Saturday, September 26, 2009

Position Paper - Arminianism and Calvinism

There has been much controversy in the contemporary church around two doctrinal positions, Arminianism and Calvinism.

In a nutshell:

Arminianism (drawn from Wikipedia) is a school of soteriological thought within Protestant Christianity based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and his historic followers, the Remonstrants. The doctrines' acceptance stretches through much of mainstream Christianity, including evangelical Protestantism.

Arminianism holds to the following tenets:
  • Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation (see also prevenient grace).
  • Salvation is possible only by God's grace, which cannot be merited.
  • No works of human effort can cause or contribute to salvation.
  • God's election is conditional on faith in the sacrifice and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
  • Christ's atonement was made on behalf of all people.
  • God allows his grace to be resisted by those who freely reject Christ.
  • Believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace through persistent, unrepented-of sin.

Calvinism (drawn from Wikipedia) is a theological system and an approach to the Christian life. The Reformed tradition was advanced by several theologians such as Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Huldrych Zwingli, but it often bears the name of the French reformer John Calvin
because of his prominent influence on it and because of his role in the
confessional and ecclesiastical debates throughout the 16th century.
Today, this term also refers to the doctrines and practices of the Reformed churches of which Calvin was an early leader. Less commonly, it can refer to the individual teaching of Calvin himself.[2] The system is best known for its doctrines of predestination and total depravity, stressing the absolute sovereignty of God.

Calvinist theology is sometimes identified with the five points of
Calvinism, also called the doctrines of grace, which are a
point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance (see History of Calvinist-Arminian debate) and which serve as a summation of the judgments rendered by the Synod of Dort in 1619. Calvin himself never used such a model and never combated Arminianism directly.

The five points therefore function as a summary of the differences
between Calvinism and Arminianism, but not as a complete summation of
Calvin's writings or of the theology of the Reformed churches in
general. In English, they are sometimes referred to by the acronym TULIP.

The central assertion of these canons is that God is able to save
every person upon whom he has mercy and that his efforts are not
frustrated by the unrighteousness or the inability of humans.

Total depravity

The doctrine of total depravity (also called "total inability") asserts that, as a consequence of the fall of humanity into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin.
People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart,
mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own
interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God.
Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to
follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the
necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context
refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person
is as evil as possible.)

Jacob Arminius himself and some of his later followers, such as John Wesley, also affirmed total depravity.

Unconditional election

The doctrine of unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity
of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue,
merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded
in God's mercy alone.

The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand
for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the
chief article of Reformed Christianity.

However, according to the
doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to
single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all
that is taught. Unconditional election and its corollary in the
doctrine of predestination
are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an
assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ,
that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to
completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists
object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.

Limited atonement

Also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement", the doctrine of limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus' substitutionary atonement
was definite and certain in its design and accomplishment. The doctrine
is driven by the concept of the sovereignty of God in salvation and the
Calvinistic understanding of the nature of the atonement. Namely,
Calvinists view the atonement as a penal substitution
(that is, Jesus was punished in the place of sinners), and since,
Calvinists argue, it would be unjust for God to pay the penalty for
some people's sins and then still condemn them for those sins, all
those whose sins were atoned for must necessarily be saved.
Moreover, since in this scheme God knows precisely who the elect are
and since only the elect will be saved, there is no requirement that
Christ atone for sins in general, only for those of the elect.
Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in
its value or power (in other words, God could have elected everyone and
used it to atone for them all), but rather that the atonement is
limited in the sense that it is designed for some and not all. Hence,
Calvinists hold that the atonement is sufficient for all and efficient
for the elect.

Irresistible grace

The doctrine of irresistible grace (also called "efficacious grace")
asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those
whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and, in God's
timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel,
bringing them to a saving faith.
The doctrine does not hold that every influence of God's Holy Spirit
cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit is able to overcome all
resistance and make his influence irresistible and effective. Thus,
when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual
certainly will be saved.

Perseverance of the saints

Perseverance (or preservation) of the saints is also known as "eternal security." The word saints is used in the Biblical sense to refer to all who are set apart by God, not in the technical sense of one who is exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven (see Saint).
The doctrine asserts that, since God is sovereign and his will cannot
be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called
into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those
who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or
will return.
This doctrine is slightly different from the Free Grace or "once saved, always saved" view advocated by some evangelicals in which, despite apostasy
or unrepentant and habitual sin, the individual is truly saved if they
accepted Christ at any point in the past; in traditional Calvinist
teaching, apostasy by such a person may prove that they were never

Mosaic is a reformed church.  This is a
closed-handed (essential for Christian fellowship) issue.  By "reformed" we mean, we hold to the 5 "Solas", or foundational principles,
of the Protestant Reformation:

  • Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone is God's infallable, inerrent rule for Christian faith and practice.
  • Sola Gratia - only through God's unmerited favor are His people saved.
  • Sola Fide - only through a Spirit-delivered, saving faith and not through any works of merit are His people saved.
  • Solus Christus - only through the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ may anyone be saved.
  • Sola Deo Gloria - everything - material or immaterial, temporal or eternal - exists to the glory of God alone.

(see more at Wikipedia)

These are required beliefs for leadership of any type at Mosaic.

An important point to consider is that to some folk,
"reformed"="calvinistic", which, as displayed above, is not historically accurate, as there
are some churches and doctrinal positions that fall within the reformed camp that are not
doctrinally Calvinistic.

Calvinism and Arminianism is an open-handed (not essential for Christian fellowship) issue in both the Acts 29 Network and Mosaic. The
leadership of Acts 29 is absolutely Calvinistic, but each church is
allowed to determine whether or not its leaders must be Calvinists or
whatever else.

Dustin Boles, our Sr. Pastor has defined his position:

"I am a Calvinist (if I had to choose a side).  Thankfully, I am not
required by scripture to choose.  I make no apologies for being a
Calvinist.  My teaching does and will continue to reflect this
perspective because I believe it is the most Biblical view of the two.
That being said, I will not work scripture over to fit into a
Calvinistic framework.  I try with all of my heart to teach the sensus
(plain sense meaning) of each passage.  I believe this approach
will naturally tend toward the Calvinist view without trying.

Also, our Mosaic Basics class will have very strong Calvinistic
overtones.  Basics is not an attempt to convert people to Calvinism.  It is
an attempt to teach people good theology from which they can build an
accurate and comprehensive theology."

At Mosaic we do not require our leadership to be Calvinists (they
must be reformed in the meaning stated above).  I do challenge all of
you to have an informed, Biblical opinion on the matter.  I became a
Calvinist over a long period of time as I surrendered to what was
becoming obvious to me in the scriptures.  It went against my will and
wants much of the time, but I found it to be true.

Arminianism versus Calvinism can never be a divisive issue in our
church.  We should not ever be proud that we are Calvinists (or
Arminians for that matter).  Remember, the first point of Calvinism is
"total depravity" which reminds me that no matter how right I am I
still have no upper hand on anyone with God.  His grace alone gives me
his favor.  It also reminds me that, because of my depravity I am
capable of being wrong.  Again, teach the truth (which for me is on the
side of Calvinism) in love.  God may be taking someone through a long
process like he did with me.  Do not apologize or try to hide my or
your view.  Allow room for the Holy Spirit to teach and correct and
reveal.  He will do it."

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