The Electrum

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Those who are beginning to study the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism tend to entertain two related but mistaken assumptions. The first is that the debate involves only two primary positions. The second is that the more extremely one implements either position, the more distant one must be from the other position. The first of these assumptions is simply untrue. The second is true, but only to a point.

Like visible light, positions in the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism form a continuous spectrum. Every Christian who has an opinion on the issues can be located somewhere along that spectrum. The issues that define the positions, however, are not necessarily those that one might expect.

Participants in this debate will be found arguing about divine sovereignty versus human freedom, about the ordo salutis, about the extent of human depravity, about the role of prevenient grace, and about whether election is unconditional, conditional, or corporate. To be sure, all of these questions are important, but they eventually lead to one critical problem. That problem is the definition of divine foreknowledge.

Divine foreknowledge is the hinge upon which all the other debates turn. One’s definition of foreknowledge will determine whether one ends on the Arminian or Calvinistic side of the debate—and everyone who expresses an opinion is on one side or the other.

Arminians see God’s foreknowledge as His foresight. God looks ahead through the corridors of time and sees what free people will choose. For Arminians, divine foreknowledge is essentially reactive.

For their part, Calvinists see God’s foreknowledge as causative. God’s foreknowledge does not passively observe the future, but rather shapes it. God’s foreknowledge makes things happen. According to Calvinists, foreknowledge is not so much God’s foresight as it is His forethought.

Once a definition has been chosen, the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place almost unavoidably. If God’s foreknowledge is causative, then election must be unconditional. If election is unconditional, then divine calling has to be efficacious. That being so, prevenient grace cannot have reversed the volitional effects of depravity. In other words, most of the Calvinistic system follows with logical certainty from a particular definition of foreknowledge. The exception is the negative side of particular redemption—i.e., the denial that Christ provided redemption for the non-elect.

By the same token, most of the system of Arminianism necessarily flows from viewing God’s foreknowledge as foresight. The exception here is the denial of eternal security. Just as some Calvinists affirm a universal provision of redemption, some Arminians affirm eternal security.

This observation implies that shades and gradations exist on both sides of the dividing line. Strict Calvinists affirm limited atonement, while moderate Calvinists do not. Strict Arminians deny eternal security, while moderate Arminians affirm it.

In other words, the debate involves not two, but at least four positions. These are strict Arminianism, moderate Arminianism, moderate Calvinism, and strict Calvinism. Beyond these four, other positions stretch out both sides of the spectrum.

Much ink has been spilled over the phenomenon of hyper-Calvinism. Unfortunately, this term is generally used as a bare pejorative. The abuse of the term, however, should not be allowed to obscure the fact that a genuinely hyper-Calvinistic position does exist, though its adherents sometimes prefer to call it “High Calvinism.”

What are the characteristics of a hyper-Calvinist? Four particularly bear mentioning. These include the denial of common grace, the adoption of a supralapsarian order of the decrees, the acceptance of a doctrine of reprobation or double-predestination, and a refusal to make a free offer of the gospel. More extreme versions of hyper-Calvinism might also teach the doctrine of eternal justification or a form of antinomianism. To the extent that a person holds these four beliefs, that person is going beyond traditional Calvinism as defined at Dort, and that is what makes the position hyper-Calvinistic.

A corresponding position exists on the Arminian side of the spectrum. This position does not really have a label, but for sake of designation it could be called hyper-Arminianism. How does this position differ from historic Arminianism?

Traditionally, Arminianism and Calvinism take similar views of depraved human nature. This similarity is evident in Article Three of the original Arminian Articles, which affirms,

That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, “Without me ye can do nothing.”

Theological students who encounter this statement for the first time often mistake it for a Calvinistic affirmation. It is not. For both traditional Calvinists and traditional Arminians, the will has been so affected by the fall that humans, left to themselves, are utterly incapable of any positive response toward God (in other words, they have lost the moral ability to believe). The difference between Calvinists and Arminians consists in how they solve this problem. According to Arminians, God restores some element of moral ability to all humans as an aspect of prevenient grace. Calvinists believe that God restores full moral ability, but only to the elect as part of saving grace.

This original disabling of the will is what hyper-Arminians deny. In their mind, every human being already has complete freedom of will in every sense, and is always and fully able to choose God at any time. Effectively, hyper-Arminianism denies that depravity has affected the human will. (This position is sometimes mistaken for Pelagianism, but Pelagian theology also denies the imputation of original sin.)

In today’s debates, hyper-Arminians often prefer to call themselves Biblicists. They usually insist that they are neither Calvinists nor Arminians. In one sense, they are right: their position is much more extreme than historic, traditional Arminianism. Nevertheless, their definition of foreknowledge places them firmly on the Arminian side of the spectrum.

So does their insistence upon a libertarian definition of freedom. By this definition, the will is not free unless one might actually make the contrary choice. For Calvinists, however, freedom consists in the ability to do what one chooses without constraint or restraint. Most Calvinists have believed that the will can be shaped and even determined in a number of ways without damaging genuine freedom. The debate between libertarianism and compatibilism corresponds closely to the divide between Arminianism and Calvinism.

This debate also propels some Arminians into an even more extreme position. They reason that if God knows our choices in advance, then we necessarily will make the choices that He foresees. If we will necessarily make a particular choice, however, then it is not really possible to make the contrary choice. In other words, even with a “soft” definition of divine foreknowledge as foresight, libertarian freedom becomes impossible.

The logic of this position is really air-tight, and it results in a pretty abysmal choice. One can affirm foreknowledge and remain biblical, but sacrifice reason. Or one can deny foreknowledge and remain logical, but be forced to reinterpret Scripture in radical ways. Those who deny foreknowledge are known as Free Will Theists or Open Theists. For the most part, Open Theists insist that their theology is simply the logical extension of the core ideas of Arminianism.

