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The purpose here is to both explore and reveal my stances and beliefs on the ever-raging debate between “Calvinism” and “Arminianism”. Of course the terms here need to be understood as not representative of all who would be classified under them but rather in this exploration will be viewed as their overall beliefs. For this it seems most effective and logical to compare the two based on their opposing five point systems; the acronyms TULIP and DAISY respectively. After a brief exploration of each point it is the intent to take a stance either for, against or perhaps offer something a bit different and then justify said stance. Before further exploration it must be noted that these issues at hand are internal ones within the Christian faith. That is to say that neither position falls outside Christianity and thus should not be an issue that puts people at odds with one another, rather should be addressed as a conversation aimed to further our understanding and knowledge of God.
Total Depravity vs. Diminished Depravity
The Calvinistic view here is that the human being is so corrupted by sin that it is completely unable to make a good decision. Human nature itself is simply not capable of siding with God opposed to the sinful world. This is rooted in the fall of humanity in Genesis, and thus every person needs a new nature brought about by the Spirit in order to be on the side of God. Opposing this is the concept of diminished depravity or free will. Here, though the fall had serious implications on the human, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God then enables people the chance to be saved but does not interfere in their free will by forcing salvation upon them. A part of that free will is the ability to choice either good or evil.
In looking at this, one must go back to the doctrine of Imagio Dei and the effects of the fall on that image. As creatures created in the image of God humans are made in his likeness. The fall then distorted that image and corrupted human nature. Sin infiltrated every part of the human nature, including its free will. However, that does not change the fact that people are created in his image, but rather it adds to this the fallenness of humanity. Therefore the image of God is still a part of humanity buried beneath the sin that covers it, the only thing that is more powerful then sin and death is God himself, who’s call has the power and might to drive the good of humanity through its covering of sin.
Unconditional Election vs. Abrogated Election
The five point Calvinist here sets out that God’s election is based solely on his own will completely set apart from the will of the sinners. God’s sovereign will reigns supreme over the will of man. Abrogated election on-the-other-hand states that God’s election is based on his foreknowledge of how the sinner would react to his call. Election therefore is based not on God’s choice but on man’s free choice of accepting the gospel as it was presented to him.
Abrogated election falls short in its ability to answer the challenge of the middle knowledge of God. Simply put, middle knowledge is God’s knowledge of what would happen if he were to act differently. Thus God would know not just who would respond to his call, but who would respond to every infinite degree of strength of the call they receive. Therefore God must have the ability to act as he sees fit and should abrogated election stand true God must first choose the degree to which he is going to act before he knows every reaction of humanity. However if God is truly omniscient God then part of his very being is that of full knowledge. Since his being must exist before his action, even his act of deciding how he will act, he must know all, including his middle knowledge, before he decides; thus his decision is based on or at least is done with his knowledge of all things. This leads back to the sovereignty of God. Since he knows how a sinner will react to every degree of his call on their life and he decides the degree to which that call falls upon them election must be based on his will.
Limited Atonement vs Impersonal Atonement
Limited atonement it the concept that the death of Christ on the cross was intended to save the elect. Not only did Christ death work in a substitutionary way to cover the sins of the elect but it worked out all necessities for their salvation including their faith in Christ. Conversely impersonal atonement holds that the death of Christ on the cross made possible the atonement of all the sins of the world but did not secure the salvation of anyone; only those who indeed come to faith in Christ receive that atoning grace. Thus Christ made it possible for everyone to be saved.
The notion that the atoning work of Christ is not sufficient for all of humanity is ridiculous, thus the Calvinist must contend that it is sufficient for all but not open or intended for all. However, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8) and “Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:10). Grace is available to all of humanity, but has been rejected by a fallen world. Even the wicked have been show grace which could be theirs, but they deny that grace that is more then sufficient for all the sins of the world. If Christ is God and God is infinite then the death of Christ must be all covering. Further more since "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17) then it must be the world that saving grace has been offered to and had rejected by this sinful world.
