Because life is a series of edits

On Predestination

In Theologians on June 14, 2007 at 7:52 am

(I’m not sure if anyone’s interested enough to want more than this here, so I’ll just post my strengths/weaknesses lists for Arminianism and Calvinism, as well as my paper’s introduction comparing the books I read on each and we can go from there. If there’s interest, I may post more; if not, no big deal.)

Assignment
Read Why I Am Not a Calvinist and Why I Am Not an Arminian and write a 5-7 page paper evaluating the two books’ respective cases for predestination. At the top of the first page, produce two enumerated lists, giving the strengths and weaknesses of the two positions. Then, in the space that remains, discuss the 2 or 3 main strengths and weaknesses of each position.

Arminianism (as represented in Why I Am Not a Calvinist – WINC)
Strengths

  1. Argues more from philosophy and rationalism*
  2. Appeals to Western values of choice and equality
  3. Champions human freedom by emphasizing our response and responsibility

Weaknesses

  1. Argues more from philosophy and rationalism*
  2. Human choice trumps God’s sovereignty
  3. Diminishes view of the Fall and sin

Calvinism (as represented in Why I Am Not an Arminian – WINA)
Strengths

  1. Argues more from Scripture and mystery+
  2. Appeals to Western values of security and privilege
  3. Champions God’s sovereignty by emphasizing his love and will

Weaknesses

  1. Argues more from Scripture and mystery+
  2. Excuse for little evangelism initiative
  3. Given to fatalism in its extremes

*+ Cases in which Arminianism/Calvinism’s strength is a weakness

Same But Different: Arminianism and Calvinism

In reading and studying InterVarsity Press’s two companion books, Why I Am Not a Calvinist and Why I Am Not an Arminian, and their respective handlings of the doctrine of predestination, what first struck me was my need to clarify what the issues were and weren’t concerning the issue of “God’s predetermination of persons to a specific end.”1

For whatever reason, my initial assumption that Arminianism began in a different theological place than Calvinism with regard to God’s sovereignty and prevenient grace was misinformed. On the contrary, according to Arminian authors Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell, “Arminians and Calvinists alike readily agree that the Bible is the supreme authority for our theology, that God is sovereign, that he is perfectly loving and that human beings are free and responsible for their actions. To the casual observer, it may appear that there is little if any real difference between the two positions” (WINC, 216).

Calvinist authors Robert Peterson and Michael Williams agree: “The Arminian Christian believes that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh to save sinners and that the saving work of Christ comes to the sinner by way of the grace of God received through faith. Whatever issues relevant to salvation we disagree upon, let us agree on this: the Calvinist and the Arminian are brothers in Christ.” (WINA, 13).

However, as both books contend, the belief in and reality of God’s sovereignty does not work itself out the same way in both theological systems. “Agreement at the level of broad claims about sovereignty, love, and freedom,” write Walls and Dongell, “masks profound disagreements about how these matters are understood in detail” (WINC, 216). And, say Peterson and Williams, “Calvinism and Arminianism do disagree regarding significant issues having to do with salvation, issues that we believe Calvinism rightly addresses and Arminianism does not” (WINA, 13).

Suffice it to say (and all four authors do), both theological parties affirm the other as spiritually seafaring by way of God’s same sovereign wind; however, these ships do so by different courses, depending on their particular turns of the rudder of predestination.

1 S.R. Spencer, “Predestination” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 950.

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  1. I seem to recall from my seminary days reading that for Calvin predestination was an “at the end of life” looking back doctrine. Looking back over one’s life, he/she could see where God was leading and guiding. Followers of Calvin, however, moved this particular doctrine toward its modern early in life bringing a particular conclusion place. Which begs the question, would Calvin actually agree with this particular tenet of “traditional Calvinism”?

    Personally, I hold that God has predestined the “groups/categories” for the end of time; but the individual has the free will to become a part of the sheep or the goats. :0)

  2. Indeed, the tenets of TULIP were in response to the five points of Arminianism as first presented by the Remonstrants in 1610 and not so much a systematic Calvin put forth himself (he had died 55 years previous). His writings in the Institutes, however, definitely lean more toward God’s ultimate sovereignty rather than man’s, and they serve as the foundation for the Calvinist theology that came out of the Synod of Dort in 1618-19.

    Curious as to how a “group/category” can be predestined, but not the individuals who make up each?

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