Part I: Historical Survey
Calvin And Calvinism
whole controversy there runs a single thread, rooted in human
pride and demanding the right to be personally responsible in
the decision-making process at some critical point in the conversion
experience. Many men desire to be saved, or say they do, until
they discover that God's way makes them entirely dependent upon
his grace, thus discounting completely any supposed merits they
may have counted upon to improve their chances of being saved.
Such are they who would take the Kingdom by force (Matthew 11:12).
The Gospel is that we are saved
by faith alone without works of any kind, not even the working
up of ourselves into a state of readiness or willingness to be
saved, nor even the exercise of our own faith. Here is the heart
of the matter. This is the "offense of the Gospel"
(Galatians 5:11). Salvation is all of God; and since it is clearly
a selective process (for only some are saved), it must be a sovereign
act of God's Election. Man can neither choose to be saved nor
can he initiate the process.
The issue is whether we are called
upon to co-operate in helping God (or conversely to ask God to
help us), or whether we are simply clay in the hands of the Potter.
Clay has no say. Reason tells us that we ought to be able to
co-operate if we wish; pride tells us that we do co-operate.
We offer our own willingness, or non-resistance, something of
ourselves at least, anything of ourselves will do no matter how
small it is. The
* In Luke 13:24 the Lord seems to speak of
many who "will seek to enter in and shall not be able,"
as though men did indeed desire salvation but were refused. The
answer to this apparent anomaly seems to lie in the fact that
these many individuals did indeed wish to enter in ‹ but
on their own terms. Like the man who crashed the gate of the
wedding and sat down to enjoy the feast ‹ but without the
appropriate wedding garment, such improper entry can result only
in being rejected as soon as the King discovers their presence
(Matthew 22:11-13). It is interesting to see that the individual
in this little story knew perfectly well he was in the wrong
place and had no excuse. He was speechless. And it is also significant
perhaps that it was by this little story that the Lord introduced
one of the most famous of all passages to be quoted in connection
with Election: "For many are called, but few are chosen"
1 of 13
great thing is that it
is of ourselves. As autonomous beings we demand the right of
making some essential contribution. It need not be much ‹
but it must be essential.
Many, with all the self-assurance
in the world, come loaded with good things to be credited to
their account. The poorer souls may seem to come more humbly,
but they too hug the only possession they have to offer, their
own willingness. It is quite possible to be as proud of this
as it is of a large account. Surely this is as great a thing,
seeing their circumstances, as the goods their affluent neighbours
can bring along! Certainly it is as offensive to the soul to
have a humble contribution (humble by force of circumstance)
set aside as it is for the affluent man to have his set aside.
Pride is a mighty assertive force, and rather than cause offense,
ministers all too frequently yield to pressure and adulterate
the Gospel. It must be embellished, added to, completed by the
pitiful works of man.
This adulteration, this challenge
to the perfect sufficiency of the Lord's sacrifice, is technically
termed by theologians "the evil leaven of synergism."
Synergism is a word which means "joint-effortism."
If there is one pervasive theme above all in Calvin's system
of theology it is this: Solus Deus. God alone! God alone
is man's Saviour; the act of regeneration is monergistic, a solo
work of God without man's help in any way whatsoever.
Many years ago Warfield put it
this way: (1)
Thus it comes about that monergistic
regeneration ‹ "irresistible grace," "effectual
calling," our older theologians called it ‹ becomes
the hinge of Calvin's soteriology [i.e., doctrine of salvation],
and lies much more deeply embedded in the system than many a
doctrine more closely connected with it in the popular mind.
Indeed, the soteriological significance
of predestination itself consists to the Calvinist largely in
the safeguard it affords to the immediate supernaturalness of
salvation. What lies at the heart of this soteriology is absolute
exclusion of creaturely efficiency in the induction of the saving
process, in order that the pure grace of God in salvation may
Only so could he express his sense
of man's complete dependence as a sinner on the free mercy of
a saving God; or exclude the evil leaven of synergism by which
God is robbed of his glory and man is encouraged to attribute
to some power, some act, some initiative of his own, his participation
in that salvation which in reality has come to him from pure
as carried forward by men like Gottschalk was essentially the
same, but there was a different emphasis. Predestination to Election
was the basic theme, not the grace of God as the sole means whereby
that Predestination is realized in the life of the individual.
