Friday, 13 August 2010

Calvinism and Arminianism

Having said that I would not post a blog for a couple of weeks I am blogging again today.  Having read an article on a theologian called Amyraut (17th century) I got thinking about Calvinism and Arminianism again.  Before you read the following can I point out that my understanding of Arminianism is shallow and my take on Calvinism represents only some within that camp.  I think that 'Calvinist' is not a great label to use because there is much divergence among those who might be labeled Calvinists, and Arminians tend to caricature their beliefs.  I also think that many people misunderstand Wesleyan Arminianism, leaving out the doctrine of prevenient  grace (which says that people can only respond to God through his enabling), and so end up with a form of Pelagianism (which gives an overly human role in the process of salvation).  The following are my thoughts.

Some Calvinists and Arminians can agree on the following:
God sent his Son for the World
God desires the salvation of all
God genuinely offers salvation to all people
Left to themselves all people refuse God's grace

Calvinists and Arminians disagree on the nature of converting grace
Calvinists see God's converting grace as irresistible.  God works in the heart to move a person to choose his salvation.  Calvinists see this grace as only being given to some.
Arminianists talk of prevenient grace.  God moves in the human heart to awaken a desire for him, but this can be resisted.  Arminians see this grace as working in all.

Arminians believe that God would not be as loving if salvation was only the result of his choice and he did not choose all people.  Arminians emphasise the freedom of a person to say 'yes' or 'no' to saving grace.

Calvinists believe that God acts in line with both love and justice.  He demonstrates these attributes by accepting the choice of many to refuse his genuine, heart-felt offer of mercy and in working in the hearts of others in order that they would freely choose his saving grace.  Some Calvinists (e.g. Hodge) believe that the number who will be saved far outnumbers those who will be lost.

The issue of universal or definite redemption is not necessarily determined on Calvinist and Arminian lines.  Definite redemption means that on the cross Jesus only took the punishment for those who would be saved.  Universal redemption says that on the cross Jesus took the punishment for all people's sin.  If we accept God's foreknowledge the Arminian could talk of particular redemption (for God would know who would respond and so whose sin to attribute to Christ).  Amyraut was a Calvinist who believed in universal redemption (and was followed by people like Richard Baxter).  However, most Calvinists speak in terms of definite atonement (often unhelpfully labeling it 'limited' atonement).

I have a post on 'Will all people be saved?' posted dated 06/05/2009.
I also have a post 'Do we chose or are we chosen?' dated on 20/11/2008.

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