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Arminians, Not Pagans

We Reformed folk have made some grave errors, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not sure how it exactly comes about, but let me suggest that we become puffed up in our knowledge of God’s grace and then unknowingly look down on others that don’t *know* the same doctrines we know. I’ve sinned in this area and have had to repent to my Arminian brothers and sisters. To expand a bit more on this, let me give you an example from my own life. When we go home to visit my family, inevitably we engage in theological conversations. Normally it’s my brother, dad and me that get into these conversations. Often the conversations quickly move into heavy topics such as election, reprobation, God’s sovereignty, etc. I know my family loves Jesus and I know they are all genuine Christians and for that I praise God, but for some odd reason I feel the need to convert them to my Christianity, as if mine is better, or more correct.

I do believe that Calvinistic theology is merely a term that we use to describe Biblical theology, however I am fallible and have to remember that I am not all-knowing. That said, I echo what Spurgeon said:

They are all Calvinists there, every soul of them. They may have been Arminians on earth; thousands and millions of them were; but they are not after they get there, for here is their song, “Salvation unto our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

Being convicted of Reformed theology doesn’t have to lead to an arrogant I’m-better-than-you lifestyle. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. If we are truly convicted that salvation is all of grace and that we are undeserving and ill-deserving of God’s love, then the response of our heart and attitude should be one of humility.

Another peculiar thing I’ve seen amongst Reformed folk is that many of us grow up in Arminian churches and when God opens our eyes to Calvinistic theology, all of a sudden we start to look down on Arminians, as if we have grown up Calvinists our whole life. I’m sure when you were an Arminian you wouldn’t exactly appreciate people forcing their theology on you. Rather, God shaped and is forming your theology as you mature in him, and it’s still all of grace, so stop your boasting.

The last thing I have on my heart is missions. Every Christian in the entire world, Arminian or Calvinist, has a mission to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a dying world. While I think it’s important to have debates and discussions around theology, I think it’s more important to bring the gospel to the world. So much of our time is spent worrying about words like predestination that we forget what our mission here on Earth is.

Trust that God is in control and trust the same God that saves is the same God that shapes our theology. Let’s humbly serve alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ, Arminian and Calvinist, for the glory of God and the good of others. It’s not our duty to be the doctrine police. It’s our responsibility to tell others about Jesus and to teach sound doctrine. Our job isn’t to change hearts or minds, only God can do that and we should leave it at that.

Read my follow up post, “The Calvinist and Arminian that went to Hell

  • http://www.reformedgamer.com Ryan Wallace

    You are always encouraging to read. I grew up Southern Baptist and when I saw the doctrines of grace laid out plainly in Scripture, I did struggle not to seem belittling to others who did not share my views. I have just recently started to work out the hard truth that Calvin (like any other man) was not inerrant, and that we would do well to stick to the mission of sharing the good news throughout the world and not disassociating with other believers who may not share our same exact doctrine. In all things, love.

    • Stephen McCaskell

      Thank you for the kind note, Ryan. It’s always an encouragement to hear of others stories and I am thankful for yours and how God is working in and through you. May God continue to mold you for his glory!

  • http://www.thehopethatihave.com Shane Wright

    Thank you for this message. Unfortunately I identify with prideful nose-down looking. Only by the Lord’s mercy and grace do any of us have a right standing before God.

  • http://www.raisinggodlychildren.org Bryan

    Well done! Thank you for the correction and edification. I’m one of those who recently left an Arminian denomination and fit your description perfectly. Blessings.

  • Verne

    I appreciate the charitable attitude toward those who disagree, but am still struck by the apparent arrogance of suggesting that Arminians are behind the curve of understanding that Calvinists have attained. I am an Arminian who is firmly convinced of our understanding of grace. I would not suggest that I must be gracious until you catch up to me!

    • Stephen McCaskell

      Hi Verne,

      Actually, I wanted to make sure I didn’t come across that way. I even had my father read the article before I had it posted to get his feedback. My hope isn’t to talk about Arminians in a condescending way, but rather to speak my convictions and how I think we can relate and do mission with Arminians. In the same way that Roger Olson (a well known Arminian) would speak about Calvinism and how he believes there is a better way of understanding God and his sovereignty, I speak about Arminianism.