Irresistible Grace vs Sedentary Grace
The Calvinistic irresistible grace concept is that the elect receive the grace of God as an inward call that cannot be ignored, denied or otherwise rejected. This means that God does not rely on the acceptance of a sinner to enact salvation work in their life but freely and fully saves his elect. On the contrary sedentary grace is that the Spirit does indeed call people inwardly, but he calls all those who are called outwardly. On top of that human free will stands over that call as the deciding force in salvation.
Well certainly God’s sovereignty cannot be over-ridden by the human will as humanity is fallen and every aspect of humanity has been infested with sin. The call of God must be one on the inner person and that rules over the fallen human nature. It must call out the to the image of good that resides under our covering of sin and pull that through to a level of faith. But, in the last section it was said that grace functions as a power capable of redeeming all the sins of the world, and that grace has been rejected by humanity. Grace has been resisted, but grace is not what calls us to faith, rather grace makes faith possible. Grace allows the broken sinful people of the world to be in the presence of the eternal King of Heaven, all powerful Lord, Prince of Peace, God of glory. Exodus 14:4 states that, “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." Second Chronicles 7:3, “all the Israelites saw...the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD.” Ezekiel 1:28b “ This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” The list goes on and on: Leviticus 9:23-24, Habakkuk 2:14, John 11:40-44, Romans 6:4-5, Colossians 1:27, 2 Peter 1:3, Revelation 21:23-24. Perhaps John puts it best “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). It is not grace that calls us to faith but grace that makes faith possible, rather the call to that faith comes from the revelation of the glory of God to a sinner. The glory of God is so majestic that none who see it can deny it, and as God determines his revelation to people and knows all including what revelation will bring about faith his glory is irresistibly affective in bring his elect to faith. It is to his elect to his disciples that God reveals his glory and adopts as his children. After Christ reveals that glory by turning water to wine the disciples place their faith in him, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11).
Persistence of the Saints vs Yielding Eternal Uncertainty
This is the debate of whether a sinner can lose their salvation or not. The Calvinist simple sets out that since it is entirely the work of God that saves then no work of human can interfere with that salvation or bring about it loss, thus once saved, always saved. Here it must be noted that even among Arminian stances this point is perhaps the most contended but those who fall into the category of belief in yielding eternal uncertainty set out that because salvation is based on human choice and free will that sinner can at any time choice otherwise and freely lose that salvation.
Regardless of whose choice it is to bring a person to a saving faith in Christ if God is eternal he must exist outside of time. If God exist outside of time and salvation is a union of man and God then salvation must also be atemporal. A person cannot ‘fool’ God into incorporating them into his family at one point in time just to deny that faith at another. Salvation when properly understood is not a point in time but a union to God in eternity.
So how does this all tie together in the end? No flower quite describes it but to title the five point it would read FURUT: Fully fallen images of God, Unconditional election, Rejected atonement, Undeniable glory, and Timeless salvation. It is not that God plucks people screaming and crying out of the pits of hell, but rather offers them a bridge out thats call is his revelation of glory. Those who are shown his glory cannot deny it and freely choose to follow it as he has determined it to be. God is sovereign, eternal, omniscient and loving; his glory surpasses our understanding and is so amazing that none can ignore it when revealed to their souls. Allow this metaphor perhaps, or reject it if it is of no benefit as it does fall short as all metaphors do: two child in a convenience store are buying chocolate bars, but as they are making the purchases a man offers one a different chocolate bar that the other child is not offered. Not only that, but the man knows that the child loves this chocolate bar so much that he will not pass it up for the other bar that the boy sees now as worthless. Of course the bar was always in the store, but the children did not see it until the man offered it only to the one. Now the child did have the free will to reject it, but the man knew it was so good that he would not do so. Perhaps this helps in gaining insight in what was been argued for in this exploration. In Exodus 33:19 the Lord says, “I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” To the God be all glory for it is only by his grace that we are saved whether we freely accept that or have it thrust upon us.