Calvinism Versus Arminianism: Part of the Conflict is in the Application

But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:14-15 HCSB)

Arminians and Calvinists have been at eachother’s throats for a REALLY long time. Anyone who studies church history and theology at all knows that Arminians and Calvinists just don’t agree in their doctrines. To show this, this link is to a Calvinism/Arminianism comparison chart.


 

As one can see, there are some fundamental differences between Calvinism and Arminianism on the basis of doctrine. But it doesn’t stop there. There is also a major difference in the way in which the two systems of doctrine apply missions, preaching, and apologetics.Missions

The first area I am going to spend some time looking at is the area of missions. Calvinists and Arminians view missions from totally different perspectives. Why a Calvinist does missions and why an Arminian does missions are completely apposite eachother but they have the same end in view, or so one would thing. In reality, the end in view for the Arminian is wholly different from that of the Calvinist.

For the Arminian, missions are done because, according to Arminianism, if we don’t tell people the gospel they may never hear it and therefore go to hell. Which is inconsistent because most Arminians believe that if someone never hears the gospel, that person goes to heaven.

On the other hand, for the Calvinist, missions are done with a goal in mind. That goal being the glory of God. Whereas the Arminian is not sure if he will be successful (for their success is measured by how many people, if any, responded to the call of the gospel to receive Christ), the Calvinist is assured victory. As the Bible makes clear,

For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ASV)

God’s word, the gospel, will not return to Him having not accomplished the task He sent it to do. Sometimes we proclaim the gospel to people to save them, and other times we proclaim to them that they may be damned for unbelief.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 ESV)

Need I say more?

The Arminian application of their doctrine of missions leaves room for failure. It states, in much different terminology, that God’s word does on occaision not do what it’s supposed to; but it acts this way because of man’s disbelief and lack of faith. According to the Arminian, when someone doesn’t respond to the altar call that it wasn’t God’s word that returned empty but it was the unbelief of the individual.

Preaching

The next area I will briefly speak of is the area of preaching. A Calvinists preaches the gospel out of obedience to what God has called the Christian to do. The same holds true for the Arminian. But where they differ is in their approaches to the proclamation of the gospel.

The Arminian focuses a lot on the process of how to preach the gospel. He will rely heavily on pop psychology and good jokes more than on the firm truths of Scripture. He will strive to make people feel good about themselves. To quote Rick Warren in his The Purpose Driven Life,

“You are a bundle of incredible abilities, an amazing creation of God. Part of the church’s responsibility is to identify and release your abilities for serving God” (Warren, p. 242).

The Calvinist on the other hand strives in all things to be true to the Scriptures. He will preach the gospel no matter what the cost and will preach it as the Bible preaches it. He won’t rely so heavily on good jokes and a good delivery, but will allow Scripture and the Holy Spirit speak to the individuals listening. Buliding the individual up before the call to salvation also won’t be something that accompanies the Calvinist’s call to salvation.

Apologetics

The last area I am going to speak on here is apologetics.

“Occaisionally called eristics, apologetics is the formal defense of the Christian faith. Historically, Christian theologians have differed as to whether apologetics is appropriate to the presentation of the gospel, and if so, how it should be accomplished. Depending on how they have answered these questions, apologists have appealed to rational argumentation, empirical evidence, fulfilled prophecy, authorities of the church or mystical experience in defending such beliefs as the existance of God, the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ and the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.” (Grenz, p.14)

The Arminian will only defend the faith when it seems convenient. The Calvinist will defend whenever given the opportunity. Granted, there are exceptions to this rule. But for the most part, and from my personal observations, this seems to be the case.

For example, let’s compare Rick Warren and Al Mohler for a moment. On TV shows, Rick Warren is very careful to be ecumenical and to come across loving and sincere. But he focuses a lot on being ecumenical. As seen earlier in that inyerview with Larry King, he didn’t do a lot of defense of a Biblical worldview when asked worldview questions.

Al Mohler, on the other hand, is firm and grounded in Scripture alone. Every answer he gives has a Scripture verse to back it for the most part. In the face of a tough question, he will answer with Scripture as opposed to his own opinion.

Conclusion

I said all of that to say what I am about to say now.

We are called, as Christians, to always be ready to share the gospel. As the verse I quoted at the beginning of this article states,

But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:14-15 HCSB)

We should be ready all the time to defend the truths of the Scripture. We should approach our lives in such a way that our Christianity is loud and makes a difference in the world. Passively sitting by and pretending that everything is hunky dory and nothing is wrong is not going to cut it. Something IS wrong, and the problem is sin. This world is full of it. The church has been silent for all too long.

Whether you are an Arminian or a Calvinist, you are called to the same thing. To proclaim the truths of the Bible and nothing else. Pushing a denominational agenda is not what we are called to do. Telling our congregations that if they wanna act like animals to go to the local pentecostal church is not what we are supposed to do. We are called to preach the Bible.

I have my beliefs. I am a Calvinist and I will not hide that for anything. But when it comes down to it, it is more important to defend and preach Scripture than to defend and preach a man’s theological system.

This is a call to all in ministry, whether behind the pulpit or the layman. Preach the Bible. Read the Bible. Defend the Bible. Unity comes through Scripture and a belief therein. I call on all Christians everywhere to live lives boldly declaring the truths of the Bible.

Here in my town there is a house with a Jewish family living there. Outside of their house there is a Jewish flag flying proudly. The area of Indiana that I live in, from what I hear and have read, has a growing Muslim population. That Jewish family is risking their lives showing their pride in what they are. We Christians need to be the same way. We need to fly the banner of Christ and salvation proudly and stop trying to be politically correct. Truth is more important than not offending someone.

I say it again. Preach the Bible. Read the Bible. Defend the Bible.

Works Cited

Grenz, Stanley, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 1999, Intervarsity Press

Warren, Rick, The Purpose Driven Life, 2002, Zondervan

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