Grace alone: this
1. Warfield, Benjamin B., Calvin as a Theologian
and Calvinism Today, London, Evangelical Press, c.1909, pp.16f.
is really Calvin's message.
All else in his theology is subservient and derivative. Indeed,
to Calvin, as to Owen and Spurgeon and a host of other spiritual
giants of subsequent generations, this was the one theme that
held all else together. Once admit man's spiritual deadness and
total ineptitude in the matter of his salvation and everything
else follows. Once abandon this, and the whole Christian system
becomes indefensible and fragmented. Spurgeon wrote of Calvinism:
"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing
as preaching Christ and Him crucified unless we preach what is
called nowadays Calvinism. It is a nickname, to call it Calvinism.
Calvinism is the Gospel and nothing else." (2)
Now John Calvin was born on June
10, 1509, at Noyon in Picardy. Like so many other young men who
became great warriors in the Lord's service, he had a notably
devout mother. His father was quite well off and had sufficient
influence with the ecclesiastical authorities that he could secure
for his son certain benefices that allowed him a higher education
and professional status. John had set himself to become a Man
of Letters par excellence.
Unlike Augustine, Calvin was a
quiet student and his youth a blameless one seriously devoted
to his calling. But he was an individualist and had no tendency
to become a mere rubber stamp reiterating the words and phrases
of his teachers. He was open-minded and affectionate and, contrary
to the stern picture we tend to have of him in later life, he
had a genuine and refreshing sense of humour as some of his letters
show. By the time he was twenty-two he was an established humanist
scholar, settled in Paris, with a well-earned reputation through
his publication in 1532 of a commentary on a treatise by Seneca
(c. 8 B.C.‹A.D. 65) entitled On Clemency.
And then due chiefly to the influence
of men like Ulrich Zwingli (1484‹1531) and Martin Bucer (1491‹1551),
who had been greatly influenced by Luther, the whole direction
of his life and interests changed. In due course he was solidly
converted, the exact circumstance not being altogether clear.
From that time, Calvin had no doubt that his goal was now henceforth
to be a Man of Letters for God. And his pen became busy at once,
but his forthrightness soon made it unwise for him to remain
in France where there was a growing pressure against Protestants.
He fled to Basel.
In the spring of 1536 he published
what he variously referred to as "An Apology," "A
Manifesto," and a "Confession of Faith." It was
a brief document of less than a score of pages. It is not altogether
certain but it is generally believed that this was a first draft
of what was to become the Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Although it was brief, the title certainly was not. It read:
The Institutes of the Christian Religion,
Containing almost the Whole Sum of Piety and Whatever It
2. J. I. Packer, Introductory Essay in John Owen, The Death
of Death in the Death of Christ, London, Banner of
Truth trust, 1959 reprint, , pp.10f.
to Know in the Doctrine of Salvation.
A Work Very Well Worth Reading by All Persons Zealous for Piety,
and Lately Published. A Preface to the Most Christian King of
France, in which this Book is Presented to Him as a Confession
of Faith. Author, John Calvin, of Noyon (Basel, MDXXXVI)
later he expanded his "little book" into an ample treatise
on theology. The question of the precise relationship of these
works and whether the 1539 issue was indeed merely an expansion
of the 1536 draft is in some doubt. But this was certainly the
beginning of his worldwide influence as a Reformed theologian
and a Man of Letters for God. As already indicated, Predestination
had only brief treatment in his initial statement. It was not
a key issue at this point in the development of Calvin's theology.
The key issue was the grace of God.
After some moves back and forth
between Geneva, Basel, and Strassburg, he began almost reluctantly
an active ministry that kept him from his beloved books more
than he wished but resulted in the establishment out of a group
of French refugees like himself the first "model Church"
under his shepherding.
