Ok – first off, I’m a Methodist but not completely by choice in some respects – it just so happens that this is the denomination the Lord seems to have kept me in through my years – every time I’ve left it for one reason or another, He’s just pulled me back into it again. However, despite this, and until quite recently, I’d never heard the term Arminian used (we don’t go much for labels here in N. Ireland! LOL), and if I did hear it mentioned, I never realised that it was the core basis of Methodism. So once I did discover that, and then went on to understand that Calvinism was its opposite, I started to investigate further. Having since listened to a lot of talks from both sides of the debate, and read plenty too, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that neither is right in its entirety, nor in the absolutes that their stance proclaims. As always, what intruiged me was how both sides could reel off multiple verses to support their stance – takes me right back to the old Rapture debates – pretrib, posttrib, amillenial etc, and again I was reminded that everyone can take verses and use them for their purpose because they refuse to consider any possibility that a slightly lesser stance may actually be more appropriate.
What I think really stood out for me with the hyperCalvinism attitude is that, to me at least, it removed all hope of true free will, since it stated that God alone enabled people to make their choice for Him, and thus they didn’t have a choice in whether they wanted to or not. If that was the case, then why would scripture state that Jesus died for everyone – if God already intended that only x% of those alive at any one point would be provided with the means to become Christians by His Will and intent, then Jesus only really died for that x percent and not the rest. If man was not created with total free choice and freedom to make whichever choice s/he desires then we’ve all been lied to by God, and mankind is just an entity out of which God has predetermined He would create a percentage He could then call His own, but who would have no choice in that decision. Reeling off the scriptures about the couple of prophets to whom God stated that he had foreordained for His Work doesn’t cut it with me – they lived pre Jesus and thus salvation wasn’t offered to them in the same manner. So none of those arguments cut much dice with me to be honest. I equally don’t consider that the Arminiast view is 100% correct either, in that it does indeed put ALL of the emphasis onto man, thus leaving out God’s Grace and Holy Spirit’s work in the way in which the arguments are sometimes presented at least.
Then I read this article by K-House – where Chuck Missler lays out a much more accurate truth about these two ideologies and figure it was well worth providing for all of you here so you can once again deliberate if your own stance is perhaps too black/white.
PREDESTINATION VS. FREE WILL
(Chuck Missler – K-House)
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever…” – Deuteronomy 29:29
From the beginning of time, thinkers have puzzled over the paradox of fate vs. free will, or predestination vs. free choice. In theological terms, this leads to the struggle between Calvinism and Arminianism. As we explore this paradox, we find that examining the fruit of each position reveals that the River of Life seems to flow between these two extremes, and that once again, truth involves a careful balance.
At the heart of the controversies between Calvinism and Arminianism is the emphasis on the sovereignty of God by the Calvinists and on the sovereignty (free will) of man – or human responsibility – by the Arminians. Calvinism emphasizes that God is in total control of everything and that nothing can happen that He does not plan and direct, including man’s salvation. Arminianism teaches that man has free will and that God will never interrupt or take that free will away, and that God has obligated Himself to respect the free moral agency and capacity of free choice with which He created us.
Both doctrinal positions are reasonable and both have extensive Scriptures to back them up. Both are, in our opinion, both partially right and partially overextended. As Philip Schaff has put it, “Calvinism emphasized divine sovereignty and free grace; Arminianism emphasized human responsibility. The one restricts the saving grace to the elect; the other extends it to all men on the condition of faith. Both are right in what they assert; both are wrong in what they deny. If one important truth is pressed to the exclusion of another truth of equal importance, it becomes an error, and loses its hold upon the conscience. The Bible gives us a theology which is more human than Calvinism and more divine that Arminianism, and more Christian than either of them.”
Certainly, the Bible does teach that God is sovereign, and that believers are predestined and elected by God to spend eternity with Him. Nowhere, however, does the Bible ever associate election with damnation. Conversely, the Scriptures teach that God elects for salvation, but that unbelievers are in hell by their own choice. Every passage of the Bible that deals with election deals with it in the context of salvation, not damnation. No one is elect for hell. The only support for such a view is human logic, not Biblical revelation (which John Calvin did teach).
The concept of total depravity is consistent with Scripture, but the doctrine of limited atonement, that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world, is clearly contrary to Biblical teaching. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and that everyone is able to be saved if they will repent and turn to Christ. Limited atonement is a non-Biblical doctrine.
Election and predestination are Biblical doctrines. God knows everything and therefore He cannot be surprised by anything. He is beyond the constraints of mass, acceleration and gravity, therefore He is outside time. He knows, and has known from “eternity past,” who will exercise their free will to accept Him and who will reject Him. The former are “the elect” and the latter are the “non-elect.” Everyone who is not saved will have only himself to blame: God will not send anyone to hell, but many people will choose to go there by exercising their free will to reject Christ.
On the other hand, no one who is saved will be able to take any of the credit. Our salvation is entirely God’s work, and is based completely on the finished work of the Cross. We were dead in trespasses and sins, destined for hell, when God in His grace drew us to Himself, convinced us of our sin and our need for a Savior, and gave us the authority to call Jesus Lord. Is this grace, this wooing, this courtship, irresistible? No, we have free will and we can (and do) resist, even to the damnation of our souls, but God does everything short of making us automata (preprogrammed puppets) to draw us into His forever family.
No doubt some of you with more staunch views will disagree, but I would urge you to please remember that very few aspects of scripture are totally black/white which is why we do have to be cautious about intrepeting things too rigidly and thereby causing dissension amongst the Body. Thus, as I say, the middle of the road approach is more sound to me, providing for elements of both views to be equally right. Feel free to debate your own views if you wish – be interesting to see how many would agree.