The Knights of American Arminianism
by daniel smith
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“The Knights of American Arminianism”
Note to reader: This piece will definitely not be as entertaining as Mr. Ian’s. His ability to paint word pictures and use of poetic diction is far superior to mine. His article is beautiful for its wording, entertaining for its cynicism, and heart-felt for his personal experience with the Knights of St. Calvin.
Having been raised in both the Word of Faith movement and two experiential denominations, Foursquare and Assemblies of God, I have come to appreciate historic Protestantism. About 10 years ago I left the A/G and attended a reformed church which was on its way to adopting Bill Hybels church-growth formulas. This first stop was Providential, for, in the new members’ class, I received a copy of “The Three Forms of Unity,” the doctrinal standards of reformed churches. Pouring over the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort, as well as listening to and reading RC Sproul, I slowly realized something about the Bible – its message was completely different from what I grew up hearing. My conversion from a Semi-Pelagian (of which Arminianism is a form) view of Scripture to a Reformed understanding did not come overnight. It has taken years of study, reflection, and much prayer to live by the Reformation motto, “Reformed and always reforming.” I am not overstating the case. BB Warfield, a Princeton divine, made the comment that Semi-Pelagianism and the religion of the Bible are two different religions. My own experience has demonstrated this.
Yes, Mr. Ian is accurate in some things. I too went through a non-Calvinist bashing phase. I too would argue vehemently about particular doctrines shared by all Calvinists. Having repented of not being “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath,” I now realize that my duty is not to convince, but to proclaim. You see, I was so excited about sharing this “new religion,” that I had to tell everyone about it and prove to them that I was more accurate than them. The focus was unfortunately on me, not on God. I was actually acting inconsistent with my theology.
Note that….I was inconsistent in my practice of the theology. I am still convinced that the Reformed interpretation is the most accurate. However, getting upset at those who do not see it my way (or, to be more precise, the way God said it) is futile. I remember now what exactly was at stake in my own conversion. And, it is knowing how life-changing true Christianity is that makes it so difficult to change. For an American Arminian to recant would require a complete questioning of everything they have believed thus far in their earthly sojourn. New hermeneutics, new categories, new views of God and man, and new views of the church are necessary to become a Calvinist. And, as Apollo Creed said, “I don’t want to change! I like who I am!” Christianity, or Calvinism as CH Spurgeon wrote, is a systematic worldview. It shapes our views of ourselves, history, religion, God, human interactions, politics, government, economics, education, etc.
The knights of American Arminianism, though, lack any “systematic” framework both in its doctrine and practice. It is a mixture of pop-culture, success strategies, sentimentalism, Manifest Destiny, existentialism, individualism, anti-Catholicism, anti-traditionalism, Freud’s faculty psychology, self-actualization, Gnosticism, and, dare we not forget Arminius himself - that Dutch professor who was excommunicated from the churches of Holland. It was his aberrant teachings that prompted the church synod to adopt the Canons of Dort, commonly known as “The Five Points of Calvinism,” or, TULIP in 1619. I encourage any and all to familiarize themselves with these church canons. I think much of the stereotypes about Calvinists will be laid to rest once it is seen how deep and thoughtful these Dutch ministers were in forming their response to the heresies.
Or, if reading old texts does not interest any, the American Arminian should ask themselves some important questions. These are questions which I had to struggle with and find answers to. They were instrumental in my conversion.
1) If you explained the gospel or the Christian message to someone, would you be asked the questions Paul asks in Romans 6-11?
2) If Christ propitiated the father in relation to the sins of the “whole world,” why is there going to be a hell? Did he die for all sins or just some sins?
3) How can God call you “just” now if in fact your practice shows otherwise?
4) If you died in the arms of a prostitute, would you still go to heaven? Why or why not?
5) Why did Christ have to be perfect?
6) If God predestined you because he foresaw that you would response positively to His message, then how is that not salvation by us? What is it about YOU that made you choose and not someone else?
These questions are merely starters. But I think they reveal some of the underlying issues between the Calvinists and the non-Calvinists. AS FOR ME, I THANK GOD DAILY THAT HE HAS REVEALED TO ME THE TRUTH. I AM GRATEFUL THAT I CAN SAY IN A GOOD CONSCIENCE, I WILL BOAST IN NOTHING EXCEPT THE CROSS, AND I HAVE A SYSTEM WHICH TEACHES THAT.
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To put a twist to Wilde: "There's only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not knowing you're being talked about..." Imagine, being lampooned -- of a sort -- and not actually knowing about it. Not sure what to be: flattered or miffed. I suppose that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so I'll stick with the former. Hmmmm, lesse. I still see how St. Calvin here is put on equal terms with Christ; that is, Calvinism = Christianity = "the way God said it". Smashing. I see we've successfully demonized Arminianism by associating it with as many objectionable "isms" as could be brought to bear, with the possible exception of Nazism, of course. And of course, the classic Calvinistic overly simplistic assumption that anything that doesn't bend to Calvinism's definition of Sovereignty (i.e God's Soveriegnty including Free Will) is of a necessity bourne of out of need to make salvation "ALL about us". Why is it that Calvinists are the principal adherers that this idea exists, projecting, nay, BRANDING the hapless with it and then lashing them for it...? I don't project "God is the author of sin" onto Calvinists' beliefs... But I forget what is par for the course and all fair game if one has The Truth. Finally, a historical note: it is quite inaccurate to characterize Arminianism as a heresy -- It is only so in the eyes of Calvinists, not purely by Christian Theological standards. The Synod of Dort was pretty much a political maneuever by Prince Maurice to rally the "thoughtful Dutch ministers" together for the expressed purpose of demonizing an opposing viewpoint which was then used to justify previous and subsequent persecution of its adherants. This blindsiding nonsense was recanted twelve years later, but the spirit of such behavior still lives on with the Knights of Calvin stereotype nothwithstanding in word and attitude and, sadly, in deed. Nice article, though, and in the words of a clever saying, "For those that like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they'll like."
This is great. I find it Pickwickian in sort, but it is not fiction. It is about Jesus and God and other religions. I think you said it best in this line. I qoute : I remember now what exactly was at stake in my own conversion. And, it is knowing how life-changing true Christianity is that makes it so difficult to change. For an American Arminian to recant would require a complete questioning of everything they have believed thus far in their earthly sojourn. You are truly telling the truth and you have a system that works. I am going to read the other two stories.