Opposite to Open Theism is a position that denies any form of human freedom and subjects every event and decision to “hard” determinism. In extreme versions of hyper-Calvinism, this position makes God so much the author of sin that humans bear little or no actual responsibility for their acts. All Arminians and most Calvinists are horrified by these ideas, just as all Calvinists and most Arminians are horrified by Open Theism.

At this point in the spectrum, an odd thing happens. On one end of the spectrum, hard determinism turns into fatalism (choice is merely an illusion, but people are really ruled by fate). On the other end of the spectrum, freedom becomes so loose as to become virtually random, and therefore essentially a matter of chance, luck, or fortune. But fate and luck are simply different names for the same thing. In other words, the two ends of the spectrum meet. Someone who goes far enough in either direction will end up in exactly the same place.

In the present essay, I am not trying to argue for one direction or the other. Nevertheless, I would like to draw out certain lessons. First, understood in these terms, all Christians who express an opinion end up in some version of Calvinism or Arminianism. Second, more than two positions are possible. Both Arminianism and Calvinism have moderate and extreme versions. Third, it is not proper to critique any position by pointing to its extreme expressions, for the most extreme expressions of both directions are identical to each other. Fourth, there is no one distinctively “Biblicist” position. People from extreme hyper-Calvinists to hyper-Arminians (and perhaps many Open Theists) believe that they are deriving their conclusions from the text of Scripture—and invariably the advocates of one view think that the advocates of all the others are overly influenced by extra-biblical considerations.

Nevertheless, some positions are more biblical than others, and that leads to a final observation. The issues that come into play in the “electrum” are of different kinds. Some of them are serious enough to affect fundamentals of the faith. Any position that makes God the efficient cause of sin is blasphemous. Likewise, any theory that denies exhaustively definite foreknowledge constitutes an implicit denial of the gospel. Furthermore, any theory that makes ultimate salvation dependent upon human work or merit damages the very foundations of the faith.

Having said that, Christians of good will should not impute these extreme theories to the more moderate expressions of Calvinism or Arminianism. To say that every Arminian is an Open Theist or a Pelagian is slander. To suggest that Calvinists necessarily make God the author of sin—as if God Himself induced people to do evil—is to engage in distortion to the point of deception. Each position needs to be understood in its own terms and represented fairly.

Other points of argument, however, are of lesser significance. The definition of foreknowledge is important, but it is an issue over which Christians may charitably disagree. The same is the case with the position of faith and regeneration in the ordo salutis, the definition of election, and the role of common grace in restoring the moral ability to choose God. To be sure, these questions matter a great deal, but they are not the sort of questions over which Christian fellowship and cooperation must fracture. We should be able to discuss such things without raising tempers and voices.

Those discussions would be more fruitful if they began with a spirit of curiosity. A Calvinist ought to wonder how an Arminian can hold the system of faith together with putative integrity and consistency, and the Arminian ought to wonder the same thing about the Calvinist. Therefore, the first step in the discussion should not be to look for evidence that the other is wrong, but to discover those parts of the system that make it seem right. Even if we want to refute another position, the first step toward being able to do that is to learn to articulate it in a convincing way. If each of us would extend this courtesy to the other positions in the “electrum,” we might often change the character of the debate.

All Mortal Vanities, Begone
Isaac Watts (1674–1748)

All mortal vanities, begone,
Nor tempt my eyes, nor tire my ears;
Behold, amidst th’eternal throne,
A vision of the Lamb appears.

Glory His fleecy robe adorns,
Marked with the bloody death He bore;
Seven are His eyes, and seven His horns,
To speak His wisdom and His power.

Lo! He receives a sealèd book
From Him that sits upon the throne;
Jesus, my Lord, prevails to look
On dark decrees and things unknown.

All the assembling saints around
Fall worshipping before the Lamb,
And in new songs of gospel sound
Address their honors to His Name.

The joy, the shout, the harmony,
Flies o’er the everlasting hills
“Worthy art Thou alone,” they cry,
“To read the book, to loose the seals.”

Our voices join the heav’nly strain,
And with transporting pleasure sing,
“Worthy the Lamb that once was slain,
To be our Teacher and our King!”

His words of prophecy reveal
Eternal counsels, deep designs;
His grace and vengeance shall fulfill
The peaceful and the dreadful lines.

Thou hast redeemed our souls from hell
With Thine invaluable blood;
And wretches that did once rebel
Are now made favorites of their God.

Worthy forever is the Lord,
That died for treasons not His own,
By every tongue to be adored,
And dwell upon His Father’s throne!

[node:bio/kevin-t-bauder body]

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There are 131 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

A very helpful framing of the debate. Much appreciated.

I wouldn't personally say that the extremes of both perspectives end up in the same place. I'm not seeing how "fate" and "luck" are different names for the same thing. In the case of fate, God is seen as directly managing choices to the point that choice is meaningless. In the case of luck, God is seen as shy about interfering with human choices to the point that choice has the ultimate meaning. So it seems to me that these opposite extremes remain extremely opposite.

But the point is solid that what Calvinism and Arminianism are cannot be fairly defined by the distortions of each.

Edit... on 2nd read, this sunk in a bit further

Quote:
At this point in the spectrum, an odd thing happens. On one end of the spectrum, hard determinism turns into fatalism (choice is merely an illusion, but people are really ruled by fate). On the other end of the spectrum, freedom becomes so loose as to become virtually random, and therefore essentially a matter of chance, luck, or fortune.

