Calvinism or Arminianism?
The debate between Arminianism and Calvinism, which concerns God’s soverienty and man’s free will, is one of the most devisive in the church today. Rather than being an honest, respectful dialogue among brethren, this debate has led to an unhealthy compartmentalization within the Body of Christ. Sadly, this has resulted in much vital truth being buried and neglected.
The Calvinist understanding of predestination stems from their emphasis on God’s sovereignty, and the fact that He alone is the basis for our salvation. A key text in Calvinist doctrine is “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) and they are certainly right to emphasize this. To the Arminian, the chief goal is to proclaim God’s love grace freely extended to all people, which is also a very noble goal. Emphasis is placed on the person’s individual responsibility to receive the Gospel. As I see it, this is not an “either/or” scenario. It is possible to believe in both the “behind the scenes” work that God does in drawing and convicting the sinner, as well as the more “outward” responses to God’s grace.
Both John Calvin and Jacob Arminius were brilliant men who made immeasurable contributions to the Body of Christ. At the same time, both were fallible human beings who were prone to the same errors and excesses as the rest of us. When taken to extremes, both systems can lead to abuse and error. For those who insist on blind allegiance to either of these camps, keep in mind that the Bible calls this sort of sectarianism a sign of pride and immaturity (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). The great preacher Charles Spurgeon puts it well:
It is time that we had done with the old and rusty systems that have so long curbed the freeness of religious speech. The Arminian trembles to go an inch beyond Arminius or Wesley, and many a Calvinist refers to John Gill or John Calvin as any ultimate authority. It is time that these systems be broken up, and that there was sufficient grace in all our hearts to believe everything taught in God’s Word, whether it was taught by either of these men or not.