Thursday, 4 December 2008

Are You an Arminian?

Over the centuries, Calvinists have so successfully vilified Arminianism that people who are Arminian are afraid to say so. This is true even though Arminianism is the default theological position of Christian Protestantism. Arminianism is so widespread that even the strongest Calvinist churches are filled with Arminians. It is ironic, then, that people are afraid to say they’re Arminian; for example, many Independent and Southern Baptists are typically Arminian, but nonetheless often call themselves Calvinists!

The purpose of this survey is to help people who have an Arminian theology realise that they are Arminians and to help them understand that it is okay to be Arminian. The questions deal with the most pertinent issues which define Arminianism and distinguish Arminianism from Calvinism.

1. Do you believe that Jesus died for every human being?
• This is the singular issue which ultimately divides Calvinism and Arminianism
• If you answered yes to the question, then almost certainly you are an Arminian (assuming that you hold to other historic doctrines and are a Protestant)
• If you believe that Jesus died only for those who would eventually believe, then you truly are a Calvinist and are not an Arminian

2. Do you believe that a person can resist the convicting power of God’s grace?
• If you answered yes, then you are almost certainly an Arminian, as is reflected in Jesus’ words, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together…but you were not willing” (Matt 23:37)
• Calvinists insist that when God calls people to salvation, they have no ability to resist, and therefore conclude that God’s invitation to salvation goes out only to the few

3. Do you believe that humans are so depraved that they can do nothing to earn salvation and that they cannot choose to believe in Jesus without the intervention of God’s grace?
• If you answered yes, then you agree with Arminius and Arminianism
• Calvinists affirm the same doctrine, but often claim that Arminians do not, despite near, if not complete unanimity among Arminian theologians in affirming the doctrine

4. Do you believe in election?
• If you answered yes, then you might be an Arminian
• Calvinists believe in an election independent of faith
• Arminians believe that election is “in Christ;” i.e., anyone who is “in Christ” is elect, but that faith is essential to become united with Christ. Therefore, election is conditioned upon faith

5. Do you believe in predestination?
• If you answered yes, then you might be an Arminian
• Arminians assert that believers are predestined, not that people are predestined to believe

6. Do you believe in eternal security?
• If you answered yes, you might be an Arminian
• The Remonstrants—people who sided with Arminius in the theological debates of 17th century Holland—took no position on this issue
• Arminius’ position has often been said to be non-committal, although rumours of recently discovered unpublished “disputations” may suggest that he did embrace the possibility of the believer losing his salvation
• If you answered no, then you probably are an Arminian
• The official statement of faith of the Society of Evangelical Arminians does not require the belief in the possibility of the believer losing his salvation
• All Calvinists believe in unconditional eternal security
• Most Independent and Southern Baptists base their claim to be Calvinists on this sole issue; however, in light of historic agreement among Arminians to allow for disagreement on this issue, eternal security is not a determining factor in the question of whether one is an Arminian or a Calvinist

7. Do you believe in penal satisfaction view of the atonement?
• If you answered yes and if you answered no, you might be an Arminian
• The penal satisfaction view of the atonement asserts that Jesus’ death entailed a payment for sin. It assumes that the justice of God requires that sin be punished and that the just wrath of God was diverted away from deserving sinners and poured out instead upon Jesus as their substitute
• This view is held by most Calvinists and by a significant number of Arminians (especially those who claim the nomenclature “Reformation Arminianism”), although some Arminians reject the notion that God punished his Son Jesus

8. Do you believe that God exhaustively knows the future?
• If you answered yes, you might be an Arminian
• Calvinists and most Arminians believe that God exhaustively knows the future.
• Some Arminians think that a denial of this doctrine is a rejection of basic Theism, and that those who deny the doctrine cannot therefore be Arminian
• The Society of Evangelical Arminianism affirms the doctrine, and one cannot belong to the society unless one is in agreement with it

9. Do you believe in the sovereignty of God?
• If you answered yes, then you might be an Arminian
• All Calvinists and all Arminians affirm the sovereignty of God
• Some Calvinists define sovereignty as God ordaining all things, so that they openly deny any choice or ability of people in regard to any action; this is a denial of libertarian free will and raises the question of human culpability when they choose to sin
• Arminians affirm libertarian free will and that humans really do make genuine choices, undeniably affirming human culpability when they choose to sin
• The Arminian view of Sovereignty is that God is sovereign enough to endow his creatures with free will

In summary, you can be an Arminian and believe
• the doctrine of unlimited atonement (Jesus died for everyone)
• the doctrine of resistible grace (people have the power to resist God’s convicting grace)
• the doctrine of total depravity (people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace)
• the doctrine of election (all those who are “in Christ” are elect)
• the doctrine of predestination (believers are predestined)
• the doctrine of eternal security
• the doctrine of the penal satisfaction atonement (God punished Jesus for the sins of the world)
• the doctrine of omniscience (including that God foreknows the future perfectly)
• the sovereignty of God (God endowed humans with a free will)

As I stated earlier, the default position of Christian evangelicalism is Arminianism. And as can be seen in this brief outline, it is okay to be Arminian.

For more reflection on these issues, read Roger Olson’s 10 Myths about Arminianism

1 comment:

Ed Goodman said...

Excellent post! I enjoy your refreshing view that it's okay to be Arminian - often Arminian theology is degraded, as is the Calvinist position. However, it seems that the Bible speaks of election as both conditional and unconditional; it speaks of atonement as general yet limited - available to all, yet limited to the redeemed (i.e. those who believe upon Christ in faith for salvation). I refuse to qualify grace as either resistable or irresistable (since God works in His own ways according to His own good pleasure), although I def. adhere to a synergistic belief in regards to salvation. Thanks for all of your posts - I will follow you closely and enthusiastically!