Thursday, June 24, 2010

Calvinist, Arminian, Pelagian or Something Else? Who Cares?

I have enjoyed reading and learning about the various Christian viewpoints on the atonement and how God accomplishes salvation for mankind. Recently Justin Taylor posted "A Primer on Limited (or Definite) Atonement". Please take some time to read his thoughtful post and, also, take some time to read Bruce Ware's outline here as starting points.

Sometimes in light of these historical controversies we say, "If all these smart people haven't figured it out why should I try?" Please don't do that - it is unhelpful. I think we could apply the same logic to just about every controversy - filet mignon vs. cheeseburgers, Red Sox vs. Yankees, Republicans vs. Democrats, Christian vs. Atheist - no matter what opinion we have on anything smart people will disagree. That doesn't mean the truth is unknowable.

May I suggest an alternative? Take some time to get to the bottom of why these smart people disagree. You might be surprise how well you understand the differences and how clearly you are able to form your own opinion.  I think in the area of the Calvinist-Arminian debate the 'bottom' is the understanding of what God's priorities are in arranging how he would work out the salvation of the lost.  Theologians call this the 'Order of God's Decrees'. Most likely you already have an opinion on these "decrees' whether you are aware of it or not.

Here is a neat table from Theopedia that outlines these different understandings in the Order of God's Decrees. I think you will see how and why Calvinist's (those to the left of Arminian), Arminians and the rest differ on salvation based on this table. I think this might clarify where you stand and why.

Once you have studied it consider what you think. What does the bible best support? You can find biblical arguments for each one. Take time to sort through these, recognizing there are some significant differences between them.  How you live your life can vary significantly according to your particular understanding.

Ultimately, God has an opinion on these - let us trust Him and seek His truth.  Where things are clear, as God has made them so, let us stand firm, where they are unclear, as God has allowed them to be, let us be charitable and patient.

FYI: I come out in the Infralapsarian-Supralapsarian range. I think this best represents God's revelation in scripture. How about you?

1 comment: said...

Another helpful resource is Alvin Plantinga's work, Supralapsarianism or 'O Felix Culpa'.