Calvinism and Arminianism, being two different sides of the same coin, have single-handedly destroyed the faith of many well meaning sincere Christians. This thesis statement, my opening sentence, is something that I have personal knowledge of; both directly and indirectly. In other words, the following thoughts are just some things I have observed in the most real ways one could suppose.
Why would I make such a devastating statement like I have above? Because I personally know people who have internalized the implications of both of those systems above (actually the same system); and I have seen the fall-out it has produced for these folks when they try to apply and take seriously its implications. This isn’t intended to be some sort of polemical reflection, on my part; instead this reflection flows from a heart that is deeply grieved tonight over someone I deeply love, who in part has been affected negatively, by taking seriously the Calvinist/Arminian system. Here are some reasons why this system (also known as Classical Theism) can have the destructive impact that it does:
- Because it has the wrong view of God. It emphasizes a God who is plain and simple, the Lawgiver. What this means is that it does not start with the frame or presupposition that God is love (a personal/relational union of interpenetrating koinonial love); instead it views God as someone who is primarily One in substance who says: “do this” (keep the “Law”), or else.
- Because it has the wrong view of the atonement. In light of its view of God, it frames the whole of the atonement through forensic/legal lenses. What this means is that Christ strictly dealt with the consequences of “Law-breaking” at the cross (he paid the “penalty,” which is death). The problem with this view (as THE theory of the atonement) is that if true, the atonement never really dealt with humanities’ real problem, and that is man’s heart-problem (read the Sermon on the Mount Mt. 5–7). If what Jesus did was only deal with the “external” problem (the symptoms) of sin; then He didn’t ever really deal with the real issue (we needed to be recreated, completely). The alternative and correct view of the atonement is to frame it ontologically, and that is to see the incarnation itself as part and parcel with the atonement. This view takes II Cor. 5:21 seriously, and believes that when Jesus assumed humanity in the incarnation, sinful humanity that is (the only kind available), that the “atoning process” began. This view believes that union with Christ is the all important key to thinking about the atonement, since without humanities’ union with Christ (objectively) in the incarnation our heart’s could never be put to death, never recreated and changed. [there is more to be said on this, I will be devoting a whole series of posts attendant to dealing with articulating this issue with more depth and development]
- Because classical theism focuses salvation on man, instead of Christ. A few examples: it speaks of “election” as if it primarily has to do with us, and thus does not center it upon how it actually has everything to do with Christ in the incarnation; it speaks of the extent of the atonement as if it has to do with us; instead of having to do, more precisely, with how great the love of Christ is (its as far reaching as His life, viz. life itself).
These are just a few problems that Calvinist/Arminian theology present many sincere believing Christians with. The touchstone problem which is common to all of the points I mention above; is that classical theism speaks of salvation for humanity before it speaks of Christ. The practical fall-out this can produce (and has and does), is that well-meaning Christians start their thinking about salvation by looking at themselves “first,” before they look at Christ! If people sincerely think this way, and if they struggle with issues of assurance (and they will if they aren’t cock-sure self-assured arrogant people), or if they are faced with terrible destructive life circumstances that become overwhelming; and their first step is to look at themselves instead of Christ, they most certainly will despair of any hope — because they will never get past themselves. They will wonder if God really loves them, because their lives are such a blasted disaster; and their first instinct will be to look at themselves, not Christ (which then becomes a vicious circle).
Do you see the problem here? I have no patience for that incredulous system of theology known as Calvinism/Arminianism! The Gospel is “God’s life in action!” If you think “keeping-the-Law” is the barometer of salvation; think again! It is Christ’s life, it is God’s life which is the Gospel; if you’re in Him, then you are completely saved! And if you’re not completely saved, you’re not in Him!