      • Verne

        A re-reading of this helped me see it a little more as you describe. Here is the section that still troubles me:
        I do believe that Calvinistic theology is merely a term that we use to describe Biblical theology, however I am fallible and have to remember that I am not all-knowing. That said, I echo what Spurgeon said:
        They are all Calvinists there, every soul of them. They may have been Arminians on earth; thousands and millions of them were; but they are not after they get there, for here is their song, “Salvation unto our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
        Being convicted of Reformed theology doesn’t have to lead to an arrogant I’m-better-than-you lifestyle. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. If we are truly convicted that salvation is all of grace and that we are undeserving and ill-deserving of God’s love, then the response of our heart and attitude should be one of humility.
        Another peculiar thing I’ve seen amongst Reformed folk is that many of us grow up in Arminian churches and when God opens our eyes to Calvinistic theology,

        It seems to suggest that we’ll all be Calvinists in Heaven. I expect to be more fully complete than either of the two branches of theology discussed here!

        • Stephen McCaskell

          I do think we will all be a form of Calvinist in heaven. ;) However, I do agree that it will be a much more complete system than our human systems. It comes down to our convictions being different, I’m sharing from my stream of theology and my convictions as I read in God’s word. I’ve really enjoyed our little bit of dialogue we’ve had, so thank you for that.

          • Verne

            Got it! I appreciate your spirit of cooperation and respect. I have a favorite personal anecdote about perspective: When my youngest son was nearly 7, (1994) he came running to me saying, “Dad, they’re talking on TV about something that happened a million years ago!” I walked into the family room and discovered that they were talking about the first manned moon landing. I said, “Eric, that wasn’t a million years ago. It was 25 years ago.” His response was “What-ever!” When you’re 6, 25 years is a long time … In comparison to our eternal God, I may not even be 6! So, let’s keep on learning. :)

          • Stephen McCaskell

            What a fantastic anecdote. Thank you for sharing that, I might have to use that sometime in the future. Yes! Let’s keep on learning. :)

    • Laurel

      I think the “truth” is somewhere in the middle. I don’t believe we will be Calvinists or Armenians in heaven. Just saved.
      I do know a lot of holier-than-thou Calvinists though….

  • http://stephencswan.wordpress.com/ Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    Far more important than defining ourselves against one another (although precision is good) is defining ourselves against unbelief.

    I’ve always been a Calvinist since conversion but like to think I sidestepped the ‘cage stage’. My best friend in seminary was an Arminian – not just one by default either – he was rabid about it. He was great to talk to because he was smarter than me and always helped understand myself better.

    I like what you said about mission (our common mission with all believers).

    • http://stephencswan.wordpress.com/ Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

      Oh, and by the way, even pagans deserve respect as well as different types of CHristians.

  • Hartmut Kehrer

    I have read this discussion with interest, because I am unable to define my own position. I am happy in an Arminian church but my trouble is, that whenever I follow discussions between Arminians and Calvinists I tend to be impressed by both sides, when they back their reasoning up with scripture. In my thinking I am close to the Calvinist position, but not fully. I must admit that the books that most lead me to praise and admiration are written by Calvinists. The grace of God is emphasized and this leads to praise and admiration. But I am wondering wether it is possible, that both positions are somehow true, even if our human logic cannot comprehend it. According to human logic there is a contradiction. But I think that we must not measure God according to our logic. I have no problem imagining that both Calvinists and Arminians could be right at the same time. A paradox for humans, but also for God? But I am grateful for the grace of God that allowed me to repent and believe and I know that this is all His work alone.

    • Joshua S.

      >>”But I am wondering whether it is possible that both positions are somehow true, even if our human logic cannot comprehend it… A paradox for humans, but also for God?”

      I recall what Spurgeon said: “We are bound to believe both sides of the Truth revealed in the Scriptures, so I admit that when a Calvinist says that all things happen according to the predestination of God, he speaks the Truth of God–and I am willing to be called a Calvinist. But when an Arminian says that when a man sins, the sin is his own, [I believe] that he, also, speaks the Truth of God–though I am not willing to be called an Arminian!

      “The fact is, there is some Truth in both these systems of theology–the mischief is that, in order to make a human system appear to be complete, men ignore a certain Truth, which they do not know how to put into the scheme which they have formed and, very often, that very Truth, which they ignore, proves to be like the stone which the builders rejected–one of the headstones of the corner–and their building suffers serious damage through its omission.”

