Where do you stand?

by Joel on January 31, 2005

Just out of curiousity, I’m interested in getting as many folks as will to respond to this question:

On a scale of 1 (Arminianism) to 10 (Calvinism), where do you stand?

I’d give myself a 2.62. — We aren’t called Methodists for nothing. ;-) OK, make that a “3″.

Or, if you think the question is totally irrelevant to Christianity, share that, too!

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1

dh 01.31.05 at 10:34 pm

This is such a wonderful question. I love it. I personally am a 6 only because of my stong belief in God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience which my “6″ would be a multi-diminsionalism of God within a freewill context. If that makes since. You might want to pray for my uncle he is what has been called “Hyper-Calvinism”. This I guess would be a 10 on the scale. I think you and I would agree that a “1″ or a “10″ are definitely not supported by Scripture. We need to pray for these people. We need to know God is in control as well as our choice at the same time. Sometimes explaining how both can be the same is difficult. That is why the multi-diminsionalism of God helps e to explain how we have free-will and God be in control at the same time.
Love your question. Keep up the good work. :)

2

Joel Thomas 01.31.05 at 10:52 pm

If someone asked on another day, I might say a “4.” If I were to respond right after reading one of Adrian Warnock’s posts, I might say a “-1″. ;-)

3

Chris Tessone 01.31.05 at 11:37 pm

Wow, that’s a tough question… Where do people who are toying with universalism fall?

4

dh 01.31.05 at 11:39 pm

What did you you think Joel of what I said? I’m interested in your take especially in light of Romans talking about predestination and at the same time, How do you talk to someone who from an unbiased analysis point of view is a “10″ “Hyper-Calvinist” by the exact definition? At the same time how do we talk to people who don’t believe in the “total” Omnipotence of God? On your “-1″, just a little piece of advice, don’t fall for that classic American overreaction to the overreaction that is just as bad as Adrian Warnock original overreaction :). You need to stick your ground and stay at your 4. :) Don’t be influenced by those extremes. ‘) :)

5

Mean dean 02.01.05 at 12:34 am

I’m sorry, I didn’t see red-state, conservative christian, middle-aged white male …

… yeah, I know, everyone’s a comedian.

6

Rob 02.01.05 at 1:16 am

The two positions are identical. I don’t see the question.

From within time, things appear to be a 1. From outside of time, things appear to be 10. You only get a contradiction by mixing reference frames.

And no, I’m not being my usual smart-reared self. I’m serious.

7

Funky Dung 02.01.05 at 1:22 am

Um…where do Catholic and Eastern Orthodox beliefs fall?

8

DaveW 02.01.05 at 2:26 am

Hi, I’m new here. As a Methodist Student Minister this was a nice place to find.

Anyway I would go with Rob and not see this as a simple scale. If it were then obviously I would be between 4 and 2, assuming that 42 is still the ultimate answer ;-)

Dave

9

Matt 02.01.05 at 4:45 am

I see them as two ends of a spectrum that answers a question that most of us aren’t even asking!

10

Joel Thomas 02.01.05 at 5:04 am

dh,

I don’t actually consider Adrian to be at an extreme. He’s certainly not a “hyper-Calvinist.” It’s just clear to me when I read his posts I’m not anywhere close to the “reformed” position on the issue of predestination or limited atonement. My belief is in ulimited atonement or unlimited grace, if you will.

I believe that we have a free will, but that it is not entirely free of the reach of God’s grace. And, the freedom that we do have has been graciously granted by God. So, for me the idea of free will in the Wesleyan tradition is not inconsistent with either God’s omniscience or God’s soverignty. On the one hand, I don’t believe that all will be saved. On the other hand, I believe God’s grace is available to all. If there is an “elect” it consists of those God pre-knew would accept his grace. Thus, predestination for me has to do with God’s omniscience. God does not “choose” to leave some in their unbelief. God’s desire is that all would repent and accept him. Grace is free, but we must make a choice to accept it. God seeks to influence us to make that acceptance, but he is willing to be rejected because he doesn’t want a robotic relationship.