It was at Strassburg that his literary
activity as a truly great Man of Letters really began, and it
was from Strassburg that at thirty years of age he published
the more elaborate form of his original "little book."
Such was the prolific output of his pen subsequently that it
was to require fifty-nine volumes to contain all the "Works
of John Calvin."
In 1559 he published the definitive
edition of his Institutes, probably the most influential
single work on Dogmatic Theology ever to have been written after
the close of the New Testament Canon. The works of Augustine
were certainly as influential, but they did not in quite the
same way constitute a single thesis. As Benjamin Warfield put
As the first adequate statement
of the positive program of the Reformation movement, the Institutes
lies at the foundation of the whole development of Protestant
theology, and has left an impress on evangelical thought which
is ineffaceable. After three centuries and a half, it retains
its unquestioned pre-eminence as the greatest and most influential
of all dogmatic treatises.
The same writer
underscores the debt which Calvin owed to Augustine. Calvin's
doctrine of the Church was not his own creation, though he gave
it a precision and vitality that was truly a reformation. It
was his doctrine of grace that was so peculiarly his own as to
be called thereafter Calvinism rather than Augustinianism.
Yet as Warfield says: (4)
It was Augustine who gave us
the Reformation. For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was
just the ultimate triumph of Augustine's doctrine
3. Warfield, Bejamin B., Calvin
and Augustine, edited by amuel Craig, Philadelphia, Presbyterian
& Reformed Publishing Co., 1971, p.8.
4. Ibid., p. 322
of grace over Augustine's doctrine of
the Church. This doctrine of grace came from Augustine's hands
in its positive outline completely formulated: sinful man depends,
for his recovery to good and to God, entirely on the free grace
of God; this grace is therefore indispensable, prevenient, irresistible,
indefectible; and being thus the free grace of God, must have
lain in all the details of its conference and working in the
intention of God from all eternity.
Now the so-called
Five Points of Calvinism, which were not really Calvin's to begin
with though truly representative of his theology, were formulated
implicitly by Augustine, who drew his inspiration for them from
Paul. All through the centuries thereafter down to Luther's time
these same five points have been argued over, denied, believed,
explored, written about, and misunderstood. Whether man is totally
depraved and spiritually dead or only very sick*, whether Election
is based entirely on God's pleasure or on foreseen merit, whether
the sacrifice of Christ is intended for all men or only for the
elect, whether men can or cannot resist the grace of God, and
whether the saints are eternally secure in their salvation or
can fall away and be lost again: these are the basic issues of
debate in the theology of salvation. Calvin did not put an end
to the debate but he so crystallized the issues, and showed so
compellingly the logic of their relatedness, that it has ever
since been understood by the truly informed that they all stand
or fall together. And Calvin showed why they all stand or fall
together. He set forth in lucid terms the logical consistency
and coherence of the doctrine of Sovereign Grace and showed that,
granted any one of these Five Points, the rest must follow inevitably:
deny any one of them and the whole structure is endangered. One
cannot satisfactorily defend some points but not others.|
Charles Hodge has a
beautiful summary of the heritage that belongs to Reformed theology.
Such is the great scheme of
doctrine known in history as the Pauline, Augustinian, or Calvinistic,
taught, as we believe, in the Scriptures, developed by Augustine,
formally sanctioned by the Latin Church, adhered to by the witnesses
of the truth during the Middle Ages, repudiated by the Church
of Rome in the Council of Trent, revived in that Church by the
Jansenists, adopted by all the Reformers, incorporated in the
creeds of the Protestant Churches of Switzerland, of the Palatinate,
of France, Holland, England, and Scotland, and unfolded in the
Standards framed by the Westminster Assembly, the common representative
of Presbyterians in Europe and America.
* Pelagius said man is well; Augustine
said man is dead: Arminius said man is sick.
5. Charles A. Hodge, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids,
Eerdman's, `973 reprint [1871-73], vol.II, p. 333.
people today think of Predestination they associate it with Calvinism.
This is unfortunate for it far antedated Calvinism and is one
of the few doctrines about which there has been almost universal
agreement in all the Churches. There is not the same agreement,
of course, as to its precise meaning; nor is there the same agreement
as to its basis. But as a fact of Christian theology it has not
been challenged. It is also unfortunate that it should be so
closely associated with Calvinism because it is only one facet
of Calvinism and not the central one. It is a logical element
in the doctrine of Sovereign Grace but it is a consequence rather
than a cause. The cause of our Election lies in the good pleasure
of God and the ground for it is not Predestination but the full,
perfect, and sufficient sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Election
is a necessity because man is so spiritually dead that the Lord's
sacrifice would never have become effectual but for the Sovereign
Grace of God. Had his sacrifice merely been offered to man it
would never have been accepted. And foreknowledge has nothing
to do with Election because there is nothing good in man to be
the grounds of that foreknowledge except negatively.* The only
thing that God could foresee was that man would never be able
to turn to Him for salvation unless He Himself first turned man.
As the Psalmist said: "Quicken us and we will call upon
your name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts . . . and we shall be saved" (Psalm
80:18, 19). If man is to be saved at all, God must not only provide
the means but undertake the entire initiative in making those
means effectual. If anything is left to man there is no hope.
Man is totally dependent because he is totally depraved, and
unless God predestines some and elects them to be saved, man
is entirely without hope. Salvation is all of grace and that
grace is sovereign. Such was the burden of Calvin's message.
John T. McNeill, who has provided
an Introduction to the English edition of Calvin's works published
in Philadelphia by Westminster Press in 1960, seeks to correct
a commonly held view that Calvin's mind was a kind of factory
turning out and mechanically assembling the parts of a neatly
jointed structure of dogmatic logic. (6) Throughout his work it is manifest that, like Augustine,
Calvin's heart and mind were in beautiful balance. The spiritual,
emotional, and intellectual aspects of his being were joined
in the effort. He was not a professional theologian but a deeply
religious man who made warm friends and who also happened to
possess a genius for orderly thought. "The secret of his
mental energy," McNeill wrote, "lies in his piety."
The first great object of his pen was to make the way of salvation
* In the matter of Double Predestination,
some theologians have seen Predestination to Reprobation as based
entirely on foreknowledge of guilt.
6. John T. McNeill, Introduction, in John Calvin, Institutes
of the Christian Religion, Philadelphia, Westminster Press,
plain; the second was
to persuade men to believe it; the third was to encourage the
elect to adorn their faith by their lives.
In order to deal in depth with
Calvin's doctrine of salvation, it is appropriate first of all
to examine the circumstances which led to the formulation of
the so-called Five Points to which reference has already been
made. As will be seen these Five Points did not originate with
Calvin's pen but with those who opposed his doctrine. Nevertheless
they provide a very good starting point for a consideration of
the structure of Calvin's theology of salvation.
Throughout the whole controversy
between grace and works, between synergism and monergism, between
the Total Depravity of man and a residue of natural human goodness,
between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, there was
always a concurrent issue the solution to which is probably one
of God's secrets, but it is an issue which has refused to go
away. This was the question of Double Predestination, a question
which has kept cropping up throughout the history of Christian
thought. It will be remembered that the term originally meant
that men were divinely predestined either to be saved or to be
lost. The assumption was made that if some were predestined to
be saved then the rest of mankind was automatically predestined
to be lost and God was accordingly accused of injustice. Augustine
held it in the sense that the sinner is, by reason of the very
moral fabric of the universe, destined (and so predestined) to
suffer the consequences of his guilt, or predestined to be saved
from those consequences by the sacrifice of Christ. One or the
other is necessarily man's destiny. But while God clearly knows
beforehand what is to happen in every individual instance, it
is not necessary to assume that this foreknowledge means that
it was also his intention that many should be lost. It can just
as easily mean that man is allowed to suffer the consequences
of his guilt as a sinner and is therefore predestined to reprobation,
a reprobation which God clearly foresees and foreknows. (7) It is a case of divine
permission of a certain course of events predetermined by the
very structure of the moral order. God gave man free will and
in Adam man made his choice freely. Thereafter human nature prefers
the course of action which leads to destruction. Man chooses
destruction as a free expression of his fallen nature and God
allows him this choice. The end result is that man by nature
is predestined to reprobation but the foreknowledge of God relative
to this fact is not the cause of it.
