For centurys now, there has been two basic opinions or beliefs in the Christian church on how an individual gets saved/born again/converted....etc. Both sides claim that their "take" is biblical, and the other view is either totally blasphemy or is somewhat correct, but still badly flawed. Where do you resident theologians stand? This is open to all folks, although the subject might be rather puzzling and unsurmountable for those that don't claim to be Christians. It's not a "knock" at those that aren't Christians, as this topic is rather in-house to the Christian church and it's believers. This topic encompasses, Catholic, Protestant, interdenominational, non-denominational, Pentacostle believers........... If you're not familiar with this topic as a Christian; please read the comparisons printed below this message of the two systems of belief regarding Man/Woman's involvement or non-involvement in becoming a Christian. I'm really curious and interested on where we are all coming from concerning this. If you feel that this discussion disrupts or bothers you in the area of peace, or security in your Christian beliefs, please don't involve yourself in this discussion. Far be it that I would want to cause any problem for you with this topic. I do however believe that this topic is important, as the two systems of thought/belief do have important impacts on how a Christian sees/relates to the "world", and how he/she sees/relates to their place or responsibility in the "world" when it comes to Missions-outreach to the non-Christian, or being compelled to serve in the church or even being burdened with other folks spiritual state of being. There may even be a marked difference in attitude in the humility department between the two camps, but I'll leave that for you folks to determine. Just to tickle your interest........let's just say that one system says that your conversion was basically out of your hands/control while the other system says that you, "man" had an involvement in the salvation process. There's much more to it than that. One accuses the other camp of involving "works" in salvation/conversion and robbing God of total credit of one's conversion, while the other sees it's opponent puting God in a metaphorical "box", and making humans out to be automatons, and lacking true "free will" with God being cruel and unfair. "What say you, Oh Christian!" Regards, Eightballsidepocket http://www3.calvarychapel.com/centralphoenix/html/calvinism_vrs__arminianism.html CALVINISM VS. ARMINIANISM A Discussion of Doctrine by Dr. Larry Taylor TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction 1.What is Calvinism? 2.What is Arminianism? 3.An Evaluation of the Doctrines 4.The Fruit of Arminianism 5.The Fruit of Calvinism 6.The Biblical Balance INTRODUCTION God has, in these last days, raised up Calvary Chapel as a ministry of balance. Since its inception under the leadership of Pastor Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel ministries have sought the Biblical middle ground between the extremes of Pentecostalism versus fundamentalism, emotionalism versus traditionalism, and Calvinism versus Arminianism. With respect to this latter debate, no final solution is possible. Great theological minds have debated the issues of free will versus the sovereignty of God for centuries without ever being able to reconcile the two. Arguing for one side at the expense of the other is foolish because it is by nature not provable, and therefore is an argument which no one can win. Humility demands that we bow in the presence of a God who is beyond our intellectual comprehension and confess the wisdom of Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever...". WHAT IS CALVINISM? Historically, the doctrine we call Calvinism arose out of the teaching of the reformer John Calvin, although five point Calvinism as it is espoused by its followers today was not taught by Calvin, but instead implied by those who carried his teachings to what they considered to be their logical conclusions. Calvinism is often called Reformed theology, as distinct from Lutheran or Anabaptist theology, and is founded upon John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Puritans and independent Presbyterians of Great Britain were heavily influenced by Calvin's writings, but some of its greatest followers were Dutch (Bavinck, Kuyper, etc.). Calvinism is the basis for the doctrine of many Baptist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches. In The Canons of the Synod of Dort in 1619, a response to the teachings of James Arminius, the five points of Calvinism were stated as follows: 1. Total Depravity, the belief that man is dead in trespasses and sins and totally unable to save himself. Many adherents of Calvinism carry this a step further, claiming that man cannot even desire a relationship with God apart from His working in their hearts. In fact, it is claimed that God must regenerate a person before they can even desire to come to Christ. 2. Unconditional election is the belief that in eternity past God chose or elected certain people to obtain salvation. Some Calvinists (although not all) carry this belief further and teach what is referred to as "double election", or "reprobation", the teaching that God, in eternity past, selected some people to go to heaven and others to go to hell, and there is nothing anyone can do to change God's election; i.e., if you are elected for heaven, you'll go to heaven regardless of what you do, and if you're elected for hell, there is no possibility of your ever being saved. John Calvin taught this, but called it a terrible doctrine. 