Those who believe in absolute universal salvation as opposed to universal salvation availability probably don’t fall anywhere on the scale, because both Calvin and Arminus believed that some wouldn’t be saved.

11

Byron 02.01.05 at 5:35 am

I’ll bite…6-7, somewhere in there. Firmly in the “confused” category. R.C. Sproul would probably give me a 3, frankly. My struggles with Calvinism involve God’s goodness in a Calvinistic system; a convincing motivation for evangelism/missions (I’ve heard the Calvinist argument; I just fail to be impressed/convinced by it); things of this nature. At the same time, “election” is a clearly Biblical word, as is predestination; no man can come to God except the Spirit draw him; I contribute nothing except my sin to the whole equation. Above all, I feel it’s a shame that some Christians allow this to be a very divisive issue. “There are things to fuss about, things to fight about, and things to die for”, someone has said, “and the problem with too many Christians is that they want to die for things that they ought to be fussing about”. I’d add to that that “too many Christians want to fuss about things that they ought to be willing to at least fight over”–but that’s a discussion for another time.

Byron
a ticking time blog
http://www.byron-harvey.com

12

Joel Thomas 02.01.05 at 5:51 am

I agree that “no man can come to God except that the Spirit draw him” but I believe the Spirit works to draw all.

I have said before that I don’t consider the argument worthy of Christian division. Conversation and dialgoue, yes. Division, no. I believe that there are real differences, but I’ve also concluded that some of the differences are more semantics than real.

Although I’ve observed that Calvinists on the whole seem to be more politically conservative than non-Calvinists, there is much more in common than apart.

What sparked my interest in this post was that I was doing a little internet research on people such as Rick Warren and Billy Graham and found that some people will accuse these men of being secret Arminians, “free willers” or liberals and others will say that they are far-right.

My inquiry is meant to be part instructional and part humerous. I certainly don’t want to create any hard feelings.

13

Richard 02.01.05 at 5:52 am

A very interesting question…
I’d probably rate myself a 2 or a 3 (maybe even a 1 occasionally). But I can’t do theology at this hour of the morning…

14

Joel Thomas 02.01.05 at 6:23 am

Richard,

Anyone who is up at 5:52 a.m. has only themself to blame! :-)

15

Richard 02.01.05 at 7:41 am

It’s worse than that Joel - the clock on my server is an hour fast!

16

Joel Thomas 02.01.05 at 8:01 am

You aren’t trying to be as disciplined as John Wesley, I hope. I mean, going on to perfection might be an easier task!

17

Richard 02.01.05 at 8:37 am

I wish I could claim that Joel.
The sad truth is that my wife had to go to London today on the 5.30 train, and I didn’t trust myself not to sleep through the alarm if I went back to bed.
In any case, i’m sure John wesley’s discipline is over-rated. I mean, no matter how early he got up, his maid was always up earlier!

18

Wood 02.01.05 at 9:24 am

I’m about a 1. I started off when I first convertedto Christianity as an 8, and the more experience I’ve had, the further down the scale I’ve got. The Arminian position seems to me to better reflect the way things actually are. You know, like in the real world…

19

Richard 02.01.05 at 10:15 am

Careful Wood.

The walls have ears. ;)

20

Wood 02.01.05 at 11:13 am

Richard, believe me when I say that I’m about past caring.

21

TJ 02.01.05 at 12:04 pm

The more I think, the less I’m sure I know what I think. Most of the time I’m about a 2… I think.

22

Byron 02.01.05 at 4:21 pm

Joel, hope you didn’t take my post as implying I thought in any way you intended to be divisive–not in the least! I was only making an editorial comment completely agreeing with you, my friend! ;)

23

dh 02.01.05 at 4:24 pm

I agree totally. With what you say you sure sound like a 4-5 to me. You say,”If there is an “elect” it consists of those God pre-knew would accept his grace.” Just because Calvinists tend to be Conservative shouldn’t cloud your apparent 4-5. :) You are probably more Amenian then me but I agree TOTALLY with post 10. Does God know who will reject Him? I mention this in light of “many are called few are chosen”. What do you think? I’m really enjoying this conversation and it has TOTALLY balanced me out and kept me from the ends of the spectrum. No one has taken the time on this issue to be unbalanced due to all of the loaded words. Thanks you so much for your care on this issue.

24

Joel Thomas 02.01.05 at 4:46 pm

dh,

Your comment highlights what I said about semantics. If we were to look at only the polar opposites, it would seem that absolute pure Arminians might say salvation is only/mostly about what we do and Calvinists would say it is only about what God does to the exlusion of any free will on our part whatsoever.

In Wesley’s sermon on free grace, he criticized Calvinist views thusly: [the plain sense of Calvinism is] “By virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irrestibable decree of God, one part of mankind was infallibly saved, and the rest infallibly damned; it being impossible that any of the former should be damned, or that any of the latter be saved.”

Wesley went on to say that if this were true, there would be no purpose in preaching because it would be needless to the elect and useless to the damned.

Again, semantics. If God foreknows, do we still have a choice? I say yes, that our choice (to accept or reject God’s grace — the emphasis is still on God’s saving grace) isn’t inconsistent with God knowing ahead of time what that choice will be.

Calvinists seem to believe that God can at once love everyone but damn some before they are even born. (Or Calvinists sometimes say we damn ourselves; but if God chooses to leave some unsaved, then he has a part in the damnation.) Wesleyans would say that ultimate love is relationship restored and that God desires and works toward that restored relationship with each and every individual (personal holiness) and with or in the context of society (social holiness).

All of this said, it should be noted that Wesley and Calvinist George Whitefield had a wonderful, respectful, loving friendship, albeit marked with at least of couple of spirited theological debates.

25

dh 02.01.05 at 8:12 pm

I think if you pinned anyone down you would find SOME Calvin and SOME Amenian. Except for my uncle. HAHA :) You are so right when you say it is semantics. It seems in todays Christianity Amenian and Calvinism are loaded words. I really enjoy you getting beyind the loaded terms and agreeing to come together like you have on this post. :) As clarification, what do Weslyans say about the judgement of God? What are their views for those who ultimately reject Salvation in their lifetime after God has worked with them in their lifetime?

26

ian 02.01.05 at 9:17 pm

I’m a 1.75 having wrestled a lot with this debate and trying to get a whole scripture picture on this. On Christian Youth Camps with teens from all denominations AND of no church connection there’s been some fascinating discussion. Talking with teens from more Calvinistic Churches I’ve discovered that they nearly always think Predestination is about Determinism rather than just salvation. No wish to debate this where it’s not relevent though or to make it an issue when it’s not. Youthblog

27

Joel Thomas 02.01.05 at 10:01 pm

dh,

In traditional Wesleyan thought, people are saved or condemned in relation to their acceptance or rejection of him based on whether or not or the extent to which they have had the opportunity to know of his love. Our modern understanding (there are variations of theology — in United Methodisim Jesus Christ is proclaimed Lord of all creation and Savior of all, but we do not make any explicit claims that there is no salvation apart from Christ) tends to be, for example, that someone raised in a home full of hatred, abuse, drugs, etc. might be judged differently than someone who has had every privilege of life. More liberal clergy often extend that understanding to people of other faith. Thus, we are very reluctanct to claim damnation for someone who hasn’t had a genuine encounter with Christ’s love. Exactly how that plays out among United Methodists depends on how liberal or how conservative people are. To some folks’ dismay, but my delight, Methodism in general is a pretty big tent. Maybe Richard could share his own perspectives and/or what he sees the church as providing by way of salvation theology.

While I do not believe that all will be ultimately saved, I tend to have a broader view of salvation (such as “finding Christ in the culture” — a whole another topic) than more conservative evangelicals.

