"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
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.
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
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!"