But I'm still not quite seeing how luck/fortune and God-determined fate are the same in these views. Seems like the concept is on the edge of clicking, but I can't quite see it. Maybe somebody can help me here.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thought it might help folks sort the content of the essay out if they had a visual aid...
Kevin, if you've got time maybe you can tell me if I've got it pretty close to what you intended?
[img=500x163 ]/sites/default/files/images/10_02/Electrum2.jpg[/img ]

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I'm feeling kinda purple today. Thanks for the chart Aaron.

I think the point of similarity between luck and fate is the loss of personal choice/responsibility in both systems. Both ends of the spectrum just sit back and let things happen to them.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, I see the loss of personal choice in fatalism. How is it lost in open theism? It seems to me that rather than losing it, it's crowned king. Choice is almost worshiped at that end of things. Maybe I'm not understanding that view correctly?
OK... maybe this sums it up: in the open theism randomness, our choices are also shaped by forces outside ourselves but those shaping forces are random? If that's an accurate depiction of the view, I can see the point of similarity. This is not what I've understood it to mean, though. The aim seems to be to say human beings are very powerful in what they are able to choose and that their choices have the power to send God back to the heavenly drawing board to revamp His plans.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Another insightful and thought-provoking post. Looks like it's shaping up for some good discussion. Thanks, SI, for helping us to understand and think through different sides of this potentially divisive issue.

G. N. Barkman

Caleb S's picture

I would just point out that fatalism is (1) impersonal [not from a personal God ] (2) makes choices pointless.

Luck, when an indeterminist view of the will is taken, is the only reason why one chooses one thing or another. An indeterminist might object to this because it assumes a cause prior to the will, but that is strictly denied; so to speak of luck is to go a step beyond where the definition will allow. However, "luck" is (1) impersonal, and (2) it makes choices pointless. The parallels are there; I just don't think that you will get the indeterminist to agree that "luck" is a part of his system; however much it may be applicable. The point at issue is the principle of causality, whether or not it is jettisoned in one's thinking.

Personally, I see one's understanding of the will to be more determinative of his system than foreknowledge: because of the following paradigm of thought.

Indeterminism: Will therefore being
Determinism: being therefore will

That in turn affects which version of foreknowledge you will be predisposed to accept.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Since this thread respects church history, let's label the moderate Calvinist position with its historic label: Amyraldianism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amyraldism

In Amyraldianism, Jesus made an atonement for all men, that is, a universal atonement. However, the Amaraldyian claims other points of Calvinism. This is the moderate Calvinism.

Now, Arminians claim moderate Calvinists borrow their understanding of a universal atonement but are intellectually dishonest because they claim other points of Calvinism.

Calvinists claim that moderate Calvinists live on borrowed capital. We say moderate Calvinists deny all the points of Calvinism - that to claim the atonement as universal necessitates a denial of all the other points.

Amaraldyianism explains the works of salvation as this: Christ made a potential atonement for all, which is only made actual based on the sinner exerting faith in that atonement. If the sinner fulfills this one condition (i.e., faith) he/she is saved.

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep" (John 10:11). Everyone - Calvinists, Arminians, and moderates - all understand this as Jesus speaking about what He will do on the cross.

A few verses later Jesus says to the Pharisees, "You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep" (v. 26). Jesus says faith depends on being one of His sheep.

Jesus did not say, "you are not my sheep, because you do not believe." Yet this is the claim of Amyraldianism (moderate Calvinism).

Instead, Jesus said, "You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep" (v. 11).

Therefore, Jesus did not give His life in atonement for those Pharisees. This is a claim no Arminian can accept.

Charlie's picture

Aaron, this is regarding your question about loss of free will in more libertarian systems. In classical theology, both Catholic and Protestant, both intellectualist and voluntarist varieties, choice is constrained by the choosing agent. It's connected to and therefore limited by the mind and appetite.

In at least the less sophisticated versions of libertarian free will, choice is basically detached from the elements that go into making a choice. For example, a compatibilist (who believes that freedom of will is the ability to choose in keeping with your desires) can always say that a person chose what he did because he wanted to do so, that the net weight of his inclinations landed him on that side. He insists that he chose A rather than B because he wanted to, and his wants are sourced somehow in his personality.

However, the libertarian is committed to the much more difficult claim that free will consists in the power of the opposite choice. That is, no matter what my inclinations and desires might be, I can always choose the opposite. The problem is that now the "will," detached from mind and appetite, becomes a random number generator. If my choice is not connected to my rational thought process and desires, in what sense is it me making the choice. Faced with the question, "Why did you choose A rather than B?" the libertarian's non-answer is, "I just did." If the will is, in the last analysis, always underdetermined by personal factors, then it's choices are random and impersonal.

A random choice is not choice at all. It's a twitch. When a Parkinson's patients hand shakes, we don't call that free will, because it's not prompted by anything in his personality. So, if power of the contrary choice amounts to power to choose against my own personality, is that free will or the tyranny of chance? And isn't the tyranny of chance just as impersonal and all-controlling as harsh metaphysical determinism? In fact, I think it's even more "fatalistic" than hyper-Calvinism, since there at least one being is making real choices.

In Greek mythology, fate and chance were correlative ideas. The goddess Tyche (Latin - Fortuna) was the goddess of luck, but as one of the Fates, she also presided over the destiny of a city. Also, we speak of man's "lot," which refers both to his appointed share and to the rolling of the dice.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ted,

I have generally labeled myself a moderate calvinist - sometimes a 4.5 point calvinist. I have often felt that this conversation on atonement gets hung up on semantics. I don't know how else to understand 1 John 2:2 than that

Quote:
Christ made a potential atonement for all, which is only made actual based on the sinner exerting faith in that atonement. If the sinner fulfills this one condition (i.e., faith) he/she is saved.

I usually use the word sufficient rather than potential, but again this seems largely semantical. I understand that no one fulfills this condition apart from the effectual working of God, and so on and so forth - hence the other 4 points of calvinism.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Like visible light, positions in the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism form a continuous spectrum.

