Monday, April 23, 2012


John Calvin (1509-1564), a French theologian of the Reformation, is best known for his teaching on salvation which is best remembered by the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.”  The letters represent:  1) Total depravity of man.  2) Unconditional election.  3) Limited atonement.  4) Irresistible grace.  5) Perseverance of the saints.   
Calvin’s views were challenged by Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian, who disagreed with Calvin, and had five points of his own.  I have made an acronym for them:  “B.E.A.S.T.”  Arminius believed:  1) Believers are able to lose their salvation.  2) Election was conditioned upon faith.  3) Atonement was made for all men.  4) Salvation is aided by the Holy Spirit.  5) Turning down grace is clearly possible.   
Nearly five centuries later, born again believers are still debating over which of these two theologians were right.  It sort of reminds me of Peter’s failure to wait for the Holy Spirit, and impetuously holding a “church business meeting” (Acts 1:15-26) before the Church was born (Acts 2:1-41).  Peter offered God two choices; Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.  Today, the Church is being told to take a stand on which of the two, Calvin or Arminius, was right.  I suggest, just as Jesus chose the twelfth Apostle, Judas’ replacement (Acts 9:1), we error in limiting our choices as to which of two theological positions is correct.  I would even go further and say, I do not believe either of the two is correct.

For example, I disagree with Calvin in that Jesus’ Atonement was for the sins of the whole world (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 2:2).  The fact that God wants none to perish, but for all to be saved, and yet there are those who will die in their sin, shows that God’s grace is resistible.  I disagree with Arminius in that believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of their redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30).  I believe that those who have been born again by trusting in the sacrifice of the Lord for them, are now the children of God (1 Jn. 3:2; 5:13), and that absolutely nothing, including our imperfections, can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39)!

Those caught up in the debate over which of the two theologians is correct, often refer to other theologians to support their view.  Basically, what they are doing is “name- dropping,” as though those modern-day “spiritual giants” prove which of the two was correct.  Things have not changed much in the two millennia since the founding of the Church.  The Apostle Paul experienced some name-dropping during his ministry (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4).  I suppose the Church will continue to argue until the Lord returns; so for the sake of all of God’s children, I cry out “Come, Lord Jesus!”

The true test of what an “expert” says is whether or not it is consistent with the whole Word of God.  The Apostle Paul commended those who listened to him, and then went home to compare his preaching to the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). 

If an apostle, a worker of miracles, needed to be “checked out,”
how much more should Calvin, Arminius, or your favorite biblical authority?

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