3. Limited atonement is the Calvinist teaching that Jesus did not die for the sins of the entire world, but that He instead only died for those that He elected to go to heaven. The argument is that Christ's work on the Cross must be "efficacious", that is, it must work for all for whom He died, that He could not have shed His blood for those who are lost. Some Calvinists have gone to great lengths to explain away limited atonement, saying, for example, that Jesus died for all, but does not pray for all, or that His death theoretically could save everyone, but is effective only for the elect. The end result is the same in each case - the belief that Jesus only died effectively for some people, not all. 4. Irresistible grace is the doctrine that teaches that God will draw to Himself those whom He elected regardless of their rebellion against Him. It is the belief that man cannot resist the drawing of God to Himself. 5. Perseverance of the saints, or eternal security, is the doctrine that often attracts people to Calvinism because it is the belief that a true born again Christian cannot lose or give up his salvation because salvation is entirely God's work, not man's. WHAT IS ARMINIANISM? Jacobus (James) Arminius was a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609. Arminius taught that man is not guilty for Adam's sin, but only when he chooses to sin voluntarily. Arminius started out as a strict Calvinist, but later modified his views, views which were expressed in a document called The Remonstrance in 1610. Arminianism is the theological basis for the Methodist, Wesleyan, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Free Will Baptist, Holiness, and many charismatic churches. Arminianism teaches: 1. Election based on knowledge, the belief that God chose those who would be saved in eternity past based on His foreknowledge of those who would respond to and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Arminianism rejects the concept that God elected anyone for hell. 2. Unlimited atonement is the belief that Jesus died on the Cross for all people, that His blood is sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. Thus, all mankind is savable. 3. Natural inability is the teaching that man cannot save Himself, but that the Holy Spirit must effect the new birth in him. Strict Arminians do not believe that man is totally depraved and condemned as a result of Adam's sin. 4. Prevenient grace is the Arminian belief that the prepatory work of the Holy Spirit enables the believer to respond to the Gospel and to cooperate with God in the working out of that person's salvation. 5. Conditional perseverance is the belief that man can choose to reject God, and therefore lose his salvation, even after he has been born again. Rather than the "once saved always saved" doctrine of the Calvinists, the Arminian believes that you must abide in Christ to be saved, and that you can choose to walk away from God. Arminius himself, and his early followers, stated that they were unsure of this doctrine and that it required further Biblical study. Later Arminians, however, accepted it. AN EVALUATION OF THE DOCTRINES At the heart of the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism is the emphasis on the sovereignty of God by the Calvinists and on the free will of man, or human responsibility, by the Arminians. Arminian theology teaches that man has free will and that God will never interrupt or take that free will away, that God has obligated Himself to respect the free moral agency and capacity of free choice with which He created us. Calvinism, on the other hand, 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. Both doctrinal positions are logical, both have Scriptures to back up each of their five points, and both are, in my opinion, partially right and partially wrong. As Philip Schaff put it in his History of the Christian Church, "Calvinism emphasizes divine sovereignty and free grace; Arminianism emphasizes 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 than Arminianism, and more Christian than either of them." (New York, Charles Scribner's & Son, 1910, VIII 815 f). Certainly, the Bible does teach that God is sovereign (Psalm 135:6; Daniel 4:35, Ephesians 1:11), and that believers are predestined and elected by God (Romans 8) 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 Lhe 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 (which John Calvin did teach) is human logic, not Biblical revelation. The idea of total depravity is consistent with Scripture (Ephesians 2:1, Romans 3:11), but the doctrine of limited atonement, that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world, is clearly anti-Biblical (John 3:16, I Timothy 2:6, 11 Peter 2:1, I John 2:2). The Bible 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. (John 3:16,17; Romans 5:8, 18; II Corinthians 5:14,15; I Timothy 2:4; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 10:29; II Peter 2: I; I John 2:2; 4:14.) Irresistible grace is taught by some, who do not understand the concept, to mean that God drags people to Himself contrary to their wills. Actually, the Biblical view, and the view of most Calvinists, is the belief that God works on our wills so as to make us willing to surrender to Him. In other words, He makes us willing to come to Christ for salvation. And, many Scriptures teach that a true believer is safe and secure in Christ, that salvation doesn't depend on our ability to keep ourselves, but on God's ability to keep us. (I John S:11-13; John 10:28; Romans 5:1 and 8:1). The only condition for salvation is faith in Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). On the other hand, the Bible teaches us that we must abide in Christ (John 15; Luke 