Thursday, November 27, 2008

What kind of Calvinist are you?

Or you may just be an arminian? But regardless, many are unaware of the differences (though they are slight) within the Reformed camp. Some Calvinists are a little more "stiff" than others. Recently, I came across this blog which devotes itself to pretty much all aspects of Calvinism and illustrating the differences between the various historical positions.. In particular, this chart laid out an excellent comparison between the positions within Calvinism. Whether you are a staunch Arminian (the "historical" Arminian, that is) or the hyper-Calvinist, I think you will find this chart to be very helpful in distinguishing your position from others. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Evangelicals, or whoever; i'd love to know your positions in each of these categories. I'll share mine, but please note that i'm simply describing, not defending, my position on each of these in this post. If you'd like more information on my perspective on something, feel free to inquire in the comment section.

God's Love: God has the freedom to love or not love whomever He wishes. Furthermore, He has the freedom to exercise varying degrees of love to whomever He pleases. For instance, God can have a special form of love (which I refer to as "salvific love") that He reserves only for the elect, while implementing another form of love (which I refer to as "common love") for everyone else. This is "love" in the sense that God allows the non-elect to stay alive though they deserve death. But in addition, God blesses the non-elect with prosperity and health, though they do not deserve it. This places me in the "high Calvinist" camp, although it may have hyper-Calvinist leanings. The only difference is, I believe God loves the non-elect in more ways than merely wanting to preserve them. If this weren't true, we wouldn't see wicked men prospering.

God's Will: I believe that God wills only the salvation of the elect. This is where I disagree with a large number of Reformed folks. I simply see no evidence in the Scriptures where God wants every single man, woman, and child (past, present, and future) to be saved. The difficulty in distinguishing this position is that words like "desire" and "wills" must be carefully defined and qualified. That is, historic Calvinists have always been careful to distinguish between the two wills of God; the prescriptive will (e.g. God commands all men not to murder, lie, and steal), and the sovereign or secret will (i.e. what God decrees to come to pass). Where I differ from most Calvinists is that I don't believe that God "desires all men to be saved" within His prescriptive will. Obviously, there are strong arguments from both sides of this. But most Calvinists, if not all, will agree that God's desire to save the non-elect is not within His sovereign decree.

God's Grace: I believe that God gives "common" grace to all (preserving them, allowing them to prosper, etc.), but "effectual" grace to some (grace that blesses them with the gift of repentance, being born again, etc.).

Gospel Offers: I believe that the gospel should be indiscriminately offered to all. And I mean "offered" in the loosest sense of the word. That is, I will unashamedly proclaim to all men that if they repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then they will be saved. Keep in mind, this is to be strictly distinguished with the Arminian position which proclaims the "God loves you and wants you to come to Him. Each of you has the ability and capacity within yourselves to turn away from your sins and turn to him. All you have to do is make that choice." But as far as showing discrimination with the gospel offer, the hyper-Calvinist is the only position which does so.

Christ's Death: This is the one where the most controversy lies, but I honestly can't see why. Here is my position: Christ's death is sufficient for all (i.e. there's enough to go around if God so chooses), but applied to some. I see absolutely no rhyme or reason to even begin to suggest that Christ's death is applied to all, that is to say, that everyone receives all the benefits of the atonement. So basically, I believe that as long as one fulfills all the requirements for salvation (repentance, belief, etc.), then the atonement will be applied to them.

Sufficiency: This kinda overlaps with the last one. So i'll state it as the chart does, "Christ's death is extrinsically sufficient for the elect (i.e. applied to only the elect), but only intrinsically sufficient (i.e. of infinite value) for the rest."

Human Ability: I'm not completely certain as to what the chart means by "natural" ability and "moral" ability. If what they mean by "natural" is that all men are capable of making at least a false proclamation of their belief, then I agree. But I don't think for one second that all men have the natural capacity within themselves to repent and believe. I don't know which terms I would have used to describe otherwise. But the point is, I believe that without the Holy Spirit's divine intervention, I don't believe than a son of Adam has the ability within himself to truly repent and come to Christ.

Responsibility: I believe that all men are responsible to repent and believe. But just keep in mind that I don't believe that any man has the ability or capacity to do so without the Holy Spirit's divine intervention.

So I suppose that, according to the chart, i'm a "high Calvinist" with "hyper-Calvinist" leanings. But I completely reject any association with hyper-Calvinists, as they take the most extreme viewpoint on most of these issues; in particular, the gospel offer.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you are a blogger, you should do a similar post on your own blog and link it in the comment section here.

No comments: