You Must Be a Calvinist or an Arminian!

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Mark_Smith's picture

I am personally not convinced that if you believe that God is the "ultimate decider" in salvation then you are a Calvinist. There is a lot more to Calvinism than whether God is the "ultimate decider". These categories are just too contrived for me. Mark Snoeberger, in a parallel article here, says you are Calvinist if you believe man has no independent role in salvation. "Independent role"? I don't independently breathe! God made the air!

KLengel's picture

Tyler, 

Don't you think Combs' point is a misrepresentation of Arminians? I do not believe Arminians believe the sinner is the "ultimate decider" or that "he deserves to share in that glory". That appears to be an extrapolation of Combs logic, not the opinion of Arminians. (For the record, I am neither) In fact, I think the whole Calvinism vs. Arminianism is a false dilemma in itself. It's why no one ever comes to the actual truth on the matter.

Ken

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Ken, I think Combs' point is that everybody tilts toward either monergism or synergism. Sure, there are many different shades of both, but we all know which way we tilt. When you peel away all the layers and strip the matter down to it's bare essentials, a very simple question remains - how one answers it determines which way one tilts:

  • If salvation is, in some form or fashion, a matter of cooperation between God and man?

    • Or . . .
  • Is salvation completely due to the grace of God? 

Yes, men must decide to repent and believe. Your answer to the above questions will determine why you believe anybody does repent and believe. Combs' point, and Snoeberger's, is that when you strip away all the layers - everybody tilts towards either (1) synergism or (2) monergism. There is no middle ground. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ken,

Did you read the article? As combs explains,

In Calvinism faith is the result of election; in Arminianism election is the result of faith.

This is the crux of the issue. The argument flows from there. Later, you get to the conclusion,

Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that the sinner chooses Christ. The sinner is not coerced into a decision for Christ. The major difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is what ultimately and finally causes a depraved sinner to choose.

As you read through the example that follows, Combs illustrates the absolute binary nature of the issue - it's either one or the other.

One answer is that God chose Joe (unconditional election) and gave him grace (efficacious) that caused him to believe. He owes his salvation completely to God (monergism). Joe cannot boast in his salvation (1 Cor 1:28–29; Eph 2:8–9). This is Calvinism.

The other, and only other[2] possible, answer is that God chose Joe because Joe chose God (conditional election). God looked down the corridors of time and saw that Joe would one day believe the gospel, so he elected Joe. But actually God did not make any independent choice. If Joe chooses God, God must choose Joe, but if Joe rejects God, God cannot choose Joe. God simply ratifies whatever choice Joe makes.

In the end, either God is in control or man is in control, but only one is dictating (read deciding) the outcome of the situation. The Arminian position leaves man as the ultimate decider with a right to share in the glory of his salvation (because he made a better choice than those who rejected salvation). There is no way to hold the Arminian position without this baggage.

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

Craig's picture

"The Arminian position leaves man as the ultimate decider with a right to share in the glory of his salvation (because he made a better choice than those who rejected salvation). There is no way to hold the Arminian position without this baggage."

That's somewhat of a straw argument. How many people do you actually know who believes man has to make the choice to believe or not believe the gospel or accept or reject God's gift of eternal life, that glories in their decision. I know many Christians who believe man has to make the choice and they glorify God because of His grace and mercy. I've never heard of a Christian trying to share in the glory of God's salvation.

Mark_Smith's picture

I don't know if this will open a can of worms but Calvinists often claim that salvation is wholly from God (monergism) because we would boast if we had a synergistic role. Well, if I believe God picked me (ie loved me) and didn't pick you (ie didn't love you as much), doesn't that introduce some form of boasting and honor that I feel over someone else. After all, God cared enough about me to die for me...but you...not so much.

I realize that these questions have been asked for a long time, I just agree with Ken and don't think Calvinism or Arminianism captures the whole picture.

mmartin's picture

Why do people too often default to an either/or kind of discussion?  Why can't it be both/and?

While I'm not a scholar in the finer points of this topic, seems to me the Bible teaches both positions.

I agree with Klengel's comment about Calvinism v Arminianism being a false dilemma.

James K's picture

Disappointed that DBTS had two profs fumble near their own endzone.

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.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm disappointed that James K is disappointed at the two DBTS professors, and isn't willing to engage the substance of the article, or what Chip and I have written (above). 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm disappointed that Tyler's disappointed that James is disa... oh nevermind. Biggrin

More to the point perhaps:  What often gets lost in the rounds on any controversial topic is the difference between an owned belief and one that is a necessary inference. Here's what I mean:

  • Bob: I am from the state directly east of Minnesota and north of Illinois.
  • Bill: Oh, you're a Wisconsinite
  • Bob: No, I'm not any kind of "ite." I didn't say that.

In this little exchange, Bob has a point: he didn't say he was a "Wisconsonite."  He didn't even say he was from Wisconsin. He doesn't "own" the idea that he is a Wisconsonite. But he did affirm a couple of facts that force that conclusion.

So, Comb's analysis is that, at bottom, there is no escaping the question, Who is the ultimate decider?  And there are propositions that force the conclusion that ultimately, it's man. To that point, I can't argue with him. I'm not sure it's really fair to Arminius to call the "ultimately man" view Arminianism, but what we call it is not really what matters most.

What matters most is how we answer that inescapable question... and what assertions we make that must lead to one answer or the other.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Craig wrote:

"The Arminian position leaves man as the ultimate decider with a right to share in the glory of his salvation (because he made a better choice than those who rejected salvation). There is no way to hold the Arminian position without this baggage."

That's somewhat of a straw argument. How many people do you actually know who believes man has to make the choice to believe or not believe the gospel or accept or reject God's gift of eternal life, that glories in their decision. I know many Christians who believe man has to make the choice and they glorify God because of His grace and mercy. I've never heard of a Christian trying to share in the glory of God's salvation.

Craig,

Where would you find fault with the proposition presented by Dr. Combs? 

"In Calvinism faith is the result of election; in Arminianism election is the result of faith." 

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

Paul Henebury's picture

"In Calvinism faith is the result of election..."

Not in some forms of preparationism it isn't (necessarily).  Nor is it in the related doctrine of temporary faith taught by Calvin.

"in Arminianism election is the result of faith."

But not faith exercised independently of the Holy Spirit

 

I understand Dr Combs (and Roger Olson) when they make it either/or, but the subtleties of the question, especially when one introduces e.g. K. Keathley's arguments in Salvation & Sovereignty seem to demand a via media. 

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

JC's picture

Seriously, when you have to start defining the other position (Calinism v Arminianism) - and won't accept what others say they believe - then it indicates you are looking for a fight rather than understanding.

Larry's picture

Moderator

I do not believe Arminians believe the sinner is the "ultimate decider"

Who does an Arminian believe is the ultimate decider?

It's why no one ever comes to the actual truth on the matter.

How do you know no one ever comes to the truth on the matter?

Larry's picture

Moderator

seem to demand a via media

What is a third way between unconditional election and conditional election?

Paul Henebury's picture

Larry wrote:

seem to demand a via media

What is a third way between unconditional election and conditional election?

That depends on what you mean by unconditional election.  I believe in it, but I disagree with its usual formulation in Calvinist theologies.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Craig's picture

Ephesians 1:13-14

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

… ye trusted …. after ye heard …

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

That depends on what you mean by unconditional election.  I believe in it, but I disagree with its usual formulation in Calvinist theologies.

Generally, there's not of debate, right? Unconditional election means that God, in eternity past, chose individuals to salvation without regard to anything in the individual.

Larry's picture

Moderator

… ye trusted …. after ye heard …

Thanks for those verses. But they seem off topic, don't they? No one here is discussing the relation of hearing to faith. Everyone agrees that hearing comes before faith. The discussion here is about election.

Craig's picture

Larry wrote:

seem to demand a via media

What is a third way between unconditional election and conditional election?

There is no third way, but there are many Christians who believe man has to make the choice to believe or not believe the gospel (so they can't be Calvinist), but for those who choose do believe they are sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption (so they can't be Arminian).

Larry's picture

Moderator

There is no third way, but there are many Christians who believe man has to make the choice to believe or not believe the gospel (so they can't be Calvinist)

What leads you to believe that Calvinists think man doesn't have to make a choice to believe?

Craig's picture

I would think ultimately the main issue is salvation and salvation comes to those who believe after hearing the gospel.

Kevin Miller's picture

Larry wrote:

There is no third way, but there are many Christians who believe man has to make the choice to believe or not believe the gospel (so they can't be Calvinist)

What leads you to believe that Calvinists think man doesn't have to make a choice to believe?

If God is the ultimate decider, then isn't choice by man simply an illusion? We may feel, from our perspective, that we are choosing, but if God is doing the ultimate deciding, then how could it, in reality, actually be a choice of man?

Jay's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

Larry wrote:

There is no third way, but there are many Christians who believe man has to make the choice to believe or not believe the gospel (so they can't be Calvinist)

What leads you to believe that Calvinists think man doesn't have to make a choice to believe?

If God is the ultimate decider, then isn't choice by man simply an illusion? We may feel, from our perspective, that we are choosing, but if God is doing the ultimate deciding, then how could it, in reality, actually be a choice of man?

And if God is the one doing the ultimate deciding, then how is this doctrine any different from fatalism or determinism?

THAT'S the reason why I don't like the term 'Calvinist'.  And I've been trying to get an straight answer to that question from a Calvinist for literally years now.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

James K's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

"In Calvinism faith is the result of election..."

Not in some forms of preparationism it isn't (necessarily).  Nor is it in the related doctrine of temporary faith taught by Calvin.

"in Arminianism election is the result of faith."

But not faith exercised independently of the Holy Spirit

 

I understand Dr Combs (and Roger Olson) when they make it either/or, but the subtleties of the question, especially when one introduces e.g. K. Keathley's arguments in Salvation & Sovereignty seem to demand a via media. 

 

Bingo

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.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I had to preach this little passage this past Sunday. What a difficult message to preach with a delicate touch! You can't escape the sovereignty of God in this passage:

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (Jn 12:37-41).

You can try with all your might, but you just can't make man the ultimate decider from this passage. You have to come down in favor of monergism. We may quibble about which flavor of monergism, but the passage upholds the fact of monergism quite clearly. As for myself, I emphasized preterition (not reprobation), God's freedom to bestow grace (election) and the fact that when people go to hell God is only giving them what they wanted. Not sure I did a good job, but I tried. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor
Kevin Miller's picture

TylerR wrote:

I had to preach this little passage this past Sunday. What a difficult message to preach with a delicate touch! You can't escape the sovereignty of God in this passage:

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (Jn 12:37-41).

You can try with all your might, but you just can't make man the ultimate decider from this passage. You have to come down in favor of monergism. We may quibble about which flavor of monergism, but the passage upholds the fact of monergism quite clearly. As for myself, I emphasized preterition (not reprobation), God's freedom to bestow grace (election) and the fact that when people go to hell God is only giving them what they wanted. Not sure I did a good job, but I tried. 

Tyler,

Does the context of this passage in John speak of all people at all times being blinded and hardened by God, or might it refer to a particular group of people being blinded at a particular time in fulfillment of a prophesy by Isaiah?

Craig's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

TylerR wrote:

 

I had to preach this little passage this past Sunday. What a difficult message to preach with a delicate touch! You can't escape the sovereignty of God in this passage:

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (Jn 12:37-41).

You can try with all your might, but you just can't make man the ultimate decider from this passage. You have to come down in favor of monergism. We may quibble about which flavor of monergism, but the passage upholds the fact of monergism quite clearly. As for myself, I emphasized preterition (not reprobation), God's freedom to bestow grace (election) and the fact that when people go to hell God is only giving them what they wanted. Not sure I did a good job, but I tried. 

 

Tyler,

 

Does the context of this passage in John speak of all people at all times being blinded and hardened by God, or might it refer to a particular group of people being blinded at a particular time in fulfillment of a prophesy by Isaiah?

Bingo

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