August 29, 2006

Why I Kissed Calvinism Good-bye

Scot McKnight writes an interesting article concerning the Calvinism-Arminian issue.

I am an affirmed Arminian, in the sense that I do not believe a person is irresistibly held in their salvation through grace. I believe that a person honestly seeking the face of God will never slip away, but a person, through rejection or laziness can loose the assurance of their salvation.

I do love the grace-fullness of Calvinism. I love the grand vision of God. But I can't get past the evidence of God's interaction with His human creation as evidence that His sovreignty is something different than what Calvinists generally mean by the term "sovreignty." I think that Arminians often resort to guilt, in practice, to "encourage" people to pursue God and grow in grace. We have a works mentality that we need to "do" more and more to stay in.

I think there needs to be a balance. We are responsible to "do" the works of that come from a life of faith and grace. But we should not be constantly worrying if we are "in" with God. I think much of the problem for both Calvinists and Arminians comes from our definition of salvation. Salvation is not simply saying the sinners and prayer and being "in." Salvation is accepting Jesus' way of life as our own. It is a journey. We get into trouble when we think of salvation in terms of "in" or "out," or in terms of only a point (event) in time. Making a decision to follow Jesus and trust in His salvation is always immediately connected to growing in grace.

Anyway, the debate is almost not worth bringing up because all it does is create dissension. I think that much of the problem that some have with the Emerging Church (ala Brian McLaren) is more a Calvinist-Arminian debate.

Jesus Creed » Why I Kissed Calvinism Good-bye: "I love the “architecture” of Calvinism — that is, the focus on God’s glory and loving God, and I love the magnitude of grace in that theology, and I even love the radical transcendence that is often found in Calvinism. The CT piece frequently connects the attraction of young Christians to Calvinism because of its beauty.

When I was in college I sat for afternoons in our library and pored through Calvin’s Institutes, leading my dear wife to comment that I’d be better off underlining what I didn’t like because I had underlined most everything! Calvin’s Institutes are doxological; I still dip into him and read him. And, at the same time, I was a huge, huge fan of Spurgeon and read his Autobiography twice while in college. And, of course, other Calvinists banged around my desk — like the ever-wordy John Owen and I read devotionally John Brown’s commentary on Hebrews and Manton on James.

Then I went to seminary at Trinity, Grant Osborne asked me to be his TA, and one of his first assignments was to work through his extensive notes on the Calvinist-Arminian debate. Which I did. To be up to snuff on it, I read Howard Marshall’s Kept by the Power of God — and my mind changed. Not all at once, but this is what I remember: the consistency of the OT warnings for the covenant community formed a natural bridge for me to the NT warnings. And I couldn’t contest his many, many passages that all added up to one thing: genuine believers can lose their faith by throwing it away consciously."


  1. Man I'm so glad you showed up. Seriously, you make me think and quantify everything I believe. That is good.

    Granted I haven't studied anywhere near the amount that you have (getting there though), but I've always had a gut check when people say "once saved always saved".

    I remember once asking God, if you are always saved once you turn your life over, then why are so many Christians not living the life you have for them? He then explained to me (yes this was a conversation) that He is a God of free will. He loves us so much and wants our undying and unending love and devotion, and that means every moment we are given a new opportunity to either choose Him, or lose Him. We can walk away any time.

    The more we look at Him like a father, we understand that we always have a home in His arms. We are always His children, but whether we choose to walk in His ways or our own is a moment by moment decision. He has given us this great gift, but it is so large that our arms can only contain His gift, or the many gifts of the world. We can't hold on to both and walk.

    A few years back I walked away consciously. It was the darkest time of my life, and I tried to fill that God shaped hole with other people, my career, awards, and business.

    As I walked back over that bridge that He so lovinly built for me, the darkness lifted and I became a new person. My choice, and I could choose to walk away again if I wanted. He woos us with His love, but we are not captives to Him. We are kept, but not held tightly.

  2. Hi Eric,

    I propose that one does not have to be either a Calvinist or an Arminian. I am neither - and I believe Scripture justifies that. You see, I'm not a Calvinist, because God did not preordain some people to go to hell and some people to go to heaven. He sovereignly decreed that man would have free will to receive or reject His give of salvation. On the other hand, I am not an Arminian, because I believe the Bible clearly teaches eternal security of the believer.

    I like your site. Good stuff. Will be back.

  3. I agree, obviously with the first statement. But I don't necessarily agree with the second. I don't think the Bible clearly teaches "eternal security of the believer." There is no place that guarantees the believers security.

    However, the Bible does teach us that if we are constantly searching after God, we don't have to worry about whether or not we are "in" or "out."

    The problem comes when a person decides that the life of discipleship is too hard, and they no longer want to pursue God. Too often the "eternal security of a believer" is used as an excuse for sin or for a person's lack of pursuit of the holy life.

    I believe that the person who is genuinely pursuing God, seeking to live a holy life, and growing in Christlikeness has nothing to fear. Who wants to "just get by" in the spiritual? I would question whether such a person is truly a disciple.

  4. College freshman~ You guys need to start reading guys like D.A. Carson, Norman Geisler, Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Mark Talbot, etc!The old stuff is great, the new stuff is better. It is more accepting of paradox! This issue goes deeper than stupid terms like Calvinism and Arminianism... mere man-made systems.

  5. I agree~ there are some really deep/wisdom filled books out there. Neo-Calvinism all the way!

  6. I agree there are a lot of new Calvinist thinkers that are great and godly men. However, Calvinism is still Calvinism.

    Neither Calvinism nor Arminianism fully describes the depths of God. The problem with Calvinism (all Calvinism) is that it makes the Sovreignty of God THE primary attribute. God is Sovreign, but he is also Love.

    Arminianism holds that God's primary attribute is love.