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Word of Faith, Arminianism, and Calvinism

(Part Two)

This discussion is continued from: Word of Faith, Arminianism, and Calvinism - Part One. The e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


Exchange Two

>Gary,

Thanks for the reply! Anything you would like to post is fine on your site is fine and if there are any comments that you feel you need to put in parentheses to clarify or correct something in is fine too.<

Thanks for the permission. There really is not much to add as you express yourself very well! The only thing that came to mind is to caution you that you shouldn't say Arminianism necessarily leads to the "Word of Faith" teaching. There are many Arminians who would disagree with Hagin, et.al.

But you are correct in the sense that a Calvinist, if he understands his theology at all, would never fall for the Word of Faith movement. So, it would probably be correct to say Arminianism makes it possible for one to be duped into the Word of Faith movement whereas Calvinism will insulate a person from it.

>I really appreciate your response to this issue. It is really amazing what God will use sometimes to show us where we are "missing it" theologically sometimes. Like I said, I was leaning to Reformed theology for awhile, but it was this issue that really brought out the truth of Reformed theology for me. Of course, the Scriptures themselves bring that out; but it is incredible how we can study to "show ourselves approved..", yet continue not to see "the big picture."

Quite honestly, I think I simply didn't want to DEAL with the truth that was clearly presented within the pages of Sacred Scripture. I would use the same old cop outs of "Well, we'll never know the truth about this predestination and election stuff until we get to Heaven...," or even worse, "MY God simply wouldn't do that (foreordain that CERTAIN ones be saved and others lost)."

I'll never forget the first in-depth conversation I had with a Calvinist 3 years ago, when I passionately proclaimed to him that very thing! (MY GOD JUST ISN'T LIKE THAT!). He proceeded to share the litany of Scripture texts that militated against my stance, and I in-turn resorted to the "whosoever wills" and "ALL means ALL" rebuttals.

He would explain what those meant from a Reformed perspective, and instead of accepting what the Word clearly taught overall, I just pushed it aside for "further investigation," but thinking deep down inside I'd NEVER receive the basic doctrines of Reformed Theology because they were so repugnant to me. That's the issue. My FLESH couldn't handle it!<

Your "testimony" sounds very familiar. It's the type of thing I went through, and many others, when first confronted with the Calvinist view. The first reaction is to brush it aside as "simply not possible." But once one really confronts the Scriptures (or maybe better, once the Scriptures confront a person!), the Calvinistic view becomes too plain to ignore any longer. But even then it's hard to accept as it really cuts against the grain.

For me, the biggest obstacle was Calvinism took away every element of "pride" I had in my salvation. As I thought back I realized I had felt "proud" of myself for coming to realize I was a sinner that needed Savior. But Calvinism said that God is the one who gave me the desire to investigate the Christian faith and gave me the ability to believe. So I had NOTHING to do with my own salvation. It was ALL of God! That drove me to my knees in humbleness and thanksgiving for what HE had done for me!

As for your comments about "whosoever wills" and "ALL means ALL" - that sounds very familiar too. I have heard them said in such conversations. The first is really a "dodge." Rev 22:17, in the NKJV, does read, "Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." But the question is, WHY does one person "desire" and not another? That is the question the Arminian needs to, but cannot answer.

As for the refrain of "all means all" it is just a matter of studying how the word "all" is used in Scripture. For instance, Matt 3:5,6 reads, "Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins." Does "all Judea" mean every single person in Judea was baptized by John the Baptist? I don't think so.

Luke 7:30 tells us that the "Pharisees and lawyers" were not baptized by John. So "all" does not mean "all" the people in Judea. What it possibly means is all kinds of people in Judea, or more probably, people from all parts of Judea.

So in verses like 1Tim 2:4, "all men" means the same. Either God desires to be saved all kinds of people (compare 1Tim 6:10 in the NKJV) or people from all over the place (cp. Rev 5:9). But it simply does not necessary mean "every single person who ever lived" as the Arminians claim.

