Arminianism or Calvinism: Which Comes First?

This morning I read an argument about Which comes first, Arminianism or Calvinism? Kind of reminded me of the age old question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg!” Let’s examine the question, “Which came first, Arminianism or Calvinism?” The first article I read was a comment on William Birch’s Arminian blog, which I read quite frequently. I appreciate William’s demeanor even when he desagrees, he does it with as much class as anyone I have read. His blog post can be found HERE…

Birch is writing a response to Peter Pike, who I have never read and his article can be found HERE… The article is titled, “Conversions and Deconversions.” The title itself was interesting enough for me to read both. Here are my thoughts on the discussion.

Pike begins his discussion of conversions and deconversions with the following comment: “I have read comments from some of the Arminians at SEA who have said that any new convert to Christianity who reads the Bible will automatically find Arminianism. Arminianism can be read in Scripture, they say, while Calvinism must be taught.

I have certainly heard the argument that MOST Calvinists began their Christian experience as Arminians. I would add, this would seem to me to be especially true of Southern Baptists and most non-Presbyterian denominations. I do know that most Calvinists that I have met and talked with and read,tell that they began their Christian walk as non-Calvinists. Somewhere along the road of Christian growth, they “found Calvinism.” Birch argues, as do many Arminians, that when one reads the Bible, they will have an Arminian view of the Scripture and the only way for one to adopt the Calvinist system is to be introduced to it outside the Bible. It is interesting to note Pikes retort to that argument.

Pike writes, note the parenthesis” “(I would counter by asking why it is that we trust those who are least experienced in Christ, who have followed Him for only a short time and who have not developed a long relationship with Him, would have some kind of inside knowledge about Him that those who have travelled the path of sanctification for many years would somehow lack. That is, why trust the immature Christian to show us the truth as opposed to the elders in the Lord?)”

If one understands his argument here, it is really “eye-opening”. Pike’s argument is basically, Arminians claim that “new born Christians” are Arminian when they begin their journey in the Bible. Calvinists are the more mature Christians, so why argue following the “baby Christians” as opposed to the more mature Christians. That is an interesting come back for the argument that reading the Bible makes one an Arminian. It is a very interesting comment indeed!

Here is why I say this. Pike is saying in essence, reading the Bible is not enough. This is why Birch convincingly concludes, “when merely reading the text of Scripture — do not conclude with any semblance of Calvinism when they study their Bibles. Birch makes note of Pike’s contention that, “there is an admission that Calvinism must be taught; i.e., Calvinism is not the result of a plain reading of the text.” This is a difficult argument for the Calvinist to overcome for most who began their Christian walk as Arminians admit that the later “found” Calvinism. I agree with Birch’s contention that Calvinism must be taught; it is not caught in the Bible, itself. That in and of itself is troubling to me.

If I must be “taught” Calvinism by “elders in the faith”, as Pike suggests, then I am not sure I want it. If I cannot find it in the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit is not able to bring me to that end, then I do not see the significance of reading or listening to Piper, Sproul, Dricsoll, Boyce, Keller, Mohler and so on as the list may go on. It really does not matter if 95% of Christians are Calvinist; if it cannot be “caught in the Bible” without first being taught by someone else, then “thank you but no thank you” is my preference.

Pike continues his article by building another non-Biblical case for adopting Calvinism. He points out that “Calvinism is the most consistent form of Christianity” and he backs up that assertion with the “fact that most convert from Arminianism to Calvinism and not the other way around.” He continues saying, since Arminians are Christian, even though barely, as they mature MOST convert to Calvinism.

Pike offers the following statement:

1. Calvinism is a more consistent form of Christianity.
2. Those who reject the more consistent form a Christianity have nowhere more consistent within Christianity to go toward.
3. Therefore, it is more likely that to reject the more consistent form of Christianity, one will reject Christianity as a whole.

Pike introduces another argument. Those who reject Calvinism rarely go back to Arminianism, which Birch has done; they most often reject Christianity as a whole. Pike writes, “This does seem, at least to me, to make sense. To abandon the more consistent form of Christianity results in the desire to abandon Christianity as a whole. One would not logically expect many to step back to a more inconsistent form of Christianity if they have trouble with Christian beliefs. And if you couple this with the belief that Christian sanctification will result in Christians becoming more consistent, we have two facts that seem to lead inexorably (or, dare I say, irresistibly) toward Calvinism.”

