14
Jun
09

Hyper-Calvinism and Practical Considerations

The short, comprehensible version.

 The debate between Calvinism and Wesleyan – Arminianism cannot be resolved except in one’s own personal theology.  Therefore the issue is counter-productive for any Christian to engage in.

My only purpose for engaging in the debate is to render Calvinism mute as a tool for  proselytism and    division. I have no interest in convincing anyone to the view that Wesleyanism is a more precise view.

I am, as many Christians are, Arminian by default and only by degree.  The point I make is based upon Scriptural evidence; one may “believe” that particular election is the truth, but one may not “know” that particular election is the truth.  Believing and knowing are two different things. 

There is evidence for election(ism), but there is not overwhelming evidence for it.  The circumstantial evidence gleaned from the Biblical text cannot, in a one-sided way, support Calvinism.  There is simply too much other textual evidence that goes up against it. 

A person’s “practical theology” may often not be a reflection of his or her formal systematic theology.  A Calvinist may perform in the manner that we might expect a Wesleyan-Arminian to perform and vice-versa.

The argument put forth by Calvinists that Arminian’s hold a low of view Scripture and though it is true that some do, it is precisely for this reason (inerrancy) that those who are non-Calvinists object to the Reform exegesis of Scripture. Many believe that the hyper-Calvinist rendering fails to consider the full counsel of God by extrapolating, redefining terminology, deconstructing context and ignoring text to suit their bias. 

Converting anyone to either position is of no practical or eternal value especially within the context of Calvinism.  Possessing the knowledge of Calvinist election or convincing anyone of Calvinist election does not in any way make the individual any more elect than they were without the knowledge of election. (Deuteronomy 29:29; II Timothy 2:23). It is all right not to exhaustively know everything. We are not expected to.

It is neither anti-intellectual nor unscriptural to believe in a Wesleyan–Arminian view of Scripture in respect to sovereignty and free will. The weight of intellect and Scripture is not entirely on the side of Calvinism as it is made to appear.

Calvinism, as presented by Calvinists, is not necessarily the only legitimate way to view Scripture.  There is textual (face value) evidence supporting both views.  It is unfair (eisogesis, as do many advocates of High-Calvinism) to insist on literal definitions of predestination, specific election, ordained and foreordination and then redefine the words “all” and “whosoever” to mean only those who experience the “effectual” grace of God.

Furthermore, when situations in Scripture appear to argue for genuine exchanges between men and God (Abraham, Moses in Exodus 32:30-33, etc.) the high-Calvinist will say that this is not to be taken literally as this would be impossible based upon any model of absolute sovereignty. Without justifiable reason, literal language is made figurative and a law of hermeneutics is violated.

Calvinists and Wesleyan–Arminians can hold to their own respective views and remain intelligent, thoughtful and biblically sound Christians.  Neither sinks into heresy except when they adopt extreme views regarding either position.  The danger is not heresy.  The danger is the elitist, ultra-sectarianism that is forbidden in the First Corinthian epistle. “The eye may not say to the hand, I have no need of thee.” This behavior is referred to by St. Paul as carnality and/or immaturity.

Calvinism, while presented as a Scriptural argument, is more rightly understood as a philosophical system beginning with “minute/absolute sovereignty”.  Everything else follows from that presupposition.

There is no authentic Calvinism outside of five point Calvinism.  One may not hold four, three, two, or even one of the points and still be a Calvinist.  If you modify or exclude any of the five points, you become Arminian by degree. Being Calvinistic is not to be confused with being a Calvinist.

Those who support Calvinism often know much about Calvinism but rarely understand the nature of philosophical systems of thought (logic).

Any point of Calvinism that is denied causes all five points to fail as a system of logic.

If someone’s view of the nature of God’s sovereignty is unbalanced or misunderstood as a pre-supposition, it follows that the rest of the system is misapplied.

It is made to appear that this conflict between divine sovereignty and human free will is over the issue of whether God is absolutely sovereign over the universe and the affairs of men.  The sovereignty of God is not the issue in the debate between Calvinism, Wesleyan-Arminianism and other believers. The sovereignty of God is a given fact.  The real issue is the interpretation of how sovereignty is to be understood. 

  • Some see sovereignty as a scale with God on one side and man on the other. Should man have any free will at all then God is not absolutely sovereign.
  • Others think of  sovereignty as a circle where real freedom is expereienced within that circle without altering God’s power or authority.

Thus, the question to be resolved is not a major theological truth that we must come to Scriptural agreement on or become heretical.  The “absolute sovereignty” debate concerns itself with agreement on a very narrow explanation of a Calvinist interpretation of sovereignty as it relates to particular predestination and election.  The truth is, “predestinate election” as presented by Calvinism, exists within a very small but ardent stream of Christianity.  High-Calvinism stands in isolation, singularly opposed to the theological consensus of the larger expression of historical Christianity.

 

 

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