This is by no means a comprehensive response to this article, nor do I even have time to digest the whole thing Smile

I agree with the spectrum idea in one sense, although I have never thought the whole thing through in historical and theological detail to the extent that this article takes it, so I am not sure if Bauder and I are on the same track or not.

The sense in which I believe that both views form a spectrum is that, at their logical ends, both systems deny 1 Thess. 1:4.

A Calvinist cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he may be non-elect and may not have believed sincerely enough.

An Arminian cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could always lose his salvation, revealing that he is non-elect and did possess true faith.

What I call a Biblicist can know that he is saved and elect because he is is justified, based on faith in Christ alone (Rom. 8:29, 30).

Thus, I view both Calvinism and Arminianism as being primary philosophical/theological systems that attempt to fit the Bible into those systems, rather than focusing on Biblical literalism.

OK, so I just put a gigantic circle on my back :Sp

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

G. N. Barkman's picture

Chip,

As a 4.5 point Calvinist, you must know that the sinner cannot exercise faith until quickened by the Holy Spirit. Total Depravity, which includes total spiritual inability (spiritual death) precludes his ability to do so. So how can I John 2:2 mean that Christ's atonement only becomes effectual when the sinner trusts in Christ?

I would suggest that you look more closely at the Biblical use of the word "world" to find a more satisfactory explanation for this seeming conundrum.

Cordially,
Greg

G. N. Barkman

Caleb S's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Like visible light, positions in the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism form a continuous spectrum.

This is by no means a comprehensive response to this article, nor do I even have time to digest the whole thing Smile

I agree with the spectrum idea in one sense, although I have never thought the whole thing through in historical and theological detail to the extent that this article takes it, so I am not sure if Bauder and I are on the same track or not.

The sense in which I believe that both views form a spectrum is that, at their logical ends, both systems deny 1 Thess. 1:4.

A Calvinist cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he may be non-elect and may not have believed sincerely enough.

An Arminian cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could always lose his salvation, revealing that he is non-elect and did possess true faith.

What I call a Biblicist can know that he is saved and elect because he is is justified, based on faith in Christ alone (Rom. 8:29, 30).

Thus, I view both Calvinism and Arminianism as being primary philosophical/theological systems that attempt to fit the Bible into those systems, rather than focusing on Biblical literalism.

OK, so I just put a gigantic circle on my back :Sp


What you call a Biblicist cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could always lose his salvation, regardless of the fact that he is justified, based on faith in Christ alone. Therefore, Calvinism, Arminianism, and Biblicism are primarily philosophical/theological systems that attempt to fit the Bible into those systems, rather than focusing on being based upon the Bible.

In other words, one good seemingly arbitrary theological insertion deserves another. We can all insert whatever we want into other systems, then label it as "philosophical" and a human "system", and then we can all claim the high road of "moderation" and "biblicism". I may be completely wrong, but I comment this way to point out what I often see as political posturing or goal post shifting, so that the game can be played according to my own personal terms. No one likes to be categorized (typically). Everyone is unique, just like everyone else!!! I simply label myself biblicist and call everyone else philosophical. There we go; the debate is ended before it even starts. It has been framed in the categories of "biblicism is biblical," and everything else is philosophical.

(This is meant to be read with a tint of sarcasm, but absolutely no animosity. And I hope to be discussing the issue, not the person)

Oh the joys of terminological tension between unity and diversity (categories vs. particulars)!!!

DavidO's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
A Calvinist cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he may be non-elect and may not have believed sincerely enough.

Is this the opinion of the Calvinist writers? My understanding is that when God gives saving faith it is, of course, always "sincere enough" and accompanied by various proofs (if you will) that confirm its genuineness to the truly elect child. In fact, I'm not sure how that is different from your "biblicist" position.

EDIT: Quote of the day!

Caleb S wrote:
Everyone is unique, just like everyone else!!!

Paul J. Scharf's picture

First let me get those arrows out of my BAAAAAAACK.... there! phew! :cry:

Next let me correct a typo in entry #10:
"An Arminian cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could always lose his salvation, revealing that he is non-elect and did NOT possess true faith."

Now, to answer.

No, being a Biblicist does not solve all the problems.

David, If I had to go to the wall to take another title, it would definitely be "moderate Calvinist." I have never considered myself an Arminian.

But, that takes us full circle. It has a lot to do with how you define the terms, as Charlie notes, and the terms -- in this case, in my opinion -- are not always helpful.

For instance, when we discuss the term "Trinity," we have there a technical term with a fixed meaning.

This is not necessarily the case with any of the five points of TULIP. Some use the P to teach eternal security. Some use the P to deny eternal security, by its traditional definition anyway.

Additionally, in this case, the terms are also loaded with historical baggage.

So, after a while, you have to ask: Do Calvinism and Arminianism offer us a false choice?

(Maybe it's just the stubborn Lutheranism that lingers deep within my heart that makes me ask such seemingly foolish questions ;))

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Caleb S's picture

The quote comes from despair.com under "individuality"; I can't take credit for it. Thanks Paul for your follow up; I was trying to use Nerf arrows.

I guess that you just have to enjoy the tension between unity and diversity. For those cat lovers and cat haters. You may decide to define "cat" as a mammal with four legs, with fur and whiskers, and claws, and a tail, that is cute and cuddly. However, when you start to look at the individual cats, then your definition begins to have hiccups. What if the cat's tail got caught in the lawnmower, and it doesn't have one anymore? Is it then not a cat? What if it looses a limb to the neighbor's dog? Is it no longer a cat? What about the cat back home who is REALLY getting old, and he no longer grooms himself and has huge clumps of fur, and is most certainly not cute and cuddly? Is it no longer a cat?