13:14; Colossians 1:29; II Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 6:4-6; I Peter 1:10) to persevere in salvation. THE FRUIT OF ARMINIANISM In its strictest form, Arminianism has taught that man is responsible for saving himself via his own good works of devotion. Although not the view of Arminius, or of Wesley, the teaching from some pulpits puts the emphasis on man's efforts to the expense of God's grace. Thus, in its extreme form, Arminianism leads to the belief that if a believer sins, he has lost his salvation, and must be born again over and over again. Hence, the emphasis in some churches of coming to the altar at each meeting to repent, rededicate, and renew the salvation which was invariably lost in the course of daily life. Adherents of this position have no assurance of salvation, no rest in Christ, and no spiritual peace. Or, on the other hand, if they can convince themselves that they've reached a state of sinless perfection (which is clearly contrary to I John 1), then believers become proud and super-spiritual, seeing themselves as having reached a higher spiritual plane than regular Christians. A works equals righteousness theology leads either to terror and fear or to pride and haughtiness. Innumerable believers have lived in needless fear because they wondered time and time again whether or not they were truly saved, thinking that each time they sinned, each time they discovered anything internal unlike Christ, indeed, anytime they felt emotionally separated from God, that they were no longer His children. Surely it is not the will of God for His children to live in such . The fact is that we can know for certain that we are His children, we can know for certain that our sins are forgiven, that we will spend eternity in heaven with the Lord. The Lord does not want His children to doubt His love, nor does He want them to believe that they must, through their own efforts and good works, gain or maintain their salvation. Our position with God is determined by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ for us on the Cross. We can rest in His love and grace, knowing that He who began a good work in us will complete it. We need not fear the one who said He would never leave us or forsake us, who promised to present those who believe in Christ faultless before His presence, who said that He would be with us until the end of the age. Similarly, it is not the will of God for His children to feel prideful, for them to take credit for the salvation that is entirely His work, for them to falsely believe that they are sinlessly perfect, or better than other believers in any way. Arminianism has historically lead to the holiness movements which teach sinless perfection, and foster pride in some, while condemning and terrifying the more timid. THE FRUIT OF CALVINISM Five point Calvinists, like full strict Arminians, typically bear fruit contrary to the teaching of God's Word. Specifically, it is typical of five point Calvinists to ignore or at times even oppose evangelism. After all, if all of humanity is either predestined to hell or to heaven, and there is nothing anyone can do to switch from one group to the other regardless of their will, then why evangelize? The elect will be saved whether they like it or not, and the non-elect will be doomed whether they want to or not. Historically, some hyper-Calvinists have even gone so far as to object to putting a Gospel verse on a sign, lest one of the non-elect read it and believe, thus thwarting God's plan. Even today, Calvinists can be found fighting against evangelistic crusades and missions. Secondly, strict Calvinism seems to invariably lead to division, strife and argument. Many Calvinist' seem to spend more time arguing with fellow Christians about doctrine than loving and caring for the lost and hurting in the world. They are seeking, it seems, to convert the converted, and have neglected the call of God to missions, evangelism, and practical service. Indeed, Calvinism seems to attract those of an argumentative nature who are often unteachable, legalistic, and dogmatic. Five point Calvinists tend to speak of love and grace frequently, but display very little of either. Rather than loving and serving the lost and hurting, they are engaged in continual arguing, often dividing the Body of Christ in a legalistic and hurtful manner. To many of them, being what they consider to be right is more important than doing what Jesus commanded, viz., evangelizing the lost and ministering to those in need. I have not infrequently seen rank Calvinists who assert that because God chose some for heaven and others for hell, we cannot know the destiny of babies who die. If they were elect, they are in heaven, if not, hell. Such a belief makes God a monster who eternally tortures innocent children, it removes the hope of consolation from the Gospel, it limits the atoning work of Christ, it resists evangelism, it stirs up argumentation and division, and it promotes a small, angry, judgmental God rather than the large hearted God of the Bible. THE BIBLICAL BALANCE Rather than interpreting the Bible based on any theological or philosophical structure, it behooves us to simply read and believe the Word of God. As we teach the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, verse by verse, in context, we will at times sound like staunch Calvinists, preaching those passages which emphasize God's sovereignty, while at other times we will seem like devout Arminians, as we preach those passages which emphasize man's responsibility. The key to successful ministry is balance - to stay focused on the Word of God, and not become distracted by the doctrines of men.