  • Oree McKenzie

    Well said. Thank you.

  • Nathan

    Wow, I honestly can’t believe the prince of preachers said that. Me? I think that both of those doctrines are ones of man, they are even named after men. What is going to endure in the end? The doctrine of man, or the Word of God? I try to read and understand the Word of God without other mans opinion ingrained into my head, how are we supposed to let the Holy Spirit do His work otherwise?

    • Stephen McCaskell

      Just in case you want to read the rest of the sermon where that quote is from the reference is: The Multitude Before The Throne, Volume 60, Sermon #3403 – Revelation 7:9, 10

  • Steve

    This line…
    “Another peculiar thing I’ve seen amongst Reformed folk is that many of us grow up in Arminian churches and when God opens our eyes to Calvinistic theology, all of a sudden we start to look down on Arminians, as if we have grown up Calvinists our whole life.”
    … certainly does seem to imply that Armenians simply having matured into Calvinists. Perhaps they are… resisting grace?

    • Response

      “when God opens our eyes” not “when I open my eyes”

    • James Petticrew

      Can I point out the theological position is Arminian not Armenian

  • Eric

    Well…thanks for that. Many of us Arminians are well read, understand grace fully, and still want nothing to do with Calvinism because we cannot reconcile with who Jesus is and what He taught…nor with the rest of Scripture. But thanks for letting us know we are not pagans!

  • Dan

    Not being as deeply educated as many of the posters to this article, my simple faith brings up the question…where does the Holy Spirit fit in this conversation? It seems to me that the Holy Spirit will speak with the same voice and conviction to Calvinists or Arminians or whatever flavor you choose to identify with. The Holy Trinity (Father / Son / Holy Ghost) speaks with one voice through the writings in the Holy Bible and the movement of the Holy Spirit to all of God’s children.

  • http://bereanobserver.blogspot.com Bob Wheeler

    I once got locked in a debate in print with an conservative Mennonite over the 5 points of Calvinism, and began to realize there is a real question about what exactly is “Arminianism.” (My opponent in the debate wasn’t making his own position very clear). I suspect that what a lot of us Calvinistic Baptists attack as “Arminianism” isn’t really Arminian at all.
    Arminianism is what you would find in a Wesleyan church. Wesley rejected the idea of Predestination, but he believed in Total Depravity and Regeneration. The way he attempted to get around the problem is through the idea of “Prevenient Grace.” In other words, God makes grace available to everyone, but we have the ability to resist it. The logical corollary of this, of course, is that it is possible for someone to lose his salvation.
    What we often encounter in Baptist circles, however, is a quite different type of theology that can be traced back to Nathaniel W. Taylor of Yale and made popular by Charles G. Finney. They accepted the idea of Predestination, but rejected Total Depravity. Their view was the Pelagian view: if God commands us to repent, then we must have the ability to do so. Regeneration, then, becomes a mere change of heart on the part of the believer.
    The difference between these two forms of theology is crucial. Wesley would never have denied the role of the Holy Spirit in producing conversion, whereas in Finney’s scheme of things conversion becomes a matter of human persuasion. The results speak for themselves.
    So the real question becomes, what is our relationship with God? Are we consciously depending on God and looking to Him to bless the ministries of our churches? Are we praying for revival. On this question I believe both Edwards and Wesley would be united in their opposition to what goes on in the modern church!

  • rvs

    Calvinists, not robots. :)

  • Pingback: The Calvinist and Arminian that went to Hell

  • Josh

    The issue is not Calvinism vs Classical Arminianism. I love my Arminian brothers in Christ, as they acknowledge the total depravity of men. The issue of our day is Calvinism vs Pelagianism-masquerading-as-Arminianism.

    • Stephen McCaskell

      I completely agree with you. The problem is that most Calvinist’s just call everyone who isn’t a Calvinist an Arminian.

  • Jeff

    Christ is the cornerstone. Full knowledge of proper doctrine doesn’t save, Jesus does. He doesn’t wait until we pass the theological exam either.

    Where I have an issue is when the salvation of people who are indeed repentant, growing believers is called into question because they initially responded to an alter call and “Altar Calls are of the devil”.


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