Friday, 5 May 2017

GRACE IS MUCH GREATER THAN RESISTIBLE OR IRRESISTIBLE! - A PLEA FOR HEALING BETWEEN ARMINIANS AND CALVINISTS.

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye 
all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that 
ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
(1 Corinthians 1:10)


OK. I'm going to grasp the nettle, and if it stings, so be it. Writing this, I feel a certain empathy with Jude, who when intending to write about one thing found himself having to change horses in mid-stream so to speak, and to write instead on a quite different topic. I am prompted to make a plea, based on what I firmly believe to be the vital premise that grace is much greater than "resistible" or "irresistible" - and so much so that the hand of true friendship and fellowship can yet be extended across the great historical divide of Arminianism and Calvinism. My pressing plea is for those on either side, in a spirit of Godly reconciliation, to unconditionally extend their hands across that unnecessary divide.

Unnecessary? Yes, absolutely! Call me naive if you will in insisting that this division is unnecessary, but I will resolutely maintain that the grace of God is infinitely greater than putting it into "resistible" or "irresistible" boxes will even remotely begin to allow for its complete human understanding. Let us all humbly remember that in this life we only ever see through a glass darkly; we can only ever attain partial knowledge. (1 Corinthians 13:12). Complete comprehension is firmly future tense. Right now the image in our lens is blurred, and it is only "when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:54) that everything will at last come firmly into focus.

Me? For what it's worth, if you really want to know, I lean towards the Arminian position... but so what? Is my lens any less fuzzy than anyone else's? Is yours? At the risk of being dismissed as taking a far too simplistic approach to a very complex subject, I'm going to boil this centuries-old controversy down to one basic way of looking at it all. I'm going to concentrate on the central issue of how we perceive what I might term the "spiritual mechanics" of salvation.

The Calvinist will aver that salvation is by grace alone. And the Arminian will nod vigorously in total agreement. But whereas the Calvinist will say that his or her salvation has come about due to irresistible grace, the Arminian will declare that their salvation has come about via resistible grace. But both are saved, and saved by grace alone; ergo grace is greater than our inevitably limited perceptions of the underlying "spiritual mechanics!" The understanding may be different, but the reality is the same! And surely the reality is of infinitely greater importance than our attempted rationalization and categorization of it?



DIGGING OURSELVES INTO DEEP TRENCHES, WITH A BARBED-WIRED AND BOOBY-TRAPPED NO-MAN'S-LAND BETWEEN THE RANKS OF SHARP-BLADED BAYONETS, IS SIMPLY NOT AT ALL HOW IT SHOULD BE! HONESTLY HELD OPINIONS THAT DO NOT CONTRADICT OR CONTRAVENE THE ESSENTIALS OF THE FAITH SHOULD BE TREATED WITH RESPECT, NOT CONTEMPT. SUCH THINGS ARE FOR CONSTRUCTIVE DEBATE, NOT DESTRUCTIVE DIVISION. PERIOD.

Why have I personally adopted an Arminian view? Sorry, but I'm not telling you! Why so tight-lipped? Yes, of course I have my reasons for my own line of thinking, just as a Calvinist has his own reasons for seeing things as he does, but this article is emphatically NOT about standing on a soapbox with a loudhailer to out-shout the other side. As far as I'm concerned, it's NOT another side. We are one in Christ; we just happen to have a different angle on how we got to where we are. And we are where we all absolutely undeservedly are because of the awesome mystery of God's grace.

I will, however, make one proviso here, if you'll forgive what might seem a contradiction to the foregoing. I believe the HYPER-Calvinist position on the preaching of the Gospel to be completely wrong, and unacceptable. A hyper-Calvinist holds that "evidence of election" is to be the precursor to giving the Gospel to that individual. Other than for this distinctive extreme grouping, those of a Calvinistic persuasion will completely agree with an Arminian that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all men indiscriminately. 

AS (NON HYPER-) CALVINISTS AND ARMINIANS ARE EQUALLY AGREED THAT THE GOSPEL IS TO BE PREACHED UNIVERSALLY AND NOT SELECTIVELY, AND THAT THE GOSPEL MUST BE ACCEPTED WITH THE ADMISSION OF AND THE SINCERE REPENTANCE OF SIN FOR A PERSON TO BE BORN AGAIN (WITH BOTH CAMPS TEACHING THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY), THEN IN THE ESSENTIALS WE ARE INDEED "PERFECTLY JOINED TOGETHER IN THE SAME MIND AND IN THE SAME JUDGMENT" AS WE ARE URGED TO BE IN THE SCRIPTURE WHICH HEADS THIS ARTICLE!

