WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE
by Charles (Chuck) Robey
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How long have you been a Christian ? What do you believe ? Do you believe in "Calvinism" or do you believe in Arminianism ?
I guess I have a little of both persuasions in me. You might label my thinking, as the "old time religion" ( 2 Timothy 3:14-17)
-------- I believe that man , from birth, is total depraved of God due to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. .
-------- I believe that God gives all mankind a free will and that "whosoever Will' may be saved. That God does not interfere with this freedom.
-------- I believe that man cannot save himself. That man is drawn into conviction by God's Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit conviction may be prompted by any number of events such as, a personal bodily witness, the written word, or a certain circumstance.
So what about you ? Are you not sure ? Well, just take a few minutes and do a little reviewing. ( Portions of my basic research taken from the internet)
Calvinism Briefly Explained
1. Total Depravity:
This is the belief that sin controls every part of man. He is spiritually dead and blind, and unable to obey, believe, or repent. He continually sins, for his nature is completely evil. This is based on verses such as ( Romans 3:10) ( Psalm 14:3) ( Psalms 53:3).
2. Unconditional Election: God chose the elect solely based on His free grace, not anything in them. He has a special love for the elect. God left the rest to be damned for their sins.
3. Limited Atonement: Christ died especially for the elect, and paid a definite price for them that guaranteed their salvation.
4. Irresistible Grace: Saving grace is irresistible, for the Holy Spirit is invincible and intervenes in man’s heart. He sovereignty gives the new birth, faith, and repentance to the elect.
5. Perseverance of the Saints: God preserves all the elect and causes them to persevere in faith and obedience to the end. None are continually back-slidden or finally lost.
To summarize a very basic picture of the Calvinistic viewpoint would go something like this: Man’s heart is depraved. If left to himself, he would only do selfish, sinful things. However, God arbitrarily decided, before time began, which people would be saved and which would be lost. Jesus Christ came to earth and died on the cross for the sins of those God had decided would be saved. The Holy Spirit comes upon a person’s heart in an irresistible way, so the person will choose to be saved. The saved person can never become unsaved, no matter what.
Arminianism Briefly Explained
For each of the Calvinist’s points, the followers of Arminius have a counterpoint.
1. Free Will: Sin does not control man’s will. He is sick and near-sighted, but still able to obey, believe, and repent. He does not continually sin, for his nature is not completely evil.
2. Conditional Election: God chose the elect based on their foreseen faith. He loves all men equally. God passed over no one; He gives everyone an equal chance to be saved. This is gleaned from I Timothy 2:4; II Peter 3:9; Matthew 18:14.
3. Universal Atonement: Christ died equally for all men, and paid a provisional price that made salvation possible for all, but guaranteed it for none.
4. Resistible Grace: Saving grace is resistible, for God does not overrule man’s free will. Man is born again after he believes, for faith and repentance are not gifts of God.
5. Falling from Grace: Believers may turn from grace and lose their salvation.
To summarize a very basic picture of the Arminian viewpoint would go something like this: Man’s spirit is damaged, but still somewhat good. God, able to see all things past and future, knowing who would say ‘yes’ to the Gospel, elected those people to salvation. Jesus died on the cross giving everyone the opportunity to repent and turn to Him, excluding no one from the possibility of salvation. The call of God can be resisted and, ultimately, rejected. A Christian can turn from God and no longer be saved.
Making Some Sense of This
Both of these belief systems have strong points and weak points: the Calvinists stress the sovereignty of God, that God is in control of everything, a good and biblical concept. However, if we take this too far, we end up saying that God is even responsible for man’s sin, but we know this is not true: ( James 1:13)
Therefore, a balance must be struck that says that God most certainly is in control of everything in this way: He either causes or allows everything that happens to happen. He has self-limited His own involvement in the lives of men and women. He has allowed us some measure of freedom in order that we might freely choose Him.
As with many doctrinal systems, problems usually arise from the abuse of the system, rather than the system itself. On the issue of Total Depravity, the Bible does say that man does evil constantly (Romans 3:10( ( Psalm 14:3) ( Psalm 53:3). However, the Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit works on human hearts to convict us of, “sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8) and that Jesus gives light to everyone (John 1:9). The Bible makes it clear that humanity is not as bad as it could be. This is because of the continued presence of the Holy Spirit and His influence on even the lost person’s heart.
Likewise, the Arminian belief that one may lose his or her salvation may cause some to put too much emphasis on the believer’s responsibility to maintain their faith by their own strength rather than relying on God to sustain them. The Calvinist’s belief that you cannot lose your salvation may give some a license to sin, believing in their hearts that they can do nothing bad enough to be rejected by God. It seems that a biblical balance here would be that, even though believers go through times of great temptation, even failure, as long as that believer holds on to the source of his or her salvation, Jesus Christ, that person is safe. In other words, if one does not renounce faith in Jesus, and thereby become an ‘unbeliever’, that person is still a Christian. That is why the phrase “Security of the Believer” seems appropriate. As long as one believes [trusts, has faith] in Jesus, that person cannot lose his or her salvation.
Can a person once saved ever be lost again? Why take a chance? A Christian is never in danger of falling from grace if he or she will simply, ( Luke10:27) Mark 12:30 ) ( Matthew 22:37)
Now, a word of caution is in order here. I do not want anyone to think I am saying that it is acceptable to continue in sin as long as you profess to have faith. May it never be (to borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul). As we all know, one can profess faith in Jesus, but not possess that faith. One who can continue in sin without feeling the guilt, shame, and sorrow that comes with disobeying God, may not be a Christian at all.
The topic of Calvinism and Arminianism is a huge subject and this article has only touched the surface. There are many good theology books that contain much more in-depth treatments. The differences between the two group’s theology should not stand in the way of fellowship between the two. True believers in both groups serve the same risen savior, Jesus Christ. There is much in both viewpoints that glorifies God.
The believer can take the best aspects from both of these systems, incorporate them into his or her life, and be completely biblical in his or her walk with God: God is sovereign; nothing happens that He does not cause or allow. Man cannot now, nor has he ever been able to, save himself. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins (John 3:16-17). God, through the Holy Spirit, is even now reaching out to the lost in order to save them, and reaching out to the saved in order to love and strengthen us.
So, what do you think ? One need only to revisit the "first church" to get an understanding of a firm Christian foundation. ( Acts 2:41-47) And one need only revisit the Apostle Paul's writing ( 1 Cor 15:1-4 ) to get an interpolation of the true "full gospel".
The good part of, and what I love about Christianity, is that we can all agree in love to disagree on some doctrinal points . It's not whether we are sprinkled or dipped, whether we need to be in the baptismal waters when we are called home, whether we are saved eternally or can lose our salvation, whether God chooses us or we chose him. It's all about whether we are saved by God's free grace, through our faith ( Ephesians 2:8-9) by the finished work of the cross. ( 1 Cor 1:18) And our sins have been washed clean through the blood of Christ. ( 1 John 1:7)
If we are not saved, all this becomes a mute point. If we are not saved, then we have no salvation to loose, regardless if we choose Him or He chooses us. And if we are not saved, it doesn't matter at all if we are water-logged, from too much baptismal waters.
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