Historically, one of the most destructive and divisive controversies within Protestantism has been between the followers of reformer John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509-1564, and the followers of Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609. The name-calling and propagandizing against one another by these two groups has been damaging our unity of the faith — as well as our reputation among the unsaved — ever since.
Interestingly, the people who so vociferously and aggressively proclaim allegiance to one side or the other generally have little or no clue as to what their own side actually believes, much less their opponents. This is especially true of those who proclaim themselves to be Calvinists, many of whom would be shocked to find out what John Calvin actually taught and believed, were they to bother giving his teachings even a cursory examination.
Many self-proclaimed Calvinists, upon hearing that some folks don’t agree with them, knee-jerk and immediately jump to the conclusion that nay-sayers believe in a “salvation by works” theology when most often those non-Calvinists are actually firm believers in the grace of God — they just don’t believe it the same way the Calvinists do.
Worse still, each side is incredibly hostile and judgmental towards the other, considering their opponents to be evil heretics because they have the temerity to disagree with their position, rather than treating them as their brothers and sisters in Christ. I cannot help but imagine Satan nodding approvingly at this kind of behavior.
Some others of you may think that this discussion amounts to something similar to the ancient — and totally worthless, I might add — theological debate concerning the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. I mean. really, who thought up that nonsense in the first place? What were they actually discussing? Here’s my short list of possibilities:
- First, about the pin: What size is the pin and what is it made from? Is the head spherical or flat like a nail? What is the ratio between the thickness of the pin’s shaft vs. the diameter of its head? Is the pin in a vertical, horizontal, or inverted (point up) orientation? Is the pin stuck into something or suspended in mid-air? If suspended, what holds it in place?
- Now, about the angels: Is there gravity in heaven and, if so, is it different from Earth’s? How big are angels, anyway? How much do they weigh? Do angels really dance? If so, why would they want to? Who gives them dance lessons? What kind of dances are involved? Hora? Polka? Charleston? Argentine Tango? Ballet? Viennese Waltz? Quick-step? Cha-cha-cha? Samba? Jive? Hip-hop? Country Line Dance?
- Etc., etc., reductio ad absurdum!
Inquiring minds want to know! 😀
But, all kidding aside, where we stand on the issues presented by this controversy between the Calvinists and Arminianists has a direct impact upon things like:
- How we see God and His dealings with mankind.
- How we see Jesus and His finished work of the Cross
- How we see ourselves as believers at the foot of that Cross
- How we interpret God’s Word, the Bible, and integrate its principles into our lives
In this article, I’m going to analyze the tenets of both groups for you so we can see what about each of them is scriptural and what isn’t. I’ll then explain where I believe the Truth actually lies.
Continue reading “Calvinism vs. Arminianism”