One thing is crystal clear to me: if the “Conversion and Deconversion” argument is a basis for me to conclude that Calvinism is the best logical path to “consistent Christianity, then “Thank you very much, but I must pass.”

Grateful to be in His Grip!

><>”

Advertisements

11 responses to this post.

  1. Spurgeon quoted George Whitfield, that great evangelist,

    “We are all born Arminians.” Spurgeon added, “It is grace that turns us into Calvinists.”

    I do think that is a reflection of our incessant desire to want to think we are in charge, at least to some degree. “I have the free will to decide” sort of thinking.

    I have said before that what I think keeps many Christians from embracing Reformed theology is not the theology itself, but the implications of that theology.

    Reply

    • Seems odd that a Calvinist would say that “we are all born arminians and it is grace that turns us into Calvinists” since it is grace that saves the calvinist in the first place. Also… are those who are not Calvinists NOT turned by Grace?

      Also… I guess that grace that turns folks to Calvinism is not irresistible or that opens a whole new can of worms to chomp on…

      You final statement also has intrigued me… what do you mean when you say… the implications of Calvinism as opposed to the theology itself?

      There is one more article on Perseverance of the Saints… not sure what Dr. Lemke’s plans are with it.

      ><>”

      Reply

      • “Seems odd…” Not really. Anything we are or anything we believe that is true and right is by grace. All of life is God’s grace.

        “are those who are not Calvinists NOT turned by Grace?”

        I want to be careful to not seem condescending here or seen as putting anyone down. But remember, we all think our theology is correct, else we would change it. So, yes in my way of looking at it. If I believe that one comes to the truth via God’s gracious work of the Spirit and I believe that the Reformed faith is true, then those who embrace Reformed theology do so by His grace and those who do not embrace it have not yet been “turned by grace.”

        “I guess that grace that turns folks to Calvinism is not irresistible or that opens a whole new can of worms to chomp on…”

        Correct. Irresistible grace speaks to salvific grace, not correct doctrine grace. Al of us have/do resist, if you will, correct doctrine in the sense that we have not arrived at the end of all truth. And we won’t in this life.

        “what do you mean when you say… the implications of Calvinism as opposed to the theology itself?”

        For example. I have heard non-Reformed folks say, on the passing of a loved one who never expressed faith in Christ, “Well I just know that God would not let uncle XXX burn in hell. He would never NOT choose him.”

        That is someone unwilling to face the huge possibility that uncle XXX was not elect.

        Other examples have to do with supposed free will. If one denies irresistible grace, I have often heard it said that the denial is because the person clings to the unbiblical notion of man having free will with respect to his salvation. The implication of IG is man doesn’t have a free moral will respecting salvation and some cannot stomach that.

      • So… let me ask a question and I am really interested in the answer for my own information… really… when you wrote, “Anything we are or anything we believe that is true and right is by grace. All of life is God’s grace.” does that mean if God does not give me the same grace He gives you, I won’t get what you got?

        I guess that is what I hear you saying when you continue, ‘ then those who embrace Reformed theology do so by His grace and those who do not embrace it have not yet been “turned by grace.”

        That is interesting. I suppose we can conclude that you are where God wants you to be and I must be where He wants me to be or else, He would have turned my by His grace? Is that an accurate statement? It is certainly an interesting one indeed.

        Your comments regarding the “implications of Calvinism” and me not being one are certainly not even close to being applicable.

        Here is a major problem I have with proponents of Calvinism: you wrote… “Irresistible grace speaks to salvific grace, not correct doctrine grace.”

        Where on earth do you find that distinction in the Bible? I mean really. It would seem to me that His grace is either efficacious or it is not. Just pick one and stick with it! That is way too inconsistent to me… talk about the implications of Calvinism looks like that is one that might make me sprint from calvinism!

        ><>”

      • Bob,

        All I am saying is that anything and everything in life comes to us by God’s grace (His gracious condescension to us). Look at it this way. We cannot both be right about IG, for instance. Either I am right or you are. I happen to think I am correct. But either way, whatever is true from scripture that we believe is given to us by God as the Spirit illumines our understanding.

        Let’s try another example. You believe that baptism is only proper and biblical if done by immersion after a POF. Right? I believe the scripture teaches that both immersion and sprinkling is scriptural. I also believe that infants are proper recipients of baptism. You don’t. Who is right?