And so, my friends, I rest my concise case. Too simplistic? Maybe. But is there not a most regrettable soulish tendency for us to complicate, even corrupt "the simplicity that is in Christ?" (2 Corinthians 11:3). I count it my immense privilege to have friends who are Arminian, and friends who are Calvinist. They are my siblings in the Lord, and I can't say how much I cherish them and how indebted I am to them for all the support and encouragement they have so freely given me. Recognizing that the hour is late, and the Falling Away is biting ever deeper into both schools of thought alike, we cleave together in a common cause. And surely this is how it should be?


"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
(John 13:35)


Up-date: For a well-considered Reformed response to this article, please see:

11 comments:

  1. "Call me naive" you say - YES, I will - and a lot more!

    What a NOTHING piece of an article!

    Is that all you have to offer?

    If so, I would not bother, especially as you call yourself a watchman for wales!

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    1. Hi, and thanks for your comment!

      If I be naive, then I thank God for it; for as it is written, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." (1 Corinthians 1:27).

      To be honest with you, I'd far sooner be mocked for pleading the case for grace, than be seen to demonstrate a woeful absence of it!

      In Him,
      Rob.

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  2. Hello Mr.Thomas,
    What a great article! I marvel at Yah's long suffering towards us. Yet we so easily fall into pharisaical judgement against our own kind.
    Some believers show the fruit of satan as opposed to Yah, but you brother are a breath of fresh air.Beinging us together. There is so little really that divides the two schools.

    What disturbs me are some so called Christians who are full to brimming with hatred, breathing out murderous slander against their own kind, such is their pride and arrogance, and to be considered right in their own eyes.
    I like the way you put together these thought provoking articles, you seem to give them a lot of thought and research. Well done.

    This Scripture came to me today:-
    Romans 1:29-32

    29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    Shalom! in Yeahua Hammashiach

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    1. Hi, and thanks so much for writing in with such kind words of support!

      Your quoting of these verses from Romans is sadly so very relevant to where we are today, when the perilous times that Scripture warned would come in the Last Days have now very much arrived. No fear of God or evidence of the fruits of the Spirit characterizes the behaviour of so many; disturbing indeed.

      Shalom to you too, my friend!
      In Him,
      Rob.

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  3. Hi Rob,
    You have written a really good article. There are too many people in the Church today who are always arguing about Scripture and they get really nasty about it. They don't seem to show any love at all. God bless you Rob.

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    1. Hi, and thanks so much for your encouragement!

      We really do all need to seriously examine ourselves, and look very carefully and honestly as to how we are operating. How easily we can completely forget what is so simply spelled out to us in John 13:35: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

      God bless you too!
      In Him,
      Rob.

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  4. Good piece, our salvation is ALL of God's grace alone.
    I know there are some pretty dodgy Arminians out there, come to think of it, also some pretty dodgy Calvinists as well!
    If you study theology, some think there is a halfway house-that you are neither one or the other, I don't buy that, do you?
    JL
    Blessings.

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

      Fully agreed; there are certainly some very dodgy characters in both camps. No question about it!

      The only thing that comes to mind as the nearest thing to anything like a halfway house situation, is in regards to the perseverance of the saints/eternal security/conditional security question; whereas conventional Arminians believe that salvation can be lost through apostasy, other Arminians hold as do Calvinists to a basically "once-saved-always-saved" position. There may be some degree of variance of opinion in each camp, but people's understanding of the "mechanics of salvation" would make them essentially of one or the other persuasion. If anyone knows of a third school of thought, please do let me know!

      With best wishes in Him,
      Rob.

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  5. Hi Rob,

    Is there a way I can contact via email about a specific query? Thank you

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    1. Yes, of course! You can contact me privately at:

      watchman4wales@yahoo.co.uk

      I'll look forward to hearing from you.
      In Him,
      Rob.

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    2. Thanks Rob. I have contacted you.

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