Article 15

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What we Believe






"Calvinism Verses Arminianism"

"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" (II Jn. 9).

I will begin by saying that this article will probably not be what some may think. The text at hand and the title have no direct connection, thus this will not be a defense of "Calvinism" against "Arminianism" from II John. My desire is to speak concerning the title, and my use of the particular text I hope will be seen as I continue. I write this because there is much debate and even argument among men as to which "system" is correct. I have even been asked if I am a "five pointer" or not, which many use to define a Calvinist. The term "five pointer" immediately causes my mind to flash up a picture of myself being stalked by some hunter with a Winchester 300 magnum ready to mount my head on the wall. If you read this and you have asked me this question then you now know why I hesitated when I answered. It was not my serious consideration of a serious answer but my having to deal with the stupid scenario of my mind seeing myself wearing horns. Some may think I should be more serious, for after all, is not a preacher to be sober (serious) minded? Yes! But when men ask frivolous questions I cannot help but sometimes think such thoughts.

Now, here is a serious question. Are not even Arminians five pointers? Do they not hold to five points, albeit five exactly opposite from Calvinists? Would one not be more consistent to always ask, "Are you a five point Calvinist?" After all, some people may be four point Calvinists, for some do not hold to limited atonement. Some are five point Arminians, for they believe in five things they say are fundamentally true. Did John write by inspiration that, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in Calvinism, hath not God"? Some may suggest that while John certainly did not mean that exact term he did mean that any man who does not abide in THE truth, the five points of Calvinism being called by them the summation of THE truth, then that person has not God. Any who suggest that must also admit that John was in effect saying that he who abides in the five points of Calvinism hath both the Father and the Son. Any man who believes that abiding in the five points of Calvinism (or Arminianism for that matter) is the touch stone of being in God the Son and God the Father is wise in his own conceits. He has no bases in scripture for such a view but that which he twists to his own designs. The scripture never makes the touch stone of Christianity to be any "five" specific points!

Dear reader, if what I have said thus far has caused that sinking feeling of the stomach and that anxious feeling of the mind ones gets when disagreed with then you have had your priorities manifested to you and those feelings show that to which your loyalty is bound. Where in scripture is being a child of God said to begin by more than anything other than being born of God and thus believing in Jesus Christ? It is certainly not less than this, but no more either. If a person believes on Christ, and yet a fear comes that he or she might fall away, then is that person lost because they believe that? Must I be persuaded that I can never be lost once saved and that I will always persevere before I can even be saved to start with? Must I believe grace is irresistible before it can be irresistible to me? Must I believe that election is unconditional on my part before unconditional election can bestow upon me freely the very things it was supposed to have "unconditionally" elected me unto in Christ? Must I believe that Christ did not die for the non elect before His death benefits me? Must I come to know I am totally depraved before God can give me life and loose me from the bonds of total inability. Do all immediately begin to know these five things once they are initially converted? What nonsense to teach such, and yet some do! There are Arminians in heart who are masquerading behind the very five points of Calvinism, for they are declaring a man's salvation to be based on a man knowing the five points or not, as though just five points somehow reveal all the glorious person and work of the Eternal, Sovereign Christ. Some have argued that the five points of Calvinism gloriously cover ever other doctrine of scripture in some way or another. Yet, even unconditional election itself would do the same by that theory, but be it far from a "five pointer" to call himself a "one pointer" with everything else being covered under that. Where do the five directly cover that God is one? Is this not a fundamental truth of all scripture? Yes! Yet even the apostle teaches that not every believer has a fundamental grasp of this truth, and my knowledge of that fundamental truth is not to be used against that other brother to give him occasion to stumble in food. God forbid I use it as a tool to try and exclude him from the faith of Jesus Christ. Where is Christ's being born without a fallen human nature in "the five points " of Calvinism? Where is Christ's returning to the earth to gather His own? This is not to say that those who reject the truth of Christ and separate from it are to be claimed as brethren, for John says no (I Jn. 2:19; II Jn. 9-11). However, the truth of Jesus Christ has far more than just "five" fundamental or "all important" truths. Even the bodily resurrection of believers is fundamental according to scripture (I Cor. 15), which if denied or rejected has implications far beyond just not believing in a resurrection to come (I Cor. 15:12-18). Does perseverance mean that we need only continue in the five points or is it far more inclusive? Does perseverance mean I can never be wrong about anything? We must also beware of those whose conduct is evil as well (III Jn. 9-11). Ah, but let us take great care and seek the Spirit of God for guidance lest we chain the hands which hang down and weaken the knees which are feeble and make hard and rough paths for the lame of God's people (Heb. 12:12-13). One day it may be me there and what a blessing it will be to have the brethren seeking my healing rather than my exclusion! To deny any doctrine in scripture in any way is to be on dangerous ground, whether bewitched into it (Gal. 3:1) or having one's faith overthrown by error (II Tim. 2:16-18). Nevertheless, those who are God's people are known to Him (II Tim. 2:19).

If one does a study of the ancient theological discourses and arguments of the past concerning this matter one will soon find that it was those who are now called Arminians who put so-called Calvinism into a system of five specific points. It was something they brought to attention as five specific points they refuted and thus made it into a system they rejected. That body which held to the five points the "Arminians" refuted never had made the five points (as a system) the touch stone of the gospel of Christ. One could have believed the five and yet be rejected because they refused to walk in Christ in their life. One may have walked in what seemed to be grace and yet then be rejected for being found in heresy whether or not they held that view from the beginning. John Calvin even had a man burned at the stake for what Calvin called heresy in disagreeing with him. Though it is said he later regretted that, nevertheless, where was his command from scripture to even consider it in the first place. We are commanded: "Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath." If our enemy is hungry or thirsty we are not told to heap piles of faggots at his feet and burn him out of his misery but feed him and give him drink thus heaping coals of fire upon his head (Rom. 12:17-21).

How many of us, when trying to speak to someone of Christ, have regularly called ourselves "Paulinians" or "Peteristic" to describe what we are? Probably very few and we know without question these two were men called of God. Yet we have called ourselves "Calvinists" or "Calvinistic." Why is it that we find it so hard to just say we are Christians (a word used in derision at the beginning, but to which we should be glad to be numbered) or believers in Christ or any of the other words our brothers and sisters of those beginning days of the New Testament assembly professed? You might answer, But so many false professors say the same, even many Arminians who hate the Christ we serve! But if we are truly the sons and daughters of God why should we conduct ourselves as though the gospel and its language is obsolete and in need of more modern phrases? or less abused phrases? Please note that Calvinism is not modern at all, and it is abused and used by some as the key to Christianity. Christ is the key to all things. This is not to say that the terms "Calvinist" or "Arminian" do not have their proper place, but their place is not a scriptural one when used to describe who are the children of God or not.

We need no other message than the message of Christ and Him crucified for the offences of sinners, and raised again for their justification, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. Those who truly believe Him will be taught by Him according to His own sovereign will and time. They will come to know far more than the five points. What a joy it is for any elder of the assembly of Christ's sheep to in patience watch them grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour as God is pleased and in the way God is pleased to teach them. This is far better than constantly standing in judgement over them doubting the spiritual reality of their salvation for every truth they have missed or for every error they commit. The missing truth or error committed may soon be yours! Which do you hope to then find? Compassion or judgement?

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