Then we have to redefine the "cat" as a mammal with naturally existing four legs, normally with fur and whiskers, etc. Pretty soon the meaning of the label becomes overly cumbersome. The unity (the label) has encountered diversity (the details). Generally, labels are helpful in speeding up a conversation that can get overly mired in the details, but then the label often suffers with being too generalized.

RPittman's picture

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Like visible light, positions in the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism form a continuous spectrum. Every Christian who has an opinion on the issues can be located somewhere along that spectrum. The issues that define the positions, however, are not necessarily those that one might expect.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Thought it might help folks sort the content of the essay out if they had a visual aid...
Kevin, if you've got time maybe you can tell me if I've got it pretty close to what you intended?
[img=500x163 ]/sites/default/files/images/10_02/Electrum2.jpg[/img ]
Cornelius Van Til, the Dutch-born philosopher and Reformed theologian, argued that all our knowledge is analogical. If he is right, and I do think he has something to say to us, then we are limited to models of our own making and understanding. Thus, the idea of a spectrum may be useful in helping us understand some of the relationships of various theological ideas, it cannot define the theology of an individual because one's theological constructs are composed of many diverse and variant parts.

First, what is a spectrum? A spectrum is a continuum of phenomena that is arranged in some order of a particular property. The electromagnetic spectrum, which visible light and radio waves are part, is arranged in order of either increasing or decreasing wavelengths or its related property, frequencies. Thus, the spectrum concept might be a useful means of comparing a single aspect of one doctrine, such as paedobaptism, but it is totally unsuited for comparing the multi-multifaceted aspects of broad general categories such as Arminianism-Calvinism. There is no linear relationship here, not even a three-dimensional one. Even if we could devise a complex multidimensional model, it would be so folded and intervoluted that one couldn't make sense of it due to the complexity.

To argue for the spectral model, one would need to make a factor analysis, I think. I suppose it could be done but I've never seen a factor analysis of Calvinism or Arminianism showing the clustering of various doctrines. When college sophomores ask if I'm Calvinist or Arminian, I reply, "Neither." My beliefs are too eclectic to be labeled or classified by a traditional theological system. Even IFB, and I claim this designation, is not an adequate description. Why? There are IFB's with whom I differ on doctrinal points.

In other words, there is no one point on the spectrum that represents all the beliefs of an individual. Remember that the spectrum is ordered upon a single property. Each point of the spectrum represents a single belief of one limited idea and there are infinite points. To say a point represents an individual is inaccurate at best because it does not take into account that individual beliefs represent divergent points within the broad categories.

In our mad rush to abbreviate, categorize, and define, we often obfuscate. A pure Calvinist or a pure Arminian does not exist. After all, we would not recognize one if it did exist. And a spectrum cannot clarify the common ground or differences because it only shows one point at a time. We need an infinite number of spectra for all the doctrines.

Forrest's picture

its reasoning by analogy, it's not supposed to have a one-to-one ratio where each point represents a specific theological position. It's designed to show that there is a relationship and progression between the various positions.

It is useful for comparing generalized positions, not for finding which specific dot on the line you are and having that dot define your entire theology.

Forrest Berry

Ted Bigelow's picture

Chip wrote wrote:
I don't know how else to understand 1 John 2:2 than that Christ made a potential atonement for all, which is only made actual based on the sinner exerting faith in that atonement. If the sinner fulfills this one condition (i.e., faith) he/she is saved.

Hey Chip, here's some thoughts to help you with 1 John 2:2.

If you are able, look it 1 John 2:2 in the Greek, and notice the preposition John uses in that verse - the one we translate "for" in English. It is not the preposition used for substitutionary atonement in John's writings (John 10:11, 15, 11:50, 13:37-38, 1 John 3:16). Instead, in 1 John 2:2 John uses the proposition often translated, "concerning" (see 1 John 1:1). Many assume in 1 John 2:2 that John is writing about the extent of Christ's substitutionary atonement. He was not. He wrote on the efficacy of Christ's atonement, not its extent. Christ's atonement completely propitiates every kind of sin that is in the world of sinning humanity and which a believer might commit.

2nd, many also assume the phrase "the whole world" means each and every person. It does not. See 1 John 5:19, where it does not include all people (it does not include Christians in that verse). In fact, the word "world" never means "each and every person" in the world in the NT. For that we have the Greek word, "oikoumene" (Mat. 24;14, Luke 2:1, Rev. 3:10, 12:9). See Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT and NT Words, 4:233, Mounce's Expository Dictionary of OT and NT Words, 808.

3rd, you probably need to answer the question, "If Jesus propitiated the sins of the every person, why does anyone go to hell?" Because if you want to say they go to hell because they did not believe, is that not evidence of the sin of unbelief? And if we say people go to hell for the sin of unbelief, then we also deny Jesus propitiated the Father for that one sin. Yet 1 John 2:2 teaches He propitiated every sin that is in the world. So, did Jesus die for all sins except the sin of unbelief?

4th, the moderate Calvinist believes that 1 John 2:2 teaches a universal propitiation, but does not believe everybody is saved by that propitiation. This requires a redefinition from the biblical meaning of "propitiation" to a definition that means less than "wrath appeasing sacrifice." IOW, the moderate Calvinist does not believe the work of Jesus on the cross fully bore the wrath of God against the unsaved as their propitiatory sacrifice. Even though Jesus tasted death in their place, yet for the moderate Calvinist He didn't propitiate the Father for them by His death. Thus the moderate Calvinist position rejects the biblical definition of propitiation in order to maintain a universal atonement. As a result, the Father is still angry with those who His Son propitiated since He still bears His wrath against them. Instead, the moderate Calvinist believes the sinner's faith removes the Father's wrath, and I would add, is the real propitiation. The Father is angry until the sinner exerts faith. But Romans 3:25.

