June 28, 2006

Calvinism vs. Arminianism

Last night I got into a short discussion with a woman at my new church. Both of us have come from different denominational backgrounds. When I told her the name of my previous denomination, she said, "They preach that you can lose your salvation, right? Because I believe that once a person is saved they are always saved! What do you believe?"

Well...A short discussion followed, and I tried to leave it at, "Well, whether you believe one or the other, we both affirm that a person should be whole-heartedly seeking after God."

Though I have been part of an Arminian (freedom of choice which means you can turn around and reject God's offer of forgiveness), I think that it misses the mark.


I also think that Calvinism (God sovereignly chooses who is in and who is out and those who are saved are eternally secure) is wrong.

I know my short explanation does not take into account all the intricacies of the theological teaching, but these are the basics to which it boils down. I think there are several false assumptions that distract people from the real problems. Arminianism almost forces people to "ride" the altar into heaven because sin separates them from God and Calvinism allows a person "sin all they want" and still make it into heaven.

I think one primary place that both miss the mark is in the definition of salvation. Both seem to assume that salvation is a contract of sorts. Once the contract is signed it can be destroyed (Arminianism) or is non-negotiable for either party (Calvinism). Once the signature is on the paper, both parties are done.

But salvation is more like a relationship or a journey. You begin a relationship, troubles come and go, offenses happen in the context of a relationship, but both parties are commited to the relationship. But the relationship can be rejected and dissolved. Here is the thing, God is never going to quite pursueing the relationship. You may dissolve your part of it, but God is committed to bringing you back into the relationship.

However, He is not going to force you to love him. If you don't want to spend time with Him here on earth why would you want to do so after death?

I don't think Arminianism takes seriously the grace, forgiveness, and Fatherhood of God. But I don't think Calvinism takes seriously holiness, accountability, and freedom. There is a false belief that you are either one or the other; like these are opposite sides of the same coin. I don't think there is a coin.

I think we are looking at the wrong thing. The goal is not to get into heaven or keep from going to hell. Which is the focus of the Arminianism and Calvinism debate. The focus is a life lived obediently to the Father. It is about kingdom living.

I think as long as a person is seeking to be in fellowship with God, they are secure in their salvation. Should a person decide to stop seeking a relationship, God is not going to stop them, but He is going to continue seeking a relationship with Him.

I saw a quote the other day that said, "We are saved by grace, but we are judged according to our works." That challeneged me to study the Bible with that quote in mind, and I think it is right. Every instance of judgement is based upon the person doing or not doing something they should or should not have done.

To use Brian McLaren's language, I am looking for something "above the line." I looking to hold the sovereignty/keeping power of Calvinism in tension with the grace/freedom of choice of Arminianism. I want the best of both, and I think that is what the Bible teaches. I think holding strictly to one or the other is the easy way out; we must hold them in tension. Besides, I do believe that point of this is that a person truly follows after God, not whether or not they are going to "lose" their salvation or be held "eternally secure" in it.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been of the belief (not taught just something that I've felt for a long time) that salvation is postural. We are either postured facing God and in relationship, or we are postured away from him and rejecting him. That is the basis for our salvation. Every day we have to make the decision to face him or reject him...

    so that is what? Ronni-ism? :)