Are you an Arminian on your knees and a Calvinist on your feet?

Are you an Arminian on your knees and a Calvinist on your feet? May 25, 2011

At the risk of undoing all the good will I tried to create with my Arminocalvinist spectrum I want to speak briefly today about prayer. Now, to my Arminian friends please don’t hear me wrongly. For this blog post to work we have to accept a bit of a stereotype on both ends of the spectrum.

For it was a tweet today from Driscoll that reminded me of something and made me think. Driscoll said “Every Christian who prays is functionally a Calvinist who believes in the sovereignty of God.” Now, it is easy to read a tweet like that and immediately think of the Arminian. It is not the first time that someone has said that every Christian is a Calvinist on their knees. Spurgeon famously spoke about this very idea and claimed that there was no such thing as a truly Arminian prayer.

But that wasn’t what struck me about Driscoll’s quote. I instead was thinking about the opposite. “A Christian who does not pray is functionally an Arminian who does not believe in the sovereignty of God” or perhaps “who believes that it is down to man to do everything.”

Now, I know that most Arminians do believe in God’s sovereignty. But, my question for myself and for you reading this is simply this, do I pray like a Calvinist should? I do not mean like a Calvinist is rumored to pray…ie not at all because he just leaves everything to the sovereignty of God. No, I mean, do I pray like I really believe that God is in control of the universe and that he has committed himself to answering prayer, and therefore my prayers are not just bouncing off the ceiling? Do I pray like I believe my prayers can make a difference? Do I pray like I actually expect God to answer them and act?

Maybe I should pray like a reformed charismatic should. In other words with great confidence in the power, authority, and degree of influence that God has over the world, married to great confidence that he hasn’t changed and he is therefore willing, able, and ready to act.  In contrast to this, could it be that over our lives, our churches, it could be written “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58).  May those words not be true of us!

Oh God, please teach us to pray. Teach me to pray. Stretch forth your hand to stir us again and to save!

Am I an Arminian on my knees? And when I get up on my feet again, do I go forth about my day not actively pursuing opportunities to serve God? Surely I should work for Jesus as though I was an Arminian, though knowing that it is God who gives the fruit?

So in contradiction to my title, shouldn’t we, as the saying goes, be a Calvinist on our knees and an Arminian on our feet?

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  • Sam Gonzales

    As we are about to study “Calvinism” in our Sunday School class, with a five-pointer heading up the study, I am searching and re-searching. My experience thus far, with those dedicated to their ‘position’, is: I am too Arminian for the Calvinists and too Calvinistic for the Arminians”. The most abrasive (in my experience) has been the criticism from Calvin’s defenders, labeling me as Arminian, simply because I didn’t and still don’t embrace ALL five points. Adrian, your post here and especially your article on “The Spectrum” is one of the few times I have breathed a sigh of relief that someone has finally captured with words what my heart has felt for so long. It is truly disheartening to be told if one doesn’t have a full defense for all things Calvin, they are in error. For a while I was so wearied of the subject, it was easier to stop reading about it at all, having determined TULIPS belonged in the flower garden. I recently read Olsen’s book, am currently reading Dr. Geisler’s “Chosen But Free”, and still feel I am somewhere between the two. I believe in earnest prayer, the sovereignty of the Most High God, who saves by grace and not by works, the living, victorious Christ who died for the whole world (imagine a world where ‘all’ actually means ‘all’), yet whose atoning sacrifice available to all, but efficacious only for those who repent. It is apparent that no one comes to God without some evidence that God has drawn that person by His Spirit, whether they are convicted of their sinfulness and their need for a Savior. It seem equally obvious some respond and some resist and rebel, but cannot make the leap to limited atonement, the opposite side of the coin being the doctrine of reprobation. See why my friends say I am confused…too much the other way for either camp. Your blog has been a breath of fresh air. Thanks for the freedom to ramble.