5th, if 1 John 2:2 teaches that Jesus died a universal atoning death for the millions of people who died before His incarnation, what did His death on their behalf do for those already in hell? Along the same lines, what good did His propitiation do for Judas?

RPittman's picture

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Theological students who encounter this statement for the first time often mistake it for a Calvinistic affirmation. It is not. For both traditional Calvinists and traditional Arminians, the will has been so affected by the fall that humans, left to themselves, are utterly incapable of any positive response toward God (in other words, they have lost the moral ability to believe). The difference between Calvinists and Arminians consists in how they solve this problem. According to Arminians, God restores some element of moral ability to all humans as an aspect of prevenient grace. Calvinists believe that God restores full moral ability, but only to the elect as part of saving grace.
Dr. Bauder is very perceptive here, I think. However, he doesn't tip his hand, perhaps not yet. Bauder has distilled the difference of Arminianism-Calvinism to a sticky elixir, too syrupy for either side to swallow. Both are agreed in what has been revealed by God but neither knows exactly how God resolves the dilemma. Through rational supposition and human ratiocination, they arrive at opposite solutions. Neither has the Divine word on the subject. Has anyone considered that there are other solutions? So, what's the solution? Who is right? The bottom line is that we don't know because God hasn't told us (Deuteronomy 29:29). We do have sufficient revelation for salvation, life, and godliness but we don't know the precise mechanism of our coming to faith in Christ except that it is through hearing the Word of God, grace through faith, and the working of the Holy Spirit. I'm really not interested in human suppositions.

RPittman's picture

Forrest wrote:
its reasoning by analogy, it's not supposed to have a one-to-one ratio where each point represents a specific theological position. It's designed to show that there is a relationship and progression between the various positions.

It is useful for comparing generalized positions, not for finding which specific dot on the line you are and having that dot define your entire theology.

Yeah, I know it's an analogy. However, many analogies are superficial and more confusing than enlightening. Then, do the factors cluster? Are you sure? How do you know? If there's no clustering of factors, then your generalizations are useless because they represent no one.

Then, how do you decide which points are moderate or extreme Calvinism? What about where the same point, such as total depravity, is believed across much of the spectrum? Suppose one describes himself as a moderate 3-point Calvinist. Are his 3-points the same as another moderate 3-point Calvinist? I don't think you understood my post.

Charlie's picture

RPittman wrote:

First, what is a spectrum? A spectrum is a continuum of phenomena that is arranged in some order of a particular property. The electromagnetic spectrum, which visible light and radio waves are part, is arranged in order of either increasing or decreasing wavelengths or its related property, frequencies. Thus, the spectrum concept might be a useful means of comparing a single aspect of one doctrine, such as paedobaptism, but it is totally unsuited for comparing the multi-multifaceted aspects of broad general categories such as Arminianism-Calvinism. There is no linear relationship here, not even a three-dimensional one. Even if we could devise a complex multidimensional model, it would be so folded and intervoluted that one couldn't make sense of it due to the complexity.

To argue for the spectral model, one would need to make a factor analysis, I think. I suppose it could be done but I've never seen a factor analysis of Calvinism or Arminianism showing the clustering of various doctrines. When college sophomores ask if I'm Calvinist or Arminian, I reply, "Neither." My beliefs are too eclectic to be labeled or classified by a traditional theological system. Even IFB, and I claim this designation, is not an adequate description. Why? There are IFB's with whom I differ on doctrinal points.

I think Roland has a real point here. I would amplify that a true spectrum represents quantitative difference regarding one variable factor. The wavelength is a great example, because the only variable is the frequency, a purely numeric factor. You can turn a single knob and watch the light change color. Notice, though, that there isn't really a factor being quantitatively "tuned" in the suggested electrum. If it were, Calvinism would be 90% active foreknowledge, whereas hyper-Calvinism would be 100% active foreknowledge, and moderate Arminianism would be, I don't know, 35% active foreknowledge.

But, the issue isn't quantitative. It's relational. Both classical Calvinists and classical Arminians believe 100% in both divine sovereignty and human free will. The difference is how those two concepts are related. Also, as Bauder admits, the extent of the atonement and "eternal security" aren't necessarily derived from foreknowledge, so they can't fit on the spectrum. In other words, you can't dial back foreknowledge to move from 5-point to 4-point Calvinism.

A second qualification would be that the Calvinist-Arminian debate can't be the whole series of theological options. Arminianism itself was a modification of Reformed theology, and makes sense only within a broadly Reformed theological structure. It's ludicrously anachronistic to call Lutherans or Anabaptists or Catholics "Arminians." They all had theological positions in place before Arminianism ever existed.

On the other hand, if someone acknowledges the limitations inherent in the analogy, I don't mind a taxonomy along these lines. Obviously, hyper-Calvinism is more similar to Calvinism than it is to Arminianism. So, I think a visual graph can be made that looks similar to the one Aaron made. I wouldn't necessarily call it a spectrum, though. I think the best layout of positions is found in Warfield's The Plan of Salvation. You can see a chart on page 10 of http://www.prayermeetings.org/files/Warfield_B_B/The_Plan_of_Salvation_b... ]this PDF .

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

G. N. Barkman's picture

Beg to differ. I believe God has told us, but too many either don't pay close enough attention, or are unwilling to believe what He said. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him: and I will raise him up at the last day." "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." (John 6:44,65)

It is the Arminian doctrine of Prevenient Grace that is absent from Scripture. Where in the Bible are we told that God enables every spritiually dead sinner to understand the Gospel and believe? I haven't found it after many, many years of searching. It appears to depend upon faulty logic. Since God commanded men to repent and believe, He MUST have reversed some of the results of Adam's fall, and given all men the ability to understand and respond to the Gospel? Really? Where does the Bible teach that? I find it teaches the opposite repeatedly, namely that the natural man has no ability to either understand nor receive the things of the Spirit. (II Cor. 2:14)

G. N. Barkman

Forrest's picture

RPittman wrote:
Then, do the factors cluster? Are you sure? How do you know? How do you decide which points are moderate or extreme Calvinism? What about where the same point, such as total depravity, is believed across much of the spectrum? Suppose one describes himself as a moderate 3-point Calvinist. Are his 3-points the same as another moderate 3-point Calvinist?

First, I must admit that your points are actually dealing with the substance of Dr. Bauder's argument.

Quote:
In the present essay, I am not trying to argue for one direction or the other. Nevertheless, I would like to draw out certain lessons. First, understood in these terms, all Christians who express an opinion end up in some version of Calvinism or Arminianism. Second, more than two positions are possible. Both Arminianism and Calvinism have moderate and extreme versions. Third, it is not proper to critique any position by pointing to its extreme expressions, for the most extreme expressions of both directions are identical to each other. Fourth, there is no one distinctively “Biblicist” position. People from extreme hyper-Calvinists to hyper-Arminians (and perhaps many Open Theists) believe that they are deriving their conclusions from the text of Scripture—and invariably the advocates of one view think that the advocates of all the others are overly influenced by extra-biblical considerations.

And I think your point that we need to consider each person's argument uniquely is the same as Dr. Bauder's point.

The difference is Dr. Bauder would put them on a spectrum and you would have us consider them independent of each other because they are just too unique to categorize.

In my opinion you carry Dr. Bauder's point of individuality too far. I too would agree that we need to deal with each person's particular divergent beliefs. However, categorizations are useful. The spectrum is useful as a general sign post to where a person is. This identification is very useful on a multitude of levels. Labels while often contributing unwanted baggage are still incredibly useful things.

Forrest Berry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

CalebS... appreciate this:

CalebS wrote:
Personally, I see one's understanding of the will to be more determinative of his system than foreknowledge: because of the following paradigm of thought.
Indeterminism: Will therefore being
Determinism: being therefore will

This is a very interesting possibility and I'll be chewing on it.
But is there a tertium quid?

Charlie wrote:
However, the libertarian is committed to the much more difficult claim that free will consists in the power of the opposite choice. That is, no matter what my inclinations and desires might be, I can always choose the opposite. The problem is that now the "will," detached from mind and appetite, becomes a random number generator. If my choice is not connected to my rational thought process and desires, in what sense is it me making the choice. Faced with the question, "Why did you choose A rather than B?" the libertarian's non-answer is, "I just did." If the will is, in the last analysis, always underdetermined by personal factors, then it's choices are random and impersonal.

Also very helpful. I think I see the problem. Once you completely remove the constraints of a person's nature, beliefs, habits, etc., you no longer have a "choice" in any meaningful sense.

So I guess in Kevin's full circle observation, perhaps the impersonal fatalist and the libertarian do end up in the same place because not only the events around them but also their own choices are pretty much random. But the "fatalist" in the sense Kevin talks about here is determinism by God. So to be "random," the fatalist must also believe that God is really making the choices for him for inscrutable reasons. Result: seemingly random.
You end up with person who is not responsible for anything he does in both cases.
Still seems a bit strained, though I'm not sure where to locate the problem.

James K's picture

Quote:
What you call a Biblicist cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could always lose his salvation, regardless of the fact that he is justified, based on faith in Christ alone.

What is interesting is that Calvinists also cannot know with absolute certainty that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could simply be deceived in thinking he is secure but his own evil heart betrayed him into a false hope.

I just came across some Calvinist quotes yesterday that said that very thing. Now to find them...

Also, I disdain that everyone claims this title or that title only to find out they redefined the positions.

Calvinism is Dortian thought. Dortian thought allowed for more general language on the extent of the atonement than some on here probably think. Some who argued for Dortian Calvinism were not particularist. Most limited atonement theory today follows Owen's thoughts in Death of Death.

At the same time, Arminian thought is the Remonstrants.

If neither of those views reflect your belief, then you are not either.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Mike Durning's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, "Without me ye can do nothing."

Theological students who encounter this statement for the first time often mistake it for a Calvinistic affirmation. It is not. For both traditional Calvinists and traditional Arminians, the will has been so affected by the fall that humans, left to themselves, are utterly incapable of any positive response toward God (in other words, they have lost the moral ability to believe). The difference between Calvinists and Arminians consists in how they solve this problem. According to Arminians, God restores some element of moral ability to all humans as an aspect of prevenient grace. Calvinists believe that God restores full moral ability, but only to the elect as part of saving grace.

I particularly appreciated this statement.
Historically, Whitefield and Wesley, representing Calvinism and Arminianism (respectively), worked together to oppose those who were teaching that salvation was in the rituals of the Anglican Church. These Anglo-Romanists (as one writer called them) were opposed by these two stalwarts, who both believed a transforming work of the Spirit, not a ritual, was required for salvation.

Within Fundamentalism, we have a large number of guys who would claim to lean more to the Arminian than Calvinist side, but when questioned, it's clear that they actually are more Pelagian, denying that the Spirit need work at all in bringing a person to Christ. Pelagianism isn't a mere viewpoint. It's a heresy.

RPittman's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:
Beg to differ. I believe God has told us, but too many either don't pay close enough attention, or are unwilling to believe what He said. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him: and I will raise him up at the last day." "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." (John 6:44,65)

It is the Arminian doctrine of Prevenient Grace that is absent from Scripture. Where in the Bible are we told that God enables every spritiually dead sinner to understand the Gospel and believe? I haven't found it after many, many years of searching. It appears to depend upon faulty logic. Since God commanded men to repent and believe, He MUST have reversed some of the results of Adam's fall, and given all men the ability to understand and respond to the Gospel? Really? Where does the Bible teach that? I find it teaches the opposite repeatedly, namely that the natural man has no ability to either understand nor receive the things of the Spirit. (II Cor. 2:14)

Greg, God has not provided the details. Believing every word of II Corinthians 2:14 and John 6:44-45, God still has not told us how He draws us to Himself. It is an inexplicable paradox that we complicate when we begin making speculation arguments or conjectures. Even your argument is based on inference and fallible human reasoning (i.e. faulty logic) because there is not a clear statement. In other words, you go beyond the basic statement of Scripture with inferential reasoning much like the Arminians. Of course, it is logical and consistent for you because you've bought the farm--you have bought into a theological system that ties things together. Thus, it is not that "too many either don't pay close enough attention, or are unwilling to believe what He said" but we just don't buy your reasoning and arguments. We are willing to say that we don't know when God has not said.

BTW, I do have a question for you. What is the purpose of promoting your view? What do you hope to accomplish? How am I in a worst or inferior position by saying that I don't know or understand because God has not revealed the specific mechanism of how He accomplishes this?

RPittman's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, "Without me ye can do nothing."

Theological students who encounter this statement for the first time often mistake it for a Calvinistic affirmation. It is not. For both traditional Calvinists and traditional Arminians, the will has been so affected by the fall that humans, left to themselves, are utterly incapable of any positive response toward God (in other words, they have lost the moral ability to believe). The difference between Calvinists and Arminians consists in how they solve this problem. According to Arminians, God restores some element of moral ability to all humans as an aspect of prevenient grace. Calvinists believe that God restores full moral ability, but only to the elect as part of saving grace.

I particularly appreciated this statement.
Historically, Whitefield and Wesley, representing Calvinism and Arminianism (respectively), worked together to oppose those who were teaching that salvation was in the rituals of the Anglican Church. These Anglo-Romanists (as one writer called them) were opposed by these two stalwarts, who both believed a transforming work of the Spirit, not a ritual, was required for salvation.

Within Fundamentalism, we have a large number of guys who would claim to lean more to the Arminian than Calvinist side, but when questioned, it's clear that they actually are more Pelagian, denying that the Spirit need work at all in bringing a person to Christ. Pelagianism isn't a mere viewpoint. It's a heresy.

Mike, this is one thing that I am protesting--the pigeonholing of beliefs. People and their beliefs just don't fit the openings--they share traits common to all the holes. I don't like categorizing current issues by ancient men, movements, or ideas. I suspect that many, whom you associate their beliefs with Pelagianism, have never heard of Pelagius or Pelagianism. So, I want to get away from these terms ladened with baggage and discuss what is wrong with the modern guys' beliefs. My passion is for a plain language theology bereft of all the excess verbiage and technical terms upon which no one can agree. Theological terms have accrued too much dust and confusion over the centuries.

RPittman's picture

James K wrote:
Quote:
What you call a Biblicist cannot ultimately know that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could always lose his salvation, regardless of the fact that he is justified, based on faith in Christ alone.

What is interesting is that Calvinists also cannot know with absolute certainty that he is saved until he gets to heaven because he could simply be deceived in thinking he is secure but his own evil heart betrayed him into a false hope.

I just came across some Calvinist quotes yesterday that said that very thing. Now to find them...

Also, I disdain that everyone claims this title or that title only to find out they redefined the positions.

Calvinism is Dortian thought. Dortian thought allowed for more general language on the extent of the atonement than some on here probably think. Some who argued for Dortian Calvinism were not particularist. Most limited atonement theory today follows Owen's thoughts in Death of Death.

At the same time, Arminian thought is the Remonstrants.

If neither of those views reflect your belief, then you are not either.

The problems arise when we insist on more particular language than the general language of Scripture. One can only assert more specificity by making inferences and inferences are based on human reasoning and are highly variable.

Ted Bigelow's picture

RPittman wrote:
The problems arise when we insist on more particular language than the general language of Scripture. One can only assert more specificity by making inferences and inferences are based on human reasoning and are highly variable.

Hey Roland, I'm not sure where the idea of general vs. specific language might lead us except to study the words of Scripture to see if in fact they agree with your claim here.

If I’m reading your words correctly (and please correct where I’m not) then you are claiming Christians can’t have certainly that general statements/promises in Scripture are theirs in particular.

If that is what is being asserted in your comments, and in other before you, please take a moment and consider some thoughts from 1 John 5.

1 John 5:12 tells me generally that "he who has the Son has life." Now, I don’t have my name inserted in that verse, but I do have the witness of the Holy Spirit to the water and the blood on my behalf (1 John 5:6-9, i.e., the work of Christ from baptism to cross), and that testimony is from God and is greater than the testimony of men (v. 9) - includes yours or anyone else's.

So great is the particular work of God in every born again believer that John writes "we know" an astonishing 15 times in this epistle – 6 times in the 5th chapter alone. Now, if we in fact don't know, John is a liar. But John's answer to that charge is that such a person claiming we don't know makes God a liar (1 John 5:10).

This would seem to call all those in this thread who are suggesting that I, or any genuine Christian, can't know that he/she is going to heaven as liars, and that God is a liar too. After all, God bears witness to such a powerful extent that "we know" (we have epistemological certainty). This certainty is not based on ourselves, but on the particular work of God by which He bears witness to Christ to us personally. To claim we don't have that particular work of God, accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit, and in connection with Scripture, is to call God a liar.

So I would disagree with all those in the thread who would claim that people – Arminian or Calvinist - can't know in specific they are saved, and have that knowledge with 100% certainty. We have the wonderful witness of God (Romans 8:16-17) in particular.

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