Dear Arminians [Justin Taylor]

I found this article on Justin Taylor‘s blog and it is pretty interesting. It reminds me that if we are going to discuss differing views on God’s plan of redemption, we need to do so with respect and in humility.

As a former cage-Calvinist and one still absolutely persuaded (a) that the Bible teaches “Calvinistic” soteriology and not “Arminian” soterieology and (b) that it has deep implications for understanding the Bible and the Christian life—I found this perspective from Robert Peterson and Michael Williams helpful:

By and large, Calvinists feel duty bound to attack Arminianism at every opportunity. And far too often the debate between Calvinists and Arminians has failed to glorify God, promote understanding or honor one another as fellow members of the body of Christ. It is our aim, however, to treat our Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ as we would want to be treated. . . .

The Arminian Christian believes that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh to save sinners and that the saving work of Christ comes to the sinner by way of the grace of God received through faith. Whatever issues relevant to salvation we disagree upon, let us agree on this: the Calvinist and the Arminian are brothers in Christ. Both belong to the household of faith. The issue of debate is not between belief and unbelief but rather which of two Christian perspectives better represents the biblical portrayal of the divine-human relationship in salvation and the contributions of both God and man in human history.

Christians may disagree with each other, and disagree profoundly over issues close to the center of the faith, yet affirm one another as fellow believers. For some on both sides, we are sure that this might seem to subtract from the seriousness of the divide between Calvinism and Arminianism. We do not seek to disvalue the issues of contention. They are real and important. . . . But neither do we want to overestimate the debate. In the division between Christianity and Islam, the Arminian is our brother. . . .

With all of the foregoing in mind, we will seek to write under a number of self-imposed strictures that we hope will help us in addressing the issues of the contention without adding to the strife of the debate. Far too often, polemical works are not actually targeted at the other side of the debate. That is to say, they are not aimed at engaging the other side in discussion, or at seeking to persuade the other of the plausibility or truth of the author’s own position. Many of the discussions we have read—from both sides of the debate—seem to be written to those who already agree with the author. The point often seems to be one of arming one’s own troops, giving them ammunition for future firefights.

We will not follow this strategy. We write as Calvinists to Arminians, as persons who hold the Word of God precious and worthy of our most careful reflection to other believers who share that same commitment of the heart.

—Peterson and Williams, Why I Am Not an Arminian (IVP, 2004), pp. 10-14.

HT: Dane Ortlund, who considers this book “one of the clearest and most persuasive defenses of Reformed soteriology available.”

Some readers will recall the conversation between Calvinist Charles Simeon (1759-1836) and Arminian John Wesley (1703-1791) about their commonality amidst the controversy:

[Simeon] Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers.  But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions.  Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

[Wesley] Yes, I do indeed.

[Simeon] And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

[Wesley] Yes, solely through Christ.

[Simeon] But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

[Wesley] No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

[Simeon] Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

[Wesley] No.

[Simeon] What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

[Wesley] Yes, altogether.

[Simeon] And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

[Wesley] Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

[Simeon] Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

Cited in Handley Carr Glyn Moule’s 1892 biography, Charles Simeon, p. 79f.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: