Is “Calminianism” Really a Thing?
Recently I received in the mail a pre-publication copy of an article that will appear in the forthcoming Mixed Blessings: The Dictionary of Blended Religion by author Tim Stewart. (When it is published I will announce that here. In the meantime you can follow its progress toward publication at http://www.mixedblessingsdictionary.com .)
The article I received is entitled “Calminian” and the first paragraph is as follows: “A Christian who affirms a combination of Calvinist and Arminian doctrines; a Christian who emphasizes the importance of those doctrines on which Calvinists and Arminians agree; a Christian who downplays the importance of those doctrines on which Calvinists and Arminians disagree; a Christian who does not wish to be categorized as either a Calvinist or an Arminian.” The rest of the article is quite long with many quotations and references from leading theologians (including yours truly).
As many of you know, I have been defending classical, historical Arminianism and criticizing full-blown, consistent “TULIP Calvinism” for many years now. Of course, as an informed person would suspect, I have heard many, many people say “I’m neither a Calvinist or an Arminian; I’m a ‘Calminian’.” So I welcome Mr. Stewart’s detailed description of the different things such people mean.
Personally, speaking only for myself (but probably for many classical Arminians and classical Calvinists), I do not think “Calminianism” is a thing. People who call themselves “Calminian” are simply confused.
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Now, you may wonder why this matters to me. Who cares if people call themselves “Calminians?” Believe me; it doesn’t really matter unless they really care about being theologically correct. Let me use an analogy. Many years ago in seminary, as we learned about the major Christian interpretations of the “end times” and especially the “kingdom of God” (millennium or no millennium, etc.), I remember one student stridently insisting that he was a “panmillennialist.” He explained to the class “I just believe it will all pan out in the end.”
Okay, that was slightly humorous. But it wasn’t taking theology seriously at all. I had no gripe against the student (and others I’ve heard claim the same over the years) except that this sounds dismissive of theological endeavor. To my ears, the claim to be “Calminian” is also like that. It says to me that the person making such a claim does not care to study the subject enough to realize that there really can be no such hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism.
When I have had the opportunity to query what people mean by “Calminian” here is what I have almost always discovered. They are really Arminians who believe in the “security of the believer” or what is popularly called “eternal security.” They think one cannot be an Arminian and believe in that; they believe all Arminians belief in amissable grace—the possibility of apostasy. I try to tell them they can be Arminian and believe in inamissable grace (“eternal security of the saved”). But somehow the notion has caught on in America, anyway, among evangelicals, that in order to be Arminian one has to give up believe in the security of the true believer.
So what’s the problem? Well, “Calminian” implies too much Calvinism to be a good label for an Arminian who believes in the security of the believer. Better would be to say “I’m an Arminian who believes in the security of the believer.” My guess is that well describes the vast majority of Baptists in America.
I know for a fact, from personal experience, that the label “Arminian” carries a real stigma within American evangelical circles outside of Wesleyans. Even there, among Wesleyan Christians, sometimes “Arminian” is rejected. Usually because it is not well understood.
So, to bring this to a close, it seems to me that the popular use of “Calminian” is a problem, at least for me, because it implies at least an unconscious misunderstanding of Arminianism. (I’ve never met a true Calvinist, even a “four pointer,” who called himself or herself “Calminian.”)
I have made it part of my life’s work to clear up the many confusions about classical Arminian theology and rehabilitate the category and label “Arminianism” even outside of Wesleyan circles. I have received very encouraging support for that from Free Will Baptists, some Pentecostals, and many Seventh-day Adventists.
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