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  • Arminius VS. Calvin - The War Goes On..

    ARTICLE INDEX     



    "There does not appear any greater evil in the disputes concerning matters of religion, than the persuading ourselves that our salvation or God's glory are lost by every little difference. As for me, I exhort my scholars, not only to distinguish between the true and the false according to Scripture, but also between the essential articles of faith, and the less essential articles, by the same Scripture." - Jacobus Arminius in response to intolerant dogmatism from both Calvinists and Arminians.



    How many times have you heard the phrase "The five points of Calvinism"? I bet most of you have heard the phrase more than once and some of you might even believe in all five points. Is this the summation of Calvin's theology, or was there more substance to his teachings? I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but Calvinism as seen today, does not equate to Calvin's teachings. This is probably why modern-day Calvinism has been coined by some as neo-Calvinism.


    To be honest, John Calvin would probably be considered a borderline Calvinist with tendencies towards Arminian thought. The five points of Calvinism make up only a small portion of Calvin's writings, yet these doctrines are coined as Calvin's teachings. Calvin didn't have any difficulties with the idea that a person must be truly repentant for salvation. This differs greatly from certain Calvinistic sects, which preach that repentance is not a requirement. (Note ~ Some Calvinistic sects preach repentance as part of the salvation message as Calvin did.) As scene in this passage, Calvin states that faith and repentance are inseparable,

    "The title of the chapter seems to promise a treatise on Faith, but the only subject here considered is Repentance, the inseparable attendant of faith"(Calvin's Institutes Bk. III, Ch. III).

    Further, there is punishment for those who don't repent,

    "I reply, Paul does not threaten that all who have sinned, but that all who remain impenitent, shall be excluded from the kingdom of God"(Calvin's Commentary on Galatians V, XXI).

    Another example of his Arminian tendencies can be found in this passage,

    "For since God is just, and cannot renounce himself, sin must always be hateful to him. Therefore, so long as he accounts us sinners, we are necessarily hated; and where God's enmity is, there is death and destruction. It follows that no hope of life is left us unless we are reconciled to God. And there is no other way for God to bring us back to his favor except by accounting us righteous"(Calvin's Commentaries Vol. XXIII, Chapter V).

    So Calvin is saying that God hates(i.e. ~ doesn't favor) sinners and that death and destruction await them. Sounds a bit different from the common saying, "I sin everyday in word, thought and deed". Yet another creed I have found among certain Calvinists is the idea that you are not required to love God to keep in good standing with God. This, of course, doesn't reflect what Calvin taught either, as seen in this passage,

    "And although we ought to love God far more than men, yet most properly does God, instead of worship or honor, require love from us, because in this way he declares that no other worship is pleasing to Him than what is voluntary; for no man will actually obey God but he who loves Him"(Commentary on Matthew, Mark and Luke - Volume 3, Matthew 22:37).



    Something that should be duly noted is that most who call themselves Arminians or Calvinists do not know much about either Calvin or Arminius. I am reminded of a time when I was selling Verse Master at the Inter-church Holiness Convention. I indicated to a potential customer that Arminius' Works were included on the CD-ROM. The lady asked me who Arminius was. I said to her, "You know how you call yourself Wesleyian/Arminian?" She said, "Yes." I said that Arminius was the father of the theology your church upholds and that is why you are called an Arminian. Now, this seemed a little amusing to me. Someone saying they are Arminian, yet not knowing whom Arminius was. The sad thing is that she is probably not the only one at the convention that didn't know who Arminius was!


    By now, some of you might be wondering, "Is this guy Arminian or Calvinist?" Others of you have already made up your minds as to what I am. Well, I can tell you that I am not a 5 point Calvinist or Arminian. I am actually in between, but lean more towards the Arminian viewpoint (3.5 point Arminian/1.5 point Calvinist). I have to admit, though, that I am not very knowledgable about the lives of either of these two men, yet I know more than most! This is not good, considering there are Arminian and Calvinistic websites all over the internet saying that Calvin or Arminius taught this or that. It amazes me how much Armianians and Calvinists differ from Arminius and Calvin respectively.


    The funny thing is that BOTH radical Arminians and Calvinists have called me a heretic! I guess some Arminians do not find 4 points of agreement good enough (3.5, because one of them I go back and forth on). No, it must be 5 or you are a heretic. Staunch Arminians out there, please read what Arminius wrote in the first quote above and start living by Arminius' teaching. Heretical doctrine includes only self-chosen doctrines not emanating from God. Of course, these doctrines must cause shipwreck of the True Faith for them to be heretical. I am not convinced that a person will make shipwreck of his faith by believing 5 points either way. They could make shipwreck, in certain scenerios, on either side, but it requires an abandonment from scripture (extreme double predestination, faith without faithfulness, salvation by works, etc).


    So, who is really at war, Arminius and Calvin, or Arminians and Calvinists? Arminius made sure individuals wouldn't think he was declaring Calvin a heretic. Arminius even exhorted his pupils to use Calvin's writings,

    "Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin's Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself (a Dutch divine, 1551-1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison (incomparabilem esse) in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy (spiritum aliquem prophetiae eximium). His Institutes ought to be studied after the [Heidelberg] Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination ( cum delectu), like the writings of all men"(History of Christian Church - Ch VIII).

    Calvin wasn't as reserved as Arminius when it came to judgement. He would actually call some of his "enemies" dogs. This is a little distasteful, but expected and acceptable in his time period. I think you will find, though, that it is Calvinists and Arminians who are fighting more than Arminius and Calvin ever dreamed of.


    (Note ~ John Calvin's ministry took place a little before James Arminius' ministry).


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