Thursday, October 28, 2010

Three Things I Hate About The Calvinist-Arminian Debate

Before I tell you the three things I hate about the Calvinist-Arminian debate, I first need to clarify some things. This is an important issue and I'm not meaning to take away from that fact. However, I think that the way in which we Christians have gone about discussing this issue has become rather unhelpful. If we better the means in which we address this issue it'll better the outcome of any debate.

For the purpose of making a point I'm not going to give a long, drawn out description of my opinion of the Calvinism-Arminianism issue. However, if you are interested in a brief summary of my beliefs, I'd encourage you to check out this sermon by Mark Driscoll. As I've stated before, I don't agree with all Mark Driscoll's stuff, however, he does a nice job of summarizing his beliefs on this issue, which I happen to be in full agreement with.

#1. The names.
In the early Church, Christians use to say that they were of Paul or of Apollos. Now we say that we're of John Calvin or of Jacob Arminius. We haven't made much forward progress, have we? Not only that, but the names are kind of misnomers. Neither Calvin nor Arminius were in full agreement with the schools of thought that would later bare their names. John Calvin never advocated Limited Atonement and Arminius, while he did express some doubts, never denied the doctrine of Eternal Security in any of speeches or writings.

The fact is, we can't put too much stock in any human being, even great Christian leaders. Calvin and Arminius were both great men who loved Jesus. However, they were also both sinners. As created creatures, we naturally feel the need for a hero. Since we can't physically see God we tend to idolize someone we can see. While they're is nothing wrong with having people we like and admire, we need to remember that all are sinners. We can't every fully trust any sinners, even great theologically minded sinners.

#2. The points.
In 1610, the Arminians got together for an event called the Remonstrance, or Protest. During this event they came up with five doctrines which directly defied Calvinism, which had been a Protestant staple since the Reformation. In response, the Calvinists held a synod at Dort (pictured) and came up with the Five Points of Calvinism, all of which were handpicked to discredit the Five Points of Arminianism.

This is really, really bad way to do theology. We don't create doctrine in response to someone else's doctrines. We get our doctrine from the Bible. The result of the current five-point system is that instead of discussing Romans 9 and Ephesians 1, we end up arguing over Irresistible Grace, Unconditional Election and the Perseverance of the Saints. The debate quickly becomes academic rather than biblical.

Personally, I always find it really frustrating when I try talking to someone about this issue and they refuse to address the Scriptures. Everyone has a cute illustration or catchy little quotable to prove the infallibility of their point. Meanwhile, the Bible stays on the shelf.

#3. The divisions.
There are certain things that should divide us. If someone tells you that Jesus wasn't God or that the earth was created by aliens, run from them like Forest Gump. However, I don't believe this should be a dividing issue. And yet it is.

It always amazes to see how willing credobaptists, paedobaptism, charismatics, cessationists, Complementarians and Egalitarians are to get together and sing Kum Ba Yah providing that they agree on the Calvinist-Arminian issue. However, if they agree on nearly everything else but can't agree on predestination, they suddenly become die hard separationists.

Honestly, I can't help but wonder if it has become more of a pride issue. Because if you examine this issue in light of many of the other truths, it really isn't that big a deal. It's important, but not quite as important as we make it out to be. However, this topic has become the defining issue within Christian circles. I once heard some one say that there are only three kinds of Christians. Calvinists, Arminians and Catholics. This debate has been so heated for so long that no one is willing to back down.

I think it is vital to remember that this is an in house debate. At the end of the day, we're on the same team. Granted, the Body of Christ will always have its little family quarrels. That's nothing new. Some times these disagreement will even create a need for us to separate, just as Paul and Barabbas did. However, that doesn't mean the Church of Jesus needs to be consumed in hate and in-striving. Rather, let us remember that we are one Body with one Goal.

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