        One of us is correct and one of us is not. Does that mean that one of us does not have the Spirit gracing us with truth? No. It means that one of us, for whatever reason…whether ignorance, stubbornness, pre-conceived notions, improper exegesis, lack of study, etc., is not embracing what the bible actually teaches.

        And neither one of us is “where God wants [us] to be.” Neither one of us (no one in fact) has it ALL figured out exactly. As John MacArthur once said, “I have holes in my theology. I just don’t know where they are, else I would fix them.” So we are all blinded to some degree.

        That does not make Reformed folks better than non-Reformed folks. Quite the opposite. It SHOULD cause us great humility since we trumpet that all we are and all we know is of His grace.

        “Your comments regarding the “implications of Calvinism” and me not being one are certainly not even close to being applicable.” That may very well be. I was relating actual things I have heard from others. I didn’t say that was what prevented all non-Reformed people from embracing Reformed theology.

        You: “Here is a major problem I have with proponents of Calvinism: you wrote… “Irresistible grace speaks to salvific grace, not correct doctrine grace.”
        Where on earth do you find that distinction in the Bible? I mean really. It would seem to me that His grace is either efficacious or it is not.”

        Go back and look at what Reformed folks say. It is regarding salvation that His grace is irresistible. Example of resisting his non-salvific grace? One example:

        “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
        (Ephesians 4:30 ESV)

        If and when we sin, we are resisting His grace in our lives as the passage indicates. Paul tells us not to do that.

        So we can only keep his commands and please Him by grace. Agreed? Surely we can agree that we can sin against His will. Right?

      • But either way, whatever is true from scripture that we believe is given to us by God as the Spirit illumines our understanding.

        No… there is no illuminating our understanding… the Bible either says it or it does not. I think God gets a LOT of credit that He is not party to. How we “connect the dots” is not illumination that comes from Him… kind of like you saying God’s grace in conversion is irresistible but then His grace is not irresistible… do you understand that this means He is in control of ONE SINGLE decision in a few people’s lives and His grace is powerless (as is charged at the non-Calvinist’ view of God’s grace in salvation… that He might be able to save…) either God’s grace is efficacious or it is NOT… there is NO Scriptural justification for that… and it is not God’s illuminating our minds either. Come on Les…

        “Let’s try another example. You believe that baptism is only proper and biblical if done by immersion after a POF. Right? I believe the scripture teaches that both immersion and sprinkling is scriptural. I also believe that infants are proper recipients of baptism. You don’t. Who is right?”

        right again… here we go connecting the dots… was Jesus sprinkled? I dont think so. Not even sure where sprinklin came from but I am sure you do… but I do not see the significcance of dying to self and sin and being lowered into the water symbolizing Jesus’ death and burial and being brought up to walk in the newness of life… hoes does sprinkling symbolize that? and where is the scriptural justification for that? I have been a Christian for 40+ years and I have no idea how that is justified.

        About baby’s being baptized… other than Jesus’ comment that a few were saved and their households… how do you get authorization to baptize babies.. I believe it is great thing to do to dedicate families and new borns and challenge their parents to walk before the Lord and bring the children up in the burture and admonition of the Lord… but I am not about to baptize a baby… if baptism is to symbolize the believer’s new life… calvinists claim they dont know who is or is not saved as adults… how on earth can you know who is saved or not saved as infants? Is it the kids of certain people that are automatically the elect?

        I will stop there…

        Basically the thrust of this post is that in order to be a Calvinist, an individual who reads the Bible must be exposed to the calvinist way of thinking by someone or sometihng other than the Bible.. and personally I have to agree. I have been reading it and listening to it be preached for a long time and to tell you the truth… I had no idea what calvinism even was until 2003 or so… and someone sent me a little 100 page book about Calvinism…

        and I have been on a terror ever since. I cannot really understand how anyone can believe what Calvinism really says… I am sorry… I not only adamantly disagree with it… I really honesty cannot believe that ANYONE can believe that stuff.

        I know that is hard but since we are enlightened by God’s grace… I feel empowered to share that now!

        Still love you though brother. And I know that you are as sincere and loving in your heart as I am or perhaps even more so.

        ><>”

      • Bob,

        You wrote, “No… there is no illuminating our understanding… the Bible either says it or it does not.”

        Frankly I am shocked you would say such a thing. I immediately think of:

        “But, as it is written,
        “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
        nor the heart of man imagined,
        what God has prepared for those who love him”—
        these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-13 ESV)

        If this does not teach that we get our understanding of biblical things via the Spirit, then Christianity is turned on its head!

        Now, I do not mean to say that even a lost person cannot have some cognitive understanding of the bible and biblical truths. They can. But they cannot know spiritual things and cannot know God savingly apart form the Spirit.

        But for us as believers, two more passages:

        “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
        (John 14:25-26 ESV)

        For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
        (Romans 8:14 ESV)

        Anyway, I have never heard an evangelical say/write what you wrote above. How do you propose that Christians understand spiritual truths?

        I know you (and other commenters are not impressed with others’ words, but most pastors and theologians consult other men of God quite often. Here is JI Packer on the subject:

        Not that the Spirit’s presence in men’s hearts makes patient study of the text unnecessary. The Spirit is not given to make Bible study needless, but to make it effective. Nor can anything in Scripture mean anything when the Spirit interprets. The Spirit is not the prompter of fanciful spiritualizing, or of applications of texts out of their contexts on the basis of accidental associations of words. The only meaning to which He bears witness is that which each text actually has in the organism of Scripture; such witness as is borne to other meanings is borne by other spirits. But without the Spirit’s help there can be no grasp of the message of Scripture, no conviction of the truth of Scripture, and no faith in the God of Scripture. Without the Spirit, nothing is possible but spiritual blindness and unbelief.

        You: “do you understand that this means He is in control of ONE SINGLE decision in a few people’s lives and His grace is powerless…”

        No I do not understand what you have written…I do not agree. Quite the contrary. I believe God is sovereignly in control of ALL things. We’ve been down this road before so I will not repeat it here.

        I used baptism as an example where men differ and both cannot be right. We can have the baptism discussion if you want. Do a post on it and I’ll be there.

        You” “and I have been on a terror ever since. I cannot really understand how anyone can believe what Calvinism really says… I am sorry… I not only adamantly disagree with it… I really honesty cannot believe that ANYONE can believe that stuff.”

        Bob, we’ve never met, though I would like that some day. But via your writing you seem to be really, really obsessed with Calvinism. We Calvinists seem to be really under your skin just by being here. Maybe it’s your concern for the SBC. I don’t know. But you appear to be really angry about Calvinism and on a tear to stamp it out.

        As I said, we’ve never met but you seem like a really godly man and looking at your church website and FB page, a really beloved pastor. I love you as well.

        God bless.

      • Les,

        My response earlier was not as well worded as it could have been. Obviously we both know that you are correct in your response regarding the work of the Holy Spirit.

        My response was more in personal frustration with this idea that God’s grace seems so all incompassing and responsible for everything that happens (as evidenced by my comment that you responded to on another site)… I was really saying in effect.. that God’s grace is being given a lot of credit for doing things that I do not really see Biblical justification for… which was really the thrust of my comments that you responded to here.

        It was really more a matter of semantics than it was a theologically worded response.

        ><>”

      • Thanks Bob for your reply. God bless and have a great day!

  2. BTW Bob, when will your series be concluded over on SBC Today?

    Reply

  3. Posted by wingedfooted1 on January 24, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Bob,

    The Civil War of the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. 5 pointers at war against 1 pointers (or 2 pointers perhaps).

    Which comes first?

    Well, historically, Calvinism; then Arminianism. Unfortunately for the Arminian, if it wasn’t for Calvinism, there would be no Arminianism.

    Now as far as reading the bible, the Arminians say that new converts will automatically find Arminianism in the bible. That Arminianism can be found in the bible, but Calvinism must be taught.

    That would be true perhaps if they were the only two options, simply because of the notion of limited atonement. Arminianism looks more biblical, only when compared to Calvinism.

    Ironically, Arminianism is still a form of Calvinism. Both hold strongly to the notion of total depravity, a concept solely unique to Calvinism. Arminians are, after all, 1 or 2 point Calvinists. It has even been confirmed that to be a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians one has to be at least a 1 point Calvinist (or Augustinian).

    The evidence suggests that the new convert to Christianity would be neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian by simply reading the bible. Even Arminianism has to be taught to some degree, because they too hold to total depravity, or total inability (a concept foreign to scripture).

    Arminianism is not a rejection or abandonment of Calvinism. Arminianism is still Calvinism, just to a far lesser degree. Only someone who rejects Calvinism in full can rightly be called a non-Calvinist.

    God bless.

    wingedfooted1

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: