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Arminianism, Calvinism, Calvinists

“Don’t be so hyper, you Calvinist,” said the Arminian.

Calvinism is often a hot topic, but misconceptions and straw men abound, particular when Calvinists are labeled as being “Hyper-Calvinists.”

Often a Hyper-Calvinist is someone more Calvinistic than you, as you define it. But, can you distinguish between Hyper-Calvinism, Calvinism, and Arminianism?

I commend to you the best and most succinct explanation of those distinctions I’ve encountered.

From Tom Ascol, From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention: What Hath Geneva To Do with Nashville?

The Arminian looks at this premise and says, “Agreed! We know that all men are held responsible to repent and believe the gospel [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible].” Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.

The hyper-Calvinist takes the same premise (that man’s ability and responsibility are coextensive) and says, “Agreed! We know that, in and of themselves, all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that unconverted people are not under obligation to repent and believe the gospel [which is false, according to the Bible].”

In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, “Wrong! While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe. Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfill his duty to repent and believe.” And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches.

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About Eric "Gunny" Hartman

Gunny is pastor of Providence Church in Plano, TX, and has taught at Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has completed coursework for a PhD in Rhetoric at University of Texas at Arlington and tries to be a good father to his 4 kiddos, exhibited by coaching a girls soccer team.

Discussion

5 thoughts on ““Don’t be so hyper, you Calvinist,” said the Arminian.

  1. William, I’ve fought of calling them “Finneyites,” but that may be overly harsh. Nonetheless, Finney’s influence is huge. But, I definitely understand your reticence in the semi-Pelagians stealing your label.

    Exactly on the Lutherans and Melancthon hijacking the movement!

    Posted by Eric "Gunny" Hartman | August 30, 2011, 9:12 pm
  2. Eric,

    Thank you for that well-reasoned response. Now, if we can just hurry up and create a nomenclature for those “Arminian wannabes” (though I don’t think they actually “wanna be” 🙂 ), it would make my life a little easier. I call them semi-Pelagians (and some of them, who actually know what I’m talking about, both of them, don’t like it when I do).

    As for the Lutherans: when I think of a Lutheranism today, I don’t think of Luther but Melanchthon. And in my mind, I call modern-day Lutherans Melanchthonians, haha, and no one has a clue what I’m talking about. God bless.

    Posted by WilliamWBirch | August 30, 2011, 3:58 pm
  3. “Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.”

    I think that’s a true statement, though it may not be true of Arminius. In other words, I don’t think it’s a straw man or misconception).

    William, I think you’re assuming that Arminians share their theology with Jacobus Arminius, who wouldn’t have bristled against the label “Calvinist” for himself.

    I can assure you that I’ve personally encountered numerous Arminians who indeed argue just what Ascol describes, namely, if God commands it, we must be able. It’s anecdotal, I know, but that’s the contemporary expression of the “arm-chair Arminian.”

    Now, we may quibble on whether or not they should be called, “Arminians,” but those who espouse theology akin the Remonstrants of the followers are Arminius mock Calvinism because they are logically unable to see the necessity of ability stemming from responsibility.

    I’ll be the first to say that many would be surprised to see just how “Calvinistic” the writings of Arminius himself are (i.e., there’s not so great a gap as there is among those wearing his name and those more Dordtian).

    I’d also say that many who get labeled Arminians today are really more Pelagian and Unitarian than they realize and Arminius himself would want to distance himself from them.

    P.S. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving a new label to those of whom we’re discussing, just as I wouldn’t be opposed to and would indeed welcome a new label for many who called themselves, “Lutheran.”

    Posted by Eric "Gunny" Hartman | August 29, 2011, 5:07 pm
  4. Whatever Tom Ascol and other Calvinists want to label that conclusion above . . . “that conclusion” refers to Ascol’s conclusion of what constitutes “Arminianism” to him.

    Posted by WilliamWBirch | August 29, 2011, 1:02 pm
  5. There is a major problem with Ascol’s summation of Arminianism, however. “The Arminian looks at this premise and says, ‘Agreed! We know that all men are held responsible to repent and believe the gospel [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible].’ Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.”

    Arminians do not teach this (speaking of misconceptions and straw men). Arminius writes, “In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and . . . weakened; but it is also . . . imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace” (Works 2:192). He continued in that section to support the biblical teaching of Total Depravity and Total Inability.

    Whatever Tom Ascol and other Calvinists want to label that conclusion above, they cannot label it Arminianism — semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism, for sure — but not Arminianism. If some who hold to Ascols’ conclusion call themselves Arminian, they are sorely mistaken. God bless.

    Posted by WilliamWBirch | August 29, 2011, 1:00 pm

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