is This?' refuting Calvinism, though I haven't read it. I guess that now he's gone to be with the Lord, he now knows the definitive answer to this most controversial of theological questions!

      Best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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