>What I have discovered is that if one affirms any part of the basic tenets of Reformed Theology as being true, then by sheer logic he MUST accept the others as well! I ALWAYS believed in the TOTAL DEPRAVITY of man, but I wavered on unconditional election! That is simply illogical! If man IS totally depraved, then Unconditional Election MUST be true. If that is true, then Limited Atonement MUST be true, and so on. And, of course, all of these are true because the Bible clearly teaches that they are.<

Very true; the five points are a "unit." There are many Christians who are, say, "three-point Calvinists." But such Christians have never thought through the logical implications of the points that they do believe.

> What I see in the 5-points is the foundation being TOTAL DEPRAVITY, and everything working itself out naturally and logically from there, and over and beside that is God's ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY. I just kept asking myself, "WHO is God here?" I realized that if God is TRULY God, He MUST be absolutely sovereign, governing and directing the affairs and the hearts) of every single person on this planet.

Nothing takes God by surprise, and nothing falls outside of His control. IF anything does (fall outside of His control), we are all in big trouble! To undermine God's sovereignty is to strike at the very essence of who He is, and is to elevate that creature above the Creator.<

Amen!

>I am sorry for being so long-winded! But, it is like the lights FINALLY came on, and I am just so thankful! I really thank you for your site because I believe it played an integral part in drawing me to a fuller understanding of what is clearly taught in the Word.

Thanks Gary, and keep fighting the good fight!
John
5/20/1999<

No problem about being "long-winded." As I said you express yourself very well. And I am thankful God used me in helping you see the "light" on this subject!


Exchange Three

>Gary,

Thank you again for your insights, and I will definitely be careful in my stating that Arminianism necessarily leads to word of faith teaching.

You hit the nail on the head about the fact that many Arminians, of which I myself was, find serious problems with word of faith teaching. You know, actually I guess we could say that both Calvinists and Arminians must be aware of the pitfalls that each of their respective theological positions could lead to if there should be unbalanced teaching.

For the Calvinists, I think the pitfall could be fatalism, and for the Arminian, it is the exaltation of man (in my opinion), the most profound expression of which seems to be found in word of faith teaching. I think you what I'm trying to say here.<

Yes, I understand what you're trying to say. I guess "fatalism" would be a potential pitfall for the Calvinist. In fact, it would probably fit in with what is called "hyper-Calvinism." Such a viewpoint is denied by any true Calvinist as it conflicts with Scripture.

The hyper-Calvinist would say we shouldn't witness, try to do good for our fellow human being, do good works, etc., because if all "fore-ordained" what we do doesn't matter. But a true Calvinist would never acquiesce to such an attitude as it conflicts with Scripture.

> In regards to that, and since my "conversion" so to speak to the Reformed position, I have been dealing heavily with the topics of Providence, Predestination, Election, Reprobation, etc. I remember hearing R.C. Sproul say that it took him a while before he saw the "sweetness" of these issues (Election, etc.). But you know Gary, I'm not there yet!

The more I meditate and study the issue, the more horrified I seem to become. I look around at people and think, "Man, this person could be a vessel fitted for wrath; no hope of salvation;

God, how can this be?" And then I start to even think "God, surely there could have been a better way." Of course, I know that God's way IS the BETTER way, but in my finite mind I simply am unable to see it at this point.<

Well, John Calvin did refer to the reprobation part of predestination as the "horrible decree." Personally, I do understand if you focus on reprobation you could feel that way. But for me, I look at it from the other side.

God could have damned everyone if He wanted. And He would have been totally just to have done so. We all deserve damnation! That point needs to be absolutely accepted before one can fully understand Calvinism.

Once it is, then a person will realize the incredible grace and mercy involved if God so much as saves one person. But for Him to save a multitude is an incredible act of grace!

> When was in the Arminian mind set, I would look around at people at least think that there was some hope for every person alive. Of course, I knew that God already knew who would and wouldn't receive Him; but I, in typical Arminian fashion, thought that if I prayed enough, or preached enough, then maybe, just maybe, this person's eternal "destiny" could in fact change.

Well, I know the truth now, because it really is inescapable... There are some, yes many, that have been chosen by God, not for salvation, but for damnation. Their destiny is the Lake of Fire. Period. No matter what happens in this realm, nothing will ever change that.<

Three points: First, this side of heaven we have no way of knowing who are chosen and who are not. So there is no point whatsoever in looking at a person a trying to decide if he or she is elected or not. What we need to do is obey God and preach the Gospel to every person. Calvinism is in no way is an impediment to evangelism. If fact, it is the exact opposite. And that lead to my second point.