On the other hand, Election to Salvation
is causative because man's will, freely expressed, would not
otherwise allow Election to Salvation to be effectual. Thus Predestination
to reprobation is caused by man; Predestination to salvation
is caused by God. The first is a natural consequence of the
7. Berkhof, Louis, History of Christian
Doctrines, Edinburgh, Bannr of Truth Trust, 1975 reprint,
will of man; the last
is a supernatural consequence of the will of God. Yet both may
fairly be described as "predestined" events.
Thus the situations are essentially
different. The Predestination which is the natural consequence
of man's corrupted will is self-fulfilling, inevitable, in one
sense uncaused except by the spiritual laws which God has built
into his universe. But there was always a tendency to confuse
these two very different kinds of Predestination. The concept
of Predestination was taken to mean the same thing in both cases,
thus making God responsible for man's unhappy destiny. God became
in fact the author of sin. And those who thus understood Calvin's
view on the matter could justify this position (as Zanchius did)
by an appeal to certain passages in Scripture which can be interpreted
to support it. Calvin himself never seems to have been quite
able to make up his mind on the matter. He seems in certain
places to be teaching Double Predestination (he called it Decretum
Horribile, an awful decree), by arguing that God really planned
that man should fall in order to work out his divine purposes
to his own glory by the saving of a certain number of the fallen.
The important point here is that God so planned before He
created man. He did not first create man, permit him freedom
of choice, and therefore leave the way open for the Fall to occur.
God made his plan before creating man and then, being sovereign,
determined that this plan should be followed. Calvin said, "It
is an awful decree, I confess. . . . God not only foresaw
the Fall of the first man and the ruin of posterity in him, but
arranged all by the determination of his own will" (Institutes,
III.xxiii.7). It may well have been pointed out to Calvin that
his reasoning here was of doubtful validity for it would surely
be just as true to say, "God foreknew what end man was to
have (if and when he fell) before creating him, because He had
so ordained reprobation to be the inevitable consequence of disobedience."
What God did was to allow man to fall; but man having fallen,
God then predetermined what would be the consequences.
In his study of Calvin's doctrine
of Predestination, F. H. Klooster notes Calvin's assertion that
there could be no Election to Salvation without its opposite,
Election to reprobation (Institutes, IlI.xxiii.1), and
adds with propriety, "This assertion is not a logical deduction."
(8) I believe he
If a group of guilty men are in
prison for their crimes and one is reprieved by the decree of
a State Governor, it is not the State Governor's decree in freeing
the one man that caused the other men to remain in prison. They
remain in prison because they have not yet completed their sentence.
They remain in prison because they are in prison to begin
with, and under judgment not yet fully satisfied. Men who do
not believe in the Lord are not condemned because they do not
believe; they are condemned already (John 3:18) and simply
8. Klooster, F. H., Calvin's Doctrine
of Predestination, Calvin Theological Seminary Monograph
Series III, Grand Rapids, Calvin Theological Seminary, 1961,
I hold a golf ball in my hand it does not fall. Because I am
holding it, I am in the strictest sense the cause of its not
falling. If I let it go, nature takes its appointed (predestined)
course and it falls. It is only in a manner of speaking that
it falls because I let it go. The real reason that it falls is
gravity. In a spaceship, away from the gravitational forces of
the earth, I could let it go and it would not fall. If I throw
it down I am contributing directly to its fall, but if I let
go of it I am not a direct cause of its falling. The principle
is a very wide one, and it is very easy to use language loosely
and therefore to confuse the issue.