Also, Methodists tend to focus on social holiness almost as much as personal holiness. This has led some to embrace principles of liberation theology. I myself identify with some aspects of liberation theology, although I reject the idea proposed by some liberation theologists that the life we are raised to in Christ on this earth is the extent of God’s redeeming work. That is, along with the great majority of United Methodists, I believe that eternal life includes a life beyond our mortal death.

As for the judgment of God, we do firmly believe in that. However, we are appalled that God’s judgment is often limited to “personal” sins to the extent of ignoring corporate or institutional sin — racism, poverty, war, economic injustice, etc.

An emphasis in social holiness can be seen in Richard’s fight for environmental protection.

28

Joseph 02.01.05 at 10:34 pm

mmm…I’d have to go with the last option (modified version of irrelevant). The presuppositions of the question itself are suspect. I’d call it a ‘category error’ - and say that the scale itself is an interesting one if you are on it, but flawed in that there are no other options. But then, I’m an Augustinian at heart…

29

Richard 02.01.05 at 10:55 pm

I think you’ve covered it very well, Joel. I think the Methodist perspective would say that salvation includes the personal, but is more than merely personal. Wesley said (something like) “I know of no holiness but social holiness” and within his historical context was something of a liberation theologian. Economics was at the heart of much of what he said and did, a fact which modern Methodists are wont to forget. There is certainly more to salvation than “praying the prayer”.

30

dh 02.01.05 at 11:14 pm

I will have to respectively disagree with the statement regarding judgement. Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life no one can come to the Father except through me.” “Except a man be Born Again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Where in scripture does it say the standard is not the same for all or the judgement is different? I was totally on your side until the judgement thing. You still have a great heart and I love you in the Lord. :)

31

dh 02.01.05 at 11:23 pm

I also forgot Jesus’s words, “If you deny me before men I will deny you before my Father.” I just don’t see Scripture supporting “that someone raised in a home full of hatred, abuse, drugs, etc. might be judged differently than someone who has had every privilege of life.” You are so right on on all the points foundationally, from what I read. Keep up the good work. :)

32

Eugene 02.02.05 at 3:11 am

For our next blog we will be posing the question, “How many angels can dance on a pin?” Good night and GOD bless.

Eugene

33

Joel Thomas 02.02.05 at 4:37 am

dh,

Let’s go a step further, then. Suppose a demented couple imprison their child in a dungeon. Then, that child grows up into an adult inside the dungeon shackled, treated like a dog. No mention is ever made to the imprisoned about the Bible, God or Christ. Then the person dies, never having had anyone express any love, or even knowing what that concept is. Are we saying that God will nevertheless condemn that person, who has known hell on earth, to an everlasting torment or separation, depending on how you look at it?

What of a Jew who died in a concentration camp? Isn’t it possible that that person, while remaining in the Jewish faith, and perhaps even turning all the more to it for courage and sustenance, had a more genuine encounter with Christ’s love than I might ever myself know? Are we so sure that we know precisely how God’s grace works that we would say that such a faithful Jew who endured years of torture or abuse in the camp now finds eternal damnation?

Right after September 11, a woman told me how awful she felt when she learned how many Jews died in the World Trade Center bombings. Awful, she said because they had to go through such horror but were now in hell.

I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that he is the path to salvation. However, I also believe that there is a mystery in his workings and Spirit beyond our comprehension.

34

dh 02.02.05 at 3:15 pm

I have Faith to believe in those instances that Jesus will reveal himself to them. I heard of a person in one of the Polynesian countries who followed the culture of the island and became disillusioned because of the sacrifices. He said God send me the real God because this is not the real God. He told God I will pray for 30 sun rises and 30 sunsets if no one comes then I will continue worshipping the god I already know. A Christian missionary came on the 29th “day” and he thanked God and told the others who were reluctant to believe the missionary his story and the whole town believed. I believe this can happen, “seek and ye shall find…” That was a true story. :) The mystery is how he reveals himself (Jesus)within the Grace. He reveals Himself by the True god not by an untrue God.

35

dh 02.02.05 at 4:33 pm

True God not by an untrue god. I’m bad. :)

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