As an Arminian, I would often get "frustrated" when trying to witness to JWs, Mormons, and the like. It just seemed impossible to break through the "fog" in their minds created by their respective cults. So it is very easy to give on even trying. And in fact, most Christian don't try to witness to the JWs at the door because they consider it a waste of time.

But, as a Calvinist, I know God can and does break through any "fog" that is in a person's mind. So I can witness to any "hard-headed" person knowing their conversion does not ultimately depend on how "well" I witness to them, or how hard I pray, but on God. He is the One who is ultimately responsible.

So I witness to people in obedience to the Great Commission. But I do not get frustrated in doing so when I do not see "results." I have confidence in God that He can and will use my words as He sees fit.

Third, is your statement about God "choosing" some for damnation. Be careful here: there are two different types of Calvinism. The first is known as "Supralapsarian" Calvinism. The second is "Sublapsarian" Calvinism.

This issue is a bit complicated. It has to do with the "logical order of decrees." But for a quick summary: Supralapsarianism teaches that BEFORE ("supra") creation and the Fall ("lapse"), God decided to create human beings. He decided that, to glorify Himself, some of them He would save and some of them He would damn. His glory would be shown the incredible difference between the saved and the damned. So He foreordained the Fall so that He could damn some.

In other words, this view presents "double-predestination." Some were foreordained for salvation and some were foreordained for damnation. And all of this occurred before God even began creating. This was the viewpoint of Calvin and some other early Reformers.

However the Sublapsarian view teaches that AFTER ("sub") the Fall, God looked down the corridors of time at the mass of sinful humanity that would be born. He would have been totally just to have damned all of them. But out of His grace and mercy He chose to save some, while rightly "passing over" and damning the rest for their sins.

So this is single-predestination. By the grace of God, some are predestined for salvation. The rest were not foreordained for damnation but are justly damned for their sins. Of course, God in His foreknowledge knew the Fall would happen; but in the "logical order" of events, the decree for foreordination did not occur until after the Fall. God did not ordain it.

So in this view, God did not ordain anyone to damnation. It was the sin of the Fall and subsequent, personal sins, not the ordination of God, that is the reason people are damned. But it is the grace of God, and only His grace, that is the reason anyone is saved.

This is the view to which the majority of Calvinists (myself included) ascribe. It is also Calvinism presented in the Westminster Confession.

> Though that is the truth, it is really difficult to digest. I keep thinking of the movie "A Few Good Men," when Tom Cruise kept berating Jack Nicholoson with "I just want the TRUTH!!" Jack Nicholson finally responds, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!"

You know Gary, I think that's where most people are in Christian Theology. In my case, I cried out for the truth, and nothing but the truth, and God has obliged. Now, it seems I can't handle it! :-) <

Yes, Calvinism can be difficult to accept at first. But the issue for me was, is it Scriptural? Once I was convinced that it was, I had no choice but to accept it. It was difficult at first; but now, I simply cannot see it any other way. Now, to me, Arminianism is so obviously wrong I cannot see how I ever accepted it!

> The issue I struggle with also is trying to reconcile God's Providence with human responsibility. Of course, this issue has baffled theologians down through the centuries. I have been reading A.W. Pinks book called The Sovereignty of God. It has been extremely helpful. But, I am feeling the "brain cramps," big time! :-) Maybe you can provide some help in this area.

Thanks again Gary, and blessings to you,
John
5/25/1999<

You are correct: many have struggled with the issue of the relationship of God's providence and human responsibility. This is no just an issue for Calvinist but for any Christian, and for anyone who believes in God for that matter.

But it has never been a major problem for me. As I look at it, I am responsible to God because He says so! I am responsible for trying to do good for my fellow human being because God says so. I should do good works because God says so. I should pray because God says so. I should witness because God says so. I simply see no reason to try to understand why I should. God's telling me that I should is enough for me.

I hope that helps.


This discussion is concluded at:
Word of Faith, Arminianism, and Calvinism - Part Three.

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Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

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