These two alternative effects of
Predestination both appear to be grounded in the same phenomenon,
the intention of God. But they are not really so at all. Predestination
to Salvation is causative, the will of God being the cause of
salvation; Predestination to Reprobation is consequential, reprobation
being the consequence of the disobedience of man. The first is
therefore the result of God's intention, the second of God's
permission. It should be pointed out perhaps that by this circumstance
those who find themselves in heaven have only God to thank, whereas
those who find themselves under judgment have only themselves
to blame. To make the analogy of the men in prison complete,
one might therefore say with equal propriety that the one who
was reprieved has only the Governor to thank, whereas the ones
who were left in jail have only themselves to blame.
Calvin quotes Matthew 15:13, "Every
plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted
up," and comments on this by saying that the hearers are
being "plainly told that all whom the heavenly Father has
not been pleased to plant as sacred trees in his garden are doomed
and devoted to destruction" (Institutes, III.xxiii.1).
The implication here is quite specific. Those who do not reside
in Paradise are not of God's planting. God is not the author
of such trees. For this reason they do not belong in the garden.
Thus the analogies we have used above are reflected in Scripture
by implication if nothing else. For the divine Gardener did not
plant these foreign trees in the first place. It is as though,
like weeds, they had planted themselves.
It seems clear that Calvin's own
logical mind sensed the illogic of Double Predestination and
yet never quite succeeded in resolving the issue to his own satisfaction.
J. L. Neve in his History of Christian Thought says: "Calvin
did not express himself clearly or consistently on this matter."
(9) Certain passages
in Calvin's writings can be quoted in favour of Double Predestination
and others against it. This caused some dissension and disagreement
among his followers. A scholarly layman, D. V. Koornheert of
Holland, wrote against this teaching, and demanded that the Belgic
Confession, which incorporated it, be revised. Jacob Arminius
(1560‹1609), known for
9. Neve, J. L., History of Christian Thought,
Philadelphia, Muhlenberg Press, 1946, vol.II, p.16.
his dialectic skill
and for his loyalty to Calvin, was invited to reply to him. But
the effect of the studies which Arminius made in preparation,
carried out specifically to formulate his rebuttal, converted
him to a non-Calvinistic position! * He turned against the whole
system of Calvinistic theology, perhaps because he realized for
the first time that there was no room for any kind of sentimental
humanist acknowledgment of man's innate goodness, a discovery
which he did not like. He became so actively hostile that a serious
schism arose affecting the whole Reformed Church in Holland.
died in 1609, his followers produced a number of able spokesmen.
These met together in 1610 and drew up the Statement of Faith
setting forth the grounds of their opposition to Calvinism and
their alternative interpretation of the whole question of Predestination,
foreknowledge, and Election. Their Articles were called Remonstrances,
and they themselves were accordingly called Remonstrants.
The Calvinists issued a counter statement, but to no good purpose.
So the matter was introduced before the famous Synod of Dort
in 1618 at which representatives were present from England, Scotland,
the Palatinate, Hesse, Nassau, East Friesland, and Bremen.
The representatives of Arminianism
were treated with great discourtesy, and the Five Articles of
their Remonstrance were condemned. Five Calvinistic canons
were drafted and the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg
Catechism were formally adopted. In spite of the rather unlovely
procedure, the end result was a magnificent Statement of Faith
that eloquently reflected Calvin's theology.
The Five Articles of the Remonstrance
have ever since served as one of the most effective backdrops
against which to set the Reformers' position. They may be summarized
in the following way. They are here arranged not in the original
order in which they were presented but to reflect the order in
which they were answered.
(1) The Fall left man spiritually very sick but
not in a state of total incapacity. He still has some freedom
to good. His will is not entirely enslaved to a sinful nature.
He needs only God's assistance in his coming to conversion. In
this he brings his own faith and his own willingness.
(2) Accordingly, Election is based upon foreknowledge.
God foresees who will be willingly disposed and who will
refuse, and elects those whom He knows will assent. If some oversimplification
is permitted it might be said that Arminians held that God's
foreknowledge related to those who would seek salvation. In the
Lutheran system this foreknowledge related to those who would
not resist God's call. In the Methodist system God's foreknowledge
related to those who He knew would persevere.
* An excellent and sympathetic biography of
Arminius has been written by Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study
of the Dutch Reformation, New York, Abingdon Press, 1971.
(3) Christ died for all men, for
the salvation of all men was God's original plan. It is not God's
will that any should perish but, having been given freedom, man
is able to accept or reject salvation and only a few are saved.
(The fourth point was joined to this third point, though these
two points are generally set forth as two separate articles.)
(4) Man is entirely free to resist the grace of
(5) Even after yielding to God and accepting the Lord as
Saviour, a man may so resist the influence of the Holy Spirit
thereafter in his life that he becomes a castaway, a reprobate,
disapproved, "turning again to his former wallowing,"
and so in the end losing his salvation.
It will be obvious
that these Five Points of the Arminian Remonstrance have
the same kind of logical coherence as the system of Calvin does.
One point follows from the other and all hold together in a kind
of organic unity, granted the premise. The premise of the Remonstrance
is that man is able to contribute to his own salvation because
he is not totally depraved, and that God requires this contribution
to make salvation effectual. From this it follows that man can
subsequently cease to support his part of the bargain so that
the work of God then fails in its objective and man is finally
lost. Since the sovereignty of God in salvation is thereby surrendered
and his predeterminate elective purposes can no longer be considered
the cause of man's salvation and perseverance, Election is the
result simply of foresight relative to the individual's anticipated
The crux of the matter in these
two logical (or theological) systems is the Sovereignty (or otherwise)
of the Grace of God, and its co-ordinate ‹ the freedom (or
otherwise) of the will of man, determining his own destiny. It
has been rightly said that evangelism based on Calvinism lays
the emphasis on the Sovereign Grace of God; evangelism based
on any form of Arminianism is dependent upon man's powers to
persuade. The world has developed highly successful techniques
of high-pressure advertising in the hands of the so-called Persuaders,
and Arminian evangelism has tended to adopt many of the same
tactics. Power lies with man and must be applied with maximum
effect, as in all advertising the emphasis is often laid more
on the method than the message.
Although the great Confessions
of the Reformed Churches (Thirty-Nine Articles, Westminster,
Heidelberg, and so forth) are Calvinist, and although ministers
in the denominations that once drew their inspiration from these
Confessions are therefore Calvinist by profession, the great
majority of them have long since adopted an Arminian approach
to evangelism and depend far more upon techniques of persuasion
than upon the truth of their professed Reformation theology.
There is today a great need for a return to the Gospel of Sovereign
Grace as the sole remedy for man's Total Depravity.
These two streams of theology,
the Calvinist on the one hand, and the
on the other, seem always to have existed side by side within
the household of faith almost from the day the Church was born.
Undoubtedly God uses both streams to create saints and to forge
their characters. But in many important ways there can never
really be complete fellowship between the Lord's people in the
two camps. The basic premise of each is so totally opposed to
the other and its effect so pervasive on each system of thought
that conversation quickly deteriorates into argument as soon
as it becomes seriously involved with fundamental issues. As
long as we remain at a superficial level we can praise the Lord
together. But one is aware always of skating together on thin
ice. Since such arguments can never be wholly resolved unless
both parties adopt the same basic premise there can never be
real reconciliation. If the logical constructs in each system
were simply abandoned there might be hope of reconciliation,
because equally illogical adjustments would either pass unnoticed
or would not disturb those who employed them. But such is man's
constitution that irrational thinking never really proves an
adequate base for peace of mind or heart. Fellowship
on such grounds is always a fragile thing on the edge of collapse
if some unexpected thought should intrude itself. Guarded conversation
is not conducive to openness of heart which is essential to true
And so we seek desperately to "sink
our differences," and this serves merely to produce a unity
among us which is theologically emasculated and powerless to
challenge a sinful world.
Having set the
historical background in some perspective, we now turn to an
in-depth study of these two Five-Point alternatives
to see what Scripture has to say on the matter.
The chronological table below will
help the reader to see the historical relatedness of the events
we have outlined.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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